Tuesday, March 31, 2009


One of my Google Alerts dragged in an interesting tidbit from the Internet. I can add it to my collection of people who are not me. Apparently I share a name with a video game character from Space Siege. According to the blurb I found, he is known as "alcoholic mechanic Frank Murphy."


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Monday, March 30, 2009

lack of rhythm is gonna get me

Friends and family members outside the listening area have been asking for details about my participation in Star 102.1's Dancing with the Knoxville Stars. Fortunately, I can use my blog to keep them in the loop. The event, which is a benefit for East Tennessee Children's Hospital, is scheduled for Thursday April 23. About nine or ten local media types volunteered to learn a ballroom dancing routine, myself included. While I'm waiting to see the finalized cast list, I'm pretty sure that WATE's Lori Tucker and WBIR's Beth Haynes will both be involved.

Some of the contestants have been paired with instructors from Dance Dimensions. Tonight, I met my dance partner Emily Loyless and had my first lesson at Academy Ballroom. I am not good. Emily has a lot of work ahead of her to get me ready. She will give me ten lessons within 24 days. I was trying on dancing shoes when Emily introduced herself. In an effort to get me to feel the beat, she had me put my hand on the subwoofer.

As Emily and I attempted the most basic steps of the rumba, Carol Scott was gracefully gliding around the floor with her partner, Johnny Tang. Not only might Carol win "Hell's Kitchen," she might win our Knoxville dancing contest too. By the way, Carol is hosting a public "HK" viewing party this Thursday night at Gettysvue Country Club.

No still photo can really do justice to the art of the dance. That's why they invented moving pictures, right?

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Sunday, March 29, 2009

orange you glad

Almost every candy season, the Marshmallow Peeps folks (the Marshmallow Peeps peeps?) introduce something new. For this Easter, it's Chocolate Mousse Flavored Marshmallow Bunnies and regular Peeps in orange. Collectors of all things Peep can now buy Lenox China versions of the sugary treats.

Six years ago, the Marshmallow Peeps Fun Bus came through Knoxville. I arranged for it to make a stop outside Patrick Sullivan's during an Einstein Simplified performance. To celebrate their 50th anniversary, they had produced a limited run of Peeps chicks in all the colors used for other shapes throughout the year. At the time, it was unusual to see Peeps chicks in Halloween orange and Valentine red. I told the Fun Bus staff that orange Peeps would be particularly popular here in Tennessee Volunteer country. They had the home office overnight a case of orange chicks to them in time for an appearance at Walmart the next day.

I've been looking for the Chocolate Mousse Flavored Marshmallow Bunnies without success. My son and I saw other Peeps on display at a Walmart in Florida earlier this month. The Peeps and several other candies were grouped by color including pink, yellow and blue chocolate rabbits (yuck) from Russell Stover. My wife and I saw a similar display in Knoxville yesterday, except they featured the orange items instead of the blue.

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Saturday, March 28, 2009

dredge report

Although the weather turned nice this afternoon, the dreary skies this morning prompted me to post some photos from my recent vacation in Florida. A news article I found online before the trip said that Bathtub Reef Beach had reopened on June 16, 2008. Yet when my son and I drove up, we found the parking lot closed. It was occupied with trucks and equipment from a dredging company. So we drove to the next closest beach and parked in that lot. Once we reached the sand, we walked toward Bathtub Beach.

We saw a large pipe, probably used for the dredging. While we were sitting nearby, a stream of water shot out from it for a few minutes and then stopped. We swam for a bit, hoping to see some fish. The best we saw was a Pompano that was caught by a fisherman casting into the surf.

My son took handfuls of the wet sand to make a drip castle. When it was done, we laughed about the Robin Sparkles song, "Sandcastles in the Sand."

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Friday, March 27, 2009

brownies and cookies and cakes, oh my

Shopping at Sam's Club can be especially challenging during Lent. They usually offer free samples of meats I can't eat on Fridays and they always have plenty of delicious sweets that I have given up for the season. Today's Lenten Friday Forbidden Treat is a Sam's Club three-fer. Take a look at some brownies that look like cakes, some cakes that come surrounded with cupcakes and some gourmet candy cookies made with Heath Bars, Reese's Pieces and Ghirardelli Chocolate.

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Thursday, March 26, 2009

sudser dud

Can anyone explain soap operas to me? I have never watched one for more than a few minutes. Last week, I made a point of tuning in to "All My Children" to see Jeff "Fish Bait" Joslin's appearance as an assistant district attorney. He was on within the first couple of scenes and I shut off the TV after he was done.

Today I was watching one of Stacy McCloud's last appearances on the noon news. By the way, she was very kind to mention me in her blog yesterday. After the news ended, I wasn't quick enough with the remote and I saw the beginning of "The Young and the Restless." It started in a morgue, piquing my interest. Then they lost me when the lid of a cheap-looking casket opened and the old woman inside sat up and talked about her exhumation. So, is she a zombie? I thought the soaps were more realistic than supernatural. Or is it just a literary device? How did she die in the first place? Why do I care?

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Wednesday, March 25, 2009

get 'em while they're hot

Actor Kellan Lutz said that his plans for a "Twilight" viewing party last Thursday were thwarted when he couldn't get an advance copy of the disc. Like everybody else, he had to wait for the DVD to be released. I heard the story on "Access Hollywood" and would have quickly forgotten it except that Lutz said he and his guests were all going to wear Snuggies while watching the film.

The amazing popularity of the sleeved blanket was highlighted for me on a recent drive to Gatlinburg. As we passed the As Seen On TV store in Sevierville, I noticed that they have now slapped the Snuggie name on all their signage.

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Tuesday, March 24, 2009

nash bridges

Could it be only a year ago that I was congratulating Stacy McCloud on her promotion to "prime anchor" at WVLT? Fortunately for me, she stayed on the noon newscast that I watch daily.

Next week when the lovely Stacy celebrates her birthday, she will be about to start a new job once again. Sadly for Knoxville, Stacy is moving to Nashville to be the entertainment reporter for Fox 17. Those lucky stiffs. The move puts Stacy in the same newsroom as Craig Edwards, a former WVLT-er. Her last day on the air here is April 1. No fooling.

Stacy's leap from market #59 to market #29 means that I'll soon be attending another anchorwoman farewell party. It also means that I am running out of opportunities to mention her leopard-print boots, which will certainly look good on the red carpet in Nashville.

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Monday, March 23, 2009

why so serious?

On the flight home from Florida, I was impressed with the in-flight entertainment options. My son and I played a trivia game and watched some short films from the Tribeca Film Festival. We chose "Gerald's Last Day" and "Cold Calls." We also had the option of paying to watch an assortment of recent movies and television shows. Obviously, the free stuff was good enough for me.

At first glance, I thought the article on the front page of this morning's USA Today would describe some of the more interesting features of in-flight technology. Once I started reading, I realized it warned about the dangers of similar entertainment systems. Fortunately we had no such problems on our flight. The only glitch occurred during the safety announcements. The prerecorded audio was fine but the video remained frozen on an amusing facial expression.

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Sunday, March 22, 2009

here a lee, there a lee

After seven years in Knoxville, I have still not found a satisfactory neighborhood Chinese restaurant. Sure, P.F. Chang's is great for special occasions. The last time I was there, the place was so packed that a server brought out free samples to those of us enduring the long wait for tables. I have been meaning to try a place called Hong Kong House that I read about in the News Sentinel. Supposedly they have a world-class chef from the Chinese embassy. As many times as I've been on Kingston Pike, I've never actually see the place. All I know is that it's somewhere near Toys R Us. Unfortunately, the Chinese restaurant closest to my house is the troubled China Star Buffet.

On the way to church this morning, I spotted a sign for a new Chinese restaurant called China Lee, which is probably not affiliated with an actress named China Lee. Unlike PF Chang's and Hong Kong House, I will drive past this place at least once a week. It's on Middlebrook Pike, in the same strip mall as Clean Sh, er Smart.

There's no indication of exactly when China Lee will open, just that it is coming soon. They still have some work to do on the inside. An unidentified Bama fan was parked in front, probably as anxious as my wife and me for some moo shu.

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Saturday, March 21, 2009

piercing wit

People of my grandparents' generation had a joke about a brand of pipe tobacco. They would call a store and ask if they had Prince Albert in a can. The clerk would say "yes" and the prankster would say "well, you better let him out!"

With the passing of time, that joke has run its course. I may have found a product at Publix that could take up the slack. An Arnold Palmer is a lemonade and iced tea drink named after the famous golfer. The country club staple is now available in cans.

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Friday, March 20, 2009

lucky devil's food

Today’s Lenten Friday Forbidden Treat comes from parts unknown. While in Florida last week, I needed to make room on the memory chip in my camera. As I was deleting pictures I didn’t need anymore, I came across this shot of a Snicker-ama. I remember seeing it. I remember photographing it. I just don’t remember exactly where I was. At least I know that I was at a café somewhere in St. Louis. But who really cares? All I can think about right know is a cake that is made from Snickers.

A Google search for Snicker-ama leads me to believe that the café gets their supply from Truffes, Inc. On their website, they describe a Snicker-ama as "a chocolate crumb crust layered with caramel, peanut butter mousse with snicker pieces, then finished with chocolate ganache." If you are feeling particularly resolute, take a look at their Very Chocolate Cake or their Chocolate Hazelnut Mousse Torte. Personally, I'm interested in trying their Banana Cream Cake. I was impressed that a bakery in the heart of Cardinals country had the guts to put a New York Mets cake on their site (let's go Mets!). However they proved their allegiance to the Gateway City with a Lemon Gooey Butter Cake that looks good enough to drink eat.

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Thursday, March 19, 2009

nice middle name

There was no celebratory cake at the reception for newly ordained Bishop Richard Frank Stika. The reception was actually anticlimactic after the uplifting Mass of Episcopal Ordination and Installation. The News Sentinel has several great pictures including some from behind the scenes.

WBIR phrased it well: "the Knoxville Convention Center was transformed into a cathedral Thursday afternoon." The carved altar was on loan from Holy Cross Catholic Church in Pigeon Forge. One deacon told me that the bishop would continue using the brand new wooden chair as his cathedra back at Sacred Heart.

Before the Mass began, I saw dozens of new ciboria on the credence table. I was told that after today's ceremony, the sacred vessels would be distributed to the parishes of the diocese. Any leftover consecrated hosts would also be sent to the churches, where parishioners could receive communion from the ordination Mass.

The Mass was webcast live at dioceseofknoxville.org. My two kids were able to watch and to hear my wife sing a brief solo during "Veni Sancte Spiritus." The video is supposed to be available on demand for a limited time. I am curious to hear the color commentary by Dr. Jerry Punch, who described today's Mass before heading off to cover the Bristol race for ESPN.

Cardinal Justin Rigali, Archbishop Joseph Kurtz and Archbishop-elect Timothy Dolan topped a list of notable names in attendance. I counted 27 bishops, 3 archbishops and the cardinal. There were scores of priests, deacons and other religious. The laity like me numbered in the thousands. At the cake-free reception, the new bishop greeted his flock.

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Wednesday, March 18, 2009

smelly pizza face

There is still more to share from my recent Florida vacation. Here are a few leftover photos that didn't quite rate their own blog entries.

Is it so embarrassing to buy ProActiv that you can't face the sales clerk? The Treasure Coast Square Mall has a ProActiv vending machine. Once your skin clears up, you can have your picture made at the booth next to it.

Dan Quayle never lived down the way he misspelled potato by adding an e at the end. The folks at Nick's Tomatoe Pie don't seem to care about Quayle's mishap. They have a restaurant in Jupiter and a bar inside Palm Beach International Airport.

The neon sign at Jimmy John's got a smile from me. They offer free smells to passersby.

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Tuesday, March 17, 2009


A long line of soldiers stood waiting to board a plane at the Atlanta airport on Friday, each with a hint of green in their uniforms. They were taking a charter flight aboard Omni Air International. Where were they headed a scant few days before St. Patrick's Day? To Shannon, Ireland, of course!

Have a great holiday. Maybe I'll defrost one of the small loaves of Irish Soda Bread that have been in the freezer since last year.

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Monday, March 16, 2009


After the town hall meeting at All Saints Church on Saturday, my wife and I made a beeline for the mountains in an effort to catch a movie at the Gatlinburg Screenfest. The meeting had run long and the rainy weather slowed our drive which made us miss the beginning of the film. Fortunately, my pal Brad Bumgardner is one of the festival organizers. After the screening room cleared, he restarted it for us. He happens to be in "Boys of Summerville," the movie we drove all that way to see. Most of his screen time comes early in the film including the corn dog scene that I mentioned last year. Brad stole the show, as expected. I told him I would have enjoyed seeing his character more. How about a "Summerville Origins: Murr" prequel?

After the movie, we looked for a place to get something for dinner. Driving past all the pancake joints in Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge left me with a craving. I hadn't had a pancake since that Oreo concoction last summer. Obviously I wasn't going to wait six or seven hours for one of the breakfast restaurants to open. The problem was solved as a familiar sign came into view.

The only Denny's within 50 miles of my house is in Pigeon Forge. We walked in around midnight, thinking that getting a table would be easy. Not so much. The place was packed with church group kids who were in town for the Smoky Mountain Winterfest at Thompson-Boling Arena. Note to the KTSC: the chaperones told us that even though the event moved to Knoxville, they continue to stay at hotels in Pigeon Forge because there is more there for the kids to do.

The large groups taxed the restaurant staff. Our waitress disappeared after taking our order. She had to serve a group of 70 kids from Georgia who were wearing matching t-shirts. Half an hour after we placed our order, another server delivered our Grand Slam Breakfasts and refilled our water glasses. While we waited, some women approached a large man with Elvis hair and glasses at an adjacent table. They wanted a picture with him.

The delay gave me plenty of time to study the amusing Rockstar menu featuring items named after alternative bands and a plug for the Warped Tour. The menu got me thinking that the last time I was at a Denny's was either in Burbank or maybe at the rock 'n' roll Denny's on Sunset Boulevard. Oh, and the two pancakes satisfied my craving for another six months or so.

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Sunday, March 15, 2009

there better be cake

Security will be tight for Bishop-elect Richard Stika's ordination on Thursday. Officially the event is known as the Mass of Episcopal Ordination and Installation. In this case the word episcopal refers to a Christian bishop, not the Protestant Episcopal Church.

Musicians and choir members have to be in place at the Knoxville Convention Center five and half hours before the Mass begins. The early call time is partly so they can get in one last rehearsal and partly so police dogs can sniff search their musical instrument cases and other bags. The singers have been told they cannot bring their own water bottles to the ordination, as they normally would to a service that will run for three hours. They will need to purchase bottles of water for $2.75 each once they get past the security screening. Guests attempting to bring in their own food or drinks will have the items confiscated by the guards. Also, the use of cameras by anyone other than credentialed media is strictly prohibited.

The extreme measures might be because of the attendance of Catholic bigwigs such as His Eminence Cardinal Justin Rigali of Philadelphia and Archbishop Pietro Sambi, the Apostolic Nuncio to the United States. Or law enforcement officials might be taking steps to prevent a tragedy like the one that occurred in Knoxville last summer.

Bishop-elect Stika already had an impressive resume as an administrator in the Archdiocese of St. Louis when he was transferred out of the Catholic Center and into the role of pastor of the Church of the Annunziata in ritzy Ladue. The move gave him the the pastoral experience that most recent Bishop appointees have had. The parish had a farewell reception for him last Sunday after the 11:00 a.m. Mass. Their rectory will be closed Wednesday through Friday so the parish staff can attend the ordination. Many people from St. Louis, including Fr. Gary Braun, will travel to the nation's most vibrant diocese for the ceremony.

In an interview with the News Sentinel that was published yesterday, Bishop-elect Stika said he would be moving to Knoxville on Saturday (yesterday). He also said he is using the Rosetta Stone software to learn Spanish, which is probably a prerequisite of all Catholic bishops nowadays. The ordination Mass will be mostly in English, with perhaps one of the Bible readings in Spanish. Translation devices will be available for Spanish-speaking parishioners.

At the All Saints Church town hall meeting last night, Fr. Michael Woods made it clear he is aware that Knoxville's largest parish is not currently serving the Spanish speaking members of our faith. Instead, they go to Sacred Heart Cathedral, where Fr. Manuel Perez has recently gotten stricter about those who come late to Mass and let their children roam in the aisles during the service. Fr. Michael said he was going to ask the new bishop to assign an additional priest to All Saints. I would not be surprised at all if he asked for a Spanish-speaking padre in order to add a Misa en Español to the schedule.

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Saturday, March 14, 2009

cheez whiz

Just inside the doorway of the Cheeburger Cheeburger in Jensen Beach is a sign that says "Pepsi Pepsi – No Coke," an obvious reference to the Olympia Restaurant sketch that I wrote about on Tuesday. The sign is held by a cardboard cutout of the Three Stooges.

Our waitress was pleasant but not especially knowledgeable about the business. She knew nothing about the Lenten Menu being promoted on their website. She also forgot to deduct a 10% discount for showing her our movie ticket stubs. My son and I had just seen "Watchmen" which was okay except for Blue Man Group's numerous nude scenes. Fortunately, the restaurant manager quickly fixed the discount. The Lenten Menu wasn't a factor either, since we weren't there on a Friday.

The minor inconveniences did nothing to ruin our meals. My son ordered the Semi-Serious burger and I ordered the Classic and a salad. Both come with a choice of dozens of free toppings. I chose lettuce, tomato, Swiss cheese, and onion rings. I'm pretty sure they left off the A1 Steak Sauce I had ordered but our waitress brought me a bottle when I spoke up. Everything tasted good and made me want to visit one of the other Cheeburger Cheeburger locations during my next trip.

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Friday, March 13, 2009

a sometimes food

The food court at Treasure Coast Square Mall had several businesses that were new to me. I saw dueling-but-related Chinese restaurants called Asian Chao and Chao Cajun. Fancy Flavors served a red, yellow and blue ice cream named after Superman. Interesting, but not enough to make me crave it.

Today’s Lenten Friday Forbidden Treat comes from a place in the food court called Your Kind of Cookie. They let you choose your dough and your toppings for cookies made to order. The list of 40 available toppings is comprised mostly of popular candy bars with some fruits and nuts thrown in too. A tray of delicious-looking S’mores cookies grabbed my attention as I walked past. The label said they were made with Hershey's bars, marshmallows, fudge drizzle and a graham sprinkle. I would have loved to try one, however this picture will have to suffice as I’ll be flying out today to spend the rest of Lent at home.

The idea of building your own dream cookie made me think of a British website I read about the other day. PimpThatSnack.com features giant recreations of popular treats like Reese's Peanut Butter Cups and Kit Kat bars.

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Thursday, March 12, 2009

this mortal coil

Feeding times are the highlight of the daily agenda at the Florida Oceanographic Coastal Center on Hutchinson Island. My son and I made sure to get there in time to see one of the volunteers toss minnows, shrimp and squid to the game fish in the lagoon below.

As soon as that feeding ends, another program begins at the stingray tank. The volunteer there explained that stingrays are fish and that they bury themselves in the sand in shallow water. He advised us to do the "stingray shuffle" when walking in the water. It's a popular thing to do in Florida. I saw a guy doing the stingray shuffle in the parking lot right next door at Publix. The stingrays are de-barbed and can be touched and hand-fed by visitors. We were told to make our palms flat and to pinch a piece of shrimp or fish between our middle and ring fingers. The stingrays swam onto our hands and nibbled at the food with the mouths on their undersides.

Later, we stuck our hands into another of the center's touch pools. It was populated with horseshoe crabs, hermit crabs, starfish and conchs. The milk conch was interested in my son's fingers, sticking out its eyes and mouth to investigate.

We had barely taken our hands out of the stingray tank when it was time to begin the nature walk through the 57 acre compound. The trail must have been at least a mile long. We only saw a couple of small lizards and a fiddler crab. Along the way we passed the gate to a sterile facility where they grow baby oysters in an effort to repopulate the area.

When we saw a tree covered with Spanish Moss, we were told that the same material is sold at craft stores. The volunteer guide said that wild Spanish moss needed to be microwaved to kill any small insects before being used for decoration. She also said that the bugs caused problems in the old days for people who stuffed mattresses with the moss. Another guest on the tour said she had heard that Henry Ford used Spanish moss to fill the seat cushions on his early vehicles until the bugs thwarted his money-saving plan.

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Wednesday, March 11, 2009

fish tale

South Florida may be a long way from New England but my son and I found a place for Maine lobster without even trying. The sign for The Lobster House caught our eye as we drove along Federal Highway in Tequesta. Once inside, we saw a flyer for a Two for Tuesday special that was exactly what we wanted: two lobsters for the price of one. I was surprised when they told me that the two lobster meal was intended for only one person. Despite their intentions, we ordered it and each had our own crustacean.

If not for the special, we could have tried to win our dinners by each putting $2 in the Love Maine Lobster Claw machine. I had read about these machines over the years but didn't realize that any were still in operation. The price card next to the joystick shows that a determined player can get 14 chances for $20. The lobster at the front of the tank was enormous. I wonder if the machine's claw is even strong enough to lift him.

The talk of the gigantic lobster led the restaurant host to tell us about a huge great white shark that his boss once caught off Montauk. Lobster House owner Tony Gambino was fishing with his uncle and some others when they saw a dead whale being eaten by sharks. They stood on the whale's floating carcass and hooked a behemoth using rod and reel.

Before long Tony himself had come out to meet us and to tell us that his uncle was famed shark hunter Frank Mundus. His autographed photo hangs in the kitchen near a model of the big shark. Next thing we knew, Tony was leading us through the kitchen to see his live lobster tanks and other mounted fish heads.

I told Tony that I had been to Montauk and that my grandmother used to have a place in Noyac. He said we should try to visit his family's other restaurant, Southside Fish and Clam, next time we're up that way.

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Tuesday, March 10, 2009

hold the pickle, hold the lettuce

A restaurant that I plan to visit in Florida later this week has brought back some old memories and I haven't even been there yet. The restaurant is Cheeburger Cheeburger and the memories are from high school.

"Saturday Night Live" was a favorite of mine while I was in high school. I still watch it today, thanks to the invention of the TiVo. There were many years in the middle that I missed. Back then, it seemed that everyone knew the latest catchphrase by the time school started on Monday morning.

One such phrase was "cheeburger, cheeburger" from a skit set in the Olympia Restaurant. John Belushi would tell his customers that they had "no Coke, Pepsi" and "no fries, chips" before shouting out their cheeseburger order to Dan Aykroyd on the grill. The burgers and the grill were real. I know because I smelled them.

My father used to play tennis with NBC announcer Bill Wendell. Mr. Wendell arranged for my wife and me to attend a taping of "Late Night with David Letterman" during our honeymoon. Years earlier, I had asked Mr. Wendell for tickets to "Saturday Night Live."

A couple of factors came into play. I was only in high school and there may have been an age limit for attending the show. Plus, at the time, SNL was a hot ticket. Mr. Wendell said he couldn't get me any tickets to the show but he could get me into the next best thing, the dress rehearsal. The dress rehearsal was held about three hours or so before the live show. It would be recorded and could be used all or in part if something went terribly awry later that night. Also, skits that didn't get a good enough reaction could be cut or rewritten before 11:30 p.m.

I just barely got up the nerve to ask a cute girl from a neighboring all-girls high school to go with me to the dress rehearsal. I figured that the hot ticket and the earlier showtime would guarantee a "yes" from her. They didn't. Instead of just saying no, Margaret Finneran turned me down because she planned to go to a father-daughter communion breakfast the next day. I ended up calling Ed Gough, my friend from seventh and eighth grades, who met me at 30 Rockefeller Plaza. By the way Margaret, I was home in time to watch the 11:30 telecast. And I made it to church in time the next morning.

That week's
host was comedian Robert Klein. The musical guest was a newcomer named Bonnie Raitt. In that episode, they introduced some new skits and characters that would turn up again in later shows. Bill Murray and Gilda Radner played nerds Todd and Lisa for the first time that night and the Olympia Restaurant opened for business with its real "cheeburgers" on the grill.

During "Weekend Update," there was a joke about giant lobsters headed toward Manhattan. The show concluded with the lobsters attacking 30 Rock. Comedy writer Al Franken came up into the audience during a break and sat next to Ed and me. He informed our section that we would need to react in terror to the news of the lobster attack. The director was going to superimpose an image of a giant lobster coming toward us. Franken said that if we got it right, they would repeat the process with the live audience. If we messed it up, the bit would get dropped from the show. We must have done well enough because the shot stayed in the actual broadcast.

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Monday, March 09, 2009

stew in your own juice

Because we were directed around to the back of the Burt Reynolds & Friends Museum on Saturday, my son and I found ourselves in the entertainers and vendors parking area of a local street festival. Before heading into the museum, we made a quick tour of the various tents and booths at the Jupiter Jazz & Art Festival.

In one tent, a man and his wife were offering tastes of their barbeque sauce on tortilla chips and small pieces of rice cake. I tried both the mild and hot varieties of Rodney’s Backyard Barbeque Sauce and ultimately bought a bottle as much for the story behind it as for the taste of it.

Rodney had been making his own sauce at home for years. He got hooked up with a Florida company called IPAC, which bottles products for dreamers like him to sell for themselves whether online, at festivals or door-to-door. Rodney said that the head of IPAC was some sort of well-educated genius who got tired of the corporate rat race. I found an article about another guy who uses IPAC to bottle his comically-but-crudely-named hot sauce.

My son and I used Rodney’s sauce to season some boneless, skinless chicken breasts that we bought on sale at Publix. We’ll have to try to finish the bottle while we’re in Florida because I don’t think the TSA will let me bring more than three ounces of it on the plane.

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Sunday, March 08, 2009

tribute site

Do not follow Google's directions to the Burt Reynolds & Friends Museum in Jupiter, Florida. They have you turn onto Indiantown Road, proceed 95 feet and then turn right into the museum's parking lot. As it passes the facility, Indiantown Road is an overpass with a drop of about 25 feet to the parking lot below. Fortunately my son and I spotted a sign that said "BR Museum" which pointed us around to the back of the nondescript building.

Once inside, we saw all the stuff Burt Reynolds has accumulated over the years. The displays ranged from his Palm Beach High School football letters to the keys to various cities. A good portion of the items are pictures and various things autographed by other celebrities. Some of the photos had small engraved nameplates, others did not. For example, the brass plates identified the "one and only Fred Astaire" and the "one and only Elizabeth Taylor." Also rating a plate were "kind, wonderful, talented Robby Benson," "the dearest cowboy of them all, Mr. Doug McClure" and "actor, artist, teacher and dear friend Charles Nelson Reilly." The picture of Jim Nabors had no nameplate but did have a long message from Jim: "To Burt, You're the best! And you've been more than just a friend! With love and respect, your other brother, Jim."

A large steel door was ajar next to a collection of memorabilia from "Evening Shade." It prompted me to ask the museum staff if the building had once been a bank branch or if Burt had installed the vault himself to store his most precious artifacts. I guess I was a little disappointed that the place had once been a bank. Nevertheless, I stuck my camera in the opening to get a glimpse of the things Burt didn't put on display.

Burt's Emmy and Golden Globe for "Evening Shade" were in a display case by the front door. However the docent told us that his most prized award was a huge trophy from the World Stunt Awards. As you can see from the nearby photo, it took both Burt and Arnold Schwarzenegger to lift it. Another case held a sculpture of a reclining Burt, that I thought looked pretty good.

One corner of the room held a few paintings of Burt. I didn't ask whether they were made by fans or commissioned by Burt himself. One shows him shirtless, on a horse, holding a dog. Another is a representation of his character in "Deliverance." It hangs next to the actual canoe from the film, which is inexplicably tucked away in a little nook, where it will be the last thing you see before leaving.

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Saturday, March 07, 2009

it rocks

The last time I took a vacation, my wife and I had the good fortune of seeing the World's Largest Rocking Chair on the one day that it actually rocked.

I signed the guestbook and have occasionally gotten correspondence from the Fanning Outpost and General Store. I'm starting another vacation today and can spend a little extra time at the beach by copying and pasting some excerpts from the press release the Rocking Chair folks sent me:
The steel 42’1” rocking chair that took its place on Route 66 on April 1, 2008, celebrates its 2009 birthday with the Guinness World Records designation of Largest Rocking Chair. The Guinness designated Largest Rocking Chair adds one more Route 66 attraction to the Show-Me State, which bills itself as "Close to Home, Far From Ordinary."

As part of his plans for the rocker Dan Sanazaro began the process to have the chair certified by The Guinness World Records organization. Cuba’s Mayor Kenny Killeen and family priest Father James Finder certified the official measurements and details of the rocker. Cuba Fire Department personnel measured the chair.

Officially, the chair measures 42’1” tall and 20’3” wide although heat and cold cause the chair to expand and contract. Sanazaro estimates that the rocker weighs about 27,500 pounds.

One more detail that Guinness requested was that the chair actually had to rock while it was videotaped. Joe Medwick cut the welds so that Sanazaro and some of his workers could push the chair to rock it. Medwick then re-welded the chair in place.

With the documentation mailed to the Guinness corporate offices in England, it was a waiting game for official notification. There was one setback when Guinness officials told Sanazaro that his documentation never arrived and appeared to be lost. However, it surfaced and the Guinness Certification arrived in February.

In December, a Route 66 mural by John Bland took its place on the side of the store building to add to the setting. A civil war cannon replica sits near the rocker. Sanazaro is trying to figure out how to fire it once a week to create even more interest.

The businesses are expanding. To complement the outdoor 3-D archery range, Sanazaro is building a computer generated Techno Hunt indoor archery range to add to his full service archery business. The second annual archery tournament is Sept. 26. New taxidermy customers arrive weekly. This spring the General Store adds Mother Road Red Wine to its current offerings of Rt. 66 Red and Fanning Outpost White wines. The store has its own World’s Largest Rocking Chair candy bar. Soon an old fashioned “penny press” will create Route 66 mementos that celebrate the rocker’s new designation.

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Friday, March 06, 2009

a favorite mistake

Last Friday's post started with Lenten dinner and ended with a picture of a cake. Along the way, we took a detour through a fish fry or two in St. Louis. Today I'll post a photo of another delicious thing that I gave up for Lent.

St. Louis is almost as famous for gooey butter cakes as it is for toasted ravioli. My wife's family used to get theirs at the old Lake Forest Bakery. That place has closed but the cakes are plentiful enough to warrant a category on the "Best of St. Louis" list. On a recent visit to the Gateway City, I was impressed by a supermarket display of gooey butter cakes made by Park Avenue Coffee.

The ooey gooey goodness was invented by accident when a baker used ingredients in the wrong proportions. Fortunately, gooey butter cakes are no longer just a St. Louis thing. I gave high marks to a pumpkin gooey butter cake at a dessert cook-off last fall and my wife made a peanut butter gooey butter cake to bring to our son on parents' weekend. Both recipes probably came from Paula Deen. I'll keep an eye out for something delicious and worth photographing (but not eating) for next Friday.

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Thursday, March 05, 2009

kick it

Something in the News Feed on Facebook intrigued me last week. One of my acquaintances posted a note titled "Memphis Bucket List" containing items such as "been to Graceland" and "met Justin Timberlake." There were also dozens of things that would only make sense to a Memphis resident. Technically, it is a meme for other Memphians to mark off their own accomplishments.

It got me started writing my own Knoxville Bucket List. It's not groundbreaking or anything, it's just for fun. All of the 25 items listed so far are things I've already done. I deliberately kept the focus on Knoxville, although it certainly would be worth writing an East Tennessee Bucket List too. Also, I have only listed things that could still be accomplished in the future. In other words, I left off "met Cas Walker," even though I think it would have been interesting to have met the man. I invite you to add to the list via the comments section and to help me think of the things I haven't done yet. If you want to turn it into a meme, copy and paste the list into your own blog or Facebook note and put an X next to the things you've done.

my Knoxville Bucket List
Okay, your turn!

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Wednesday, March 04, 2009

march forth

After the Washington Post included him in their "Post Mortem" blog, Perez Hilton wrote that Ed McMahon is still "alive and kicking." The report that the retired Marine Colonel was ill and "fighting the good fight" has him and his family in my thoughts and prayers again. Last year the news of his money trouble prompted me to write about the great times we had with him while I worked at KROQ. I don't know that Ed will be ego-Googling any time soon but I hope that my best wishes somehow reach him and that he has a happy 86th birthday on Friday.

Shortly after reading read about Ed yesterday, I coincidentally got a notification that I had been tagged in a photo on Facebook. The picture shows a group of us with Ed, Henry Rollins and Beck. We were posing backstage at the 2nd Annual KROQ Weenie Roast. The other station employees pictured are Jed the Fish, Jay "Lightning" Tilles, Thomas Guide, Bill Smith and Tami Heide. As you can see, Ed had no problem wearing his grunge clothes to go onstage and introduce Rollins Band.

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Tuesday, March 03, 2009


A bootleg DVD caught my daughter's eye this past weekend. As she told me about it, I was reminded of the bunch of bootlegs I saw at a well-known knife store in Sevierville about three years ago. She knew that "Song of the South" is permanently locked away in the Disney Vault and shouldn't have been on display at the Capital Home & Garden Show at the Dulles Expo Center. However it was another title that made her think of me and take a picture with her camera phone.

For years I have been futilely awaiting a DVD release of the 1960s TV classic, "Batman." As far as we can tell, there seems to be either a stalemate between Fox and Warner Bros. or there are too many guest stars and others whose estates deserve royalties. Apparently some people have given up waiting and have been making and selling their own DVDs on the circuit. My daughter saw at least three volumes of "Batman" episodes for sale at the Expo Center. While I wanted it, I would still rather wait for the real thing.

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Monday, March 02, 2009

absolut gouda-ness

Today's mail had something my wife knew I would appreciate. Mixed in among the bills and catalogs was a padded envelope from our friend Richard Cheese. He sent along a copy of his new CD, "Viva La Vodka: Richard Cheese Live." It goes on sale in April however fan club members can get it earlier.

Dick's shtick is incredibly useful to parents. He takes popular songs and sings them lounge style, often making the unintelligible intelligible. Perhaps, like me, you never knew or cared exactly how filthy the lyrics of "Me So Horny" actually were. I can't un-ring that bell, but at least I got a laugh out of it. One of the best tracks on the disc is the Pussycat Dolls' song "Don't Cha." During the performance, Richard slips into vocal impressions of Bob Dylan and George Takei. TV tunes fans will like hearing the themes from "Three's Company" and "WKRP in Cincinnati" and KROQ fans will get a kick out of hearing a cover of Weezer's "Hash Pipe," which was recorded live on the Kevin & Bean show. By the way, check out the great lineup for Kevin & Bean's April Foolishness comedy show.

Most of "Viva La Vodka" was recorded at the 9:30 Club in Washington, DC. I remember going there back in the days when the club was actually at 930 F Street. Richard Cheese & Lounge Against the Machine return to the 8:15 Club 9:30 Club on April 15.

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Sunday, March 01, 2009

mic flag at half-staff

Paul Harvey loved his job so much that the only thing that could stop him was his death yesterday at age 90. He had been recently slowed by illness and by the loss of his wife Angel. For most of us, Harvey was on the air our entire lives and the airwaves will feel emptier without him.

I used to make a point of timing my commute home from WAVA to coincide with "The Rest of the Story." It aired during the Trumbull & Core show on WMAL. In the privacy of my car, I would shout out the name of the person I thought Harvey might be talking about. When I didn't know, I always guessed Abraham Lincoln, which was often the right answer.

The late David Haines had no problem with people thinking he sounded like Paul Harvey. Haines so admired Harvey that he recorded his idol's 8:30 a.m. newscast each day. Often Haines would be in the middle of his own newscast on WAVA but could reach over and press the record button on his AM/FM cassette machine without missing a beat.

Harvey set the standard for any announcer ever given the opportunity to do an endorsement commercial. He only spoke on behalf of products that he believed in, which meant that many potential sponsors were turned away. Don't tell me you wouldn't love to have one of those tankless water heaters he advertised.

Over the years I fell out of the habit of listening to Paul Harvey through no fault of his. The stations in Los Angeles and Knoxville didn't air his programs at a time that was especially convenient for me. In fact, I don't think the news/talk station here runs him at all. Now that he's gone, I want nothing more than to hear him again. Maybe there are some classic podcasts I can download from somewhere.

There are some assorted clips on YouTube including a "Letter from God" and a few examples of "The Rest of the Story." His Chicago flagship, WGN Radio, has an online tribute page with several audio clips available, including the classic phrase: "Stand by for news!"

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