Saturday, February 28, 2009

On nocturnal fruit harvests and spiders

The loquat is the most delicious fruit in the world, bar none. It's got tons of tart sweetness, which, along with chocolate, is pretty much my kryptonite. Most of my favourite things are tart but sweet: strawberries, raspberries, concord grapes, sour Skittles, women... so, it's hardly surprising that the Warheads-like loquat would rank pretty high up on my list. What is surprising, at least to me, is the fact that very few Americans know this fruit, much less eat it. The loquat tree is an exotic from China, but it has spread worldwide within its moderate to sub-tropical climate range. We used to have loquat trees in our house in Uruguay, there were plenty of loquat trees in California, and there are plenty of loquat trees here in Florida. The fruit is not only sublimely delicious, but is also chock-full of Vitamin A and fiber, and hence doubly beneficial for those of us who are myopic, plagued by zits (it's the chocolate, but I can't stay away!), and chronically constipated.

My neighbours had a beautiful loquat tree that yielded a copious bounty right around this time every year, but it was, alas, struck down last year by one of our tropical storms. We rescued a viable branch and planted it in our backyard, and although the results thus far are encouraging, it'll be a while before the branch grows into a fruit-bearing tree. There are, luckily, quite a few loquat trees in our neighbourhood, and a few weeks ago I talked to one of the loquat homeowners about, ahem, picking her fruit. I got her permission, as well as an oddly fearful vibe from her. I'm either crazier-looking than ever in my old age, or the "Hey, I live a few houses down the street, and was wondering whether you eat the fruits from this tree. You don't? That's a shame, they're delicious. Oh, you didn't know they were edible? I assure you, they are. You won't try them? Again, that's a shame. Would you then mind if I came back to harvest these when they're ripe? Excellent, thanks! I've got two lemon trees that yield hundreds of grapefruit-sized lemons practically year-round, and I'll gladly bring you some as a gesture of appreciation" exchange somehow led her to believe her life was in jeopardy. Whatev.

A couple of weeks ago, I noticed that the fruits were ripe for the picking, and made a mental note to stop on my way home and snag a handful. In my scatterbrained craziness (I guess the loquat lady might have had good reason to look at me as though she were seeing the ghost of Dahmer), I finally remembered that it was loquat-pickin' time as I was coming home from the gym. Since I'm a glutton, I didn't stop to consider that climbing a tree in someone else's backyard at roughly ten o'clock in the evening might result in a call to the police or, even worse, in some overzealous "I don't call 9-1-1" gun-totin' cracker putting a few bullets in my ass and asking questions later -- those epiphanies only occurred to me after a friend pointed out that I was lucky neither of those scenarios took place.

I, however, beg to differ, since roughly a minute into the picking, I brushed a spiderweb and felt something crawling on my forearm. I HATE spiders and am absolutely terrified of their eight-legged alien ways. It being a very dark night, my imagination sprung into arachnophobic overdrive, so I jumped off the tree and stamped around the yard like a crazed wino while slapping hordes of imaginary spiders off my body. I eventually collected myself, grabbed my very meager harvest and went home, where I found that about half the fruit I'd picked was not yet ripe (damn you, colour blindness!), and that I'd actually been bitten in the forearm. That's the sixth time I've suffered a spider bite -- what are the fucking odds? I'm a city slicker, for crying out loud! No matter, because the loquats were absolutely delicious, as always.

I'm going in again tomorrow... spideys, beware.

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Armeniageddon strikes again

Super flyweight / junior bantamweight champion Vic Darchinyan refers to himself as "The Raging Bull," but I'm old-school and refuse to acknowledge recycled nicknames. There's only one Raging Bull, and that's Jake LaMotta, so I've taken it upon myself to rechristen my fellow swarthy, shrimpy Armenian pal Vic as "Armeniageddon" -- catchy, no? Also very fitting, because Darchinyan has cut a swath of pain and brutal destruction throughout boxing's lower weight divisions, knocking contenders and pretenders out with his unorthodox, lunging punches and, even more notably, with his vicious but hilarious pre-fight salvoes. Last night's victim was rugged and much-ballyhooed Mexican champion / tough guy / sideshow freak Jorge "Travieso" Arce, a huge celebrity in Mexico who considers himself a character and usually rides to the ring in a horse, wears a cowboy hat, and sucks on a lollipop until the opening bell. No, I didn't make any of that up. Mexican fighters have always struck me as no-nonsense, old-school tough guys, but the ones named Jorge (Páez, and now Arce) appear to have some predisposition towards buffoonery and some sort of latent homosexuality... but I guess Arce's fans eat that stupid garbage up.

No such gimmicks for the Australian-based Armeniageddon, whose entire shtick appears to be based on the "Sure, I'll be the bad guy -- you'll hate me even more after I kick your idol's ass all over the ring while smirking the whole time" routine taken to extreme levels. There isn't a better trash-talker in all of sports than this short, smirking, manic Armenian with the almost incomprehensible accent but articulate flair. No "come on gorilla, we in Manila" Poetry for 'Tards 101 in Vic's arsenal. Witness these jewels, which got progressively better / nastier as the fight date approached:

When the fight was finally announced, after Armeniageddon had reportedly been chasing Arce for a fight for 3+ years: "On February 7th you won't be able to hide behind a phone or your manager's skirt, it will only be you and me. It's taken three years for you to have the balls to face me, maybe your manager wants one last payday from you. Enjoy your last fight!" Manager's skirt! Vic even got in a free shot at the manager. Just classic.

When told that Arce wanted to avenge his countryman Mijares' defeat at the hands of Darchinyan: "I can't get enough of Mexican fighters. They bounce real good off the canvas when I hit them. Let's see, I've stopped Mijares, Victor Burgos and Luis Maldonado over the past two years. Unlike Arce, those three fighters were very tough hombres. Defeating Arce won't take much training. It won't even be a fight for me. More like pest control."

After Arce made a comment about wanting Vic to go toe-to-toe with him: "If Arce thinks he has a snowball's chance in hell of beating me, then he's a bigger sucker than those lollipops he chews on. Arce shouldn't be worrying about me running for the hills. He should worry about me running him out of boxing."

Once the venue for the fight was set: "If I were Arce's team, I'd MapQuest the quickest routes from the Honda Center to John Wayne Airport so he can get out of town fast. Unlike Mosley I am not waiting until the ninth round for the knockout. I am going to stop Farce quickly so he can take his black eyes on the red-eye out that same night. Whether Mexico allows him back in, well that is another issue." Black eyes on the red-eye AND a pun based on the guy's last name? Admit it, you're laughing right now. Hell, even Arce's parents would probably laugh, if they spoke English...

This next one's probably my fave; it's almost Ionescan (is that a word?) in its mean-spirited absurdity: "I'm going to swat that Spanish Fly. How do you take a guy like Arce seriously? He sucks on lollipops and wears a cowboy hat from a toy store. He looks like "Woody" from the movie "Toy Story." I can picture him running around his house on a broom pretending he's riding a horse. He's a regular Schlepalong Cassidy. When I finally meet him at the press conference do I say "Hola Jorge" or "Howdy, Doody?" Arce is going to be my human piñata. Our fight will be like a Chihuahua against a bull... a raging bull!"

After Arce was a no-show at the pre-fight press conference: "I was looking forward to facing him last Saturday at our press conference in Los Angeles, but he did not show. As my promoter Gary Shaw said, they decided to serve 'Chicken a la Arce' two weeks early. What a shock. Mexicans are great fighters. Arce is a disgrace to all of them. He is a clown. He should change his ring name from 'Travieso' to 'Travesty' because that's what he is. I promise that I will demolish him just like I demolished Mijares. I will let him be a coward for the first two rounds where he can run around the ring. He can even wear his stupid cowboy hat. But after that, I am going to be on him like a mongoose on a cobra. He does not stand a chance. Interim Champion is the perfect description of his so-called title reign."

And a last one right before the weigh-in: "It's the 'Year of the Ox,' how appropriate that I'm fighting Jorge Arce, who is as dumb as one. I'm going to blow him away like a Santa Ana wind. On Feb. 7, I'm going to teach Arce just how interim his title really is. What's black and blue and red all over? Jorge Arce by Round 3 --assuming he lasts that long." OK, I lied. THIS one is my fave. Year of the Ox? Santa Ana wind? A rhetorical riddle? Vic's comments are transcendental comedy.

Luckily for all involved, or, at least, for yours truly, Armeniageddon absolutely crushed Arce, battering him around the ring for 11 brutally one-sided rounds before the doctors mercifully stopped the fight. Poor Arce wasn't black and blue, as Vic predicted, but he was red all over. I think he was even bleeding from both ears, and although I'm all for rewarding game fighters and allowing them to finish fights on their feet, I'm glad the ring doctor, ref, and even Arce's corner agreed to call the bout to a halt. Vic really came through on his "human piñata" prediction, and Arce had to be taken to the hospital immediately following the fight. Thankfully, he's OK. As for Armeniageddon, well, he was very "gracious" in congratulating Arce for almost going the distance with him. At least, I think he was gracious... it was tough to tell, what with his hyper zeal, crazy Armenio-Australian accent, and repeated exhortations that "I said I would destroy him, and I always keeping my promise" lunacy. I can't wait for his next fight, but even more so, I REALLY can't wait for his next press conference.

Sunday, February 1, 2009

From a legal standpoint, it IS a big deal

Without getting into a meaningless discussion on whether it is or isn't morally OK to smoke weed: here in the United States, possession of marijuana, under twenty grams, is a first-degree misdemeanor. So are domestic violence, spousal abuse, assault and battery, shoplifting, theft, and drunk driving. You might think smoking a J is harmless and/or downright cool, but the law thinks it's about as acceptably cool as smacking your wife around. Our perception of the supposed harmlessness of weed is irrelevant. Hence, from a purely legal perspective, being caught smoking pot IS a big deal. Those who don't like it must either live with it or move to fucking Amsterdam.

Michael Phelps, wave bye-bye to millions of dollars' worth of endorsements. Loser.