Sunday, January 22nd, 2017

Isn't She Lovely?B and I went to the Women’s March yesterday. I didn’t know there was going to be a Women’s March in Madison so we almost missed it, but B pointed out that it was being organized on Facebook, which explains why I, the Twitter junkie, totally missed it.

By the time B got out of bed I’d seen more than a few posts on Facebook and Twitter from people I knew who were going to the march in Washington. B asked if I wanted to go and I said something like, I’d love to go, but it’s kind of a long drive. Drrr. I’m kinda slow sometimes. But after she pointed out the Facebook post from the Madison Women’s March and I saw that we had plenty of time to make it to the rally point at Library Mall, I was all in. After I finished my coffee. And had a shower. She was still drinking her coffee, too, so she was okay with that.

I figured we’d go down to Library Mall to hang out with a couple hundred protesters, maybe a thousand, listen to the crowd go rah-rah, march up State Street to the capitol where we’d listen to a speech, and then get brunch somewhere. That is generally what a protest march in Madison looks like. We have no shortage of protest marches, and I don’t mean to make light of the very important issues the marchers seek to address, but if I were a legislator, three hundred people chanting “This is what democracy looks like” would not make me reconsider any position I’d taken.

The Women’s March, as you may already know, was a lot more than 300 people. I started to get a clue as we made our way toward State Street from the municipal parking lot and saw a steady stream of people carrying signs and wearing the signature pink “pussy hats” as they made their way to the mall.
(Fun fact: My Darling B didn’t get the hats at first. We’d been standing in the crowd ten or twenty minutes when her eyes lit up and she said, “Oh! They look like they have cat’s ears!” She knew they were called “pussy hats” but thought the hats were supposed to look like actual women’s, well, you know. She thought everyone had just done a bad job of making the hats because they didn’t look anatomically correct, or even sorta close.)

By the time we’d made our way down to the 600 block, the street was filling up. We got to within about half a block of the mall before we came to a full stop. We couldn’t go any further. There were too many people in the street. And they kept coming. The crowd started on Bascom Hill, filled the Library Mall and was packed shoulder-to-shoulder through the 600 and 500 block of State Street. The chief of police of the UW Police Department estimated there were at least 75,000 people there, maybe as many as 100,000.

It took us a half-hour, maybe forty-five minutes to slowly make our way up the street to the capitol in that crowd. As we marched up State Street (shuffled, really; it was still kind of hard to move), we caught glimpses of other people in pussy hats or carrying signs walking toward the capitol on the side streets. The west corner of capitol square was jam-packed with people when we got there; we had to carefully pick our way through the crowd to get close enough to capitol hill to see what was going on. We didn’t stay for the speeches, but I did get close enough to snap a photo Miss Forward wearing a pussy hat.

I’m glad we went. This event was a big deal.

Women’s March | 12:06 pm CDT
Category: current events, My Darling B | Tags: ,
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Sunday, October 25th, 2015

The view from Ishnala Supper Club's dining roomWe had dinner last night at the Ishnala Supper Club near Wisconsin Dells. It’s a bit of a drive, just under an hour, but as things turned out, our visit there was worth every minute on the road.

We learned about Ishnala from “Old Fashioned: The Story of the Wisconsin Supper Club,” a documentary we watched at the film festival. If it sounds a little dry and boring, it really isn’t; it gave us the urge to visit every Wisconsin supper club in the film. We didn’t, but ever since then we have wanted to visit Ishnala, a relatively short drive from Madison.

I have to admit, I wanted to go there for the ambiance alone. The supper club is in a log-cabin themed building perched on the very edge of Mirror Lake. The bar is the most prominent room, jutting out over the lake and surrounded on three sides by picture windows that gave us an uninterrupted view of the fall foliage. The dining room is much the same: a long, open room with floor-to-ceiling picture windows on the side facing the lake. Our visit was maybe a week past the peak time for fall colors, and the evening was overcast so the colors were a bit muted, but it was still gorgeous.

I frankly didn’t expect much from the food, but was pleasantly surprised at how delicious it was. B and I each ordered a seven-ounce fillet mignon with sun-dried tomatoes in a wine reduction, one of the specials, and it was fantastic. I ate every bite and used my potato skins to sop up as much of the wine reduction as I could. The little bit of sun-dried tomato that was left over got buttered onto slices of melba toast and I shared it with My Darling B.

Tim treated us to his company on this trip and reported that the New York strip steak he ordered was every bit as wonderful as our fillets. We were there a little more than two hours, lingering afterwards over a slice of chocolate gateau and coffee before hitting the road back to Madison.

Our First Dinner at Ishnala | 9:36 am CDT
Category: food & drink, My Darling B, O'Folks, play, restaurants, T-Dawg | Tags:
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Saturday, August 29th, 2015

I went to the laundry basket with dripping hands and started pawing through it.

“What are you looking for?” B asked.

“Hand towel,” I answered, pulling out what I thought was a hand towel.

“Don’t use that,” she admonished me. “That’s a rag. Just look at how dirty it is.” She held up a neatly folded hand towel. “We’ll put this one out, because we’re having guests tonight.”

I held out my hand for the towel.

“You can’t use it now,” she said with a verbal eye-roll. “I’ll put it out before the guests arrive, so it’s clean. You can use that dirty thing now.”

It’s like we speak two completely different languages sometimes.

hand towel | 10:45 am CDT
Category: daily drivel, housekeeping, My Darling B, Our Humble O'Bode
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Sunday, June 14th, 2015

After our weekly visit to the farmer’s market on Madison’s west side, My Darling B and I crossed the street to the Hilldale Mall where B had to shop for a dress to wear to a wedding. B hates shopping with the blazing white intensity of a thousand exploding suns, but the wedding is just two weeks away, so, even though there was still some time left to procrastinate, she decided it was time to get it over with. As luck would have it, she fell in love with the very first dress she found, but it’s fire-engine red and apparently there’s some rule about wearing a dress to a wedding that would upstage the bride. She put it on hold and kept shopping, eventually ending up with what she called “the granny dress,” a cream-colored, knee-length dress with lots of sparklies. B loves sparklies.

While she was trying on dresses, I wandered down the street a few blocks to a garage sale on Midvale Avenue that I spotted as we drove past. There wasn’t much that interested me, and the only thing I eventually bought was a book published by the Associated Press to commemorate the 1969 moon landing. Titled “Footprints On The Moon,” it was a coffee table book chock full of familiar photographs of the space race, starting as usual with Sputnik and ending with lots of lofty prose about how Neil & Buzz walking on the moon had ushered the world into a new era, yada yada yada.

When I picked up the book I had no intention of putting it down again. I’ll buy almost any book or commemorative nick-knack that came out of the space race. I’d never seen this book before and as I opened the cover I thought, Oh nice, something new for my collection, but I didn’t think it was anything extraordinary at first. Then the book fell open to the middle where the folded newspaper pages were tucked away. My heart sped up. It was the first four pages torn out of the Wisconsin State Journal dated July 21, 1969. “ON THE MOON!” the headline on the front page blared in block capital letters over a full-color photo of Armstrong and Aldrin in a training scenario, using tongs to pick up rocks in their space suits. An inside page ran a snapshot of the video feed from the moon, unfocused and about as black-and-white as any photograph could be. If you didn’t know what you were looking at, you might not realize what was going on.

I tucked the pages back in the book and carried it reverently to the front of the garage where a quartet of old friends were bantering with some customers about one of the items for sale. When one of them turned to me and offered to help, I handed over the book, which he opened to the inside cover to read the price: two dollars. “Footprints on the moon,” he said conversationally, flipping through the first couple pages before it fell open to the middle where he found the newspaper pages. I was sure when he saw those that he would either take them out because they weren’t part of the book, or at least charge me for them separately. He barely looked at them before he snapped the book closed. I held my breath. “Two dollars, please,” he said. I dug two singles from my wallet and handed them over; he thanked me, and I walked away with a tiny piece of history.

Shopping for dresses took a lot out of B, so we headed straight home where she planned to spend time in her garden to decompress. It had been raining for the past two days so the ground was probably too wet for her to plant anything. Even so, she figured she could at least pull weeds, but when we got home she wasn’t up for that any more. “A new bar opened in town with fifty-zillion taps,” she informed me, and she wanted to go there to see what that was about.

The bar was Mr. Brews Taphouse, a Wisconsin chain of bars that specializes in craft beers and features loads of local brews as well as national craft beers. I don’t know how many taps there were; it was too way many for me to bother counting them. We settled in at a hightop table next to the beer menu chalked on the wall, where I studied the options long and hard. I spotted a specialty brew called Sixty-One from Dogfish Head that a friend had raved about; I wish I could say it was as good as the hype, but I couldn’t be bothered to finish it. B ordered a delicious barrel-aged porter called Barrel Aged Brrrbon with Vanilla from Widmer Brothers Brewing in Portland OR. She let me taste it, then she let me taste it again, and then I tasted it some more. Eventually she just said to hell with tasting and we called it sharing.

After the first draughts were out of the way, we ordered a flight of four beers: Dynamo Copper Lager from Metropolitan Brewing in Chicago; Bean Me Up Scotchy from St. Francis Brewing in St. Francis WI; Shake Chocolate Porter from Boulder Beer Company in Boulder CO; and Quinannan Falls Lager from Bell’s Brewery in Kalamazoo MI.

We’ve been to Chicago on our own, but we have to go back soon on a proper beer tour because there’s some really good brews coming out of there. If Dynamo’s any indication, I could probably spend all day in the taproom of Metropolitan Brewing, sampling their beers.

St. Francis is just north of Milwaukee and we’ve enjoyed their beer before. Bean Me Up Scotchy is a barrel-aged version of their scotch ale, known as Pride, and I would guess they’ve added vanilla beans to the recipe to boot. Very smooth, and yummy enough to make me want more.

I don’t remember drinking any brews from Boulder Beer before, so that’s something I’m working on correcting, starting with this excellent porter.

Bell’s has been one of my favorite breweries ever since I tried Two-Hearted Ale, a very hoppy beer. I’m not so much into hoppy beers any more, but fortunately Bell’s has produced plenty of other styles that are ever so tasty, and this lager, I’m happy to report, is no exception. Plus, it comes from Kalamazoo, which gives me an opportunity to say Kalamazoo. I love to say Kalamazoo. Who doesn’t love saying Kalamazoo? Boring people, that’s who.

I can’t remember whether or not we visited Widmer Brothers when we were in Portland. Looking photos of the place and where it is on the map, I’m pretty sure we didn’t. If we didn’t, we were stupid. It looks like a pretty great place to visit. Plus, the vanilla porter we sampled was scrumptuous. Getting some right from the source would’ve been a treat.

Our sufficiencies well and truly serensified, we retired back to Our Little Red House to pass the rest of a quiet afternoon reading and napping until supper time. And that is a satisfying way to pass a Saturday afternoon.

walking on the moon | 9:04 am CDT
Category: beer, books, entertainment, food & drink, hobby, My Darling B, O'Folks, play, space geekery
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Saturday, April 11th, 2015

B&O at the moviesNow you see him, now you don’t.

shades | 11:07 am CDT
Category: festivals, My Darling B, vacation, Wisc Film Fest | Tags:
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Friday, April 10th, 2015

My Darling B experienced a sustained moment of panic last night when she discovered that she couldn’t shut off her smart phone. B is a stickler for rules, so when the theater captain asks everyone to “shut off” their phones and I’m only silencing mine, B shuts hers all the way down – power off, cold as a stone, needs to boot up to make a noise or flash any lights.

But last night when she tried to shut her phone off, it wouldn’t respond. The screen remained blank, although a little blue flashing life-light kept blinking, so obviously it was powered up. I tried calling her and texting her, and even though I could hear it ringing through my phone, her phone gave no clue at all that I was trying to contact her. She sat through the movie with the phone in her hand, terrified that it would light up and start bleating in the middle of the show. It never did, so she got lucky. The guy sitting next to her, though, had a phone that made a noise so crazy loud that he just about jumped out of his skin trying to shut it down.

We did a hard reboot to it later by pulling the battery, waiting a minute or two for it to completely die, then reinserting the battery and powering up. Works like a charm now.

smartypants | 10:29 am CDT
Category: festivals, My Darling B, vacation, Wisc Film Fest | Tags:
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Thursday, November 27th, 2014

We played Bourbon Jenga last night, which is like regular Jenga but with cherry-infused bourbon. You can use regular bourbon if you like; it doesn’t have to be infused with cherries. It doesn’t have to be bourbon, either, but then it probably wouldn’t make sense to call it Bourbon Jenga. You still could call it that, I’m not going to stop you. It’s a free country, theoretically.

Anyway, Tim came over last night, thinking that he was going to have dinner with us but finding out as he came through the door that B & I were just on our way out to yoga class. Our instructor was recovering from a sinus infection that knocked her out for last Monday’s class but she was feeling well enough again to talk us through some restorative yoga exercises that mostly involved very heavy breathing and trying turn all the way around to face the same way as my butt. Couldn’t do either very well. I’m not a huffer-and-puffer kind of yoga guy; I think I get the importance of controlling my breath, but I don’t see why it’s important to make a big production out of it. Maybe that understanding will come later. And I’m not flexible enough yet to turn all the way around like an owl. I’m not sure that’ll ever come to a guy with a back as tired and crooked as mine, not that I won’t keep on trying. Our instructor can fold herself all the way over so she can stick her head between her knees, so I can see with my own eyes that it’s possible. I just can’t comprehend doing it myself yet.

By the time we got back home from yoga it was almost eight o’clock. Sean announced almost as we came through the door that they had been too hungry to wait for us, so Sean fed himself from the kitchen and Tim ordered take-out from the Indian place up the road. And kudos to him; that’s some of the best Indian take-away anywhere in the city. B & I were mighty hungry, though, so we sat down and tucked into the sloppy joes that B made earlier and left warming in the oven. When Sean caught the aroma, his face lit up and he took a seat at the table to devour a sloppy joe, too.

Then came the Jenga. I’ve wanted to play Jenga for weeks now. Can’t say where I got the hankering, but it’s been there long enough that I mentioned it to B a week or two ago and she put in an order with Amazon last week. I think it came in the mail the next morning. Same thing happened to the cook book I ordered and wanted to give to B for Christmas. I thought it would come maybe a couple days later and I would be able to fish it out of the mail before B would see it, but no, it came the very next day and was in a big bag with all the other stuff that she ordered from Amazon, so naturally she opened it. I didn’t even know it was in there until I heard her say, “What the hell?” and turned around to see her holding the cook book with a look on her face that went from puzzled to shocked realization to Oh Shit I’ve Opened My Christmas Present Early. I kissed her and wished her a Merry Christmas.

Okay, so back to Jenga, which became Bourbon Jenga when B got out the jar of infused bourbon and ladled out a shot for everybody while I set up the Jenga tower. We didn’t make it a drinking game; there weren’t forty-two overly-complicated rules about when you had to drink, it was just Jenga with drinks. Play the game, enjoy the bourbon, have a good time. Those were the only rules. We had a little trouble with the first one because I just wanted to play the game but B wanted to follow the instructions. Who reads the instructions for Jenga? But eventually we sorted that out and the game was played, the bourbon was enjoyed and I think everybody had a good time.

bourbon jenga | 9:53 am CDT
Category: booze, entertainment, food & drink, games, My Darling B, O'Folks, play, Seanster, T-Dawg, yoga | Tags: , , ,
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Wednesday, November 26th, 2014

My Darling B doesn’t get sauerkraut. “What is with you Sconnies and kraut?” she asked. Given the choice between mushrooms and sauerkraut, she’ll eat the shrooms, but she won’t like them, either.

saurkraut!

sauerkraut | 6:30 am CDT
Category: My Darling B
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Saturday, September 13th, 2014

We were sitting up in bed reading last night when Boo came to the door howling in the weirdest way. I thought she might have been sick until My Darling B said, “Yah! She’s got a mouse!”

She did have a mouse. She was carrying it in her mouth and didn’t want to let it go, but wanted to let us know she had something for us. Hence, the weird noise. I climbed out of bed and started to try to figure out how to take the mouse away from her, but she was way ahead of me. She jumped up on B’s side of the bed and dropped the mouse at B’s feet.

B has an irrational fear of mice that makes her jump and squeal just like women and elephants do in old cartoons. I’m sure than if she wore petticoats, she would gather them up around her knees and jump on the nearest chair. When Boo dropped the mouse on the bedcovers, B yelped and jerked her feet back because her little gift from Boo definitely wasn’t going to use the “play dead” strategy. It started scampering all over the quilts right away, looking for a likely escape route. I grabbed a sock I’d discarded beside the bed when I climbed in, put it over my hand and started chasing the little booger around. It didn’t take long to catch, and while B heaped praise on Boo for being such a good mouser, I chucked it into the neighbor’s yard across the street. I sure hope he’s not reading this.

jumpy | 4:35 am CDT
Category: Boo, My Darling B, O'Folks | Tags:
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Monday, August 25th, 2014

To celebrate twenty-five years of wedded bliss, we took Monday off and made a long weekend so we could hang out and relax with each other. We thought we might like to travel, maybe to Minneapolis or to Door County, but in the end we decided that we’d be a lot more comfortable here, and we could use all that money we were going to blow on lodging to pay for entertainment, food and booze. Best decision we could have made.

Yesterday, for instance, we saw a show, Kiss Me Kate, the musical version of The Taming of the Shrew, then went to Ikon, a tapas restaurant just up the street, for cocktails and a lovely dinner.  Or this morning, when My Darling B got a craving for grilled shrimp, we went to Edo Garden, a local Japanese restaurant, for brunch.  When we weren’t going to a show or spoiling ourselves at a restaurant, we sat on the sofa and read books while teasing the cat. Or, last night we played tunes on Spotify and tried to see if we could remember how to foxtrot. (We couldn’t.)

In retrospect, the one thing we would have done different is take two days off to make a four-day weekend out of it, because it’s been so much fun. Next year …

Happy Anniversary | 3:44 pm CDT
Category: My Darling B, O'Folks
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Tuesday, April 29th, 2014

salmon7Let’s Go To The Shimoda Salmon Festival With The O-Family!

I think it was only a week or two after we got here, but that could be my addled memory making a hash again out of everything I’ve ever seen. Anyway, we heard about the salmon festival, where you pay a couple hundred yen to get in, put on some waterproof boots – well, you didn’t have to, but it would’ve been a good idea – and when they blow the whistle and release the salmon, all you’ve got to do is bend down and grab one. Simple, right?

salmon2Like so many things that sound simple, this event was a circus.

I think it’s one of those crazy ideas that city commissioners come up with in board meetings, then laugh themselves silly as they watch the gullible boobs slosh around in the freezing water, getting soaking wet and holding up their prize salmon as if they’d bagged a charging rhinocerous.

Okay, I’m being way too harsh. Actually, we all had a lot of fun, and we even took our salmon home and ate them, so I’d have to say that we had a really good time. Once.

Here, Barb and Sean squelch their way across a two-inch wide causeway made out of milk baskets. The water’s only six inches deep, but it’s cold as ice.

salmon4And here’s the prize! A genuine, live, wet, cold salmon, fighting mad and all too willing to slap you right in the face if you don’t watch yourself. I can’t be certain – it’s my trick memory again – but I think we all dropped each of our fish, and had to grab another one. If we ever did this again, and I’m not insinuating for a moment that we would, I think I would just take pictures of the boys, and I’m pretty sure Barb would be cheering them on from the refreshments tent, with a hot bowl of ramen in her hands.

salmon1And That’s All From The O-Family At The Shimoda Salmon Festival! [This has been another Geocities flashback.]

Shimoda salmon festival | 5:58 am CDT
Category: My Darling B, O'Folks, Seanster, T-Dawg, travel
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Sunday, April 27th, 2014

Just yesterday, Tim was asking me about our trip to Ireland: Where we went, what we did, will we ever eat smoked salmon as great as that again? I could easily answer the last question (sadly, no), but to answer the first two questions I had to dredge the backwaters of my memory, hardly the most reputable place to find the kind of facts he was looking for.

Way, way back in the dimmest beginnings of the internet (we’re talking Geocities; remember Geocities?) I threw up some web pages with our travel photos and what I thought of at the time as witty commentary for the folks back home to look at. Just for the hell of it I asked The Great Google if there was any vestige of those pages still out there and, what the hell, there was! All of the pages for our trip to Ireland were there, but two of the photos had gone missing: One photo was the introductory page, and I have no idea what that looked like. The other photo is described below in the original text from the web pages.

So this one’s for you, Tim. Here, without further delay, are the photos with the original, unaltered text. I hope they’ll provide some of the answers to the questions you had, because it’s about all that I’m able to provide, with the help of my internet memory.

[Added: I found the original photos in an album and was pleasantly surprised to discover that I’d written the date of our visit on the backs: April 2000.]

The Ofamily at TarbertSome time around the turn of the century, Barb’s great-grandfather, Arthur Marshall, left his family in Tarbert to emigrate to the United States, and for some time now she’s wanted to kick around the old ancestral land. Since our first full day in Ireland was wet, we decided a long car trip to Tarbert would be just the thing. We had no idea what we’d find when we got there. The town hardly gets a mention in any guide book, and then only because they have a jail that they’ve turned into a museum. As it turns out, about the only thing in Tarbert worth showing anybody is my lovely family posed by the sign on the edge of town. They look happy because they haven’t seen Tarbert yet. The place amounts to a t-junction with several pubs and a shrine to the Virgin Mary. I’ll leave you to think about the implications of that juxtaposition.

Torc FallWe managed to squeeze all the wild excitements of Tarbert and drive all the way back to Killarney in time for lunch. As we still had plenty of daylight, we all piled back into the car to have a drive into Killarney National Park to see the sights. The first sight we saw was a cave I don’t remember the name of and which I don’t have pictures of anyway, so why do you care, right? It was a cave. Think of Batman.

The pictures I do have from that outing, though, I took while we were having a bimble up the valley that Torc Fall cuts through. Nobody on earth could have designed a waterfall more perfectly laid out for tourists that Torc Fall. There’s a big car park right beside the road, and the falls are only about a hundred yards up the path. I imagine in the height of the tourist season this place is thronged, but today the rain discouraged them, so we didn’t have to fight through much of a crowd. They were thickest when we were already coming back down the hill, where I stopped to snap this shot of the boys with the falls behind them. That’s Sean to the left of the couple holding hands, Tim to the right. Like you can see them.

Torc Fall ViewWe lucked out just about everywhere we went that day. Every time we stepped out of the car, it had just stopped raining. While we were having a walk around, no rain. Then, each time we got back to the car, usually just as we were opening the doors, it started to rain, and kept on raining until just before we got to our next stop. I can’t explain it, but I’m not complaining.

As the weather was being so kind to us, and there were quite a few pathways to explore in Killarney National Park, we took a short hike up the valley to see the source of Torc Fall. Never found it. We did find this view, which is a great deal more spectacular if you’re gazing upon it in person with your own wet eyeballs, and not staring blankly at a web page on a computer monitor, but this is the best I can to do for you, sorry. The city of Killarney is in the distant right background, beyond the lakes of Killarney National Park. A gorgeous mountain range is immediately off the left edge of the picture. Too bad you can’t see it.

Ladies' ViewOne more shot from Killarney National Park, this time a photo of what they now call Ladies’ View, so named because Queen Victoria’s ladies-in-waiting were so utterly dazzled by this sight they could hardly tear themselves away. It must have been pretty dull to be a lady-in-waiting. I imagine they had better weather, too. We stopped here for quite a while, had a tramp around the rocks, ducked into the Ladies’ View tourist shop, and so on, but the majesty of the place didn’t quite strike us the way other places did. Might’ve had something to do with the thirty-knot headwind or occassional showers. And that’s just about all we saw around the national park; we spent the rest of our time chasing tourist busses in our car, and I know you can’t wait to hear about that, so if you’re still with me, let’s click on to the next page …

green hills of IrelandThis is the kind of scene you expect to see when you think of Ireland, isn’t it? We had miles and miles of this when we finally went out to tour the Dingle Penninsula on Tuesday. (I’ll wait a moment while you finish chuckling over the name ‘Dingle Penninsula.’ Done? Okay.) The sky was clear and blue, the temps were warm, the most gentle of breezes beckoned us to get out and walk whereever we went, and every picture I took that day was a post card — I know you don’t want to look at post card after post card. As pretty as these scenes are, they all kind of run together after a dozen or so. I’ll offer you a few here, though, just so you can sort of get the flavor of the day. I don’t remember where I took this, but I know it was on Dingle (Yes? What’s so funny in the back, there?), possibly in the area of Slea Head, where we stopped several times to walk around — or it might be in the area of Inch, our first stop of the day. Don’t remember. Spent more time trying to soak up the sun and the sights than paying any attention to what I was taking pictures of.

snowy mountains of IrelandThis, on the other hand, is typically not what I imagine when I think of Ireland. Looks more like Japan to me. But Ireland it is, honest. This is off a beach in Smerwick Harbor, on the north shore of Dingle. We were looking for the rolling heads. According to the guide book, there was a massacre on this site back when they used to do that kind of thing in Ireland, and to commemorate the event (I think that’s the right word), an artist with a fat government grant sculpted dozens of severed heads and scattered them up and down the hillside. Or so says the guidebook. We saw no heads, and although this stunning view made up for it, we were still rather disappointed.

Tim at Inch Strand IrelandBacktracking just a bit, this is a shot of Inch Strand, the beach at Inch that runs right round and out into the harbor. It’s very, very long, very wide, rather tidy, and soft enough to invite you to run barefoot, with of course Tim had to do almost immediately. This was our first stop of the day and we couldn’t have asked for a better place with better weather. There was even a tea shop on the beach. Tim started a shell collection here that I believe is still rattling around in his jacket pockets. The rest of us just collected sand. We stayed about as long as we could stand the tourists, then squeeked out between a pair of tour busses and an oversized camper. The main roads that you see on the map are just wide enough for our car to slither between an oncoming tour bus and the stone walls that flank the road on both sides, but only if I clamp both hands around the steering wheel and shut my eyes so hard that tears spurt out. Barb was doing the same thing with her eyes, so I don’t think she caught on to what I was doing. It worked, right?

davebarbflatI’ll squeeze one more snap into this page to make your download really tiresome. Barb’s nephew Alex sent us a ‘Flat Stanley’ — a little cutout doll. Stanley likes to travel, the story goes, and he travels mostly through the mail. Alex sent him to us so he could get a little globe-trotting experience, and lucky for Stanley he arrived just as we were getting ready to head for Ireland, so he went much further than he knew he was going to go. We took lots of pictures of Stanley — way more, it turned out, than the huge number I already thought we were — but I’m not going to inflict that on you. This just happens to be a fairly good picture of Barb and I, and Stanley happens to be stuck to Barb’s fingers. Stanley’s also in the photo of Barb, Sean and Tim at the Leprechaun Crossing that you saw on the first page, by the way, but no way am I going to turn this into a ‘Where’s Waldo?’ competition. (Winner gets a piece of stinky piece of cheese by return of post.)

barbbeehiveHere’s Barb at the beehive huts, near Slea Head. These are supposed to be something like a thousand years old, constructed by hermits or religious devotees or somebody else who wanted to be very, very alone, didn’t care much where he lived and didn’t have a lot to build with. There are lots of flat stones lying all over the ground in Dingle, so these guys piled them up in a circle, like an igloo. Why these are called ‘beehive huts’ and not ‘stone igloos’ is beyond me, but I’m not on the tourist board, so it’s not my call. If you ask me, they look suspiciously like somebody rebuilt them a year or two ago, and it might just possibly have been the local farmer who charges a pound per sight-seeing tourist, or they might actually be a thousand years old and just look as though they’re remarkably clean and well-kept, especially for ruins that thousands of tourists tramp through every week.

dadseantimThe O-Men (trademark applied for) pause somewhere along the tourist circuit on the Dingle Penninsula to vogue for this stunning photograph. Ain’t we a bunch of studs? Especially the guy in the middle? Somebody in the peanut gallery has asked about the toupee. It’s a hat. I will never wear a toupee. You can hold me to that.

The tourist circuits around the three penninsulas in County Kerry are known as the Ring of Dingle (okay, that’s enough of that), the Ring of Kerry, and I forget the name of the other ring right now, but it’ll come to me, I promise. By unofficial agreement, the traffic on these rings moves in an anti-clockwise direction, but the guidebook doesn’t explain why, so I decided to go my own darned way and was feeling pretty good about making my own decision until we met a tour bus. They’re wide enough to take up the whole road and big enough to squish tourists who have the temerity to disreguard unofficial directives. So for crying out loud, if the guidebook suggests something, no matter how whacky, JUST DO IT!

dunquinnThis is a shot of Dunquinn — or Dunquin, or Dun Quin, I’m not sure. Everything in Ireland is spelled at least two different ways. Killarney is also Cill Airne, and everything is labelled in English and Irish. (Which is not Gaelic — that’s what the guidebook says, SO BELIEVE IT!) Since the English is also supplied it’s not a big deal, but there are one or two isolated spots where the road signs are in nothing but Irish, so if you haven’t been paying attention, driving can become a teensy bit more complicated than you bargained for.

As for Dunquinn, it’s a small harbor between Dunmore Head and Clogher Head, and features very prominently in the tourists shops this year because a well-known photographer (well-known to tourists) took an artsy-fartsy picture of a flock of sheep winding their way up the stair-step road you see snaking up the rocky point. I couldn’t arrange for the sheep, sorry.

staigueWe visited the Staigue Stone Fort on a rather rainy day and, wouldn’t you know it, unlike the beehive huts, there’s no roof! You can’t count on those stone-age guys for anything! The stone age must have been a very confusing time, because the Staigue fort doesn’t guard anything that we could see. It must have been just a place where the shepherds and beehive hut people could run into when rampaging bands of marauders landed on the penninsula to kick some heads.

This fort really is rather impressive, by the way. Unlike the beehive huts, the walls of the fort are something like ten feet thick and twelve feet high, and the fort’s defenders could climb up the stairways built into the walls to fend off marauders by bonking them with rocks or whatever the cutting edge of weapons technology was at the time. The small door you see to the right of the boys is a storage chamber built into the wall. If you want to see the fort, by the way, you’ve got to REALLY WANT TO SEE IT, because it’s at the end of a long, long one-lane sunken road that winds up a valley choked with sheep, which frequently step out onto the road to greet tourists in the friendly manner that all Irish sheep seem to have. And it’s on the south coast of the Iveragh Penninsula, on the Ring of Kerry — sorry, I jumped ahead without telling you.

(Photo missing)

Backing up to the Dingle Penninsula, this is a view from Connor Pass. For once, all the hype in the guide books is well-placed; this view will take your breath away on a clear day, and we had the clearest, warmest, most breath-taking day of the week when we were up there. We stopped for a quick late-afternoon lunch, and just to make the day perfect, some guy parked beside us, dug a set of bagpipes out of the boot of his car, and played a couple tunes. He wasn’t busking and he wasn’t from the tourist board, he just wanted to play his bagpipes at the top of Connor Pass. I know that’d really spoil the moment for some people, but I dearly love the sound of bagpipes, especially in the open air. Barb, by the way, is one of those people who can’t stand bagpipes. She’s the one with the Celtic blood, and I’m nothing but Slav. Go figure.

roadconnorI took lots of pictures of the roads as we were driving around the tourist circuits because they were so narrow, sunken between berms thickly covered in grass or flanked by high stone walls, and along the coast there was always sheer stone up one side or a sheer drop down the other. Unfortunately, none of those pictures captures the hair-raising feeling of driving along those roads. This snapshot of the road north of Connor Pass, for instance, doesn’t convey to you that there were just inches of clearance between the fenders of my car and the rock on either side. If it had been fairly straight, this might not have been much of a problem, but the road was as crooked as an arthritic woman’s fingers. I chose to show you this photo because I love the warning posts along the stone wall on the left. As if I needed the warning.

The drive up the hills to Connor Pass was so pleasant, and the view from the pass was such sweet eye candy, that when we got back down and were headed home Barb pointed out another scenic route that would take us up another mountain pass, between the villages of Camp and Aughils. I’m pointing this out to you because IT’S A TRAP! The only vehicle you should ever attempt to drive along this road should have at least four-wheel drive, although ideally it should be tracked and armored and powered by a twelve-cylinder diesel engine of at least two-thousand horsepower. This ‘scenic’ road climbs grades that had me spinning my tires against asphalt in first gear. And I thought I knew hairpin turns from my drives through the Rocky Mountains. They were child’s play compared to this drive. And for all that work you’d think they’d give you a scenic view at least as spectacular as the one at Connor Pass, but it ain’t there, if you ask me. Just don’t even think about it.

blarneycastleYou can’t go to Ireland and not kiss the Blarney Stone, right? I mean, there’s something almost irresistable about puckering up and giving a warm, wet buss to a cold chunk of rock that several thousand people have already slobbered on, don’t you think? Blarney Castle just happens to be along the road that we took on the way home, so we stopped in, climbed the stairs with a hundred other tourists, and planted our lips on the legendary stone. It’s on the underside of the wall, so you have to bend way backwards and slide out through the hole that you can see daylight through in the photo of the castle wall.

Barb

Dave

Sean

Tim

The O-Folk in Ireland | 11:45 am CDT
Category: My Darling B, O'Folks, play, Seanster, T-Dawg, travel, vacation | Tags: , , ,
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Sunday, April 20th, 2014

You know how people say there’s literally nothing you can’t get from the internet? I’m literally starting to believe it. My Darling B just bought a case of hummus chips on the internet last week.

Backtracking just a little bit: There’s this snack food called hummus chips that she simply adores, and when I say “adores,” I mean she scarfs them down with a passion you don’t normally see except in teenaged girls squealing with pleasure at the sight of their favorite celebrity boy on the cover of Teen Beat, assuming Teen Beat is still a thing and that you know what is. Put in a more universally understandable way way, all the Jane Austin fans who live or have ever lived don’t give their idol one-tenth of the kind of love that B holds in her heart for this particular snack food.

And hummus chips are just what you think they are: the brown goop derived from mixing chickpeas and olive oil, extruded at high pressure from the orifice of an assembly-line machine into vats of boiling canola oil, scooped out, bagged up and sold as health food because, hey, hummus! Can’t be bad, can it?

But that’s not why B buys it. She buys it because of that passion thing I mentioned. Trouble is, there’s exactly one store in town where she can find them on sale, and that place doesn’t always have them when we stop. (Sorry, the terms of our non-disclosure agreement forbid me from mentioning the name of the store, the street it’s on or even which city it’s in.)

When the chips are all sold out, this makes B very sad, except for the last time we visited the store and found nothing at all but a gap where the chips should have been. That time she decided to do something about it, but she didn’t ask to see the manager to ask him when they were expecting the next shipment and would he pretty please hold back a couple of bags for her and, just to make sure he did, batting her eyes at him to render him helpless to her feminine charms.

No, instead she logged in to Amazon dot come as soon as she got home, searched for hummus chips, found them and ordered a case. A case. And they were delivered to our doorstep within 48 hours. Twelve bags of hummus chips in a displace case inside an Amazon.com shipping box. This is a thing you can do now. Amazing.

cravings | 12:50 pm CDT
Category: daily drivel, My Darling B, O'Folks, story time, this modern world
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Friday, April 11th, 2014

My Darling B has a whole new attitude about mice since she opened her garden shed and discovered they’d pooped and peed on just about everything in there. Before she was on Mother Nature’s side, making me trap them live so we could release them in a nearby city park, but now that she has to hose down everything that was in the shed and throw out all her gardening gloves, her ideology has gone from bunny-hugger to “Kill Every Stinking One Of Those Little Poop-Machines!”

I knew she’d come around eventually.

changeup | 1:59 pm CDT
Category: garden, hobby, housekeeping, My Darling B, O'Folks, Our Humble O'Bode, play, yard work, yet another rant | Tags:
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Saturday, February 1st, 2014

At the Central Waters Brewery 16th Anniversary Party last weekend:

barleywine

“What are you drinking?”

“Barleywine.”

“May I try some?”

“You don’t like barleywine.”

“Maybe I do.”

She didn’t.

barleywine reaction | 6:24 am CDT
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My Darling B and I have been fighting a nasty upper respiratory infection since about, oh, I don’t know, Christmas? Yeah, that’s about right. Mine’s not as nasty as hers is, though. About once a week I wake up with a stuffy head and lots of boogers, and occasionally I have to cough up a loogie.

My Darling B’s infection is a tad more virulent. She would so desperately love to cough up a loogie. “I’ve been trying to cough up this phlegm since Christmas!” she blurted the other day, after yet another coughing fit. “If I could hack up just one good, solid wad, I’d keep it in a baby food jar in the refrigerator!”

Today’s TMI is sponsored by Vap-O-Rub.

hack spit cough | 6:14 am CDT
Category: My Darling B, O'Folks
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Tuesday, December 24th, 2013

Yay. The cat has finally curled up in my lap. Can’t do a thing while he’s turning in circles, looking for the right place to settle down. Can’t type a word, can’t sip my coffee, can’t even set down my coffee cup within easy reach because he would just keep sticking his snotty nose in it. I have to just sit here, waiting until he stops. So who’s the mammal in charge here?

image of B hugging Sean

Sean is home for Christmas. Touched down at Dane County Airport shortly after eight, where we scooped him up and motored into town to have dinner at Next Door Brewing. He pronounced himself very pleased with the taco plate. I had the Atwood Burger, delicious as always, and B loved her salmon sandwich. And of course there was beer. Can’t go to Next Door without partaking of a refreshing libation. B was especially satisfied with the Festivusale, but just a little saddened that the staff apparently forgot to provide her with the grievance form that was supposed to come with each glass. She was looking forward to hanging her grievance on the Festivus Pole.

Aargh! | 8:19 am CDT
Category: beer, daily drivel, food & drink, My Darling B, O'Folks, restaurants, Seanster | Tags:
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Saturday, October 19th, 2013

Sarah Palin? She just stomps around and makes noise. She’s a political Godzilla.
– My Darling B


political Godzilla | 4:59 pm CDT
Category: daily drivel, My Darling B, O'Folks, random idiocy
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Sunday, October 13th, 2013

drinkingBShe only has two hands, but that doesn’t stop My Darling B from being a three-fisted drinker! We were at the Great Amherst Beer Festival, hosted by Central Waters Brewing yesterday when B found herself trying to juggle three cups of beer while we took photos of the goings-on. She turned out to be one of the goings-on.


beer juggling | 1:05 pm CDT
Category: beer, festivals, food & drink, My Darling B, O'Folks, play
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Monday, October 7th, 2013

Quick and Dirty version of our trip to California last week, typed up from my notes because I’m not sure how long it’ll take to expand on them and I’ve got lots to do this week but I wouldn’t want to deprive you. So:

Got into San Francisco in the afternoon on Friday. Taxi driver gave us a lively commentary while he narrowly avoided causing several accidents. After dropping bags at the hotel, walked down to Louis’s for an enormous sandwich. Wanted to go to bistro at Cliff House but there was a wait. Kind of hoity-toity, too. Then a walk to the point of Lincoln Park to see if the Golden Gate bridge was visible – it was, beautifully. That turned into a walk through the park. Didn’t stop at the overlook where several people have fallen to their deaths. By the time we came out the other side it was six thirty so we hopped the first bus into town. Bus driver a cranky old man because passengers kept getting on w/o paying. Got off at Hyde & rode a cable car to the waterfront. Wine tasting. Host was a world traveler, been to 31 states and 50-something countries, showed snapshots of trip to Cambodia. Good salesman: we left with 200 in wine. Long bus ride back to the hotel. Went to bed right away and slept the sleep of the just.

First stop Saturday morning was breakfast at Sweet Maple where the coffee was strong and the bacon was one inch thick. We got there just before the morning rush of very fit-looking people showed up. By the time we left, the line was out the door. From there we headed to Pier 39 to see the sea lions. There are a whole lot of floating docks moored off the far end of the pier so that dozens of fat sea lions will loll there for the benefit of tourists, instead of all over the docks where the expensive boats are tied up. After “see the sea lions” was checked off our bucket list, we wandered along the wharf toward Ghiardelli Square looking for the kiosk where we could buy a Muni day pass for the cable cars and buses. The kiosk turned out to be at the end of the Hyde-Powell cable car line. We planned to take the cable car to Lombard Street but went to Ghiardelli Square to do a little shopping first and ended up having ice cream for lunch! Back at the cable car, we tried to beat the long line of tourists waiting to get on at the end of the line by walking up the road a couple blocks and waiting at the next stop for the next car that came along was packed and the driver didn’t even pause long enough to flip us off. We wandered around until we could find a bus to take us back to the top of Lombard Street. Lots of tourists! The locals must love that! Then it was on to Telegraph Hill; easier said than done. B wanted to see the parrots but was not going to climb the hill; neither of us was in shape for it at that point. We had to circle around Union Square a couple times to figure out which bus to catch and where. When the bus finally dropped us off at the base of Coit Tower we were there barely five minutes before we saw the parrots of Telegraph Hill. Check off another item from our list. Walking down Filbert Steps was a huge disappointment: expected it to be a lot more scenic but it was more like a back alley. Stopped to quaff a couple of well-deserved cold beers at a bar in Union Square before walking up to Mason St to catch a cable car to the cable car museum. First cable car blew us off. A nice older lady, obviously a local, gave us advice on how to be more aggressive about making the driver stop. The next one stopped and the driver shouted, “Four! I can take four! There and there!” pointing at the fender. We jumped on and clung to the posts as the street car started up the hill, cars whizzing past us seemingly inches away. The trip to the museum wasn’t long but it was terrifying, or exhilarating, I’m not sure which. After wandering around the museum a bit, we caught a bus downtown to get a beer at a brewpub called The 21st Amendment which was unfortunately right down the street from the baseball stadium and a game had just let out; the place was packed! No quiet moment to be had there. We downed our beers and got out of there as quickly as we could, catching a street car across town, the intention being to get some dinner at a restaurant called The Social Kitchen. The streetcar dropped us off well short of our destination in a residential neighborhood where we had to wait about 20 mins for the next train. The brewpub was well worth the wait; good food and good beer. B sampled all their brews in a flight and I had just one glass before we ventured forth to catch the bus back to the hotel, which dropped us off short of our destination in a residential neighborhood! We just couldn’t catch a break with the transportation that day.

Picked up the camper van Sunday morning. Actually, I picked it up while B waited with the bags at the hotel. I left about 8 and got there about 10 riding bus, trains and walking about three blocks through a section of town that looked pretty sketchy, lots of old warehouses mixed with empty lots, but lots of new construction, too. The camper is really a minivan tricked out with a mattress on a fold-out plywood base, not very good for a camper as it turns out but very good considering the price. We drove north from SF across the Golden Gate bridge, through Marin to the Marin County Farmer’s Market where we whiled away a couple hours wandering around the vendors picking up some grapes & dates & some other tidbits to eat. A quick stop at Sears after that to pick up a blanket before we headed north to the Anderson Valley, where our first stop was the Lone Oaks winery. The lady there was very chatty and gave us several good tips for other places to stop while she poured us samples of her wine. Our second stop was Yorkville and our last stop at a winery that day was Bing. We stayed the night at Hendry Wood campground where it rained all night. I set up the rain fly so we could enjoy a picnic dinner of wine, crackers with hummus and some olives before turning in.

Monday morning we got some coffee at the historic Navarro general store then drove through the Navarro River Redwood Grove before stopping for breakfast at the Little River Inn, one of the good tips we got from the lady at Lone Oak. Then on to Mendocino, a hippy-dippy crafty town where we wandered from shop to shop for about an hour. A little further up the road I pulled off to see the Cabrillo Lighthouse on a whim; thought it was right there but turned out we had to hike about a mile through tick-infested grassland to get down to the point and back. Still had a nice time. We were almost killed in Ft Bragg when a truck driver who didn’t know the rules of a roundabout failed to yield to us. Turned on to the coastal highway which turned out to be one block long. Further down the main drag of Ft Bragg we stopped at the much-anticipated tasting room of North Coast Brewing, which is closed on Mondays and Tuesdays. Make a note. The gift shop at the brewery was open, though, and the nice lady there tipped us off to a restaurant in the harbor where their beer was served, so we went there for beer and macho nachos, a plate of nachos so big it takes macho men to eat it, or two hungry middle-aged travelers. We demolished that thing. Up the road a bit to make a stop at a the Pacific Star Winery, perched on the cliffs over the ocean where hundred-foot-tall breakers crashed ever so picturesquely against the rocks. Stayed overnight at MacKerricher state park where we could hear the surf crashing all night long, and I do mean crashing; it sounded like a continual train wreck out there and it seemed to get louder as the night went on. The gal at Pacific Star Winery said they had a big storm a day before and until then the ocean had been perfectly flat.

Got up about 8 Tuesday morning, showered & went in search of coffee. Couldn’t find any at the roadside stores & B didn’t want to go back to Ft Bragg so we went on. Found a campground at Westport where a nice woman gave us some coffee in tiny little cups but no lids so we couldn’t drink it while driving and we had some miles to put behind us that morning. Guzzled as much as we could, dumped the rest and went on. First stopped at the world-famous drive-through tree park. As we would find out later, there are about a gojillion world-famous drive-through tree parks. This particular one was the Chandelier Tree. We didn’t actually drive through it because it didn’t look like the van would fit. Bought a souvenir post card and moved on up scenic Highway 101 through Avenue of the Giants, stopping to gawk & take snapshots of the tall trees. Finally got some coffee & something to eat at the Avenue Cafe in Miranda, first meal we’d eaten since the plate of macho nachos we gobbled down at Silver’s in Ft Bragg the day before. I had the Philly cheese steak sandwich and can recommend it. Way too big. Ate the whole thing. B had jalapeno poppers, her very favorite appetizer, and a gigantic calzone. Couldn’t finish it. Wimp. Continued along Avenue of the Giants but had to double back where the road was closed for construction. Stopped at Meyer Flat so B could do some wine tasting at the River Bend Winery, then on to make a short stop at the visitor center on the Avenue of the Giants before a longer stop at Founder’s Grove to hike the loop trail & see the Dyerville Giant, a fallen redwood big as a battleship. Contemplated the grandeur of the grove, took lots of photos. On to Fortuna to sample the beer at Eel River Brewery, America’s first organic brewery but even more importantly home to some of the most delicious beers we sampled on this trip. We got a flight of a dozen beers, all they brewed. Yum. Every table had a basket of peanuts. Shuck them and throw the shells on the floor, because if you try to pile them neatly on the table the waitress will just sweep them off when she brings your beer. Spent a lovely hour or so there, then on to Trinidad. We were shooting for an RV park called Sounds of the Sea. When we got there, the lady who came out to check us in looked around and asked, “Where’s your unit?” Oh, we just have the van, I told her. “We only have spots for RVs.” Well, we just need a place to park it, don’t even need hookups. She looked at me like I was talking crazy talk, so I excused myself, got into the van and we drove a little further to Elk Country Lodge, and a good thing we did because we would’ve missed the herd of wild elk that traipses through the park morning and night. Wouldn’t have had our little dinner party of crackers and olives and wine in the laundry room that night, either.

Elk Country was a special find because we saw the herd of elk on the way in, then the herd came back Wednesday morning while we were showering & getting ready to go. They hung out in the meadow right next to the woods where we were camped. I followed them around & came back to the camp to find B had shut herself up in the van when she thought they were going to come right up to her. We left camp around eight-thirty to look for some breakfast. Stopped at the Redwood National Park entrance and picnic area to snap photos of ourselves next to the sign and the notice that the park was closed as a result of the federal government shutdown. All my life I wanted to visit Redwood National Park, and when I finally get here, what happens? We had breakfast at the Palm Cafe, and what an amazing breakfast! B had biscuits & gravy, her very favorite, and I had a stack of the fluffiest pancakes I’ve ever been privileged to stuff myself with. From there we went straight north, not making many stops until we got to Crescent City to fuel and another stop at Medford to visit the Apocalypse Brewery. It’s really hard to find because it’s in the back of a business park, looks like one of those U-Store-It units. The garage door was up but they weren’t open, didn’t open until four o’clock, so I can’t say anything about their beer, too bad. On to Ashland for a much-deserved beer and some food at Caldera, a brewpub in a cavernous metal barn where hundreds if not thousands of beer bottles are lined up on shelves up the wall. No two alike? Couldn’t tell. Checked in at Glenyan campground, then into town at about six to see the opening band before sitting down to watch Cymbaline at the Ashland Shakespeare Festival. The show was on their Elizabethan stage, meaning the seats encircled the stage like the old Globe Theater and it was open to the weather on top, so naturally it rained on us. We had seats right up front by the stage which would have been the greatest if they hadn’t been right under the open roof. We got them switched for a couple seats in the balcony where it was covered, which would’ve been great if we’d started out there and hadn’t gotten wet right off the bat. We slowly froze solid in our seats until intermission, then ducked out to head back to camp where we huddled together under the quilts for warmth.

Got up Thursday morning after it rained normal rain and acorn rain on the roof of the camper all night, stopping just before daybreak. Coffee & pastry at Mix in Ashland. Picked up more picnic food at the local co-op before heading out of town to search for more vinyards. Found Dana Campbell, Grizzly Peak, Thistlecroft, and Bella Fortuna – all closed until we got to Weisinger, which was just opening their tasting room. Sampled a few, bought a few and even got them to ship all the wine we’d collected up to then. Drove on to the town of Weed, stopped at Mount Shasta Brewing for a beer & souvenirs. Mount Shasta attracted the attention of the feds back in 2008 with their motto, “Try some legal Weed,” almost got shut down until the story made national news and popular opinion swung in favor of the brewer. From there we went to the Dunsmuir Brewing Works for a bite to eat and another lovingly-crafted microbrew. Would never have found this place without GPS; it’s all but hidden in a small storefront building that was maybe once a gas station and almost looks to be shut up and abandoned. Glad we made the effort to find it. I had a ploughman’s platter that filled me up: salmon that was smoked in-house, sausage, shrimp, peppers, two kinds of cheese and a hot demibagette with butter. B had an elk burger, perfectly grilled medium rare. Finally, drove up to Lake Shasta to look for a camp site. We wanted a camp fire that night but the first place we stopped was way back in the woods & had no fire rings. The next place was in a national park but appeared to be open anyway. We checked one more place that wasn’t as nice, so back to the national park after stopping at a gas station to fill up the tank, a bag of marshmallows and enough fire wood to build a roaring fire that burned long after the sun set. Toasted marshmallows are delicious with Sangiovese.

Up early Friday morning, stopped at a strip mall in town for coffee and a breakfast sammie. Had to hit the road and drive drive drive to get to Chico in time for Oktoberfest at the Sierra Nevada Brewing Company. Checked in to a hotel, cleaned up, walked down to the bus stop to pick up the shuttle that Sierra Nevada was running all evening. Got there about a half-hour before the fest opened, guy who was taking tickets chatted us up, was pretty surprised when we told him we came all the way from Madison. Great time. Food, beer & souvenir mug included in the modest price of the ticket. Drank plenty of beer, but not too much. Danced the chicken dance. That’s apparently a must at this event. Went back to the hotel around ten and slept like a baby, and how did that come to mean a good night’s sleep, by the way? Our boys slept in fits and starts and hardly ever through the night. Weird.

Saturday morning we booked a room in San Francisco. We talked about this the night before while we were getting cleaned up before Oktoberfest. A hotel room near the airport would make everything so much easier: we could drop off our bags at the hotel, return the van, spend a little time in the city, then catch an airport shuttle from the hotel. And that’s what we did. After dropping off the van we rode the light rail train into San Francisco to see a little more of the town. Went to the Thirsty Bear for a rack of tasters, the world’s greatest nuts and B’s favorite, duck sausage-stuffed olives, fried. Then on to Southern Pacific in the section of the city that was all warehouses surrounded by razor wire. Not sure if they were trying to keep something out or in. Didn’t look like a bad part of town, just not a populated part of town. Southern Pacific was on a dead-end street where a casual stroller would never find it. In spite of its location, it appeared to be one of the most popular hangouts in the Mission District. Got carded at the door; long time since that’s happened. Also a long time since I’ve been to a bar where Devo was playing on the stereo. After wolfing down a basket of fried washed down with house-made heffe and pilsner, our challenge was getting back to the hotel. Had to walk ten blocks through deserted streets of the warehouse district to a bus stop where we waited for almost an hour watching the wrong buses pass by. Finally our bus showed up twenty minutes late. After a thirty-minute bus ride we jumped off and still had to walk a block and a half to our hotel.

Packed Sunday morning after complementary breakfast in the lobby. Thought we did a pretty good job until we checked in at SFO & were told our check-through bag was overweight. Get it down to fifty pounds or pay $100, they said. We got it pared down to exactly fifty pounds. Then off to find a pub where we could finish our trip the way we started, with the now-traditional Bloody Marys. L’chaim!

SF vacation | 10:18 am CDT
Category: beer, food & drink, My Darling B, O'Folks, play, travel, vacation
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I was just thinking that I would have to tell you our flight home from San Francisco was uneventful, but of course it wasn’t. That’s not how we travel.

Our flight home started with a cab ride that was positively batshit crazy. It wasn’t supposed to be a cab ride. The hotel supposedly had an airport shuttle that would pick us up at the front door. There was even one of those double-wide shuttle buses parked right outside the window of our room, so naturally we assumed that’s what would meet us at the curb after checkout in the morning. But shortly after eleven o’clock an all-black minivan with the oddly incongruous name of the Yellow Cab company painted across the door pulled up to the curb and out popped its Asian-American driver. Remember Egg Shen, the wizard slash bus driver in Big Trouble In Little China? That was our cab driver. “You going to the airport?” he asked us.

“Well, yeah, but …” was our amazingly eloquent answer.

“To the airport?” he repeated. “You going to the airport?”

“This is the airport shuttle?” My Darling B asked.

“To the airport, right,” he confirmed.

“So, just to make sure, ah – how much?”

There was no charge. It was the airport shuttle, after all. The hotel apparently kept the shuttle bus just for show.

The driver loaded our bags into the back of his van, we climbed into the passenger seats, and then he took off down the road like he was driving a bank robber’s getaway car. Almost immediately, his cell phone rang. He flipped it out and started jabbering into it through the bluetooth earpiece sticking out of his right ear while almost, but not quite managing to keep his cab between the white lines of whatever traffic lane he may have theoretically been driving in. When he was done with that call, he picked up his cell phone and made another call, and then another, talking with who I can only presume was his dispatcher about pickups at other hotels until we got to the airport, where he made a dramatic entrance by swerving at the very last moment through a gap between a couple of concrete Jersey barriers. I was sure he’d missed it and would have to find another way to get us to the terminal, but no.

Once we were inside, and after we made our way through the twisty-windie line to the check-in counter, our helpful agent, Edward, informed us that our check-through bag was overweight and we would have to either shift the stuff in our bags around until the check-through bag was under fifty pounds, or we would have to pay the overweight charge.

“How much is that?” My Darling B asked, just out of curiosity, I guess, because I know she had no intention of paying it.

“One-hundred dollars,” Edward informed us.

So we rolled the bags to the end of the check-in counter, cracked them all open and pretty much gutted them, flinging clothes and souvenirs back and forth to each other. The troublemakers in this scenario were three twenty-two ounce bottles of beer picked up in our travels and a fourth sixty-four ounce empty bottle of the type known as a “growler,” also picked up as a souvenir because it had an unusual shape and I thought it would look good in my brewery. I parked the big check-through bag on a scale and we started throwing stuff into it, trying various combinations of bottles and clothes until we got it below the magical limit of fifty pounds. Then we would try to latch the bag, fail, re-open it and re-shuffle the contents until finally it was not only not overweight, it weighed exactly fifty pounds and we could not only latch it, but we were reasonably sure it would stay latched.

The only other glitch in our trip home was that we weren’t seated together and no amount of sweet-talking from My Darling B could get the good employees of American Airlines to rearrange the seating. I sat directly behind B, so I entertained her and my fellow passengers during the four-hour flight home by doing things like sticking caterpillars down the back of her dress and dipping her pigtails in the inkwell.

we’re back! | 6:46 am CDT
Category: My Darling B, O'Folks, play, travel, vacation
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Monday, September 16th, 2013

Hoppy CoupleWhen I take photos with my smart phone, it automatically saves them to my Google account, and when I take a series of photos that all look the same, Google makes a flip-card cartoon out of them. The only time I remember this feature is afterward, when I’m looking through my photos and I find one that’s moving.

This photo was taken at the Dilly Dally two weekends ago in front of the wall of hops growing up the outside of the Karben4 brewery.

hoppy couple | 6:11 am CDT
Category: Dilly Dally, festivals, My Darling B, O'Folks
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Sunday, August 11th, 2013

attending the Great Taste of the MidwestTime once again for the Great Taste of the Midwest, the very best beer fest anywhere in the world, as if that has to be said. We’ve been going to the Great Taste every year for seven years now but this time around there were two significantly different changes to the way we attended.

The first and most amazingly fun change we made was that we invited Sean and Nikki, his significant other, to the event. We snagged a few extra tickets and were trying to figure out how best to spread them out amongst our friends and acquaintances when My Darling B hit on the idea. To sweeten the pot, she bought the plane tickets for them, too, and we offered to put them up in our guest room while they were here. Not too surprisingly, they snapped at the offer, arriving the Friday night before the festival.

The other big difference is that last winter I became a member of the Madison Homebrewers and Tasters Guild, the group that organizes the Great Taste, mostly because I’ve really wanted to help out at the event and I’d heard that I’d stand a better chance of being allowed to volunteer my time if I was a member, so I paid my dues, waited for the call for volunteers and raised my hand high in the air when it came. And you know what? Not only did they give me a chance by letting me help the vendors set up, they let me in with the rest of the members an hour before the gates opened! Now My Darling B wants to be a member and volunteer, too. I can provide her with a good character reference if she needs it.

At the Great Taste of the MidwestI think Nikki and Sean enjoyed it more than we did, as hard as that might be to believe, although B had a pretty darned good time this year as well, disappearing into the crowds with Nikki to look for more delicious beer whenever Sean and I got distracted by bacon on a stick or an appearance by Mama Digdown’s Brass Band. Then we’d all meet up again by texting each other on our cell phones or, later in the day when our eye-hand coordination had deteriorated to the point where some of our text messages became mostly nonsense (and here I’m thinking of the already-legendary “BACON MEAT IN OUR MOUTHS!”), by agreeing that we should all meet at the picnic blanket if we got split up.

When the taps ran dry and the people began to make their way home, the two youngest members of the tribe, still full of energy and just getting their weekend started, caught a downtown shuttle to join a dance party on the roof of the Children’s Museum where one of Nikki’s friends was DJing. Wow. I probably could’ve done that when I was thirty, but we’ll never know now. The two older members of the O-Folks headed home via the taxi queue where we waited in line for the better part of an hour before being packed tightly into a Toyota Prius with two other people headed back to their hotel room in Monona. We were practically sober by the time we returned to Our Humble O’Bode and ordered the customary after-fest pizza.

Many, many thank-yous go out from Drivel HQ to Nikki and Sean for coming all the way to Madison to make our visit to the fest this year extra-special.

Great Taste 2013 | 2:42 pm CDT
Category: beer, festivals, food & drink, Great Taste of the Midwest, My Darling B, O'Folks, O'Folks friends, play, Seanster
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Sunday, August 4th, 2013

We woke last night to the sound of screaming. The weather was so mild that we left all the windows open, so we could clearly hear what sounded like at least two people, maybe three or more screaming their heads off somewhere down the block. B said later she was scared it was some kind of domestic violence that had spilled over into the street. It sounded that crazy.

She jumped out of bed and went to the bathroom window to see if she could spot what was going on. As it turned out, she could. Three people, maybe old enough to be roaring drunk, maybe not, were stumbling down the middle of the street shouting “SILVER EAGLES!” at the tops of their lungs. The Silver Eagles is the name of the local high school football team. It’s also the name of a neighborhood bar, so it’s not entirely clear who they were rooting for. Regardless, they were more interested in waking up as many people as they could while they walked home than they were in promoting sports or their local bar.

Be careful what you wish for, I always say. While I laid in bed waiting for them to pass out of earshot, My Darling B surprised the hell out of me when she belted out the mostly rhetorical question, “WILL YOU DUMBSHITS SHUT THE HELL UP?” into the street from the bathroom window.

To my even greater surprise, they shut the hell up. I love My Darling B. She has awesome superpowers.

dumbshits | 8:00 pm CDT
Category: daily drivel, My Darling B, O'Folks, story time
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Sunday, July 21st, 2013

Not really sure where the weekend went. It was here when I got up this morning, but now I can’t find it no matter how many places I look for it.

When I got up this morning, I decided the first thing I was going to do was write a rough draft of an itinerary for the summer vacation we’re taking in October. Yeah, it’s a little weird to call a vacation that’s just a few weeks away from the first snowfall a “summer vacation,” but there’s a good reason for it, and here it is: Whenever we’ve taken vacations in the past, something has always gone wrong that we didn’t account for, so now we plan our summer vacations to start in the fall and that way there’s one HUGE thing wrong with them that we already know about and are prepared for.

I just made that up. Could you tell?

So anyway, after I brewed a big pot o’ java and settled back in my easy chair with my laptop, I opened up the very brief outline I’d already started for our trip that had maybe four items on it, three of which were stuff we added only because we were looking at an area on the map around the number one key scenic tourist destination we knew we were going to see while we were on the west coast, a redwood forest like the kind that Jimmy Stewart and Kim Novak strolled through in Vertigo. Never cared much for the movie but that scene has nagged at me from my memory since the first time I was awestruck by it. I’ve been to California twice, but I’ve never seen a redwood forest, so when we started talking about taking a trip to the west coast, that was the first thing I asked for.

My Darling B was okay with that but was somewhat iffy about anything else, hence the short list. Oh, and there was a Shakespeare festival in Ashland, Oregon, she was keen on seeing if we could fit that in somewhere.

Since our desires were so sketchy we weren’t even sure where to begin our trip, so we randomly chose Seattle, Washington, as our starting point, thinking we would head south from there down the coastal highway and stopping at whatever sights looked interesting, or when our butts were too tired of sitting in a car seat any longer. It’s kind of impossible to sketch an itinerary based on an idea like that, though, so when I sat down with my cuppa joe and my laptop this morning I went looking for a slightly more substantial beginning to start our trip.

To make it easier to wander about, one of the things we’d been considering was renting an RV and, after stopping whenever we felt like it to see whatever we felt like looking at, we would pull into a KOA or some other small campground to stay the night. I’d found a dealer in Seattle to rent an RV but then made the mistake of looking for horror stories about them, and the internet being what it is I naturally found a few, which sort of put me off the idea of renting.

But this morning I started looking for rentals again and when I found a dealer in the San Francisco area I thought, Why not start our trip in San Francisco instead of Seattle? It’s closer to the redwoods, for a start, which means less driving, probably, and since I’m going to be the one doing the driving, that sounded like a great way to start.

So I checked out the San Francisco area for things both of us might like to go see and found quite a lot, really, probably because it’s San Francisco. I’d be surprised if there’s anybody anywhere who couldn’t name three San Francisco landmarks. Don’t tell me you can’t. And just north of San Francisco there’s Muir Woods where Jimmy and Kim strolled beneath those redwood trees, and a farmer’s market in Marin. My Darling B loves farmer’s markets.

I ended up piddling away three hours sketching out an itinerary that took us north from San Francisco to Redwood National Forest, up through Grants Pass to Ashland where we could drop in on the Shakespeare festival, then south through Chico so we could stop at the Sierra Nevada brewery in time for Oktoberfest before returning the RV to the dealer in San Francisco. It took three cups of coffee and one hell of a lot of googling, but I managed to do it. Somewhere in the middle of all that, My Darling B got out of bed and helped me google from her perch on the sofa (she’s the one who discovered Oktoberfest). And now that we’ve got the bare essentials of the trip sketched out, we’ll need another Sunday morning, or maybe two more, to flesh out the details.

vanishing act | 9:40 pm CDT
Category: My Darling B, O'Folks, play, travel, vacation
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Saturday, July 20th, 2013

My Darling B at the farmer’s market this morning.

B goes to market

B goes to market | 11:47 am CDT
Category: farmer's market, food & drink, My Darling B, O'Folks, play
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Monday, July 15th, 2013

A fender washer is a circle of steel about the size of a half-dollar with a smallish hole in the middle. I had one in my collection. I needed four, so I pocketed the one as I got ready to jump into the O-mobile to head down the road so I could save big money at the hardware store.

But first, a bit of fun.

“Do you have any of these?” I asked My Darling B, showing her the washer. She frowned at it for a long minute. It almost looked as though she were thinking, Now, darn it, I know I had a bunch of those. Where did I put them?

That’s not what she was thinking, though. What she was thinking was what she said about a minute later: “Um. No? I don’t have any … metal donuts?”

fender | 9:12 pm CDT
Category: daily drivel, My Darling B, O'Folks, random idiocy
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Thursday, May 9th, 2013

I just wanted to note here that we did not drink beer tonight. Rocks your world, I know, but we needed a night off from Madison Craft Beer Week to recharge our batteries and get ready for the weekend. We’re not spring chickens any more, y’know.

My Darling B commanded grilled ham & cheese sandwiches with tomato soup for dinner, and what My Darling B commands, that is what she shall have. Probably shouldn’t have eaten the potato chips, too, though.

night off | 9:01 pm CDT
Category: daily drivel, My Darling B, O'Folks, random idiocy
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Wednesday, May 8th, 2013

She’s been waiting 14 weeks for this glass of beer.

img of My Darling B with a glass of 1515 from Central Waters BrewingWe went to the Central Waters anniversary party 14 weeks ago and the one beer that My Darling B dearly wanted to try was an Imperial Stout they put up in bourbon barrels specially for this very anniversary. They named this special beer “Fifteen.” See if you can guess why.

As soon as a line started to form for the tapping, she got in it, but while she was waiting they ran out. She’s been searching for it ever since then, with no luck at all, until tonight when the good brewers at Central Waters brought a keg of Fifteen to our favorite restaurant, Alchemy, for Madison Craft Beer Week.

I work just a few blocks away, so I was tasked with getting there as soon as I could after work to make sure I would be there when they tapped the keg. I snagged our usual table and, when the waitress came around, warned her that my wife would run over me with the car if I didn’t have a glass of Fifteen waiting on the table for her when she arrived.

A cheer went up from the crowd at the bar when the bartender announced, “Let the beer flow!” And about three minutes later the waitress delivered a goblet of Fifteen to our table so it was waiting when My Darling B walked through the door two minutes after that. I’d give her props for becoming my biggest hero if only she’d signed her name so I could read it.

This was a beer worth waiting months for. I like beer quite a lot, but bourbon-barrel-aged beers are really My Darling B’s thing. She loves them, but most of the ones I’ve tried are too boozy for me. Fifteen was not like that at all. It was silky smooth, rich and creamy, so easy to drink. Probably a little too easy; I’m sure we could each have put away enough of the stuff to make us unfit for work the next day. Thank goodness they served it in eight-ounce goblets and set the price just high enough to make us think twice about ordering too many.

Fifteen | 12:09 am CDT
Category: beer, festivals, food & drink, Madison Craft Beer Week, My Darling B, O'Folks, play, restaurants | Tags:
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Tuesday, April 30th, 2013

I asked My Darling B to go with me to see The Fountain Big Band Sunday night, but the weather was so warm and sunny that, when she went out in the morning to play in her garden, she couldn’t leave it for anything. She had to keep on playing in the dirt, so I went to The Fountain on my own. Can’t miss that big band sound!

garden vs. big band | 6:23 am CDT
Category: entertainment, music, My Darling B, O'Folks, play
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Sunday, April 28th, 2013

Best bed head ever?

bedhead

bed head | 4:54 pm CDT
Category: My Darling B, O'Folks
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Thursday, April 25th, 2013

My Darling B laughed when I got my first offer for a membership card to AARP. “That means you’re officially old,” she said.

She wasn’t laughing when she got her first AARP card in the mail last night, though. “Those bastards! I’ve got a whole month left!” was all she could say.

aarp | 5:35 am CDT
Category: daily drivel, damn kids!, My Darling B, O'Folks
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Thursday, April 4th, 2013

Casablanca posterAt dinner last night before we went to see Casablanca, My Darling B said she worked with someone who had never seen it. Think of that. There are people among us – they look normal! Just like us! – who have never seen Casablanca! How is that physically possible? There are some things that can never be explained. Don’t even try.

Maybe there could be a constitutional amendment requiring all Americans to see Casablanca as a condition of citizenship. I don’t see how anybody could argue with that.

What’s your favorite line from Casablanca? My favorite is one of Captain Renault’s lines, after Rick sends Yvonne home in a taxi: “How extravagant you are, throwing away women like that. Someday they may be scarce.” My Darling B’s favorite: All of them. She thought the best way to show the film would be with the sound off so the audience could shout out all the lines. I think that could work.

*The movie poster for Casablanca has got to be the worst illustration of Ingrid Bergman I’ve ever seen in my life. It boggles my mind that anybody could look upon the stunning beauty of Ingrid Bergman and come up with something like that. If there’s any justice at all, the artist responsible is sitting on a barstool in The Eternal Bar of Regret next to an Imperial stormtrooper who never stops asking him, “Those couldn’t have been the droids we were looking for, could they?”

Casablanca | 6:09 am CDT
Category: daily drivel, entertainment, movies, My Darling B, O'Folks, play
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Wednesday, April 3rd, 2013

I have itchy face.

I woke up with a little tic tugging at my eyebrow, rubbed it away, then got up to do the other thing I always have to do when I wake up in the middle of the night: go to the bathroom. The tic came back while I was sitting there, but in the other eyebrow this time. I was rubbing that one out as I tottered back to bed. Everything seemed to be fine as I climbed under the covers and found a comfortable position to fall back to sleep.

A slight, almost imperceptible itch teased at my left cheek. I tried to ignore it, because once you start paying attention to these things they tend to multiply, but it wouldn’t go away so finally I brushed my fingers across it a couple times. I was okay for a couple minutes until the tic came back.

It didn’t really feel like a tic this time. It felt like one of my bug antennas was doing a little hula dance. Over the years a few of the hairs in my eyebrows have mutated from my normal, short eyebrow hairs into freakishly long stalks that tend to stick out and, to make themselves even more pronounced, point slightly upward. I’ll probably end up with Andy Rooney eyebrows, but for now I just have the bug antennas. Weirdly, I seem to be the only one who can’t see them. Well, I can, but not until they look like something growing out of the head of a cockroach. My Darling B often sees them before I do, though. She lets me know when they get too funny-looking so I can get out the hedge clippers and give them a trim. If she doesn’t, and they’re not at least a foot long, then the only time I notice them is when they brush against something, or they do a little twirly-whirly. I’ve never seem them actually twirl, but it feels like that’s what they’re doing, and when they do I’ll grab them with a tweezers and yank them out by the roots because, man, does that bug the crap out of me.

I didn’t want to get out of bed to tweezer my bug hairs so I made do with giving them a good scratch with the end of my fingers, hoping that would settle them down, and for the moment it seemed to. The itch on my cheek came back, though, and after I scratched that, my forehead felt a little itchy, so I scratched that, too.

Then my eyelashes felt like they were tangled. I blinked my eyes a couple times to see if that would untangle them but they still felt tangled. I know they weren’t. I know they only felt tangled and the only real tangling going on was in my head, just like my bug antenna eyebrows weren’t really twirling, but the only thing I could do to make them feel like they were untangled was to rub them with my fingers.

Okay, deep breath. Relax. Back to sleep.

Nope. Felt like there were bugs in my hair. Don’t know here that idea came from. Maybe the “bug” from bug antenna eyebrows. Whatever. I had to scratch that. Can’t ignore bugs in the hair. Can’t make them go away by scratching, either. Scratching only makes it worse. Only napalm gets rid of bugs in the hair, or getting B to shoot me in the face, which she probably wanted to do by that time to stop me from fidgeting. Well, I knew by then I wasn’t going to simply fall back asleep any time soon, so I rolled out of bed and got comfortable on the sofa where I could scratch my head for as long as it took to make all the little tics and itches go away. And drivel. Got to drivel it, or it didn’t happen.

itchy & scratchy | 2:36 am CDT
Category: daily drivel, My Darling B, O'Folks, story time
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Monday, April 1st, 2013

I don’t know if it was the lamb tartar or the rabbit sausage, but something I ate last night gave me the stinkiest farts EVAR!

I’ve never had anything tartar before, so if I had to guess, I’d say it was that. The rabbit sausage was so rich, though, that I wouldn’t be surprised if that was the culprit instead. But they were both so good that I would have to admit it was worth an attack of stinky farts. Still trying to work out if it was worth the sleeplessness brought on by the rumbly tummy that came with the farts.

The tartar and the rabbit were part of a prix fixe Easter dinner produced by our friendly neighborhood REAP Food Group and hosted by Merchant, a Mad Town establishment that specializes in craft cocktails and artisanal foods. We like to stop in there every so often for a cocktail before or after a show, and we’re members of REAP, so we sorta had to go to this event. Also, I couldn’t say no to dining on rabbit for Easter. I’m a little disappointed I didn’t get to bite the ears off, though.

They brought out the cutest little cheese-covered popover for the appetizer and it was so good I just couldn’t stop myself from gobbling it up, even though one of the owners of Merchant came out with a microphone just then to tell us about the dinner and REAP Food Group and all sorts of good things. The popover came with a complimentary glass of cava that was delish, too.

My first course was a salad with croutons that tasted like bacon and a fried egg on the side. Wow, that was good. I’ve never been so eager to eat a plate of rabbit food in my life.

My second course was the lamb tartar served with a thick chunk of foccacia. I would never have ordered lamb tartar on my own; that’s why I go to fancy dinners like these. They put something like raw meat in front of me at one of these things and I think, Well, gotta try new things! And I loved it.

The rabbit sausage was the third course, and came with rabbit confit ravioli. I’ve had rabbit before, but it was baked like a game hen. First time I’ve had one converted into sausage and pasta. Very rich, but very tasty.

Here comes Peter Cottontail | 5:46 am CDT
Category: booze, daily drivel, food & drink, My Darling B, O'Folks, play, restaurants
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Sunday, March 31st, 2013

One of Madison’s own breweries, Ale Asylum, recently moved from its original location on Kinsman Blvd down the street and around the corner to a bigger, purpose-built brewing house that even The Google doesn’t know about yet* on Pankratz St, and until yesterday we were possibly the last people in town who hadn’t been there for a visit, so after our weekly Saturday morning ritual of drinking coffee in our jammies all morning, we showered and dressed and jumped into the O-Mobile to head over there for a bite of lunch.

Compared to their previous location, the new brewery is HUGE with lots more bells and whistles. The original brewery was shoehorned into one unit in a strip mall, but the Pankratz St location is so big that they appear to have plenty of room to add more equipment as their operation grows.

Not only is their brewery bigger, so is their brewpub. Thank goodness they had the resources to expand that along with the rest of their operation. And the food is still just as good as the beer. I tried their black bean burger and washed it down with a goblet of their house ale. My Darling B ordered a couple of fish tacos, which went so well with her glass of heffeweizen that she ordered a growler to take home for later.

After lunch, we went from Ale Asylum’s new location to their old home where a new microbrewery, Karben 4, has taken over the premises and even some of the equipment. The bartender poured tasters of their black IPA and Irish Red Ale as we talked about their beer before I finally settled on a glass of SamuRyePA. My Darling B didn’t have to dither too much about what she wanted: all she had to do was read that Night Call was a smoked porter and she knew she wanted a glass. We passed a happy hour sipping our suds before we headed back to Our Humble O’Bode.

*Okay, it turns out The Google does know after all. The brewery doesn’t show up on the satellite view when I searched the address, but when I zoomed in real close, Bingo!

an afternoon with beer | 3:28 pm CDT
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Tuesday, March 26th, 2013

If I remember rightly, and I’m not saying I do, I think The Fountain used to be a seafood place in a previous life. I’m not sure because I’ve been away from downtown Madison for quite a while now. While I worked on cap square I took a walk down State Street about once a week and knew just about every restaurant, shop and tavern, but it’s been a long time since then and a lot of things have changed. Somebody with a big red crane tore down about half of the 100 Block, for instance. That’s a change that would scramble anybody’s memory.

The Fountain seemed familiar, though. I have a dim memory of eating a sit-down dinner or two in the room where we saw the big band. It’s not a big room. It’s certainly not a room I’d expect to be able to squeeze into if there was a full-sized big band already present, although I’d have to qualify that by saying I’ve been in the presence of a real live big band just once in my whole life. I’m entirely willing to admit that I think they’re big mostly because they got ‘big’ in the name.

The room that they call the upstairs bar has three or four booths against one wall, room for maybe a dozen tables in the middle of the floor, and they’ve managed to park some really teeny two-person tables against the wall between the windows or, in our case, up against one window, a fact I mention only because the windows aren’t insulated, giving me a terrible case of goosebumps the night we were there. Yes, thank you, I’ll have some cheese with my whine.

The band was scheduled to start playing at five, but five came and went and there were still guys lugging big, black instrument cases through the door. They didn’t seem to be in much of a hurry, either. Five clearly meant five-ish.

We passed the time with a couple of beers and, for appetizers, we ordered onion straws. Why do we do this? We know from experience that we shouldn’t. Our bodies aren’t young enough to eat that much deed-fried snack food, but we order it anyway because wow that’s good snack food, especially with dipping sauce. And when you wash it down with beer – *bliss!* Paid for it later, though.

(If you’re really hungry, I recommend the reuben sandwich. I have never before seen corned beef slices so thick on a reuben anywhere. I ate just half of it and was well and truly serensified, even unto the next day.)

The band started playing around five-thirty and just BLEW MY SOCKS OFF! Literally. And then I couldn’t find them, not even wadded up in the toes of my shoes. That shouldn’t even be physically possible, but when a half-dozen saxophones backed up by a half-dozen trombones and an indeterminate number (couldn’t indulge my urge to count; a pillar was in my way) of trumpets start channeling the spirit of Count Basie, socks are gonna fly. I couldn’t find them anywhere. I had to go home sockless.

The first set lasted about an hour and comprised four or five toe-tapping numbers, then the band took a break to grab some beers and reload. “Do you want to stay for the second half?” My Darling B asked. “Hell, yes!” I answered without having to think about it. So we did. When they came back and started playing the second set, they blew my shoes off. Found those under a nearby table, though, so I didn’t have to walk barefoot through the snow to get home.

The Fountain Big Band meets on the last Sunday of every month at The Fountain, 122 State Street. I know that’s where we’ll be four weeks from now.

The Fountain | 6:15 am CDT
Category: booze, daily drivel, entertainment, food & drink, music, My Darling B, O'Folks, play, restaurants
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Sunday, March 24th, 2013

We got all kindsa kulcha today.

About a month ago, My Darling B asked me if I wanted to go to the opera. It’s not something she asks me very often – like, never – so I said yes. I couldn’t think of anything else to say. She caught me unprepared.

But that turned out to be a good thing. The show she got tickets for was The Real Divas of Dane County, a reality show/opera mash-up. I’m only passingly familiar with the “Real Housewives” television show, and the only opera I know is what I heard watching Bugs Bunny, but I think they did a fair job.

We got there way too early, though. The last time we went into town for a show at the Overture Center there were huge crowds milling around in the lobby for three different shows and we had one hell of a time grabbing our tickets from the will-call window in time to get to our show. We didn’t want to cut it as fine this time so we left an hour before show time, only to get there and find no other shows going on and virtually nobody in the lobby. After picking up our tickets, we had forty minutes to kill before the show.

So we headed up State Street to see if we could find an open bar where we could sit and sip a cocktail before the show, and it turned out we could: The Fountain had plenty of empty bar stools and a bartender who was more than willing to mix a couple drinks for us. He had an interesting way of mixing a martini: After he chilled the glass with ice water, he poured just a bit of vermouth into the glass, swirled it around enough to coat the insides, dumped the excess down the drain, then filled it up with gin. My dad would’ve loved that, both for the theater of it and the resulting delicious martini.

When we told him we were in town to see a show, he let us know that there would be a big band playing in the upstairs bar later and invited us to stop by if we were staying in town. We hadn’t planned on it, but figured what the hell, we can do things spontaneously once in a while, and came back.

Good thing we did, because The Fountain Big Band is fantastic! If I counted right, there were five sax players, five trombone players, three trumpet players, a piano player, a drummer, a guitar player and a bass player, all jammed into a back corner of a very intimate venue. They all seemed to be professional musicians or professors of music from all over the state, and a few from out of state. They get together at the Fountain on the last Sunday of each month and, without any kind of rehearsal, belt out some of the foot-tappingest big-band music I’ve heard. We enjoyed it so much that we stayed for both the first and last set. And to think we wouldn’t have even heard of it if we hadn’t been too early for the opera.

kulcha | 9:56 pm CDT
Category: booze, entertainment, food & drink, music, My Darling B, O'Folks, play, restaurants, show | Tags: ,
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Thursday, March 21st, 2013

“Home?” I asked My Darling B before I put the car in drive to pull away from the curb in front of the office last night.

“No. Alchemy. We’re eating out tonight,” she answered, naming our favorite after-work restaurant.

It was that kind of a day for her, too, then.

alchemy | 5:00 am CDT
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Sunday, March 17th, 2013

See if you can figure out what this dream is supposed to mean:

I was in the hallway of a hotel looking for the room that B asked me to meet her in. She said there was a surprise waiting for me there. When I found the room and opened the door, there was another hallway instead of a room on the other side. Puzzled, I walked down the hallway past rooms that were all numbered the same as the hallway I’d just come from. I found the room where B said I’d find her surprise, opened the door and saw another damn hallway with rooms numbered the same as before! This time, I opened the door of the first room I came to: Another hallway. I went to the room next door, opened it and found another hallway. I was in a Mandelbrot Hotel of infinitely recurring hallways leading to ever more rooms just like the ones I was walking into!

I woke up next to B, but didn’t ask her what the surprise was. I’m pretty sure if I’d woke her up and asked her that, it wouldn’t have been what I thought it was.

an hotel | 2:08 pm CDT
Category: daily drivel, dreams, My Darling B, O'Folks
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Friday, March 15th, 2013

It’s our custom every year to retire to a booth at The Roman Candle pizza parlor and choose the films that we want to see at the annual Wisconsin Film Festival. In years past, the festival’s schedule has been published a week before tickets went on sale but this year, along with all the other changes to the festival that I don’t like, the schedule was published on Thursday and tickets were set to go on sale the following Saturday, giving us less than 48 hours to make our selections. Just in case anybody from the WFF is reading this: That’s really bogus, guys.

We took our usual booth, ordered a 14-inch Supreme and a couple beers, and set to work. A little more than an hour later, we had our first choices.

There were surprisingly few movies that reached out and grabbed me, but then I feel I didn’t have enough time to think about my choices. B, on the other hand, came up with a long list of movies she wanted to see. Reconciling our two lists was a quick and relatively painless process.

Somehow, B ate all but one slice of her half of the pizza and regretted it almost right away. “Ate. Too. Much. Pizza,” she moaned over and over, wondering how she was going to get through the night. I stopped a slice and a half short of finishing my half and somehow escaped the indigestion that plagued her until I ate the rest for lunch the next day, when I was stricken with the Oh My God Trots almost immediately. TMI? Sorry about that.

choices | 7:06 pm CDT
Category: beer, entertainment, festivals, food & drink, movies, My Darling B, O'Folks, play, restaurants, Wisc Film Fest | Tags:
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Thursday, March 14th, 2013

Becky and John joined us for our weekly night-out at Alchemy. My Darling B works with Becky at the DMV and about a month ago invited her and her husband, John, to join us for dinner at Smokey’s the last time we went there. Ever since then we’ve been trying to get together again. Our calendars finally matched up on this particular Thursday.

It also happened to be a party for the folks at Furthermore Brewing to roll out their new beer, Full Thicket, an IPA that B won’t have anything to do with because hoppy beer, she says, smells like armpits. I tried it and disagreed, but I’m not the sensitive flower she is. Lucking our way into a party for a new beer was good and bad: Good, because, hey, beer. Bad, and only in a very minor way, because the place was packed with beer-drinkers who’d come from all over the map to quaff a hearty brew and talk.

Even though we were closely seated around a very small table, we could hardly hear each other over the din of hundreds of happy people drinking beer. And that’s as it should be, but we gave up and checked out shortly after we finished our dinners, promising to meet there again on a Friday for the fish fry.

Alchemy | 8:05 am CDT
Category: beer, entertainment, food & drink, My Darling B, O'Folks, office work, play, restaurants, work | Tags: ,
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I had the strange experience of watching a rerun of a dream last night.

My Darling B stole about a trillion dollars that Jack Nicholson stole from a bank, and I helped her steal it by hiding it under the floorboards while Jack was sleeping in the bathtub. He went into a Nicholsonian rage when he discovered it was missing and ran off down the hall with an axe to find the guy who stole it from him. After he left, I pulled up all the floorboards, grabbed the money and ran off to Northern Canada with My Darling B where he buried the money in a meteor crater, making periodic withdrawals to pay the rent and buy the occasional case of Molson.

All of this was, as I said, a dream I had before. I wasn’t even the least bit worried when Jack got all mad and grabbed an axe, because I knew he wasn’t going to suspect me for a moment, even though I was the only guy around who knew where his money was.

rerun | 5:53 am CDT
Category: daily drivel, dreams, My Darling B, O'Folks
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Sunday, March 10th, 2013

My Darling B took me to see The Gershwin Songbook at the Overture Center today. Other than a lot of songs by George and Ira, I really wasn’t sure what to expect. The show was produced by an acting troupe called Four Seasons Theatre and the advertising didn’t make it clear whether they were going to just sing, put on a play or what.

When we got there, the stage was set with a piano, a drum set and a few other instruments for a quartet that came out shortly to provide the music. The whole troupe came out to sing Strike Up The Band as an introduction, then each person in the troupe took turns singing about two-dozen Gershwin tunes. One of the three founding members of the troupe stepped out from time to time to provide a little color commentary, most of it stuff that I’d never heard before. I didn’t know, for instance, that George Gershwin died so young.

And that was about it: simple and fun. We recognized quite a lot of the tunes but were surprised in the end at how many we had never heard before. B and I are both Gershwin fans and yet somehow neither of us had ever heard of songs like Blah Blah Blah or Vodka before this, making us both feel like Gershwin newbies.

The highlight of the evening for me was when a pair of singers made a guest appearance on stage to perform several numbers from Porgy and Bess. Ariana Douglas opened with a mournful rendition of Summertime, then stepped away while Gregory Brumfield sang a spirited I Got Plenty O’ Nuttin. Then together they sang a version of Bess, You Is My Woman Now that got me all misty-eyed. It’s one of my very favorite love songs, after all, and I’d never seen it performed. That was worth the price of admission all by itself.

Gershwin | 6:38 am CDT
Category: entertainment, music, My Darling B, O'Folks, play
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Saturday, March 2nd, 2013

song stuck in my head“I got a song stuck in my head,” My Darling B said the other day.

“Yeah, me too,” I said. “You tell me yours and I’ll tell you mine.”

She chuckled at that. “Really?”

“It’ll be okay,” I assured her. “Mine is one you like.”

“Okay,” she said, sounding rather unsure, “if you say so,” and then she started humming Oh, What A Night, arguably the worst pop song ever conceived by the English-speaking people.

“That’s pretty awful,” I said, once she’d unloaded that particularly ugly bit of mental baggage. “Here’s mine, then – ” I started to sing Think Of Me from “Phantom Of The Opera.” She joined in at about the third or fourth word and we howled the rest of it together.

Earworms: Sometimes you just gotta dig them out and strangle the shit out of them or they’ll ruin your whole day.

earworm | 7:43 am CDT
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Tuesday, February 26th, 2013

I’ve not been posting much lately because My Darling B and I have turned into a couple of TV-watching video fiends, and catching up on pop culture is not something that leaves me a lot of extra time to write this drivel, or shower. Now you don’t have to ask what that smell is when you come over to visit. You’re welcome.

We haven’t been watching actual television for more than five years now, and I’m still pretty sure it can be proven statistically with, y’know, numbers and everything that we made a good decision. We’ve found maybe three or four really good television series that we like watching, and that’s three or four out of how many television shows a year, times five years? A very big number, anyways.

So we may be behind the times, but we only have to watch the good shows because, when we bring home a DVD of a show that turns out to be one of the bad ones, we just take it back and bring home a different show. There are lots to choose from.

Lately we’ve been binging on Downton Abbey, watching two or three episodes a night, except on weekends when we watch as many as three episodes a day. It’s taken up so much of our time that we haven’t watched Breaking Bad for at least a week.

I love this show. I expected an average costume drama but somehow I got all wrapped up in it to the point where I’m gasping at the plot twists and crying at the weddings. Really, I’m as bad as a housewife watching a soap opera. If you’d only seen me blubber like a girl when the boys came home from the war, you’d know. I’m not sure what we’ll do when we get to the end of season three which, at the rate we’ve been going, will be about fifteen minutes from now.

all-seeing | 6:06 am CDT
Category: daily drivel, entertainment, My Darling B, O'Folks, play, television | Tags:
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Saturday, February 23rd, 2013

I remember the very end of a dream as I woke up this morning: A gleaming steam locomotive, one with lots of pinstripes and shiny brass, easing away from the platform of a passenger station and out into the yards, chuffing away.

As it faded into the distance I was snapped into full wakefulness by My Darling B, who crooned directly into my ear the appropriate sound effect:

“ZOOOM!”

Now, how did she know to do that?

zoom | 7:33 am CDT
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Thursday, January 31st, 2013

We were on our way home, the car crawling at twenty miles per hour over slush-covered roads that were slowly freezing solid. “It’s the end of the world, isn’t it?” My Darling B asked me.

“No,” I chuckled. “The world is not ending. The world will be around for a long time.”

“No? Yesterday it was warm enough for people to play golf. Today it’s snowing. That’s not a biblical end-of-times?”

“Oh, that,” I said. “Yeah, that’s what’s happening.” I thought she was talking about something like a killer asteroid or the heat death of the universe.

end times | 6:00 am CDT
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Monday, January 28th, 2013

We are exhausted after our long, long journey to the distant city of Stevens Point, where we stayed overnight after attending the 15th anniversary celebration of the Central Waters Brewing Company in Amherst. Really. I need a nap. Oh, wait, I already had a nap. Guess I’ll write some drivel, then.

If, for some reason, you glanced to the north as you drove along Highway Ten just outside Amherst and your eyes happened to fall on a certain plain white steel-walled utility building in the middle of a corn field, you would very probably never feel the slightest inkling that some of the finest beer in Wisconsin is brewed there. Last night, though, the long lineup of cars parked along both sides of the access road would have given you the idea that something rather important was going on there. That something was the fifteenth birthday party of the Central Waters Brewing Company.

My Darling B and I found out about it maybe a month ago when Paul, one of the brewery’s owners, was in Madison to host a beer tasting at Star Liquor on Willy Street. Star has one of these events almost every Friday. They’re a great opportunity to try new beers, or just enjoy the beers we’ve always enjoyed while chatting up the guys who make them. I mean, really, how can you not like talking to a guy who knows how to make great-tasting beer? It’s like meeting someone who can make happiness.

So while we were asking Paul a few nosy questions about his beer and how he made it, he mentioned that the brewery’s anniversary party was coming up, and that it was sort of a big deal. I was thinking maybe he meant it was a big deal on the scale of big deals in Amherst. I mean, the brewery has a tap room, a small place off to one side of the building where visitors can sit around a bar or at a few tables and partake of a few of whatever beers the brewery has on tap, and when I say small I mean maybe there are seats for twenty-five or thirty people. Sixty or seventy people might be able to get in there if they didn’t mind getting really friendly. How many more people could they get in there?

Paul said that for the party they didn’t confine people to the tasting room, but let them into the rest of the brewery to mingle around the fermenting tanks and brewing vats. I remember wondering then, and again last night, about the wisdom of allowing a hundred or more beer-drinkers to wander around amongst the plumbing and other delicate apparatus that he depended on for his livelihood, but then he’s been doing this for years, so he must have had some idea what he was getting himself in for.

Amherst is a drive of almost two hours from Our Humble O’Bode. There was no way in hell I could possibly have spent the afternoon drinking beer in any amount, then driven all the way back to Madison. As it turned out, I didn’t have to even consider it. The guys at Central Waters said on their Facebook page that they would be running a charter shuttle bus from Stevens Point to the brewery, so My Darling B did a little googling and found a B&B not far from the bus stop. We made reservations to stay the night.

It was a grand old Victorian house known as Dreams of Yesteryear. Check-in time was three but the owners let us in an hour early. That was so we could leave Madison at around noon, be in Stevens Point by two o’clock, and catch the first shuttle to the brewery at two-thirty. And it all went like clockwork, except for the last part.

Since we missed the first shuttle, we hung out in a bookstore downtown for a while where we discovered the new genre of books called “Urban Fantasy.” As near as we could figure them out by reading the jacket blurbs and looking at the cover illustrations, they were all variations on the Buffy the Vampire Slayer story. There were twice as many urban fantasy books as there were of almost any other subject in the store. People in Stevens Point really like their vampires.

I was completely wrong about how many people they could fit inside that building. There were hundreds of people buzzing around inside the brewery when we got there, and I wouldn’t be a bit surprised to find out that thousands of people came and went over the course of the evening. Chartered buses were bringing visitors in from far away, and the cars parked along both sides of the roads bore license plates from several states. This was a big deal.

We took turns standing in the long, long line for specialty beers. My Darling B was especially keen on trying to get hold of the anniversary brew, but we never did manage to get any. While she was standing in line, though, the guy behind her noticed her cup was empty and poured her a shot from the growler he was carrying. He was either being very generous, or he wanted to empty the bottle before he got to the front of the line. Or maybe a little of both.

I tried two brews I’d never heard of before, Exodus and Le Petit Mort, both very tasty, but by the time I got them I had already had enough of standing in line, so I didn’t go back to try anything else. We made do with a couple beers from the regular taps while we listened to the band, or wandered around the brewery to check it out.

Being a couple of lightweights, we didn’t stay late at all, heading back to town on the seven-thirty shuttle. If I remember, we were in bed by nine so we wouldn’t miss breakfast in the morning. A good thing, too, because the hostess cooked up breakfast burritos that were delicious. I’d consider going back to Stevens Point just for that.

fifteen | 6:27 am CDT
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Saturday, January 26th, 2013

This was how my Friday began:

I drove My Darling B to work yesterday because we were going to meet some friends of hers at Smoky’s Club on the west side. If I had the car and went back to pick her up after work, it would eliminate a lot of driving back and forth.

Her office is on the west side of town and, at that hour, the beltline is the quickest, easiest way to get there. On Friday morning, though, there was a dusting of new snow all across Madison and, when I came down the on-ramp and merged with traffic, I had the luck to fall in behind a county truck and, just as I pulled up behind him, he dropped his spade and wing plow to clear snow from the on-ramp and he started spreading salt. Of course.

I tried to get out from behind him but couldn’t. He slowed down quite a lot to plow and salt the road, and the oncoming traffic in the other lanes was moving too fast to safely merge with it. Also, I was having a lot of trouble seeing: The spray thrown up behind the truck mixed up with the salt he was laying down, which quickly coated the windshield of the O-Mobile in an opaque, white glaze. I tried the windshield washer but nothing squirted out. Tried it again; still nothing.

It’s the kind of car where the wipers come on when you try to squirt the wiper fluid. Sweeping back and forth across the windshield, they smeared the road spray and salt all over the glass, leaving about three inches at the very bottom for me to peek through. I had to drive the rest of the beltline hunched down in my seat. My head was lower than the top of the steering wheel.

After dropping B off at work I pulled into the first gas station I could find on University Ave, a small Mobil station. There was a rack of one-gallon bottles of wiper fluid right next to the door; I grabbed a gallon on the way in, set it on the counter and dug my wallet out of my pocket. And waited. There was no one at the counter. There didn’t appear to be anyone in the service bay, either. I shuffled around a bit, making noise, but nobody came out of the bathroom or whatever hidey hole they were in. I could have shoplifted the cash register.

I was standing there about five minutes when an older guy came out of a back room behind the service bay. “Can I help you?” Yeah, that’d be nice, thanks.

Back at the car, I popped the hood and filled up the wiper fluid reservoir, started the engine and yanked on the wiper stem. The wipers swept back and forth, but nothing squirted out. I yanked again, because, you know, that fixes it, right? Only it didn’t fix it, and I didn’t have time to figure out what the problem might be. I was already late for work, so I just poured wiper fluid straight from the bottle onto the windshield, then reached inside the car and yanked the on the wiper stem. The wipers swept across the windshield, squeegeeing the wiper fluid off the glass and slopping almost all of it onto my pants. Of course.

This was how my Friday ended:

We’ve driven past Smoky’s Club I don’t know how many times, and every time we drove past, one of us said, “You know, we really have to visit there some time.”

Well, we finally stopped in at Smoky’s yesterday. They were taking part in Madison Magazine’s Restaurant Week, so for the last night we decided to finish off with a steak dinner at Smoky’s. And just to make it as much fun as possible, we met a couple that B knows from work and passed several happy hours swapping stories while we enjoyed dinner and some drinks. So, as bad as the day started, it ended about as well as it could have.

my friday | 7:56 am CDT
Category: booze, commuting, daily drivel, festivals, food & drink, Madison Restaurant Week, My Darling B, O'Folks, O'Folks friends, play, restaurants, work
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