Monday, June 21, 2010

Getting Wet in SE Louisiana

For more than four decades, I have maintained a strict “no root beer” policy. When I was a small boy, I tagged along with my mother and some of her friends on a tour of a brewery in San Antonio. The root beer was cold, free and unlimited. I took advantage of this opportunity with a little too much enthusiasm.
I remember throwing up root beer. During the tour. Surrounded by people.
I remember the smell and feel of it as it went the wrong way, even through my nose.
I remember being embarrassed.
As I approach 50, I am about exorcizing demons. So, I went on a brewery tour and I sipped some cold, fresh root beer. I did not throw up.
We were invited on a weekender by another couple. They were motivated by their devotion to Abita beer. So, off we went to the Abita brewery in Abita Springs, Louisiana. Consistently the good sport, my wife approached the trip with a “sure, why not?” frame of mind. Unlike me, she had no brewery tour experience; so she didn’t know about the whole “free” thing.
During the appointed tour time, you can pretty much help yourself to the taps. We sampled a couple of varieties and then moved on to curing my root beer issues. We were, after all, driving. Plus, there’s the whole “lessons learned” aspect of my previous overconsumption trauma. There were a lot of people on our tour and many of them took great advantage of the free-flowing taps. I think that’s the main attraction. I mean, the little building is nice and the big tanks of beer in the brewery itself are kind of fascinating, but it’s not something you’d necessarily build an afternoon around. Except for the free beer. Abita Amber is my go-to brew when I drink beer socially, so there’s an advantage to having visited the motherland, I suppose. It was a low-key excursion on a hot Louisiana Saturday.
I know a little bit more about my state than I did before, so I feel like a good citizen.
We eventually made our way to New Orleans, where we stayed in a French Quarter hotel. Our room opened into a courtyard, but we didn’t get much use out of it. The afternoon was interrupted by a raucous thunderstorm. When the weather finally settled down, the early evening was heavy and sticky, quintessentially New Orlenian. We kept things low-key, strolling through the Quarter and stopping for a time to overeat. After dark, we hopped on the street car and rode uptown for dessert at the Magnolia Grill. Nothing is free there, by the way.
We had a Sunday morning breakfast at CafĂ© du Monde and hit the highway for home. We were gone for about 36 hours and enjoyed a nice change of scenery. I guess that’s what a weekender is all about.
What’s next? Who knows? I might just try a root beer float.

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Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Only the Finest Meats and Cheeses

What a difference a day makes. Less than 24 hours after my daughter was earning a paycheck as a singer, she found herself hawking cold cuts at a local supermarket.
Let’s not sell this thing short. She’s proffering samples of Boar’s Head, the finest meats and cheeses. It’s a temporary job, I think about a week.
She and several of her friends are doing this together, and for some reason I find it (well, I shouldn’t say it but this is the expression I’ve been using, so here it is…) pee-in-your-pants funny.
It’s all the more amusing for me because she made a point of telling me not to take any pictures. I don’t remember the quote exactly, so allow me to paraphrase:
“Dad, don’t even think about bringing your camera. If you do, I swear I will break it.” I’m guessing the apron and cap have something to do with her demand.
I honored her request.
So, imagine my delight when these images appeared in my inbox! I have them and I’m not responsible for them. I never agreed not to write about it. So, at the risk of incurring her wrath, here we are: Boar’s Head Girl!
She’s doing more than pushing smoked turkey to the grocery store masses. She is also face painting. Why you would take a break from the Tex-Mex aisle to get a soccer ball or rainbow painted on your cheek, I don’t know; but she’s obviously getting some traffic.
Given the enhanced skill level required to perform these functions, the pay is better than you might think.
All kidding aside, I commend her for accepting work. She was getting a little restless and bored, plus the family budget certainly benefits from her having a little walking around money.
All of this comes together nicely. If she ever decides to sing for her supper, we have an inside track on top-notch, fresh sandwich ingredients.

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Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Singing for the Seniors

My daughter and her performance partner, who skyrocketed to notoriety at their high school with a goosebump-inducing number at their senior talent show, took on a different sort of senior audience today.

The activities director at a nearby retirement facility caught their show on YouTube and invited them to present a program during a birthday party.

This was certainly a first for both of them. They had performed in public together exactly twice, both times at school, both presentations involving exactly one song.

For this gig, they were asked to fill an hour. So, they dutifully constructed a nice little set of easy-listening songs which would presumably please the senior citizen set.

Casual observation would seem to indicate they were successful. Many of the residents were fully engaged, even though they had not heard the songs before.

Come to think of it, they may have been locked in precisely because they hadn't heard the songs, the vast majority of which were recorded and released in the last 2-3 years. Most performers offer this audience big band era songs or Sousa marches. Maybe the folks liked hearing something new for a change.

They hit 'em with some Jason Mraz, Colby Callais and Kings of Leon. They did throw a Bill Withers in there for good measure, but even that was a song recently resurrected by a contestant on American Idol.

It's safe to say the kids were nervous about this and when it was all finished, there was a sense of relief.
Many of the birthday party attendees greeted them after they sang and had kind things to say. While there was actual pay involved, which would seem to indicate they are now professional performers, I'm not sure they've found a livelihood here. Overall, it was a great experience. They worked together to prepare their show. They accepted an offer to take a risk and it seems to have paid off. Beyond the paycheck, this was an experience of personal growth. To me that's a positive result of their friendship.
The duo will soon separate, however, because they're off to different colleges in a couple of months. At least they will part ways with a pocket full of memories and a song in their hearts.

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Sunday, June 06, 2010

Losing a Little Zip

For the past two weeks, people too polite to ask what's going on might have thought I had gone into full-blown midlife crisis. I've been zipping around town in a fancy sports car.
Several people have asked.
"Did you get a new race car?"
"Hey, Zippy. What's with the ride?"
"Having trouble getting out of the spaceship?"
The answer to the last question is "yes." I now know what the original Mercury astronauts must have felt like. Strapped into that sardine can, I was low to the ground and constrained.
It's my son's car, and he's been conquering the Great American West in my SUV. Word is, he has arrived safely at the Fabulous Bachelor Pad, but I have yet to see him or my car. By all accounts, he and his running buddies had a terrific time. They spent three days at an outdoor music festival, hung around San Francisco for a couple of days, saw redwoods and wine country, general young-guy California cavorting.
Obviously, the family was fully supportive of his travels and we are eager to hear his stories and see his photos.
I am much more eager to get my regular ride back. I'm accustomed to stepping down from a vehicle when exiting. In this thing, you have to unfold and then step up. It's like doing calesthenics every time you get in or out.
I will miss his stereo. Driving around with his premium sound, I heard things in songs I simply had not noticed before.
I realized along the way that we're running a four-car fleet in this family and my vehicle is the oldest. It also has the most miles on it, a circumstance that was significantly enhanced by my son driving it halfway across the continent and back again.
That's okay. My old car fits me like an old shoe: comfortably. Midlife crisis deftly averted.

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