The Restaurant That Might Kill You

IMG_5087The first thing you need to know about Colton’s, is that if you have a peanut allergy you’re going to want to stay far away, or risk the very real possibility of dying. The second thing you need to know, is that the food there is absolutely delicious, so if you have a peanut allergy and aren’t willing to risk whether you live or die by going to eat at Colton’s, then it really sucks for you. This past weekend I was in Searcy, Arkansas visiting family, my mom gave us a couple choices of where to go to dinner on Saturday night, Larry’s Pizza, and Colton’s. Let me be clear, Larry’s is by far the better option, and is definitely at the top of my list for all time favorite pizza, but the closest Larry’s Pizza location to Searcy, is in Cabot, which takes like at least half an hour to get there, and we weren’t really feeling like an hour round trip, so by way of default, Colton’s was the choice.

My brothers, wife and I arrived to the packed parking lot of Colton’s Steakhouse a little after six. Upon entering I noticed the multitude of discarded peanuts and peanut shells all over the floor, which is why you’d be wise to avoid going here if you have a peanut allergy. People with peanut allergies are the reason that those aren’t served on planes anymore, and those were the innocent, already shelled peanuts with no sign of peanut debris anywhere in the bag, but at Colton’s, the entire floor is made up of peanut dust and shells that would likely kill an allergy ridden kid within seconds of entering the western themed restaurant. There were quite a few people waiting around the hostess stand, presumably none of which were afflicted with a peanut allergy, because if they were, my verbiage would have been more along the lines of dying around the hostess stand,  so my bother went to go put our names on the list while the rest of us crunched our way to a bench in the corner of the room.

The hostess didn’t give my brother a wait time, and he didn’t ask for one, maybe because the possibility of waiting there on that corner bench in the corner until we eventually all starve to death seems like an unrealistic scenario, but I’m nothing if not an over-reactor, so my mind jumped to the negative aspects of not knowing a wait time almost immediately. We waited for what seemed like a very long time, and it did occur to me that we would have already made it to Larry’s Pizza in the time that we were still waiting to be seated at Colton’s, but finally, the little black coaster lit up and started buzzing, so our party of six was led from the entrance by the hostess station, to the table closest to the entrance, but at least we were making progress towards eating, which is really the important thing. After taking our order, the waitress brought out baskets of bread, which had some of the best rolls I’ve ever had, but I can’t say for sure whether that is factual or if it was just the hunger talking, but regardless, those rolls were fantastic.

It didn’t take long for the food to arrive, and everything looked delicious as plate after plate of piping hot plates were placed before us and an aroma cloud from the various dishes formed overhead. I had the chicken fried chicken, and despite my thinking that the name is kind of dumb because it seems to contain one to many “chickens”, it is one of the few dishes that I can think of that is solid across the board and has never let me down no matter where I’d ordered it. Saturday night was no exception. The chicken fried chicken was perfectly cooked and juicy with just the right amount of gravy on top to compliment the dish without overwhelming it, and the “smashed” potatoes, as they were called were also very good and flavorful. It did seem like a green vegetable would have been a nice addition to the meal to kind of tie the whole plate together, but that is my only aspect of the actual meal that I think could have been improved, and it’s certainly not a major issue.

The portion was very filling and the waitress was very good, always refilling my glass before I even noticed it needed to be refilled in the first place, and everyone else was satisfied with their meals as well. As I sat around the table having finished my meal, I began thinking about Memphis and where I might have seen a Colton’s somewhere in that area before as I drove around. A quick Google search revealed my thinking to be correct as there was won right around the corner from the Wolfchase Mall, and not too terribly far from where I live, so now that it’s on my radar, I’ll definitely want to go eat there again sometime, and I would highly recommend you doing the same, unless of course you have a peanut allergy and you don’t want to die.

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Monopoly Savant

When I was younger, Monopoly was my absolute favorite game, and I suppose it probably still is, although I don’t really get the opportunity to play it much anymore. It seems like as you get older, board games are replaced by card games, probably because that sort of thing is better suited for couples, which is apparently the only acceptable people to play games with when you reach a certain age. Everybody is cool with going over to a friend’s house and playing gin rummy with the wives, but you don’t really hear about a group of guys getting together every once in a while to play board games, which is really a shame, because board games are really fun and a great way to spend an evening, yet, the only time I really play them now is when I’m visiting my mom or my brothers come to visit me. Since this past weekend was Mother’s Day, I went to visit my mom, so Saturday night, me and my two brothers gathered around the kitchen table for a not so friendly game of Monopoly, with my wife playing the role of banker, because, according to her, our games are too intense, so she’s more than happy watching from the sidelines while we lose our self respect over a board game.

My brothers and I have a long history with Monopoly. Our beginning experiences with the game of complete annihilation of all your opponents coming at Christmastime when we would have hours long marathon sessions of the game with our cousins when everyone was in town for the holidays. Being the youngest in the group, we never won, but it did give us teach us good lessons in the importance of trash talk as well as providing us insights into common cheating techniques and how to spot them. My education in the game continued with my dad where every single time I visited would have us playing at least one game of Monopoly, but usually at least two or three over the weekend. You might not think that a two person game would be fun, but it was great, and we both grew so adept at it that the games actually moved along pretty fast without having to stop and count the spaces we were moving because our instincts told us that if we rolled a five from Boardwalk you’re going to end up on the worst spot on the board where you have to pay $200 or 10% of everything you own. I became a master of the game under the tutelage of my father, and even though it’s been years since we played five games in a row on a rainy day at the beach, I’d like to thank that I’m still pretty good at it.

The Monopoly gods were smiling down on me Saturday night, and early on it that was clearly evidenced by the fact that my first couple of trips around the board, every roll I was landing on unowned properties and buying them, while my brothers were landing on a lot of the community chest spots and very few actual properties. There came a point when a lot of the properties had been bought, that I had an epiphany that if I could make a trade with  my brother Logan for a certain property, then both of my brothers would have to come to me to make a deal for a Monopoly. I’m completely diabolical, so I made the trade, sealing my brothers fate in that single moment. Since I had bought so much property, I didn’t have a lot of money to build with, so in every deal that either of my brother’s offered me, I insisted that cash be a part of the transaction along with the properties that they were trading to me, and for a while, they wouldn’t give in, so I just smiled and continued on, knowing that if they ever wanted to get something done, they would have to meet my demands.

I finally reached a deal with Logan and immediately built up my Monopoly while Logan couldn’t afford to put more than a couple on his yellow properties, while Landon remained Monopoly-less, which seemed to be affecting his mood. He wasn’t interested in talking trades anymore because he felt I was being unreasonable, and eventually I finally started feeling bad for him so out of the sheer goodness of my heart, I made a trade to him that I didn’t need to make, just to make it a more even playing field. The first rule of Monopoly should be, to never make any decision based on emotions, or you will regret it. It’s a cutthroat game wherein you have to completely bankrupt all of your opponents, so helping them out when you feel bad for them, will only ending up making things more difficult on yourself, something I knew and strictly adhered to in my younger days. Landon built up his properties in no time, and all of a sudden he was laughing and being cocky, offering Logan help when he couldn’t pay me, acting more or less like a mob boss who was running the town. With Logan bankrupted by me, it was just me and Landon and we played on for a little while and it was pretty clear that while it was going to go on for a while, that I would probably eventually win since my properties were more valuable than his. It was getting late, and we had to be up the next morning, so we decided to let the dice decide. I rolled a four, and he rolled a one, so I won, and while I hated leaving that decision up to chance, it was still a sweet victory nonetheless. It was a fun night and I was reminded of a very important lesson, so if you and I ever find ourselves playing Monopoly together, I assure you that I’m going to take absolutely no mercy on you, and will in fact do everything in my power to completely destroy you.

A Boy and His Gun

IMG_5059There comes a time in every boy’s life where they are given their first gun, or at least that’s the way that life works when you’re growing up in Arkansas. I remember my first, it was Christmas eve and I was probably nine or ten years old. My grandparents still lived on Bertha, which doesn’t hold any significance for you, but for me it’s a gauge for how much time has past, because that was two houses ago, before they moved to “the farm”, the house where the majority of my memories with my moms parents were made, and then moved away from Little Rock altogether. We always had Christmas at my grandparents house on Christmas Eve. The whole family would gather together, my grandparents, their three kids and their spouses, the nine grandkids, and while they were still with us, the great grandparents. Christmas was one of my favorite times of the year and Christmas Eve was perhaps the greatest day of all, because that morning I would be in Memphis with my dad and that side of the family, then that afternoon I would get to see my moms side of the family and open even more presents. Add in the anticipation about Santa bringing even more presents the next morning made it one of the most, if not the most, exciting days of the year.

So on that Christmas Eve in the Bertha house, we were going around the living room taking turns opening up gifts, and when it came to my turn, I picked up a long, rectangular shaped parcel, intrigued as to what it could be. I would like to tell you that I slowly unwrapped it, artfully pulling off the paper and preserving the beauty of the wrapping, but I was a kid so I tore off the paper with the same ferocity as the squirrel who clawed through my apartment wall last year. I was ecstatic as the bb gun materialized before me, and immediately I began imagining awesome scenarios in which I could use my new gun to save the day, much like the kid from A Christmas Story. I’d never shot a bb gun before, and most of the adults in the room stressed the importance of gun safety to me, and not to use it until I’d been properly trained how to do so safely, but luckily I wouldn’t have to wait for long.

Another Christmas tradition we had in my family growing up was having a big brunch on the morning of December the 25th and my grandparents would come over to eat with us, so this year, after the meal, on that lazy Christmas day, my granddad took me out to the backyard to teach me how to use the gun he’d given me the day before. The metal felt cool in my hand as he helped me raise it up. He showed me how to take the safety off when, and only when I was ready to shoot, and then standing beside me, he helped me take aim at a big blue tarp that he had hung from a tree limb. I pulled the trigger and heard the satisfying thwack of the pellet as it drilled a hole in the tarp. We stayed outside for a while practicing, on the tarp, and when that got too easy we set up a paper plate as a target, and by the end of the day, I felt confident that I was the best shot in the west, or at the very least the best shot in west Little Rock. That was a good Christmas.

Proof I’d Make a Terrible Father

IMG_5008So in case you were wondering, I’m not cut out to be a dad, which is something deep down I’ve probably known for a while, but it didn’t really surface until last night. The evidence is in that picture at the top of the page. No, that’s not a giant pile of cocaine, because what kind of fool would I have to be leave my precious cocaine lying on the dirty, dirty ground. I’m joking, obviously, which is probably the first sign that I’m not fit to be a father. Joking about drugs, what a disappointment I’ve turned out to be. Anyway, that white powdery substance on the floor, that is one hundred percent not cocaine, caused me to realize, much to my consternation, that fatherhood is probably not a good option for me.

Last night I was in the restroom, and when I walked out, much to my dismay I saw a dark spot on the carpet just outside of the door. Normally I wouldn’t jump to hasty conclusions about such things, but from experience, I knew that the only thing that causes dark spots on the carpet in the apartment is dog urine, so I knew immediately that one of the dogs had peed in the house. As I turned left towards the bedroom, I realized this unfortunate circumstance was far worse than I realized when I saw a line leading all the way from the original dark spot, to another in the bedroom, which was a bit perplexing. It wasn’t hard to pin the perpetrator, because Mocha was on the bed, and she can’t jump up or down from there by herself, and Jack was looking sheepishly out from behind the black iron legs of our dining room chair, guilty as could be.

I knew it was Jack, so I called him over to me and pointed down at the long line that he had created within the last minute because it wasn’t there when I went into the bathroom. “Look what you did,” I said to him, which caused him to take off running back under the table. While my wife got out the baking soda to absorb the urine, I studied the pattern to try and piece together a motive for this particular display of disobedience, because something just wasn’t right. On the very rare occasion that one of the dogs uses the bathroom in the house, it is always in a single spot, hence me knowing exactly what the dark spot on the carpet was as soon as I saw it, yet for some reason, on this particular night, the perp decided to wander down the hall mid-stream, spraying pee in concentric circles due to the movement, then it hit me. He must have been peeing right outside of the bathroom, and when he heard me coming out he got scared and ran towards the bedroom so I wouldn’t catch him in the act. You can call me Sherlock Bones, doggy detective.

So I knew what had happened, but he still need to be taught a lesson because he knows that we take him out at certain times of the day, but if he needs to go out in between those times, he needs to let us know, which he always does by going and sitting by the front door, but last night he didn’t give any indication that he needed to go outside, and that’s when the floodgates opened. I would never hit my dogs so I figured the best punishment, since you can’t sit down and have a rational conversation with them, is to play mind games with them. Again, I would make a terrible father. I made a big show of giving Mocha treats, and picking her up and hugging her, talking about how she was my new favorite dog, you know, just to make Jack feel bad, but shortly after this display, it was me who was feeling bad. Jack was just looking up at me with his big eyes, and looking sad, so I broke down and gave him some treats and picked him up to sit in my lap where I proceeded to scratch behind his ears until the pee incident was all but forgotten. That’s probably the main reason I would be a terrible dad, because I just wouldn’t be able to enforce my punishments. I would just feel too bad, cave, and do whatever I could to be friends with the kids again.

The Importance of Wearing a Helmet

To my knowledge, I’ve never had a gruesome head injury, but perhaps that’s due to a gruesome head injury that has left me devoid of those memories. I was forced at one time to play football in a helmet without any padding when I was in the fourth grade, and I will admit that the memories of that season are pretty hazy, but that’s probably just because I suppressed as many memories of that horrible season wherein the coach, who worked on the police force, felt the best way to coax results out of us group of kids was constantly screaming and calling us names, rather than with encouragement or praise for things well done. As horrible as that season was, and even though I was put at a risk for a head injury, I luckily never incurred one, not then or at any other point in my childhood, which is pretty remarkable given how many head injuries occurred in my house growing up.

There was the time that we were playing baseball in the house, a typical start to a broken window story, but this one has a very different ending, one where shattered glass and a lecture from my mother would have been the preferred outcome. My brothers and I often played ball in the house, especially down in our game room, a large space that had plenty of room for our shenanigans, and on this particular day we were playing baseball. My brother Logan was at the plate, in front of the back of the fireplace which worked as the perfect backstop, so when I inevitably struck him out with my stellar pitching, the ball would bounce right back. I don’t remember much about the actual game that day, but it’s probably safe to assume that I was winning, but I do remember when the game ended. I threw a pitch towards Logan, who instinctively swung the plastic bat, but instead of making contact with the ball, he made contact with the head of our youngest brother Landon, who had just wandered behind Logan for some reason. There was a lot of crying and lot of blood, and the afternoon ended at the hospital with Landon getting his head stitched back together.

Another time we were playing football in the game room. As I’m typing this I’m starting to wonder if perhaps the game room was a more dangerous place than its carefree name suggested, because it seems like a lot of “accidents” happened down there. Any way, my brothers were playing a game where they would each stand on opposite ends of the ping pong table and one of them would have a football. The one without the ball would have to run around the table and catch the ball runner. It might surprise you, but running around the ping pong table with sharp metal edges might not seem like the best idea, and it actually turned out to be pretty dangerous. Landon had the ball and Logan was chasing, but instead of the game ending with Logan catching him, the game ended when Logan tackled him and Landon’s head slammed against the corner of the ping pong table. I don’t specifically remember blood in this particular situation, but I do remember lots of crying, and he did end up in the hospital with more stitches. I don’t know if it was the game room that was dangerous, or maybe it was just playing games with Logan, but there were quite a few head injuries in my house growing up, but at least I was lucky enough to avoid those throughout my life. I hope I didn’t just jinx myself.

Last Call

The last time I talked to my grandfather was on August 13th of 2015. It doesn’t seem like that long ago, that I was sitting on the edge of my bed, more than a thousand miles away from where my grandfather was lying in his, unconscious and strapped to machines, living his last hours on earth. I really wanted to be there, but given the swiftness of the circumstances that led to him being in that hospital in Searcy, Arkansas, there was no guarantee I would make it there in time or if I did make it there in time, how long he would hang on before passing, so I decided it would be better for me to wait and make the trip for the funeral rather than taking the open ended trip and shirking my work responsibilities indefinitely. On the 13th though, we knew that it was over, that the man that had fought so hard for so many years, would not be able to recover from the fall that had sent him to the hospital, so it was decided, rather than to prolong his pain any longer, that the doctors would remove his breathing tube, and then eventually he would take his last breath.

I hated that I wasn’t able to be there with the rest of the family, to be by my grandfather’s side in his last moments. This was the man that I’d looked up to my whole life, the man that I spent countless time with, playing two player Mario on the Nintendo, helping him in the garden, picking purple hull peas and then later opening them up on the porch as the sun went down, the man that taught me to ride a four wheeler, and the invaluable lesson that it’s always good to have some M&M’s handy to get the salty taste of cheez-its out of your mouth, but to keep the cheez-its nearby just in case you need to get the sweet taste out of your mouth from the chocolate. He’s the man that wrote a book, one of the original writers in my family, the man that would watch the Cardinals with me on summer afternoons and the Three Stooges on late summer nights. Over the course of my life I’d made countless great memories with my grandfather, and it was devastating not to be able to be there at the end to thank him and tell him goodbye, but then I had an idea.

On August 13th I called my mom and asked her to hold her phone up to my grandfather’s ear. Perhaps it’s not generally what people do in those situations, but my grandfather was one of my favorite people in the entire world, my role model for as long as I could remember, and I wasn’t going to let him go without saying goodbye. I told him who I was, which in hindsight was probably unnecessary since I called him granddaddy and my voice wasn’t similar to any of my cousins who would have called him by the same name, but I introduced myself and told him I loved him. My eyes teared up as I told him that the pain would be over soon, and that he was about to be in paradise. I told him that everything he’d been working his whole life for, it was all about to pay off, and then I told him that I was going to miss him. I told him I loved him again, one last time and then I hung up the phone. My grandfather didn’t say anything, he couldn’t, but he didn’t have to because he spent my whole life showing me that he loved me and cared about me. I don’t know if he even heard me, or if he did, that he was able to comprehend what I was saying, but even if I didn’t, I think he already knew how I felt about him too. I hated that it was the last call, the last time I ever spoke to him, but I’m grateful that I got the chance to make it and say goodbye. Some people don’t get that chance.

One & Only BBQ, A Review

IMG_E4952My mom and grandmother were in town yesterday, just for the night, because they had an early morning flight out of the Memphis airport, so rather than having to leave their house in Arkansas before two in the morning to get to their flight on time, they opted to stay with my wife and I, which we were pretty excited about since we hadn’t seen them since Christmas. We were sufficiently hungry by the time they arrived at seven, so we wasted little time in the apartment before heading out to get something good for dinner. My mom had been craving barbecue nachos, and I’m always in the mood for barbecue, so we decided to check out a place that I’ve never been before, One & Only Barbecue.

With three convenient locations in the Memphis area, you are never too far away from One & Only, and about ten minutes after leaving the house, we pulled into the crowded parking lot of the restaurant on Germantown Parkway. It’s always nice to see a crowded restaurant parking lot, because it stands to reason that if the food were bad, then there wouldn’t be all of these people eating here, and with only a few open parking spaces, and a drive-thru line wrapped around the building, this seemed like a very good sign. We walked inside and were seated at a booth, giving me the perfect view of the television which was airing March Madness basketball. Without having to even ask for that particular seat, it’s like the host knew me as soon as I walked through the door, could sense that I would appreciate getting to watch the game. I belonged here; I was home.

We looked over the menu, and my mom suggested we start with some fried onion straws, which turned out to be delicious, obviously. They weren’t served with the traditional orange zesty sauce, but a ranch dressing was brought out for us to dip the fried pieces of onion in, and I’m not sure if it was their own recipe, but I really enjoyed the ranch, which was a little bit thicker than what I normally get. There were a lot of really good looking choices on the menu, but ultimately I decided on The Junkyard Dog, a one hundred percent kosher beef hot dog topped with a quarter pound of pulled pork, mild barbecue sauce, coleslaw, BBQ baked beans and French fries. If that sounds like a lot of food, it was, which was immediately evident as the full plate of food was placed before me just a few minutes later.

I wasn’t sure where exactly to start, as the hotdog was completely buried beneath the avalanche of barbecue staples, so I just submerged my fork into the pile of mayhem and shoved the clinging contents of the utensil into my mouth. It was the most delicious hot dog that I’ve ever had, and the pulled pork with the baked beans and coleslaw were texturally fantastic, and were the perfect compliments to the hot dog and bun. I don’t think I’ve ever had an entrée where the French fries were scattered on top of it, but in this instance it worked beautifully. I made sure to have part of a French fry in each bite, and the saltiness of the fried potato fit in great with the rest of the dish. It may not have been a beautifully plated masterpiece, but it was absolutely delicious, and I would recommend it to anyone going to eat there.

I know it seems strange to have a hotdog at a barbecue restaurant, but not only was it the best tasting hot dog I’ve ever had, but with the pulled pork, baked beans, and coleslaw, I definitely got my fill of barbecue at One & Only. The service was really quick, like the food came out less than ten minutes after it was ordered, and the brightly lit restaurant, full of customers laughing and talking, gave it a nice cozy feel. Out of ten, I’m giving my experience at One & Only Barbecue a perfect ten, because it was absolutely great, so great in fact, that I’m already looking forward to going back so I can try some of the other delicious looking things on the menu. I don’t think I’m going to be able to commit to them being my one & only barbecue restaurant, but they are certainly a new favorite. Do yourself a favor, and go check them out.