Hell of a Guy
Freedom of Press is limited to those who own one - H.L. Mencken

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Me, Earth Day and Asheville, NC…


Talk about two things I never, ever thought would be used in the same sentence “me” and “Earth Day.”

I am as for saving the planet as most “average” Americans should be, but the idea of me at an Earth Day rally was, up until yesterday, was simply an incomprehensible.  I recycle a bit, mostly beer bottles, but it’s a start.  I do not litter.  I buy recycled goods, and I work for a company that has received many awards for its recycling efforts and green products. 
The aforementioned notwithstanding, I won’t ever be known as a tree hugger, and for sure won’t be joining the Sierra Club anytime soon.

This brings me to yesterday’s adventures in Asheville, NC.  We chose this place to visit for a couple of reasons.  Asheville is the home of the Biltmore Estate, known as America’s largest single-family home, and I wanted The Nancy to see it.  The second reason was to enjoy some locally brewed beverages.  We did both.

The Biltmore is very impressive.  It is unbelievably large, something like 2.4 million cubic feet, 325 feet long, four stories, nestled in the middle of 8000 acres (originally 125,000 acres).  It was well worth the $140.00 we paid to visit it, and the $100+ we spent for lunch and other junk to take home with us.  The beer has been pretty good, as well.

We heard Friday evening when we first got here there was to be an Earth Day rally at a downtown park on Saturday.  My initial thought was no interest, as was my second thought; however, after leaving the Biltmore at 4:30 with plenty of time to kill, The Nancy made the decision that I decided to go see what an Earth Day rally is all about.  My level of excitement peaked at the very moment I saw the Earth Day people.

I think I may have been the only Republican in the crowd, and it made me feel like a rat turd in a sugar bowl.  I was so out of place in this hippie-like crowd with its hundreds and hundreds miles of dreadlocks and a thousand hairy legged women.  We saw two women breastfeeding children that looked old enough to be in school.  I didn’t see any pot smoking, but it was still early.  Once the music started people were on there feet dancing as if they were possessed.  I was weirded out very quickly as The Nancy and I walked around the park, and I knew I had to make a rapid but courteous exit. 

Luckily a sign on the side of a building at the edge of the park caught my eye.  Pack’s Tavern was the perfect life boat for my rescue.  If I counted correctly there were eighteen taps on the wall behind the bar where The Nancy and I rested our weary butts.  We could still hear the music emanating from the park and the tavern was filled with a crowd of varying degrees of weirdness, but I blocked a lot of them out as I enjoyed more than one chilled beverages.

One of the reasons The Nancy and I choose to sit at the bar when we dine out is so we can meet people.  Pack’s was no different.  We met some really nice folks, some with dreads and some without, some older people and some very young ones.  With or without dreadlocks, with or without hairy legs, people still are people.  They all have a purpose for being here, a covenant they made with God, though they might not realize it.

My mother always reminded me to “Judge not, lest ye be judged.”  So I will shut up now, but I will have to admit I am glad The Nancy made the decision that I decided to visit the park.

And that is all I have to say about that…       

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Asheville, NC, Soup and Back Roads…


The Nancy and I were in Concord, NC for a conference earlier this week.  When we made our plans we decided on a slight western detour on our way back to The Farm via Asheville.

Allow me, please, to give you a brief visual on my observation of “Asheville.”

This is a neat little town of about 80,000 souls.  The really neat part about this town is the eclectic nature of the populace.  This is an artist’s Mecca, a place where the weird, the intellectual, and the “average Joe” all accept (or ignore) the idiosyncrasies of the others, or, perhaps, at least tolerates them.  This is North Carolina’s Haight-Ashbury, but with a southern accent.

After we checked into our hotel yesterday afternoon, having dropped our bags in the room, we journeyed off to stop number one.  The Mellow Mushroom is a chain of restaurants generally found in college towns, Asheville being the exception to the rule.  I chose this restaurant because they have an awesome vegetarian tortilla soup that I love and a whole bunch of really good beers on tap.  According to my GPS the Mellow Mushroom was located just 3.4 miles from the hotel.  As we approached downtown Asheville we noticed a whole line of traffic inching along at an incredibly slow pace.  Looking at the map on the GPS, it appeared we could take a slight detour and avoid the traffic.  Note: my assumption (and you know how assumptions go) that a “shortcut” would work for us proved to be a really stupid idea.

The street I chose took us up a mountain on a very winding two-lane, very narrow roadway.  The GPS now indicated my shortcut to the restaurant was now 6.8 miles.  We decided to do it anyway, rather than to attempt to turn around and backtrack (another dumb idea).

This road took us by some beautiful vistas and very expensive looking homes as it continued to climb and climb.  As we crested the top of the mountain that aggravating female voice of the GPS told me to take the next left turn.  The next left turn, having already driven three miles of the 6.8, was onto a gravel road.  I made the turn.  Almost immediately the GPS changed to mileage to the restaurant back to 6.8 miles, but we ventured on.

We finally made our way back to a paved surface after about three miles of kicking up a huge dust cloud, and arrived at the spot on marked on the GPS as our final destination.  Only thing was, the Mellow Mushroom was not to be found.  Out comes Mr. iPhone and a quick Google search for the Mellow Mushroom gave us yet another address oddly enough 3.4 miles from where we were.  Long story endless, after traveling some 17 miles we finally made it to our original destination, and not a moment too soon.  The Nancy and I were both famished.  My mouth was watering at the thought of slurping up that really great, delicious tortilla soup.

I bellied up to the bar, ordered a Green Man IPA and a big bowl of my favorite soup.  Disappointment ensued as my hopes were dashed immediately when the bartender said to me in so many words “No soup for you.” 

My soup was not on the menu. Devastation set in, but was assuaged in short order with couple of Green Man IPA’s and mushroom pizza.

And that is all I have to say about that…

Wednesday, April 06, 2011

Six Hundred Twenty-Four…


If we were talking about the national debt, 624 might not sound big.  On the flipside, if we were talking about weight, 624 would be huge.  624 sounds like a nice number.  It can be divided into even parts by using the numbers 2, 3, 6, 12 and so on.  Divided by 12, it makes a very neat 52 dozen of something.  All silliness that aside, what is the big deal about 624 of anything?

If you have happened on this inane website before, you have no doubt seen me refer to the number 711 more than a couple of times.  The number 711 is significant, especially if you live in Beautiful Downtown Berkeley Springs, West Virginia.  You see, in the year 2000 at the end of the national census count there appeared to be 711 souls domiciled in this little village (it’s not big enough to be considered and actual “town”).  Make that 711 happy souls. 

Berkeley Springs, West Virginia is a neat place to live.  Why just today a once-a-year event took place; the opening of the Berkeley Springs Farmers’ Market happened at 10am this very day.  It will run into mid-October.  We have springs festivals here like the International Water Tasting wherein water from all over the country and world and tasted by a group of judges, and as silly as it may sound, one is selected as the best.  Believe me, it’s a big deal here.  We also have a fall event we call the Apple Butter Festival.  The ABF is huge with hundreds of craftsmen and craftswomen selling their goods, and food mongers mongering their specialties.  Food mongers?

Actually, Berkeley Springs, West Virginia is a tourist destination.  People come from far and wide to visit the Country Inn and the mineral spring baths, and maybe to get a massage from one of the many masseuses that seemingly out number the residents of the village by a wide margin.  There are some wonderful restaurants here, and one that is simply too good for words; oh, and the people here are as nice as they can be.

While the county population grew some 17%, the village lost 87 of its citizens.  I suppose they fled the hustle and bustle of the thriving metropolis we locals call The Town of Bath for the bucolic, less vibrant life of the suburbs. 

Regardless of where these people may have found a new place to refer to as their habitual abodes, they have caused me an issue.  From now on I have to remember to refer to my home as Beautiful Downtown Berkeley Springs, West Virginia, population 624. 

The 624 just doesn’t have the sex appeal of 711.

And that is all I have to say about that…

Friday, April 01, 2011

Is it Spring, Yet?


Is it just me, or does the winter season just seem to linger on and on?  I am seeing hints of spring, like March 21st has come and gone, for one, but there are others.  The jonquils are up and blooming; my grass has greening and is growing, at least the weeds are flourishing.  There are buds on the trees and some are even showing evidence of green.  We are on the cusp of spring, but where the hell is the telltale sign of it, i.e., warmer days?

Yesterday The Nancy and I drove to Winchester, Virginia.  We travel there via route 522 as it runs down a scenic valley between Cacapon Mountain and the Sleepy Creek Mountain.  Yesterday the tops of both mountains showed white with a thin layer of snow upon them.  What is up with that?

This morning here is Beautiful Downtown Berkeley Springs, West Virginia, population 711 we awoke to a temperature of just above freezing.  Throughout the day it has risen to a balmy 43 degrees.  What?  Allow me to spell it out?  It is forty-three degrees, as in 43 degrees, a mere 11 degrees above the temperature wherein H2O goes from a liquid state to a solid one.  People, this is just flat out unacceptable.

Who has taken spring hostage, and where are they holding it?

Oh, how I long for 80 degree days, long days where the sun rises over the eastern horizon before 6am and doesn’t fall below the western horizon until 9pm.  Those days when The Nancy and I can sit on the rockers on the front porch and suck down a few brews after work but before dinner while we listen to the birds chirping and watch the grass grow. 

I am testing the power of prayer, and wishing and hoping as hard as I can that spring, the real spring, is just days away (hours would be better).  I am crossing my fingers and my toes, and would cross more body parts if I had any that could cross.

I might promise God I will go to church every Sunday for the rest of the year if in God’s infinite wisdom the real spring begins tomorrow, but it might happen and I not sure can live up to my end of the bargain.

I hate conundrums. 

And that is all I have to say about that…