Friday the 13th—Again

Yes, you heard it right folks. This is the second Friday the 13th this year, with the first one occurring in April. And while the world didn’t stop turning then, irrational fear and paranoia continue nonetheless.

The roots of such superstition are based in history. Way back in the 1300’s, king Philip had several of the Knights Templar rounded up and executed on a Friday the 13th. And by executed, I mean barbecued to a crisp while tacked to a cross. The king was just trying to get rid of the Knights at the behest of the Pope, but it worked out for him to excuse his war debts as well. Apparently one of the Knights executed a curse during his barbecuing, thus giving rise to the superstition of Friday the 13th.

In a more general sense, people look at the Last Supper and the betrayal of Jesus by Judas as the driving force behind the Friday the 13th phenomenon. Jesus was crucified on Good Friday, which is rumored to be a 13th. Also, most beheadings and public hangings occurred on Fridays, bringing more substance to the fear.

Now with that out of the way, it’s time to talk about the real Friday the 13th. Anyone from our generation (late 30’s-early 40s) knows the name Jason Voorheis. The iconic killer from the slasher flicks is easily recognized by anyone who shivered in their sleeping bag on a camping trip, eyes wide open, light on all night. Jason was a great killer because he said nothing. There you were, hanging out and engaging in some teenage hijinks. Drinking, having sex, staying up late, smoking. And then there’s Jason, creeping up on you despite his 6’8″ frame. It’s always a great time as he picks off campers one by one. It’s even better when they run after realizing that Jason is here to kill them all. You take off running, and run two counties away. Then you trip on a random dustball, or a gust of wind knocks you down. You get back up and BAM! Jason is right behind you, threatening bodily harm with some kind of object. Here’s a list of Jason weapons from Friday the 13th.

Axe– Jason has used an axe on a variety of kills. An axe is a common tool in camping, and Jason is nothing if not an opportunist. He uses whatever implement is around to inflict maximum carnage.

Chainsaw–same result. Just Jason with a gas-powered tree-devouring machine. It works great on flesh and bone as well.

Fence Post–I remember seeing this one somewhere along the series. Hence the “use what you have” philosophy and how cool it was to see someone impaled with a fence post

Speargun–it’s just as cool as it sounds. Jason channels his inner Jaws hunter while shooting a victim in the eye with a speargun.

Ice pick–this is the first weapon Jason used, when the girl killed his mom. Ice pick seems like a pretty terrible way to go

Machete–this is the weapon we are most used to seeing in Jason’s hands. Any photos of him on film usually include a machete, as it it clearly his weapon of choice by far.

Weed Eater–that’s right, he killed a victim with a weed eater. That’s the kind of mind you’re dealing with. Weed out your roses? Nah, I’d rather kill someone with it

I could go on and on. There are some, like liquid nitrogen and a syringe, which were only used in one scene. And let’s not forget his propensity for using his bare hands and brute strength to perform many quality kills. Breaking people in half, tossing people into doors and walls and through windows–sometimes he doesn’t even need a weapon.

So enjoy your Friday the 13th. Just remember not to stay up late or drink or have premarital sex. And that crunching in the bushes–you should just let it happen because you’re already dead.

As a friendly reminder, all of these implements of death as well as wood for walls, doors, and new windows are all available at your local Home Depot. Man, wouldn’t that be a great Home Depot commercial? The scene opens with a guy putting machetes and chainsaws and mother weapons in a cart. The guys proceeds to checkout, the camera pans up, and it shows Friday the 13th on a calendar. Then you see that the guy is Jason.

You’re welcome, Home Depot

Fourth of July Fun Times

Fourth of July came and went here in our little coastal town. Most people here took a few days, if not the whole week off. Good plan, because it will take you that long to get through the throngs of traffic to get anywhere. And people who work in retail, this is a special kind of hell for you. I have never seen every parking space filled at every grocery store and gas station for twenty miles until then.

The holiday itself was pretty low-key. Hung out at a buddy’s place where they grilled out and had people over. It was a great time. My adjustment has been switching from a first-second shift hybrid to working straight third shift. My job is such that this change was needed for my own sanity, and the safety of coworkers. So I have been trying to adjust to staying up all night and sleeping during the day.

Great in theory, until you get to the weekend or time off. I do great during the week, because I stay busy at work and come home and sleep. Weekends I struggle to stay awake and finally go to bed about 4 am. Throw in alcohol and the equation gets shot to hell.

Also something of a struggle is the difference in me. In my 20s I worked third shift and was fine with it. In those days you get 1.5 hours of sleep and are good to go again for the next day. However, my 40 year old body just isn’t that resilient anymore. I need my beauty rest, and from the looks of me I need all I can get.

The bonus in this is that I work four ten-hour nights with a three day weekend every weekend. I do enjoy that part so far. It’s just like riding a bike. Gotta get up there and remember what the hell i’m doing.

So Happy Belated Fourth of July to everyone. Let’s not forget our men and women in the Armed Services, without whose sacrifice none of this would be possible. Hell, we might be speaking German or Russian today if not for them.

Father’s Day

As the sun has set on another Father’s Day, I sit in a contemplative mood. For so many years, Father’s Day revolved around my Dad. There were traditions, whereby we would go to a restaurant here in town (usually a steakhouse) that Dad would never go to on his own. We would eat and laugh, and talk about old memories and funny stuff. Then we would make the trip back home and everything was good. Those were the years before the Wheelchair.

After the Wheelchair, everything changed for all of us. We all had to learn a greater understanding of handicap accessibility and how it related to where and when we could frequent certain establishments. Winnie’s Tavern was a favorite of mine and my dad’s as well. But we couldn’t stay too long because Dad couldn’t fit in the bathroom. And if you didn’t know Dad, he never wanted to be a burden. So if we got Winnie’s afterward, I had to pick it up.

Dad tried to use his prosthetic leg, but he came across another problem. His prosthetic leg was placed on his right leg, which had an arthritic hip that could not support the extra weight of walking. So he became accustomed to being confined to a wheelchair.

The most painful day to watch was when the DMV denied his drivers license. Dad had driven with one leg after the amputation. He engineered a way to drive using a long wood slat to push the brake. When the DMV told him that he had to get the wheelchair out of the trunk, and he could not do so, that was the beginning of the end. Dad was never the same after that.

After these occurrences, Dad’s health started taking nasty turns. He was in and out of the hospital and nursing homes. We did manage to make it to Longhorn one year, and the last Fathers Day when he wasn’t in the hospital, he was right here at home. We grilled steaks and he had the best time laughing and joking with me and my wife and girls. After that, it was hospital and nursing home, then on to the twilight sleep.

My best memories of Dad were those times. Sometimes we would stay up late and drink beers and watch tv or movies. And we were occasionally too loud, so Mom would come out and casually remind us that it’s 330 in the am. And we would just laugh and drink another beer. Toward the end, Dad preferred Bud Light. I teased him, but I figured his body couldn’t do with regular/craft beer and his bourbon and Diet Pepsi’s. And besides, Bud Light isn’t so bad.

As I’ve gotten older, I realize that many of my peers have also lost their fathers. I guess we have finally reached the age where we no longer have dads. We are dads. I appreciate my two girls every day, and will help them in any way. I am sure that my peers feel the same way about their children, to help them along the way and keep them from making our mistakes.

So Happy Father’s Day to all the dads out there. Stepdads, grandfathers, and even fur baby dads. Dogs and cats need love too. And to all the dads in Heaven, including my wife’s and several friends’ dads, enjoy the silence while you can. We will be there, just not too soon I hope. And to you, Pops…we miss you, and we love you. Old Man

Home Sweet Home

It is great to get away for awhile, maybe a few days or a weekend for vacation. Some locals even move to far-flung locales from Montreal to Denver, San Juan to Osaka. One thing unites them. When they return to town to visit relatives, they return to a few golden oldie local spots that attract tourist and townie alike.

Britt’s Donuts has been serving visitors to the Carolina Beach boardwalk for decades now. And as far as we can see, they show no signs of slowing down. The line at Britt’s frequently winds down the Boardwalk, but it’s so worth it. They make delicious hot donuts that you will need to buy 2 dozen of at minimum.

Wake and Bake Donuts are newer to the game, but they make up for inexperience with mad scientist donut experimentation. Giant donuts topped with Fruity Pebbles or candied bacon, or filled with gooey chocolate or apple pie tempt the tastebuds at this new kid on the block.

El Cazador is a Mexican joint at Carolina Beach that has authentic Mexican food. This isn’t your typical tacos and nachos fare. Great balcony seating and killer margaritas round out this tasty place.

Lazy Pirate is another relative newcomer, but it’s making waves as the place to be at the beach. It’s basically an oversized shack decorated like every Frat party you’ve ever been to. Wooden tables, flags and banners, sports on tap. The food says it all, however. Conch fritters mix with PBJ wings, amid all of your pub grub favorites. Trivia nights and other live events routinely pack this place, often filling the expansive outside seating area.

Once across the bridge, you can hit Philly Deli in several locations. The signature sandwich is the Philly Cheesesteak served in several yummy variations. Thrown in cold beer and jalapeño poppers and you’ve got yourself a meal.

One of my personal favorites is a little hole in the wall called Winnie’s Tavern. The inside is truly bigger that the outside suggests, and the food is phenomenal. They don’t stray too far from delicious burgers and chicken sandwiches. A veggie burger is about as healthy as it gets here, so pull up a chair and check out the drink specials–if you can get a spot at this routinely packed burger joint.

For some old school, try out Merritt’s Burger House. It’s a traditional drive in where the carhop comes out to take the order and then brings it out on a tray that hangs on the car door. Simple, classic food like burgers and dogs. No salads or caramel macchiatos here. And cash only. Talk about old school.

PTs Grille has that old school feel in a newer spot. They have three all over town, offering yummy burgers and chicken sandwiches along with cold beer and arguably the best fries in town. You walk in, order up front, then grab a seat. Best veggie burgers in town.

Mexican in Wilmington is down to a few spots. Don’t worry, they are all delicious. El Cerro Grande has a few locations. Zocalo is relatively new but delicious. K38-Baja Grill is also fantastic. Sombrero Azul out by Murrayville is very yummy. If you crave Mexican, we have you covered.

For Asian/sushi, you can’t go wrong with Okami. For $22 you get unlimited sushi/appetizers. And their Asian fare is also very good. If you leave hungry, it’s your own fault.

Copper Penny in Downtown ILM is my favorite spot. Their menu is full of delicious sandwiches and plates, and their specials are always top notch. Who could say no to a chicken bbq bacon cheese sandwich?

Henry’s at midtown is a little more pricey, but quality food justifies the price. From seared swordfish to tasty creme brûlée, the menu never fails to impress. Great for date night or a business meeting.

Well, now I’m super hungry, how about you? This list is by no means exhaustive, as there are 450,000 restaurants here in town. The only thing we have more of is churches. We stick to cheaper fare, so Wrightsville Beach is out for us. And La Costa Mexican food has had the distinction of giving me food poisoning. Twice. But if you like their food, by all means enjoy. Now if you’ll excuse me, I am starving.

A Memorial to Memorial Day

So once again, Memorial Day weekend is upon us. I, like most of you, take great comfort in the idea of a three day weekend. No stress, no work, and hours of grilling and drinking while hanging with family and friends is in order. While we enjoy this time off, there are a few reasons it ain’t so great.

Memorial Day used to mean something different as a youngster. It meant the end of the school year was very close, for one thing. After that came those wonderful days leading up to the return to school in August. And where we live, that meant the beach was calling us. The water was warm enough to prevent hypothermia, and the beach was filled with like-minded high schoolers. Boys and girls were out and about, the sound of legions of flip-flops hitting the pavement and the sand in a thunderous wave.

And so it went, year after year. Until that pivotal age comes where you realize that all those extra people are annoying. See, we have our own population that likes the beach. Then you add 500,000 or so from all areas of our state, country, and even the world. A collection of different license plates pass by, hunting for those elusive open parking spots unseen by the untrained eye. You see how it becomes a bit of a hassle. I can’t imagine everyone packing up and heading to the mountains or the piedmont in a mass exodus.

Number one is that there are just too many people. That sweet little spot where you and your special someone sneak to the beach in the off-season? It’s now cluttered with throngs of people. The Latinos to the left? They brought a picnic table to the beach. On the right? A mix of college kids getting hammered and sunburned baby boomers. No space on the beach is sacred in the midst of tourist season.

An obvious correlation is that there is so much traffic. The car-lined highways with stand-still traffic is a nightmare. A 10 minute car ride takes an hour. Throw in upper 90 temps and no AC, and it’s a favorable recipe for a heat stroke. But it is oh so worth it when you finally do hit the ocean.

Driving is a different concept in different parts of the state. As well as the country and world, I suppose. We usually don’t get too many international visitors. People tend to stick to their region, or we get people from up north trying to thaw out six months of snowbound. We are infamous for our inability to drive. We were actually ranked worst city in N.C. for auto-related fatalities. Yet, we all seem to embrace this failure and tend to drive them same wrong way as everyone else. Toss in 500,000 more people driving a variety of different ways, and it makes getting to the beach a whole lot more interesting. You have Play By the Rules drivers, who listen to things like speed limits and use their turn signals. Then there are Let’s Just Get There drivers, who will fly past you or squeeze into a gap to get 0.0126 inches ahead. There are various sub-levels, which make it like an obstacle course to reach the beach. Assuming, of course, that they aren’t doing road work in the middle of summer.

Parking goes hand in hand with all those problems. We all would like to have free parking at the beach, but that idea is so 1996. Free parking spots are an endangered species-only a few left, and they are hunted mercilessly. So you’re trying to keep your eyes on the cars in front, behind, and to the side. And you missed that one open spot ten cars back next to the giant tree. Keep driving, and you see cars in front yards and driveways and out in the road. A tow truck comes by, all too happy to help you relocate your vehicle for a $100 donation to his kid’s College Fund.

With all that said, it is a fun experience to go to the beach. Just be ready for the whole experience. And it’s great to have tourists pumping money into our local economy, to help our town prosper. And last, but certainly not least, is the real reason for Memorial Day. It’s not about barbecues and beer and a week at the overcrowded beach getting ten shades of lobster burnt. It is about our Armed Services, those brave men and women who risk their lives every day to defend us and our way of life. You think your job sucks? Try carrying 60 plus pounds of gear up the side of a mountain and into a ied field in 120 degrees. As we enjoy our weekend, remember that many of our Service Personnel are overseas, not enjoying this holiday. If you see one out and about, thank them for their service. If anyone reading this is active or retired military, I thank you from the bottom of my heart for your service.

Mother’s Day is Here Again

Mother’s Day is a great celebration of the mother. Because, biologically speaking, without them there can be no us. Unless you count test tubes in some evil mastermind’s lab, where he can clone humans and finally take over the world. Outside of Dr. Evil’s wet dream, we need moms in order to be here.

Moms are where all of our sense comes from. Think about when you were young. You always asked your dad AFTER mom said no. That’s because you were trying to catch dad before he thought about it. You knew the gig was up when he said “what did your mom say?” Oh well, it was worth a shot.

Moms get the job that never ends. They care for their boyfriend, that becomes their husband. They care for their child, that produces a grandchild. They care for the retired husband until his death. Their job never ends until their last breath is taken.

Mom is the accountant, pastor, counselor, cook, maid, and chauffeur for many families. Most of our formative years would have been different without a mother to help us along the way. No one will love you any more than your mother. So give her a shout out on this, her special day. As for me, Happy Mother’s Day to my mom and my wife. Two of the greatest mothers I have ever known, and I am blessed to have both of them

Stay (Wasting Time)

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Contrary to belief, this post is not about the Dave Matthews song. Although I do like that song, and many others by the group. This post is all about wasting time, something I am extremely proficient at doing.

Usually I could care less about wasting time. I have been a chronic procrastinator for most of my life, so later became my favorite word. I would get to it eventually, I always thought.

Recently, as you have read, both my father and my friend’s father have passed away. Death brings a certain level of perspective to any situation. You start to see all of the things that you have neglected, hence the reference to wasting time. I have wasted much of my time chasing an alcohol high that I can’t ever achieve. I have neglected duties around my home, much to my mother’s dismay. I have run off to help others and not handled things at my own home.

So for the future, my home comes first. Alcohol can take a backseat for a while. I can be here where I belong, rather than chasing the next future hangover. Like Faramir from Lord of the Rings, where does my allegiance lie if not here?

Death and How to Take it

I have been struggling to come up with something witty to say about death. About how Egyptians believed in reincarnation, and Native Americans believed that they visited the spirits of their ancestors when they passed on.

The truth is, there is no instruction manual for how to deal with death in a family. No handbook telling you what to do and how to feel. The reality is that you will have to experience the loss of a loved one for yourself. At that stage, you will be an island. Friends will offer to help, but you will find it best to process some grief in solitary.

For those of you that do not know, I lost my father in December of 2016 after a lengthy battle with COPD and congestive heart failure. As sad as I was to see him go, I was glad to see him not suffering any more. He was not struggling to breathe, freed from the O2 hose that had been his prison for so long. Mom and I have coped, missing him but moving on with life.

Then I get some disturbing news. My friend Brian calls me randomly on Monday. I figured he just wants to hang out, so I wait to call him back. He tells me his father passed away. Now, Brian and I go way back. Far enough to consider his dad as a father figure. I spent enough time at their house as a kid for them to deduct me off their taxes. They referred to me as their other two sons. And David was one of my dad’s best friends.

So naturally, we were all shocked at his sudden death. And for mom and me, it was like Dad dying all over again. And my heart pours out for Mary Ann and Brian, as I try to help them cope with all of this. But like I said, there’s no cookie-cutter way of dealing with death in the family. You never know how to do it until you’re already doing it.

And for David–save us a spot at the fishing hole and keep the beer ice cold. Hope we don’t see you too soon, if you know what I mean

The Magic of Karaoke

Karaoke is clearly defined in Japanese as “empty orchestra.” It means exactly what it says, to stand at a microphone and belt out a tune with no musical accompaniment. Well not live music anyway. There’s a prerecorded track that plays while you sing, so you don’t have to hit those high back notes as you squint into a monitor to see the words on the screen. It’s more fun than it sounds.

There’s a whole legion of karaoke diehards that hit every spot in town dedicated to the art of drunken singing. Not that you have to drink to sing, but it helps. You’re less nervous, and everyone else sounds a lot better. I know these things because I was one of them, once upon a time. We started our journey as spectators to the show. Our friend was attempting to let out his inner rock star, and failing miserably. It sounded like someone strangling a cat, shrieking included. Gradually we moved from the back seats to the middle seats, inching closer to the stage with every visit. Finally, my buddy put us in to sing and we loved it. We were hooked on a feeling.

Since that night, we have sang at countless karaoke bars all over the place. We have sang sober, as well as blind stinking drunk. After all, I met my wife during a chance encounter of drunken karaoke. I recommend a balance in the drinking. A few drinks to get loose, but maybe leave the Mad Dog 20/20 at the corner store.

So in honor of initiating others into the Karaoke Appreciation Club, here are three go-to songs/groups that will help those of us without any hope of singing skills.

1. Journey. I know, it’s a huge cliche. But people really do love Journey. They have a huge catalog of hits, like Lights and Any Way You Want It. Of course, the two that I use are Faithfully and Don’t Stop Believin’. These are songs that everyone knows, even people who don’t speak English. This is perfect for a song that gets the whole bar involved, because if you can’t sing, it won’t matter. Everyone will be singing at the top of their lungs, so it will mask your inability to carry a tune.

2. Bon Jovi. That should be the explanation. Men and women love Bon Jovi. It brings back those 80’s and 90’s memories. And songs like Bad Medicine, I’ll Be There For You, and Wanted Dead or Alive will be enjoyed by everyone.

3. Slower Songs. These are good if you have had a few too many, so you can keep up with the music and beat. It’s also good to warm up with a few easy songs before trying to sing Bohemian Rhapsody to a crowd of weary onlookers. I always try to mix it up. So sing a slow love song after that one guy has sang an entire Limp Bizkit album, and people need a break or else a riot and possibly murder will ensue. Good choices are Big Green Tractor by Jason Aldean, Purple Rain by Prince, and Wonderful Tonight by Eric Clapton.

After these few tips, just go with the flow. Pick songs you like, try them out, and see if it works. And despite all your urges, let’s just keep the Powerman 5000 at the house, ok?

Beerology 101

As most of you know, I enjoy a good cold beer on occasion. Probably more occasions than I should, but that is a talk for another day. I am what you might call a self-proclaimed beer aficionado. A connoisseur of the suds, so to speak. I know that many of us beer drinkers stay loyal to a brand. I like to have a spirit of adventure when trying different beers. So this is my go-to for quaffing the delicious nectar of life that is beer. For you non-drinkers out there, I am truly sorry. There was an old quote from Sinatra that went something like “I feel sorry for people who don’t drink. When they get up in the morning, that’s the best they’re going to feel all day.”

The Workhorses

Workhorse beers are the ones you usually find at the cheaper end of the spectrum. We are talking your Coors, Miller, and Bud family of beers. In these you usually get more quantity than quality. You can usually get a case of these for the price of your craft twelve pack. Of course the trade off is that it takes more of it to affect me, so I have to drink more to get more buzz. Nevertheless, these are tasty alternatives when short on funds. Yuengling and Bud Light/Bud Light Platinum/Bud Ice also have a place here. These beers are great for an all-day BBQ or watching hours of football. It might just make baseball enjoyable.

The Varietals

Most of your other beer brands put out a mix pack of their varietal beers. Sam Adams and Blue Moon are probably the most famous, but others are getting into the mix. Seasonal brews flavored with everything from coffee to salted caramel to peaches are contained in these twelve packs, and their success is hit or miss. Some are tasty and delicious, while some taste like dirty dishwater from that infamous Mexican restaurant that is constantly getting a regraded sanitation grade. These are best consumed while watching tv or old movies at home. Occasionally we break these out when the fellas get the band back together, but it’s not the norm for sure.

The Pricey Choices

Some beer companies have come along with more costlier choices that provide a bigger bang for the buck. Stone IPA and Southern Tier are two that come to mind. Heavy Seas is another one, with their Sunken Sampler that will scare the hell out of twenty dollars. The trade is that both Stone and Heavy Seas have beers that do not drop below 7% alcohol and some in the near-10% range. More buzz for the buck. Southern Tier has a similar alcohol content, but upped the ante with a 15 pk. As with the Varietals, the taste is hit or miss depending on the flavor. Southern Tier is good for the most part. Heavy Seas all taste the same, and Stone is half and half.

True Craft Beer

There is a place for true craft beer. I am referring to the beer you have to travel to a bottle shop to purchase. These usually run a bit more expensive. I have heard from one friend that his craft beer buddy spent $100…on four beers. That is well outside of my price range, even if it’s the best beer on earth. Poured into golden chalices from the teats of an enchanted unicorn; still not my flavor, you know?

Other Beers

There are, of course, other beers out there. Highland Brewery, Oskar Blues, and Sierra Nevada to name a few. And then we move down the bench to your ciders and sweeter choices. Not Your Fathers brand has root beer, ginger ale, and other varieties which all taste like diabeetus in a bottle. Angry Orchard and Strongbow are both trying to sell adult apple juice. For my take, Orchard has a few that are not all sugar and are semi-quaffable. Henry’s Hard Soda and Smirnoff Ice have no place here. If you like wine coolers, please seek additional counseling from your local priest.

Now I know everyone’s palate is different when it comes to drinking. I know that most women prefer to drink the sweeter beers because of the taste. So they will undoubtedly have a place in their Parthenon of beers. And all that talk about light vs dark is nonsense. After a few of either, you’ll drink anything if you’re anything like me. Some say they want only light ales. Others say they want a dark rich Guinness. I say…cheers!