Keys Disease

Keys Disease
Battling Keys Disease at the Futura Yacht Club in Islamorada, Fla. three years ago.

Saturday, March 29, 2014

The Ideal Combination: The Redesigned Chrysler 200 and The Derby City

The redesigned 2015 Chrysler 200.
I'm not the kind of guy who typically looks a gift horse in the mouth. So, when Chrysler chose one of my favorite cities – the place I consider my hometown – for the media launch of its redesigned 2015 200, and issued an invitation, I was all over it.

Louisville's 300 Building where I had my first job out of college with GE Credit, and which is now home to the downtown version of the Bluegrass Brewing Company.
 I was 13 when my family moved to Louisville, Ky. There I matriculated through most of junior high and all of high school, graduating from Atherton High School. I graduated college while based there. My first, second and third jobs were there. I owned my first home in the Derby City. My parents are buried in its Resthaven Cemetery. I was 28 when my job took me from Louisville to Knoxville, Tenn. and beyond. But no matter how far away from Louisville I've drifted over the years, it has never been far from my heart. If I didn't live in Greenville, SC, I'd probably be back in Louisville. I visit every chance I get.

I scheduled my flight into Louisville a few days early to spend the extra time with friends. I covered some of our antics in my March 9th Clanging Bell post “Getting Our Bourbon On: Touring Four Roses and Wild Turkey.” As the personal portion of my visit drew to a close, my friends dropped me off at the front door of the 21c Hotel in the heart of downtown Louisville, where Chrysler hosted this event.

While lunching with the communications manager for the 200, Kathy Graham, in Atlanta last week, she opined that Louisville was a good fit for the 200 media launch because both are experiencing a revival of sorts. Indeed they are.

The Garage Bar. The two cars are a moving sculpture that when placed, had the two cars intact and separated. They have been gradually crushing into each other ever since.
Although the struggle with its downtown is ongoing, Louisville is rich in eclectic neighborhoods – some rubbing up against the downtown – populated with trendy bars, restaurants and boutiques. These are enclaves where the redesigned 200 will be quite at home.

The midsize-sedan segment, where the 200 competes, is a Battle Royale among a legion of overachievers. Finally, though, Chrysler has designed and engineered a car equal to the task of taking on the best sedans in its class. 


Entry to the 200 for the base LX will set you back $21,700. Chrysler expects its $23,255 Limited to be the volume model. Beyond the Limited, Chrysler claims it is taking a novel pricing/trim-level approach by creating more of a “Y” than stacking its next two trims on top of one another over the Limited. Because the $25,995 200C costs more than the $24,495 200S and both cost more than the Limited, I don't quite grasp the Y-trim claim, but the S and the C do take somewhat different tacks with the S getting a sportier suspension and darker accents. But the S builds on the Limited's content; while the C builds on the S's content.

Chrysler has a marketing department for the same reason every major company does, to create and promote areas separating its products from the competition. The Y pricing/trim-level lane of attack would seem to be such a creation. It seems to be at least somewhat effective. After all, I've just spent more than a paragraph writing about it.

The well-executed cabin in the 200C.
On to the important stuff. Here are the highlights of the 4-1-1:

Two engines – a 184-horsepower 2.4-liter four-cylinder and a 295-horsepower 3.6 V6 – are available and each is bolted to the industry's first nine-speed, driver-shiftable automatic transmission. Shifting is accomplished with either steering wheel-mounted paddles or a round knob on the console. Passengers enjoy a roomy cabin that is quiet and nicely appointed. The ride is smooth. There are a passel of standard and available safety features – a few of which are unique in this segment. Parking assist that can help park the 200 in either a parallel or a perpendicular spot, Lane Sense Departure Warning-Plus not only alerts the driver when the 200 is drifting out of its lane, but also nudges it back on course, and Adaptive Cruise Control-Plus with the capability of bringing the 200 to a complete stop are all on the safety menu.

Premium materials well assembled highlight the roomy cabin.

I spent over 100 miles with the four and the V6, and I am impressed with both powertrains. 

The 200 at our lunch stop at Hermitage Farms.
Even with some of its expressways experiencing the growing pains of widening, Louisville is an easy city to escape. You can transition from downtown to the countryside in 20 minutes. Terrific driving roads probably isn't the first thing that pops into most people's minds when Louisville is mentioned, but Chrysler found some dynamic roads laced with curves and variations in their topography.

Downtown Louisville suffers from the traffic snarl of most larger cities. Several one-way streets add to the confusion for the uninitiated.

There is art around every 21c corner.
Listing its address as 700 West Main Street, the 21c Hotel's actual entrance is on 7th Street. This was my third or fourth stay at this property that is as much an art gallery as it is a hotel. Owned by the Brown family, it benefits from their love of art and sufficiently deep pockets to assemble pieces from all around the world. Some of it is pretty quirky, and some of it will make the innocent blush, but what do I know? It's not all photos of one-legged naked guys.

Modern and well furnished, the 21c is an ideal base for business trips and vacation getaways alike. 

The terrace off of Chrysler's penthouse hospitality suite.
Dinner our first night was downstairs in one of the art galleries. Part of the festivities included a bourbon-tasting station. Among the selections: Colonel E.H. Taylor, Eagle Rare and Elmer T. Lee – all products of Buffalo Trace. Old Grandad was also offered. I didn't even know it was still being made. It was certainly the odd man out among this group.

After dinner a few of us adjourned to Proof, the hotel's bar. As with the rest of the hotel, the bar is a bit quirky. The lighting is so crazed, it defies shooting photos at night. But what it does have is well over 50 bourbons. Stocking a Who's Who of hard-to-get labels, it is pure heaven for a bourbon lover. Was I happy? Why, yes I was!

A few selections at the hotel's Proof Bar.
Four blocks from the hotel at 3rd and Main Streets is the downtown edition of the Bluegrass Brewing Company. I always make a stop at the actual brewery in St. Matthew's just east of downtown on my Louisville visits, but don't get to the downtown version very often. It happens to be located in the 300 Building where I toiled at my first job out of college. It's sort of my Louisville circle of life. Even it had at least 25 or 30 bourbons on hand. 

The hard-core contingent at Garage Bar.
This was a Brown family-centric event that not only included our hotel, but also our lunch stop on the driving day at Hermitage Farms, as well as our dinner spot on the second evening at Garage Bar. 

No shortage of excellent bourbons and craft beers at Garage Bar.
Garage Bar is a converted gas station. Its bar, stocked with, what in Louisville is, the obligatory 50 or so bourbons, was also loaded with wonderful craft and imported beers. With indoor and outdoor seating, there is more room than there would seem at first glance. The food was delicious; while the post-dinner bourbon sipping sucked a number of newbies into expanding their horizons and trying some small-batch versions.


All in all, it was a terrific trip with just the right amount of getting acquainted with the 2015 200, good food and wonderful bourbon. 

Yep, Louisville was a good fit.

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

I Blame Nissan: My Return to the Kitchen!

I'm not the kind of guy who cooks a lot at home.



Well, yes, I eat a lot at home, but “cooking” would be stretching the bounds of credulity. I grill stuff on my gas grill and heat stuff on the stove. Is this really cooking? I say, nay, nay.

Every six weeks or so I whip up a big batch of red sauce for pasta. I use fresh tomatoes, onion, garlic, bell pepper and carrots, along with fresh ground beef, assorted spices and some canned sauce. All of this requires preparation and a bit of culinary finesse. I would label this “cooking.” I wind up with enough sauce for about six meals, freezing the overrun in separate containers for future Saturday-night – my Italian Night – dinners. Those I just thaw out and....heat on the stove. It's sort of a culinary circle of life.

Once every two or three years I make Hot Browns for guests. That's an entirely different skill set, which I'll get into at a future date.

Otherwise, I'm grilling chicken breasts on my gas grill and opening cans or frozen bags of side items.

I used to be a little more adventurous as I purchased cook books and followed recipes. I rarely made such concoctions for just myself, but I did throw the occasional dinner party. The issue then was, without some degree of practice, my guests found participating in these gastric experiments more adventure than they wanted in their lives. Can't say as I blame them. I ran the original Hell's Kitchen.

I had a girlfriend once who scheduled a pap smear to avoid brunch at my house.

Thankfully, someone invented Costco, and I was able to buy pre-made snacks for the holiday wine tastings I hosted for my last 10 or so years in Florida.

My house in Greenville is really too small to handle more than four or five guests at a time; so, I thought my Chef Russ days securely in the rear-view mirror. That is until Nissan, at one of its media launches last year, provided each of us with a gift card to an online outfit called “Plated.com.”

Plated's schtick is providing customers with virtually all the ingredients and detailed instructions required to duplicate a recipe created by one of Plated's chefs.

Here's how it works: At Plated's Web site, you choose a specific week and scroll down the list of that week's seven dishes. Clicking on a dish that appeals to you, you find a description of the dish, a list of what Plated sends, whatever few ingredients and cookware you will need to have on hand, estimated prep time, degree of difficulty and calorie information. Oh, and there is also a photo and bio of the chef responsible for it.

You must order two plates of each selection ($15 per plate or $12 for members) and two selections for each shipment. In other words, two dinners for two for a total of $60. Depending on the type of membership, those costs run between $8 and $10 per month. In most cases, shipping is free.

When ordering, you may request either a Wednesday or Saturday delivery. Because of my travel schedule, finding a window for delivery followed by a couple of nights in a row when I could actually prepare these meals was a bit problematic. I decided to schedule for last Saturday, and ordered my meals.

I'm a meat-and-potatoes kind of guy. Finding two selections meeting my rather narrow taste boundaries was a bit of a challenge, but I settled on Meatloaf with Brussels Sprouts and Potatoes, and Spicy Soy Poached Pollock with Vermicelli Noodles. Looking at the ingredients list from both recipes, the only thing I wasn't going to eat were the Brussels sprouts, which I could just leave out. So far so good.


My Plated box arrived mid morning on Saturday via FedEx.

Cocooning the box's contents were two layers of insulated bubble wrap. Two large blocks of ice were sealed in plastic to keep things chilled. The ice was still rock solid and probably would have maintained sufficient chilling capacity to keep the contents safely cool for days. 


Unwrapping the insulation, I discovered several labeled plastic bags with all the ingredients. Everything that was supposed to be included was, and each bag was clearly marked. 

Lots of stuff in the insulated bag.
I decided to make the poached fish first. After studying the ingredients of both dishes, I figured most of the stuff for the meatloaf dish could be frozen or otherwise stored better than the fish. I knew I wasn't going to have the time and motivation to do this much cooking two nights in a row. 

Pretty much everything required to make two plates of two different dishes.
I unpacked all the things needed for my fish dinner. From my kitchen, I only needed to supply salt and water. I don't salt much of anything other than popcorn, so I didn't even need to supply that.

I decided to attack the poached fish first.
I'd never poached anything other than an egg before. I was embarking into uncharted waters. I followed the recipe for concocting the poaching sauce that consisted of scallions, a chile pepper, soy sauce, sugar (Yes, I also thought it odd that Plated provided sugar, but not salt.) and water.

All of the ingredients ready to go.
I poured the provided sesame seed oil into a pan along with the bell pepper, shredded carrots and snow peas, which I had already chopped. I then dumped in the provided rice wine vinegar.

After bringing the poaching sauce to a boil, I followed the instructions, turned the pan to simmer and tossed in the fish. I turned the fish pieces a couple of times during their 8 minutes on the stove.

Detailed step-by-step instructions with color photos: Even I couldn't mess this up.
I boiled water and cooked the white vermicelli noodles, drained them and tossed them into the pan with the vegetables.

Wow, look at me; I was really cooking!

I plated the fish and added some of the poaching sauce to the vegetables, which I tossed together. I then plated that and voila, had a meal.

Almost looks good enough to eat!
Yes, I ate all the fish and about half the vegetable-vermicelli side all by myself. So shoot me; I was hungry after all that work. Plated put the calorie count for one plate at 480; my gluttony probably boosted it to 650.

Sometime in the future when I have company visiting, I might order again. But I'm not going to spend $30 on a meal for just myself that I have to cook at home. But, I now have these recipes and will probably poach some fish on my own.

It was pretty damn good.

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Greenville's The Growler Station: It's Not Just for Breakfast Any More

I'm not the kind of guy who drinks a whole lot of beer. Don't get me wrong; I like beer, but I just don't drink bunches of it....generally.

At those times when I do crank up the volume, such as sitting poolside or on the beach in South Florida, or after doing a little yard work in August, I tend to drink something lighter. My favorite volume beer is Sol, but it's sometimes hard to find. My fallback volume beers are Miller Lite or Corona. 


Moose Drool Ale: It's an Eatons' Ranch tradition.
I might toss down four or five bottles of Big Sky's Moose Drool when sitting on the porch of Big Graham after a day of horseback riding at Eatons' Ranch in Wyoming. It's a darker ale that has become part of our Eatons' tradition. It's also one of the few beers I've found that's actually better out of the bottle than out of a keg.

Typically, though, I'm more of a beer-an-hour type guy. On those occasions, I want a beer with some heft. I like darker beers: reds, browns, porters and stouts. 

The Three Amigos at Charleston's Southend Brew Pub.
When out of town, I like to find a locally brewed beer – preferably at the brew pub where made – and linger over it. If I can't locate a microbrewery, I then try to find a joint with some decent local beers on tap. I have been to scores of microbreweries from Alaska and Hawaii to Maine. 

A little Sunday footballing and beering at Smoke on the Water.
When home in Greenville, Sunday is often my beer day. I'll wander downtown, drinking a couple of beers here and a couple there. 


A few weeks ago, I rediscovered a great little purveyor of beer on Augusta Street in the West End: The Growler Station. I had strolled through it a couple of weeks after it opened two or three years ago, but hadn't been back since.

At the time of my original visit, it was strictly a beer-to-go joint selling draft growlers and six packs. I only drink beer at home when company comes a callin'. I purchased six six packs of craft beer last April when three of my buddies came for a multi-day visit. Every bottle that was in my fridge when they left is still there 11 months later. Obviously I wasn't the Growler Station's target market. 


Having changed its license to allow drinking on the premises, today The Growler Station has a couple of long tables and three den-like seating areas where, if so inclined, one may relax and sip on one of the marvelous rotating craft beers on tap. Or, buy a bottle or two out of the cooler.

If it's not on tap, it's probably in a bottle in the cooler.
Typically, there are roughly a dozen beers that can be purchased by the growler – either 32 oz. or 64 oz. Then there are about a dozen more that can be purchased by the pint. Here's the best part, if you want something that's only available in a growler, they'll loan you a 32 oz. growler, fill it up and let you drink it there. Sweet!

The growler filling station.
 Historically one issue with buying growlers has been that they must be consumed in no more than two or three days after being filled or they skunk. Not so with The Growler Station's system. It is poured and sealed in such a way that it will keep unopened for three or four weeks. Once opened, the two-to-three day race is on, but unopened, it will keep for weeks.

Here's something else you'll like, the people behind the bar really know what they are talking about – well, at least they do if they are talking about beer. 

Pierre Goulette and Big Jon Richards.
Manager Pierre Goulette has been a fixture in the hospitality industry around Greenville for years. Assistant manager Big Jon Richards fulfilled the first segment for certification as a Cicerone, the beer equivalent of wine's Sommelier. These guys know beer, happily fielding questions from craft-beer novices and veterans alike.

Class is in session; let the tasting begin!
Big Jon is happy to share his knowledge and does so officially at two or three different tasting classes each month. Making classes easier to attend, each is held on Wednesday and Saturday evenings. The cost is a very respectable $5. I did the Saturday edition of the chocolate stout class in February and the Wednesday version of the Irish Beers class several days ago. 

The ideal spot to drink and conversate.
The Growler Station has become part of my Sunday-beer routine. Because of the casual layout of the seating areas and the affability of beer drinkers in general, I've had some entertaining afternoons with terrific conversations in the place. If any pregnant pauses do occur, there are any number of books or magazines to read, and board games to play. Or, if you are like me, you'll take advantage of the break in the conversation to get another beer.

Although they sell a few snacks, if you're not into beef jerky, you might want bring eats with you. Smoke on the Water and Mellow Mushroom are a block away, and Smiley's is right next door. No problem with bringing food in.

It's at 109 Augusta Street. For the 4-1-1, go to www.growler-station.com or call 864-400-8327.

Sunday, March 9, 2014

Getting Our Bourbon On: Touring Four Roses and Wild Turkey


I'm not the kind of guy who turns down the opportunity to visit a bourbon distillery or two.

During my Louisville visits the past two or three years, we've taken advantage of idle Saturdays to head east toward Frankfort and the scrum of bourbon distilleries huddled around the limestone waterways in the Frankfort/Lexington area.

This year we set our sights on the Four Roses and Wild Turkey distilleries. They are in or around Lawrenceburg, Kentucky. 


Always eager to learn something new about my favorite spirit, I was all for the excursion despite the fact that Four Roses doesn't have a boutique label. That Wild Turkey makes one of my favorite boutique bourbons – Forgiven – and the thought of getting to sample it after the Wild Turkey tour, was sufficient to raise my interest level to the point of devoting the better part of a day to some bourbon discovery.

Bourbon is called bourbon because, while Kentucky was still a part of Virginia, a lot of the magical elixir was being distilled in Bourbon County and shipped south on the Ohio River in barrels stamped with the words “Made in Bourbon County.” So Bourbon it was and still is.


Here are a couple of things I didn't know about Four Roses that I learned on our 20-minute tour of the mission-style facility:

  • Four Roses got its name after the distillery founder proposed to his future wife. She didn't answer on the spot, but told him that if her answer was “yes,” she would wear a corsage of roses to an upcoming party. The owner arrived to find his gal wearing an arrangement of four roses.
  • Until Seagram purchased Four Roses in the 1950s and bastardized the brand, it was the No. 1 selling bourbon in the U.S. Seagram chose to continue making Four Roses bourbon, but exported every drop. What appeared in Four Roses-labeled bottles here, was a thinly disguised rotgut Seagram's blend that all but killed the domestic market. This is the Four Roses I remember and the reason I was only moderately enthusiastic about visiting the distillery. Four Roses changed hands three or four times beginning in 2002, winding up under the umbrella of Kirin. It was Kirin that decided to reestablish Four Roses as a pure bourbon brand.
  • Four Roses was one of a handful of bourbons that continued distilling during the prohibition as a medicine.
Good for what ails ya. A medicinal bottle of Four Roses.

 Although I can't name one person I know who regularly orders, buys or drinks a Wild Turkey label, it is one of the biggest selling bourbons in the U.S. Its single distillery produces more bourbon than any other single distillery. At any time there are more than 500,000 barrels of bourbon aging in its warehouses. Let's see, 52 gallons times 500,000 barrels....um....carry the 1; wow, that's a lot of bourbon!


Wild Turkey is a little more potent than my tastes allow. There is a lot of alcohol burn and spice on the finish, but as our tour guide pointed out: It's Wild Turkey not Mild Turkey. All rightee then.

Most of the facilities we toured at Wild Turkey look as though they were built in the last six months. Everything seems pretty new. This is just the opposite of some other distilleries like Buffalo Trace. Purchasing the distillery in 2009, the Campari Group has been pouring a lot of dough into this facility and it is apparent.

View from Wild Turkey's tasting room.
 Brand new, the visitor center is a gorgeous facility. It's tasting room has a spectacular view.

Sadly, Forgiven wasn't among the bourbons available to taste after the tour. I sucked up my disappointment and enjoyed a healthy sip of Russell 10-year old and some Wild Turkey Rare Breed.

The free Four Roses tour was a rather intensive experience that included a number of the campus facilities. Wild Turkey charges $5 for its abbreviated tour. Although our guide was both knowledgeable and funny, the shuttle ride to and from the single facility we entered took longer than the tour itself.

Four Roses tour guide.
I wasn't swayed by either experience. These aren't bourbons in which I will voluntarily indulge, but I mentally filed the information I gained and enjoyed the day.

We have pretty much run the course, visiting nearly all the bourbon distilleries to the east of Louisville. Next time we'll start on some of the distilleries west of Louisville in the Bardstown area.

Our work is not yet done.

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

I'm So the Wrong Guy to Ask Advice From About Anything

I'm not the kind of guy who gives a lot of advice. I'm more than happy to tell you when I think you are doing something wrong, but I try to shy away from dispensing advice. It's not a rule of mine, but it is a guiding principle.

Giving advice is scary stuff.
 When I do stray from this philosophy, a little voice inside my head screams, “What the EF are you doing?” as I make suggestions to someone about how to run his/her affairs or live his/her life. I have many younger friends; and I hope I do have some wisdom worth sharing, but handing out advice is a slippery slope that whatever meager wisdom I have accumulated over the years should steer me away from.

Sometimes I simply can't help myself. Before I even realize what I'm doing, I'm passing out advice on relationships, finance or careers. None of which, incidentally, have I ever had even a modicum of success at. I don't want to imagine all the carnage my advice has probably left in its wake over the years.

Too often the devil wins the argument.
Having said that, the irony that I basically give advice for a living isn't lost on me. But it's different when anonymous third parties read the stuff I write than when I'm sitting next to someone at a bar, waving around a beer, sermonizing on some issue in his/her life. That can – and often does – come back to bite me on the ass.

This was driven home to me again a couple of weeks ago as I occupied my regular seat at the bar sipping on a glass of Immortal Zin at Greenville's Soby's, minding my own business. As I was naval gazing, one of the servers said he was on the market for a car and what would I recommend.

Normally, this question would set off alarm bells in my head not unlike a clanging klaxon on a diving submarine. “What car should I buy?” and “What do you think of fill-in-the-blank car?” are questions that can only bring me misery.

Dive...Dive...Dive....
Usually the fill-in-the-blank car question is an attempt to get me to validate some buying decision already made. That is, the answer seeker already owns the car and wants me to make them feel good about having purchased it. I'm all for doing that. People don't want to think they made a bad decision, particularly where several thousands of dollars are concerned. I usually respond by asking, “Why, do you own one?” Nine times out of ten, they do. I then tell them what a genius they are.

But the what-should-I-buy question requires too many variables to answer: new, used, sedan, convertible, compact, full-size and on and on. Most people asking this question aren't really known to me. I am nearly clueless about their lifestyles, habits or requirements. They might as well be asking me what flavor ice cream they should order. How the hell should I know?

Not to mention that if they buy what I recommend and then something goes wrong....

"Hey, you know that car you told me to buy?"
But forgetting all of this for the moment, I decided to try to answer this guy's question. Silly me. I rattled off two or three new models that I like, and each was met with a shake of the head and a very emphatic no-no-no response.

“I wanted you to answer with a Ford or Lexus,” he muttered as he stalked away.

Here's the thing: If he wanted me to narrow my recommendations to a specific brand or two, he should have said that up front. I drive 100 or more new cars a year from over 30 manufacturers. If someone has a particular model or even a brand in mind, the chances of my blurting it out are pretty slim – maybe 1,000 to 1.

I'm happy to recommend something to friends when asked, but, because they are friends, I have some idea what they like, want and need. I usually tell them to let me think about it for a day or two and I e-mail a few suggestions.

Responding to the question cold from an acquaintance or stranger, is just looking for trouble.

So, I try to avoid giving advice – especially car-buying advice – but sometimes I backslide. I am only human after all.

Saturday, March 1, 2014

Two Cats, a PODS and a First Aid Kit: My Move From Florida to South Carolina

I'm not the kind of guy who embraces change. I've certainly made a few leaps of faith in my life, but historically, I prefer routine. Among the most detested changes, moving ranks near the top.


To those of you who haven’t moved in a while, don’t. Having done it twice in the span of a year, I highly recommend against it – unless it’s to relocate to Greenville.

As moves go, the most recent was much less stressful than the previous one which was an exercise in self restraint. Watching two goons wrap a $200 sofa in $50 worth of clear tape and plastic to move it three miles is enough to make a guy’s blood boil. And it wasn't just the sofa; every crappy piece of furniture in my “1980s Chic” collection got the three-layers-of-plastic-and-two-rolls-of-tape treatment.

Then of course, when it came time to settle up – before they would unload anything at the new address – I discover they won’t take a check, and there is a 10% premium to use a credit card. This was a surprise because it wasn’t mentioned booking the truck when they took my credit card without any sort of premium. For the 40 min it took me to go to the bank, withdraw the cash and return, they sat on the back of the truck doing nothing. They then informed me that they would need to add an hour to the time charged because they had lost the 40 minutes while I was off “goofing” around. I thought my head would explode. 

Fortunately I didn't stroke out while dressing down the head felon in charge.
Launching into “bad Russ” mode, I dressed down the head felon like a drill sergeant in the face of a fresh recruit. I eventually lied and told him I was an editor for the Sun Sentinel – Ft. Lauderdale's newspaper – and his company would be prominently featured in an article about underhanded practices by South Florida moving companies. He got on the phone to his office that apparently instructed him to just unload the truck and forget about the trumped-up additional charge. Problem solved!

I swore never to use a moving company again. My $650 estimate morphed into a nearly $1,000 final bill. Three miles!

Keeping this promise to myself, the last move was much less stressful.

Word: A little elbow grease versus a stroke-inducing meltdown is highly preferable. 



My move from South Florida to Greenville was by PODS.

The PODS people did exactly what they promised when they promised. They managed to place my PODS exactly where I asked on the parking pad in front of my Boynton rental villa (I was at work for the delivery); picked it up on time; delivered it to the house in Greenville on the date promised; and my stuff arrived unharmed.

In Boynton the “gang” showed up on Sunday morning and we were loaded up in under three hours. It’s amazing how much one of those PODS will hold.

I spent the next morning sorting through all of the little odds and ends that, for whatever reason, didn’t make it into a box. This is when stuff just gets pitched out because you simply are tired of dealing with the flotsam of your life. Am I ever going to need three styrofoam coolers? I also cleaned the joint.

I had an extended multi-beer lunch with Hollie and dinner with Hollie, Amy and Scott. I spent my last night as a South Floridian at Amy’s. I knew the next morning was going to be rough. Amy and her clan are as close to family as I have in Florida. I would have preferred to simply skulk out of the house at 5 AM without any goodbyes, but that wasn’t an option. We got the girls off to school and I managed to have my goodbye with Amy without turning into a puddle.

Now to the part of the move that would really be challenging: the cats. 

Rambo in his typical state of sleep.
Rambo – my older male – was an adapter. He had lived in five homes, plus survived little extended vacations in two other homes before this move. Feed him, scratch his back and give him a place to sleep 18 hours a day and he was fine. Jazz – the younger female – not so much.

Already freaked because I had to shut both cats in the guest bathroom to keep them from running out the door on loading-the-POD day; and when finally released, they charged out of the bathroom to discover all the familiar stuff was gone, Jazz hadn’t eaten or drank anything (so much for doctoring her food and water with kitty tranqs) since early Sunday morning. She was out and about on Tuesday morning when I returned to load them into the car for the drive to Greenville, but never took her eyes off me. She was aware something was up and wasn’t taking any chances. 

Jazz: Always on high alert at DEFCON 1.
I figured I would only have one bite of this apple and planned my strategy accordingly. After loading the last of the stuff into the Yukon that GM provided for this excursion, I took a shower. I decided to attempt getting Jazz into her carrier while wearing just my undershorts. This decision was based on my experience trying to load her into a cat carrier during the last move. An effort resulting in my shirt being shredded, my hands and arms bloodied, and a cat pee shower. I would have done it stark naked, but as every guy reading this will affirm, you have to have at least a modicum of protection for Big Jake and the twins.

I padded around the house attempting to appear relaxed and normal. I circled around her with a hand towel in my hands. I padded over here and then over there, closing the gap between her and me with every pass. Finally something in the other room caught her attention and she took her eyes off me. I lunged for her, got her partially wrapped in the towel before she knew what was happening, and sprinted for the cat carrier. She went ballistic. How 8 pounds of cat can turn into a clawing, screaming, hissing crazed wildcat is something to witness….from afar.

I didn’t have a chance, never did. Her back legs were free of the towel and when they weren’t gouging me, they were spreadeagled, preventing me from pushing her completely through the cat carrier door. It was something akin to trying to shove a muskmelon through a knothole. Finally I yelled “no mas, no mas!” and momentarily gave up the struggle. She flew out of my hands, through the cat door and landed on the screened-in porch. It was time for attempt No. 2.


“I ain’t goin’ down again, Mick,” I muttered as bloody and beaten, I approached the porch slider. I stalked her slowly. Blood ran down my hands and arms and my tightee-whitees seemed like damn little protection, as I prepared for round two. The first go around seemed to have drained much of the fight from her. She just laid there as I approached. I got her wrapped up and although she struggled and hissed some, I managed to shove her into the carrier and got the door closed.

I didn’t worry about Rambo. He would go quietly into the carrier when it was time. He sat patiently by its open door as I got cleaned up and dressed. After putting him in his carrier, I put both carriers in the back seat of the Yukon. All it took was putting the Yukon in gear and rolling six inches to get both cats began meowing. As we picked up speed, their volume increased.

Now it was a test of wills and nerves. Mano a gato. I turned up the volume on the radio and tried to think happy thoughts. Five hours into the trip, near Jacksonville, Rambo pretty much gave up. He apparently realized that five hours of non-stop meowing was interfering with his sleep. He zonked out. Jazz kept it up for another two or three hours. Eventually, though, even she could only muster an occasional meow. The final two hours of driving passed in relative peace. 

The final destination.
Arriving in Greenville, I unloaded the Yukon, leaving the cats in their carriers in the living room. I needed cat litter and had to run to the store to buy it. At this point, they had been boxed up for 10 hours. I knew I had to go, so I figured they did too. After getting their litter box arranged, I opened the carriers. Rambo sauntered out as though a 10-hour car trip and arrival at a strange location was something he did everyday. Jazz crouched in the back of her carrier growling. I put out food and water, and went to bed.

By the next morning Jazz was out walking around and only seemed mildly ticked at me. When I opened the can of wet food, she was right there bumping into my leg along with Rambo. After eating, she even let me pick her up. Rambo didn’t fare nearly so well. He caught the brunt of her wrath. He couldn’t get within two feet of her without her hissing, growling and smacking him with her paw. He just stood there looking at her like, what did I do?

Things calmed down considerably over the course of the next few days. My friend, Bob and his wife, Meg’s uncle rolled into town the same day I arrived to work on one of his rental properties. Having them to go out to dinner with eased my transition. When the POD arrived the following Saturday, they came over and helped get the TV and wine fridge unloaded.

On my second full weekend, Amy, Scott and Hollie flew up to help me offload the big stuff and, of course, to do a little Greenville partying.

Jazz finally grew comfortable with her new surroundings. For Rambo, it was just someplace new to eat and sleep.

Cats.