Saturday, September 16, 2017

How to pay $4 for a soda at Walgreens

You start, as I did the other day, with a need for another Coke Zero.  At the start of each weeklong trip, I buy a two-liter Coke Zero at some relatively cheap outlet and use it for soda in my room as I work at night.  Most weeks, I leave a little when I check out.  This trip, though, was a day longer than normal and included even more super late nights than normal, so I ran out of Coke Zero on Friday morning.

No problem, I thought; I'll just run to the nearby Walgreens, where I bought the first bottle, and pick up a 20 oz. smaller bottle.

When I arrived at the store, though, I decided that wasn't going to be enough, so I better pick up two 20 oz. bottles.  Two of those, though, cost $3.00, while a two-liter container was only $1.99.  I opted for the cheaper option, though I felt vaguely guilty about how much I'd probably end up throwing out.

At the register, the woman checking me out asked if I'd like to donate a dollar to a childrens' hospital charity.  That seemed like a good idea, so I said, yes.

When the bill came, it was for $3.15 after tax.  That left me with 85 cents in change, and I avoid carrying change on the road, so I donated the 85 cents to the charity as well.

And walked out with my four-dollar soda.

Friday, September 15, 2017

A fine Friday night in Austin

After a frenzied round of email work, I headed to downtown Austin for a show from one of my favorite singer-songwriters, Stephen Kellogg.  He's on what he calls the Postcard Tour 2017, during which he's playing songs new and old with two supporting musicians, a guitarist and a drummer.

The show was fantastic, one of the best of his I've ever seen, maybe even the best.  The venue, the beautiful Stateside Theatre, had lovely acoustics and reserved seating.  I was in the second row, almost dead center, maybe 12 feet from Kellogg for most of the show, closer when he came to the edge of the stage.  He played most of my favorite songs, a few new ones, and even a couple of covers.  The audience didn't come close to filling the theatre, but it was loud and enthusiastic and clearly into Kellogg and his music.

As I was standing in line for the restroom after the show, a guy said, "Put him in Memorial Stadium with a hundred thousand people, and he'd get them all on their feet."  I agree.  I'm saddened by how small Kellogg's fan base is, but it seems to be big enough to support him, and I'm happy to be part of it.

Dinner had to be on the late side, because I'd needed to work until the last possible minute, so I headed to Holy Roller, a restaurant/bar with a solid late-night menu.  I split a huge salad and had a sandwich called "The Local," a strange concoction that included a biscuit, some fine Stiles Switch brisket, an egg, and other stuff.  It was huge but tasty.  This meal was my first at Holy Roller, but I would definitely go back and recommend it if you're in the mood for hearty fare.

As luck would have it, the nearby Amy's was open, so dessert was a small cup of their delicious ice cream.

Though I had to pay for it by working until the wee hours, it was a fine Friday night in Austin indeed.

Thursday, September 14, 2017

Good intentions meet tempting reality--and lose

I had so much work to do tonight that I wanted to make dinner quick.  I had asked a local colleague for his favorite quickie burger joint, and he had suggested Mooyah.  A Mooyah restaurant was within ten minutes of the hotel, so I set out to get a bacon cheeseburger (my typical burger order) and a side salad.

Once in the restaurant, though, I noticed this laminated addition to the Mooyah standard menu.

Click an image to see a larger version.

Note the second entry from the bottom in the right column:  The Hamburdog.

We're talking crack to an addict here.  Sure, it has a patty, and cheese, and bacon, but it also has a hot dog--as a topping!  Not to mention fried onion strings and jalapenos.

Oh, I had to taste this slab of American weirdness.  ("Slab of American Weirdness," by the way, is both my next band name and what I may put on a shirt and ask everyone who meets me to call me.  It could happen.)

Anyway, I still tried to hold to the shreds of my resolve by ordering it with a side salad.

Minutes later, this dish appeared.

I honestly did not know the burger came with fries.

The little cup does not contain dressing; no, it, too, preys on my weaknesses by being a chile-spiced queso.  Damn, but it was good on those fries.

Back to the burger.  Check out the side view of this beast.

Though I knew I would regret it, I had to pop the top on this baby and give it a look.

Oh, Lord, forgive me:  that is even sexier than it is disgusting.

Yeah, I ate every bite of it, and it was mighty damn fine.

I expect to pay for it later, but right now, I have no regrets.  Screw the good intentions; I, Slab of American Weirdness, devoured The Hamburdog.

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

If you're in Austin, you should eat at COUNTER 3. FIVE. VII

It's that simple.  COUNTER 3. FIVE. VII is the best restaurant in Austin, and you're doing yourself a disservice if you don't eat at it.  I had the privilege of dining there earlier tonight, and the food was once again spectacular--delicious and thoughtful and beautifully presented.

I know I've said it every time I've eaten at Counter, but it's been true every time.  I've eaten at a fair number of the world's best restaurants, so when I say the following, I say it with significant relevant context:  Executive Chef Damien Brockway and his team are producing truly world-class meals.

Support this restaurant.  Enjoy its food.  Learn how amazing the simplest of ingredients--think black beans or corn--can be in the hands of an amazing chef and his team.

Or just go because it's fun to eat and talk with the chefs and watch them prepare your food.

You'll have a wonderful meal and a good time.

Tell 'em I sent you and I said, hi.

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Why I don't take selfies: A story in four pictures

Quite a few readers of this blog have bugged me over the years to post more pictures of myself, particularly when I'm in interesting places or at fancy restaurants.  Earlier tonight, as I was enjoying a delicious meal at Pau Qui's new(ish) place, Kuneho, I recalled these messages as I stared at my mocktail umbrella drink.

Click an image to see a larger version.

The umbrella spoke to me.  I thought, hey, I'd look quite jaunty with that in my hair.

I then realized I have such short hair that I'd have to settle for putting the umbrella behind my ear, but I figured that would do just fine.

So I took this first selfie.

Now, please understand that this is my expression as I'm eating a wonderful dinner.  Despite how I look, I am in this moment rather happy.

I stared at the image on my phone and thought, hmmm, that's not the happiest expression, nor is it the most awake look.  Perhaps it's my eyes, I thought, which appear entirely too small here!

Upon which realization I shot this next pic.

One glance at this one was enough to tell me that I now looked slightly more menacing.  Again, though, for no clear reason I fixated on my eyes, which still seemed too small.

Time for another shot.

The best thing I can say about this one is that I achieved the goal of not having such small eyes.  Unfortunately, I did so at the cost of looking like a serial killer who's just broken out of maximum security and has been off his meds for about a month, living in the wild by scooping up road kill and eating it raw, bones and all.

At this point, wisdom prevailed, and I stopped taking selfies.

I think you will agree with me on two points:

1. I should not take selfies.
2. I rock an umbrella behind my ear.

Okay, maybe you will agree with me on only one of those.

Monday, September 11, 2017

If it's Austin and it's my first day in town,

then dinner must be BBQ, typically at Cooper's in downtown Austin.

And indeed it was.

Click the image to see a larger version.

That's brain food, Texas-style, and it was delicious.

No, I did not eat it all.  Two of us shared it, and we didn't even come close to finishing it.

The mac-and-cheese contains bacon chunks and jalapenos, by the way, and it is both spicy and delicious.

Dessert was, of course, ice cream from a nearby Amy's, but I forgot to take a picture of my small cup of cold wonder.

Ah, the simple joys of the first night in Austin.

Sunday, September 10, 2017

How'd the Local Author Tea earlier today go?

Thank you for asking.  It went rather well, as best I can tell.

The audience, which included only one male who later shook my hand and apologized for not reading SF and then declared that his wife had forced him to come, numbered over 20.  Even better, the people I did not know greatly outnumbered those I did.  I couldn't fit the entire audience into one photo from where I sat, so here's a little under half the room.

Click an image to see a larger version. 

Sue Scott, the librarian who organized the event, had cookies and tea and water waiting for all, as she had promised, and did a fine job of kicking off the event and asking for audience questions.

Because the other two panelists, mystery writer Sarah Shaber and romance writer Erin Knightley, worked in different genres, among us we represented the three major genres and so provided a nice set of viewpoints for the audience.  As it turned out, we three shared one somewhat unusual feature:  each of our first novels won an award that is well known in its genre.  We took turns and frequently ended up playing off each other's answers, which makes for a good panel and which is entirely too rare.

Because I head out tomorrow for a two-week business trip, I left as soon as the panel was over, but that is no reflection on the event itself.  It was a fun time for all, audience and panelists alike.  The Wake County Public Libraries and Sue Scott deserve credit for making it happen.  I thank them for including me.


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