Wednesday, December 31, 2008

About a Game (or Two) of Chicken.

Yesterday I took my son Thomas for a haircut. As I waited for him, I picked up a copy of ESPN Magazine, and casually turned the pages. This issue covered the histories of many of the upcoming college football bowl games. My attention was drawn to a sidebar wherein a few failed bowl series were mentioned. One in particular - "The Poultry Bowl" really caught my eye. It appears that there were exactly two Poultry Bowl games ever held: the inaugural one in 1973 and the last in '74. Both games were held in Gainesville, Georgia.

Now I happen to know Gainesville, Georgia fairly well. I lived there from 1988 until 1992...most of the time while living on a houseboat, but that's another story. Located about an hour northeast of Atlanta, and situated alongside Lake Sidney Lanier, the Gainesville I knew was a sleepy little burg soon to be the recipient of development growth akin to an out-of-whack thyroid condition. It was a lovely place...with (obviously) the lake, a quaint downtown square, and scores of beautiful Georgian homes, all saved from the match wielded by that drunk Yankee arsonist, General W.T. Sherman, but that's another story.

Just south of downtown is this monument (pictured above) to Gainesville's #1 industry: chicken processing. The monument is a bit underwhelming...a fairly tall column for a very small chicken statue. I always thought of it at the "Nelson's Column of The South", but that's another story. Gaineville bills itself as the "Chicken Capitol of the World", and, when the wind blows from the direction of any of the dozens of poultry plants on a hot afternoon, it's hard to argue...and that's not only due to the gag reflex induced by the accompanying stench.

I learned a bit about Gainesville's place in history while I lived there. I knew that it was the first town south of Baltimore to be outfitted with streetlights. I knew many residents who can still recall its total obliteration from a 1936 tornado. I myself even had the misfortune of being caught in a pretty bad tornado while living there, but that's another story. But, until yesterday, I had never heard tell of Gainesville's shot at college bowl fame and fortune.

In searching the internet, I found it all but impossible to find anything about the Poultry Bowl. I did find this photo of then-governor Jimmy Carter at a public affair in Gainesville at which he declared the day "Poultry Bowl Day".

I had gotten to know Jimmy Carter a bit back in the time I lived in Gaineville, as we shared a love of Atlanta Braves' baseball and Civil War/Confederate history, but that's another story.

I am amazed that I've yet to find any real evidence of the Poultry Bowls themselves. Where were the games held? What teams played? Who was responsible for conceiving of The Poultry Bowl, and what was responsible for its quick demise?

It remains a mystery to me...for now. I plan to do a little bit of Poultry Bowl research, and - should you have any information to pass along - I'd really appreciate hearing about it.

That will surely make for another story.

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Trends That NEED to Go Away, Vol. 1

As we head feet-first into 2009, it's only natural to take a look back in remembrance to the last 365 days. Soon our televisions, radios, internet and print media will be chock-full of tributes to those famous individuals who passed on, those wacky trends we endured, and the headlines that made 2008 'one for the record books'.

I, for one, will forego adding to this penchant for lists, remembrances and tributes...with the exception of one thing: an observation of trends that need to pass with the close of this year. And I've got just the thing that needs to go away...tout de suite:

If ever there was an article of clothing which personifies the tourtured psyche of the American woman, then it has to be the Ugg Boot. I find it amazing that this style of footwear has become all the rage. Think of it: these boots - fashioned after those worn by whale blubber-eating Eskimos - are usually seen strutting about by rail-thin anorexic waifs!

It's the fashion equivalent of the Dali Lama going on a one-monk shooting spree. Both are shocking to witness, and both make about the same sense.

And before you Ugg-lovers howl in defense of your podietal pleasures, let me cut to the chase:
  • They're not comfortable, and
  • they make your feet sweat, and
  • even if they were comfortable,
  • they are downright ugly,
  • and not the "so ugly they're beautiful" kinda ugly, but rather
  • ugly as in "it looks like you're wearing two dog turds on your feet" kinda ugly.
If I could wish for one thing to fade away as 2008 comes to a close, these boots would be high on my list.

After all, a guy's gotta have a dream.

Monday, December 29, 2008

Sand in the Vaseline.

I was surfing over the internet news feeds, trying to catch up on what was happening in the world. It seems like today's big news is the same big news that was yesterday's big news: unrest in the Middle East. I was surprised to find that the news wonks over at saw fit to give equal billing with the recent Israeli attacks on Hammas to a man and a woman from England accused of having sex on the beach in Dubai. Alas, it's true: as if there wasn't enough pain and suffering in the Middle East, now they're importing more. And it's in the guise of two puffy-faced Brits having sex on the beach.

Used to be that anytime I consented to sex on the beach I was given a fruit-laden Vodka shooter. Nasty things, those drinks...which is why I guess they named it, 'sex on the beach'. Have you ever had beach sand stuck in your genitals? Not fun at all...just like the drink.

Anyhow, it seems that two folks from the UK - a Mr. Vince Acors, 34, and Michelle Palmer, 36 - were enjoying an all-you-can-drink Champagne binge at a Dubai nightclub. One thing (and, it would appear, one glass) led to another, and before you could say, "Who's wearing the Champagne Goggles?!", these two were snogging together on the beach. I'm reckoning that it wasn't at all like that infamous "From Here to Eternity" scene.

Due to the strict Muslim laws in Dubai, from here to eternity is what they just might be facing. Okay, not really. Just three months in jail.

Looking at these two is proof positive that over-imbibing on alcoholic beverages is a surefire way to get those - um - less-attractive of our species in a conjugal mood.

But, really, Dubai? Haven't you been building your reputation (and increasingly massive pleasure domes) in hopes of making a modern-day Gammorah, a place so decadent that it makes Las Vegas look like Romper Room? A place where over-indulgence of, material goods, and alcohol is not only condoned but approved of and provided for? Now, I might not be a Muslim, but I do think that there's at least one passage in the Koran that speaks harshly against the consumption of alcohol. And I'd say it's a pretty fair bet that there's a lot of promiscuity going on - and perhaps even condoned - in and around those pleasure domes.

Guess that's all okey-dokie with long as you don't do it on the beach. Seems the officials in Dubai have drawn an arbitrary line in that sand...and the line crosses over anything resembling a horizontal mombo upon it.

Kinda silly if you ask me. Better have me a drink...and, no, not a sex on the beach.

Saturday, December 27, 2008

iTunes, We Have a Problem.

I love iTunes.

It's a great way to buy, store and play music. I use it in my car, my iPhone and my home wireless system. When Amie and I prepare dinner, it's customary for me to pop a cork on something friendly, pour us both a glass, and select some music for us to listen to.

I love iTunes.

Which is not to say that iTunes is not without its quirks. Take for instance the album art feature. When you play a song on your computer/iPhone, an image of the appropriate album art is supposed to appear on the screen. I say supposed to appear, because - every now and then - iTunes gets it wrong.

Last night was one such instance. As we listened to the strains 0f Nancy Wilson singing "The Christmas Waltz", my personal favorite Christmas song ever. The song was part of a compilation Amie had purchased years ago at Pottery Barn. As she and I waltzed around the dining room (this song always gets us in the mood to dance), Thom and Jack gathered around the computer and began to giggle.

At first I thought the snickers were due to our dancing...but, no, it was what appeared on the screen. It seems that iTunes has it in its mind that the Pottery Barn Christmas album looks like "Playdagroove! Miami Album 08".

Well, at least it's got the appropriate green and red Christmas colors. And, given the fear of global warming, perhaps the appropriate wardrobe.

I hate iTunes.

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Vulgar Wheat.

My sons tend to go through phases with their breakfast cereals. At present they really seem to enjoy Frosted Mini-Wheats...or as we like to call them, "sweet squares". The few times we've actually used the term, "Mini-Wheats" the boys backed away from the table in a horror, thinking that we were trying to foist something healthy on them. As a result, we've placed emphasis on 'sweet', and have kept them at the table.


But what we de-emphasize Kellogg's appears to go out of their way to reemphasize. In no fewer than 12 places on box of Mini-Wheats will you find the word, "Wheat". This includes a proclamation, in bold ink, "Contains Wheat Products" directly underneath the ingredients' listing...a list which kicks off with the main ingredient: wheat. Seems Kellogg's really wants you to know - just in case you were wondering - that there's a whole lotta wheat going on in this box.

Now, I am sure that Kellogg's erring on the side of caution is all well and good. There are those folks out there who have severe intolerance to wheat and wheat-based products. In most cases, this intolerance results in a bloated stomach, skin rashes and even diarrhoea. In some severe cases, eating anything remotely wheaty can prove deadly.

But honestly, what moron afflicted with a wheat allergy is going to buy - much less eat - a food labeled "Mini-Wheats"?!

I betting their the same one who gets pissed off after opening a box of "Pebbles" that it really is a poor choice for lining the floor of their fish tank.

And, in case there was any doubt, I do need a second cup of coffee.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Oh, Tannenbaum!

Ah, it's finally beginning to look a lot like Christmas!

The weather has turned cold enough that we can light a fire in the fireplace every night without the need of stripping down to a tee shirt and shorts, a hot toddy is practically de rigeur, and the smell of our decorated Douglas Fir is like a soothing balm to the soul. Life is good.

Last week we went out and found the perfect tree to place in the picture window of our living room. Bringing the tree home, and decorating it the next day was definitely a Frank Capra moment. That's my son Jack helping me offload the tree...with VIVI close by, thinking she's just gotten the mother of all chew toys.

I have to say that I'm a bit of a traditionalist when it comes to a Christmas tree. There are those who enjoy flocked know, the ones sprayed white with some faux-snow concoction. While Amie and I do miss a White Christmas, we don't miss it enough to be that gaudy...or to deal with the mess a flocked tree has got to cause when you're taking it down.

And, speaking of flocked trees, our local Christmas tree lot had flocked trees available in many colors other than white. Go figure. This one was my favorite. Now, honestly, who would want a putrid yellow Christmas tree in their house?! Is this really a popular choice these days? I could just imagine some drunk relative taking one look at this tree and thinking, "I wonder if that's made of Colby or Cheddar? Either way, screw it...I'm hungry!"

Perhaps I have relatives more dangerous than yours?

There were also (as you might be able to discern in the photo) a mint green and pastel pink-flocked tree. Hmmm. I guess it takes all kinds to make a world, huh?

Nope, for us it's just a 'plain Jane' Douglas Fir. It looks beautiful at night...both from my living room couch and from the front lawn.

I'm going to throw another log on the fire and pour a glass of something warming. Hope you will do likewise.
If you want to know about my favorite Christmas presents of all time, check out what I wrote last year... here, here, here, here and here. Also, this is pretty funny.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Are You an Apple or an Orange?

I received an email yesterday from a former member of our wine club who was hopping mad. Seemed he took offense at a comment I made in high-profile wine magazine. In this article I had made mention that - having closed my winery - I was looking at the possibility of returning to The South. I was quoted as saying that I never really felt fully acclimated to life as a west coaster, and that my heart had always resided south of the Mason-Dixon. While I haven't made any serious plans to return back to the Southeast, I have to admit that the quote was, by and large, correct. I reckon that I am living proof that you can take the boy out of the South, but you can never take the South out of the boy.*

In this email, I was all but called a traitor. My correspondent tried to defend the West Coast way of life, and claimed that anyone who didn't think this lifestyle superior to all others was obviously lacking in both taste and sensibility. I responded that trying to compare the two was tantamount to comparing apples to oranges, and that just because I have a stated preference of one over the other didn't mean I couldn't (and I didn't) appreciate both.

So, what exactly differentiates a Southern way of life from a West Coast one? That's a good question...and one that I often am at a loss of words to answer. So instead, let me try to explain by use of the following photographic images.

1.) When you hear the words, "Beach Music", do you think of:
- or -
2.) Do you own a pair of moccasins that look like:
- or -
3.) When you get hungry for barbecue, does your mind turn to:
- 0r - 4.) When you go scuba diving, are you dressed like: - or - 5) In preparations for an afternoon at a college football game, do you require: - or - 6.) When you hear the word, 'summer', does your mind turn to: - or - 7) Taking current events out of the equation, do you consider America's
last big military debacle to be:
- or -

8) When preparing a glass of tea, do you turn to:
- or -

9.) Hearing the term, "the arches", does your mind race to:
- or -
If you picked the first of the two photos accompanying any of these questions, chances are you're living on the west of the Mississippi. If you've consistently picked the second, you no doubt feel my pain. Again, it's not that any choices are necessarily 'better', they're just different.

And different is good. Trust me. I know.

*And, just to clarify to those would-be employers out there, I am more than happy to remain an expatriated Southern Boy if offered the right job.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Don't "Taze" Me, Bro!

Least we forget it, we Americans love a good fad. Hula-Hoops, disco, pet rocks, yappy rat-like miniature dogs, you name it, we love it. And it would appear that Iraqi reporter Muntazer "Taze" al-Zaidi has his pulse firmly on the collective American psyche when - just last Sunday - he began a new craze: throw your shoe at The Man.

Seems shoe throwing - both literal and figurative - is all the rage...when you're in a rage. Jeez.

Just this week, talking heads were all a-buzz with the latest shoe sightings. Three days ago a Bronx fireman gets pissed at a fire chief closing a firehouse...and pretends to throw his shoe at him. The View's Joy Behar slips off one of her C.F.M. pumps and pounds it, Khrushchev-like - in a rage because poor ol' Elisabeth Hasselbeck gets dissed*. And then today, some Schmo goes to a New York Transit Authority public hearing and threatens to throw his shoe at the head transit guy!*


And you can now buy "I Love Shoes" and "Bagdad - I Throw a Shoe at You!" t-shirts. That's right...and you can buy them here.

Please. Make it. STOP.

Now that's what Ed would call a 'really big shoe'. A really big shoe full of crap.

*Note to Joy Behar: next time you take your shoe off, please do us all a favor, and drive that spiked heel through Elizabeth's forehead. Not that it would damage anything, mind you...but at least you would finally get me to watch your show.

*And did you see that?! Before the guy was able to take his shoe off he was surrounded and tackled by many NY transit cops. Which goes to show: New York cops can beat the crap out of Iraqi cops. With or without shoes.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Favorite Photos of 2008.

Hard to believe it, but it's nearly time to put 2008 in the archives. Where does the time go? Before we both get neck-deep in holiday festivities, I thought I'd share with you some of my favorite photos from 2008:

Here's our VIVI, taken the in late January, shortly after I brought her back from Georgia. She's since grown to nearly 60 pounds! She snores, farts and can often act like a bull in a china shop, but we love her all the same.

This is a shot of our two boys boogie boarding on Pismo Beach. When the weather permits, these two are always ready to hit the surf.

Thom and Jack again, here coloring Easter eggs. I may be a bit prejudiced, but aren't these two handome boys?

Here I am with two of my favorite people on the entire planet. That's Bob Lindquist on the left, and Daniel Ravier in the center. Bob owns Qupé Wine Cellars, while Daniel is the winemaker and General Manager of Domaine Tempier. Great guys, great wines.

Here's one of me and James Hunter...hands-down winner of the "Who's Mat's Favorite Musician of 2008?" His music (which I've talked about here) is amazing.

The onset of Fall means one thing around my house: The Return of Georgia Football! The first game I attended was in Tempe, Arizona, as UGA took on (and took apart) Arizona State. The day before the game, I hung out with Sonny Seiler and his son, Charles. The Seilers are the owners/caretakers of Georgia's beloved mascot, UGA. Here's a photo of UGA VII taken in the Seiler's hotel room. UGA just so happens to be VIVI's brother, and share UGA VI as their daddy.

Two weeks after meeting up with the team in Arizona, the family and I flew out to Athens, Georgia to take part in the UGA game versus Tennessee. My sons were invited to be the tee retrievers for the game, and the three Garretson boys watched from the sidelines as Amie watched from a Sky Box. That's Bulldog wide receiver Mohammad Massaquoi on the left, some UT defenders on the right, and me and my boys in the middle.

Here's one of the whole family shortly after the end of the game. The boys and I were able to spend some time in the locker room with the team. Both Jack and Thom felt so at ease, they didn't ask their dad to introduce them to anyone...they did it themselves. It was great watching them catch up with Matthew Stafford, Knowshon Moreno, etc., etc. This photo was on the short list of possible Christmas Card contenders. It was knocked out in favor of this one:

I've said it before...and will no doubt say it again: our two boys are drop-dead handsome! This is the photo we've sent out with our Christmas Cards.

Happy Holidays!

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Wonder of Wonders, Miracles of Miracles.

As if to downplay my discovery of 'the miracle bacon map of California', a lady in Fort Pierce, Florida now claims that an MRI photo of her brain taken six years ago has an image of the Virgin Mary.

Here's the image. Hmmm. Perhaps she does have a point.

She's decided that her six-year sabbatical has provided her with enough time for reflection as to what to do next. Taking a cue from the lady who found Mary in her toast, this woman has decided to hawk her MRI photo on eBay.

As of this writing the bidding is up to $225.00 Uh-huh...Two-Hundred and Twenty-Five Dollars for this image. And people say there's an economic crisis.

Makes me wish that I would have shown some restraint, and had not eaten 'the miracle bacon map of California' after I had taken its photo. I could have put it on eBay and the dough would roll in. But, then again, perhaps it's not too late? Perhaps there's a living to be made in selling old MRIs with hidden images? I've looked at mine (shown below), but I can't seem to find the Virgin Mary or a slice of Bacon. How about you?:

Ummmmm. BACON.

You can't fry in a pan, but it sure is tasty.

Monday, December 8, 2008

It's a Miracle!

I've heard tell of a kindly old lady who toasted some bread that resulted in burn marks which looked a lot like the Virgin Mary. I've even read about one guy who was at Graceland the day Elvis died, and he witnessed a cloud that looked like The King in profile.

Now I would usually dismiss such proclamations as the ranting of a dangerous mind. But after what I experienced today I am not so sure. As you can see below, my breakfast certainly resembled the shape of California. I'm thinking of preserving this piece of pig belly. It could really help me out when folks ask me, "Just where in the heck is San Luis Obispo?!"

Could be quite the conversation starter. I ended up thinking the better of it...besides, I'm a sucker for bacon!

And you can go be a sucker for

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

A Sheep in Lion's Clothing.

I pity poor James Sheep. Since January of 2007, James has served as the mascot for the Penn State Nittany Lions. In my humble opinion, that Penn State's mascot ranks among the worst in college football. The outfit Sheep has had to endure for nearly two years looks like the lame creation of some low-budget, local cable access kiddie show. It looks to me like a rat with a thyroid condition. It's similar to a lion only in that it begins with an "L" and has four letters. L-A-M-E.

What exactly is a Nittany Lion, anyhow? They say the name honors the mountain lions that used to roam Mount Nittany, which is located near the school's campus. Uh-huh. I've been to College Station, PA, and have even had dinner with Joe Pa and his wife at his house. Twice. While there, I have had ample opportunity to see Mount Nittany up close. To me the mountain looks like a big meat loaf. Hillock, definitely. Hill, maybe. Mountain? No way. If mountain lions once roamed that turf, I'm betting my neighbor's cat could beat the crap out of one.

I digress. Anyway, back to James Sheep. He's been parading around in this outfit for TWO YEARS. It must be enough to drive a man to drink. Well, it looks like it finally has...or has at least has resulted in James getting too drunk to drive. At 3:15 a.m., the morning of Penn's 49 to 18 beating of Michigan State like a drum, ol' James was out with his possé, getting a little 'pregame attitude adjustment'. A momentary lapse in judgement caused Sheep to decide to drive his car. Well, James was pulled over by a University police man, and - can you believe it?! - he was found to be drunker than Cooter Brown*. Now, I'm all for starting your pre-game tailgaiting early, but not 13 hours before a game, and certainly not while driving in the car. I guess Big 10* schools are a bit different than the SEC*.*

Luckily for James Sheep his incarceration ended in ample time for him to take part in his much-anticipated sideline hijinks, which were no doubt viewed by a bunch of drunk fans. And it was a good thing he made it. At halftime Penn State honored Sheep for his exemplary services as mascot for two seasons! Ah, the sweet irony of it all.

I could not imagine donning the Nittnay Lion mascot uniform in anywhere near a sober state. I could only imagine what it felt like to do it hungover.

Poor James Sheep.

Rumor has it that University officials are seriously considering not allowing James Sheep to travel with the team for the Rose Bowl. I for one think they should let him go. And if they're short on cash to send him, they could probably score some big-time endorsement moolah for his appearance, too. Think of it: "The Penn State Halftime Show with James Sheep! Sponsored by Jaegermeister!"

The only thing they need to worry about is if Sheep gets a bit too into his routine, and the bottle. I'm betting that, if he did, Penn State would be penalized for excessive end zone celebration.
Link*Now, to be fair, I really don't know anyone named "Cooter Brown", so I've really no idea as to how drunk he can get. The saying is fairly popular in The South, which is where I grew up. I would imagine that if my parents had named me "Cooter" I'd be a fairly accomplished drunk, too.

*And that's another thing. Why is the Big 10 comprised of eleven teams? I'm betting their math skills aren't all that good. And guess which was the last team in the Big 10? You guessed it...Penn State!

*Yes they are in that they suck at football!

*Look at me! Three side notes in one paragraph! Um...guess this one makes four. Now I can finally relate to the Big 10!

Stop looking at these asterisks and go check out

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

My Left Foot.

I have to say that I lead a fairly charmed existence. Throughout my life I've been incredibly lucky. On the whole, good things seem to come my way. And when I say, "on the whole", I mean for most of my body. The same cannot be said about my left foot. It seems to be cursed. For the last two decades I've been injury free...with the exception of damage I've incurred to my left foot.

This discrepancy in an otherwise charmed life recently came into focus - painful focus - this morning. I was walking from the kitchen to the dining room when I stubbed my fourth left toe on the leg of a chair. Here's a photo of my foot (above). You will note that the aforementioned toe is now black and blue...not to mention a bit swollen. I reckon it's broken, but what can you do? There's not much a doctor can do for a broken smaller toe except to say 'live with it'. That and, 'that will be $100, please'.

You may also notice that the nail of my big toe is just now starting to grow back. I lost this toenail on October 8th in Chicago, Illinois. My family and I were relaxing in the Admiral's Club at O'Hare, and - when I went to retrieve our bags from a closet, the heavy door came into contact with my big toe. The door won.

This is the second time I've lost this toenail in 15 years. The other time was caused by 'catching' a falling wine bottle on my toe. At least the bottle didn't break.

And two years back I broke my fibula, just above the left ankle. It broke while showing my boys "the agony of defeat" move on the ice rink of our resort in Squaw Valley. The ice won that time. I spent the evening medicated by Bourbon, and the next six weeks in a walking cast. In a cast I walked with in England, in France, in Miami, in Chicago, in Texas and California. That boot was made for walking.

I dunno. Perhaps it's kinda like The Picture of Dorian Gray. Maybe my left foot is my 'picture in the attic'? Or perhaps my left foot is my Achilles' Heal? Or perhaps it's high time I stop wearing sandals all of the time?

Well, I would start wearing more closed toed shoes, but with the condition my left toes are in, it's downright painful to wear anything but sandals.

Just call me hop-a-long.