Monday, June 28, 2010

Welcome to the Land of the Absurd

Over three hundred years before Christ, Alexander the Great swept onto the plains of Afghanistan with the wild idea that he was going to "shock and awe" the locals into a stupor à la Bush the Conqueror some 2,300 years later. After many years of warfare Alex began paying the Afghans not to fight him because, quite frankly, they were whipping his ass.

In the 1800s the British decided to have a go at Afghanistan and on three occasions managed to get their asses whipped just like good old Alex. During the first of these Anglo-Afghan wars the British suffered their greatest defeat up to that time with 16,000 being wiped out over the course of one week during a 90 mile dash for safety.

The Soviets took a shot at Afghanistan and managed to hang in there for ten years until 1991 when they were forced out and the Soviet Union collapsed under the weight of that war.

So what is the purpose, you might querry, for this history lesson? I am glad you asked. On ABC's TV program This Week, the director of the United States Central Intelligence (?) Agency, Leon Panetta, stated that the war in Afghanistan was proving to be "harder" and "slower than I think anyone anticipated."

You have got to be freakin' kidding me!

Who the hell in their right mind didn't think this war was going to be a ball-buster? Are there those in this country so arrogant or stupid as to believe that we could just ignore history and waltz into Afghanistan and pompously declare "mission accomplished" after a little sabre rattling? Don't bother answering. That was a rhetorical question that I think was answered this past Sunday by Mr. Panetta.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Friday Date Night: Cobb CineBistro in Hyde Park

Let me just get it out of the way right up front: I love the Hyde Park Cobb CineBistro! That is the only one we have been to, but if the sister bistros are anything like this one I would love them too.

I invited my trophy bride out for dinner and a movie last night. We booked seats to see Knight and Day. This Cruise and Diaz movie got a crummy rating from the St. Pete Times, but we both enjoyed it. It was action packed and didn't take itself too seriously. It was good summer-time escapist fare, but I will let someone else do a more in-depth movie review.

The Cobb concept is what gives me the warm fuzzies. The seats are super comfortable, children under 18 are not allowed, and children 18 and over are not tolerated. Before the movie starts a message on the screen screams, "Turn off your freakin' cell phone!" In truth, that may not be an exact quote but it seemed to do the trick.

My date and I ordered a bucket of bottled beer to get us through dinner and the movie. The Fair Maiden ordered the hamburger with sweet potato fries that she declared were prepared just as ordered and were very tasty. I had the Churrasco Steak and Frites. This was a marinated flat iron with a roasted tomato chimichurri sauce with black beans and rice along with plantain French fries. That was one of the best dishes I have had at the Cobb. I have enjoyed the Sesame Seared Tuna on previous visits, but the Churrasco is my new favorite.

I wasn't thrilled with the Popcorn Calamari from a few movies ago. There was real popcorn mixed in with the calamari. The Cobb could have left out the popcorn and the calamari with accompanying sauces would have been just fine.

For the two of us theater admission was $29. Dinner and the bucket of beer came to $62.56 and included the automatic 17.5% gratuity. The servers are professional and courteous so I have no problem with the built in tip and it is such a pleasure to be able to watch a movie while consuming good food with adult beverages and not have to endure the boorish behavior one is subjected to at other theater venues.

CineBistro on Urbanspoon

Thursday, June 24, 2010

The Gospel From SOG City

Today, dear readers, I will share with you - stuff. This is stuff that I know to be true because the Oracle has been there and done that.

1. If a sea cruise vacation is on your bucket list, for heaven's sake spend the extra dollars and book a balcony suite. Trust me on this and you will be thanking me later. For one thing, you get priority boarding and de-boarding (or, is it un-boarding...whatever). There is no waiting in long lines with the great unwashed masses yearning to be annoying. You don't have to arise at zero dark thirty to reserve a deck chair or lounger. You have your own private space with room service and unless you are in port, on the dock side, then clothes are not really that important either.

2. Should you be all atwitter at the thought of seeing the Tampa Bay Rays do whatever it is they do at the Trop, you will be forever grateful for my plea that you book seats at the Whitney Bank Club. There are several reasons for this: Open and bar are two that spring to mind. On the off chance the Rays are going tits-up on the field, you may drown your sorrows at the bar, or have one of the charming servers bring your libations to you if your sorrows are going down for the third time. The food at the early shows (alright, games) is primarily breakfast buffet crap (what's up with that?), but there is a lot of it. And, for the "Thank Gawd for the Whitney" moment, you don't have the bozos with the horns and cowbells sitting behind you begging to be put out of their misery...or yours.

3. If anyone from the Tampa Chamber of Commerce, City Council, Hillsborough County Commission, or private special interest organizations tells you that passing the penny sales tax for "light rail will bring jobs, boost the local economy, improve the quality of life (I love that one) and change the perception of Tampa..." and not provide an accompanying written report on how those goals are to be realized then I suggest that they are full of mierda del toro. I loved the rail system in Germany and think that rail is a great idea as long as there is a P-L-A-N and not just a craving. A light rail proposal that I read about recently excludes Tampa International Airport. How freakin' stupid is that? There are existing tracks in place all over the city and county and I have heard no one addressing how those tracks might be utilized for light rail. This whole light rail scheme reminds me of the person who decided to quit smoking, so he threw away his cigarettes, matches, and lighter...then proceeded to bum smokes and a light from all around him. All he had was a habit that he expected someone else to support.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Food: Caroline's Dining on the River

Whether you stay at the Apalachicola River Inn or not, I highly recommend dining at Caroline's for breakfast, lunch, or dinner. We have done all three.

On this trip we did stay at the fantastic inn. Guests of the inn are presented with coupons for a complimentary breakfast and an adult beverage in the upstairs lounge. The complimentary breakfast menu is slightly limited, but my bride did enjoy the ubiquitous All American breakfast while I consumed the baby shrimp, eggs and grits with biscuit.

Dinner the night before showcased two of Caroline's signature dishes, the Signature Boat Flambe' for me and the Panhandle Grouper for my Baby. The flambe' consisted of broiled grouper, oysters, shrimp and lump crab cakes over pasta with a garlic sauce. Seafood and pasta...I swoon! The Panhandle Grouper came with lump crab meat  and was also a winner.

Several days later on our way back to Tampa from Panama City Beach we stopped at Caroline's for breakfast. I had the sautéed oysters with two scrambled eggs and grits with a biscuit. The oysters are served in a chafing dish but I like to mix the oysters with the eggs. The long defunct Shrimp Boat Restaurant in St. Andrews used to do that and called the dish Hang Tang. That is some yummy eating. I think that my adventurous dining partner had the All American again, but she isn't too keen on oysters for breakfast...or any other time for that matter.

The only awkward moment for me at Caroline's was when I had to take an after breakfast, pre-driving pee. The facilities are in the breezeway just outside of Caroline's. The first room I came to was marked "Women." I knew that one didn't apply to me. A little farther I found two more rooms. One was labeled "Gentlemen" and the other was labeled "Men." Now what the hell do I do? After a moment's reflection I decided that after a breakfast of eggs and oysters I would make the manly man decision and hit the room marked "Men."

No matter which room you wind up in, Caroline's is a winner for us.

Carolines Dining On The River on Urbanspoon  

Monday, June 21, 2010

Travel: Apalachicola River Inn

My trophy bride and I vacationed last week in the Florida Panhandle. Part of the trip was to visit my daughter and then to wiggle my toes in the white sands of Panama City Beach before dipping my crusty old butt in the crystal clear waters. And, all of this before the tar balls hit. We just made it. Apparently PC Beach got it's first tar ball yesterday.

On the way up the coast we made a stop in Apalachicola, a now upscale fishing village. Our reservations were for a one night stay at the Apalachicola River Inn. My only regret is that we didn't stay longer. Our upstairs room was right on the river. If I had a fishing pole I could have dipped a hook into the river from our balcony, something our downstairs neighbors were probably glad I didn't do.

Our room was beautifully remodeled with the most comfortable king sized bed we have ever slept on.

When we checked in we were given a couple of coupons for breakfast the next morning at Caroline's and a couple more for a "welcome" drink at the property's Spoonbill Lounge with the antique juke box.

There are two restaurants on the property, Boss Oyster and Caroline's. We have dined at both on previous visits and enjoyed them both. This trip though Boss Oyster came up short, but Caroline's was a real treat.

The Inn may appear a bit rustic on the outside, but don't judge this book by the cover. This is a charming property with gracious people.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Many Whose Livelihoods Depend On The Gulf Are Reeling

That newspaper headline literally leapt off the page causing ripples in my morning cup of coffee. It seems that some fisherpersons are bemoaning the fact that they can't earn a living because of the oil disaster. How interesting; how very, very interesting!

While in the Florida Panhandle recently I heard from several restaurant owners that they, too, are hurting because they can't replenish their inventory of fresh fish and oysters. This deficit in seafood is causing price increases in restaurants and seafood markets, and in at least one case an owner was pondering what he could offer his customers when the oysters run out.

So sad, you might say. I would certainly agree as far as the restaurants and markets are concerned, but the fishermen and oystermen? Not so much. And, why you might ask. Go ahead and ask.

Well, it seems that many of those who made a living harvesting various types of seafood are now making a hell of a lot more working for BP on the cleanup effort or they got a hefty BP pay-off and they don't appear to be in any hurry to get back to fishing. Go figure!

As of today, the oil has not reached Apalachicola, so the oyster beds are alive and kicking but very few are being harvested. That means the oyster houses are beginning to hurt. They don't have the product to process and consequently the delivery people have nothing to deliver.

I am starting to think that if seafood prices keep going up or I can't even buy seafood that maybe I should file suit against BP for the harm they are causing me. Hell, I might as well get in on the action. A bar patron on St. George Island was saying the other day that a oil sodden seagull plopped in his swimming pool and crapped it up so badly that he will have to sue BP for a major pool re-do. I think he was just talking from an alcoholic haze, but who knows?

Food: Apalachicola Dreamin'

I have been craving some really good oysters on the half shell for months now and Boss Oyster has been on my mind. From trips past I remember some really great oyster dishes and the super large heads-on shrimp steamed with butter and Old Bay...pull off the heads and suck'em, then peel the shrimp with the buttery sauce dribbling down your arms and chin. Heaven!

As soon as we pulled into Apalach we headed for the Boss. I had been entertaining thoughts of both lunch and dinner at the Boss since we were staying over night at the absolutely fantastic Apalachicola River Inn. But, first things first, and the first thing was lunch. I ordered a dozen of Apalachicola's little gems on the half shell. They were shucked perfectly...something that you rarely see here in Tampa. They were a little small, but they were fresh and salty. Yum-o (thanks Rachel)!

Next came the heads-on shrimp. Wow, what a buzz kill! The shrimp were of a good size, but it looked as if they had been steamed, tossed on a plate, and had a couple of tablespoons of Old Bay dumped unceremoniously on top. The disappointment didn't stop there. The shrimp were either old or really over cooked or both. They were dry and tough and hard to peel. The waitress seemed more than slightly unimpressed that I was unimpressed with the shrimp. Ho, hum!

Admittedly, the menu did say "Simply Steamed." I have had much better at Boss Oyster (better food, selection and service), and these shrimp were simply disappointing and not worth the drive from Tampa. I have heard some good things about Papa Joe's and I think we will give that a try on our next trip north.

We didn't go back that evening for dinner. Instead, we went to Caroline's, a sister restaurant, and had a truly memorable meal.
Boss Oyster on Urbanspoon

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Travel: Oil and the Florida Panhandle

Greetings fellow travelers!

We just got back to Tampa from our trip to the Panhandle. We wanted to eat some delicious Apalachicola oysters before the beds got slicked up and oiled over. We are happy to report that the beds are fine in Apalach and as of Friday the Panama City Beach waters and sands were devoid of oil slicks or tar balls. That probably will not be the case for long, but it is good news for now.

We stayed at the Ambassador Family Resort while at the beach. Their web site looked good and the rates seemed like a real bargain, so we booked a cabana room just steps away from the white sands and blue-green waters of the northern Gulf of Mexico. I can highly recommend that you avoid the Ambassador like the plague. It is a freaking dump of the worst kind. There was no tiki hut, I had to make my own repairs to the vertical blinds for privacy, and I had to fix their toilet to keep the whole room from flooding. The office staff (?) was either non-existent or non-coherent depending on when you stopped by. There were a few families with small children, but the college crowd turned the place into something too disgusting for children or sane adults to have to endure.

At the beach the beer and oysters are cold, the barfing buffoons from Georgia Tech are re-coating the parking lots with last night's dinner, and business is booming. Life is good!

Help our neighbors to the north. Plan your Panhandle vacation soon and enjoy these beautiful beaches. Just watch where you step in the parking lots.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

An Evening With Love And Johnnycake

We had another fantastic dinner last night at Lynn Love's Artifacts Bar and Grille in SOG City. Between the four of us we scarfed down a delicious pulled pork dinner, one of the "best ever" Cuban sandwiches, the wild boar with collard greens, and for my bride, the three rib special. I asked if she thought just three pork ribs would be enough, and she said yes. Well, I hope to shout! Those ribs were huge, and tender and juicy. If you haven't been to Artifacts yet, you are missing a real treat.

After dinner we headed to the bar to catch some live music. Last night's featured performer was Johnnycake Slim (aka: Mark Johnson) from out west somewheres who sure knows a lot about SOG City. A highlight of the evening for me was his composition South of Gandy which brought back memories of the area from the good old days: The number one pick up spot (according to Playboy magazine) Llamas Restaurant, and caddy-corner to Llamas the old Dale Mabry Drive-In Theater. Slim played guitar and sang about scrub palmettos and life South Of Gandy back in the sixties.

The Army brought me to SOG City in the late sixties while there still was a drive-in theater, and Llamas, and across the street Zichex Lounge, and farther south the Jai Alai fronton. Slim sang about the F-4 Phantoms roaring off the MacDill AFB runway rattling windows and dental fillings for a mile north of the base. I loved that song!

Slim also does some down and dirty blues, and old standards, as well as his own compositions. I don't know how often he comes to Tampa, but if he is playing at a venue near you, stop in and enjoy the show.

Friday, June 11, 2010

Big Money Won Big in California

The proof is in the proverbial pudding: Money can buy votes!

It doesn't seem to matter to the voting lunatics that the candidate is incompetent or is a ball-busting crook. If the clown running for a political office has enough money...well, that is all it takes, and we have two of these clowns in Florida. Will they win? Of course, because they have enough money to saturate the state with their lies and empty promises. The pregnant pig amendment voters will support them as will the myriad of others who don't have a clue...about anything.

What frosts my balls the most is the thought of intelligent, honest, and competent contenders for public office being left at the side of the road because they don't have the capital to compete with billionaires. And, for Christ's sake, ask yourself "Do you want to be governed by the "let them eat cake" crowd?"

I will wrap up this rant with a possible campaign song from that might be considered by Florida's billionaire political wannabes:

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Mankind's Most Annoying Invention

While on our morning SOG City jog we passed city workers polluting the air in Ballast Point Park. There were three leaf blowers blowing full blast with dust and debris flying everywhere. Noise and air pollution was rampant and destroyed the serenity of the park. Thank you Dom Quinto, you butthead! (Quinto is credited with inventing the blower in the 1950s)

Then a mile or so past the park we came upon the most miraculous of sights. A homeowner who had recently finished mowing her yard was also cleaning debris from her walkways and the sidewalk using the most amazing device. In her hands she had grasped a long wooden pole which at one end had a block of wood attached and embedded in this block of wood were bristles similar to that of a toothbrush. This lady was using this implement to actually sweep up the yard debris as opposed to blowing it from point A to point B; probably to the street where passing cars could blow it back into her yard. We were figuratively swept away by this marvelous device, and without the usual accompaniment of gas fumes and clouds of dust.

Upon arriving back at our SOG City ranchero we laid our sweaty hands on the computer and Googled ourselves into a stupor. We discovered that the pole with a brush on the end has a name. It is called Fred. Really, it isn't called Fred. I made that up. It is called a push broom and it is not a new tool. The push broom has been around since Moby was a minnow and the Red Sea was merely pink. Apparently this push broom thingy fell out of favor when mankind got too damn lazy to use it, preferring to strap on a heavy, expensive, polluting noisemaker to use for relocating their yard crap. What a shame!

If you would like to experience life from a simpler time, click on the Amazon link. Think how much you will save on gas or electric...and, it is good exercise.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Ode to BP

President Obama was quoted as saying, "We talk to these folks  because potentially they have the best answers, so I know whose ass to kick."

Well, Mr. President, here is a little ditty from that you may sing while doing your ass-kicking:

May I suggest you start with BP CEO Tony Hayward?  It's just a thought, and Happy Kickin'.

Sunday, June 6, 2010

"You Can't Be Serious"

I read in the St. Pete Times this morning that BP has created a web site soliciting for ideas on how to stop the Earth from ejaculating more of it's oily jism into the Gulf of Mexico. Our "drill, baby, drill" leaders (see: dickweeds) assured us that safeguards were already in place and all involved were more than prepared for any eventuality. So, why is BP asking "Joe the Plumber" for ideas?

My suggestion would be to take the BP decision makers, "drill, baby, drillers", Palin, Halliburton, Bush and Cheney, stuff them into a tube and blast them down to plug up the leak. While I find that idea to be personally satisfying, I doubt that it would be environmentally prudent.  Alright then, it should appear obvious that I have no ideas to put forward for stopping this disaster from worsening. Hopefully someone will come up with something before the Gulf turns into a vast salty oil can.

And in closing: A pro-drilling moron posting on-line recently, stated that we should not stop drilling because of a simple accident. He likened it to outlawing autos because of a fender-bender. He is a poster boy for the banning of in-breeding and/or bestiality; neither of which advances the human gene pool. For one thing this debacle cannot be referred to as an accident. An accident "in chancery jurisprudence, signifies such unforeseen events, misfortunes, losses, acts or omissions, as are not the result of any negligence or misconduct in the party." (Francis' Max. M. 120, p. 87; 1 Story on Eq. Sec. 78.) This Gulf oil disaster falls more clearly under the definition of criminal negligence and those involved should be immediately prosecuted by the Federal government and then castigated (or is that castrated...oh well, either way) with extreme prejudice. Additionally, Obama should remove BP from the spill and containment effort and hand the project to an entity more capable of bringing about a solution.

And, it now!

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

SNAFU* y'all!

Let me see if I understand the situation in the Gulf correctly.

The tea-baggers, carpetbaggers, and gas-baggers have been carping for the longest that we need less government and less Obama in our lives. Right?

So, is it not ironic that they are now clamoring for more of both because of the BP cluster-f___? It wasn't Obama who caused this disaster. Possibly we should be looking to Bush, Cheney and Halliburton for answers. Possibly they should be brought up on charges and punished to the fullest extent of the law. They were the ones who pushed for reduced regulations so that "drill, baby, drill" could be pursued with abandon.

Before this Gulf disaster the baggers wanted no part of our duly elected government. Now that the goop has hit the shore it is a government problem and they can't get enough of Obama and this administration.

As long as I am on a BP rant: How about those "concerned Americans" picketing BP stations around the country? Now that really makes a hell of a lot of sense...NOT! The only people getting hurt by those picketers are the station owners who had nothing to do with the leak. These people are just trying to earn a living in these times of a troubled economy. Picketing or boycotting these stations certainly won't hurt BP, it just hurts our neighbors. And, that is just what we need right now; another business and more jobs going mammaries-up.

Talk about a misplaced set of priorities. It is kind of like waving the American flag and displaying "Support Our Troops" bumper stickers without any other involvement in or sacrifice for the war effort. It is just more hot air.