you did WHAT?

flaky brick

Lookin’ good.

After I posted stuff about my new tattoo over the weekend, one of the biggest things I was curious about was the reaction of my parents. On Tuesday, Father of Uncle Crappy emailed this:


Couple of afternoons ago, I was in the kitchen chopping celery for a meat loaf and Pat asked, “Guess what YOUR son has done now?”

After thinking of a few possibilities, she said it was a tattoo. Hmmmm.

I considered a few possibilities … A big U of M “M” with a screw going into it … the scores of the Wisconsin, Alabama and Oregon games … and my fave: a tank with the gun blazing with a pithy slogan like “Guts. Glory. Tanks.” or perhaps “Give War A Chance”.

Then she said it was a brick from Athens.

Perfect, I thought, a tribute to the ancient writer/philosophers like Plato and Socrates.

Then she said it was Athens, OHIO. Hmmmm.

Why not? You love Athens and OU. I think it is cool.

I came very close to getting a small USMC tat … one less person in line at the parlor at Oceanside and I probably would have one.

I’m anxious to see it (and you guys!)

Love, Dad


And now I’m thinking about a tattoo of Plato. Hmmmm.

bricked.

As mid-life crises go, getting a tattoo is way less expensive than a sports car. And when you’re working with a print-journalism salary, that’s kind of an important thing to consider.

But once that decision is made, you’re faced with another: What’s the tattoo going to be?

I’ve known for several years that I wanted to get one, and I realized late last year that I didn’t care to follow the original plan, which was to get one in observance of my 50th birthday.

Nope. Not waiting. But then — what’s it going to be? Ohio related? Yes. Something football? Nah, that’s too easy. A design featuring the state’s borders? I’d never come up with one as cool as Bethany’s. Something related to OU? That’s closer, but still — a green paw print didn’t seem distinctive enough, and I wanted something to emphasize Athens rather than the university.

And then I came to the things that have always served as my favorite icon of the town that still feels like my spiritual home, the thing that we’ve given to friends as wedding presents and that we’ve used as decoration around our apartments and houses. They’re pretty much ubiquitous in town and, since I left town, they’ve even spawned a merchandise line.

athens street

If you’ve lived in Athens, these will look familiar. They pave the main streets Uptown, and you don’t have to look hard around the rest of town to find them (like, say, in the lightly traveled alley across the street from my apartment on West State at Shafer — which is definitely NOT the source of Athens Block bricks I’ve relied on for several years. Ahem).

With that in mind, I set out to find a Pittsburgh artist who, based on a pretty vague description from me, could draw a convincing, detailed brick on my arm. And as it turned out, I didn’t have to look far — Erin at Kyklops was recommended to me by a couple different people, and because I knew her a little bit already, the decision was easy.

And now that it’s done? The decision seems even smarter now than it did before. With just one brief meeting with our brick — and the previously mentioned vague set of instructions from me — Erin came up with exactly what I had in mind:

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Answers: No, it didn’t hurt, until Erin finished up with some detail stuff right at the end; beyond that, the physical part of getting a tattoo is just kind of annoying, an irritation. No, I was never concerned about getting one, not from the standpoint of any kind of risk (seeing the attention paid to cleanliness at Kyklops actually reminded me of being in a doctor’s office, with much more interesting stuff on the walls), and not from the standpoint that OH MY GOD YOU’RE GOING TO HAVE THAT ON YOUR BODY FOR THE REST OF YOUR LIFE — which is why I was certain about the design, the shop and the artist. And yes, I’m probably going to get more.

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A final word about Erin: She’s really good, and she’s fun to hang out with for a couple hours while she pokes at your skin. I will go back to her; if you’re in or around Pittsburgh and you’re looking for an artist, you should go see her too.

In the last few months I went from having a vague notion that this would be something I’d do in a couple years to realizing that it was kind of dumb for me to wait this long. This is the kind of outward expression of who I am that I’ve always done — this version is just a little more permanent. It feels right to have this on my arm. And it will feel just as right to get a couple more.

dy-no-mite.

I’ve never been to Rhode Island. I now have a reason to go.

Mrs. Crappy has a subscription to Cook’s Country magazine and we received a new issue last week. The magazine publishes an index of sorts on back cover, and as soon as I looked at the new one, I saw something I knew I had to make right away: a big batch of Rhode Island Dynamites.

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The magazine explained that the sandwiches are a staple of Woonsocket; they’re a bit like Sloppy Joes, but spicier and with a turn towards an Italian flavor profile — in other words, right smack in my wheelhouse.

I can’t link to the Cook’s Country recipe, because they require a subscription; instead, I’ll take you through the modified version I made yesterday.

What you need:

  • 2 pounds ground beef (the magazine suggests 85/15)
  • 3 tablespoons water
  • Salt and pepper
  • 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
  • 2 onions, chopped
  • 2 bell peppers, chopped
  • 1 tablespoon jarred hot cherry peppers, chopped finely
  • 1 tablespoon brine from the jarred cherry peppers
  • 1/4 cup tomato paste
  • 5 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 1 tablespoon Italian seasoning
  • 1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • 1 15 ounce can of tomato sauce
  • A bag of deli rolls (6-inch sub rolls are the traditional thing)

What you do:

1) Heat the oil in a large skillet or Dutch oven, medium-high heat. Add the beef and water (which will help keep the meat tender). Season with salt and pepper (about a 1/4 teaspoon each). Break up beef with a spatula and brown until most of the liquid has cooked off and meat starts to sizzle.

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2) Add onions and bell peppers, along with another 1/4 teaspoon shot of salt and pepper. Stir frequently until veggies are soft.

3) Add cherry peppers, brine, tomato paste, garlic, Italian seasoning, pepper flakes. Stir until paste is fully mixed with the rest of the stuff.

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4) Stir in tomato sauce. Turn down the heat to a slow simmer. Stir occasionally. When it thickens to your taste, season with salt and pepper to taste, scoop into the rolls and serve.

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What I could have done:

The original recipe calls for a 1/4 cup of the diced cherry peppers, 2 tablespoons of the brine and a full teaspoon of red pepper flakes, but Mrs. Crappy requested a less spicy version, so I toned it down to the measurements in the recipe above. I think I went too far in the safe direction and next time, I’ll go more towards the what the original recipe calls for. Another variation I’ll try: using sweet cherry peppers instead of hot.

Even with my overly-cautious modifications, the sandwiches are delicious — layers of flavor and, as I said before, nearly perfect for my comfort-food sensibilities. I will eat these¬†again and again, even if I never actually make it to Rhode Island.

hope you’re thirsty.

It’s a pretty simple theme. And all you have to do to take advantage is find the guy in the red hat.

As we’ve done for several years, we’re volunteering again at a Pittsburgh Marathon fluid station. As we done for not quite as many years, we’re working the Mile 6 station, on Western Avenue near the Humane Society’s North Side shelter. And as we’ve been able to do since we’ve worked that station, we hope to set up on the right side of the street — for those of you who are running — near First Niagara Bank.

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Find the hat. Get a high five.

So if you’re running on Sunday morning, look for me and the same red Ohio
State bucket hat I wear every year. Find me, and that’s where the tag line comes in:

Hugs. High fives. And the best water on the course.

See you Sunday morning, yinz guys.

choked.

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I should know better than to stroll through the produce section of Whole Foods A) while I’m hungry and B) just two days after I get paid. But in our most recent trip, it worked out well.

Because there it was, a display of good-sized, bright green artichokes. Three chokes for five bucks. And after a quick consultation with Mrs. Crappy, three good ones made it into our cart. And because it had been years since I’d had one — I think just once since our honeymoon — I was pretty excited.

Artichokes are difficult. They’re pointy and tough, and preparing them takes a while, even if the process isn’t especially difficult. Even eating them isn’t intuitive (“Whaddaya mean I scrape them with my teeth?”).

I can’t make them appear any less mysterious, but I can tell you what I did when we cooked and ate all three on Saturday … and I hope that will help.

Cooking.

Get a pot big enough to hold all the artichokes you’re cooking. Fill it about halfway with water. Into the water, you’ll add:

  • A couple bay leaves.
  • Four cloves of garlic, roughly chopped.
  • A couple of lemons, quartered.
  • Some white wine (something between a quarter cup and a half cup).
  • Some parsley (we didn’t have fresh parsley at home, so I put in a handful of dried).
  • A drizzle of olive oil.
  • Towards the end of cooking, melt a stick or two of butter in a separate pan, and have some extra lemon wedges handy.
They look delicious, even in the pot.

They look delicious, even in the pot.

Trim the tops and the stems of the chokes and add them to the simmering pot tops down. Let them bubble for about 30 minutes before you start checking to see if they’re finished. When a knife runs through the stems without resistance, they’re ready to eat. Make sure they’re well drained before you serve.

Eating.

I misspoke earlier. Eating artichokes isn’t difficult, but it is different. Remove a couple outer layers of leaves before you serve the chokes — they’re generally too tough to be enjoyable. Then you remove a leaf at a time, dip it into a bowl of melted butter (I like it with a squeeze of lemon juice too) and scrape the bottom two-thirds of the leaf across your top teeth.

Yes. Really.

The scraping removes the meat from the leaf — that delicious, butter-soaked meat that’s been stewing in garlic, lemons, wine and parsley for 30 to 45 minutes. And that’s How You Eat An Artichoke (Part One).

Part Two? That happens when you get down to the really flimsy leaves in the middle of the artichoke. You can eat those, sure; you can also ditch them and dig down to the artichoke’s heart. To get there, remove any remaining leaves and then dig out the the thistle-y part that’s covering the heart. Once the heart is exposed, dig out a bite with a spoon — you could eat the whole thing, but I think it tastes better to leave some of the artichoke’s outer layer behind — dip it in the butter and go to town. The flavor is unlike anything else you’ll ever encounter. It is also amazing.

choke dinner

Artichokes were a special treat when I was growing up, and I think they’ll remain that way now that we’ve kind of broken the seal.

But there’s nothing that says we can treat ourselves a little more often than usual.

the beam.

This is awesome on all kinds of levels, but I was especially excited to see some tight shots of The Beam, the big thing with the piano strings that Mickey’s beating on. Those vibrations, when amplified through a concert PA system in an arena like, say, Richfield Coliseum, could rattle your sternum. If I were to ever assemble a bucket list, playing a Beam at high volume would be near the top.