Wednesday, December 31, 2008

The End of 2008

Goodbye 2008, I had some fun early, but later on in the year you really kicked my ass, but good. It wasn't very nice of you to do that, but I guess now I understand what you meant when you said " It's not you, it's me". Wait a second, get back here, you got some explaining to do.

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Merry Christmas Baby

I wish all of you fine folks a most joyous holiday. I hope you got everything you asked for, and that you gave your loved ones everything they asked for. As a wise old sage said "What's so funny about peace, love and happiness?" May your day hold all three!

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Yes Limerick, There Really Is A Santa Claus

Well now boys and girls, I guess Santa got your wish list and now he is going to cross one out. Monday morning at 11 am, the doors will swing open to a (hopefully) adoring public. Like almost every new business, it had it's share of delays. But overall, one month behind isn't too shabby nowadays. So, what will you expect when you finally get inside and park your butt down on a bar stool? The food is going to be mostly from scratch and a hell of a lot of it organic. You burger fans will be treated to fresh ground meat right from the kitchen. But how about the beer? (As visions of sugarplums danced in their heads) Think of something along the lines of the Standard Tap with some extra goodies on the side. Lord Chesterfield to Fantome Noel. Does that give you an idea? So still try to be patient, they are a few more bugs to finish working out. Not all the fancy glassware is there yet, nor all the those big expensive take out bottles. This ain't no big corporate bar with tons of secret money behind it. It's your new local bar. Enjoy!

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Maybe Beer Santa Will Bring You Something For Xmas

I just thought I would give a little update to what's been going on at the Craft Ale House. At this lovely snowy hour, the floor in the dining room is all but done. The bathrooms are done. The painting is 90% done. The bar is getting its finish coats and the tap system is 75% done. The gas fireplace is just about ready to burn and later on this week some tables and chairs will be making an appearance. The chef is getting anxious to start making some bread from scratch and Mr. Gary and his lovely wife Mellisa are triple anxious to start making money instead of pouring it out. Oh yeah, speaking of pouring, 16 taps of lovely nectar to flow out of those taps including such grand opening stalwarts as...... I can't tell you that just yet. I have to check my list to see if you have been good this year.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Now Ain't That Crafty

We interrupt this episode of General Hospital, to bring you some good news for a change. The Craft Ale House is getting ever so close to opening the doors to a thirsty public. These fine shots were taken on November 29 and show that the new bar is going to need some seasoning from spilled beer and water and people who can't put food in their mouths without dropping it on something first. Looks like a job for some of my friends. Of course the main question is, when does it open? It is a question Gary asks himself every day as he starts to wonder why he ever got in to this. Don't worry my friend, when everything is done, and the folks are sitting there having a beer and smiling and laughing, you'll know you did the right thing.

Monday, November 24, 2008

One Small Step For Dan, A Giant Leap For Dankind

Thursday November 20, roughly 5:30pm. On the 26th day without drinking, I reached into my fridge and pulled out a beer. It was nothing great, just a Lager, lite actually. There was no way I was going to attempt anything out of my own beer cellar. I might not be here typing this if I did. I was going to TND and I was not going in cold in case something crazy happened. If you wish to remember your teenage years, just do what I did and not drink for a month. The first swallow I took I swear I could hear the alcohol molecules saying "Look it's virgin territory!" They weren't far from the truth. Even though I raped and pillaged that territory for 30 plus years, apparently a lot of scrub brush has grown back. After half a glass I was done. I already had a small buzz and besides, how much corn can a man drink? So we got into the car and started our trek down. Of course it would turn out to be more like a marathon. As soon as we hit Oaks, things came to a standstill. Traffic was just starting to move in the westbound lanes after an accident. So what was the hubbub on this side? Well, something happened on the so called expressway and that backed up traffic on every single road in the area. If we don't have more than 2 days to evacuate this area in case of an emergency, we are all doomed. After well over an hour, we finally found a parking spot in town and walked up in the snow to TND. All the usual celebrities were there for this fine event and it was damn good to see them. Andy and gang at TND always puts together some real nice menu choices to go with a beer event. It just wasn't going to happen with me unfortunately. I attempted a glass of Fox Oatmeal Stout from the hand pump and drank maybe half of it. When the heat from the kitchen started putting a whammy on me, Uncle Jack was quite correct in saying that I was starting to feel a little uncomfortable. A tad over a hour later it was time to go home in a blinding snow shower. I guess this isn't going to be easy?

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Doctor, Doctor Give Me The News

I got a bad case of ?????? Well, according to my latest round of blood work, the answer would be nothing. Zip, zero, nada and zilch. Somewhat shocked, I asked if anything was normal high or low. I was right the down the middle and even my cholesterol was right smart. My weight is down around 20 pounds but I have developed a case of white coat fever as my pulse and BP shoots up whenever I show up at various offices. Next up is a visit to my friendly cardiologist to dot the i's and cross the t's. Or as the Doctor says, maybe it will give me some real peace of mind. Not knowing what kicked this off has officially driven me crazy. Lucky for all you fine folks out there that I scratched a couple of blog posts that may have you calling the guys in the white coats once you read them to take me away. To say I was out of it for a couple of weeks would be a understatement. It literally sucked the life force right out of me. I had little desire to watch TV, listen to the radio or even read stuff on the Internet. Food in the morning was an option, an option which I didn't want. Lunch was a little better and by dinner I was starting to feel more like myself each night. Now I am a lot closer to that crazy guy that you all love to bust. My morning coffee has been replaced with decaf and my longest streak of going without any alcohol has reached a mind numbing 25 days. It is time I tried to right this ship. Hopefully Thursday I will attempt a trip to the lovely TND for some TNSC action. It will be short I am quite sure of that, but it must be done. A nation depends on it.

Monday, November 3, 2008

There's Something Not Right With Me

"How was I supposed to know?" Well, I sure found out the hard way during my trip to to Rehoboth Beach the other weekend. The extra long weekend started Thursday night with some Phillies action at Mr. Steve's fine place with the usual cast of the T.N.S.C. and then jumped to some Hellen Keller Pils (A beer so good even she can see that!) at the Fox on Friday night, where I picked up 3 cases of cans for the hard working folks at Fins Fish House. Saturday morning brought Parkerford Brewing, Pookie De Hand and Steve and his lovely extortioner wife Joy to The Station Bistro for a very fine breakfast. With everybody full, we were off to the land of Dogfish and my other good friends at Fins. The ride down was a breeze and it was partly cloudy and surprisingly warm once we got there. We took a nice stroll down to the ocean to check out the wave action and we then began our quest for what bar to hit first. The Iguana Grill won as a quick moving shower forced us to the bar. Okay, forced may not be entirely true, but for us, it hits pretty close to the truth. After the rain let up and our glasses dry, we took a walk to our next stop, Fins. This has become my second home down here next to Dogfish. Great people and food and damn good beer. Me and Mr. Chris (one of the owners) took a walk across the street to get the cases and he filled me in on some of the fun stuff coming up. One of the most surprising things was the Lager tap will soon be replaced by Troegs and in the near future even the BMC taps will be gone and replaced with more craft beer. The website will also get a new look. Damn, I need to move back here I said to myself. This sure isn't the Rehoboth of my younger days. (T-Rex, Fred Flintstone) The boys and girls were bellied up at the bar and eating and drinking away. After a couple of hours, we drugged ourselves away to go to the evil empire for dinner. With impeccable timing a couple of seats opened up at the bar front and center. First on the thirst parade was the much talked about Piston Honda. Made with fresh Japanese hops and coming in at 4.5% and 25 IBU'S, it was as good as a beer I had this year. Is Sam going session on us? Well the Palo quickly answered that. At 11% it will put an hurting for certain on ya. I had a few Honda's and oldie but the original goody Shelter Pale Ale. We hung out and watched the rest of the Penn State game and then I went up to the room to watch the rest of the World Series. My eyelids told me different however and I went to sleep after Joe Blanton smacked a home run. The best part of this trip is just about over.

Sunday morning started off just fine as we went and had a late breakfast and I ended up going back to the room to take care of some "business". Afterwards I sat on the bed and had some juice and water when a strange feeling started coming over me. My whole body was tingling from my toes to my ears and my heart sounded like me and Scarface just did a kilo of blow. I figured I was just low on fluids, but it wasn't helping and neither was my slow breathing attempts. After about 20 minutes of this craziness, I called 911 and the real fun began. The Emt's came and said my BP was 200 over 100 and my pulse was around 120. I may not be a doctor, but even I know that ain't good. Since neither one seem to be coming down, we all decided to make that trip to the ER. Folks, there is nothing better than spending your Sunday afternoon in the ER. It was the quickest 5 plus hours I ever spent, I kid you not. I got x-rays, urine samples and they sucked more blood out of me than on the show True Blood. I was hooked up to an EKG and God knows what else. They put some beta blockers in me to help calm my heart rate down and by 6pm my BP was a more stable 136 over 95 and my heart rate was down to under 90. Their findings, I was healthy as could be except for this episode which they classified as tachycardia. What caused this outbreak? Alcohol and caffeine. What caused the tachycardia? We will find out soon enough.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Not So Happy Jack (UPDATED)

So the local beer world has been pondering this question, where the hell has Jack been? Waiting patiently Saturday at UJ's for him to show up (though some people were using my cell phone to text him!) we all started wondering what was up, once we (somewhat) sobered up. Well, the question got answered when his partner Rob Davis (from his other blog, Mermaids) posted that Jack's appendix burst over the weekend and that my friends will cut back on your drinking in a big way. He is fine now (for Jack) so lets all wish him a speedy recovery. Get moving and grooving, Helen Keller is calling your name. Talked to Mr. Curtin last night while the doctors were probing him, sounded pretty good for a guy who hasn't eat or had anything to drink in six days. Hopes to be home this weekend. Thanks to Mr. Parkerford and The Other One for extra details.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Stuck Inside Union Jacks With The Lost Abbey Blues Again

A man needs to know his limitations. A man should know his limitations. I know when my libations ran out by 7:30 pm, my limitations waited for me at home where it quickly bopped me upside my head. Such is life when you spend 6 hours drinking some of the left coast's better breweries Port and The Lost Abbey last Saturday night at Union Jacks.

A right smart turnout on a beautiful fall day, I met up with some of the regions best drinkers for this battle. Trust me, we all lost.
The main reason TND didn't have a web site for so long.

All in all I give it two thumbs way up!

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

You Gotta Stay Positive

Now that I got another bad memory from life stored away in the deep dark recesses of what is left of my mind, let us concentrate on the happier things in life. Or as Monty Python would say, "Always Look On The Bright Side Of Life". This Saturday at Three'O Clock, Union Jacks on the mighty Manatawny (creek) presents the Port Brewing and Lost Abbey draught event. To say these beers are rare on tap around here would be an understatement, so this should be a right smart time. I just hope I don't trip over David and Sarah's sleeping bag like the last time.

Monday, September 29, 2008

One Moment In Hell And A Lifetime Of Guilt

This post was going to be all about what a great Saturday I had. My trip to the Victory Fall Fest and another fine time at TJ's with a crazy bunch of folks watching the Phils win and drinking some rare beers. Instead it's about man's worst enemy, his guilt and how to deal with it. The night ended just like any other night. I dropped Mr. Steve off at his house and decided to go straight home. I usually go the back way from his house to avoid the traffic on Ridge Pike. And from now on when I hear the phrase "it happened so fast I didn't know what was going on." I won't be saying "yeah right." Out of the corner of my eye I saw something shoot across the road right in front of me and then hit my truck. I barely had time to stop when I saw something move just as fast to the other side of the road and into the night. As someone who has driven a lot of miles in the woods of this area, having something hit my automobile is nothing new. Not by a long shot. Rabbits, possums, raccoons, squirrels, birds and even our old friend Bambi has made contact with me over the years. So I did what I usually do. I started going home. But I started having a small pang of guilt. What if it was something else? What if Steve's dog got lose or something? So I called Steve, figuring he be there laughing at me for my stupid question. When he didn't answer, my stomach was starting to feel like a load of cement was just dropped into it. When I got home I called him back and asked how Jake was. He said he was dead. I said don't kid around, I am serious. He said he wouldn't kid about something like that. I then told him what happen and I said it had to be me. He blamed him self for the accident. Yes, I know the first part of this tragedy wasn't anybodies fault. I just can't see the second part that way. I ran over my friends dog and didn't even take 30 seconds to get my fat ass out of the truck to see what happened. 30 damn seconds just to get out and look around to see what I hit. I left his dog there to die and for him to deal with it. Friends don't do that. They just don't. Everybody has forgiven me, but I can't forgive myself for that part. I never will. I am not looking for a giant pity party or a bunch of e-mails and phone calls of support. Just let me crawl back under my rock for few days and I'll be fine. Guilt is one tough muther. It's a hard one to beat.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

There's A Russian River Of Love That Flows For A Short Time

In the movie "Independence Day", the president played by Bill Pullman has his mind taken over by the aliens during a trip to Area 51. They tell him that they fly from planet to planet sucking up all the nature resources until they are all gone. Which in turn reminds me of all the fervor that has been going on in the area in the last several weeks over Russian River Beer. From bar to bar, these beer drinking folks have been sucking the kegs dry and then they go looking for the next victim. Today they will descend on TJ's as they tap a keg of the Blind Pig. Oktoberfest be damn, there is hops to be drunk and stories to be told. How many of them will be even remotely true I don't know. But I do know this, be wary Scotty and Jeff, the mind games these beer drinking aliens play will soon be starting.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

It's About F$#&ing Time,The No Ashtray Tour!

It's hard to believe how fast time can fly. Why it was just about two years ago when I wrote these famous words. Most people laughed and said I wouldn't last 1 month let alone 2 years. They were wrong. I did break down later on and cut some slack to some places and sat outside on the patio or sat in the dining room as long as I could walk into a smoke free environment and go to the bathroom the same way. But walk into a smokey bar for a beer or two? FORGET IT! I didn't give a rats fat ass what those places were pouring. Now on September 11th, the rest of the state can join me in celebrating the end of smoking in bars and restaurants. Okay, most bars and restaurants. The state got cold feet or got bought off to make it 100%, you figure it out. But it's a good start. Before all the crazy folks start writing in about every body's rights, let me quote the late great George Carlin from his very last special. "There is no such things as rights, we made them up. Privileges maybe, but no rights. But if you believe that there are rights, and you have the right to say anything you want, then I have the right to disagree and shoot you in the head." Maybe not word for word, but pretty damn close. So the question is now where to go? There are two places I have never been, Capones and TJ's Everyday. But the list of places I haven't been in a long time are tempting too. Let's see, General Lafayette, Rock Bottom, Spinnerstown Hotel and the Flying Pig just to name a few. It looks like it will be a busy fall. Join me won't you?

Monday, August 18, 2008

The Beer Event Hall Of Fame

When someone tells you that they have two tickets to this beer paradise of an event, you do whatever it takes to go. Trust me on that. So since the camping equipment was not around any more (not that I had any choice) I searched the world over for a place to stay nearby the festival. When I stumbled across this little gem, I knew I was as good as gold. Our little place was just up the road a few miles from the center of town and not much further from the center of our attention, Belgium Comes To Cooperstown. The funny part of that statement is, we were the only ones who knew that. Most people think that the Baseball Hall Of Fame is the main attraction, but in reality, it's a baseball summer camp. A total of 1152 teams and their families make the trek up here every year, which is why it is so tough to get a place to stay. The locals know very little about our beer fest.
After we got things situated and I had a beer on the deck to enjoy the views, we drove back into town to grab something to eat and drink. We met up with some of our cohorts in crime, Mr. Sodaman, Mr. Steve and Ms. Joy at one of the better beer places in town, but we also had more flies than beer and crappy service to boot. Instead of swatting at flies and possibly drinking out of plastic cups, we decided to go elsewhere for a bite. With the help of the locals, we took a walk down the street to Alex and Ika's. It is probably one of the more upscale places in town. A very nice beer selection by the bottle which our fine server helped us out with. Three bottles of
organic saison and some local cheeses, a great salad and some soup and we were all ready for the big day. After such a beautiful Friday, Saturday morning brought some rain down, but I knew it would clear up in time for us to do a little R and D. Myself and Pookie De Hand had a mighty fine breakfast by our host out on the deck after the rain subsided, and then we started our trek to Ommegang. The words "out in the middle of nowhere" really ring true for this brewery, but it is a beautiful thing to see. After parking the car in the farmers fields next door to the place, we literally ran into our friend Paul who just drove up that morning and pulled up besides us. So we all strolled in together and grabbed our glasses and took a tour of the grounds. At every single campsite we walked by, there was enough beer and food around to last even the city of Philadelphia a week. The beer alone that we drank was better then some at the fest.

It was getting too late to take a brewery tour as the festival was just about ready to commence. Now I have been going to beer festivals for (gulp!) 20 years or so, and I have to say, I have never seen such a laid back crowd. There was only one line all day and that was at Russian River early on. People would get a beer and walk back to their tents or just hang out on the grounds. No worry about last calls for food or beer here! There was absolutely no way I was ever going to take notes in all this craziness, but on occasion I do recall a few things. Boulevard Brewing's Saison Brett 07, Captain Lawrence St. Vincent's Dubbel, Iron Hill's Heywood and Fred. Russian River and Southampton, well everything. Troegs Scratch Number 8 and Unibroue 14. Allagash Interlude ON CASK! Are you fucking kidding me? Hell, even with the list next to me it is hard to remember everything I drank or ate. Oh yeah, waffles to die for. All in all, this is one of the best beer festivals to go to, period. And now for your entertainment, some lovely pictures from the scene of the crime. A shout out of thanks goes to Mr. Sodaman for a few of these pictures.

Monday, August 11, 2008

The Good, The Bad And The Fucking Ugly

This past weekend was a mixed one to say the least. The study in contrast started when Teresa's Next Door and Teresa's Cafe had this lovely event to help raise some much needed money for the cause. I thought it would be a few raffle tickets and a couple of happy winners. I was way wrong. The owners turned the cafe into a sea of people bidding on some rare beers and getting those raffle tickets winners some great baskets of beer and gift certificates donated from such places as the Drafting Room and of course the Beeryard. The fine folks of the Next Door threw out frites, cheeses, sandwiches and beer. Rare beers to bid on you say? How about several bottles of Black Albert? A 2000 (750ml) bottle of Still Nacht? One bottle of 20th Anniversary Toronado. A real nice selection of wines and port. With some fine folks forking out some money like Dr.Joel, Peter Cherpack, Tracy from Victory and the host Matt Guyer, it turned out to be one hell of a day. It got even better when we all found out that they raised more than 3 times what they thought they would. That was the good, unfortunately what I read earlier that morning was as ugly as it gets. The absolute senseless of it is just mind boggling. One of the great things about the whole craft beer business has been one of comradely, not fights or riots. That stuff only happens with the low brow beer doesn't it?. The "I drank a case of (fill in the blank) before noon". The bad part of this post is simple. How much time in jail does a rich spoiled kid get? I'm guessing not much.

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Brunch With Bryson

Since NOBODY wrote about this event, I'll shall break down and help Mr. B and Mark out. On July 27 the kickoff for theses fine gents new book, New Jersey Breweries took place at every body's favorite place in the great northeast, the Grey Lodge. So myself and the treacherous three hopped in the car and strolled on down for some breakfast. We were greeted by these two guys who for some reason were standing like that all day, kinda practicing for a Borders display I guess. We went upstairs where Scoates greeted us with open arms. We had a fine meal and of course had some right smart beer to go with it. River Horse Double White was a fine choice to start the day but of course we didn't stop there. We had the rest of the NJ lineup, Ramstein Munich Lager, Climax IPA, Flying Fish Bourbon Dubbel and of course Farmhouse Ale. After all that fun, we decided to go downstairs and spend some hard earned money on that book those two were hawking. While we were down there spending money on books, why not spend some more money on beers? With every body's arm twisted we went through a couple more before we decided to hit the Memphis Taproom. But alas, mother nature was beginning to interfere as was Pookie De Hand, so we took the big gamble and went instead to Teresa's Next Door. The rain clouds open up like a muther as soon as we got into the car. But being the brave souls that we were, the rain would surely be over by the time we got in Wayne. The gamble paid off as the rain was done and the bar was a little slow. A cheese tray and frites would put us back on the right track and a good beer or two could always help too. All in all, a great day and a great way to start the final countdown to B.C.T.C.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

A Note From The Editor

Dear kind boys and girls. It has come to my attention and yours too, that things are moving at a dead snails pace. My long and tiring fight with blogger or my browser or whatever is the main problem of putting pictures where I want them to go, has made me cry out no mas! It wins, whatever it is. So I will boil it down into smaller bites and hope I don't go screaming into the night. And I thank you for your support.

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Saturday In The Mart

The eyelid inspection was working just fine until I heard the cackling of these blokes coming up the street. It was around 1:30 AM or so when I heard a loud thud. I figured someone fell up the narrow and winding stairs. When morning broke and I stuck my head out the window to greet the day, I saw my fellow traveler Tom "Parkerford" who informed me of what happened. (WARNING! The following is true and in every way should be a warning for innocent children and adults!) "I got up the stairs alright and went to sit on the edge of the bed to take my shoes off. As I got my foot up to take off my shoe, I fell off the bed and got stuck in between the other bed. It was a horrific experience". (Please folks don't let drunks drive or take off their shoes without a designated something or another.)

Other wise it was a beautiful day to go exploring Brugge. The "local" circus was in town and the food portion of the mart was spread out all over town. Did I say FOOD? This was one hell of a display from local cheeses to olives to fresh fruit and vegetables to eggs and baby chick to ducks. Flower stands, one after another, ribs and chickens and potatoes fresh cooked, seafood stands and much more. With all the apartments equipped with a kitchen, we were in foodie heaven.

I was glad to see the town council got our message and put up a "No waving of the no fun hand" It really did work and I have already started a petition to have the signs installed here also.

It is just so hard to say what a beautiful day and town this is. We walked some more, took a crazy amount of pictures and went and had some "linner".

Night has fallen over the old city and some of us were getting ready for our first beer trip with Global by practicing in various places.

A certain girl was doing things her own way. Not that there is anything wrong with that.

Coming up next--meet the Belgium folks on this trip and we are off to Westy ville!

Monday, June 16, 2008

This Day Is Making "24" Seem Long

With over 2000 pictures that I have been trying to tag for future posts and of course the many "refreshing beverage" events that I have been going to, this day one is taking longer than a season of 24. And let's not forget the best part of all, my computer, which will send me a lovely note every now and again." We're sorry, but Windows has encountered a serious error and needs to shut down. The message reads, 2 bits, 4 bits, 6 bits a dollar, maybe you should get a new computer before you fucking holler".

Friday, June 6, 2008

Start Drinking Like It's 1999

We have been in Belgium for several hours now with little or no food. So our first order of business should be just what the blog poll said I should do. Start drinking. Who am I to disappoint my loyal fans? With that, we went downstairs to meet up with some other wonderful friends who came to town a few days before us to take in the sight of The Procession Of The Holy Blood. It is quite a huge event in Brugge, but I was a little surprised when I saw this picture of what looks like Jack Curtin in his Sunday best.

One of the great things about the DDK is that they have an honor bar. All kinds of lovely goodies and of course the right glass to put it in. It was getting a quick workout with us, especially with Maredsous 6. What a way to start the day! But our belly's be rumbling, so it was a real long 5 minute walk to Bier brasserie Cambrinus. This is one of the newer places in town and the reviews have been mixed. Our server that night had only been on the job for two days. (Don't worry, we broke him in.) But before we got to finally eating some dinner, we took a moment to give thanks to the Beer Gods. The recently defrocked Father Tom gave the blessing of the beer. After all, this was our Holy Blood. None of us that night had any problems with the beer, mostly because they have 4oo kinds of beer in their Bible. We were all slowly becoming converts to this Belgium religion.
Just notice the love and the care of our beloved Belgium beer in Father Tom's hand.

Food was great and the beer, well when you can't even wait till Sunday to get a Westy 12, you pay a couple extra Euro and let one slide on down. It would be the first of many on this trip. By this time however I was falling asleep with my eyes open. Two days of little sleep and more than several beers will do that every now and then. Most of the troops soldiered on to bigger and better places. I went back to the DDK and had a beer at the picnic table with a couple of fine folks. That would be a scene that would be repeated on a nightly basis. But what happened later that night, after the first day of partying was done, would get every body's attention in the morning.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

And Lead Me Into Temptation

My job, if I decide to accept it, is to get this very tired and caffeine deprived group of people from the airport to the train station in Brussels and then on to Bruges. We grabbed our luggage and hit the almighty ATM machine for some much needed Euros.Then off to the ticket counters to get rail passes and some much needed train info. Except there is no train info, no schedules or maps. It's online, if you know how to look it up,but it sure isn't convenient to print it out. Our fine agent tells us where to go and we are off. There is nothing like dragging your luggage up stairs to try and catch a train. As we watched everybody pile into one train car, we said screw this and got into the first one. It sure looks like a good decision for several minutes until a conductor comes by and tells us we are in first class. He cuts us a much needed break and lets us stay until our next stop. With more fun luggage handling, we finally board our train to Bruges. Good god, I never knew how lovely the inside of my eyelids were. One hour later we are in Bruges and there are two large taxis to take us to De Drie Koningen. Our lovely hosts Ann and Nico, greets us with open arms (Which they may regret latter on) We get a tour of the rooms and everybody has quickly fallen in love with this place. The first and last shower this country will see for the next 13 days falls as we get our self situated. Boys and girls, It is drinking time!

Saturday, May 24, 2008

The Bengel Has Landed

So how do you fit a 6'6 person in a 5'6 chair? You don't! Armed with two polyester pillows that even my cat would find small, I attempted the impossible. I was going to try to sleep before take off. As we took off into the night sky, it felt like taking the red line (subway) out of Boston to go to Harvard. Once up in the air, any chance of sleep was going to be a very short one, as I found out that flying is just like taking the bus with a group of rowdy teenagers. Except for once, that wasn't us. It was a two prong attack as our lovely flight attendant's were up and down the aisle every minute. Half of the time running their carts into my knees.The other half asking if I wanted something. Another part of the problem was when somebody got the great idea of blasting the TV sound throughout the cabin at 80 plus decibels. You're not sleeping yet. Why the bags under your eyes only look like half full malt bags. Then there is the guy in front of me. Every 15 minutes he gets up to go to the bathroom. There is one small problem, he forgets to take out the dead animal in the bathroom that has CRAWLED UP HIS COLON AND DIED! Six plus hours of this and I am ready to bust open a window. The actual flight itself was fine. The turbulence we ran into was better then it is on the R5. Total sleep time on the flight, an hour, tops. It is going to be a long day, but a very happy one. We are in Belgium.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Say Hello To My Little Friend

So, how does a guy who is getting ready to get his AARP card in a couple of weeks, has never flown before? Was the fear of flying? Was it all those horrific crashes we have seen ad nausem on TV over the years? Maybe it was 9/11. Is it the fear of heights? Claustrophobia? All of the above? Some of all the above? I wasn't sure either, but the day has come when I have to keep my promise of going to Belgium for my (gulp) 50th birthday. It started innocently enough one night over a year and a half ago on the deck at the Northside. As usual, drinking large amounts of beer with friends will lead to some kind of asinine discussion. It eventually turned to me getting on a plane. Then I said the magic words, "I will get on a plane to go to Belgium for my 50th." What the hell was I thinking? There is no way on earth they are going to forget I said this. I'd better come up with some type of plan. Well like all things, I put that part of the plan on hold. Hell, there is plenty of time I thought. Instead, I focused on finding a place to stay for 28 people. I think I'd looked at every hotel, bed and breakfast, rental property and farmhouses for rent in the whole country. We all decided to stay in Bruges and the place we ended up picking, turned out to be one hell of a great decision. But that is little help to me now. I am sitting in Philadelphia International Airport waiting for our 8:40pm plane to board. Anxiousness is to the left of me, nervousness to the right. Here I am, stuck in the aiport with you. I don't know what to do with myself. I have read the airliner magazine about what noises I will hear on the plane, so I am good with that. I've read enough about flying being the safest form of travel in the world. It ain't helping me all that much at the moment. So I reach into my bag and take one of these. I wasn't real big on taking a bunch of drugs, those days are long behind me. But I needed something to take the edge off, and this looked like a sure thing. In just under an hour, I was yawning trying to stay awake. All the feelings I had of clenched teeth and hands were long gone. It was go time and nobody had to drag me on the plane. I am going to Belgium.