Mar 22

Paying off high interest loans and finding hookers whose English is so poor that they can never say anything clear enough to make you feel bad about yourself – those are the only reasons to go to Russia House, the behemoth four level, gothic Kremlin of Washington that looms over DC’s high rent Dupont Circle.

Everybody knows that.

Maybe not everybody. I have read reviews of their Borscht on Yelp, and I’ve seen their stroganoff mentioned in DC fine dining magazines. But you know what I’ve never seen? I’ve never see anyone eating Borscht or stroganoff at Russia House. I’ve never seen anyone eating anything.

But I guess that brings me to a third reason for going there, as was the case last night. If you aren’t there for shift-work companionship, and, on your own, you can get a legitimate loan at the bank, then you’re probably at Russia House for the same reason I was – to get blackout drunk on the five-ounce, Russian vodka fishbowl martinis.

And that was the chapter in last night’s ‘choose your own adventure that lead to me shivering on Connecticut Avenue in the 17-degree windy weather while waiting for my friends to finish smoking.

My friends, high level political operatives – one a neurotic gear head and the other a hippy, ostensibly reformed. Both yuppy liberals with a shared rationalization that organic cigarettes are somehow on a delay when it comes to lung cancer. I love those guys, but as a non-smoking asthmatic with a healthy fear of hypothermia, I wasn’t about to wait outside for them. I decided I was going inside Russia House to get a drink and that they should text someone else for help should frostbite begin to kick in.

Inside I ascended the stairs two at a time. Not that anyone should ever feel that confident there, but I’d been to Russia House before and am at least aware that it is a mob front that thrives on the off-the-menu appetite of most of its patrons.

As was usually the case, the dimly lit, hardwood encased, mostly red lounge was void of customers.  At the bar, one on each end, sat two beefy men, both in tight black shirts and wearing a thin layer of stubble on their cheeks.

As I stepped up and between them, they each gave me a once-over then shared a brief look between them. I noted that they didn’t have drinks in front of them. They weren’t customers.

Waiting behind the scarlet mirrored bar was a stoic silhouette that came into frame after my eyes adjusted to the dark. Pale skin, brunette, square shoulders, black blouse, black pants. Let’s call her Dominika

“You…want something?”

Obviously I did. Now six ears were waiting to hear just what that was.

“Hi, yes…can I, uh, get a martini please? Straight up…um, dirty,” Not bad, I said in my head. Pretty smooth.

“Is that…all you want?”

The words dripped out her mouth and I felt the muscled bookends on either side of me flex a bit, becoming interested in my answer. If I did, in fact, want something else, it was probably their job to get it for me.

“Oh…yeah,” I said with a knowing grin. “I get it. Not right now.”

Silence reigned. I reconsidered my response.  Wait, not right now? What the fuck was that? She’s asking me if I want a whore, bag of coke, something else or all of the above. Not right now?!

“I’ll just stick with the martini,” I said, wavering confidence noted.

“We have one hundred thirty-four vodkas. I can’t read your mind. Maybe you want menu.”

It wasn’t a question. It was an invitation to dismiss myself from Russia House if I couldn’t understand and appreciate the gravity of my order. Ugh, What a rookie. Ordering an $18 drink like a frat boy at an Applebee’s happy hour. I decided to try and turn the tables.

“What do you drink? I’ll have whatever vodka you pick.”

Cool, right? Perfect balance of old-school macho and female empowerment, yes?

I can tell you this much – as interested as Thing 1 and Thing 2 became, both perking up to see how the situation would transpire, Dominika was unequivocally unimpressed. And she was done with me.

Without pressing for more instructions, and without ever breaking eye contact, she reached under the bar and produced an obviously repurposed water bottle. The wrapper was missing, but the bottle was full of clear liquid. She paused for a second, maybe giving me a chance to reconsider, then turned the bottle upside down, letting it drain completely into a waiting martini glass. My martini glass.

“I’m guessing that isn’t water,” I said sheepishly.

“You guess right,” she responded. There was no lifeline; Dominika had no intention of helping me feel better about what I was about to pour into my body.

I cursed myself in my head. Though what I meant to do was lighten what was inherently a veil of heaviness that they like to maintain in Russia House, what I did was put myself on stage.

Now the bartender was waiting for me to follow through with my end of the deal.

Now the two big guys on either side of me were turned inward, speaking to each other in slippery Slavic

Now I was wondering why the fuck I can’t ever just keep to myself and order like a normal person.

But I knew what needed to happen. I was going to drink whatever Dominika gave me, then I would grab a coaster and scribble a quick note to my two friends outside. I’d let them know that I’d been poisoned by a Russian seductress but ask that they make up a better story for my wife, kids and life insurance policy, then I’d tell them to order off the menu.

I looked left, looked right, lifted the mystery drink off the sticky wood and toasted Dominika.

“Nah zda-ROVH-yeh”

The lightening hit my brain just as the door chime rang announcing my two friends who had come in to join me in the red room. I nodded at a table, indicating they should sit, while trying to breathe again without anyone noticing my struggle. I took two shaky steps towards the table, already feeling my face start to numb.

“You forget your drink,” Dominika said, reminding me I still had four ounces to go.

“Yes, thanks,” I was barely built to respond.

As I walked away from the bar, the two men begin talking to each other, and then to the bartender.  And even though I don’t speak Russian, it was clear that I existed somewhere between those words.

And I was floating at that point, so what I heard was, “You are very brave to take this communion from us comrade, as we usually guard from westerners like treasure from Kremlin. You are now one of us.”

That’s what I heard. But then again I don’t speak fucking Russian.

Nov 19

As disappointed and distraught as I am traveling home from this god awful election, it was reading this post from my wife that made me stop in the airport and put on sunglasses so I could burst into tears.

I have been a political professional for 20 years now – twice as long as I’ve been a parent. When you work in campaigns and elections, you build up a little scar tissue around politics because, after all, at any point in time half the country disagrees with whatever you think. You learn that sometimes you win and sometimes you lose and you keep up a good front regardless. That’s because you secretly know that there are times when you win and really don’t care…but that there are also times when a loss tears you down to bone.

This morning I woke up and still hadn’t gotten to my own feelings about this election. I was thinking about staff and family and disappointment and how it is my job as somewhat of an elder statesman to help them put this election into perspective and move forward.  But after reading my wife’s post my mind is racing.  I can’t stop thinking about my kids. I can’t stop thinking about your kids either, or you. Our kids and us parents.

The Nunnery’s are a mixed race family living in Middle-America and there is a stark contrast between our family’s day to day experiences and the experiences of many of the folks where we live. Our community is full of families who don’t travel a lot and therefore have limited exposure to other cultures. We live alongside people who have never met someone gay or who have only had limited relationships or interactions with people of color, and there are many who have never been in a room where they looked different from everyone else and, yes, perhaps were treated differently than everyone else. The political leanings of our town reflect all of those things.

We know we stand out here. Sometimes it’s funny. Sometimes we can laugh when a person assumes our kids are Mexicans or when people complement my wife’s English (born and raised in Michigan folks…doesn’t speak anything else.) Sometimes we make the jokes ourselves. Of course my kids are good at math, they’re Asian…

But we can’t laugh all the time. We can’t laugh when it’s time to answer questions like “Daddy, what does it mean when someone says I have ‘chinky’ eyes?” That’s an important and serious question. And it’s not funny when we have to teach things like how to deal with another student saying “You bring seaweed for lunch?! That’s disgusting! Don’t sit by me!” And it’s serious to us when we have to help process conversations like “So and so’s mom and dad said it’s ok for them to have black friends at school as long as they don’t get in trouble or date people like that.”

I just read Rhonda’s post again. “…my daughter was nervous to get on the bus today, in fear of being made fun of by the kids of Trump supporters.”

So that’s a real thing today. Not a new thing, mind you; it’s a lesson, taught by someone, learned by someone and today presented to us to deal with. And of course it’s not about politics. Obviously my kids think what they think about elections because of what they see and hear from their parents and the same goes for other children. It’s not about politics. It’s about parenting.

The strange thing is, as I take a deep breath, close my eyes and lean back in this airplane seat with the hopes of coming up with the winning talking points for teaching my daughter yet another strategy for how to deal with being singled out and made to feel different, I’ve got one thing on my mind – thanks.

Thanks to our close friends, the people who believe in the same values as us, who try to be parents that do the right thing (but don’t always know what that is…and definitely don’t always do it), who look for “teachable moments” and cry in private when someone breaks our babies’ hearts so we can help them be strong when we know we ourselves would be weak. We love you for helping us feel like we’re making the right choices, even when we do it by accident. Thank you for keeping a knee at our back so we can stand up straight. We’ve got your backs too.

And thanks to the people who don’t have the same experiences as us, who don’t share the same values and world views as us, who don’t parent the way we do, and who may never have the time, interest or energy to care about the things we care about… Thank you for being our check and balance and reminding us that we’re part of something bigger than just ourselves, what we believe in and the people we choose to be around. Thank you for giving us a laboratory of different challenges that we can learn from as we tinker around and try and build our little girls into strong and confident women.

Know that we don’t believe our children need to be better than yours for them to be the best they can be. Know that the message we give to our kids is never that we are better parents and that you are worse, or that you’re wrong for not doing what we do or thinking what we think. Know that the first thing we do when we get report cards is to turn to the back page where the behavior reports are and look to make sure our girls are acting like young ladies and listening to their teacher, helping the new student feel welcome and encouraging your son or daughter to do the best they can. We believe “Rocket Math” is something our girls can learn. We believe character is something we must teach.

As a poetic sidebar, I just got a text message from a wealthy friend: ”Not to rub it in, but…” then a picture of his 9 year old daughter donning the victory sign in front of Trump Plaza. I am reminded of sage advice I was once given and try to share often – we don’t build teenagers when they’re teenagers, we build them now.

I’m going home to work on my mini-me’s and I’ll be thinking about you guys.  All of you.

Apr 2

A couple of years ago I had a cleaning lady nervously ask me about Cancun. She and her family were spending two weeks at an all-inclusive and none of them had ever been out of the country before.

I’ll admit it, I’m biased.  I hate all-inclusives.  I think they rob both Mexico of its indigenous culture and vacationers of an authentic experience.  Sure, I attend my share of friend and family weddings at pristine mega-resorts on the Mexican Riviera.  I sport my colored wristband, eat and drink my face off, and watch my peers struggle through their 11th grade Spanish class leftovers while trying to communicate with a wait staff that speaks near perfect English.  Sure, I do.  But that’s not how I like to spend my vacations.

So when my cleaning lady mentioned “all-inclusive”, I twitched a bit inside.  But then I reminded myself of the unfortunate reality that there are a lot of Americans who would probably like Mexico a little more if it had just a bit less Mexico and a tad more America.  I had a feeling my cleaning lady was one of those people

“Well,” I said. “I know the hotel you’re going to.  Everyone speaks English and there is a Wal-Mart, a Rite Aid and a Pizza Hut within walking distance.”

“Oh perfect!” she said.  “Thank you so much!”

I may have rolled my eyes inside, but those things were important for my cleaning lady to feel comfortable and have a good first experience in Mexico.  And while I definitely judged her a bit, this brings me to the substantive part of my review of the Cerritos Surf Colony.  Let’s get the important information out of the way first:

  • It is not an all-inclusive.
  • There isn’t a Wal-Mart, Rite Aid or Pizza Hut anywhere nearby. In fact, there isn’t anything nearby.
  • If you happen to run into any staff, they probably don’t speak English.
  • There are no tv’s, no phones and no internet.
  • This place is awesome.

Los Cerritos, nearby El Pescadero and Todos Santos have all thus far dodged a major bullet in that they haven’t been overrun by American tourism.  That isn’t to say they’ve remained undiscovered.  Surfers from all over know this place and there were plenty of other vacationers around.  In fact, most of the other guests we ran across were Americans too.  But even so, everyone seemed committed to keeping Cerritos the quiet speak-easy that it is.

You’ll need to have a real conversation with yourself about what kind of experience you want to have and what you’re ok giving up, because the hotel isn’t perfect.  But if you can deal with that, and if you want empty white sand beaches, cold beers & sunburns, and not much to do after the sun goes down – this is your place.  Just be prepared.

Be prepared for your rooms to not be perfect. We had two, two-bedroom units, right on the beach.  And although they appeared to be identical, a closer look revealed dozens of curious differences.  The hot water didn’t work in one of the bathrooms.  One unit didn’t have curtains.  The oven didn’t work in the other.  The water wasn’t anything you want to drink.  Don’t get me wrong, the rooms are cute and just what you need if you’re spending your days out in the sun and your nights sitting up with friends or sleeping.  But they aren’t luxurious, that’s for certain.

Be prepared to be disconnected.  The rooms don’t have televisions.  There aren’t any phones.  There is no internet.  There is rumored to be wi-fi around the pool.  It never worked for us and frankly we didn’t care much. In fact, we didn’t care about not having any of those things.  We always spend the $20 (or whatever it is) for the Mexican phone coverage while we’re there, just in case, and we did it again this time.  Totally worth it.  We have Verizon and just call them before leaving.

Be prepared to have to work a little for food.  There is a restaurant at the pool and there food is great.  But you’ll have to decide if you want to eat there every day.  We didn’t.  There are kitchenettes in the rooms and markets in Pescasdero and Todos Santos.  We made good use of stockpiling the basics – eggs, juice, cereal, lunchmeat, beer/tequila/vodka – and generally cooked breakfast ourselves. There are two other restaurants within walking distance that we went to – the Cerritos Beach & Surf Bar and Free Souls.  The former is right on the beach – look for the huge Dos Equis sign. It’s a nice place to spend the afternoon drinking beers with friends.  The few vendors that exist hang around the perimeter, hocking their trinkets but they aren’t overly aggressive.  Free Souls is behind the Cerritos Beach & Surf Bar and a small walk up a dirt road.  We sat outside overlooking the ocean, listening to great music and enjoyed a spectacular meal here.  It’s definitely pricey, given everything else in the area, but we walked away happy and would go back.  Lastly, there are a handful of great restaurants in Todos Santos.

Be prepared to rent a car.  You need one.  Period.  If you don’t rent a car you are going to be stuck on the same mile-stretch of beach the entire time (which may be fine). But there aren’t any taxi’s around.  Going into Todos Santos is worth it.  Or you may want to drive into Cabo one day.  Maybe you’ll want to go ride ATV’s on the beach.  Just get a car, you’ll be glad you did.  (And while I’m at it – rent from Cactus at the airport {set it up in advance}). Renting a car in Mexico can be a nightmare.  This was my first time using Cactus and it’s the first place I’ll go next time.  No hidden charges, easy to deal with, etc.

Ok – so bottom line: We loved this place, this region of Mexico and our overall experience.  Imperfect as our rooms were, that experience was completely eclipsed by the empty beach, blue sky, sleepy town, amazing food and complete amnesia of our state-side lives.  Is that transferable to other travelers?  Sure – some.

Here’s where you have to be honest with yourself.  Who you are and how you like to travel are huge ingredients in the type of experience you’ll have at Cerritos Surf Colony.  If you can get outside of your comfort zone, surrender a few creature comforts and enjoy an as-is experience in another country – you’ll totally dig this place.  But if you want your home experience of English speaking, Bud Light and dance clubs superimposed on a sandy beach background – you’ll hate it, but good news is that there are tons of nice places in Cabo San Lucas that want to help you have a good time.  And that’s ok too.

Jul 2

For three days now we’ve been living in the wake of a “derecho” – that being a storm that smacks down anything in front of it with 90 mile an hour winds.  It was a strange thing to watch on Friday when it hit.  In my office I was struggling with my persistent urge to not work when the blue sky started to take on a yellow tint and the breeze that had been blowing slowed to a standstill.  Uh oh, I thought.  This feels like earthquake weather.  The kids were at the pool for swim practice.  Wonder if they’ll cancel, I thought.  Then BAM!  That storm struck like a runaway freight train.  The power was knocked out immediately.  I went to the front door to make sure the dogs were inside, they were.  Then I ventured outside to see if I could find the source of the power outage – yep, easy; a tree had come down and ripped the line out of the house. The loose wire was now slung across Heather’s care and about half of our driveway.  Great.

There wasn’t much more worrying about the power because seconds later another tree came thundering down, helping me realize how ridiculous it was for me to be sightseeing outside.  I pushed as hard as I could against the wind that was assaulting everything by that point and got back to the house.  The kids.  Panic set in and I started speed dialing Heather.  It’s not that I was worried that they weren’t safe, I assumed they were.  But I wanted them home, selfish as that may have been at the point.  They had to be terrified.  No answer.  I tried again.  Voice mail.  Shit, shit.

Suddenly here they came in the van, barreling across neighbor yards because more trees had collapsed in the road, taking more power lines down with them.  The street was now blocked in both directions.  I ran outside and waved her to drive as close to the house as she could.  Inside both girls were terrified and crying, though the howling wind made it impossible to hear anything.  I flung open the door and yelled “Come on!  We’ve got to get inside!”  grabbed them both, rushed them through the house and to the stairs, vaguely processing that one of our giant trees in the back had fallen down… one that would have crushed our house to the ground it had come down on it.  Downstairs we collapsed under a pile of blankets and pillows.  I spent a few minutes calming them down, then went upstairs for the dogs.  That’s when the rain decided erupt.  Torrential rain.  I’ve seen storms before, but never anything like what was happening.  This was bad.

I couldn’t reach Rhonda either.  Both my cell phone and ipad service were terrible in the basement, or because of the storm…whichever.  The fact of the matter was that I was going to have to trust that she was smart enough to be somewhere safe and my job was to take care of the girls.

Ok, flash forward a few hours and there we were outside talking to the neighbors and surveying the destruction.  Surreal.  Given how many trees had come down, the fact that our house wasn’t smashed to pieces was hard to fathom.  Some of them looked like they had just been plucked out of the ground – roots and everything.  Some seemed as though they’d been twisted by giant hands.  Power lines were strewn across the street, some of them still supporting the trees that had pulled them down. Rhonda was finally able to get home, though our street still wasn’t officially open yet.  She had to negotiate with a cop and finally just drive past him.

It was more than obvious that power wouldn’t be back on for at least a day.  Given what we all had been through, we decided to stay in a hotel for the night.  That plan lasted all of about 30 minutes which was as long as it took us to drive to hotel row and see all the customers standing outside smoking.  No power there either.  That also meant all the restaurants in the area were out.  We drove to another town about ten miles away.  Nothing.  We later found out that power was out for at least a 40 mile radius.  This was worse than we thought.

Its three days later.  It’s been a consistent 100 degrees with high humidity.  We don’t have any air conditioning and have been keeping a slow but steady pace of recovering from the storm and repairing our house.   A lot of our friends are in the same boat, though perhaps with less damage and wreckage that needs to be cleared, so we’ve been making everything a community event.  All the food that’s been at risk for going bad has been thrown into coolers until it’s time to fire up the grill…again.  I don’t think I’ve ever worked so hard in my life, or ever done so many things out of my comfort zone/skill set.  In fact, Brock, Rheuben and I decided to shave our heads as a symbol of how earthy and renaissance we’ve been.  I did mine in a mohawk for a couple days.  Lily was sick when I decided to shave it all the way down.  Here’s how that exchange went:

Lily: (crying) I want my Daddy to have a mohawk!

Me: Well think of it like this.  Daddy has to go to work in a couple days so he can make money and buy juice. Would you rather have juice or me wearing a Mohawk?

Lily: Juice!

Me: (stuck, confused) Well… I guess you’ll have lots of time in your teenage years to act that one out.

Lily: (cries harder)

I’m keeping a list of all the manly things I’ve done to help my family recover from this mess.  Take a look:

  • Chopped up trees with a chain saw.
  • Drank beer.  Out of cans. Lots of it.
  • Cooked meat over an open flame.
  • Purchased a new tool kit – including a maul axe.
  • Spent time in an electrical warehouse finding parts we need to get our power lines reattached.
  • Assisted in hard wiring a generator to my power main.
  • Drove a 4×4 truck.
  • Hauled countless loads of branches and chopped wood out of our property.
  • Bought a leaf blower (I also injured myself with the leaf blower but that’s another story…)

I’m proud of how I have handled all the situations that usually cause me stress (not knowing how to fix things, not having any manly know-how, really).  I need to note how I feel about all of this.  I feel good.  I feel stress-free and capable – just the opposite of what I (or anyone) would expect.  Productive.  Being out of touch with work and instead only focusing on what is right in front of me and my family and is without question a priority has me feeling very calm.  That’s rare and it is unexpected.  I learn things I need to do, and then I do them.  I’m focused.  I’m thinking about what is right in front of me and not jumping from one thought to another before I finish. Then at the end of the day I take everything out of the coolers that needs to be cooked.  That makes me feel even more in my element.  Confident.  I’m being a good Dad and a good husband.  I’m taking care of my family.  I’m taking care of the house we all live in.  It’s me doing all these things.

I’m sure at least part of what’s going on is related to our discussion in therapy last week about tabling the decision/plan to move.  We had, or I had, back-to-back therapy appointments.  The first hour was just me and the second hour was the two of us.  I spent my hour talking about all the pressure I’ve been feeling and trying to locate the source of the stress.  With some help, I was able to put it into context with everything else going on this year (presidential election, etc..) and figure out what anxiety is natural and necessary and what is being self-imposed.  Moving to Colorado is self-imposed and has been unnecessarily placed (by me) on an accelerated timeline.  Then the other night, with out warning, I said to myself “I think I don’t want to deal with moving right now,” and instantaneously I felt an enormous burden being lifted off of me.  Physically, I felt it.

I know it threw Rhonda for a loop when I asked to postpone the conversation.  She came in for our joint appointment and unbeknownst to me was prepared to tell me that she was now committed to moving.  Ironic!  I had to be very clear to her that me saying I don’t want to talk about moving wasn’t about me being nasty or passive aggressive with the conversations – it’s just literally too much for me to handle right now.  We decided that at the end of the year we will revisit the topic – or not.  God I feel relieved.

So… a common theme that’s been coursing through my head is responsibility.  Jennifer made an off handed comment about how Colorado is really my thing and as much as I really want it to be our thing, Rhonda was never going to want it as much as me because I am the catalyst of the conversation and all the reasons we’d move are about me.  I don’t think that conversation was supposed to stick with me as much as it did, but I haven’t been able to stop thinking about whether or not I have been being a responsible spouse and father.  Have I been selfish for eight years now?  Always planning to leave, never viewing my friends as permanent, rarely acknowledging all the good things that have come from being here…  I’ve got to take a hard look at myself and my motives and what my responsibilities are at this point in my life.  I think I am living inside an outdated version of me.  Responsibility.

Update – It took us nearly three months to get all of the trees cleared out of our backyard.  To get that done I also operated a hydraulic wood splitter.  Add that to the list.

Jun 17

Perfect Father’s Day.  I spent the majority of the actual day focusing on the girls, which was sublime.  Bob Evans was the consensus for breakfast, which doesn’t happen often but it sure sounded good today.  I made sure to get a big bowl of grits and think about my Dad.  It was his day too…I know.  After breakfast we went to see the new Madagascar movie.  One of the great byproducts of parenting is getting to become a kid again and doing things I haven’t done forever or haven’t done in a long time.  I love the Madagascar movies!  Actually, I love every kid movie I see these days.  They are so fun and much better than when I was a kid.  Going to the movies with the girls is kind of our ‘thing’.  Rhonda goes sometimes, but Ava, Lily and I really own that real estate.  Love it.

The other unquestionably manly thing that I did this Father’s Day was compete in a rib-off with some friends.  We’ve been talking about it for months, joking with each other about how we have been raising our own hogs and harvesting exotic spices to make secret rubs.  This weekend the contest was finally here.  I had so much fun getting ready for it that I even made labels for the two sauces I would enter and had team shirts made for the family!  Of course everyone would appreciate the gamesmanship, right?  Trash talking is a big part of that.  (Note: the labels on my sauces indicated that they were already the winners of this year’s contest…heh heh heh…see below.)

I’ve been working on my ribs for weeks and experimenting with different types and amounts of rubs & smoke as well as different cooking techniques. I’ve done it all – grilled, smoked, boiled, baked, pressure cooked…all of it.  I even deep-fried some ribs for fun.  Not bad but you still have to cook them another way first.  In the end I decided that rubbing them and letting them site for about 36 hours was the best way to spice them.  I did two racks, one with a rub from the Savory Spice Company and one that I made.  For cooking I opted for simply smoking them with hickory chips at 225 for the better part of a day.  I know…hardly a ground breaking recipe and process.

I also made two sauces, one each to go with the ribs.  The first was an apple chipotle barbecue that was very dark with a deep, rich and spicy taste.  I’ve made it a few times and have to be very careful about how much I cook it down because it can get too sweet…or spicy…or smoky…  The other sauce was a Memphis style vinegar-based sauce that I truly believed would be the winner.  That sauce is good on anything.  Both were made a day in advance so I could get them bottled up and get the labels on.  We actually took two bottles of each – one to use with the ribs and one to set on the counter and gloat about…

Ah… tragedy.  So I didn’t win the rib contest, Dave did.  He should have, too; I actually voted for him.  Like me, he only smoked his ribs.  Smart.  Two variances between his ribs and mine – 1) time of cooking – he smoked his 8 hours – nearly twice what I did.  2) type of ribs – he used St. Louis style and I used baby backs.  I don’t think the type of ribs mattered much for flavor.  It may be that St. Louis hold up better to long cooking.  One thing I would change about the contest next year is either doing the sauces and the ribs separately and giving two awards (which is what we did, but not officially) or not allowing sauces to intermingle with ribs.  I paired my sauces with what I cooked, so it seemed to me that the whole process got infected when someone put my sauce on other ribs and we only gave an award for ribs.  Ah…salty loser I guess.  Rheuben Gibson, who is a professional furniture maker, made a fabulous trophy out of a cow rib and it will sit in Dave’s house until next June when I come back to claim it as its rightful owner.

I’ve done a lot of thinking about my Dad today, even beyond the grits. Two common ways people think about the deceased it seems.  One, they wish the person was still around to observe or partake in the current goings-on in their life (or maybe give them direction).  Two, they question whether or not the person who passed would be proud of them.  Maybe those two things are really different slants on the same dynamic.  Regardless, I don’t do either of those.  I know he’s proud of me and for some reason the notion of him never being involved in my day-to-day doesn’t torture me.  It’s probably because we went for several years with a gulf of mental space between us.  Or maybe it was the physical space because we didn’t live in the same state for more than two decades.  Who knows.

What is true is that he is constantly on my mind.  I asked Rhonda the other day how often she thinks about her Dad. She goes for days now, she said, sometimes weeks.  There was an  awkward silence after she answered. I think it was clear that I wasn’t going to answer my own question…so she asked.  “Every day.  Usually a couple times an hour.”  It’s true.  He is also in my dreams every night, usually when I was between the ages of 10 and 20.  I don’t know what that means or says about me.  But I’ll say this much…when I am thinking about my Dad, I am thinking about how to be a better person. Not a better person than him, a better person than me – very important distinction.

That was his indirect and long-lasting gift to me and it simultaneously drives, soothes, clarifies and tortures.

« Previous Entries