Monday, June 30, 2008

The Passing of a Damn Good Dawg.

While still in France I learned of the passing of UGA VI. Poor old UGA - just a few shy of his 10th birthday - died of a heart attack last Friday.

Many of you know that my family is the proud owners of "VIVI", the daughter of UGA VI. For those of you who didn't know that, you can read about her here and here.

There was talk about UGA VI being retired after the end of last year's football season. Owner Sonny Seiler thought that there was one season left in the Dawg. Sadly, it was not meant to be.

We'll miss UGA VI, but are happy to have our Dawg as a constant reminder of him.

And as always I will constantly remind YOU to click onto!

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Taking French Leave...of Your Senses.

I've been in the Rhone Valley since Saturday, and I have to admit...I've consumed more than my share of alcoholic beverages. Wine, beer, eau die vie, marc...I've had them all. Ah. When in Rome...

Like many countries in Europe, France has always been a nation where consumption of alcoholic beverages has been firmly ingrained in its culture. In the two-plus decades that I've been visiting, the relaxed (yet responsible) attitude towards alcohol has been - for this resident of Etats Unis - a refreshing change of pace.

Imagine my shock when I noticed that all alcoholic beverages now carry a silhouette of a pregnant woman drinking a tasty beverage...with a "DON'T!" stripe through it.

Silly, huh? Silly to me because it has always been the U.S. who has led the charge when it comes to stupid labeling requirements of alcoholic beverages. Now it would seem the French wish to take over the pole position on this lunacy.

Do the French really think - in this day and age of 24 hour media and political correctness - that ladies don't know that consuming a lot of alcohol while pregnant is not a good thing? Perhaps the meaning of this symbol is something else altogether. If you ask me, the new warning label really means, "Careful! If you drink too much, you're sure to get knocked up!"

Just as sure as if you were to click on, you're sure to laugh!

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Don't Talk With Your Mouth Full.

Arrived into Lyon, France last Saturday evening. As I was walking to my rental car, I came across an SUV with the following sticker on the window:

I dunno, perhaps I was jet-lagged. But it certainly caught my a funny way.

And your funny way just might be rewarded when you visit

Friday, June 20, 2008

Let's Do The Time Warp...Again!

If you've been paying attention, it seems like I've been reliving a lot of my misspent youth these days. Between drinking Stag Beer, and eating at The Cheesecake Factory, I'm beginning to feel like a life-sized edition of VH-1's I Love the 80s. Could it get any weirder?

Turns out it can...if you decided to spend a night at the Renaissance Hotel in Agoura Hills, California.

My family and I arrived at this hotel a little after 11pm last Wednesday night. Road weary and ready for bed, we were quickly revived as if we had all drank a double espresso and then washed it down with a can of Red Bull. The bright colors and the oh so chunky furniture immediately brought to mind (well, my mind at least) Pee Wee's Playhouse.

The decor in the guest rooms seemed a bit toned down when compared to the lobby, but it could just be that the rooms employed lower wattage light bulbs. But the dark mood lighting didn't hide the fact that there was waaay too much color at play. The furniture utilized upholstery that had obviously done time as sweaters on Bill Cosby's eponymous television show. And the drapes looked like a silken rendition of a T.V. test pattern. Not exactly a vibe which bespoke rest and relaxation as much as it did Frankie Goes to Hollywood's "Relax".

Speaking of, if you just can't start your morning without music from the eighties and early nineties blaring between your temples, might I suggest you avail yourself of the board of fare served at the hotel's H2O restaurant?

Again, the decorative theme of Pee Wee plays big here...a cross between Playhouse Pee Wee and Big Top Pee Wee. Tucking into my omelet to the strains of Weezer's "Buddy Holly", Roxette's "The Look" and The Bangles' "Walk Like an Egyptian", I realized that I didn't need that second cup of joe. I was already well buzzed!

With all that I've experienced in the last few weeks of travel, I'm in dire need of an 80's-free few days. Luck for me I'm now on my way to the Rhône Valley in France. They still do the whole 'bright lights, big city' thing, but at least you can write off the kitsch to their being French.

A bientot!

Vous faire me fait s'il vous plaît la faveur de payer la note

Cheesy Restaurant.

I flew home from Chicago last Saturday to the very welcome sight of Amie and the boys. Early the next morning, we loaded up my car and drove to San Diego - a six-hour drive - for a week of combined R&R and work in San Diego, Orange County and Malibu. It was a welcome change from my regular road travel routine...after a day of selling wine, I would return to my hotel, meet up with the family and enjoy some 'quality time' together. Bliss!

After a long day in Orange County, I met up with Amie, Jack and Thom and headed towards our next destination, Agoura Hills. It being about 9pm, the kids were getting hungry. Deciding it was probably best to detour somewhere for dinner, I racked my brain for a restaurant that was, 1.) conveniently located along the I-405 corridor, 2.) family-friendly, and, 3.) might be a good place to stop, business-wise. Nothing came to mind.

So it was that we decided to take the Beach Avenue exit near Huntington Beach. There were lights and signs immediately to the west of the freeway which indicated a pretty large shopping district...surely there would be a place at which to dine.

Sadly, the only place that looked even remotely promising was The Cheesecake Factory.

To be sure, when The Cheesecake Factory hit the scene in the late 70s/early 80s, it was on the cutting edge of chain dining. Dramatic, ornate fixtures, a menu whose heft rivaled that of the Manhattan Yellow Pages, overworked dishes with waaay too many flourishes, all served by slick-haired waiters that had adopted, "I may look like a waiter, but I'm really an extra on Miami Vice" look.

I am happy to report that - nearly three decades later - nothing has changed!

Our server looked as if he was auditioning for the role of a 1980's 'Cocaine Cowboy': complete with a four-day beard stubble, slicked back hair done in a mini pony tail, and an accent which vaguely suggested a South American origin. Our server (let's call him Giorgio) was doing his best to accommodate our needs...but it was damn hard to keep a straight face. This was especially true when he presented us with a bottle of Sonoma-Cutrer Chardonnay. "May I suggest the Sonoma Coo-Twah?"

The food came, and all I could think of was that Rip Taylor found a new night gig, and had traded in his bag of confetti for a few shakers of herbs and spices. Gobs of paprika and chopped chives littered each and every plate. I forgot to take a picture of the 'before', but I think this 'after' shot sums it all up pretty well.

As family friendly chain restaurants go, the fare at The Cheesecake Factory was okay. But their once cutting edge sure looked tired.

Or perhaps it was just me who was tired?

Onward to Agoura Hills!

And it's onward to funnyland for you when you click onto!

Saturday, June 14, 2008

A Truly Smarmy Store.

As my friends and I walked to their car (after a killer lunch at their favorite Thai restaurant) we walked by a fairly nondescript Chicago convenience store. The door to this store was adorned with two signs taped to the glass, signs you will see to the left. I couldn't help but chuckle at the uppermost one.

I have to imagine that the manager of this store is a frustrated English major who thought his/her main duty in life was to piss off his customers. While our shop owner may know some high-falutin' words like 'vexing' and 'insolent', there's much they could learn about syntax and punctuation if you ask me.

I'd also imagine that if would-be customers are reading the crap this person's hanging on the entryway that commercial space next to a great Thai restaurant will soon become available.

I'd say that the store owner was being churlish and logorrheic, but that would peg me as the asshole, huh?

I invite you to indemnify your jocular exhortations impinging upon

My Kinda Town, Chicago Is.

What a lovely sight I beheld yesterday! Seven wines - all of them mine - stacked on the floor of the Sam's Wine shop in Chicago. Brings a tear to my eyes. If you live in the Chicagoland area, stop on by the store. A bottle a day is all that I ask.

Bring a smile to your face by clicking here on

Friday, June 13, 2008

Champaign Days.

I spent the last two days selling wine in Champaign, Illinois. Last time that I was in Champaign was way back in 1976. We were living in St. Charles, Illinois at the time, and my father was thinking of relocating his business (and his family) to either Champaign or Atlanta, Georgia.

While the decision finally went in favor of moving to Atlanta, these last few days had me thinking that I would have easily been at home had we moved to Champaign/Urbana instead. It's located in the heart of the Illinois farmland, which means that it's flatter than a pancake out there. The town is surrounded by chock-a-block fields of soybean and corn. The folks living in Champaign are great, laid-back and a whole lot of fun.

Here are just some of the things I learned while in Champaign:

#1.) That I now have to modify my long-held belief that any restaurant which utilizes an exclamation point in the name of their establishment is bound to suck. While for the most part it's true, there's at least one restaurant to counter my claim: Hickory River! Smokehouse.
Their ribs are incredibly good, and their mac and cheese is still haunting me. In a good way.

#2.) That should you long to return to those days of your misspent college youth, drinking a cold bottle of Stag Beer could very well serve as your liquid time machine.

A beer crafted to drink when you're in the mood more than 20 bottles, Stag is/was a college student's best friend: cold, alcoholic, and cheaper than water. Of course, it tastes like water.

Stag is similar to many of those $12 for a 24-pack brews that were oh-so-plentiful in my college days: Drewery's, Grain Belt, Meister Brau (excuse me...Meister Bräu), Old Style, et al. One swig of this beer took me back to college...and made me realize how good I've got it these days.

#3.) That the people who sell wine and other libations in Champaign are super cool.

Take, for instance, Christine, the dominatrix of distillates over at The Corkscrew. She knows a lot about the products she'll sell you...and she also is addicted to bright and funky purses.

And, should you get a bit peckish during a visit to Champaign, there's some incredibly good eating establishments to satisfy your hunger. I'd suggest (in no particular order) Bacaro, Ferrin's, or Radio Maria. Any of these places would be equally at home in any major 'foodie' city. I'm glad that they're in Champaign, though. It makes me long to return back soon.

And would you do me the favor of checking in often at I'd really appreciate it.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

The New James Hunter is Here! THE NEW JAMES HUNTER IS HERE!!

On March 5th I posted here about having discovered the music of James Hunter. His debut album, People Gonna Talk, has been on permanent rotation in my iPhone/CD player since then. Months back I read that Hunter was to soon follow up People Gonna Talk with a new album.

Well, that new album was released today...and it's even better than his first. It's called The Hard Way.

You need to go out and buy this album. NOW. It's available now on iTunes...and will soon be in most Starbuck's stores. You can also purchase it on the Official James Hunter Website. Seems the word on Mr. James Hunter is out. Obviously it's due in large part to my shameless plugging of him on this site.

And, if you want to be my newest, bestest friend, go out and buy me two tickets to his July 12th concert at the Lobero Theater in Santa Barbara. Backstage passes would be even better. I'll gladly trade out some of my finest wines to see this guy perform live.

And I'd gladly thank you a thousand times over for clicking onto

Monday, June 9, 2008


What a day I had yesterday. It started at 4am, getting up, packing, and heading to the airport. My wife and son Thomas were 'good sport Garretsons' and drove me to the airport (Jack was spending the night at a friend's house). My good friends at American Eagle in San Luis Obispo did a bit of juggling on the upgrade list, and secured the last First Class seat for me (I love those gals at the SLO airport!) on my flight from LAX to O'Hare.

Getting to LAX from SLO wasn't a problem. It was when we tried to leave from LAX that the problems began. After the last passenger was boarded, the captain came on the intercom informing us that weather in and around O'Hare was forcing system-wide weather delays. He told us that we needed to get off the aircraft, and wait two hours due to the imposed delay. 'No problem,' I thought, 'I'll get in two hours later....5pm instead of 3pm.'

We finally boarded the plane, and took off. The crew weaved their way around the major weather, flying north to Minnesota, down through Detroit, and arrived into O'Hare from the east. O'Hare itself was a madhouse, with virtually EVERY flight out being canceled, and every arrival delayed. I was glad to know that I wasn't connecting out of O'Hare. All I needed to do was get my luggage, grab my rental car, and drive to South Bend, Indiana.
After an HOUR of waiting for my luggage, I schlepped over to the the Hertz shuttle bus. I got my car, and headed east towards South Bend. My plans called to meet up with some winemakers from Southern Michigan for dinner and a tasting through a lot of Rhône inspired wines. Even though I was seriously late for dinner, my hosts urged me to come over anyhow...judging by the sounds I heard over the phone, the party was in full swing.

I had packed two bottles of my wine - one white and one red - in my luggage so as to share them with my hosts. I've done this plenty of times before...wrapping each bottle in a pair of rolled-up jeans. A quick inspection of my luggage had me thinking all was well. That turned out not to be the case.

When I finally arrived at the party, I unpacked my wines. Turned out that one of the bottles - the red wine, of course! - had broken. Luckily, the wine didn't drench every item of clothes. A pair of shorts, a handkerchief and the shirt you see to the left were complete write offs. Most every other item was in need of laundering, though.

My hosts for the evening were entirely sympathetic to the day I had...and stuffed me with great food, including home-raised venison and sweet corn, duck breasts and saffron-infused potato salad...yum! And of course there was plenty of great wines to wash that food down with.

So, this morning will find me visiting wine shops and restaurants in fairly casual dress. I'll probably have to stop at a men's clothing store to outfit the rest of my week-long trip.

Memo to myself: don't pack wine in my luggage anymore. And if I absolutely have to pack wine, make sure it's white wine.

And make sure you go check out right now. Thanks!

Sunday, June 8, 2008

Musical Buzz Kill.

Sorry...I've been a slacker when it comes to posting lately. We've been buried with LOTS of things happening on both the home and business fronts, readying for a move of both locations (more on this later). Seems the only time I get to post is when I'm on the road. So it is that I'm posting from the LAX Admiral's Club, waiting for a flight to Chicago. This coming week will see me in South Bend, Indiana, and then Urbana, S. Elgin and Chicago, Illinois.

In the mood for something upbeat and pop-ish, I put on my headphones and selected some Tears for Fears on my iPhone. I admit to being a fan of a lot of 80's Brit-Pop (my friend Cris calls the genre "English Fag Dancing Music"), Squeeze, Haircut 100, Heaven 17, XTC, Level 42, and the like. And I've got a special fondness for one such band, The Style Council...a band so misunderstood and overlooked, but is finally getting some long-deserved respect. Or so I had thought.

Another longtime favorite of mine has been Tears for Fears. It was while listening to one of their songs, "Sewing the Seeds of Love", that my ear caught one of the lyrics for the first time: "Kick out the Style! Bring back the Jam!"

Seems that one of my favorite bands shares a seemingly common distaste for The Style Council. A lot of music lovers (especially British music lovers) can't seem to forgive TSC front man Paul Weller for announcing his breaking up The Jam - at the height of their popularity - only to form The Style Council in his very next breath.

The Style Council pushed the boundaries of pop music, with incredible melodies and socially relevant lyrics. Part of the difficulty many had (and still have) with the band was that they were extremely difficult to pigeon hole. They delighted in forays from pop into all genres: French torch songs, rap, house and more. You gotta give Paul Weller some props...the man had (and still has) balls to resist the comfort of cranking out new tunes with the same commercial appeal. He found with The Style Council the ability to experiment.

Sadly, by 1991, the experiment had run its course. Weller's gone on to a successful solo career, and while most folks continue to rave about The Jam days, seldom do folks similarly rave about The Style Council.

So, now I am left in a quandary: Roland Orzabal and Curt Smith (aka Tears for Fears) hate The Style Council? Can it be so?? Does that mean that I have to stop listening to Tears for Fears? I guess I can muse over this dilemma on my flight out to Chicago...but what do I listen on the flight?

While I wrestle with this weighty issue, enjoy some light-hearted fun over at, won't you?

Sunday, June 1, 2008

I Write The Songs.

I was driving home with my two boys yesterday. When the three of us are alone, it's "Boy's Time". This means I allow them a little leeway when it comes to manners, tact and good taste. They will occassionally swear...words like 'poopy' or 'booger'. but we don't get into anything seriously bad.

So it was that we were in the car when I heard my youngest son, Thom, begin to belt out songs...songs that he was making up on the fly. I wish for the life of me that I could remember them, because while the lyrics were a little risqué (risqué that is for an seven year-old), I was amazed by his ability to extemporaneously come up with lyrics that were funny, kept the tempo, and rhymed.

I guess that nut didn't fall too far from this tree. As a kid, I always made up stupid lyrics to popular songs. I'd thought I'd share with you three songs I wrote...not that I consider them the three best of my efforts. They're the only three songs that I still remember from my childhood!

Sung to the tune, "Maria"
I've had my first case of Diarrhea!

I drank a magical elixir,
and I've used some corn for see?

The look of it!? Just like green pea-a.
The smell of it?! Oh, mama mia!

Diarrhea...I'll never stop having Diarrhea!"

Don't like it? Perhaps you're into something more (pardon the pun) down to earth:

Sung to the tune of "I'm on Fire"

"Hey little girl, where'd your teacher go?
They founder floatin' hundred feet below.
Boom-boom. She ain't goin' no higher.
Oh...she's on fire.

She went up as the first teacher in space,
now her guts are splattered all over the place.
Boom-boom. She ain't goin' no higher.
Oh...she's on fire."

Then there's always one of the lamest duets ever to hit the charts:

Sung to "To All The Girls I've Loved Before"

"To all the girls I've loved before,
Who've traveled in and out my door,
I wanted you to know, the doctor tests all show
I shouldn't love you any more.

To all the girls I've loved before,
whose crotches now are very sore,
it's best now that you see
the nearest dispensary
to cure you of my loves before."

Okay, so maybe it's a good thing that I ended up being a winemaker instead of a lyricist. Feel free to share with me some of your best work. Who knows? It may even end up being posted on this site.

And while you may not find lyrical inspiration, you will find funny at