Monday, July 31, 2006

You'd Think That After Fifteen Years...

Maybe it was the wine talking, but RUABelle and I had fairly serious discussion over dinner about marriage, babies, fertility, adoption, careers, etc.

We finally decided to split the vanilla creme brulee.

Hey, it's a start!

-- Chris Chamberlain
Sent from my Treo

My Life Through Cable TV

We have Comcast Digital Cable at home and DirecTV at our cabin in Sewanee. Between the two of them, I reckon that makes about 500 channels of crap. In a moment of navel-gazing, I wondered if cable has possibly taken over my free time.

The answer is, of course, yes. But at least with TiVo, it doesn’t have to happen during real time. And it is understandable considering my history with cable TV. Allow me to elucidate. (Or hell, don’t. Here’s a link to a Jessica Alba site if you’d rather. You're welcome.)

The first contact I ever had with something like cable was when channel 17 in Nashville was basically Ted Turner’s TBS. It was all Braves and all-Gomer Pyle all the time. In the mid 70’s Ted signed free agent pitcher Andy Messersmith. The dude’s name was so long that it took up the whole back of his jersey, with the “M” on his left shoulder, "essersmit" across his back and the “H” on his right shoulder. It looked horrible and baseball commissioner Bowie Kuhn stepped in and demanded that the Braves do something to fix the ridiculous sight. Turner refused to shrink his font, so commissioner Kuhn suggested that Messersmith put a nickname on the back of his uniform.

Remember, this was 1976 when the league was full of real characters with foot-high afros and flashy gold chains. Some teams had enough different uniforms to field an entire starting lineup of Geranimals combinations and the Chicago White Sox even had uniforms with short pants. (Bad, bad idea.) Lots of players were using their nicknames instead of their real names on the back of their jerseys, so Turner and Messersmith went along. Ted declared that Andy’s new nickname would be “Channel” and his new jersey number would be 17. After a few starts with that ridiculous billboard for TBS on his back, Messersmith just changed his jersey name to “Andy.” But the Ted Turner marketing legend was born.

The first person I knew with honest-to-God Viacom cable was my high school girlfriend. She had the cable box which was about the size of the yellow pages and sat on top of the TV with a dial that had 23 channels on it. No remote. Not many choices. Really expensive. But man, was it awesome! I remember falling asleep on her couch and waking up to ESPN and the sound of a foreign accent saying, “And that’s a rollicking uppercut to the chops!”

“Oh cool, a boxing match,” I expected as I opened my eyes. Nope, this was early ESPN and they didn’t quite have the same inventory as they have now. What I saw was some strange combination of rugby, football and “Smear the Queer” which I now recognize as Australian Rules Football. But then I had no idea what I was watching and I was fascinated. It was the first time I ever got kicked out of the room by a woman I was dating for fixating on ESPN instead of her. It was not the last time, unfortunately.

Early 80’s MTV also suffered from the same sort of limited inventory. Rod Stewart had about half the videos in rotation, but it was worth it to see Martha Quinn. Later, I would plan my whole week around scheduled showings of Michael Jackson’s “Thriller” mega-video. That guy really has disappointed me.

The years from 1981-1984 was all about seeing boobies on TV. We had a Betamax, and there were only about five Beta videos at Lion’s Head video. So we rented them over and over again. “Young Frankenstein,” “Blazing Saddles,” “Stripes,” “Up in Smoke” and “Life of Brian.” I guess that probably explains a lot about me and my warped sense of humor.

But back to boobies. They were fairly limited in this small video selection, but of course we knew exactly where they were. For consistent boobage, we had to turn to our two premium channels, HBO and Showtime. God bless John Byner and the “Bizarre” show! He was always good for a naughty nurse skit or two every week. And as a bonus, we got to see Super Dave Osborne run into stuff and break some bones. From a droll humor standpoint, I always preferred the “Dave Allen Show” over Benny Hill, but the partial frontal nudity was quite a trump card for a 16-year old.

HBO movies provided grown-up entertainment for me and my friends as well, but occasionally with embarrassing results. I was sitting on the couch with my girlfriend’s father (you know him, Busy Mom) watching “Kentucky Fried Movie” on HBO while she took a shower before we went out on a date. It was uncomfortable enough to watch some of the potty humor with him, but then the clincher came on. It was a short trailer for a mythical film called “Catholic High School Girls in Trouble.” Two minutes of utter debauchery including three naked girls getting whipped by a dwarf and (oh joy!) another nubile young lass getting ravaged in, you guessed it, the shower. When his sweet young Catholic daughter emerged after her ablutions, she wondered why her father was so pissed and suspicious of me. I had her home by 9:30 that night. I won’t post that clip here, but if you want to see what sort of trouble I was in, go here.

1985-1989 In college. No money=no cable. I missed out on the Paula Abdul MTV years, apparently.

When I got out of college, I had to start paying for cable on my own for the first time. So the DogDoc and I made watching cable an additional full-time job to go along with bartending, playing in a cover band and chasing waitresses. Since we spent so much time watching TV, I had to substitute reality TV for reality. That’s when I got hooked on the Real World and Road Rules. “Hi, I’m CeeElCee, and I have a reality TV problem.” I think my addiction to Road Rules comes from the fact that I should have been a contestant, but I was too old by the time it started. “Amazing Race” still awaits me.

1995-1997 was spent watching TNT or whatever the hell channel “American Gladiators” was on. I had no interest in competing on that one, but watching it passed as exercise for me.

1998-2002 were the golden years which I spent focusing on the Oilers/Titans before they started to suck. Saturday college and Sunday pro football made for an easy way to schedule a weekend.

As our 75 year old Craftsman Bungalow started to slowly fall down around us, RUABelle and my viewing habits turned to Home and Garden and TLC. Somehow procrastinating tasks around the house by watching other people fix up their domiciles made us feel better. I do have an envelope full of Home Depot receipts, but I’m not exactly sure what we did with any of that stuff.

Fast forward to today, and the favorite channels around the old Cee household are Fine Living and the Food Network. So now instead of watching other people do remodeling projects while we sit on our asses, we watch other people cook, eat and travel while we sit on our asses. I think that’s progress.

Where are we headed? There’s no doubt in my mind. I figure I’m about five years away from becoming an inveterate Weather Channel watcher. What with all the hurricanes, winter storms and Joe Cantore, it’s already some of the most compelling programming on television.

I’ve heard that the Weather Channel is considered “MTV for old people.” Funny, I always thought that VH1 was supposed to take that space. I guess there’s no room for videos what with the “Surreal Life” and “Celebrity Fit Club.” Maybe I can watch somebody else lose weight while I sit around on my ass.

Pass the Doritos.

Sunday, July 30, 2006

Ode to My Lawn

I've stopped mowing you.

I've stopped weedeating you.

I've stopped watering you.

Why won't you just DIE?!

Die, damn you, DIE!

It's too fu*kin' hot to do yard work, and it's just fescue and Bermuda. It'll be back next year, despite my best efforts.

Friday, July 28, 2006

I Guess THAT Didn't Work Very Well

Busy Mom says I now have Henningitis.

Well, Crap!


"Devil, Come Owwwwwwwt!"

Am I the only one who remembers Ernest Angley's on-air exorcisms? He had a real talent for deaf people and the wheelchair-bound.

Well, I need his (and all of your) help. One more post and the nefarious "He whose name shall not be spoken but who is hovering over there-------->" dude is off my site, hopefully forever.

So, let's all concentrate. I know you're all sick of his pale visage appearing in your comments sections attached to my snarky banter. You want to see him gone, too!


Or as Steve Martin used to say, "I break with thee. I break with thee. I break with thee. And then I throw poopie on their shoes."

Whatever it takes. Fingers crossed!

Thursday, July 27, 2006


I'm sure nobody else has noticed, (except maybe for Kat Coble since she shares my revulsion for him), but a certain magician is about to roll off the bottom of my blog again.

Yeah, that guy. Over there. ---------->

Shhhh! Speak not his name. Maybe if we all concentrate quietly on wishing him away, we can finally banish him from my site.

"I do believe in fairies! I do believe in fairies!"


11:30 lunch at the Mothership today should include some seldom seen celebrities.

Besides Knuck, Kerry Woo and myself, Sista Smiff is planning to bring #2 son. The often-lurking, previously seldom-posting Fishwreck is making his virgin voyage to the Mothership along with his friend and compatriot, the JagerBomber.

Last, but not least, I am introducing my lovely RUABelle to more of my blogger friends.

Y'all come! (And don't scare her off.)

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Now It's PERSONAL, Darn It!

I try to keep politics out of my posts and I have traditionally walked the line between isolationism and support of Israel. But I just read that the Israelis have been bombing and destroying the rail lines into Lebanon.

We haven't even had a chance to ride the Music City Star yet and the darned Israelis are blowing up the railroad tracks my tax dollars went to build. That settles it, I'm definitely buying a pork sandwich tomorrow at the Mothership...

Liveblogging from the #18 Elm Hill Pike Bus

So I've been trying to ride the bus to work once a week. It's actually two buses to anywhere in Nashville unless you live or work downtown. (Which I don't.)

My normal commute is less than 10 miles and generally takes about fifteen minutes. Even though I drive an eight year old SUV, at $5.00 per day, the MTA bus isn't any cheaper and takes three times as long.

But I think it's an important gesture to make, and my employees think it is hilarious to see one of the owners of the company walking a few blocks to stand at the bus stop on the corner. I'm hoping I can change a few attitudes.

Or maybe I'm just peculiar.

But I figure it should provide some good blog fodder.

Ralph Cramden, out.
Sent from my Treo

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

When Wonderdawg Says Jump...

I say, "No way. I've got a bum ankle."

But I will join the monitor chain gang. If you look really closely in the background to the left of my monitor, you can see a picture of the president of my publishing division standing next to a huge wild pig he shot. Classy.

Photograph this blog post (including your monitor and its immediate surroundings), and post the resulting pic on your blog. Then, the next person photographs your blog post and posts it, and so on. Leave your post URL in the comments so people will be able to follow the chain, and link your image to the post you photographed... this way people will be able to zoom into the monitors by clicking.

Via Kerry Woo

Black Water

Senor Knucklehead has got an amusing post about his mom doing the laundry and leaving damp clothes in the washer. It brought to mind yet another embarrasing story about myself that I (always) feel compelled to share with you, dear readers.

When the DogDoc and I lived together on 33rd Avenue, we had a "donated" avocado green washer and dryer in our kitchen. After almost a year of sporadic use, the washer finally quit midway through a cycle while still full of water. We both ignored it for a couple of days until one of us, or maybe it was a visiting chick, finally fished out the clothes with a broomstick.

They stunk to high heaven, but we still had no way to drain the washer. And neither one of us wanted to bail out the stank-water. So we just kept a can of Lysol on top of the washing machine and sprayed it whenever we walked through the kitchen.

Eventually, the larvae which were swimming in the washer hatched and we found ourselves with a swarm of flies and mosquitos hovering over the machine and circling the kitchen. So we finally buckled down and did the only thing we could think of to remedy the situation.

We moved out.

Oops, I voted... the early election yesterday. And, true to my promise, I voted for my bud, Rex L. Camino. But I didn't really want to see him leave town, so I wrote him in for Governor instead of Senator. I figured that the Governor's mansion is a phat pad and Bredesen's not using it anyway. If Rex is Governor, I'm sure they'll let him into the Smithsonian for free anyway.

(Shhh, I know the Smithsonian's free for everyone, but don't tell Rex. Let the man dream.)

Monday, July 24, 2006

Fear and Chafing in Las Vegas

One of my all-time favorite books is Hunter S. Thompson’s “Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas.” When my high school senior English teacher assigned it as a summer reading book I thought she was the coolest teacher ever. I still try to read the same dog-eared copy I bought at Mill’s Book Store way back then every summer. I also have a Gideon’s Bible autographed by the good Doctor Gonzo, but that’s a story for a future post.

One of the best chapters was the transcript of a tape recording of a lost evening which reveals the addled, disjointed, crazy tableau that can be Las Vegas. It begins with a disclaimer:

“EDITOR'S NOTE: At this point in the chronology, Dr. Duke appears to have broken down completely; the original manuscript is so splintered that we were forced to seek out the original tape recording and transcribe it verbatim. We made no attempt to edit this section, and Dr. Duke refused even to read it. There was only one way to reach him. The only address/contact we had, during this period, was a mobile phone unit somewhere on Highway 61—and all efforts to reach Duke at that number proved futile. In the interests of journalistic purity, we are publishing the following section just as it came off the tape—one of many that Duke submitted for purposes of verification—along with manuscript.”

In the spirit of this chapter, here are the unedited combined random observations of RUABelle and me culled from our scrawled notes on various cocktail napkins, matchbooks and losing CFL betting slips. (Hey, it’s the off-season…there wasn’t much to bet on and video poker was kicking my ass!)

We met two interesting scary blonde alcoholic chicks at the Monte Carlo Brew Pub the first night we were there to see the Prince Tribute Show. The first was a woman named Kristina whose schtick was “the endless vodka tonic.” As she prattled on to us about her three kids she had left at her mom’s house for the night while she and a friend cruised predatorily for male drink sponsors, she would wait until the bartender walked away to get us another beer and then refill her glass out of a flask she kept in her purse. After this had happened five or six times, we started to really feel like enablers. However, by that time, she and her friend had already hooked their talons into two guys who looked like they had huge expense accounts with whom they left soon after.

The second poor soul was a young woman whose hair and skin was so pale that she looked like an x-ray of herself. I did notice she had a tattoo on the back of her neck that read “Daddy’s Little Girl.” Tragic. She sat down next to me and ordered a glass of white zinfandel with four olives. When she saw RUABelle and I grimace at her order (being the straight-from-Napa wine snobs that we apparently are now), she ate the olives off the toothpick and said, “Dinner.” We asked her what she did for a living, and she replied “I just got to town so I do pretty much whatever I want or whatever anybody will pay me to do.”

Uh-huh. It took about an hour to realize that she was asking if we wanted to pay for a threesome and that we weren’t interested and the band wasn’t going to pay “Little Red Corvette” again. Once we were all on the same page again, we had a pleasant conversation and I even bought her another three olives for a buck. Mmmmm, dessert.

We noticed that the thermometer in our rental PT Cruiser (a piece of crap not worth it even at $16.00/day) read 100 degrees in the parking garage at MIDNIGHT! That just ain’t right. Yet even in those conditions, there was still a contingent of tourists who considered deodorant to be optional.

The heat made it very difficult to balance drinking enough water to avoid dehydration with the need to pee every 20 minutes. We opted to overhydrate because we knew from past experience that if you get behind on your fluids, you’ll feel crappy for days afterwards.

What happens in Vegas stays in Vegas unless it involves a tattoo or a viral infection.

The lobby of a casino is a really unfortunate location to choose to breastfeed.

Apparently money does matter in some relationships because we saw a lot more hot chicks with really ugly guys than vice versa. At least the ugly guys had nice clothes and a lot of bling.

According to the billboard we saw at the Las Vegas Hilton, now that Reba Macintyre has cut her hair, she is a spitting image of Willow from “Buffy the Vampire Slayer.” There must be a really good cosmetic surgeon somewhere in Goodlettsville.

I discovered that playing $1.00 video poker it is actually possible to lose fifty bucks during one commercial break of “SportsCenter.”

Chafing should be covered by Medicare in Nevada.

When did shirts become optional for hipster dudes walking down a sidewalk?

Drinking a plastic football filled with 180 octane daiquiris is rarely a good idea.

All those pictures everyone was taking of that bachelorette sitting on the face of a blow-up doll will probably come back to haunt her some day.

Could there be a more useless souvenir than the plastic yard margarita glasses that everybody was bringing on the plane as carry-on? What are you gonna do with those? Drink your 4-5 glasses of water per day at work out of a Hooters Casino glass?

The fact that it was 108 degrees and all the casinos left their front doors wide open air conditioning the sidewalks is a really good indication that you can’t make money gambling.

Vegas does not think the Titans will win more than five games this year.

When you’re thirsty and hot enough, a $6.00 Miller Lite sounds reasonable.

We saw a guy actually practicing his Zoolander “Blue Steel” look in a bar. He went home alone while the fat guys buying drinks for hot chicks appeared to actually hook up.

I’d rather lose my money to a smiling Tunica dealer named Melba than to a dour Vegas dealer named Phuc.

If hemlines get any higher and necklines get any lower, apparently the “couture de rigueur” in Vegas for women will just a belt.

“It’s a dry heat.” So’s my oven, but I wouldn’t want to live there…

Thursday, July 20, 2006

Sad in Vegas

I was going to write my regularly snarky post about all the wacky people RUABelle and I encountered last night in Sin City. But then Sista Smiff let me know about Busy Mom's mom, so I think the smart-alecness should wait a day or so.

I lost my father after a long battle with Parkinson's last year, so I have great empathy with what B Mo has been going through. I am comforted (and I hope she is too) by the fact that the great folks at Alive Hospice were there to aid with the transition to a more peaceful and painless place.

Busy Mom, I don't have your email address with me on this trip, but if you stumble across this post please know that I'm thinking of you. Hang tight to your family and call somebody you haven't talked to in a while to tell them you love them. That helped me a lot.

Take care.

Sent from my Treo

Tuesday, July 18, 2006


RUABelle and I put our heads together and counted how many wines we've tasted in the past two days.


It's only a swallow or so at a time, but at 100+ degrees, it's certainly taking its toll on us. The good news is that we leave tomorrow AM for Vegas, so the wine intake should slack off. The bad news is that it was 114 in Vegas today. Between the heat and the sin, we should have a pretty good snapshot of Hades.

I know, cry me a river. We're having fun and hope everybody in Nashville has access to A/C. Have fun at the Mothership blogger meat-up.

Saturday, July 15, 2006

Don't Hate Me

RUABelle and I leave tomorrow for three days in Napa and three days in Vegas. We're unmarried and childless, so consider this vacation to be like a honeymoon without ever actually getting married. She heads back to work in a few weeks and it look like she's going to have a pretty challenging class of first-graders to teach next year, so I'm hoping to spoil her like she deserves.

I'll do my best to send some interesting posts from the road and add some pictures when we get back. But if it's gonna piss you off, just give the ole Dry Spot a miss for the next week.

Don't hate the playa. Hate the game.

Friday, July 14, 2006

Update from Sewanee

If anybody cares, it's 2:45 and 76 degrees on top of the mountain. How's the weather in Nashville?

I live in Nashville why again?
Sent from my Treo

Liveblogging from Highway 127

I decided to take a ridiculously long way home from Knoxville so as to spend as much time on top of the Cumberland Plateau as possible.

So I'm driving down the country roads, diggin' on some bluegrass and comparing the heights of cornfields. It's blissful with one small problem.

The farm truck I'm following has had its right blinker on for 20 miles now. If anyone knows the owner of a primer-colored piece of crap Ford pickup truck, license#AVP665, please call him on his CB and ask him to cut it off. It's busting on my buzz! (Natural high, of course. I'm driving.)

Come to think of it, I reckon the guy riding behind me is probably complaing about the erratic driving of the guy in front of him who's typing on his Treo with one hand. Fuggem and feed 'em fish, I say.

I consider this little jaunt to be uniquely American, like drag races and tractor pulls, because it's loud, senseless and consumes fossil fuels.

Next stop, Gruetli-Laager.
Sent from my Treo

Thursday, July 13, 2006

It's a Small World

Sorry, this isn't for you, Coble or the other Disneyphiles cruising the web for Mickey references.

So I'm sitting on the sofa in my hotel room in Johnson City eating a chili dog from Pal's Rapid Eats while the one pair of khakis I brought is draped over the back of the desk chair so I can wear them again tomorrow. I know that may be a disturbing visual, but such is the glamorous life of the business traveler...

I'm leafing through the local entertainment listing rag looking for something to do tonight, even though I know I'll most probably end up watching a six square inch screen-sized episode of "Arrested Development" on my iPod.

Then what to my wondering eye should appear? "Hey the lanky dude in that picture looks familiar. That's Sista's Mista."

Sure enough, the Grascals starring Mista Smiff on basso profundo are the headliners tomorrow at the Tazwell Fiddlers Convention in Crab Orchard. Unfortunately, I'll be headed west while they're coming east so I'll miss them again like I did during last week's blogger meet-up.

I guess I'll have to actually buy their new CD from iTunes if I'm actually gonna hear them. Sista, I'll do my part and check the parking lot at all the nearby strip clubs for their tour bus.

I know the truth, though. I probably wouldn't leave this hotel room if the fire alarm went off. CSI's on.

Y'all-a-back, Grrrls.

I have yet another embarrassing admission to make about myself. Regular readers know that I've been kicked out of a McDonald's in St. Louis (solidarity, Brother Kevin!), been mistaken for a purveyor of sex toys and crapped the bed at the Waldorf Astoria. But this one really hurts to admit.

Both of my parents are Yankees.

Yup, they met when my dad was the 1st mate on a weekend cruise aboard the excursion sailboat, the Stormalong, that sailed out of West Islip, Long Island. My mom was the daughter of an Episcopalian minister living in East Islip and they "encountered" each other on the deck of that boat and the rest is history.

So despite the fact that I am adopted (long post to come on some future date), in the old nurture/nature debate, you'd have to say I was reared Yankee. But I think I've embraced my southerness as much as can be expected. I've lived in Nashville my entire life except for four years when I was held prisoner of war in California and Connecticut.

But today I offer a short treatise on one of my favorite parts of Dixiedom, the word "Y'all."

No word separates us from other regions as "y'all." (I will not be dragged in to the midwestern "coke vs. pop" argument, B. and Coble.) It just rolls off the tongue and is so useful in so many situations. It can be singular or plural, which on occasion has gotten me in trouble during forays to the northern tundra.

Me: Do y'all sell electric razors here?
WalMart employee in Baraboo, Wisconsin looking nervously around as if I had handed her a robbery note: Well, yes sir. We all sell razors. Would you like to buy one from me or should I get another cashier or a manager?

It takes the edge off of any phrase by making even the angriest thing sound sweet. "I'm gonna go back to my truck and get my ax handle and whup every last one of y'all."

And nothing warms my heart as hearing one of my favorite bloggers address the blogosphere as "y'all." When Ivy posted a picture of her daughter, Megs, and said "Y'all, I have the most beautiful daughter ever," I melted before I even saw her precious picture.

That's right, cynical smart-ass CeeElCee has a softer side. And now you know how to get to it.

Now if y'all will excuse me, I have to drive to Johnson City and give a speech and then work in Knoxville on the way home tomorrow.

I hope I don't crap the hotel bed.

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Take a Number...

...cuz my boy, Dr. Funkenswine is fiddin' to blow up crazy-large!

And he deserves every ounce of success.

We knew him when...

Live Blogging the MLB All-Star Game

7:15 Carrie Underwood sings the National Anthem. I guess since it's down to just Toronto, baseball has figured, "Screw the Canadian Anthem. We can sell three more commercials."

Somebody in the room thinks she looks too skinny. RUABelle says she needs Proactiv Solution. Mrowrrrr.

7:20 Jeanne Zelasko appears on the screen. I can't stand her and avert my eyes.

7:45 "Man, this game is boring! Is Big Brother on? Tell me when it's the ninth inning and Ozzie has filled the game with White Sox and actually starts managing. Then we'll switch back"

9:30 Apparently that was a very good idea on my part.

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Well, That Was Delightful.

I've managed to get through half the day without screwing it up. Let's recount:

I was actually early to my 10:30 meeting.

I missed the bumper of that truck by this much as I did my 5 lane power-merge across the I-65/I-40 interchange. I always drive RUABelle's car too fast.

I had a great lunch with Aunt B. and RUABelle talking about dogs and our various "grey sheep" siblings.

The ride from lunch back to work was occupied almost entirely by Adam Ant's "Strip" on 96.3 Jack FM. (Ok, that one's a miss.)

Fingers crossed.

I'm Feeling Inspired Today

"Free Bird" on 105.9 took up almost my entire commute from home to work in RUABelle's zippy little Saab.

I have a sushi lunch date with RUABelle and Aunt B so they can meet for the first time and talk about dogs.

We're headed to our two best friends' house tonight to watch the MLB All-Star game.

Let's all see how I can f this day up.

Sunday, July 09, 2006

A Big Load of Blarney (Part 4)

I know it's been a few days since part 3, but it's been a busy week for Nashville bloggers. It's finally time to head down the home stretch of our Ireland trip and get back to the daily snarkery.

To recap, here's the damage that Ricky had inflicted upon our poor rental BMW up to now:
1.) A slip off the narrow road shoulder at high speed has definitely bent the left front rim (wonka, wonka, wonka)
2.) The resultant damage also bent the hood latch so that the hood wouldn't stay latched. We expected it to fly up at any moment.
3.) A trip down a narrow driveway with bushes on both sides had left deep gouges in the paint down both sides of the car. I spent a half hour with my handkerchief and some vaseline trying to buff them out well enough to get past the rental car counter.

So take CeeElCee's advice when considering buying a rental car from the Budget Car lot. Yes, you know it's probably had the oil changed every 2000 miles. But odds are, it's probably also been airborne at one point in its lifetime. I know of which I speak, because some friends and I once rented a Budget Rent a Car Taurus with unlimited mileage and put 3800 miles on it in a weekend during a hellbent-for-leather trip from Palo Alto to Calgary and back for an eight hour stay at the Winter Olympics. (Post to follow someday.)

Basically, the car was a shell of its former self as we rolled out of bed early on Tuesday for our round of golf at Old Head. Lucy and RUABelle accompanied us to the course with the intention of walking the front nine and then either sitting on the deck drinking pints until we finished or cabbing it back into Kinsale for some shopping. We shared the bigass Irish breakfast, though believe it or not, I just had a fruit plate. I'd actually played Old Head before and was trying to be careful what kind of crap I put into myself before I got it beat out of me by the course.

The playing conditions couldn't have been better. It was sunny and 70 degrees with next to no wind. You could play golf in Ireland 20 times and never get scoring conditions like this. I was actually a little disappointed. As the Scots say, "Nae wind. Nae rain. Nae golf."

Ricky and I went to the range and met our playing partners, Jim sr. and a paper merchant from Dublin. Ironically, I had played Old Head with him seven years ago on my last trip to Ireland. It was comforting to have some familiarity in such a trying situation. As we hit chili-dips off the range, the assortment of caddies lined up and watched us. I knew from past experience that they were making side bets on us and drawing straws to see who got who. I also knew that the short straw would get Ricky and me. I was knocking the ball pretty well off the range, but Ricky was inflicting some serious damage on the Irish sod.

The unlucky bastard was a large fellow named Ritchie. He was a very friendly guy who carried our bags with no complaints and kept his sense of humor in the face of some of the worst golf he'd probably seen that month. He did a super job reading the putts for me, and when I executed what he recommended the ball funneled into the hole. He probably saved me ten strokes.

The other caddie who was with Jim and the Dubliner was a 400+ lb. hulking mound of a man named Big Tom. He slung both of their bags over one shoulder so he could keep one hand free to smoke. Apparently he held the Kinsale pub record of 44 pints in one night. "When he's thirsty, he drinks hard cider. When he's hungry, he drinks Murphys Stout."

He was extremely entertaining to walk the course with, but I could see where he might be a little intimidating. Once when we were feeling pushed by the foursome behind us because we were spending a little extra time looking for some errant shots, Big Tom turned and growled something in Gaelic to the caddies walking with the group. They ran off like puppies who'd had a fire hose turned on them. We never saw them again.

The scenery was unbelievable and the golf course was a real pleasure to walk around.
I'd call it a once in a lifetime experience, but I've been blessed enough to do it twice. And I hope to do it again. With Ritchie's assistance and a bit of luck, I managed to break 100. I even hit a really nice shot into the 18th green in the view of all the folks watching from the clubhouse and two-putted for a closing par.

The ladies decided not to go back into town and spent a lovely lunch eating on the veranda, drinking pints of Kinsale Ale and chatting with their waitress who was ironically an elementary school teacher from Boston who spends her summers in Ireland slinging beers to yokels.

We headed back to Kinsale and did a little shopping for the folks at home. Brazil was playing Ghana in a second round World Cup game, so we stopped by a pub called Oscar Madison's to watch it with the locals. We ran into the head of security at Old Head who was going to serve as Jim jr.'s landlord for the rest of the summer. He promised to get the young man into just enough trouble for the time to be memorable. Kinsale is just about that size of town anyway. We left a lot of Euros behind for the souvenirs and pints, so the economy should stay healthy.

We took quick showers and walked up the hill for our final meal in Ireland at an upscale restaurant called Man Fridays. Jim sr. and jr. showed up just as we were finishing dessert, but we enjoyed two more hours of conversation and Irish coffees while they ate their dinners. Despite the fact that it wasn't dark when we left, we decided that since it was 10:30 and we had to leave at the crack ass of dawn the next morning, we'd skip the final pub stop and head home to pack.

We woke up at 4:00 and left for the Shannon Airport at 5:00. We didn't have time for showers, but RUABelle suggested that we just go to the autojohns and stay inside during the disinfectant cycle. I politely declined. I noticed that Ricky seemed a little foggy as we packed the car. As soon as we pulled on the road I heard a voice shrieking, "Left, Ricky! Left Lane!" I realized the voice was my own as we finally calibrated our lane choice and started the 2 1/2 hour drive to Shannon.

The rest of the trip was a breeze as was check-in and customs. We duty-freed some Irish Mist and whiskey-infused chocolate truffles. RUABElle and I made our way to the gate where it was time to play the big gambit. All I really wanted was to try to get an exit row for us, but I must have overperformed because we got upgraded to 1st class bulkhead seats. There wasn't any special meal or sevice, but what the hell, we got wide confortable seats and lots of leg room. Primo.

We also had a front row seat to the little floor show before we left the gate. The official announcement was that we were being delayed because one of our fellow passengers had to leave the plane due to illness. But we heard and saw the truth since we were right next to the flight attendant muster station. Apparently somebody showed up a little drunky-wunky for their big overseas flight and had to be escorted off along with her teenage son after she spewed in her seat during preflight. And bonus! We found out she had been sitting in the row next to where we were originally supposed to be seated.

We considered it the luck of the Irish.

Crazy `Bout a Mercury

Since I posted about my father's 1974 Cadillac El Dorado convertible last week, I thought I'd show off my pride and joy from when I was growing up.

Yup, that's a 19 year old CeeElCee wearing a Mexican wedding shirt stretched out in the back seat of a 1969 Mercury Marquis convertible. My father bought the car new in 1969, and I started washing it weekly when I turned 12 with the hopes that I could someday buy it from him. It had originally been special ordered for Roy Orbison, who wanted the 460 cubic inch Lincoln Continental limousine engine instead of the standard 400. Apparently Roy changed his mind and my dad bought it on the spot.

This baby could pass anything but a gas station! It was tough on my lawn-mowing income, so I tended to do stuff like driving it to Centennial Park next to the lake and parking it for the afternoon. I optimistically nicknamed it "The Poon Mobile," but in high school I might as well have called it "The Masturbatorium."

In case I ever found myself in a serious drag-racing situation and was at a loss for words, I kept a post-it note attached to the dashboard with the following quote from Hunter S. Thompson's "Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas":

“Alright, you chickenshit wimps! You pansies! When this goddamn light flips green, I’m gonna stomp down on this thing and blow every one of you gutless punks off the road!”

I never even got a parking ticket.

Saturday, July 08, 2006

Ghost in the Machine has finally gotten over whatever hiccup wasn't allowing any of my pictures show up, so I've added some images from my Ireland trip and of the bad-ass Caddy.

Plus, this should give Kat something to think about other than those clowns crawling up and down her leg while she has the keys to NiT this weekend.

Jeez, Huck! That image creeped me out too. I'm gonna need some Ambien or strong drink to get to sleep tonight...

Friday, July 07, 2006

Good News and Bad News

Right off the bat, let me say that I haven't gotten squat done today at work. The internet has been crawling along at a snail's pace and I've spent most of the day reading and writing about last nights WKRN blogger meet-up. What does it say when you spend more time reading about what you did last night than you actually spent doing it?

I also have made no progress on finishing my last Ireland post, which I hoped to have done before today so as to keep them all in order. I'm a little bit anal that way. I guess I'll have to do that on my own time and not during work. Well, excuuuuuuse meeeee! Is that a dooce I hear?

But the good news is what I got to do during lunch. When my dad passed away last year, we started to discover stuff he had squirreled away all over town. One of the prime finds was his 1974 Cadillac El Dorado convertible. In his later years, he had forgotten where he had stored it and nobody knew where any of the keys were. Apparently after death notices come out, Store-and-lock places have to cut off the locks and contact next of kin because the automatic bank drafts stop coming.

So we found this car that hadn't been started or driven in over a decade. (Dad was a pack rat. What can I say?) Until we finally had his 1962 Chevy Bel Air hauled off to the junkyard, he still owned every automobile he had owned since he bought that one new. The only way we got rid of that one was to convince him that we were going to sink it in the Gulf so he could fish for red snapper over it. We didn't mention the environmental issues if we had actually tried to do that...

Well the Caddy needed everything done to it from tires to transmission, and me and my two brothers aren't the handiest guys when it comes to things with engines. More than once I've put oil in the gas hole and vice versa in my lawn mowers and weed eaters. Luckily, a guy that works with us was also one of Dad's good friends and really cared a lot about him. He is also a total gear head. We knew he would love the car and restore it, so we just gave it to him.

Today he drove it to work in its mostly-restored state and let me take RUABelle out to lunch in it. Let me tell you, we were pimp-daddy stylin'! I made an entire funeral at the Greenwood Cemetary turn away from the casket when I stopped at a light. OK, I'll admit that was a little creepy.

Unfortunately, our friend's wife won't let him invest any more money in it and she thinks their yard is starting to look like Sanford and Sons. I think she's pissed because he makes her park in the yard so he can keep the Eldo in the garage. So we're now investigating future options. I hate to part with it, but I just sold my boat to clear room in my back yard. It reminds me a lot of Dad and it drives like a dream, but it's a really stupid thing to do. I just don't know.

The bad news? I was using the aforementioned weedeater last weekend and apparently got into a mess of poison ivy. It is just now swelling and getting painfully itchy. Where, you ask? I swear to God I was wearing shoes while I worked, but it's between all the toes and the sole of my right foot. Can you imagine anything more annoying?!

Arrrrrgh. Have a nice weekend and pass the Ivy-Rest.

I Take a Trip to the Meet Market

Wow, that wasn't what I expected. To be honest I thought the Nashville Blogger Meet-up would be what everyone was trepidatiously predicted in their individual posts: a middle school dance full of introverted endomorphs and extroverted ectomorphs nervously shifting their weight from foot to foot as they kept their backs against the wall. What I encountered was a damn fun party.

First of all, thanks to WKRN and Brittney for herding all these cats together. Some folks I had met already, but it's always good to see Aunt B., Kat Coble and Sista Smiff. (Note-I have consciously decided to be lazy and not link to all these names. If you want to go to their sites, they're all on my blogroll over here --->.) B. was, as always, the belle of the ball. She acted as a wonderful cruise director, introducing shy people to each other and pulling the bolder bloggers (I'm looking at you, Sarcastro) off of the weaker ones. I wish I could have spent more time with her, but a future lunch date was promised.

Kat and her ever-patient husband offered a sense of groundedness to the otherwise manic crowd. I'm hoping for some post-bike ride BBQ with them on a Saturday soon. I'll be eating the BBQ, not taking the bike ride.

And Sista Smiff...ah, Sista. At a certain point, I'm going to have to start rejecting the old "I'm just a shy wallflower" act. Her ease with people she'd only read but never met revealed a grace I don't think she knows she has. Not ballerina grace. More like a squirrel walking along a power line. Always gotta love spending time wiff Sista Smiff!

Speaking of squirrels, Dresden was in the hizz-ouse with the much aniticipated appearance of Newscoma and Squirrels on Snark. They were everything I expected and more. I shall wear my newly-glommed psychozilla t-shirt with pride. There are beers in our future, ladies.

I got to meet the Rexes, Hammock and L. Camino, and I gotta say I'm big fans of both. Rex the elder and I caught up on our business encounters in previous lives and had an interesting talk about the perils of inheritance taxes. Rex the Redder and I talked about how much I dig his MySpace mp3's. Maybe someday I can contribute some inferior rhythm guitar to a track.

Busy Mom and Lindsay Ferrier cemented their status as blogger mom royalty. Not being a mom myself, I still love reading them. And getting to talk with them about subjects outside of the blogosphere was a treat. Admitting to Lindsay and Brittney that I still don't miss an episode of the Real World on MTV was a catharsis. Writing that fact on my own blog is stupid.

Got to meet Jag and her hip Ziggy eye shadow! (Stardust, not the fat bald little comic dude.) I hope I made enough of an impression to move up a category to the "Locals I've Met" group. Any lady who shoots whiskey is a friend of mine!

Fate couldn't do it and Aunt B. couldn't do it, but WKRN finally brought me and Sarcastro together. Our talk was short and revolved around the much-missed Nashville Knucklehead/Dr. Funkenswine. We definitely could have used his presence at the party as well as some of his bbq. I'll have to meet Sarcastro at the Mothership some time soon.

Kathy T. was every bit as funny as I thought she'd be. If I'm ever buying a house in the Smyrna/Lavergne area, she's who I'm calling and you should be too. And I got to see her do the double thumbs up!

Finally, Short & Fat. You lying sack of crap! I'm not going to tell you whether he's not short or he's not fat, but take my word for it, he's lying about something. But he is as hilarious in real life as he is on my monitor and I wouldn't want to compete with him on the frozen pond or with a plastic disculoid in his hand. The military claims that he has a "body age" of 89, but then again they pay $3000.00 for a wrench, so what the hell do they know...

To any others who I met but didn't mention, the omission is totally my fault due to the fact that my darn phone is ringing off the hook this morning and I have to get back to work. I enjoyed talking to everyone at the party. I'm always game for meeting new interesting people.

Again, thanks to Mike Sechrist, Brittney and WKRN for bring this "Island of Misfit Toys" party together. I hope we can do it again soon.

Thursday, July 06, 2006

A Big Load of Blarney (Part 3)

Monday was our real tourist day. We had spent Saturday traveling, Sunday recovering and we intended to spend most of Tuesday golfing. So we woke up with a little bit of pressure to hurry up and go have some fun, dammit! We walked around Kinsale for a little while and found a place to have coffee and pastries. An real Irish breakfast has eggs, Irish bacon, sausage and black and white pudding, so we figured that might be a bit much for a day when we were planning to go-go-go. Plus I didn’t want to throw up all over the back of Ricky’s nice rental Beemer.

When we got back from town, the Jims had already left for a day of father/son golfing and had locked the door and taken all the keys with them. Here ensues another emergency bathroom situation, a common theme when traveling in countries noted for their beers. We rushed back downtown and found a public restroom which consisted of a wall to pee on behind a see-through door. I didn’t ask RUABelle what the ladies room experience was like because she was giving off a relieved and ticked-off vibe at the same time. I figured a few minutes of riding in the back seat of Ricky Earnhardt’s car and she would be distracted again.

Our plan was to skip the more touristy Ring of Kerry which I had already seen seven years ago in favor of the less traveled West Cork region. It looked like a short trip on the map, but you have to remember that distances in Ireland are deceiving. What seemed like a trip to Huntsville and back took us all day, what with the narrow winding roads, pub breaks and subsequent pee stops. You really can’t plan to average more that 30 kilometers per hour when plotting your route. Luckily, we had no real plan and the only place we knew we wanted to hit was the Blarney Woolen Mills which were open until 10:00, we thought.

It was a beautiful partly cloudy day with temperatures in the low 70’s. Even though we were scheduled to play golf there the next day, we figured we would stop by Old Head since it was only fifteen minutes out of town. We wanted the ladies to see the course while the weather was nice and we thought it might be good to hit the Pro Shop while we still had good feelings about the course. Like before it kicked the crap out of us both.

Old Head sits on an escarpment that juts out into the North Atlantic with a perfectly stereotypical lighthouse at the end of the peninsula. It was from this lighthouse that the last sighting of the Titanic afloat took place and the Lusitania was sunk four miles offshore from Old Head. We took some pictures from the clubhouse, scheduled our shared caddy for the next day and did some quick commerce in the Pro Shop. Gotta spread the wealth I always say. Plus, I love wearing a baseball cap that says “Old Head” on it.

As we headed west, we realized that yesterday’s roads were superhighways compared to the rural wagon ruts we were sharing with the cattle and the tour buses today. Lucy’s frequent sighs and violent exhalations as we encountered each oncoming car made it sound like we were riding in a Mack truck with air brakes. But at least she woke us up periodically as we fought with the jet lag demons. Both RUABelle and I later recounted having these detailed, frightening, tremulous dreams in the five minute comas we continued to lapse into between sight seeing and pub stops.

We toured around the small towns of West Cork for the rest of that morning, alternating between tiny windy roads where our wheels frequently slid off the left side of the soft shoulder into brushy fences and really small roads where an oncoming car meant a confrontation and somebody backing up. We ate lunch in a delightful little harbor town named Glandore. We sat at a picnic table on the edge of one of these single lane roads and enjoyed a panoramic view of the water and the sweeping estate of what was purported to be the richest man in Ireland.
This view was interrupted several times by the bravest truck drivers in the world hauling dump trucks full of rock from a nearby quarry on their way to whatever castle project they were currently working on. The wheels of these huge trucks would rub the edge of our picnic table and the wall across the street as they crept through town. I wouldn’t drive a truck in Ireland for a million dollars a year!

We realized that we had skipped a tourist attraction from the Frommer’s guide on the way into town, so we backtracked to Dromberg. The sign pointing to the “Stone Circle of Dromberg” was only written on one side of a small post and was about 10 feet in the air tucked behind a highway marker, so I wasn’t too disappointed that we had missed it the first time. We wound down a (if you can actually believe it) smaller road to a gravel pull off. Then we walked a kilometer, or a kilogram or a hectare or whatever the hell it was, to a small clearing which contained what was purported to be “the finest example of Druidic stone circles in all of County Cork.”

Pretty impressive, eh? On the winter solstice, the sun rises between the two keystones and falls upon the altar stone. It was over 2000 years old and apparently the remains of a small child were excavated from the center of the circle a few years ago. However, the scale of it is not as impressive as we expected.
I thought it reminded me of the Stonehenge in Spinal Tap where the dimensions had been written in inches instead of feet on a cocktail napkin. “I think that the problem may have been... that there was a Stonehenge monument on the stage that was in danger of being crushed... by a dwarf."

But the view from the site was bucolic.

We continued west until Lucy’s gasps and shrieks at Ricky’s driving became unbearable. Plus we needed to pee and get another pint, as it had been an hour since either one of those had happened. It’s important to maintain a proper input/output ratio, y’know. We stopped for both in the town of Skibereen. I just liked saying the name of the town, Skibereen. Say it with me out loud now. Skibereen. Actually the street signs around Ireland also have all of the town names in Gaelic which are so long that they need to be continued on the next sign. You are also liable to swallow your own tongue if you attempt to pronounce them with a North American palate.

It was in Skibereen that I first used the auto-loo for a quarter Euro. This self-cleaning automated portajohn was like an experience in the Jetson’s house. You put your coin in and enter something that looks like a Craftsman tool shed. The door rotates shut behind you and you are invited to pee into a stainless steel toilet that looks like something out of a prison cell. A voice tells you to step away from the bowl when you are done and a stream of disinfectant fogs the entire area. You then turn to an automated sink that alternately squirts soap and water on your hands and then converts to an air dryer. When you leave the loo, the door closes again and you hear the entire inside being sprayed with more disinfectant. It made me feel good about the sanitation of the bathroom but also feel bad about how dirty they assumed I was.

We also encountered the shop of the "Young Men's Society" of Skibereen and were impressed by its color scheme and selection of fancy dresses. WTF?

Our turnaround point was the port of Baltimore. We had intended to get there in time to take a ferry across to some of the small islands off the southern coast of Ireland, but the combination of pub/pee stops and slow auto travel had gotten the better of us and time had slipped away. Not that we were worried of it getting dark or anything. We were a lot farther north than I had imagined us to be. Like central Canada north. Like you wouldn’t need to turn your headlights on until 10:00 pm north. As a matter of fact, I was struck by the fact that all the satellite dishes attached to Irish houses looked like they were pointed down at the ground. I wasn’t sure how that worked, but I figured they might actually just be watching their next door neighbor’s houses as a porn channel.

Our goal was to stop at the woolen mills outlet in Blarney before they closed. The Frommer’s said that during the summer, they stayed open until 10:00, but we were still a couple of hours away. A similar situation had happened to RYABelle and me during our first trip to Napa together. We toured our way up the valley for an entire day, stopping at whatever winery struck our fancy, with nary a plan. We had a great time sampling wine and eating cheese and baguettes until suddenly we found ourselves drunk and three hours north from where we were staying. Oops.

So we hightailed it up to Blarney. After two hours of figuring out baffling roundabouts and multiple highway name changes, we finally pulled in to the parking lot at the woolen mills around 6:30. “Wow,” Ricky exclaimed. “I’ve never been able to get this good of a parking spot here.” We found out why. Apparently either Frommer’s didn’t know what the hell they were talking about or June 28 doesn’t qualify as “summer” in Ireland, but the damn place closed at 6:00. Oh well, that’s probably a couple hundred bucks I saved…

Disappointed, tired, hungry and recently pintless, we returned to Kinsale for a dinner at another nice seafood restaurant called the Spaniard. The name came from the fact that Kinsale was the site of a famous battle in the early 16th century between some permutation and combination of the Spanish Armada, the British Navy and the Irish Army. Every time we heard the story, it was different people fighting each other, but the English seemed to win fairly consistently.

Another highlight of the meal was the seemingly endless stream of pretty, radiant young Irish lasses who brought food, water, wine etc. to our table. Single gentlemen, get your asses to Ireland post haste!

We finished the night with a wee dram of the Irish Mist at the White House pub because we heard they had a performer that night. The “performer” was an angry drunken piano player who berated the audience for not paying attention to him and watching the Ukraine/Switzerland World Cup football match instead. His running commentary was hilarious. “Well, neither sodding team could score in either half or extra time. So I imagine they’ll be the first two teams to not score in the shoot-out and keep distracting my audience all fookin’ night!”

He mocked the nationality of each patron in the bar until he found out one young lady was German. The crowd booed her heartily until he said, “Nah, nah boyz und girlz. Yuv gotta luv the Churmins. The’fve bin ahn our side sinz they jained thuh teem in farty-fife.”

Stay tuned for Part 4, where our intrepid explorers get beat up by a golf course and take it out on a BMW.

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

A Big Load of Blarney (Part 2)

It was a little after 10:00 am local time when we landed at Shannon Airport near Limerick in the southwest portion of Ireland. I had been there previously in 1999, so I was familiar with the layout of customs and baggage claim. It always helps to at least pretend to know what I’m doing when traveling with my girlfriend since she has absolutely no interest in figuring out the logistics of getting from point A to point B. I take pride in my travel agent abilities as I need to add something to my duties in the relationship beyond outdoor cooking, auto maintenance and weed-eating. RUABelle shares in the lawn care and actually takes the lead role in dealing with most creepy crawly things due to my completely rational fear of things that sting or bite.

We were met outside of immigration by our two hosts holding up a paper plate with our names on it. We were a couple hours late even though the pilot had pedaled hard to try to make up some of the lost time. I had hoped that our hosts had checked with the airline to see if our flight was on time and not waited for hours at the airport, but none of us were that lucky. They had arrived on the same flight a day earlier, so at least they were in the proper time zone if not the proper circadian rhythms.

Immediately we were met with Irish weather, a cold windy misty rain. It didn’t bode well for us since most of our clothes were still packed and we were on hour 36 since underwear changes. But since we couldn’t check into where we were staying until after 4:00, we figured we’d suck it up and push through the jet lag. Our hosts, oh let’s call them Ricky and Lucy, started asking us questions about where we wanted to go sight-seeing immediately. RUABelle and I both actually wanted to see the insides of our eyelids, but we mumbled something like, “whatever you suggest.” So we were off to the Cliffs of Mohr, the tallest cliffs in Ireland. Probably not the best choice for a couple of folks who weren’t real steady on their feet yet, but what the hey…

In a very nice but ill-conceived gesture, Ricky had upgraded his rental car to a 5-series BMW to make sure there was enough room for all of our luggage. RUABelle and I had packed light, so it wasn’t really an issue, but the extra leg room was nice. Regrettably, driving in Ireland is already enough of a chore, what with the particularly narrow lanes, driving on the wrong damn side of road, multiple roundabouts, cattle in the road
and kamikaze tour buses tearing around corners at double the speed limit. Add to that the fact that both Ricky and Lucy were, how should I put this politely, extremely nervous Nellies when it came to driving or anything else, and we knew we were in for an experience.

The last time I had come to Ireland, I rented a car for a couple of days. Having done my research, I rented a tiny car and got all of the insurance. Even the stuff the car rental company doesn’t even suggest. I was fully covered. Despite my advance planning, I hadn’t considered the difficulty I would encounter when I got in the car for the first time and noticed the stick shift on my left side. Now my left arm is only good for scratching my right elbow, so I knew I was in trouble. But I managed to buck my way around Ireland and only got in the wrong side of the car three times and noticed there was no steering wheel in front of me. I proceeded to rummage through the glove box looking for a non-existent map, and then got out and switched sides to where the pilot belonged. I ended up getting blown off the road by one of the aforementioned tour buses, destroying the left side mirror against a barbed wire fence in the process. I stressed all the way to the airport with the prospect of filling out forms to satisfy my insurance claim.

As I turned in the car, I sheepishly told the attendant that I had broken the mirror. He looked at it, smiled at me and said, “So you did then. Have a nice trip!” That’s when I knew I would be returning to this friendly isle.

So back to Ricky’s driving. We could hear him occasionally muttering “Left. Left. Left.” under his breath as he pulled out of parking lots. While this was probably a good idea, it didn’t engender confidence in his passengers, especially Lucy who grunted and groaned at every approaching car who crowded our lane. Luckily for the girlfriend and me, we were slipping in and out of consciousness for much of the first day’s touring and didn’t see the source of the exhalations that periodically snapped us into awareness.

After a nice tomato, cheese and onion sandwich (local favorite, I’ll pass next time) and a few pints in the town of Ennis we motored our way down to our ultimate destination, the lovely seaside village of Kinsale.

We had very explicit directions which had been emailed to us as part of our information packet from the mill prior to leaving the States. They pointed us to a building between the Post Office and the Super Value Store. Unfortunately, those two building adjoined each other. Not thinking we were staying on the sidewalk grate between the doors, we were flummoxed. And jet lagged and hungry. And thirsty and cranky. But I kept a smile on my face for RUABelle’s benefit and tried to make it look like this was normal. I always fly halfway around the world to a place where I don’t have the address or a key or any freakin’ idea where I’m going.

Nope, I’m a big "Amazing Race" fan and I wouldn’t be deterred. We had a picture of the house and it wasn’t that big of a hamlet. We’ll just drive around until we recognize it. I had already forgotten about Ricky’s driving and Lucy’s shrieking. Ten non-constructive minutes later, I asked for plan B. We should head to high ground. We found a promontory where we could see most of the town and it really was "Amazing Race" time. I stood on top of a rock wall and held the inkjet printout of the photo of the house at arm’s length. I then scanned all the rooftops of the village trying to match the rooflines and dormers and paint colors with our photo. And I'll be damned if I didn’t spot it off in the distance.

Ricky and I left the women in the car in case we were wrong again. We had already just about run out of strikes. We walked down the hill and across a busy street (look right, then left, then right again before crossing) and finally found the house that matched the picture. Of course, we didn’t have any keys or anything or the slightest clue of how to get in. Through a window of the front room, we could spy a letter left on the table welcoming us to the house. Fat lot of good that does if we can’t get in the friggin’ place!

But there was a phone number and a name to call. By standing on tiptoes and pressing my face against the window frame I could just make it out. Now we had a plan! Let’s go to the pub and get another pint.

We returned to the car and drove the ladies to our new abode to show off that we had found it. We just couldn’t get in it. I couldn’t tell whether we were on the rise or the decline in the ladies’ esteem, but recommending a beer stop sure didn’t hurt us. We parked the car and walked into town to the White House Pub. It sounded like a good place for Yanks.

Ricky told us to order some beer and he was going to go find a phone and get in contact with the guy with the key. The bartender was very friendly and brought our beers immediately. Then it got a little frosty. “That’ll be thirteen and fifty.” I hadn’t changed any Euros yet. Neither of the girls had any Euros. We’ve all had a good slug of beer already, so we had slipped from orderers to consumers and Seamus expected to get PAID. Don’t worry, we said. The guy with the money will be right back. We’ll just stand here and watch the football game with you and leave the ladies for collateral if we need to. He said it looked kind of dodgy to him, but he was willing to wait for a few minutes before he got really pissed.

We still weren’t sure if he was kidding us until Lucy asked where the bathroom was. “They’re for paying customers,” he barked. Fortunately, England defeated Ecuador and Ricky returned with the keys, some Euros and advice about where to eat dinner, so everybody was feeling better. Especially after the loo embargo was lifted. Those pints of Smithwicks add up after awhile.

We walked back to the house and finally moved in our gear. In retrospect, it turned out that Ricky had failed to notice that his info packet was different from ours since he was an employee of the mill. It included proper directions and the combination to the box on the side of the house that contained the keys. Smiles everyone!

The house was great. It was a newly remodeled two story duplex which had previously served as a restaurant. We were the first tenants since the remodel had been completed and were honored to be part of the check-out cruise. RUABelle immediately noticed that the hair dryer that had been promised in the information packet was not present. A quick trip to the old Super Value later (we knew where THAT was), and we had made our thank you gift to the house and the GF was happy.

The house was probably a hundred years old, but whoever had done the remodel had apparently had access to the Ikea catalog. It led to kind of an Ethan Allen meets Woody Allen in “Sleeper” kind of feel. I liked the place, but I was afraid I would accidentally pee in what turned out to be the garbage disposal. We just stayed out of the kitchen for safety’s sake.

We showered the road grime off of our bodies and walked to town for dinner. We knew if we had laid down, we would have slept the sleep of the dead and missed the next twelve hours. When we arrived at Toddies, we met our other host for the trip who was one of the owners of both the house and the paper mill. “Jim” was a very nice man from upstate New York who had traveled over to drop off his 15 year old son “Jim, jr.” who was to spend a six week stint as a caddie at the golf club we would be playing on Tuesday. His son was polite, outgoing, handsome and athletic and I immediately hated him. Just kidding. He was a great kid and we all envied the experience he was about to undertake. He did eat every meal like the last supper of a condemned man because he knew he was going to have to fend for himself for the first time in his life. Apparently he had heard about the tomato, cheese and onion sandwiches…

I don’t care what you hear about Irish food, though. Where we were staying near the coast, the specialty was seafood and it was uniformly excellent. The fish of the day was Black Sole which was outstanding. This is not to be confused with Black Soul, of which the Irish have none, no matter what those tossers in “The Commitments” say. The evening concluded with Jim testing his son’s sales skills by making him lie to the friendly, freshly scrubbed waitress that his dad was having a birthday and needed a free dessert. Jim, jr. didn’t disappoint and we all went to bed happy.

In our next episode-Part 3-West Cork, Pebble Henge and Fookin’ Blarney

Monday, July 03, 2006

A Big Load of Blarney (Part 1)

First of all, this is going to be an epic travelogue of our trip to Ireland. Epic as in long. Not necessarily epic as in Lord of the Rings good. Nobody should ever be forced to sit through stories of somebody else’s vacation or view their slides; so in case you want to bail, here’s a link to the Hamster Dance.

Now that we’re all here voluntarily, let the journey begin. RUABelle and I were offered this opportunity a couple of months ago by one of the mills I buy paper from. We’re not their biggest customer, so our mill rep was having trouble getting permission to invite us over to Ireland. Rather than be beholden to him or his mill, I offered to pay our way over and back. The mill rep had never seen his company’s house over there or played the golf course where they have a corporate membership, so he was more than happy to arrange the deal.

We left out of Nashville the afternoon of June 24. A 1:00 pm flight ensures that you will stay out just late enough the night before to make certain that you have to travel hung over. We wanted be sure to sleep on the way over, so we figured staying up until after midnight the evening before was a good idea. We were, of course, incorrect.

It just meant that we had to scramble all over town the morning of the flight, running errands, trying to fill prescriptions and boarding the dog at the vet. All the time sweating beer and bourbon. Nice.

Check in and the flight to Atlanta was uneventful. The 35 minute flight does not allow for any sort of beverage service, so it has to be the easiest flight attendant gig ever. It’s amazing how the little things affect you as I was cranky that both Delta magazines in our seat back pockets already had the sudokus attempted. Not completed. Just f%&*ed up.

After a three hour layover in the international terminal at Hartsfield, we prepared to board the plane. And we waited. And waited. Finally, a gate attendant came up with a plausible excuse. Our plane had come in a little bit late from Paris, and it was extremely dirty. The gate crew was having a devil of a time cleaning up after those furry little Frenchmen. We could buy that.

Finally, we boarded the aircraft. And we waited. And waited. Apparently, it wasn’t just Gallic garbage that was holding us up. There was something mechanically wrong with the plane, but the pilot assured us that if he just shut down the left engine and recycled the system, everything should be fine. Great. Why don’t you just hit alt-ctrl-del and we’ll get the hell out of here.

Eventually we taxied out to the long line of planes waiting to depart. After about an hour of moving up one at a time, the pilot came back on the PA and said that the pesky warning light was on again. I was beginning to suspect that Microsoft was somehow involved. We had to return to the gate to let engineering look at the indicator.

At this point, I knew there were no later flights to Shannon departing that day. Since we were only spending three days in Ireland, I began to make contingency plans in my head. I travel a lot and RUABelle does not, so I was trying hard not to make her nervous or be that aggro traveler that nobody wants to sit next to. But I would be damned if I was gonna spend the night in a Red Roof Inn at the airport to try this again the next afternoon and spend only 48 hours overseas.

I figured we’d give it one more shot before I started to look into ways to get back to Nashville via plane, train or automobile. Unfortunately, when the pilot attempted the old recycle procedure again, it meant shutting off both engines this time. The engines power the air conditioning. Now the crowd was getting ornery. Remember the smelly folks from Paris? We could now smell where they had been steeping on the way over. The pilot promised he would hook up an external a/c unit to cool the plane, but we no longer believed anything he said. To paraphrase “Elf,” I shouted, “Mr. Pilot, you steer from a throne of LIES!” Nobody was amused.

Eventually, whatever problem they had with the plane was repaired. Or they just put black electrical tape over the indicator light. I don’t know and I didn’t care. This is what I get for flying on another bankrupt airline. You know what DELTA stands for, don’t you? Don’t Expect To Leave Airport.

After more than three hours held hostage in an aluminum tube prison, we were finally wheels up and on our way to the Emerald Isle. Two nasty meals and a tear-jerker of an in-flight movie later, we were ready to land. RUABelle has a really big soft spot for animals and tends to come a bit unhinged when one gets hurt or killed in a movie. I knew I was in trouble when the film was “Eight Below” about the guy who had to abandon his team of sled dogs in the Arctic and went back to rescue them six months later. I tried to cajole her with discussions of stunt dogs and the difference between fiction and reality, but she would not be calmed. Thanks again, Delta.

Besides the teary red eyes from the movie, both of our feet* had swelled up like banger sausages. RUABelle pointed out that you know it’s bad when you can’t get slides on your feet. We were not attractive.

*By that, I mean both of each of our feet(s). Or each of both of our feet(s). That’s really hard to express, come to think of it. I need an editor’s assistance. Coble? B.?

Stay tuned for Part 2-We actually get to Ireland and do something.