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.

Saturday, September 29, 2012

Painting My Way to Florida

I've been in Florida for a while painting the house of some friends. Money actually changed hands -- from them to me. Why would I do that? you might ask. Well, I can always use the money and it was an excuse to make the trip to Fla.

This is a recently purchased home that the previous owners had actually recently painted. Every room was painted white in what appeared to be nothing more than whitewash. It must have cost them $5 a gallon.

A few years ago I had painted two or three rooms in my friends' previous home, apparently much to their satisfaction. They brought me back.

I am a deliberate and meticulous artisan. I could never paint for a living because I am just too damn slow. I tape everything and use an edger as well.


I painted five rooms that included two bathrooms and it took me roughly 45 hours. Only the great room with its vaulted ceilings could be considered large.

Did I mention that I'm slow?

The great room was a particularly tiring undertaking. It required a 12-foot ladder that I was probably up and down 60 or 70 times. Up the ladder, paint a foot or so, down the ladder to get more paint, up the ladder, paint a foot or so, down the ladder to get more paint and move the ladder. On and on it went.

I have no idea when the last time was you were up and down a 12 foot ladder 70 times, but on about trip 40, I was beat and my thighs ached.

I was happy, happy, happy when I was able to fold up this holdover from the Inquisition and dump it back in the garage.

I have a couple of walls in my own home which I made repairs to the drywall and have yet to repaint. I'm in no hurry to tackle that project.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Due South Brewery: A New Destination for My Florida Trips

Found a new micro brewery last night and it's in my old backyard.

Located off Gateway Boulevard at I-95 in Boynton Beach, the Due South Brewing is three or four miles from my former Florida home.

It's only a few months old, so this trip was my first opportunity to check it out.

Situated in a warehouse area just west of 95, it's a large facility. Divided into two parts -- a more traditional air-conditioned bar and a wide-open garage-like space -- cheerful bartenders and servers dispense eight to ten in-house brews.

I'm a fan of small breweries. Even the ones that are still searching for just the right recipe make me happy despite beers that might be a little disappointing. I didn't have to grit my teeth, though, to savor two pints of Roasted Cocoa Stout.

My two buddies I hooked up with there were drinking Category 4 IPA. There is also a Category 3 and a Category 5 IPA. Cat 3 is 6.1% alcohol; Cat 4 is 7.7%; and Cat 5 weighs in at 8.8%. Can you say, "get your buzz on?"

Due South doesn't have a kitchen, but on the weekends it schedules one of a number of various food trucks to park outside the door. Patrons are encouraged to by the food and bring it in.

We sat in the open warehouse area where more than a dozen tables filled with beer lovers of all ages surrounded us. The weekly corn-hole tournament was raging 10 feet away.

One of my buddy's paid cash at the bar for our first round. For our second round I saw something I've never seen before. After I put up a debit card, the server brought an iPad to our table and ran my card. She then handed the iPad to me. The total for the round appeared along with an icon to click to leave a tip. I clicked on it, added the tip and then signed my name in a box with my finger. Pretty cool!

I didn't buy a shirt on this trip, but I plan on returning to try the Carmel Cream Ale. I may fork over the 20 bucks for a shirt then.

The joint was busy while we were there. I hope they make it. I like the idea of having a micro brewery to visit when I make my quarterly jaunts to South Florida.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

A Riddle of Sorts: Where Is This?

So where is this?

Here's a clue, it begins with the letter "C" and with an "O". Oh, what the hell? It's Curacao.

Now if you guess it's the beach in Curacao...well, you'd be dead wrong.

Nope; it's the pool on the roof of the Renaissance Hotel in Willemstadt.

It's an infinity pool that appears to blend right into the ocean.

Here's something I didn't know. Blue Curacao liqueur isn't really blue. It's artificial coloring. Originally it was naturally blue; but somewhere along the line, the process for making it naturally blue was lost and no one has been able to duplicate it.

Go Steelers!

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Beauty Is in the Eye of the Beholder: Liking the Kia Rio and Cadillac XTS

One of the cars in my driveway this week has been the 2012 Kia Rio. It overlapped a few days with the 2013 Cadillac XTS.

Moving back and forth between these wildly different vehicles required the flexibility of a human pretzel in managing expectations, to say the least.

But I found something to love with both.

After 25 years of driving around one or two new cars a week, one either becomes a car snob or an automotive Pollyana of sorts. Either you view every car in terms of horsepower, acceleration times and skid-pad number, or you learn to appreciate that different cars assume different roles and celebrate the good in each. It is in this spirit of appreciating how well a car fulfills the function for which it was designed that I can say, I really like the Rio.

This is a small four-door hatchback that I'm convinced as many people buy because it's a terrific little car as buy it because it has a comprehensive warranty, an EPA highway mileage number of 40 mpg and is wonderfully affordable. Most of us could feel good climbing out of it in full view of several coworkers hanging out in front of our office building.

The version I tested was the $16,500 EX. It had a $1,000 option package with alloy wheels, a backup camera, Kia's UVO media system and turn-signal indicators in the outboard mirrors, among other goodies. The stripped-down 2013 Rio rings the register at $13,800.

You won't stroke out by the g-force the 138-horsepower 1.6-liter four-cylinder creates. Well, there isn't much g-force, actually. Zero to 60 requires about 10 seconds. I can drink a beer and eat a hard-boiled egg in that amount of time.

No, it's not the acceleration that grabbed me, but the surprising smoothness and quiet of the four-banger. A six-speed automatic translates engine output to front-wheel giddy up in the EX.

The interior is roomy, comfortable and nicely assembled. It's simply an impressive little car.

Towering over the Rio when the two resided at my house, Cadillac's XTS is Caddy's all-new "large" car. A lot of people aren't even aware it's out there because it has been so out-hyped by Cadillac's other all-new 2013 sedan, the compact ATS.

The version I had was the $53,585 Premium trim. Power comes from a 304-horsepower 3.6-liter V6 and is funneled to the front wheels via a six-speed automatic transmission.

It's, big, plush, comfortable and runs as silent as a nuclear sub.

What did I like best about it? Among its safety options was a rear cross-traffic safety alert. If a car was approaching behind me from the right, the right side of the seat cushion vibrated. From the left, the left-side seat cushion vibrated. If I was backing up and got to close to an object, both sides vibrated. Yes, I realize it doesn't take me much to get me excited these days, but this feature sure did.

I drove the Caddy the 160 miles from my house in South Carolina to the Atlanta airport and back. Other than the voice command feature of the navigation system reacting to my orders as though I was speaking Vietnamese, it was the ideal sedan for the trip.

Good thing I already knew how to get to the Atlanta airport; I'd probably still be out driving around lost as last year's Easter egg, red-faced, screaming the same command over and over, and pounding the dashboard. I did a lot of that any way.

Don't get me wrong; I like the XTS a lot. I guess I just need to learn the language.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

You Just Never Know Where Readers Will Come From

I posted a blog last month about my two-hour dentist appointment from hell. If you somehow missed it, give yourself two gold stars for having a life, scroll down to the archived August blogs and give it a read.

Any way, I wrote this blog about the discomfort of lying back in the chair, under a bright light with some sort of  Spanish Inquisition hardware forcing my mouth open three inches farther than its engineered to go and having two different teeth drilled and grinded for a crown and a filling. It wasn't painful, but stressful. Then it was punctuated with a $1,600 bill! Now that did hurt!

Here's the thing: every couple of weeks I get an e-mail or a comment on that post empathizing with me about the encounter and assuring me that I am better off for the visit. When I click on the source of the message, it's from a dentist office in some far-flung location.

Apparently some dentists scour the Internet looking for blogs on dentist visits. I don't know if they use them as some sort of testimonials or a tool for fishing for leads of some sort.

I'm going to try to outfox them with this post by not including "dentist" in the title.

In any case, it's sort of amusing. And, of course, I always appreciate the readership.

Sunday, September 9, 2012

My NFL Season Begins Tonight: Go Steelers

The NFL season begins today. Well, I know it really began earlier in the week with some also-rans playing a game, but today is the first game of the Steelers' schedule. It's the beginning of the season for me.

I haven't been keeping close watch on the preseason or all the details of who is playing and who isn't. Moreover, my Steelers friends who usually pass a lot of information on to me have been uncharacteristically mum during the preseason.

I always look at the injured list on game day and am mortified to find so many Steelers starters aren't suiting up today due to injuries. What! The damn season hasn't even started. Apparently some of these guys can't push themselves away from the dinner table without pulling a groin.

I'm a little apprehensive about tonight's game. This isn't unusual for me; when it comes to Steelers games, I'm a glass-is-half-empty sort of guy. But I am particularly twitchy about playing the Broncos because of Manning. I'm not nearly as concerned about his talent as his health. The Steelers defense is a hard-hitting bunch and I don't want them responsible for knocking Manning out of football. I hope he is as healthy as he's been reported to be.

Of course Harrison is one of the guys who probably won't be playing today, so Manning may survive to play another day.

Go Steelers!

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Curacao: It Was a Mystery to Me

I am freshly returned from a AAA travel assignment in Curacao. I had never been to Curacao before. In fact, I'd never heard of anyone who had traveled to Curacao. I had heard of Blue Curacao, but I'm not sure I was even aware there was a country/island of that name. I sure don't remember it from geography class.

"What's the capital of Luxembourg?"

"Ummm, Luxembourg?"

"Yes, what's it's capital?"


"Yes, it's capital is...?"


"Yes, right, Luxembourg; what's its capital?"

"L U X E M B O U R G already!"

"How about the capital of Curacao?"

"Who-a-how? Never heard of it. Use it in a sentence."

You get the drift. I heard of a lot of places in geography class, but never Curacao. When AAA contacted me about the trip, I had to Google it to find out where it is. For those too disinterested or lazy to Google it yourselves, Curacao is a small island in the Dutch Caribbean off the coast of Venezuela. Near Aruba, its capital is...wait for it...Willemstad!

I have traveled out of the country a few times. I'm not what I would refer to as a seasoned international traveler or globe trotter, but I've been around a little. I still face such trips with a touch of trepidation. This is particularly true when the Caribbean is involved because it usually means flying through a third-world airport. I'm not talking about the Curacao airport; I'm talking about Miami International Airport.

I won't go into all the reasons I hate it, but other than the gobs of beautiful women you are bound to spot there, it has not one redeeming quality. I'll simply say that no matter what you do, don't get lost and have to ask for directions unless you habla Espanol. You stand a better chance of finding someone working in the Lisbon airport who speaks English than you do in Miami. This is only a mild exaggeration.

My Spanish is pretty much just "Mucho Gusto!" when I meet someone; "Donde esta el bano?" when I need to use the "little bloggers' room"; and "Tendre otra cerveza" when I want yet another beer. Beyond that I'm lost.

I created some of my Miami Airport problems myself this trip by flying Delta from Atlanta to Miami and then switching to American for the second leg of the trip to Curacao. Apparently it never occurred to management at the Miami Airport that this might happen from time to time. In the Delta concourse in Miami there are no directional signs -- in English or Spanish -- pointing the way to other concourses or the people mover or much of anywhere else. Basically you get off the plane and wander aimlessly until you accidentally come across another concourse. I finally stumbled on a map of the airport and found the American concourse. It was perhaps half a mile away. Reaching it entailed going outside of the secured area. What!

Yep, in Miami, depending on the concourse you need, you stand about a 50 percent chance you have to go out and then pass through security again. Oh wait, I said I wasn't going to itemize why I so despise the Miami Airport.

Never mind.

I had to spend nearly four hours in Miami on my return flight. There were two earlier flights that left for Atlanta once I was in the Delta concourse, but they were both full. I was rewarded for cooling my heels by being upgraded on the flight I did take, but but would have preferred getting home a couple of hours earlier.

Thankfully I only have to deal with the Miami Airport once a year or so. It's just the price you pay for living in the middle of the country and traveling to the Caribbean.

Nope, I'd never heard of anyone going to Curacao before. Since I've been back, however, I've heard about three different friends of friends who were all in Curacao at the same time I was. Odd. Perhaps an epidemic of some sort.

Monday, September 3, 2012

Frampton's Lost Guitar: How It Made Its Way Back to Its Legendary Owner

Gather 'round, children and hear the tale of the long-lost guitar....

I was at dinner in Curacao a few nights ago and sat across the table from the CEO of the Curacao tourist board Ghatim Kabbara as he recounted the tale of Peter Frampton's lost guitar and how he came about returning it to him.

Although I'm sure a few of my musician friends are undoubtedly familiar with the story, I had never heard it before. That it was told to me by the guy who actually rescued the guitar and then gave it back to Frampton was a real treat.

Here's the 411:

In 1970, Frampton was playing a concert at the Fillmore West with Humble Pie when he began experiencing some problems with his guitar. Another musician at the concert had his Gibson Les Paul guitar with him and offered to let Frampton play it for the balance of the concert.

Evidently Frampton wasn't a fan of the Les Paul, but decided to give it a go.

It was a customized version of the 1954 Les Paul. It had a third pickup rather than just the two typically found on Les Pauls. In those days the Les Pauls were still being made of a sturdy, but light Honduran mahogany wood.

Frampton played the guitar for the rest of the concert and fell so in love with it, that he asked to buy it. The owner refused to sell it to Frampton, but instead gave it to him.

It wound up being the guitar Frampton played almost exclusively during his very successful run in the 1970s. It's the guitar you mostly hear on his watershed album "Frampton Comes Alive." It's on the cover of that album.

In 1980, after playing a concert in Caracas, Venezuela, Frampton packed up the Les Paul and it was loaded on a cargo plane heading to Panama for the next tour date. Just after takeoff the plane crashed killing the entire crew and destroying nearly everything on board in the fire that followed.

Apparently one of the Venezuelan national guardsmen tasked with securing the crash site found the guitar and made off with it. It circulated around Caracas, Venezuela for a while and then found its way to nearby Curacao. It finally landed in the hands of a Curacao customs agent Donald Balentina, who was known around the island as a guitar repairman of sorts.

Convinced that this was indeed the missing Frampton guitar, he then approached his friend Kabbara, who had recently been made CEO of the Curacao tourist board and was also a guitar player to help him buy the guitar.

Kabbara agreed to underwrite the acquisition of the guitar, but only if the ultimate goal was to return it to Frampton.

Once Kabbara had the Gibson, he contacted Frampton, inviting him to Curacao for a reunion with the guitar. A bit skeptical, Frampton declined the invitation to Curacao, but asked Kabbara to meet him in Nashville instead.

(In the photo above are Kabbara, Balentina and, of course, Frampton.)
Kabbara wasn't clear on why Frampton wanted to meet in Nashville until he arrived for the meeting and found several officials from Gibson Guitar also on hand. Nashville is the guitar maker's home.

Before even opening the case, Frampton asked Kabbara to recount how the guitar found its way into his possession. Hearing the story, Frampton finally opened the case and gazed at the scorched guitar.

Lifting it out of the case, he confirmed that it was indeed the guitar he believed lost in the plane crash more than three decades before.

One of the Gibson people began removing some of the screws -- according to Kabbara, all four screws were mismatched -- to look at the wiring. It was obvious that someone along the line had made some changes, but nothing too severe.

Frampton handed over the guitar to the Gibson reps asking that the instrument be made playable, but not restored. He wanted to the guitar to retain all the scars of the fire.

Kabbara refused any payment, returning the Les Paul to Frampton in the name of Curacao. But he did request that Frampton make a trip to Curacao for some event to be named in the future.

And every one lived happily ever after....