Archive for the ‘Friends’ Category

End of the Year (Better late than never?)

Wednesday, January 19th, 2011

It is hard to believe that we are almost done with the first month of 2011! And, I never even posted my 2010 end of the year list. For shame. Well, here we go:

Top 10 Concerts of 2010:

10. Rhythm Devils at House of Blues
9. Railroad Earth at House of Blues
8. Chicago Symphony Orchestra at Millennium Park
7. LCD Soundsystem at Pitchfork Music Festival
6. Panda Bear at Pitchfork Music Festival
5. Caribou at Millennium Park
4. John Prine at Ravinia (from Prairie Home Companion)
3. Pavement at Pitchfork Music Festvial
2. Furthur at UIC (both shows)
1. Bonnie Prince Billy and the Cairo Gang at Lincoln Hall (early show)

– Being a new Deadhead was the direct result of #10, #9, and #2 being on this list.

Top 10 Favorite Songs of 2010

10. The National – Bloodbuzz Ohio
9. Gil Scott-Heron – New York Is Killing Me
8. Woods – Suffering Season
7. Deerhunter – Helicopter
6. Phosphorescent – It’s Hard To Be Humble (When You’re From Alabama)
5. Beach House – Used to Be
4. MGMT – Someone’s Missing
3. Avey Tare – 3 Umbrellas
2. Sufjan Stevens – I Walked
1. Atlas Sound – Untitled

– While I might have listened to a lot of older music (especially the Dead) last year, I still got around to checking out a few new stuff. Most of it didn’t excite me that much, but the these tracks sure did.

Top 10 Favorite Songs I Discovered In 2010 (Not including the Dead)

10. String Cheese Incident – Land’s End (1997)
9. Jorma Kaukonen – Song for the North Star (1974)
8. Van Dyke Parks – John Jones (1972)
7. Railroad Earth – Storms (2004)
6. Harry Nillsson – Jump Into the Fire (1971)
5. Béla Fleck – Somerset (1986)
4. The Staple Singers – I Had a Dream (1959)
3. Elizabeth Cotten – Shake Sugaree (1967)
2. Moondog – Do Your Thing (1978)
1. Crosby & Nash – Southbound Train (1972)

– Admittedly, I was late in the game on these amazing songs. I suppose better late than never. See a theme going on? Anyway, a few notes here: 10) Yes, I did include a String Cheese Incident song here. Feel free to make fun of me. The truth is that I tried to get into other jam bands but to little avail. SCI was one of the few that kept me interested, especially “Land’s End”. 9) Jorma Kaukonen was always my favorite Jefferson Airplane member. 8) How did I go so long without listening to Van Dyke Parks solo albums? 7) Another “jam band” that I got into was Railroad Earth. Best seen live but their albums hold up quite nicely, too. 6) I am new to Harry Nillsson even though “Everybody’s Talkin'” is one of my favorite songs. I had only know “Jump Into the Fire” as that wonderful song in Goodfellas where Henry is driving around paranoid, looking up at the helicopters in the sky. 5) Have you listened to Béla Fleck’s early albums? They are so lovely, especially “Somerset” which comes off the Inroads album. 4) I love the Staple Singers but had not dived into their early recordings until last year. Boy have I been missing out! 3) I have the Dead to thank for introducing me to Elizabeth Cotten. Easily, one of my favorite guitar players. So unique her style is called “Cotten pickin'” 2) I finally sought out more from Moondog, and I am so grateful that I did. “Do Your Thing” just might be the best song ever recorded. 1) I don’t know what it is about this Crosby and Nash song I love so much but I probably played it more than any other song last year (includes Jerry Garcia on pedal steel).

Top 5 Movies Watched On Netflix Instant Watch (That I Hadn’t Seen Before):

5. Phantasm (1979) – I can’t believe I hadn’t seen this! For years, I skipped it thinking that I had. Big mistake!
4. Bela Fleck: Throw Down Your Heart (2008) – If you are a fan of music, I think you will enjoy this musical adventure.
3. You’re Gonna Miss Me (2005) – The sad tale of whatever happened to Roky Erickson. Very reminiscent of The Devil and Daniel Johnston. Both could make for a fascinating yet depressing double feature.

2. The Cove (2009) – Another depressing documentary but extremely well done and meaningful.
1. The King of Kong: A Fistful of Quarters (2007) – The biggest surprise of the bunch. I was expected a lighthearted documentary about video game obsession. Instead, I was treated to a morality play between good and evil. Or something like that. Highly recommended.

– We just got Netflix for our Wii a few months ago so expect a few more recommendations in 2011.

Top 5 Places I Visited For Work

5. New Orleans, LA – I didn’t get to spend much time here. Just enough to enjoy an oyster poboy. However, not enough time to get a beignet. How sad.
4. NYC – I worked with Yankees’ manager Joe Girardi at the House of Blues in Times Square. More importantly, I got to hang out with my friend, Brad.
3. State College, PA – I worked here twice last year. Once, we drove there. I never imagined that Pennsylvania was so pretty. The second time we flew, and I had the best crab cakes I have ever had in my life. And I got to meet Joe Peterno.
2. San Diega, CA – It was hard having to leave paradise to return to the harsh, Chicago winter.

1. Dyserville, Iowa – Actually, it was a detour stop on the way home from a shoot with The Weather Channel. Details aside, I got to run the bases at the Field of Dreams baseball field.



Random food photos from 2010:


Tasty french toast from Dixie Quicks in Omaha, NE.


The Super Grouper at Frenchy’s in Tampa, FL


The Peachy Paterno on campus at Penn State.

A half-eaten Rickwood Dog at the Rickwood Classic in Birmingham, AL.


My favorite pie! Baked and decorated by Apryl.

The cinnamon buns at Ann Sather.


Homemade pizza with spinach and goat cheese. Yummy!


Apryl makes amazing home fries!


Unbelievable tasting pork chops! The waiter sold me on this when she told me that if she was only allowed on food for the rest of her life, this would be it. Too bad this is off the menu for me at the moment while I’m still practicing vegetarianism.

One of my favorite meals of 2010 was this crab cake in State College, PA.



Top 5 Favorite Personal Photos of 2010 (in no order)





sledge church

Goodbye 2010. Hello 2011!

RIP Miss Shirley

Tuesday, November 9th, 2010

Recently, I found out that Miss Shirley, the bartender at one of Memphis’ most infamous dive bars The Lamplighter passed away after a battle with cancer. Shirley was one of the kindest individuals that I have ever met, and the news of her death is very hard to take.

If you have never step foot in the Lamplighter, imagine someone’s dingy basement, and you get a pretty good idea of the interior. There is a dusty couch, fake panel walls, and lots and lots of smoke. The beer is cheap, and the jukebox is stocked with actual `45 records. The pool table is a steal at only 50 cents, even though there is a rule of no trick shots. There are only about three beers available, with Pabst the only one on tap. The bar is truly an unique character of it’s own, but without Shirley, it will seem quite empty.

For me, Shirley was the heart of the Lamplighter. When you entered the bar, Shirley would always greet you with a smile and immediately serve you your beer before you even had time to ask for it. No matter how many people came through those doors, she always remembered which beer you liked the best. It was more than a parlor trick. Shirley knew her clientele and treated them as friends, happy that they had stopped on by.

When I was single, the Lamplighter was like a second home. My buddy Brad and I would head to the bar, order a burger, and watch the Memphis Grizzlies on their cheap television set. When it was halftime, we would play game after game of pool. Sometimes we would have too many beers and start acting a fool, but Shirley was not the judging type. She understood the faults of her customers and yet she always greeted them back with a smile.

Shirley was a large person. Sure, size wise. But, more so because she could command a room without saying a word. You always knew that you were in her world. She was quiet, but when it was slow, she could always be steered into a conversation. My favorite story was when she threw out legendary photographer William Eggleston on the street for being unruly. When she told us the story, she wasn’t bragging. She didn’t even bring it up. Brad and I had heard the legends and wanted to know if it was true. It was. However, when she recalled the evening, she didn’t seem angry just a sense of disappointment. Still, what a sight that must have been!

Shirley had rules. In fact, there was a plaque over the bar with “Shirley Sez” guidelines. Most importantly, you did not cuss. I suppose Shirley figured that once you started cussing, you became agitated, and there was no good in that. If someone did start swearing, Shirley would pull out a hard stick from behind the bar and smack it on the counter, letting the patron know that when you are in Shirley’s bar you better play by her rules. I never saw her use that stick on anyone, but I never doubted that she would have.

One of the best kept secrets of Memphis is the burger at the Lamplighter, known better as the Shirley Burger. I don’t know what she did, but Shirley never failed at making the tastiest burger I have ever tasted. It was the perfect mixture of flavor, juice, and grease. I took a photo of it on one of my last trips to the Lamplighter:

The only thing about ordering food was that Shirley would have to go to the kitchen in the back room. Even though she could still see the front door from there, she would have to give up tending bar since her shift was always a lone one. So, we would feel guilty and often delay ordering even though our bellies were rumbling. When Shirley found out that we really wanted food but didn’t say anything, she would shrug us off as being silly and proceed to get out the ground chuck and buns. Before it was done cooking, she would bring over the condiments getting you more and more eager. When the food finally arrived, you tried to pace yourself because you always knew it would be gone too fast.

My most memorable night at the Lamplighter was when my buddy Brett got married. His first stop after tying the knot was to pay Shirley a visit and share the good news. Instead of sitting at the bar, we got a table. Later, Brett told me that Joaquin Phoenix, who was in town filming Walk the Line, was hanging out one table over with his entourage. I was so caught up in the moment, I didn’t even notice. Shirley brought us over a round of beer, and said that the first round was on her. I got up and put a quarter in the jukebox. The happy couple danced in the middle of the bar as Shirley watched on with a smile.

While I was at the bar one night waiting for Brad, I was suddenly brought into a discussion with with a few of the patrons around the counter. One of the regulars pointed at me and stated, “He knows. He’s a regular.” It was at that moment that I figured I might be spending too much time in a bar. Not long after that, I started dating Apryl, and I didn’t have the same desire to hang out in a dark, cavernous room. Even so, I’m happy to say that I did take Apryl to meet Shirley. Anytime I visited without Apryl after that, Shirley would go on about that cute redhead.

One of the last times I saw Shirley was when I was back home visiting from Chicago. She was very excited to hear that Apryl and I had gotten married. Even though she was never one for pictures, she did amuse with the photo you see at the top of this post.

For many, Miss Shirley was seen as a motherly figure. So with her passing, it’s like losing a member of the family. I completely understand that. On top of that, I feel like it’s a closure to a part of my life. Even though I can step foot in the Lamplighter again, it won’t feel like I’m coming home. Shirley made that possible.

Read the Commercial Appeal article. (If you note that I didn’t read this article before I wrote this post, you’ll realize that Shirley made lasting impressions on others that were very similar to mine.)

Pumpkin Carving Party `09

Wednesday, October 28th, 2009

Pumpkin Carving Party 2009 Invitation

Check out the photos from our Pumpkin Carving Party we held on Sunday!

Brad visits Chicago.

Wednesday, July 1st, 2009

Brad in Chicago

Did I mention that my good friend Brad came to visit last week? I first met Brad in Memphis where we spent many hours watching the Grizzlies, playing pool, and hanging out here. Brad now lives in Nashville. We make every effort to see him whenever we’re in the Music City area visiting my sister. When we saw Brad last, he told us he was planning on paying us a visit real soon. True to his word, Brad was checking into our guest room three weeks later.

Since he was only here for three days, we were only able to scratch the surface at what Chicago has to offer. But nevertheless, we had a lot of fun. And since Brad is a professional photographer, I was able to use the opportunity to be the shutterbug that I am. Here are a few photos from past week:

Chicago Skyline

One of the first places I took him was the Museum Campus where one can catch an amazing view of the Chicago skyline. I’m posting my photo but it doesn’t compare to the panoramic one Brad created in Photoshop.

U of Chicago

Afterward, we headed south on Lake Shore Drive towards Hyde Park. I knew that he wanted to check out the Museum of Science and Industry. Not for the exhibits but for the building itself since it was a part of the World’s Columbian Exposition of 1893. While we were in the neighborhood, he also wanted to check out Frank Lloyd Wright’s Robie House. We also explored the beautiful University of Chicago campus. Check out the overgrowth on the buildings in the photo above!

After we spent several hours in Hyde Park, we ventured downtown for dinner and a free concert a Millennium Park (see post below). Afterwards, along with Apryl, we walked Michigan Avenue to the John Hancock Observatory. Between the Sears Tower and the Hancock, the Hancock is my favorite in that it provides a grander view of the city.

However, Apryl and I were a bit shocked at all the additions since the last time we had been to the Hancock with Apryl’s mom. Now, there is a free audio headset provided where as David Schwimmer gives you a tour of the many sights. Also, there is a coffee shop with even a few tables. And at all times, you are being serenaded with bad pop music through the speaker system. Still, you can’t beat that view. See below:

Chicago view

I have to say, I was proud of my new camera. A shot as sharp as the one above wouldn’t have been possible with my previous Canon Power Shot.


Here is a shot looking north at Lake Shore Drive.

On that first day, we did a lot of walking. On our way back home, we walked through Millennium Park once more and I grabbed this shot from the garden.

garden city

Not only was there a lot of walking, but there was a lot of heat. This was literally the first week of summer and it felt like it for sure. For Brad’s entire trip, the highs were in the upper 90’s. As I explained to him, though, the next week’s highs might be in the 70’s. Sure enough, that’s just what happened.

hot dougs

The next day I took Brad to one of my favorite places to get a hot dog, Hot Dougs. I have heard of folks waiting hours in line to get their hands on a Hot Doug dog. There was a line when we arrived but we luckily made it through in less than twenty minutes.

Brad and Hot Dougs

I believe it’s safe to say Brad thought the dog was worth the wait. What’s funny about this photo is that he’s holding a ketchup bottle in his left hand. Putting ketchup on a Chicago hot dog is a real no no. And I can assure you that Brad followed the long Chicago tradition, and used the ketchup only for his fries.


The White Sox happened to be in town playing against the number one team in baseball, the Dodgers. So I got us some upper deck seats, and we headed out to he ballpark. But first, we made a pit stop at Chinatown. Chinatown is only one train stop from the Sox stadium, so we took in some sights and grabbed dinner.

sox and dodgers

At the game, Brad confessed to me that this was his first attended Major League baseball game. Unfortunately, it wasn’t a well played one for the Sox. When Sox manager Ozzie Guillen was asked, after the series wrapped up, why the attendance was so low for the Dodgers games, he responded “because our fans are not stupid like Cubs fans. They know we’re [insert expletive here].” Still, after that loss, the Sox have won 6 out of their last 7 games. And as amazing at it sounds, the Sox are currently in 2nd place in the AL Central Division.

Sox view

This is the view you see as you’re leaving the Sox stadium.

That night we lived up old times at The Map Room. So much so, that we slept in on his last day, and barely got in a lunch before we had to head out to the Midway airport. Still, it was a great time spent with an old friend.

You can check more photos from Brad’s visit here.