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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



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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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


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.

Sunday, September 07, 2008

Backyard Skimboarding

Peeking out at our flooded backyard with my kidz, we hatched an idea to do some backyard skimboarding.

The wife quickly put the kibosh on it with her talk of snakes, sticks and snapping turtles.

But it seemed like such a good idea.

I mean, when you can't be at the beach, you bring the beach to you right?

Rise & Shine

Tropical Storm Hannah arrived in the late afternoon on Friday. The hype was in full force yet my 8-year-old still managed to have football practice in the rain. The brunt of the storm wasn't due to hit the area until the middle of the night, so practice was held in what could be referred to as a Seattle sprinkle. Kudos for the coaches who stood out there for two hours and taught the game to fledging Mosses, Mannings and Manns'.

I got several WTF? phone calls from my wife during my two hour stint sitting under an oak tree watching practice. But honestly, at no point did the weather seem life threatening. There was no thunder and no lightening... just a steady, fine mist of a rain.

It wasn't until much later that the ass whoopin' came and still it was mild in comparison to other storms I have encounter here in North Carolina.

We didn't get the word that my boys' football games would be cancelled until about 7:30am on Saturday.

Once we got the news, my wife and I laid in our bed with the window open and just listened to the rain; about every twenty minutes it would surge hard then cut back to a trickle.

Seeing an opening in unscheduled time (a rare site these days with school, football and work), I convinced the boys to make us a pot of coffee which they did and then brought us our cups in bed (how sweet is that?). Feeling the need to satiate my inner gourmand, I headed to the kitchen and whipped up some huevos rancheros for the wife and I while some Cornell Campbell wafted through the house.

Friday, September 05, 2008

Feeling Like One Of Those Army Commercials Today

You know, the one from a few years back about how they do more by 6AM than most people do all day...

I got up at 7:30am and made sure the kids had breakfast. It wasn't a breakfast of champions as the cupboards were bare so they turned to Kix cereal with soy milk and a strawberry pop tart each. Then I corralled them into brushing their teeth and getting dressed while I made them lunch.

As I was making lunch, I threw in a load of laundry - I had it in the dryer by the time we left for school. Oh, and I changed the kitty litter because today is trash day so it just made sense.

I had a pang in my heart for my youngest; he's going through growing pains and is now realizing that school happens everyday all day and he's not happy about that. Plus it appears he has inherited the seasonal allergies that wreak havoc on his older brother and me so the little fella was a wee bit tired - from school and from a stuffy nose that kept him from a good night's sleep.

After I dropped the boys off I came home and took a shower because I stunk like an ashtray from the show my band played last night in Raleigh. I didn't get home until close to 1am because the city had all these streets closed off for today's celebration of the new convention center. With the street closings and all the construction that the city has seen, I got all turned around and lost my bearings. By the time I readied my ship and got to I40 to head home, I was greeted by the cops who had closed off the west bound ramp. So I got on the east bound ramp and figured I'd just go down one exit and turnaround. But as soon as I got on the interstate I was greeted by more orange cones than I could count and an assload of blinking lights.

Guess the city decided to re-stripe that part of the interstate and I have a hunch it was on account of the previously mentioned celebration because once I got past the city it was nothing but open road.

I also needed to go to the grocery store but to do that I had to manhandle my bass cabinet out of the wagon.

The grocery store was mobbed.

Of course because there's a hurricane headed our way and people like to clog the grocery stores in the name of preparation. I can't blame then, the hype is heavy on Hanna even though the poor bitch has been downgraded to a tropical storm. I have been on the receiving end of poor hurricane preparation and it wasn't pleasant and that was before I had kids.

And then I had the good fortune to have one of those baggers who likes to put like three items in a bag. I should have done it myself like I usually do but the bagger was already halfway into it by the time I finished unloading my cart. Suddenly I felt bad about how environmentally unfriendly my trip to the store had become... then again we do have a rain barrel and we still do use the bucket in the shower.

It's not even noon yet.

I'm not even halfway done with what I need to do today.

And I can't get this song out of my head...

Wednesday, September 03, 2008

ESL, Ike And The Like

Hurricane season is shaping up to one real mother what with Gustav just landing and Hanna, Ike and Josephine lined up like a string of pearls off the coast.

North Carolina has a long history with hurricanes and since I moved to the Tar Hell state in '95, we've had 8 notable ones that have made landfall, ones with names like Fran, Bertha, Bonnie and Floyd.

I'm about 160 miles from Wilmington which isn't that far by weather standards but I had to find that out the hard way. When Fran came through in the summer of '96, some friends and I decided we would stay up and watch the doppler radar on the Weather Channel.

The rains came heavy but soon it got late and we all retired to bed.

"Hurricanes are nothing," I thought.

I had lived through the Northridge earthquake just a couple of years earlier - I felt I knew what total destruction was and what it could look like.

At some point in the middle of the night I woke up to what I thought was someone knocking at my door.

Nobody was knocking at my door.

No, but my little mill house was getting pelted with trees branches and other debris.

The next day we woke up to one of the most gorgeous days ever only to be greeted by power outages and fallen trees. Suddenly you realize how dependent you are on electricity: for money, for food, for communication.

Fran left her mark alright, plowing through beaches towns and straight up I40 through Raleigh and on to Durham, Chapel Hill and Carrboro. Some people I knew didn't have power for weeks.


Crazy shit.

And that's why sometimes things can get tricky when you try to explain these things to kids. You don't want to scare them so that every time they hear the word "hurricane" in passing they'll start to freak out. Yet at the same time you want to instill in them the importance of being informed and prepared.

And to respect the power of Mother Nature.

That said, I'll take a hurricane over an earthquake any day... at least you can see it coming.