loot.

So let’s hear it: What’s the best gift you gave, and what’s the best one you got? Uncle Crappy will weigh in later in the week, because he’s got a couple more Christmases to go.

my tail has been gated.

I haven’t been doing such a hot job at regular posting lately. I’m choosing to blame football, which kind of sucks a big chunk of time and energy from The Wife and me every week: Sunday is tailgate recovery, and for me, work. Monday is kind of an autopilot day, mostly because we’re still both recovering from the weekend. By the middle of the week, I’m trying to get caught up with my big Sunday story, and we’re starting to talk about when we head to Columbus for that weekend’s game and what we’re doing for the pre-game festivities. Thursday is a mad scramble — I’m finishing the Sunday story and everything else that’s piled up on my desk before I’m done for the week; I also try to pack for the weekend and get some of my housewifely duties done before we drive on Friday.

Saturday: Up early to make coffee for The Wife. Loading the truck (If I could find employment as a tailgate party truck packer, I’d be fucking golden, folks). Setting up outside the College of Pharmacy, mixing the morning’s first bloody marys… It makes for a looooonnng day.

Understand: I’m not complaining, at least not much. There have been plenty of highlights in the first three weeks of the season, especially during the 11-hour Texas party:

  • The county cop who motioned to Fred and Uncle Crappy as we headed over to St. John’s around 10:30 a.m. to watch a bit of College Gameday: “Guys. Please. Just take it easy today. The game isn’t until 8 tonight…”
  • The state liquor cops who showed up in our lot for the first time since Ohio State started its tailgate drinking crackdown two years ago. We gave them food and water and chatted for a while, and the only potential problem was MY FATHER, THE MAN WHO IS SUPPOSED TO TEACH ME ABOUT RESPECT FOR AUTHORITY, WHO KEPT MUTTERING GIVING THEM DONUTS…
  • Miraculously producing enough food to feed like 25 people, after brother-in-law-of-Uncle Crappy showed up with a horde of drunken, hungry friends…

For Iowa this weekend, I know we’re having shrimp cocktail and mimosas, because that’s what mother-of-Uncle Crappy wanted to have. I’m a little sketchy on the other menu items, but I’m sure it will all become clear in the next couple days.

And after that, there is a two-week break. Next weekend, The Wife and I will do something to celebrate our sixth wedding anniversary, which is actually this Sunday. We’re not sure what that’s going to consist of, except it won’t consist of driving to Columbus. And the following weekend will be busy, but it will be busy in Pittsburgh: A special thing I’ve arranged for The Wife on Friday — more about that later — and a trip to Sharp Edge on Saturday night to watch Ohio State play Penn State with a bar full of Pennsylvanians — not too many knuckleheads, but right in the middle of the enemy’s den nonetheless.

I’ve been lovin’ the tailgate parties so far. And I’m going to be lovin’ the break just as much.

good golly.


Meet Miss Mollie, the real reason for our trip to Florida. The previous post made it sound like the trip was going to a mini-Spring Break, and that really wasn’t the case. Oh, there were beaches and fruity cocktails and seafood dinners. But there was also time with my sister and brother in law, our nephews, and Miss Mollie, our niece who is somewhere in the neighborhood of 12 weeks old. She is easily the nicest baby I’ve ever met. She’s very chatty already. She smiles a lot, including right when she wakes up (which makes me wonder if she could actually be my sister’s daughter…), she doesn’t complain too much, and she even sleeps all the way through the night — miraculous, considering the track record of her two brothers before her.

The boys, by the way, are both as nuts as you’d expect a 4-year-old and almost-6-year-old would be. We went swimming with them every afternoon — which means we did a little swimming, a little throwing the boys into the air and letting them land in pool, a little hunting for the lizards that scamper around the backyard. The Wife, an only child who had no close male cousins while she grew up, was a little concerned about their behavior towards each other, but her concern is based on a lack of experience. They’re normal boys, which means, as I said before, they’re nuts.

Some of this has to do with the cooler weather in Pittsburgh when we arrived home on Sunday, but I’m feeling a little like the trip to Florida was the last bang of the summer. Roadtrips to Columbus, football and everything else fall has to offer is right around the corner. And I think I’m ready.

gulf coast.

The next time you hear from Uncle Crappy, he’ll be writing from a beach somewhere in Florida. It’s a only a short break, boys and girls, but it’s extremely necessary. Rum drinks for everyone…

something fishy.

This weekend is going to be interesting. My mother-in-law and her husband arrive in Pittsburgh Thursday for a visit. They haven’t been up from their home in Texas for a while, but this trip isn’t just social — there really isn’t much social to it at all, in fact.

They’re coming to watch a fishing tournament.

Let me be more specific: They’re coming to watch THE fishing tournament. The 2005 Citgo Bassmaster Classic, the Super Bowl of bass fishing, as we’ve been told. $200,000 for the guy who catches the biggest fish over three days.

Look. I’m one of those guys who either laughs or bitches when the fishing shows are taking up time on ESPN that could be devoted to college football. But this apparently is a huge freaking deal — a multi-million boon to Pittsburgh’s economy, something that’s going to bring thousands of fishing aficionados to somehow watch the tournament. It’s going to be on ESPN2 nearly non-stop this weekend. And The Wife’s mom — and her husband, both of whom fish in tournaments at home — are coming up for the fun.

I’m actually looking forward to this. I mean, I’m looking forward to seeing my MIL and her husband, but I’m also looking forward to the fishing stuff. All kinds of events are scheduled, and we’re going to hit up a bunch of them. There’s a huge outdoor gear show in the convention center. And the daily weigh-ins, held each afternoon of the three-day tournament, typically fill arenas with screaming fishing fans.

Yes. I did just write that. And yes, I really am looking forward to the whole deal.

I haven’t done any actual fishing for years. Dr. History and I used to try when I spent summers with his family in northern Wisconsin. Over several summers, I caught a total of probably a dozen fish, most of them not worth keeping. Or even mentioning, for that matter. But I mention them proudly, mostly because I wouldn’t want it to seem like we were incompetent. Even though we were. We set out one day in two separate boats, intent on holding our own two-man tournament. We switched locations, we worked the structure, we changed up lures so we were fishing with the appropriate stuff at the appropriate times and places.

And neither of us caught a goddamn thing. Very nice. We were ridiculed for the rest of the summer.

I came close, a couple of times, to what would have counted as impressive catch. Once, Dr. History’s sister had hooked a sunfish off of their pier, and the little guy swallowed the hook. While she ran up to the garage to get a pair of pliers, I knelt on the dock, swishing the fish back and forth in the water. Just before she got back to the dock, I saw a long, striped fish swoop from under the pier and swallow the sunfish whole. That was a good-sized muskie, the big fishing prize in that part of the country. Lots of big pointy teeth on those fuckers, and those teeth were about 10 inches from my hand, which was left holding nothing but the nylon line.

My other encounter with a muskie was a little closer to an actual fishing triumph. Dr. History and I got up early and headed to a little bay in Lake Tomahawk to find us some bass. We didn’t find any bass — I never found any bass up there, despite claims by otherwise reliable people who insisted they were present. So just before we were set to bag the fishing in favor of the water skiing and, later, the drinking, I started casting into the opening of the bay, and almost immediately hooked a muskie that was clearly long enough — 32 inches was the standard, I think — to be a keeper. I wasn’t using a leader — a length of wire connecting the lure to the line — because we had been fishing for fish without substantial teeth, and I was concerned that the muskie, which, as I stated earlier, definitely has teeth, would bite through my line, so I decided to try to get it in the boat as quickly as I could.

And it worked. I reeled the fish up next to the boat while the doctor scrambled to get the net. The cotton-cord net, probably as old as we were at the time. The net, which as the doctor scooped up my greatest fishing triumph, that broke, dropping my trophy, which had just chomped through my line, back into the water.

The pros won’t have that problem this weekend, largely because A) I imagine they have better equipment than we did back then, and B) I’m certain they know what they’re doing. But I would get a kick out of seeing at least one of the pros step up during the weigh-in, smile and shrug his shoulders: “Fish? Hell, there aren’t any fish in those rivers…”