Friday, August 11, 2017


We crossed the border last night for a big birthday dinner. We do it every summer and have done the last two years at Hen of the Wood in Burlington - a fantastic place that makes a mushroom toast you dream of. This year there was a request to find a French place somewhere nearby (Quebec, as it turns out) for the festivities. X sleuth-ed out L'Oeuf in Mystic, Quebec, a short 25-minute drive from our summer locale. (As an aside, we ended up crossing into Quebec via the the same border patrol agent who'd seen the boys earlier in the week.). Southern Quebec is very Midwestern in layout: corn, soy beans, flat, barns. Mystic is a very small village hidden in the trees and made up of 30-40 fabulously maintained Quebecoise homes; and. L'Oeuf. The shop, inn, and restaurant are run by a couple who've somehow put together the best little place in the World. The shop is full of chocolate (that they make), mustards (some of which they make), marmalades, and assorted French stuff that sucks me in like me wandering into a high-end NYC papier. Before dinner we were three digits of money into our stash of chocolate, mustard, chestnut paste, and Opinel knives.

Dinner on a lovely screened in porch near the garden was a chef's selection for two of us and some a la carte on the other half. Everything was perfectly done with the beaujolais, confit de canard, terrine, and desserts. The terrine gave us insight into the handmade mustard half Canadian, half French seeds) that was a perfect piquant. On the way out we grabbed yet another jar that the waiter told us came with the terrine, but we were stopped short by the owner/mustardeer who directed to his unlabel home cache of jars - of which he gave us one free. It's gold. You'll never taste it because it's too precious. There was nothing in the entire event that wasn't perfect. Seriously. One of the best meals, ever. If you're up that way, and you never know, get a reservation.

Maybe we need a cross-border home.

Monday, August 07, 2017

halt, who goes there?

We are spending the week on the shores of Lake Champlain, very near (.5 miles) to the Canada border on the Vermont side. There is I-87 exit 22*, where we're staying, immediately followed by the border. If you happen to miss the exit you are rewarded by sitting in line to cross into Canada. If you are two young lads on their way back to the lake house from a day/dinner in Burlington, Vermont, sans passports, and slip by the exit you get a free hour long 'mini-vacation' having a long, interesting discussion with Canadian border guards: Where do you live? Where are you staying? Where were you born? What is your business? Hand me your passports. Answers to these questions were along the lines of America, on the lake in a house, I think Vermont, no idea, we don't have any. They had their car searched by the great northerners and then told to take the quick u-turn, no doubt in place for just these more-than-often events, and pointed back to the US border shack on the southbound side. Whatever the procedure at the border, and I'm sure it's well worn for accidental tourists, the Americans weren't so much interested as they watch them come down the "lane of shame" heading back to their homeland. We are thinking that if they go out alone again we'll pin a big note on each of them with their names, place of birth, lake cabin address, and their mother's phone number.

*Vermont must be the only state in the Union where the interstate highways don't have exits numbered by mile marker. You might come into Vermont from the south thinking, "We are getting off at exit 10 which is in about ten miles." Funny that. Exit 10 could be 112, or 5, miles away - there is no math or knowledge that can help you.

Friday, July 28, 2017

tell me where you're at

I'm almost positive that I've answered the question, "If you could see any band live, right now, who would it be?" with The Clash. That may still be true, but suddenly, after decades, my mind is split and we can blame it on the turntable thing I bought a few weeks back. A few years ago I went searching for an Uptown Rulers LP, something that I could put in a album frame and have on the wall to remind me the early/mid-1980s. I unframed it the other night and spun the sounds. Took me right back.The Rulers were a band hailing from the Bloomington-Normal, IL area - they toured exclusively across the midwest/plains in an area bounded by southern Illinois; Lincoln, NE; and the Twin Cities. I never heard of them going further afield than those areas. The Rulers fit into whatever wave of Ska was hitting then (second? third?) and did a combo platter of originals and covers. We loved the Rulers. One of my best friends (there were three) was even more crazy than I was, and I was crazy: student union shows, sneaking into bars, driving to the Quad Cities on New Year's Eve from Omaha for a show (that is another story), and numerous other shows, particularly in Iowa City where I was leaving a trail of over-drinking and sleeping that supported my 1.92 GPA over two full years. Well, there was also a pizza place job, some Cubs' games on TV, a lot of skanking, and two lovely girlfriends. Rulers shows were the biggest, sweatest, danc-iest, skankiest pit shows ever. Ever. You'd be hardpressed to have more fun at any show. If we could all go back and time and have the Rulers show up on a stage in a small venue and play two hours for us, it would be the best.

There was once liner notes for a Gear Daddies CD where the writer who introduced them to us said something along the lines of: there are better bands in the World, but there is no band I'll ever love more than the Gear Daddies. The Rulers are probably the band I most love.

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

sweep the leg

I’ve had a ton of discussions about risk aversion and conservative coaching with cohorts. Well, mostly with Probability Boy (now known at ProbBoy). Which leads to this: We were watching some Jeopardy! last night and the players were at (about) $12k, $10k, and $8k as the final answer on the Double Jeopardy board came up (category: U.S. Congressional Committees). Since the $12k player has just answered the last question correctly she was the ‘question’ chooser for the final question, which happened to be the last Daily Double – it’s all hers. There is only one way to play this – bet it all and either end it now or go home. I did not spend 22 minutes of my life to watch you fucking lay up. Bet it all – how many committees do you think there are? We’ve seen judiciary, we’ve seen Oversight. Bet. It. All. Look, you are the only one that gets the question, you won’t have to worry about your opponents getting it right and you missing it in Final Jeopardy. You won’t have to do math to figure out if you need to bet $3,145 to win. You don’t have to worry about a category coming up in Final Jeopardy that you don’t know jack about, like “Tang Dynasty Chinese Poetry”. It’s all you. Bet. Win. Drop the mic. Lock it down. She bets like $2k. My head explodes. 

Might as well watch John Harbaugh coach.

P.S. The question was, "Three word committed that oversees..." Fucking stop. What is Ways and Means. She killed me.

Tuesday, July 18, 2017


I’m going to focus on a musician named Joe Overton. The first time I saw him perform I was stuck in Indianapolis the weekend after Thanksgiving in 2014. He was playing as part of The Party Line – the band that is integral to the Nora Jane Struthers traveling carnival. I think he plays just about anything with strings, but his focus on stage is the fiddle, banjo (resonator and open-back), and lap steel. Having now seen him four times – twice with the band (including last Thursday night in DC), and twice at house concerts as a duo with Nora Jane (including Sunday night on Kent Island) – I can say that he might be my favorite musician. He has his own album of original songs that was the first to spin on my new turntable configuration last night, plus he and Nora Jane also have an album of old Irish, English, Appalachian standards that they released this year and played through the entire first set on Sunday night. What I first noticed about him playing that night in Indianapolis was that the total ease he exhibits when playing music. There seems to be a deft style about his playing that implies just letting the instrument throw out the sounds that you’re guiding it through. It’s pretty hard to describe, but I remember getting home after that ‘trip’ and trying to vaguely emulate the relaxed grip he had on his instruments while creating a more relaxed practice method on the mandolin. It works. I guess it’s akin to taking a deep breath when you’re tense and then feeling your shoulders and body immediately relax immediately: a light grip on the instrument and an easier manner in trying to coax the notes. Take all that for what it’s worth, which ain’t much.

Friday, July 07, 2017

tie one on

I hear that Jos. A. Bank is selling skinny-er ties. It’s come up because for about six months I’ve been looking to move skinnier than the now current wider style. I was alerted to Neck & Tie by a co-worker who’d been at a selling/product/art pop-up market last month here in DC. She and her husband own a nice shop in DC so they were there scouting for product for more professional reasons. I’m five ties deep into their collection and they’re really nice.

Even though I get my shirts from Bank, I haven’t been in for a while and the last time I was in I’d asked about skinnier product – apparently to no effect. Until now. Another co-worker commented on my tie today (skinny) and how she’d tried to buy her soon-to-be retired husband a tie for Father’s Day and they had a few on display on a small round table at Bank; whe was told that she shouldn’t by any of those for him because “they were for the young kids.” Young kids?

Fuck that.

to the finish

On Wednesday night I headed up to Hagerstown, MD with my friend Brian for a meeting (the sixth of ten nights) of the Pennsylvania Sprint CarSpeedweek. Don’t know what you know about racing, but the 410 sprint cars are what they run in the World of Outlaws – 410 cubic inch, 6.7 liter engine, 900 horsepower/9000 rpm, triple-winged, open cockpit cars that turn 15-18 second ½ mile laps on dirt. Huge dual wings on the top, big wing on the front. Well, just look at the opening picture – that’s easier.

When I was young we often enough went out west of Omaha (at least west at the time) to Sunset Speedway for Sunday night late model modified racing. These were the days when everyone seems to be driving a modified Camaro, and the period when Bob Kosiski and family dominated the circuits in Nebraska. It probably cost us $5 to get in, $1 for a soda, and I’m pretty sure my Mom would drop us off and pick us up after racing in her Pontiac Executive. Those summer nights were my first exposure to racing and they carried me through Bill Elliot in the 80s and early 90s, Mark Martin in the 90s and early 2000s, and Michael Schumacher from the mid-90s to the mid-00s. Truthfully, I’ll watch just about anybody race anything – circles or circuits. Over the last eight months I’ve taken to following Kyle Larson (#42 Target car / Chip Ganassi owned) after the Brian scored us some pit lane tickets for his team at last year’s autumn race at Richmond International Speedway. Larson finished second that night and qualified for his first Chase. Larson, from California, looks about 16 years-old, and seems to really shine on restarts – I think he went from about eighth to second in Richmond on a green/white/checkered restart at the end. He’s leading the NASCAR standings right now.

(If you want to know about his restarts, here at the final two laps from the race we were at in Richmond last year. Larson is the red #42 Target car that opens the two-lap shootout way on the outside behind the white car, and then runs on the outside all the way to the finish two laps later.)

This brings us to Hagerstown. Kyle Larson started in sprint cars out West and apparently at 24 years-old he feels the need to race every night, if possible. They ran NASCAR in Daytona last Saturday night and they’ll be in Kentucky this Saturday night, but he still up racing sprints in Pennsylvania on Sunday, Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday nights (they were rained out last night). It’s purely happenstance that we ended up on Hagerstown because of last year’s race and the fact that Brian now follows Kyle Larson on Twitter so we knew he’d be up there. (By the way, Kasey Kahne and Dave Blaney of NASCAR were also running Speedweek.) Larson had won six straight sprint car features, three in the Midwest and three in Speedweek, so there was some excitement to see if the streak would continue*. Just for some math-y background, the fastest lap during the free practice was 15.3 seconds for the ½-mile lap. In qualifying, the fastest ran in the low 15.8s. Each heat is over in about 3 minutes, the feature in about 10-11 minutes. It’s loud, it’s fast, there’s loads of counter-steering in turns, and lots of acceleration over the 900-foot straightaways. Larson didn’t qualify well and ended up pretty deep in the pack for his heat, but he moved to the feature, where he started 18th out of 24 cars. He finished 11th,with local Lance Dewease killing it from 10th to win – that dude can drive. As I pointed out to Brian before heading up, there’s nothing like dirt track racing and this was the first time I’d seen the sprint cars live. Great stuff. By the end of the night I was ready to plan for next year’s events – with an RV and racing all week. I’m sure I can save up five days of leave and traipse around southeast Pennsylvania drinking beer and watching them turn laps.

If you’re wondering, “where did they eat?” the answer is that we ate a Nick’s Airport Inn. Classic. I mean classic – restaurant AND lounge. We choose the lounge where we probably should have been drinking bourbon with the half-dozen locals at the bar, but stuck with beer and Millionaire burgers (sans foie gras). By the way, one of the two or three best burgers I’ve ever had.

*Each meeting has about 30-36 cars that run timed qualifying laps, 4 x 9-car heats (10 laps) with the top five through the A feature, a B feature (12 laps) that has the #6-#9 cars from the heats and puts the top four back into the A feature, and the final 24-car A feature (30 laps). There is some inverting within the starting positions for the heats and features, but we don’t need to talk about that now.