9. the best gift ever.


Visitors make life unpleasant for Miles, who is completely relaxed with us but pretty high-strung around nearly anyone else.

He knows my parents, which helps. Some. But it took him much of the evening to decide it was OK to come up out of the basement, and even then he wouldn’t join me on the couch until my mom went to bed upstairs.

He joined us in bed for a moment but didn’t stay; house guests interrupt his daily explorations of his territory, and he had some catching up to do.

Which is why I was a little surprised when I heard him and a slightly muffled meow coming back upstairs and into our room.

And he had come with a gift.

Although he has the run of the house, there are very few things in this place that are truly his: the food and water dishes, the upstairs and downstairs cat accommodations and a few of his favorite toys. He seems pleased with his stuff, too. These are the things that are most important in his life.

So when he shares them with us — as he did just a few minutes ago when he brought his catnip banana from the kitchen upstairs to our bedroom — I am touched. I don’t know what the specific message was, because he didn’t seem interested in playing. Maybe it’s a way of reassuring himself that things are OK, even with visitors snoring away in our guest bedroom.

But for whatever reason, it was important enough to our cat at that moment that he hauled his favorite toy — the most important object in his life besides those that have to do with food or pooping — through two rooms, up a flight of stairs, across a hallway and into another room so he could share it with his people.

Cats can’t communicate? Wrong. Miles does, loud and clear.

belgium. via florida.

I knew I had read something, perhaps in the spring, about the possibility.

But until I heard a piece on NPR’s Morning Edition on the morning of Dec. 12 that I remembered — Westvleteren 12 was on sale. In my country.

A brief bit of background: Westvleteren is brewed by an order of Trappist monks in Belgium, and, to put it mildly, their beer is highly regarded; their quad, Westvleteren 12, generally shows up near the top — if not in the top spot — of best-beer-on-the-planet lists. Part of the hype has to do with very limited supply and the resulting mystique.It’s available only at the monastery, and not always there; if you’re nearby, you contact the monks, and if you’re lucky they’ll give you a date and time to show up and buy your share.

The monks make only enough beer to fund a fairly simple existence. But that’s what was behind the exports of 2012 — the monastery needed repairs, and the monks figured selling special packages of the 12 in Europe and North America would be a good way to raise the money.

I heard the NPR piece while I was on the way to work that morning. After taking care of some work stuff, I fired up Google and found a list of the locations that would have some of were being called the “bricks” — boxed gift-packs, with six bottles of Westie 12 and two logo goblets.

Pennsylvania? To the surprise of no one, nope. Ohio? Of course, Vintage Estate in Boardman had the beer, but it was holding a lottery the following Sunday to unload its allotment, and I would be at work. We were going to be in Cleveland on that Saturday, but I was certain the two stores there would be sold  out by then.

And then my eyes drifted to the Florida portion of the list. There, I saw that Total Wine and More stores in every Florida town of a decent size were carrying the beer. Including the one in Naples, a store we know well from our visits to my sister and her family.

Ooo. This has promise.

I called the Naples store, and a bored-sounding clerk said they had plenty.

I then left messages for E, on her home phone and her cell. I must have sounded desperate, because she called me back shortly. After some initial chatting, I popped these questions:

“So, you think you could go buy me an $85 six pack? And then ship it to me? And could you go do it now?”

My sister, a mother of three, is a woman of infinite patience, because she immediately got in her car, drove to Total Wine and dropped a ridiculous amount of money to satisfy a whim of her brother. I PayPal’ed money to cover the cost of the beer and the shipping … and about a week after my sheepish phone call, there was the box, on my desk at work.

The package arrived safely. I got it home safely as well. I put two bottles in the beer fridge and stowed the other four in our cellar. We would drink two for Christmas this year and crack one for each of the following Decembers, until they were gone.


How was it?

Very, very good. A silky texture. Ripe, dark fruit, mixing with caramel. A little bready, a little funk. Not too hot, especially for a beer with a hefty ABV. And not overly sweet, as I had been led to expect.

A world-class beer, worth the money I paid to get it? Absolutely.

The best beer I’ve ever had? No.

Or, at least, not yet. Ask me again in four years.

soul man.


I don’t think I saw the Blues Brothers movie in the theater when it was released in 1980, but I know I watched the hell out of it when it showed  up on cable.

I am not exaggerating here. I was fascinated by the band, having seen its SNL appearances through the 1970s, and I loved the music, especially as an alternative to the disco that passed as the popular music of the day.

And when the movie showed up on HBO? I watched. Daily.

Seriously. In the first week it was released on cable, it fell into a rotation where it was on in the late afternoon nearly every day for two weeks. And I fell into a rotation of my own, turning it on when I got home from school and watching right up until it was time for dinner.

My father didn’t seem irritated to see me watching the Blues Brothers every night for a week, although I may recall an eyeroll or two. But I remember this distinctly: somewhere around the second week of my Blues Brothers binge, Dad told me to turn off the TV and follow him into the living room.

He sat me down on the couch while he knelt in front of the cabinet that held the stereo components and all of his records. He flipped through one stack and pulled out a red double LP. He put one of the vinyl discs on the turntable and gently dropped the needle at the start of the record.

He turned up the volume, set the album cover in my lap and said: “If you’re going to listen to this stuff, you should know where it comes from.”

And at impressive volume, I heard a by-then-familiar horn line. And I heard Otis Redding singing “I Can’t Turn You Lose,” the song that Belushi and Akroyd adpoted as their theme music.

I looked at the liner notes inside the album. And that’s when I found out that Donald “Duck” Dunn and Steve Cropper were real musicians with an unreal history. My father’s impromptu lesson was about Otis Redding and the band (Booker T and the MGs) that propelled him in the studio and on stage; that lesson also led me to Delaney and Bonnie, Wilson Pickett, Albert King and Sam and Dave, a lot to digest for a very white kid in a very white suburb.

My high-school friends will tell you that discovery — and the subsequent obsession — never really subsided; they got to hear plenty of Stax soul as we rode around Columbus in Turbo Pinto.

When Dunn died on Sunday, he was doing what he had always done. He was touring in Japan, playing the bass lines that held together the best soul records ever recorded. And whether you’re talking about his work in Memphis or as part of the Blues Brothers’ revival of the form, Dunn’s stamp is unmistakable.

And it will never be duplicated.

all better. probably.

After several days of angst, I finally got to go outside and run this morning.

And I didn’t die. Neither did my right foot.

I took my bum wheel out for what was intended to be a short (check) and easy (actually a little quicker than I had planned) run, in order to test the foot that had been bothering me since my last run on Wednesday.

The result? No big deal. And that, my friends, is a relief.

Yesterday’s post netted me some decent advice, especially from Facebook; I will get a foam roller for my feet, I’m going to think about my stride and how my foot strikes the ground — but probably not until after I’m done with this spring’s races — and I’m going to do my absolute best not to watch the calendar. To the degree that’s possible.

Yesterday’s post also got me a call from my brother-in-law — you know, THE PODIATRIST. I actually did think about calling Chris on Friday, when my foot was still swollen, but I decided to wait until I had a better idea of whether this was an actual injury or just grumpy muscles. Chris didn’t think it was a huge deal, given that the foot felt better over the weekend; he also advised me to continue icing it after runs and to generally take it easy for a while.

I hate peas. Except for this.

And I listen to what my brother-in-law tells me. Especially if he’s talking about golf or my feet.

So, kids — I think I’m back. I’ll go out again for a little bit on Wednesday morning and if that feels OK, I may be up for meeting the North Parkers Saturday morning.

And in the meantime, that’s two straight posts about running. It’s time I write about beer. Or barbeque. Or maybe both.

See you tomorrow.

a month.

Sure, I’ve posted a couple times since I completely punted National Blog Posting Month, but there’s been a bunch of stuff I missed in the meantime. So: A) Bullet post. B) Completely ignoring the fact that I punted National Blog Posting Month, especially now that we’re seven days into December C) QUIT ROLLING YOUR EYES AT ME.

  • There were several football games, the loss of one I acknowledged with the video of my, ahem, old friend Brutus. The final home game, though, was the really odd one — Penn State with no Paterno was easily the weirdest game of the weirdest season I’ve ever experienced.
  • And then Ohio State hired a new coach. I’m happy that Urban is already making Michigan fans twitchy, but I’m not totally sold yet.
  • We had a lovely Thanksgiving, thank you. Dinner was with Mrs. Crappy’s family in Washington; we then traveled to Columbus to prepare for the Beat Michigan weekend, the results of which you already know. But my favorite part might have been my Thanksgiving night snack of White Castles and Mad Elf at my parents’ kitchen table.
  • And if that wasn’t the best part, it would have been listening to my niece on the phone that evening telling me that her hair had been crumpled.
  • I hadn’t made the family spaghetti in years; in the last month, I’ve made it twice, once for the annual Beat Michigan dinner in Columbus and once for friends just a couple days ago. The good news: I still remember how.
  • Football travel is over. I love going to Columbus for games but the endless driving back and forth gets really old by the end of the season.
  • I saw Yonder Mountain String Band at the beginning of November because I was twitchy for a show; we saw the String Cheese Incident last night because that’s what Mrs. Crappy wanted to do for her birthday. Good stuff, too, although SCI can be a little too noodle-y, even for me.
  • I got to miracle Boo and Butter for last night’s show, thanks to Pam, who won tickets through WYEP but couldn’t go. Teresa gets bonus points for the assist.
  • Remember the nice English lady who helped me through Couch to 5K? We broke up. It wasn’t her; it was me. I finished C25K last weekend, just in time to be ready for my first 5K on Saturday morning. I’ll tell you more about that later today.
  • I totally changed our outdoor Christmas lights, and they’re still not quite right.
  • I’m still not really feeling Christmas yet. But that’ll come.
  • And I apparently need to add a picture to the banner; if I don’t you can’t really see the snow that WordPress gives us every December.

So. How’ve you guys been?