Saturday, July 27, 2013

Pirate Looks at 50...

The First Mate is away for the weekend - "Woo hoo! Party at the Captain's place!" - and in preparation for her trip, she asked me to  take her car to have the oil changed and everything checked out. Since the dealership doesn't schedule appointments for oil changes, I wanted to be first in line so I wouldn't have to wait around all day.

First in line meant 7:30 a.m.! Oy!

Away I went, and by 9 a.m. I was driving away, confident that the car was ready to go. 

But my schedule was upside down. 

Normally on Fridays, I putter around locally, then head to the other side of town for lunch and errands. Not wanting to make a second trip back across town, I decided to go ahead and run my errands. 

I was feeling wild and crazy!

First stop, McDonald's. 

I normally don't eat at McDonald's... unless I am driving a long distance, or it's breakfast time. I love their sausage and egg biscuits - even though they are only half the size they used to be  (yes, McDonald's, we've noticed!) - and that hash brown cake.

So I order. "#4 breakfast meal with orange juice instead of coffee."

Now let me stop here to interject some important information you'll need to know. A month ago I started growing a full beard. I've always had the goatee and mustache (and when I say "always" I mean for more than 15 years), but the rest of the facial hair just never grew in to my satisfaction, so I've always kept it shaved. 

I was on vacation - what better reason to let the whiskers grow! - and I was going to see my favorite niece, who likes my face scruffy. 

But when vacation was over, I had a good start on the beard, so I decided to let it go and see what it would look like. 

I also realized that having passed 50 a few months back, the image in my mirror was looking less like Brad Pitt (who turns 50 in December)... 

...and more like Ernest Hemingway at 50.

Maybe growing old gracefully means fully embracing the reality of one's age. 

Maybe not. 

Anyway, here I am at McDonald's, and the cashier sets down a cup of coffee in front of me. I point out that I had asked for orange juice instead of coffee. She is apologetic, saying she thought I said I wanted both. 

Not a problem.

Then she calls the manager over. "I rang him up for a Senior Coffee by mistake."

The manager apologizes for the mix-up and cheerfully refunds my 53 cents. I take my tray, find a table, and begin reading while I am eating.

I was finishing up Carl Hiassen's latest book, "Bad Monkey". Worth the read!

Suddenly it hits me. 

Did the cashier just say she rang me up for a "Senior" coffee?


So much for growing old gracefully...

Monday, July 22, 2013

Are You Kidding Me???

Last week I had a few minutes to kill before meeting the First Mate for dinner, so I decided to browse the local liquor store.

To clarify, this is not a “package liquor” store, where cheap beer is sold in aluminum cans by the case and Jack Daniels is their top selling liquor. No, I frequent a fairly upscale party store that carries a wide selection of beer, wine, liquor, specialty foods, gifts, and party favors.

I once thought I was unique, a pastor being on the store's "frequent customer discount" list, but over the years I have discovered just how much preachers drink! Oy!

So, as I am cruising through the specialty foods aisle I notice a bottle that inspired this blog post:

For the tea drinkers in my reading audience, a Martini is simply Gin and a mist of Vermouth. (Yes, some prefer Vodka instead of Gin.) Shake it with crushed ice, strain it into a glass, add a couple olives and “voila!” A Martini!

To make it “dirty”, you serve it like this:

No, just kidding!

To make a Martini “dirty”, you just add a splash of olive brine, which, if you are adding olives, you should have the brine already.

 So why would you need to pay $4.99 for a bottle of Olive Brine / “Dirty Martini Mix”?

Things like this make my head hurt.

The concept, not the Martini!

Truth be told, when my present career choice ends – which according to some may be sooner than later! – I dream of opening a bar. Where else can you work that you’d get to meet interesting people...

 join with them in happy celebrations... 

and commiserate with their troubles?

Definitely not at a Church!

Especially not if you’re the Preacher!

And my bar would be a good one! Not like those beer halls that smell like urinal cakes and have way too many neon signs advertising their top-of-the-line “Miller Lite”.

My dream bar would be a classy place, clean and quiet, where people would feel comfortable to stop by after work and have an intimate drink with a friend.

Personally, I think we need more places like that.

And I would hire top-notch bartenders who would make real drinks from fresh ingredients. I’ve met some talented local bartenders; my favorites already know what I like. But I’ve also met one or two who have to consult a recipe book just to pour a beer!

I once asked a bartender for a “Cuba Libre!” Her response was, “What is that?”

A rum & Coke with a twist of lime! C’mon! Read the book!

My bartenders would have to know their trade. And there’s nothing I hate worse (okay, maybe there is!) than bartenders who work from mixes. For example, one of my favorite mixed drinks is a Mojito. The ingredients are:
            -lime juice
            -mint leaves
            -a splash of soda water

Is that too difficult to make fresh? I don’t think so. So why do so many bars opt for the “just add rum” mixes?

Lazy, is what I’m thinking!

So I have been studying and making my plans. I have dozens of cocktail recipe books, I watch “informative” shows on TV like “Bar Rescue” and “Restaurant: Impossible”. I even rented “Hey Bartender”, the documentary.

Now all I need to do is win the Lottery, and “Captain Dave’s” will be headed to a downtown near you!

Until then, to borrow a phrase, “Stay thirsty, my friend!”

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

The Zimmerman Trial, and other thoughts

It is summer time, that time of year when we are frequently blessed with the fragrant aroma of our neighbors preparing their meals outside on a gas-fired grill.

Mmmmmm. Steak…

When I was younger, I would stoke our Weber™ grill with a bag of charcoal and apply most of a can of lighter fluid to it before striking the match. This would create a spectacular flame – satisfying my inner pyromaniac – producing an instantaneous, but short-lived, heat. I would throw a slab of meat into the fire like an ancient sacrifice, quickly retrieve my burnt offering, and remorsefully eat my over-cooked dinner.

Since then, the First Mate has taught me a better way of grilling – “low and slow”. Lower heat and a slow cooking process that will render a perfect, medium-rare steak almost every time.

I take that same approach now when responding to the big news stories of the day. While others feel the need to sound off immediately and emotionally – as if there’s some prize for being first and fervent – I choose to sit back with a glass of my favorite libation and carefully ponder a more thoughtful response.

As with grilling, I have found that this method helps prevent getting my meat burned.

Which brings us to the big news of the week, the Zimmerman trial. Like me, you’ve probably heard more about this than you care to. From the intentionally inflammatory coverage after the shooting, to the wall-to-wall coverage of the trial, to the outrage vented via Facebook and Twitter, to the endless commentaries that have followed, we’ve beaten that horse to death now.

In fact, you have probably heard so much already that you’re not really interested in reading the rest of this blog post. And that’s okay. I write for myself. It’s like therapy, only cheaper.

Just remember, “low and slow.” Thank you and come again soon.

Back to the Zimmerman case: what do we really know about what happened that night?

The incident happened February 26, 2012 in Sanford, FL. Twenty-eight-year-old George Zimmerman shot and killed 17-year-old Trayvon Martin.

Those are the facts. They are undisputed.

But even when the facts seem clear, in America we allow everyone a fair trial. And George Zimmerman got his last week.

Unfortunately, over the 16 months that followed the shooting, the media has tried this case in the court of public opinion, at times misrepresenting the case, at times distorting the facts. But since the news media are not trained attorneys and are not bound by the same ethics, they were not obligated to present the information in either a fair or accurate manner. And I’m guessing, from the outcry I am hearing, that many people in this country latched onto one of those early reports and decided the fate of George Zimmerman before his trial ever took place.

So much for being entitled to “a jury of one’s peers” and “innocent until proven guilty”, two concepts we used to hold dear.

Entered into the record we have George Zimmerman’s self-protecting account of what happened that night, although he never took the stand in his own defense. What we don’t have is Trayvon Martin’s testimony. He’s dead. So we will never know for sure what actually transpired between them.

Yes, witnesses were called to testify during the court case, but the human memory is a funny thing. As this report from the venerable news organization “” demonstrates, we don’t always remember accurately what we have witnessed. 

Thus, the court case was narrowly focused on the state of mind of George Zimmerman at the moment he pulled the trigger. All other information was deemed irrelevant, despite what Nancy Grace might think.
            -Should George Zimmerman have followed Trayvon Martin that fateful night? Irrelevant.
            -Should Zimmerman have stayed in his car like he was instructed to by the police? Irrelevant.
            -Should he have been carrying a gun on his Neighborhood Watch patrol? Irrelevant.
-Is he a racist? Irrelevant.
            -Did he fear for his life? Yes. Perhaps because he is a racist, but that, again, is irrelevant.

The defense team convinced the jury that George Zimmerman did, in fact, fear for his life at the moment he pulled and fired his weapon, making it a simple case of self-defense.

I say simple, but we must remember that a teenager died.

And in truth, no verdict – innocent or guilty – could ever replace the life that was taken.

So now the jury has spoken. And within the framework of our laws, like it or not, justice has been served. I can accept that. I have to accept that. We are a people of laws.

Because we don’t particularly care for the outcome does not give us the right to participate in violent protests, assault passersby, and loot local merchants as we have seen. I will not accept that.

And I cannot accept the violence that so many did to this tragic story in other ways, twisting it around to aid completely unrelated causes:
            -Anti-racism groups immediately shouted, “If Trayvon had been white, Zimmerman would already be on Death Row.” “If Zimmerman had been black, we never would have heard of this case.” “This is about racial profiling.” “This is about white fear of the young black man.”
            -Anti-abortion people started crying, “We get upset over the death of this one teenager, but ignore the thousands of children who are murdered each year by abortions.”
            -Anti-gun people pretend to be incredulous: “Can you believe they are giving Zimmerman his gun back?”
            -Anti-“stand your ground” people are demanding a better law and better legislators.

All good points, but completely self-serving.

Trayvon Martin is not a “cause”, not a mascot, not a tool to be used to manipulate our feelings. He was a person. Somebody’s son. Somebody’s brother. And now he’s dead.

As I reach to pour myself another drink – I apologize for the length of this post – I realize that oftentimes our words get in the way. More often than not, at times like these we should just shut our mouths and hold close those who grieve.

Low and slow…

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

What's the Diff...?

A few years back, while living in Memphis, a hometown friend had a birthday, one of those significant ones that ends in “-0”. So I called back to my former secretary and asked her to go buy a particular bottle of wine for my friend. She agreed.

After completing her task, her comment was, “Wow! That must have been some bottle of wine!”  Yes, it was pricey.

And yes, I reimbursed her, plus a little extra for her effort.

The Captain is a very generous man!

And then she asked, “Is a $50 bottle of wine really better than a $10 bottle of wine?”

I know people who insist that “Two-buck Chuck” (sold through Trader Joe’s) is just as good as any other wine. 

This makes me sad for them.

It’s a difficult question to explain to one who doesn’t appreciate fine wine, but trust me, there IS a difference.

It’s like the difference between real Coca-Cola™ and those supermarket brands of “cola”.

And if you can’t taste the difference there, you should probably stop reading now.

But that’s all beside the point. I’m still thinking about my recent vacation. I’m having a hard time bringing myself back to the reality of living in-land and working again.

It was THAT good!

On our vacation, we splurged for a couple nights and stayed at the Margaritaville Beach Hotel at Pensacola Beach. The rest of the week was at a Double Tree Inn in Orlando. Margaritaville cost $329 per night; the Double Tree cost $119 per night (plus $12 per day for parking).

Which begs the original question: is a $300 per night hotel really better than a $100 per night hotel?

The answer is a resounding “Yes”!

Don’t get me wrong. The Double Tree is a very nice hotel. We were perfectly satisfied there. It offered a clean, comfortable room with a Starbuck’s in the lobby, several restaurants and bars, a large outdoor swimming pool, and a hot tub the size of what most hotels would call their “pool”.

But the Margaritaville Beach Hotel had that beat by a mile!

First, there’s the Million Dollar location…

The lobby of the hotel was breath-taking…

The floors were custom-designed tile, made to look like a woven mat…

The carpets in the hallways had custom touches as well…

The room was clean and attractive…

...with tile floors so as to avoid the musty smell of most beach hotels...

…with that Million Dollar view!

The Beach, the Tiki Bar by the outdoor pool, Frank & Lola’s Restaurant, Landshark Landing… all this combined to make this guy one very happy vacationer!

And if I start saving my money now, maybe we can afford to stay for THREE nights next time!