Disturbing the Peace

How late is too late to turn on a really loud appliance in an apartment? When you live in an apartment, and have neighbors either above or below you, and to the side of you, it’s important to take them into consideration anytime you do something that might have some kind of an affect on them. It may not be as big of deal if we lived in a higher end apartment that is built to be more soundproof, but as it is, we can hear when our downstairs neighbor turns on the shower, so soundproofing evidently wasn’t a concern when our apartments were being built. Due to that, I try my best to be considerate and keep my more noisy appliances turned off after a certain time, with the exception of the dryer. I don’t really care about running the dryer, because if I’m doing so, it’s an urgent matter wherein I need to have something ready for me to wear the next morning, and secondly I feel that the pitch of the rumble is low enough that you don’t really notice it unless you are making a concerted effort to hear it.

My wife on the other hand, doesn’t seem as concerned with disturbing the neighbors, which I kind of admire, because they really don’t seem too concerned about bothering us, with their slamming of doors all hours of the night, and their crying child, or screeching cat, whatever it is can be heard as we’re climbing into bed. I’m just not a big fan of confrontation, which is why I find myself worrying about if I’m disturbing the neighbors even though they are constantly disturbing me, just so there’s no risk of a confrontation about the noise. It’s really no way to live, the life of a wimp, but I am who I am, and all I can do is live my life in a way that minimizes the risk of me being thrown outside my comfort zone, which is why when my wife started up the blender around eleven, it seemed like a bad idea.

My wife has been making and drinking smoothies for two to three meals a day, doing a complete detox cleanse. I don’t know how many of you are smoothie experts out there, but in order to make the smoothie, she puts a bunch of different things into the blender, like frozen fruit, coconut milk, a scoop of sand, or some type of powder that looks very sand like, and then adds ice before snapping the top on and hitting the button that says blend. That cues the earthquake, which is my slightly exaggerated way of saying that it’s really loud, which it is, and it shakes a lot, much like an earthquake would cause things to shake, and despite it being an exaggeration, it’s a fairly accurate comparison. I was sitting on the couch when the mayhem started up, and had I not been sitting down, I wouldn’t have been at all surprised if the noise physically knocked me down. While she normally wouldn’t worry too much about how loud she was being, my wife did recognize that this ninja blender was a whole new level of loud, and decided that going forward she wouldn’t use it after ten o’clock in the evening, which was great with me as it seemed to completely eliminate the possibility of an angry confrontation with our neighbors. The next night she forgot and started making her smoothies about ten thirty, which means I’ll probably come home to find a “disturber of the peace” sign nailed to my door, either that or an angry neighbor ready to punch me in the face.

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The Bus Ride From Hell

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There will come a point at the end of your life where you reflect back on things you have done, the good memories you’ve made and the regrets you have, whether it be peacefully on your deathbed, or in the seconds before you die in a horrible accident. I’m not sure how I’m going to die, but I am one hundred percent sure that when I think about the important decisions I made in my life, the good and the bad, the one that’s going to haunt me the most is the time I took the greyhound bus from Fort Pierce, Florida, to Memphis, Tennessee.

It was the summer of 2014, and a very hot one at that, but my spirits could not be dampened, because despite the misery of living under those devastating meteorological conditions, I was about to have a two week vacation. My wife and I, taking our first trip together as a married couple since our honeymoon, were going to go visit my dad in Memphis for a week, then go spend a week at the beach in Destin with my mom’s side of the family for a week after that. I was getting to spend a substantial amount of time with my family that I hadn’t seen in a while, and I didn’t have to worry about work for two weeks, so I was about to be living a pretty stress free life. I just had to get out of Fort Pierce first, and since I wasn’t confident enough to drive my car on the interstate, for fear that the speed alone with shatter it into a million little pieces, there was no way I was going to drive it across multiple states, which made the getting out of town part a little more difficult.

Based solely on the fact that it was much cheaper than flying, we decided to make our trip to Memphis via Greyhound, the bus not the dog, though I can’t imagine that riding on the back of a bony dog would have been much more uncomfortable than the reality we ended up with. Fort Pierce was only the second stop on the Greyhound’s journey through Florida that began in Miami and ended somewhere less fun, presumably, but even so, the bus was already packed by the time it arrived at the truck stop gas station by the interstate. My wife and I waited in line to board, and once our tickets were scanned and we made our way onto the bus, it was clear that there was no room for us to sit together, so she took a seat near the front, and I walked to the back, plopping down on the seat next to a guy whose head was completely under a blanket, presuming correctly that if he was sleeping then I wouldn’t have to talk to this guy for the four hour trip to Tallahassee. Unfortunately he snored most of the way, so even though he wasn’t badgering me with conversation, he still managed to make the first leg of the trip an annoying one.

It was dark by the time we arrived in Tallahassee where Leticia and I were reunited in the greyhound station that somehow smelled worse than the overnight train, the “Trenitalia,” that runs from Rome to Paris. Fortunately, we were able to sit together for the rest of the trip, which seemed like it would never end. We would ride on the bus for a few hours, then make our next stop, where occasionally we would change buses, and then start the process all over again. Shortly after four in the morning we arrived at the Atlanta bus station, which thanks to my extensive research beforehand, in an attempt to ease my nerves and make me feel better about riding on Greyhound for the first time in my life, I read some pretty horrible stories recounted by passengers passing through the Atlanta station. Like a gentleman, I let my wife exit the bus before I did, which also meant that I could kind of use her as a human shield if something were to go down, not that I was thinking such terrible thoughts.

I was carrying a bag over my shoulder as we stepped out into the muggy Atlanta night, and some guy who was just hanging around by one of the street lamps stepped up to me and asked if I had a laptop he could borrow. I told him no and then he pointed at my bag, the kind of bag that were clearly built to carry computers, and asked what was inside. Luckily I had left my laptop at home for this trip, so I was more than happy to open up my bag and show him the contents that included an extra t-shirt, my toiletries, some snacks, a book, and a notebook, none of which interested him, so he let me go inside while he went looking for his next target, and luckily, I didn’t get approached by anymore strangers for the rest of the trip.

From the time we left Fort Pierce until the time we arrived in Memphis, the trip took about a total of twenty hours, which is almost a full day that I will never get back. I feel like when you look back on bad experiences, you can find one or two positive things that happened or something meaningful you can take from the bad experience, but that’s not the case here. Not only was the trip incredibly long with a maddening amount of stops, but the whole on bus experience was awful, from the signature stench of Greyhound, which smelled to me like sadness and body odor, to the uncomfortable seats left my butt incredibly sore after only about six hours, which left me to shift every few minutes for the remainder of the trip, endlessly searching for a more comfortable position that just couldn’t be found. Sure we paid less money to take the bus rather than flying, but what we lost, all that time and our innocence, was worth way more than the money we saved. Hopefully I never find myself riding Greyhound ever again, but if it does end up happening, maybe I’ll get lucky and be stuffed inside somebody’s suitcase under the bus, because I would much rather be a decomposing corpse than to willingly ride that bus from hell ever again.

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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Arkansas Eats: Lunch at the Bulldog

IMG_5082I’ve never once in my life looked at a bulldog and thought of food, but I wouldn’t be surprised if it happens going forward, because I had an excellent meal at the Bulldog Restaurant in Bald Knob, Arkansas last weekend. I was off work on a Saturday for the first time in several weeks, so my wife and I went to visit my mom for Mother’s day weekend. Before we got to Searcy where she lives, we passed the Bulldog Restaurant in Bald Knob, and I commented that we should stop there and try it out sometime, because I’ve heard quite a few people rave about it. One time when I was about ten, me and my friends were on the way from Little Rock to the summer camp and one of the parents insisted that we stop for lunch at the Bulldog. I remember absolutely nothing about the meal I had that day seventeen years ago, but I figured it must be good if someone was so adamant that we should eat there.

We were sitting around the living room at my mom’s house and she started suggesting things for lunch, and whether by pure coincidence or something cosmic in the universe aligning with the stars as I spoke the name earlier that morning, she asked what we thought about the Bulldog Restaurant, and of course we were on board. Unless you were specifically looking for the restaurant, it’s probably not the sort of place you would take notice of driving by, but the parking lot was completely packed with cars, which was a positive sign of reassurance that everything I’d heard about the Bulldog was true, because there wouldn’t be that many people at a terrible restaurant after close to two o’clock on a Saturday afternoon. It was the kind of place where you ordered at the counter and then they brought the food to you once it’s cooked, and the menu was perched over the register like something you might find at a little league concession stand, which was kind of cool. Most of the items on the menu were pretty straight forward, but there was one thing where a traditional menu with pictures would have been helpful, because never have I ever heard of a pizza burger, but I was very intrigued as to what it might be.

As the line moved forward and we got closer to the register, I had pretty much made up my mind that I was going to get the pizza burger, because it had to be something pretty unique. I was imagining a slice of pizza between two hamburger buns, or perhaps a regular hamburger patty topped with tomato sauce, cheese, and pepperoni, both of which sounded pretty interesting, but when I asked the cashier what the pizza burger was, my imagination had run wild with possibility, because the reality wasn’t nearly as interesting as I’d hoped it would be. She told me it was a burger with mozzarella cheese melted in the middle, so basically it was a cheeseburger with a different kind of cheese, but even though it wasn’t as exotic as I’d imagined it to be, it still sounded good, so that’s what I ordered with a side of fries, and a strawberry shortcake for my wife and I to split for desert.

Although it was crowded inside the restaurant, we found seats at a high top table by the window with a beautiful views of the parking lot and a shed set off in the distance in the middle of an overgrown yard. The food didn’t take long to get there and the fries looked great, seasoned and not too thick, which are my favorite, but when I unwrapped the aluminum foil with the word “Pizza Burger” written in black sharpie, I was completely taken aback, because it turned out not to be a burger at all, but rather a chicken fried steak patty. I don’t know if they messed up the order or the cashier messed up the description, but I was in a go with the flow type of mood, and it didn’t look half bad, so I just went with it, which turned out to be a great decision. The chicken fried steak was really good and the melted cheese in the middle was an added bonus. The pickles and mustard on the sandwich were unnecessary and seemed a little out of place but I thought that I was ordering a burger, so I didn’t see any need to have those two ingredients left off. It wasn’t the greatest meal I’ve ever had, but the fries and the sandwich were both solid and I would definitely eat there again.

The real star of the show wasn’t the entrée at all, but rather the strawberry shortcake that we had for desert. Apparently the Bulldog Restaurant is kind of famous for this sweet dish, and I can see why, because it is one of the best restaurant deserts I’ve ever had, probably second only to the profiteroles I had on my first trip to Paris. The strawberry shortcake consisted of a bowl filled with soft serve vanilla ice cream and sliced strawberries, topped with whipped cream and nuts, with pieces of shortbread placed around the dish. The varying textures, the smoothness of the ice cream contrasted with the crunch of the shortbread married together well and made the desert and all around delight to eat. I would go back to the Bulldog for the strawberry shortcake alone, and lucky for me, I drive right past it on the way to my mom’s house, but even if you have to go out of your way to get to Bald Knob, it will be well worth it for a taste of heaven.

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.

The Ticket

IMG_5090If you’ve never driven on US 64 West, you’re not missing much. It’s a miserable stretch of highway that I have to drive on when I’m going from Memphis, to Searcy, Arkansas to visit family and then vice-versa when it’s time to head home. It’s a road I take out of necessity, and nothing more. It’s a really easy drive from Memphis to Searcy, which is nice, but it’s almost entirely spent on this one highway which definitely has it’s drawbacks. If you’re hungry and looking for something to eat, you better not be too picky, because if you pass up a McDonald’s in Wynne, you might not see another place to eat for the next half hour, and the same goes for gas. Don’t wait until you absolutely need gas to stop for it, because there’s no telling where you’ll be when the light comes on. You could be passing through a small town that has a disgustingly dirty gas station that your forced to go inside of because you can’t pay at the pump for whatever reason and smell the various array of scented sprays that are there to distract you from the fact that you’re in the middle of freaking nowhere and everything in every direction smells like cow manure, or more likely, you’ll be on a long stretch of road with nothing but cotton as far as you can see, and no sign of a gas station anywhere, and if you run out of gas on the side of a mostly deserted highway, you’ve just become the lead character in a horror movie, and nobody wants to go out like that.

I went to Searcy for Mother’s Day weekend, to see my mom, so I was headed back to Memphis Sunday afternoon, listening to 90’s hits on the Pandora station and trying to stay awake as I passed through town after sleepy town and counting down the minutes until I would get home. It’s not that I was fleeing Arkansas as quickly as possible despite the fact that I hate driving through those tiny towns, but the first game of the Eastern Conference Finals of the NBA Playoffs was set to start in half an hour, and I really wanted to be home to see as much of that as I could. Driving on highway 64 isn’t just annoying to drive along because there aren’t many options to stop for food and gas, but also because most of the way, it’s only a two lane highway, so you inevitably end up behind someone who is just out for a nice country drive and has no awareness of the speed limit or the person behind them who might be trying to get somewhere in a reasonable amount of time. Also, the speed limits decrease as you enter into the small towns and then go up once you get further away on the other side, so keeping track of what the speed limit is at any given moment, isn’t the easiest thing in the world.

I was driving through a town I couldn’t name at the time, but now know the identity to be Parkin, when I saw a police SUV in the oncoming lane, headed in the direction that I was coming from. I was going pretty fast, because at the moment I was the only one in my lane so there was nobody to slow me down, and I didn’t give much thought to the police officer since he too was driving instead of sitting on the side of the road with his radar gun pointed at me, but just before we passed each other, he flipped on his lights, and I turned to my wife and told her I was about to get a speeding ticket. We held out hope slightly that the officer had just received an urgent call and just happened to be passing me when he was given orders to turn around immediately and head to the scene of the crime, but that notion was completely vanquished as he pulled his car right up behind me. The officer was nice, although I can’t say the same for my two Chihuahuas who began viciously barking as soon as he showed up at my window, and continued to do so until he walked away, and despite the pleading from Jack and Mocha, I was still issued a ticket for driving 68 in a 55. I’ve gotten two speeding tickets in my life, and both of them have been on highway 64, so I guess it’s probably time for me to stop speeding on that road, or maybe better yet, and I don’t know why I didn’t think about this sooner, just stay out of Arkansas altogether. I’m joking, I’m joking. There’s no way I could ever stop speeding.

The Worst Thing About Summer

IMG_3212Even though it’s not officially summer yet, the devastating heat has crashed the party, and unfortunately, I don’t think it’s going anywhere. There are some things I love about the Summertime, the fact that it stays light later so I can enjoy doing things outside after I get off of work, the traffic is considerably lighter during my morning commute with the kids out of school which is definitely a plus, and then there’s the vacations I’m fortunate enough to get to go on every year, but while these are all big positives, I still hate summer overall. I’ve always been a man who prefers a cold wintery day to a hot sunny one, and there are a lot of people that disagree with me. I know because most often when I comment on what a beautiful day it is when it’s overcast and in the mid forties, people scoff at me in disbelief, but I experienced one of their ideal days last weekend, a sunny day in the upper eighties, and I have to say, it was pretty awful.

I went to the zoo just to walk around for a bit with my dad, because it was a perfect day as ascribed by the masses, and on a day like that, you really should get outside and “enjoy” it. As the weekend approached, virtually everyone that came into my work was talking about the weekend and how they’re going to get out and enjoy the beautiful weather, which is a positive attitude that isn’t completely meritless, and in fact I was so hyped up by all the talk about the weather that I was actually excited about the possibility of doing something outside. Dutifully, my dad and I set out to enjoy the beautiful day that mother nature had blessed us with, only it became evident fairly quickly, at least to me, that it was already too hot for my liking. Nobody in their right mind would set their in-home thermostat above eighty degrees, yet here we were willingly walking briskly in the heat, which might even constitute as exercise in some states.

Once we were nice and hot and ready to die, we left the zoo, but then, instead of walking a few steps to the car in the parking lot, we had another several minutes of walking ahead of us, because we had the bright idea to leave our car at the park and walk to the zoo, what with it being such a beautiful day and all. Who could have blamed that decision? This day was talked up so much and everyone kept saying how beautiful it was going to be, so we would have been stupid not to walk through the park on such a fantastic day. We get back to the car, which was a level of hell in and of itself because the interior felt like a brick pizza oven, the heat punching me in the face and pulling me inside to drown in it as soon as I opened the door. The windows were rolled down and the air conditioner was turned on, and it only took a couple of minutes to feel like I might actually make it out of this situation alive. As I sat there, suffocating in the heat, I thought to myself a terrible thought, that we aren’t even actually to summer yet, and then I wished for the heat to go ahead and finish me off right then and there, to spare me from the agony that lies ahead in July and August.