Saturday, June 28, 2008

Best Baked Potato Ever

I thought my boy had enjoyed a few baked potatoes in the lunchroom during his first grade year, but as it turns out I was way off. He didn't really care for them at all.

LBB was out tonight, so I thought I'd make something I thought TB likes. Grilled poke chops and baked potatoes. My plan was to bake those tates on the grill.

Just before LBB left I mentioned my plan. She laughed and said, "Those potatoes won't turn out." Then TB admitted he didn't really care for those potatoes at school.

Well, fuck off, I say, because here's a recipe for the best baked potato ever. You can ask my son, because he went off on these things.

Ingredients: One baking potato, olive oil, coarse kosher salt, pepper

Rip off enough foil to wrap around the tate, pour about a tablespoon of olive oil in the foil and add about a q. tsp. of salt and a whole mess of pepper.

Slice the potato on opposite sides from end to end, but not all the way through. Roll the potato in the oil and salt mix. Wrap it up in the foil.

Then throw it on a hot grill for an hour. Leave the grill lid on as much as possible, and turn that potato only two or three times.

Remove from the grill and let it sit for 15 minutes or so. Then add some grated cheddar, saar cream, butter, or whatever you like up on it. The boy just had some cheddar.

Best potato you ever had, I guarantee. TB told me they were much better than the ones at school. Absolutely so!

And just so you know, I'm still working with my ten year old K'mart version of a Weber grill. Charcoal. So when it gets smoky around the neighborhood, it just may be my fault. Once it rusts out, I may go with a gas grill, but for now this works just fine.


Holy crap! Stick this out until minute five and then experience the world blowing up. I've heard this song but have never seen it before. And this is a couple years before Dark Side of the Moon. Genius.

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Blah, Blah, Blogging

I haven't had much to say the past week or so. Work has been kinda crazy, though I keep my hours to a reasonable 45 per week. TB has been winning a bunch of blue ribbons in his swim meets. He was at camp for golf, tennis, and swimming this past week. My Mom is doing good. LBB is her usual jovial self. Tomorrow is our 12th anniversary, and Monday is my 41st birthday.

I just don't feel like going on and on about it. Summertime lull, I guess.

Saturday, June 14, 2008

King Comma

Dang! I just looked through my last several posts and found no fewer than ten unnecessary commas. I'm the comma king. Achh, I cleaned up, but guess I'll try to proofread a bit more.

Our Newest Family Member

Meet Milly, our new cat:
Her story is that a couple of our friends were on a long walk that took them up Mill Mountain and they found this cat and also a dude that had been feeding her for awhile. He said he was about done with that responsibility so they went back later and got the cat.

For a good long time she was living on Mill Mountain, eating mice and what this kind fellow had been bringing her.

Our friend took the cat to the vet. She had already been fixed, declawed, and she had no fleas. She's about three years old, we're told. Either this cat was dumped by someone, or she escaped from a tourist's vehicle that was at the campground or the star.

For awhile a few years ago we had six cats (6! Yes, that's right. 6!), but we were down to one. We were prime victims for cat adoption guilt. So she's ours now.

After initially trying to name the cat after himself, my son quickly agreed with my suggestion that we name her "Milly" after the mountain she lived on for awhile.

She was only about six pounds when she arrived, but she's gained a couple. Still, she's the hungriest cat we've ever had.

She also broke our tradition of naming cats after something or someone musical. Here is our history of cats as a couple (LBB had a bunch before I came along).

Walnut: was my cat when I lived alone in DC. Black all over, except for a few stray white hairs. He's the only cat we have had as a couple that came from a pet shop. All the rest were strays or abandoned. Walnut was not named after music, but because he used to launch himself off the couch and into the wall head first; hence, Wall Nut -->> Walnut. He was always my favorite. After the boy was born, he kinda got kicked to the curb (not literally, of course). I feel a little guilty about that. (1991-2005)

Casbah: named after the Clash song "Rock the Casbah". He was a tough guy. Gray, wire haired, and about as rock solid as any cat I've ever known. He used to head butt me when I was in bed. (1984-1997)

Dylan: pretty obvious who he was named for. Dumb as a stick, but very sweet. He was cream colored and very overweight. Once he walked off a balcony. Poor fella. (1990-2004)

Wilbur: named after the Traveling Wilburys. He was LBB's cat up in Alexandria (along with Casbah and Dylan), but she gave him to her parents when her Mom got sick. He was a great companion to G'diddy. He was a long-haired orange cat. (1990-2002)

Bono: named after Bono from U2, of course. He was a stray living in a culvert when LBB rescued him. Long haired, gray, cross-eyed, and stupid. Sweet cat though if there were no other distractions. In the end he had some serious health problems and we probably let them go on for too long. (1991-2006)

The Edge: another U2 naming. He was Bono's half brother, from the same roving tomcat that left litters all over Kingstowne (Alexandria, VA 22315). Black as night, and as he aged, a big strong cat. He never liked people and lived mostly outdoors. It was a struggle to get him to the vet. Amazingly he's was our longest lived cat. (1991-2007)

Lucas: named after a silly song called "Lucas With The Lid Off" that LBB and I were into about the time he showed up. Right after we moved into our first house in Roanoke in 1995, Lucas showed up with a broken leg. We took him to the vet and fixed it. He never left. He was a brownish, striped mess. His teeth were a wreck. Not the prettiest cat, but very loving. LBB favored him greatly. (1995?-2005)

Henry Rollins: (1997-current). Named after, of course, Henry Rollins. LBB is a magnet for cats. Henry was living in a doctors office in Blacksburg. She was working for Southern Health and calling on the office one day, and somehow they saw her for a cat sucker that just lost a big gray cat (Casbah). Sure enough, Henry was like a little Casbah. She mentioned it to me one night at dinner and I pretty much knew we was going to be ours. He's a sweet cat but he does drag in a bunch of birds and moles, fat as he is. He's been quite patient with Milly since she arrived.

Milly: (2005?-current). Fully named Milly Grace by our friend who found her (since she lived in their garage for a couple weeks and their kids named her Grace). Not named after anything musical, but after Mill Mountain. Welcome to the family Milly!

Gonna Sip Bacardi Like It's Ya' Birthday

Last week was my son's 7th birthday. Next Monday is my 41st. Thinking about that made me realize that he's had nearly three times as many birthday parties as I've had.

Back when I was a kid, we didn't have a party year after year after year. At least I didn't, and I wasn't invited to all that many, so I'm assuming. Maybe I wasn't very popular.

I can recall all these parties clearly (except maybe the last part of the last two since they involved a fair bit of alcohol).

When I was six we had some kids over to my house. All boys of course. I remember exactly who was there: Bobby Bogle, Mark Phillips, Dennis Kenniston, and Chris and Mark Sidoti. And my mother. That's it! We played games, put on funny hats, and ate cake. It's was a blast! In 1973, we used to dress up pretty nice to go to our friends parties. I'm thinking of the pictures of my party. Everyone wore long pants. One kid even wore a turtle neck. In June.

For my sixteenth, I invited over my two best friends Bill and Dan and each of our girlfriends, Laurie, Cathy, and Deidre. We had a cookout and ate in my parents basement playroom. Then we went down to the park and played basketball for awhile, which was really an excuse to get out of the house so we could go sit by the crick and makeout. (Aside: where I come from a flowing body of water bigger than a stream and smaller than a river is a "crick". Some people called them "creeks". The Dutch call them "kills". But we went to make out by the "crick".)

That party ended in disaster because the gift my girlfriend Deidre gave me was way too small. It was a necklace with an Italian horn - very stylish in 1983. She lost it because we all sort of laughed when I couldn't get it around my neck. She was only 14 at the time, and I remember realizing at that moment that she was a little too immature for me. Of course we went out for another year and a half, but that day was the beginning of the end.

My favorite gift that year was The Police's Syncronicity album. I played it until I wore it out. (Well, no not really. It got peed on by our cats along with all my other great records.)

For my 25th birthday, my wife, who was married to someone else at the time, and another friend, arranged a surprise happy hour one Friday after work (we all worked at the same place). I was living in DC then. One surprise guest was another former co-worker of ours whom I had casually dated a while before. We hooked up again for a couple months as a result of this party. It didn't last, though. She lived in Laurel, Maryland, and it was just too much hassle to trek back and forth. Shallow, huh? Anyway, I had another semi-serious relationship for a year or so, then my wife got a divorce, I sidled on up, and we ended up here. Funny how things work out.

Then last year, my wife threw a big blowout surprise party here at the house. Seafood catered by The Seafood Company (which closed recently, I just found out), lots of friends, beer, and fun. Good times. The diversion that allowed her to set up for the party was a round of golf in the early afternoon, and like a fool I still didn't pick up on the scheme when my playing partner drove home all the way from Ole Monterrey at about 20 MPH.

So there are my four parties. At seven, TB has had a bunch more. Starting about age three (maybe two, I don't remember), we've always had some kind of event party for his friends: the Transportation Museum, Chuck-E-Cheese (once only, thankfully), Thunder Valley (shared party with another boy - that was utter chaos - and we did it two years running). This year, at the Skate Center (although we haven't arranged it yet).

Then, of course, we have the "family" birthday for him here at the house. Since our local family is just the three of us now (four before G'diddy passed on), it usually ends up being several other families as well. So that's how he's had a dozen parties to my four.

Life is good for the TB, no doubt.

Eight Years

Eight years is a long f'n time.

It's more than half the life of most cats. It's two times you have to renew your drivers license in most states. It's far longer than most people stay in one job. It's about the span where you have to think about repainting your house. It's a term and a third of a US Senator.

It's the end of middle school through college graduation - think about that!

Eight years is a long goddamn time, especially this time. That's why I put up the Bush counter on the left column.

Friday, June 13, 2008

Tim Russert: 1950-2008

Say what you want about the mainstream media, you have to admit Tim Russert was a guy who did his homework. We're all going to miss him during the next few months as we approach election day.

Rocks! Finally

Finally, I have no excuse. I have to go out and get an MP3 player. Are we the last ones without one?

You see, I have hunerds and hunerds of CDs, and I had hunerds of LP records before our cats peed all over them.

Now, also, I have a Rhapsody subscription, so for a few $ a mumf, as long as the song is available, I can listen to anything I want right here on the PC. So far I've only spent about $10 buying songs.

I've been checking on the Aerosmith Rocks album for like a year and a half. This was their fourth studio album, released in 1976. So far, it had only been available in 30 second snippets. Must be some kind of licensing issue because their older albums are still not ready, but guess what? Rocks is now available!

This might not make sense, but I don't like a single single that Aerosmith has released since 1977. Draw the Line was their last good album. Their string of ballads and silly songs (think Love in an Elevator) were big sellers but, really, truly, that was some sorry shit.

Listen to Rocks. It just might be the best rock record ever. If you listen to rock radio, you already know Back In The Saddle but I'm telling you, every single track on this record is a classic. Seriously. Listen to Nobody's Fault if you don't believe me. If you're still not convinced, try Rats in the Cellar.

This is the only Aerosmith album you need.

$1.98 a Month

Somehow I had a giant flurry of ad revenue last fall and it's since dried up to nothing. Screw it. I'm tossing the Google Ads until I have the time and motivation to maintain and improve this blog properly.

Anybody Home?

I'm kind of a statistics junkie. Not standard deviations and correlations and all that, but numbers and percentages in general. I love the back of a baseball card.

For some reason tonight, as I was looking off my porch watching lights come on in houses up and down the street, I wondered what percentage of people, on average, spend the night in their own house or apartment. How does it vary by day of the week, or by state and city of residence, or by age?

I don't know, but that kind of thing is interesting to me. Dull as dirt, I suppose

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

The Mill Site

I thought this article in today's Roanoke Times was interesting. As the city and Carilion bat back and forth the future of the east side of Jefferson Street, talk is growing about saving parts of the former Roanoke City Mills structure and renovating for commercial or residential use.


I understand the need to protect our historic structures. Given it's age and role in the milling industry 100 years ago, this site has historical significance in that context. But you can't preserve everything. When you really look at it, except probably to those in the that business, the mill is simply an abandoned industrial site.

The brick structures proposed for saving are not very appealing. I'm sure renovation will cost nearly as much as a new structure. Also, it's mentioned that if you save the buildings and knock down the grain silos you lose the historical significance.

Grain silos aren't exactly fitting with what that area will ultimately become. It would be like one of those city blocks you see with skyscraper after skyscraper and one little frame house that someone refused to sell. It just doesn't fit anymore, and it's a little bit sad to see.

Or, hearkening back to my previous post about Shea Stadium, it would be as if New York went ahead and built City Field, but left Shea (old, ugly, unfortunate Shea) sitting there just for the nostalgia.

You can't be nostalgic about everything. I say take a bunch of pictures of it, and then knock the sucker down. Downtown is getting preserved plenty. Let's do something new over on the other end of Jefferson.

Yes, there's also a huge scrapyard that needs to be cleaned up, and the flood issue, but eventually, I'd love to see a whole slew of new development right there, and preferably not all medical offices, either! (Full disclosure, I work for the big kahuna Carilion but medical offices are dull. Necessary, and the biggest economic driver we have around here, but dull.)

As far as the amphitheater goes, I'm not convinced we can fill one even if we build it, but I'm also still iffy about the Victory Stadium site. Isn't an amphitheater best designed like a bowl? That site is about as two-dimensional as it gets in Roanoke. Previously I thought the Elmwood Park idea was ludicrous but I'm warming up to it. Bulldoze the library, move it to the lower floors of the old Patrick Henry hotel (why not?), and then all that's left to do is move the big mound on the Elm Avenue side closer to the intersection. Of course then you have a parking issue, but you have that on Reserve Avenue, too.

You can drive yourself nuts thinking about this stuff.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Lets Go Mets!

In spite of their lousy, lackluster play this year, I have newfound reason to get excited about the Mets this season: I just got tickets to their September 27 game, which is their next to last game at Shea Stadium before it meets the wrecking ball.

The tickets for the final game were sold out. I checked eBay and the best I could find for four tickets was $600. I love the Mets, but not that much. The ones I bought were only $121 for four. Upper deck, but close to home plate. Not a bad deal.

My first game at Shea I was about seven or eight (maybe nine, because it's right when the Mets really started to suck), we sat in the upper deck, and I will never forget that combination of thrill and vertigo as we went through the portal to the seats.

In the 70's, if you drank Dairylea milk, you could cut out coupons from the carton. If you saved enough you got free tickets to Shea. One day, I drank about 3 half gallon jugs of milk, just to get the coupons. Worst bellyache ever, but we got the tickets!

Sunday, June 8, 2008

My Son Finally Runs Out Of Gas

After opening birthday presents yesterday at 7:30 AM . . . throwing the baseball for an hour with me . . . then playing a tee ball game at 12:45 in 98 degree weather (in which you hit a lead off home run and made several great plays at first) . . . going to the Circle the Block party with Monkey Fuzz from 2:00 - 5:00 (Ummm, attendance was a little light, certainly because of the heat, but then blazing hot summer is my favorite weather. Most people disagree so I guess I should be more understanding.) . . . then having a birthday pizza party at home after that . . . .

. . . followed by having friends over for a sleepover; a sleepover in which the sleeping didn't really start until after 11:00 and the waking happened before 6:00 (as you began torturing your tired sleeping friends by acting silly) . . .

. . . and then trying out your new birthday gifts - the scooter and the skates - with your friends until they had to leave . . . and then running through the slip and slide for an hour or so . . .

. . . and after that spending four hours at the pool this afternoon . . . in 95 degree heat, only a slight relief from yesterday . . .

. . . so that by 6PM you ended up like this in the living room chair:

. . . and even after all that I'm still stunned that you're not begging me to throw the baseball, or go for a bike ride. Because you have no off switch and your energy is unbounded. Because you're fun and you're funny. Because of that and so much more, I love you.

I'm glad to see you take a little rest. I almost want to say you need to watch more TV.

Happy 7th birthday, TB!

Love, Daddy.

Friday, June 6, 2008

Like Lil' Kim Said


Thursday, June 5, 2008

What's It Gonna Be Today? Locusts?

Tuesday night, of course, we had this going on. See that little clump of three arrows on Jefferson St.? See the city block just north of the bottom bubble? That's my house! Thankfully we just had a quick burst of heavy rain on my block. Truth is, we didn't even have any branches in the yard. Different story two blocks up. I'm glad everyone was OK.

Then last night, I get home from taking TB to swim practice only to find dozens of people swarming about my block and a river of brown murky water running down the street. A water main broke, right exactly where the tornado came through. As of this morning it's yet to be determined if it was just a coincidence.

Sadly, my car (the old one, thankfully), was parked at the curb and was the first one in the path of all the rock and rubble that cascaded down the hill. The car was fine, but it diverted all the rip-rap onto my front lawn. I must have shoveled up 300 pounds of rock and gravel last night. Good times.

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

June JSR Column

My latest column for the paying gig is out, and I thought it was a pretty good one so I'll save you a few steps and give you the link here if you are interested. I'm on page 7 of the pdf.

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Rock Symphony Circus

As I mentioned recently, we capped off a very busy Saturday by attending the Roanoke Symphony Orchestra performance. This was a different show in that it was held in the Civic Center Colosseum rather than the Auditorium. Also, in addition to a traditional pops performance, they collaborated with a touring troupe called "Jeans and Classics" that played rock and roll songs, and they had circus acrobats performing (ala Cirque du Soleil, but not quite).

My "five words or less" review is that it was enjoyable but missed the mark in many ways.

The show was broken down into two halves. The first half was just symphonic pieces and it was quite nice. Although I couldn't tell you who the composers were (except on 76 Trombones), all of the selections were recognizable. During this segment, most of the pieces were accompanied by either an acrobat or a clown doing some juggling. Generally, the cirque performances were solo between the conductor and the crowd. One of them climbed up a dangling curtain with her legs and then did a free fall with her head finishing just a foot or so off the floor. There was some humorous banter between the conductor, David Wiley, and one of the clowns.

We took TB with us, because when I took him to see the Harlem Globetrotters he was fascinated by the acrobats at the halftime show, particularly when they did a human pyramid. So he kept asking me when they were going to do a pyramid.

After intermission, the rock show began and this is where they started to lose us a bit. They opened with the Beatles' For the Benefit of Mr. Kite, which is really a throwaway Beatles song if you ask me. Still, it has circus-like whimsy so I see where it came from.

The Symphony accompanied all of the rock songs and complemented them quite well, so I have no complaints there. In fact several of the songs, those that lend themselves most obviously to classical interpretation, were breathtaking: The Moody Blues Nights in White Satin, and Led Zeppelin's Kashmir were most memorable. The cirque performances along with these songs were phenomenal.

Where the show fell short was in the songs that did not have an acrobatic performance. At one point, my son, who was riveted most of the show, started fidgeting and whining for more clowns.

Songs where the focus was on Jeans and Classics, rather than the cirque performer or the symphony, were almost like bad Vegas shows at best, karaoke at worst. And some of the song choices were awful for a show like this. Michael Jackson's Don't Stop Till You Get Enough? Really? They did do a great job later with Thriller, but that would have been enough MJ. Also, Elton John's Don't Let The Sun Go Down On Me just didn't fit. It's a great song if you are trying to feature a vocalist, but for an ensemble show it was all wrong.

As an aside, Jeans and Classics featured several vocalists. All did fine but none really stood out by really nailing their songs.

Toward the end, I was really looking forward to the Beatles A Day In The Life, which is one of my favorite songs. It was good, but I wasn't floored by it.

At the end, it seemed like David Wiley wanted to go on and on. Before each of the last two songs, large groups began leaving simply because the pause between pieces was so long that everyone thought the show was over. We were in the parking lot before the "Naaa . . . . naaa . . . . naaa . . . na-na-na-na's" began in Hey Jude.

I give the show a B-. Good symphonic performances, but poor song choices on the rock portion, and not enough clowns and acrobats overall. But it was a fun and different evening. We've never been to a traditional symphony performance and I will say this show would encourage me to try one.

Monday, June 2, 2008

Ash Can

My wife just sent me this link about the inventor of the Pringles can having his ashes buried inside one of the cans.

Of course she had to ask if I wanted to be preserved in a Bud can. To which I say no, it would be much easier to sprinkle me into the ocean if you put me in a Bud bottle.

The Purge

This weekend we had a yard sale. If you've ever had a yard sale, you know it's usually a lot of work for little financial gain, but the reward is in the cleanout.

LBB started last week by pulling things out of closets. Then Friday night, I got up in the attic and hauled down a bunch of mess: a barely used twin mattress and box spring, a gigantic Georgia O'Keefe print that I bought when I had my own place in D.C., three TV sets, a desk chair, etc. Then I moved on to the garage and the basement.

We also pulled out a ton of toys and books that TB has aged out of. At first, I didn't think books would sell. I suggested we donate those directly to Goodwill. As it turns out, they were a best seller.

Our friends down the street were selling, too, as was the church a little further down. So we had a good bit of traffic.

In the end, we did pretty well. About $250 in sales, two carloads of leftovers to Goodwill, and I only had to haul a few things back into the house. I was tired and sore by Saturday evening, but it was worth it.

Plus we got to meet all the characters that come out for these things: there was one pair of old, handicapped homosexuals that I remember from our last sale four years ago. They stayed for close to a half hour and only bought one Patsy Cline record for 25 cents. They were amusing, though.

Carloads of older people, of course.

Then, as I was getting ready to clean up, a shaky looking fellow arrived. He had a ponytail, was all sweaty, and had a cig dangling from his mouth. Honestly, I think he was a junkie. I asked, "How are you doing today?" and he replied, "Well, I'm vertical and I'm breathing, so OK I guess."

He turned out to be one of our best customers.

After we cleaned up from the sale, we had to scurry to a graduation party and then on to the Rock Symphony Circus performance by the Roanoke Symphony Orchestra. I'll post a review of that show later.

Busy day!