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Yelp Review: Barry’s Boot Camp

My dream was to pay a lot of dollars to navigate a tiny plot of sweat-drenched real estate in the dark while a tiny man with a microphone shouted orders over soulless uptempo music. I lived it.

The dark room is permeated by a red glow – just like they have on submarines. This is to get you used to the idea of a confined space filled with too many people.

An instructor walks around with a small public address system strapped to his head. His job in the dark is to guide you though the exercises by shouting indecipherable words that compete with the eardrum-pounding music. Sometimes you might hear words like “right hand” or “press” and you can try putting something in your right hand or pressing something. If that doesn’t seem right, try to find your neighbor in the dark and copy whatever he or she is doing because they may have understood a few more words than you did. If your neighbor looks very attractive it’s because red lights are like truffle oil and make everything more palatable.

The workout is a mix of treadmill and floor. The treadmill is your standard cardio routine. The instructor cycles you through jogging and running in the dark to simulate being chased through Central Park at 2am by a pack of feral teens.

The floor exercises use dumbbells and resistance bands in the dark. Depending on the day of the week there will be emphasis on butt & legs, abs & chest or full body. There is never an emphasis on light or audible guidance.

The floor space was allocated to maximize the number of participants while at the same time accommodating people Hobbit-sized or smaller. At 6′ 3″ I found myself constantly reminded of my height privilege as I stepped on dumbbells, towels, other people and myself.

Some Yelpers complain that instructors never critique their form. My experience differed, and in one instance a short man with a public address system strapped to his head emerged from the darkness to correct my jogging posture before disappearing into the sweet embrace of the night.

On the sweat scale I’d give it an 8. I burned a lot of dollars and calories. I give Barry’s additional points for not being CrossFit, so I didn’t once have to hear the words “paleo” or “WOD.”

 

[My Yelp page is here]

Yelp Review: Morgenstern’s Fine Ice Cream

I grew up in the 70s as the child of an executive at Howard Johnson’s. The only flavor in my freezer was Howard Johnson’s Mint Chocolate Chip ice cream.

However, I did not like Howard Johnson’s Mint Chocolate Chip ice cream.

I have to wonder how much different life would be if I’d had access to “Fernet Black Walnut” ice cream. Granted, I don’t know what a fernet is and I’ll be damned if I’m going to bother Googling it, but I would have preferred that to Mint Chocolate Chip any day of the week. I’m sorry Mr. Johnson.

My children – unaware how spoilt for choice they are – nonchalantly chose Passionfruit Apricot Sorbet and Green Tea Pistachio from the menu of flavors I had been wrongfully denied during my childhood. This reminds me, I need to regale them with stories of how I grew up with no iPad and only Mint Chocolate Chip. They love those stories.

After agonizing over choices like Salted Pretzel and Salt & Pepper Pinenut I opted for Salted Chocolate. There seems to be a salt theme, which I’m fine with as my body is mainly sodium and wine.

I also recall Vietnamese Coffee. Speaking of, I still haven’t forgiven Jane Fonda.

 


 

 

Like everyone else, I review things on Yelp.

Yelp Review: Apple Berry iPhone Repair

My night table was not where I thought it was. As a result, my beloved iPhone 5S was placed on top of oxygen atoms which are sadly lacking in solidity. Had I placed the phone on top of the carbon, hydrogen and oxygen atoms present in my wood night table, there would not have been a problem.

Absent the capability to support the iPhone, the oxygen atoms made no effort whatsoever to prevent the earth’s gravitational pull from drawing the phone into a downward acceleration. Based on the height of the night table that was not where I thought it was, I have to assume the phone struck the carbon, hydrogen and oxygen atoms comprising my hardwood flooring at approximately 11 mph. This resulted in what could be described as the Balkanization of the glass surface of my phone, and me cursing like a sailor being attacked by a spider monkey.

These folks fixed it rather quick-like.

 


 

 

Like everyone else, I share opinions on Yelp.

Yelp Review: Sleep No More

About five minutes into my adventure some guy came running out of the shadows choking and I lost my wife.

At this point I felt weird and toyed with the idea of returning to the bar area. Not that it happens to me often, but I feel awkward in crowds of people in scary masks attending an experimental play. I started to worry that I was becoming another silly New Yorker who suffers through “performance art.” – one of those insufferable  dunderheads who stare at some crap abstract painting and barf up pretentious nonsense about its true meaning. I really don’t want to be those people.

But then I figured, fuck it, I’ve got a scary mask on. I wandered around the dark “street” pining for my wife and eventually found myself looking into a funeral parlor. A gentleman was seated at a desk writing something, so I figured I’d wander in and stare at him. He was surrounded by several of us – people in creepy masks – watching him write a note. Then he got up, looked out the window, and left. Some folks ran after him. I decided to rifle through his desk (you’re allowed to).

After that I was enjoying myself. I wandered in and out of stores and houses, watching scenes unfold, looking through drawers, reading correspondence and trying to find my wife. It made me realize that it’s hard to find my wife when she and everyone else is wearing a creepy mask. The mask is pretty liberating too – in a brief bout of extraordinary optimism on my part I looked at masked women and assumed that every single one had attractive faces underneath.

I eventually stumbled into my wife again. We found ourselves watching a pregnant woman clearly in distress. She apparently took a liking to me. She held my hands and guided me to a door. She opened the door with a key and led me in to a tiny room with an altar – then closed and locked the door. It was just us. She caressed my cheek and asked me if I was okay. I nodded yes and started to wonder if my wife was standing outside wondering what the hell was going on. Then the woman took off my mask, hugged me, rubbed my hands and generally made me wonder if she was going to make out with me. She gestured for me to kneel at the altar, then reached around me (very close – I thought she might nibble on my ear), tore a page out of a book and folded it into a pocket. I stood back up and she dipped my hand in a goblet of water, ran my wet finger down her face and put the “tears” into the pocket, which she handed me. Mask back on, door opens and next thing I know I’m standing in a room alone realizing everyone had taken off. Apparently my wife wasn’t too concerned that a woman dragged me into a closet. And I’d lost my wife again.

Anyway – weird. But good weird. Really well done. After the grand finale I found my wife again and we compared notes: I’d seen a wonderful pair of breasts and my wife had seen two penises. A most unusual evening indeed.

[My Yelp page is here]

Yelp Review: Mars 2112

If I were writing a screenplay about struggling actors working in a depressing theme restaurant, it would be set here.

We enter. A woman with gold sparkles splattered on her face and a nominal command of language ushers us into the “spaceship” to Mars. My darling prodigies grab seats in the front of the empty spacecraft. Eventually we “take off” meaning the doors close and the video starts playing. Alas, the “spaceship” is broken.

“Why aren’t we moving?” my four-year old wonders.

“This is lame!” says the six-year old.

The kids spend the entire four-minute, pre-Pixar animation pointing out that the spaceship does not move. It ends. We exit into the “Mars spaceport” where glitter-face awaits.

“Was you payin’ attention to the movie?” she asks.

We was! We pass her quiz and are directed to a corpulent woman with glowing antlers. She’s seated at her station, looking down, chins resting in her palm. No eye contact. In retrospect she was probably hoping I’d deliver a quick death blow to the back of her neck.

“First name?” she asks. Still no eye contact. I answer. She directs us downstairs to the hostess… who asks me if my name is Brian.

From what I can ascertain, the primary function of the overweight alien upstairs is telling the downstairs hostess my name before I can tell her myself. Not that I want to contribute to the nation’s unemployment, but I don’t see why there needs to be a middleman or middlealien for that task.

We enter the restaurant area, a big room with fake red rocks and TVs hailing from an age when Michael Jackson wasn’t creepy, Mel Gibson was cool and George Lucas hadn’t murdered the Star Wars franchise. They run a looped video of an alien doing sign language from what looks to be a sixth-generation VHS copy.

We’re seated at a ridiculously crooked table. My kids clamber onto the duct-taped banquette. Nearby, the man who will be our waiter reassures a very large customer that he’ll correct her bill. Promising. Around us are couples without children. One has to wonder: Why on earth would anyone of sound mind come to a Mars-themed restaurant without kids? Yet, there they are. Maybe they know something I don’t. Maybe the ramshackle Martian atmosphere is a great place to break up with someone or tell your wife you’ve been posting crotch shots on Craigslist.

One of the day’s specials is pesto linguine sprinkled with mozzarella and peanuts. Do they mean pine nuts? It says peanuts. Maybe glitter-face writes the menus. Or maybe the chef actually thinks that sounds delicious. The menu reads like Ruby Tuesday’s, but with space-related words randomly tacked on: Quasar Quesadilla, Nebula Chili Nachos, Astral Cod Fish Sandwich. Mmmm, astral.

The waiter is nice but doesn’t know what a gimlet is and has no idea what gins they offer. Why do I want a gimlet? Because their beer and wine selection is shameful. He returns to tell me, “Yes, they have Bombay and they have gimlet.”

A three-eyed alien approaches the table. The youngest buries his head in his hands. The older one is coloring his placemat. The alien does some hand gestures, blows a kiss and meanders off. I feel bad for the alien because she is a person in a costume as old and tattered as the establishment. Inside is some poor human being with hopes and dreams, her head stuck inside a filthy three-eyed alien helmet, breathing stale air and wondering if the résumés she recently blasted out will come to anything.

My gimlet is terrible but at least it’s strong. Another “alien” walks by in a mask and blue leotard. He’s in too much of a hurry to stop but offers up a wave. The kids are indifferent.

The food arrives. Plastic plates. The kids’ macaroni and cheese is elbow pasta floating in orange cheese liquid. My chicken breast sandwich – which my waiter told me was great – is a paragon of mediocrity. Flavorless white protein draped with soggy pieces of undercooked bacon in a fresh-from-fridge cold bun. A chicken’s life squandered.

Naturally, the arrival of the food activates my four-year old’s bladder. We dash to the restroom where I come to the mind-blowing realization that Mars 2112 has a washroom attendant. Until this moment I had always assumed they graced only the most pretentious establishments: Five star hotels, trendy nightclubs, “Gentlemen’s” clubs. There’s now a dramatic shift in my understanding of the rules of washroom attendantry.

Back at the table the kids nurse their orange pasta soup. We’re approached by a woman identifying herself with a straight face as Empress Gloriana, ruler of Mars. She asks how everything is. With no regard to the legal penalties on Mars for bald-faced lying I say, “Good.” She wishes us well and moves on to matters of more diplomatic import, I can only hope.

At that moment I decide life on Mars is depressing. I make the call to return to Earth immediately which thrills the kids to no end. Apparently they missed it.

 

[My Yelp page is here]

Yelp Review: Little Branch

This is the first establishment that got me thinking about ice cubes.

I’d never really thought about ice cubes before. I knew them to be cold. I knew that their time on earth was limited, especially if I’m drinking. But I never really thought about the diversity of ice cubes we enjoyed. At least in New York City – I certainly can’t speak for your village or rebel-held province.

The ice cube in my drink was the largest ice cube I’d even seen. It was like a Rubik’s Cube floating in gin. It was perfect in all ways – smooth, crystal clear, square. It was like a supermodel as far as ice cubes go and I miss her very much (Yes, I assign ice cubes gender).

I think about that ice cube and the brief time we spent together a lot. Probably too much. I’m a simple man who can be won over by frozen water.

 


 

 

Like everyone else, I share opinions on Yelp.

Yelp Review: Ninja Restaurant

It occurred to me that I’d never taken my son to a restaurant where strange people leap out from the shadows. I decided to rectify this situation immediately.

Upon researching dining venues peopled with faux-assassins, I came to realize that in all of New York City there appears to be only one. One! I was flabbergasted. What giant, cultured metropolis worth its salt has only one restaurant where you can pay lots of money for food while being kind-of attacked with swords? Once proud of my city, I immediately felt like I lived in some depressing third-world backwater. Clearly we can only call ourselves an “up and coming” city until we have a wide variety of dining establishments where men in skirts shout “Heeeya!” and place cold, dull steel against your throat.

My son, 6, was was completely and regrettably unfazed by what I would describe as an “expensive” dining experience. He still struggles with the concept of money being used to purchase goods and services. He and his foolish friends still barter.

The food wasn’t bad, just pricey for what you got. What he got was chicken teriyaki he liked and tempura shrimp he wouldn’t touch. The waiter rather admirably insisted that the vegetables be eaten before he would materialize with dessert. It takes a village.

Dinner took a while because instead of eating it, my son was absolutely fixated on the prospect of being set upon by the legendary, gratuity-dependent, shadow warriors. He sat back-to-the-wall, calling out “I hope nobody attacks me” at one minute intervals. I have to admit I felt betrayed that he devilishly permitted a smallish, pony-tailed man to creep up behind me and put a dagger to my throat as I tucked into a ribeye.

The arrival of the “ninjician” was the highlight of the entertainment – which until that point had consisted solely of the aforementioned shouting/leaping/thrusting people. He performed several tricks, the last one being quite impressive.

My son clearly enjoyed his time there and declared it to be his favorite restaurant. That hurts, considering I’ve taken him to some remarkable ones. I attempted to suggest that we were in a “special occasion” venue only – perhaps we’d visit when he got married. He was having none of it and asked if we could dine there again on the morrow. I said no because I’m the parent and I win.

[My Yelp page is here]