Archive for November 2010
The group of four slowly staggered into Butterbee’s Neighborhood Grille. On the near southside of Mount Orab, OH. A motley crew it would appear. Nothing special. Lucky, they felt, to be admitted to the inner sanctum where crazed country lads and ladies two-stepped to the rhythm of 31 – I’m pretty sure it was 31 – blaring HDTV screens during the NFL halftime, any NFL halftime. A site normally hidden from prying outside eyes – even Bob the persistent had never before been allowed past the front guardpost and his wife works at the library fer chrissake! Obviously a well-fortified sports bar protects its own from the invasive and hostile stares of outsiders., Bob [had all a-blur), and CB [applauding a tale Willie brought back from her recent sojourn to the Northeastern United States).Members of the Lunchbunch have been forced to learn to talk politely when our mouths (very often) filled with soup and bread and cheese. We all have become somewhat proficient with “sign” language and pidgin English, to wit, pointing, snapping fingers, banging fists on table, shaking and nodding heads, and frequent grunting which most of us can interpret some of the time, and, almost as often, accurately.”]
It’s not difficult to see, dear reader – is it? – that we were thrown completely off-stride, nonplussed, as it were, by this seeming paradox. Royalty could not have received a warmer reception. Molly B. came over, all smiles and graceful radiance. “How wonderful to see you!” she murmured. “We are most honored to welcome you today. May I give you all hugs? We do that for extraordinary visitors, you know.” She proudly, if meekly, handed each of us a menu – we had expected to be asked to share one, two at the most. She then reverentially stepped back from us, bowing, as:
The house lights lowered, the beer signs dimmed, all 31 TV screens went blank, and just as we reached for our weapons – those who had not forgotten them – prepared to defend our little group to the death from predators who would, we feared, deprive us of lunch – a spotlight, bright as Ole Sole who shone outside, shattered the darkness as it shot straight at and landed smackdown on
Heroine of the Lunchbunch
Conquerette of Vermont Scrabble (copyright til you die). Queen of the 5th Annual Green Mountain Scrabble (copyright til you die). Who plundered Essex, Vermont, to the tune of $450 and a bottle of… of … dare we say it aloud? … of genuine Vermont Maple Syrup and a hand-knitted beanie kinda thingee fer her head and stuff! And heaven forbid that all would be revealed to our astonishment and horror!
(There just might be cosmic justice: She went home to Vermont to find more frustration and delays of sorts; her home state compensated by honoring her Scrabble (copyright til ye die) prowess. For a minute, leastwise, looked like a decent tradeoff!)
“A hearty Butterbee’s midday welcome to Queen Willie and her honor guard,” roared the hearty voice behind the huge speakers. “Our most sincere applause and laudation Welcome and our thanks for gracing our humble establishment so soon after your success of two short days ago. And thank you for driving all the way from Englewood, Ohio, this morning to be with your friends and us on this special occasion.”
Lights up. TVs on. Beer signs brighten.
What a surprise! Obviously and deviously planned by our host for the day – Bob who was so excited by Willie’s success that he eagerly launched negotiations to accompany her on her next trip home to Vermont (the other two of us had “lunch” in Enosburg falls two years ago – Bob had missed that one because of illness [He was ‘sick’ of traveling]. You should have seen the excitement bouncing all over his countenance, etcetera.
CB and I sat, strangely quiet about our own weekend Scrabble (copyright til you die) undertakings in Flint MI where fur didn’t fly and birds didn’t sing out cheery congratulatory tunes, although John Denver could clearly be heard singing softly in the background “Some days are diamonds; some days are stone.”
After the tumult died down, Molly B. casually walked over and suggested we give her our orders before the noon rush of regulars and gawkers. What a natural.
And so it was, Bob had found a “new” spot in Brown County which had really good pumpkin pie (Bob votes “nay”). The rest of the food was common fare, except for Willie’s pecan touchdown salad, and not of great note nor to be long remembered. Still, we all liked it a lot.
A good 8 experience is my take based on comments from all of us.
Thence to Afterwords at the Mount Orab Branch of the Brown County Public Library, one of my favorites of all the libraries we’ve Scrabbled (copyright til you die) in over the years. Perhaps because I like being their book garbage guy, scarfing up all those fine volumes so vital to the world of high literature that they’ve been folded, spindled, AND mutilated.
Hey, Bob: GLEED! LEHR!
Unfortunately for her, Willie’s weekend streak of luck didn’t hold up til Tuesday: Bob was 3-0, I was 2-1, CB was 1-2 & Willie 0-3! Ain’t it how it allus happens? Like playing a bingo then drawing an Ole McDonald rack. Willie had to tear out to get to Trivia Night in Englewood on time. Bob found a couple of books about jazz, blues and such, which I glomped on.
Bob left for the giant Kroger for some glompagola, probably. And we shot out of the parking lot like a rocket, programmed for some undisclosed rendezvous in Western Hills.
After pooling our resources to hire one of Jungle Jim’s safari guides, the lunchbunch is. able to find “Rib City,” over there in the shadow of the monorail station, down below Starbucks and Cici’s, hidden in a wallow for protection against the wild animals and other ferocious denizens of the neighborhood.
Heather and Rhonda rush out to greet us, waving their hands in great sweeping motions over their heads, grinning wide and even holding the doors open for Junior, Jr to haul my big butt in to lunch.
By the time CB and I get there, Bob has scouted out the area, snagged a couple of menus from down the way and is able to give us a veritable travelogue of both what we’ve missed and what hazards and joys we can expect on today’s journey to never never lunch land.
Heather is the person we will bug for the next couple of hours with excessive questions, requests, orders, pleadings and, yes, finally, rousing applause. She looks like she was born into warm hospitality. She is all over the place like a whirlwind. Bob wants to know about the beef, Heather rushes out to the kitchen to fetch samples of the slow-cooked barbecue beef and the pork, too, and brings an armload of sauces for our taste delight.
Heather, we learn, used to be a dispatcher for a big trucking company. That, she says, is where she got her training as a people person, talking and grinning from sunup to sundown and, sometimes, later.
We like her. She earns a 9.85 all by herself!
And Rhonda who ably assists, assuring there’s always someone at our beck and call, and, believe me, the Lunchbunch is always beckoning and calling and asking so many questions the waitstaff and Sophia, the manager, need a tape recorder to keep up with us.
As usual, I’m starved on this diet-break day. Everything on the menu looked great. For appetizers there were three-cheese fries, fried okra (every bit as good as Goodie’s) and onion rings. I am delighted when Wee Willie declares the fries soggy and off limits; I mix up some hot bbq sauce and dunk almost all of them as I scarf them down almost all by myself. I don’t hear any complaints from anybody, so I assume they are happily gobbling up the rest while I’m making a “pig” of myself.
For our main meal a rack of pork ribs (Willie), two skycraper pulled pork sandwiches (CB and I), a barbecued beef plate (Bob). To say the least what happens is a disappearing act, either down the gullet or into the doggy boxes for future delight.
Willie and I choose the pie(s): key lime (yummy), pecan (yummier) and coconut cream to go (to my house for later). Taste is greaaattttt! Only complaint I have is it was hard to feed four of us on a piece of pie, but we try and succeed in dribbling a good taste onto our tongues.
Willie reports her Scrabble (copyright til you die) friend and gambling buddy Bridget Schultz is under the weather in the hospital and in line to be transferred to a nursing home. Seems like all too soon all of us are getting all too old, inexorably, no matter how slow it may seem at the time, eh?
Lunch was excellent. Bob rated the Lunch a 9.5. I thought all the food was good to excellent, but that the meat could have used a little more smoke flavor. CB thought her pulled pork sandwich was okay but, disappointingly, not special. Willie gave her rack of ribs a passing grade of yum.
After lunch, and a poignant au revoir to Heather, Sophia and Rhonda, Bob drives while Junior, Jr, and I roll over to Jungle Jim’s to pick up a few things (Yeah, have you ever tried to make a quick shopping visit to Jungle Jim’s?) and wind up escaping with fifty bucks worth of booty.
Jungle Jim’s, for the few of you who may not know, is one of the biggest supermarkets in the United States. A place to find what you can’t find anywhere else. Seaweed salad (yum). More than 2,000 kinds of hot sauce (ouch). Exotic fruit and vegetables whose names you would be hardpressed to pronounce without a language teacher. BUT – alas – NO CONCORD GRAPES.
Afterwords was deja vu: revisiting the Lane Library in Fairfield, the scene of many lazy afternoons when Bob and I used to drive up, walk in, grab the Wall Street Journal and Billboard and bury ourselves in an easy chair for a couple of hours of braining straining until we fell asleep with mouths wide open and tongues lolling most unmannerfully. Anyhow, Bob and I reacquaint ourselves with a couple of library folks we used to see every week until Bob moved so far away we couldn’t get there and back home in a day. We also learned Sam, our music knowledge source, had retired just ahead of some pretty drastic staff cutbacks but didn’t learn the fates of other friends we’d made during the years of our love affair with the Lane.
Once inside the library, Bob, the Scrabble (copyright til you die) maestro took over. He is the hardest working Scrabble (copyright til you die) player on this side of the pearly gates. Not only does he have his own rack to manage and fret about, he also worries and worries and worries about all the other racks that his eyes encounter. He’s such a good little helper! I sometimes wonder what we’d do without him there to help, might get awful lonesome stuck behind a board with no audible sounds of support: oh! the pain!
It must be said we NEED a private room: we’re the noisest bunch of library visitors I think I’ve ever seen. It’s just too damned hard to put a lid on it when “it” pops out unplanned and unprogrammed.
A good time was had by all AGAIN. Willie was heard playing her new CD by the Aquatones as she slowly drove away into the night with a promise to see us again in two or three weeks after yet another sojourn to Vermont where she is headed to light up the homefires again and play some serious Scrabble (copyright til you die) where it counts for something in addition to side-splitting yuks.
Wandering Willie wandered home again last Thursday just in time to direct the Lunchbunch to Las Americas on 5th Street in Dayton. “I’ve driven that Subaru three thousand miles,” she sighed. “I’ve been to three Scrabble tournaments and between times I’ve supervised work on my mom’s house in Vermont where we’re going to move just as soon as .. well .. just as soon as the planets fall into perfect syzygy.”
Meanwhile Willie tells us she’s converting her parents’ home(which she has inherited) into a temporary hunting blind so husband John and son Brad can go moose hunting in Vermont and bag their limits from upstairs windows; the house, she assured us, will look like a giant kudzu-covered termite mound, or at least close enough to fool a meandering moose or two, especially if they’re busy bellowing out very special love songs.
The restaurant is in Dayton’s historic Oregon district. Parking was easy once we solved the maze to the parking lot.
We knew we were in for a treat when we followed two plainclothes POHlice officers through the door (one of them actually held the door for Junior, Jr). We were right! The food was good, but the portions were far from over-sized; I don’t think any of us left as full as the proverbial tick.
The big trick of the day was, and I think we actually pulled it off, was persuading server Becky we weren’t a pack of wolves slavering for a taste of her tender young! Service was pretty perfunctory and chilly with nary a smile nor friendly gesture. Not much help with unfamiliar items on the menu and no appreciation for the fact she had a quartet of old-farting funloving foodies out for a mini holiday of laughter and gossip and general madcap mayhem. Looked for a long while like the lunchbunch was an intrusion in Becky’s otherwise letter perfect day! It was soon apparent that Becky’s “Rawhide” philosophy
Head ’em up, move ’em out, Move ’em on
of service and our Conway Twitty philosophy of service
You want somebody who will spend some time/Not come and go in a heated rush
clashed like the Titans on Mount Olympus when they fought over the turkey wishbone. Slapdash. Slambam. Even brought our dessert before we’d finished our meal. Trying to rush us through every bit as hard as we were pushing back to take back our lazy time.
I’m sure it was sheer coincidence that as the time approached to pay the bill, which often is accompanied by a “tip” (To Insure Prompt service?”
Bob didn’t like his Cuban sandwich. CB thought her bacon-wrapped chicken breast was way too small for an entree. Willie had no complaints against her tripleta sandwich. I had loved the couple of empanadas I had previously eaten, but, by comparison, on this day, mine (beef empanada) sucked foulsomely. The deep-fried plantains (tostones) were pretty tasteless (my order) compared to others I’d eaten with relish (delight, not chopped up pickles, tomatoes and onions).
The bean soup (caldo gallego) was excellent and one bowl served all 4 of us quite generously.
Three kinds of flan: coconut, vanilla and pumpkin. Coconut and vanilla were yummy. Pumpkin was pumpkin pie in disguise.
I took home tres leches cake (best dessert of the day, perhaps of the month, mebbe of the year) and some of the “other” kind of soup which was filled with rice and not very tasty meat but tasty otherwise.
Las Americas is a little storefront restaurant located only a few blocks from three other Dayton restaurants upon which we have left our marks (cats would call it marking their territory, I suppose): The Dublin Pub, Franco’s Ristorante Italian and Thai9.
To assume the day was dreary and that we all ate boogers and sulked for two hours while our waitress smirked and ignored our sorry asses would be a gross misimpression. As usual we piled our stout earthworks high and defended our position with intelligence, quick reflexes and resounding counterattacks. Which is to say we had a fine ole time and laughed and talked all over each other, and walked away with three-quarters of what we had to say still unsaid and probably most of what was said not heard by the others who were saying simultaneously.
Willie had gifts of Vermont made gourmet goat cheese chip dip for us all from Vermont (thank you very much, ma’am).
Bob brought cider all-around and fuji apples (for me) from the famous A & M Farms way out in Brown County.
I think the City of Dayton’s Chamber of Commerce should be deeply grateful to our lunchbunch for propping up its ailing economy with our monthly excursions deep into its impecunious bowels. I wonder if there’s a special coupon book for the likes of us “cafe preservationists?”
This has been a many-gapped year. Almost as many misses as hits. Bob’s shoulder surgery. CB’s and my blues jaunts and family reunion. And Willie’s acquisition of a second home (her ancestral one, of course) in Vermont and her discovery of Scrabble (copyright til you die) in New England.
I suppose we could meet halfway occasionally after Wee Willie has officially moved her residence to Enosburg Falls, Vermont. MapQuest tells me Buffalo, NY, is almost equidistant between Englewood OH and Enosburg Falls (402 miles to Buffalo; 803 miles to Enosburg Falls). That should shake the sleepy out of our eyes and give us a grand ole appetite by lunchtime!
Willie was obviously not untired from her 3,000 miles of driving: after nodding off for two games at the Stroop branch of the Dayton-Montgomery County Library, she took an early drive home from Afterwords, as did we all.
Bob won all 2. CB & fle each won 1. Willie lost 2.
Willie chose. CB paid. Willie tipped.
Next week: fle chooses (in a swap with Bob). Willie pays. Bob tips.
There’s a reason it’s taken me two weeks to organize our trip home from NOLA; writer’s block – I couldn’t figure out how to summarize it all, how to wrap it all in a neat little package and round it off with a pink (or should it have been “blue?”) ribbon.
‘Twas a Monday morning in New Orleans. Oh yes it was. (Doo wop! Doo wop!) The sun shone brightly as we fired up the GPS and found our way to Interstate 10, our exit route.
This, then, is the part where I confess a grievous senior moment/misstep/screwup as trip navigator. I missed Hattiesburg, Mississippi, one of the few places which can truthfully proclaim it was one of the delivery rooms where blues gave birth to rock and roll!
It was in Hattiesburg, Mississippi, in 1929 that Blind Roosevelt Graves and his brother Uaroy (sic) Graves recorded “Crazy About My Baby,” described by Wikipedia as “a rhythmic country blues with small group accompaniment.” Seven years later (1936), the Graves Brothers joined blues piano virtuoso Cooney Vaughn as The Mississippi Jook Band to record “Barbecue Bust” and “Dangerous Woman,” also considered to be among the earliest rock and roll songs. (I think most, if not all, of these songs are available at Amazon.com.)
(from Wikipedia) “In July 1936 they (the Graves brothers) were located by talent broker H. C. Speir, who arranged for them to record in Hattiesburg, Mississippi, according to some sources at the train station although Speir later told Wardlow that the recordings took place in a temporary studio in the Hotel Hattiesburg at Mobile Street and Pine Street. For the session they were joined by local piano player Cooney Vaughn, who performed weekly on radio station WCOC in Meridian prior to World War II. The trio were billed on record as the Mississippi Jook Band. In all, they recorded four tracks at Hattiesburg for the American Record Company – “Barbecue Bust”, “Hittin’ The Bottle Stomp”, “Dangerous Woman” and “Skippy Whippy”. According to the Rolling Stone Illustrated History of Rock and Roll, these ‘…featured fully formed rock & roll guitar riffs and a stomping rock & roll beat’.”
Don, that there are two, count em, two Mississippi Blues Trail markers in Hattiesburg. One commemmorates the Mississippi Jook Band; the second the Hi-Hat Club which was a major stop on the “Chitlin’ Circuit.”
The Hi-Hat is described by Mississippi tourism folks:
The Hi-Hat Club, which was built at this site in the 1950s, was once an important stop on the “chitlin circuit” for African American blues and soul performers. B. B. King, James Brown, Otis Redding, Ike & Tina Turner, and many others played to packed houses here. Owner Milton Barnes (1915-2005), one of Mississippi’s most successful African American entrepreneurs, also owned Barnes Cleaners, the Hattiesburg Black Sox baseball team, and several other night spots in addition to his own contracting business.
The Hi-Hat Club flourished during the heyday of the “chitlin circuit,” when most of the touring venues for the nation’s top blues, R & B, and soul performers were large African American nightclubs and dance halls. The Hi-Hat, one of the largest clubs in Mississippi, often drew crowds of eight to nine hundred, sometimes in excess of a thousand. As economics and audiences changed, the role of clubs like the Hi-Hat declined as the bigger shows gravitated to auditoriums and arenas, and by 1994 the Hi-Hat had closed its doors.
Meridian’s tourist industry has put on the dog for Jimmie Rodgers nostalgia seekers. The marker (above) commemorating Meridian as his birthplace, also includes a museum (closed on Mondays, which it was when we were there) and a big train engine. The second marker commemorates Jimmies contributions to the blues; it is located in “The Singing Brakeman Park” which also features a real train. Who could resist the attraction to hoboes and trainmen and blues yodeling, not to mention a life cut short by the dreaded tuberculosis! I’m surprised we could find our way through the teeming crowds of tourists on that October day (we saw no other touristy looking folk at either site).
Another night; another Motel 6 in Decatur Alabama, then home to Cincinnati then home to Lathrup Village MI!