Moons over whatevah

It’s looking like today might be a little bit slower than it has been in a long while, so why don’t I crank out a tedious update of what has been going on over the past moon or so? HUH?! WHY DON’T I?!?!

Let’s see … the trial Gia was working on, which gained intensity throughout 2006, and reached fully-sustained freakout pitch sometime in October, wrapped up a couple weeks earlier than anticipated, which was awesome. (You can read about it here.) As a result, she has spent most of February rejoining the community of mankind and learning what it’s like to feel human again. Now, instead of running on pure adrenaline, almost no sleep, and the threat of hundreds of millions of dollars being awarded to the wrong team, she gets to deal with me again, which means conversations like, “Look, just because your’re home all the time now … I don’t see why I have to stop peeing in the shower. The cats think it’s very funny.” It’s good to have her back.

We’re taking a long overdue vacation next week. We realized recently that the only true vacation Gia and I have ever taken together, by oursleves, has been our honeymoon, which was like 37 years ago. This we shall remedy.

Beer continues to play a very prominent role in my life and I’m very happy about that (except for the persistent spare bike tire I can’t seem to shake from its perch around my halter-top sector. In an attempt to make my beer nerditude legitimately recognized by a national organization, I’m planning on taking the BJCP exam in May. This involves a three hour class / study session / excuse to nerd out about beer every Sunday between the end of January and May 20th (excluding the Superbowl, Easter, Mother’s Day, and last Sunday because the course administrator was planning ahead of time to be hungover that afternoon). As part of this course of study, I was a judge at the Peach State Brew Off last weekend (and for a little while the weekend before). I was one of the, if not the greenest judges there, but the organizers paired me with some very experienced folks, so it worked out well and I absorbed a metric shit-ton of valuable information. Thankfully, there were only a couple of these:

“I cannot taste any significant technical flaws in this specimen.”

“You mean except for the overt oxidation and rampant Pediococcus infection?”

“Right, of course, except for that stuff … duh.”

So as not to violate any of the judging anonimity guidelines, I will say that my skillz ended up being affirmed by the best of show results. Sweet. This little foray out of my garage and into the local brewing community has also rekindled my desire to start brewing my own again. The last beer I made was great. It’s been too long.

In other local beer news:

- Summits in Sandy Springs closed up shop several weeks ago, an event about which I have mixed feelings. Summits did a lot of things right, and I spent a lot of money there because they were the closest beer bar to my abode. but the experience there was often a frustrating one for various reasons. Word on the street is that it is re-opening next week (3/4) as Charlie Mopps Pub and will feature the same 104 taps and Eleventy Billion bottles they’ve always had but with more focus on being a proper beer bar (a la Brickstore) and not just a smokey sports hangout with a poorly managed wall of beer in the background. Here’s hoping.

- Last week, beers from DogFish Head became available in Georgia via Savannah Distributing. DFH makes some grandma-slapping good beers. This is one instance where Georgia’s high-alcohol beer law comes back to haunt. On 7/1/2004, the ABV limit was raied from 6% to 14%. I would guess this includes 98% of beers currently available on the market. Unfortunately, DFH makes a handful of beers that shatter the 14% threshold, so none for us. I’m not, however, going to cry over 4 or 5 beers. Georgia has coma a long way since ’04. If you see beers from DFH, buy them and pour them in your face.

- Muss & Turners continues to be the greatest restaurant on the face of the Earth. They do everything right, ESPECIALLY beer. Gia and I have racked up an OBSCENE amount of money on our M&T rewards card. But don’t get any funny ideas, you know, like possibly going there yourself for food and / or drink. It’s already far too crowded. I mean, this is to be expected of an establishment that is the best one of its kind on the planet, but I’m warning you. If I see you there, I’ll probably recommend something tasty from the menu and I might even buy you a delicious adult beverage, but I will be totally bitter and insincere about it. On the inside.

What else … oh, I turn 30 this summer, so I imagine I’ll start pondering / freaking the fuck out here any minute. The Duke turns 60 in April and we’ve planned a pretty cool little trip to commemorate our chronological milestones. In June we’re flying up to Boston to catch a Red Sox game (Giants) and then jetting over to NYC the next day to catch a Yanks game (Mets). Yes, we already have tickets.

That’s about it. I go to the gym three tmes a week, and it feels awesome. I’ve been reading books this year. I’m about to finish my third one of the year, which is a HUGE deal considering it’s only February. I want to build a new back deck this spring / summer. The inside of Tall Brown needs painting. I’ve been drumming more recently, and have started sniffing around a new kit, possibly. I switched from using mayonnaise in tuna fish to using extra virgin olive oil and I think it’s much better.

The end.

Freakin' Friday

- I put some freakin’ pictures of chili ingredients, Chomp & Stomp, and Auburn up on freakin’ flickr for your freakin’ reference and enjoyment.

- I moved all of the fallen leaves around in my yard last weekend and took some pictures of the process, but those pics are still on the camera. I’m like German pop culture: Always a little bit behind, and, ultimately, laughably disappointing.

- The Geester and I dined at 5 Seasons for the first time in a few months last night. I freakin’ love that place. We started with the Artisanal cheese plate, mainly because it is the tastiest way to eat one of their little loaves of spent grain bread (made using the spent grains from the beer brewing process). She had a Red Zin, and I started with their Uberweiss, which is a Weissbock (Translation: Dark lager made with a ton of wheat. The Uber comes from the 7.9% ABV theoretically). Very tasty. For the main event, Gia ordered grilled ravioli that was made with crawfish and andouille sausage and tossed in a parmesan red pepper cream sauce. I got a chop of pork that was served with cheddar grit cakes, caramelized apples, and braised greens. In a word, we win dinner. Our waitress was pretty good, but she seemed a little on the green side. Her tableside manner was terrific, but she left us alone for too long a couple times. It was busy, and she seemed to be about one table away from being firmly in the weeds. So, there’s that.

- As part of my ongoing transformation into gayest-non-metro-straight-guy-in-30080 status, I have started occasionally using Gia’s exfoliating Apricot Scrub on my ever-expanging, glistening forehead. You know the stuff I’m talking about, with the sandy bits in it that grind undesirables out of your flesh? Here’s an obvious one for you … why doesn’t this soap company package the stuff in varying grits, just like sandpaper, and sell it at Home Depot? They could call it Face Grinder, or Ugly Stick and keep it by the cash registers. Free marketing genius … get it while it’s hot.

- And finally, the highly anticipated DorkStation 3 hit retail shelves today. Realistically, not a single one will actually touch a shelf as people who have merely been promised a machine from a retailer are selling these promises for $3,000+ on eBay. Suddenly those dudes spending days in line don’t look so dumb.

I hope Michigan and Ohio State both lose.

Shoes!

Yesterday I said I would tell you about buying new shoes. First, a short story. After graduating High School in 1994, I wrestled control of my life by quitting the shit out of my job as a morning line cook at IHOP on Johnson Ferry ($4.70/hr.), and making the seemingly career-savvy leap to the receiving department at TJMaxx out by Ye Olde Towne Centre Mall ($5.00/hr.). It took me about a month at the Maxx to realize I needed to get my ass into college, and I arranged to start at UGA in January 1995. Heh … remember when you could just waltz right into UGA?

If you’ve ever been into a TJMaxx, or a Marshalls, or a Ross you’ve no doubt noticed that every thing is on hangers. My job at the Maxx was to take boxes off the truck, unpack the contents, and put everything on hangers. (For you Popesters, Greg Cotton worked there with me for a while.) Every Wednesday, one of the schools nearby would bring in a small group of severely handicapped kids to put size stickers on shoes. Basically, they would find the size on the box, and put a corresponding sticker on each shoe inside the box. It sounds menial, but they loved it. So much so, that they would burst through the swinging warehouse doors each Wednesday morning already engaged in various shoe chants. Some would thrust a fist in the air and proclaim, “SHOES!!” Others would go straight to the stickers, all the while repeating, “Shoes. Shoes. Shoes. Shoes.” Then they would put different colored stickers all over their own shoes. One girl would narrow her eyes, stare suspiciously at the mountain of shoeboxes, and quielty growl, “Shooooooooooooes.” Sometimes they would put stickers on Greg.

And that, loyal readers, is how shoes became the all-purpose aloha-esque salutation of the Town Center TJMaxx receiving department. The end. Seriously.

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Catch it up

Stuff that has happened recentishly:

- Chomp and/or Stomp. I was reminded of this because a nice girl named Amy left the following comment on this entry:

Hi, I was at the Chomp and Stomp, and I thought the Mother Puncher was the best!! It will be the kind of chili I aspire to make, definitely. In fact if you have any pointers or secret recipes you want to get off your chest, go for it!! :)

To Amy, I would like to say, “THASSA WHAD I FUCKEEN TALKEEN ABBAAH!!!” The feedback that Fancy Paul and I received throughout the Chomp and Stomp was beyond glowing. People tasting Mother Puncher and telling us it was their favorite; people coming up to the table saying, “I hear this one is the best;” people tasting the next one in line after ours and looking back to say, “Yours is still our favorite.” I actually began to think we had a chance to win it. Alas, we were not judged by the public. Rather, 16-ounce specimens were whisked away to the Cabbagetown Community center to be judged by an official, 5-member panel of Cabbagetown dignitaries who, just the day before, all had their tongues removed. I’m not bitter. 14th place out of 37 entries is respectable for a couple of first-timers. Still … some of the chilis who placed above us were gross. Yeah, I said it. Anyway … next year. There are photos. I might post them.

- Following the Chomp and Stomp, I drank way too much. I would like to offer a formal apology to anyone I may have yelled at, spit on, steamrolled, winked at, run past, told “I fucking hate you,” or punched late in the evening / early in the morning on November 4th and / or 5th. My bad.

- After work last Friday, I met up with Rob, Keith, and Eric at Sweetwater. Upon disclosing that I had no plans after Sweerwater, my three intrepid colleagues informed me that I was going to Auburn with them following a quick stop at my house to grab a change of clothes. Well all right then. We arrived at Auburn at approximately I have no idea what time we arrived. We ended up hanging out at one of Auburn’s four shoulder-to-shoulder bars for a couple hours, laughing aloud at how cheap the beers were, and throwing fistfulls of cash at unsuspecting Alabamans. Good times.

We were up and on campus bright and early on Saturday. Everyone, both Georgia and Auburn fans, was bitching about the early start time. I had forgotten that a 12:30pm start translates to an 11:30am start in Alabama. As a Georgia fan, I apologize for the early start time. That is due entirely to our 6-4 record. Our bad. Ultimately, we decided not to scalp tickets into the game. It was raining, and the expected outlook was grim, so we opted for the couch and the HD flatscreen. Obviously, hindsight is 20/20, but whatever.

– Yesterday morning I handed the truck over to the body shop so they can work their voo-doo, sheet metal, OEM, paint blending magic on its poor, banged-up ass. As part of the deal I will be tooling around in a rental car all week. Enterprise picked me (and two other soon-to-be customers) up at the shop and took us to their office, where … wait for it … they had exactly one car available. I ended up getting shuttled to the downtown location where I was given the keys to a 2006 Mitsubishi Endeavor. It’s a Pathfinder / 4Runner-sized SUV, but with a little more wagon feel (lower clearance, lower vantage point). So far, so good. I’m just glad I didn’t end up in the Chevy Aveo that was parked right next to it. My fragile male ego would not have been able to take it.

Tomorrow, in the next installment of Living The Dream, I’ll tell you how I got new shoes.

Ready. Set. Chili.

Another Gerogia / Florida weekend. Another chili cookoff on the books. This year was the largest yet. 13 chili entries. 35 or so attendees with 25 completing at least part of a scoresheet. As has already been blogged / bragged, Alison took first with her Timberlake-inspired I’m Bringing Chiliback. This is a double kick in the pants for the rest of us because Alison hates cooking, admits that the chili-making process was decidedly sub-enjoyable, and has vowed not to attempt a repeat next year. At least we know the secret ingredient wasn’t love. If she really does not intend to defend her title, she should at least ready herself for cries of “Fluke!” And, not to take anything away from Alison’s much-deserved victory (her chili really was very good), it is worth pointing out (below) that she got the same number of first place votes (4) as Homegrown (Kevin & Maxine), Chiliapocolyptico (Jay & Amy), and Mother Puncher (Moi). But points are points and in the end she took it in a landslide. I ended up in third place, BARELY edging out Homegrown with more second place votes. In a head-to-head taste-off, I think Homegrown would have taken it. Here are the final vote tallies for all 13 entries. They are presented in the following order:

1st place votes : 2nd place votes : 3rd place votes : Hottest votes : Most Original votes

1. I’m Bringing Chiliback – 4 : 9 : 2 : 2 : 0
2. Chili Fantastico – 0 : 0 : 0 : 2 : 0
3. Aunt Anne – 0 : 0 : 2 : 0 : 0
4. Honky Chili With A Twist – 3 : 0 : 1 : 0 : 9
5. Bitch Please – 2 : 0 : 1 : 0 : 0
6. Funwoody Poblano Beano Chili – 1 : 3 : 3 : 0 : 0
7. Mother Puncher – 4 : 3 : 2 : 16 : 0
8. C-Note – 0 : 2 : 1 : 0 : 0
9. The Great While Hype – 3 : 2 : 1 : 0 : 9
10. Chiliapocolyptico – 4 : 4 : 2 : 0 : 7
11. Homegrown – 4 : 1 : 6 : 1 : 0
12. Chili Non Carne – 0 : 0 : 1 : 1 : 0
13. Lucky Seven – 0 : 1 : 3 : 3 : 0

I went through the judges’ sheets and pulled what I think are the choicest comments. Side note: I’m glad the judges’ sheets were anonymous. Some of you have clear, elegant handwriting, but many of you I fear are barely literate. I hope everyone was drunker than they seemed. Most of these comments are negative in nature, but I think that’s just a rule of humor. A blow to the nards is funnier than a pat on the back. Anyway:

Yuck but colorful.

Ketchup.

Eww – not the winner.

Food.

Had me until I ate a seed.

Too pasty, a little funky. Olives? Again?

Canned chili?

Least spice, but go potato!

Wendy’s.

Tastes like the pot it was cooked in.

Nothing!

All Meat. Is there ass in this? Great heat.

I will pretend to be sour about all this until preparations begin in earnest for Fancy Paul and myself to take Mother Puncher to the Cabbagetown Chomp & Stomp this Saturday, which is to say, I’m already over it. If you don’t come to this, you are failure at life. Saturday is supposed to be sunny and crisp. It’s $5 for all the chili you can eat. Sweetwater will be pouring beers for $3 each. Live bluegrass. Seriously. Don’t fuck this up.

Tomorrow: Ear Candles. With Pictures. Viewer Discretion is advised.

Shifting awesomeness

Phil and Heather are in town this week, which is awesome, but it causes major shifts in our normal behavior patterns, which is … also awesome. For instance, last night after fajitas and margaritas at the lovely home of some other Pope ’94 alums, Phil and I stayed up until 2:00am playing Madden. Let me phrase that, I stayed up until 2:00am WINNING Madden. I don’t know what Phil was doing. He was there, and he was playing, but …

We’ve had the DLP projector subbing as full-time television for over a year now and this week is the first time we’ve used it for video games. This is dumb because, well, what’s not awesome about an 11-foot wide video game? Aside from the epilepsy? Problem is, I see a potentially monsterous time suck machine on the horizon. Good thing most video games are unbearably dumb.

This weekend will likely be one of those where, by Sunday evening, I’ll be ready for the weekend. Tonight, I will construct a to-be-victorious batch of chili and then head out for some beers with Phil. Tomorrow is the 5th Annual Cobb Dawgs Chili Wrecking Ball. I have a feeling this year is going to hurt. I hope so, anyway.

I’ll leave you with a picture you will laugh at, despite feeling like you shouldn’t:

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Chapter Next

When we last checked, our hero was in Austin, Texas. He never got to venture outside of the rental car / hotel / meeting location bubble, so, as it stands, all of Texas still sucks. Hopefully Austin will get a chance to redeem Texas soon. Also, maybe it’s getting chilly in Atlanta early this year, but it was 90° in Austin. So, that was crap. HOWEVER, most of the goals of my trip were met and exceeded, so that’s counter-crap. It should go without saying, but I’d rather have bad weather and good meetings than vice versa.

Since Delta wants, oh, $1,100 for an ATL-AUS itinerary that includes less that THREE stops, I had to fly American and make a pit stop in Dallas–aka America’s Stretch Marks. Dallas is one of those cities where I’m relieved when I don’t get to leave the airport. I was traveling with a director with whom I had never worked before this trip, and we had a bit of a layover / delay at DFW. We bought magazines and grabbed a bite to eat before settling in across from our gate to people watch while we waited for our plane to finish being delayed. I saw someone who I thought I recognized and the director totally caught me staring at him. I explained, “I think that guy with the mohawk plays guitar for one of my favorite bands.”

“You should go talk to him,” she said.

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Tagged. I'm it.

No, not like the hip Web 2.0 tagging that has helped reframe the concept of user defined content. No, not even like when bloggers tag each other because … actually I have no idea why bloggers tag each other. Knock it off.

No, I’m talking about Tuesday morning, when I was heading to work in the rain-soaked insanity of Atlanta highway rush hour. Traffic came to a rather abrupt stop, but nothing too insane, and a Volvo came up behind me and was all like, “Ahem … TAG!”

BALLS!

Thankfully, everyone is okay.

So that was a nice kick in the britches first thing in the morning on a day that was already plenty busy without said tagging. Oh, and, “This is my cousin’s car.” Great. The offending driver was very nice and just past his concern for me and my car, I could tell that he was pretty torqued to have just totalled his cousin’s car. That said, he’s lucky I had to spend today battling airports. It gave him the chance to break the news to his cousin before I call his cousin’s insurance company.

I called my insurance company because I thought that’s what you were supposed to do and they said, “You got rear-ended? Well, you only need us if there’s a problem with their insurance. You no call here no more.” All I could think about while I sat there was that the rain was much worse than the wreck. Also, for the people trying to make it into town on I-75 South this morning, my little mix-up at the river was the fourth wreck from Wade Green Road to that point. I have a lot of friends and family who live out there and were probably sitting in that traffic. I would say I’m sorry, but I’d rather say, “That’s what you get for living where you live, bitches!”

So here I sit in Texas.

I’ve heard endless stories about how great Austin is. Everything I’ve seen so far looks just like Dallas, which is to say, like crap. Hopefully things are nicer tomorrow.

Watch out, other shoe coming through

The Bulldogs’ loss to Vandy (at home) feels less like a gut-wrenching tragedy in a campaign of innocence and more like the other shoe finally dropping. This team is lacking in a lot of areas, from coaching to kicking. No longer can we just pour some more Pepto on the problem and win another Colorado game by one point. Back-to-back home losses carve open the belly of the beast, exposing all of the ulcers and impacted tracts. The surgery will not be pretty, but things will be better in the long run.

Immediately after the game ended on Saturday, my phone rang. It was my sister-in-law, who went to Georgia. I imagined she was calling to commiserate or something. I answered the phone, “Claire.”

The voice on the other end of the line said, “Robert.”

It was in fact Claire’s boyfriend, who is a huge Vandy fan, calling to gloat. To his credit, he seemed even more shocked than I was, and merely wanted to officially register all the shockedness. The next step is to face Gia’s uncle, who graduated from Vandy, and hates Georgia with a passion. Baby steps.

Last night, the Geester and I got to see David Sedaris at Symphony Hall, which, for all intents and purposes, is the opposite of college football, even if our seats were right next to Brett’s. We saw a similar show of his out in Portland in 2003. I remember he struck me as somewhat somber and disengaged, but the material he read was great. In addition to some super-duper new stories (” … like drinking a health food store …” HAW!), he seemed much more relaxed and enthusiastic last night.

I always wonder whether artists and performers on tour love the action and excitement of galloping thousands of miles in the blink of an eye and seeing thousands of new faces every night, or if they loathe the whole process and just wish they were at home under the comforter. When I happend across a Jolie Holland show in July, I had a brief conversation with her about touring. She seemed pretty unstoked to be out on the road so much, which made me … annoyed. This time around, Sedaris seemed like he was perfectly happy trotting the globe doing book tours and generally being doted upon, which, honestly, made a huge difference in the quality of the show, for me anyhoo.

I’m leaving in a little bit to go get a physical. I’ve never had one in my adult life, and I want to establish some sort of general health status before I get too much older. I don’t think there’s anything wrong per se, but I am fully prepared to be told that, in order to live until next week, I have to stop drinking beer and start doing pilates immediately.