Saturday, January 28, 2006

Let's Go To Angelo's

We'll have coffee, sausage and hot buttered toast
Yes this breakfast is really the most
Oh, what a wonderful thing to do
Eggs over easy, hash browns and you.

We'll go to Angelo's . . .

Local guitarist Dick Siegel croons the above as part of a folksy tribute to the popular Ann Arbor landmark. The only time I saw Michigan head football coach Lloyd Carr in person he was enjoying breakfast at Angelo's among the many sports trophies and pictures there.

Carr was a bit smaller man that I had imagined him to be. Certainly, he didn't appear as intimidating as Michigan State fans must find him when he's prowling the sidelines during the annual U of M/MSU gridiron clash. I don't remember if Carr had eggs over easy, but my favorite Angelo's breakfast is the eggs benedict with the home-made, thick-sliced bread toasted just right.

I'm a breakfast hound. Keep your Japanese steakhouses, your Italian bistros, your seafood chowder houses . . . just cook me a fresh omelet on the weekends and I'll be fine. I've probably done toast and coffee at most diners and coney islands locally.

Another A2 breakfast fav is The Broken Egg on Main Street. It's a spot so wildly and lavishly decorated for holidays like Valentine's Day that you'd swear you were sitting in the display window at a Hallmark's. Plush toys and themed knick knacks hug every nook and cranny. Oversized skillets are their specialty.

My wife favors Big Boy's for their coffee and waffles. I like the fact that they have blackberry jam for my toast. The only other area restaurant I know to carry BBJ is the Cracker Barrel, a ten-mile drive east on I-94.

One local daybreak eatery I haven't broken bread at yet is the Fleetwood Diner. This hole-in-the-wall throwback to the 60s aptly features hippie hash--onions, feta cheese, broccoli and potatoes. When a second Fleetwood diner opened briefly near Ypsilanti, I grabbed my chance to try some.

One bad experience I can recall looking for my morning wake-up meal is when I strolled into a Denny's at going on seven in the morning. The hostess announced upon seating us that they were not serving breakfast yet. What?? No eggs over easy, hash browns and toast? We promptly left. I'm sure Dick Siegel would have too.

Thursday, January 26, 2006

In The Doghouse, Darn Dog

I blame Doogie, our mutt. It's all his fault. But I am the one in the doghouse.

It happened one night this past weekend while my wife was out with her sister Denise. Coincidentally, the missus had commented earlier that day on how I did not seem overly worried about her coming home late on the sometimes treacherous winter roads. I assured her that her safety is my utmost concern.

Those words came back to bite me when she did arrive home shortly after 10 p.m. From our upstairs bedroom where I was watching TV, I heard a car door slam and a muffled voice. It was Wendy, no doubt. Doogie sprang from his own spot on the bed and barked.

I detected some noise at the door. Obviously, Wendy was letting herself in. More barking from Doog. I turned up the TV. "Go check it out! It's ma," I scolded Doogie.

Well, our dog is a safety first kind of guard dog who would call for back-up if he spotted a mouse. Every couple of steps he descended, he would follow with a fusillade of barks. Eventually he made it downstairs, still barking. Crazy mutt, I thought. My wife must have made a pit stop at the bathroom and Doogie still wasn't aware that all was well.

But it wasn't. As I lie on the bed, the phone on the nightstand rang. Who could that be at this hour, I thought?

"Dave??" came the very clear puzzled voice of my sister-in-law when I answered.

"Denise??" I answered, just as puzzled.

"I have your wife here. We're locked out of the house."

So I quickly descended the stairs, cordless phone in hand, and opened the front door to face my sister-in-law, cell phone in hand, standing on the other side of the storm door, with Wendy.

"Hea, how's it going!" I called into the phone, trying to inject some levity into our situation. They were not amused, however.

I was soon taken to task. No, I didn't remember that I had taken Wendy's keys earlier. No, I didn't hear the doorbell cause the dog was barking. Yes, I do worry about her when it's late. No, I don't know why I locked every outside door. No, I wasn't hiding my girlfriend in the closet.

Eventually, I remembered the joke that asks who would you let in the door first when both your dog and wife are barking. Punchline: It's up to you, but the dog will stop barking once you let him in.

There's a lot of truth in humor . . . sigh.

Saturday, January 21, 2006

Weird Dave

My writing pal Deb tagged me a while ago with this meme . . . "Name five weird things about yourself."

"You could lose your standing as an average guy," I was told by my wife, refering to my profile. Here is partly why . . .

1. I do not like my breakfast toast or my white bread sandwiches cut in half. So don't do it. I believe cutting toast or sandwiches in half reduces them to finger food. And as a big guy, I don't like finger food.

2. My change-spotting past-time has occasionally placed me in the company of eccentric locals like Weird Willie, so-named by the kids in the neighborhood. In the past, both of us have scoured post-crowd venues--him for returnable bottles and cans, me for the occasional quarter or dime lost in the shuffle. Isn't there a little treasure hunter in all of us? I did find a gold chain once.

3. According to my family, my taste in music is weird. I prefer to call it eclectic. What's so wrong with Meco Star Wars anyway? Last Christmas, my wish list included the soundtrack from "Little Shop of Horrors." My wife threatened retribution against anyone who bought it for me. Mostly for that reason, I didn't get it.

4. I taught our dog to wrestle. Doogie is willing anytime to throw down with me on the carpet. He ducks, he dodges, he feints. Eventually, I end up pinning him, after which he shakes my hand "good match." My son Greg comments, "All you did is teach our dog to flop on his back for a treat." Pavlov's dog had it easy.

5. My fascination with the macabre. During a family trip out east, I made a brief, and surprise, detour to a mall in Monroeville, Pennsylvania, the filming locale for the original Dawn of the Dead. I've also produced several home-made scary videos featuring my own sons and nephews. In one, my nephews played X-files styled detectives investigating strange goings on locally. I filmed this on location at a site in Washtenaw County that drew national publicity in a flying saucer flap 40 years ago.

BONUS. I blog. My family thinks I take blogging too seriously. I did see a news source recently state that bloggers are a "nutty bunch." I prefer to think of them as a supportive and caring community.

Thursday, January 19, 2006

Searching For La Creme

This week my wife and I took a spiritual journey through Scotland--enjoying the airs and the flavors of the Isle of Jura, Macallan, Glenmorangie and Glenfiddich. More plainly, we sampled various brands of Scotch at a tasting hosted by Cady's Grill & Bar in Depot Town, Ypsilanti.

It is time to restock my bar. I have some Irish whiskey, a bottle of Absolut, some Johnny Walker Red, a couple cream liquers and a bottle of Gusana Rojo Mezcal. I want to add on.

Learning to mix cocktails was a goal never quite realized though I have a stainless steel cocktail shaker, a Benson and Hedges booklet of drink recipes and a very old bottle of Jock Collins bar syrup. I don't even have a favorite alcoholic drink. Still looking for la creme de la creme.

So far as the Scotch whiskeys we sampled, I liked the Macallan, which our host said also scored very well in Michael Jackson's Malt Whisky Companion. (Not that Michael Jackson) The missus didn't have a favorite. In fact, the faces she made when sipping reminded me of a one-year-old's first experience with creamed spinach.

"You're destroying the ambiance," I warned her.

So my search for the perfect apertif continues. My Virginia friend Bob intrigued me years ago with what he said was a "must find." Creme de Grand Marnier. Grand Marnier is a very fine, expensive Cognac liquer. Creme de Grand Marnier must be truly special. But I could not find it. Neither could Bob. I kept my eyes open over the years in the occasional liquor store. I assumed Bob did too.

Then recently when I brought up the subject again in an e-mail, Bob said that Creme de Grand Marnier is not imported to this country any longer. It may only be purchased in Europe. He mentioned his wife had brought him back two bottles after a trip to Scandinavia.

"And, no, you can't have one," he quickly added.

Well, I responded that I owed him one wild goose chase then.

Over the holidays I spent time searching for what my Australian internet buddy Peter termed "the food of the gods." Ricadonna Asti, a sparkling white wine produced in a small Italian vinyard. I don't drink wine particularly, but I thought it would make a good gift for the wine lovers on my list.

Stopping by the area's largest wine store, I asked the wine adviser about it. He said he wasn't familiar with the brand, adding that he was more of a fan of Australian wines. I wanted to say, "Well, this wine was recommended by an Australian. What kind of a wine steward are you?"

Never did find Ricadonna Asti. My Canadian internet buddy Trucker Bob suggested I locate a bottle of 12-year-old Gibson's whiskey. I'm hoping that will be easier.

Saturday, January 14, 2006

Password Protected

My computer is lucky to be alive today. I was ready to kick it, slam it, hurl it, then leave it out in the middle of rush hour traffic on I-94. Since this was my work computer, that wouldn't have been good for either of us.

I'm sick of passwords. I can't remember them. When will they come up with voice recognition technology, ocular identification--heck, I'll even prick my finger and give blood for a DNA analysis rather than memorize one more password.

Twice this week I've run into password problems. First I was trying to check the balance on my credit card. But I couldn't get past the password on the computer. And this one I had written down! "Try all caps," my wife suggested. Nope. "Just capitalize the first word." Unh uh. "Maybe it's two words." No and I give up.

Then today I'm at work when I apparently typed the wrong password into a third party website. "Your password has been suspended," came the message. To re-instate my security access, it flashed a security question: "What is your favorite dessert?" What?? Do I have one? If I ever gave one to answer some security question, it probably was whatever I had for dessert last . . . years ago. Am I supposed to remember that??

I have the same password or PIN number for some of my banking functions. But that's not a good idea either. After I withdrew $20 out of an ATM machine, I discovered I had used my credit card, not my ATM card. I had the same PIN number for both. Let me tell you, that was an expensive withdrawal, or cash advance as the credit card company kept calling it when I telephoned them.

My father recently recounted the story of how he got wounded in Korea. Shot by North Koreans while driving a jeep in no man's land to retrieve mail, he and another GI had to ditch the jeep and find their way back in the dark. One problem, though. Neither remembered the password of the day.

So when they approached the area they thought occupied by our troops, they called out, "Battalion!" A voice from someone hidden close by replied, "Just keep walking down the road." My dad said he was certain that if they had kept walking without somehow calling out, they would have been ambushed again, this time by friendly fire.

So in a way my father literally couldn't remember a password to save his life. And it was probably an easy password. We received instructions at work recently that our password cannot be a common word. What is common they didn't say. I hope they don't mean swear words. I'll be in real trouble then.

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

The Pope On The Cheap

This past week I noticed somebody in our little family had bought some books from Border's as the tell-tale plastic bag was on our kitchen table. It was number one son Greg and that surprised me some because I know that fresh out of college he's still counting pennies, or should be, with the normal debts of college alumni these days.

So I pulled a book out of the bag. "Selecting The Pope", the title read. "What the . . . ?" I thought, blasphemously. Now, Greg visits church only occasionally and I've never heard him quote scripture. I'm sure becoming Pope is not among his ambitions. So why the book, I asked him.

"It only cost two dollars," he responded.

That wasn't the answer I was looking for, obviously. I can be a fan of cheap books and am easily lured into used or second hand book stores. I love those places. But I know that books require more storage space than most impulse purchases. If I bought every two-dollar hardbound book that I ran across, my house today would look like an annex of the Library of Congress.

I am a big preacher of frugality, so maybe I should again give another lesson to my sons. Here's one. Last week, my wife and I were browsing the clearance rack at the local Meijer's department store. What do I find but a clearance priced Halloween decoration--one of those yellow tapes like that police use to cordon off crime scenes, but this one said "Caution: Entering Haunted Area."

Coincidentally, I needed one of those for my Halloween yard display as my old yellow tape had come apart over the years. Cost? Twenty cents! Now there's frugality!! And something I needed too. Heck, I pick up dimes every week on the street. This cost me nothing.

Now my example of cheap spending should trump my son's . . . I guess. Unless maybe I arrive at the gates of St. Peter and one question to me is, "Other than the Bible, have you bought in your lifetime any book that discussed the Christian faith?"

"Ummmmm, no. But my son did."

Saturday, January 07, 2006

Kevin Bacon I'm Not

The Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon is a game where contestants try to pair a given actor with Bacon by linking movies co-starring other actors that have played together in the same movie. For example, take John Wayne. He never starred with Kevin Bacon. But he was in The Way The West Was Won with Gregory Peck . . . who was in Cape Fear (the remake) with Robert DeNiro . . . who was in Falling in Love with Meryl Streep . . . who starred with Bacon in The River Wild.

Is that six degrees or less? Anyway, I decided to try the six degrees of Big Dave. I think there are about ten or so blogs that link to mine here (I just finally figured out how to reciprocate with my own links back). But could I take a random blog and link back to mine in six links or less? I thought I'd try. By the way, to start this you need a high speed computer, a generous portion of time, a dash of ego and a quart or so of curiosity.

There are a few blogs where I only lurk--never commented. One of these is RGB, a photoblog chronicling the idyllic adventures of a couple globe-trotting youngsters getting their feet wet in Australia. Wonderful pictures there. They have just a few links, which I gather are their friends. No links, direct or indirect, to Peter. Peter is a blogging buddy of mine from Australia who has a link to me. There is a link to HardLiquid, who says he is not going to be a "blog quitter like everyone else." He posted that in October and hasn't posted since.

From there, I can click on one of five links, which takes me to Skylar , probably not a blog you would want your young children stumbling across. Nevertheless, from there you can find Thighs Wide Shut, another blog that is a bit racy. By the way, I'm not trying to find the most libidinous route home. But now we're in the blog mainstream. Trucker Bob has a link to this site. Thighs Wide Shut has a gazillion links, but none back to Trucker Bob.

However, there is a link to You Can't Make It Up, another popular blog by a New Yorker. Sometimes I think every New Yorker has their own blog.

Okay, now we're on the home stretch. There are a number of ways to find Big Dave's Blog. There is a link to Blog Monkey, which seems to originate from the United Kingdom but eventually links through other sites to Trucker Bob (who links to me).

This way may be quicker, though. From You Can't Make It Up, click on Nichelle's Newsletter, which has a link to Blogs by Women. Although I was looking for the redoubtable Kenju there, I found instead Lois Lane.

Ah ha! Now I see at least two links back as Lois has links to Poop Happens and to Hoss. They both have links to me.

So how many degrees is that? About nine I'd say. Like I said, Kevin Bacon I'm not.

This Blog Is Rated PG-13

(I wanted to thank everyone for their comments on my last blog. They gave me plenty of food for thought.)

While at the library this week, I thought I would use their public computer to browse the humor blogs nominated for the Best of Blog awards. However, the library's censoring software stopped me from visiting the first nominee. The second site was "forbidden" as well . . . as was the third.

Finally, I was able to access a nominated humor blog. And what do I find in the first post? The phrase "punk ass mother*#@#$%." I censored the offending phrase myself here. Wonder why the library's censoring filter didn't. Maybe they thought any word associated with 'mother' can't be bad. Obviously, that's not the case.

Now if some ten-year-old stumbles upon this same site I did, she might call out, "Hea mom, what does "punk ass mother*$%^$#" mean? So much for protecting our youth from profanity, lewdness and adult content.

It's not easy to hide from children all that is racy or vulgar in our society. I remember chaperoning six junior high schoolers in an overnight field trip to the big city. On the last day, we visited a small shop in a mall for some souvenirs.

One of my charges decided to help himself to post cards by the hands full, thinking them to be complimentary. While I helped to restock the cards, another of my group was checking out the magazine rack. A Playboy magazine high atop the rack was accidentally shaken loose and the kid caught it as it fell. He immediately began flipping through the pages. Better catch him before he gets to the centerfold, I thought. But the shop clerk spied him first, told him to put the magazine back, and ordered him out of the store.

Back home, the parents asked for my version of why their son was ejected from the gift shop. The boy reported that he was merely trying to put the Playboy back after it had fallen. I said that wasn't exactly true, and explained how he was flipping through the pages. Well, the son had already claimed he had done nothing of the sort. The parents weighed what I had said against their pre-teen's credibility.

"We believe our son," the mother said.

That caught me a little off guard, since they knew me to be a youth coach and fellow parishioner at church. Oh, well. Trying to keep children from dirty words and pictures can be a challenge. Being oblivious to it all is one way to deal with it, I guess.

Thursday, January 05, 2006

Middle Class Wars

Gasoline holding at well over $2 a gallon, our heating bills now at $300 each month, college expenses rising exponentially faster than inflation—everyone seems to be trying to make their pile by taking part of mine. I’m fighting the battle of the shrinking middle class. But I think I won a little skirmish over the holidays.

Some years ago, our main house drain clogged. Everything that we flushed, rinsed or gargled came back to visit via the basement drain. So after some clean-up, I called Roto Rooter. A young, smallish Hispanic man came to our house. He tried opening the clean-out, but the clay plug was brittle and broke. So with some effort he installed a new one. Then he dragged his machine downstairs, put the clearing hoses into the drain system and flushed everything out. Cost: less than $100. This man didn’t speak English that well, and I was tempted to ask him for his green card, but he did good work.

By the way, after the serviceman left, our dog came down from an upstairs bedroom. He sniffed a few spots, then looked at me as if to say, "Dave, I think there was a stranger here." Doogie is the type of guard dog that prefers to avoid confrontations. He’s the equivalent of the CSI (Crime Scene Investigators) guys on TV, dealing with the evidence after the threat is over. If crooks ever broke into our house, they could be toasting their ill-gotten loot aboard some cruise ship off the coast of Mexico before our dog would crawl out from under the bed to check things out.

Fast forward to this year and our house drain is beginning to gurgle and spurt again. This time I tried Mr. Rooter since they had a big ad and a money-saving coupon on the front cover of my phone book. The next day a rather genteel looking, well fed gentleman with a healthy spray of gray hair arrived. Then he quoted a price about four times what we paid before.

I thought there was a misunderstanding. I just wanted a clean-out; I didn’t want to buy a Mr. Rooter franchise. He mentioned an insurance program that would lessen the cost of future visits, but that was hundreds of dollars extra. I just paid for the clean-out, regretfully, while I wondered how much it would cost to just put a Porta Potty in the backyard. Or in the living room for the winter.

Then around the holidays, the drain started gurgling again. Enough! Nobody was going to put their child through med school, pay off their Lexus, or put in a swimming pool at my expense. I poured a quart of Rooto professional strength cleaner down the basement drain. It worked. And I learned some lessons:

---just because someone looks like he might have snuck across the border doesn’t necessarily make him your enemy.
---if the business you’re using has a big ad on the cover of the Yellow Pages, chances are you’re going to generously help pay for next year’s ad.
---if the repairman looks like he’s old enough to be putting kids through college, you’re going to help do that too.
---dealing with acids, clean-outs, sewage and garbage yourself is preferable to calling for professional help.

At Christmas, maybe my house smelled of pine, baked cookies and sulfuric acid. And maybe I didn’t smell that good myself. But it was a welcome odor for me. It was the smell of a battle won. A victory on behalf of those of us waging the war of the middle class.

Sunday, January 01, 2006

Predicting The Future

Anyone have predictions for 2006? Is there going to be another New Orleans type disaster? What will happen in Iraq? The world? If you don't feel up to guessing, don't fret. As they say, nobody can predict the future.

One of the first gifts my wife got me a quarter century ago was the People's Almanac (remember them?) Presents the Book of Predictions. I didn't read it then, figuring it would be more interesting to check back years later to see how truly psychic our futurists were back then.

After 25 years, I can report that among the hundreds of predictions offered by authors, lecturers, seers and visionaries--few came close. No atomic bombs exploded, we did not colonize the moon, the big one has yet to hit San Francisco, and the USSR is not the most dominant world power as so many had predicted.

Here are a few specific predictions from notable minds of 1980:
--By 2000, Johnny Carson will be chairman of the board of NBC.
--A mining station will be operating on the moon in 2005.
--Every kind of cancer will be totally curable in early stages, and successfully treatable throughout by 2002.
--Factory production of foodstuffs improves world nutrition by 2005. Even the poor can be fed cheaply now.

Okay, but here are some predictions made in that 1980 book that raised my eyebrows. Although a great number of futurists predicted the advent of ice ages across the globe, predictor Dr. Stephen Schneider had this to say in the book:

"Beyond 2000--the burning of coal, oil and natural gas for energy production produces carbon dioxide which will continue to build up in the global atmosphere. Present theory suggests that this will warm the earth's climate . . . Noticeable warming is due, if the theory is correct, around 2000." This was long before the term "global warming" came into vogue.

Then there is Joseph Martino who served as a forecasting editor for The Futurist magazine. Back when personal computers were in their infancy, the internet was unheard of, and when other technological devices of today were just pipedreams, he forecast that these technological advances would be commonplace by today:
--TV games (pre-Nintendo, less than 10 percent of U.S. households had such games, a number Martino said would reach 90 percent by 2000)
--Point of Electronic Funds Transfer from a buyer's bank to store's account (the debit card had not even been effectively introduced and only became prevalent in the 90s. Martino saw it gaining in popularity through the end of the last century.)
--Electronic Library Services (long before the phrases internet or world wide web were coined, he predicted that by 2001, 90 percent of schools would be using such services)
--Electronic Mail (as he called it, or e-mail as we know it now, would be used for 90 percent of correspondence in the U.S. by 2005)
--Pre-recorded video disc (what we now know as a DVD. Martino thought 90 percent of households would be using these by 2006).

So let's hear it for Joseph Martino, prognosticator extraordinaire. And, by the way, a writer of science fiction and fantasy.