Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Fits and Starts


My name is Paul.

I started this blog 10 years ago, months before moving to Richmond. It was a pursuit in keeping myself writing through dark times and happy days, delving into my passions in parenting, design, food and drink, music, and more miscellany. It was also a form of therapy after I was shot and as I dealt with life as a full-time single dad. I've put it down a couple of times and returned a couple of times. I went from posting a few times a day to posting a few times a year.

Well, life has again taken some pretty big zig zags, and I am finding that this may be the place I need to return. I have found — the hard way — that keeping things inside is very bad for me. I become someone I don't like, and I run away from the world. I lose track of who I want to be and how I want to see myself.

I've lately thought a lot about Langston Hughes "A Dream Deferred." After all, you can only shut yourself down for so long before you wither, fester, sag, or explode... And none of these are good for the world, or yourself.

Without getting into the details, suffice it to say that my life exploded a couple months ago and turned inside out. I might as well have stuck a stick of dynamite in a house of cards. Anyway, the other day, I was telling a friend the stories, and she stopped me and asked what I was doing to get some relief and release for it all. I shrugged. See, the truth is I haven't been doing anything to get any relief or release for it all. I haven't been writing. I haven't been reading. I haven't been designing. I haven't been cooking much. I haven't been taking the pup for the kinds of walks that would provide either of us as much exercise as we need. I haven't been swimming. I haven't even really been enjoying life all that much.

And this needs to change. I guess part of writing this and nudging/coaxing/encouraging myself to get back on the blog is a way of opening the channels — and developing some accountability to myself. After all, how can I be accountable to other people if I can't even be honest and accountable with myself. It's also a way of stepping back into something I really enjoy doing. The initial decision to step away from the blog was because it bothered someone who was in my life. The second decision to step away from it was driven by someone who profoundly affected my life in negative ways, someone whose response to a simple post shut me down.

Well, you know what? This thing is and always has been about me and how I see and want to see the world. It has been about providing a channel of words about food, music, parenting, life, travel, politics, and whatever the hell else caught my attention. And I loved doing it — no matter how many people read it.

So, yeah... I might be back for a while this time.


Monday, July 22, 2013

What a ride...

The kid turned 11 today. She is psyched, as am I. That said, I'm also terrified. She is brilliant and wonderful and all I could have imagined her to be after the ups and downs of the past years. But the dark years of middle school approach.

I will do all I can to be the best dad and friend I can, even as I work to get a business off the ground. And that's the best I can really do, even after all these years.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Mr. Ritter, I presume...

Tonight, we saw Josh Ritter for the fourth time. It was every bit the show we'd hoped for — though the kid was disappointed that he didn't play "Time, Love." Small omissions aside, what always amazes me about Ritter's shows are the energy he displays. The moment he isn't smiling on stage is rare, and his band's vibe is just as infectious. More than that, I've never seen someone bound — yes, he bounded — out for an encore as quickly as he did. Hell, the roadie hadn't even finished prepping the guitars when he was back on stage.

Thank you, Josh Ritter, for another memorable evening with my daughter, sweetheart, and friends.

A very brief post...

Cheryl Wheeler just popped on my iTunes. Mind you, she is a wonderful songwriter; still, hearing a track from 1993 reminds me how old I am. More than that, I have reached an age where I can identify the quirks of performers from that age without even knowing the song... Good lord... I'm that ADULT.

Sunday, May 19, 2013

Customer Service at its best...

Competitors rescued each other this weekend. I bought a pair of Katahdin Engineer Boots from L. L. Bean over the winter, and they quickly became a prized part of my wardrobe. The fit was excellent, and the look was more of what I wanted.

Then the dog got hold of them.

And destroyed the insoles.

This weekend, on the advice of Bean's customer service, I took the boots to our local REI to find a new insole. Not only did we work through multiple insoles and sizes, the salesman took the time to really focus on what would feel best for me in the long run — for a product they hadn't even sold me — while several other people waited not-so-patiently.

For the same reason that Bean has made me a customer for life, REI now has my allegiance. When someone takes the time to make sure you get the best product you can, I appreciate it. He might have lost a $300 one-time sale for his attention to us, but  the company gained brand loyalty for life from a family who appreciates it.
Every day comes with wins and losses, right?

Today's loss was aioli. I'm not sure what is escaping me, because I am following Alice Waters to the letter. Still, the damn stuff isn't gelling. I ended up taking TJ's mayo and doctoring it up to go with the crab cakes. Somehow, my aioli never happened.

That said, we had the pleasure of pairing Barboursville's recently released Vermentino with the crab cakes. The minerality of the wine was perfect with the crab and light binding mixture. Since we did them on the grill, there was even a little bit of fire to add to the flavor. Could you ask for more on a last-minute dinner party?

Friday, May 17, 2013

Cicadapocalypse — The Reboot.

I'm back.

This isn't to say how long I'm back or what direction the blog will take, but I'm back. I have left the miasma of corporate life for a fluid juggling of entrepreneurial life, parenting and partnership, and occasional freelance work. It's fair to say that I am facing down a lot of demons and the deeper effects of PTSD. I am also working to reopen parts of myself that were shut down over the past few years.

For a while, I thought I'd start a new blog, one focused specifically on food and drink or one that delved back into parenting. Then, I realized I am at my best when I poke at all the things I love. And all the things that distract me. That's where this blog started in the first place in the spring/summer of 2004.

At the time, I was stopping off in Dayton, OH, after the melt-down of my marriage to The Kid's mom. The blog was a chance for me to keep writing and process life. At the same time, the Brood X 17-year cicadas were blanketing Ohio, Indiana, and beyond. 

Nine years later, Richmond is about to experience the same blanketing. At the same time, I am seeing constant reminders of and bookends to pieces of my life. Moreover, my business and personal lives have taken me back to connections from when I first landed in RVA that summer. There is my life with business partners and a wonderful-but-complicated relationship at home. Add to that the building of a business that is a long-time dream I remember discussing as far back as college, and it's a pretty profound time.

So, yeah. I'm back. I started this blog as a way to process what was going on in life and to keep my hand in writing. There's no reason not to sit down at the table again with this old friend and have a really good conversation.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012


I couldn't close without hitting post 900. Let's just let the world speak for itself...

Say good night, Gracie.

I started this blogging experiment in the spring of 2004 as an outlet for political writing urges. Over the years, it grew to encompass parenting, music, beer, food, graphic design and myriad other things. In recent months, I've neglected the blog sadly. It has come to be a nagging burden, something I want to get back to and can't find the time for, something that helped define a period of my life.

The thing is I am beginning to say good bye to that period of my life. As I look around me now, I see a whole new set of challenges — a child who is growing up, a business in the advanced planning stages, new relationships and efforts to rebuild burned bridges, a whole new set of life and financial goals, and a growing puppy.

Each one of these demands my feet being on the real ground more than the virtual ground. And truth be told, this blog slipped off track a couple years ago and never really found a new direction. Recognizing that and recognizing the new realities of my life going forward, it is time to say good bye.

I've had fun, and maybe I'll come back in a new form. You can still find me on Twitter and maybe elsewhere. In the meantime, so long and thanks for putting up with me for a few thousand words here and there.


P.S. — I've been thinking about this for weeks, but my friend Jason deserves a hat tip for taking a similar step first.

Monday, January 02, 2012

A year comes, a year goes.

Put simply, 2011 was a strange year. It was full of endings and beginnings, full of lessons, full of pain, full of happy memories. Of course, every year could fall under that description, but 2011 seemed full of much larger and more intense events.

Beginning the year, I was engaged. At the end of the year, I was in a new relationship and figuring out what to do with the house I had bought with my ex-fiancée. I spent the second half of the year dealing with PTSD and learning remarkable lessons about relationships and partnerships. My daughter turned into a tween, and I learned how to reconnect with her. Echoes of 20 years ago filled the year. I began the year employed at one company and ended it as a contractor at another. The year began with changes in brewing and business planning and ended with plenty of lessons learned and plenty more to learn.

On New Years Eve, a fellow single dad answered one of my comments about 2011 by saying "Instead of resolutions, I think I'm going to make a list of lessons learned in 2011." At risk of leaving some out, here is a short list of the lessons taken in this year:

  • Budget time and money. You will have more time and more money for what you want.
  • Don't try to cram extra things in to small amounts of time. You will accomplish more and feel less stressed out by what needs to be done.
  • Finish tasks. Finish it before you pick up anything else. You will save time and stress.
  • Be where you say you're going to be when you say you're going to be there. Friends, partners and lovers will trust you more.
  • Don't promise things you can't deliver. Again: trust.
  • Use the right tool for the task and pay attention to process — whether you're cooking, building, brewing or whatever. You will save time and effort and have a better product.
  • Cutting corners isn't worth it. Nothing finishes as well as it would if you did it the right way.
  • Bourbon barrels and imperial stout were made for each other.
  • Silicon cooking tools are worth having. As is the perfect cast iron pan. Take care of what you have, and it will always treat you well.
  • Beverages really do taste better out of the right glassware.
  • Think about where each dollar you spend is going. Who is it helping and what will you get in return for it?
  • Spend the extra few minutes with the people who are important to you. A little goes a long way.
  • If you get another chance, do it right. This rule applies to everything.
I'll add a piece or two to this as it seems appropriate. For the moment, though, it makes a pretty good foundation for 2012. Life really is simple if you let it be.