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Sunday, December 28, 2008

Classic, Just Classic

 
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So Christmas Day we were sitting out back on our deck playing this game called Catch Phrase.

My tweener niece had asked for it.

Apparently it makes for a good drinking game but you'll have to test that theory for yourself and get back to me on it.

Basically, the holder of the game gets a topic or phrase (like "egg on your face") and has to try and get the group to guess what the phrase is by dishing out clues.

My niece had the game at one point and was all, "ooohh, oooh, like, um, er, like ooohhh, ooohhh this is like, um, um, like something you do at a sleepover!"

Without a beat, my nephew, her teenager brother said,"Get head lice?"

Laughter ensued.

Hardy laughter.

"What? What? For real," he said.
"It's happened twice."

[I have no idea what that is a picture of by the way. Bring on the captions. Photo by Greg Barbera December 2008]

Recycling Bin Of A Beer Magazine Editor

 


Unfortunately, no Duff Beer in there.

Spot any of your favorites?


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Sunday, December 21, 2008

Weird Science

 
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I spent the last few weekends laying down a new floor in my house with the help of my brother-in-law.

Most of my Thanksgiving holidays were spent on my hands and knees prepping the floor for the installation. I tend to get lost in thought during mindless chores like this (my latent ADHD rearing its ugly head), and pulling staples out of my floor was no different.

I recalled a time when I spent the day (or two or three) as a production assistant on a television commercial for some Japanese company during my early years in Los Angeles.

I had gotten the call because the production of the commercial had lagged past its pre-production schedule creeping into the Christmas holidays. As an East Coast'er living on the West, I didn't have the money to fly home for Christmas. So when half the production manager's staff flew the coupe for the holidays, I got the last minute call for work.

At the time, a day rate of $125 seemed like good money but I would soon find out that day rates suck if two thirds of the crew are unionized.

I was told to pick up a box truck from a rental company in Hollywood and then drive it out to Agoura Hills to some newly built subdivision where the shooting would take place. Call time was at some ungodly hour like 6am so when I rode my bike to the rental company in the bowels of Hollywood the sun had yet to rise.

When I arrived on set and met my contact I was informed that the shoot shouldn't take more than half a day. The previous week had been spent shooting establishing shots and now all that was done was to wait for the talent to show up and shoot the damn commercial.

Talent was a guy by the name of Charlie Sheen.

They had been waiting on him for a week.

So while the director, lighting grips and a gaggle of Japanese business men waited for talent, I was assigned to help the art department. The art department in this case was two guys - one a surfer dude from San Diego and the other a stout Jewish guy from Long Island. Our job for the day was to strip up the floor of the kitchen in one of the house they shot at earlier in the week. Removing the floor meant a lot of time spent on your hands and knees with a putty knife.

And some chemicals.

These guys did nothing but huff (unintentionally) said chemicals and laugh at themselves as they barked out lines from Weird Science.

I had entered the Sci-Fi Zone.

And it wasn't pretty.

Around 3pm we had finished our job of floor removal and walked down the empty subdivision cul de sac to the house where all the production trucks were. But nothing was going on. Charlie was still MIA.

So the douchebag director was trying to get the grip guys to try different lighting scenarios in case Sheen showed up after dark but all they did was sit and smoked cigarettes and talk to each other as if nobody was around.

"What are those guys doing?" I asked my trusty art dept. cohorts.
"They're union," said Surfer Dude.
"So," I said.
"They are killing time," said Long Island boy.
"Why?" I asked.
"In two hours they will be at time and a half," explained Long Island boy.

And sure enough, when the mental money bell rang in these guys' heads, they snuffed out their smokes, crushed their cans of soda and suddenly began to "hear" the director. I think I got home around 11pm that night.

Since Charlie didn't show, everybody trekked it back out to Agoura Hills the next day. And again I spent the day as clean-up errand boy doing the most useless tasks to kill time until something might happened when they might need me to actually do something.

Charlie showed up at dusk the second day.

In a limo.

Stocked with booze.

His driver said he had been on a bender and that you'd better hurry because you probably got about two hours before he turns to shit.

Charlie dressed up in some super hero robot kind of costume and held some ray gun. Apparently, from what I gathered, he was knocking stains out of clothes with his ray gun. But that would all come later in post production.

It was a wrap before Charlie turned to shit.

I had the pleasure of returning the box truck to the rental company in Hollywood. But first I needed to take the art dept. guys to the studio so we could unload it, then give Long Island boy a ride home to his crib in the Valley before I could finish my day.

It was well after midnight by the time I got to the rental company and despite the many reassurances of my production coordinator, I was fully convinced it would not be open. When I got to the office in the dark of night, there was an employee of unknown origins sleeping on the floor with a machete. I startled him awake banging on the door, gave him the keys and signed off on the rental sheet.

"Charlie fucking Sheen," I thought.

I caught the glint of light off the blade of the machete and mumbled to myself "Charlie don't surf" as I walked away.

[Lenny Kersey ponders a pattern for the floor; December 2008.]

Sunday, December 14, 2008

That Busy Time Of Year

Life has gotten so busy.

Crazy busy.

A few months ago I landed a full-time job at a magazine. While I love my new job - I couldn't have asked for a better way to transition from being a stay-at-home dad - the transition has now come without its own growing pains.

I don't have the time on my hands like I used to mull over things to write about like punk rock dad sitcoms and my parenting memoir.

Working in the beverage industry isn't a 9-to-5 job. Sure I pretty much go to the office during that time but brewers keep hours like musicians so a fair amount of my evenings at home are spent following-up with beer blokes on the west coast or in other parts of the world. Toss in the holidays and vacations and suddenly I have to scramble to keep the production of the magazine on schedule.

The good news is that I've got half a year's worth of upcoming issues assigned so the future looks less hectic, but making it through to the next issue to going to be maddening as people disappear into the fog of family obligations, holiday parties and other such seasonal nonsense.

We did managed to score a Christmas tree yesterday. Looking back on my blog archives, I had to chuckle at how we have gotten our tree pretty much the same weekend the last few years.

The holidays always bring up a plethora of emotions for folks - some good, some bad - so I hope everybody out there has fun this holiday season and makes it through unscathed.

Last year I wasn't so lucky.

I've got my fingers crossed that from this date on things will only look up.

Monday, December 01, 2008

Where The Huskies Go

 
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Gratuitous beer and music post.

Do the math.

This Is A Post About Bacon

 
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As if I didn't eat enough food the past few days, I had to finish off the weekend with this shrimp dish:

Fry up some bacon.

Take some of the grease
and cook the shrimp in it,
salt and peppered.

Remove shrimp to paper towel'ed plate.
Add more grease to the pan
and toss in a bag of cabbage and

Splash it
with
red vinegar.

Stir cabbage in pan until
almost wilted,
but still crisp.

Now toss back
in the shrimp
with the cabbage.

Serve
and garnish
with bacon bits.

Friday, November 28, 2008

Double Vision

 
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Over the last few weeks I have started to question my eyesight.

I'm not sure if the need to squint is a sign of age or the fact that I know have a full-time job that requires gratuitous amounts of computer time.

Mostly, these blurred encounters happen in the early morning or late at night, especially during sports when I sometimes have trouble reading the scoreboard from my armchair. But then again, I don't really watch sports that much because my Redskins rarely get the TV time around here. But Heels basketball has started up and I am eager to see if the team can pull off the almost impossible task of an undefeated season.

I probably will make an appointment to get the eyes check once my health insurance kicks in but that won't be until after January so for the moment I just get to hypothesize on the subject and squint a lot.

Yesterday I spent a nice, quiet Thanksgiving with the family.

While I am usually a big fan of the massive get-together it was nice just to enjoy the company of my family this year.

We got up early, put on some Loretta Lynn and started making pie. Loretta segued into side one of The Outlaws, that became Mars Hotel which then led to a big, long Neil Young jag. I could see this was going to be a day where the vinyl was going to stack up at an alarming rate and that's exactly what it did.

After the morning was lost to food prep, we ducked out of the house and took a walk around the neighborhood. Upon returning we noshed a bit and then retreated to the back yard to toss the football around. I came inside to watch the Lions/Titans game (squinting) but that was a total blowout and not the slightest bit entertaining so I channel surfed on over to VH1 Classic only to find a Pink Floyd marathon going on.

I stumbled for a moment trying to find a connection between Pink Floyd and Thanksgiving and then a light bulb went off in my head: tryptophan.

Pleasantly bored, we made another trek around the neighborhood only this time we decided to explore some of the woods nearby as well as crossing over the street to the lake to skip some stones.

Words like bucolic and idyllic came to mind.

Back home we readied for the feast and destroyed the table full of goods in less time that it took to pronounce the day's name.

Stuffed, we al showered and then sat down to watch a post-dinner family movie... Journey to the Center of The Earth.

In 3D.

It pretty much sucked.

The kids loved it of course.

So after 90 minutes wearing those glassed my eyes were toast. After we put the kids to bed and tucked them in, we did the same of ourselves. I turned the Tv on more as a source of light; it is easier to use the remote to turn off the TV than it is to reach over and hit the switch on the light.

I fluffed my pillows and then heard a familiar sound,"So ya thought ya might like ta go to the show...

Nothing like ending your day with tryptophan, Floyd and technicolored dreams seen through your third eye.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Do Work

 


My 8-year-old asked me if there was any work to be done around the house.

He's got a book fair at his school coming up and is looking for ways to earn some dough.

I told him that we needed to rake the leaves in the backyard and he agreed to do it for a fee: six dollars and hour.

So after sleeping in, watching TV and then playing some video games, the boys got dressed.

Without me telling them to.

I knew something was up.

I heard the back door slam shut and then creak back open again.

"What time is it dad?" he asked.

"Quarter to twelve," I said.

"I'm gonna earn some money!" he said.

My younger son heard all the commotion and asked what was going and within moments was hooded and hatted and out the back door himself.

I sat there and watched in delight at the thought of these boys getting old enough to do the shit I always do like rake, mow the lawn or shovel snow. Before I could finish my daydream the rakes had been dropped... and I noticed the slide of the treehouse was now covered in leaves and pines needles.

You want to teach your kids the value of money and the hard work it takes to get it but then again you also want your kids not to have to grow up too fast, you want your kids to have kid fun. So I raked around the yard while they entertained themselves.

"What time is it?" my 8-year-old asked.

"Has it been an hour?"

"Probably," I said.

"But you don't get six bucks because you stopped working," I explained.

"Aw man," he groaned.

"I'll give you two bucks, a dollar for each pile you raked."

He seemed content at that.

I raked about a half dozen piles of leaves but left the biggest for last. As I dragged the tarp over to scoop up the pile they both screamed.

"Wait! Wait! Not yet..." said my 8-year-old.

So I sat and watched these two brothers run football plays with their K2, each one ending in a dive into the pile of leaves.

The 8-year-old was trying to finish off the game with a Hail Mary pass to his little brother. He kept razzing his little brother about not catching the ball until I pointed out the quarterback was throwing weak passes to him.

"Don't you be talking about my quarterback!" said my 5-year-old as he ran towards me holding the ball up above his head like he was going to throw it at me.

One more pass turned into two. Then three. And four. Five. Six. Seven...

Then my 5-year-old caught the ball as he fell into the pile. They both screamed as the quarterback came running over and picked him up then dumped the two of them into the leaves.

By the time I raked the mess back up into a managable pile, they were already inside.

Then I heard the door open.

"Dad, how about three dollars?" said my 8-year-old.
"For teamwork, because we worked like a team."

"Okay," I said. "Three dollars."




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Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Shoe Shine Man And Other Stories




I knew there was a full moon coming just by the bus.

Three weeks into commuting and not much had happened.

Sure there was your average bus fare: a drunk guy here, a homeless woman there, wayward teens whittling away their time as best they know how. And there was the simple fact that I was the lone white guy ninety nine percent of the time.

I'm sure some of them think I'm a narc.

But for the most part, it was basically about people getting on, and people getting on the bus with as little interaction as possible.

A few days ago that all changed.

I had caught the 5:30 downtown and boarded the bus to go home. I noticed two white guys in suits and recognized them as the Mormons I saw a few days earlier when it occurred to me after I saw them that I don't see white people riding the bus.

The bus seemed unusually crowded with a handful of folks grabbing the overhead.

And that's when I heard someone yelling out from the back.

"ShhhhuuuuShhhhinnnnnee!" he said. It almost sounded like a yodel.

Just then an older man, one with grey hair and cane, took off his hat and squinted his eyes toward the back of the bus.

""ShhhhuuuuShhhhinnnnnee!" said someone again from the back.

"I hear you but I can't see you!" said Shoe Shine Man.

I caught a reflection in the window behind me of the Caller and the person next to him in conversation but it was inaudible.

The Mormons began to chant a psalm or hum of hymn or whatever reading from prayer books in sing songy unison is called these days. Maybe I have finally put my ingrained Catholicism aside by now because I can't remember.

Shoe Shine looked at them and said something to the Caller; his mouth was nothing but gums.

The Caller called back, "They on a mission ShuShine!"

"So am I!" said Shoe Shine punctuating it with a "ha ha."

"To find the Holy Ghost!" he said

"Yeah, Holy Ghost..." said the Caller.

"Or maybe some wine," said Shoe Shine with a laugh.

That was weird I thought.

And then I recalled how when I was waiting for the bus at the depot I could see in the outside window of the information center.

I saw a woman looking at lingerie on her computer.


***

The other day a fight broke out at the depot. It started off like most altercations with people calling each other names in an increasingly louder cadence until it was clear there was going to be some "commotion." I came to the assumption that two teenage [??] boys had tried to lift something out of another guy's backpack and he called them out on it. Then the threesome sat in the middle of the road mouthing off to each other but it seemed like things we far from getting heated. I wasn't close enough to hear nor did I want to be.

A cluster of two others joined me as spectators.

The older guy said he'd kicked both their asses but one at a time, that two on one is cowardly. Then he came at them hard in the middle of the street, stomping and puffed up like a peacock: " You niggers are a bunch of bitches!!"

Then he said something about guns not making you a man and how fucked up the kids today are because they can't even step up and fight.

The kids then back off and walk away.

"He's ri-aight, tho he's ri-aight," said a fellow standing next to me.

"Dressin' like a gang banger don't make you a gang banger," he explained.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Reading Versus Writing

I'm been spending entirely too much time reading over at places like Beerinator and Facebook, the latter a modern day version of crack.

My fascination with Facebook is the sheer fact that almost everybody in the world has a profile - from the kids in my neighborhood to kids from my old neighborhood. You type in a name of someone you know and chances are they are going to have a Facebook page. Unlike MySpace where my band has had a page for years and seems to be the domain of musicians, Facebook seems to be all about personal social networking unlike LinkedIn which seems to be for the most part about business.

I digress.

What this post really is about is the simple fact of how one can go forward yet look back at the same time.

One month into working a full-time job again after seven years and I feel I can finally start to digest those years; the waves no longer crash on my mental shores everyday.

Tomorrow is Veteran's Day which means there is no school. Normally this would just been another blip on my radar screen noticed only by a closed bank here or a trip to the doctor's office there. But now there's the scramble to see who will watch the kids, the drawing of straws between my wife and I over who is going to take off work.

I remember the many trips to the doctor's office - there's nothing like going when your kids have tattooed themselves.

Two years ago this November, I went to an At-Home Dad Convention which was one of the most eye-opening and spiritually uplifting things I have done in my life. To meet guys who shared my way of life, who had been through the trauma and the trite stares; endured the bullshit and the banal existence that can come when your life swings completely in the opposite direction was good for the soul. I may have moved on but I have not and will not forget my brothers who still walk the walk and talk the talk in the fight for gender equality when it comes to raising children.

Whether you are forced into it or chose to do it, never let anybody make you feel like you can't or shouldn't be raising your own children.

It wasn't until I embraced the fact that I was a stay-at-home-dad that I was fully able to relish the role. It was shortly after the convention that I started to put being a dad, and an involved one at that, first and foremost. Although I had kept a blog for a year leading up to it, it wasn't until after going to Kansas City that I actually "came out" as a dad blogger to my friends and family. It 2005, it was weird just to say you were a blogger much less a dad blogger.

I'll admit it, sometimes being the parent at home was hell.

But sometimes, Hell ain't a bad place to be...

Thursday, November 06, 2008

The Best Day Ever

I finally wised up the other day.

For the past week, I kept telling myself that I needed to grab one of my kids' mp3 players before I left for work. It would give me something to do while I stood there waiting for the No. 10 bus and drowned out some of the chatter I overhear during my commute.

The sound of cars and squawking birds gave way to the Cars, Cheap Trick, Red Hot Chili Peppers and Ramones.

A little back story is in store here: The only reason we bought some cheap ass mp3 player for our 5-year-old son was because we had gotten an mp3 player for his older brother when he turned seven and that became an obsession for him in so much that he carried it everywhere (so we went with the placating bribe with my younger son to avoid them fighting over it).

I downloaded about 60 songs on it for him.

Then I figured out I could download a shitload of songs (some not age appropriate) and put them in another folder slash playlist. But this summer when we took the great family road trip we ran into a problem where his player would only play my songs but this wasn't discovered until well into the trip.

So there I was trying to remedy the problem while driving through some tunnel on the verge of getting light-headed and ill so that my two kids could listen to their own music in the back seat even though several of their musical choices were housed in the family car's multi-disc changer.


Suddenly the sound of rubber tires on asphalt didn't sound so bad.


Fast forward to the other day: I'm standing at the bus top and groovin' to some tunes. About four stops later on the inbound bus, I deduct that the contraption is running through the playlist in alphabetical order.

Soundgarden came on and I had an epiphany about Kim Thayil and how despite that rhythm section and Cornell's yelp, the band would have been nothing without Thayil's guitar.

I guess that Powerbar I ate ahd kicked in.

The song ended and suddenly Spongebob came on.

I fumbled through my jacket to find the player to try and make sense of the settings but once again looking at it made me light-headed; I'm not one who can read in the car obviously.

The next day I switched out players.

Avail came on at the bus stop.

I mouthed the words to two songs as I watched my shadow bounced in front of me.

The bus came and I climbed on.

Song crazy song that reminded me of the label came on but I for the life of me had no idea who it was; once again I was forced to dig into my jacket to see who the artist was only to be shut out as the player listed song titles only.

I forwarded to the next song.

As I suspected this too was going through the playlist in alphabetical order.

Must have been Clockcleaner I thought.

Next song was some dub reggae.

I tried to check the title, got light-headed and decided to turn the mp3 player off.

So now it's back to car horns, bus stop alerts and random chatter.

But that beats feeling light-headed...

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Election 2008 - Obama vs. McCain

It's election day 2008 folks.

I'll spare you any political rants because you will get enough of them throughout the day.

But also because I need not reveal what a nut job I am when it comes to my political beliefs.

What I will give you is a little dose of punk rock courtesy of my band the Chest Pains.

Right around the time of the last election, I got into a debate about the value of your vote and whether or not John Kerry had the heart.

We all know how that all turned out.

Anyway, I penned this ditty during the weeks approaching the election in 2004, inspired by large doses of D.O.A. and the Dead Kennedys.

And because you may not be able to understand a word I'm saying in the following clip, I've included the lyrics.

Kerry The Torch

Kerry... the torch?
I think not
With idle [idol?] minds
We sit and watch our country rot

Sticks and Stones
Skull & Bones
Stick and Stones
Same face, different name

So you're feeling Bush-whacked
and spiritless
The politik of our country
Is a fucking mess

Four more years?
Four more years?
Four more years!
God No...

Four more years?
Four more years!
Four more years!
Fuck you!!

Jump ship and move away
Amsterdam sounds good today
Maybe I'll move to Mexico?
C'mon everybody! Vamos a playo!!

Sunday, November 02, 2008

Is That Like Being Recruited?

 


Although the 7/8 Chapel Hill Titans lost their game to defending champs Bethesda over the weekend, my son had two touchdowns.

The first one his team was backed inside their own 20 yard line and on fourth and long he broke around the corner on a sweep and ran 80 plus yards for a touchdown with opponents nipping at his heels the entire time.

After half time, I had to retreat to the hill above the stands to get a better look and to get away from the home team fans - we all shared the small section of bleachers at the field. This game was played at an elementary school unlike the other games which were played on high school football fields and as such had proper bleachers for the home and away teams.

The Titans had started to drive so I moved up to the fence by other parents cheering for Chapel Hill.

There was a bunch-up at the line of scrimmage and then a little head popped up on the far sidelines and started a bee line down the field.

"Is that your son?" said one dad.

"I think so," I said, unable to see the number on the jersey.

After he past midfield I could tell by the cleats and the gallop of his stride that it was my son.

"Go Spence! Go!" I hollered with all of my dad pride.

At about the 20 yard line he turned and looked back, saw they we closing in and kicked into another gear, pulling away towards the end zone for another score.

After the game I was talking to his coach when a father from the other team came over and asked who was the kid that scored the touchdowns.

"He's right here," said his coach as he pointed to my son.

"What's your name son?" asked the dad as he reached out to shake his hand.

"Spencer," he said as they shook hands.

"Nice job boy," he said. "I hope you keep at it. You are the future of Carolina football."

Then he said he'd keep an eye out for his name because he knew he was going to hear more of it in the future.

As we left the field, Spencer turned to me and said, "Was that sorta like being recruited?"

[Photo: Spencer in foreground with little bro Cole in background]

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Mr. Jack O. Lantern

 





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Goblins And Ghouls

 



Somebody asked me what me kids were for Halloween on Saturday during one of their football games.

"I don't know," I said.

"You don't know what your kid was for Halloween?" one mom chimed in incredulously.

I laughed.

"They had masks and capes on, but what they called themselves I do not know..."

So how would you describe the boys in this picture?
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Sunday, October 26, 2008

The Hellacopters Final Curtain Call

 
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The Hellacopters are throwing in the towel.

While the band has been fairly dormant since 2007, a recent MySpace post announced they would be playing their last shows ever this weekend.

Back in the late-'90s, when I was in the throes of being a music journalist, I was a serious Hellacopters fans. I spent many a year on a garage rock jag, diggin' most of the stuff that came out on labels like Crypt, Man's Ruin, and Estrus. I could get enough of bands like The Quadrajets, Fireballs Of Freedom, The New Bomb Turks and The Dwarves.

When I got my hands on Super Shitty To The Max I played the hell out of it.

At some point, the band embarked on a US tour with The Quadrajets and The Nomads (another great Swedish band) and I set up an interview with Nick Royale, singer and guitarist for The Hellacopters and wrote a preview piece for the local weekly to promote the show. I sort of hit it off with Nick and before the interview was over I had invited the band over to my place for a pre-show cookout but that was weeks away.

Fast forward to the day of the show.

I get a call from the club owner asking for directions to my house, that The Hellacopters wanted to take me up on my offer. I few minutes later a white van showed up driven by Dave Curran, the bassist from Unsane who was functioning as their tour manager. Beers were consumed, burgers eaten and cultural conversations ensued.

Hellacopters bassist Kenny Hakansson excused himself to use the bathroom.

When he came back he said something to Nick in Swedish then turned to me and asked about the room across from the bathroom that had a drum set and amps in it.

"Can we jam?" he asked.

"Sure," I said and went on to explain that's what the room was for but the concept of house party shows was foreign to them.

So Nick, lead guitarist Robert Fahlquist and drummer Robert Eriksson made their way to the room and rocked the fuck out. Nick, a left hander, played my bass upside down while the two Bobs went ape shit on their respective instruments.

My shitty Kramer guitar and Peavey amp never sounded so good; it's not the equipment folks, it's the musician that can turn lemons into lemonade.

The above picture is from that fateful day.

The Hellacopters would go on to be rock stars of the highest order in their country, put out several albums through Sub Pop and then Liquor & Poker before fading from my horizon. I had kids, lost my job and pretty much stopped writing about music for a half dozen years but I'd still break out The Hellacopters when occasion called for it.

I can't remember how or when it came up but at some point my oldest son asked me what was in his room before it became his room. I explained that we had called it the "rock room" because it stored the stereo, copious amounts of CDs and vinyl LPs and a selection of musical instruments.

And it was left at that for another 18 months until he started to show interest in music (Thin Lizzy and DEVO) and shortly thereafter began to pilfer records from my collection so he could establish his own music library. I brought up The Hellacopters story again only this time I dug through my photo archives and found some slides and a few color prints made from them.

Not having a fucking clue who The Hellacopters were, he was still impressed that a rock band had been in his room, so he took the photo and stuck it up on his wall.

And then The Hellacopters faded into the horizon once again.

Until last Christmas when we got PS2 from my sister-in-law.

And then he one day while playing a video game he heard a Hellacopters song on it and yelled for me.

"Dad! Dad! Listen, it's The Hellacopters!" he said excitedly.

Sure enough, "Bring It On Home" was blaring out of the television.

Oh, and he also eventually would unlock a Hellacopters song playing Guitar Hero.

So today, I raise a toast to a band who has made a lasting impact not just on me but also on my son, a generational double shot of rock 'n' roll.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Okay, Here It Is...

 


The job post.

Or posts.

It's been two weeks since I got a job and returned to the 9-to-5 world after seven years of parenting during the day and catering on the weekends.

Yes, I have officially "retired" from catering.

But I still have this urge to clean up people's plates after they have finished eating.

It may take awhile to break that habit.

My typical day now starts out around 6:45am.

I get up and make the boys their breakfast and lunch then see to it that they get dressed and pack their book bags for school. Around 7:45am I hop on my bike and ride for about 15 to 20 minutes to the bus stop which is in front of the local Kroger grocery store. I lock up my bike and then head into Kroger for a snack (Clif Bar) and a drink (bottled water) then go to the bus stop and wait for the Number 10 to arrive.

I get on the bus around 8:15am and it winds it's way through Durham finally arriving at the Downtown Depot at 9am.

I get off and walk down Morris until it changes into Washington Street, about 5 minutes until I reach the office. Once through the front door I turn left into my office and open the blinds to see the old Durham Bulls Ballpark right across the street from me. I fire up the Mac lap top I have been provided and go through emails, read beer blog posts and then ask if any one is going on a coffee run.

Coffee.

Once a necessity to jump start my day, coffee is now more a habit; a reminder that the work day has begun. But the bike ride and walk, as it turns out, are a great way to get the head cleared for the day.

Like any job, there's meetings and phone calls and research and all those laborious tasks that come with being an editor. Only the subject matter is beer.

Two of my co-workers are serious jazz heads so one of the local college radio stations that specializes in jazz is pumped out over speakers throughout the day. The work environment is casual to say the least and while every job has its stressful moments, we here at the magazine can remind ourselves this: it's about beer.

Phew.

Stress gone.

Then it's lunch, where I have been sampling menus at places like Piedmont, Toast and Guajillos and I have a hunch you will start to see an upturn in food-related posts in the next few weeks.

After lunch I consult with my editor who is currently trying to put the finishing touches on an issue. I check with circulation and production people and update them on the status of copy, files and artwork. The last few days I have been calling breweries to track down bottle labels to run with reviews much like you would scan CD artwork for a music review.

Since yesterday was Friday, that means somewhere between 3:30-4:30pm an anouncement will come: Beer Thirty.

When Beer Thirty is anounced, the office shuts down and everybody relocates over to Tyler's Taproom. The talk doesn't change much from the office, and I'm still with pen and paper jotting down ideas and suggestions from the staff. After a few rounds of beers, everybody goes their separate ways to enjoy their weekends.

Then Monday comes and we all start the process all over again.
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Have Mercy!*

 



Downtown Durham bus depot.


*Yes, that's a ZZ Top reference.
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Carne Asada

 


If you've known me for any length of time, you know that I love street vendor Mexican food.

As a former resident of Los Angeles, in recent years I would complain about the lack of access to real, quality Mexican food, specifically the carne asada here in the Triangle.

It would take visits back out to Los Angeles to satiate my palate for this gloriously simple fare.

These days, with the Latino population on the ever increase in North Carolina, my options have improved.

And then this week I hit jackpot.

I had spent the better part of the morning doing what most editors do at magazines, newspapers and websites and that is meeting with fellow editors on topics for possible features as well as speaking to/emailing with the magazine's crop of writers to see what they have on their plates.

Suddenly it was past 1 o'clock and I needed to put something in my gut, so I slipped on my jacket (it's been brisk here) and walked out the front door of the office.

Right across the street is the old Durham Bulls Ballpark which is currently under renovation.

I spotted a couple of construction workers sitting with their backs up against the fence eating, a card table set up in front of them with napkins and condiments on it.

And right next to it was a big, white, nondescript truck.

Hallelujah!

They were low on asada so I got one carnitas with my two-taco order.

For $3.

There is a food god.

Now I wish that truck would come back...
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All About Beer

 


Years ago, when I was a music editor at the local weekly newspaper, everyday the postman would drop off a US Mail tub in my office overflowing with CDs.

My co-workers would drool at the endless supply that would arrive. I would assure them, that while yes it was cool to receive unlimited numbers of promotional CDs, the simple fact was that most of them just wouldn't be that good.

Times have changed.

I work at a beer magazine now.

The mailman stills comes everyday with packages.

Only now they contain craft beers to be sampled for our review section.

Something tells me the ratio of good versus bad in this scenario is going to fall more on the side of good.

I'm just sayin'...
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Follow The Yellow Brick Road

 


Or something like that.

Home is just moments away...
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Thursday, October 23, 2008

Kids

 



Fucking kids.

This is what happens when your two boys grow up, get educated and learn to spell.
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Thursday, October 16, 2008

Keep On Moving

A couple of months ago I wrote about my hitchhiking escapades.

I ended up hitchhiking a few more times after that fateful trip, again mostly out of necessity, but none quite as eventful.

A year later I had transferred to a different college (ironically in Baltimore County) and wound up taking a theater class for shits & giggles.

As a class requirement for Intro to Theater, we had to read Waiting For Godot and Rosencrantz And Guildenstern Are Dead.

I got inspired and wrote a play that semester.

I was like 21 when I wrote this.




KEEP ON MOVING

A ONE ACT PLAY

by Greg Barbera


The Players:
Joseph
Man driving car


SCENE I - THE ROAD


The play consists of Joseph standing on stage. He is holding a duffle bag and wearing jeans and a jacket.



The Man in The Car is projected on a screen. The entire conversation takes place in this "space" so that it appears that both players are not really talking to anyone but themselves.


(As the play begins, Joseph is standing on the side of the interstate. There are a few hedges scattered along the roadside behind him. Across the interstate are rows and rows of corn, which is all that can be viewed in either direction.)


JOSEPH: (speaking toward the screen. He is young, about 22.)
Damn, it's hot out. No wonder the crops are damaged. It's a shame they are brown and not that luscious green.


(He looks down and huffs with a slight tone of dejection and kicks the ground.)


At least they have some sort of fate — a destiny. I mean what is my fate? And where am I going? I mean I'm on a road and this road leads to somewhere but is that where I'm going to stop or will I keep on moving? But the roads are so plenty (pauses) does that mean that I'll never stop? (He whispers to himself) Never really get... anywhere?


(He looks up at the sun. It's high noon and the sun is beating down on the earth relentlessly. He turns his eyes away from the bright light and looks at the ground. He begins to walk, looking at his feet with an occasional glance up at the road/screen.)


JOSEPH: Well, if I stop then it is done. I mean my fate will be sealed. I'll be here and here is where I will remain... (muttering the last word under his breath) forever. Forever seems like a mighty long time. Especially here. Here's definitely not where I want to stay. But where am I going? I mean I know I'm on this road and this road leads to somewhere but is somewhere where I want to be? Is somewhere the end? And how will I know if that is the end? (whispers to himself again) Does it ever end?

(He bows his head in contemplation, then squats on his duffle bag and assumes the form of "The Thinker")

Think about it for a second. Nothing and I mean nothing ever ends. Does it? You read a book and there's this plot about a guy who kills his best friend. On the last page of the book it reads "The End". But then you think about it. How could anyone kill their best friend? And years later you're sitting in a cafe somewhere and two guys walk in, they appear as if to be best friends, and then Bam! You think about that story you read years ago and say to yourself "How could anyone kill their best friend?" And then you think about murder and how could any-body really take the life of another and all this because you read a book?! You begin to curse the author for invading your world and putting ideas in your head that can never be erased. 'The End'. What a joke.



(Joseph hears the sound of a car coming behind him. He gets up off his bag and turns around, glances down the road and sees a car in the distance. Once again we are seeing his point of view on screen as his head turns on stage. He then puts his thumb out in traditional hitchhiking manner. He begins to squint to try and get a look of the person inside the car. The car comes closer and drives by as the Doppler Effect takes over. Joseph turns back around and resumes walking.)



JOSEPH: I wonder where he's going? She's going? or if he/she is even trying to get somewhere. Could be one of those types who just floats around from here to there. A gypsy. A nomad. But that's not me. Nope. (shakes his head) I'm going somewhere. I'm going to do something with my life. (He says real emphatically, then trails off to lower tone of voice) But where am I going and when will I get there? Will it be days, months, and years? Well, as long as I'm moving I guess I'm getting closer to there, where ever it may be. I hope I like it when I get there. I kinda like it here. It's quiet and peaceful. But I'm sure this isn't there, I mean, here isn't where I want to go. At least I don't think so. It just doesn't feel right. I mean I just want it to feel right. That unexplainable voice inside that tells you "This is it. This feels right."



(Joseph stops again. This time to tie his shoe. As he bends over to tie his shoe, he sees another car coming down the road. It is just a speck on the horizon. After he ties his shoe he stands once again with his thumb out.)



JOSEPH: (whispering to himself) I hope this car is going where I want to go. Or at least in that direction. (dumbfounded) But what direction am I going in anyway? If they do stop to give me a ride, where will I tell them I'm going?
(the car slows down as it passes Joseph. It pulls over to the side of the road. The driver opens the passenger door. The MAN IN CAR is older, probably in his thirties with a beard and beer belly a.k.a a plumber.)


EXIT



SCENE II-THE CAR

(the following conversation takes place on screen)



MAN: Where you headed?
JOSEPH: huh?
MAN: Where ya going?
JOSEPH: (mumbles) The eternal question.
MAN: What!
JOSEPH: uhhh, just down the road a ways (he pauses) And yourself?
MAN: To the next town.
JOSEPH: What's there?
MAN: Work I hope. I'm flat broke and need a job.
JOSEPH: What if there isn't any work? Where to then?
MAN: I dunno. I'll take it one step at a time. (he pauses) So are you also going to the next town?
JOSEPH: I suppose, but I 'm not really sure. I mean I'm going somewhere and its not here so that means that I'm headed in some sort of direction but if that is where I'm going to stay (pauses) well, I just can't say. What direction are you headed in?
MAN: (a little irritated) To the next town, but I already told you that.
JOSEPH: Right, right (nods his head and pauses) but I mean, you know, where is your fate headed? Where are you going? Where will you be when you stop going?
MAN: (more perplexed than irritated) When I stop, I'll be in the next town. That's about all I can tell ya.
JOSEPH: (smiling) Ahhh, nearsightedness. I suppose it is some sort of virtue, but I don't seem to possess it. I mean I want to know my destiny. You know, like where I'm gonna be when I stop. When it all ends.
MAN: (in a matter of fact tone) Well, pal, for me its gonna end when I die. (speaks in a tone of self revelation and shakes his head up and down) Yea! When I die is when it will all end for me.
JOSEPH: (agreeing) That's what I mean. Where will you be when you die?
MAN: In the ground.
JOSEPH: (chuckles) Yea, I see. But you've missed the point. In that instant before you die where will you be?
MAN: Probably in pain. That's where I'll be.
JOSEPH: Pain, hmm, but is that a place you can go to?
MAN: Hey man, I don't know about you, but I've been in pain before.
JOSEPH: How did you get there?
MAN: In pain?
JOSEPH: Yeah.
MAN: (speaks loudly and quite animated) I hit my thumb with a hammer, that's how I got there!
JOSEPH: So you did that just to get to pain?
MAN: No idiot! It was an accident.
JOSEPH: So you didn't subconsciously do this to "get" to pain?
MAN: (vehemently) No! Pain isn't a place, it's a feeling.
JOSEPH: So you think that if I feel like getting some where then Iwill be there?
MAN: All I'm saying is that if you hit your hand with a hammer, it hurts.
JOSEPH: So if I think I am in this car then I am in this car?
MAN: Well. it sure looks to me like you are in a car. My car. For the time being, anyway.
JOSEPH: I see. So if I "feel" pain then I'm at "pain" and if I "feel" that I'm in a "car", then I am at that place, "car".
MAN: Whatever you say man.
JOSEPH: I guess I just don't know where I "feel" like going and that's why I can't get there. Because I just don't know. I just don't "feel" anything.
MAN: I bet you I could make you feel. (he leans over and thunks Joseph on the head with his finger.)
JOSEPH: Ouch! What are you doing?
MAN: Taking you to that place "pain". Did you "feel" it?
JOSEPH: I felt something.
MAN: That's pain. Although not much of it.
JOSEPH: There's more of it?
MAN: Sure! A lot more from where that came from.
JOSEPH: So you're admitting that it came from somewhere.
MAN: Hey pal, if you want to feel pain I can make you feel pain.
JOSEPH: I'm not that into pain but I would like to "feel" like I am going somewhere.
MAN: I feel like I'm going somewhere. I'm in my car and my car's moving...to the side of the fucking road to boot your sorry ass out.
JOSEPH: But where is your car going to stop?
MAN: In the next town, but you only asked me if I felt like I was moving, going somewhere.
JOSEPH: Of course your car could run out of gas and then it would stop and we would be out here in the middle of nowhere. And do we really know if we have moved? I mean the scenery hasn't changed.
MAN: But my odometer has.
JOSEPH: I don't "feel" like we are moving.
MAN: Are you still where you were when I picked you up?
JOSEPH: Um, I don't think so.
MAN: Then you've moved because you're no longer where you once were. Even if you haven't moved you're still no longer where you once were because you can't remember where you were before can you?
JOSEPH: Before what?
MAN: Before me.
JOSEPH: I was on the side of the road.
MAN: And before that?
JOSEPH: (He looks down and puts his head in his hand) Hhhhmmm, where was I before that?
MAN: What have you done?
JOSEPH: A little of this, a little of that. Nothing special.
MAN: So why now? Why the desire to "do" something. To go somewhere when you don't know where you've been?
JOSEPH: Because I feel it.
MAN: So you do "feel" !
JOSEPH: Somethings.
MAN: Like what?
JOSEPH: I feel like I should be going somewhere to do something to get to that "place" so it all can end.
MAN: That's quite a task you've taken on my friend.
JOSEPH: So we're friends now? I've never had a friend.
MAN: Its just a phrase. You're not my friend.
JJOSEPH: I'm not?
MAN: (shakes his head) Afraid not.
JOSEPH: Then what am I?
MAN: A freak.

(There is a long moment of silence as the two stare at each other.)


MAN: (with a nervous chuckle) But that doesn't have to be a bad thing.
JOSEPH: Sure sounded like it.
MAN: Can't believe everything you hear.
JOSEPH: What can you believe in?
MAN: Nuthin'. there's just life...and death.'Course them Christians believe in life after death. Me, I'm like an elephant. I've moved around all my life, from small towns to big cities just trying to put food in my belly and find a warm place to sleep. Then when I'm all done and ready to leave this world, I'll just walk to that final resting place and close my tired eyes one last time.
JOSEPH: Just keep on moving.
MAN: And never stop.
JOSEPH: Never.
MAN: But there are people who try to stop you. And try to keep you down.
JOSEPH: Why?
MAN: To keep themselves ahead I guess. I mean if everyone keeps on moving, someone's got to fall behind.
JOSEPH: How do they keep you down? What do they do to stop you?
MAN: Anything they can. Anyway they can. Anyhow.
JOSEPH: That's harsh.
MAN: It sucks.
JOSEPH: So what do you do? I mean how do you deal?
MAN: Well, kid there's only one person in control of what goes on and that's yourself. You gotta make it happen, whatever it is.
JOSEPH: (shaking his head in heavy disbelief) Man.
MAN: Hate to burst your bubble kid, but it is time to "feel" the real world. The world where people kill people and fuck each other just to get to the top. It's a jungle and no one gets out alive. You got to kick and claw and scratch to get what you want and never turn your back on anyone because once they see that vulnerable spot, they chomp at it like a pack of wolves.
JOSEPH: The hunter and the hunted.
MAN: That's right kid. You're learning.
JOSEPH: "Speak softly and carry a big stick."
MAN:Yep, biggest one you got. And don't be afraid to swing that thing. Do what you got to do. Give yourself some room if you know what I mean.
JOSEPH: I think I get your drift.
MAN: Good! And don't forget it.
JOSEPH: "Only the strong survive."
MAN: The strongest.
JOSEPH: One life to live.
MAN: One and only one. Then you meet your maker.
JOSEPH: Who's he? Who's your maker?
MAN: God, boy! And it's a pretty safe bet that He's your maker too.
JOSEPH: You sure?
MAN: Positive.
JOSEPH: I don't like to gamble.
MAN: Especially when the stakes are high. But you've got no choice.
JOSEPH: But I don't know about God.
MAN: Well, whether you know about Him or not boy, you can't argue with God.
JOSEPH: You can't?
MAN: No man.
JOSEPH: So you believe in God then?
MAN: Sorta.
JOSEPH: What do you mean sorta?
MAN: I have my doubts.
JOSEPH: So God only exists when you "feel" him to exist?
MAN: Uh, He's there when I need Him.
JOSEPH: So when you don't think about Him then He's not there.
MAN: That sounds about right.
JOSEPH: So if you don't think about me then I won't be here?
MAN: But if I stop thinking about you you'll still be here... (he points to the seat in his car) in my car.
JOSEPH: Try it.
MAN: What?
JOSEPH: Stop thinking.
MAN: (quizzical) Stop thinking?
JOSEPH: About me.



(The screen goes black. Joseph is standing on stage.
There is one bright light on him. His duffle bag is by
his feet. His thumb is sticking out. The stage is black)




EXIT

Monday, October 13, 2008

The End Of An Era

So tomorrow I start a new job.

I always knew that I would one day return to work after the kids had grown, I just can't believe that time has come.

Along the way I made friends with some other at-home dads, pissed off a few moms, had a health care scare, started a band, got a vasectomy, catered my ass off, appeared on NPR and on the front page of the local daily.

I'm changed shit tons of diapers and potty trained two boys. I've had to confront the existence of the tooth fairy, resurrect Rudolph, defend Santa and generally try to keep keep my wits amongst utter chaos.

It's by far been the toughest yet most rewarding job I have ever had. And it's not like my job as dad and parent has gone out to pasture, it's just that the boys are older now and don't need me as they did when they were infants and toddler so I'm rollin' back to the 9-to-5.

I've got endless stories to share especially ones from the early years before I started blogging that I have been working on under the guise of "memoir" that I'll most likely share because as a literary agent once told me, "Men don't read parenting books."

Oh, but they read blogs...

Friday, October 10, 2008

Flashbacks!

This time last year I was talking about speeding tickets and religion.

In 2006, I was giddy over scoring this charcoal grill for free.

And in 2005 I just couldn't get this song out of my head.

Big changes loom on the horizon... stay tuned.

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

Crossed Up And Kicked Out

 
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I rode my bike a lot with the kids in the neighborhood this summer.

It’s kinda weird because it made me feel like I was ten again.

Some of the kids were into trying do to some tricks with the plastic launch ramp we found at the dump awhile back. They all had one goal in mind: to jump off the launch ramp.

I felt obligated to chaperone these types of shindigs for two reason: because my 5-yr-old still hasn’t shed his training wheels and thinks its cool to do bar stands on the top of his frame and because two kids in the ‘hood don’t have helmets.

I was trying to give them some pointers on getting off the jump when the peanut gallery chimed in and demanded that I show them “since I know so much.”

One of the things I’ve tried to instill in my sons is that you need to master the basics of a sport before you can excel at it. Last summer I spent many days trying to teach my oldest how to ollie, fakie and kickturn on a skateboard.

So now I’m trying to apply the same basic elements to bmx: if you can do a wheelie, bunny hop and endo then you can safely say they’ll be able to handle anything above and beyond that.

Of course they wanted me to show them how to do a wheelie so I pedaled around in circles a few times, readied my footing, pointed my bike uphill and went at it. I knocked off one – a huge one – about 30 yards (passed two driveways) and as soon as my front wheel hit the ground, howls of joy and excitement erupted from the gang.

I then made a bet with them: that I would try and make it to the top of the hill by the end of the summer. I figured that way I’d have something to do while I was out there “supervising” the kids. But after a few days it became more like a circus act with other kids coming over and asking to see me “pull a wheelie.”

One day an elderly neighbor- while on his daily walk through the neighborhood -saw me in the midst of one of my many wheelie attempts up the hill.

“I’ve never seen any thing like that,” he said.
“Darndest thing I’ve ever seen… really” he paused then said, “Ya ought to charge for that”

When I came back down the hill the kids asked me what he said and I told them he told me I should charge for it.

“Yeah!” said one kid. “Like 50 cents!”
“No, no… two dollars!” said another kid.

All this talk about being the wheelie king of the ‘hood got me thinking about my own bike gang growing up and Rockville BMX .

I worked briefly at Rockville BMX. I would put spokes in rims and then hand them over to Tiger who would tighten and true them. There was a whole cast of characters at that place starting with the owner Jay and his sister (?) Root Girl and right on through to every nicknamed employee.

It was there that I met two of my best friends Scooby and Nubby. The guys I had met at the Alligator Pit jumps - Jeff, Andy and Joey – were regulars there as well. Rockville BMX wasn’t just a store, it was a place to hang out and Jay was the ringleader. He had a soda machine that had a mystery button on it: you could get a V8 or you could get a beer.

The place was also a stop on the bmx trick team circuit and every summer a team of riders would come out and do demos. The bible of bmx, Freestylin’ magazine, would run photos of these contest and suddenly The East Coast had reared its head as a viable spot for bmx, it didn’t just belong in SoCal anymore.

Even Pennsylvania got in on the act, with York being ground zero for the Plywood Hoods. Plywood Hood alum Mike Daily went on to be the editor of GO:The Rider’s Manual, which was the publication Freestylin’ had morphed into. “Martin’s BBQ Waffle Potato chips, Tastykake Butterscotch Krimpets and peanut butter Kandy Kakes with Turkey Hill iced tea was all we ever needed,” said Daily in a recent e-mail.

Times were simpler then.

This summer, a coffee-table book retrospective was released. Freestylin’: Generation F chronicles those simpler times when bmx wasn’t an actions sport sponsored by the Dew. The book had a limited run but you can go here and peep it.

Eventually, part of my crew would be absorbed into this traveling circus. Scooby and Nubby would leave and return from tour with a bunch of swag, an assload of stickers and mighty tall tales from the road. “I use to take care of shit,” said Scooby during a phone conversation I recently had with him after I tracked him down in Colorado. “The East Coast invasion changed bmx,” said Scooby, again without explanation.

One kid, the runt of the bunch that was probably 60 pounds soaking wet, named Spoke left and soon migrated to California for greener BMX pastures. Somewhere along the way, Spoke became Spike.

Yeah, that Spike.

I’m not sure why Scooby and Nubby never made the move out west. I know both of them had very close-knit families and I guess that is what kept them coming back to Maryland.

Years later, after bmx faded, Scooby and I took up mountain biking often riding to work together to our job at Topel Blueprinting. And much like the days of Rockville BMX, Topel became the place to work. And again another colorful, motley crew came together called the Dickie Boys but that’s a whole ‘nother post right there…

Pictured: Brian Blyther, summer 1987, Rockville BMX

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

On Assignment

 


I landed a job covering the Carolina Hurricanes for the local daily...

Okay, so I didn't but after today, where I spent the majority of the morning watching an open practice at the RBC center in Raleigh, I'm thinking that would be a cool job.

It was a surreal experience: I got to walk into the locker room with some other guys from the local media and ask several players a few questions about an upcoming article that I pitched to the local weekly. I've been a hockey fan since I was a kid, caught up in the hype of the 1980 Olympics team and the wonderkid Wayne Gretzky. So it was strange to find myself in the locker room of a professional hockey team.

Even stranger was how young they all looked.

And how tall Eric Staal was.

Pictured: Right winger, number 44, Patrick Eaves.



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Monday, September 29, 2008

Tales From The Catering Tent

It is the busy season for catering.

September is not only a popular time for people to get married (I work a lot of weddings) but it is also the time for the local universities to stroke their employees and for people to party in the name of Devils and Heels.

This weekend I worked a rehearsal dinner in the Pope Box at Kenan Stadium on the campus of UNC.

"This is a nice place for a party," said one guest as he approached the bar.
"Yeah, especially if you're a Tar Heel fan," I said.
He grimaced and said, "that's the thing, most of us here are Wake Forest fans."

Oh the irony.

Because you know how Wake fans can be.

I also worked two school functions recently. One was a party for new students at UNC's graduate program for pathology.

A lively bunch indeed.

Another was at the Hart House - the home for Duke's president - which was a reacharound, er, cocktail hour for tenured professors.

Then there was a series of wedding receptions, one where a drunken guy danced to the music with his toddler backpack'ed to himself. This same fellow, after his son fell asleep, took him off and laid him on a blanket under the magnolia tree behind my bar.

"Looks like yer also gonna be doing some babysitting," he said to me as he laid his kid down on the ground.

They almost left without him.

Some people shouldn't be allowed to have kids.

At another wedding, some guy showed up in a kilt and asked where he could park. My Egyptian co-worker confessed he had never seen anything like it. I told him he was probably going to play the bagpipes during the ceremony. Then the wedding party showed up and all the groomsmen wore kilts.

I told him I had never seen anything like it.

Just the other night, while moving some rental equipment (china, flatware), a few of us spotted this gigantic spider.

"Be careful," said one of my co-workers. "It could be a brown recluse". I told her I thought it was far too big to be a brown recluse. See came over to look at it as another girl took a picture of it with her phone.

"Yeah, brown recluses don't have all that fuzzy stuff on their backs," she said agreeing with me.

I moved the container that the spider had set up shop in over to some bushes and attempted to tip it so that the spider could go back to nature but the spider fell to the ground and when it hit the cement an explosion of tiny dots radiated out from the arachnoid.

"Oh my," said the girl with the phone.

"Guess she was a mama."

I immediately thought of Charlotte's Web.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Breakfast

 

I always think of these great posts I want to write about food but then I forget to snap a picture or get caught up in the daily grind and never managed to make the meal I had planned. So here's a wrap up of what's recently been going into my mouth.

Last week the wife and I made the mistake of not filling up on breakfast before we headed out to the boys' first football games and we paid handsomely for it.

This week we were slightly more prepared: we made it to the stadium early enough that I was able to duck out and head down the street to Bagels On The Hill for some breakfast bagels.

It's hard to get real, fresh bagels in the area, not like the bagels my Jewish mother-in-law gets that's for sure.

But these bagels came close and my breakfast was cooked to order because this ain't a fast food chain folks.

This bugger was tasty although nothing at the moment can hold a flame to Blitz's Market morning eats down at the shore...
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Lunch

 


I have picked up many a good recipes over the years working for local catering companies and this is one of them.

It's a refreshing salad that's quick to make and features a cavalcade of flavors.

Basically, it's spinach, thinly sliced red onion, sliced pear, goat cheese, pine nuts and a raspberry poppyseed vinaigrette.

Yeah, yeah with salt and ground pepper because you should (kosher) salt and (ground) pepper everything.
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And Dinner

 


Made this last week for dinner because it is quick and easy.

It's the infamous chick can recipe and it's always an easy way to cook a bird.

This version was an olive oil, cilantro, lime and salt and pepper rub with the cavity stuffed with garlic, red onion, orange/red peppers, zuccinni and halved limes.

I then poured out half a can of beer and shoved it into the cavity and placed the chicken on a pie backing dish for the greasy cast off.

Cooked it at about 325 degrees for about two hours (or until the drumstick easily tears off) and then served it with rice.
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Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Haikus

I'm writing haikus over at Whit's place today.




Dream Song 14

Life, friends, is boring. We must not say so.
After all, the sky flashes, the great sea yearns,
we ourselves flash and yearn,
and moreover my mother told me as a boy
(repeatingly) "Ever to confess you're bored
means you have no
Inner Resources." I conclude now I have no
inner resources, because I am heavy bored.
Peoples bore me,
literature bores me, especially great literature,
Henry bores me, with his plights & gripes
as bad as Achilles,

who loves people and valiant art, which bores me.
And the tranquil hills, & gin, look like a drag
and somehow a dog
has taken itself & its tail considerably away
into the mountains or sea or sky, leaving
behind: me, wag.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Random Musical Interlude

Parent Pride

Both my sons played their first games of football last weekend.

My 5-year-old played a game of flag football and it was as expected - like herding sheep. Kids ran in all directions and general confusion ensued for the first half of the game. By the second half most of the kids had started to grasp the "don't move until the ball is hiked" concept.

This game was followed by his older brother's, who just happens to be playing tackle football.

And he couldn't be more excited about the prospect of game days in full pads.

Much like the opening game, there was plenty of confusion at the start. They don't have enough players on their team to actually scrimmage each other. It appeared early on that the concept of facing opponents, some decidedly bigger than them, was daunting.

My son, who plays running back, got the ball a few times. He also made a few nice tackles. I was glad to see that he wasn't afraid to stick his nose in there and get dirty.

Then it happened: on a broken play up the middle, he scampered outside and made it to the sidelines, then turned and headed up field, a chase of about five players behind him.

He crossed midfield and the parents in the bleachers started to scream.

I'm sure my friends in California could have heard me yelling, "Run! Run! Run!"

One of the larger kids was on his tail and began to gain on him.

They crossed the 20 yard line and one of the opposing team's coaches yelled, "Dive!"

The team that was set to play next now had lined up on the sidelines and were cheering him on.

The kid dove...

And missed!

And a roar came up from the bleachers and the sidelines and pandemonium broke loose among his teammates as they ran to congratulate him in the end zone.

I don't think I've ever felt that kind of pure joy in my life.

My son had just scored his first touchdown in his first football game on a 60 yard, knuckle-biting broken play.

I wanted to cry.

Parents came up to me and asked me, "Is that your son?" with gleaming eyes.

"Yes, that's my boy," I said proudly pondering how they would view me next week if I just fell down and cried tears of joy.

Then he had to kick off.

And play safety on defense.

He got juked bad and the kid scored.

He came out for a rest and some water but while he was out their quarterback got the wind knocked out of him. So he went back in as quarterback. He later told me he was scared because their quarterback kept getting sacked. But after getting sacked twice himself because the textbook hand-offs he was attempting were left with confused running backs going in opposite directions, he just kept it on third down and bootlegged his way around the corner for a decent gain.

Then the first string kid came back in and he went back to running back.

They may have lost the game but boy howdy did seeing my son score a touchdown tickle my spine in a new and unfound way.

Tuesday, September 09, 2008

The Frog Who Wanted To Be A Singer

Since my early days as a dad blogger, I have been singing the praises of local library book sales.

Well a few weekends ago, just as summer was coming to a close, my oldest son and I went to the Chapel Hill Public Library for one of their book sales. My youngest didn't want to come but he did request that we get him a book on "skateboarding, snowboarding or dinosaurs."

When we got there the stock was pretty much picked over and we weren't having much luck with our searches.

I did managed to get another Ross Macdonald book as well as replacing my copy of Ray because a few years back I passed on my precious, tattered and worn copy to one of my nimrod friends.

We didn't find any action sports or dinosaur books for my youngest but I knew we needed to come home with something. He's got a mild obsession with aliens but the alien books I saw would surely have crept him out more than entertain him.

I rummaged through a bunch of kids' books boxes and finally just grab bagged a book from the depths.

It was called The Frog Who Wanted To Be A Singer. It's a book about a frog who wants to be a singer but is told that frogs don't sing. Against every one's better judgement, the frog labor's on in the face of adversity and finally manages to pull off singing his song in front of an audience.

And it becomes a huge hit.

I have read my fair share of kids' books, most drive you bat shit insane with their quaint rhyme schemes and second-rate graphics, but this sucker fucking delivered!

It reminded me of the time I tried to tackle writing a story for kids. A friend of mine was part of this "write a book in a month" web site and convinced me I should sign up. Now I have enough unfinished writing that nags at me that it seemed like a silly thing to do.

And quite honestly, a waste of time.

But as a writer I'm always looking for a good way to exercise my chops without the frustration of having to rewrite a chapter or fine tune a character that has been in my head for years. So I signed up and said I would try and tackle a children's book.

As you can see from the excerpt below, I derailed from my original plan quite quickly...

Willie The Worm


“My name is Willie,” he said.

“Hello Willie!” said the crowd, some seated on fold-out chairs, others standing by the walls of the activity room of the local Unitarian Church.

“And I am a worm,” he said.

“Let’s welcome Willie with open arms and hearts,” said a whisker-scratching Harold, who was clearly the moderator here tonight.

“What if you don’t have arms?” chimed out that old crow Terence from the back.

“You know what I mean Terrance,” said Harold.
“Must you do that every meeting?”

Then Harold turned back to Willie.
“You may continue,” he said.


It all started when Willie began hanging out with the moles. They would go and dine on freshly-fertilized soil and then sit back and wait for their buzz kick in. The moles would tunnel endlessly and let the kaleidoscope of colors exploding in their heads guide their way.

At first it was fun for Willie. He’s slither behind his mole buddies riding their newly dug tunnels like a water slide at a theme park.

It was a blast.

The one day Marty didn’t show up for the party. They sent out a search party to find him. But the search party returned with bad news.

Marty had passed away.

“One too many trips to the DDT cabbage patch,” said a snarky Steve.

They memorialized him by doing what they do best: getting wasted.

A few weeks later, Willie had his own close call when he nearly drowned in a mud puddle because he was too far gone to get his butt out of it. So he stayed above ground for a few weeks, living under rocks and inside leaf piles until he could get his head straight. One thing he knew for sure: no more tripping with the moles.

It was his good friend Gary, a bulbous grub, who told him about the meetings at the church.

“But the church is a people place,” said Willie.

“Peoples can be cool,” said Gary who was cool like a jazz musician.

So Willie took his advice and now he found himself staring at a crowd of strange faces all wanting to hear his story.


“Wow, that was some story,” said Carrie the cow from the back of the room.
“Makes kicking my salt lick habit seem like a game of Chutes & Ladders.”

“Willie,” said Harold.
“Listen to me: When your friends start dying, it’s time to change your lifestyle,” he said.
“Do you hear me?”

“I do Harold,” said Willie.
“I guess that’s why I’m here… to, to, to get help,” he said with a hard swallow.

“Rehab! Rehab!” squawked Terence.

“I think you’re right on this one Terence,” said Harold as he took his back paw to his ear for a scratch.

“The boy needs to dry out and sober up,” he said.


The pastor – a tall, slender man with graying temples – rolled out a wheelbarrow. With shovel in hand he scooped up the poop left behind from the meeting and cleaned up the batch of compost he’d left as a snack for the rodents. He then genuflected at the front of the altar and made the sign of the cross. He said a short prayer in silence for God’s troubled creatures who had just left the building and then went out back and dumped the contents of the wheelbarrow into the church’s community garden.


Willie didn’t like rehab because he never slept. And when he did sleep he had the most horrific nightmares. His dreams were an amalgamation of memories and hallucinations.
One dream his had over and over again was the dad he watched his father die. It was a memory he could never shake and one night as he lay awake trying not to return to the horrid memory he can to the conclusion that he got loaded to erase the past.

So Willie surmised that if he could confront the one reoccurring bad dream, then it was be one giant step toward facing life sober. But then he drifted off back to sleep…


“Willie, c’mon!” he dad yelled. “Hurry up goddamn it,” he said angrily.
“You’re putting our lives on the line!”

Willie and his father we making a calculated risk trying to get from one side of the creek bed to the other in search of a food source and possibly a better home. Exposing themselves was a great risk and one his father ingrained into him over and over again.

“I know Dad, I know!” said Willie. And as he said this he went over the litany of dangers in his head. They were birds of every variety to fear: crows, owls, eagles, finches, woodpeckers… you name it. Not only that, but there was fowl and snakes and mice and all kinds of dangers out there. But one was the most dangerous of all: the fisherman. And it was at that moment, when Willie thought it, that the fisherman appeared behind a thicket of holly bushes. His boot barely missed squishing him. Just as he was catching his breath the fisherman’s dog came sniffing around, licked up Willie only to spit him back out on the ground.

“Hold up!” said the fisherman. “What do we have here?” he said.

Willie can’t remember much after that, or rather he tries not to but suffice it to say he had to watch his father be turned into bait.

Seeing you’re fathered skewered on a fisherman’s hook is not something you easily forget and suddenly Willie stirred from his dream and awoke.

He wanted to get wasted.