Wednesday, December 25th, 2013

Sean uses Tim as his lounging pillow. In return, Tim slips Sean a wet willie …

image of Tim and Sean

wet willie! | 8:29 am CST
Category: O'Folks, Seanster, T-Dawg
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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 CST
Category: beer, daily drivel, food & drink, My Darling B, O'Folks, restaurants, Seanster | Tags:
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Saturday, December 21st, 2013

Bonkers was circling my feet while I tried to make coffee without tripping over him. Trouble was, we were clean out of canned cat food. Still had some dry kibble, but he’s had trouble eating that stuff ever since his brain thing. His lips don’t work right any more so he has to kind of mash his face into the pile of kibble while he works it with his tongue to get any of it into his mouth. It’s a little painful to watch. But, he was obviously very hungry and wasn’t going to stop trying to trip me, so I dumped a scoop of kibble into his dish, which he ravenously devoured. I have every confidence he’ll be horking up every speck of it within fifteen minutes of swallowing the last little bit.

hork hork hork | 7:10 am CST
Category: Bonkers, O'Folks
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Thursday, December 12th, 2013

google bday wishesI have my browser home page set to Google, so the first thing I see when I open a new browser window is whatever cute Google logo they drew to celebrate somebody’s birthday or anniversary. Today it was “Google” spelled out in birthday cakes, so I figured it was the birthday of whoever invented icing or birthday candles or whatever, and because today just so happens to be my birthday, too, I wanted to find out who that was so I went to click on it and the little message that you get when your cursor is over an image popped up and said, “Happy Birthday, Dave!”

I turned to look out the window and waved, mouthing the words “thank you” just in case The Google was out there, watching. Which they are. Always.

google b-day wishes | 5:57 am CST
Category: daily drivel, O'Folks
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Friday, November 29th, 2013

bonkers gets blow-driedSeeing as how everybody else in my unit took the day off today, and I didn’t want to be all alone at work, I decided to take the day off and be all alone at home. I’ll try to explain later how that makes sense, sort of.

I’m not totally alone; at least I’ve got The Bonk to keep me company, although if he keeps on following me to every room in the house, including the bathroom, begging me for food, I’ll probably have to lock him in a kitty kennel and dangle it from a rope over the shark pool. I didn’t tell you we had a shark pool? Must’ve slipped my mind.

Bonk got an emergency cat bath yesterday morning when he climbed up into my lap and began trying to clean off a paw covered in some kind of oatmealy-looking but otherwise unidentified substance that he slopped on a corner of my laptop keyboard. Before he made an even bigger mess of my computer, I scooped him right up, carried him to the bathroom, plopped him in the tub and hosed him down under the shower. No, he was not at all happy about that.

Washing The Bonk is surprisingly easy. It’s getting him dry afterwards that’s impressively difficult. After I extract him dripping from the tub, his cue that the ordeal is just about over, all he wants to do is go hide in a corner somewhere to attempt to lick himself dry, which might work on a summer day but would definitely not work in the middle of winter. To get him at least damp-dry, I have to pin him down between my legs and swaddle him in two or three towels, hoping that they’ll soak up most of the drippy stuff before he slithers away.

My Darling B somehow got hold of him yesterday as he was wandering around in the living room looking for a private place and, with the blower dryer on its gentlest setting, managed to get him almost completely dry. It would’ve never occurred to me that he would sit still for that.

home alone | 9:17 am CST
Category: Bonkers, daily drivel, O'Folks
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Saturday, November 23rd, 2013

Bonkers is helping me write blog posts this morning. In a way.

Bonkers the cat

blogging with bonkers | 10:03 am CST
Category: Bonkers, daily drivel, O'Folks
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Monday, November 4th, 2013

While I was knocking out windows and cutting plywood in the basement yesterday, it reminded me of when I was helping my dad build a darkroom. When he bought the newspaper in Manawa it came with an office building, sort of. There wasn’t much to it. It was just the basic shell of a building with a wall about ten feet beyond the front door to divide the innards into an office in the front and a work room in back. Behind the front wall was what we rather grandly referred to as the bathroom, really a narrow closet with just a toilet in it, and what eventually became the darkroom, where we developed film and printed photographs.

I don’t think it was built to be a darkroom, but I’m saying that only because the walls were full of nail holes. If the previous owners tried to develop film in there, the photos must’ve turned out just awful. To fix that problem, dad covered the holes with dozens of tiny squares of red cellophane tape. You can expose photosensitive paper to red light without fogging it, and even film would tolerate the small amount of light from the constellation of tiny red stars that swam all around me in the dark as I wrapped it around spools and dropped it into developing tanks.

Aside from the old Kodak enlarger and the few other pieces of precision machinery we bought to expose and develop photographs, almost everything in that darkroom was home-made. A sheet of pegboard and an old vacuum cleaner became a rather clever easel for the enlarger. He made a shallow box with the pegboard on top, then drew outlines on the pegboard that were the standard sizes for the photographs we printed in the paper. All I had to do was center the photo in the outline, cut a piece of photographic paper to size, lay it over the outline, cover it with a transparent sheet of plastic and turn on the vacuum cleaner. The hose of the vacuum was connected to the side of the pegboard box so it sucked air through the holes, flattening the photo paper under the clear plastic. Make the exposure, turn off the vacuum, done!

Dad also made a sink out of plywood. We needed one big enough to hold the three wide plastic trays we used to develop the page-sized negatives that the newspaper pages were printed from, so he took a big sheet of inch-thick plywood, boxed it in on three sides and painted it with a couple coats of epoxy. Drilled a hole in one corner, hung a faucet from the back, and voila! A sink.

The darkroom was full of lots of impressively simple stuff like that. Dad could be pretty clever when he got an idea in his head. There was this one time, though, when he tried to ventilate the room through a hole in the wall over the door that he fitted with a squirrel cage fan. For some reason, he didn’t wire the fan to a switch. He gave it a power cord with a plug, as if it were an appliance that he might want to someday take to another room. That baffled me, but I didn’t say anything. There wasn’t an outlet close enough to plug it into, so he replaced the light switch with a combination switch/outlet, but when he hooked the wires up, he connected them to the wrong lugs. Didn’t realize what he’d done, though, until he plugged the fan in and the lights came on. I think I hurt his feelings when I laughed and laughed and laughed, but dammit, it was funny.

plugged in | 5:49 am CST
Category: Dad, O'Folks, work
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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 CST
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 CST
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 CST
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 CST
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 CST
Category: Dilly Dally, festivals, My Darling B, O'Folks
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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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image of Bonkers the catTime for a Bonkers Update.

Bonkers is doing pretty darned well for a cat with an indeterminate amount of brain damage caused by an unknown agent. He eats nothing but canned food and he gets almost all the lap time he wants (sometimes he wants it when I’m still doing chores, so no joy then).

He still annoys the hell out of me when he wakes up at all hours of the night to groom himself for thirty or forty minutes. His brain explosion seems to have damaged the neurons that moderate grooming. He does it obsessively now, practically whenever he’s awake, and sometimes he wakes up just to do it. And he’s really noisy about it.

And because he has trouble swallowing, he makes on hell of a mess in the kitchen when he eats, scattering crumbs all over the floor around his dish, then slobbering water in a trail from the water dish to wherever he parks himself to groom for a half-hour or so. But we remind ourselves he can’t help it, break out the mop and trail along behind him.

Bonkity-bonk-bonk | 6:16 am CST
Category: Bonkers, daily drivel, 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 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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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 CST
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 CST
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 CST
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 CST
Category: daily drivel, My Darling B, O'Folks, random idiocy
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Wednesday, July 10th, 2013

The cats got junk food last night. They were sooo happy.

I usually buy cat food at Mad Cat or at the co-op where I can get cat food made from meat and not that crappy cereal that gets dressed up and sold as gourmet cat food. Cats are made to eat meat, not cereal. I have seen our cats swallow mice whole. They’re carnivores. Feeding cereal to cats cannot be good for them.

But yesterday it was raining during my lunch break so I couldn’t get to the store to buy cat food and by quitting time I clean forgot that we were completely out of canned food so I drove straight home without a stop at the co-op. Dammit.

Bonkers has a real hard time eating solid food these days. He can do it, but I don’t like to put him through that. For one thing, he makes a gawdawful mess. He doesn’t seem to have any feeling on one side of his mouth and I don’t think he can work his lips on that side very well, so to get food into his mouth he has to scoop it up with his tongue and throw his head back, scattering about half the kibble that was on his tongue all over the place. To make up for this loss, he scoops up as much as he can by mashing his face into the bowl. Kind of banging it into the bowl, actually. Looks like it hurts.

Soft food is easy for him to lap up, though, so I try to have plenty of cans on hand all the time, and that’s where I fell down on the job last night. I couldn’t stand the thought of watching him bang his face into his bowl, so I ran down to Copp’s, the chain grocery store down by the highway, to get some emergency back-up soft food. Copp’s is a big-box store, almost as big as Wal-Mart. The aisles are each a quarter-mile long, and you can find forty-two dozen different kinds of Cap’n Crunch in the breakfast cereal aisle, but how many brands of cat food do they offer? Two. Little Friskies and 9 Lives. Crap and more crap. Thanks for that, Copp’s.

Oops, three. They also had Fancy Feast. I’m pretty sure that’s a brand of either 9 Lives or Little Friskies, though. Actually, I wouldn’t be surprised if they’re all the same crap owned by the same company.

So anyway, I bought two cans of the crap food and spooned some out for the Bonk when I got home and he gobbled it up like it was the best thing ever. Of course. My Darling B pointed out that it’s probably the cat equivalent of buying him a bag of Bugles. Mmmm! Bugles! Thank you! Thank you for Bugles! I know it’s crap and it’s not even good for me but I LOVE BUGLES! Nom nom nom nom!

junk food | 5:28 am CST
Category: Bonkers, O'Folks
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Monday, June 24th, 2013

bonkbumpBonkers is curled up for a nap on the sofa. Boo is, too, but she’s not as easy to see. Not at first, anyway.


boobump | 6:34 pm CST
Category: Bonkers, Boo, O'Folks
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Wednesday, June 19th, 2013

Not sure what this proves: Our cats figured out somehow that I’m the one who feeds them. They jump on my head to wake me up in the morning. They follow me around the kitchen when they’re hungry. Yet, even though they’re smart enough to figure that out, they haven’t twigged to the fact that I hold a grudge and I’m not above a little vengeance now and then. I’m no Einstein, but even I know better than to piss off the person who feeds me. I think I learned that before I could speak.

proof | 4:28 am CST
Category: Bonkers, Boo, O'Folks
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Monday, June 17th, 2013

The cats came so close to realizing their nefarious plan.

For weeks, they’ve been waking me up a little earlier each day by standing at the foot of our bed mewling, or jumping on my head, and I’ve been obliging them by getting up and feeding them, thinking that with a little food in their bellies they’d leave me alone and I could go get a little more sleep.

Only I don’t get more sleep. If I wake up after four or five o’clock in the morning, I’m up for the rest of the day. Well, until, say, eight o’clock that night, anyway. So this has been a game of diminishing returns, and this morning it diminished even further: Damn cats woke me up at four o’clock.

I didn’t get up because I knew it was pointless. I could have fed them, but I wouldn’t have been able to get back to sleep, so I laid there for maybe twenty minutes before I got out of bed to make some coffee and gobble down a bowl of oatmeal. And ignore the cats. They tried everything they could think of to get my attention, even that thing where they wind around my legs and sit down right in front of me while I’m walking across the dining room, but I managed not only to ignore them but also to avoid concussion after tripping over one of them and falling on my face.

They’re more than a little puzzled by this, wandering around in a bit of a daze. He didn’t feed us. That never happened before. And occasionally they get tangled up with each other, resulting in a swatting match that’s oddly satisfying to watch. But they still haven’t been fed, and won’t be until I’m ready to leave for work. And that’s the way it’s going to be from now on.

cat plan | 5:33 am CST
Category: Bonkers, Boo, daily drivel, O'Folks, random idiocy
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Wednesday, May 29th, 2013

Bonkers was – it’s another post about my cat, folks. Spare yourselves. Turn the channel now.

(Does anybody still say “turn the channel” anymore? I haven’t been paying attention. It used to make sense when there was a dial on the front of the television that you had to grab and twist, but even though I still say it, it’s been at least thirty years since I’ve turned an actual dial to another channel. I feel as though I’m already one of those fogeys that kids snicker at.)

Bonkers was making lots of licky-slurpy noises this morning, and he was camped out right next to my head. Right. Next. To. My. Head.

He stopped for about thirty seconds after I gave him a quick poke with my elbow, but then started licking again. Noisily. And he smelled like cat spit.

I poked him again. Again, thirty seconds of quiet before SLURPY-SLURPY-SLURPY.

*poke!*

Silence.

SLURPY-SLURPY-SLURPY.

This went on for far too long before I finally gave up, rolled to the edge of the bed and shut off my alarm clock, resigned to getting up early because I sure wasn’t going to get anything like satisfying, restful sleep while Mister Puddles washed himself.

And, of course, he jumped down off the bed and left the room as I was getting up.

I’m going to boil and eat that cat one day.

slurpy | 6:28 am CST
Category: Bonkers, daily drivel, 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 CST
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 CST
Category: beer, festivals, food & drink, Madison Craft Beer Week, My Darling B, O'Folks, play, restaurants | Tags:
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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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Friday, May 3rd, 2013

Bonkers got a bath last night. We don’t usually bathe The Bonk – actually, we have historically avoided bathing either of the cats. We’ve bathed Bonk twice before, if memory serves, and I’m pretty sure we’ve never bathed Boo. I feel confident in saying that she would not allow it.

But The Bonk needed bathing. The poor old fart’s getting pretty drooly in his old age, so when he grooms himself these days he ends up coated in an extra-thick layer of his own slime. The resulting smell is, ah, shall we say ‘potent.’ If you’ve never been exposed to the repellent odor of cat spit, consider yourself lucky. There’s no scent quite like it.

So I filled up a bucket with warm water, then scooped Bonk up off the floor, carried him to the bathtub and dropped him in it. Then I ladled warm water over him with a big plastic beer cup until he looked like a drowned rat. Cats are hilarious-looking when they’re wet. You’ve just got to get a cat so you can see that at least once in your life.

And then I soaped him up with cat shampoo. This is really a thing. I don’t know what makes it different from the shampoo that I use, other than the outrageous price. I’d be willing to bet there’s no difference at all. It’s probably just baby shampoo in a smaller bottle.

He put up with the whole ordeal like a champ. No, actually, he put up with being bathed. He did not put up with being toweled off. I wrapped him up in a great big bath towel after squeegeeing as much of the water off him as possible. He put up with about ten seconds of that before squirming free and making a beeline for the door. I managed to catch him before he got away and towel him off for about ten seconds more before he got away again. I let him stamp around the living room trying to get the water and the stink off him before I wrapped him up once more and got him about as dry as he was going to let me.

stinky kitty | 2:41 am CST
Category: Bonkers, O'Folks
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Wednesday, May 1st, 2013

In yet another demonstration of just how out of shape I’ve become over the winter, I huffed and puffed my way up three flights of stairs while helping Tim move into his apartment downtown. A twenty-something doesn’t have all that much to schlep from curbside to apartment, but I was ready for a nap after barely an hour and a half of schlepping. I’ve moved house more than a dozen times over the years and that’s officially my weakest performance ever.

moved | 9:53 pm CST
Category: O'Folks, T-Dawg
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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 CST
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 CST
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 CST
Category: daily drivel, damn kids!, My Darling B, O'Folks
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Sunday, April 21st, 2013

I actually lured Tim out into public today by dangling the promise of a free screening of Princess Mononoke in front of his nose. He had to think about it for a moment or two, but not too hard before he agreed.

The show was part of a program put on by the University of Wisconsin’s film school. They were showing a long lineup of Studio Ghibli films all last month and this month, and if I’d gone to any of the others I would’ve had some inkling of how popular they were. By the time we got there, about fifteen minutes before the show was scheduled to start, they were turning people away because all the seats were filled. We had to turn around and go home with our sufficiency unserensified.

Princess Mononoke | 5:58 am CST
Category: entertainment, movies, O'Folks, play, T-Dawg
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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 CST
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 CST
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 CST
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 CST
Category: beer, food & drink, My Darling B, O'Folks, play, restaurants | Tags:
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Friday, March 29th, 2013

Many many moons ago I drove my lemon yellow Volkswagen bus from Colorado to California to visit my brother. I drove south from Denver to Albuquerque and then, in spite of every lesson I learned from Bugs Bunny about taking a left turn there,* I turned right, drove all the way across Arizona on old Route 66, entered California through the Mojave Desert and kept on going until I got to the Pacific coast. The drive north up Highway One to Carmel remains one of the greatest behind-the-wheel trips of my life.

While I was waiting at a stoplight in Carmel, a kid who looked to be about fourteen or fifteen years old stepped up to the curb, looked up the street, then looked at me. I don’t know if you’ve ever been privileged to ride in the cab of a Volkswagen bus. If you have, then you know that you are not far away from whatever is going on just outside the car. You are, in fact, sitting in front of the front wheels. Your feet are inches from the front bumper. All this to say, when someone is standing just outside the window looking at you, you can’t pretend that you’re invisible because you’re in a car. You are so close to one another that it would be rude.

So when this kid looked at me, I figured he was waiting for me to give him some kind of sign that it was okay to cross in front of me, even though I was waiting for the light. California was like that. When I drove up Highway One, I must’ve passed dozens of Volkswagens going the other way. The driver of every single one of those Volkswagens waved at me as I went past. It was like finding out I was in a club that I didn’t even know about until I got there.

There I was, waiting at a corner in Carmel, California, for a green light, the kid on the corner looking at me expectantly, and me thinking that I ought to give him some kind of sign … or something. So I extended my right hand and swept it across the dashboard in a gesture that, from my point of view, meant, Go ahead, or Safe to cross, or maybe even, I won’t run over you until you get to the middle of the street. From where he stood, though, the gesture apparently meant, Going my way? because he stepped off the curb, opened the passenger door and jumped in.

I was so stunned that the only thing I could think to say was, “Where you going?”

“Just three or four blocks up,” he answered.

Green light.

“Well, okay then,” I said, put the bus in gear and drove on.

I don’t remember whether or not we talked about anything. If we did, it couldn’t have been much. He really didn’t want to go that far. About four blocks up the road he pointed at the corner, said, “Right here’s fine.” I pulled up at the curb, he said thanks and jumped out.

And that was the first time I gave a ride to a stranger.

*When I started to write the part about driving south to Albuquerque, the first thing that popped into my head was a quote from Bugs Bunny: “I knew I shoulda taken a left toin at Albakoikee!” It wasn’t until after I finished the story that I opened Google and typed “Bugs Bunny should have.” It autofilled “turned left.” bliss!

hop in | 6:03 am CST
Category: daily drivel, O'Folks, play, story time, The O-Mobile, travel | Tags:
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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 CST
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 CST
Category: booze, entertainment, food & drink, music, My Darling B, O'Folks, play, restaurants, show | Tags: ,
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Saturday, March 23rd, 2013

*doint!*

AUTOPILOT ON

if {system-time = x:00 and bladder = full}
wake; do {void-bladder}
while cats=[tripping-hazard]
get [the-food]; feed [the-cats]
return [the-food]
return {sleep}
else {sleep}

ERROR AT LINE 5

Wait, what? No, that can’t happen. I was on autopilot. I must’ve put the cat food back.

Yeah. It’s got to be in the fridge, I just don’t remember it. Yeah. I don’t remember putting it back at all. Dammit. Dammit dammit dammit! Well, I’m not getting up again. I’m staying right here in my nice, warm bed. The cats got what they wanted and, if they’re as smart as they act sometimes, they’ll figure out there’s an open can of cat food on the counter top and take care of the problem for me. I’m not getting out of bed. [Monologue edited for brevity; it goes on for almost an hour. -ed.]

LATER, WHILE I’M MAKING COFFEE: What’s that can of cat food doing there?

error | 9:48 am CST
Category: Bonkers, Boo, daily drivel, sleeplessness | Tags:
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Friday, March 22nd, 2013

Let’s see, how does this work? Oh, yeah: Wake up too early, make coffee, cat on my lap, type up some drivel.

Mmmm, coffee. Gone back to making it drip. Still like my coffee gadgets, but drip is the way to go. That’s my official word on that. Take it to the bank. Tell ’em I said so.

Man, this granola is the best thing ever. I buy it in the bulk food section of the co-op. Supposed to be good for you. They sell lots of locally-produced, organically-grown food, but this looks like the kind of stuff that comes from a 55-gallon barrel shipped from China by container ship. Don’t care. Has a nutty, vanilla flavor that is now permanently associated in my brain with granola. All other granola tastes like gravel.

Cat is purring like a diesel engine. He can keep it going for hours, but if he starts to fade all I have to do is stroke his chin and he cranks the volume up to eleven again. He won’t purr for nothing. Got to give him a chin-rub, or at the very least let him climb in my lap. Did you know cats are the reason laps were invented? It’s true. If you have a lap, you need a cat.

wakey-wakey part mcmlxiv | 5:02 am CST
Category: Bonkers, coffee, daily drivel, food & drink, sleeplessness | Tags: ,
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Thursday, March 21st, 2013

And now, because I like it, and because Bonkers just now struck a similarly evocative pose:

chat noir | 8:42 pm CST
Category: Bonkers, entertainment | Tags:
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“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 CST
Category: daily drivel, food & drink, My Darling B, O'Folks, office work, restaurants, work | Tags:
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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 CST
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 CST
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 CST
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 CST
Category: daily drivel, dreams, My Darling B, O'Folks
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