But there's no hurry. The Cardinals game isn't until tonight, and right now I'm enjoying three of my favorite inventions--coffee, bacon, and Pandora radio. Seems like lately I've been on an Allman Brothers kick, and I blame that on my hippie siblings.
Speaking of which, it's been a pretty damn good week, and they were a big part of it. Most of you know I had a milestone birthday this week. Well, 46 ain't much of a milestone to most people, but after all the shiat I've had to deal with since I got to Tennessee, every year on the top side of the grass is a milestone.
But hey, right now, I'm probably healthier than I've ever been--certainly better than anytime in the past twenty-odd years.
Anyhow, our celebrations kicked off this past weekend when a bunch of the family came to town, not really for my birthday, but some of the more masochistic relatives were running in the Music City Marathon on Saturday. But that night we all got together for dinner at Jonathan's in Green Hills, and about 22 of us took over the restaurant. Good times!
Of course, being the guest of honor, I got a few nice gifts, mostly Amazon gift cards and bottles of red wine, which are also a couple of my other favorite inventions. Hey, I'm easy to shop for... I had a great time visiting with everyone, especially some of my nieces who I don't get to see much. But one of the highlights of the night came when I fetched the Challenger from the valet and damn near ran over Kirk Herbstreit of ESPN College Gameday fan. I felt bad, because if I were to run over somebody from ESPN, I'd prefer Stephen A Smith or Skip Bayless. Or even Lou Holtz. Herbie doesn't bother me at all--he's the most tolerable Ohio State fan out there, and I believe the reason he moved his family to Nashville in the first place was because all the locals were harassing him and his wife for not being enough of a 'homer' on tv. Anyhow, we both survived the encounter and a bunch of us headed over to the hippies' house to hang out for the rest of the evening.
I was hoping to chill out and do absolutely nothing on Sunday, but when I woke up, I got a text message from Cyndi telling me to come down to Alli's house and spend the day. I really didn't want to at first, since it's 54 miles one-way. But I eventually got it together and got back in the car for the hour-long drive.
I'm glad I did, because we had a great day. About half the family was there, and we spent the day goofing off with the kids and catching up. Of course, the first thing Alli's kids did when they saw me was to bust out the magic markers and 'tattoo' my head. I don't know where they would've come up with the idea to Sharpie up somebody, but I think they'd fit in pretty well with my Vegas gang...
I gotta say, the mutton chops were a cool touch, and they go especially well with the board-game look I've got going on top, too.
I also got to meet the newest members of the tribe, Jameson and Knox, who I'd never met before, and they were surprisingly well-behaved and quiet.
Me and Baby Knox. He's the good-looking one!
After the Sharpie shenanigans were over, I introduced Jackson and Brynn to the Bubble Breaker game on my computer, and they spent the rest of the afternoon kicking my ass. Brynn actually tripled my highest score, so I was humbled by a seven-year old...
We spent the rest of the day laughing it up like we always do when we get together, ordered pizza for dinner, and just had a relaxing day.
Diana, Alli, and Jackson. Can you guess which one ran the marathon the day before?
Before it got too late, I had to say my goodbyes and make that long drive back home. It was a great weekend, and of course my family is pretty hilarious, so my face was sore from laughing (and scrubbing off the artwork...)
Monday morning came much too early, and my day at the office was even less enjoyable than usual. But I was looking forward to getting out of there, and the afternoon couldn't pass by fast enough.
That night I had another meetup to attend, this one a 'Creative Non-Fiction and Personal Essay' group, which is pretty much what I write all the time. There were 22 people scheduled to attend, and I was slated to read and share another chapter of my upcoming book. Of course, only nine people showed up, which kinda pissed me off, since I'd just coughed up all that money at Staples getting five pages worth of writing printed, collated, and stapled for everyone in attendance.
But it was a small annoyance--the group is a knowledgeable bunch of people, and the feedback, for the most part, was very helpful. Although one person in there was bugging, trying to tell me that I needed to read The Hunger Games and develop my characters they way it was done in that book. Of course, that was a novel, written for 13-year old girls, and my piece is non-fiction, written for adults, and the only character I mentioned in that chapter was a 'stock' character, earning three lines of description and never heard from again, not Katniss Flaming Arrow or whatever the hell her name was...
So yeah, there's a bit of chaff that needs to be sorted through, and some of the feedback needs to be taken with a huge grain of salt, but there are a couple of people there much more talented than I, and I value their input. It was time well spent, and I got some good ideas on ways to improve my work. I also met a gal who was a first-timer who does comedy writing, and I'm looking forward to hearing more of her stuff. This month's meeting was a little heavy on grief and loss, so I love love love me some good comedy pieces. One of my friends who actually writes comedy as a job, and produces a comedy show (who wasn't able to be there that night, unfortunately), does the same thing, and I'm looking forward to the three of us all being in the same room together sometime soon.
My absent friend also sent me an email that night while I was at the meeting, and she wants me to submit a few stories for her show that she does once a month. She performs at a small club in midtown, usually five chicks and one token dude, and I have the opportunity to be the token dude later this summer. I'm thinking about sharing the NBA stripper story, or the one about the Dalmation and the sex toy, but we'll see how it goes.
Anyhow, since our meeting was out on the west side, and didn't end until almost 9:00 pm, I had packed a bag and ended up staying with Amy and the pugs again on Monday night, going back to work from there the next morning.
Tuesday was my actual birthday, and my co-workers made a small deal about it, nothing too embarrassing. Just a card and cupcakes, which was very thoughtful of them. And then another gift card showed up in my email, this one from Sierra Trading Post, (my new favorite place to buy clothes), and I finally used it this morning to order a new Columbia Sportswear rain jacket.
That night, I went back over to Amy's and she took me to dinner at 360 Wine Bar and Bistro over in Belle Meade. Or is it West Meade. I'm not sure, but it's a nicer neighborhood than I live in. We even completed the illusion of high class by rolling up in Amy's convertible Benz and parking right in front for everyone to see.
But we had an awesome meal--and a fantastic bottle of Oregon Pinot that was quite the indulgence. We started off with a charcuterie plate that included duck liver pate and all kinds of funky meat, served with olives, sun-dried tomatoes, and flatbread. So good! I had some sort of roasted chicken stuffed with cheese and figs, with a side of purple fingerling potatoes and some broccoli that actually tasted like it was smoked (hell yeah--kids would eat that, it tasted, to me, like green bacon!). Amy had a thick cut pork chop with creamed cauliflower, pancetta and peas, topped with roasted pears.
I really enjoyed the meal, and for dessert we shared a glass of 10-year-old port and some sort of custard filled creme puffs that looked like a pastry version of deviled eggs.
Yes, it was a damn good meal!
After dinner, we headed off to RED! wine store and picked up a few more bottles of the good stuff (and I also got a bottle of that Evan Williams Honey Reserve whiskey that I discovered the weekend before out in the woods), then came back to the house and cracked open another bottle of Pinot.
Yeah, I slept pretty well that night, even when sharing space with two bed-hogging puglets...
I finally made it back to my own house again last night, and waiting for me on the porch was another package from the brown-suited Santa Claus. Reverend Dave had hit my Amazon wishlist and hooked me up with a Nalgene flask and funnel, along with a copy of A Season on the Trail, and a huge box of dehydrated veggies from Harmony House (they are a great source for backcountry provisions).
I don't know if I mentioned it or not, but Reverend Dave is going to accompany me on my long walk next year, so pretty much all gift-giving occasions are hiking and backpacking related. And since I had a couple more Amazon gift cards to use, I did a little more online shopping this morning, getting another pair of wool socks (can never have too many!) and a couple of trail books that I've had my eye on.
So my shopping is done, y'all are caught up on the latest, I don't have many chores to do today, and it's nice out, so I may go for a walk in the woods this afternoon. Oh, and I'll probably do some more writing, too.