pho down.


It’s winter. And we all need help finding some warmth, some color and some spice.

Me? I need some pho. Beef broth, simmered all day. A mound of rice noodles. Onions and scallions. Thin slices of beef that cook in the broth when that big bowl of deliciousness is carried out to your table. And sprouts, jalapenos, basil leaves, lime and chili paste on the side, so you can make that pho your own.

It’s so simple really, just beef noodle soup. Except that it isn’t simple at all — it’s a huge palette, ranging from a little sweet to wipe-the-sweat-off-your-forehead spicy, if that’s what you’re looking for. It’s deeply satisfying, especially this time of year

Thanks to a Facebook conversation sparked by Spoon and this video, we’re having a Pho Down* at 6:30 Wednesday night, at Vietnam’s Pho on Penn Avenue in the Strip. A couple things to keep in mind: I recall that Vietnam’s Pho is cash only and that BYOB is OK with them. If I’m wrong about either one, someone correct me, OK?

Think you might join us? If you haven’t already, let me know, so we can give them a heads up Wednesday afternoon.

Sure, late January can look pretty bleak. Meeting a group of friends and slurping down some pho is guaranteed to help.

*Yes, I know I have to pronounce “pho” incorrectly for this pun to work. Get your own blog, smartypants.



A lot can change in the course of a year.

That was something our instructor talked about a bit at the outset of Tuesday night’s yoga class.

What’s changed for me in 2014? Let’s start here: I was in a yoga class — in a beautiful, candlelit studio — on Dec. 30, about six months after my first tentative attempts at practicing at the Point in May. And that’s not something I ever would have predicted.

But. Yes. I’m still practicing. And it’s made a huge difference.

A remarkable set of unrelated things converged in May to set me on the path I’ve followed since then. On Pittsburgh Marathon day, there was a discussion about music and running and trance — and the suggestion from a friend that I was of the right frame of mind to give yoga a try. A couple weeks later, there was a job offer that came with one terrifying catch — I had to give up tobacco, completely and cold turkey, immediately.

And there was Venture Outdoors Festival, which, among other things, hosted free demo yoga classes at the Point all day long. The same friend who said she thought I would like yoga on marathon day offered to meet me for a 30-minute class or two.

I wasn’t immediately hooked. But I was interested.

While at the Venture Outdoors event, I grabbed a pamphlet from a South Side studio; it offered outdoors classes every Saturday and Sunday during the summer for five bucks a session. To me, that sounded like the perfect opportunity for me to figure out whether or not yoga could be a thing.

I wasn’t quite sure what to make of the first few classes, but it felt great taking in the stunning view of the city from Mount Washington or spreading out on the grass in the South Side Works. But after a couple weekends, I started coming away from the classes feeling … lighter. Steadier. Things that would normally bug me — especially without the nicotine drip I’d relied on for years to smooth out the rough spots — didn’t have the same kind of grip on my mind and my mood. I found myself feeling disappointed when one of the outdoor classes was rained out. And I found that I was showing up enough that the instructors knew me by name.

And they — Ashley and Paul — were both there once I walked through the door at the studio for my first classes there, along with a group of now-familiar faces — other instructors, the other students who show up regularly for our session first thing every Saturday morning and the couple that runs the studio. The space was immediately comfortable, pretty much what I had hoped a yoga studio would be. And the best part? Before I knew it, I was part of the community that revolves around that space.

Having that kind of support — in that kind of space — makes this process easier. And I need the help: Remembering to breathe. Stretching out my creaky old body as I look for new strength and new length. And — eventually — finding that spot where I’m balanced in crow pose and can hold it for more than a few seconds.

There are other, more important things than trying to avoid (literally) falling on my face. Learning to slow down. Being present. Expressing love and gratitude when I have the opportunity. And shedding at least a portion of the mountain of crap we all seem to collect as we move through our days. Kristi mentioned that last notion during Tuesday’s class and I’ve often felt that way, an addition by subtraction. I’m still figuring out the hows and whys, but it works. I feel it every time I leave the studio and head home.

I’m grateful for the last six months. That it was — and is — BYS Yoga. That it was — and is — Ashley and Paul, and Lynn and Jody and Kristi. That I had that first conversation with Jenny. And that Mrs. Crappy has been so supportive.

Yoga has already changed me, but there is so much more to explore. In 2015, I intend to keep looking.

just like the good old days.


Forgive me if I behave like a normal, rational human being for a moment, while discussing college football. I promise you — it’ll last just a minute or two.

That’s all the time I’ll need to explain why I’m excited that Michigan landed Jim Harbaugh.

(I know, I know. Stick with me for a second, OK?)

* The best thing about The Coaching Change Up North is that Harbaugh should bring that program back to its traditional place in college football — and that is nothing but positive for the Big Ten. The shine has come off our conference recently, and it’s for one simple fact: we don’t compete. This isn’t all the fault of the team up north — look no further than a horrible loss at home to Virginia Tech as an example, ahem — but having one of the conference’s marquee teams struggle to earn bowl eligibility goes a long way towards hurting the perception of the B1G. Ohio State must be consistently good for the Big Ten to be respected, and the conference’s other big name programs — Penn State, Nebraska, Wisconsin and, especially, Michigan — must match that consistency as well.

* If you believe what Harbaugh said in his news conference today, it’s good to hear that Michigan is getting a guy who believes in — who understands — what’s different about college football. We’re not watching the same level of football as we do on Sundays. But we care more, and that passion is what makes Saturday football better. NFL reporters and execs won’t understand why Harbaugh left. I do.

* Finally — here’s a Michigan coach I can really hate again.

don’t miss out.


Thanks, Michelle.

I need your help.

Mrs. Crappy has a rule pertaining to the Polar Bear Plunge coming up on New Year’s Day. She doesn’t mind that I’m dumb enough to jump in the freezing cold Monongahela River, but she maintains — correctly, I will grudgingly admit — that I’m not allowed in the water unless there are enough friends along to pull me out.

At the moment, I know Jenda is going to show up at the Mon Wharf on Thursday morning. And with all due respect to Jenda, that’s not enough.

Have you always watched the spots about the plunge on the news New Year’s Day and kind of wondered what it would be like? It’s kind of like this:

And let me tell you, boys and girls — the bragging rights are unparalleled. And this could be the year you finally do it.

Specifics? I have specifics. We swim sometime between 9:15 and 9:30 a.m., but you’ll need to be down on the Mon Wharf by 8:30, or you may not make it down there at all. When you get down to the wharf, head towards the Point and look for the red Honda Element flying at least one Ohio State flag; the river bottom and shore is easier to navigate, which means you’re out of the water faster.

Oh, and we usually go get breakfast and beer after.

I have plenty more advice, none of which Jenda needs. But if some newcomers — like, say, you — let me know in the comments that you’re plunging, I’ll be sure to share.

lights. camera. action.

Continuing my long-standing practice of never ever responding to Facebook memes on Facebook, please find below my list of 15 movies that will always stay with me. Thanks to Julanne for the tag. If you’d like to leave your list, feel free to do so in the comments.

Note: With the exception of the first and last entries, these are listed in no particular order.

Airplane! I typically refer to Airplane! as my favorite film ever. I can’t begin to explain why this humor works for me — but it reduces me to red-faced, teary-eyed, shaking uncontrollably laughter every single time. The same goes for the Naked Gun films and the Police Squad! TV series.

The Sting. The soundtrack sucked me in as a kid, but it’s everything else that makes this one of the best movies ever made.

The Godfather. When I come across The Godfather on TV, I stop what I’m doing and watch. The same goes for The Godfather: Part II.

Star Wars.This isn’t the best of the Star Wars franchise, but as the first, it opened my eyes to the possibilities that lied ahead.

48 Hours. I was so taken with this that Juan and I paid to watch this in the theater twice in the same afternoon when it was released. It’s also the reason I was fond of singing a falsetto “Roxanne” at the top of my lungs from the chairlift on ski club nights in high school.

The Last Waltz. There is no better concert film, period. As a bonus, this provides a nice glimpse at why Bill Graham was the best-ever concert promoter.

American Pop. An animated film by Ralph Bakshi that tells the story of American music through the eyes of an immigrant family. It’s not a happy story, but the energy is undeniable.

The Blues Brothers. This post from two years ago will tell you everything you need to know about why this movie is on my list.

Rear Window. Saw a restored copy of this in the Ohio Theater in Columbus when I was in high school. If Airplane! wasn’t at the top of my list, this probably would be.

Casablanca. Another high school date, another Ohio Theater screening. Perfect.

Hannah and Her Sisters. I am a huge Woody Allen fan. And I’m having some trouble reconciling my love of his films with what is alleged to have happened in his personal life. Mrs. Crappy and I recently watched Hannah and Her Sisters — my personal favorite Woody Allen movie — and couldn’t shake the creepies.

Lost in Translation. A familiar notion: being disconnected in a world where connection is so easy. And the mandatory serious Bill Murray movie on my list.

Groundhog Day. Contemplative and razor-sharp funny. The mandatory funny Bill Murray movie on my list (this could have been Stripes, Ghostbusters or Caddyshack as well, but Groundhog Day wins by a nose because it’s Groundhog Day, for crying out loud).

The World According to Garp. A brilliant adaptation of a brilliant book by my favorite contemporary author. Also, Robin Williams.

Cannery Row. A brilliant adaptation of a brilliant book — actually a couple books, Sweet Thursday and Cannery Row — by my favorite not-quite-as-contemporary author.

Rocky Horror Picture Show. My default Saturday night entertainment option in high school: Get to Graceland Shopping Center by 11:30, buy a bag of rice at Big Bear, and have my butt in a seat at Graceland Twin Cinema in time for the weekly midnight showing. And I did that somewhere in the neighborhood of 80 Saturday nights. Castles don’t have telephones, asshole.