Category Archives: A Day in the Life of the Chop

Today is Easter

If you’re looking for us today, we’ll be out visiting family. If you’re looking for us tomorrow, we’ll be making the rounds of grocery and convenience stores buying up Mary Sue Easter Eggs at a discount.

Happy Easter.

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The HGTV Drinking Game

Ever since we got into the market to buy our first home, we’ve been watching a lot of HGTV. Whether you’re looking for design and decor ideas for your own house, or just want to gawk at the way other people are living, Home and Garden’s got something for you.

We especially like to watch on weekend days, which is prime time for domestic projects and a time when there’s typically very little else on the air worth watching. Of course, weekend days are also the best time for brunch, and it’s this happy coincidence that led us to invent the HGTV drinking game.

The Chop's favorite HGTV show? The Unsellables, of course.

HGTV features dozens of different shows, but they all basically fall into one of three categories; interior design makeovers, buying and selling, and total renovation. As you’d imagine, there’s plenty of crossover among those categories, so you can still play the game effectively whether you’re watching Color Splash, Bath Crashers, or Property Virgins.

Since we’re talking about brunch and daylight here, it’s important to note that this game is best played with a Bloody Mary, French 75, Madras, or similar cocktail. No Jameson shots or canned beer shotgunning here.

Take one sip when you hear the words:

  • backsplash
  • lifestyle
  • entertaining
  • neutral
  • ugly
  • green
  • distressed
  • repurposed
  • walk away from
  • mid-century
  • counter space
  • stainless steel
  • surprise
  • granite
  • short sale

Take two sips if:

  • the homeowner overpaid during the boom
  • anyone complains about anything in relation to ‘double sinks’ or ‘a true master suite’
  • a homeowner is hit with a surprise added expense during a renovation
  • the room makeover is < $50 under budget
  • anyone demands an open floor plan
  • you spot anything from ikea
  • someone uses a dining room as anything other than a dining room
  • the show is filmed in Canada
  • the homeowner has a stupid hobby
  • anyone makes a cheap headboard from scratch

Three sips if:

  • anyone has to design around a big screen TV.
  • someone’s parents are paying part of their rent/mortgage
  • there’s a marriage proposal involved in the episode
  • anyone thinks they’re in a ‘bad area’ or ‘dangerous neighborhood’
  • a property is priced over $1,000,000

Drain your drink if:

  • the show is filmed in Baltimore
  • a real estate transaction falls through at the end of the show
  • someone sustains a fairly serious injury during filming
  • someone cries for any reason

These are just a few suggestions. You can add more of your own, or even subtract a few if things get out of hand. Ideally, you shouldn’t be passed out by mid-afternoon, but should be just buzzed enough to say “Why yes, I do need to go to Pier 1 and buy a creepy glass head like right now! That’s exactly what I need in my life.

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God Save the Queen!

Today is Saint Patrick’s day, Baltimore. It’s that most drunk and sloppy of meaningless phony holidays which are completely insignificant and thoroughly unenjoyable. We’re already on record as being against drinking holidays and the rabble they produce as a matter of principle, and all of this green and phony-baloney Irish crap doesn’t sway our opinion in the least. Throughout history the Irish have shown themselves to be little more than illiterate Papist subsistence farmers, no better than, say, Guatemala when you really think about it. Instead of ‘Kiss me, I’m Irish,’ we prefer ‘Kiss my ass, I’m American!’

Rather than swill green beer and play at being some sort of drunken foolish hooligan, we’re intending to mark today in the manner we think most proper… a celebration of all things English.

The Chop celebrates England, in all her glory.

With the closing of Canton’s Tyson’s Tavern last Fall, the area’s base of proper English establishments was reduced by a third. Fortunately, two British outposts remain in Central Maryland as a testament to and a reminder of the greatness of the English nation.

If you’re south of the city, Union Jack’s in Columbia is about as British as it gets this side of the Atlantic. We’ve never been, but the photos on their site remind us instantly of some of the pubs we saw in the high street on our trip to Southampton. With a full menu, some 60 beers, and four distinct spaces, there’s little reason to leave once you’re settled in.

If Howard County is a stretch though, you can still get your full fix of all things Anglo at Brighton’s. Hidden away on the second floor of Light Street’s Intercontinental Hotel, Brighton’s is something of an ironic contrast when compared with Union Jack’s. Although it’s in the heart of the city, the ambiance here is decidedly more upscale with something of a country feel to it. It wouldn’t take much suspension of disbelief to arrive around tea time and swear that you’d walked into a country estate, just after the hunt. It also offer’s close proximity to one of the city’s very best bars, the Explorers Lounge. The martinis here may be damn close to $20, but it’s a guaranteed lock that you’ll be able to drink one in peace without encountering a single one of the tossers and punters about in Federal Hill.

If you’re not as flush as all that though, you can still celebrate the same way we plan to: by donning our Arsenal jersey and spinning a Billy Bragg record while whipping up a vegan shepherd’s pie or a bread pudding, and settling into it with a James Bond flick and a pukka dry martini.

(We’ll keep admiring the English right up until about the Fourth of July, at which time of course we’ll conveniently remember our own Yankee superiority, which bows to no one and takes pride in being a citizen, not a subject.)

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Today is Martin Luther King Day

As we all pause today to honor Dr. King’s legacy, it is important to note that some of us honor that legacy by word alone, and not by deed. Hypocrisy and injustice continue today, and for those of us who truly value civil rights and equality, protecting that legacy means guarding against its appropriation by those who would embrace ideals that are in direct opposition to those of Dr. King and the Civil Rights Movement.

MLK went to Memphis to support striking workers. He spoke and wrote repeatedly on the lockstep relationship between African Americans and the Labor Movement, and believed that workers’ rights and civil rights are inseparable. Not only are all men created equal, but all men are men. We are all to be accorded dignity, and are all deserving of a living wage, safe and decent working conditions, and the right to call one another brother.

As Republicans today shamelessly attack public employees, oppose the Employee Free Choice Act, attempt to take health care away from millions of citizens, and claim to abhor gun violence while embracing guns, we must remember that the only way to stand with Dr. King is to stand against those who would attack what he spent his life working for.

    “Negroes are almost entirely a working people. There are pitifully few Negro millionaires, and few Negro employers. Our needs are identical with labor’s needs — decent wages, fair working conditions, livable housing, old age security, health and welfare measures, conditions in which families can grow, have education for their children and respect in the community. That is why Negroes support labor’s demands and fight laws which curb labor. That is why the labor-hater and labor-baiter is virtually always a twin-headed creature spewing anti-Negro epithets from one mouth and anti-labor propaganda from the other mouth.”

    -Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. AFL-CIO Convention, December 1961

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In Praise of the Workbench

We’ve got some wasted space in our bedroom closet.

It’s not much space, really. 31″x21″x20″ About 8 cubic feet we’d guess. In a Baltimore rowhouse though, closet space is a precious commodity, and the waste of any of it is silly and shameful. For one such as the Chop, who shops for clothes regularly and likes the room neat and orderly at all times, maximizing closet space is imperative.

So we went to Home Depot and looked for a shelf. We didn’t expect we’d find one that was exactly 31″x 21″, but we were dismayed to find that we couldn’t even come close. We couldn’t seem to find any shelving broader than about a foot.

You can accomplish a lot with a good workbench. Just ask this guy Edison.

It was then that we strolled over to the lumber aisle and found some really nice planks of maple. ‘This’ll work.’ we thought ‘We can cut this to size, use the cut piece as a shelving front, and attach it to the walls, et voilà, custom shelving. We’ve even already got some antique white paint at home to match the trim, or stain and lacquer to match the furniture.

But we quickly realized just how impractical this plan is. Why impractical? Because we haven’t got a saw. Buying a circular saw isn’t out of the question, although it is a very small project to justify the purchase. Even if we had a saw though, we’d probably cut a hand off with it- for we have no workbench.

We don’t even have anything even remotely resembling a workbench. No old folding tables, sawhorses, nothing like that. Without a proper workspace, even something as simple as joining two pieces of wood becomes much harder than it should be. Ditto for painting it, so we’re setting aside the shelf idea for now.

When we enumerated our New Year’s resolutions a few weeks ago, there were a few of them we left out for brevity’s sake, and one of those is to build a workbench area in the basement. We’ve been wanting to do this since before we moved in. Even touring the house with our Realtor we thought that sectioning off a part of the basement for a bench was a great idea. Then roommate moved in, and our basement filled up quick with toys, action figures, T shirts, and sundry other junk which should have found its way to eBay or the dump a long time ago.

Having a bench handy will not only enable us to build and repair things around the house, it will also enable us to build up a decent collection of tools as the need for them arises. As it is now, our humble set of tools is in a box. Not a toolbox, mind you, but a cardboard box. They blend in very nicely with the rest of the junk down there, and we’re hesitant to bring home anything for which we don’t have a place.

Aside from all the practical concerns though, we’ve got to admit that we’re also drawn by the sheer goddamn manliness of the workbench. While we’ve been able to knock out every repair or improvement we’ve faced so far, we anticipate many more in the future around here, and having the right tool for the job and getting it done in a space you’ve designed and built yourself has a deep inherent satisfaction, and we suspect that chasing that satisfaction will have us spending more of our Sundays accomplishing home improvements, and fewer of them sulking around, listening to Belle and Sebastian and looking at the sex stories and personal essays on nerve.com.

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The Chop’s 2011 New Year’s Resolutions

That’s right Baltimore… we’ve got resolutions.

If you knew the Chop in real life, you’d know that we’re the type that damn well does what we say we’re going to do. One day we woke up at random after 13 or 14 years and said “Gonna quit smoking this month.” Next month will mark 3 years without a cigarette. Another time we said “Okay… gonna read War and Peace this month.” Did that too, and enjoyed it. In the middle of the very worst of the financial crisis we said “Welp, let’s take our credit score from ZERO to over 700 so we can get a mortgage.” No mean feat, but we did that too.

So when we say we’re going to do a thing, the thing will get done.

A visual approximation of the Chop's inner resolve.

Which brings us to 2011. There are a few things we want to do. None of it earth-shattering, mind you. None of it will have a great radical impact or change our life drastically. All of these things will be gradual improvements though. We’ll do them, and on new year’s 2012 we’ll be slightly better off than we are today. That’s the whole idea.

1. Pay more (some) attention to finances. Back in the day we used to hate to count money. Mostly because when we did there was never enough of it. Now we still kind of hate it, but thankfully we never have to do it very often because there is enough of it. We set all our bills to autopay, use the debit card, and stick to our ever-so-humble lifestyle and we’re pretty much okay. No more. Not saying we’re going to make a budget and stick to it or put a certain amount in savings. We’re just resolved to quit guessing what our balance is.

2. Ease up on the booze, just a little. Shocking, right? This is not to say that we’re getting on the wagon or anything, but Jesus… we could stand to lighten up a little. Maybe take a few weeknights off. Drink more wine and less whiskey at home. No more ‘one for the road’. Get Guinness instead of Dogfish Head when we’re out in town. That kind of thing.

3. Do something healthy. Like we mentioned the other day, this will probably mean buying a bicycle. It might mean joining the YMCA. It’s doubtful we’ll ever be the type that goes jogging or anything, but we’re going to have to figure out something. Not getting any younger, you know.

4. Join some sort of organized activity. Maybe a book club. Maybe a softball team. Maybe sailing lessons. Whatever it is, we’d like to get involved with some kind of structured, regular thing. It would be nice to do something we enjoy and be able to meet new people who also enjoy it, and who aren’t boring married people or bar drunks.

5. Do something with the gardens. We’ve got small garden areas in the front and back of the Chophouse. They’re very nice, but when we bought the place they were covered in plastic with a little mulch on top. The rear is mostly just a giant dog-toilet, and the front is given over to dead weeds. We travel far too much to tend a real, legitimate garden, but when we come home in the spring we’re resolved to at least get those tarps up, de-weed as best we can, and throw some fresh mulch down. Maybe we can find some perennials that are low maintenance for the front. One thing at a time.

6. Buy 2 new suits, and re-fit and alter the old ones. The Chop has no call to wear a suit to work, so that’s one part of our wardrobe that gets neglected regularly. Between a trip to the Kentucky Derby and Bourbon trail, and an out- of town wedding in May, we’re going to have call to dress well for most of that month. 2011 Will be the right time for us get properly measured and fitted, suited and booted to last several years.

All this we resolve. So it is written, so it shall be. Come back next year and see if we haven’t done all of it. You can feel free to shamelessly steal any or all of these for yourself, or let us know what you’re resolved to do in the comments.

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New Year’s Eve 2011 in Baltimore

Here we are, Baltimore, at the end of the year. You might expect your Mobbies winner for best nightlife blog to give you some kind of nice little round up about all the fun things that are going on around town tonight. Nope. We say balls. We already went on record last year as coming out against the amateur hours that are drinking holidays, and New Years’ is the worst of the lot.

Our approach to New Years’ has always been that we’ll go out if and only if we can do it cheaply and easily and if we have a reasonable expectation of actually enjoying the evening. This year, there’s not one thing that came to our attention so we’re staying the hell inside. Gonna get some Chinese food, or maybe roll some sushi, crack open some of that good Christmas booze, watch a couple movies and probably fall asleep at 11:30, just in time to be awakened by one of Baltimore’s favorite NYE traditions… random gunfire.

Montreal. Maybe next year.

So instead you get a post about what we’re not doing. We’re not having anyone over for a late-night sit down dinner. That would have been a pretty decent idea if we’d thought of it a month ago. With New Year’s day being on a Saturday, that would have been another good day for entertaining. Meh. We’re still not fully in the habit of entertaining at home. Next time we’re around for the holidays, we’re going to make sure to host dinner.

We’re also not going to hop on a jet. We’ve been mostly pretty bored all month, and we’re anticipating a pretty dull weekend, so we thought why not throw a few shirts in a bag and go some place? Some place not close but not too far, that we’re not sick of yet; maybe Chicago, New Orleans or Toronto. How cool would it be to say bonne année from Montreal?

At a time when most people are expecting big credit card bills in the mail, we’re anticipating a lot of back rent and BGE money due from roommate. We also took most of our Christmas gifts in cash, so what the hell? Turns out New Year’s weekend is not the ideal time to jump on a last-minute-super-saver-William-Shatner type deal. If we wanted to go on Wednesday, it would be feasible, but then again, it would be Wednesday.

One of 2011’s resolutions will definitely be to get better at planning things more than a week in advance. Happy New Year.

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