Preparing to shoot a few segments of Big Jon in 5 for BEER2WHISKEY in our upstairs studio at Barley's Taproom in downtown Greenville. That's owner Josh Beebe preparing for his closeup.

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Back-to-Back Out-of-Town Company: My House Has Never Been So Clean

I'm actually trying -- not very hard mind you -- to get some work cranked out between spurts of out-of-town company. It's a losing battle. I am only semi motivated as it is under the best of conditions.

Give me a deadline and I meet it, but I require a deadline -- real or imaginary -- to force me to the keyboard.

Rapid-fire visits from good friends is more than enough diversion to stop up the old creative juices.

I had friends from Florida here for six days last week. I was actually gone to a Nissan event for one night of their stay. It shortened my host responsibilities to four days. I made up for it during the time I was with them. They headed home last Friday, apparently none the worse for wear.

This Friday my buddy who used to be from Florida, but now lives in Tucson, is scheduled to arrive mid afternoon. If you are at least somewhat alert, you've probably already deduced that he is the guy in the "micro brew" photo. He has never visited me in South Carolina. We'll have a lot of ground to cover. He'll be here two nights before heading to Atlanta for some work-related class/meeting/boondoggle. He will then return the following weekend in case any stone of drinking opportunity was left unturned during his initial weekend.

Here we are with one of the wranglers at Eatons' Ranch in 2009. I remain convinced she liked me better.

He and I once spent two days and nights on a pub crawl along San Antonio's River Walk in search of its best margarita. Those were the good old days before he got hitched in his 50s and somehow produced a set of twins. But all of that is a story for another day. It's quite the tale.

The one good thing about back-to-back weeks of company is that the joint only needs touched up in the cleaning department. I've already washed the guest-bathroom towels, as well as the guest-bed sheets. I'll have to give the carpets a swipe with the vacuum, but that'll take five minutes.

I guess I'll wipe down the guest bathroom as well. Already looks pretty good from a distance, though.

I've restocked the fridge and the bar.

I get more excited about out-of-town visitors -- or visitors of any stripe, really -- than my cat does. She spent the five days of last week's company curled up under my bed. I doubt she'll be much more enthusiastic about someone else being here this weekend. Neither of us does cartwheels over change.

Oh well....

Monday, May 28, 2012

Does Driving Like a Jerk Make Someone a Bad Person?

I'm not sure what's happened to civility on the highway, but, for the most part, it's gone.

I don't think much about it until a motorist does something surprising, like, well, something nice.

Although I live in South Carolina, where motorists tend to be less aggressive and more accommodating, there still seems to be the absence of general goodwill and the we're-all-in-this-together feeling of camaraderie that was once in evidence on our roads.

Now it's a dog-eat-dog mentality that encourages behavior that is not only rude, but can often be dangerous.

Nowhere is such activity more prevalent than South Florida, where I lived for nearly 25 years. Drivers there give new meaning to the term "rude." Whether it's because so many are transplants from the Northeast, new arrivals from South America where driving is a contact sport, or simply tourists who figure the thousands of dollars spent on a Florida vacation entitles them to be jerks, South Florida's highways are an exercise in defensive driving. Rude, aggressive driving is contagious and it has reach epidemic proportions in South Florida.

But South Florida is simply a glaring example; such behavior is now the norm across the country.

Have we really become so self absorbed that we can't allow another car to merge into traffic ahead of us. Will six car lengths really make that great a difference in how quickly we reach our destination?

I've seen motorists guard their position in traffic with a relentless fierceness that they probably couldn't muster to protect their children from a midnight home invasion.

What prompted my thinking about this was a motorist in a blue Dodge Caravan, who slowed down and flashed his headlights at me, allowing me to merge onto I-85 earlier today. I sped up, pulled into the line of traffic ahead of him and gave him a wave of appreciation as I accelerated away.

Sadly, I can't remember the last time I experienced a motorist acting with such civility as this Caravan's driver.

On those rare occasions when someone does do something nice, I always acknowledge it with a smile and a wave. And in this, I am in the minority. I've stopped keeping track of how often a motorist who I have allowed into traffic ahead of me actually acknowledge my kindness; it so rarely happens. No, I'm not curing cancer by surrendering my position in traffic, but that's the point. It requires literally nothing from me: no effort, no energy and no cost.

Moreover, a little acknowledgment doesn't cost that motorist anything either.

Maybe I am longing for something that simply is beyond our me-myself-and-I culture.

Too bad.

Saturday, May 26, 2012

A Short Trip in the Wayback Machine: Reliving a Little Piece of My Childhood

I saw something the other evening that I haven't seen in 40 years: lightning bugs.

Some Florida friends who were in town visiting and I were sitting on my screened front porch when one of them shouted, "Hey, look at that!"

My initial reaction was, not another 1970s Impala on 24-inch rims, which my neighborhood seems to be overrun with.

Nope, it was a firefly. We spotted one then another and another. Pretty soon my side yard and the field across the street were thick with them.

This is my fifth summer in South Carolina and I haven't seen them here before. That doesn't mean they weren't around, but I never noticed them. In fact, I had forgotten all about them.

I can remember as a kid in Ohio chasing them around, and sometimes putting them in a jar. But I haven't given them a thought them in decades.

Yet, here they were, nonetheless, in huge numbers well within reach. I resisted the urge to run out in the yard and capture one. The fact that, these days, they may well be able to outrun me had nothing to do with my self discipline; I really just wanted to sit back and admire them.

Lightning bugs. Wow. I guess I'm easily amazed.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Some TV I Will Miss Next Season

For all intents and purposes, the major TV networks have decided which of its stable of primetime shows will and won't return next season.

I watch a lot of TV when I'm home. I have a DVR and record several shows that I then watch at my leisure. Sometimes I have more than my fair share of leisure, so I get to keep up with most of the shows that I have even a minor interest in.

Yes, my time might be better spent volunteering at a downtown soup kitchen; but because of my travel schedule, my random spurts of downtime are more easily filled with watching TV than accomplishing something of any consequence. At least that's what I tell myself.

In that spirit, here are the cancelled shows that I will most miss:

"Missing." This show that starred Ashley Judd was originally developed as an 8-episode miniseries. Despite creating a cliff-hanging final episode, the original plotline was concluded in that episode. I'm not sure this show could have held an audience for a 13- or 20-something-week run next season. So I get it.

"Unforgettable." I became a Poppy Montgomery fan during her stint at "Without a Trace." I like the premiss of "Unforgettable," that had Montgomery's character cast as a police detective who remembers everything she sees. But I watch as much for Montgomery as I do the show's entertainment value. She's hot and I'm a guy. So shoot me.

"The Finder." This is a quirky little show from the producers of "Bones." The main character can find any one or any thing once he sets his mind to it. It was brainless entertainment which is exactly what I want out of my TV viewing.

"Awake." I loved the idea behind this show's plotline that had the main character living his life in both reality and a dream world and not being able to tell which was real and which wasn't. He was a police detective -- who isn't these days? -- who solved the current crime in one reality with clues from the other. It was a novel premiss and I'll be particularly sorry to see it go. (Note: After I originally posted this blog the final episode of the season and the series aired. The producers brought the storyline to a conclusion: Like "Dallas" from decades ago, the entire season was just one huge dream. The main character awoke to find that none of it happened and that both wife and son were still alive. It was a then-the-bus-crashed-and-everyone-died ending. Cheap, but tidy.)

"Harry's Law." I've blogged about this show a couple of times and actually stopped recording it when -- for no reason that I can figure out -- the producers gave resident hottie Brittany Snow her walking papers. Somehow my DVR began recording it again mid season and I have watched a few episodes. Mostly David E. Kelley managed to rein in his far-left tendencies -- the very thing that motivated me to stopped watching "Boston Legal" its last two seasons -- and so I didn't feel too bad about watching it. But unlike the other shows on this list, I'm not really sorry to see it go. It morphed into just another lawyer show from its original premiss. That certainly didn't make it better.

Those those are my favorites that got the old heave ho.

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Contemplating Golf in a Very Deserted Cincy Airport

As I write this I am sitting in the Cincinnati airport -- actually in Kentucky -- cooling my heels for 3 hours waiting on a connecting flight to Nashville. Nissan is flying me to its media launch of the 2013 Altima.

I have never seen a major airport so deserted. It's ; I am sitting in a little alcove off of Concourse B and I feel like the sole survivor of a nuclear holocaust. I can see the employees of a couple of the shops standing out in the concourse -- no doubt hoping another survivor will stumble by -- but that's about it. Every once in a while a member of the cleaning crew will come by pushing a cart loaded with cleaning stuff in search of someone to clean up after.

I am not exaggerating when I write that it has been at least 2 or 3 minutes since I last saw a fellow traveler walk by. Every once in a while an airport or airline employee wanders by, but even they are few and far between.

Is it a little eerie?  Why, yes it is.

It is in this somewhat surreal setting that I will wrap up my 3-day experiences toting a score standard from hole to hole at the BMW Charity Pro-Am Golf Tournament.

Even for someone who makes his living transforming thoughts into words, I am hard pressed to sum up my unbridled joy at walking off the 18th green for the last time on Saturday.

Three days of watching golf, playing golf or even thinking about golf is more than anyone should have to suffer.

Here's what playing a hole of golf sounds like -- at least when I played:

Plink  "Dammit; shanked it. Did anyone see where it went? Mother f…. that's another lost ball.

Plink  "Aw jeez; it's in the trees! Did anyone see it come out? Crap; another lost ball."

Thud  "Nuts; hit behind it. I could have thrown it farther than that. At least I can see it. Anyone see the beer cart?"

Dink  "Topped the son of a…  That'll put a smile in it. I don't think I brought enough balls. Somebody please find the beer cart!"

Plink  "Thank, God; on the green in five. What's the par on this hole? Please tell me it's 7 or 8. Three! WTF! Where's that damn beer cart?"

Whoop whoop whoop whoop  "Yep, I can still throw a nine iron farther than I can hit a ball with it. I'm going to the clubhouse for a beer."

Yep, I could go the rest of my life without setting foot on another golf course.

I worked with the same walking scorer all three days. We tallied it up and determined that it took 41 holes before we saw anyone sink a putt longer than 4 feet. We may have seen another three or four putts of more than 4 feet made on the remaining 13 holes. It was abysmal.

There were plenty of pros at 15, 16 and 17 under by the third day of play, but we hadn't been with any of them. One of the pros in my foursome on the last day finished at 4 over par. There are beach volleyball players who don't spend as much time in the sand as he did.

Suddenly I feel like, if I properly applied myself, I could play on the PGA tour. I like sand.

Nah, it's still golf.

Friday, May 18, 2012

A Look From Inside the Ropes at the BMW Charity Pro-Am Golf Tournament

I am part of this year's BMW Charity Pro-Am Golf Tournament.

Those who know me are not even entertaining the thought that I am participating as a player. Are you kidding?

But I am participating inside the ropes, as they say. I am what is known as a "standard bearer." I walk with one of the foursomes carrying a big placard with the players' names and where they stand compared to par.

I have a little green apron loaded with numbers from 0 to 8, as well as the letter "E" for Even. At the end of every hole, the walking score keeper, who is also with my foursome, tells me what changes to make to the scores and I make them.

I launched into panic mode midway through Thursday's round when one of the teams hit 9 under par. I dug around my apron, but couldn't come up with a 9. WTF! Where the hell are my nines? The score keeper laid a hand on my shoulder and said, "Why don't you turn a 6 upside down?"

What, you expect me to think of everything?

In any event, I'm a standard-bearer.

Yes, I know I'm not an indispensable part of this event, but just because you shovel elephant crap doesn't mean you're not part of the circus.

I thought it would be fun to give you an up-close-and-personal look at what life is like inside the ropes at a big golf event. Sadly, my hopes were dashed before getting off the first tee. I was snapping some photos when the tourney's Grand Poobah, hustled up to me, and told me to stop and desist. At one point I thought he was going to confiscate my camera.

It seems taking photos during the rounds is strictly verboten. I was unaware they have Nazis at the PGA.

But, being the good, little law-abiding citizen that I am, I did as asked. I didn't even blurt out a wise-ass remark. I am mellowing in my old age.

I have been at Greenville's Thornblade Country Club -- well, it might actually be in Greer -- the past two mornings at 6:30.

The parking lot at that hour is a ghost town.

I have to get on a big yellow school bus and travel to the volunteer drop off. There I board a golf cart that whisks me off to the Volunteer Village.

"Volunteer Village" is what they call it; it's actually just a big tent, but "Volunteer Tent" doesn't have the same ring.

After checking in with the standard-bearer marshal, I can wander around, eat a free cinnamon roll or bagel, and drink a little coffee. Basically I just waste about an hour before I get the signal that it is time to suit up and head to the first tee.

Both mornings I have been assigned to the first foursome off the first tee. There are also foursomes starting off on the number 10 tee.

I know lugging the score card in sign form up and down all the hills populating this course -- particularly the front nine -- sounds wonderfully romantic, but you would be wrong.

My back aches, my feet hurt and my legs are like two lead rods. I'm in pretty good shape and this is killing me.

Most foursomes consist of two pros, a nobody amateur and a celebrity. The organizers are stretching things a bit to call some of these celebrities celebrities, but I've at least heard of most of them.

I was lucky and on Thursday my foursome's celebrity was Jeffrey Donovan -- an actual celebrity. He's the male lead in the USA Network's TV show "Burn Notice."

After six hours of yukking it up, we are quite the pals. I call him, Big Jeff. And he calls me, That clown carrying the score standard. Maybe we aren't quite as close as I thought.

When I did play golf, I was good for about 12 holes and then began looking for the clubhouse and a beer. After 15 holes, I would bludgeon to death a koala bear with my nine iron for a Miller Lite. I always chalked it up to growing weary of concentrating on trying to make good shots after a dozen holes or so.

I have learned from my standard-bearer experience that that is not the case. After 12 holes, I am just bored out of my mind. Yes, walking the course with pros and celebrities is somewhat more entertaining than watching golf on TV -- how do people do that? -- but not by much.

I have one more day. I just keep telling myself that I am doing it for charity. I volunteered on behalf of the Pendleton Place. It's a shelter for girls abused in the foster-care program. I met the director and toured the facility when my buddy with Rent-A-Center came to Greenville to give Pendleton Place six grand and a couple of refrigerators. I think they do good work and wanted to help out in some way. To qualify for a cut of the tournament's charity pie, each charity must supply a minimum number of volunteers.

So I suffer, but not in silence.

Oh, and for you country music fans, the celebrity in my foursome on day two was Steve Azar.

Just another chapter in "I Love Being Me!"

Monday, May 14, 2012

Toe to Toe With a Major Appliance and It Blinked First

I was a paragon of industriousness over the weekend. I've shifted into high gear to get some stuff done around the house.

I have company arriving on Saturday. That means, if nothing else, I must clean the house. The cat and I don't mind dealing with the squalor that usually dominates our living quarters, but I can't expect company to do the same.

I dust and run the vacuum from time to time, but usually only drag out the mop and the toilet bowl cleaner -- the BIG guns of house-cleaning materials -- in preparation for arriving company. Moreover, my desk looks like they test ICBMs on it. Oh, for the days when my office was a dedicated room with a door that I could just close when guests came a callin'.

I didn't really clean much over the weekend, but I did address a few things that needed fixing.

My major accomplishment was getting my washing machine running up to snuff. It began leaking about a month ago. My fierce work and travel schedule in April prevented me from taking on a project with the potential scope of fixing the washer.

The washer and dryer are in a small alcove off my office. A pair of folding doors can close off these appliances from sight, but because one of the only two furnace/air conditioning vents in the room is behind the dryer -- the other is behind a bookcase -- I leave the folding doors open.

Before accessing the washer, I first had to remove one of the folding doors. I then had to kneel on top the washer to disconnect the two hoses from the hot- and cold-water faucets. With that accomplished and the washer unplugged, I had to tip it forward, laying it on its front. Everything I needed to get to was on its backside, so laying it down worked as well as anything and was certainly easier than trying to "walk" the washer out into the room so I could get behind it.

The problem turned out to be a bad hose. The hot-water hose had a huge bulge right where it connected to the hot water faucet. I made the obligatory Home Depot run to buy new hoses.

Every damn job requires a trip to Home Depot, if you're lucky, and three or four trips if your not. It's an unwritten law of some sort.

I sat the washer upright, reconnected the hoses to the faucets and turned it on. I filled the tub up about a quarter of the way, hit rinse/spin and let it drain. The problem seemed to be solved. Yeah, right.

I threw a load of colored clothes in, walked away and returned 30 minutes later to find water once again puddling under the washer and seeping into my office carpet.


Cussing under my breath, well, actually cussing out loud, I pulled the washer out again. I fiddled with all the fittings and retightened all the hose connections. I ran it again and it operated flawlessly: leak free.

Stopping the leaking wasn't really much of an accomplishment, as these things go, but I relished the victory as though I had rebuilt the motor.

I still have a hand towel stuffed under the freezer side of my refrigerator because I've never been able to stop its leak. I know it's a drain issue, but, for the life of me, can't figure out how to unclog the drain line. It has confounded me at every turn. I know I'm going to have to break down and call a repairman, but I haven't been able to make myself do it.

I hate to be defeated by a major appliance. So, as long as I hold off calling a repairman, I can tell myself that there is still a chance I will fix it.

Who am I kidding?

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Sonic Boom: Maybe I Like This Little Chevy Too Much...Nah!

Wow! I never thought I'd hear myself say this, but Chevy has a compact car that I absolutely love!

I have become a slobbering mess over its new Sonic.

I first drove one between the Raleigh, NC airport and the Virginia International Raceway where Chevy previewed the new Camaro ZL1. It was a turbocharged version like the one I am currently piloting.

A 138-horsepower 1.8-liter four-banger is Sonic's standard powerplant. The higher-end trim LT and LTZ versions can replace the standard engine with a turbocharged one. It still harnesses 138 ponies, but increases peak torque from 125 lb. ft. to 148.

Changing cogs falls to a six-speed manual transmission on my current test Sonic. The less potent engine gets a five-speed manual. Either manual tranny can be upgraded to a six-speed automatic for $1,070. The manual gearbox is pretty darn good, too. I'm not kidding.

I have now clocked a total of about 500 miles in the Sonic turbo on a variety of roads, and I am more impressed with every mile.

For years Chevy took such an indifferent interest in its subcompact offering that it outsourced the car to the Koreans. What they got for this lack of interest and effort was a series of assorted buzzbombs that, quite frankly, weren't worthy of wearing the Bowtie.

With the Sonic we have a beautifully styled, smartly engineered, carefully executed world-class small car. The hatchback -- Chevy makes it as a five-door and a four-door -- is particularly stunning in its design.

The interior, as well, is neatly styled and well constructed.

Here's something else I didn't expect: The Sonic is quiet! I mean not just sort of quiet, but study-hall quiet.

For its size, the Sonic hatchback has a cavernous cargo area. With the rear seat in place, the luggage space is about the same as in a Ford Taurus and more than a Dodge Charger. With the rear seat folded, it's maximum cargo capacity approaches that of some small crossovers.

What's more, pricing begins at $14,765. My current Inferno Orange turbo-charged Sonic LTZ rings the register at $18,260 before the $795 destination fee.

I've actually startled a couple of friends asking about the car with my unbridled enthusiasm. I like it so much that I included it on my list of "7 Best Cars for Urban Driving" that I recently wrote for Also on that list are cars like the Honda Fit and Kia Soul -- high praise, indeed.

When you've been writing about cars for nearly 25 years, it takes a lot to get to get the old heart pumping. The Sonic does it for me.

Oh, and did I mention that Chevy is screwing together the Sonic in Michigan? Yep, it's built right here in the good ol' U.S. of A.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Bowling Just Ain't My Thing

I did something last week that I haven't done in 10 or 15 years: I bowled.

It wasn't particularly pretty.

I know you are wondering how a svelte, athletically inclined, superbly coordinated individual, such as me, wouldn't cut quite the figure bowling. It does stretch the bounds of credulity, doesn't it?

I was at a Scion FR-S event at the Red Rock Casino Hotel just outside of Las Vegas. One of the features of this hotel is a 60-lane bowling alley. Additionally, it has a 12-lane VIP lounge for special parties. Scion threw dinner in the VIP lounge and then encouraged us to bowl after eating.

Just like swimming, there should be some sort of unwritten rule about bowling within 60 minutes of wolfing down an Asian-infused buffet. It would have saved me much heartache and embarrassment.

The sad thing is that there were people there bowling worse than I, but unfortunately not on my alley.

I managed to eek out a score of 100 on my first game, and that was as good as it got. It was truly pathetic.

I made the correct choice to steer clear of bowling all these years.

I did bowl with some regularity years ago. I even belonged to a league. It was the most miserable six months of my life.

Here's the thing about league bowling: They bowl no matter what. Rain, snow, hurricanes, earthquakes, none of it matters to league bowlers. Had there been a bowling alley in the basement of one of the Twin Towers on September 11, the league scheduled to bowl there that night would have shown up.

The league I bowled in was a church league made up of teams from the several Lutheran churches in Louisville. I was already fed up with having my Monday nights screwed up for the previous 10 weeks on the night when I decided that when my league obligations were fulfilled, I'd never bowl again.

We were bowling our second game when the treasurer of the league dropped dead in the alley next to us of a heart attack. His body came to rest across our alley, as well as the alley his team was bowling in.

Bowling came to a stop as word spread up and down the other lanes. It was eerily quiet. A number of bowlers came over to pay their respects to the deceased bowler's son, who was on the same team.

Over the PA system came an announcement that we should have a minute of silent prayer for our fallen brother.

As the 60th second ticked off the clock the same voice said, "Amen. Let's bowl!"

I'm not making this up. Everyone but the deceased's team and ours -- remember, he was lying across our respective alleys -- resumed bowling. I guess had I thought about it, I could have grabbed his ankles and dragged him out of the way. We had to bowl for an extra 30 minutes to make up for the lost time.

Nah, I'm not a big bowler any more.

Sunday, May 6, 2012

I'm About Vegas'd Out

I just returned from my third trip to Las Vegas this year. One more and I'll qualify as a whale or whatever they call big-money visitors to casinos. Well, I might qualify if I had big money or if I gambled.

I haven't wagered so much as a nickel on my Vegas jaunts.

"Why go to Vegas if you're not going to gamble?" you might ask. "Isn't that like going to Sea World and not seeing Shamu? Or going to the lunch buffet at a strip club just for the food?"

Yes it is.

I don't like dropping change in a parking meter and at least I get some parking out of it. If I had even a quarter to throw away, I wouldn't be working. In my business, every dollar earned is a real tooth pull, and I can think of better ways to waste it than standing in a smoke-filled room saying, "hit me," or pushing some button on a slot machine.

If I'm going to give my money away, I'd rather give it to a charity. That way I can control exactly how much I give and feel better about it the next day. I mean, you know the odds are in favor of the house, right?

I've seen signs advertising a casino that proudly boasts something like, "Biloxi's loosest slots! 90% payout!" Really, they advertise that if you have the average experience there, you will only lose 10% of what you wager and you still go?

I can't make myself do it.

For someone who doesn't gamble, I've probably been in more casinos than the habitual gambler in your life. I've been in Indian casinos in South Dakota, redneck casinos in Mississippi and big-name casinos in Vegas. Reno, Foxborough, Los Lunas, you name it and I've probably been there.

My familiarity with casinos isn't the result of a misspent youth, but from nearly 10 years of working on the TV series "Discover America." We shot a lot of casinos -- an obscene number of casinos.

My latest casino encounter was the Red Rock Casino Hotel in Las Vegas. It's not on the strip, but about 10 miles away in Summerlin.

As casino hotels go, it's a pretty decent one. It has its own Regal movie house with a number of IMAX theaters as well as traditional ones. It has a 60-lane bowling alley and a Yard House restaurant. And that's just the tip of the iceberg.

I was there as a guest of Scion (more about that in a later blog). Their hospitality suite was in something called The Cherry Room. I don't think it was named after the fruit.

You walked into it through a long tubular hallway lighted in red. Finally setting foot in the room itself was like bursting out of a birth canal.

The room is set up as a disco with a bar and all.

The real attraction, though, is the co-ed bathroom. Yes, in the best Ally McBeal tradition, the bathroom is coed. In an attempt to cut down on drug use, the stalls are all made of glass. Evidently there is some way to minimize the oh-my-God-he/she-is-copping-a-squat effect, the lighting is engineered to show only shadows or some such thing.

The urinals -- I am assuming here that these are a men-only apparatus -- are also quite an attraction. I'm not sure what message they are supposed to convey, but I'd have a problem using them.

I'm shy.

So that's my latest casino encounter. What happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas unless you're a blogger.   

Friday, May 4, 2012

How to Blow $45: Scotts Turf Builder Exhibits No Weed-Killing Properties

I promised a follow up on the never ending adventure that is my yard.

I have a call into NASA offering my front yard as an astronaut moon-walking-training facility in the event the government ever decides to return to space.

In the meantime, I would happily help out fulfilling our president's number one mandate for NASA by teaching their course in making Muslims feel good about all their contributions to science. I doubt that would put too big a strain on my time management skills.

"Today's lesson will be….ummm….let's see…ummm…ah…ummm…who wants ice cream?"

Does suicide-bomb making count as science?

"Hi, I'm your suicide-bomb-making instructor. Please pay close attention; I can only show you this once!"

But back to my yard…

My goal this dirt-mowing season is to eradicate my yard of any and all weeds. As I wrote here a couple of weeks ago: Sans weeds, my yard would only require mowing every three or four weeks.

My initial attempt involved spreading Scotts Turf Builder with Plus 2 Weed Control.

According to Scotts official Web site, this miracle substance has been engineered to kill "dandelions and other major lawn weeds." It's the first thing listed in the product description.

I followed the instructions on the bag to a T. I hauled my ashes up to my buddy Jeff's house to borrow his Scotts-brand spreader. I wheeled the spreader out after a morning rain because the instructions told me to apply this mixture of who-knows-what on a wet lawn.

I set the rate of distribution to exactly the setting recommended on the bag.

I had checked the forecast and no rain was predicted for the next week. Again, the instructions on the bag said for best results, rain shouldn't fall on the lawn for at least two days after application.

Following all the instructions, I thought, there was no way my efforts wouldn't pay off.

That might be true if this sack of placebo had any real weed killing properties.

By my best estimate, this crap didn't kill one dandelion. Nope, nary a one. It didn't injure, wound, or maim any either. From what I can determine, it didn't make one even a little bit woozy.

I might as well have sprinkled pixie dust around.

Can you say, 45 bucks down the old rat hole?

I still have half a bag left, but won't waste my time applying it again. It took about 90 minutes the last time, and involved pushing the spreader up hill for half the passes.

Not going to do that again.

Next attempt will be spraying liquid weed killer -- not Scotts, if there is such a thing. I'll keep you posted.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Celebrating the Conch Republic Key West Style

Last week, well the last 10 days really, was the 30th anniversary of the Conch Republic celebration in the Keys. Stuffed into the final 30 hours or so that I was in Key West were Conch Republic-related activities.

For the uninitiated, the Conch Republic was born of a dust up between the Keys and the U.S. government. In its war on drugs, the U.S. government established -- what for all intents and purposes -- was a border crossing on Card Sound Road leading out of Key Largo in an attempt to curtail the drugs getting into Miami.

The Border Patrol checked IDs, searched cars and generally mucked up traffic coming out of the Keys. It added hours to the trip. Tourism was down thanks to media reports about the difficulties of the trip home. It was every bit as intrusive and time consuming as traveling over the border from Mexico.

Attorneys for the Keys filed for an injunction to relieve the hardship with the Federal Court in Miami. The U.S. Attorney General himself traveled to Miami to argue the government's position. Basically the judge refused to find one way or the other after the U.S. government promised to become more selective in the cars that were stopped; profiling, in other words.

When the group representing the Keys walked out of the courthouse, they were met by a gaggle of media asking them what they were going to do next. Without issuing a statement, they returned to the safety of the courthouse to discuss an answer. Although who actually suggested succession has been lost to history, someone did and the group agreed. They returned to the microphones outside and stated that they were forming the Conch Republic and it would succeed from the U.S. at noon the next day.

At noon on the dot -- such punctuality is quite rare in the Keys -- the Conch Republic announced its independence and declared war on the U.S. A resident U.S. Navy admiral, sympathetic to the cause, offered himself as the target of the only hostilities in the event and was pummeled with Cuban bread. The Conch Republic then asked for $1 billion in foreign aid. The money was never forthcoming, but the border crossing disappeared three days later.

The Conch Republic claimed victory.

I was entertained with this story by none other than the Honorable Sir Peter Anderson at breakfast on day five of my Keys adventure. I sat next to him as he regaled our small group with the history and little-known facts about the Conch Republic.

Sir Peter was named First Secretary General of the Conch Republic by Captain Tony because he was the only one who came to the organizational meeting with a pen and pad of paper. He remains the Secretary General today. His two main functions are issuing Conch Republic passports -- yes, they issue passports -- and yelling orders to participants in the annual World's Longest Parade through a bullhorn.

We saw him in action at the parade the evening before. It's called the World's Longest Parade because its route takes it from the Atlantic coast to the Gulf of Mexico coast -- a few blocks, actually, but it is from coast to coast.

Fortunately, our vantage point was directly in front of a bar, so we had no problem wetting our whistles as we waited and watched. I'd say it required about 15 minutes for the entire parade to pass in front of us.

On Friday evening we boarded the two-masted Jolly Rover for a sunset cruise and to watch the "Bloody Battle" in the harbor. This consisted of a Coast Guard Cutter doing battle with several large party boats and schooners. The weapons of choice were water cannons. The boats maneuvered around hosing one another as sea planes and biplanes circled over head carpet bombing the entire group with rolls of toilet paper.

It was quite the spectacle.

I even got a turn at the helm.

After the cruise, I excused myself from our hosts and walked to J & B Lobster next door where Kia was hosting dinner for a group of journalists who had driven from Miami in the new Optima Hybrid. I crashed the dinner and spent the rest of the night with this group hitting spots like Capt. Tony's and Durty Harry's.

Because I had to be up at 5:00 the next morning to call Delta in an attempt -- a successful attempt, I might add -- to rebook my flight home from 5:30 p.m. to 8 a.m., I left the remnants of the Kia crew and headed back to the Cypress House around midnight.

Another Keys adventure in the history books.