Archive for the ‘Elsewhere’ Category

Within every adult, there lies a 2 year old child.

For example, I laugh at flatulence.  Sure, part of the reason for that is I’m a full-blooded American male but, also, there is a part of me that is two years old.  I also laugh at butt jokes.  If I live to be 99, I will still find humor in these things, under most circumstances.  A slow-moving female in Harris Teeter breaking wind right in front of us as we walk down the freezer section aisle = no laughing matter.

Yesterday, we indulged in a facet of Suzanne’s inner 2-year old by attending the Middleton Inn Gingerbread Workshop.  After a little bit of confusion discerning within which building the workshop was being held, I was thrown headlong into a situation I have always deemed a personal hell:  a room full of screaming children.  It’s not like I didn’t expect there to be a million kids at a gingerbread house workshop and it’s not like the kids were doing anything outside of the normal kid-like things.   Regardless, I immediately started grinding my teeth.

Suzanne went to check in.

The volunteer working the desk surveyed us, then said, “Oh, there’s two of you. No children? Hey Greg, we need to get a table for two adults.  No kids with them.”

Instantly, I burned a hole through Suzanne as a flood of quasi-embarassment and ridiculously unnecessary stress came over me.

“Did you hear that? Did you? God.  This is fantastic.”  Sarcasm has seldom been more thickly laid.

Suzanne just glared back at me in a “lighten up, this is my outing.  Plus, I let you laugh at flatulence on tv earlier today” way.  She scurried to our designated table.  I followed despondently, shuffling my feet with the posture of the guy in the green shirt dancing during A Charlie Brown Christmas.

I sat down slowly.  Immediately, a fever pitch of screams began to build around me.  It started with a few exclamations of “Hey! They have gumdrops here!” and quickly evolved into a swarming mass of shrill voices and hyper movements that threatened to send me into a deep dark oblivion of annoyance.

But then, at what appeared to be the pinnacle of my darkest hour, I became cognizant of the fact that the two women sitting directly next to us were also childless (at least for this event).  We weren’t the only pair of adults-only. Actually, we weren’t even close to being the only ones, as a subsequent scanning of the room revealed.  Then, I noticed something else, a little beyond the two women.  Resting on a table against the wall resided a plate of mini barbeque sandwiches.  And even more astounding, next to these sandwiches stood a cauldron of spicy gumbo.

My despair began to wane.

And then I peered across the table at my gleeful girlfriend, who had just returned from a foray into the depths of an ocean of child screams to retrieve a King’s ransom of candies for our gingerbread house:  mints, chocolate chips, licorice, mints, marshmellows, gumdrops, and the like.  The look on her face was pure happiness.  Everyone around me looked the same way.

I stopped being a Scrooge almost immediately.  Not only did I soften up a lot to the experience, I actually ended up having a really good time constructing our house and by the midway point of our construction endeavor, I was really enjoying the sheer amount of excitement and holiday cheer in the room, wishing I had been as open-minded about the experience from the outset as everyone else seemed to be.

Point blank:  the Middleton Inn Gingerbread House Workshop is one of the most fun Christmas-y activities we have found in the Charleston area and is one of the most fun Christmas-y activities I have personally ever participated in anywhere.

While our own home building skills probably need more than a little fine-tuning, as well as our snowman building skills (see accompanying photo…creepster), this certainly was not the case for many other families in the room.  We were amazed some of the ideas people developed for their own projects.  Many seemed like seasoned veterans in the gingerbread building arts.  It appeared that most of the managing of the construction came from the adults while the kids devoured many of the roofing, siding, and chimney materials moments after they were installed on the structure.  The adults replaced these materials cheerfully.

I would assume there were quite a few upset stomachs later that evening from the bevy of sugar intake. I would also assume, when considering the pure happiness that accompanied the entire workshop, the parents didn’t mind one bit either.

Next year, there will be no teeth grinding, despondency, or embarrassment. There will be a little bit of anticipation.

Next year, there will be no hobbit hut.  We’re making the Taj Mahal.


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Fall Beckons

Since football has ushered in fall, it’s only appropriate that we partake in the festivus that is jacket and pumpkin ale season.  Come Monday evening, I’m pretty sure Hotel de Wentworth will be jam-packed with the finest gourds, pumpkins, and indian corn in the Holy City and we’ll both be wearing long-sleeved fleeces even though it will probably still be a high of 80 degrees outside.  It’s the enthusiasm that counts.

We’re taking off for a weekend trip to Chapel Hill/Raleigh to catch the UNC/ECU game and visit with Suz’s family.  Highs in the lower 70’s with lows in the lower 50’s.

You feel that?  That’s crispness.

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In my ripe old age of 27, I can probably count on one hand the number of chili dogs I have consumed in my lifetime.  July 4th weekend comprises 3/5 of those instances.  Despite my relative lack of encounters with this American classic food staple, I feel very confident in stating that the dogs at Roast Grill in downtown Raleigh are probably the best you can find in at least the Carolinas, if not elsewhere.

Conspicuous by its old-school projecting sign for “Hot Weiners”, Roast Grill has been operating since the 1940’s with the same tried and true formula:  they serve only hot dogs with a super limited variety of toppings.  Your dog can come with a choice of 4 total toppings:  onions, slaw, yellow mustard, or their famous chili.  No relish, chips or sides are available, no pitchers of iced tea are to be found (a true rarity in the South), and if you have the gaul to request ketchup, a 3 oz bottle of Heinz will set you back a ripe $12.95.  Roast Grill’s success has been predicated upon keeping it basic and they do the basic extremely well.  Adam Richman of Man vs. Food recently had his bout with the Grill’s tasty chili dogs and I was fortunate enough to overcome the Chernobyl-like tragedy that befell my palette thanks to an absurd amount of grape flavored Big League Chew in time to savor its chili goodness.  A must visit if you are ever in the downtown Raleigh area and a place that I now frequent often in my dreams.

Back to roaming Charleston instead of roaming Raleigh tomorrow.

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Is there anything manlier than a tall glass of bourbon on the rocks?

Bare-knuckled lion fighting, shooting guns at stuff, building stuff then shooting guns at said stuff, Budweiser, and grilling meat not withstanding, lounging around in a solid oak-laden room in a Don Draper-from-Mad Men suit sipping on an 8-year old Woodford Reserve is my idea of some good man time.

Thus was the impetus for our plan to take Jon out to the Woodford Reserve Distillery, located in the heart of the beautiful horse country of Woodford County, KY, for one last gasp before his plunge into that black abyss of marriage (kidding, Jenna, kidding).  Problem was, Jon decided not to tag along on his own outing on the premise of ‘too many things to do’, which normally on a wedding day means ‘I’m nervous.’  His absence didn’t deter a big group of us from making the trip, however, and the tour of the grounds was nothing short of spectacular.

Let me explain for a moment a crucial bit of information:  all bourbon is whisky but not all whisky is bourbon.  Whisky can only be bourbon if it meets three criteria:  1) it is distilled within the United States; 2) it must be comprised of 51%-79% corn; 3) it must be aged in an oaken barrel.  A fourth criteria, in my opinion, is that the bourbon should be distilled within the confines of the Bluegrass region.  I mean, don’t you want your bourbon to be born in the cradle of its existence?  Woodford Reserve is popularly revered as the standard in the bourbon industry for both the quality of its batches and the methods that forge them as well as the quality of its grounds, which are impeccably maintained and elegantly shown off to visitors.  It’s worth the nominal $5 entrance fee, especially considering each visitor is given a sample glass of bourbon following the tour, so you can stand around, you know, feeling like a man.  Or a classy lady, I guess.

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I bet you didn’t know that Lexington, Kentucky is largely considered to be the Horse Capital of the World.

Oh, you did?

Well then, I bet you know that Lexington will soon be hosting the 2010 World Equestrian Games and this is a very big deal.

Oh, you didn’t?  Me neither, at least on the latter portion.  However, I soon learned (as in, I read multiple articles and was sarcastically educated by numerous friends) that the 2010 WEG is probably the single most important event in the past decade or more for a region that is already renowned for the Kentucky Derby, crisp fall days spent at Keeneland, Seabiscuit, and other equine-related icons.  The event, which will open on September 25th at the Kentucky Horse Park, will bring in fans and participants from all over the globe to spectate eight different events.  The Games are anticipated to make a somewhere in the ballpark of $167 million economic impact on the Bluegrass Region and its surrounding 75-100 mile radius, which I am sure will see some residual impacts in the form of accommodation/dining tax revenues.

To get into the unbridled spirit (see what I did there?) of this event, Suzanne and I spent our first day in the Bluegrass at the Kentucky Horse Park, a truly magical place for all things “horse” that I had only been to previously to view Christmas lights.  The park consists of acres upon acres of stables, museums, training facilities, and demonstration areas.  In our short visit, we were able to see numerous participants training for the Games, take in the wonderful new outdoor arena built specifically for the event, and get an up-close-and-personal view of my favorite thoroughbred of all-time, Cigar, grandson of the great Northern Dancer whose streak of 16 wins in a row in the mid-90’s captivated me in a way no other horse has before or since.  It was definitely the highlight of my trip.  For Suzanne, I think the entire experience was a highlight, as she snapped over 250 photographs, some of which are accompanying this post.

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Shockingly, we have once again left the confines Holy City for an exotic, elegant locale of lore.  In this case, Lexington, Kentucky, home of my alma mater, fast horses, beautiful women, and Harry’s buffalo chicken minis.  The occasion?  My best friend Jon is getting hitched to the love of his life, Jenna, on Saturday and I am best manning this gig.  Jon may be the only person with a somewhat rational mind that reads about University of Kentucky sports more than I do, a second love of his that is only enhanced by his imminent marriage, as Jenna’s father is a prominent local sports reporter who routinely gets scoops before the (hilariously awful at times) internet masses.

Jenna and Jon recently visited Charleston, where they were subjected to ‘the tour’ as well as stops at all of our favorite haunts, including Red’s on Shem Creek.  In case it is difficult to discern, Jenna is the attractive brunette female, while Jon is the heathen brunette male doing the John Wall Dance, which if you don’t have any idea what that is, please kindly take your things and leave.

In short, expect a photograph of a pony soon and a few shots from what is sure to be a great celebration.

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In a move that makes complete sense, I am writing this post from Hope and Union Coffee Co. with a piping hot mocha next to me on this frigid 90 degree June evening.

So, DC.  Part 2.

We were fortunate enough to have friends on both sides of the Potomac for our weekend getaway, which afforded us the opportunity to experience several different Greater DC neighborhoods, and, of course, sample some local fare.  Our arrival Thursday late afternoon meant a prompt exodus to the Clarendon district of Arlington and a dinner filled with different types of chili at Hard Times, which derives its origin from the chili bars which thrived in the West during the Depression era.  Its prices were also somewhat reflective of its roots, as the dinner was by far the cheapest we would have during our time in DC.  We followed up our chili coma with a trip to Galaxy Hut, an old-school bar complete with pinball, Pac-Man, and Galaga machines, and a spontaneous drive to downtown DC to check out the Mall at midnight.  This ended up being a great decision.  Despite our travel/chili-laden stomach fatigue, we spent the better part of the early morning hours touring some of our nation’s most popular monuments with only the presence of a couple bachelorette party groups and security guards in our midst.

Speaking of security guards, how boring must it be to patrol the grounds of the Lincoln Memorial or other monuments at 3 AM on a Friday morning?  One of the security guards at the Lincoln Memorial stood literally 2 inches from one of the walls, staring intently at the smooth marble, for the duration of our time there.  Other security guards on bikes were flying around the Washington Monument at high rates of speed in an obvious attempt to stave off boredom.  I’d rather sort mail or work in a quality control line monitoring M&M’s for ‘W’ inscriptions.

The next morning, we awoke bright and early to a pancake feast ala Alex and caught the Metro back to Capitol Hill to see the Natural History and American History Museums, where I learned to hate middle school-aged kids.  At first, I chalked this loathing up to the whopping 3 hours of sleep from the night before but soon realized that, in actuality, all middle school kids are inherently annoying.  I was.  You were.  It’s an indomitable truth.

In need of a high point, we hit Zaytinya for some Lebanese and Turkish tapas.  Unbelievable.  This place made me realize that although Charleston has a fairly decent splashing of ethnic fare relative to its size, it could stand a bit more diversity.  I can’t wait to return.

A trip to the National Building Museum near Chinatown ended our time with Maggie and officially began our nearly 12 hour stint atop rooftops in Adams Morgan with our match-making friend Whitney and her friends.  First, it was Perry’s rooftop for more tapas and subsequent beginning of my severe hunger pangs (I need an actual hearty meal every 2 hours or so or my metabolism nearly begins eating me alive).  Second, the Reef.  Third, a place whose name I can’t recall that we stretched it out in baffling nature upon our departure, leaving puzzled, distraught patrons crying for their mommies.  In other words, I can’t dance.  Finally, we climbed the rickety fire escape outside Greg’s 5th story apartment to his building’s roof, where he was not only gracious enough to make sure none of us plunged to our deaths on the street below but kindly offered up some of his first batch of homebrews.

Saturday was a pretty painful day for me, but not because of the night before (or Greg’s excellent homebrews).  We took a grand tour of Georgetown with Whitney and Greg, having lunch at Martin’s Tavern in the booth where JFK proposed Jackie O.  Georgetown is an amazing neighborhood, as contextually complete as any place I have visited.  It fits in so well as a complement to the “government” DC area.  It was here that I had to ask myself a completely foreign question:  do I like this place more than Charleston?  Am I that obsessed with complete neighborhoods?  I mean, they have a Patagonia store in an old canal-front warehouse.  A subway, containing trains, not sub-par sandwiches.  And The Exorcist stairs are right off M Street.

So there I was, pondering.  This caused some mental anguish.

And then, there was the physical anguish.  Specifically, while sitting down on the Metro to get to Eileen’s wedding, my left knee inexplicably came out of socket.  No exaggeration here.  Emerging to Capitol Hill from the subway was one of the most difficult activities of my short life, as I was basically dragging my lower left leg sideways up three flights of stairs and a barely moving escalator to the street above, followed by four blocks to Eastern Market for pain medication.  My knee popped back into place somewhere on the way to the wedding reception at the Sewell-Belmont House, but the damage was already done.  There would be no humiliating myself, or Suzanne, that night on the dance floor.

Then came the longing for a cab ride back to Dumbarton Street feeling apologetic to Suzanne for dating an 80 year old man in a 20-something year old’s body.  But no cab came.  We had to book it another 4 blocks to Independence Avenue before we sniffed a cab.  Walking home would have been a painstaking eternity.  It was then that I realized the answer to my question from earlier in the day:  although I love many aspects of the DC area, Charleston possesses my ideal city size.  Although DC is very walkable and definitely feels accessible due to a variety of transportation options, Charleston’s toned-down scale and smaller geographic area allows it to feel more readily convenient and intimate.  I wouldn’t have felt as ultimately helpless with the knee of a mummy here.  Thus, my initial reaction of awe was tempered a bit, even though I have added both Georgetown and George Washington U to my list of “depending on my impending LSAT score” schools for application to law school.

It was an exceptionally busy weekend but one of the most fun we have had in quite a while and are certainly anticipating a trip back, hopefully in the fall.

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