Tuesday, August 28, 2007

What hath Sam wrought?

I'm currently in the process of moving. The major stuff is at the new house, I'm having the usual "I didn't think this would be a problem" snafus but I'm slowly but surely toddling along to home ownership.

Note: One day this is going to say I got mugged outside my house...then we'll see what happens.

Anyway, for the last few days as I move I find myself in the bit of Americana that seems to draw us in despite our best intentions, our best works and best planning. The last few nights I've found myself at of all places....Walmart.

I'm not a big fan of Walmart. Aisle after aisle of semi-shoddy stuff and slightly disinterested workers (except for the older greeters, who really seem to like what they're doing) just doesn't say great shopping experience to me. But I needed a shower curtain at 10:30 at night, and a few towels...and some allergy medicine...and a fresh shirt for work since mine are either in storage or in the cleaners...and soda...and $1 DVDs....and some underwear...and, well you see where this is going?

But in the last couple of days I've been two Walmarts that are as strange as any I've ever been in.

They close.

At midnight, the Walmart closes. Whoever heard of such a thing? I'm used to being able to pop into a Walmart at 2am for some coasters, a ladder and nice watch for $6.99, ya know? But I've been to two Walmarts that actually post closing hours! I quite frankly was stunned.

Now these are relatively urban Walmarts, one of them practically breathing on downtown Atlanta, so maybe there are rules I don't know about. It just struck me as odd.

I'm suddenly not sure if I'm in the Walmart because my AC isn't working (long story) or I just need stuff. Well, I find out tonight.

Barkeep...I think I'll have a whiskey. With a President's Choice soda pop.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Well, here we go kids...

After much trial and tribulations, lying home brokers and laconic Realtors, last minute surprises and other bumps in the night, last week with the stroke of pen I officially came into debt. I purchased a home on a secluded side street in a developing part of town, and in a few years hope to recoup my investment two fold.

Translation: I bought a foreclosure house in a sketchy neighborhood and after a little work hope to get back double what I paid.

And what a short but strange trip it's been. I'm seriously going to write a letter to my state representative, asking them to pass a law requiring that a) mortgage brokers be licensed and accountable, b) that any home sold in the state of GA marked AS IS come with a list of what the known issues are and c) that little old guys who do handy work should get state funded retirement.

Since I've bought the house it's been one expense after another (okay, everybody told me this part...just not how much), and as we fast approach D-Day some of the amenities I'd hoped to have are going to have to pushed back until tax refund time. Which thanks to the taxes I had to pay at closing should be rather nice. And now I understand why they have all those sales around that time. Sneaky bassids.

Now comes the real problem: Moving.

I hate moving. I think you should be able to call the local lockup and have them send over prisoners to do it for you. A judge should be able to sentence someone to 50 breakage free moves. I hate moving because you have to throw things out, and I'm a pack rat by nature. All kinds of crap I know I haven't looked at in ages. Last night I found a nicely printed copy of one the books I'm working on (I must have four or five in progress), the notes I wrote in like middle school and a map for a comic book that's been rolling around my head for 15 years. And it's throw it out, or take it with me.

Does anyone know the number of Extreme Home Makeover's moving people?

Well, the lights are on, the water is going to be on shortly and the alarm is coming after that. Then it's move in time.

Barkeep. Do you have any Cold Duck?

Friday, August 17, 2007

A Quick Restaurant Review - JCT Kitchen & Bar.

There is a little cabal of restaurants on a corner of Howell Mill that holds Osteria Del Figo and Taqueria Del Sol with West Egg around the corner. And tucked away in the back, behind the luxury knick knack store and the spa is JCT Kitchen. It is the only space there that has complimentary valet, which was surprising.

Sporty and I dropped in apparently because I'd mentioned it twice when suggesting places. Which is amazing, because I know I've suggested Alfredo's more than a few times and we've yet to grace it's doors. Anyway, we snuck in, got a corner table and waited for the dazzling service and atmosphere all these other reviews seem to gush about.

It was okay. I guess.

We generally love a good appetizer, but the grouping at JCT looked bland. Goat cheese? Angry Mussels? What is essentially cheese fries? Is this a TGI Fridays in disguise? No matter, place looks okay...but then Sporty notices that they don't serve water out of a pitcher, they leave a clear glass bottle on the table. A bottle with no cap. She asks: "What if they don't wash the bottle after every service?" I assure her that they do.

Suffice it to say, Sporty makes it through dinner on one glass of water.

I don't spot the booths until dinner's almost over. (Note to restaurants, black folks always want to sit in the booth. Even we don't know why.) We got there early so we watch the place quickly fill up space, which bodes well.

For eats she's thinking of getting the Skate Wing Pan Roast, until she finds out it's not roast, it's fish. Which is kind of cheeky labeling. So she opts for the Meat & Potatoes and I get the Springer Mountain Fried Chicken. The food is... okay, the chicken just a hair too salty, and oddly cut. Instead of a breast fillet, I get a wing attached breast and a thigh, after I'd mentioned to the waitress I don't eat dark meat. Hello, service? My dinner companion liked her steak, but thought the vegetables were excellent. So now she's on vegetables, which I hope doesn't mean we're going veggie.

The food was so uninspired that we forewent dessert as well. I can usually tell if a restaurant is up to par, as our trips last longer, but this time we were in and out in less than an hour and half. Our record is three and half (at Two Urban Licks).

I wish I could recommend the JCT, but it just seemed so middle of the road. Right down the damn middle.

Barkeep...if you could just touch up this Jameson. Thanks.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

notes from the dog-watch

At this point I'm wondering if they'll take his pension, 'cause the boy look through.

Yesterday, the two other defendants in the Mike Vick dog fighting case took plea deals that stated they had to testify against the alleged ringleader, Vick. They will undoubtedly corroborate the story of the other defendant who'd already agreed to co-operate with the authorities in late July. I'm not one to cast doubt on one's aspersions of innocence, but this does not look good.

What prompted this missive was reading the "fray" postings that accompanied an article indicating that Vick's lawyers were "in talks" about a plea deal of their own. This came from my reading of the AJC.com's Talk of the Town semi-blog.

By BlackGirl August 14, 2007 11:45 AM
Should Vick be punished…yes. Is he a thug because he killed some dogs, well, what about those that kill deer for fun and call it hunting? Are they too thugs or is that word just saved for young black men?

By hellooooo August 14, 2007 11:58 AM
If Vick is either found guilty or pleads guilty, then he should be punished accordingly. If the NFL has a rule that felons cannot play, then he shouldn’t be allowed to play. I don’t care if he’s pink with purple polkadots, rules is rules. And BG, if a hunter is killing for fun, yes, he or she is a thug… if they kill and then have the meat processed etc., then, no, they are not thugs, they are providers. (I don’t think that particular question is color-coded, personally :-)

I found this bit of dialogue particularly interesting. It's been clear that the division on Vick has run along racial lines, whites condemning him and blacks adopting a innocent until proven guilty attitude, in a throwback to the old south that is at once revealing and disturbing.

The word Thug has been bandied about with great frequency on this issue. And for those who don't see it for what it is, a code for the N-word, that's clearly what it is. Oddly, the aptly named "blackgirl" does not cry for patience...but merely at the usage of the word Thug. It's the answer from "helloooo" which demonstrates the gulf of understanding between the races. Killing and having the meat processed makes it okay? So if Vick can prove he had dog burgers, would it be alright? Dog is eaten in many parts of the world with no outcry, so it's not a crazy notion.

Simply having the meat processed hardly makes it fair or just. Meat is available from other sources, so the hunting isn't necessary. Not any more necessary than putting two dogs in a pit so that money can be wagered. At least the dog had a fighting chance.

It's not a real popular opinion I know. If he broke the law he should go to jail. But I'm going to wait and see if he really broke the law. Innocent until proven guilty, call me crazy.

Bartender...a little hair of the dog. Yes, that means Jager.

Friday, August 10, 2007

What you pay for...

I eat out quite a bit. Not because I'm a lazy slob who likes to dine out - I love cooking, you just don't know - but because of an ongoing "issue" with my current living arrangements.

So I read a lot of online reviews, listen to folks talk about places, hear the stories and all in efforts to find interesting and exciting places to dine. And as such, I've realized that most people don't quite understand how dining out works, or how it's structured or really the whole point of going out. Let me go over a few basic rules and guidelines cause it's more difficult than you think, and I'm sure armed with a bit of knowledge you'll swiftly enhance your dining experience.

Level 1 - Fast food: What you're paying for here is throwaway rights. The food is not supposed to be especially well cooked, or even taste all that good. It's fast, it's cheap and you throw away everything when you're finished - the burger wrapper, the plastic fork, the ketchup packets. You're not paying for service either, so don't get snippy with the lady on fries.

Level 2 - Diner food: What you paid for is not a high quality meal, but the right to not have to clean up when you're finished. I find some of my best best meals in diners, so the quality can vary...a lot...but you're not paying for that. At the end of the meal, they come get the plate and you go home and sleep. That's what the money went for.

Level 3 - Chain food: Your national food chains are in business to make money...not make your dietary dreams come true. You're paying for a little flavor, a little taste, but it's on their terms. Don't expect their "Down Home Cajun cooked Chicken" to even come close to the real thing, or that Key Lime Pie to come from anyplace other than a box.

Level 4 - Upscale dining: You're coming out of pocket $75 -$125 for two at these places. You can expect not only good food but decent service. Don't expect them to do it like your mother did, but you can make an honest complaint here. Because this is the level where food is supposed to be good. This is the level most of us aspire to, and how most people think all restaurants should work.

Which is why we're having this discussion. Restaurants operate on the "you're hungry theory" of profit. It's how hungry you are that determines the restaurant you go to. I find it funny when I see folks upset at the food quality, when all they've really paid for is the right to go home full in 20 minutes. There is one other level, but then you're passed through hungry and gone out the other side.

Level 5 - Foodie: If you get to this level...I dined at the legendary Seegars in it's day, so I'm in...then the service is high, people are waiting with drinks, plates flash back and forth, damn you almost want them to leave so you can eat. The flavors are exotic, the cooking a little different and the whole vibe skewed. True you're coming out of pocket here in the hundreds plural, but what you're paying for again is not the food, it's the experience.

And if you go out to eat for the experience...then you weren't really that hungry.

Barkeep...a rosewater and lime martini with a scrooch of pomegranite. And a Bud back.