Spitzit’s House

Where serious topics come to relax

Random Acts of Kindness

I have not written here in some time.  I had become busy with life, distracted by the bustle and and the noise of other things I considered more important.  But like my journals as a kid, this is where I turn to…my forum when something affects me or weighs heavy on my soul.

This world we are living in, if you are paying any kind of attention to the media, whether it be traditional or social media, it seems is a world filled with hate, radicalism, evil, and random acts of violence.  It is truly astounding as many of these stories are quite real and horrific while others are manipulations of the media; but they all resonate throughout our society to the point that it is overwhelming and almost impossible to discern what is true and what is not…so it is just easier to believe it all, right?

“It’s interesting when people die, give us dirty laundry”

The laundry basket runneth over, and it seems bottomless as it continues to spew more and more dirty laundry into our world until we are literally consumed by it, obsessed with it, controlled by it.   However,  the question that has been bouncing around in my head for weeks now is how to combat this overwhelming flow of negativity.   That really is the big question isn’t it?  And if you ask, a hundred different people will give you a hundred different solutions…for example (and not in any particular order):

Pray, buy more ammo, buy more guns, blame it on a political party, ban weapons, ban use of certain words or phrases, ban certain religions, ban images, ban certain flags, ban certain races, and the list of ridiculousness goes on and on.

Personally, I think it may be more simple than that.  There will always be mean spirited people, rude people, annoying people, and just bad people in general.   There always has been and always will be.  But I refuse to be controlled or concede that the world has become this shit storm of evil and hate the media portrays that is hell bent on turning human against human.   There is more than a shred of humanity left in this dude and I will be damned if I will let this jedi mind trick be put on me.

“Random Acts of Kindness”

The random acts of violence are committed by real people.  They are everywhere, in all walks of sociaty, and the truly scary part is that many of them look just as normal as your everyday Joe.  The important fact, is that we outnumber them.  We outnumber them in a huge way…so why are we being overwhelmed by them?  I have this theory that our own self-absortion with our own first world lives has led us astray from our fellow man as we have been led in a direction where we consume every piece of information put in front of us as if it is the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth.  Call it selfishness, shallowness, call it first world problems, call it whatever you want.   I am as guilty as the next guy…

  • My iPhone fell in the lake, I am so screwed.
  • My lawn is dying because my city is on a water restriction, this absolutely sucks!
  • My damn Lexus as a flat tire at the worst possible time, late for a meeting
  • My vacation was ruined because of problems at work, UUGH
  • My air conditioning went out and its hundred degrees outside.  My life sucks!
  • My girlfriend broke up with me and took the dog and all my CDs. Just kill me now!
  • My stock just took a dive and a lost a ton of money, I am ruined!

I don’t care what your religion is, your race, your politics, your size, your height, or your sexuality…We are absorbed in our spoiled lives and have let the dirty laundry get the best of us.   The only way I know to fight the bad is with the good. Therefore, my strategy has become fighting the random of acts of violence with random acts of kindness.

It seems ridiculous, I know but it is the oldest battle in the world, good vs evil.   It isn’s an original thought at all, and I am just one dorky little guy and my name  isn’t Clark Kent, but I really believe in my heart that true human compassion, as lost as it may be, still far outnumbers the bad.  And the only right way to stem a burning shit-show of evil and violence is with a massive overwhelming sunami of kindness.   I am not remotely suggesting that we start sending flowers and poetry to ISIS or other evil violent people.  I am still very much on the side of bad people getting whats coming to them in a big way.

The real battle is in the media and the minds of the people.  I would love to start seeing random acts of kindness points in social media and on the streets outnumbering the violence points.  And for clarification, random acts of kindness are exactly that…they are random, generally unplanned and untargeted. That is what makes it special and real.  Putting money in the dish at church, donating to your favorite charity, raising money for a foundation are all great and valuable things to do, but they aren’t random.

To walk up to some homeless person on the street and give them a bag of food or a $20 bill and tell them that they do matter, that is random. To pay for your groceries at the store and then pay for the groceries of the poor little lady in dirty clothes behind you in line, that is random.  To look those people in the eye, and let them know that you notice them, that they matter and  are not forgotten or invisible in this world,…well it can be life changing for them and for you.   It can be world changing if we were all doing it.

The reality is, most of us won’t.  Most of us remain too consumed with our lives and sensationalized media, while others simply do not believe in helping less fortunate humans due to the belief that they are all “lazy, drug addicts, alcoholics, mentally ill, dangerous, etc”, and that giving to them only perpetuates there expectation that everything should be given to them for free.  In fact, often times this may be true in some cases, but it doesnt matter at all.

Random acts of kindness are random.  You do not profile, you do not judge, you just act with dignity, a pure heart and kindness.

I am sticking to that.

July 10, 2015 Posted by | Everything Else | , , , | Leave a comment

2010 Texas State Fair Tour of Fried Foods

This years tour of fried foods at the Texas State Fair was fun, filling, and at times painful.  Its always an experience and this years did not disappoint.  So here it is, a review of this years new foods as well as re-dos on some of our faves from years past.

The chicken fried bacon has been a favorite for the last two years.  But, this year they changed it again and it was awful.  It was like eating fried raw bacon.  The bacon literally was like biting into a thick raw piece of bacon fat.  It was nasty, and we coudn’t eat it.  Very disappointing after two years of greatness.  If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.
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October 3, 2010 Posted by | Everything Else, Restaurants & Dining | , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Update: Wylie’s Angel Identified

On Thursday morning, April 15, 2010, the dead body of a small child was found in brush at a small park just south of Lake Lavon on Skyview Drive in Wylie, TX about 20 miles Northeast of Dallas.  The boy is thought to have been approximately 6 years of age and had special medical needs due to signs of an apparent feeding tube, was 39 inches tall, and weighed only 28 pounds (approximately half the weight of a normal 6 year old).  As of this date, the boy has not been identified, as no one has stepped forward to claim him.

This is sad and heartbreaking in so many ways.  Police do not believe at this time that this is a missing or abducted child, which I guess can only mean that the child was evidently dumped by a parent, guardian, or caregiver.   I don’t know and am trying not to speculate.  I just want the word spread so this child can be identified and anyone responsible be caught and held accountable.

I live just a couple of miles from where this child was found and drive right by this park often on my way to East Fork Marina.  I know the area well and I know that this exact little park with a stagnant pond is rarely used.  The parking lot is dirt and rocks and almost always vacant.  It is across the road from East Fork park and camp ground.  This boy has become known as Wylie’s Angel, but I know there is a real name out there somewhere and someone who knows and loves him.

If you are reading this from other parts of the country or other parts of the world, please review and distribute the computer illustration of this boy and contact the Wylie police department with any viable leads at  972-442-8170 or the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children at 1-800-843-5678 (1-800-THE-LOST).

North Texas Crime Stoppers is offering a $10,000 reward for information that leads to the identity of this child and the person(s) responsible.   If you know anything at all, or even have an idea that you might know who this is, please call the numbers provided.




For more info on this update visit: http://www.dallasnews.com/sharedcontent/dws/news/localnews/stories/DN-bodyfound_24met.ART.State.Edition2.4c511da.html

April 19, 2010 Posted by | Everything Else | , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Movie Review – Avatar by James Cameron (Possible Mild Spoiler Alert)

I went and saw the highly anticipated James Cameron movie, Avatar, last weekend, and I have to say I was both impressed and disappointed at the same time.  I watched it in IMAX 3-D and the movie was a visual masterpiece, really spectacular.  However, as you start really getting into the story itself, I couldn’t help but think I have seen this before.

Was I having a wierd case of dejavu?  Not at all…I was just watching a very unoriginal story.  I have seen other reviews that discuss political undertones, and important messages, etc. in this movie, but that just wasn’t the case for me.   I turned to my wife in the middle of the movie and said “This is Dances With Wolves set on a different planet”.    Outsider befriends local natives, becomes one of the them, hooks up with chief’s daughter, has antagonistic relationship with the main warrior, but eventually wins his respect, and eventually the outsider’s own race of people rolls into town killing and pillaging everything in site, and outsider comes in to save the day.

The fact is that many parts of this movie reminded me of other movies such as Aliens (walking robotic machines controlled by a human driver), Return of the Jedi (battle in the jungle with local natives using their own knowledge of the environment to eventually defeat the technologically advanced enemy).    Don’t get me wrong, I really enjoyed the movie, but it was not as great as I expected which is too often the case.    I saw the highly regarded District 9 which sucked big time and qualifies as one of my biggest disappointments of the decade.

I do recommend Avatar if for nothing else, because it is visually awesome.  However, don’t expect to be blown away by an equally awesome story line.  There is nothing original or political about it other than the imperialistic nature of a race that intends to crush the peaceful nature-loving natives of a foreign land.

That is my critical opinion…and I am sticking with it.

December 24, 2009 Posted by | Movie Reviews | , , , , , , | 1 Comment

The Brief Wondrous Life Of Oscar Wao – Book Review


Did you ever go see a movie that after reading all the rave reviews and hearing all the hype…and then walked out of the movie feeling really let down and thinking ‘this was not nearly as great’ as you were expecting or wanting it to be?   Well, that is what this book pretty much did for me…A really big let down.

The 2008 Pulitzer Prize winner for fiction, that also managed to rake in a plethora of other literary awards and too many other accolades to even count, The Brief Wondrous Life Of Oscar Wao chronicles…well, I can’t really say what the hell it chronicles, but I can tell you its not Oscar.   I guess you could say it chronicles the various family members of the de Leon family…and how the dark cloud of the “fuku” curse has followed and affected each of them ever since  Grandpa de Leon managed to piss off the evil Dominican Dictator Trujillo back in the 40’s.

Call me picky, but I generally enjoy a book that is compelling, intelligent, and that flows fast but smooth and keeps me turning each page with anticipation.   That was not this book…in fact, I found it frustrating, irritating, and it didn’t flow well for me at all.   First, if you don’t speak Spanish, you are going to miss a lot of what is being said because much of the dialogue from the characters is in Spanish (with no translation) and it switches from English and back again without warning and with no apparent reason, and left me feeling alienated and wondering what the Fuku they are talking about.

Second, the book has many footnotes to explain certain parts of Dominican history, or comic book references and “what not”, as if these asides are somehow critical to the story.  Some of the footnotes are quite lengthy and quite frankly unimportant in my opinion.  I have never read a fiction book that had foot notes, and quite honestly, there is a time and place for foot notes such as college thesis papers, etc…not fiction, but then again Diaz is an MIT professor, so I guess that would explain that.

Third, about half the time I can’t tell who is narrating the book, who is speaking, when they are speaking, or if they are speaking at all.    Call me an idiot, but good use of punctuation, quotation marks, etc. helps stupid people like me know when people are speaking in a book.   And another thing, the book is riddled with F bombs and N words used in the same sentence as big fat obscure intellectual words that normal people just don’t use.  The profanity does not bother me and neither do big “smart” words, but in this book it does not read naturally and feels forced, as if intentional and calculated to prove “street cred” and “superior intelligence” at the same time.  It just comes off pretentious to me.

If you are planning on reading this book and are of average to slightly above-average intelligence and do not speak Spanish, then you will need a dictionary, and translator as well (a computer opened to Google translator and dictionary.com will work as well).   You need to expect the book to flow something like this…

  • Read for a minute or two, then stop to translate a Spanish sentence
  • Read for a minute or two,then stop to look up an obscure word in the dictionary
  • Read for a minute or two, then stop to read a foot note
  • Repeat bullets one through three over and over again

On a positive note, there is a good story buried in this mess and I managed to translate some decent cultural imagery from it.  I know more about the Dominican Republic than I ever thought I would need to know, and I found Oscar to be a fascinating character.  In fact they are all pretty good characters and I found Lola’s and Beli’s stories to be the most interesting.  Oscar, though is the real and unexpected hero, and in my opinion he is the one who faces his destiny and falls on the Fuku sword like a true but tragic comic book hero.  He literally takes the Fuku “bullet” in the name of love and to restore all that should be right in the world…

“One ring to rule them all, One ring to find them. One ring to bring them all and in the darkness bind them.”

This was not the worst book I ever read, just the most frustrating book I ever read.   After reading so many rave reviews, I can’t help but feel like the only guy that didn’t think this book was the greatest book of the year.  I definitely don’t think it was Pulitzer material, and am truly glad that I purchased it at Half Price Books.   I set my expectations too high and I was let down.  No big deal and no regrets.  I’m glad I read the book, and I will watch the movie, if they decide to make one (which will hopefully have subtitles), but I won’t be recommending this one, or placing it on my list of fave books.   I do congratulate Junot Diaz regardless of my own opinion.  Dude, you evidently did something right, because you really got the literary world drinking the Dominican Diaz Kool-Aid.

That’s my Opinion…and I am sticking with it all the way to the cane fields.

April 19, 2009 Posted by | Book Reviews | , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Secret Society of Santas – A Guide on Letting Your Kids In On The Secret of Santa Claus


I love Christmas time and everything about it. For years I have gone to great lengths to immerse myself in the spirit of the holidays and to make lasting memories for my children so that they may carry on with the traditions that I had started. Therefore, it has always been very important to me that they know and believe that Christmas is a celebration of the birth of Christ…but it was equally important to me that they know and believe in Santa Claus. So much so that for the last 8 years I have dressed in full Santa Claus regalia and toiled around in my living room on Christmas Eve, lit only by the dim lights on the Christmas Tree, snacking on cookies and milk, while my children quietly peeked from their bedroom doors and the stairs thinking that they were secretly spying on Santa Claus while he ate their cookies and stuffed their stockings. The first year I did it, my wife said that my daughter was so excited after spying on Santa Claus that she could not stop shaking when she got back in bed. I don’t care what anyone says, this is Christmas greatness.

Now, before anyone gets their religious feathers ruffled, you have to hear me out.

You see, I believe in Santa Claus…passionately. He is as much a part of Christmas as the baby Jesus himself, and for all the right reasons, which I will explain in a moment, but first…

The hard part about all of this is knowing that the day will come when my kids will no longer believe in Santa Claus. That day to me symbolizes a rite of passage for them, or a big kick in my shin reminding me that my babies are not babies anymore. Well it happened. Just this week, the very week before Christmas, my eight year old son told me that other boys at school were telling him that there was no such thing as Santa Claus, and how he argued with them that there absolutely was such a thing and how he had secretly spied on Santa with his own eyes eating cookies. My nine year old daughter listened on, and with a raised eyebrow, she waited for my response and for the other shoe to drop…she suspects something, and is waiting for her trickster father to ‘fess up. My mind raced…I can’t let my son become the object of school ridicule, and my daughter is already suspecting and very aware of my tricks…I was cornered and had no other choice…so I played the stall card.

“I don’t care what your friends at school say, there absolutely is such a thing as Santa Claus…I believe in him with all my heart and so does your mother, and that is that.”

That’s right! I said it, and I meant every word of it too...

My son glowed with the satisfaction of being right, and my daughter’s eyes were wide with surprise as if that was not quite the response she was expecting. When the coast was clear, my wife asked what I was going to do next, because the gig was up and I can’t let this go on. We had just discussed it the day before and I had gotten all misty and emotional that my kids were on the cusp of moving to the next level, and here it was 24 hours later becoming a reality. Dang, this sucks and I have to be a baby about it to boot.

The fact is, I am not the kind of parent that can just come out and say “They’re right kiddo, there’s no such thing as Santa Claus, ha, ha,” and just be done with it. It isn’t that easy for me and it is not my style, and again…I actually do believe in Santa Claus. So, the trick now was to tell my kids there is no Santa Claus, but at the same time…there really is a Santa Claus. This was going to require some creative thinking and I needed something really fast.

baby_jesus-724805This is where the Secret Society of Santas was born...After a few hours of quick research, I devised a basic plan, and that evening I told my wife and the kids we were going to P.F. Changs for dinner and a special surprise (What better place than quality Chinese-American food to discuss Christmas, secret societies, and the truth about Santa Claus). So during the course of steamed dumplings and crab wontons, I laid it all out on the table, while they listened on with wide eyes and amazement. While my plan was fundamentally sound enough to bridge this important transition for them, I still had to make much of it up as I went in order to keep it compelling. As I spoke I watched them go through a range of emotions from disappointment, to sadness, a little anger, confusion, and then contentment. I know I’m running long here, but it was important to me and maybe for you too, so here it is in a nutshell…

First, I started with a refresher course in the birth of Jesus, the manger, the star, the wise men, frankinsense, gold, and myrrh, etc. I then parlayed that into the story of Bishop Nicholas who was born in the 3rd century and how he was a devout Christian and dedicated his whole life to serving God, and became very famous for his extraordinary generosity for those in need, his love for children, and concern for sailors and ships. So famous and loved by the people that after he died on December 6, 343 AD, he became a Saint and was thereafter known as Saint Nicholas, the patron saint of…well, a lot of things to do with generosity and protection and so on, and December 6 was celebrated as St. Nicholas Day. I then explained how Saint Nicholas when spoken in certain languages and dialects phonetically sounds like Santy Claus and how that over the years evolved into Santa Claus…but the reality is that Santa Claus is Saint Nicholas, and Saint Nicholas was a real person whose spirit of love for God, Jesus, and generosity was so powerful that it still lives on today in all of us…and therefore… (Deep Breath and… wait for it…wait for it) I. Am. Santa Claus. This was where the emotions kicked in for them…stnicholas

I then explained how the jolly fat red Santa came about from Washington Irving’s creative writing and how flying reindeer and Rudolph were really just other evolutions thrown in over the past 100 years or so, but have nothing to really do with the real Santa Claus, but that Santa Claus appears in many different forms and images for different cultures around the world.

And now to bring the story full circle and make it all special for them…

“You have both come of age and the time is now for you to cross over to the next stage of your life and be inducted into the Secret Society of Santa helpers, whereby, you will now be aware of the world’s biggest and greatest secret and are obligated to now assist in carrying and protecting that secret close to your heart and to help me continue in the tradition of being Santa for your cousins and other children that have not come of age yet. Because, you now see, Santa Claus is in fact real…he is real in me, and now he is real in you. It is our duty to embrace this responsibility and carry on the work in the spirit of Saint Nicholas, and to pass on his work to our own children, and advise them of their responsibility to pass it on to their children, and down for generations to come as it has been done for centuries before us. It is an important responsibility not to be taken lightly. Are you ready?”

And with great dignity and pride at now being apart of what they perceive to be a huge leap toward being apart of something “grown-up”, I received a resounding “Yes”…followed by many requests and ideas for elf suits.

At any rate, tonight, Christmas Eve, we will have the official cermony where I will light some candles, we will hold hands and say a prayer, eat some cookies and drink some milk as a kind of Communion, and I will have them take an oath to the Order of St. Nicholas , because no secret society is complete without a Secret Oath😉. Then I will become Santa Claus as I have every year, only this year they will help with their three year old cousin and begin to learn the excitement from the other side of the Santa Society.


And for good measure, I also threw in that I am the Easter Bunny and the Tooth Fairy, and I will explain it all in greater detail later.

That is my Joyful opinion…and I am sticking with it.

Want to join the Secret Society of Santa? Just let me know and I will put together a more formal guide on the rules and bylaws.

December 24, 2008 Posted by | Everything Else | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Book Review – “The Shack” by William P. Young


In short, I read The Shack and it didn’t change my life…but it did make me think.

There are a ton of reviews about this book on the internet and many of the reviews seem about as long as the book itself. I was glad to see that I am not the only one who was not gushing over this book, but not for the same reason as most. You see, I am not a theologian, and therefore I am not really able to speak intelligently on the biblical inaccuracies of The Shack. So, I guess I am just going to have to base my review on my personal, but human experience with this book.

Fact of the matter is, I don’t really care whether The Shack is Biblically accurate or not. It doesn’t matter to me. The bottom line is that the book is fiction, but is written in such a way as to make the reader potentially believe that all of this really happened. And if you really want to know the truth, it actually kind of pissed me off at times, simply due to the heinous nature of the crime that William uses in order to deliver his religious point. I am going to rant here for a minute…

There are a lot of people in this world that have a Great Sadness for losing a child or a loved one. Many of them, I imagine are angry or resentful just as Mack was, and many more are far beyond even that. If I were one of these “real” people soaking in a Great Sadness…and I just read this book…do you want to guess what I would be thinking?

Where the heck is my personal little note from “Papa” inviting me to come spend a weekend drinking coffee and hanging out with the Holy Trinity? I need some quality time strolling on water and skipping rocks with Jesus, eating heavenly pancakes with a big beautiful black female version of God, or working in the garden with the Holy Ghost all the while being comforted and brought to realize that I need to just let myself be completely dependent and trusting of God. Why did Mack get picked? Am I and everyone else supposed to just read this and live vicariously through Mack’s personal experience? If this happened to me, meaning a murdered child, then I can assure you I would need a weekend with God as well, and you know what? Mack would be saying the same thing if his Holy Intervention had not happened to him, and he found out that someone else got some hang time with the Lord and he did not.

By the way, God does not interfere or intervene in the affairs of humans. He (or She…or Whatever) is always with us, but will not intervene…except for with Mack, of course. This Holy Intervention is just one of the many contradictions in this book. Oh, and I am pretty sure that humanizing God in any form, and then putting words in His/Her mouth, in an effort to have the reader believe that these are really God’s words is probably not cool with God. But, then again, God and I haven’t been fishing or golfing together lately, so I could be totally wrong.

Anyway, I don’t want you to think I hated the book, because I didn’t. The Shack is truly an emotional book and it did make me cry in a couple of spots. But it made me angry as well, and then it made me really think about forgiveness and my own spirituality and personal relationship with God…

Holy Trinity, Batman! What am I saying!? It made me cry, it made me angry, it made me think? This sounds like all the ingredients of a book that sucked me in by striking a few emotional nerves. Hmmm, maybe that was Willie’s intent, or maybe not. Willie says he wrote the story for his six kids, and it is in some way representative of his own life and experiences. I don’t really know what to think. At any rate, I can unequivocally state that this book may have the greatest intentions, and it may positively affect many of the readers…I mean, hey, if you read it and walk away feeling like a better person for it then that is cool, but the book did not affect me or change me in any way, shape, or form…I don’t think.

Dear Lord, this is my humble opinion and I am sticking with it…unless you say otherwise, Amen.

December 17, 2008 Posted by | Book Reviews | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

An Unforgettable Christmas Encounter

This video needs no description. You just need to watch it…and then think about it and everything around you. I read a lot of blogs saturated with whining about everything from Sarah Palin, to the state of our country, our lives, etc. Guess what? It really isn’t that bad, and we all just need to stop the whining and start doing what we can as humans, and as God’s children to really and truly help our fellow man. There are a million more kids in this country and around the world just like CJ Mcgehee. Everything we do, can and will make a difference in another person’s life and the world as a whole. It is a long video…but you need to watch it all.

This is my opinion and I am sticking with it…Forever.

Vodpod videos no longer available.

more about “An Unforgettable Christmas Encounter“, posted with vodpod

December 3, 2008 Posted by | Everything Else, Movie Reviews | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Restaurant Review – Catfish Plantation, Waxahachie, TX

catfish-plantationYou know…I have lived in the DFW area most of my life and spent much of my youth growing up in De Soto, just a few miles north of Waxahachie. I have heard of the the Catfish Plantation while growing up in the area and many of the ghost stories that have contributed to its fame. But in all of those years I had never made my way to actually dining there until just recently…and I am so glad I did.

I have dined in many restaurants from the deepest darkest hidden “hole in the wall” dives to some of the most formidable fancy dining our great city has to offer, and everything in between, and I have to say that there is nothing on God’s green Earth that my taste buds love more than good old fashioned down-home Southern cooking. That is what Catfish Plantation is…the kind of restaurant that that soothes the beast in you that craves your grandma’s southern cooking.

Located on Water street in Waxahachie, TX, Catfish Plantation became famous around the DFW area for the paranormal experiences of many of its patrons over the years. Said to be haunted by about three different ghosts that were once residents of the former house, the restaurant has been investigated by a few different paranormal investigators and has a whole slew of fun ghost stories to add to its appeal. I was excited about our visit, but unfortunately do not have any ghost experiences to tell, other than an inordinate amount of food disappearing from my plate in record time.

So here are the menu items I greedily consumed for the evening…First the appetizers, which we did the sampler of course, and for a measly $7.75 they brought out a massive pile of the 3 appetizers of our choosing, which were fried pickles, hush puppies, and sweet potato fries. We also added onion rings for a well rounded mountain of fried goodness. The Sweet Potato Fries were hands down the best I have ever had. These fries are thick cut and batter fried for a wonderful soft and tasty variety of sweet potato fries that I had never had before, and because the conventional thin cut sweet potato fries just don’t carry enough carbs for a health nut like me. The hush puppies were moist and chock full of spices and whole kernels of corn, and the fried dill pickles were…well, they need no description because they are always good. The onion rings were these gigantic thick cut rings that looked and tasted like deep fried golden halos sent straight from heaven. for the money, it was in my honest opinion the best heart-stopping appetizer sampler I have had in recent memory.

For my main entree I had what else but fried CATFISH! I love the stuff and consider myself somewhat of an amateur connoisseur in the southern delicacy of catfish. This was not the best I have ever had…that dubious honor is still held, for almost 15 years now, by a little hole in the wall at the corner of Kiest and Hampton in deep South Dallas known as Catfish Connection (carryout only). Catfish Plantation did have some damn fine catfish though, and I got a mixture of the regular and cajun fried, which were both quite tasty. The sides of cole slaw, fried okra, and french fries were all excellent and I was quite content to stuff myself with catfish all night, but I did need to leave a little room for the dessert.

We ordered up the rest of the bread pudding they had in the kitchen which came out nice warm and drizzled in a white chocolate and cream. Oh My God, it was the best bread pudding ever. For any murderous maniac sitting on death row…when your time comes, I don’t care what else you order for your last meal, but I highly recommend this bread pudding as your last dessert, so you can at least get one last little taste of what heaven might have been like for you.

The service here was just absolutely over the top friendly. One thing I will never understand is how the fancy restaurants I have been to never seem to even come close in service to the old fashion family restaurants where it just comes so naturally and genuine. I guess it is just a cultural difference of city and country living. I don’t know.

The one problem with Catfish Plantation is that it is a little bit of a drive to the very far far south side of the Dallas area heading toward Waco. It was worth the drive, but not one I would make on even a monthly basis from where I am. If you get a chance, I highly recommend the place…and if your lucky maybe a ghost will thump you on the head.

That’s my tasteful opinion and I am sticking to it…until the ghosts decide to move into my house.

November 14, 2008 Posted by | Restaurants & Dining | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Restaurant Review – Cru Wine Bar – Plano

dsc03798Cru Wine Bar actually has three locations in the Dallas area that include the West Village on McKinney Ave., On Legacy in Plano, and on Market Street in Allen.

My first experience was at the West Village location in Dallas with a group of friends which we really enjoyed, and therefore I was looking forward to visiting the Legacy location in Plano with the same group. I had been planning on writing a review and the recent visit on Friday November 7th was just the reminder I needed. Brace yourself, because this will be a very mixed review ranging from one extreme to the other.

So what do you want first…the good news or the bad news?

Bad news it is…picture-020

I will be perfectly blunt…this recent experience was hands down, the very worst service I have ever had in any restaurant, bar, or hotel I have ever been in. To be clear, bad service can come in a few different categories of bad ranging from an absentee or slow server, to screwed up orders, etc. But this one was the worst kind…RUDE. The service we received on this evening was apalling, pretentious, and just plain disgusting. Every visit she made to our table left the whole table discussing her attitude for the next several minutes.

At the end of our evening, she refused to break the bill up citing some lame excuse, and left 9 peoplcru-14-fondue_1752e puttering over a receipt to only find out later that the receipt was wrong because an errant flight of wine had been added to our tab that no one ordered. The order did get removed, but not before stating that this was her only table and somehow implying that the mistake must be ours, like we would be trying to steal a $15 flight of wine on a $350 tab. Then there was the case of her inserting herself into the middle of a private conversation that two of the ladies from our party were having with two gentlemen of interest at the bar. In guy-speak we call this “…blocking”. In the middle of these specific situations was just the consistently overwhelming attitude of inconvenience and condescension that she shared very generously with our group.

To be fair, our party thoroughly enjoyed all of the cheese flights, several of the wine flights, and my wife and I had the Kobe steak which was OK but not great. In fact, I will go so far as to say that the wine selection and cheese flights are well above average, but can be slightly pricey which is not a problem at all…if your are receiving the service that is commensurate. cru-18-kobebeef_1751

We really consider Cru to be one of our favorite places to meet with friends. However, the service in general at the West Village is not what I would categorize as spectacular. It is average at best…which is fine. However, our first visit to the Legacy location proved to be a memorable one and one for the record books.

If you have a taste for good wine and good cheese with friends and you enjoy it all being served to you by a world-class pretentious bitch who does everything but outright tell you she would rather be doing anything but being your server, then the Cru Wine Bar at Legacy in Plano may be the place for you. Hopefully, our experience was an isolated one.

That is my sober opinion…and all the wine and cheese in Cru couldn’t change it.

November 9, 2008 Posted by | Restaurants & Dining | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

An Obama Nation – Are You Ready For Some Change…Really?

So the election results are official…no hanging chads, recounts, or other such nonsense. Barack Obama will now be the next president elect of our United States of America. This is one for the history books and it was definitely an exciting and drama filled campaign to observe.

I believe the overwhelming and undisputed theme of this election would be “Change”, because the state of things now evidently sucks and something needs to “change”. There are about a million sound-bytes out there of Obama as well as other candidates preaching how they will bring “change” to our country, thereby implying that everything will be better under their leadership.

So for the record, I am in agreement…something does need to “change”, but the word itself is rather ambiguous. My own experience in business indicates that people generally do not like “change” even in the worst conditions…it is scary, sometimes painful, many times disastrous, and often times beneficial. You either embrace it or hate it, but either way it rarely goes as planned.

When it comes to “change”, you have to crawl before you can walk, walk before you can run, run before you fly… then warp, beam, and so on. We all experience some form of “change” on a daily basis from the most inane to the more dramatic, and if we aren’t careful too much change too quickly can be dangerous…even deadly. Lets take a look at the spectrum…

The most simple “changes” are generally the most important…

  • just this morning, I “changed” my underwear (which I hope everyone does…unless you just don’t wear any at all)
  • I thought about playing hooky from work, but as usual…I “changed” my mind.
  • On the way to work I “changed” lanes, “changed” radio stations, “changed” direction, and even “changed” air temperature.
  • In the past I have “changed” diets, diapers, beds, channels, hair color, tastes, opinions, products, hands, blah, blah, blah…

Some more important “changes” that many of us have had to make in our life that require a bit more adjusting to…

  • Changing College Majors
  • Change of Jobs or employment status (This one can really SUCK)
  • Changing cars
  • Changing cities or homes
  • Change of religion or churches
  • Change in relationships

Turn it up a bit more and you have “change” that many have experienced and many have not, and these are things that can deeply impact a lifestyle for better or for worse…

  • A change of financial condition (Maybe from having money to having none, or from having no money to having lots)
  • Change in personal health/wellness
  • Change of Marital Status (which is different than relationships)

And even more dramatic that most of us have never experienced…

  • A change in culture and the way we live our lives
  • A change in gender…because some people are just trapped in the wrong body. (but not me, I’m good with mine)
  • A change in government and political infrastructure
  • A change in environment

So I think of the changes that Russians went through, that the Afghani people have gone through … Hiroshima, Nagasaki, Aborigines, Native Americans, and a whole plethora of ancient cultures that once ruled the world and are no longer here.

And I think to myself…’change is good’. While it may not seem that way to those whose life status changed from alive to dead, or from employed to unemployed, etc. I do believe that all “change” happens for some kind of reason. Whether that reason be to improve on a current situation or provide for some kind of lesson in “what not to do”, each “change” will incur some kind of effect on the scale mentioned above and thereby force adaption.

Other countries around the world are celebrating our new found victory and leadership…they want us to change too. Therefore, in the spirit of “Change” I say “Bring It!” This country is obviously starving for a big steaming heap of “change” of the seriously sweeping and dramatic kind, and we want it as quickly as possible. We know that “change” takes time, but we are a culture that needs instant gratification, and that is one thing that won’t change….We are ready now, now, now! Give us a shot of change…lay it on us, make us feel it, lift us up and change our big fat flat tires, because we are sucking some serious air and going nowhere. Please “change” our big American diaper because we are getting a bad rash and no one wants to be near us….*&^%$^& AAAAIIIIIIGGGHHHHHhhhh!…… hrm… queue a little Ziggy Stardust please.

That is my insane opinion…and it just changed.

November 6, 2008 Posted by | Everything Else, politics | , , , , , , | 2 Comments

A Chainsaw Maid Halloween Costume!

My 9 year old daughter in her infinite wisdom and attraction to unique and gory halloween costumes this year elected to go as the Chainsaw Maid. I am very proud and happy that neither of my kids have ever had a desire to go for the conventional costumes you see at Halloween such as super heroes, princesses, cheerleaders, etc. I meam the sidewalks runneth over with Spidermans, Batmans, Cheerleaders, Princesses, Darth Vaders, etc!

At a very young age, I instilled in them the importance of original Halloween costumes, and that you can’t just dress the part, you have to act it as well. I personally have never lost any costume contest I have been in, and have felt it an important lesson to pass on to my children. These are important lessons in life, and if the other kids aren’t scared of you at Halloween then you aren’t doing it right. We had a one year lapse in judgment where they insisted on the lame princess and warrior costume, but since then it has been nothing but head turning gore. It is a thing of Halloween beauty.

The Homicidal Spider Clown – Made from scratch of her own imagination. This costume was both original, creepy, and downright terrifying for those that have a fear of small murderous clowns with a giant spider on their back.

The Mummy – Truly a classic that is rarely done, and is even more rare to see it done well. I have won contests with my mummy costume and it takes quite a long time to get it on and then get the rags looking old and ratty. Remember, you want the costume to look like a mummy that escaped an ancient tomb…not an accident patient that escaped an ICU ward at the hospital.

The Chainsaw Maid – This one is from the popular viral video on YouTube. A very gory claymation that that is absolutely spectacular and very doubtful that you will find another 9 year old girl in America wearing. She wore it tonight to the downtown Halloween party in our little city, and man did she turn heads. She was self conscious at first until she realized that the teenagers really recognized the costume and were giving her the thumbs up. She went out on a limb this year, but I think it was a home-run. Here is a picture and here is the video…judge for yourself….And before you freak out, she has never seen the video, except for the very end.

Viewer discretion is advised!

October 30, 2008 Posted by | Everything Else | , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Election 2008: I voted…Have you? If you don’t care…then “Don’t Vote!”

Went this week and cast my early vote…Took me every bit of about 5 minutes. No line, no wait, no nothing. It was great. There were more volunteers working there than there were people voting.

If you give a damn…then I highly suggest getting your vote in now. If you don’t give a damn, well…Don’t Vote…Loser! If you procrastinate…then wait until election day and wait in a line that wraps around the the building…twice.

This is a tough election, with some tough choices. No doubt about it, this is as important an election as any we have had before. So when it comes to voting…you need to put up, or shut up.

Vote for freedom, because you have the freedom to vote.

October 28, 2008 Posted by | Everything Else, politics | , , , , , | Leave a comment

Tour of Fried Foods at the 2008 State Fair of Texas

So…now that the Texas State Fair is officially over for the year, I thought now would be a good time to write my opinions on this year’s menu of fried food offerings. My logic being that I have in essence graciously thrown myself on the “fried food grenade”. Therefore, you can simply read about the experience without having to succumb to the misery, the calories, and the general health issues associated with taking in about 97,000 calories, 37,000 fat grams, and a whole other medley of heart stopping dietary statistics.

The date of the “Fried Food Tour of Death” (FFTD) began Saturday morning, October 18, 2008. These are the items I consumed, what I thought of each of them, and whether they got a thumbs up or I flipped them the bad finger. So here we go…

Chicken Fried Bacon – This was the first one I ate within 10 minutes of being at the fair, which was fitting since it was still breakfast time…and I love bacon. Really, though, bacon is good any time of day. My wife’s first comment was “whats the big deal about fried bacon? All bacon is fried, right?” To which I replied “actually, we microwave our bacon, and… this here is not just any fried bacon, it is chicken fried bacon!” This stuff was better than good…it was fantastic! It was early, I was hungry, and here was this heavenly little pile of deep fried bacon nestled in my little paper carton just waiting to be lathered up in ranch dressing and shoved hungrily into my big salivating pie hole. Definitely a double thumbs up. It rocked!

Fried Truffle – I learned an important lesson with this one. Just because I love chocolate truffles, does not mean that passion translates to it being fried. By far the messiest of the foods I sampled, this innocent looking little fried ball was actually more like a little chocolate meteor just waiting to be cracked open so it could spew its scalding chocolate lava all over my hand. Rich molten chocolate and hot frying grease just didn’t go well here. I shot this one the bird with one red and burned middle finger.

Fried Latte – This one was good…yet disappointing at the same time. You ask yourself like you do so many of the items ‘how do they fry a latte’?  Half of the experience is eating the food, but a big part of it is marveling at how they figure out ways to fry stuff that was never meant to be fried.  The answer in this case is that the latte is not really fried. As you can see, you have some “fried” little pieces of “dough stuff” on the bottom which is topped with a scoop of coffee flavored ice cream and then some whipped cream, and voila…”fried Latte”…NOT! It tasted great, but I still felt gypped. Reluctantly, I ate every bit of it…then I flipped it the bird.

Fried S’mores – I love me some s’mores, but one was actually enough this time. I was expecting this to be kind of gross, but was pleasantly surprised. The chocolate and marshmallow were blended nicely in a smooth creamy texture with a full rich flavor and just a hint of day old grease. I was only slightly miffed by the fact that there was no graham cracker present in this dish, so by definition it was not a true s’more. It would have been even better with the graham cracker, but was still delicious. I recommend a dry chardonnay with this one and give it a thumbs up and half of a high-five.

Fried Apple Pie – I was really psyched for this, and could not wait to see how they fried a slice of apple pie. I mean it is America’s favorite dessert, and now I was going to eat it fried…YAY! Wow, am I ever an idiot…I mean how many times in my life have I heard someone ask me through a drive-thru speaker “would you like fries or an apple pie with that?” That is exactly what this was…a McDonalds looking fried pie covered in whipped cream…and I paid the equivalent of $5 in coupons for it…D’OH!! This one got the double-bird…one for the pie and one for myslef.

Fried Chocolate Covered Strawberries – See the trend starting here? The fried stuff is mostly desserts, and so far they aren’t batting too well, so I was skeptical at this point. Fortunately, this turned out to be one of the better items of the day. Two chocolate dipped strawberries deep fried and skewered, and actually quite mouth-watering. I could have eaten more of these, but I really needed to leave room for lunch. These got a definite thumbs up!

Fried Grilled Cheese – The sad fact is that this one could be really good if done right…but in this case it was really bland and tasteless. I waited in too long of a line with great expectations for what turned out to be the biggest let down of the day. The sandwiches were batter-fried in what appeared to be panko bread crumbs to make them crispy, and were served with chips, a pickle, and a little cup of what I believe was tomato soup. I doused the sandwiches in salt and pepper and dipped it in the soup to give it some kind of flavor, but outside of that it was the most flavorless cheese and bread I have ever had. The chips and pickle were good though…but not good enough to keep me from flipping it the bad finger!

Fried Moon Pie – While I was waiting in line for the Fried Grill Cheese, my wife brought me the moon pie, which was a nice surprise considering that it was not on my original scheduled tour of foods. This actually was not as bad as it sounds. My only problem was that it was a banana moon pie, which I was never a fan of in the first place. I would have preferred chocolate, but evidently you were not given a choice. I thought it was OK, but my wife really liked it, so…thumbs up for the fried banana moon pie.

Fried Pineapple and Strawberries – I believe the official name of this item was “Fire and Ice”. I don’t know why it got that name other than the fact that it was evidently deep fried pineapple chunks, with drizzled frozen strawberry goo on top. It wasn’t great, but not terrible either. I ate it as a dessert to wash the dusty flavor of the grilled cheese out of my mouth, and it succeeded. It is important to note though, that while many things were not meant to be fried…pineapples rank toward the top of that list in my opinion. I would normally flip this one the bird, but it saved my taste buds from the lunch so it is a wash.

Fried Snickers – It is late in the day at this point, and just when I think I can’t eat another fried food for the rest of the year, I find a second wind and the will power to keep plugging along. I really thought the Snicker bar would do me in for good. Nothing sounded good at this point and my eyes were crossing and stomach churning, but I managed to eat it all for the sake of getting some good writing material. Like all Snicker bars this one resembled a fried turd that made my stomach lurch at first, but it was good if I remember correctly. I gave it a thumbs up and I promised myself no more…

Fried Oreos – And I broke that promise less than five minutes later. Man, were these things great and one of the highlights of the day. I never thought I could eat an Oreo without a glass of milk, but there is a first time for everything. Who knew that Oreos all warm and soft from soaking with greasy batter could be so good. Fortunately, my system needed just this fix of sugar and hot vegetable oil to keep me going for the home stretch. These definitely got a double thumbs up!

Fried BBQ – It is very late in the day now and I am just trying to unload a pocket full of coupons while I stagger my way for the exit. I am seriously close to over-dosing and convinced that some fried protein would be good for me. The fried BBQ is actually some pretty decent brisket rolled in an eggroll and deep fried…imagine that. Unfortunately, I was not feeling too well and my eyes were no longer able to focus which is why the remaining pictures suck. I did like the BBQ and gave it a thumbs up…but I could be wrong since all of my senses were kind of dull and discombobulated at this point.

Fried Green Tomatoes – A Southern staple and favorite, my wife insisted on getting these. Nothing in the world sounded good to me except a bucket of Tums and a bed. I did eat one of them, but my taste buds had checked out for the evening. What remained was a blurry vision of what strongly resembled fried grasshopper guts, and I resisted a very strong urge to hurl right there on the steps of the Pavilion. I closed my eyes and courageously choked it down like a Fear Factor champion and slowly raise my middle finger in victory…Must go home.

This was it, except for the giant smoked turkey leg my wife got with the remaining coupons on the way out of the door. So the 10 mile walk to the car was a torturous march of watching my wife and kids slowly gnaw the meat off a giant leg bone. UGH!

Also, I actually skipped the Fletcher’s Corn Dog and never got to the fried banana split, jelly beans, and a plethora of other fried foods that are available. I love the corn dogs, but they just take me out of the game so quick that I had to make the sacrifice this year for the sake of trying some other stuff. I just don’t think it is humanly possible to eat all the fried offerings in a single day unless you just have the stomachs and constitution of a cow. I guess I am just an amateur, but I did succeed in my tour and am glad I did it, but I do not recommend it for everyone. A food tour of this magnitude will result in a Texas size trip to the bathroom. You may need to take a couple of magazines and a crossword puzzle.

I do recommend putting some of these items on your list to try next year and I hope I saved you the time and money of trying some others. We will be having Chicken Fried Bacon for Thanksgiving this year and thanking God for blessing us with such a great fried food.

October 21, 2008 Posted by | Everything Else, Restaurants & Dining | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Story Review – The Mouse and the Snake ; a fable by Zane

This is a short story I read recently…so short in fact, that I have placed the entire story in this post. It reminded me very much of the “scorpion and the frog” fable, except that this one was written by an 8 year old boy that has never heard of the “scorpion and the frog”. This is his very own original story…

The Mouse and the Snake ©

Once there was a little mouse who liked to play, and one day he met a snake.
“Hello,” said the snake.
“Hello,” replied the mouse.
“Do you want to play?” asked the snake.
“I’m not sure” answered the mouse. “My family said that snakes eat mice.”
“Nope. Us snakes are really friendly.”
“Are you sure?”
“OK then” said the mouse.
And the mouse never came home.

So, what we have here is a new and original fable written unknowingly by an 8 year old genius. The snake, of course, has a long history represented in many different ways in many cultures. There is the snake of Genesis and Revelations; the snake you should not tread on in American history, and many others. In this fable, the snake could represent the same kind of cunning, and deceitful creature seen in the Bible. However, this fable isn’t really that complicated.

This really just represents the simple nature of things. Snakes can’t have friends, even if they want to. It is the natural order of things for them to eat just about any animal they can fit in their mouth. Also, mice may be frugal, industrious, and good at reproducing..but they are still scampering around the bottom of the old food chain of life. Moral of the story, “if you knowingly play with snakes, you are going to end up dead.”

Of course, my son,…I did mention the author was my son, didn’t I? I think he was just going for the shock factor of a tricky snake gobbling down a cute little rodent, and did so without actually saying it. The ending of his story is simply implied, which is Geniuuuus!

This is just my honest unbiased opinion, and I am sticking with it…until snakes and mice start getting married and having tea-parties together.

October 11, 2008 Posted by | Book Reviews, Everything Else | , , , , , | 1 Comment

Book Review – Anansi Boys by Neil Gaiman

Published in 2005, Anansi Boys spins a web (pun definitely intended) about a shy Londoner, Fat Charlie, whose father dies and he later finds out his old man was actually a god, and that he has a long lost brother that evidently inherited all the cool genetic god powers from their old man.

I had never read a Neil Gaiman book prior to this one, and he has definitely gained a new fan in me. Actually, I take that back…when I was reading the synopsis of this book, it obviously struck my interest, so as is my normal procedure, I wanted to know what else he had written. That is when I noticed The Sandman graphic novel series and Stardust. I was a pretty big fan of the Sandman back in the late 80s early 90s. I never was much of one for comic books or graphic novels, except for this one; and to this day it is the only one I have ever read and enjoyed. I did not read the Stardust novel, but I did see the movie with my kids which starred Claire Danes, Robert De Niro, Michelle Pfeiffer,  and absolutely loved it…I will read the book as well, I promise.

Anyway, with Anansi Boys I figured I was on to something good, so….

Fat Charlie, he is the main character of this story. He’s quiet, painfully shy, everything embarrasses him, and he is not fat…anymore. I like this guy because he reminds me of me when I was a kid.  Fat Charlie was born in the States, Florida to be exact, then he moved to London as a child with his mother when she left his father. All of the memories of dad are pretty much the things that life-long scars are made of. Not that his father was abusive or anything, but evidently he was quite the jokester and took great pleasure in the embarrassment and humiliation of others…including Fat Charlie. For starters, his dad is the one that nicknamed him “Fat Charlie”, and when his dad nicknamed something, it stuck…forever.

Fat Charlie is engaged to Rosie, who doesn’t put out until after marriage…or so she says. Additionally, Rosie wants to invite Fat Charlie’s father to the wedding much to his chagrin. Perfectly content in his miserable little existence, Fat Charlie receives word from the States that his father has died. After attending the funeral in Florida, Fat Charlie learns from one of the old neighbors that his father was in fact a god, Anansi the trickster spider god to be exact…oh, and that he has a brother as well. Of course, being the realist that he is, Fat Charlie is little overwhelmed by all of this crazy talk of gods and brothers and him being the stupid child.

But it doesn’t take long for him to summon up his brother, Spider, and sure enough he is the charismatic, good looking, and charming King of Cool! After just one night of fun and mourning for their father, Spider is messing up Fat Charlie’s job, horn-dogging on his once abstinent fiancee, and basically tipping over the boat that was once Fat Charlie’s miserable but predictably comfortable little life. So Fat Charlie turns to the group of “island lady” neighbors back in Florida to help him get rid of Spider. What he gets is a ticket to the end of the world..or the beginning of the word depending on who you ask. There he encounters many of the other gods, but gets little help from them, because apparently his old man has played a few too many tricks over the years and managed to piss off the whole god neighborhood.

One thing leads to another, and Fat Charlie unintentionally brings the wrath of his father’s old enemy down on his brother and himself, finds out his his boss is a villainous crook, and that he is not such a puss after all. Funny how stressful times will drive a person to do things they never thought possible of themselves and change their life forever.

Neil Gaiman is truly a wonderful story-teller with a great but twisted sense of humor which is what I loved most about the book. Gaiman also seems to have a real talent for taking brutal violence and making it funny. No matter how gruesome the death, the character never really dies to the reader if their ghost hangs around to haunt the story and continue the humor.

After reading the book, I did a little research and sure enough Anansi is or was a real spider-god of West African and Caribbean mythology or folklore, and he did own the right to all stories according to legend and was a cunning little trickster of a spider. Once you start to read about Anansi, then you may begin to see what he represents and what this book in turn represents in some fashion or another. I also learned that there is a movie adaption of this book in the works, so I will be eager to see how that goes.

Gaiman, you are a genius and I am completely envious of your writing talent. You encompass a style and grace that is rare and appealing to readers of all genres. It is not often that a book can make me laugh out loud. I definitely recommend this book to anyone and I look forward to reading Gaiman’s other “stories”.

This is my conceited opinion, and I am sticking with it…until a massive flock of crazed birds tries to peck my eyeballs out.

October 10, 2008 Posted by | Book Reviews | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Restaurant Review – The Cheesecake Factory – Frisco, TX

Recently had lunch at the Cheesecake Factory for the first time ever. They have been around for many many years and I was probably the last person on earth that had never eaten there…that is until last weekend. Suffice it say that it was my first and probably the last time I will eat there.

It is lunchtime at Stonebriar Mall in Frisco, and generally I would take the family in to Dave & Busters where we could have a decent meal and then spend some quality time with my children capping crazed zombies with sub-machine guns in the vast arcade. I love that place. However, on this particular day we decided to try something a little different, so we walked into the Cheesecake Factory right next door. The place is always packed, so I figured there has to be something good about it, right?

Well as it turns out, it was not such a great experience after all. First, one would assume that a restaurant called “The Cheesecake Factory” would be a family friendly restaurant where you could take your kids and have a merry old time. Not the case at all…they have no children’s menu. That’s right, no menu for the little kiddos. We asked for one and were politely advised that they do not have a separate menu for children but the appetizers are perfect size for dividing among two children. Therefore, if you are going to eat here with kids, be aware that they are going to have to order what is most likely a $10 to $15 entree or appetizer. If you have multiple children like me, there is in fact plenty of food for them to split a single entree or appetizer…if you can get them to agree on which one it will be. Most any parent knows you have better odds of being hit by lightning.

The other thing that I didn’t think was very tasteful was that the first 7 pages of the menu are all specialty drinks and beers from the bar. So we sit at the table and the waiter places 4 menus in front of all of us, and within 30 seconds my 8 year old son proclaims that he will be having the “Flying Gorilla” for lunch. He’s an 8 year old boy…of course he wants the “Flying Gorilla”…it sounds fun, its cool…except for the fact that it is packed with alcohol. That, I explained to him, is an “adult drink” and you can’t have it, to which he tried to argue that it had ice cream, bananas, etc. etc.. I started flipping pages to get him to the regular menu, which is when I realized that actual food does not start until page 8…WTH! And from there is what seemed to be another 190 pages of food menu items.

I like an extensive selection on a menu, but this was ridiculous. I would guesstimate that they probably have more than 100 different selections on their food menu from appetizers to salads to entrees (all of this but no child’s menu I might add again).  I could have spent an hour just reading through it all trying to figure out what I wanted. Finally I just decided to split the appetizer sampler platter with my wife. The kids competed in “rock, paper, scissors” best 2 out of 3 to determine who would be selecting their dish, because that is the only fair way I can handle these kind of issues. Oddly enough it works.

Let me also speak to the fact that I hate sitting at tables that have chairs on one side and then a long bench on the other and tables lined down the bench about 12 inches apart. We had a couple sitting to one side of us and a group of teenage girls to the other side of us, but in reality we are all pretty much at the same table together. We can hear everything they are talking about and vice versa, and everyone is checking out each others plates to see what you are eating. The girls were going to a party that evening and had been shopping for what to wear and talking about Tiffany’s new boyfriend, Mark, and how Lisa’s ex is such an ass…but he’s cute. The couple on the other side of us were Eric and his new girlfriend of about a month and they were all lovie-dovie with each other, and he is evidently not happy in his software developer job but she loves being a teacher, blah blah blah! These kind of seating arrangements in restaurants should be outlawed. I hate them…everybody hates them…and that is because they suck. Just a little tad of privacy would be nice.

Our appetizer platter was huge and the food was really good. Our neighbors at the table seemed to be interested in it as well and I almost expected them to reach out and help themselves. The kids ate the “sliders” with chicken and they weren’t bad either. The food here is good but that is not the issue.

The issue is that this is a place I would not recommend to anyone with children, and yet I looked around and there were children everywhere. I wondered if the adults were thinking what I was thinking. I asked some friends this week and they all advised that they had eaten there once, and would not be returning for the same reason with their kids. If you are young, single, have no kids, or have grown kids, you will probably love it…if you don’t mind sitting with strangers. If you have kids and you don’t mind them trying to order a rum and coke from the menu, then you may like it as well. Not for me though, I would rather be killing zombies with my kids in Dave & Busters.

That is my final opinion…until I get a free coupon in the mail offering me a lifetime of meals at no charge.

October 8, 2008 Posted by | Restaurants & Dining | , , , , | 2 Comments

Restaurant Review – Love and War in Texas in Plano – dinner

Yes, that is the name of the restaurant…Love and War in Texas (LAWIT). It is a mouthful and so is the food. Located in Plano, TX, at the corner of 75 and E. Plano Parkway, LAWIT had somehow managed to escape our attention for quite sometime. After reading a small write up on the restaurant in a local magazine, it sounded like something unique and we decided to give it a shot last Friday evening. Fact is, I really gave it more than a shot…I over-shot. Let me explain.

The restaurant menu is based strictly on cuisine that the great state of Texas is famous for, and is then divided into the five regions of the state.

The West Texas Plains – Famous for its sprawling ranches and cattle country, this section of the menu is where you will order steaks such as T-bones, Filets, Ribeye, Strips, etc.

The Hill Country – Famous for its hunting and wild game, this section of the menu offers up wild game entrees such as Texas Nilguy Antelope, Venison, Quail, and wild boar.

The Border – the region where true Tex-Mex was born, you can order up classic dishes such as fajitas, enchiladas, tamales, and stuffed peppers.

The Gulf Coast – This section caters to seafood lovers with Blue Crab stuffed Portabellas, Fish Tacos, shrimp, oysters, and so on…

East Texas Piney Woods – No Texas menu is complete without chicken fried steak, fried chicken, catfish, and barbequed baby back ribs.

Obviously, I can’t eat everything on the menu…but I was sure as hell going to give it my best shot. Therefore to start we ordered the “Waltz Across Texas” appetizer which would give us a little taste from each of the regions. Problem is, it wasn’t little at all. At about $14, this appetizer plate could have been a full meal for two people. They do not skimp on the portions at all and I should have known that going in…this is a restaurant themed on Texas after all and everything is big here. This gynormous appetizer plate included Wild Boar Quesadillas, chicken flautas, fried green beans, and Beaumont Bugs (fried crawfish tails). All of it was unbelievably delicious and I could not stop stuffing my face with food. I have never had wild boar, and the meat in these quesadillas was incredibly tender and tasty. The chicken flautas, fried green beans, and crawfish were all excellent and we, mostly me, ate every single bit of it. Our waiter, Todd, tried to take the plate on a couple of occasions and I refused to let it go as I continued to graze on it while I ate my entree.

Being in an adventurous mood for food I decided to go for the Hill Country section of the menu where I ordered the “The Hunt” which was a mixed grill including an Antelope Filet, smoked venison sausage, and grilled quail. I substituted the garlic mashed taters for what turned out to be a humongous fully loaded baked potato and the Texas Caviar for the smoked corn on the cob. The antelope was extremely tender and juicy, the venison sausage was a little bit tough around the edges like smoked sausage often is, but still excellent, and the quail was…messy to eat just like it always is. Nothing like biting tiny morsels of meat off the tiny little bones of a tiny grilled bird. The smoked corn on the cob was fantastic as well. I don’t know what else to say except that I ate it all whilst washing it down with a Shiner Bock and felt damn good about it. My wife had the Blue Crab stuffed Portabella which I also had a taste of and like everything else, it was just another paradise on a plate.

For a dessert, I went with my staple fave, Peach Cobbler with a scoop of vanilla. After everything else, the cobbler was just the proverbial final straw that may make the camel explode in the restaurant. As we walked back to car, I decided that I would not be able to drive home…not because I drank too much, but rather because I felt like I had eaten a basketball. I had eaten so much that I could feel my stomach stretching and complaining ‘dude, you are going to have run a lot of miles and fast for a week to make up for this meal’.

Part of me was ashamed for slamming down so many groceries it would make Dom Delouise blush…but I couldn’t help it. When the food is good, you eat and forget about being full until you are walking to the car. Then it hits you, and you feel like blacking out from a euphoric food overdose. It was worth it though and we will definitely be back. The service was good, the food was outstanding, and I can’t wait to go back.

Also, for those of you that like live music, they have an awesome outdoor patio area where live bands perform on the weekend. The music was good from what we heard when we were leaving, and it looked like a real party happening out there. We will try it out on the next visit.

This is all just my radical opinion and I am sticking with it…because I could barely move after eating here.

October 2, 2008 Posted by | Restaurants & Dining | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Book Review – The Road by Cormac McCarthy

The Road by Cormac McCarthy was published in 2006, and won the much coveted Pulitzer Prize for fiction in 2007. This is a difficult review to write because this is one serious and profound book, and yet I am compelled to find something shallow and humorous to say in what is a completely humorless book.

I was recently browsing the list of Pulitzer prize books to find something that would stimulate my inner literary genius, when I cam across The Road. ‘Man and son traveling cross country in a Post-apocalyptic world’. Sounded fascinating and exciting and so we set out to 1/2 Price Books to immediately get started on what was sure to be an adventurous story. Afterall, Cormac also authored No Country For Old Men, All The Pretty Horses, and Blood Meridian which all became or are becoming motion pictures, as well as a slew of other popular books that I have never read.

Before I even cracked the book open, images of Kevin Costner in Waterworld and The Postman were already swirling in my head. These were awful movies, of course,but entertaining just the same and I was certain that The Road would be the God Father of all Apocalyptic stories. I was salivating to start reading and as soon as I read the very first page …’Oh My God’ I thought to myself. I quickly thumbed through the rest of the book…’NO, OH NO NO NO NO!’ There were no chapters, there were no quote marks…just page after page of what appeared to be small lyrical paragraphs that were going to be just like the first page. I panicked, and asked my wife to listen as I read the first page aloud to her. “Did any of that make sense to you?” I asked her. Of course it didn’t, and my worst fear was becoming evident. I was about to embark on a journey of some 270 plus pages of nonsensical poetry. UGH!

I resisted the strong urge to put the book down, and pressed on determined to finish the book whether it made sense to me or not. I’m truly glad that I did, because I really enjoyed the book and managed to finish it in just a couple of days. For me, the book was very profound, yet very simple, and deeply moving. How is that, you ask? Well, it just was and it is hard to describe.

The two main characters are known simply as the Man and the Boy. There are no names, and the region itself is relatively anonymous other than it is in the US. Some kind of undescribed catastrophic event has taken place in the past ten years, and the world is now a desolate gray place, unable to sustain life of any kind. There are very few survivors left, and in the midst of all the nothingness, it is quite evident that Good and Evil have both managed to survive and Evil seems to be running up the score.

There is no sun, no moon, and no stars due to the ever present ash obscuring the sky. The days are gray, and the nights are black…pitch black. There are no animals, no birds, no bees, no bugs, not even any roaches. The trees are all dead, the rivers are black, and the rain, snow and ocean are all gray. The world itself seems to be completely cold, silent, and dead. The man and his son are traveling the road south to find warmer climates, while trying to avoid the occasional marauding gangs of cannibal survivors. The boy was born into this world and has no preconceived notion of any other kind of world that existed. The mother…well, she is no longer around simply because she did not have the will to go on.

I’m cold

I know

I’m hungry

I know, I am too

I’m scared

It’ll be alright


The verbal exchanges are brief and to the point. This novel is graphic and disturbing in some of its literary images, and silent and completely depressing in others. It paints a grand picture of complete hopelessness and how some manage to eke out survival despite it all. So here is where I break down what it meant to me, and is not to be interpreted as the true meaning of this book at all.

For me, this book is about life and even more about death. It is about good and even more about Evil. It is about hope, but more about hopelessness. It is basic primordial human nature and how we struggle against the fear of death and evil within ourselves. The Road for me signifies Time, and how it continues on with or without us; How we are trapped by it, with no real choice but to follow it with only the slim hope that around the next curve or over the next hill something better is going to be waiting for us. Sometimes there is and mostly there is not, and either way, it is always fleeting and temporary. The only thing that the Road guarantees is that you will die here and it will continue on. The man seemed to represent that basic humanity as he struggles to remain human in the face of hopelessness and the imminent end. The boy, well, for me he seemed to represent the future; A future with no knowledge of the past, and the tiny glimmer of hope that good could prevail while Evil would eventually devour itself. The world that McCarthy paints in this book is our world and there is nothing in it that does not already exist today. However, he has done a magnificent job of simply stripping out everything, and I mean everything, so that the reader has to focus on the cold hard reality. Imagine humanity as we know it stripped of all distractions…no color, no noise, no movement…no love. Pure nothingness. The only emotion is basically fear and the will to survive. Where each day is basically the same as the one before, and everything hinges on evading the inevitable embrace of death one day at a time.

If that all sounds real deep and depressing, that is because it freakin’ is. When I finished this book, I checked on my kids in their beds, kissed them, went to my kitchen and opened the pantry door and stared at all of the food and canned goods and thanked God for all of it. I don’t even like black-eyed peas, and yet I am still so glad I have a can in my cupboard. I resisted the urge to start opening cans and begin eating like it might be my last supper.

Granted, The Road is not at all what I expected it to be when I read that first page. In fact, it turned out to be something entirely different, but better. It is one of those rare books that you read, and when you are done, you truly take something away from it; something that affects you, makes you think…and it is something different for everybody I would imagine. It is no doubt a lit teacher’s wet-dream, chock full of all kinds of symbolism, irony, and other literary stuff, but I am not for one second going to try and tell anyone what old man McCarthy was trying to convey when he wrote this book.

I am very happy to see that Viggo Mortensen will play the man in the movie to release in November. Charlize Theron as the wife?? Don’t get that since there is barely half a page dedicated to the wife in the whole book, but I won’t argue about seeing Charlize in anything. Add Robert Duvall and Guy Pearce and you have a pretty star studded feature film based on a book that really has very little interaction or characters other than the man and the boy.

On a side note, one thing unique or irritating about the book is Mccarthy’s writing style. He has no use of quotation marks or other important grammatical points, and therefore it is sometimes difficult to tell who is speaking or if they are speaking at all. The book is indeed written in a lyrical prose kind of style and I have the distinct impression that he makes up words from time to time, or just uses really obscure words to make the prose sound more intelligent, poetic, or whatever. At any rate, many will undoubtedly consider his style genius, but to me, it sucks when obscure words are used that I don’t know or have never heard of. It makes me want to reach for a dictionary which then just distracts from the flow of the story. I personally find it pretentious and unnecessary, but what do I know? I am just your every day dummy who likes to read, and old Cormac is quite possibly the Hemingway of his generation.

Loved the book, and would recommend it to just about anyone, But you really have to be an open-minded reader with a taste for a bit of necessary gore and a hard dose of death and hopelessness.

This is really just my incredibly intelligent opinion, and I am sticking with it…until the end of the world and someone tries to eat me.

October 1, 2008 Posted by | Book Reviews | , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Obama, McCain, Politics, Partisanship, the media, and the Great Hypocrisy

As expected, this election year has so far been an interesting if not humorous circus with the usual suspects and antagonizing cast of characters. There are of course the politicians, all slinging their profound words of political wisdom around and posturing for the voters on how they are the more stand-up and qualified guy…or woman, to lead this country into its next four years. Its the normal “baby kissing”, hand shaking photo op BS that they have all done for many years.

‘Here you go senator, put on this hard hat, sit down for breakfast in this country cafe and small-talk with the little people so they will think you give a damn and are one of them.’

The media, God Bless Them, are the biggest group of circus clown hypocrites in the entire show. While the politicians are throwing knives, swallowing swords, and doing impressive tight-wire acts, the media clowns are running around the arena and falling all over each other to get the attention of the audience.

What ever happened to fair and unbiased reporting? The tricky answer is nothing happened to it because it never existed. “Fair” or “Unbiased” reporting is the stuff that myths, folklore, and fairy tales are made of. But the media need not fear for there is a medium of information and news even more ridiculous than their own newspapers and TV talk shows.

Viral email propaganda is a wild and wondrous phenomenon filled with curious half-facts, plain lies, and inane jokes that are sure to captivate the attention of a vast culture of village idiots and actually sway their votes. Largely utilized by Republicans I get crap-loads of this partisan spam forwarded to me from many different people.   While they are often humorous email, I am aware that some people actually believe the anti-Obama or anti-Democrat garbage in these emails from total strangers. Case in point, I have received on more than one occasion an email that portrays Obama as un-American for painting his campaign airplane and removing the American Flag from it. I have advised the senders and everyone on the mailing list that McCain’s plane does not have an American flag either and does not even have American colors on it…I guess that makes him a communist? Unfortunately, no one responded to me, and I doubt that my email ever got forwarded on. Dang it!

The sad thing is that the poor GOP is simply reduced to passing their goofy propaganda through viral emails because they can’t get two words squeezed into the democratically controlled newspapers. I am going to take a wild guess that almost all of the newspaper media, and much of the TV media are Democrats? Actually, its kind of obvious. They are like a bunch of love-sick dogs humping the leg of Obama with eyes all lolled back in their heads and slinging slobber off their big stupid tongues with each passionate hump. It is quite sickening and painfully obvious who they want to hump and who they want to bite.

Geez, sometimes one just wishes they would all just get a room, because some of us are getting tired of watching the blatant “public display of affection”.

Another example for you from the other side of the fence…Let’s suppose, just for a moment, that Obama, and not McCain, had been the one to suggest delaying the debate to focus on resolving the economy crisis and proposed “bail-out” packages. How would the story have been reported in the papers then? I will GUARANTEE you that Obama would have been hailed by the media as a conscientious super-hero putting country before politics while McCain was playing partisan politics and trickery.

You see, It is not “what” is said that is important, but rather “who” says it, which then leads to how any statement made by either party can be spun in favor of the democratic leg that is being humped. That is a fact of life, politics, and the media.

About all the GOP has going for it in the media is Bill O’Reilly, Rush Limbaugh, and Shawn Hannity, who are all a bunch of ego-maniacal windbags I wouldn’t want on my team anyway, but at least they are right up front and honest about the fact that they are biased Republicans and make no beans about it…they are still clowns just the same though.

This is a dangerous and volatile time in our history. No one knows what the future will hold, but I certainly hope it doesn’t hold a country full of people slapping themselves in the head in retrospect with a resounding “D’OH!”

Just remember…if you read it in the newspaper or read it on the internet, then by God it must be True as the sky is blue. When your done with that, I have some ocean front property in Nevada I want to talk to you about.

That is my brilliant opinion and I am sticking with it…until the media says something fair and unbiased…which means forever.

September 26, 2008 Posted by | Everything Else, politics | , , , , , , | 4 Comments