a weekend.

A perfectly relaxing Saturday morning. Handmade Arcade. Keller Williams. A road trip to Columbus for the MLS Cup final.

Whew.

I didn’t take pictures of the first part of Saturday, but I don’t want to give it short shrift: Yoga class at 8 a.m., followed by my first ever acupuncture treatment; that combination, boys and girls, is pretty much unbeatable. We took a productive spin through Handmade Arcade, got in a nap … and then …

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So we started with the photographic portion of the weekend as we each enjoyed a glass of Master of the Galaxy, the delicious imperial IPA by Grist House in Millvale. At least two of the last shows I’ve seen at Mr. Smalls — basically just around the corner from Grist House — have been on Sundays, so there haven’t been the same kind of pregaming opportunities we enjoyed on Saturday. And we did enjoy: a couple beers apiece, delicious dinner from the Burgh Bites truck, and a fun time talking with some folks who had driven to Pittsburgh from Cleveland to see Keller. If you haven’t been to Grist House, guys, you need to go — especially when you can then take the short walk to see your show at Mr. Smalls.

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Keller LOVES Mr. Smalls — when I interviewed him for BCT a few years ago, he said that’s why he picked it to film his concert DVD. On Saturday, he opened for himself, playing a short solo set — as solo as Keller and his infinite loops ever are, anyway — before he hit the stage with the KW Trio. As he always does, he starts playing before he actually comes up on stage ; that always catches people by surprise a bit, so Mrs. Crappy and scored floor space right up by the stage for the solo set.

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I mentioned trio, right? I hadn’t seen drummer Rodney Holmes before, but he has serious chops, playing jazz sessions with a host of different guys and winning Grammys playing with Carlos Santana. The bassist? That’s Rob Wasserman, Bob Weir partner in crime and original member of Ratdog. Seeing KW play with a band is always a cool, different experience, and that was definitely the case on Saturday.

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Because we weren’t tired enough on Saturday, we thought driving to Columbus for the MLS Cup final sounded like a great idea. Spoiler alert: In spite of the game’s outcome — and the atrocious officiating — it was.

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We met Fred and Ethel outside Mapfre Stadium, did a bit of tailgating — thanks to them, because they brought all the supplies on Sunday — and headed inside. Ethel told me what section they were sitting in when I asked about getting tickets from the match, so we scored tickets in the same section. And there might have been a little beer.

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Awesome atmosphere. Loved the Nordecke tifo. The place was nuts … for about the first minute of the match. The rest of the night was awesome too, but the match itself didn’t turn out the way we wanted.

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Still, I’d say it was a perfect weekend. Sure looks that way, huh?

28. a different experience.

Fred made a solo trip to Ann Arbor today. Here are two of his photos from the day.

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I know what this pic, taken well before the start of the game, feels like. It’s fun, but you’re also apprehensive about the approaching afternoon. And even though you can see plenty of Buckeyes nearby, it can seem very, very lonely.

But 42 points later, I’d think things feel a little different.

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I know a little bit about what it feels like to sing Carmen Ohio on the road; I’ve done it at Michigan State and at the end of two white-out nights at Penn State. But on his first trip to a game in Ann Arbor, Fred got something that I didn’t get in two trips during the 90s: a win.

Hey, Fred. We’re going to Ann Arbor in 2017. I need to take care of that thing.

25. and we’re back.

big hole

This hasn’t been an especially intimidating place recently. Nor has the team that plays there.

That’s been bad for the Big Ten. It’s been bad for Ohio State. And it’s been bad for the greatest rivalry in sports.

And my sense is that those lean days are over.

I thought the arrival of an actual head coach — as opposed to a career coordinator — would mean an immediate improvement for Michigan. But this season’s turnaround has exceeded what I expected, and there’s a different feeling about this year’s game.

For most of the last 15 years, I went into this weekend expecting Ohio State to win. The game might be tight, but the advantages in coaching and talent almost always won out in the end.

Those advantages aren’t completely erased, but they’re closer this season than they have been in years.

Don’t get me wrong — I’ve enjoyed the hell out of Ohio State’s 12-3 run since 2000. It’s been crazy fun. But we’re returning to the real fun of this game — the intensity, the uncertainty, the fact that it matters.

It’s all back. And I’m ready.

23. i’m talking to you.

If you and I have:

  • Had a beer
  • Watched a game
  • Attended a tailgate party
  • Cooked for each other
  • Gone to a yoga class
  • Gone out for dinner
  • Raved about music
  • Played Cards Against Humanity
  • Compared tattoos
  • Met for lunch
  • Spent the weekend at each other’s homes
  • Seen a concert
  • Caught up at a reunion
  • Talked on Twitter, by text or even on Facebook or Snapchat
  • Taken a walk in the rain or snow
  • Discussed beer, mead or cider
  • Laughed so hard we cried
  • Sipped a glass of whiskey (or whisky)
  • Hung around a backyard campfire
  • Traded blog comments
  • Cheered each other’s successes and lamented our failures
  • Been there for each other, even in seemingly insignificant ways

…in the last year, I so am thankful to have you in my life.

Happy Thanksgiving, yinz guys.