Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Calvin's Graduation

This whole last week has been all about Calvin. It started a week ago yesterday with the Baccalaureate service. Part of the service included each graduate's parents being asked to stand. The graduate's name was then read with its meaning and a special Bible verse. Then each student took a rose to his or her parents.

Afterwards there was a reception and lots of photos. Obviously this is Calvin with Jay and Carolyn and Cal with Jack and me.

On Monday Calvin left for the week on his senior trip to Florida. The kids went to DisneyWorld, Universal Studios and Daytona Beach. They got back on Sunday night -- in time for Monday night's graduation.

Before the graduation, there was a slide show of each student with three pictures. Here's Cal's baby photo and his current photo.

Then the students marched in and took their places in the front of the auditorium. Cal, being a W, was in the last row -- which was fortunate for photos.

Having been at OCS for 12 years, Calvin made many good friends. After receiving his diploma, he got a big hug from Headmaster Dallas Caldwell. Mr. Caldwell was a great mentor, taking personal interest in the students, and Cal admires him very much.

The tassel is moved!

Saturday, May 22, 2010

'Shine On

Being one of those people who doesn't understand the attraction of NASCAR, I can't say I was thrilled to be going to the Georgia Racing Hall of Fame. It's in tiny Dawsonville, Georgia, about 45 minutes north of Atlanta. I love it that the building says "Georgia Racing Hall of Fame" and "Dawsonville City Hall."

I must admit I got a kick out of learning some of the history there. Seems this area was noted for moonshine -- both during prohibition, into the 1950s and, truth to tell, now. Back in the old days, moonshiners would make the run down curvy Highway 19 to Atlanta, sometimes several times down and back in one evening.

One of those entrepreneurs who was in business in a big way was Raymond Parks. Not only did he run shine, he hired other drivers to help. Parks would laugh about the "young uns" running 'shine on Saturday night. Parks would just get a couple of nicely dressed ladies to sit on the 'shine and he'd make his run on Sunday morning -- at a leisurely, Sunday-goin'-to-meetin' pace.

The drivers were pretty proud of their cars and would meet in a local field on Sunday afternoons and challenge one another. Believe it or not, these races were the roots of NASCAR. This shiny '39 Ford belonged to Raymond Parks' cousin, Lloyd Seay.

I still think watching cars go round and round is the noisy equivalent of watching paint dry -- but I appreciate the history. And for those who are fans -- you'll find lots of autos and racing memorabilia here. Do check it out.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Kansas City in the A.M.

For me, one of the highlights of the SATW meeting in Kansas City was participating in the Photo Shootout. We left the hotel before sunrise -- and I couldn't have found a greater group of people to get up early with. Bruce Meyer did a great job of picking photo spots. It was such fun to just shoot -- no hassling with notebooks or tape recorders -- forget the facts, just get the image. The shot at the top was one of my first -- definitely before the sun came up. The Power and Light District is Kansas City's newest arts and entertainment district but for me it was a trip down memory lane. The tall building is the Power and Light Building where my dad had an office for a number of years -- about half a century ago!

As the sun came up, we went to the Liberty Memorial -- now the site of the World War I Museum. When I was a kid we didn't have air conditioning and some summer evenings we'd drive up here. With the tall column and eternal flame and the veiled sphinxes, it was one of the most exotic places I could imagine. I still love it.

We stopped for breakfast at Succotash. It used to be in the City Market -- Jack and I ate there once several years ago. Now it's on Holmes near Hospital Hill. Funky is the only word for the decor while delicious is the only word for the food.

We ordered several different items and shared with one another. I think my choice was the absolute best -- Eggs and Crab Benedict with hash browns -- yum!

Beth Barden is the brilliant owner. The Rainbow Cake in the photo is a house specialty. Each layer is a different fruit flavor.

Our next stop was the City Market. I took the obligatory fruit and veg pics but I love this gnome who will never find a home in any article. He and a number of gnomey friends were hanging out in a seed and garden store in the market area. Here it comes; here it comes; wait for it -- THERE'S NO PLACE LIKE GNOME!

Tuesday, May 04, 2010

Barbecue 101

This was the title of the afternoon adventure Jack and I took during the Central States SATW conference in Kansas City. We hit four of the top-rated spots in less than five hours. Here are the results of my research. Keep in mind that barbecue is subjective -- my faves are my faves; you may or may not agree.
For me, it's all about the flavor and the sauce. For this reason, many folks' favorite, Arthur Bryant's, wasn't so high on my list. The place has the requisite ambiance -- none -- it couldn't be plainer. Visitors here aren't looking for frills.

We sampled brisket, turkey and ribs and the meats were all good. The brisket was wonderfully lean. It was the sauce that left me cold. It contains vinegar, paprika and other spices and has a bit of a grainy consistency. Other sauces are offered. White bread and pickles are on the table. Sides include potato salad, baked beans and French fries are about as fancy as it gets.

Calvin Trillin proclaimed Bryant's as "the single best restaurant in the world." Bryant's has a long history and is certainly is iconic in Kansas City barbecue history. I could happily eat there again -- it just wasn't my top pick.

Some of the writers in our group rated Oklahoma Joe's best. We were there about 4:00 on Saturday afternoon and there was a line out the door. So a lot of people must agree. Ambiance gets a bit of a kick -- this busy eatery shares space with a gas station! There's an obvious joke there, but I'll let you do it yourself.

With its roots in Stillwater, Oklahoma, I felt a pull of loyalty. And their pulled pork was wonderful -- they take credit for putting pulled pork on the K.C. barbecue map. Not that it was unknown before, but they set the bar. They serve it plain or Carolina style, topped with coleslaw. Servings are whopping.

We had a sampler plate. The fact that this was our last stop may have blunted our enthusiasm. I'm a ribs and brisket fan -- not so much burnt ends. I thought these ends were a bit rubbery. This eatery ranks #3 on my list.

There was a tie for first place and I could go either way on these. Gates Barbecue started over 60 years ago on Kansas City's east side. The third generation of the family is now involved and the business has grown to half-a-dozen locations across the metro area and their barbecue sauce is becoming widely available nationally.

Meat choices are extensive, including mutton ribs. Their barbecue beans are cooked in the pit, catching the drippings and flavor of the cooking meats. If you have any room, don't miss the yammer pie (sweet potato).

George Gates could sell snow to Eskimos. We asked what made barbecue different from place to place. His answer, "Personality." This 'cue had personality and then some. And we loved dining outside. Their sauces were great -- sweet/mild, extra hot, mild and original classic. And they're organized from bottom to top -- running their own College of Barbecue Knowledge which all their employees attend. This spot is a winner.

Jack Stack is what you get when barbecue goes uptown. This is another family business with a solid history in the food industry. Company presiden Case Dorman gave us a quick course in burnt ends and a tour of the kitchen.

Their menu is huge and offers some options -- salads, steaks, fish -- that the more traditional spots don't have. But their barbecue can hold its own with any of their competition. In addition to ribs, brisket and burnt ends, and other expected items, they also have crown roast of pork and rack of lamb.

The sides push Jack Stack into a spot of its own -- the beans are the best I ever ate. Like Gates, they're cooked in the pit and are well-laced with bits of burnt ends -- a ratio of 20 % meat to 80% beans and sauce. Don't pass on the cheesy corn bake -- totally nummy in the tummy! And the onions are all hand-cut and battered and breaded with secret ingredients. The barbecue sauce comes in original and spicy. I like a sauce with a touch of sweet and Jack Stack's sauce really hit the spot. There are four Jack Stack locations -- we ate at the Freight Yard, near the Union Station.
It's really a toss-up for me between Jack Stack and Gates -- but Bryant's and Oklahoma Joe are certainly good choices, too. My best recommendation -- try them all.