“The Shortest Distance Between Two Points is Often Unbearable”

Milestones 

I looked at the temperature gauge quizzically. How was smoke pouring out of the smoker but not able to get to that 185-190 degree Fahrenheit temperature that I like to smoke at? A couple of troubleshoot activities I ran through. It wasn’t my smoker and I had only used it once before. So I rechecked all my connections. The smoker box wasn’t totally attached to the cabinet. So I made sure to reattach it and waited. For a moment it seemed my problem had resolved itself. The smoker temperature was climbing. Yet I was only able to get it to around 115 degrees. This would be a problem because I was smoking Boston Butts and needed them to reach 175 to 180 degrees. I knew I was going to have to enlist my back up plan and throw them on the grill and smoke them that way. So I pulled out the grill, quickly washed the grates, replaced them, opened the hood, cut on the gas and went to fire this sucker up. Click. Click. Click. Great. Some asshole (me) forgot to replace the gas when he used it up last. 18 hours until my daughter’s first birthday and birthday party and things weren’t going well.


My wife and I had decided that we should throw a party for my daughter’s first birthday. We had kicked around a couple of ideas and finally settled on having it at the Oyster Catcher Community Center on Seabrook. The rate to rent it was fairly low, and I figured I’d make all the food for the event so we wouldn’t have to pay to have it catered. On top of that, if the weather was nice there was a swimming pool and the beach was a boardwalk away. So we made a guest list and it got a little out of hand and so I made the trip to Costco to get supplies.

Luckily I had a backup gas canister. I mean, letting one go empty is not the end of the world when you’ve got yourself a backup. Click. Click. Shit. Some asshole (me) had also used up that canister without getting it refilled. So I jumped into my truck, gassed it out the driveway, and probably scared my neighbors in the process. I run to the closest filling station and trade out my empties. No problem. I’ve scheduled some time into food preparation for these types of crises, I just have to be diligent about my time use from now on. I take the wood pellets I was going to use in the smoker and stack them up in a foil packet and place them on one of the burners and get them going. I trick the grill into holding a little over 200 degrees Fahrenheit, which is a little hotter than I’d like but it will do. I walk in the house to prepare the sides. We’ve decided to have potato salad with the Barbeque (Barbeque is a proper noun) sandwiches I’m currently smoking the meat for. I course cut a large bowl of red potatoes and throw them in a large bowl. I fill a pot with water, put it on my stove top and…. Click. Click. Click. Oh come the fuck on. How did the large tank in front of the house run out of gas? This time it was not my fault, rather the company that services our house’s tank. Luckily, the stove was electric. It looks like it’s going to be a roasted potato salad.

Despite everything going wrong that could go wrong, the wife and I were able to jointly get a meal out for the 60 expected people that had RSVP’d “Yes” to our daughter’s birthday party. The party would go off without any major incidents or meltdowns. My Inlaws, my parents, my wife, and my 3 sisters along with myself all seemed to enjoy ourselves and didn’t even bicker at our normal level. It probably helped that there was a lot of children, ages 5 and under, at the party. By the time it was over I was sending plates and containers full of Barbeque with folks. Only about half of those who RSVP’d “Yes” actually attended.  


It was a very nice day and I was full of pork but I had to come to the realization that my baby was now a year old. She had spoken her first word a few days earlier (despite my best efforts to get her to say “Tar Heels” it came out “dad”) and would be walking in the week following the party. And I get it, as a parent you want your child to develop, learn, and share with you, but selfishly part of you wishes that they would always fit on one arm or snuggle up under your chin when they sleep. And while I would hardly call the process “unbearable” as my Bukowski inspired title would suggest to you, I do write this with tears in my eyes. Both happy and sad for my little baby.

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He Likes the Warm Feeling but He’s Tired of all the Dehydration 

As part of the Lowcountry Local’s “Eat Local Challenge” I am drinking my way through Charleston’s local inebriating options.

 

So the day after the bridge run weekend I had the NCAA Championship game in which my favorite team the North Carolina Tar Heels were playing. UNC would end up losing one of the better Championship games I’ve seen on a last second shot. And being the second best team in the nation is quite an accomplishment. And as proud as I was of the team, sitting at the Upper Deck with a full keg of Holy City Pluff Mud Porter made the end result a little bit easier to swallow. A couple pints later and an Uber ride and I was tucked in bed to sleep off a solid couple days of drinking.  

My wife’s job makes her hours week to week change. So after that Monday she was working early in the morning every day. That, coupled with the long weekend of celebration, made me take some time off. But she was going to go out of town and leave me to my own devices that weekend. So Friday when she left town I was left to find activities on my own. However even by Friday staying in and watching Netflix seemed like a better idea than venturing out into the jungle that is the bar scene in Charleston on a Friday night. I instead made plans to meet with some friends Saturday afternoon at Holy City Brewing. My friend Brandon who I occasionally DJ with had grown up in New York and is a Syracuse fan. We put a bet of a couple beers on the game. My friend Amy and her children were also going to meet us out there.

Holy City is really great that there is stuff for parents to do (eat really nice food, drink even better beer, and watch sporting events on their TV’s) while also being kid friendly where a little bit older children can enjoy themselves (corn hole, live music, and basketball games). They have a wide variety of beer, some of which you can’t find in the store, along with selling some bottles of very limited edition run beers. I made my way up to the bar and ordered a “S’more of the World”. This was an American Imperial Double Stout finished with a fire kissed marshmallow. My friend Sarah who was working there looked at me and my friend Brandon and said “oh what a manly beer” and then got us our beer. And I’ll admit it, it looked really odd for two very large gentlemen (Brandon is about 6’3, I’m 6’6) drink small glasses of beer with a marshmallow in it. But do you know what, it was so delicious that we didn’t care. My friend Amy got a “Washout Wheat” for herself and got her kids a glass of the homemade pineapple soda. I then proceeded to talk a bunch of smack to Amy’s kids while playing them in corn hole and basketball. Just kidding, they were totally better than me at both events. Over the next three hours I also tried the “Holy City Pilsner” which was also great. There were plenty of other “big” beers that I wanted to try but I had driven. I envied the customers that were being driven around on brewery tours in party busses. Still, there is no greater Saturday afternoon this time of year than spending some time with friends, supporting a local business, and being outside in just perfect weather.  

  

Another nice surprise was that “The Cake Farmer” was at the brewery. Apparently she reads my blog. She makes a “Salty Pluff Mud Pie” with Holy City’s Pluff Mud Porter. She gave me a small pie to try out. And wow was it fantastic. My wife is a big baker and I knew that I had to save her some of it. She was also blown away with it. Apparently Holy City and The Cake Farmer are going to start selling the pie at the brewery soon. But you can also find her at local farmers markets. Pro-tip: if you’re out and you see her selling her cakes and pies make sure to buy one. You’re significant other will be on cloud nine. And if you don’t have to share, even better!

  
That night I spent some time at the Night Bazzar on King St.  There I sampled food from vendors along with the bourbon from High Wire distilling.  It was a pretty interesting experience, including a really good DJ set from DJ Jeff Turner.

The rest of my weekend was pretty low key and was spent getting supplies for my daughter’s birthday party, getting ready for the Prom at the Upper Deck, and cleaning my house. But Tuesday was going to be another adventure.

Tuesday I was attending a bachelorette party for my friend Apryl. Apryl had worked at Jack’s Cafe when Jack still worked there. She became a good friend over the years with us both visiting each other’s place of employment. Eventually we would end up even taking trips together and having a lot of fun over the years. Now the group of ladies that all worked at Jack’s were all a close group. And they are also crazy people, in the best way possible. So I met up with them for Apryl’s bar crawl. I met up with them on the back porch of the Kicken’ Chicken. There we polished off a couple of Kicken’ Chickens signature cocktails and local beers. From there we hit a couple more bars before ending up at the Recovery Room where a daylight dance party ensued. Someone along the way had given Apryl a water gun which resulted in some funny moments. It was a really fun time. I’m not sure that I stuck 100% to the local drinking challenge I must admit. When you’re picking up tabs for multiple people sometimes you go with the thrifty option. But I tried to make sure that I got at least one local beer at each bar.

  

The rest of the week has been pretty low key. I’ve been so busy hosting events that I haven’t had time to explore more breweries. But before this is out I’ll get to more. Much to my liver’s chagrin.  

  

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It’s Only Love

Love.

Love is easy. It’s in a look. It’s in a sentence. It’s the way you feel in the backseat of a car. We’ve all been in love many times. And love always lasts, despite our best efforts. Love is really hard. Sustained love is the hardest. I mean that being with someone for 5 years, for 20 years, and forever is really hard. You have to ignore the noise that will surround you. You have to be willing to be the most vulnerable. You have to tell the truth even when it hurts.
  
I’m no expert on love. I wish this was a play where we all could follow my instructions and we’d end up happy, satisfied, and forever. But I did spend the day with my friend Apryl at her bachelorette party. And I don’t know if she and her husband to be will last forever. I really hope they do. I just hope that this love is released into the atmosphere that they have and it makes us all love a little better, no matter how long or short the interval.
To the 1’s and to the 0’s I hope you know I love you all. As binary becomes more complicated so do we all. And so does our modus operandi.  

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Like A Bridge over Troubled Water, I will Lay You Down

As part of the Lowcountry Local’s “Eat Local Challenge” I am drinking my way through Charleston’s local inebriating options. Here is my report from The Cooper River Bridge Run Weekend.

Friday:

I woke up early after going to bed late. Still, I was excited because I had lots of fun activities planned for the weekend. My brother and sister in law were staying with us over the weekend. They were going to be in town for a wedding that night and with the bridge run that night all the hotels in the area were sold out. They arrived said hello and got ready for the wedding. My wife and I made the decision that we were tired and just ordered some Chinese food from Chopsticks house downtown. I stayed up with the baby as she hasn’t been sleeping well lately. I walked out on the porch at one point and my brother and sister in law’s Uber was arriving at the house. My sister in law was tired out from dancing and a long day of driving so she went to bed. My brother in law and I decided to go grab a drink. 

We walked over to the Recovery Room. It wasn’t open when he lived here and he had never been. I’ve known Chris, the owner, for probably a decade and like to support my friends. I walked in and made my way over to the bar and ordered a Budweiser and a shot of Makers Mark. Know I know what you’re thinking “hey neither of those things are local”. And guess what? You’re right. I messed up right off the bat. But the place was so packed (along with there being some unsavory people I didn’t want to see) that we decided to call it one and done at the Recovery Room and we caught an Uber over to Local 616. 

Dwayne and I have also known each other for a long time (as friends and he and I used to work together) and I really love the bar there.  I was confident in Local 616’s ability to satisfy my need for local beers and having a more relaxed crowd. And to my delight, not only did we find a couple bar stools, we found all of Local 616 beers on draft to be local. So we finished off the night talking, playing ring toss, and making plans for Saturday. We walked home and I made us a couple of omelets which we washed down with a couple Holy City beers. It was around 3:30am when we went to bed.

Saturday: 

Holy crap the bridge run starts early. My wife was running it and woke up at 6:00am to catch the shuttle to Mount Pleasant. Her alarm wasn’t set correctly and luckily one of her friends called her who was running with her. Her phone was on the night stand next to me and I heard it and tried to answer the baby monitor next to it. The kid decided to take mercy on my soul and fell back asleep soon after she left. 

We both woke back up around 8:30. I quickly changed her diaper and fed her. Then we hustled out the door to go watch my wife run. Well, in actuality, we hustled out the door three times because on one trip I left my phone and then on the next trip I realized I forgot the diaper bag. We see my wife come down King Street and then met up with her and friends at our usual meeting spot, in front of the Knights of Columbus building. From there everyone decides to head over to the bar I “manage”, The Upper Deck Tavern. We sit and talk and more people join us from the group. I buy a round for everyone because why not start drinking local beers at 10:00am. We walk home, doing some people watching and waving (my daughter is really into waving at people, our cat, cars, the blinds, really anything). 

I figure I have time to get a nap in before my brother in law and I have to head out to watch a soccer game. But then my friend who lives in Scotland gets in touch with me and tells me that she and her mom are in town and want to know if they can come over to meet my kid. So they come over and visit and it’s lovely to see them. But by the time they leave its time to walk over to 616 again. I mean, it had been 12 hours since I’d been there.  

Now I don’t care about soccer but my brother in law is a big fan. So we walk over and I decide it’s time to sample one of Dwayne’s Bloody Mary’s. But I request that he makes it as local as possible. So using local vodka, Dixie Vodka, local Bloody Mary mix, and topping it with Holy City’s Pluff Mud Porter, I was happily drinking my first local liquor drink of this assignment. And while Dixie Vodka is a pretty terrible name for vodka, it made a pretty good Bloody Mary. So the game finishes up and we walk back home.  

Finally, I can take a nap. Just kidding, my friend Heather who lives in Knoxville is in town and wants to get a drink at Barsa. Heather is an old friend of my wife’s time in Medical School. She is an ER doctor in Knoxville and is in town for the race along with some friends. Since we’re moving there soon we’ve seen a lot of her and her family and they are some of my favorite people. At this point however I’m tapped out on local beers but my wife orders one, so that counts, right? We get back home and we make dinner because now it’s time for the main event.

  
The North Carolina Tar Heels, my favorite team, are playing in the Final Four against Syracuse. I’ve made plans to meet up with friends at Cooper River Brewing to watch the game. So we head over there and watch the game. UNC puts in a pretty dominate performance and wins. I put in my own dominate performance and try 6 of Cooper River’s beers. They are pretty delicious. The tasting room is very nice and the owners turned out to be a bunch of UNC fans as well. And towards the end of the night someone came by and brought around pizza!

The pizza would be crucial because my night wasn’t over. I had a good friend who was having people meet him for his birthday. My brother in law and I get dropped off at the Mellow Mushroom. There I order a pint from Coast. And that was my final local beer of the night. It however, wasn’t my final beer or even stop for the night. I stayed out with my friend until about 4am. At which point I came home but my brother in law and sister in law were staying on our extra bed (read: pull out couch) and my kid was asleep with my wife in our bed. So I grabbed a comforter and passed out on the floor in our nursery.  

Sunday:

I woke up to my wife telling me that they were headed to the beach. I went back to bed and then woke up to my friend Matt calling me to see if I wanted to go grab drinks for his birthday. So, being a man with more will than sense I dragged myself out of bed, into a shower, and into a clean shirt, and headed to the Tattooed Moose. There I met my friend and had a bite to eat. From there we headed to Edmund’s Oast where I had one of the beers they make there. We sat around talking and then decided to check out the new Home Team Barbeque. Now, I am highly critical of Barbeque but that’s a story for another day. I will say that Home Team has just fantastic wings. They also have delicious frozen drinks including a local Strawberry daiquiri.  

  
So there you go fearless readers. I’ll continue to do the drinking and eating all in the name of the local economy just for you. Some sacrifices just need to be made from time to time.

Oh, and after Home Team we went to dinner at The Darling where I ate local clams and oysters and washed them down with a martini. I then went to bed at 7:30 and slept for 12 hours. 

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How Did I Get Here?

It’s late. The compressors humming is a soothing sound. I’m doing paper work and watching movies on TCM. This is the most consistent home I’ve ever had. But it’s time to move on. The notice has been sent. I love the Upper Deck Tavern. I’ve made my fair share of mistakes in this place, I’ve put my blood on the floor, and I amazingly fell in love here. Ken, Cullen, George, Dwayne, Vicki, Sarah, Ben, Fireball, Kevin, Katie, Tom, Billy, and countless others have made this my safe place. I will miss them all terribly. I never wanted to do the “I’m leaving post” but now it seems really real. Most of the customers I’ve loved. The rest made great stories. But, now it’s time to move on. I love everyone who has been a part of my family, since the day this place opened. And I will miss you all. I wasn’t always the best bartender but I always tried to be there for all of you. XXOO Mike.

I remember the first day it opened. I went there as a customer. It was hot outside but nothing could match the heat inside. The bar must have been over 130 degrees. Yet, people were still lined up, 5 at the bar. I sat near the stairwell and the lone window unit, hoping for some relief. Eventually I saw Ken, the owner, walking up the stairs with an AC unit. By this point, patrons were sitting on the window sill to try to have some respite from the conditions. I see this man, with his glorious box, and immediately offer to help him install it. Now I had met Ken before. This wasn’t his first bar. The horse and cart had been stomping grounds not just for me, but for my older sister. I just don’t think Ken knew who I was. The unit was installed, and in the days before PBR took over this town I ordered a Shlitz and a shit of Wild Turkey 101. I knew I loved this place. The bar never cooled down that night. I just knew that I had found a place that was a little weird, had personality, and was the bar I always wanted to drink in.

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