Saturday, August 29, 2009

Dave & DeNick's Treasure Hunting (Reunion I)

This is the first part of a few posts chronicling my weekend in Mobile, Alabama...

As reported before, I headed to Mobile this past weekend with The Lovely Steph Leann, and our friends DeNick and DeLisa. It seems that somehow, someway, we always end up spending the weekend with them out of town, be it a friends gathering a few years ago, a Disney World trip last fall, and now this, but it always works out.

The Lovely Steph Leann and DeLisa were graduates of Baker High School in 1994, and this was the 15th anniversary of that very same class. DeLisa had been heavily involved in planning this reunion, and The Lovely Steph Leann was along for the ride... which meant that spouses like myself and DeNick were also along for the ride.

We left Friday afternoon around 4pm, and had an uneventful ride down--I say "uneventful" because I slept for the first two hours of it. We did stop at Steak-n-Shake in Prattville, upon my suggestion because, really, I love some Steak-n-Shake. I wish there was one here in Birmingham, but part of me is glad, because some of the appeal might wear off--I've not been to Whataburger nearly as much as I thought I would now that they are in town.

But boy do I miss Denny's.

Anyway, we were staying at DeLisa's parents house to which we arrived around 9p or so, unloaded, and then had cake, chatted it up with DeMom and spent 45 minutes watching the sonogram video of DeNick & DeLisa's baby coming soon. She's due in January. I got to watch a little Dateline NBC, always a good time.

The reunion party wasn't until 6pm the next evening, so the subject of "What are we going to do tomorrow" came up, and DeLisa and The Lovely Steph Leann had their answer. They were going to go get chicked out with one of those mani-pedi type mornings at a place that does such things.

My version of a manicure is when I bite the fingernail of my index finger. Done. DeNick also had no desire for such things, so we chatted for a moment about what we could do for the morning. DeLisa said, "You should go to Hudson's." I looked at her, then to DeNick and asked, "What's Hudson's?"

A smile crept across DeNick's face. Essentially, he explained, its this big store that has tons and tons of random closeout things, of all types, sizes, prices and so on. Kind of like Big Lots, I say, and both DeNick and DeLisa shake their heads. No, better (worse?) that Big Lots.

"I'm in," I say immediately. You know you are a blogger when you look for opportunities to take pictures and discuss the strange places you go.

The next morning, The Lovely Steph Leann was already at breakfast, ready to get her chick on with DeLisa, before I was even fully awake. I figured I'd shower later (which I did), and was pleasantly surprised at what DeDad had cooked up... biscuits, eggs, bacon and cheese grits, which were delish to the core--I had two big helpings of such.

Finally, the girls were gone and the boys headed to Hudson's Treasure Hunt. And of course, I took some pictures...

Here's Hudson's, right off of... Schillengers? It was in a shopping center next to a Dollar General, which, let me tell ya, where EVA-REE-WHERE.

In case you want to look like Mary-Kate... or Ashley... whichever's which... you can buy their hair care products! Oh, and don't eat for three days and smoke like a chimney. That would do it.

I don't know that I can come up with a price that I wouldn't pay, or at least consider, to see The Lovely Steph Leann wear a pair of pants like these, even for a brief moment.

Don't be deceived by this aisle. Despite the fact there were a 1,000 DVDs here, there were many of the same ones, so you had about 15 titles to choose from. They were all $4.99 though, so it was tempting to purchase the entire first season of Gene Simmons Family Jewels.

Let me be clear... if this ever ends up on our shelves in The Cabana, call the police. Because if this is in our house, that means that The Lovely Steph Leann is dead, and if you didn't hear me talk about it, then I had something to do with her disappearance. Thats the only way this would ever make it in our home. And if you decide to give us this for a gift, even a gag gift, she WILL throw it away. Just sayin'.

So, if you are looking at your shopping list, and it says Advil, hair scrunchies, triple A batteries, Coca-cola flavored lip balm, gift wrap tape dispensers AND condoms, then not only can you get it all at Hudson's Treasure Hunt, you can get it all standing IN THE SAME SPOT! What convenience!!

We finished up our walking around at Hudson's, which also included tours of the hardware that featured $124 dollar hammers--why would you ever need a hammer that cost more than $20?--and axes that not only had the blade plastic cover missing, but were on the bottom shelf for your child's easy reaching and DeNick bought a few things and I bought a cheap flashlight for the car.

We were back in the truck we were riding in and were heading back to DeMom's house, when DeNick pipes up, "Hey! I just remembered... if you think that was bad, there's another place down the road called Hudson's Dirt Cheap."

First of all, any place with the words "Dirt" and "Cheap" in them--done. I'm all about it. I shared this sentiment with my riding buddy, and we turned the Trooper around and headed thataway.

I figured out that Hudson's Treasure Hunt was like Big Lots threw up. And if that place was Big Lots throwing up, then Hudson's Dirt Cheap was Big Lots squatting and take a huge crap. This place was reeeeeediculous... piles of junk everywhere. Anywhere. The shelves were dirty, the items were opened, broken, strewn about, the packages were sometimes empty, and there was the most random assortment of crap you could possibly imagine.


And the crazy thing was, the place was packed. There was a ton of people walking the aisles, picking stuff up, ready to purchase.

There was a lady near the front on the phone, sifting through a big cardboard bin of makeup supplies and such, and I heard her say, "Yeah, they've got dozens of shades here, like, 3 for a dollar! Would you like me to pick you up some?" And then she turned to the littler girl next to her, swatted the hand, and said, "Don't you dare put that anywhere near your mouth!"

They had plenty of toiletry items here, including a seat. And no, I didn't stage this picture by putting this on the shelf. DeNick saw me taking a picture of it, and said plainly, "Now THAT... I wouldn't touch." Touche.

This is one of my worst fears. I write a book that I'm very proud of, hopefully you will all buy and enjoy, and some years later, I find it on the shelves of Hudson's Dirt Cheap. I might have to walk into traffic.

A couple of things to notice about this picture... first, the yellow tag on the shelf. That would be a Wal Mart tag. And many of the shelves had Wal Mart yellow price stickers on them, as in, Hudson's Dirt Cheap hadn't even bothered to clean the shelves off. Secondly, notice the price tag actually on this box of crayons... it says $4.99. It was on a 50% off shelf, so for about $2.50, you are getting a rather attractive box of 120 Crayola Premium Crayons. Heck, it even says "Surprise Inside!" So open the box and...

...surprise! A bunch of used, broken and missing crayons! What a deal!

Be honest... if you are brave enough to buy the clothes, how many of you are brave enough to venture into the Changing Coops dressing rooms?

Finally, DeNick and I had about all the Hudson's Bargain hunting we could stand, and once again, was heading to DeLisa's parents home, when once again, DeNick piped up, "Hey, you know what else is around here? The flea market!"

So, off we went. It was nearing noon by this time, and we knew our respective chicks were probably close to being done with their chicked out morning, so we figured we would swing in and just take a look around.

Suffice to say, as far as hilarity ensuing, it was just eh. Actually, it was quite organized... while neither one of us found a whole lot we were interested in purchasing, we were quite impressed by the way it was laid out. It was clean, it had a wide variety of things for sale--movies, music, comics, clothes, knick knacks, paddywhacks, the dogs and the bones--and I even paid 50 cent for disc one of WWE Raw Is War 15th Anniversary Collection.

There were lots of animals here for sale including...

...chickens for $10. Seriously, it was almost worth ten dollars to see the look on The Lovely Steph Leann's face when I came back with a rooster in a cage. I didn't do it, however, because as priceless as that look might be, and as much enjoyment as DeNick would get out of it, I would then have a chicken I'd have to do something with, and I'd have a very annoyed wife to deal with later. Just not worth it. Almost, but not quite.

We finished up, and headed back to DeMom's house, and this time, DeNick had nothing else to toss in there. I took a shower when we arrived, DeNick headed out to the pier behind the house and we waiting for the chicks to come back, which they did.

We had lunch at Baudean's, a pretty decent if somewhat overpriced seafood joint down the road, and then just relaxed for the afternoon. The Lovely Steph Leann got in a nap, as did I, before we got up and prepared to face The Class of 1994.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

The Shawstavia Redemption

Where are we? Currently, sitting in the back of a police cruiser, handcuffed, in April of 2003. Find out how I got there by reading Part I.

As I sat down to finish the story, The Lovely Steph Leann was headed upstairs to lay that pretty little head to sleep. I mentioned that I had to finish my blog story, which she had not read yet. She asked which story, I told her it was the 2003 arrest, and she rolled her eyes. "I cannot believe you are telling that story." Then she disappeared upstairs.

Back to the story...

The Ford Explorer slowed down as it past the motel parking lot. I watched it turn right onto Highway 31, disappear for a few seconds, then reappear in the shopping center parking lot. I could see in the windows a very confused looking Wookiee behind the wheel, with Mikey and Tom and Shawn with him. The Explorer pulled to the front of the motel, almost looking like they were checking in.

My wrists were a little pained, by the way. Officer Tennessee Titan running back Eddie George had slapped on the handcuffs a little tight, so when Eddie George came back to the car, I asked if he would loosen them a little. I leaned over with my hands out, he obliged, uncuffed and then re-locked them.

Eddie George then turned around to see none other than Deucemate Tom Johnson headed walking towards them. They conversed for a minute or so, apparently with Tom asking permission to take my car back to The Deuce, which was denied, and then asking some questions about my situation... my best guess some years later would be him asking first, "Why is my roommate handcuffed in the back seat of a police car?"

This is different from the question Mikey would have asked, which would be, "Is he going to be deported, and if so, can I get him to sign his rent check real quick?"

Tom came over to the police car, under the watchful eye of Eddie George, looked in the window with a grin and said, "Hey d$." I nodded, "'sup Tom?"

We then chatted for a moment about the weather, about the prospects of Auburn and Alabama this coming fall, the possibility of you know, posting bail and I'm sure Tom made some remark about the soap being dropped and how that was a bad idea.

With Eddie George's permission, Tom was able to go to my car and pull out my debit card. I told Tom to go get about $200 cash out of my account, gave him my pin number, asked him to call Starbucks to let them know I've been delayed (re: detained) and sent him on his way.

About this time, with the fresh smell of bacon in the air, the Vestavia Hill Popo showed up. An old, gruff officer got out, had some words with Eddie George, and just like that, Officer Tennessee Titan running back Eddie George opened the back car door, asked me to step out, and then turned me over to Officer Grumpsalot. Without a word, Officer Grumpsalot opened the back door to his Vestavia Hills Police Cruiser and motioned me inside, which I did with little reaction.

He got behind the wheel, then began the drive up the hill to the Vestavia Hills Police Department. Unlike Eddie George, Officer Grumpsalot didn't say anything. He actually lowered his window about an inch or so, and lit up a smoke. Part of me was bothered by this, because really, I didn't pay a speeding ticket, and had an expired tag... sure that was wrong, and yeah, I need to pay some fines and such, but here I was, sitting in the back of a police car and now the Officer who isn't likely to win any congeniality awards is inhaling a cig, with smoke wafting back to me. There was a cage between us, not glass.

However, another part of me was quite amused by this. I don't feel sorry for anyone in the back of a police car, because whether the punishment fits the crime, the law is what it is, and here's an old school police officer lighting up a Marlboro, and I'm sure if I had said anything about it, he probably would have not only told me where to stick it, whatever "it" might be, he might tell me to go perform bad things on my own accord. So I kept quiet, slowly developing second hand cancer from the ride to the station.

I sighed and half-smiled as we passed Starbucks, the same one that I was supposed to be working at, by now a good 30 minutes. Keep in mind, I'm still wearing my Starbucks hat and my red shirt... and several of the officers frequent this Starbucks. Unfortunately, Eddie George nor Officer Grumpsalot were one of those.

We pulled into the station, he got out, pulled me out and led me inside, through a small lobby and into the booking room. That's right, I said "booking room". I could see the camera set up at the far end, and in the next room, a small counter with a few pads of black ink--fingerprinting. Beyond that, a small doorless entry way leading to what I glimpsed and could only guess to be... jail cells. Two of them, one on each side.

Another man, a tall, heavyset guy who looks like he'd be completely comfortable sitting 1) on a Harley hog and 2) at a buffet, was getting his mugshot taken. Officer Grumpsalot uncuffed me, handed me over to a nice older lady who could have passed for my grandmother, were she not wearing a police uniform and about to take my mug shot. She instructed me to stand in front of the camera, and hold a small black board.

The black board read, in removable tile letters "D-A-V-I-D D-O-L-L-A-R", and had a series of numbers under it. I held it, faced the camera, and it flashed. "Turn to the side, sweetie," she instructed, as if she were offering me a glass of tea to go with my cookies. I turned, held the sign beside me and the camera flashed again.

She led me over to the fingerprinting area, where Philo Beddoe the Biker was standing. She told me to just have a seat until Philo was done. I sat, sighing, leaning back in the chair. Really, I could have been upset... but why? It is what it is. I messed up, I was careless, and I got caught. I honestly found the entire episode more funny than anything else, though I was little worried about missing my shift at Starbucks, and there still was the issue of The Girlfriend Steph Leann, though by now, I had decided to just not tell her.

As I sat, a few of the police officers that I recognized walked in. One, who we called Officer Spill due to his propensity for knocking over drinks on our Starbucks counter (he'd done it twice by this time), saw me, looked bewildered, then smiled. "Well, guess we had better be careful that you don't spit in our drinks, huh?" I smiled back, thinking to myself, "Yep, and you no longer are going to receive quality drinks from my hand."

Remember that scene in "Con Air", when Cyrus the Virus asks Guard Falzon, "Oh, stewardess? Stewardess? What's the in-flight movie today?" and Guard Falzon says,"Well, I think you'll like it, Cyrus. It's called "I'll Never Make Love to a Woman on the Beach Again", and it's preceded by the award-winning short, "No More Steak for Me, Ever". He laughs and walks away, and Cyrus the Virus throws out a fake laugh before saying, "Funny f($**@+, aren't ya?"
I felt like that.

Philo Beddoe was done with his fingerprinting, and the officer led him into the small adjacent room. I heard the groan, followed a few seconds later by the clanging of a jail cell door closing. I was led to the fingerprinting counter, and the older lady with me gently took my left hand, then put my index finger on the ink pad. She rolled it onto the black ink, then moved it over to a large card.

My finger was placed and rolled on a square marked "Left Index". A few seconds later, the square marked "Left Middle" was marred by a black fingerprint, followed by the ring, the pinky, then the thumb.

Philo Beddoe, from inside his cell, called out, "Can I call my brother again?" One of the officers responded, "Yeah, just give me a minute and I'll get you the phone." I asked, "What are you in for?" and Philo Beddoe responded, "Funny thing, really. I got a speeding ticket about five years ago, right before I was moving to Florida. Forgot that I got it. I haven't been back to Birmingham in five years, and I came this weekend to see my parents. Got pulled over for some routine traffic stop, and here I am. What about you?"

"Dude, that sucks. Yeah, kinda the same. Got a ticket I forgot to pay, so here I am."

"Tell you one thing, man. When my brother gets here and gets me out, I ain't never coming back to Birmingham again. That's for dang sure."

I looked at the officer who was finishing up inking and rolling my right hand and asked, "Am I going to be in the jail cell?"

She nodded and said, "Yes."

What was jail like, you ask? Well, all I can say is, the first night's the toughest, no doubt about it. They march you in naked as the day you were born, skin burning and half blind from that delousing crap they throw on you, and when they put you in that cell, when those bars slam home, that's when you know it's for real. Old life blown away in the blink of an eye. Nothing left but all the time in the world to think about it. Most new fish come close to madness the first night. Somebody always breaks down crying. Happens every time. The only question is, who's it gonna be? I remember my first night. Seems like a long time ago.

Fortunately for me, The Deuce saved the day. A police officer came in and saw me, red shirt, black Starbucks hat, black inked fingers and nodded. "Your d$, right?" I nodded. "You got an entourage out here."

I followed him out into the main lobby, and there stood Mikey, Shawn, the honorable Rev'rn Ty, Tom, Wookiee and my buddy Demastus, Atty at Law, and as I walked in, the applauded. I nodded my head, smiled, and bowed.

"So, uh... can I get a ride to work?" I asked into the crowd.

The aftermath started by getting my car out of impound, which cost me about $110. I had to pay my fines, which strangely enough wasn't as much as I thought. Because I had such an old speeding ticket, my license was suspended unbeknownst to me. So when I was stopped, it was taken from me, and I was given a "driving with a suspended license" fine, in addition to my expired tag fine, and of course, the cost of the original ticket. However, I paid $155 the night I was sprung from prison, and subsequently, that was it. I called later, and was told that it was now paid up with my previous payment.

To this day, I'm not sure if the $155 I paid was for the tag, the license or the ticket, or maybe it was discounted because I'm a member in good standing of The Deuce, and truly, The Deuce Abides.

Now... The Girlfriend Steph Leann was another story. I went on to work, and caught much ribbing from the fellow baristas about being a convicted felon in their midst. Bummed a ride home, and the next morning, I got a phone call. It was Stephanie.

"Hey baby, how are ya?" she asked.
"I'm great," I responded. I had gone back and forth on whether to tell her or not, and had decided that I would just keep quiet, for now. Perhaps one day, when we were married, sitting on our front porch just covered in grandchildren and saying things like "No!" and "Stop that!", I would pipe up and say, "Hey, let me tell you a funny story about a time before we were engaged."

I never had that chance.

"So how was your night last night? Anything in particular you want to tell me?" she asked. She knew. Somehow, some way, she knew.
"Nothing really. Worked. Came home."
"Was ARRESTED?!?!?!"
"Well, yeah, that too."
"Yeah, Ty called me last night. I was eating dinner with my parents, and got this phone call, and had to fake it with them like it was nothing. YOU'D BETTER BE GLAD YOU DIDN'T CALL ME, OR I WOULD HAVE LEFT YOUR (@**# A#($** IN JAIL!!!" (she didn't really say curse words or use punctuation in her comments, but it was rather strong). To this day she still contends that she would have left me there. And to this day, I still remember that Rev'rn Ty sold me out.

All these years later, the whole thing still resonates. Sometimes people ask me if I'm rehabilitated. Well, there's not a day goes by I don't feel regret. Not because I was in jail, or because you think I should be. I look back on the way I was then: a young, stupid kid who committed that terrible crime. I want to talk to him. I want to try and talk some sense to him, tell him the way things are. But I can't. That kid's long gone and this old man is all that's left. I got to live with that. Rehabilitated? It's just a crap word. So you go on and make your judgements, sonny, and stop wasting my time. Because to tell you the truth, I don't give a rip.

So there it is. The story that was never told has now been told. Perhaps Mikey, Tom, Wookiee, Shawn-Fu, Ty and The Lovely Steph Leann will remember it differently, but that's how it happened in my mind. Hope you enjoyed my tale of lawlessness, reckless abandon and appreciate the fact I left out the gangster wars and rape from my time in the joint.

Thank you again for reading the blog, and here's to the next 500 posts, to getting to 50,000 hits in the next two years and I'll have you to thank for it all. You guys rock.

Arrested Developments (#500)

(Authors note... while this post was written in 2009, this particular paragraph is written on 10/3/14... I'm working on the blog itself, weeding through posts, deleting some things that don't make any sense, and so on.  At this point, I've gotten rid of about 35 posts--I was at 996 before today.  That means that even though this is declared at Post 500... if you do the math, it's actually somewhere around 460 or so.  But at the time, it was 500... so just go along with it =)

Not too long ago, I found a website that would print your blog. You can upload it, and within a few seconds, you'd get your blog in a book form that you can print! For a small fee, of course.

Anyway, I did the necessary steps to see what it would look like. And I waited. And I waited. And I waited. And I waited some more. I flew to NYC, saw a Broadway play, flew back, drove to Gadsden, had a nice Waffle House breakfast with NYCJenni, on the way back, stopped and played some gin rummy with KT, found Hurricane Rhett broken down on the side of the road, so I gave him a lift to Tupelo, Mississippi, came back, had dinner with The Lovely Steph Leann while conferencing Erin the Marine Wife on her new book, "Semper Wife", played tennis with Mikey and Jim Courier, then had a six movie marathon starring Amy Adams, whom I'm in love with. And I waited some more.

FINALLY, it came up. And for the low, low price of only $606.45, YOU can order your own copy of Clouds in My Coffee's Blog Book, and enjoy all 1709 pages of it. None of that was a typo.

Whether I'm any good or not is subjective--I'm sure there are some that would never visit this page other than to mock me, and there are others that visit every day... I know that at least 130 people have this page bookmarked in their browser, and many of you have this site linked on your own webpage (though Amy Mc, you don't. And we're going to have to change that somehow). None of that is trying to be all braggadocious, its just a pride of after four years of work, this page has some legs, and keeps growing.

I thought long and hard about what to do for this particular posting... I mean, you don't do your 500th blog every day, and it will be another 3 to 4 years before I get to 1,000, so I wanted to mark the occasion with something a little extra special. I went back and forth on ideas, thinking about actually introducting a website, then thinking I'd do a page of my favorite columns or maybe your favorite columns and then I thought of doing pictures, or music or something... but a few days ago, when The Lovely Steph Leann and I were driving through Vestavia Hills, it hit me. I'd tell a story.

I'd tell a story that hasn't been told online. I'd tell a story that several people know, but perhaps had forgotten... or had heard in second or third hand. I'd tell a story that The Lovely Steph Leann has told me her parents don't even know. Yet, anyway.

Its April 2003. I started at Starbucks on February 1 of that same year, and had been at the brand new Vestavia store for two months. The reasons for working at Starbucks were two fold... first, I had a girlfriend that I really liked a whole heckuva lot. So much so that I wanted to buy this chick a ring. Second, I had debt. I mean, we've covered this in previous blogs here and here, but anyone who knows me knows that in my younger day, I didn't do so very good with money.

Starbucks, at the time, was paying me a nice $6.55 per hour to hustle lattes, sling coffee, grind some beans and truly have a good time. And Starbucks is a good time, don't let anyone ever tell you differently.

Part of my debt was credit cards, part of my debt was personal loans, the majority was student loans, another big chunk was the car payment, and another chunk was the car insurance that I had gotten, finally. (June 2000 was when they mandated that all Alabama drivers have car insurance... guess who just got some?). But, at Starbucks, I was starting to make some headway. I was close to having my first card paid off, my AT&T Universal, and was saving some money up for this ring idea that I had.

The Deuce Guys were happier, especially Mikey, cause suddenly, instead of getting my rent and utility checks up last, or a few days late, I was plopping my power bill check on the bulletin board a good ten days before it was due. I mean, I was pulling at least $300 extra per month, after taxes and it was glorious.

So, its a Friday night. I pull out of The Deuce Parking Lot and onto Southland Drive. Its probably around 515ish or so, I have to be at work at 530ish, and I'm wearing my red Starbucks shirt, apron in my front seat. I leave behind Wookiee on the couch, Mikey on the other couch, Tom in his room and Shawn-Fu on the computer.

Being a Friday, traffic seems a little heavier that normal, and I pull to a stop behind another car at a red light. For those of you unfamiliar with the area, or have been gone so long from it that you barely remember this, Southland Drive is a little road that spills into Highway 31.

Highway 31 is one of the major highways in Birmingham, and if you turn right onto 31, you'll head towards the main Hoover area of the Galleria Mall and towards the towns of Pelham and Alabaster. If you turn left, which I was going to do, you'll pass turn lanes to Interstate 65, you'll go under the 65 overpass, and head into Vestavia Hills.

As I sit on Southland Drive, to my right is a small shopping center that contains Ellis Piano, the Purple Onion (to this day still a fave eatery of myself and The Lovely Steph Leann), David's Bridal (which in the years has since moved down 31) and a few other shops. To my left is a hotel that has gone through several name changes, only being a "brand name" you'd recognize just once, a long time ago. There's a restaurant there called... something or other, but Mikey and I went there once and I remembered it being terrible. The Where We Eatin' Blog would take it down, I'm sure. In the years since, the hotel has been torn down and... well, I'm trying to remember what is even there now.

So, to my right is the shopping center, to my left is the motel... and behind me at this very moment? A police officer. In a police car. And it is at this very moment that I remember... my tag is expired. Its April. I'm a "D", so that means I renew in January. Do the math.

The officer did the math, and before I could utter any sort of profanity that only I and God would hear that I might feel bad about later, the lights came on. The red light changed to green, and I wheeled over into the parking lot of the motel and turned the car off. Another ticket. This will suck. And my girlfriend, the Dating Steph Leann, who has been reminding me of getting this taken care of, will not be happy. However, my thought is to pay it off quickly, and just not mention it. That would be easier, right? Right.

Sighing, I pull my wallet out, or my dayplanner, or whatever it was that I was carrying at the time and set it on the passenger seat, and put both hands on the steering wheel. The big, black, behemoth of an officer came to my window and smiled. He looked like Eddie George, the then-Tennessee Titan running back.

"License and registration, please," he said. Then added, "Proof of insurance."
"Yes sir," I replied, friendly enough. I pulled out my license and my Geico insurance information.
"Do you know why I pulled you over, d$?"
"I am guessing it has something to do with my tag being a couple of months overdue, right?"
"Yep," he nodded, writing on his little tablet. Not looking up, he said, "Normally, if its a month late, I don't worry about it, but yours is three months past. I just couldn't let it slip." He looked up, nodded again and turned to his car. "Just sit right there for me, I'll be right back."

Eddie George got back in his police car, and I looked down at the clock. It was 5:42. I was going to be late, and I hated being late. And even worse, Eddie George was taking forever... finally, he got out of his vehicle, and walked back to the car.

"I'm going to ask you to step out of the car, d$," Eddie George said, suddenly sounding very official. Uh... okay...

I unbuckled my seatbelt, opened the door and stepped out. "Can I ask what the problem is, officer?" That is always such a cheesy movie line, until you are forced to ask it for real.

"Are you aware that you have a speeding ticket that is outstanding from 2000?"
"Uh... no. But I have a feeling I'm aware of it now."
"Please turn around, sir. I'm going to have to take you into custody."
"Seriously? Like, you are seriously going to arrest me?"
"I'm afraid so."

I turned around, and like something out a comedy, Eddie George grabbed my wrists and I felt the metal around my arms snap into place and the handcuffs were squeezed tightly. Eddie George led me to his car and opened the backseat. He nodded toward the backseat, and I climbed in.

"Well," I asked, looking up at Eddie George. "Now what happens?"
"I am a Hoover Police Officer. I've called Vestavia, someone's going to come and take you to their police station."
"Okay, officer, seriously... are these handcuffs necessary? I mean, I'm in a Starbucks shirt. You have my keys. Where am I going to go?"
"Sorry, man. Its policy. I gotta keep you there."

I then glanced over and looked at my car. Where would it go?

"Can I ask what will happen to my vehicle?"
"It's going to be impounded."
"Impounded? Like, I live right there," I nodded my head toward a clump of trees. "See those trees? I live on the other side of them. We could walk there in six minutes. Can I not leave the car here?"
"Sorry about that... its the rules. This is a private business, so it can't stay here."
"What about if... I dunno... you let me drive it, and you follow me back to my apartment. Take me in there. If I try to drive away, you know where I live, or you can just shoot my tires or something."
This got a chuckle out of Eddie George, who had had a half-smile on his face already. He seemed as if he knew I was just a guy who made a mistake, was no real harm, but he was just following the rules he had to follow. Didn't fault him for that.

"Man, if you did that and something happened, do you know how much trouble I'd be in? Gotta leave it here."
"Oh, I got it... my roommate Tom can just get the keys. I can leave them in the floorboard, he will just drive it back. Seriously, man, if you impound the car, its going to cost me like, a hundred bucks when I could stand on my hood of where my car is right now and throw a baseball through my bedroom window." Now this was a lie, because my arm strength has never been very good, but you get the point.

Again, he chuckled, but shook his head. "No can do, my man. No can do."

Finally, it was time to bring up the elephant in the room, so to speak. Say the awkward thing that was there... let's just say it.... "Did you know you look like Eddie George?"

Eddie George smiled again, "Yeah, I've been told that a few times."
"They won 11 last year. Think they'll pick up what they need in the draft?"
"Dunno, man. They need some offensive help, McNair can't do it all by himself."
"They'll be fine. They got a big year ahead."
"Oh, I agree. I see at least 10, 12 wins next season." He pushed a button on his walkie-talkie and took a few steps back.

I sat back as much as I could, though it was harder when your hands are behind your back, pressed against the plastic seat. It was a bonafide plastic bench. I looked around, traffic whizzing by, knowing that I was going to be all kinds of late, or not show up, and I glanced over toward Southland Drive. I couldn't help but grin as I saw a red Ford Explorer, with four faces glued to the window, almost like a scene in a comedy.

In the front, Wookiee, while driving, was staring out the window. Next to him I saw the face of Shawn-Fu, and behind them, I saw the face of Tom Johnson and Mikey. The Explorer was going about seven miles per hour, all faces glued on the red car that they knew was mine parked in the parking lot, and probably the shape in the backseat of the police cruiser that they knew was me.

Mikey called The Rev'rn Ty, and said only, "Ty. The (fecal matter) has hit the fan."

Coming Thursday... Arrested Development's Conclusion...

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Rather Unimpressive Illegitimate Children

Just so we are clear, when I discuss a movie that I have seen, I in no way "endorse" the movie, nor do I say "you have to go see this movie right now!" or suggest to you that you won't be offended by anything that is in the movie, whether it bothered me or not. I merely tell you what I thought about the movie, some stuff in the movie, perhaps caution you as to what to expect when you see it...

...I say all that in telling you that Saturday night, I watched Quentin Tarantino's new film, "Rather Unimpressive Illegitimate Children". This is the film that, in the trailers, you see Brad Pitt with this crazy southern accent, telling a line of soldiers that he wants men who will torture and kill Nazis... well, it's "Nah-Zee", and he is demanding 100 Nah-Zee scalps from each man. Smashcut to Hitler slamming a table saying "Nein nein nein nein" over and over, and then the title.

So, here's what I thought the movie was going to be about... a group of Nah-zee hating Jew soldiers who was going into Germany occupied France during WWII to torture and kill Nah-zees. And scalp them. I figured we would see the exploits of this group, as they go from Nah-zee battalion to Nah-zee battalion, torturing and killing, and being a Quentin Tarantino film, I expected plenty of blood and gore.

And then Mikey, Matt Rector and myself watched the film.

Lt. Aldo Raines wants him some men to kill some Nah-zees

You know, I take pride in the fact that I'm pretty good with films. I've seen thousands of movies over the years, and many of them are the same, or at least the same type, and you can kind of predict patterns, kind of see where a movie will go, sometimes have a good clue as to "whodunit" before the blood dries on the ground...

however comma

I have to be honest in saying that this film went in a COMPLETELY different direction than what I was thinking it would. The trailer, which was very cleverly uninforming by Tarantino, tells you nothing of what this movie holds and where its going to go.

The Basterds, as they are called, is a group led by Lt. Aldo Raines, played by Brad Pitt, and he wants to kill Nah-zees.

Sidebar... I'm sure I've mentioned this before, but I marvel at how good of an actor Brad Pitt actually is. Like, he's the perennial Pretty Boy, but his IMDB page is across the board, from comedies to action to action comedies to drama to crap to brilliance, he is truly great. And the scene where Aldo Raines is attempting to converse in Italian is absolutely hysterical.

Aldo Raines recruits a group of soldiers to do just that very thing, but along the way, we also see the story (and backstory) of Shoshanna (a wonderful--and gorgeous--Melanie Laurent), who's entire Jewish family is butchered by infamous Jew Hunter, Col. Hans Landa. Landa is played by Austrian actor Christoph Waltz, and the character is played to unsympathetic perfection. You want to absolutely hate Landa for who he is and what he does, but you almost find yourself liking him just because he is so "I'm just doing the job they asked me to do, and I'm going to do it well" blaise about it. Only the job isn't tiling a bathroom or fixing a transmission, its hunting and killing Jews in France.

I've heard a possible Oscar nomination mentioned with Christoph Waltz, and I would fully support it in this film.

In fact, the story of Shoshanna, and her run-ins with Landa, almost overshadows the parallel story of The Basterds until both stories intersect at the very end of the film. And the end of the film is glorious... Tarantino is not one to follow history by the book, so I'm sure there are a few things that happen in this film (like, the entire film) that really didn't happen in real life--and this is never more true than the last fifteen minutes of the movie.

I will say I am a little disappointed by a few events at the end... after the journey the movie takes you on, you see a character or two do some things that you just wouldn't expect or believe that character would do... its asking us to buy into one personality, then expect us to go along when the other personality rears its head... I know I'm being very, very vague, but I'm trying to be careful as I know there are a few people reading this that will actually see this movie.

(top) Shoshanna flees from Nah-zee execution. (bottom) Then later, she cleans up real nicelike.

And... I know there are a few people reading this that will shake their head that I went to see this movie. Understandably so, as its a Tarantino film, the same guy who did both volumes of "Kill Bill", and the bloody and violent (and magnificent) "Reservoir Dogs" and the language and violence filled "Pulp Fiction"... and yes, this movie displays all the QT charms. Random narration to explain plotlines, big writing on screen to tell you whats what and who's who, and the film is broken up into "Chapters" as it goes back and forth between The Basterds and Shoshanna, and a hilarious turn by Mike Myers as well. It almost makes you forget about "The Love Guru". Almost.

And we musn't forget Diane Kruger, who shows up as actress & spy Bridget von Hammersmark... you might also remember her from both National Treasure movies, the good one and the crappy one. And speaking of crap, she was also in "Troy". Man, that movie sucked.

Honestly, though, there weren't nearly as many blood and gore parts as I expected... now, the blood and gore parts were very bloody and very gory... but they were few and far between. The language was there, but there were more F-Bombs in the first ten minutes of Reservoir Dogs than this entire movie, so its not as bad as you'd think. As a matter of fact, I actually think that, if she could handle the few squeamish parts, The Lovely Steph Leann would actually enjoy this film...

Anyway, I enjoyed it quite a bit. On QT's movie rankings, I'd still ranking Dogs as my favorite, followed closely by "Pulp Fiction"... and then this one. I look forward to watching it again, enjoying all of Tarantino's eccentricities that he dashes throughout his films.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Colby Curtain's Wish

For your weekend, from the "God's blessings are sometimes unusual" department... here's a story I've been holding onto for a few weeks, waiting to post. Thought it would be good for the weekend. Originally found on MSNBC in June.

The 10-year-old girl desperately wanted to see the new Disney-Pixar movie, “Up.” But the cancer-stricken girl was too sick to go to a theater.

Thanks to a family friend who got in touch with the movie studio Pixar, an employee of the Emeryville-based company arrived at Colby’s home with a DVD copy of the movie, The Orange County Register reported Friday. The girl died later that night.

Colby’s mother, Lisa, said she had asked her daughter if she could hang on until the movie arrived.

“I’m ready (to die), but I’m going to wait for the movie,” she said her daughter replied.
“Up” is the animated tale of a grumpy old man who, after his wife’s death, tries to fulfill their joint dream of visiting South America by tying thousands of balloons to his house and floating away.

“When I watched it, I had really no idea about the content of the theme of the movie,” Colby’s mother told the Register. “I just know that word ’Up’ and all of the balloons and I swear to you, for me it meant that (Colby) was going to go up. Up to heaven.”

Colby, who was diagnosed with vascular cancer in 2005, saw previews for the film in April.
“It was from then on, she said, ’I have to see that movie. It is so cool,”’ family friend Carole Lynch said.

According to The Orange County Register, Colby Curtin couldn’t keep her eyes open to see “Up” because of the pain of her disease, so her mother narrated what was happening as the movie played.

But the girl’s health began to deteriorate. On June 4, Curtin asked a hospice company to bring a wheelchair so that her daughter could go to a movie theater but the chair was not delivered over the weekend, Curtin said.

By June 9, Colby was too sick to go anywhere.

Another family friend, Terrell Orum, called both Pixar and Disney, which owns the animation studio. The message was received by Pixar officials, who agreed to send someone to Colby’s house the next day with a copy of “Up” for a private screening, Orum said.

The employee arrived with the DVD, stuffed animals of characters and other movie memorabilia.

Colby was unable to open her eyes to see the movie so her mother described the scenes. When her mother asked if she enjoyed it, the girl nodded, Curtin said.

The Pixar employee left after the movie, taking the DVD, which has not been released. Lynch, who was with the family during the screening, said the employee’s “eyes were just welled up.”
A call to Pixar seeking comment was not immediately returned Friday. Colby, with her parents nearby, died later that night.

Colby Curtain got her final wish

Her mother said one of the memorabilia left by the Pixar employee was an “adventure book” based on a scrapbook that, in the movie, is kept by the wife of the main character.

“I’ll have to fill those adventures in for her,” Lisa Curtin said of her daughter.

Monday, August 17, 2009

A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to 25K

I was trying to coincide post #500 with crossing the 25,000 page loads, but its not going to happen. I'd have to churn out three posts, with one of them being something extra special, in the next 24 to 36 hours, and its just not going to happen... but hey, if you come to the page and you notice the numbers "25,000" on the counter, let me know. Using the honor system, maybe I can get you a prize or something... I've been thinking of doing some sort of Clouds in My Coffee contest or gift or whatever.

WWE Raw has had this ongoing thing the last several weeks where they've invited special "guest" hosts to run the program, ergo, the script writers just tell the celebrities what matches to announce, as opposed to telling the announcers what match to announce.

This is the reason that Freddie Prinze Jr has been on my television screen for the first time since the first (and thankfully, last) viewing of "Scooby Doo". He's the guest host on Raw tonight, and he's chumming it up with a guy named Santino Morella, which, I'll be honest, is one of the greatest parts about this show... he's stupid, he's hilarious and he's willing to look stupid in an effort to be hilarious.

"Julie & Julia"... Oh, man I loved this movie. It helped quite a bit that it has Amy Adams, whom I'm in love with, but Meryl Streep is also fantastic... as always. It tells two stories, one being Julia Childs' beginnings in France as a cook and chef, while paralleling the story of Julie Powell, who is looking for something more in her life, and decides to take on the task of cooking all 524 of Julia Childs' recipes in "Mastering the Art of French Cooking" in a single year... and she blogs about it. And both stories are true, with Julia Childs being... well, Julia Childs, and Julie Powell actually having a real blog telling this adventure.

Its Amy Adams, whom I'm in love with. Even with short hair. At one point, I leaned over to The Lovely Steph Leann and said, "I think she's my Colin Firth".

The movie is great, it moves fast (despite its 2:04 running time) and is fun. The Lovely Steph Leann and I laughed throughout, there were a couple of "awww..." moments when I think The Lovely Steph Leann found the theater to be a little dusty, and I think I can now watch Amy Adams in just about anything. And call me old fashioned, and I guess this was only portrayed in the movie because that's how it was in real life... but I like the fact that Julie and Eric, her significant other, are married. Not just dating and living together, but married. Somehow that means something. Chris Messina is awesome as Eric, who goes through just as much as Julie does, trying to cope with his wife under this massive undertaking.

Sidebar... I did watch Amy Adams, whom I'm in love with, in a movie called "The Last Run", a movie I only watched because she was in it and I thought since she's emerged as my favorite actress, I'd catch up on her earlier work... it looked promising, with the two stars billed, in this order, Fred Savage and Amy Adams. It is absolutely terrible. Revolting. Horrible. Despite her name appearing 2nd in the credits, she's in it for about 8 minutes, if that. The rest of the movie is a grown up Kevin Arnold from the Wonder Years gettin' it on with random chicks, which none are Winnie Cooper so therefore, its disturbing.

The main Julie Powell story is based on a book called "Julie & Julia", which I have on audio and look forward to listening to. She also has her own blogsite she still keeps up, which does have a colorful use of the English language, so beware.

So this guy might be creeping up the list of my favorite actors. I don't know that he'd ever top it, cause I'd never mancrush on The Tuch like I mancrush on The Rock, but Stanley Tucci is in everything. And I don't mean "everything" like, Jon Voight and Samuel L. Jackson will take ANY job and is in EVERYthing, I mean "everything" as in, he's extremely versitile.


Check this out... amongst the 82 links he has on his IMDB resume, he's been an assassin ("The Pelican Brief"), he's been an elf ("A Midsummer Night's Dream"), he's been a gangter ("The Road to Perdition"), he's been a jerkweek airport administrator in the movie ranked 17th on TheDave 100, he's been Stanley Kubrick ("The Life & Death of Peter Sellers"), he's been a gay magazine assistant ("The Devil Wears Prada"), he's been a scientist (an abomination), and now, he's been the supportive and loving and loyal husband to Julia Childs, in another excellent performance.

You'll next see The Tuch as a very bad man in the upcoming adaptation of "The Lovely Bones", which, if the movie is as 1/4 as good as the trailer, I'm excited...

...We sho' was a hungry bunch. If the wolf had ever come to our front door, he'd a had to brought a picnic lunch... Bill Anderson, 1961

Growing up on old country, when I see a Po' Folks restaurant, this is the song I think of--and why shouldn't I? This is where the restaurant name comes from. Po' Folks is one of those down home country eatin' places that serves collards and hamburger steak and (probably frozen) fried shrimp and fish and greens and not mashed potatoes, but mash'n taters and such.

Essentially, Hurricane Rhett & Lily B mentioned Po' Folks on their blog, and we had this exchange...

Me: Not gonna lie, I love me some Po’ Folks. They have one down in Enterprise, and used to have one in Dothan (maybe they still do). I took dates there. They had this deal with a BOWL of popcorn shrimp and a hamburger steak for $8.95. And it was good.
Lily B: Well I have good news for you d$! There’s one that just opened in my ‘hood, Pelham. It’s right on Hwy 31. Y’all come on down, ya hear?

So naturally, what did I do on Wednesday? I went on down to Pelham and visited not a Po' Folks... but a Po' Folks EXPRESS. Being a fast food conessouir that I am, I immediately recognized the building as an old Captain D's, first by the two front doors facing opposite sides, then by the long bar you have to walk around to get to the counter. It was around 2pm or so when I went, so there wasn't much traffic.

THIS was not the Po' Folks I visited, as this one looks like its in an old Bahama Breeze building. But I looked for the PFE online, and I got nothing.

I got called "sweetie" and "sugar" by the older lady behind the counter, which I not only expected, but welcomed. The server at Quizno's calls you "sweetie" and "sugar", walk away. The server at Po' Folks, however, it perfectly fine doing so. I studied the menu, considered the fish, thought about a burger, but elected to go for the All Day Buffet for only $5.99, which included the lunch bar, the salad bar and dessert.

What is on the buffet, you ask? Well, fried and baked chicken, fried fish, mash'n taters with thick brown gravy, green beans, fried chicken livers and a few other vegetable options. I loaded up my plate with a few pieces of chicken, a piece of fish, some green beans and some mash'n taters (no gravy) and decided to skip the salad bar. Not cause I don't really like salad much, but more because it didn't look too appealing.

While the mash'n taters were exceptional (I had seconds), the rest was... well, eh. It was pretty good. Not great. The dessert wasn't all that great either, with the only dessert option being banana pudding. Banana pudding is something that's hard to win me over on, having grown up with my mother's banana puddin' laced with whole Nilla Wafers. Is there anything better than unbroken, perfecting circular Nilla Wafers lining the edge of your helping of banana puddin'? Number one, baby, number one.

Go for the price, not for the food. Remember this was an "Express", not a real Po' Folks, though I'll be honest with you, I don't know the difference.

And if I told you that I wasn't waiting for someone to ask me a question that I could answer intelligently, and then respond to the question, "Are you a genius?" with "No, but I did eat at a Po' Folks Express last night", and was disappointed when no one did... then I'd be lying.

"District 9"... I sorta kinda knew what this movie was about, having read about it in EW, but I didn't fully comprehend the storyline, which is as follows: Twenty years ago, a huge spacecraft appeared and permanently hovered above Johannesburg, South Africa. After no response or movement from anyone in the ship, the South African government finally flew up, broke into the ship and discovered hundreds of thousands of aliens living in poverty and malnourished in the bowels of the ship. They were brought down, cared for and put in an area that is called District 9.
In the present day, District 9 is now like an alien ghetto, so the government makes a plan to move the now million-plus aliens to another location, District 10. A mild, meek official named Wikus is put in charge of the re-location project... but of course, all does not go as planned. I won't go any further so as not to spoil the plot for you, but you can read the full synopsis here.

I thought the film was excellent. And The Lovely Steph Leann really liked it, which is unusual for a science fiction/alien film, though she did throw her caveat on it, the dreaded, "Yeah I liked it, but its not something I want to see again", ensuring that she'll never watch the film. Ever. There's a lot of talk about the modern day parallels on apartheid in the film, and even the immigration issues and so on, and yeah, hearing that I can stretch the film's plotline to fit those parameters, but really, just enjoy the movie.

I will caution you, though... the violence is really alien violence (some of the weaponry makes people blow up on site), but there is a lot of language. The F-bombs are in South African English, so the "U" and the "C" sound like they are two "O"s in the middle, but you get the word anyway.
While watching WWE Raw, they like to show this Taco Bell commercial where this guy runs around collecting pennies from the "Give a Penny Take a Penny" jars scattered about the city. He's trying to save up 89 cents to buy a taco or whatever, and when he plunks his change down at the Taco Bell, and starts to walk off with his chicken burrito. The girl then says, "There's only 88 cents here", and he reaches over and grabs a penny from the penny jar, and says, "89!".

I have a problem with this. Like, where this guy lives, is there no tax? Do they not charge tax on food? You do that here, you pay 96 cents, not 89. Next, you'd better have the 96 cents, cause there ain't a Taco Bell in this city of Birmingham that would have ANY change not stolen in a "Take a Penny" cup. Finally, how does this guy get his taco before he finishes paying for it?

At the Taco Bell near my home, after paying for your food, you'd actually have time to drive to the airport, catch a plane to Tijuana, have authentic Mexican tacos, fly back, make it through customs with the tequila you smuggled in, then fight 280 traffic before getting the tacos you paid for in the first place. They are not known for their speed at this particular location.

Granted it does say "prices exclude tax", and I really like the fact that the whole basis for the commercial is to advertise how cheap an 89 cent chicken burrito is, and then the fine print says "prices may vary".

I don't really have an ending here. I've kinda goofed on the interweb for the last few minutes just thinking of a clever ending to the this here blog post, and I got nothing. So I'll just tell you that one of my all time favorite group/duos, Watermark, split up a few years back. Well, the wife of the husband & wife duo, Christy Nockels, has just put out her first solo CD. Family Christian Stores has it for $7.99...

Does anyone remember when CDs and DVDs were like, crack expensive? I mean, this CD a few years ago would have been minimum $16.98... I went into a Blockbuster the other day for the first time in forever (I'm not a fan of this place, fyi) and saw brand new DVDs for $4.99 and up. And not really crappy ones, either. Okay, they were crappy movies, but not really crappy, so its an improvement. I was a little shocked.

...and though I haven't listened to it yet, I look forward to it. So there.

I'll see you on the other side of 25,000... and by the way, dear Coffee Drinker, thank you. Thank you for coming back again and again. In borrowing my dear friend Erin the Marine Wife's own phrase, many kind regards to you.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Hannah Montana: The Movie: The Blog

Alrighty... in an effort to be the one who sacrifices for his readers, who does what he doesn't expect the audience to have to go through, I'm going to do a "running movie diary" blog tonight. Its a movie that I didn't necessarily care about seeing, but at the same time, I was kind of curious. So, its a movie that I procured a copy of, and am about to watch. You ready?

I pop the disc in, and hear the familiar narrator say, "This DVD is equipped with Disney's Fast Play", which to me is a crock. I always end up someway, somehow diverting to the previews, and let me tell ya, on Disney's DVDs, they have a LOT of previews. Like any movie coming out in the next year, any movie in production, any movie that Jorge the Mexican Janitor is imagining that might become a panel idea in seven years--there's a preview for it. And its on the Disney DVDs.

We get to Fast Play, and to the main menu... and the opening castle sequence. And finally... "Hannah Montana: The Movie"...

0:01... The music kicks in, Robbie Ray (Billy Ray Cyrus) stands, with his almost mullet, staring at a mannequin head holding a wig. At the window is Miley and Lilly--apparently she's late for her own concert! But never to worry, they just steal a golf cart.

0:03... So, I'm not a jailbait kinda guy, though The Lovely Steph Leann might tell you different with my affections for Ashley Tisdale..

The Lovely Steph Leann: She's a baby.
Me: Dear, she's 24.
The Lovely Steph Leann: She's a baby.

...but I think Emily Osment is really kinda good looking. Miley has put on the Hannah Montana wig, and then slips on a dress that looks familiar. Its one we sold in The Happiest Place in the Mall last Spring.

Oh, come on, she's kinda cute. I especially like the words "Tiger Beat" in the corner of this picture. Why is there a Dateline NBC camera crew in my kitchen? What the heck?

0:05... Hannah Montana is on stage and launches into "The Best of Both Worlds", which is the them song of her show. Not that I know this. She doesn't have a perfect voice, but its not bad. Somehow we've gone from the stage to her singing on a beach, and there's a coconut on the beach and she's at a video shoot and... oh, I get it. Its showing her crazy life! Clever.

0:08... Weird guy in her tent. He's from a tabloid, trying to get some pictures, and out comes Vanessa Williams who plays her publicist. Wait! The sleazy reporter left his camera on record! Oh no, he's got some footage! Nothing I'm sure he can't get in Vanity Fair. He knows there's a secret, but he doesn't know what! Intriging...

0:10... Here is the gist for those who don't know. Miley Stewart is the daughter of Robbie Ray Stewart, and a singer. But the world doesn't know Miley Stewart... they know Hannah Montana, one of the most popular pop stars in the world. But Miley & Hannah... they are the same person, just one wears a blond wig.

Miley has an older brother named Jackson, and her best friends are Lilly and Oliver.

0:11... Hannah is in a shoe shop (this is the expostion part), and spots a pair of shoes that she wants for Lilly's birthday present--but Tyra Banks also wants them. So they have a fight in the store... and the skeezy reporter gets the footage. And Miley is freaking out now because she's dressed like Hannah, but can't show up to the party looking like Hannah. But she can't get out of the car looking like Miley.

0:13... Just know that Lilly, who is turning 16 at this part--which makes me feel skeezy now--loves her BFF Miley, but sometimes not so much Hannah. So when Hannah Montana shows up, everyone suddenly ignores Lilly on her own birthday... and runs to Hannah. You girls are so sensative. And now she sings, "Let's Get Crazy".

I hate that I know this song, but I do. The Happiest Place int he Mall has it on their video screen, along with among other things, "The Climb", which I'll get to later. I hear "Let's Get Crazy" (and "The Climb") about two to three times an hour, eight hours per day, five to six days per week. That's a lot of Crazy Climbin'.

0:18... Oh, the troubles of Miley Stewart. Robbie Ray is furious! Her and Tyra's fight is on the front page of every paper (cause that makes the news nowadays), plus she missed her brother's going-away to Tennessee University (Really? The U of T wouldn't sign off on using their name?) and has now humiliated her bestie, Lilly. And now she wants to go to New York City and miss her grandma's party... unacceptable!

0:22... They are in the truck, Miley demands it stops, she gets out, pouts, a horse takes off her wig and its revealed that this was her horse as a kid--Blue Jeans? The horse bucks her off, and enter... the love interest.

Just a note... this movie is registering a 3.1 out of 10 on the IMDB movie scale rankings.

Travis Brody is his name. He's played by Lucas Till... sheesh, this kid was born in 1990. I was heading into the 9th grade. But, he was born on August 10th--my own birthday, so rock on.

0:26... If I had a nickel for every time I walked into The Cabana and saw Rascal Flatts sitting and jamming, I'd be a rich man. Miley's grandmom reminds me of my own mom, especially when she places an oversized collectable Elvis plate on the wall, next to her collection that includes George Jones, Dolly Parton and Ernest Tubb.

0:29... There's a black dude in the living room. How did that happen?

0:30... Robbie Ray spots a good looking woman in the parlor (he's single, by the way) and goes to talk to her, ends up getting flustered and knocks into the cabinet with all the plates on it. Hilarity ensues.

0:32... If I had a nickel for every time Rascal Flatts was randomly on my porch, crooning out a soft ballad, I'd add it to my Rascal Flatts in the Living Room Jammin nickels and I'd be even richer.

0:33... She is in her overalls and plaid shirt, which looks familiar. We sold the doll of her in this outfit, along with a pony, at The Happiest Place in the Mall. Regularly $29.50, but it went down to $19.99, then you could take an extra 40% off. Miley is swinging from a rope, tossing out chicken feed. Hilarity ensues.

0:35... Miley's grandmom sounds like my mom. "How come you don't visit me more often?" They are out shopping, and Miley displays her attitude. So Grandmom throws down, "Look missy, you may be Hannah Montana in New York, but here its just boots and britches."

0:36... Jackson, Miley's brother, is working at the local zoo. He has to feed the alligators. The camera pans to the bum, you see the snapping jaws. Hilarity ensues.

0:39... The skeezy reporter is in the country town, looking for Hannah Montana. Miley sees him. She switches the mild and hot pepper bowls. Skeezy reporter tastes the hot pepper bowl. Hilarity ensues.

0:42... There's another subplot about a rich developer in town that wants to buy off land and put in a mall. It has to be more than just one scene, because Barry Bostwick is playing the developer. Also, the skeezy reporter gets directions to Hannah Montana's country home, directions given by Miley Stewart and Grandmom, which puts the skeezy reporter in a mud puddle in the middle of the woods. Hilarity ensues.

Barry Bostwick sounds like one of those potetially legendary actors because his name sounds regal, and familiar, and you feel like he's been around forever and must have been in some big movies in his day, you just can't think of any. Really, though, in surfing his IMDB page, he hasn't done much to speak of.

You've seen this guy, right? Right?

0:44... You know, Miley Cyrus has a weird smile. Like, her teeth are odd. And there's like, 7 inches of gum above the teeth. I mean, I guess she's pretty enough for a 16 year old, but I'd put up Courtney Maddox over Miley Cyrus any day.

0:46... Travis the Love Interest tells her "life's a climb". I feel a song coming on. Now, he takes her on a ride through the country, so we get a Hannah song, or a Miley song--I don't know who gets the credit for it--over a Miley rediscovering her roots montage.

Okay, so I predict she won't want to leave, eventually she will with a promise that she won't forget who she is, and the skeezy reporter discovers the Miley/Hannah secret, but agrees not to tell, in exchange for some autographs for his daughters who are in a convent in England.

0:47... There's a benefit for Crowley Corner (the name of the town we're in) to save it from the developers. Robbie Ray is singing... holy crap, I would give anything--ENN-EE-THING--for him to start singing, "You can tell the world you never was my girl, you can burn my clothes when I'm gone..."

It starts out black screened, but give it a second. The joy awaits. By the way, the fancy footwork around the 3:48 mark--I totally could do that in 1992. Seriously.

0:48... Taylor Swift? Where'd she come from? Lucky she has appeared to sing a ballad, so that Miley and Travis the Love Interest can slow dance! And it gives Robbie Ray a chance to slow dance with Lorelai, the love interest of his own.

By the way, the chick playing Lorelai is Melora Hardin. You may not recognize the name, but the body of work is arguably better than Barry Bostwick's. She also played the principal in "17 Again", but I didn't really notice as I was too busy crushin' on Leslie Mann.


0:52... Miley gets tossed onto the stage, and she says she's going to add a little "hip hop to this hoedown". Boom boom clap, boom de clap de clap. Its "Hoedown Throwdown", which is not just a WWE Diva's Match... its a dance song.

Okay, okay, I admit it... I like this song. Its stupid fun. I barely know any of the words, but I still get a kick out of it. When it played at The Happiest Place in the Mall, there were little girls AND adults--mostly women, but a few boys and guys--that I would notice singing along under their breath. Hilarity ensued.

0:54... Oh dear... the skeezy reporter just came in! AND the developer comes in... and Barry Bostwick and Grandmom have it out... Barry Bostwick tells them that they have no chance of saving this town! And Travis the Love Interest says, "Miley knows Hannah Montana... maybe should could give us a benefit concert."

Oh, this could be bad, folks! This could be terrible!

0:57... Vanessa Williams and Lilly have both arrived. Miley and Lilly say their apologies and all, and suddenly, Lorelai walks in! Lilly puts on the wig, gets under a blanket and Lorelai thinks she's talking to Hannah Montana! Hilarity! Its ensuing!

1:02... Miley, figuring she's getting nowhere with Travis the Love Interest, gets Hannah'd up. Because when Miley Stewart tosses on a blond wig and becomes Hannah Montana, she looks COMPLETELY DIFFERENT.

1:06... Oh no! Hannah promised Lorelai she'd make an appearance at the mayoral (the black dude, by the way) luncheon, but agreed on a date with Travis the Love Interest, who is awaiting Miley across the street... and we can see where this is going. The classic "be one person here, change quickly, be someone else, run back and be the first person, change quickly..." bit.

1:09... Mayor Token is serving lobster. Hannah, and Lilly, have trouble eating the lobster. Jackson has a ferret in his pocket. On both counts, hilarity ensues.

1:12... After all this, I actually kinda feel bad about Travis the Love Interest. If The Lovely Steph Leann were watching this, she'd say, "aww... poor Travis the Love Interest!" and have a pouty look on her face. The ferret just bit Mayor Token on the leg. The ensuing hilarity is hilarious.

1:14... The slow music kicks in, Travis the Love Interest walks away with that "you lied to me, you been makin' fun of me" conversation. Once again, the chick screws it up. Sigh. And now comes the part where she doesn't know if she can do this anymore. And somehow, Shannon Compton makes it into the movie as the girl who keeps seeing Hannah/Miley run past.

1:16... Robbie Ray and Lorelai have a falling out because of whats going on. Miley breaks down. I know he had his own show, "Doc", but really, Billy Ray Cyrus is a terrible actor. I mean, terrible. I know there aren't many Oscar winning performances in this film, but Miley Cyrus and Emily Osment can hold their own.. but Billy Ray is not one to be remembered.

1:18... Obiligatory father/daughter duet between Miley and Billy Ray. Did you know her real name is Hope Destiny Cyrus, but when she became famous as Miley Stewart in the show "Hannah Montana", she changed her name for real to Miley?

1:22... Time for the concert! Grandmom gives Miley a bracelet owned by her mom (who... died in a car crash? Unsure). Cut to Travis the Love Interest, and we see that maybe he is having second thoughts about ditching Miley... hmm...

1:24... Where is skeezy reporter guy? Right in the middle of "Rock Star", she stops singing... uh oh... is this the reveal? Is this where the secret comes out? She pulls off the wig! The crowd gasps! Lorelai looks over at Robbie Ray with a "Oh no! You weren't just being a jerk!" and he looks back in a "See, I told you, woman!" Mayor Token looks taken aback.

1:28... Lilly looks completely bored. The only person who looks happy with this entire turn of events is Travis the Love Interest... so essentially, she's thrown away her lifetime of secrecy and stardom for a dude she met a week or so ago. And here comes... "The Climb".

Holy crap I'm tired of this song. I mean, like, really. Cast Members at The Happiest Place in the Mall tell me they love it, they can't get enough of it, but me? I've heard it--and this is not an exaggeration--at least 100 or more times in its entirety. If you count a verse here or a chorus there as I'm walking through the store going or coming from backstage, I'd put it at over 200. Seriously. No more climbs.

1:30... So, the only part of the movie that actually makes me laugh out loud just happened... Miley is singing, and they cut to Robbie Ray, who has his hand in the air, hand making a "Number 1" gesture with his index finger pointed up, moving it up and down, back and forth, eyes closed, head bobbing. He looks ridiculous. And I laughed really hard just then.

I'm old enough to remember when Billy Ray's mulletopia he had going on was a glory to behold. I mean, it was majestic.

There is a good chance this song will get nominated not only for a Golden Globe but for an Academy Award. Think about it. Bono and U2 were nominated a few years back, but lost. That means that Three 6 Mafia and Miley Cyrus would have Oscars, but Bono would not. Mikey just kicked a small child.

1:32... Its good that in a small country town like Crowley Corners, they had a full set of violin players to play, on the off chance that Hannah pulls her wig off and sings a soft ballad as Miley, requiring violin strings.

1:33... Shannon Compton, in the audience, asks for Hannah. They all promise to keep her secret. So, on goes the wig. Skeezy reporter shows up, takes a photo and runs away... but here comes skeezy reporters daughters! Vanessa Williams had them flown over! Skeezy reporter tells his editor off, quits his job and agrees to keep the secret for his daughters getting some pics and front row seats.

Told ya.

Speaking of Vanessa Williams, this is an excellent album. Everyone knows "Save the Best For Last", but "Dreamin'" and "Runnin' Back to You" are fantastic R&B anthems.

1:35... Travis the Love Interest catches up with her. Finally, they kiss. Robbie Ray and Lorelai kiss. The money needed to save Crowley Meadows is raised! Lilly finds her a cowboy! Vanessa L. Williams enjoys cotton candy!

1:37... The end. This was a pretty terrible movie. Seriously.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Politically Cartoony

Pardon me, but I wanted to post this for quite a while. So I thought I would...

I think political cartoons are awesome, and truly, there is no finer example of the First Amendment... like these I found...

This was done by a guy named Alex Ross, appearing on the cover of The Village Voice on October 6, 2004... see, Dubya is sucking this country dry of liberty! Hilarious!

Oh, and this one that Shepard Fairey did in 2004, appearing on the cover of LA Weekly. Its fearless. Its one of the finest cartoons you find. Bush. Satan. Same thing, really. Hilarious!

Oh, and here's a great one of Justice Scalia "puppeting" Justice Thomas. Cause like, Clarance Thomas is really nothing more than a stupid brotha' from the streets, right? Just doing what "The Man" says to do, right? Just a mouthpiece! I be knowin' dat's right! Oh no he di'int! Hilarious!

And speaking of Uncle Toms, what about Aunt Toms?! Here's Condi Rice just bowing down to "The Big Man in Charge", you know, doing whateva' the good massah say to do, right? What you say massah, what you say! She ain't nothing but a stupid bird, doing whatever she told! Hilarious!

Kind of reminds me of when Harry Belafonte called then-Secretary of State Colin Powell a "House N*****". I'm sure glad there wasn't a media uproar about it, because our country has bigger issues than a legendary singer poking fun at someone.

This is a great example of freedom of speech... an actual movie was made about not just the assassination of a president, but the Assassination of George W. Bush! Wow! Brilliant! Absolutely brilliant!

And for you literary people out there, a book was made about the assassination of the president! But not just any president, mind you, but the assassination of George W. Bush, even going into detail about how it could be done, if you so chose! Wow! Brilliant!

Artist Drew Friedman submitted this to Vanity Fair in 2007. Its called "No Joke". See, it depicts Dubya as an evil villain, a terrible person who is hellbent on the destruction of our country and its Constitution, which is nothing more than a "g****mn piece of paper". (warning--link has quotes using Non Emmy Turnbow Safe language) Wow! Hilarious and brilliant!

Oh, and this?

See, this just offends me. When are we going to stop this bigotry and vitriol? We have to realize that such racism is outdated, such hatred has no place in the unified society we are trying to build not only for ourselves, but our children, and even our children's children. You may not agree with him, but you owe him your support as he is your President, and the office of the Presidency MUST BE RESPECTED. Now I'm ticked off and saddened.

Just sayin'.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

The Six Milk Rotation (a Starbucks tale)

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Gotta tell ya, I'm pretty tired. I'm giving myself about 30 minutes to blog out what I wanted to say, then I'm going to go up to my darkened bedroom (due to the cloudy skies outside) and take a two hour nap, so I can recharge before zipping off at The Happiest Place in the Mall.

My b'day weekend was great, and I'll probably talk about that on Thursday or Friday, when I have some free time, and though I worked all day Sunday and Monday (my actual birthday--and 816pm is my actual birth minute, if you must know, though that's Central time, as it was 916pm on Orlando on that fateful day long ago), it was still a good weekend. Monday night, The Lovely Steph Leann and I invited over two of our besties... the way, I think the word "besties" is one of the most ridiculous, silliest words I've ever heard. I mean, "BFF" is bad enough, but "besties"? So, because I think its so stupid, I use it liberally now. Of course.

...James and Jessica Hawbaker, winners of the 2008 Hannah Pruitt Cool Award on this very blog. We grilled out Omaha steaks, had baked potatoes, some Milo's tea and after dinner, we just sat and chatted for a while, like friends who don't get to see each other are wont to do, this time over 2 day old, yet still delicious, birthday cake and ice cream.

And as I cuddled up next to The Lovely Steph Leann later that evening, falling asleep, I was bracing myself for the whirlwind that would be the next three days. I woke up at 420am, rolled out of bed, dressed, brushed my teeth and left The Cabana around 445am to head to Starbucks. I left there around 1040am, got home, made some lunch, rested for a few minutes, did my email and such, took a long, hot shower and was at The Happiest Place in the Mall by 130pm.

Left The Happiest Place in the Mall around 1010p, got home around 1030p, crawled into bed around 1115p, then was up again around 420p. And back at Starbucks by 5a, getting off about a half an hour ago. Later, this time at a request time of 3 instead of 130, I'll be back at The Happiest Place in the Mall until at least 10pm, only to get home, go to bed and be back there by 830 in the morning. If I can last until tomorrow around 5pm, I've got 3 days off. And I'm smiling to myself, thinking of how I'm probably going to turn my phone off on Thursday night and sleep on Friday until my eyes cannot possibly stay shut any longer... I say that, but I'll be up by 930 or 10, just cause as I get older, I don't like wasting my days off... that's not to say I don't want to sleep, or like to sleep, because I do, but I do want to do other stuff. Important stuff. Like watch WWE: Raw on DVR, or sort through The DFC, or organize my Disney pins or sit and surf the interweb for hours on end with no real purpose... you know, vital things to do.

Anyway, we were busy this morning at Starbucks... really busy. Early busy. That's not atypical for a Starbucks sitting along the busiest highway in the state of Alabama, that being Hwy 280, but at the same time, it can be stressful.

Let's be clear... I'm good at some things, I'm not so good at others. I excel in certain areas, and I fail in many others to the point of not even trying. Making drinks when its busy? I'm good. I'm very, very good.

As much as Starbucks would like to have every store uniform, every drink the same at every store, its just not possible. There are too many people who all make drinks for it to be the same--thats not to say the recipe changes, as it doesn't. A grande caramel macchiato recipe is simply 3 pumps of vanilla syrup, steamed milk to about an inch below the cup line, layer it with about an 1/2 inch of foam, pour your shots atop the milk and put a caramel syrup crosshatch on top. Lid it, pass it out. But I'll bet anything that my caramel macchiato would taste slightly different than the one that Lil Sister Ashley makes. And this isn't to say its a bad thing--sometimes people prefer certain baristas make their drinks, cause they just know how much of what to put in there. A half pump difference here, a fourth scoop of foam less there, and you've got a slightly different tasting drink.

To that end, everyone sets their bar up different too. Most baristas I know, and I'm included in this category, want their bar set up a certain way. Me? For slower times, I've got an gallon of nonfat milk and a gallon of 2% milk on the ready. My thermometers are in one single pitcher off to the side, along with my pouring spoon and my stirring spoon. Two rags sit under the machines, one for wiping the steam wands, the other for wiping the front of the counter, lest I spill some milk. Since I work in front of two espresso machines, I have four glass shot glasses, two on each side, turned upside down, side-by-side, ready to be grabbed at a moments notice. Under the machines, in the fridge, I've got a nice stash of apple juice, whole milk, soy, signature hot chocolate, berry chai and other fun things. One addition I've recently made is having a sleeve of grande hot lids tucked away, but within arms reach, for when (not if) I run low during a rush.

When we get busy? Its imperative to have some sort of organization. I typically will use the slower time to prep and stock and get ready for the busier times, those times when you have seven cups lined up down the side, and one is a a venti very dry cappuccino (you probably will have to steam some new milk just to have the foam available) and another is a grande no water soy chai (not hard, but now you have to steam soy) and another is a Caramel Apple Spice (once again, having to steam apple juice) and another is a regular nonfat latte, but with five shots, taking up valuable time at your bar...

Milk is essential. The best and fastest way to get behind in a rush, the quickest way to get all out of whack is to not have enough milk steamed. Espresso shots by themselves only last around 10 seconds before they become dark and bitter, so if you don't get some milk or water on them, your drink is altered. Its a terrible, terrible thing to have four cups in front of you, each with shots in them, some with syrup, and just waiting on milk to steam.

When the rush hits, I start out with my Four Milk Rotation. I have two pitchers labeled 2%, two pitchers labeled nonfat. Off to the side, I have a pitcher labeled "Half-N-Half", one labeled "Soy", one labeled "whole milk" and two pitchers with no labels at all. And ready at the call is another pitcher of nonfat, and another pitcher of 2%. I keep steaming milk constantly. I typically press the "X-Hot" button, just to give it a few extra minutes of life, though its never enough to make a drink undrinkable. Even when I've cleared out the drinks in front of me, I will steam more milk, and have all four pitchers with fresh milk, ready to pour.

And one some mornings, like today, I call in the reserves... and go to the Six Milk Rotation. Three pitchers of nonfat, three pitchers of 2%, continally steamed. I only have four thermometers to work with, so I would put one in 2 of each milks. When I steamed a new pitcher of milk, I moved it to the back of the line. As the pitcher in front emptied, I refill it with cold milk, steam it, move the other two to the front, and put the thermometer in the next pitcher. When the new pitcher finishes steaming, I put it in the back, and grab the milk in front for pouring.

Several times I had three and four venti drinks in a row, so it wasn't uncommon to use up two pitchers of nonfat milk at one time, then have to steam two more. This morning I probably went through about 12 gallons of milk, just filling a pitcher, steaming, pouring up a latte, filling a pitcher, steaming, pouring a misto, filling a pitcher, and so on and so on. Each thermometer has a red area on it, and when the needle drops out of that red area, you have to pour the milk out, as its now "out of temp"... this only happened twice in three hours. When you are on a Six Milk Rotation, there's very little chance of wasted milk...

I did spill a pitcher of milk, though. It was kinda comical, as it was early, and I was still waking up. The music overhead was whimsical, not quite "The Entertainer" but along those lines, and I almost felt like if the music were loud enough, watching me would be like one of those Chaplin old silent films with the music synced with all the pratfalls and hi-jinks. And then I knocked over a pitcher filled with cold, nonfat milk. And the song that started playing overhead? "I Fall to Pieces" by Patsy Cline. Fitting.

I'm not nearly the greatest barista, I'm sure there are many, many more ahead of me. But I do know there are many, many, MANY more behind me, if only for the fact I've got close to seven years of Starbucks bar experience, enough time to have seen the changes in the way we do things, learning things that we weren't supposed to do are now things that we have to do, and finding out things we based our learning on were wrong, and we have to change it now... such is Starbucks life.

Just like baristas want their bar set up a certain way, most are territorial when we get busy. As in, "give me the drinks, let me do them, if I need your help, I'll tell you." And really, most of the time its easier to just do the drinks you need to do, than to explain to someone else. So, when you see a barista behind the counter and there is a line of drinks, remember... it might be helpful for someone else to walk up and start making drinks with them. Or it might be hurtful, as the barista at the bar would be forced to say something like, "okay, I've already put the splenda in those two, but not in the grande mocha, which needs another pump of toffee nut because the bottle ran out, and there's a venti misto, but they want it half-caf, and since we are still brewing the decaf, I don't have it in there yet, and I'm steaming the soy for that, and for this chai with no water and oh, can you add equals to that venti misto there that needs the decaf which is almost finished brewing..."

You know what. Back up. Back off. Let me do it. When I need some help, I'll say, "Fellow barista, could you assist me?" You'll get your drinks quickly enough--another person adds another minute to your wait time, I promise.

Finally, rushs are great. Line the cups up, there is a line at the counter, the drive-thru is backed up, your pumping vanilla syrup as fast as that plastic pump will spit it out, and the white mocha is flowing hot and heavy and the pitchers are in full Six Milk Rotation (I seriously had an Eight Milk Rotation once--holy crap) and there is chai on your apron and your finger has cinnamon dolce syrup on it and people are hollering to each other, "Hey, I need the Pike Place" and "Can you get me a blueberry muffin for the DT?" and "Please run back and grab some more milk" and so on... its awesome.

And when its over, I always think of one thing... I'm Triple H and I lean over the rush we just had, and say, "Rush, you can't see me!". Then I do the move that says, "I just killed it." I never do the full move, as it might be kinda rude, but you'll see me sometimes do a slight, quick hand cross up and out in front of me.
Then I walk away. Cause (courtesy of The Miz) I'm Dave. And I'm awesome (too bad you can't see my arms outstretched).
And now? I'm going to enjoy a nap. Cause I'm The Dave... and I'm... Sleeeepppy