Tuesday, August 27th, 2013

at the Bristol Renaissance FairGiant rats on a stick? “Pass the mustard!” said My Darling B.

Would it be a renaissance fair without food on a stick? I can’t see how. That, and a funny hat were all I needed to make this the greatest weekend ever, and although I had to try on a lot of funny hats, I finally found exactly the right one.

But wait! It got even better! We went to the renaissance fair in Bristol courtesy of the bespectacled fairy you see in the photo and her partner, who gets around in an SUV because he doesn’t have a delicate set of gossamer wings and a magical flowered tiara. So we got the trifecta: Food on a stick, funny hats and fun friends. *bliss!*

Bristol Renaissance Fair | 6:12 am CST
Category: daily drivel, festivals, O'Folks, O'Folks friends, play, Renaissance Faire
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Monday, August 26th, 2013

The cats were out of food. I was out running errands. That’s how I found myself on Willy Street on Sunday morning outside Mad Cat. Nothing unusual about that.

As I walked up the sidewalk to the shop, a young woman I didn’t recognize, walking toward me from the corner, was waving at me like she knew me. Still nothing so unusual about that. The people you meet on Willy Street can be just that friendly.

Then she said, “Happy anniversary!”

And that’s when it began to seem a little weird. How did she know it’s my anniversary? Should I know this person?

Just before she was within arm’s reach, she appeared to want to hug me. Apparently, I was supposed to know her! I really didn’t know what to do. Luckily, about a split-second later I recognized her, so instead of fleeing in panic, I gave her a great big hug and blurted out her name:

“Nikki!”

It was Sean’s nearest and dearest. I’d known from her Facebook posts that she was in town to visit friends, but I didn’t expect to see her, especially not by accident on Willy Street in front of Mad Cat. After exchanging hugs and phone numbers, we agreed to meet later for lunch: I went home to drop off the cat food and pick up My Darling B, and she met her parents at Mother Fools. Then we all met up at Plaka for brunch and coffee and fun. What a lucky meeting!

unexpected | 8:17 pm CST
Category: daily drivel, O'Folks, O'Folks friends
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Wednesday, August 21st, 2013

Sean and Nikki, dancing fools, at the Great Taste of the Midwest.

image of Sean and Nikki dancing

mosh pit | 6:19 am CST
Category: festivals, Great Taste of the Midwest, O'Folks, O'Folks friends, play, Seanster
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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 CST
Category: beer, festivals, food & drink, Great Taste of the Midwest, My Darling B, O'Folks, O'Folks friends, play, Seanster
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Saturday, May 4th, 2013

Oh my, I have sooo many carbs to burn off after last night’s fish fry. We joined the kickoff of Madison Craft Beer Week by meeting a couple of friends at Quivey’s Grove to swap stories over a Friday night fish fry and a couple glasses of Common Thread Biere de Garde, which is French for “beer that is good.”

My belly was stuffed full after gobbling up all that fried fish, which I didn’t mind until I climbed into bed to go night-night and felt as if I was lying on a bowling ball, not very comfortable at all. I had to squirm around for a while until I found an angle where the bowling ball wouldn’t keep me awake.

I felt just guilty enough about overindulging that I got up early to take a little spin around town on my bike. I may have gone far enough to burn off the pie. Did I mention the pie? No? There was pie.

burning carbs | 7:10 am CST
Category: beer, festivals, food & drink, Madison Craft Beer Week, O'Folks, O'Folks friends, play, restaurants
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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 CST
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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Saturday, December 1st, 2012

Your devoted drivelmeister was out way past his bed time last night, boys and girls, and he brings back reports of a rich chocolate treat that is the talk of the town. A brownie, I believe. Or it may have been a goulash. I know a rich chocolate goulash sounds a bit unconventional, so maybe I heard that wrong. I’m a devoted drivelmeister, but I don’t always get the story one hundred percent accurate. This is drivel, after all.

The evening started out at the Cardinal Bar in downtown Madison, where the local band Beat Road Blues was the featured musical entertainment. My Darling B’s coworker, Adam, plays in the band and she’s sort of a groupie, I guess you might say. When he plays in town we usually stop by to give a listen, and last night we even talked Kris and Bryan, a couple of friends into meeting us at the Cardinal for drinks and snacks.

More than a few of B’s coworkers at the DMV turned out to see the band, too, and quite a few stopped by our table to say hi to B who, being in Happy Friday mode, made introductions all around. One of the first to stop by was Michael, who shook my hand and informed me that my wife was “a treat.” I think he meant a treat to have around, or a treat to work with, something like that, but the way he said it, it sort of sounded like he thought she was a glazed pastry, or a candy wrapped in foil. I think he realized almost right away that the compliment didn’t come out exactly the way he wanted it to, because he added, “Like a rich, tasty brownie.”

I didn’t know how to respond to that, so I did what I usually do in that case, which is laugh and wait for somebody else to say something. I’m not very gifted socially.

“Okay, I’ll shut up now,” he said.

When Jim, another one of B’s friends from work stopped by to say hi, we asked him what food B reminded him of. “Seriously?” he asked. And of course at that point we weren’t serious at all, but we wanted an answer anyway. “Okay, I think she like a goulash,” he said, “because it has so much variety.” That’s My Darling B: She’s a tasty chocolate treat! She’s a goulash!

She’s a dancing fool! Jim took B out on the dance floor for the band’s final number, “Mustang Sally,” and they cut a rug, maybe even two rugs. Watching from the sidelines, I can say with confidence that all those dance lessons we took paid off for her that night.

When the band began to pack up we left the Cardinal to head up the street half a block to Plaka Taverna to get a bite to eat. None of us had eaten anything besides the chips they were serving at the Cardinal so we were feeling a little hungry, and Plaka serves the most delicious Greek food: kababs and pitas with hummus and rice wrapped in grape leaves, and you can get combo platters that are perfect for satisfying a growling tummy. The place was crazy busy but we got the last available table and even though the waitress was running her legs off, she was game enough to play along when Kris asked her what food she thought of when she looked at B. “A chewy chocolate-chip cookie?” she guessed. Good answer, because who wouldn’t want to be compared to a chocolate chip cookie?

We weren’t quite ready to go home after we finished noshing at Plaka’s, so we walked back down the block to the Come Back Inn to order a final round and swap a few more stories and bad jokes. Our waitress talked me into ordering a foamy mug of O’Shae’s Irish Stout, and I mention that only to give you a very important heads-up about O’Shae’s Irish Stout: Whatever you do with it, don’t put it in your mouth! If that stuff is real Irish stout from Ireland, then the Irish are pawning their cheapest stuff off on the American market. I’d rather drink Budweiser, and I think you know how I feel about that bilge water.

We had a pretty good time at Come Back Inn, especially the girls. I don’t know what was in their beer but it sure made them giggly. (Okay, I guess the usual stuff in beer would make them do that.) Spoken conversation became impossible after the band started playing in the next room so they started spelling out words in the air with their fingers, and that turned into a game of chrarades, and THEN the giggling got really intense! When their back-and-forth became nothing at all but giggling Bryan and I cut them off and took them home to tuck them in bed.

Up All Night | 9:49 am CST
Category: beer, daily drivel, entertainment, food & drink, music, My Darling B, O'Folks, O'Folks friends, restaurants | Tags: ,
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Thursday, November 22nd, 2012

Ten years ago:

I got a new computer at my desk. This happened in a really weird way. I was using the old computer a couple days ago when I reached across the desk and spilled a Styrofoam cup of hot tea on the keyboard, which stopped it dead. This was not entirely a bad thing, so far as I could see, because the old computer sucked, but unfortunately for me and anybody else who was a mission supe, we had to have that computer to do our work. I had to ask for a new keyboard, which meant that I had to explain why it wasn’t working, and they wrote up a memo for record and all.

Two hours later, another guy brought out the new computer, a sleek, black Dell with all the bells and whistles. Everybody stopped at my desk to oooh and ahhh over it. The lieutenant was so jealous. “Master Sergeant,” he commanded, “I want you to go get another cup of tea and dump it on my keyboard.” His computer sucked, too.

 
I was stationed overseas at Misawa Air Base in northern Japan from 2001 until 2005, where I did a brief stint as a mission superintendent. It’s almost impossible for me to believe that was ten years ago.
 

We had Thanksgiving at a friend’s house. Each family brought a dish or two and made a pot luck out of it. When the meal was ready, we made a long line that kept circulating through the kitchen as people came back to load up for seconds and thirds.

After supper, we got together in the living room to sing karaoke. Summarizing generally, the Americans sucked, but the Japanese were great at it.  The Japanese sergeant they called Chi-chi had a beautiful voice, but he sang only one song, so we mostly had to listen to the Americans butcher pop tunes from the 80s and 90s. 

Sean probably had the most fun of anybody; karaoke is his calling, I think.  He said later that it was the most fun he’s ever had.  Go figure.

 

Thanksgiving | 3:22 pm CST
Category: daily drivel, My Glorious Air Force Career, O'Folks, O'Folks friends, story time, work | Tags:
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Sunday, September 16th, 2012

image of trunk full of goodwill donationsWe paid a visit to the Monroe Cheese Fest yesterday, which, if they were honest, they would call the Monroe Standing In Lines Fest. Ten thousand people crowded the city square of Monroe, so there were lines for everything. There were even lines to get in lines. I’m not kidding. To buy cheese curds, or cheesecake on a stick, or a beer – anything – we had to stand in a line to buy tickets for it first. I didn’t find a vendor anywhere that would take my money in exchange for something deep-fried, or cool and refreshing. I should’ve pulled the race card on them. “Oh, I get it: No tickee, no beer, eh? What kind of racist organization is this, anyway?”

Of course, each vendor had their own tickets. We couldn’t buy a whole fistful of tickets, then redeem them anywhere we wanted. Beer tickets would not buy cheese curds, for instance. Luckily for our thirsty selves, the New Glarus beer tent had a crack staff that kept the lines moving pretty fast. I was okay with the tickets-for-beer crap so long as I had a cold cup of beer in my hand.

We were invited to the cheese fest by a couple we know, Bryan and Kris. Bryan grew up in Monroe, so he knew it like the back of his hand and could tell stories about every building in town. He knew, for instance, that we wouldn’t be able to park anywhere near the courthouse square. Taking his advice, we parked on the edge of town and rode in on one of the buses the festival organizers chartered to bring people into town. Bryan suggested we meet in front of Baumgartner’s, a tavern Bryan said anybody would be able to point us toward if we couldn’t find it. Good idea, but as it turned out, we didn’t have to ask. The bus dropped us off right behind Baumgartner’s, so we were right where we wanted to be almost as soon as we stepped off the bus.

Our timing was perfect. Bryan phoned My Darling B just minutes after we arrived and left a voice message for her, saying he was in front of Baumgartner’s waiting for us, but after scanning the twenty or so faces of the people standing outside Baumgartner’s, we were pretty sure he was pulling a Candid Camera stunt on us. “If you’re in front of Baumgartner’s, then you must be cloaked,” I texted to him. I tried calling, but the cumulative weight of ten thousand cell phone users must’ve been overwhelming the one tired cell phone tower near the center of this normally-sleepy berg, because I never connected with him no matter how many times I tried to dial his number, even while he was leaving me more voice messages.

We hooked up eventually. He and Kris were standing on the other side of the road, near the beer tent. How fortuitous. After grabbing a cold one, we set off to tour the vendors set up around the square. That’s when we found out there were an infinite number of lines waiting for tickets, food, tickets, and beer. When we were almost all the way around the square, Bryan volunteered to wait in line for tickets to buy some cheese curds if we would go on to the beer tent and have a freshly-pulled cold beer waiting for him when he caught up with us. We agreed, and on we went.

I caught only the outlines of this plan, however, because while we were working them out I overheard the familiar strains of La Vie En Rose, played by all-girl accordion band, The Squeezettes. I had never been prepared for a version of La Vie En Rose scored for four women on accordions. I’m more accustomed to versions like the one sung by Edith Piaf, although Louis Armstrong can turn out a pretty good rendition, too. Overcome by the, ah, unique rendition by the Squeezettes, I lost track of what was going on around me and almost didn’t notice when the rest of the group moved on to the beer tent.

We ended up at the corner where we started, just as my Auntie Sue and Uncle Jim arrived. There was much hugging and hellos, followed by a trip to the beer tent to make sure everyone had a cool, refreshing drink before we went on to the next thing. The Next Thing was supposed to be listening to a blues band at the stage behind the brewery, but unfortunately it turned out that they were scheduled to appear much later in the day than we thought they were, so we made our way back up to the square and, on the way, happened to meet some people we knew. There was much more hugging and hellos, more cool libations from the beer tent, and shortly afterward we found ourselves in the shade of the buildings along the side of the square, where we passed the rest of the afternoon, shooting the shit while polka bands played old pop tunes. And it was not at all bad way to pass the time, I might add.

We made one side trip to see what the tour of the distillery was like. I have to say that I was disappointed. It wasn’t much of a tour. They herded us into a room, showed us a brief Power Point slide show summarizing the history of the Minhaus Brewery, poured a few drinks, and that was it. There wasn’t even a distillery to look at. They had a mega-still installed in the room, but it looked like it wasn’t hooked up to anything and, if I heard them right, it hadn’t ever been fired up. It was a virgin still. Maybe the tour will be a bit more interesting after they’ve actually distilled something and have a few good stories to share. Couldn’t say.

We packed up and headed out of town kind of early because standing around all day in the sun sipping beer made me a little sleepy. I wanted to get back before it got dark.

Monroe Waiting In Line Festival | 8:55 pm CST
Category: beer, booze, daily drivel, entertainment, food & drink, music, My Darling B, O'Folks, O'Folks friends, play | Tags: , , , ,
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Tuesday, February 14th, 2012

“No gin tonight son … unless it’s Hendrick’s!”

On the advice of a good friend, we splurged on a bottle of Hendrick’s so we could enjoy classic cocktail night with a classic gin. The before-dinner gimlet was delicious, and the after-dinner perfect martini was, well, perfect. Best thirty dollars we ever spent.

classic | 9:52 pm CST
Category: booze, food & drink, O'Folks, O'Folks friends, play
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Saturday, July 31st, 2010

My Darling B works with people who sure know how to have a good time.

After picking her up from work at the usual hour we drove just a couple blocks to the Great Dane tavern near the Hilldale Mall to down a few cold beers, maybe eat some greasy food and tell stories. Mostly tell stories. None of which I feel I can repeat here. The stories you tell in the tavern on Friday night ought to stay in the tavern, right?

But I think I can say that we all had a lot of fun telling them right up to the time we hit the road at about eight o’clock, which is about as long as I should be allowed to sit in a tavern drinking and telling stories. Any longer than that and I usually end up enjoying myself just a little too much. As it was, I ended up sawing logs in the recliner at nine o’clock and after waking myself with a particularly loud zawp! shuffled off to hit the sack soon after. Guess I just don’t have the steam for a late night out any longer.

Not that it’s going to stop me from taking My Darling B to the hangar dance tonight …

Lightweight | 6:52 am CST
Category: daily drivel, food & drink, My Darling B, O'Folks, O'Folks friends, play, restaurants | Tags:
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Tuesday, March 16th, 2010

The ides of each month are special here in the Madison area, particularly on Willy Street at the north end of the isthmus. On that glorious day, the fifteenth of each month, Star Liquor offers a fifteen percent discount on every bottle of wine in the store. Well, almost every bottle.

I was helping My Darling B search the shelves for our favorite labels when Dave, one of the employees, came by to offer her help. (That’s not a typo. I know her as Dave because one day she was wearing a t-shirt with “Dave” printed in block letters across the front. Introducing myself with the line, “Hi, Dave, I’m Dave!” was irresistible, but I couldn’t help it, even though she gave me a look like she thought I was putting her on.)

“Need help? Looking for anything in particular?” she asked us. “Did you want to see anything in the wine cellar?”

In the wine cellar? Wait, what?

Before the chance could pass us by I nodded and answered “Yes, please!” and we were off, threading our way through the knots of people searching for their favorite wines. Dave led us down the stairs to a chilled room in the basement where our eyes beheld one of the marvels of Star Liquor: Wines that we might possibly be able to afford once, like on our fiftieth wedding anniversary, say. I walked very slowly from rack to rack, being careful not to accidentally brush up against anything. One wrong move in there could max out my line of credit.

And it wasn’t just wine. Did you know you can cellar beer if it’s got the right amount of alcohol in it? I didn’t, until we tasted a bottle of Sierra Nevada Bigfoot Ale that had been lagering in the basement since 1999. That’s something I’m going to try my darned self.

A big “Thanks!” to Dave for the special treat. We didn’t bring anything home from the cellar this month, but maybe (by the time we retire?) we’ll have saved enough from our lunch money to get a bottle of something special for our anniversary.

Star’s cellar | 3:11 pm CST
Category: beer, booze, daily drivel, food & drink, My Darling B, O'Folks, O'Folks friends, play | Tags:
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