Laughing at Others is Fun

It’s rather easy to make me laugh in person. Absurd humor, clever sarcasm, and goofy facial expressions can have me in stitches with little effort. But take all of these things and put them on scripted television shows or movies, and I’m suddenly less impressed by them. Certainly, I’m entertained. Often, I’m amused enough to smile or let out a quiet exhale of air. (“Heh.”) But it’s not common for me to truly laugh out loud at pre-written antics.

That said, there are always exceptions.

Certain moments of certain television shows catch me off guard just enough that my mouth throws out a chuckle. Or maybe it’s a chortle? What’s the difference between a chuckle and a chortle? Seems like a chortle would be deeper but also jollier, as though Santa himself had inhabited my diaphragm.

Don’t worry, kids. Santa doesn’t live in my esophagus. Yet.

Some television scenes have the ability to make me laugh not only the first time I see them, but for infinite views afterward. These excellent moments deserve my acknowledgment, and by golly, they’re going to get it!

I give you, in no particular order

The Chortle Awards!

(P.S. – Clicking on the name of the show will take you to the Youtube clip of the scene, if there’s one available)

Leslie meeting Michelle Obama

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Parks and Recreation – Season 6, Episode 21

Passionate bureaucrat Leslie Knope (Amy Poehler) fervently admires all female leaders, and is in so much shock when she meets FLOTUS, that she physically backs away at first. The wonder on her face is quickly accompanied by lots of nervous shouting, a cringeworthy high-five, and a vow to agree with Obama on “all things, throughout history and until the end of time, forever.” It’s endearingly funny, and yet also pretty relatable for those of us who are socially strange.

Fire drill

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The Office – Season 5, Episode 14

In an episode ironically named “Stress Relief,” dedicated paper salesman Dwight Schrute (Rainn Wilson) sets a small fire designed to teach his coworkers a lesson about the importance of office safety. Not realizing that the (contained) fire isn’t a true threat, the employees quickly find themselves trapped, and calamity ensues. Favorite moment: the terror-stricken look on Creed’s face when a pair of legs suddenly fall through the ceiling tiles.

FAJITAS!

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Friends – Season 10, Episode 2 

Pretty much anytime Ross (David Schwimmer) mentally unravels, it’s fun to watch. But this episode is especially hilarious. The poor guy is clearly upset about seeing his long-time love kissing his best friend, but rather than acknowledging his feelings and discussing them, he continues to insist that he’s fine. We’ve all been there (says the therapist), but Ross takes it to new heights with a squeaky voice, erratic behaviors, and bad love poems. “V is for this very surprising turn of events – which I’m still fine with, by the way.”

Egg

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Arrested Development – Season 2  (no clip available)

This one’s not a particular scene so much as a running gag throughout an entire season. Sixteen-year-old George Michael (Michael Cera) dates a girl named Ann, who is thought of by George Michael’s entire family as being dull in both appearance and personality. His father (Jason Bateman) especially dislikes the girlfriend, and not only frequently forgets that his son is dating her, but also calls her a number of silly nicknames, such as Egg, Yam, and Bland. As I’m typing this, I’m aware that it doesn’t sound that funny. But you have to trust me on this! Every time Jason Bateman says “WHO?,” you’ll laugh.

The most beautiful butterfly

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 That 70s Show – Season 7, Episode 4 (no clip available)

 Red (Kurtwood Smith) is disappointed in his son, Eric (Topher Grace), who struggles to find his way after graduating from high school. Eric’s mother, Kitty, (Debra Jo Rupp) begs Red to offer his son a job at his muffler shop, but Red quickly argues that Eric has no skills. Kitty comes to her son’s defense by proclaiming, “just today, he caught the most beautiful butterfly!” The line is so random, and Kitty says it with such pride and awe, that it cracks me up. A moment later, Red says he’ll keep Eric in mind if a giant butterfly attacks his shop, and poor Kitty reluctantly admits that her son wouldn’t be able to handle a giant one. The exchange is quick, but fun. I only wish I could find a clip of it for you!

 Fire! Fire! Help me!

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IT Crowd – Series 1, Episode 2

While the building fire in The Office had people scrambling for their lives, a fire in the office of IT Crowd doesn’t ruffle many feathers. (Come to think of it, these reactions are probably indicative of the difference between American and British personalities in general J.) In this scene, Moss (Richard Ayoade) reacts to the fire with a small amount of startle (when he finally notices it), and then takes an agonizing amount of time reading the fire extinguisher before attempting to (unsuccessfully) use it. When he’s also unable to phone emergency services, Moss decides to send a comically cordial email to the fire department. His awkwardness in the face of a crisis is endearing.

He’s fine, he sends his love

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Roseanne – Season 5, Episode 16

I grew up watching Roseanne and still enjoy catching reruns now and then. Every time this episode plays, I find myself putting down my phone or other distractions so that I don’t miss this scene. After Roseanne’s father dies, she and her sister Jackie (Laurie Metcalfe) must notify their loved ones with the news. On the phone with an elderly (and apparently hard-of-hearing) relative, a grief-stricken Jackie is forced to shout the news over and over again, and grows increasingly more frustrated.  The humor is dark, I know. But the sense that you’re not supposed to laugh at something makes it infinitely funnier!

But…it’s my ass

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Bob’s Burgers – Season 1, Episode 7

 Hoping to make a little extra money, the matriarch of the Belcher family decides to turn their home into a bed and breakfast for tourists. As a result, Bob and Linda are forced to share a bed with their three “unique” children, who wreak havoc in their own ways. Tina thrashes wildly and ponders the sleep habits of horses, while Louise insists on staying awake to exact revenge on the bed and breakfast customers. However, Gene is the REAL star of this episode, by bringing snacks into the bed and putting his feet down Bob’s underwear because “it’s warm in there!”

Unfortunately, I couldn’t find a clip of the scene I’m referring to, but this one’s from the same episode!

Honey, that werewolf needs help!

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Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt –Season 1, Episode 8  

 The character of Titus Andromedon (played by Tituss Burgess) makes this show. Between his flair for drama and quick wit, everything he says or does is funny to me, so it was tough to choose only one scene. But I had to go with the werewolf. Titus dresses in an elaborate costume for his work at a horror-themed restaurant, and then discovers that he’s treated better as a werewolf than as a black man. Strangers give him friendly greetings and offer their help when he’s in distress, and no one, no one, confuses him for Samuel L. Jackson. The absurdity of watching a man casually live life as a werewolf, combined with the sharp commentary on racism, makes this episode quite chortle-worthy.

* Side note: Just for kicks, I decided to look back over my list and see if I could come up with any themes for what I tend to find the funniest. Turns out, between all the fires, deaths, and breakdowns, it seems the things I find most amusing involve other people’s misfortunes.

Says the therapist.

So, what do y’all think of my list? Are any of your favorite scenes represented here? What scenes (from these shows) do you think should have been included?

 

Sins and Friends

Just a few days ago, my blog friend Erin made a very clever post that tied the seven deadly sins to American holidays. If you haven’t read it yet, click here to do so, because it’s a fun read. And then come back! I’ll be waiting with snacks.

After Erin made her post, she suggested that I take the same topic and apply it to the Friends characters. I love the show, but what I love even more is when other people humor me for my love of the show! Brilliant of her, right?! I may only know Erin online, but she would totally be my friend in real life if we lived near each other. I mean, unless she didn’t want to be my friend, because it IS a little sketchy meeting people you only know from the internet. It’s smart of her to be cautious. For all she knows, I could be a 104-year-old bearded man.

In fact, it’s more fun that way. Assume from now on that I actually AM a 104-year-old bearded man. One who depicts himself as a young blonde woman. And who is in a committed relationship with cheese.

I decided to jump on Erin’s awesome idea before she could change her mind and use it herself. I set aside important work tasks, like any true Friends fan would do, and began brainstorming which sins would apply to which characters. It goes without saying that all of the characters have their strengths and high points (yes, even Ross), but of course, they have their vices as well. They make mistakes just like the rest of us, and some indulge more often in certain areas than in others.

Although there are seven sins, there are only six main characters, so I chose to add in a not-primary-but-still-often-seen character.

SIN #1: WRATH
Character it most closely fits: Ross

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Justification:

  • He reacts with fury when he finds out that Monica and Chandler are sleeping together
  • He loses his temper at a guy who cuts in front of him (earning him the nickname “Red Ross”)
  • He becomes enraged about the unauthorized consumption of his beloved turkey sandwich.

SIN #2: SLOTH
Character it most closely fits: Chandler

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Justification:

  • He admits to never exercising, and is often teased for being physically weaker than everyone else
  • He spends entire days sitting in his recliner, eating snacks, and watching Baywatch

SIN #3: GREED
Character it most closely fits: Rachel

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Yes, I know she left her orthodontist fiancé and rich dad in an attempt to make it on her own. Yes, I know she worked hard to become successful in her own right. Clearly, the woman’s got some pluck and courage. But you can’t deny that she also had some moments of greed.

Justification:

  • Of all the Friends, she cares the most about expensive and trendy brands
  • She demands presents, and then winds up exchanging them for stuff she’d rather have
  • She encourages Monica to marry Pete for the sole purpose of having an extravagant wedding (complete with a “money salad”) – despite the fact that Monica barely knows the man and isn’t sure she wants to marry him

SIN #4: LUST
Character it most closely fits: Joey

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Justification:

  • Do I really need to provide my reasoning? Have you not watched the show?

SIN #5: PRIDE
Character it most closely fits: Phoebe

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  • She refuses to sell “Smelly Cat” to the kitty litter commercial…and then that jingle bitch screwed her over.
  • These song lyrics, which she sings with great passion: “When I play, I play for me! I don’t need no charity!”
  • She doesn’t mention to anyone that she can’t ride a bike, despite receiving one as a present

SIN #6: GLUTTONY
Character it most closely fits: Monica

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Justification:

  • I know her issues with overeating are technically in the past, but nothing else really fits Monica, okay? Plus, there is that episode where she becomes addicted to Brown Bird cookies and her friends have to cut her off.

SIN #7: ENVY
Character it most closely fits: Gunther

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Justification:

  • He was super jealous of Ross’ relationship with Rachel. That’s about it.

 

Of course, a few of these characters can fit in more than one category of sin. Joey in particular can be assigned to almost all of the sins! What do you think of my selections? Are there any ones that you would have done differently? What other examples can you think of to justify certain match-ups?

Queso Critique – Lupe Tortilla

Lupe Tortilla – Austin, TX

When in Rome, do as the Romans do.

When shopping near a Mexican food restaurant that might potentially serve you queso, enter said restaurant, demand piles of cheese, and write a review for your blog.

That second phrase may not be as catchy as the first one, but it’s great advice.

Saturday, I ran errands around Austin, eventually meeting up with my fellow cheeseketeer at a mall, where she was shopping for school clothes with her kids. The trio was tired and in need of sustenance, and I’m rarely one to turn down delicious foodstuffs, so we all decided that Mexican food was in order.

The wonders of the Internet lead us to a nearby restaurant called Lupe Tortilla. After being seated at a table with a sombrero light fixture, we ordered a bowl of Chile con Queso with taco meat, mentally patting ourselves on the back for ordering the regular size, instead of the large. We’re such health nuts.

As we waited for the food, we sat back to admire the restaurant’s ant-pig-gecko-swordfish theme. Take a moment to let that artistry soak into your brain.

Nonsensical? Probably. Festive? Definitely.

Before we get into the queso review, I want you to see this picture of four tiny baby fajitas that the restaurant gave us just for being first-time patrons:

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I felt overly affectionate toward these little guys. Their cuteness had me wanting to wrap them up and take them home with me to keep forever in a special refrigerated shadow box.

On the other hand, their deliciousness had me wanting to shove my friend’s kids out of the way, so I could devour the fetus fajitas on my own.

Soon after polishing off my one fajita, the queso arrived:

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Amanda’s ravenous and cheese-loving children were eager to offer perfect scores, but my friend and I exchanged dubious glances. The queso had a decent consistency – it was liquidy, but not  too runny. It also had a nice level of spice, and the meat was relatively flavorful.

However, we were 100% convinced that this queso was made primarily of Velveeta, or one of its spongy cousins. To be fair, Velveeta is probably added to many of the quesos we’ve tasted,  because it lends a creamier texture. BUT, ideally, the dish should still taste like some kind of real, actual cheese. I don’t think that’s too much to ask.

It’s just cheddar that way.

We settled on a score of 3 for Lupe Tortilla’s Chile con Queso. All in all, we found the dish to be stable, but not amazing. In other words, it was the exact opposite of Britney Spears.

The reason for the cheesin’

Queso scoring

Lupe Tortilla’s website

Thoughts I Have When Texts Go Unanswered

You know when you text one of your friends or family, and they don’t respond for awhile, and you spend those minutes or hours agonizing about the reason for their silence?

No? Just me?

Okay, I’ll admit that occasionally, when my texts or phone calls go unreturned, my brain goes a tiny bit haywire. Unanswered texts feel a tiny bit like rejection, and like most homo sapiens, the emotion center of my brain doesn’t like this feeling.

So what does it do?

It employs a number of strategies to decrease this icky reaction. First, it tries to distract itself. Then, it attempts to figure out the reason for the lack of response (and this guessing game can go on for quite a while.) If those techniques don’t work, my brain will devise a list of bullshit reasons for why I should try to make contact again.

Here’s an idea of what this internal dialogue looks like:

  1. They must be busy. No big!
  1. I HAVE been texting them a lot lately. Maybe I’m being too needy
  1. Nah, they’re probably just busy. Cooking dinner, maybe. They’ll text when they can.
  1. Unless they’re mad at me. Didn’t I say something weird to them four days ago? I probably upset them with my strangeness.
  1. Did they have some sort of big event or task to do tonight? I feel like a better friend would remember these things.
  1. Perhaps this is their gentle way of letting me know I text them too much. I’ll try to stop.
  1. Unless maybe I should text them again and ASK if I’m being too clingy? No, don’t do that.
  1. Just going to casually check to make sure my phone isn’t on silent. We’re good.
  1. OH MY GOD WHAT IF THEY’RE IN A DITCH SOMEWHERE?!
  1. They’re probably not in a ditch. There aren’t a lot of ditches around here, anyway. It’s mostly just hills and cliffs.
  1. Seriously, what if they’re mad at me? I shouldn’t have said that vaguely teasing thing a couple of weeks ago.
  1. Okay ya little narcissist – not everything is about you. There could be about 100 different reasons why they haven’t responded, and most of them don’t involve you.
  1. You know what, maybe they were in the bathroom when I texted and they just didn’t hear the phone go off! Maybe they desperately want someone to reach out to them tonight, and have no idea that I tried. I’ll just send another text…
  1. Wait, what if they’re with another group of friends, and they’re all sitting around laughing about me, and placing bets to see how many times I text them? Well, I won’t give in to that game!
  1. Dude, get a hold of yourself. They’re probably busy, or maybe they just don’t feel like talking right now. You understand that.
  1. Think of something else. Think of something else. Think of something else.
  1. Crocheting is FUN! I’m totally focused on learning this new stitch. In fact, I feel so fulfilled by this activity, I’ve completely forgotten that my loved one is ignoring me!
  1. You know what, I can’t blame them. This is what I get for being such a clingy weirdo. A clingster. A cling-meister.
  1. What if this is a test of my friendship? What if they’re feeling really sad, and the lack of response is a challenge to see how hard I’ll try to help them? A really good friend would keep texting until they got an answer, right? Or would they call? Maybe go over to the house?
  1. That’s it. I need new hobbies. I’m going to make myself SO busy that I don’t even have time to send text messages in the first place.
  1. Just going to casually check my phone to see if I missed a response. Totally don’t care if there’s not one.

unanswered

Anyone else occasionally feel this way when a loved one doesn’t answer your phone call or text? (Please tell me I’m not the only one!) What sorts of thoughts do you have when this happens? What do you say to yourself to gain control?

How to House-Sit Like a Boss

If you find yourself house-sitting for a friend, I recommend following these handy tips:

1. Demand piles of money in return for your sitting services. (Piles of presents will also suffice.) 


2. Ensure that your friend adequately defends these presents from predators. 


3. Take advantage of the friend’s variety of entertainments. 

I love you, Netflix. And I love you too, Kimmy Schmidt.

4. If the friend has pets, make sure they’re still alive at the end of your stay. Dead pets don’t bode well for good friendships.

5. Even though you do need to be nice to the friend’s pets, you don’t have to allow the dog to lick your armpits. That’s just a bit too intimate.

Unless you’re into that sort of thing. 

licking her lips as she eyes my armpits

6. Eat all of your friend’s delicious leftovers. Eat more than you can even fit in your body, just because you CAN.

7. Subtly suggest that your friend get a swimming pool installed before your next stay. I recommend complimenting them on their “large, pool-shaped backyard.” 

8. If you don’t have pets of your own, understand that cats are creepy at night. Why all the mysterious noises and activities, cats? Why?  


9. Do 1-2 nice things during your stay: fill an ice cube tray, wipe off the counter, etc. Doing ONE thing establishes you as helpful and ensures that you’ll be asked to sit again. BUT doing more than one thing might make your friend feel self-conscious about the cleanliness of her household. Better to play it safe. 

Have you ever house-sat (house-sitted?) for anyone? What did you like or dislike about this experience? What handy tips can you provide?
 

We Need to Talk About Ross

It’s been awhile since I’ve talked about my love for the 90s television show Friends. Did I say television show? I meant real-life documentary, because the characters are obviously actual people, and I’m part of their clan.

You can put down your phone. There’s no need to call the psychiatrist.

In previous posts, I’ve analyzed the themes of Phoebe Buffay’s music, and also investigated which Friends character worked the most. But now it’s been more than two months since I’ve blogged about the show, and I think that’s more than what is socially acceptable.

I can feel all the unsaid words and unrepeated quotes building up inside and threatening to bubble out of me.

It’s time. And I think the topic should be about Ross.

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For some reason, Ross (played David Schwimmer) is hated on so much. I understand if he’s not your favorite – he can be pretty childish. And pedantic. And close-minded.

And there’s also that pesky jealousy issue of his.

But there’s no call for loathing the guy. Sure, he’s got his flaws, but who among us doesn’t? He’s only human.

Well, sort of.

 7 Reasons you should see Ross as the complex creature that he is:

 7. As a child, he embraced gender ambiguity. So ahead of his time.

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6. He’s never afraid to be himself.

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5. He has pretty good comebacks.

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4. He was willing to put on a bulky costume and look like a damn fool in order to teach his son about Hanukkah.

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Because, like Jews, armadillos also wandered in the desert

3. His flirting game is on point.

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2. He expresses his excitement for life.

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  1. He wants to be a good host, even when he’s upset – er, I mean fine. He’s FINE.

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In truth, Ross is lovely. If he were a real person, I would definitely be friends with him. I mean, I probably couldn’t spend too much time with him, because he’d drive me up the wall, and I’d start to contemplate poisoning him with his own hair gel, BUT I could definitely see us hanging out once in awhile.

Especially if he’s making fajitas.

Fellow Friends fans, what do you think about Ross? Do you find the guy likeable and funny, or is he a character you just can’t stand to watch?

Which “Friend” Worked the Most? The Answer May Surprise You

It’s a long-running joke about the television show Friends that the six main characters spend more time drinking coffee at Central Perk than they do actually learning a living.

Personally, I think the lack of work is pretty understandable – the show is supposed to be about a group of close buddies and their struggles and triumphs together, and seeing them at their individual jobs doesn’t allow for those fun interactions to take place.

After all, if they worked all the time, when would they get to play football or poker together? Or crowd in on Chandler’s bathtime? When would they tease each other about having a third nipple, or breaking the porch swing? These are the things we want to see.

Although it makes sense to me that the Friends aren’t often shown working, I was still curious about which one works the most. In order to find the answer, I watched all 236 episodes of the show – episodes I have seen dozens and dozens of times before – and combed over each and every scene for any signs of the characters working.

I took meticulous notes. There was a spreadsheet involved.

It was totally worth the effort.

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So what counts as “work”? Obviously, I included any scene where the characters are shown doing their jobs at their actual work places – whether it’s Monica cooking something delicious at a restaurant, or Ross lecturing to a classroom of students. However, for the purposes of my super scientific study, I counted other types of situations as “work” as well:

  •  Odd jobs that are separate from more consistent employment – such as writing restaurant reviews, temping, spraying cologne on unsuspecting store customers, etc.
  • Discussing  the work day – applies when Friends exit the room, saying they’re “headed to work,” or return home and share a work story with the others
  • Work-seeking behaviors – job interviews, auditions, internships, etc
  • Appearances of work – wearing uniforms (such as Monica’s outfit at the 50s-style diner), or dressed professionally, PLUS carrying work-specific props (such as a briefcase or massage table)
  • Miscellaneous work-related events – includes charity functions, conferences, dinners at boss’ homes, formal work parties, etc – the Friends may not have been paid to be at these events, but were probably still expected to be there
  • Performances – seeing a Friend act on television, or perform in public places (where tip money could be made) totally counts. This one’s specific to Joey and Phoebe.

On the other hand, these more ambiguous references to employment did NOT count toward the tally:

  • Talking about work in general terms – “I don’t like my job” or “I have to work that weekend.”
  • Dressed professionally, but not discussing work in any way, nor carrying any props that might suggest they’re headed to (or coming from) work. We see that you’re wearing a nice outfit, but how do we know you were at work, and not some other dressy event?
  • Non-public performances – singing in other Friends’ apartments does not count

Now that we’ve gotten the boring criteria out of the way, it’s time to reveal our winner and hardest worker. Are you ready for this? Drumroll, please…

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Winner: Rachel
It probably comes as a shock that the character known for being a spoiled rich girl (at least in the beginning) is actually seen doing the most work throughout the ten seasons of Friends. There’s something so fitting about this, actually: the woman left a financially-secure lifestyle behind in order to make a stab at independence, and we get to see her gradually progress from waitress, to low-level employee in a fashion company, to merchandising manager at Ralph Lauren. You go, girl.

Admittedly, Rachel probably never won any Employee of the Month awards, as we often see her sitting on the big orange couch when she’s supposed to be waitressing. And then there’s that whole affair-with-her-subordinate thing. And the falsely-accusing-her-boss-of-trying-to-buy-her-baby thing.

Ironically enough though, Rachel is the only character who never really dealt with unemployment on the show – unless you count the day-long gap between getting fired from Ralph Lauren and hired at Louis Vuitton.
Total days worked in 10 seasons: 137

Runner up: Joey
When trying to convince Chandler to hire him for a role in a commercial, Joey refers to himself as a “chameleon” – and he is, at least in terms of employment. Despite not working quite as much as Rachel, Joey held by far the most jobs: actor, model, sperm donor extraordinaire. The list goes on. Even his acting jobs ranged in prestige from playing Al Pacino’s butt to playing Dr. Drake Ramoray on Days of Our Lives.

Admirably, Joey carried out ALL of these roles with pride. (And with dishonesty, as he lied quite a bit on his resume.)
Total days worked in 10 seasons: 115

Ross
Despite having the most advanced degree of the group, and once enthusiastically proclaiming that he “can’t get enough dinosaurs,” Ross really isn’t seen working all that much. He technically comes in third place in this list, but his number is far behind that of Rachel and Joey’s. Perhaps all of those weddings and divorces got in the way of getting much work done.
Total days worked in 10 seasons: 73

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Chandler
It was a surprise to see Miss Chanandler Bong work so little, considering it’s heavily implied throughout the show that he makes good money as a “transpondster,” and takes his WENUS very seriously. Shockingly enough though, he was the only Friend to go an entire season (the 6th, to be specific) without being seen working at all.

Of course, this doesn’t mean that he truly didn’t work, but we don’t see it taking place, and that’s what counts here. There are plenty of times that Chandler is shown wearing a suit, but with no work story or briefcase to provide supporting evidence, it couldn’t really be included.
Total days worked in 10 seasons: 63

Phoebe
Ah, Pheebs. It’s really no shocker that the free spirit is next-to-last in this study. She held consistent jobs as a massage therapist and Central Perk performer, but a lot of the work we see are side jobs, like catering with Monica or temping as a secretary for Chandler. Of course, it can’t be forgotten that she also held a one-day stint as a life-saving telemarketer.
Total days worked in 10 seasons: 56

Monica
It’s a bit cringe-worthy when the most competitive person in the group comes in dead last. However, although we don’t see Monica working as much, I’d hesitate to call the woman lazy – she cooks and cleans for everyone, gives the best bad massages, and is always the hostess. In a way, Monica was the stay-at-home mom to the other five. Especially when she made lunchmeat foreskins for Joey.
Total days worked in 10 seasons: 50

 

So, fellow Friends fans, what are your thoughts on this list? Could you BE any more surprised by the winner? Which character’s work record surprised you the least?

Queso Critique – Texican Café

Texican Café – Austin, Texas

On Valentine’s Day Eve, Amanda and I journeyed through 5 o’clock traffic to get to the Texican Café, an award-winning restaurant known for using spices and flavors unique to El Paso and Mexico. Interestingly, this café was located just down the street from our current queso front-runner, Sazón.

Neighbors in delicious competition.

The timing of our outing was perfect, as it was roughly a year ago that Amanda and I enthusiastically declared our affection for each other as “work wives” – to the slight discomfort of a few of our other coworkers. When you spend so many hours of your day at work, it’s comforting to have someone you can laugh with, vent to, and conspire with. And sometimes, these coworker relationships become strangely marriage-like in their level of support and camaraderie.

So basically, this dinner served as our work-wife anniversary celebration. Or at least the anniversary of our “engagement,” as there hasn’t been a formal wedding. Yet.

After toasting each other with absurdly large alcoholic drinks, the wife and I agreed to order the Queso Flameado, a blend of chorizo and white cheese broiled to perfection in a hot skillet – and then served with homemade corn and flour tortillas. Oh, yes.

 

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The restaurant’s low lighting makes this picture seem strangely sensual.

Right away, we learned a valuable lesson: this dish is not to be recommended for date night. As we used our spoons to scoop up the queso, long strands of cheese followed behind, forcing us to use our fingers to help the process along. At one point, Amanda accidentally dropped a dollop of cheese onto her napkin, and then proceeded to pop it in her mouth like nothing had happened.

I found it charming, but others may disagree.

Another less-than-romantic discovery was that the dish was very, very greasy in a way that previous broiled quesos have not been. Both of us ended up with small puddles on our plates, which we found a teensy bit…gross.

grease

Now, on to the good stuff: the Queso Flameado was intensely, deliciously cheesy. Months ago, we stated in our Queso Criteria that we wanted to be “punched in the face with cheese,” and this dish was certainly up to that challenge. Normally, I want to gobble down as much queso as I can get, but this was one of those cases where less was more – and not at all in a bad way. It was so rich and flavorful, that I could only eat a tortilla and a half before surrendering.

We also appreciated that the chorizo was cut into smaller pieces, which allowed us to more quickly and efficiently scoop it into tortillas. While we’re on the subject of the carb vehicles, Amanda expressed a preference for the corn tortillas, but I was a bit more fond of the flour ones.

Sometimes disagreements happen in a marriage.

When it came time for rating, we both felt that the Queso Flameado deserved a better score than a 9, but the greasiness held us back from giving it a 9.5 – which would have tied it with the current leader.

Therefore, we gave this one a slightly arbitrary fabulous 9.2 (Revised score: 4.2)

Texican Cafe’s website

Pantyless in the Street

pantyless2

On a warm summer evening during college, my best friend Kim and I headed for a park to engage in our favorite ritual: chowing down on ice cream while watching people jog.

It’s pretty much the most evil thing a person can do.

We sat down on a bench near the running paths, and I smoothed out the skirt of my short sundress. Kim and I most often engaged in this voyeuristic activity when one of us had something to talk about, and this time was no different. She began discussing something I no longer remember the details of, but was probably hugely important and serious to us at the time.

As she talked, I soon started to feel a strange sensation coming from my legs – it was sort of tingly, almost like tiny, tiny people were poking me with tiny, tiny pitchforks. Not really painful, but definitely noticeable. Taking another bite of my ice cream, I tried to shake off the odd feeling and shifted my focus back to Kim.

A couple minutes later, the sensation began spreading upward toward my…. nether regions.

I sat up ramrod straight, extremely aware of the not-okay feeling coming from my crotch, but still trying to listen to my friend. Her story was heartfelt and serious, and it seemed rude to interrupt her with off-topic updates of my lady garden.

A couple moments later, I had drastically changed my mind about trying to be polite. It now felt as though the tiny people poking me had replaced their pitchforks with big, fiery torches. With blades coming out of them. The sensation was quickly growing more and more intense.

I put down my ice cream. Something was very wrong.

“SOMETHING IS VERY WRONG!” I blurted out to Kim, no longer able to focus on her tale.

Being the incredibly sweet person she is, she immediately abandoned her story and looked at me with alarm and concern, asking if I was okay.

I don’t remember what my exact response was. I probably gave her a wide-eyed, panic-stricken look and yell-whispered that my delicate bits were on fire and we needed to leave immediately. My confused-but-always-loyal best friend threw away the rest of our ice cream (which should show you how serious this situation was), and we sprinted to my car.

Just like that, we’d gone from watching runners to being runners. I mean, sort of. Most runners probably don’t get their motivation from having fiery switchblades in their underwear. They also probably don’t have to use all their willpower to keep from frantically pawing at themselves.

I was convinced I was dying. I imagined what my headstone would say, and hoped it wouldn’t be something like: “Died from Spontaneous Crotch Combustion.”

Once we were in my car, I recklessly reversed out of the parking spot and began speeding down the street. The feeling grew even more painful.

“SOMETHING IS REALLY WRONG WITH ME!” I repeatedly screamed at Kim. For some reason, it was important to me to make her understand just how freaked out I was. I think she got it.

Unfortunately for her, trying to drive a car while you’re in pain and panicking is not a great plan. There was a lot of harsh braking and swerving.

“Just stop the car!” She eventually yelled, wildly waving her arms at me.

And I did – right in the middle of the street. There was no time to pull to the curb. I scrambled out of the car and reached up my dress for my underwear, mentally grateful that I hadn’t worn pants. Easy access, indeed.

Standing there in the public street, in my cute little sundress, I pulled off my underwear.

And I found fucking FIRE ANTS crawling around in them. My mother doesn’t like it when I curse in my writing, but I think even she’d agree it’s warranted here.

Apparently, they’d been all over the park bench, and because it was dark out, neither of us had noticed them. It appeared that the ants were angry with us for showing up uninvited and crushing a few of their friends. Lucky-ass Kim had been in jeans, and was protected from the ants’ wrath.

I screeched with both disgust and righteous fury as I violently flicked the ants from my underwear. Kim discovered more in my driver’s seat, and set about systematically killing them.

Finally, I was able to return to my car, still sans underwear, and still throbbing. Only now, I also felt somewhat emotionally traumatized. The literal ants in my pants had beaten me.

The night ended with the two of us holed up in Kim’s bathroom – me pitifully spreading cortisone cream on my horrifically-located ant bites, while Kim made soothing noises at me.

Anyone else gotten into battles with mother nature? Or perhaps found themselves unwittingly sans panties in public? If there are enough of us, we could start a support group.

pantyless

Queso Critique: Jack Allen’s Kitchen

Jack Allen’s Kitchen (Austin)

Sometimes, it’s nice to take an entire week off of work and go to the beach. But when that’s not possible, it’s still pretty good to take half a day off and try a new queso.

For this occasion, it was Amanda’s restaurant of choice, and she selected Jack Allen’s Kitchen, a farm-to-table restaurant in southwest Austin. We elected to sit on the patio, which was enclosed and heated to protect us from the harsh, harsh winters of central Texas. It was all toasty and cozy out there, like being back in the womb.

Or something less creepy.

As a side note, we decided that our waitress, with her curly red hair and light eyes, looked like a real-life version of Merida from Brave. She should definitely put aside whatever respectable career/vocational goals she has and just be a Disney princess. Livin’ the dream.

Anyway, after taking our drink order, “Merida” (because we can’t remember her real name) brought us a complimentary sample of the house-made pimiento cheese with crackers. I wish I could say we were given free food because we’re world-famous queso critics, but that’d be a lie: they give samples to all restaurant peasants… er, patrons.

Regardless, it was BONUS CHEESE. And was very good.

I was strangely surprised that the menu only offers one type of queso – we’ve definitely been spoiled by so many restaurants offering multiple variants of the spicey cheese. Nevertheless, the Carl Miller’s Layered Chunky Queso came with guacamole and green chile pork, which made us happy ladies.

You might say that meat-filled quesos have become quite imporktant to us. Sorry I’m not sorry.

Similar to the Smoked Pork Queso at the River City Grille, this queso had a thinner-than-usual consistency, most likely from the meat juices, but was fortunately not dripping-down-your-chin liquidy. There wasn’t a lot of spice, but enough was there to give it a nice flavor.

The crème de la crème of this dish was easily the pork. Much of it was so finely shredded and cooked down that you couldn’t really taste it separately from the cheese – BUT the bigger pieces, the “chunky” aspect of the dish’s name, were wonderfully tender and flavorful. Admittedly, it was a little challenging to scoop the pieces up with the chips, but sometimes, you just have to be willing to put in some work. We gave the Layered Chunky Queso an honorable 8.5 out of 10! (Revised score: 3.5).

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Carl Miller’s Layered Chunky Queso from Jack Allen’s Kitchen in Austin

Queso Criteria

website for Jack Allen’s Kitchen