Sunday, January 24, 2010

What’s In The Fridge?

As good guys, it’s our responsibility to ensure that we are prepared for just about any occasion, from the everyday to the extraordinary and everything in between. And while that doesn’t necessarily demand that you keep a plastic tarp, 50lb bag of lye, a roll of duct tape and a shovel in your trunk, it at least requires that you maintain a short-ish list of simple necessities in the icebox – for appearances if nothing else.

Note – If your wife does the household shopping, although that should not exclusively be the case, be sure you work these items onto list as required.

Cold Beer and Other Adult Beverages.
First and foremost, a man had better have a few cold beers on hand at all times, in expectation of announced visits, impromptu pre- or post- night out gatherings, spontaneous offerings to deserving repairmen and the like. Take it a step further by keeping a modest variety in stock – two options at least. Consider contrasting lighter or domestic brands and a similar amount of something a bit heavier or more exotic – ie. Miller and Bass, Heineken and Fat Tire, etc. Surprise and educate your guests with an under-the-radar, locally brewed favorite or an obscure discovery from a recent foray beyond our borders. Bottles only. Cans are for the golf course and the boat. If you find yourself lacking available space, or facing the ire of your significant other, immediately acquire additional cold storage, (college dorm varieties are adequate and typically available for under $100) ensconce it in the garage and keep it well stocked.

As far as other adult beverages are concerned, keep a bottle of chilled white wine and a decent bottle of champagne always at the ready, and under no circumstances allow the tiny light in your freezer to illuminate the absence of one bottle of (preferably Russian) vodka and one of (100% blue agave) tequila.

Basics and Perishables

A few items that should always be in at least minimal supply, from the basic building blocks of life to the makings of a perfect late-night, last minute romantic nosh include:
- At least 1/2 pound of butter – real butter, sweet cream, unsalted, in ¼ lb sticks encased in waxed paper, not a plastic tub. You may choose to supplement with olive oil on many occasions, but never be without this absolute necessity. Ask your grandmother.
- As far as other dairy products go (with cheese occupying it’s own distinct category), a quart of milk (whole to 2%, no less) and a pint of half & half or heavy whipping cream should suffice for most needs, large families excepted.
- Fresh fruits, particularly citrus - from oranges and grapefruits for juices, snacks or starters, to the ubiquitous lemons and limes without which no cocktail, seafood or guacamole would be legitimate – should always occupy a goodly percentage of the space in a lower compartment. Avocados in varying stages of ripeness make the perfect supplement to salads and sandwiches and as a simple side snack, particularly when paired with sliced Roma or firm, sweet cherub tomatoes . Fresh strawberries, blueberries and raspberries are sophisticated after-hours alternatives to ice cream and other sweets, and a perfect companion to anything from the champagne to the pancakes you are already prepared to provide as the situation dictates.
- Nothing begins a day, particularly a lazy, late-starting Saturday or Sunday, like breakfast made by your own hand – and it should be pointed out that it is the obligation of any gentleman who finds himself awakened in the company of an unanticipated but nevertheless attractive houseguest of the opposite sex. To that end, several large eggs and a pound or so of bacon are an utmost necessity. Add fresh cracked black peppercorns (always) and basil, spinach, mushrooms, peppers and cheeses to your eggs (as you see fit), and make sure the bacon is crisp. And, since you already have plenty of citrus and a bottle of champagne on hand, how about a fresh-squeezed mimosa? A well prepared breakfast of this caliber often leads you and your guest directly back to the room from whence you most recently emerged - You’re welcome.

Cheese, please.
From crumbled bleu and feta and fresh or marinated mozzarella, to blocks and slices of sharp, hearty Wisconsin cheddar and subtly smoked gruyere or gouda, cheese in variety is a can’t miss, go-to standard no self-respecting refrigerator should lack. Add it to salads, serve as snacks, and melt it into risotto or over potatoes and other staples to add a kick or unexpected twist.

Condiments and Other Extras

There is a reason refrigerators have such copious shelf space, and one should consider one’s self obligated to fill that space appropriately. Mayonnaise and mustard are bedrocks which must be occupy their God-given rightful stations, whether you enjoy them or not. One jar each of real mayonnaise and mustard of both the bright yellow and Gulden’s spicy variety should suffice. Ketchup or catsup as preferred, in quantity based upon consumption, is also an un-ignorable requirement. No man shall be without less than two varieties of barbeque sauce, as it has been written throughout the ages. Combine and supplement store bought brands with Worcestershire (the ever present, paper-wrapped Lea & Perrins ) or soy sauce and an improvised mixture of herbs and spices to make them your own. Two varieties of salad dressing, one creamy, such as bleu cheese or ranch, and a vinaigrette of some sort should meet most needs. (Try bleu cheese or ranch dressing as alternatives to mayo on your next “dagwood” sandwich.) Fill out your remaining shelf space with a variety (at least 2) of Mexican-style hot sauces or salsas, one small jar each of minced horseradish and minced garlic (used only when circumstances do not permit hand-mincing fresh cloves), and finish with bottle of Sriracha (the rooster) asian-style hot sauce and ground chili sauce or oil, for an exotic eastern spark. Creatively fill remaining nooks and crannys as available.

While most of the above items would not combine to make a suitable meal for one or more, they should form the basis or foundation of every good guy’s icebox, from stainless Subzero to rust pocked, circa-1970’s avocado-colored, allowing him to face a wide variety of situations and scenarios with anything from an easy confidence to near awe-inspiring style and sophistication.

As always, The Good Guy welcomes your comments, suggestions and additions to our oversights and omissions. Let us hear from you.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Your Car is Talking About You - Do You Know What It’s Saying?

We all know you aren’t supposed to judge a book by it’s cover, but we also all know that everyone does - at least to some degree. As Good Guys, we’d like to think that we are chosen as friends or lovers based on the facts that we dress appropriate to the occasion and know to stand when a lady returns to the table, which fork to use and at least a few good jokes for any situation - from bachelor party to boardroom. That may be true (probably isn’t), but like it or not, before we ever get a chance to show off that sparkling personality, the reality is that we’ve already created a number of impressions that may impede (or improve) our chances to shine. And, while we know we shouldn’t put too much stock in what others think about us (especially those that haven’t taken the time to get to know us), we probably still do.

So, as a sort of social experiment, and as an aide to those of us who will probably forever ponder the inner working of a woman’s mind (because let’s not kid ourselves, it’s her perception we’re most concerned with) The Good Guy has selected a group of 30 women deemed desirable by pretty much any man’s standards - that is to say, attractive, intelligent, charming and currently unspoken for. From time to time we’ll poll this panel of experts as to their opinions on a variety of topics in an effort gain insight we hope to be helpful, may instead be disheartening, but in any case might be amusing.

Here is their first topic of discussion and condensed responses:

Q: Imagine you are going on a (basically blind) date - you know little or nothing about your would-be suitor. He rings your doorbell, and you open it to see him standing on your step, while behind him idling at the curb sits his __________. What is your first impression?

1. The Typical Car - ie. Accord, Jetta, Camry, etc.

The basic impression was no impression at all. Words like “typical,” “standard” and “average” were used with alarming regularity. If that’s the impression you’re trying to make, perhaps in an effort to leave her perception a blank canvas upon which your colorful personality might layout the first broad strokes of the evening’s romantic masterpiece - you chose correctly. In that case, play it really safe and go for "champagne" - or as most would refer to it - beige.

2. The Luxury Sedan

This is a tricky one, because today every luxury brand offers a variety of models in a broad price range with sometimes almost imperceptible differences. However, this remains a fairly solid selection, with the higher end models of each line scoring high marks almost across the board. The only concern was whether you can actually afford the car you’re driving, or you’re just another $50k-a -year millionaire. The Mercedes S Class and BMW 7 Series blend performance, luxury and comfort particularly well while turning heads in the right way, creating an impression of sophisticated affluence and style – just don’t add ground effects or 24” chrome rims.

3. The Pick-Up Truck

The opposite sex’s perception of the pick-up driver seems to vary depending mainly upon age and geography. Southern states and rural areas seem to view the pick-up as just another car – and adding burled wood trim, heated leather seats, GPS and other luxury embellishments don’t really do much to raise the bar. Of course you’ll always be facing the fairly large percentage who will view this choice as anything from “Good Ole Boy” to downright “Redneck,” and adding oversize tires, chrome pipe bumpers and superfluous lighting certainly wont help your case there. A potentially telling response came from a charming and seemingly intelligent young woman who proclaimed “I like boys who drive trucks!” Go get her, boys.

4. SUV’s
For the guy who legitimately needs the space, power and ground clearance of the pick-up, but wishes to avoid the “Redneck” connotations, God has created the SUV. Tahoes, Yukons (no one knows the difference) and Escalades (no one cares about the difference) are solid choices for urban and rural Good Guys alike. Get yours in black, with all the extras, for a ride equally suited for the ranch or the strip. Beware back seat DVD players and 3rd row seats, as they bear the unmistakable marks of the suburban Dad (aka Soccer Mom.)

5. Exotic Sports Cars

While the entire English-speaking world knows the statement this particular ride is going to make, they persist in ever-growing numbers. Quickly glossing over the obvious reflections on package-size, height, hairline, age and self-confidence, let’s assume you actually are a connoisseur of performance driving who appreciates the finer things in life and to whom the $150k+ price tag is a reasonable expenditure for an unrivalled 2-seat experience – that still doesn’t explain the flaming red, safety orange or lime green paint job. (Yes, you.) Still insist on your right to driving a growling, low-slung, imported stripper magnet? Show some stylish sensibility and restraint, bypassing the obvious choices and rolling a Maserati or Aston Martin in charcoal gray.

6. Domestic Sports Cars
While fun to drive and affordable, when it comes to the domestic line-up of sports machines, you aren’t making much of a statement with this choice, and what you are saying isn’t all that good. Mustangs have become so prevalent that they barely rank above the Accord in terms of “Guy-ness,” while the over-styled Corvette continues to exude a certain Jersey Shore “this is my Ferrari” attitude, and even the the newly retro Camaro seems caught some-where between “middle-America” and “wanna-be car guy.” One notable exception is Dodge’s recent replication of the 1970 Challenger, with enough horsepower to make some legitimate noise, authentic retro styling coupled with contemporary comforts and a range of rarely seen colors that scream “I don’t give a damn what you think, this is my car!” Hemi Orange is our favorite, but our muscle-maniac respondent says go Plum Crazy.

7. Vintage Sports Car
Almost across the board, this is an seemingly can’t-miss choice, when done right. In fact, apply the term “vintage” to any of the above options to instantly turn your swing-and-miss or boring base-hit to a stand-up triple or more. Don’t believe us? Try telling the next woman you meet you drive a Ferrari, and watch for the barely concealed look of concern-bordering-on horror creeping into her eyes. Now tell her yours is the sleek and stylish midnight blue 1967 330 GTC parked on the front row of valet. Now ask her if she’s ready for another glass of champagne… The same experiment works with luxury sedans and even pick-up trucks to a degree, but don’t try it with a 1972 Honda Civic.

8. The Hybrid
Seriously? We all want the world to be a better place and last a little longer, and 40+ mpg at $3.95 a gallon sounds great, but not when you look at what it really costs you. At this point, you might as well add a Greenpeace bumper sticker, a Jesus-fish badge and an Apple decal to the back windshield. Make that a rainbow Apple decal.

Truth be told, it should and probably will come down to your true personality (or your looks.) And if it doesn’t, they probably weren’t the right one in the first place.

As always, The Good Guy tells it like he sees it, and stands by it. And as always, a little discourse is welcome, so feel free to chime in.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

A Primer for The Good Guy - First Installment

It isn't difficult to be a good guy, but as with most things, the devil is in the details. From time to time I'll post a few things (some important, some not so much) that every man should know, but sometimes forgets. Here then (in no particular order) are a few guidelines for doing it the right way.

Baseball Caps
They are made to keep the sun out of your eyes - not off of your neck or ears. They are to be worn brim forward - ALWAYS. How you treat the brim is totally up to you - a subtle curve is the norm, but you may choose to curl it extremely (The Fratboy), leave it totally flat (The Wanna-Be Rapper), or even curl the front edge up slightly (The Welder). TAKE THE STICKERS OFF.

Put The Seat Back Down

The Cell Phone - Part 1
Answer it, as often as you are able. If you're not going to answer it (in a meeting, on a date, etc.), leave it in the car or turn it off.

The Cell Phone - Part 2
Unless you are a member of a law enforcement agency, or Batman, you should not have anything attached to your belt.

Body Hair
Have some. Unless you are a professional swimmer (you aren't) or bodybuilder (you shouldn't be), it's appropriate for a man to have hair on his body. Want to keep it maintained, that's up to you.

It is perfectly acceptable to wear an athletic jersey, if you are actually a member of that particular team, and are playing or practicing, right now. If not, don't.

Sing Along
At a concert, on the dance floor, in the car or shower, every one feels it from time to time and is irresistibly compelled to sing along. Fine. However, if the song you are singing along with is by a woman, I will point you out.

Shine Your Shoes

Try Not to Cuss (So Much)
You should try to watch your language, especially around women and kids. However, there are times when a well chosen, perfectly timed expletive is not only acceptable but absolutely necessary. In these cases, try to be situationally appropriate and creative - mix it up a bit.

That's enough for now, but trust me, there's plenty more to come. And remember, The Good Guy is always up for a spirited debate, so if you disagree with or feel the need to embellish upon any of the above, let me hear from you.

Friday, January 8, 2010

The Good Guy as Guest

I'm attending the birthday party of a friend tonight (Happy Birthday Chyra!), so I thought I'd run over a few quick party guest guidelines.

1. RSVP.
Your host has a reason for asking you to RSVP, so do so in the time frame requested. If you missed the RSVP deadline, simply contact your host to be sure they can (and will) still accommodate you. If you RSVP for two (or more) be sure you bring that person or find a replacement. If you RSVP as a single, and decide you'd like to bring a guest, be sure and clear it with your host in advance.

2. Theme or Attire.
Your host has a vision of what their event will be, and if that doesn’t work for you, simply decline the invitation. In other words, a costume party means wear a costume, cocktail attire means wear a suit, and black tie means black tie. (FYI - “black tie optional” also means “black tie” - more on that later.)

3. Arrive On Time
Fashionably late is fine, but that means 30 minutes to an hour after the designated start time, depending on how long the event will last. For a party slated to last from 8pm until midnight, I’d arrive no later than 9pm. Again, your host has a reason for setting the time frame. And, if you've ever hosted a party, you hated the feeling early in the evening when you wondered if anyone was going to show.

4. Arrive Bearing Gifts
My grandmother told me to never show up at someone's home empty handed, and I believe the same applies to any event to which you’ve been invited. Obviously a birthday party invitation calls for a gift (“no gifts please” means simple gift or card) and flowers, wine or liquor, a simple token or card are always appropriate.

5. Participate and Enjoy
Mingle, meet new people, introduce your guests, dance, buy a round... no one likes a wallflower.

6. Don’t Enjoy Too Much
I’m pretty sure you know what that means. You are not intended to be the center of attention at this event, so make sure you aren’t. Remember, you want to leave an impression, but always a positive impression.

6. Don’t Overstay Your Welcome
Just as you don’t want to be the first to arrive, you never want to be among the last to leave (unless you’ve been specifically invited by your host to linger). Be sure to seek out and thank your host before making your timely exit.

Certainly there are many finer points to being the perfect guest, but these few reminders should ensure that you always leave your host and their other guests with the impression that “He’s a good guy.”

Disclaimer - Anyone who knows me knows that I have been guilty of breaking any and all of the above rules from time to time. This blog is intended to serve as a reminder and positive influence on me as much (or more so) than anyone else out there.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

The Lost Art of Saying “Thanks”

In today’s world of e-mails, texts and tweets, when even having an actual telephone conversation seems to be an obsolete practice, the handwritten, sincere sentiment has become a truly lost art. However, this month is the perfect time to resurrect this bygone tradition, and so it becomes the topic of The Good Guy’s first official post.

Christmas is two weeks behind us. Thank You’s are due to those who helped make your holiday season better or brighter, and the only appropriate way to truly thank someone is with a handwritten note. Trust me, the recipient will be pleasantly surprised by your gesture, and it will definitely leave an impression.

The message can be simple, but should be specific - “Thank you for _______, it meant a lot to me because ________.”

To leave a truly lasting impression, send your thoughts with style. Select a card with personality and character, something which reflects your own sensibilities, whatever they may be. Attention to quality details such as fine, heavier papers and embossed or engraved qraphics - from a simple monogram or illustration to elaborate patterns - can turn your simple gesture into a cherished memento.

Most quality stationers offer a wide variety of options, in packages or single cards, allowing you to further customize your note to the recipient. I suggest taking the practice to a higher level by creating your own unique cards, suitable for any occasion. Use them throughout the year for anything from Thank You's for gifts, follow ups for job interviews or simple thoughts such as “I saw this and thought of you.” (I received a message to that effect as I was writing this post - thanks Lauren.)

For more great ideas, unique greeting cards and custom stationary packages, check out PH Design Shop. My friends Chris and Amanda make it easy to select or create the perfect package for your unique sentiment and sensibility, and those who receive them are sure to appreciate your effort far more than the 5 minutes or $5 it actually cost you.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

The Good Guy

Have you ever heard someone say about a man "He's a good guy." Of course you have, and in my book, that's some of the highest praise a man can receive. They're not saying he's a great looking guy, or a really cool guy, or incredibly funny - he's just an all around good guy.

People like to be around a good guy - men and women both. Men enjoy his company - he's great to fill out a foursome at the club or take the last seat at a card game. Women know he can be counted as great company - for anything from a company Christmas party to a last minute fill-in at a wedding or black tie affair.

Ever wonder how some get to be considered good guys?

Stay tuned...