Monday, May 31, 2010

Your Whitehouse Report - Part 4

When we last left our hero on Wednesday, he was about to eat.
Today’s entrĂ©e: Rib Eye Steaks

To paraphrase Jeff Goldblum, “That is one big pile of meat.”

On Thursday, we took off for Bluz Sister’s place in Cincinnati.  As we passed Findlay Ohio, I noticed the conspicuous lack of “Welcome to Findlay – Home of Ben Roethlisberger” signs.  Go figure.

I learned that there is a drawback to big motorcycle-riding women wearing spaghetti-strap tops… Those upper arms were flapping in the wind like bat wings.  It’s a wonder she could get up any speed at all, with that parachute effect going.

While perusing the Reader’s Digest in the car, Rik unearthed a little tidbit for us:  The fear of bald men is called “Peladophobia.”  See, that’s why I refuse to shave my head… It’s for all the peladophobiacs out there, so that they never have to see anything like this:
Rik, John and some other guy that’s not me.

My favorite bumper sticker from the trip: “When Fascism comes, it will be wrapped in the flag and carrying a cross.”  In other words, it’ll be on Fox “News.”

About 45 minutes outside Cincinnati, we heard the unmistakable whup-whup-whup-whup of a flat tire.  We pulled over on the median side, where we had some room, and found that the rear driver’s side tire was flat.  I wasn’t too worried… there were 3 guys in that car that were capable of changing a tire.

Unfortunately, the tire had other ideas.  We could not.  Get.  The fucker.  Off.

The lugs came right off, but no matter how much we pried and kicked at it, the wheel would not budge.  We called 911 and they said they’d send a trooper.  In the meantime, we continued to try to move the tire.

Then, just to make sure we were completely screwed, the thunder and lightning started, followed by a whole bunch of big fat raindrops.  I considered getting my camera out to document the misery, but I think John might have beaten me to death with his cell phone.

Eventually, a trooper rolled up behind us, but it didn’t look like he was personally going to be much help… dude couldn’t have been more than 5’9”, 175lb, and was so young looking, I thought he was going to ask for our help with his homework.  But he did have a nice long pry-bar.  Couple minutes later, we were able to yank that tire off, pop on the donut and get back to rolling.  The whole pit stop took about a half hour.

The funny thing was that if we would have went about 5 miles further, we would have broken down right in front of the Solid Rock Church, which features this tasteful display:
Nothing says humility like a 62-foot half-Jesus.

I did a post on this place several years ago, at my old site, and I’ll probably re-run it here soon.  Suffice to say, the Solid Rock Church is one of those evangelical mega-churches, whose “founders” are as crooked as the day is long.  But if we’d have broken down in front of Touchdown Mega-Jesus, I’d have no choice but to take it as a sign that my heathen ways were being called into question.

But since we didn’t, I guess I’ll be merrily on my way.

We rolled up to Bluz Sister’s estate tired and wet, but none the worse for wear.

We decided to bail on seeing the Reds/Pirates game that night and see the Reds/Astros on Friday.  So instead of baseball, it was time once again for:

In between shots, I had the chance to stroll the grounds and shoot some pictures of Bluz Sister’s horticultural endeavors.
This is a plant whose name sounds like “Chlamydia”, which is how we referred to it so frequently, I’ve forgotten what the name actually is.

Bluz Sister also has a whimsical sense of humor:

She also showed me her new house-brand of wine:
Mindbling, Wormy and Hot Mama (of “Bitchburgh”) need to get in on some of this!

Going to visit my sister is a lot like visiting my parents.  Both places put out enough exquisite food to choke a horse.  Bluz Sister had just taken an apple pie out of the oven as we arrived.
I considered putting a hole in the pie before I took this shot.  What kept me from doing so was knowing that my sister would have then put a hole in me.

After the cornholing, brother-in-law Scotty saw to the grilling.  First up, brats:

We spent the evening munching brats, drinking beer and laughing long into the night.  I vaguely remember watching the movie “Cloverfield” and digging into that pie.

I wasn’t even out of the shower the next morning when Scotty had a batch of Tony Packo’s hot dogs back on the grill. 
These were the things that Klinger was always going on about on MASH.

In between more rounds of cornhole, I got a visit from their primary cat, Fletcher.  (They also have a secondary, back-up cat, Gracie, who is very skittish around big strange guys.  I think she has peladophobia.)

Fletch, however, is one of those “people cats” that just has to be in the middle of everything.  He’s 10 now and in pretty good shape.  Gracie keeps him pretty active; in fact he’s lost about 4 pounds in the last year.

We had dinner before going to the game:
Just like mama used to make.  Stuffed shells yield stuffed people.

We had a dinnertime discussion about the various benefits of making meatballs out of ground beef versus ground turkey.  John suggested that if you use ground turkey, they should be called “fowl balls.”

While we considered getting walk-up tickets at the box office, we ended up getting 5 together for close to face value from a guy on the corner.  While there is always that chance that the tickets would be bogus, they were just fine and yielded us seats along the first base line, about 30 rows back, halfway between first base and the outfield wall.

This was my first trip to Great American Ball Park, so I took a mess of pictures.  (I will spare you from most of them.)
Scoreboard in left-centerfield.

Dusk falls on the ballpark.

They had one really great idea there… a live band playing between innings.  I don’t know why more teams don’t do this.  It beats the hell out of the usual lame stadium anthems.
An all-time great band name.  (And logo.)

Before the game, they had a bald eagle release from the outfield, who flew to his handler down by the pitcher’s mound, right at the end of the National Anthem.  I knew I wouldn’t be able to get a meaningful picture so I didn’t try.  But they got him real good on the scoreboard.  You could see how right after he got his treat from the handler, the big bird just kind of glared at the people in the stands, like, “I keel you all.” 

Gotta love those birds of prey.

The game ended up very good for Cincinnati, who won 15-6.  I admit that we left in the 7th after it was 14-2.  Once you hit a football score, the game is pretty much over.  But we did get to see a pinch-hit grand slam, which doesn’t come along very often.

Saturday morning, Bluz Sister sent us back on the road with a nutritious breakfast.  And in addition to the toast, sausage and eggs:
What are these colorful round things?  Oddest shaped meat I’ve ever seen…

Of course, Fletcher had to include himself in breakfast too:
"Did someone say 'treats'?"

 The last big event of my vacation was scheduled for the drive home:  a trip to Myles Pizza in Bowling Green.  This was the pizza I lived on when I was in college.  I swear they could have bought another delivery car solely from the business I gave them.  I can’t even count how many classes I skipped, just because someone asked me that fateful question, “Hey, wanna go in on a pizza with me?

Hmmm, I can either sit in that boring-ass History of Broadcasting class, or I can dig into a large black olive and mushroom pizza and play cards.” 

History of Broadcasting did NOT win out very often.

Anyway, this pizza was amazing, so every year when I come back home, we always take a field trip to Myles.  We were going to go earlier in the week and take Rik’s kids, but soccer practices kept getting in the way.  Meanwhile we had to go right past Bowling Green to get home from Cincinnati, so that was a perfect Plan B.

This is why I keep coming back to Myles:
This puts the “pie” in pizza pie.  It’s as thick as an apple pie.

In all fairness, the pizzas were not this big when I was in school, but they were still bigger than your average Pizza Hut/Domino’s/Little Caesars.  But now, they’re just incredible.  We each had about 2 slices and were completely full.  I always over-order too, expressly so I can bring home leftovers… Some for me, some for Pinky, and some for my boss.  Ever since I gave him a slice 2 years ago, I think he’s more excited about getting some than I am. 

It’s always an adventure getting the pizza through airport security.  They want to know what’s in the foil.  I always tell them, “Leftover pizza, and it’s not for sale!” 

I was sad to see the trip come to an end, although I’m pretty lucky it ended when it did.  With all the feasting on this incredible food, I’m surprised Southwest Airlines didn’t see me coming and swap their 737 for one of these:

So, I’m home now, safe and sound.  It’s always nice to be back in one’s own bed.  Time to start working on losing the 8 pounds I gained last week.  But I don’t know how I’m going to deal with having to go to work again; I’ll just have to play it by ear.

Bluz to boss:  It’s past noon… Here’s your pizza… where’s the beer?

Final note:  In addition to being an outstanding gardener and chef, Bluz Sister is also an accomplished watercolorist.  Check out her web page here and consider it for all your decorative art needs.  Tell her “The bluzdude sent me.”

Thank you to all who provided such amazing food and hospitality and made this vacation so special!

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Your Whitehouse Report - Part 3

Earlier in the day yesterday, we passed by the first place I ever had a job, Sautter's grocery store.  

One day that place will get a post of its own, but for now, it was a good place for me to start my working life.  Maybe it's different in other parts of the country, but where I live, you don't see too many small, family-owned grocery stores any more.  I'll never forget when minimum wage went up to $2.65... I thought I was really raking it in!

We went to Jake's baseball game last night and unfortunately, it was one of those games where it was just walk after walk after walk, with an occasional strikeout thrown in.  The first 2 innings took an hour to play, and there were maybe 4 occasions on which someone actually made contact with a pitch.
Jake fouls one off, before walking.

"Sorry I can't stay, kid, but American Idol is about to start."

We made a break for it about an hour and a half in, so that we could get home in time for American Idol.  Well, so that Rik could watch American Idol, which he could not DVR, he said, because he was already DVRing NCIS.

This is where I got to earn my keep, by telling Rik how he could actually DVR 2 shows at once, as long as he wasn't watching something else.  Sadly, I didn't know this was even an issue until we were 10 minutes away from the house, on the way to the game.

John met us over at Rik's place, which had just undergone Spring Planting.  It's hard to imagine that the guy on the right in this pic:

is the same guy that planted this:

So the 3 of us had a pizza delivered while Idol was on.  As the delivery guy left, John wondered if Pizza Guy was wondering what kind of house this was, with 3 big bald gorillas sitting around watching American Idol.

Later on, during a Fox promo, I clarified... "I'm sure he didn't think we were gay because we were watching Idol.  Now if were watching 'Glee'..."

After Idol, and the DVR'ed NCIS, we went out to Shawn's Irish Pub again and worked on some beers until 11, when they closed.  Next stop was the "other" bar in Waterville, Mad Anthony's."

We had a few more beers there, shot the shit, told a bunch of stories, and got home about 1.  Actually, "re-told" is probably more accurate.  I don't think any of us have anything new to cover that we haven't covered a hundred times by now.

There's not a lot on the "schedule" for today.  John and I went out to pick up his car at the shop back in Haskins.  It was a bit too early to stop again at Herbie's Train Depot, which is the name of the place we were at yesterday, that had the model train running and whose name I could not remember when I wrote the last post (and has since been corrected.)

How can you not like a bar called "Herbies", anyway?

I tweaked my back getting up from a chair this morning.  Now it's like I have a shiv stuck in just to the right of my middle vertebrae.  Fuck.  It sucks getting old.  I wonder if a steady diet of beer and Jack Daniel's will help?

John's out doing some yard work this afternoon.  As I was poking around the cupboards looking for something "lunch-like", I came across a delicacy from my post-college years, and found that John was apparently holding out on me.
Look!  Now with no Trans Fats!  So it's all "good for you", right?

I became acquainted with Ramen Noodle Soup one day while I was living in an off-campus apartment in Bowling Green, with my fiance and a mutual (hot) friend.  I was sick one morning and Fiance was at school, so Hot Friend made me a bowl of Ramen Noodle Soup.  Now having lived at home throughout college, I was unfamiliar with this stuff.  But it was so novel and good to me at the time, I guess I associated Ramen Noodle Soup with mornings and from then on, it became my new daily breakfast, a habit I maintained for a good 15 years.

I loved when I could find a store that had new flavors, but I usually stuck to the basics... chicken, beef, pork and Oriental.  I was never quite sure why it was called "Oriental"... was it supposed to taste like a Chinaman?  I never learned for sure.

I would arrange my soups in the cabinet in a flavor rotation, so I could just take one off the top and I would always have maximum distance from the last time I had that flavor.

What?  I am NOT OCD!  I'm just really good with "systems".

Anyway, Ramen Noodle Soup was the one constant through my earliest years as a so-called adult, in other words, The Broke Years.  At like 15 cents per package, it helped stretch my meager dollars. It wasn't always for breakfast, but it was a pretty regular lunch.

I don't think I stopped buying it until a couple years after I moved to Baltimore.  But seeing it in John's cupboard, I knew that my buddies weren't going to be the only old friend from the past I'd be spending time with this week.

Tomorrow we are still scheduled to go see Bluz Sister in Cincinnati, with a return stop on Saturday at World Famous Myles Pizza in Bowling Green.  You'll have to see this pizza to believe it.  I guarantee you that I'll be the only one on Southwest Airlines on Sunday, flying with a carryon filled with cold pizza.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Your Whitehouse Report - Part 2

The highlight of Sunday was going to see Rik's son Jake play soccer.  (We saw a game on Saturday as well.)  It went well... Jake's team won 17-2.  It was one of those games where you felt really bad for the other team, especially the goalie.  You could just see the kid wilting out there, like, "I don't care any more, just get me the hell out of here."
Jake, with Uncle Bluz.  The boy is 10, and is head and shoulders taller than most of the other kids on the field.

We reassembled at home, after a beer run.  (Yes, I know, it was a hard opening weekend).  John's brisket was just coming off the grill.
The verdict?  While quite tender and flavorful, it needed maybe one less hour.  But that's not to say that it didn't get devoured.

On Monday, we went out and about, doing some typical small-town errands.  John and I had to pick up some auto parts, so we went to a parts store right beside where I used to work at my first record store.
My Peaches store used to be where this Saver and half of Family Dollar stands right now.

We were totally shagged out after that first chore, so Rik met us at another old haunt, Dale's Bar in Maumee.  
Back when I was in college, my girlfriend was friends with most of a girls softball team and we all used to hang out here after games.  But even before that, I think this was the first actual bar I ever went to.  We used to go for the Genny Pounder Night, i.e. 16 oz Genesee Cream Ale for a dollar.

They've changed a lot since I'd last been here... they completely redecorated (meaning they put up decorations.)  It seems to be an Ohio State-themed place now, which was fine by me.  Back in the day, the biggest draw there, (besides the $1 Genny Pounders) was the jukebox.  They used to have a giant jukebox that played 45's.  And they always played in the sequence they were layed out in, so the trick was to see where it was before selecting your songs, so you could choose ones that were coming up soon.  Otherwise, it could be hours before they were played and you would likely be gone.

Side note: Man, I love CD jukeboxes now.  With the old boxes, you were stuck with songs that had to be made on singles... just the "hits."  With the CD boxes, the album cuts were in play.  And yes, I know that there are internet jukeboxes out there... I just haven't spent much time with them.

Back on Friday when I first came into town, John and I passed a sign on the way home, that gave me an idea.  It was the perfect vehicle for a portrait of my buddies, who have been lovingly dubbed, The Bruise  Brothers.  So while we were out in Maumee, I had the chance to get my picture:

We also stopped at a cigar store; Rik was in the mood for a stogie.  I probably smoke maybe one cigar a year... either when hanging out with the guys, or after a game as a Victory Smoke. The shop was pretty cool... they had zillions of different cigars from which to choose.  Now I don't know jack about cigars, I just look for the word "mild" on the box.  I also look for shorter cigars, because I really don't like smoking.  I just can't get past that "Day-After-the-Smoke Ass-Mouth Taste."  Bleahh...

On the way back home, we passed by my old house.  Years ago, I couldn't even bring myself to look at it... I'd heard there were a lot of changes... trees cut down, additions put on, cars and equipment all over the place.  But a couple years ago, I started looking and saw that it wasn't that bad.  So this year, I had John pull over so I could take a picture.
The Olde Homestead.

It looked pretty good.  There used to be 2 giant trees in the yard... I know one out by the road had to be taken down for a sewer line.  There was another huge one that was on the very left of this shot... you can still see the ring where it used to be.  It used to shade the whole house.  

We had one more chore to do... We had to follow John out to Haskins so he could drop off a car at the shop.
Downtown Haskins makes downtown Whitehouse look like Gotham City.

I used to pass through Haskins every day on my way to Bowling Green, when I was in college.  It was a very good place to pass through; it was "stopping" that could put you in a coma.

But nevertheless, we found a nice place to stop for some more beers.  (2 chores, 2 bars to visit.  I like the symmetry.)

The best part of this bar, Herbie's Train Depot, had one very cool thing:
"Train Train!"

They had this model train set up that ran around the perimeter wall, that if you were sitting in the right place, would deliver you your meal.

OK, I admit that I'm easily amused.

Rik helped me a bit in getting that picture... I kept getting a blur and he helped me adjust the shutter speed on my camera, thus earning his keep for the day.  I guess I stopped reading my owner's manual too soon.

On the way home, we stopped in Waterville at the bank of the Maumee River.  I wanted to get a picture or two.

This bridge crosses the Maumee River from Waterville.  (Hence the name, "Waterville.")  I used to cross it every day on my way to school.

Our final leg was to pick up John's dad and bring him back to John's with us, to bring some wisdom to our motley bunch.

No grilling tonight... instead it was a pot of spaghetti, with which I am completely fine.  The grill will get over it.  Afterwards, we convened the Council of Elders over beer, cigars, and some Jack for John's Dad.

On deck for Tuesday:  Jake's baseball game, and American Idol.  

Note:  I don't really give a shit about Idol, but I'm in the minority here.  Plus, finalist Crystal Bowersox is from this area, so it's a very big deal out here.

Thursday we plan to head to Cincinnati and visit my sister.  We also plan to see the Reds/Pirates game, so I may not get to post again until Friday.  

I realize that life will continue to move on.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Your Whitehouse Report - Part 1

Live, from Whitehouse Ohio, it's Sunday afternoon!

I got into town uneventfully, which is my favorite way to arrive.  John picked me up and we headed straight to Shawn's Irish Pub, in Waterville OH.  This location seems to be under new management every time I'm here, but they've really done it up nice this time, with lots of wood and a big U-shaped bar.  As always, the food was outstanding.
I always start with the cheeseburger, then go from there.

Rik and John's dad met us there.  I was the only one that ate, but we all had a couple of rounds.

Next stop was the grocery store, to lay in reinforcements.
I don't want to hear if from all you beer snobs.  We like the regular American shit.

Rik's girls may be all grown up but there is a new generation of rugrats in the house.

These are John's grandkids, Jaidyn and Gavyn.  Gavyn stays with John full time, his sister comes to visit every other weekend.  (long story)  

This weekend's WTF moment:

Why the HELL would anyone need a handle on a tricycle??  I mean, something like that could be handy if you're trying to teach your kid how to ride a bike without training wheels, but a tricycle??  I don't get it.  And John couldn't explain it either... Parents?  Little help here?

We were supposed to see the fabled Toledo Mudhens, but forecasts said 80% chance of rain.  So we made an executive decision and bailed.  

Well, they did eventually call the game off, so the tickets can be reused.

The first night's grilling event was to be chicken.  John's secret weapon is to soak apple-wood chips in water and add them to the coals, for a nice smokey flavor.

We also had some nice taters... it was the first of many feasts to come.

After the chicken, it was time for the Whitehouse Cornhole invitational.
Rik, demonstrating his Shaquille O'Neal bricklaying technique.

I had a pretty good night, all told.  Rik and I took 3 in a row from John and Rik's son Jacob.  The Kyrie and I won 2 of 3 from John and Jake.  Last match, Rik and I lost 2 of 3 to John and his neighbor Bob.  I tell, my cornholin' arm is in bad shape this morning, in addition to some sore thighs from bending over.  (to pick up the bags, smartass...)

Another of John's neighbors has a fresh baby, so Kyrie was all over that.
You got time, girlie, you got lots of time... 

Kyrie is already drawing rave notices as a babysitter.  Kids just seem to flock to her, especially little girls.  Jaidyn is another very "girly" girl, and looks at Kyrie like she's her fairy godmother.

After the Cornholin', we had nothing left to do but stand around and drink.  By this time, 6 of John's neighbors were on hand at the Dad Cave, so the music rolled and the drinks flowed.

John and neighbor Fran.

So it was kind of a rough morning today, but considering how much we had to drink, I don't feel too badly.  On my Bags'O Fuck scale, I feel like about 2 Bags'O Fuck, and that's not too bad.  Mostly it's just muscle fatigue.

By 10 this morning, John already had the grill going for tonight's entree:  Beef Brisket.

He cooks it at about 250 degrees for 7 hours, thus making the neighborhood drool all afternoon.  

OK, gotta catch a shower and become somewhat presentable.  I will post further updates as time allows.

Note:  I apologize if the format here isn't as tight as usual... I'm typing all this into the blogger template and I'm not fiddling with the html.  (Normally I work everything out in Word, then paste it into the template.)  So sue me... you get what you pay for!