Battle of the BBQ

Inspiration for writing topics sometimes comes in the most unlikely of places…in this case, it was in the middle of nowhere in North Carolina. I was there for a wedding and because I’m a dumbass and didn’t actually google to see that the hotel was 2 hours from the airport, I booked a 7:30am flight back to NYC.

I am not–as you either know, guessed, or experienced–a morning person. And while I’m usually up early, it is usually to sit on the couch and drink coffee. Not to check out of the hotel at 3:45am. So while I handed back the room key, I was only half paying attention to the chatty night desk clerk by wondering if there was any hot coffee available at this hour…or cold coffee…or anything to help make the dark and rainy 2 hour drive back to Charlotte a bit more bearable.

And then I head him (alas, I didn’t catch his name because, well, 3:45am) ask: so…do you just travel around and eat food?

Slow blink, while raising an eyebrow.

He quickly continued: sorry, it’s really slow here at night and I was reading through your website…

Awkward pause.

Me: um…yes, [chuckle] I suppose I do just travel around and eat things.

And of course I should have seen the follow up question coming, but again, now 3:47am. So which BBQ do you prefer? Carolina or Texas.

Bigger awkward pause to give me time to think up a diplomatic answer.

Me: I enjoy both, but c’mon I will always, always pick Texas especially when it comes to BBQ, beer, football, and Willie.

But it did give me a good chuckle and the perfect excuse to share with you and start posting again, so thanks for that kind sir–even if I forgot to get your name and was just thinking about coffee and/or going back to bed and missing my fight!

In case you were wondering what the difference between the two styles are, I would say that Carolina BBQ is more saucy and usually pork–and don’t get me wrong, I do enjoy a nice tangy, saucy, pulled pork sandwich. But Texas BBQ is where it’s at–their BBQ is cooked usually (at least in the Hill Country) with a dry rub and low and slow. Sauce is on the side and brisket is king. If you wanted accurate descriptions and nuances of each, you’re probably better off just googling it.

To me, the best part of Texas BBQ is picking your meat off the grill and then sitting inside, eating off of butcher paper at a communal table, passing the bread, pickles, and napkins amongst everyone else sitting at the table and their BBQ stained fingers.

And if you find yourself traveling through the Texas Hill Country and happen upon either the town of Mason or Llano, go to Coopers and try just a little bit of everything–or better yet, go to both and try a bit more! Both restaurants now have different owners and are no longer affiliated, but thankfully–at least insofar as the last time I visited–both were still as delicious as they always have been. Although I fully expect every family member reading this to text me later and tell me which location they prefer–proving that the Battle of BBQ isn’t always about regions–sometimes it hits a lot closer to home.

Time

Time is a funny thing. It is a slippery slope, especially to me, who puts the “pro” in procrastinate. It always feels like I have all the time in the world and then bam! three weeks have passed and I’m still in the exact same place, with the exact same things on my To-Do list, only now it has grown considerably.

I’m always in awe of the peeps in my life who never seem to crastinate, let alone procrastinate. They get up, they work out, they clean the house, do a quick load of laundry, throw together a quick, but easy brunch, eat, do the dishes, and take the dog for a walk–all in the time it takes me to make coffee, pour the coffee into a cup, walk over to the couch, and drink my coffee while pondering what I might accomplish today.

Anxiety plays a large role. And Netflix. It’s so much easier to sit on the couch vegging with my coffee, watching [insert latest binge-worthy series here] ignoring all the nagging voices in my head, berating me for not being more productive. For not writing. For being a couch potato. Actually the voices in my head are a lot nastier and more snarky than just calling me a couch potato, but you probably don’t want to be drawn into my inner dialogue. It’s rarely pretty and almost never kind.

But there is another huge marker of passing time aside from my growing list of things to do and the deepening of the laugh lines around my eyes and mouth and the WTF frown line across my forehead: my memory. Granted, I have always been a bit scatterbrained about forgetting/losing things but I have never forgotten what things have tasted like: food, beer, wine, coffee, scotch, etc. In that respect, I have always been a bit of a savant in my ability to remember what the difference was between this wine and that. Or why we like this queso and not that one (except for maybe the Chipotle queso–that distaste will forever be burned into my brain).

And then it happened. A couple of years ago, I went to the NYC Coffee Fest and, as per usual for me, I took a lot of pictures and didn’t make any notes because well, I didn’t need to. Or so I thought…until I sat down to write about the various coffees that I had tried and realized that I had a hard time remembering what each coffee specifically tasted like. I mean, sure, I could have just chalked it up to the fact that almost everyone was serving Kenyan coffee and so they all had the typical citrusy brightness of coffee beans from Kenya.

While I knew that was technically true, it wasn’t the whole truth. The whole truth is that I just couldn’t fucking remember anymore. So I broke down and [HUGE SIGH & EYEROLL] now I have a tasting journal, which I carry everywhere with me. It feels a bit like a cane or a crutch and makes me feel just as old. Especially when I whip it out in the middle of a restaurant or wine tasting. But I suppose it’s much better for recalling the nuances of alfredo in Rome vs Little Italy, NYC rather than just “the Roman version is so much fucking better and wins hands down every time and twice on Sunday.”

Getting old is a learning curve–one that we all struggle with daily in some form or fashion. My 92 year old boss spends the entirety of our daily walk around the block for his exercise lamenting: “how the F did I get so old? I surely never planned for this” while brandishing his cane about pointedly. But I am always quick to remind him what Granny always said whenever someone would complain about getting older–and why I ultimately broke down and got a tasting journal: it sure beats the alternative.

Gobble Gobble & A Whole Lotta Thanks

Happy Thanksgiving!

I hope you spent the day eating, drinking, and being merry.  Yes, I know this isn’t Christmas, but Thanksgiving can be merry as well.

Did you know that Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday?  Well, it is.  It used to be Halloween, but living in NYC has ruined that for me for reasons too numerous to count.  But Thanksgiving…well, it’s all about the food, taking time to thankful, and celebrating family & friends.   That being said, this year, I spent the day alone, save the company of 3 cuddly dogs (whom I’m quite sure were only cuddly because I spent the majority of the day prepping or eating food), an asshole cat (who hid all day except when hungry and then loudly demanded food, as only a siamese can do!), and a frog (who happily swam her day away oblivious to the fact that if she’d escape her aquarium, she would probably be a snack for the 4 aforementioned animals).

My day was, in a word, lovely.  I know that probably sounds a bit strange, especially when Thanksgiving traditionally focuses on spending time with loved ones, but I would put forth that the dogs, the asshole cat, and the oblivious frog count.  Besides, the last few weeks have been well…let’s just say it feels like I stepped off the plane from Rome and into a proverbial shit storm.

Don’t get me wrong.  I love people.  I love spending time with people but because things have been so overwhelming it was really nice to shut myself away from everything for a bit and enjoy some quiet time watching football.  And the dog show.  And the parade.  And as soon as I’m done posting this, probably a black and white movie of the Christmas variety, like Miracle on 34th Street or A Christmas Carol.

The reason I’m posting a Thanksgiving Day post an hour before Thanksgiving Day ends is because I have really been struggling to figure out what I wanted to write about.  I think (as you will notice by the lack of recent posts), this has definitely been a trend of late.  So, THANK YOU, my darling readers, for not giving up on me.

And it was in wanting to thank you that I realized I should thank other people for whom I am grateful for as well.  And for that, you should be thankful because my first draft took an awkward turn down a political ranting rabbit hole.  Don’t worry, I’ve saved it for another post, but I think in light of all the negative swirling around I would like to focus on the positive and draw your attention to some of the extraordinary people in my life.  In honor of it being 2018, here are 18 people/groups of people who deserve shout-outs.  Please note this is not a complete list–both in terms of extraordinary people in my life and in terms of why they’ve made the list.  I’ve simply truncated it to fit into the ’18 theme, and well, I’m starting to get peckish and leftovers are calling!

  1. Momma.  While we haven’t always seen eye to eye, she has always been there for me and has always, always, always supported every crazy dream I have ever had.
  2. Bubba.  Who knew you’d grow up to be such an incredible adult?  Thank you for everything.  I’m sorry I put you in the dryer when we were kids, but you really need to stop telling the lie that I turned it on.
  3. Lauren.  I knew you were saintly for marrying my brother.  Thank you for everything you’ve done for our family.
  4. Ann.  Thank you for all the support, cleaning up more Addy diarrhea than anyone should ever have to, and for making emergency trips to the vet with a very sick labrador (and finding a cheaper taxi service on top of it all).
  5. Eve.  Thank you for so many things, but mostly for making sure that I always know that I have family here in New York.
  6. Teresa.  I love you man.
  7. My family in general, who are absolutely loud, opinionated, and crazy, but fiercely loyal and protective and I know that no matter what happens they will always be there.  They might bitch about it, but it’s just their way of saying “I love you.”
  8. MamaMaryClaire.  I am so thankful you are safe and were able to grab Frooey and get the hell out of Dodge (or in this case, Paradise).
  9. Christi.  Thank you for always picking up the phone, regardless of the time–even though I am THE WORST about answering mine (the irony doesn’t escape me).
  10. Becca.  Thank you for always checking in, giving valuable feedback, and listening to all my “but what ifs.”
  11. April.  Thanks for babbling emails and timely gift boxes full of coffee & TimTams (and much more, but this entire post is really starting to get too sappy).
  12. Cait.  Thanks for the best hugs, sweet dog videos, and finding us the best podcasts.
  13. Kat.  Thanks for catching up and reminding me that true friends never leave.
  14. Sherice.  Thank you for always checking in, I’m not sure how you do it–as your plate runneth over onto the table and down to the floor, but I am appreciative!
  15. Emily.  Thanks for humoring me by laughing at all the ridiculous shit I send to you when I just need to laugh with someone.
  16. Wendy.  Thanks for Wednesdays, snarky comments, and cute dog & mutinous cat pictures.
  17. Thank you to everyone who has been helping my mother–from Bubba, Lauren, and Teresa to her medical team to home health care and an extra shout out to Dean, who checks on Bliss.
  18. Philip.  Thanks for thinking I’m an “EFFING GENIUS!”

Happy Thanksgiving.

Remember Them.

Like Pearl Harbor, the assassination of JFK, and the Challenger Space Shuttle, everyone remembers what they were doing when the news broke of a plane hitting the North Tower.  Many of my friends and family were watching the news while getting ready for work.  Listening in shock and confusion as speculations were made about how and why the plane was off course and hit a such a large building in lower Manhattan.  This shock and confusion quickly melted into horror and disbelief when many of them watched on live tv the second plane hit the South Tower.  The world as they knew it was dissolving right before their eyes.

Meanwhile, on the other side of the world, I slept.  My friend and fellow American Matt called and woke me up by asking “are you watching this? The plane. The plane hit…” he trailed off, unable to finish his thought.  “The Pentagon,” he whispered. The bottom fell out of my stomach.  I couldn’t breathe.  My heart stopped beating.  It was like someone pressed the ‘pause’ button on my life.  I just sat there staring into the dark, my brain trying to process.  The Pentagon?  Surely not, I reasoned, he must have misheard.  He had to have.  The Pentagon?  THE PENTAGON?  I sleepily marched into the living room and turned on the tv.  Every station was replaying horrible images of New York under attack and producing billowy clouds of black smoke.

I call home, my hands shaking as I dialed the phone.  The lines were busy. I tried again and again.  Waiting.  Watching the tv project surreal images of a city I had never visited, but still identified as home. My brain was trying to make sense of the entire scenario and praying for it to be some horrible made-for-tv movie.  It wasn’t.  My friend Penny sat up with me all night holding my hand, while we shook our heads and tears rolled down our faces, plopping into our cold cups of forgotten tea.

The morning sunshine brought no happiness.  Just more horrible stories about people jumping out of the buildings, rescue workers who had perished trying to save as many people as they could, and everyone looking shell-shocked.  The death toll was in the thousands.  People were frantically searching for their loved ones and coworkers.  The numbers of victims just kept rising and no one knew where it would stop. At that moment, 8:14 am Australian Eastern Standard Time, the newscaster said the scariest thing I had ever heard in my life:

Americans abroad are urged to stay where they are and do not under any circumstances go to any US Embassy or Consulate Office.

At that point in my life, I had been traveling for nearly a decade and the one thing that was hammered into my brain from the time I was preparing for my first international trip: if you are ever in trouble or lost or need help, go to the Embassy.  Now I was being told not to under any circumstances?  I couldn’t believe it.  My heart started pounding.  I just stared at the tv, shell-shocked.  What the literal fuck was happening?  I didn’t know what to do.  Mind you, I was in Australia, and I felt safe. But I did have thoughts during the middle of the night that I should probably check in with the Embassy in the morning, you know, just because.

That was the moment 9/11 felt real to me.

Fast forward 17 years and I now live in New York City.  I have met people who were first responders or who had loved ones die or who were stuck in Manhattan and couldn’t get back home to the other boroughs or who were in schools or buildings nearby and can remember the ground shaking when each plane hit and each tower fell.  For the city of New York, nothing would ever be the same.

As a country and as a world, we mourned.  We mourned the loss of nearly 3,000 people.  And it changed us.  We are a little less naïve.  We pause a little more when a plane flies a little too close to buildings or just a bit lower than we think it should.  Even I glance wearily at these planes.  Me, who did not live here at the time and could never possibly hope to understand exactly how the city coped.  I can only observe the aftermath as an outsider.  And the aftermath is raw and rough, but yet, beautiful and graceful at the same time.

On Monday, the World Trade Center Subway Stop on the 1 Train opened.  Since I moved here, it was only a grey dot on the map indicating that it wasn’t in use.  Honestly, until a couple of months ago, I didn’t think it would ever open.  But here it stands, as a poignant reminder of true American grit.  She might be broken, but she will never stay that way and what will emerge will be better than before because of what happened, not in spite of it.

Always remember how fragile and fleeting life can be.  Two waterfalls stand where two buildings once proudly towered over all.  Etched into these waterfalls was every person who fell with those buildings.

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Remember them. Honor them, so that they too may soar.

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Sunday Comics: Back To School Edition

Greetings, salutations, and all that other jazz.  It’s heading into mid-August and nearly everyone on social media seems to be posting back to school pictures already, which seems rather early and I’m not even a teacher!

For all of you who are a bit shell-shocked by the sudden arrival of back to school, here’s something I found on Buzzfeed that might help:

back to school

Cheers!

Dusting Off the Keyboard.

It took me 28 days to wish you a Happy New Year, so I think that waiting nearly 7 months for the next post seems to be right on schedule…right?

How is it already July?   And there’s no denying it is July–the humidity here in New York City is stifling and I feel we’ve already had more days in the 90s than all of last summer combined.  I’m sure that’s an exaggeration, but it sure as hell doesn’t feel like it.

Speaking of hell, I found a meme on Instagram the other day and of course, I couldn’t find it again.  But the gist of it was the following:

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I mean, it’s definitely too late for me, but…

 

Curve Ball

In case you were counting (and color me very impressed if you were!), I made it through Day 47.  Neeeeearly the half way mark to my 100 Days of Blogging goal.  Then the fates decided to have a laugh and throw me a curve ball.

An angry appendix.

That’s what my surgical team called it.  It didn’t rupture and my body wasn’t reacting as if it would burst–no fever, no elevated white blood cell count–but the inflammation looked like it was starting to spread, so the surgical team wanted to take it out.  ASAP.

angry appendix

I believe my exact verbal reaction was something like “okay, great, thank you,”  while the thoughts in my head were a little lot more expletive.  Since the surgeon wanted it out ASAP, it was considered emergency surgery, however, not-so-emergency that I had to wait in line behind two other more-pressing-emergencies for the operating room.  I didn’t ask.  I really wanted to know what qualified as more emergency than an emergency appendectomy, but as the actual possibilities started swirling through my brain, I thought perhaps it best not to know.

The surgery went well.  The inflammation had not spread and about 12 hours after surgery, I was given coffee and my release papers.

appendix 2

I had grandiose blogging ideas at this point, having only missed Day 48 and 49, of getting back on track–but my body had other plans.  Despite my brain’s restlessness, I managed to sleep most of last week except when Ann very kindly brought me food or coffee or coffee and food.  You know, when she wasn’t answering a barrage of text messages from the Fam and feeding & walking the Princess Pupcicle and Evil Kitty…well, I don’t think she actually walked the cat…but point being, she’s been absolutely amazing!

Now that I’m on the mend and my restless brain is starting to win out a bit more, I realized that I owe you 53 more posts (well, 52 after this one!).  At this point I can’t guarantee they’ll be every day, but hopefully more frequently than every 10 days!

Ciao-ciao for now-now!

Breaking News!

I’m interrupting our Hawaiian trip to bring you some exciting news.  Or at least, exciting news if you live in or are visiting New York City.

The old-new South Ferry station is fiiiiiiiinally reopened!!  Tourists came and went with their only concerns being if they were getting on the correct train and which stop they needed to get to where they were going.  Meanwhile–in something resembling first time tourists in Times Square–residents looked a little shell-shocked and in awe of the spacious and updated station.

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Why all the fuss?  When I moved to New York City (in 2007) if you wanted to get to South Ferry on the 1 Train, you had to be in the first five cars of the subway train.  Then in 2009, the MTA opened a shiny new South Ferry station–one where you didn’t have to be in the first five cars and was well lit and had escalators (for those times when you just couldn’t walk up one more fucking step no matter how close you were to your FitBit goal).

Then in late-October 2012, Hurricane Sandy hit.  Water filled the new South Ferry station to the point where it was coming out of every entrance.  According to the MTA “almost 15 million gallons of salt water flooded it during Superstorm Sandy.”

It took several months of walking from South Ferry around Battery Park and up to the next subway station before the MTA opened the old South Ferry station and once again, anyone wanting to get out at the South Ferry station needed to be in the first five subway  cars.

It took nearly five years, but today the old-new South Ferry station was reopened.  This morning we were all in awe and this evening it was so nice to just get on the train without the hustle and stress of making sure you are in the first five cars–because now we can luxuriously use all ten of them!

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🙂

 

Kilauea

For the record, this isn’t what I wanted to share with you today.  But in the interest of actually getting something posted, I had to improvise (let’s just say wifi and technology haven’t been my friends this week!)

I could have easily made this picture a Wordless Wednesday post, but it was suggested to me last week that not writing in posts was “cheating”–so here’s my little blurb about this slightly fuzzy pic.

It is the glow of the Kilauea caldera from the Observation point at the Hawaii Volcanos National Park.  I’m 99.9875% sure April has a sharper picture taken with her camera rather than with my iPhone, but I’m 100% sure if I went looking for it, I would miss the deadline for posting this today!

Here are some tidbits from LiveScience website about Kilauea (click here to read more about the eruptions of Kilauea):

Kilauea is one of the world’s most active volcanoes. It is a shield-type volcano that makes up the southeastern side of the Big Island of Hawaii. The volcano rises 4,190 feet (1,227 meters) above sea level and is about 14 percent of the land area of the Big Island. The summit caldera contains a lava lake known as Halema`uma`u that is said to be the home of the Hawaiian volcano goddess, Pele.

To the casual observer, Kilauea appears to be part of the larger volcano Mauna Loa, but geological data indicates that it is a separate volcano with its own vent and conduit system. Kilauea has had 61 recorded eruptions in the current cycle, according to the U.S. Geological Survey, and has been erupting on a continuous basis since 1983.

Native Hawaiian oral traditions record the extraordinary eruptive history of Kilauea long before European and American missionaries wrote about it in their journals. Scientific study of the volcano began when geologist Thomas Jagger of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology visited Hawaii on a lecture tour and was approached by local businessmen. The Hawaiian Volcano Research Association (HVRA) was formed in 1909. In 1919, Jagger convinced the National Weather Service to take over the pioneering research, and in 1924 the observatory was taken over by the U.S. Geological Survey.

Also if you’re interested in seeing What’s Going On With The Volcano, click on the link to be taken to the National Park Service webpage for volcano updates.

Aloha!

Colorful Beaches

When most people think of Hawaiian beaches, they probably think of something like this:

Or perhaps this:

But what about something like this?

If you’re saying to yourself : “Self, that sand sure looks black,” you would be correct!  It is, in fact, a black sand beach (which shouldn’t surprise any one who read Pilgrimage to (Coffee) Mecca).  But here’s a fun fact that might surprise you about Hawaii: all beaches are public.  ALL OF THEM. It doesn’t matter if they are on a military base or in a fancy gated community, they all have to have public access.  ALL OF THEM.

This is quite handy knowledge when you’re planning beach activities and have never been to Hawaii.  It was also information that we did NOT have at the time of planning our Hawaiian vacation.  All we knew is that we had never been to a black sand beach before and we definitely wanted to visit one while we had the opportunity.  We found several north of Kailua-Kona and randomly picked the one closest to where we were staying.  It was in Kamuela and called 49 Black Sand Beach–so it sounded perfect, after all “black sand beach” was in the name!  As we turn off the main road and are making our way down a tiny winding road, we notice that dead ahead is a gate with a security guard.  We were a little hesitant, as our information on said-beach never mentioned anything about it being private or in a gated community.  We pull up to the gate, thinking perhaps Siri was a bit lost, with the plan of asking the guard for actual directions to the beach.

Instead we were handed a visitor pass to put in the car and given directions to the visitor parking lot and were told to stay only on the visitor walkway to the beach.  So we drove to the visitor parking lot, put our pass in full view on the dashboard, and embarked upon the visitor walkway.

SIDENOTE: I just googled “49 Black Sand Beach” to make sure that I had the right spot and here’s what Luxury Big Island has to say about the community where this beach is found (aka why we had to stay on the visitor walkway)–

The community of 49 Black Sand Beach is an ultra-exclusive private enclave of just 49 custom homes and home sites nestled atop rugged cliffs on the Big Island’s Kohala Coast. Inspired by its sensuous and unparalleled natural landscape, 49 Black Sand Beach overlooks the Honoka’ope Bay and its exotic and unique 800-year old black sand beach. The community as a whole sits on 60-acres of private oceanfront property, 18 of which are on beachfront bluffs with the remaining home sites found fronting the Mauna Lani South golf course. Ideal for those seeking complete isolation from the hustle and bustle of the city, potential buyers will find the community of 49 Black Sand Beach to perfectly blend picturesque natural surroundings with all the amenities and luxuries you would expect of a world-class resort.

Annnnyway…

Along the visitor walkway, we passed by some workers who were de-coconutting the trees (yes, I’m sure there is some official phrase, but basically they were disposing of all the coconuts which had either dropped or looked like they were going to drop onto someone’s car or head or small child).  As we passed by Christi made a comment about how fun it would be to crack one open while glancing at Tracy expectantly.  I’m not sure what she was expecting him to do–pull a coconut-cracker out of his pocket?


But before he even had the opportunity (he’s a magician, it could have actually happened!), we heard a voice from behind us say: I can open one for you.  We all turned around to see one of the workers weilding a large machete.  We agreed because, well, when in Rome Hawaii…and who tells someone with a machete “no”?

With a couple of well placed whacks, we had a coconut to drink!   We passed it around, so we could all try it.  It was warm but delicious.  However, it definitely needed some rum!


With our coconut in hand, we continued down the visitors walkway.  Suddenly, it opened into a span of black sand and blue water.  It was stunning.  It was mesmerizing.  It was hot.  Really, really hot.  Which makes total sense, since it was black sand and a warm, sunny day.  But it’s not something your brain fully comprehends…you just think oooohhhh…beach….let’s take off our shoes and walk run squeal and haul ass quickly to the cool water looking like an over-animated cartoon character.


We poked around for awhile, however, beach itself was a bit too warm to lounge around on for a long period of time–plus we had other things to see, places to go, food to eat, and beverages to drink! We soon headed back up to the visitors walkway.  As we passed by the workers again, our machete man waved his machete at us–which we totally interpreted as “do you want a coconut for the road?”  We just waved, thanked him again, and happily walked back to the car.  One coconut, a man with a machete, some hot black sand, and cool, crisp water made for a perfect Hawaiian experience.


Aloha!