Monthly Archives: May 2008

A Man Of Many Talents…

Yes, I’m more than just someone who can wax poetic about fundamentalists and perform killer weddings…..I am one HELL of a bbq chef.  To be honest, as much as I love to cook (and I generally do an okay job at most things I try), for whatever reason I’m probably the best at my bbq.  Ribs, pork and brisket, to be specific.  Just to clarify something for those of you who may not be from a bbq hub like Kansas City, Memphis or the Carolinas (and I guess I can add Texas, although people who use rotted railroad ties….a.k.a. mesquite wood, don’t really count as bbq’ers), I’m talking about bbq.  Not grilling.  When you have friends over to your house to cook hot dogs, hamburgers, steaks and whatnot….you are NOT bbq’ing.  You are grilling.  The two terms are mutually exclusive, so keep that in mind.  And don’t mix that shit up around me.  Or else.  Seriously.  Rule of thumb is this…..did it take you less than two hours to cook it?  Then it’s not bbq.  You can add your little wood chips on top of the charcoal underneath your ribeye all you want, but you’re still just grilling.  Any monkey can do that.  It takes a man of substantial patience and talent to cook a humble pork shoulder low and slow for 14 hours until it transforms into something that would prompt even someone as hardcore as Ingrid Newkirk to drop to her knees and beg for just one precious morsel.  The ribs?  The brisket and its prodigious offspring known as “burnt ends”?  Don’t even get me started….. when it comes to the art of indirect cooking, I am Godzilla and you are Japan. 

In all seriousness, compared to many of the 270+ bbq teams that were assembled at the Great American BBQ contest this weekend…I’m just a backyard hack.  Sure, anything I cook is better than what you’ll find at 99% of the bbq restaurants out there, but that is due in part to the fact that it’s so much easier to babysit 8 slabs of ribs instead of 80 at a time.  As far as the type of cooking that goes on at contests….it’s kind of like if you were a visitor from the moon and you watched two baseball games; one minor league and one major league.  As an alien, you wouldn’t be able to tell the difference.  Likewise, as a non-bbq person, you can probably eat at a restaurant like Famous Dave’s or KC Masterpiece and not realize that what you are eating is the bbq equivalent of vomit.  It takes a pretty decent aficionado to know their place on the food chain….and me and my team captain know our place on the food chain.  We bow to the masters who do 15 or 30 of these contests every year, and are just glad to be a part of the club on weekends like this one.  BBQ contests are a LOT of work, but they are also a LOT of fun.

As a weight loss surgery patient, I approached this year’s contest with dread and loathing.  I can no longer suck down three or four slabs of babybacks and a gallon of bourbon in an evening, so I thought that this weekend would be totally lost on me.  I spent Thursday and Friday of this week all pissed off as I cooked a ton of food for the party that we hosted last night.  BUT, once I got there and got settled in, and the smokers were going, and we met the folks at the spot next to us (a “for real” bbq team) who gave us some great tips throughout the contest prep, I had a ton of fun.  BBQ folks are, in general, very friendly, helpful and down to earth.  So when you get a few thousand of them together in one spot at a meticulously organized event like GAB, you’d have to be a sociopath not to have fun.  Plus, there are fireworks!  Sure, on Saturday night I had maybe two ribs, a couple of slices of brisket and two or three bourbon and cokes, but I decided to make the contest all about the craft for me….brainstorming how to make the food better next time, figuring out the equation of the right amount of food to cook for a party, and relishing the fact that my physical stamina for one of these ordeals has increased exponentially since surgery.  When I got home today I didn’t just lie in my bed in my sweaty, smoke-soaked clothing for a couple of hours and weep in crippled agony…I took a shower, got dressed, went out and ran some errands then came back and started a-bloggin’. 

I just want to take a moment to clarify something for any elitists or food snobs who view bbq as something low-brow, pedestrian or common.  Know this…I know food and I know chefs.  Yes, there are many, many people out there who have the means and the obsession to one-up me in many respects when it comes to being a, for lack of a better term, foodie.  I think about food about as often as I think about sex…….how often is that for a guy?  Something like every nine seconds?  I know good food, for-real good food…..and when you talk about the passion and the genius that has driven men like Thomas Keller and Ferran Adria to the summit of the pantheon of culinary cocksmanship in the modern world……I am telling you it is matched by dozens and dozens of the people you will meet at any bbq contest across the country.  Today when we were getting some of our food ready for turn-in, I noticed a woman across from us who had an entire pallet of live parsley plants.  Basically, parsley is a garnish (along with leaf lettuce) that goes into the clamshell under and around your food in order to enhance the appearance of your entry.  Appearance is just one of the things that factor into your overall score, and 99.999% of the people that I know are more than happy just to buy some damn parsley at the store and bring it along.  But not this woman.  She brought live plants….because on some level she was certain that LIVE parsley just looks better than what you buy in the store, and maybe it would enhance the overall appearance on her entries enough to add a fraction of a percent to her overall score.  And that’s how close the scores can be…….the difference between being a ten thousand dollar grand champion and going home with nothing can come down to a fraction of one percent.  So these folks play for keeps.  Weekend to weekend, year to year, it is a combination of art and science……reduce the amount of brown sugar in your pork rub by a couple of teaspoons and try it again next contest, take that one tendon out of the chicken thigh so that when you cook it the skin looks more taught and try it again next contest, modify your smoker so that you can hang your ribs instead of putting them right on the grate and try it again next contest, increase the heat in your smoker by about twenty degrees for the last half hour and try it again next contest, cook FIVE whole briskets in order to get six perfect slices for judging and try it again next contest…….the list, and the obsession, and the dedication, and the madness, is endless.  And no matter how finely they tune their method, they are at the mercy of anonymous judges whose tastes and preferences run the gambit.  Even when they know they have cooked the best food of their lives, they are totally at the mercy of strangers who may unknowingly cut them off at the knees.  Plus, for every contest in which they compete and DON’T win one of the categories…..that is all money out of their pockets….and entry fees, gasoline, and meat are NOT cheap when you are doing a couple dozen of these things every year.  These are real chefs.  Genius artisans, completely lost in the culture.  Spend five minutes with any of the folks who travel the circuit every year, and you will agree.  They love to talk about their craft, and they want to get you hooked enough to compete against them someday.  And you know what?  When you DO compete against them and you run out of an ingredient, or smoke wood, or you need any number of favors from them…..they’re the kind of people who will do anything to help you out. 

So yeah, I thought about saying fuck all of this after this weekend.  And granted, I’ll only be up for one per year….probably this one every Memorial Day weekend, but there’s just no way I can let it go completely, no matter how much I miss the debauchery that was the hallmark of these events for me up until now.  I know we’ll never place very high in any of the meat categories, because although we are passionate about the food that we prepare, we are novices compared to the REAL cooks.  Today when we were joyous about cooking “the best pork butt we have ever done”….we took a taste of our neighbor’s entry and went “well shit”.  They are the Yankees, and we are the Special Olympics.  But they are really, really humble and super cool Yankees who are more than willing to give us advice on how to work our way off of the short bus, so there you go. 

 And now I will share some images of food made by us poor hacks………again, about five times better than what you’ll find at a restaurant, but hack-grub nonetheless…..

 

This is my main side dish entry.  They are stuffed mushrooms. These stuffed mushrooms have enough pork fat to stop your heart.  I am not kidding.  The first year I made them I won second place at the American Royal BBQ, and have been trying to perfect them ever since.  By “perfect them”, I mean find ways to put even more pork fat into them without being TOO obvious.  The filling is cream cheese, crushed bacon, sauteed onions and red bell peppers, fresh cut uncooked corn and various spices.  They are topped with panko bread crumbs and a little bit of rub.  See how cool I am?  You know I’m a bbq person because I’m just GIVING my recipe away……well most of it anyway; these things are all about the technique with which you prepare them. 

 

Beans! Not much to add here, my buddy the team captain (there’s pretty much just two of us on the team, but a third is being groomed because the guy can actually cook) made these, and they are tasty. 

Chicken thighs…..they look pretty great, but realize you are looking at the food of people who will be overjoyed to place in the top 100 overall.  I don’t even try making the chicken, I don’t have the patience.

Ribs were my first real assignment when I joined the team about six or seven years ago.  They have been tweaked over time, but again, it’s total HACK crap!

Pork butt, the king of all bbq foods in my opinion, is another thing I kind of inherited a few years ago, but most of this stuff (except for chicken….I don’t have the patience to mess w/the chicken, and he pretty much runs the brisket) is a collaborative effort between the two of us.  In fact, we did get a BIG compliment from our neighbors today when they told us how efficient we were considering the fact that our operation is so bare bones (a very nice way of saying white trash). 

Brisket is the king of bbq meats to most people, and it used to scare the shit out of me to cook it.  I don’t do the competition briskets, but I am now able to blow your mind with this very tough and unforgiving piece of meat.  A ten pound whole brisket is cooked in order to get just these six passable slices….

So anyway, there’s my weekend so far.  More than anything I just wanted to pop in here and prove to myself that on the day of a goddamn bbq contest I could manage to do something more productive than lie in bed in a fetal position praying for the sweet release of death.  I’m not going to go and mow the yard now or any crazy shit like that, but if you’ve seen me at contests in the past, you know it is basically a miracle for me to be this lucid after a huge competition. 

I will probably pop in again Thursday or Friday.  I have a trip to DC coming up that I’ve been dreading for a little while now.  More on that later.  As highly evolved as I think I’ve become, I somehow manage to get suckered/blackmailed into drama that drags me across the country….folks, what I’m telling you is this: the sins of your past WILL eventually catch up with you.  Just pray that in your case it won’t involve very misguided stalkers and uncomfortable secrets you cannot let come to light.  I know, I know, I’m the ex-pastor porno dealer who could give less of a shit about who knows what about me……..so by saying that you must realize how serious this situation is.  And if you DON’T hear from me ever again, this has all been pretty fun.  Thanks for doing me the honor of reading my ramblings…….

*************UPDATE- CONTEST RESULTS******************

YES!  Just as I suspected……we SUCK!  As I said before, all of our food tasted great and would have been well received by most laypeople, but when it comes to the rigors of competition we just need to stay in it for the sheer joy of the event.

For the meat categories, we did not do very well.  Our measure of “success” is if we rank in the upper 50% of all competitors, and we only did that in one category.  Out of a total of 225 teams, brisket was 219th, chicken was 158th, pork was 112th and ribs came in at 99th.  Overall we ranked 181st place.  Not terrible for ribs and pork, we all thought the chicken would do a LOT better than it did, and we knew the brisket would be in a fight for the basement. 

For the sides categories, we did a LOT better.  Generally, half as many people who turn in meat categories participate in sides, but even with that in mind we did a good job.  Potatoes came in 55th, beans came in 23rd and my insane stuffed mushrooms came in at 13th……three spots away from some money and a ribbon.  Overall we ranked 28th place for sides.  Not too shabby, it definitely takes the sting out of our performance in the meat categories.  We’ll be back next year! 

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Filed under Bariatric Surgery, culture, Evangelical Christianity, Food, General Thoughts, Health, Healthy Eating, Recovery, Tent Revival, Weight Loss

50th Post!

With all of the craziness lately, I think it is fitting to settle down for a relaxing and healthy weekend with one of those gratuitous milestone posts…..here’s NUMBER FIFTY! 

My liver is fully functioning again, my right thumb is almost back to 100%, and this is the first (and last) truly “free weekend” that I’ve had for a while.  You know, I realize it might look like I am into some pretty crazy shit, and I guess I am, BUT deep down I’m just an old suburban midwestern guy.  I’m almost 39 years old, and as it is appropriate for my age, during the spring I look forward to nothing more than getting up early on Saturday and heading to the farmer’s market.  Though it is small, I am very, VERY loyal to our local Parkville Market.  I will on occasion venture down to the River Market or out to Brookside, but I’d much rather give my money to our twenty wonderful farmers and vendors. 

Due to my own laziness and busy schedule, this morning was my first visit to the market this season.  Granted, there isn’t a ton of stuff available right now……spring onions, mixed greens, asparagus, herbs for planting, etc.  But that’s beside the point, there isn’t anything as nice as getting down there around 7am on a sunny Saturday morning and just smelling that spring air, no matter how plentiful the bounty.  Of course, this is also my first trip since surgery…..so I didn’t let myself go crazy.  There’s nothing worse than letting farm fresh veggies wither and die in the fridge.  I did pick up some rosemary and summer savory plants for growing, as well as some mixed greens, gorgeous baby arugula, and some stunning morel mushrooms.  Sure, they are an extravagant expense, but what the hell, I mean just LOOK at these things….

 

I realize that what I need now is at least a day just to relax, detox, and have some nice healthy food.  It’s very easy to slip into that trap where you get into the convenient slider foods because you are busy, and because sometimes you STILL lose weight despite eating them, but I’m not crazy…..I know that the only way to sustain my success and remain healthy enough to have the occasional weekend that rivals ancient Rome is to treat my body right the rest of the time.  So with that in mind I think I’m going to get some light yardwork done, watch a ton of HowardTV, and make a great salad that I can eat for the next couple of days.

I’ve got the mixed greens which I will supplement with the arugula……and for the dressing I’m going to modify a Giada (aka Skull Baby) recipe by starting with some good fruity olive oil, fry big hunks of the spring onions in it, then add halved garlic cloves along with whole stems of rosemary and savory (so that I can remove them).  Once I remove the garlic and herbs, and the onions are good and soft, in goes a handful of chopped fresh parsley and thyme, along with a little fresh lemon juice.  Off the heat, a little balsamic, some salt and pepper, fried garlic hunks go back in……and it’s ready for the greens.  For the protein I’ll add some sauteed bay scallops that were on sale, and a side of glorious and indescribable sauteed morels.  Not a bad Saturday afternoon and evening. 

Christ I’m boring today.  That’s okay I guess, but there has to be more…… oh yeah, this week I’ve been obsessed with a couple of phrases.  I do that from time to time and I wear them out to the point where my friends just go “stop”.  The first one is “sex crazed and retard strong”; I’ve been using that to describe myself a lot.  And the second is calling someone a “baby gorilla”.  Long story involving a torture contest on Stern with guys getting waxed and Don Rickles in the movie “Dirty Work”…..I won’t get into it.  It’s a beautiful spring day in Kansas City today, and I’m having a tough time cranking up the angst and irony machines…..so I’ll stick with the mundane.  After all, it’s my 50th post I’m sure I can think of several things I have learned since surgery….

First of all, surgery has reversed my lactose intolerance.  I’m sure the nutritionists would not like me using milk (whole milk from Shatto Farms!) as a source of some protein and delicious beverage, but now that I don’t have to run to the bathroom after drinking it….. I love the stuff.  You know what else I drink that I’m not supposed to?  Orange juice!  Yes, I drink whole milk and I drink orange juice….I’m officially out of the closet with that.  No clue what would reverse the lactose intolerance, but the funny thing is, a friend of one of my professors had gastric bypass and BECAME lactose intolerant for the first time after she had surgery.  It’s bizarro bowel syndrome! 

I don’t feel too bad about enjoying delicious, whole milk after finding out the other day that I can no longer eat one of the most important basic food groups…………bacon.  How fucking cruel is that?  Well, I CAN eat it (just like I can obviously still drink bourbon…at weddings), and I can see where it could become the KING of all slider foods, but I had a couple of pieces the other day….I think for the first time since surgery, honestly.  I’ve had chopped bacon on salads, but not whole pieces.  After two pieces, the telltale signs began….slight sweat, nausea……not close to full-blown dumping syndrome with the dry heaves or anything, but an effective behavior modification measure nonetheless.  I just cannot eat extremely rich or fatty foods in anything close to a full portion without serious physical consequences.  I guess that is a good thing, it’s just so goddamn cruel.  I mean, bacon.  Come the fuck ON!  Too much sugar or too much fat equals some mental reinforcement that approaches the Ludovico Technique from A Clockwork Orange.  Before long I’ll be at a restaurant, a waitress will ask if I’d like a side of bacon with my omelette, and I’ll shit my pants and start crying. 

I can go through my daily liquid intake a lot easier than I thought I would be able to.  I can’t CHUG anything, but if I’m thirsty or have a strong taste for some Crystal Lite that day, I can put it away.  At first I thought I’d have to take one sip, wait five minutes, take another sip, wait another five minutes, etc.  It’s not that way at all.  I can sip pretty steadily.  No complaints there. 

I’m sure I could dissect the minutia of daily life and come up with a list of things that are either annoying or great about post-surgery life.  The whole story at this point is that I have absolutely zero regrets (other than when some fast food commercial comes on TV and I go….OH SHIT!  WHY DIDN’T I GORGE ON THAT BEFORE I HAD SURGERY!  GODDAMMIT!), and everything that was positive in my life has become more positive.  I am actually at a place now where the first thing on my mind when I interact with people ISN’T my weight, and I can come across as unbearably engaging and chatty…which is just my style.  I have that certain…I don’t know what.  Sure, I’m well past the halfway mark, but I do have more weight to lose.  It will come off, just not as quickly.  There are little reminders and reinforcers along the way that let you know you are on the right track. For example, a couple of weeks ago when I went to buy slacks for the wedding I had to keep trying on smaller and smaller sizes in order to get it right.  Then when I found a cool camp shirt that I wanted to buy, and they didn’t have a small enough size in stock for me (smallest they had was a 2X…and it wrapped around my stomach), that was a pretty good moment that I had to gloat about to the clerk.  Another twenty or thirty pounds and I’ll be shopping at “normal” stores….sure, I’ll be buying their biggest sizes, but anything is better than your run of the mill big and tall selection.  Now that school is almost over for real (3 more Tuesday night class periods), I’ll get back into golf, and I’ll have a much larger range of motion and the stamina to play a couple of rounds if I want to.  When I fly to DC in 2 weeks, Nashville in July and Chicago in September, I won’t have the usual two weeks of dread beforehand, thinking about the size of coach airline seats.

When you drop about 135 pounds you begin to realize that your weight has not only been a burden your whole life, but also your biggest crutch.  It is the excuse that lets you put limits on everything that you say and do.  Now that I’m beginning to get past a lot of that, I realize how much free time it brings, and how wonderful AND frightening that really is.  Carrying that much weight around is like having a big filter on you at all times.  Now, for better or worse, I can start seeing possibilities that I haven’t seen before, and interact with people without constantly trying to make up for the fact that I’m really fat.  I’m still a big guy, that is true, but now I’m not always thinking “okay, I’m the fattest guy in this room, class, department, building, city”…..ad nauseum.  There is the tendency to regret not doing the surgery ten years ago, but I honestly don’t think I was at a mental place to handle it then.  I’m almost forty, I’ve lost a lot of years due to the weight, but this was exactly the right age to do this, so again, no regrets.

And I guess since this is the gratuitous milestone post I need to throw the gratuitious “before and after” in here.  Did my best with my remedial photoshop skills, and I wish it looked more dramatic than it does, but you get the general idea…..

 

So there you have it…..nine months down, many years to go.  Overall, I feel like a pretty lucky guy.  Lucky to have missed out on any serious health issues before my surgery, lucky to have the cog in the machine job that I do, and lucky to have such great family and friends.  More good stuff to come here….we’re doing a big bbq contest next weekend, I’m heading to DC a week from this coming Thursday, Nashville in July for a wine event that makes the list of “Top Ten Charity Events in the United States”……so barring homelessness due to unemployment in these uncertain times, things should be okay for a while.

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Filed under Bariatric Surgery, culture, Evangelical Christianity, Food, General Thoughts, Health, Healthy Eating, Recovery, Tent Revival, Weight Loss

Best. Saturday. Ever.

So I wake up Sunday morning and realize that all of the lights are still on in the house, my dog has managed to get into the dogfood bin, has crapped on the carpet, and there are three very large rocks in my front yard that were not there yesterday…..and is my thumb actually broken or just sprained really, really badly?

I guess all of those things are the price that you pay for enjoying one of the best days of your entire life.  Seriously, I’ve had some great days because, well, I rule, but I’m going back in the memory bank and outside of my trip to NYC with my brother in 1989 and standing in my bathroom in 1995, staring in the mirror going “okay, she’s out there in my bed, does this mean we’re going to have sex?”……I can’t think of anything that tops Saturday.  It literally would not have shocked me in the slightest if one of the founders of our country stepped out of a time machine, walked up to me and said, “Jerry, on behalf of a grateful nation, I now present you with my daughter’s vagina”.  It was THAT great of a day.  Seriously.

So Saturday couldn’t have happened without Friday, and on Friday we had the wedding rehearsal and rehearsal dinner.  A fine time was had by all.  There was great food, because apparently the groom’s mom is some kind of culinary genius, and plenty to drink….but I knew I had a huge day ahead of me and managed to only have a couple of margaritas before going home to get some beauty sleep.  The main reason I bring up Friday is because that is when shit became very real to me. Things started to get very real once I started writing up the ceremony verbiage, but on Friday night when I was up on the roof of the downtown library with the wedding party, I started getting pretty nervous about the whole thing….and then on Saturday night it was like watching yourself in a movie or something, I don’t think I breathed once during the whole ceremony.  I don’t want to get too far ahead of myself here, I mean I SHOULD discuss my graduation, but I’m telling you….I was a little freaked out.  I’ve known Heather for a long, long time.  I was good friends with her brother in high school, and she was very close to my brother as well.  A lot of people who knew Matt were there, and to honor him and bring him into the ceremony I wore his International Thespian Society pin on my lapel.  So there we all were, good friends assembled to celebrate the coolest of cool couples with a good old fashioned drunkfest………and I had just graduated a few hours before, so more about that…..

The one thing about grad school that makes it different from undergrad is that you actually care about the people in your program.  At least that’s the way it is in a small department like our organizational development crew. So it was great to see everyone in their robes, and it felt wonderful scoff the undergrads and feel superior to them. 

Me, my friend Rene and my parents…….

I know last week I mentioned that the post-ceremony meal wasn’t going to be that big of a deal.  Boy, was I wrong.  So where does a man who has eaten at some of the finest restaurants in the United States go to celebrate such a huge achievement?

That’s right! Red Lobster, motherfuckers!  I’m going to steal a phrase from my old friend Dave Chappelle when he was disussing fried chicken and watermelon onstage……there’s nothing wrong with me man, if you don’t like Red Lobster, then there is something wrong with YOU!  That shit is delicious!  Popcorn skrimps are fucking awesome! 

I obviously can’t eat a whole meal, so here is a little before and after action to show you how much skrimp action I could handle…..

 

And onto the wedding…….

The weather did not cooperate, so we had to bring the show inside, but in my opinion it really didn’t impact anything, everything went beautifully.  Graduation went a little longer than anticipated, so I literally had about thirty minutes to get cleaned up, get my things gathered and put on the wedding duds. My handlers showed up to pick me up, and we had a celebratory taste of some wine that a stalker sent me as a graduation gift.  Now, the first thing I did once I woke up yesterday was get my handler on the phone to confirm whether or not I did anything TOO fucked up……and according to him I was just fine, no need for damage control. But then a little while ago I got an email mentioning something about me doing some kind of impromptu drunk serenading……I do not recall that happening, but I don’t think someone would just make that up to mess with me.  I did have music and lyrics for ‘Con Te Partiro’ in my possession, so I’m guessing I busted that out when we were all leaving.   So anyway, I guess I didn’t do anything TOO stupid…..at least not at the wedding site.

When I arrived, an angel of mercy named Dan handed me a full flask of bourbon.  I would end up needing that bourbon because I was pretty nervous.  The location for the service went back and forth a couple of times due to the rain stopping and starting, so I had to get re-wired for sound about ten times and figure out how to mute both of the lapel mics so nobody could hear me joking around with the groom as we waited for the wedding party to march.  Okay, speaking of joking around, I have an issue with some of you people……..especially Phil (the male maid of honor).  During practice the night before, he corrected (thankfully) my pronunciation of the word “solace”…..I was saying it like “soulless”…..so that was supposed to be one of the queues for us to crack up a little bit during the service.  I had been asking folks in the wedding party if anyone was afraid that they would totally lose their shit in the middle of the ceremony, so the “solace” thing was going to be something that could shut off the tears if need be.  Hell, even I was afraid of losing it…..and there were about three times when it almost happened.  When you have a nervous, shaking bride standing in front of you, and it happens to be one of your oldest friends, it has an emotional impact that I really can’t describe.  And then when the groom starts to crack a little bit when he’s reading his vows…….I was REALLY counting on Phil to take advantage of the whole “solace” thing, but every time I looked over at him he was a fucking statue!  You left me hanging you sonofabitch!  But all was well afterwards when Phil and I went straight from the ceremony to the men’s room and killed my entire flask in about thirteen seconds.  The service went well.  It went REALLY well.  And it went much faster than I thought it would……totally flew by. I think the only thing I screwed up was the timing of the two poems…..I forgot to have the child poem right after addressing the bride and groom and had to put it right before the other poem later on.  Not a huge deal, I think we were all so freaked out that it just didn’t matter.  It was one of the most surreal moments of my life…..like watching myself in a movie or something.  Damn I needed that drink afterwards…….and I had that drink.  Oh yes.  There was drinking.

   First thing we saw while walking into the library…..love this picture.

  Yep, me makey boom boom in my pants about now…..

Aaannnd actual ceremony shots……..how cool is this?

 

Heather, I know that people always tell brides and new mothers that they or their child are “the most beautiful ever”, but you were absolutely stunning last night, and I can’t wait to see more pictures of your dress.  People, I am telling you……most beautiful wedding dress, EVER.  Damian, I apologize for not screaming “IT’S ALL FOR YOU DAMIAN!” during the ceremony……but there’s something about locking eyes with the mother of the bride and knowing instinctively that your death would not be quick and it would not be painless.  Thanks again for letting me be a part of your big day……we really tore it up!

Best man on the left, maid of honor on the right……..Maddie tore through a for-real potent little bomb of a Cuban cigar that I gave her….very impressive.  Phil, I wish your sorry ass wasn’t all the way down in Texas, we’d be extremely bad influences on one another.  Someday I’ll forgive you for the whole “solace” debacle….

It was the greatest honor to be part of a wedding party that included none other than Mr. Sasha Baron Cohen.  Wow he’s a good kisser!

Rob (picture on the left) is the aforementioned brother of the bride, and a really great friend from high school.  I lived with him and Scott (other picture) during the summer of 1992, and a lot of interesting things happened.  In fact, that was the summer before I left for Bible college in Minneapolis, and I’m pretty sure the summer in Lawrence was the beginning of the end of my Christian faith.  Good times.  Very, very good times.

 

Ah yes, my wonderful handlers for the evening. They were so cool about coming to pick me up early so that I could go face-down if I wanted to…..and I wanted to…but no driving of course.  Damn I have hot friends.

 ………………………..This is where things start getting a little hazy……don’t remember most of these pictures being taken…….but there are some fucking good ones…..you can tell how drunk I am by the level of expressiveness on my face.  Believe it or not, I’m not a very smiley guy, so when you see THIS grinning sonofabitch, you know liquor is involved……

   I think this is vodka……I don’t really remember, but it ain’t water. 

   And away it goes……

    The train from Scirossis Hollow is heading right for us! 

   And there’s more where THAT came from, Jim!  Damn that’s one gay punch….

   Damian, did you ever think you’d be the meat in a Phil and Cooper sandwich?

  Ryan, thanks again for babysitting me.  And yes, what happens at the downtown airport stays at the downtown airport.

   I think this is what I’d call a blank stare of drunken insanity.

   Shit. Faced. 

   You know, I’m not kidding at all here, I think I look really good in this photo.  And I am not someone who ever says something like that. Ever.  Seriously, I’m all looking off to the side like I’m on a page in Details or something.  Damn I’m fine.  Oh, and Jennifer too.  Sorry kid, there’s just no competing with the force of a supernova of hotness like me. 

Okay, apologies to the wonderful bridesmaids……the number of photos I took with you had to get old. I think I’m only posting about ten percent of them.  Or maybe it wasn’t me at all.  Who in the hell took all of these pictures?  Was it you, Phil?  Nice work.  Coolest bridesmaids ever.

 

Okay, this is not only my favorite photo of my entire life, I think it is cool enough to be historically significant.  It’s better than that picture of that Vietnamese soldier blowing that guy’s brains out.  It’s even better than that picture of mini- John Kennedy saluting at his dad’s funeral.  Seriously, there’s no beating vagina mouth and moon-faced drunk guy.  I’m getting a tattoo of this.

    What can I say?  Chicks dig drunk ministers! I think you may be able to tell I’ve been drinking in this one……

    Yes, nicotine IS important enough to brave hurricane force winds…

So anyway, best Saturday ever.  You have my permission to envy me.  And if you don’t already, then I’ll let you in on a little secret……somehow in the middle of all of this I managed to drop seven pounds.  I know, crazy!  As I said before, apparently I started singing at some point.  I just hope it wasn’t too horrible.  Different events are coming back to me……like the fact that every-single-time I went up to the bar, I’d go “and make it a little heavy”.  That had to get annoying, because the bartenders were practically relatives by the time it was all over….they had my drink assembled before I even came up to the bar.   After we left I guess Ryan and I went to the downtown airport to look out over the city, and we stole some huge rocks for me to put in my front yard.  That’s the crazy part…..the rocks are really big, and you have to go up this huge, steep hill to even get to them.  So….four rocks, four trips up and down the hill….maybe that’s where the weight loss came in.  No way I would do that shit sober. And I’m guessing that’s where the nearly broken thumb happened….I think I remember falling on my ass one time, and apparently used my thumb to break the fall.  At some point, an airport security truck came to see what in the hell we were up to…..and according to Ryan he was just wanting to drive off as the guy approached. But NOT ME!  Oh no, I guess I was like “I’ll go talk to this guy”…..and I did.  I must have been pretty friendly, all drunk and dressed up, because we didn’t wake up in their holding cell or anything. 

When I’m drunk I tend to repeat myself. A lot.  That is why I planned ahead and made sure a good friend like Ryan would be babysitting me.  We’d really have to do something incredibly stupid or dangerous to piss each other off when only one of us is completely shitfaced, but I know it can’t be too fun dealing with me when I’m in “constant repeat” mode.  This is all according to Ryan, but we ended up at a Waffle House, and my topics of choice were threefold….First, I wouldn’t shut up about the fact that I thought I may have lost my camera.  I didn’t.  It was just out in the car.  Second, I think I must have asked him about five hundred times where we were.  I knew we were at the Waffle House, but I didn’t know what part of town.  So I kept asking, and when he’d tell me I was just as surprised to hear it every single time.  Lastly, “the bartenders” conversation.  After the ceremony, the two female bartenders were really, really nice to me.  So nice that I apparently kept asking Ryan all night long….”are they hitting on me, just fucking with me, or sucking up to the officiant?”.  Sadly, my self esteem hasn’t caught up with my weight loss, so when someone is flirting with me my first instinct is to think “okay, THEY’RE FUCKING WITH ME!”.  So Ryan had to keep saying, “Dude, they were hitting on you.  I’m telling you……they were HITTING ON YOU! NOT fucking with you”.  I guess my performance during the ceremony was quite impressive, what can I say?

Anyway, I’ll put some more pictures in here as I receive them.  I just wanted to give everyone the lowdown on what really was one of the biggest Saturdays of my life.  To the wedding party, I will say…..it was an honor and a privilege to spend the evening with you.  Seriously, I think we hit that fucker out of the park.  And Heather and Damian, congratulations again…..I love you guys, and look forward to many evenings at the Stagecoach. 

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All You Can Eat…

So the day of all days is getting close…..I graduate with my Master of Science in Organizational Psychology Saturday morning and officiate a wedding Saturday night.   Wedding rehearsal is tomorrow night, so I’ve got a lot of crap to get done between now and then.  Last night I started thinking about how I looked at big events prior to surgery…..they were always an excuse to pig out due to the pre-event stress, as well as an excuse to enjoy post-event celebratory pigging out.  The whole dynamic of my graduation is different simply due to the fact that my family would normally take me to some great restaurant afterwards, and it’s really not that big of a deal for me now.  We’ll still go to dinner and all that, since I don’t have to be at the wedding until about 4:30, but for once I don’t really care where we go and haven’t done my usual mental gymnastics figuring out where to eat. 

I know that many people, not just WLS folks, can relate to the rationalization that goes along with eating way too much food.  For the past week or so I’ve been trying to remember exactly how much food I used to be able to eat at one sitting.  A year ago I would have been mortified if I was forced to admit how much I could pack away…it’s like a giant skeleton in the closet.  Even though you obviously have to take in an incredible amount of calories every day to sustain such a high weight, I think most people would agree that there is the amount of food you eat in front of people and the amount you eat in private.  It’s totally like being an alcoholic or a junkie; it’s no secret that you have a problem but you keep the worst of the abuse behind closed doors.  Most people in the U.S. probably don’t even know what a real portion of food looks like, and so they tend to take in way more calories than they need on any given day…..I mean hell, even some of the Starbucks drinks have as many as seven or eight hundred calories, and everyone has seen the lists of “worst foods” that mention things like the Outback Steakhouse cheese fries at something like 4,000 calories per order.  Unless you closely monitor what you eat, and realize that a frozen Healthy Choice meal really is about the correct “portion” for you, it’s easy to go overboard.  But that’s not really what I’m talking about here…..what I’m talking about is being able to eat A LOT of food.

So what constitutes “a lot”?  It varies from person to person, but as I think back on what it meant to me prior to surgery, I remember some impressive quantities of crap food.  When you are going to consume gargantuan portions, unless you are just beyond the embarassment of camping out at a buffet all of the time (or you are rich), you end up eating a lot of cheap/greasy fast food or comfort foods.  I generally wouldn’t be patient enough to cook a ton of food, just because I knew it would be gone so quickly.  Instead I would hit places like McDonald’s, Sonic, Pizza Hut, Taco Bell, or get some shitty takeout Chinese.  Even then, when you can drop fifteen or eighteen bucks at McDonald’s, the food budget is out of control.  Don’t misunderstand…I wouldn’t eat like this every day (I’d admit it if I did), but at least several times per week I’d get into pig-out mode and go crazy.  At McDonald’s I’d get something like two Big Mac’s, a double Quarter Pounder with cheese, three large fries and four pies…..sometimes I’d switch it up and get three Filet o’ Fish instead of the Big Mac’s, but the order was generally about that size.  At Sonic it would be similar…two of their double cheeseburgers, a few corn dogs and a couple of large orders of onion rings.  I don’t remember Taco Bell as specifically, but I’d easily go through six or seven of their double decker taco supremes and  several burritos.  Pizza Hut would always be running some kind of deal, so usually on Friday or Saturday night I’d hole up with some kind of large pizza (or 2 mediums), breadsticks, a large order of wings, some of their tater tots, and get through all of that in the course of the evening.  Another weekend evening classic could consist of two full Chinese entrees, a quart of hot and sour soup, and at least two orders of appetizers like crab rangoon, wontons, egg rolls, etc.  We have In-A-Tub tacos here in KC, and they are of the deep fried/neon orange cheese powder variety, and it would be nothing to mow through twelve or fifteen of those.  I’m sure there are people out there who could eat more, but I think by anyone’s standards that is shitload of food to put away and only count as 1, maybe 2, meals for any given day.  Then of course there’s the whole “I didn’t really eat any breakfast or very much for lunch” rationale that gives you license to go wild on some bad food. 

I guess there are still brief moments when I mourn the fact that I just can’t go crazy once in a while.  It doesn’t happen very often, but of ALL of the foods I used to eat sometimes I just wish I could mow through a massive cheeseburger as quickly as possible.  I’m still an obsessed foodie to some degree, I’ve just channeled that energy into other ventures, such as the following…

I’ve been lucky to have some truly great meals in my life.  The amount of money I’d drop at restaurants during a trip to New York or the Bay area IS too embarassing to admit here.  Babbo, Gramercy Tavern, Town, WD-50, Chez Panisse, Danko, Manresa……..I’ve had some good meals.  It used to be that whenever I’d travel to a major city, I’d do a couple of months worth of research to not only figure out where to eat, but exactly what I should order when I’m there.  I don’t really do that anymore.  I’ll find ONE restaurant that I think I can still enjoy, and plan on spending huge amounts on tiny portions of food.  That’s exactly what I did in DC a couple of months ago when I went to Cafe Atlantico.

Well, Cafe Atlantico has a restaurant WITHIN the restaurant called minibar, and the focus is molecular gastronomy, similar to places like WD-50, Alinea and El Bulli.  You pay big money for a few bites of very adventurous food.  It’s a tough reservation to get, definitely one of the toughest in the United States.  Other than Rao’s in NYC, where you literally cannot get a seat unless you “own” one of the few tables, there is no “impossible” reservation, no matter what stories you hear about places like The French Laundry.  You just have to be patient, which is the case with minibar.  They only have six seats, two seatings per night, so that does make it a bit tougher.  Well, I’m going to DC at the end of this month and last week i managed to score two seats at minibar on a Friday night (you call one month in advance at 10am and pray).  I won’t go into the actual menu, but I will say that this meal will probably be at the very top of my “best ever” list.  If you want to check out someone’s recent visit with pictures, this person has a pretty fantastic writeup…. http://www.eatfoo.com/archives/2008/04/minibar_washington_dc.php.

Admittedly, I spend way more time and money on nice meals than most people, but I like to think I have a pretty good attitude about the whole thing.  I’m just about as happy people watching in a Mexican dive restaurant in Riverside as I am eating foie gras at one of our top-tier establishments.  Good food is good food, and great atmosphere makes up for mediocre food most of the time.  What really cracks me up is how SERIOUSLY so many people either take themselves, or dissecting the minutia of every fucking meal they ever eat.  At most of the nicer joints I’ve visited, there are two noticeable (but not all-encompassing) contingents……the crazed foodies/food tourists like me, and the society types who eat there because they are “supposed to”.  The latter of the two groups provides some wonderful entertainment.  If you picture the oaf husband in the movie “The Cook, The Thief, His Wife and Her Lover”…..that’s kind of what I’m talking about.  People with the means to be absolute pricks in a restaurant; the regulars who the chef dreads and the waitstaff mocks behind their backs, but they spend a lot of money….and deep down they are total hillbillies who are one chromosome above eating soup from their cupped hands. 

I was mowing the lawn the other night, thinking about those very hillbillies and how much fun it would be to dine with them at minibar.  I was wondering how they picture these fine dining establishments in their minds, because although minibar is super casual for such a popular place, even the fanciest, snootiest restaurants in the U.S. aren’t THAT fancy OR snooty.  So anyway, I had this crazy scenario in my mind where we’d walk into minibar and they’d announce us like one of those old school debutante balls or something.  Before we were seated next to the hillbillies, the captain would say “An now presenting Mr. Frampton Felcher, and Ms. Camilla Pussytoes”…because those are the names we’d have on the reservations.  So “Frampton and Camilla” would sit down and we’d properly introduce ourselves to the other four diners, all the while I’d be giving off one of those very superior, snotty looks down my nose to everyone…kind of like the look you get from a retarded kid when you sneak up from behind and scare the shit out of them.  THAT would let them all know I was the alpha male, aka “Mr. Society”. 

Of course, I’d get through half of the first of many bottles of wine and begin going on incessantly about how I was taking advantage of my early retirement to write screenplays, but it wasn’t going so well….”And I was ninety nine percent done with my most recent screenplay, which I was calling ‘The Darjeeling UNLimited’, and wouldn’t you know it?  That fucking HACK Wes Anderson up and puts out that piece of SHIT movie of HIS!”

And of course I couldn’t let them go without hearing about the premise of the film…..”I’ve been too pissed off to even WATCH Anderson’s movie, but I know it’s about brothers on a train.  That’s what makes this all so unbearable….I KNOW that fuck must have heard what I was doing, because MY movie was about brothers too.  It was a lot like ‘Eat Drink Man Woman’, but instead of Asian sisters it was three gay American brothers who drank tea together all the time.  Then one of them joins the army and ships off to Iraq…….money in the box office BANK with all of that patriotism shit in there, and the guy couldn’t get good tea over in Iraq so his brothers would send it to him and they’d promise to all drink it at the same time every day even though they weren’t together!  It’s totally AMERICAN, unlike that other piece of SHIT!  I’m telling you, I think that’s why that bastard stole my idea…….Hollywood commie bullshit!  You can’t even say anyting good about this country to ANYBODY anymore! Don’t go and try to make something patriotic THESE DAYS!  They’ll FUCK YOU!”.

And before long I’d loudly admit to my love that the failure of my film really was causing financial strain….”Oh Camilla!  I’m just so worried that if I don’t put something together soon we’ll lose our summer trailer down at the Lake of the Ozarks!”.

So there you have it…..how Mr. Society alienates DC’s power elite with tales of the Darjeeling UNLimited.  As god is my witness, if I end up dining with some stiffs, I’m going to make this a reality.

Damn, I really do have to go and get some stuff done.  The next time you hear from my I’ll be a genuine gradge-ee-ate, and hopefully will not have alienated my good friends by fucking up their wedding too horribly.

 

 

 

 

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