Saturday, October 20, 2012

The State Fair food report

A few days ago, we made our annual family trip to the North Carolina State Fair.  We go to see the animals, make sure Sarah rides the swings, watch the fireworks, check out the enormous gourds and pumpkins, and, most of all, to try the weird food.

For some years, I would order a few of the weirder things, eat them, feel too full from overeating, and have to quit.  This plan had two flaws:  feeling too full, and not getting to taste enough of the Fair's offerings. 

Last year, I devised a new plan:  I'd eat one or two bites of each item, persuade others to try it, and thus get to try many more different foods.  It worked well, so I repeated it this year.

My first taste was one bit of Sarah's delicious pretzel.

As always, click on any image to see a larger version of it.

As you can see, Sarah had enjoyed her first bite.  It was indeed quite tasty, somehow the best pretzel bite of each year.

Next up was the fried mac and cheese.  

These little rascals are flat out yummy.  They should be available at all times to people feeling sad.

The fried pickle slices, on the other hand, seem to be a "you like it or you don't" sort of concoction.

I am, as you might guess, in the group that likes them.

Our first member of the food-on-a-stick family, an important dietary group, was the fried Hostess cupcake.

I have to be honest:  it was hard to persuade people to try this one.  With the resurgence of the cupcake as a foodie item, the thought of a Hostess was not enticing.  One bite, though, was enough to change my mind.  Yes, by deep frying a Hostess cupcake and smothering it in sugar, you definitely improve it.

Oreos, on the other hand, are a cookie that almost everyone likes.  Time by progress, but the Oreo stands as an enduring treat.  Deep-fry it, and, well...

it turns only more delicious!  These little guys went fast.

Some controversy surrounded our next offering, the deep-fried pizza. 

Basically, it was just pizza sauce and cheese on a funnel cake.  I thought it was tasty, as did Sarah, but some felt it had not earned the name "pizza."  I must disagree with them.

One of Scott's Fair traditions is to get the always yummy turkey leg.

He was kind enough to give me a bite of it, so it earned its spot in this list--and it was very tasty indeed.

Several of us shared a quarter-pound hot dog with cheese from the best local hot dog maker, whose name I have sadly forgotten, but I forgot to take a picture of it.  So, as we walked back by the stand after seeing the chickens, I snapped this photo of some freshly grilled dogs.

Damn if that hot dog wasn't great!

Did I mention giant pumpkins?

Lest you think we ate every deep-fried item on sale at the Fair, check out just this one sign.  We simply ran out of steam.

Before we did, though, we ate this ultimate bit of Fair badness, a heart attack on a stick.

Yes, that thing is a cinnamon sticky bun, deep-fried, coated with a maple-sugar second glaze, and then rolled in bacon bits.

Talk about your Louis CK glaze of shame!  The coating that inevitably glistened from your chin after a bite of this amazing creation was a small price to pay for getting to taste something so yummy--and so amazingly bad for you.

Next up was a wait in line for the N.C. State ice cream.  As always, I went with the cherry vanilla; for no particular reason, I have real weakness for cherries.

It was delicious, as always. 

Readers gripe at me regularly about not putting up pictures of myself.  I avoid those photos because I am a homely, fat, old guy.  Still, to avoid the gripes, here's a portrait of the author as a Fair-goer.

You thought I was done eating.  Oh, no!  On the way out, I stopped for the final treat:  the always wonderful pretzel dog!

It was indeed great!

Did I mention fireworks?

I do love me some fireworks, and this year's show was the best in recent years.

That's a wrap, folks. 

Friday, October 19, 2012

Tom Cruise as Jack Reacher?

I'm a stone fan of Lee Child's Jack Reacher novels.  They're reliably fun and often more, their pacing is relentless, and Child is a very entertaining writer.  The books frequently have little to do with reality, but that's okay; he sells the departures well enough.  Reacher himself is a huge presence, both as a fictional character among mystery fans and in stature:  six-foot-five and anywhere from 220 to 240 pounds of muscle. 

Every single Reacher fan I know thus said (at best) "Huh?" when the news broke that Tom Cruise would star in the Jack Reacher film due this Christmas.  After all, Reacher is nearly a foot taller and vastly larger than Cruise.

At cons, I've heard Child defend the casting on the grounds that Cruise has the presence to carry it off.

Though I will, of course, go see the movie, I've been convinced Child was wrong.

This trailer, though, gave me some hope that the movie could be good.  (Thanks to Steve for pointing me to it.) 

Some hope.  I'm not convinced, but I am more hopeful now than I was before.   

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Skyfall keeps looking better

Hell, yeah it does.  Check it out.

I can't wait to see it!  I'll be there opening day.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Top 5 reasons to come to the Cameron Village Public Library tonight at 7:00 p.m

By "tonight," I mean, of course, Thursday, October 18, 2012.  As I wrote in an earlier blog entry, super librarian and generally awesome fellow Dan Brooks has organized a reading and panel discussion on dark and urban fantasy.  Local author Clay Griffith and I will be on that panel, with Dan moderating the discussion.

If that's not enough to entice you into coming, here are the top five reasons you should be there by 7:00 to see the show. 

5. Libraries are awesome, this one is particularly cool, and they need our support.  Come on, admit it:  you know they are.  Without our support, though, it's possible that in a generation or two, kids will grow up knowing less about libraries than they do now about 78 rpm records.

4. You never know what might come out of my mouth.  Hell, I don't, so why should you?  With the right questions, I might tell you more about the world of Diego Chan than I've ever revealed, or let you know just what my mom said before the ninth grade dance, or, well, say any damn thing. 

3. The party will continue into dinner afterward. I mentioned this one in the earlier post, but it bears repeating, because a hot biscuit on a cool autumn evening is a wonderful thing indeed, particularly if you're sharing it with friends, new and old. 

2. Clay Griffith will finally reveal his secret powers of flight.  On his own, I mean.  Of course.  Anyone can fly in a plane.  Okay, maybe Clay won't do that, but when we were on a panel together a few months ago, he seemed like a nice guy, so we should support him. 

And the number one reason you should not miss this event is...

1. Dan Brooks and I will fight to the death in the library's MMA cage if every chair isn't full. You can't want that to happen.  I would miss Dan, and the library would have to pay a special crew to clean up its octagon.

Seriously, come on down.  It'll be fun.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

An open letter to The Hold Steady: Hire a keyboard player!

It was great to see you guys the other night at the Cat's Cradle.  I really enjoyed the show, as did the others in my group.  The audience was into it, you guys seemed to be into it, and Craig Finn, man, you were working the house.

I can't help, though, but miss Franz Nicolay's keyboards on a lot of the music.  I understand Nicolay had his own good reasons for leaving, and I respect that.

The music, though, cries out for keyboards.

Let's start with what has to be perhaps your most perfect song, the magnificent "Stuck Between Stations."

I missed the piano so much when you played this one.

I felt the same way when you gave us this absolutely fabulous tune, "Sequestered In Memphis."

Yes, you performed them both well, but wow, how much better they would have been with someone laying down those piano tracks.

Think about it.  That's all I'm asking.  Think about it.

Monday, October 15, 2012

The State Fair is here

We're heading there Wednesday night, and I'm already building my freak food hit list.  Thanks to Sarah's advance scouting, I know I need to at least taste one bite of each of the following:

  • Flavor burst ice cream, which we in the beach crew call "the squeeze."  It's a long story.
  • Deep-fried oreos
  • Deep-fried cupcakes (though these are, as of now, still unconfirmed rumors)
  • NC State's superb cherry vanilla ice cream, a perennial favorite
  • Deep-fried pizza
And, of course, the most wily and possibly life-threatening target of them all
  • Deep fried, bacon-bit-coated cinnamon bun
Check back here later this week to see how I fared. 

Sunday, October 14, 2012


As I've done with a few previous blog posts, in this two thousand fifth entry, I'm going to check in on where my writing was in the corresponding year, 2005.

I had, as was typical of that time, been agonizing over writing but occasionally producing a short story.  "Boar Lake," a story whose first draft I'd written almost two decades earlier, had appeared the previous year in Crossroads: Tales of the Southern Literary Fantastic, a nifty original anthology that Brett Cox and Andy Duncan edited.

I'd also pushed to the very last possible date the completion of a short story, "Bring Out the Ugly," for Toni's original anthology, Cosmic Tales: Adventures in Far Futures.  That story was the first time Jon and Lobo appeared together in print.  I was so late with it that the book appeared in the same year in which I turned in the story, a tolerance for which I have always owed Toni. 

As I was in the throes of finishing that story, I hit a pivotal moment for my writing.  As I wrote in an earlier entry,

Now, flash forward to early 2005. I had been farting around with fiction writing all those years, selling some stories, getting one in The Year's Best, and so on, but I was never really able to commit to writing. I had turned 50 in March and was using the occasion to reconsider many things. My fiction writing was one of them. After much thought, in the middle of May, I decided I would give up fiction and thus gain more peace in my life.

I couldn't sleep that night. I couldn't give up fiction.

If you've read this blog regularly, you know that my advice to writers is that if you can possibly not write, don't. I couldn't stop.
At the same time, I barely wrote fiction, maybe a story every few years.
So, on the day after my sleepless night, I resolved that on June 1 I would start writing every day. (I chose that start date to give myself time to live with the decision and see if it was correct.) My goal was simple: each day I had to devote at least 30 minutes to staring at a blank screen (or notebook or sheet of paper) and doing nothing else. No word minimums; just at least 30 minutes of time that belonged to fiction. I would not allow myself to go to bed until I'd done it. Every day. No exceptions, no matter what. 
That June 1, I started working every day on writing.

On the last day of 2005, I finished One Jump Ahead, my first novel.

2005 thus became one of the most important years for my writing, if not the very most important one, because I finally, truly, viscerally figured out that to be a writer, I had to write--and then I put that lesson into practice.

I sure wish I'd started that practice at 18 instead of 50.


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