Dallas Wayne

Dallas Wayne
Snapped by my buddy Winker in Austin a few years ago, here I am mugging it up with XM Outlaw Country host Dallas Wayne backstage somewhere on 6th.

Sunday, December 30, 2012

Fifty Smifty: A Big Birthday Demands Big Celebrating!

I dragged myself out of my sister's house and my self-imposed quarantine on Friday to partake in a little pah-tay of the family kind.

I realized as I stepped out the front door that it was the first time I had left the house since the previous Saturday. Bronchitis is a bitch.

I felt pretty good, actually. Thank-you very much.

In reality, I would have had to been nearly bedridden to have missed this.

My niece Amy turned 50. Yes, I have a 50-year-old niece. I even have one older than that. I can't take credit of any of this; it was my sister's doing. In any event, my one niece turned 50 this month, my sister turned 75 and the same niece also happened to be celebrating her something-or-other anniversary on that day. The husband of my niece Wendy turned 41 the same day. There was lots going on.

Amy is one of those people who believes in going big or going home. She lives life with zest and will have a good time if it kills her and everyone around her. When I receive a text or an e-mail and see it's from her, I know I am about to laugh. She has my dad's sense of humor. Simply put: She cracks me up.

She decided you only turn 50 once in life, so you might as well do it up right. She rented a private room at an Albuquerque joint called O'Rielly's. It came with a full bar, two bartenders -- Mike and Rocky -- and a terrace with a fireplace. What a great facility!

Not to be outdone, her husband rented a stretch limo for 10 hours to haul the two of them, their two girls and the four of us from my sister's house to and from the event.

Our limo driver, Loretta, was too nice and put up with us without losing her smile or sense of humor. It was a challenge, I'm sure.

My sister and her husband aren't big drinkers. I think she was adopted. That's not really fair; I remember a day when they both held their own. They are just out of practice. A fate I don't ever intend to suffer. Even they consumed their ration of the bubbly.

I don't spend enough time in limos to be jaded by them. I still get a kick out of driving around in one. Mike had forfeited his security deposit so we could drink as we drove around. Not wanting that money to have been sacrificed in vain, we slurped champagne with gusto. We did have two non-drinkers who were pulling on glasses of sparkling juice.

We spent nearly two hours cruising around Albuquerque before finally coasting up to the bar's front door. There were only a couple of drunks staggering around in front of the joint to observe us as we dismounted our carriage. Sometimes ya gotta love South Florida where it's always warm enough for every joint to have a small crowd hanging outside its door.
It was a spectacular night of dinner, drinking, dancing and having fun. I have no clue how many guests came and went, but I suspect it was around 50 or 60 total.

I'm back in South Carolina now and recovering rather nicely. I have my eyes cast to the next big family blowout when my great niece and God daughter turns 21 in March.


Thursday, December 27, 2012

Sick for the Holidays: A Bummer of Monumental Proportions

I wish I could write that the reason I haven't posted anything recently is because I've been wallowing in holiday revelry. Nope. Sadly I've been too ill to even boot up my netbook.

This is the second time in my life I can remember being sick over Christmas. The first was decades ago. I was 14 or 15 and living in Louisville, Ky. It's the first time I've been sick since moving to South Carolina five years ago, and the sickest I've been in at least 15 years.

Today is the 27th and I consumed my first food this morning since Christmas dinner. It consisted of two slices of Swedish rye bread toast. I only ate about half the amount of food -- turkey, chestnut dressing, Pennsylvania Dutch dried corn and so forth -- on Christmas day as I normally would.

I started coming down with whatever this is late Saturday afternoon -- three days before Christmas. I didn't realize, however, that I was getting sick. How can that be? you might ask. Here's the thing, I never feel great when I visit my sister in New Mexico in the winter. The combination of low humidity and the furnace drying things out even more really does a number on me. I almost always feel like I'm coming down with something by the second or third day of my stay.

Usually I have my own humidifier that I carry from room to room with me while I'm here.

I didn't think much about it on Saturday when I started feeling bad; it was just business as usual.

It wasn't until I woke up the next day feverish with a sore throat that I knew this wasn't just the usual New Mexico discomfort. Eventually, I was so sick that I couldn't sleep. Some antibiotics taken on Christmas Eve helped me rally enough to open gifts on Christmas morning and stay vertical long enough to eat some turkey, but by evening I was slipping fast.

I went back on the antibiotics on the 26th and took a few other things my sister pulled out of her medicine cabinet that's stocked better than some small-town pharmacies. Last night I got something close to my first full night's sleep in four days.

Today I'm rebounding nicely. I feel pretty good. Although I ache all over from my coughing fits the past couple of days, otherwise I'm about 60 percent there.

I credit my flight out here with infecting me. If there was one kid there were 50 on that plane, at least half of them were sick. Then there was the guy sitting across the aisle from me who sneezed his way from Atlanta to Albuquerque.

Being flat on my back and not able to sleep has afforded me the time to finish two books since arriving. I just downloaded No. 3 this morning.

So far I've avoided getting any of the 20 or so people who have been in and out of this house in the past three days sick: somewhat of a miracle, I believe.

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Another Flight on Delta or The Mysterious Case of the Missing Bag

I've been in New Mexico for Christmas since 12/21. I flew out a little early because that day happened to be my sister's 75th birthday.

Fourteen members of the family gathered at Sadie's, our favorite Mexican restaurant, to celebrate. As usual, the margaritas were potent and the food outrageously good. My sister enjoyed herself immensely, and so did I, by the way.

I drove over to Atlanta early Friday morning and flew out of its airport. I arrived more than two hours before my flight. I sat in the gate area and read until boarding was called. I had an aisle, exit-row seat, so legroom wasn't an issue. Of course, I had the Incredible Hulk in the middle seat beside me; I spent the entire flight leaning out into the aisle, getting bumped by every passenger passing by on his way to or from the restroom. I had a couple of screwdrivers to dampen my annoyance.

I brought two partially full suitcases by order of my family so I would have room to carry Christmas loot home. I checked the larger at the Delta baggage counter at Park and Fly Plus. The smaller rollerboard and my carry-on bag I took on the plane.

The Delta baggage guy manning the counter carefully attached a yellow "Priority" tag to my checked bag. This means it's supposed to get V.I.P treatment. (Insert laugh here.)

Historically, the baggage service at Albuquerque's Sunport is very good about off loading the Priority bags first. The first 15 bags or so appearing on the conveyor in baggage claim all sported the yellow tags. Mine was not among them. Where the hell was my bag?

A guy who also checked his bag at the P&F Plus counter and rode to the airport on the same shuttle with me stood next to me at the conveyor and received his non-priority bag. But mine? No way.

After an appropriate amount of time, I headed into Delta's Baggage Claim office. The clerk there looked up my claim check number and reported that my bag -- having never made the flight -- was still in Atlanta. What? Wow, that priority tag really works some magic.

The next flight in from Atlanta wasn't scheduled until 9 p.m. The clerk advised that I probably shouldn't expect it delivered until the following day. She then gave me a little toilet-article kit that Delta has made for just such occasions, and sent me on my way.

Finally around 4:30 the following afternoon, my bad arrived. The bag indeed arrived on the 9 p.m. flight as promised, but it took the delivery company 19 hours to get it to me -- nine hours longer than it took Delta to finally get the bag from Atlanta to Albuquerque.

Fulfilling my duty as a frequent flyer, I've alerted Delta, with emphasis, letting them know they need a new delivery service in Albuquerque.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Mayan Doomsday: Don't Begin Any Long Books

If you plan on spending Friday, December 21 sitting on the floor of your basement surrounded by canned goods and bottled water with a baseball bat balanced on your lap, you aren't alone. It seems more than a few of our neighbors expect the world to end on Friday.

What do I think? I am flying to New Mexico on the 21st and only bought a one-way ticket.

No, that's not true. Sadly, I expect I'll be around to make the return trip home.

I have to say, whether it's the end of the world or not, I'm quite fine with it. The way things are going in this country, hardly anyone will notice another crisis.

If my plane falls out of the heavens, I only hope it's after I've received my thimble-sized shot of apple juice and six-nut bag of peanuts. At least I'd feel somewhat like I had gotten my money's worth out of the price of my ticket. Well, if you discount the rush of spiraling 30,000 feet to the ground in an aluminum tube.

No one seems to know exactly what will happen on the 21st if the Mayan scare is realized. Will the earth burn up in some cataclysmic episode? Will some plague grip the world's population? Will Rosie O'Donnell get a prime-time talk show?

I went online to check out some of the predictions. On one of the 12-21-2012 Web sites, the writer attempted to clear up the mystery by speaking with a few Mayans. Here's what he says a Mayan called Beto told him (I'm not making this up.), "The last and current lines of humans were made from corn because humans, like corn, will come from the dirt and follow a similar cycle..."

Seriously? These people think humans somehow sprang from corn, and we're giving weight to predictions they made regarding 2012 some 5,000 years ago? I guess it probably stands a better chance of being correct than Weather.com's prediction for next week's weather; but c'mon.

All I'm saying is that you might not want to empty out whatever's left of your 401k for a spending spree because you think you won't be around on the 22nd.

No doubt you and I both will still be here; and, unfortunately, so will Rosie O'Donnell.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Once Upon a Time: A Fairy Tale to Make You Drink

I am enjoying a short spell off the road. My cat's happy, but hanging out at home doesn't provide much fodder for blogging. Is my life boring? In a word: yes.

But I'm fine with that. I sort of like just cranking back in my recliner and watching some TV. It may not be exciting, but it's cheap and relaxing. I'm fine with that for short periods. I mean it's not like all I do when I am in town is sit at home. On the contrary, I have my usual haunts that I frequent on a regular schedule. But even that routine is like that old pair of tattered jeans that fit so well, you just can't toss them.

I walk into these places, greet the staff -- many by name -- locate my usual stool at the end of the bar, and fire up my iPad or netbook.

When I'm not just goofing off, I have been finishing up the last two big assignments I have to knock out this year.

I am spending a lot of time in front of the TV.

I am ambivalent in regards to Netflix. I spend $8 a month to download its selection of old movies and TV shows. I say, old movies, because it runs about three months behind Red Box getting movies once they are released for home consumption. But I've had no trouble finding enough things to download to keep me paying my $8 a month.

My most recent Netflix obsession is "Once Upon a Time."

Last year was its first season. I've been seeing the trailers and promos for it for two years, but I can only watch so much TV -- particularly with my travel schedule.

So, I've taken this little period of down time to watch the first season.

Here's the plot: The Evil Queen of Snow White fame, is so ticked off that she was outsmarted by Prince Charming and Snow, that she casts a spell sending the entire enchanted kingdom to hell. Hell being current U.S. of A. I think that's putting it mildly.

Anyway, the entire group winds up in a little town called Storybrooke. The Evil Queen is the mayor. Here's the thing, no one knows they don't belong. They all have new identities and memories.

Snow is a school teacher and Charming was in a coma in the hospital when the season began. By episode six or so, he's awake and working for the animal shelter.

In the mythology of this story, Charming and Snow had a baby when the curse began; they managed to use some magic and save her from the curse.

Named Emma Swan, she winds up in Storybrooke as well. Her character is played by Jennifer Morrison who was in the first five or six seasons of "House." She is the white hat to the Queens black one. Oh, I forgot to mention that the Queen is the adoptive mother of the son Emma gave up at birth. He is also the only one who knows what's going on and keeps driving everyone to remember their past. Are you confused? Me too, but it's good.

Characters there include Red Riding Hood, the Seven Dwarfs,

Rumplestiltskin and probably several more I haven't even been introduced to yet.

All I'm saying is that it's worth a look.

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Walking Dead Is Not About Me

I just finished watching season 2 of "Walking Dead." No, it's not about me.

It's the quintessential zombie TV series.

One of my nieces turned me on to it. She gave me season 1 on DVD, and I watched most of it with my sister on my summer visit to New Mexico.

I have since installed a Blu-Ray player with WiFi in my living room, and can now download all manner of TV shows and movies directly from Netflix. It's a slacker's dream come true. I don't even have to go to Red Box and pick the things up.

So over the course of the past week, I downloaded and watched the 13 episodes of season 2.

As you might expect, there is a fair amount of gore in each episode; it is a series about zombies after all. However, it's quite entertaining with decent production value for a low-budget AMC-original show.

I'm hooked.

Here's the background:

A police officer is shot and slips into a coma; when he awakes in his hospital bed, the world as he knew it is gone. Almost everyone is dead and those who aren't, are, you got it, the walking dead. No one knows how this happened, but if one of the zombies bites you, you become one too.

Our hero eventually finds his wife and son, who are traveling with a small group of survivors in Georgia. He becomes their leader and the adventure is on.

In case you ever come face to face with a zombie, the only way to put it down permanently is by destroying its brain with a bullet, shotgun blast or just by hacking it pieces with a knife, cleaver or some blunt object.

Now it's just a matter of waiting another eight months until season 3 finds its way to Netflix.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Christmas Movies Without the Warm Fuzzies

Let's talk Christmas movies, shall we…

These aren't the typical, sappy, warm-fuzzy Christmas films. I get as misty as everyone else watching "Miracle on 34th Street" and "It's a Wonderful Life," but these aren't my favorite holiday movies.

Nope, here are some of my favorites…

Lethal Weapon -- If you recall, we first get to see Mel Gibson's character in action in a Christmas tree lot where he does his Curly impression. It doesn't get any better than that.

Die Hard and Die Hard 2 -- The quintessential fish-out-of-water plot, Bruce Willis' character finds himself all that stands between a group of terrorist thieves in Nakatomi Plaza, and his wife and her coworkers. Yippee ki yay mother…, well, you get it.

Trading Places -- Great comedy by Eddie Murphy and Dan Aykroyd, not to mention Jamie Lee Curtis topless. It may well be my favorite holiday comedy ever.

Enemy of the State -- Will Smith is out Christmas shopping when he runs into an old friend who is killed in front of him. Gene Hackman plays the cynical, off-the-grid ex-NSA agent who grudgingly winds up helping him against rogue U.S. intelligence agents.

And finally, for my gal pals, here's a chick flick that I also happen to like -- mostly because it co-stars Kate Beckinsale -- Serendipity. It's a love found, love lost, love found movie that also stars wing-nut liberal John Cusak. I recommend it anyway.

There you have it: Christmas movies you can watch any time of year.  

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Steelers Make Me a Believer, Again

I don't think I've ever been as proud of the Steelers and as happy to be a fan as I was last week when they pulled an upset over the Baltimore Ravens.

I sure didn't see it coming: third-string quarterback in, No. 1 cornerback out. But somehow they dug deep and pulled it out.

Charlie Batch, who looked mediocre at best the week before in the embarrassing loss to the Browns, was putting the ball right on the numbers last week. The interception wasn't an issue in my mind; Big Ben usually gets picked off once or so a game.

So, the Steelers without their best offensive weapon and the Ravens without Ray Lewis, their best defensive weapon, eked out a 23 to 20 win with a field goal in the closing seconds of the game.

I was stunned.

For years the road to the playoffs and the Super Bowl for the Steelers has been through Baltimore. So it will be this year. Currently leading the division, the Ravens will probably duel the Steelers again in the playoffs.

After San Diego, of the remaining three games, two are against teams in their own division: Browns and Bengals. Steelers need to win both. Beating the AFC Chargers would be helpful as well.

Can't believe the regular season is so close to being over. Where's that longer season everyone keeps talking about?

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

A Little Beach, A Little Rain and Some VW Beetle Convertible

Southern California is known for, among other things, sunshine and balmy temperatures. I saw no evidence of either on a recent trip to the Golden State.

Volkswagen chose Santa Monica to introduce its redesigned Beetle Convertible to the motoring press. (Doesn't "motoring press" sound elegant? Almost as though we are doing something worthwhile.) During my two-night stay, the temperature never exceeded 65 degrees and the sun never bothered peeking from behind the clouds. We might as well have been in Seattle.

On the positive side, had the weather cooperated to the point we could have dropped the top for the day, we wouldn't have formed an appreciation for how well the Beetle's cloth cover keeps out traffic and road noise. It is remarkably quiet with the top in place -- a top that requires just 9.5 seconds to lower at speeds up to 31 mph.

The nasty weather didn't prevent us from driving cars armed with each of the available three engines. The 200-horsepower 2-liter four-cylinder turbo was the most fun to drive, but even the entry-level 170-horsepower 2.5-liter engine wasn't a slouch. There's also a torquey TDI diesel in the mix.

All of the cars I drove were equipped with the optional mind-blowing Fender-infused audio system. It's one of the best factory systems in a small car. VW is also making some special editions with unique color schemes, wheels and badging based on 50s-, 60s- and 70s-era Beetles.

Base pricing begins at $24,995 and escalates to $32,295 before adding on the $795 destination charge.

On our Beetle Convertible drive we based out of Malibu Beach's Sunset Restaurant. We hopped in and out of various Beetles, driving them on routes that took us along the beach and into the mountains. Going up to Mulholland Drive the fog was so thick, visibility was perhaps 30 feet. It was like being in an episode of the old TV series "Outer Limits." That's a bit more adventure than I want from a California ramble.

While in California, VW put us up at The Shore Hotel on Ocean Avenue, just a block or two from the Third Street Promenade with all of its shops and watering holes. In fact, VW took over the entire hotel for the week.

This didn't exactly provide us the freedom to ride the elevators naked, but we had the run of the place.

Dinner the first night was a catered affair at the flagship Converse store at the Third Street Promenade. It's quite the operation.

VW had us fitted for a pair of shoes and also arranged a tempting discount on any purchases of our own. I haven't owned a pair of Converse in 45 years; now I have two pair. What, I'm not going to take advantage of a deal?

One of the desserts was red velvet Twinkies. Yes, decadent, but tasty.

Dinner the second night was at Mercado on 4th Street. You may assume from the name that it specializes in Mexican fare. The food was good, if a little foo foo for my taste. I'm down for the basics: tacos, enchiladas and so forth.

In the "basics" department, however, were the glasses of Dos Equis Amber beer punctuated with shots of Don Julio 1842 tequila. It may not have transformed me into the "Most Interesting Man in the World," but it made me happy.

Stay thirsty, my friend.

Sunday, December 2, 2012

What Fool Cast Tom Cruise as Jack Reacher?

Okay, I'm just going to come out and say it: Who is the blithering idiot who cast Tom Cruise in the role of Jack Reacher in the upcoming film "One Shot." Wait, I know; it was the movie's producer Tom Cruise.

Only an arrogant nincompoop like the 5'7" Cruise could possibly read a Reacher novel with its 6'5" 250-pound protagonist and think to himself, "Hey, that's me!"

Only Cruise himself could think that somehow his intense, over-fidgety on-screen persona could somehow translate into the laid-back, lumbering Reacher.

Reacher is not a kung fu fighter, he's a brawler, and that's part of his charm.

Even the miscast Harrison Ford as Jack Ryan in a few of those films, doesn't hold a candle to this train wreck.

Obviously they are making this movie for an audience that has never heard of Jack Reacher.

I'm sure what we are basically going to get is "Mission Impossible" Three or Four or whatever that series is up to. Of course with Cruise's character's name changed to Jack Reacher.

I have yet to speak to one fan of the books who hasn't been totally mystified by the casting, as I was until I did a little research, discovering Cruise is the producer. Oh, so he's the fool who hired himself.

Apparently Cruise managed to put most of the budget earmarked for the cast and crew into his own pocket. Outside of Robert Duvall, I didn't recognize a name among the cast; although, I might recognize a face or two.

He choose a basically unknown to direct. Christopher McQuarrie received some writing credit for the Mission Impossible films, but I can't find much else he's done.

I would normally be very enthusiastic about this movie, but not as it is shaking out.

Will I see it?

I'm sure it will be in a Red Box near me at some point. I'll roll the dice and spend $1.50 renting the Blu-Ray disc.

Cruise as Reacher: You've got to be kidding.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

A Survival Guide to Amelia Island in Winter

I am on a discovery tour of my roots. Not really, but I am in Florida where I lived for nearly 25 years. In this case, though, I am in North Florida on Amelia Island -- Fernandina Beach to be exact.

When AAA beckons, I answer the call. I'm here researching a travel piece for AAA of the Carolinas Go Magazine.

Never having been here, I am taken with the town's quaintness, history and small-town appeal. I'd like to have the fiberglass/wood-pirate concession here. There seems to be a pirate statue of one sort or another in front of about half the downtown businesses.

At one point I looked down the street and was surprised to see statues of pirates riding camels. As I grew closer, I discovered what I was seeing was part of a church's outdoor nativity scene. The three were the Wise Men bearing frankincense, myrrh and gold doubloons, perhaps.

The weather is miserable. Thanks to an overcast sky, the temperature is in the mid 50s. This is not particularly chilly for a Carolinian, but it is playing havoc with locals who think it signals a new Ice Age.

As I write this, I am supposed to be out on a boat sightseeing. The morning's cruise, however, was canceled because the dozen or so seniors who were booked apparently aren't sturdy enough to set sail on such a crappy day. I'm on the list for this afternoon's outing, but that is in doubt as well.

I did battle the elements to visit Fort Clinch. It's a War of Northern Aggression-era fort built by the Union after the Confederate armies left Florida. It is in remarkably good shape, hosting reenactments with some regularity.

Never one to let a little nasty weather ruin a trip, I have been sampling the town's many watering holes in lieu of outdoor activities. There are an abundance of them.

My Palm Beach County friend Amy has to visit Jacksonville every week for her work. We arranged to have dinner together while I was here and accomplished that last evening. Prior to that, we darkened a few doors.

Our first stop was The Palace Saloon. Billing itself as the oldest bar in Florida, it has a colorful history and is decorated in 19th century funk. At 4 in the afternoon it was full of smoke -- it's easy to take the no-smoking rule of most areas for granted -- so we had a quick beer and struck out for O'Kane's Irish Pub. The Murphy's Stout was cold and creamy.

We were hungry for some chips and salsa, and adjourned to Peppers -- a Mexican cantina --  for that and a margarita.

Now under a full head of steam, we went to Lulu's at the Thompson House for dinner and the obligatory bottle of wine. Our host was Brian Grimley. He and his wife opened Lulu's about 3 years ago. Specializing in Southern dishes with a Cajun influence, Lulu's was a spectacular treat.

It doesn't look like much on the outside, but the food was outstanding. For an appetizer we both had the $11 Jumbo Lump Crab Cake. We then shared what the specials menu described at Mac and Cheese with shrimp, but was really Alfredo sauce tossed with pasta and jumbo shrimp. It was truly exceptional and I'm not much of a seafood eater. It rang the register at $23.

As dinner was winding down, Brian came out of the kitchen to chat; two hours and another bottle of wine later, we were still talking.

Taking his role of host seriously, Brian kept Amy's glass full.

I'm staying at the Williams House, a B&B about five blocks from the center of town. The innkeepers are Byron and Deborah McCutchen. Operating with no shortage of enthusiasm, they do a great job. I am staying in the Princess Amelia Anniversary Suite. I agree that the Smugglers Cove suite would have been more Butch, but the room is tasteful, comfortable and quiet. The nightly rates range this time of year from $185 to $250. The Princess suite is $200.

I even have my own full-size Christmas tree in the corner. In fact the entire house is decorated inside and out like a Macy's holiday window.

And the adventure continues.

Friday, November 23, 2012

Nelson DeMille: The Ideal Winter Read

Sadly I am down to the final 100 pages or so of the latest Nelson DeMille novel: The Panther.

I write "sadly" because, as with all DeMille's works,  it's one of those books I keep reading because I need to learn what happens next, but I don't want it to end.

It's a "page turner," as they say.

I read a lot of fiction. At any given time I usually have two books going. One is fiction and the other either a biography, political commentary, history or look at current affairs. The fiction I usually read at night before bed and on airplanes. The nonfiction I carry to restaurants and watering holes when I'm going to be myself.

DeMille is, without a doubt, my favorite contemporary author. He is a master craftsman who knows how to create compelling characters while brilliantly constructing their story.

With the exception of his early co-written work Mayday, I highly recommend anything and everything he's penned.

If you aren't a fan, the title you might be familiar with is The General's Daughter, made into a John Travolta film.

Since 1997,  DeMille has primarily concentrated on his John Corey character. The Panther is the sixth in the Corey series. If you haven't read them, go to Amazon now and download the first in the series, Plum Island. The Kindle version is only $ .99.

Any reader on your Christmas list will appreciate the introduction to DeMille and John Corey.

Corey is a smartass of monumental proportions. A former NYPD detective, he winds up in the FBI joint task force on terrorism. Every book in the series is a marvelous read and is riddled with historical references.

Because the series is packed with reoccurring characters, you'll want to read the books in order. Once you've conquered Plum Island, move on to the next. Here's the rest of the list:

1.      The Lion's Game
2.      Night Fall
3.      Wild Fire
4.      The Lion
5.      The Panther

Before reading The Panther, you might want to read The General's Daughter. Its primary character teams with John Corey in The Panther.

Happy reading!

Monday, November 19, 2012

A Parting Shot, er Beer, in New Mexico

I took a break from penning adventures from assorted New Mexico microbreweries to concentrate on issues of greater import like the clowns wearing TSA uniforms in San Francisco. Now that I have that out of my system, back to the brew!

When I was in Santa Fe a couple of weeks ago with Volkswagen, our lunch stop at the end of the Jetta Hybrid ride and drive was at the Luminaria restaurant at the Inn and Spa at Loretto in downtown Santa Fe.

Lunch was Mexican-infused fare served on the restaurant's open patio. It was good, but I opted for a cheeseburger minus the guacamole and some other Mexicana-fringe accoutrements that I had no interest in consuming. The burger was delicious and the home-cut fries outstanding. They, however, left me with a powerful thirst.

VW offered to have me driven to my sister's rather than she and my brother-in-law having to make the 80-mile hike up to get me. I had a couple of hours to kill before my car was scheduled to depart, so I decided to head to the Plaza that was a couple of blocks away. I had heard rumors of a microbrewery in the area; my mission was clear.

One of the VW PR types told me that she thought it was right on the Plaza. I struck out from the restaurant with a song in my heart and dark brew on my mind. Two hikes around the Plaza and short jaunts a couple of blocks down side streets produced zero results.

I walked back to the hotel the restaurant is in and asked the concierge for help. She looked it up and reported that it is indeed on the Plaza on the second floor of the Arcade Building. I remembered passing by the Arcade Building, but never saw a sign for the brewery.

I strolled the two blocks back to the Plaza and the additional block of the Plaza to the Arcade Building. Sure enough, there was a tiny sign over the entrance that said Marble Brewery Tap Room with an arrow pointing up.

I climbed the stairs and hit the Mother Lode. This isn't the brewery -- that's in Albuquerque -- it's a tap room owned by the brewery and featuring its beers.

I ordered a pint of Oatmeal Stout. It was loaded with chocolate and coffee flavor. Good stuff! I also sampled the Red Ale and some sort of wheat/porter ale that was surprisingly good. Generally I don't like wheat beer, but this wasn't bad at all.

I chatted up the bartender who was completing her third week in the job, purchased the obligatory tee-shirt, and headed for my ride.

I plan on visiting the brewery itself during my Christmas New Mexico stay.

When I visit my sister, her family always tries to put together a family dinner at Sadie’s in Albuquerque, my favorite Mexican restaurant. I coerced my sister and her husband to stop at another brewery I found online on our way to our Sadie's dinner. Actually, no coercion was involved; they go out of their way to show me a good time whenever I visit. I'm fairly low maintenance, so I don't make many requests beyond Sadie's and a particular dinner or two that my sister makes like our mother did. We informed other family members of our intention in case they wanted to join us.

The microbrewery in question is La Cumbre Brewing Company. As many micro breweries are, it is located in the belly of an industrial warehouse area. It doesn't look like much on the outside, but is rather inviting inside.

No too shocking, I opted for the Malpais Stout: truly wonderful.

One of the reasons I chose La Cumbre over the couple of other Albuquerque breweries is because of its truly colorful logo. I always try to buy a shirt when I'm visiting a new brewery and I consider the La Cumbre logo to be one of the better brewery logos I've seen. I thought it would look great on the back of a black or navy-blue shirt.

Although several tee-shirts were displayed behind the bar, none of the men's shirts had the logo on the back. I was really disappointed. Glad the beer was good.

That's the latest suds report.