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.



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.


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.


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.

above and beyond.

First, let’s make sure you’ve all seen this comment, left by Tenth Annual Uncle Crappy NCAA Final Four Challenge (Brought to you by Bocktown) winner Kewyson on the previous post:

Now, on to my wish (I thought I’d get three) – I propose, assuming UC is okay with this, that he organizes a social gathering at Bocktown – all participants are welcome – and I will donate my hard earned winnings to whatever $50 buys. All I ask is that I be remembered and idolized at the event (and since I’ve not personally met most of you – you can pick any idol and pretend).

How does that sound UC?

In short, Kewyson, it sounds awesome, and I really appreciate your generosity. Here’s what we’ll do: when the weather gets warm enough for our friends at Bocktown Robinson to open their back porch, we’ll do a Friday night happy hour, and we’ll use our $50 prize to buy drafts for any TAUCNFFC contestants who can show up. There will be plenty of notice, so we can get as many people as possible out to Bocktown on the chosen evening.

And as far as idolizing Kewyson goes, it’s not a bad idea; he is, in fact, the only person I know who actually speaks writes in tongues.




The Dook Blue Devils won last night’s title game, and that makes long-time participant Kewyson our Tenth Annual Uncle Crappy NCAA Final Four Challenge (Brought to you by Bocktown) champion.

According to the AUCNFFC Wall of Champions — which badly needs to be updated — Kewyson has just become just the second contestant ever to repeat as our AUCNFFC champion. He joins Mr. Burns for that illustrious honor, a feat that should be commemorated with a t-shirt or something.

But first, there is a question. For the first time since the AUCNFFC prizes became actually fabulous, we have an out-of-market winner. So, Kewyson, how shall we proceed? Planning a visit to Pittsburgh anytime soon and in need of a $50 Bocktown gift card? Or would you like the cash equivalent, which will be roughly $50?

While Kewyson mulls his options, let me thank you once more for participating. It’s been awesome to be able to do this for ten years, and even as I slide back into my lazy posting habits, know that I plan on being back here next March for the Eleventh Annual Uncle Crappy NCAA Final Four Challenge (Brought to you by Bocktown). I hope I see you then.

music for months.

Getting our Crappy selves to Chicago for the Dead/Trey shows isn’t happening, but we’re looking at a pretty good musical run in the coming weeks nonetheless. And that’s a good thing — I know I can really use the break.

What’s coming? I’m so glad you asked:

Sunday: moe., at Mr. Small’s. They’re pretty much an annual Pittsburgh thing for us. A 15-minute “Plane Crash” would be awesome.

The week after that: The Traveling McCourys and Bill Nershi of String Cheese Incident, at the Rex Theater. A badly needed bluegrass fix for me.

The week after that: The Decemberists, at the Benedum Center. I wouldn’t be terribly disappointed if they don’t play “Row Jimmy” for Mrs. Crappy’s birthday show — but I’d be awfully happy if they did.

A few weeks after that: Skinny Moo, at the Greenville Inn in Chagrin Falls, Ohio. One word: Legendary.

After that? No specific plans, but you can bet there will be at least a few Three Rivers Arts Festival shows. The Umphrey’s McGee/Widespread Panic show at Stage AE looks interesting. And there was something about the Rolling Stones playing Sticky Fingers in its entirety? Hmmm.