Wednesday, January 30, 2008


With all these postings on my trip back to Georgia, I completely forgot to post some photos of our puppy, "VIVI". How 'Bout This Dawg?:She's much cuter in real life, let me tell you...and sweet as can be. She also makes a great pillow!

Looking for something that won't put you to sleep? Log onto

Monday, January 28, 2008

La Provinçale.

Last Friday I met up with my good friend, Steve Morrison, and we drove south from Atlanta to Valdosta, Georgia. We made the journey to pick up my family's bulldog puppy, VIVI, a dog - excuse me, Dawg - that, as the daughter of UGA VI, is true Southern royalty. Driving with Steve I realized that I both missed living near my friend, and missed living in The South.

We drove through the night, catching up on old times, our families and our lives. We shared some fairly good barbecue at O.B.'s in McDonough (very good ribs, dry pulled pork, institutional mac and cheese and cole slaw, over-puréed yet tasty Brunswick Stew and so-so sweet tea), and got to Valdosta around 1am.

The next morning we entered the Gold Plate Restaurant in Valdosta for what promised (if reviews on the internet were to be believed) to be a good, Southern breakfast. The Gold Plate is your fairly typical Southern breakfast joint. It's a series of cinder block structures that seem to have witnessed a number of expansions. Judging by the number of diners, the local gentry seems to endorse it. Inside it's a series of rooms adorned with faded duck prints, and a number of large steam tables, all of which were being prepared for a lunchtime buffet.

As we entered the Gold Plate, we were met by a kindly old lady who sensed this was our first-ever visit to her establishment. "Why don't you sit down in the other room," she motioned, "it's a lot...quieter." Taking her cue, we entered the other dining room...and soon realized that our host's notion of "quieter" translated as "whiter". Hmmm.

Our waitress came up to the table, order pad in hand. "Y'all know what ya want?" she asked. We informed her that we hadn't been given a menu yet. This was met by a terse smile, and a statement of the obvious, "You're not from around here, are you?" She soon returned with menus. The
restaurant's board of fare boasts three different types of breakfast sausages: "Fresh", "Smoked" and "Patty". Steve asked her to explain the differences. "'Fresh' means brown, 'smoked' means pink, and 'patty' means flat." was her reply.

We both opted for 'Fresh' sausage
as well as some biscuits and gravy. I also ordered a few eggs over medium and a side of grits.

While the Gold Plate has three kinds of sausage, it would appear they've only one kind of egg: scrambled. Not wanting to yet again show myself as 'not from around here', I said nothing. The food was of the best Southern breakfasts I've had in some time. Our waitress returned to freshen our coffee, and asked, "So, where are y'all from?" Steve explained that she was from Atlanta, while I flashed her my California driver's license. "California, huh?" she said, and then came closer and whispered, "Is it true what they say? Are there a lot of faggots in California?" It took all my willpower to resist smiling, reaching out for Steve's hand and batting my eyes at him, but I was hungry and did not want to risk being denied service. I instead just replied, "I really wouldn't know about that, 'mam. I'm happily married."

While Steve headed to the bathroom, our waitress returned to ask, "So, is California nice?" "It is, but it's not as nice as Georgia," I said, hoping to improve on her opinion of me...after all, she was holding a pot of scalding hot coffee. "You've never been?" I asked her. "Oh no!" she claimed, "Never! There's too many faggots. But I've been all over the rest of the country." When I asked her where she'd traveled to, she proudly stated, "Well, I've been to Louisiana once, to South Carolina twice, to north Georgia a few times, and I've spent a LOT of time in Florida."


The Gold Plate in Valdosta does serve a mean breakfast...and a heaping side plate of homophobia at no extra charge.

While you're eating your biscuits and gravy, Jethro, check out

Sunday, January 27, 2008

Be Careful What You Wish For

I'm writing this post from the American Airlines' Admiral's Club at LAX. Beside me sits my new bulldog, VIVI, who's already endured two plane rides (one from Atlanta to DFW, the other from DFW to LAX). We're both waiting eagerly for our connecting flight to San Luis Obispo - home! - where Amie and the boys are giddy with anticipation of the arrival of our sweet, little puppy.

I spent roughly 49 hours in Georgia on this trip. Over the course of that time, I drove all over Georgia: from Atlanta to Roswell to Valdosta to Athens, back to Roswell and then to Atlanta. It was wonderful to be back. More details about the trip later.

Being in Georgia got me thinking of all Things Southern. There is a tradition of, well...traditions in Georgia. One Georgia tradition that got a lot of attention over the past few years has had to do with Georgia's state flag. I won't bore you, dear reader with a concise history of Georgia's flag...just its most recent chapters. Georgia, like many states who had aligned with the Confederacy during the Civil War, had opted to revise their state flag to include that often misunderstood (and misappropriated) symbol, "the stars and bars" of the Confederate Battle Flag. Georgia adopted this flag in 1956...mainly as a snub to growing pressure to integrate. Certainly there are many who fiercly disagree with this assertion. They instead hold to a conviction that the Battle Flag was meant to commemorate Georgia's history...a rich history that included taking the C.S.A.'s side in the Civil War (commonly known hereabouts as "the recent war of Yankee aggression"). While you can hold to this belief, the blatant timing of this new flag belied the true intentions.

Fast forward nearly 50 years later, and the ever-growing wave of political correctness made it inevitable that this flag had to go. Those who held that there was no room these days for a Confederate symbol on the state's flag had finally won their argument. Sadly, the resultant need for a new Georgia flag - and a need to appeal to all sides of the argument - led to a 'design by committee'. And, in a result all too typical of committee work, the flag that was adopted (on January 30th, 2001) well and truly sucked. Luckily, most everyone else agreed that this flag sucked, and Georgians set out to change their flag yet again.

Finally, on May 8, 2003, a new flag was unveiled:Simple, straightforward and beautiful, huh? Seems to have it all...the famous Arch installed in Athens, GA at the entrance to the University of Georgia (which has long been a part of the Seal of the Great State of Georgia), the strong, American-inspired red, white and blue colors, and 13 stars representing the original 13 colonies...of which Georgia was number 13. Certainly, this was/is a flag that the state's citizens could rally behind, no?

It seems as though they have. All sides seem to have embraced the new Georgia flag. But, if you know anything about your Civil War history, this flag is all too familiar:
The new Georgia flag is, in fact, a slightly altered version of the flag of a flag that was adopted by the Confederate States of America during the Civil War.

It never ceases to amaze me that this new flag has not stirred up controversy. Seems the old 'stars and bars' of the Confederate Battle Flag - a flag which many people think was the Confederate flag - was the problem. So what if the new flag is a lot closer to an actual Confederate sentiment than the old one. I guess it's all about perception, huh?

Are you looking for something really funny? Check out the fine folks at

Friday, January 18, 2008

Life Stinks.

Ah, the memories of childhood. There are sights, sounds and experiences from that time in our lives that we all hold dear. As I've approached mid-life, I - like so many men before me (and no doubt after) - often find myself trying to recapture those early days...the salad days, if you will. Stereotypically, this involves a red sports car, and, eventually, a lawyer. Being happily married, I've instead opted to relive my childhood the non-litigious, old fashioned way: through my two sons, Jack and Thom.

It was this desire to revisit my childhood that drove Santa this Christmas to send us three board games that I really enjoyed as a kid: Stratego, Risk and Life. All three of the board games had made a fairly big impression on me as a child...and I thought would prove similarly enjoyable to Jack and Thom. Last night we finally broke out "The Game of Life". Do you remember this game? It had it all. The board itself was a little diorama, with churches, mansions, sweeping curves...and an entrancing, spinning wheel that was, no doubt, Merv Griffin's inspiration for Wheel of Fortune.

As a kid, playing Life was a heady experience. You got your own car. You got paper money every payday, and with regular raises! And, if you were lucky, your car would soon fill up with a wife and kids. At the end of it all, you'd end up in 'retirement', a winner...cashing in your home and counting down all the money you had at the end of the game. Life was fun!

And, why the heck wouldn't it be? After all, Art Linkletter himself "heartily endorsed this game". I don't know if you remember, but when it came to kids and kid-related stuff, old Art's endorsement was a big deal in its day. It was tantamount to a Papal blessing.

Now, thirty seven years since I last played Life, I've learned something new about this game: it sucks. First off, it drags on for hours. It's so excruciatingly boring that, if I - as a kid - were to think that the game of Life in some way was representative of life itself, I would have cashed in my chips long ago. Secondly, there's little (read: no) 'thrill of the game' to this game. I thought perhaps I was alone in this sentiment, but I was not. Looking over at my wife, Amie, it was obvious that we both felt a letdown...Life was not as fun as we remembered it.

But perhaps my distaste for Life is due to my Shakespeare said, "A man loves the meat in his youth that he cannot endure in his age". Well, perhaps...but not if my kids are any judge. Within 30 minutes of playing this game - a game which can, if you let it, march at a pace that's positively geologic - we had all had enough.

If Art Linkletter were alive today, my family would be hunting him down, demanding he "heartily" refund our money.

Like to laugh? Check out the fine folks at

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Worst Schill Ever.

For the life of me, I cannot understand how the folks at Tanqueray think that the character of Tony Sinclair helps them promote/sell their gin. To me the guy's just freakin' obnoxious.

I honestly think there's never, ever been a more offensive spokesperson for any consumer product. I might be wrong.

Like to laugh? Check out the fine folks at

Saturday, January 12, 2008

Broken Spoke.

Over the course of the last week, my youngest son, Thomas, has really taken to his new bicycle. It's great seeing him revel in his new-found freedom. A few days back I showed Thomas how to place a card in the spokes to make cool 'motor noises'. That brought a BIG smile to his face. Watching Thom on his bike got me thinking about when I was a kid, and my bike was my ticket to 'out and about'.

While there were others before her, the first bike I can remember owning was a late 60's model Schwinn Speedster, nearly identical to the bike pictured to the left, with the exception that mine was metallic green in color. I think it was a hand-me-down from my brother Dave.

Alright, it wasn't nearly as cool as the bikes some of my friends had - Sting Rays, Apple Krates, Apollos, Dragspeeders, et al. Its 'coolest' feature was the 3-speed, mounted on the handlebar. One flick of the thumb and I could change those gears!

In retrospect, that Speedster of mine was a geek's bike.

Necessity being the mother of invention (the 'necessity' here being to NOT look like a total spaz on my Schwinn) led to my trying to imitate heroes of the day. When I was a kid, heroes included those darlings of the dragstrip, Don "The Snake" Prudhomme, Tom "The Mongoose" McEwen and Don "Big Daddy" Garlits. I wondered...could I turn my Schwinn Speedster into a Schwinn Dragster?

Turns out I couldn't. But at least I could affect the dragster look. But how to do it? The answer was as close as my parent's hallway closet. It was there that I found a BIG umbrella (similar to the one pictured here) that automatically opened at the push of a button. I theorized that this umbrella could act as a kind of drag chute...after getting up to speed, I could hold this umbrella - excuse me, drag chute - behind me, push the button and end my run just like The Snake and his pals did every "Sunday SUNDAY SUNDAY!"

So it was that one Saturday I met up with my buddies, riding my bike, holding my parent's umbrella. My arrival was met by puzzled looks...until my first 'run'. Peddling down the street like a madman, I then popped the chute. "Cool!" my friends offered, "can I try that?" I murmured something to the effect that I still had to 'perfect' it. The very next attempt was the same as the last...except this time I thought it would be even cooler to change gears in the midst of my deceleration. So there I was, left hand extended behind me, holding the opened umbrella, my right hand moving off the handle bar, my thumb pressing down on the gear shift.

Uh huh. You can see where this is going.

The pressure applied to the right handle immediately sent the handle bar - and, as a result, the front tire - towards a sharp right turn. In very short order, my Schwinn Speedster hit the curb, sending me al la Pee-Wee Herman over my handlebars. Luckily for me, the sidewalk broke my fall. I opened my eyes to see my friends hovering over me. "Are you okay?" they asked. "Sure," I replied, "I meant to do that." As I got up, my friends all exclaimed, "That looked cool!"

Those three words made all the pain worthwhile.

Checking out is definately more fun than impailing your manhood on the handlebars of your bike.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

T-Mobile: Unstuck!

My very first post on this blog site concerned what was, I felt, a none too subliminally suggestive image on the T-Mobile Hotspot log-in page. For those of you who've forgotten (after all, it's been, like, what? 37 days since that post?!), the image in question is to the right. If you want to know what I had written about this photo, you'll have to scroll back to read my December 5th posting for yourself, Mr./Mrs. Lazybones!

I recently had need of T-Mobile's Hotspot services, and when I logged on I noticed that they've done away with our ersatz snogglers, and replaced in its stead the image to the left. Could it be that my humble blog post - and, no doubt the resulting buzz caused by the TENS of people who read it - resulted a tremor at T-Mobile of the properness of their original image? Hmmm?

Okay, no need to worry, friend. I'm not that delusional. And it may be just me, but I think our old T-Mobile guy is about to knock one out in that restaurant's bathroom.

Stuck for something funny? Check out the fine folks at

Wednesday, January 9, 2008

Truly Vile Vinyl

So, there I was last night, surfing the internet, looking for an image that I could use as a new avatar. For those of you unfamiliar with the term, an avatar is a graphic image that serves as your 'identity', if you will, when posting on chat boards. But that's not important. What IS important is that in my search for a new one, I came across a virtual (literally) treasure trove of some of the world's worst album covers!

Some of these are so awful that I just HAD to share them with you:

Ooh la la! Looks like the Danish Hair Club for Men got themselves a night gig! And I'm pretty sure that the fat kid in the back on the left is the dude who played "Oliver" in the final season of The Brady Bunch. It turns out that "Stuffparty #1" was popular enough that they made "Stuffparty #2". No, that's not a joke, I'm serious.

Heino. Ever heard of him? Yes, you read's a him on that cover. Despite the roses, blonde pageboy cut, and the fey look and it's a MAN, baby. And while I only took one quarter of German at UGA, I believe "Liebe Mutter" translates as 'Love Mother'. Does this mean he loves his mother, or wants to love our mother, or he loves all mothers in general? Not quite sure what "Ein Blumenstauß, der nie verwelkt" means. If I'd have to guess, I'd say it translates as "Dude Looks Like a Lady".

Of course, you had to know that any discussion of tasteless album covers would include one that features some good ol' Southern Gospel singers. Seems the Louvin Brothers want us to know that Satan is real. While I've never listened to it, I'm sure that one minute with this album would make us all believers.

Eeeeeew! I always knew that fecalphelia had to have its own special smell. Now, thanks to Mr. Pooh-Man M. C. Pooh, it's even got its own SOUND.

I don't know if you could call this a 'bad' album per se. It's got pretty good production values (at least when compared to the rest of the crap I found), and considering the time this album came out (1979), the cover is pretty tame. But this certainly it has to top anyone's list of "Worst Foray Into Uncharted Territory By An Established Singer". What was the record label thinking? 'Merman belts out show tunes like a foghorn...and that's big bucks in disco!'?

Turns out that Miss Merman didn't record her own renditions of such disco classics as "Love to Love You Baby", or "How Deep Is Your Love", or even "Disco Duck". She actually recorded disco renditions of her own classics...including "There's No Business Like Show Business".

On second thought, this IS a truly bad album.


(children, please cover your eyes)

Words escape me.

How 'Bout THIS Dawg!?

About six months ago we lost our beloved white Bulldog, Fireball. We still don't know how it happened, but over the course of two weeks she lost all motor functions. It was a tough time for us, and we miss her dearly.

In early November I was back in Athens, Georgia for the Homecoming game against Troy State (a game that was a LOT closer than anyone would have guessed pre-season). Before the game I caught up with Sonny Seiler, owner of UGA (pronounced, "ug-ga"), Georgia's beloved mascot. Sonny's a bit of a legend amongst Dawg fans. For over 50 years, the Seiler family has sired these dogs. For those of you counting, we're currently on UGA VI.

Sonny and UGA have also been immortalized in the book, "Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil", as well of the 1997 movie adaptation of same. In the movie UGA played himself, while Sonny played a judge. Those of you who are real UGA fans probably know that actor Jack Thompson played Sonny.

"Sorry to hear about the loss of your Dawg," Sonny said, "you let me know when your family is ready for another one." I told Mr. Seiler that I appreciated both the condolences and the offer, an offer I couldn't help but wonder if it was just polite conversation or the 'real deal'. I've known of more than a few folks who'd asked Sonny for a bulldog pup, only to be politely told no. Being offered a puppy who's daddy is THE UGA is high cotton where I come from. It's tantamount to being offered a winning lottery ticket: it doesn't happen often, and you'd be a damn fool to decline it.

In between flights on my way home, I called Amie and mentioned Sonny's offer. "Do you think he was serious?" was her response. "We shall see," I said. We didn't have to wait long. As a matter of fact, as I my final plane landed in San Luis, I turned on my cellphone and noticed I had one voicemail message. It was from a "Miss Becky" in Moultrie, Georgia. "Mr. Garretson? Mr. Sonny asked me to give you a call. He's told me to put you at the top of the list for a puppy."

True to his word, Sonny wasted no time in extending his most generous offer. Six weeks ago, UGA VI sired a litter, only one of which was an all-white...a little girl. As this is UGA's coloring, all-whites are especially prized. The fact that our Fireball was an all-white girl made the decision even easier...we wanted - and got - dibs on this puppy.

It will be a few more weeks before the litter is old enough to leave their parents, and I'll be heading back to Georgia to pick her up. Miss Becky sent us these photos of our sweet girl, and I just had to share them with you.

And, yes, we've already settled on her name: VIVI (pronounced, "viv-vee"). Amie's always wanted a dog with that name, and as her daddy's UGA VI, it just seems a natural!

Sunday, January 6, 2008

Are You Experienced?

When on the road I heartily embrace a gastronomic philosophy of, "When In Rome...". Such a worldview has served me well, resulting in meals of Haggis and whiskey in Scotland, Hot Browns and Bourbon in Louisville, roast pig haunches and Alt beer in Düsseldorf, salmon and pinot noir in Portland, Pike Quennelles and Viognier in Condrieu, and beer accompanied by more beer in every part of Australia. But never in my travels have I anticipated encountering a regional culinary specialty as I have that quintessential Norwegian delight: Lutefisk. On our recent family vacation to Minnesota, home to many an expatriated Norsemen (and Norsewomen) I finally had the opportunity to experience my first plate of Lutefisk.

Fret not, dear reader, if Lutefisk - both the name and the food - is unfamiliar to you. Here below is a fairly accurate description of this delicacy, courtesy of Wikipedia:

"Lutefisk is made from air-dried whitefish (normally cod, but ling is also used), prepared with lye, in a sequence of particular treatments. The first treatment is to soak the stockfish in cold water for five to six days (with the water changed daily). The saturated stockfish is then soaked in an unchanged solution of cold water and lye for an additional two days. The fish will swell during this soaking, attaining an even larger size than in its original (undried) state, while its protein content decreases by more than 50 percent, producing its famous jelly-like consistency. When this treatment is finished, the fish (saturated with lye) has a pH value of 11–12, and is therefore caustic. To make the fish edible, a final treatment of yet another four to six days of soaking in cold water (also changed daily) is needed. Eventually, the lutefisk is ready to be cooked."

A bit clinical, yes. Perhaps Minnesota's favored son, Garrison Keillor captures the real essence of Lutefisk when he wrote:

"It looks like the dessicated cadavers of squirrels run over by trucks...It can be tasty, but the statistics aren’t on your side. It is the hereditary delicacy of Swedes and Norwegians who serve it around the holidays, in memory of their ancestors, who ate it because they were poor. Most lutefisk is not edible by normal people. It is reminiscent of the afterbirth of a dog or the world’s largest chunk of phlegm."

Having now been armed with both a technical and cultural understanding of Lutefisk, how could anyone NOT want to tuck into a heaping plate of it? So it was last Thursday afternoon that I looked forward to lunch with Amie's family at Paul Pearson's Restaurant in Edina, MN. Pearson's is to Lutefisk as Weiner's Circle in Chicago is to hot dogs, as The Carnegie Deli in New York is to a Pastrami sandwich, as Geno's in Philadelphia is to the Philly Cheesesteak. It's a foodie's Mecca, serving up the definitive example of that food product for which said establishment is best known.

It's cozy and quaint inside Paul Pearson's. Think your family's basement rumpus room, circa 1972. Dark wood paneling, brass chandeliers, weathered Formica and lots and lots of brown. Don't get me wrong...I liked the place. Amie's grandmother, Doris, herself of sturdy Scandinavian stock - her maiden name is, after all, Olsen - extolled the virtues of Pearson's yummy squash. When Doris' sister, Evie heartily seconded the squash, I was fixed on my side-dish. Soon Amie asked if I'd decided on my lunch selection, I smiled and said, "Of course...I have to get the Lutefisk." This was met by somewhat surprised looks from not only my lovely wife, but also Doris and Evie...ladies who knew far more about Lutefisk than I, in that they'd actually had eaten it before. Perhaps they knew something I didn't.

Their nearly simultaneous queries of, "You're really getting the lutefisk?" were met by my stating, "Well, ladies, when in Rome..." I placed my order with our waiter with sufficient airs (or so I thought) of someone who knew exactly what he was getting into. As a fallback measure, I also placed a side order of a Swedish Meatball. Soon before me was a platter that looked for all the world something more akin to baby food than anything else:
Certainly, the yellow squash helped to reinforce the baby food idea. The fish-shaped serving platter did its very best to remind me that what I was about to partake in was once fish-related. But what I had expected (namely, a lump of grilled fish meat that smelled vaguely of lye) was replaced by what looked like cellophane noodles that had been over-boiled and puréed. Turns out that that's pretty much what Lutefisk tastes least to me.
Having finished my first Lutefisk, I can attest that it was a somewhat anti-climatic experience. It didn't taste bad...but then again, it really didn't taste like anything at all...and certainly not like fish. I've read that some first-time imbibers are put off by Lutefisk's texture (phlegm-like, to paraphrase Mr. Keillor). I didn't find that the case, but then again, I'm one who absolutely adores raw oysters. I've also heard tell that the small fish bones can be off-putting. I did encounter two small, hair-like bones...not nearly as bad as some pan-fried trout I've had.

Would I order Lutefisk again? Nope. But, if faced between starvation and Lutefisk, I'd have no problem with more of it. Perhaps that's how Lutefisk became a staple of The Great White North...there wasn't much of anything else to eat.

Oh, and Amie's grandmother Doris was right...the squash was really good!