A black SUV with Florida plates …..

The weekend started early last week with our trip to CB’s Steamroller Printing event in Memphis.  We arrived in Memphis around 9:30 and walked from the SWA gate to the National Car Rental Terminal which honestly seems like a two miles.  You may remember that on our last trip National Car Rental had absolutely no cars on the lot at the airport, they actually had cars at the airport this time, so TWWNCBUIP, Linc, Lola and I checked into a black SUV of some sort. Color is relevant here.

The set up for the Steamroller Printing was finished by the time we arrived so we had a quick drink and and went to our boutique hotel on Mud Island, which you may remember from the Tom Cruise movie – The Firm (River Inn of Harbor Town for anyone interested in a room with a view of the Mississippi River in Memphis) to rest from our exhaustion brought on by sitting in an airplane for an hour and testing Rusty Nails at the Cove.

I had intended to get an early start Friday but not at 7 am when the alarm sounded through the hotel.  I made it down the hall to the elevator in my fuzzy hotel robe for what I presumed was a fire alarm. I was stopped by housekeeping at the elevator doors and they explained that the elevator was being repaired and the techs kept setting off the alarm. I might add the that for the rest of our stay TWWNCBUIP would not use the “unreliable” elevator.

It was a great getaway. We were joined by friend from Houston and explored the city’s restaurants, “supervised” the printing process on Broad Avenue, hung out with Frank the Dog at Mr. Mrs. CB’s house/studio/workshop/warehouse, stood in line for 45 minutes to have dinner at Gus’ Fried Chicken, walked Linc and Lola along the Mississippi.

As trips go it was up among my favorites right up until Monday at noon.

Since we were out late Sunday night celebrating the success of their event we had gotten a late check for Monday. We started packing up around 11 and by around noon I starting taking stuff to the car. We were gonna have one last meal with the kids before heading to the airport.

I took 2 of the bags down to the car, unlocked the car with the remote and put the 2 suitcases in the back locked it up and went back the room to collect the rest of our bags, souvenirs, and puppies (I wasn’t forgetting TWWNCBUIP, she just wasn’t ready yet.

Back downstairs I opened the trunk of the SUV to finish packing our stuff and the dogs into the car.

As the door opened, I realized that there were no bags in the car. I also noticed that the dogs sleeping mats were however in the car. Just remember that I am operating at TCON and it took me a minute to get my head around the situation. Slowly I gathered that I had probably put my bags in the wrong car, so I looked around for another black SUV with Florida plates that I could have mistaken for my own.

I soon realized that there were no other SUV’s parked in front of the hotel. After checking with hotel and letting them know my predicament, I found out that no one had checked out of the hotel after 11am except me.

I let them know that I was driving a rented black SUV, and the manager said he would check their security cameras and get back with me while we went for lunch. I checked the restaurants next door to see if they had had anyone leave in the last few minutes. Struck out again.

I have neglected to say that in addition to my stylish vacation wear, our suitcases also contained our 2 laptops, my 35mm DSLR, a electronic camera stabilizer (no it’s not a selfie stick) AND my ONLY calendar for all our upcoming band bookings.

In route to meet Mr. & Mrs. CB for lunch we thought that the since the black SUV that I had put the bags in also had Florida plates that it was also probably a rental and would soon be turned in at the airport. So while I called lost and found for all the rentals agencies, TWWNCBUIP thought that since our computers are Macs that we could use the find my Mac app and get a location for our bags.

No luck on either idea (in case you ever need to track a Mac you should know that it can’t be found until someone opens the computer).

After lunch we checked back at the hotel. Frederick invited me back to the footage recorded earlier in the day. As I sat down in front of the screen, Frederick turns and says to me, “Rusty, here is the video of you walking across the parking lot and putting your bags in the back of a WHITE SUV. Them video then shows a couple leave the restaurant next door, get into their WHITE SUV and drive away. Well, thought I, I’ll just bet that the plates weren’t from Florida either.

The look on the faces of TWWNCBUIP and Mr. & Mrs. CB when I told them this updated info was …. what do you call it? Priceless.

As we rode our company jet (SWA) back home I was contemplating the cost and time of replacing our computers. I couldn’t even begin to think how to get the my band schedules back in order.

Wasn’t the best finish to great weekend.

Then, just as the plane was touching down in Houston my phone rang.

“Hello, is this Rusty?”

“Yes…….”

“This is Sheila and I believe I have your luggage. My husband found it in the back of our car when he arrived home tonight.”

The passengers around me, I am sure thought I had just won the lottery. We made arrangements for CB to retrieve it, I thanked her profusely and was about to disconnect the call when Sheila said,

“Rusty, before we go, can you tell me how your luggage got to be in my car?

I didn’t really know where to begin ……

“You know how to install a battery?”

I like to start Sunday mornings with a nutritious breakfast (or someone does), a nice bowl of blueberries, fresh pineapple and Greek yogurt, so you can imagine my dismay (joy) when I discovered that there were no blueberries, no pineapple and almost no yogurt (apparently bacon and eggs were not an option).

Oh well. It was time to put Plan B into action.

A movie. And a maybe not quite so nutritious breakfast of a Regal Crown Club Kosher Hot dog and a tub of popcorn. Called the M-I-L to let her know that it was movie day but got turned down, said she was washing her hair or her dog or something like that.  So no movie.

Was there a Plan C you ask?  Why yes, there is always a Plan C.

Today’s Plan C: TWWNCBUIP says it’s the perfect day for a picnic in the park. We will take the “fun” car says she, “the puppies love the wind in their faces.”

The fun car is also known as the “Sunday” car for insurance purposes and doesn’t get out much so I thought I would make sure it had enough gas for the trip.

Well, plenty of gas, but no battery. Dead as a doornail, which, in case you don’t know, means “quite dead.”

No worries, I am a great planner and am always prepared for emergencies, so I got my super charger for car batteries out and connected to my quite dead battery.  Nothing happened. The super charger was also quite dead.

Oh yeah, I remember now, we had used all of the super charger battery juice all up when the lights went out during Harvey.

Luckily there is an auto supply near the house.  I was able purchase a new fully charged battery and install it before TWWNCBUIP was even aware that Plan C was in jeopardy.

Got the car started and rounded up the dogs for their trip to the park. As we were backing out of the driveway I mentioned to TWWNCBUIP that I had replaced the battery this morning while she was getting ready. The look I got could easily be described as incredulous.

“You know how to install a battery?”

I’m not sure I want to a ride in a car that you have repaired.”

I was able to reassure her that I have some skills and after all, how hard can it be to put in a battery?

Off we went to picnic in the park, Linc, Lola, TWWNCNBUIP and Mr. Goodwrench.

The Japanese Garden was just closing when we got there but we got to watch the sun set over the lake and the puppies never took their eyes off the ducks. Don’t know what they had in mind, but we have a feeling they might loose a battle with the birds.

And the moral is …. lost on me.

But I had a great day, got a new battery, and remembered to pick up some bananas and strawberries for breakfast tomorrow morning.

For whom the bell …..

My summer reading list is always full of action adventure stories (hurry up Lee Child with my next Jack Reacher) and English mysteries.

Sometimes life imitates art.

The forty nine year old “Case of the Missing Bell” was partially solved this week when a mysterious package was left at our doorstep.

Inside the package was the bell. With a note.
A note from “Mr. Z.”

One can only imagine the tales of the many places this bell has been over the years.
The purloined bell shared a lifetime, on a ship to announce its arrival, on a bar to signify closing time … who knows for whom the bell tolled (sorry couldn’t resist).

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Continue reading

Can I be social?

IMG_4145.JPGWe just returned from our annual trip to the Social Media Conference in San Diego (two trips qualify for calling it an annual event, right?) and I’m happy to tell you, we learned a lot to thrill and delight you over the coming months.

 TWWNCBUIP, Shane and the newly Social Me arrived in San Diego just in time to get a sandwich and soda from the 24 hour Market One IMG_4093.JPGRestaurant (it actually sells everything you could need – aspirin, paperback novels, potato chips, and of course prepackaged sandwiches-to-go thereby allowing it to technically be called a restaurant) located in the Manchester Hyatt on the waterfront and across the street from the Gaslamp District.

The lamps from the district where enticing but with the conference starting at 8am we thought it wiser to hit the rack instead of the trail.
With six hours sleep and coffee in hand we arrived at the Convention Center at 8am Thursday morning in order to not miss any valuable information. This early bird was awarded with cool swag, a selfie tripod and wide angle lens for my iphone. Totally worth getting up early, right?

IMG_4056.JPGThere were so many seminars from which to choose that we had to split up to so we wouldn’t miss valuable information.  FB algorithms, Instagram videos and the secrets of Snapchat were the order of the day andIMG_2433.JPG by night we learned how to combine Japanese whiskey with walnut bitters and blood orange amaro.

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Sunset at the Del Coronado for a tasty Old Fashioned. We will be practicing everything we learned in San Diego to surprise and delight you in the coming weeks (especially the Japanese whisky part).

If I were to select a few favorite moments, I’d have to pick dinner at Juniper and Ivy (that’s where I learned about the whiskey) and cocktails at the Del Coronado as we watched the sun set over the ocean … and the seminar hosted by Chocolate Johnny of Perfection Chocolate in Sydney Australia.  Johnny regularly has over 100,000 viewers that tune in to watch him make candy.

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A crown of peanuts, a necklace of pretzels and toilet paper cake … what else could girl ask for?

We were only home long enough to wash clothes and then set out again, this time to take the mother-in-law AKA Ol’ Mel to Vegas to celebrate her 90th birthday.

Shortly before landing the flight attendants asked that the passengers pull down the window shades and turn on the “call” buttons above our heads. Much to Melba’s delight they then announced that there was a VIP on board celebrating a very special and high numbered birthday.  They placed a peanut crown upon her head and pretzel lei around her neck. She was beaming from ear to ear.

There’s a reason that Southwest is called the LUV airline.

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IMG_4326.JPGWe spent the next three days in Las Vegas and were “happy birthdayed” at every meal…I can’t imagine how big a fuss they will make over her next birthday.

We were joined by Mr. and Mrs. Chicken Boy to celebrate grammas’s birthday, buffets, Italian dinners, 3-card poker and dinner at our favorite restaurant in Vegas – Tetsu Teppan Grill. Grilled lobster, dancing shrimp and three Lucky Seven cocktails and the evening was complete.

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We’re home now! Hope to see you soon…I learned some stuff and I can’t wait to show you that Japanese whiskey thing.

In the meantime I have to go get some coloring for my Easter eggs.

It’s just too far to drive…

hobby… so with our SWA tickets in hand we were off to Memphis to attend the premier of the independent film who’s Production Designer was none other than our own C. Michael Andrews.

We were able to convince Lincoln and Lola that this would be an even better vacation than staying at their usual spot, the luxurious Rover Oaks Dog Hotel & Spa even though they would be missing out on the latest Lassie reruns, afternoon ice cream bars and bedtime stories.

natIt’s only an hour and twenty minute flight to Memphis but since the nonstop flight doesn’t even leave Houston until 10PM we always worry that we are going to be too late to pick up our rent car before midnight. The last time we flew into Memphis our flight was 30 minutes late and we had to sprint like OJ through the airport to get to the car rental place before they closed. This time our flight landed ten minutes early so we were relieved that we would make it down to the “Choose any car on the lot” area before it closed. We hurried down only to find a dozen folks standing around looking out on a completely empty car lot. Really, not one car in the whole place! It took an hour and a lot of hustling but the car rental folks got us all settled into vehicles.

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Dogs on a plane 

PlanBy the time we finally got our car it was too late take the puppies to CB’s house so we drove straight to our favorite Memphis hotel where blinky Linky did his sleepy eyes routine and Lola practiced her too pretty to resist pose – before you know it the nice man at the front desk took us all in. It is now our favorite Memphis hotel forever.

bathcabinetSince we didn’t get in until after two in the morning we slept late and then took the puppies for their morning constitutional along the banks of the Mississippi so we didn’t get to Mr. and Mrs. CB’s until after noon. By that time we were all starving so we grabbed a very late breakfast at Uncle Junipers. mississippi

This was a busy week in Memphis with the Memphis Indie Film Festival on Thursday and the Fall Art Walk on Broad Avenue on Friday so we tried to make ourselves useful to Mr. and Mrs. CB who had their bearhands full getting ready for the Art Walk and moving into their new tiny house that CB built. While TWWNCBUIP and CB tended to setting up the new bedroom and scrubbing the paint and mortar out of the new bathtub,  I tried to make myself useful to Mrs. CB. so we spent the day tinkering in the shop getting set up for the Art Walk.

doggieAfter our last trip to Memphis, I had been hankering to have another helping of fried chicken skins so I was pretty pleased when I found out that Mrs. CB had made a reservation at the Kitchen for Wednesday night. If you are visiting Memphis in filmfestthe future be sure to put this restaurant on your to-d0 list along with my other favorite – the venerable Gus’s Fried Chicken.

The food at the Kitchen is fantastic and the view is even better. Both times we have been there we’ve dined on the deck looking out over the man made lake. This time we visited with the bartenders and asked them how they made their drinks so full of flavor. freeindeedSeems like infusion and fresh squeezing are the key. After a few more lessons from these Memphis boys who knows, maybe I can share some of their secrets with you. rustyalice

Thursday, the big day, arrives. After breakfast I joined Mrs CB at FiveinOne, she working and me supervising until it was time to set out for our pre-premier dinner at Mary and Catherine, another new Memphis hot spot. We enjoyed a fine meal and then we set off to the Memphis Independent Film Festival premier of Free in Deed.

This was one intense film. A tragic true story about about a troubled faith healer played by David Harewood. I recognized him from “Homeland.”  My favorite scene came at the very end of the film when the credits rolled. Production Designer, C. Michael Andrews.  Pretty darn cool.  We are proud parents in case you can’t tell.

tacoWe got to join everyone at the cast party at yet another new hot spot in Memphis, The Laughlin Yard.  It has a waterfall from a creek, fire pits and  the fixin’s to to macoveke your own s’mores, two patios and a stage where we listened to Marcella and her Lovers.

Friday evening and it was finally time for the Fall Art Walk on Broad. The art lovers descended on Broad Avenue where they wandered from store to store, some shopping some gawking. There was lots of eating from taco trucks and lots of drinking local beers. Food trucks lined the block. My favorite, Say Cheese, had PB&B with cheese, Pizza and Cheese, Pimento and Cheese and lots of other kinds of cheese. There was art made from car parts. There were ballet dancers.  “Made in Memphis” tee shirts.

Handcrafted furniture. Paintings. Pottery.  Hollywood dog treats. And lots and lots of people watching.

After the crowds went home we adjourned to the Pirate Bar at the end of the street to compare notes of the day and by the end of the night we were arrghuing the virtues of rye versus bourbon.

We had a great day. A long night. A short sleep. Before we knew it we had to be up and out of our favorite Memphis hotel. We loaded up the puppies and headed over to the tiny house inside the big warehouse.  Mr. and Mrs. CB were up and waiting for breakfast at Second Line.  We had one of every appetizer and then pancakes. And coffee. Lots of coffee.

soldiersA trip to the Hollywood Feed store followed our slow and coffee filled breakfast. The feed store has a place where you can give your dogs a bubble bath, a blow dry and pigs ears as treats. After all the puppies were bathed we walked back to the new digs to get our car and luggage. The puppies said goodbye to their new friend “I am Frank” CB’s 60 pound brick of a pit bull and we were off to the Memphis International Airport.

We are always sad to leave Memphis.  This time there was a bit of Memphis waiting for us when we got home. The Dead Soldiers had just driven in from Memphis and were setting up to play the Duck when we arrived.   We liked them. Think you will too.

 

 

 

Our Trip to New York …..

Lola
hobbyWe said our “goodbyes” to the puppies and headed out the door for Hobby to hop on the company jet for a quick trip to NYC. Before we left, I promised Lola that if she kept watch over her brother while we were gone I would ask our Southwest pilot to dip the wings in salute as we flew over the house on our way to New York.  She was sitting at attention when we left.

We were bummed that SWA no longer has a non-stop to Newark airport because our only other non-stop choice was LaGuardia and we had read that they are getting a makeover. That’s for sure! So much construction…… It was tough getting transport from the airport since the renovations make it difficult for the taxis, Ubers and Junos to make their way past the construction to the pick up area.  This time we ended up taking a gypsy cab who assured us that he was our best bet since the traffic was so backed up. We have always heard that it is a big mistake to take the gypsy cabs, but both times we’ve done it we have lucked o2016-10-15-17-49-39ut. The first time the driver pulled out a microphone and sang old Temptations songs and this time we got a guided tour of Queens. It was actually a pretty nice ride, our driver was knowledgeable about the area and pointed out some Greek diners that we should try out during our stay.  It was cool going under the elevated, it reminded me of “The French Connection.”

When we arrived at citizenM, we found Mr and Mrs Chicken Boy in the lobby awaiting our arrival. They were as hungry as we were so we dashed up to our room on floor 8, “the most prosperous floor” toroof stow our bags.  I wickewindowwas overruled when I suggested dinner from the food truck outside the hotel. No street meat for me!

We found a quiet little Italian place with homemade pizza and pasta which turned out to be really nice and reasonably priced which is always a nice surprise in New York.

After dinner we made our way to “Wicked” at the Gershwin Theater located across the street from our hotel. Handy!

I must say that after seeing “Wicked” I may be over my aversion to musicals.

I think my bad memories of musicals came about because at an early age I was taken to see “Oklahoma” and I’ve never quite gotten over it.

I’d like to tell you that we went out for late night drinks after the theater, but my editor only lets me stretch the truth a little and since we were up at TCOD and needed to save energy for Sunday we retired to our most prosperous floor for a good night’s sleep.

Perhaps you have heard that tdelihe venerable Carnegie Deli on 7th Avenue is closing after almost 80 years. We were going to stop in for one last  “mile-high” pastrami on rye with a side of “attitude” before the closing, but with mile long line of pastrami lovers waiting outside the Deli we decided that we could just live with our memories of sandwiches past.

We enjoyed a delizioso Sunday brunch with the Trooper family at Quality Italian Steakhouse.

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House made Battenkill Ricotta + Sicilian Oregano Flower Honey + Pinenuts + Smoked Salmon & Chive

familydinnerWho would have thought that a dish made with buckwheat spaghetti alla chitarra, braised bacon, and poached egg would be one of the best things we’ve ever eaten? Fantastic food. Even better company.  After brunch we headed off to Central Park to walk off the 9ooo calories we consumed at brunch. At least that was the plan.  A purple plume on a sweet faced horse caught TWWNCNBUIP’s eye and before we knew it we were taking a carriage ride through the park.

We had no trouble getting plenty of steps in after our carriage ride IMG_1856.JPGwhen we made our way to the High Line, an elevated rail line along the Hudson River side of Manhattan. It has been transformed into a green space worthy of an afternoonimg_1841 walk – with lots of art and interesting people watching.

Walking along the space one is only a few feet from the surrounding  buildings. On this Sunday, the entire “line” was filled with citizens. Most were live, some only appeared to be. Along the flowering rail line we also found some unusual birds pecking at the ground.

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We finished the High Line walk with just enough time to dash over to the St. Regis for a very quick drink at our favorite bar, The King Cole and then off to the Eugene O’Neill Theater for the excellent “Book of Mormon.” The theater was beautiful and the play was as great as we had heard it would be.

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2016-10-17-16-58-42TCON. Slept in today, took a trip Brooklyn to visit Chicken Boy’s friend who runs DriveByPress, an art concept that involves the artists traveling around the country with a printing press in a van, printing tee shirts and posters for public or private events.

While the artists compared notes of fiber, color and techniques we were joined by Weezer who helped us search the interweb for a great restaurant experience for our final night. And we found one!  Roberta’s in Bushwick. The restaurant plan made and accepted, we asked Uber for a ride to the famed Roberta’s.

robertasAfter an afternoon of art talk and and an evening of great Italian food we called it a night and headed back to citizenM to rest for our flight to Las Vegas in the morning.

If I forgot to include the last leg of this trip, let me expand upon it now. By luck, good fortune,  and a great friend, we had come upon free tickets to see the Rolling Stones in Las Vegas. Now, who’s gonna pass that up? Not me, even if it meant a 5 hour flight across the country.  I don’t envy the movie stars that have to make that flight, we could have flown to Europe in that amount of time. Well, maybe not, but it seemed like it.

All was good until Mick Jagger (or maybe someone on his behalf) Tweeted me Wednesday before TCON to say that he had lost his voice and would be unable to perform that night.

So, instead of the concert of the year, TWWNCBUIP and I had room service and watched the 3rd of 3 debates by those would like to be ruler of the free world.

Still not a bad trip.

 

 

 

 

 

AmericanaFest – Nashville 2016

Nashville, home of the Grand Old Opry, fried green tomatoes, everything pimento cheese and once a year, Americanafest.

couponWe made our way to AmericanaFest 2016 on the company jet, enjoying our usual first class service with free drinks and all the peanuts we could eat for the one hour and thirty minute flight to Nashville.

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Hermitage Hotel

As much as we appreciated the luv’ly peanuts we were starving by the time we pulled up in front of our favorite place to stay, the beautiful Hermitage Hotel. We were curious about whose shiny new tour bus was parked across the street but I was anxious to get inside for “happy hour” so I didn’t spend much time thinking about the bus.  Imagine how sad I was when I found out that we had just missed one of my favorite things at the Hermitage, the cookie and lemonade happy hour. All I got was an apple.

We were all starving and an apple wasn’t going to cut it,

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Husk Restaurant

so we dropped the luggage and headed out for some home cooking at Husk. Crispy Chicken Skins, Alabama White Sauce, Johnny Cake, Pimento Cheese, Chipped Beef, Pickled Jalapeños, Hot Water Cornbread, Sliced Cucumbers and Raw Onion, Benne and Honey Lacquered Duck with Pickled Blueberries and Chanterelles and Crispy Pork Collar paired with Cornbread Purée and Greasy Beans awaited us at this restaurant located in a historic building on a hill overlooking the Titan’s stadium.

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Electric Nashville

During dinner we downloaded the Americana app to make our showcase planning easier, well as easy as it can be with showcases spread out all over town with one artist at the Mercy Lounge, one over at the Station Inn and one more at the Basement, all starting within thirty minutes of each other.  We did our best to get to as many  showcases as we could but would have done better if we could have gotten around more quickly. Reminder for next year, get jetpacks instead of a rent car.

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Jim Lauderdale & George Strait

 

The awards show was pretty terrific with appearances by everyone from Bonnie Raitt to George Strait to John Prine. The awards show ran three hours so we didn’t get to the first showcase until ten o’clock.

We decided that it would be best to hang out at the Cannery Ballroom since it has three venues in one spot. Very handy indeed for seeing as many artists in as short an amount of time as possible.  We didn’t get back to the hotel until after midnight but as I mentioned it is my favorite hotel so I like finishing my evening in the lobby, it smells like summer flowers and it’s the perfect place to wind down after a long day. Great people-watching too. Usually at leastwineglass one group will come weaving up the stairs after a very happy night out, those are the one who come over and ask us where we got our wine gunsbecause they can’t find anyplace open.  (We come prepared.)

Anyway, we like to spend the last hour or so in the lobby figuring it all out.

TCON the next day we made our way past the “Nashville” set that was being filmed on the same street as the Six Shooter Records party. Those Canadians put out an appropriate lunch (Nashville “hot chicken” sandwiches and Yazoo beer) for the listening party on the rooftop of the George Jones Museum. We got to see Ms. Whitney Rose who was as usual, delightful. Also got my first live listen to another Canadian – Amelia Curren, who I’ve been trying to get to Houston for several years. Thanks Six Shooter, we had fun.

peglegAfter a little nap we headed out for the music happy hour parties. We tried to make it to New West but got caught in a traffic circle so Siri changed our direction and took us to Razor and Tie Publishing instead.  We bumped into Steve Poltz as we were going in but lost sight of him in the crowd.  We decided to grab a bite before the next bout of shows so we walked around the block and tried out Peg Leg Porker for some great barbecue.

Again, we finished off our evening in the lobby of the beautiful Hermitage Hotel, Shane and TWWNCNBUIP with a bottle of wine and me with a bottle of Basil Hayden. I enjoy our midnight sippin’ parties.

We finally figured out who had the fancy shiny tour bus out front when we saw the Lumineers come home to the Hermitage after their gig.

All in all it was a great trip,  we got to visit with lots of new acts that we hope to bring to the Duck…(hint-keep your eyes and ears open for an Irishman.)

We heard the puppies really missed us..or maybe it’s that we really missed them, no matter who did the missin’ it’s really good to be home.

 

 

Meanwhile back in Nashville …..

It’s time again to return to my favorite boondoggle – the Americana Music Awards and Music Awards. We get to stay in the coolest hotel in Nashville – the Hermitage, drink their version of a Moscow Mule (the Jack Mule) in the Oak Bar, have fried green tomatoes for breakfast before attending the music seminars. Oh, and of course stay up all night listening to music at the Cannery, the Basement, the Station Inn as well as all the historic bars on Broadway – Tootsies Orchid Lounge. Roberts Western World and maybe I can get into the Bluebird this trip.

Stay tuned…..

It started with Paris …

Preflight Champagne

Preflight Champagne

I’ve been telling TWWNCBUIP about “my” experience on our Air France flight to Italy two years ago when I had three meals, ice cream, cookies, hot towels, French wine and espresso while she slept through it all. Every few minutes I was offered some goody or another and I took my share as well TWWNCBUIP’s (in case she woke up) all the way across the ocean.

TWWNCBUIP never believed a word of my story.     

Even so, I insisted that if we were going to go to Europe for our 40th wedding anniversary, then, based on my last experience, it had to be on Air France!  Little did I realize that my first experience was going pale in comparison to my second experience.  The day before we left Houston we were offered the opportunity to “upgrade” our Premium Economy tickets to Business Class.  Now we were pretty excited to have these Premium

Our hotel limo

Our hotel limo

Economy tickets because we had read that the Premium Economy section offered 40% more room than the Economy class,  our normal “class”.  Well, this upgrade was 200 eu and since we purchased our original tickets with miles it was almost like getting to travel in the “Business” class for free! So we said “Sure, let’s upgrade!”

What can I say? Wow! It was unbelievable. We each got our own little egg-shaped pod to live in while we made our journey across the ocean.  It was like a recliner! And we had not left Houston before they offered us champagne.

Remember when room keys were keys?

Remember when room keys were keys?

And then a warm lemon scented towel. And then stockings to put on over our own socks. Eye masks. Chapstick. Ear plugs. Fancy pillows. Fluffy blankets. Movies. Wine. Appetizers. Wine. Fancy Dinner. More wine. Cookies. More warm towels. Breakfast. Cafe au lait.  Jeez….I didn’t want to get off the plane.

Seated next to us on the plane was a young lady who smiled politely when we arrived at our seats. She giggled when she observed how excited we were to be in the fancy section. (I think she must have been a “regular” in the Business Class section because she took it all in stride.)  She wore her earplugs throughout the trip so we didn’t have a chance to get

Scambled Eggs in a Jar and they were Fabulous!

Scrambled Oeufs in a Jar and they were fabulous!

to know her but as we were getting ready to deplane we visited a moment. You know TWWNCBUIP, it only takes a moment for her to get to know you well enough that before you know it you are promising to come visit us at the Duck. As it turns out our new friend lives just blocks from the Duck. She works in the oil business and travels often.

I Rodin a taxi to get to see this. Still looking for Mona ....

Still looking for Mona ….

She seemed nice. We hoped that she really meant it when she said that she would come visit us when she returned to Houston. Sometimes people say things but they don’t mean them, you know, so we will see.

Anyway, as we exited  through the First Class Section (I think the French call it La Priemere)  we just looked at each other – what happens up here?” ….what else could Air France do to make this “upgrade” any better than the one we had just experienced?  I don’t think we are ever going to know the answer to that.

We arrived at Charles de Gaulle airport at 8:30 in the morning and hiked thirteen miles or so to the front exit and grabbed a taxi to our hotel.

IMG_6431

This is the only way to drink Hot Chocolate.

We arrived at our hotel,  a former château called the St James Paris, at 9:30 and we found that we really would have to wait until 3pm for check in. Oh what to do? We decided to discover a bit of Paris while we waited for our room to be readied. We set out on foot, down Rue de Fochs toward the Arc de Triomphe. We fought our way across the scariest traffic circle known to man only to find that when we reached the other side there was an underground tunnel that we were supposed to have used to get to the Arc which explained all the fist waving Just follow the signs they say ...

Just follow the signs they say …

and yelling in French as we crossed that crazy roundabout! I think we might just be lucky to be alive after that little adventure. We continued on down the Champs de Elysee to the end where the Parisians set up a six-block long Christmas village each year. Of the many offerings, my favorites were the hot wine and the hot chocolate, we will have one of each please.

Wrapped in my long coat, hand knitted hat and scarf and full of hot wine, I still found myself a bit chilled, however, our room would not be ready for another few hours so we continued on…over the Alexander Pont to the Musee d’Orsay. Impressionist stuff, which isn’t my cup of cocoa, but TWWNCBUIP was thrilled and the Musee was heated, so it worked out. It was a pretty nice place and a decent way to pass the time, but the minute that magnificent clock struck three we were ready to head to our hotel~we grabbed the first taxi we saw and jumped in. Guess what? This guy only spoke French! Imagine that. We had to pull out our reservation papers and point to the address of our hotel but, you will be happy to

We survived crossing the traffic circle at the Arc.

We barely survived this crossing.

know that by the end of the week we were actually able to say “43 Avenue Bugeaud” well enough that the taxi drivers understood us. I think this is the taxi ride where I lost my beautiful hand knit hat. I loved that hat, and in Paris, I needed that hat.

I needed this hat ....

I needed this hat ….


Oh well, when we arrived back at the St. James we were in such a sleep deprived state that all we could think of was taking a nap…we didn’t intend for the “nap” to last eight hours. We woke up at 11:30pm and realized that we only had 30 more minutes of our actual anniversary remaining. We decided to see if we could make it to the Eiffel Tower before midnight.  Our hotel called a taxi and directed the driver to take us to the Tower d’Eiffel and voilà! we arrived at the tower just as it lit up with a million or so sparkling lights. I thought someone had called ahead and let it be known that we were celebrating 40 years of marriage because how else could something be so perfect? But apparently the lights are turned on every hour on the hour.

We walked around for a bit and headed back to the St. James just in time to take another nap…this time we woke up at 3:30 am and we had to wait for the hotel restaurant to open at 7am, for breakfast. It was served buffet style with all of the good stuff, croissants, French bread, cheese, bacon,

Under the Eiffel at Midnight

Under the Eiffel at Midnight and still in possession of my favorite hat.

French roast coffee and scrambled oeufs served in a glass jar.  There was a man who had breakfast at the same table every morning, just he and his dog. We ate our breakfast looking out over the garden which has air balloon tenting. Pretty cool.

On day two in Paris we took the train to the Palace of Versailles. Even in the cold and the rain it was a sight to behold. The Hall of Mirrors was a highlight as was Marie Antoinette’s “farm” and village. The garden fountains were not turned on because it was winter but from what I could tell, it would have been pretty fancy. We had tea and cakes in the Angelina Tea shop actually located within the Palace.  It wasn’t hard to imagine the reason for an uprising when you are surrounded by luxury eating cakes and having tea while the citizens were freezing outside in the rain and the cold. After our cozy tea we realized that we were once again going to have to go out into the cold and rain ourselves to make our way to the train station for the return trip to Paris.  That morning before we had left we decided that we would finally stay up late enough to have an evening meal in the Paris.

Hah! We no sooner got to our hotel when instead of dinner in the City of Lights it was lights out! Who are these people?

Christmas Market

Christmas Market

On day three, after breakfast, we headed off to the Louvre on foot but decided that it was too cold to walk all the way so we hailed a taxi.  The driver let us out and pointed to a door on a dirty building-nowhere on it did it say “Louvre” and we did not see the grand entrance with the glass pyramid that I remembered from the Da Vinci Code, but the driver insisted that this was indeed the Louvre. Once we got inside, through a checkpoint Charlie more complicated than the one at the airport, we saw beginnings of the vast complex that is the Louvre.  We decided it might be a good idea to just touch on a few “highlights” and maybe return the next day for a more in-depth experience. You know what the highlights were, right?  Well, La Joconde or La Gioconda as my Italian buddy would say, was our first stop. She was located up several flights of stairs and even though we were there in “off” season, she was still surrounded by tour groups. When we finally made our way to the front of the line we just stared at her for a few minutes. She was not my favorite part of our trip to Paris.  Same with Venus de Milo. But we got there. We saw them. Now let’s move on. On this day we wandered the Marais District which has many art galleries, cabarets and shops. Also, lots of sidewalk cafes. But it was so drizzly and cold we didn’t linger. We will have to come again, perhaps April in Paris, to experience and appreciate this beautiful area fully.

The next morning we were on a train to Reims at 8am to visit another church (every place we went there was at least one

I signed the bottle of champagne when our guide wasn't looking.

I signed the bottle of champagne when our guide wasn’t looking.

Cathedral that was a TWWNCBUIP must see) and a tour of the Veuve Clicquot champagne house. Now the French had my

Quite intimidating view, if you ask me...

Quite intimidating view, if you ask me…

attention! Veuve Clicquot is the 4th largest maker of champagne in France and has the largest cave in France (18 miles of chalk walled cave that runs under homes, roads, stores and a park).  Our guide, a young man named Luic, had a grand passion for Veuve and we learned a great deal from him about La Grande Dame.  We are going to write to the folks that run the place and ask if Luic can come to Houston for a visit and tell all the Mucky Duckers about champagne.  What can they say, but oui or no?

The train ride back from Reims was short and sweet and even though it was not late we still found ourselves ready for bed before the rest of Paris was even ready for dinner! I think that the miles of walking (usually uphill) and the wind, and the cold were making it impossible for us to see the Paris nightlife. Asleep by 8pm we were again awake at 4 in the morning and watched the clock until it was time for breakfast. We were always starving by this time because we kept going to bed without any supper.

As the hostess escorted us to our table TWWNCBUIP asked if we could please sit at a table facing the garden. “Of course, Madam.”  So we are taken to a table facing the garden and seated

next to a young woman who looked up and gasped when she saw us. We were so also greatly surprised to see someone we “knew” in

Champagne being aged for you and me.

Champagne being aged for you and me.

Our Chateau in Paris - The Saint James

Our Chateau in Paris – The Saint James

Paris.  Our new friend from the Air France flight was sitting in our little hotel dining room!  She was in Paris for her birthday weekend and had decided to treat herself to the Saint James for her birthday.

Of all the gin joints in all the world.

And you know what was really cool?  After she got over the surprise of seeing us she asked if we minded if she let her boyfriend know that the “people from the plane” had just walked in to the restaurant-which meant, of course, that she had actually really planned on visiting the Duck. In fact, as we found out during breakfast, her boyfriend is an Englishman and when she told him about us he had looked at the Duck calendar and decided that the Christmas Singalong sounded like the perfect event to attend during his visit to Houston this month. How nice is that? Hope you all will get to meet our new friends at the Duck.

American Cemetary in Normandy

American Cemetery in Normandy

Our last day in Paris and TWWNCBUIP had more churches to see including the one on the highest hill, the Sacré-Cœur – on butte Montmartre – gotta love it…so many stairs. From there we set out to  discover the neighborhood. Seemed like the thing to do since we couldn’t find a taxi and couldn’t read the bus signs. We wandered along streets where stores had clothing piled on tables and in bins all along the sidewalk – it was like shopping from a laundry basket. This was the Montemarte neighborhood and not my favorite part of Paris, no matter how historic it was.  By the time we had walked 3 blocks of a street where stores seemed to only sell cell phones, I was relieved to get

Mont Saint Michele Abbey in Normandy

Mont Saint Michele Abbey in Normandy

a text from our new airplane buddy who wanted to meet us for a drink so that we could meet her boyfriend who had just arrived from London.  Sounded like a great plan.  We headed back to the Saint James and met up with them in the library bar…a very cool spot. Elegant and old school.

View from our  balcony in Bayeuz

View from our balcony in Bayeuz

We left Paris the next morning the 8am train for Normandy. I know you might be noticing these early morning events in this story and probably wonder why we are up so early. I can refer you back a few paragraphs to the asleep at 8pm and awake a 3am routine that we still had not been able to correct.

Our train stopped at the tiny Bayeux station in Normandy and it was only a hop skip and a jump to our hotel, a former Chateau called, Domaine de Bayeux.  Our host was very proud to show us around this beautiful place taking great joy in explaining that the sleek design of our fancy bath was all his handiwork. After checking out our new hotel, we took a taxi to the gas station that rented cars and picked up our little rent car that would take us on our tour of Normandy the following morning.  But for now, we decided to park the car at our hotel and walk to dinner since the town square was only a few blocks from our hotel.

Sidewalk Cafe in Bayeux. Unfilled because of the 38 degree night.

Sidewalk Cafe in Bayeux. Unfilled because of the 38 degree night.

 We had dinner at La Rapiere (the best meal of our trip – and since we were walking – had a bottle of wine as well). Our walk back to the hotel was pretty special – there was a full moon hanging in the sky right over our  hotel, just like in the movies.

The next morning, we set out for a 30 minute drive to the Normandy beaches – however since we didn’t understand the French signage – it took us longer – I called it the scenic route. TWWNCBUIP kept saying something too, but you will have to pardon her French.

When we arrived at the American Cemetery we got out of the car close to the beach just to stand there and get a feeling for this hallowed ground. I don’t know where it came from but “America the Beautiful” was playing when we exited the car. It was an altogether moving experience. I can only wish that everyone would be able to pay a visit here.  It cannot be described in words.

The next stop was the Mont Saint Michel Abbey. I won’t elaborate on how long it took us to get there but we did travel through every village in Normandy on our way to the Abbey.  If you don’t know – the Abbey is built on a rock that becomes an island during high tide with the water level rising 3 – meters. Even after visiting dozens of churches, sanctuaries, and abbeys, I have to say that this is a place you should visit should you ever get the chance, even if it is a church. Be aware though, like everything else in France, it is straight uphill and once you get to the top there are many flights of stairs. Take three and breathe….all the way to the top. But don’t give up because it’s worth it.

So why get out of bed?

So why get out of bed?

We spent our last night in Bayeux and the next morning visited the Tapestry Museum. The Bayeux Tapestry (Calvados) is an embroidery, 70 meters long, made

On a cold winters night outside our hotel in Buyeux.

On a cold winters night outside our hotel in Bayeux.

in the 11th century to celebrate the victory of William the Conqueror at the battle of Hastings. 1066. That’s pretty old. Then the train back to Paris.

Our last night, concerned about traffic from Paris to Charles de Gaulle airport, we chose to stay at the citizenM hotel because of it’s location at the airport. We would not have to worry about rush hour traffic or any transportation strikes. The Citizen M is a new concept that is much like a hostel in size (bed, toilet, sink, tv), but not in appearance. The bed is wall to wall, or the walls are so close that they touch the bed, however you look at it. The bed was really comfortable, the shower was wickedly strong and hot, the room was operated by an iPad located next to the bed. Great  free wi-fi and lights that changed color to fit your mood. Party. Romance. Rest. Business. It was a really cool, dare I say, almost hip, this hotel experience at the Charles de Gaulle airport. In the morning you make your way down to the common area where there is a delicious breakfast buffet and lots of comfortable little cubbies to relax in while waiting for your plane. When it was time to go we walked out of the hotel, down the covered walkway to the airport train which took us directly to Terminal 2. Then we walked for ten miles to the Air France gate. And then we got on the plane.

Sadly, we were in our Premium Economy seats on the return trip as we were not offered the Business Class upgrade this time….oh what a difference that upgrade makes. The flight over seemed like it took about two hours but the flight home seemed more like twelve.

We are home again and happy to be here!    

We are sure lucky to have Shane who took care of the Duck and the puppies while we were gone.

And to borrow that famous old line… there really is no place like home.

Murder by the Book

I just finished my summer reading list and now must find new material in time for my annual birthday trip coming up.

While TWWNCBUIP swims, Linc, Lola and I like to sit poolside with mojitos and murder mysteries.

Now that I am approaching 50, I find that my memory is often not as good as it used to be.

I often find myself in Murder by The Book perusing the titles and making great selections only to arrive home and find that I already have two or three of the books I just bought sitting in my just read stack.  

So I made a new plan. I took pictures of all the books that are in my possession so that I can scroll through my photos before I buy and make sure I am not duplicating.

books

I’ll let you know how my photo memory trick works out after I get back from Murder with my purchases.

Wish me luck on the birthday trip … which has also become known as Shane’s annual Fantasy Football trip and Mr. & Mrs. Chicken Boy’s Anniversary. If I don’t forget them, it should be a doggone good trip … Linc can’t wait …..

linc

I just had another great idea!
Suppose the dealer would let me use my new photo memory technique at the blackjack table?

Sunday checklist…..

Breakfast of yogurt before snuggling up with the puppies to watch “Marley and Me” 
It was probably a good thing that the puppies dozed off before the end…spoiler alert, Marley didn’t make it. There wasn’t a dry eye in the household by the time the credits rolled.
Finish my “Foreign Agent” spy novel and take a dip at Gramma’s 
I was down to the last 73 pages and Scott Harvath still hadn’t managed to save the world, but, by the time we were packing up to leave Gramma’s pool, Scott had accomplished his task and my tan was looking pretty good.
Catch a movie  

After checking through all the movie listings and coming up with several holiday weekend movie choices, one of which received a 22% of a rotten tomato rating along with the following quote: “worst film I’ve ever seen considering the unexpected horrible death that blindsides, the mediocre acting, the implausibility, and the completely impossible flawed storyline.” and with other selections like Captain Underpants, Cars 3 or The Smurfs, we opted for “Baby Driver” which Frank had said was “pretty good.”

We hesitated on that recommendation because with the word “Driver” in the title  TWWNCNBUIP was worried that it might be a car chase movie, however,  Frank assured us that while there may be a car chase or two, that wasn’t the main thrust of the movie.  So we picked up Gramma and headed off to see “Baby Driver.”

After the opening car chase, the car chases in the middle and the one at the end,  there was a nice relationship that developed between the young man and a sweet girl, what else could you ask for in a movie? And the hot dogs and popcorn were the perfect lunch for a Sunday afternoon.

I’m now back at the ranch cueing  up the latest episode of the Outsiders …. all in all – a good day