Wednesday, September 16, 2020

The Great Pizza Adventure #1 - Pizza King

Yeah, it's about that time again... time that I find another series with which to occupy my time and give me a reason to write, no matter how triffling.  And so, being sent permanently home to work (they closed my physical office) I decided to see if I could find the best pizza in my zip code.  It turns out there were only a couple in my zip code so I expanded it to the immediate area, just because I'm nice that way.

As with the Great Gravy Adventure (post-named) I need to come up with some criteria, which shall become apparent as I ramble on.  Plus I'm sure it will change as I think of more things.  In fact, I've already had regrets on my first pie.  Well, the very first regret was the pizza place itself.  Pizza King.  Next to Little Caesars, this is the place I most dread.  I've only been to Pizza King a few times in my life and I've been disappointed every time.  But for you, dear reader, I shall soldier on.

Why start low?  Now there's (almost) no place to go but up! Plus I had a coupon!  Yes, part of my criteria is to get the cheapest pizza they have on special and see how they all stack up.  Pizza King had an 8" PIZZA FEAST for $7.09 (plus tax, of course).  If possible my intent is to get a small size pizza from each place with half pepperoni and half sausage but apparently the Pizza Feast is a supreme.  No biggie... I've liked supreme pizzas ever since I started paying on a mortgage.  For the record, a small (10") one topping pizza would have been $8.69.

I ordered at 12:20 and was put "on hold" for three minutes, meaning the guy set the phone down and took care of someone in the store.  The order was then taken and it was indeed ready 15-20 minutes later.  I think he was the only employee working.  Did I mention that this particular Pizza King is half of a gas station so it's small?  I mean, uck from the outside but inside the place was actually very nice and you wouldn't know you were sharing a roof with a petrol dispensery.<

When he brought my pizza at first I thought it was a joke.  I mean, I knew it was 8" but it seemed much smaller than that.  

Of course I had my handy dandy l'il scale.  Press the Tare button, later subtract the weight of the packaging, and you have a pizza weight of 11.3 ounces.  Just... 11.3 ounces... for seven bucks.  A Tombstone pizza is $3 and it's durned near 21 ounces... but it's just a frozen pizza.  However a Freschetta, on sale for $5, is 26 ounces and I KNOW that's good.  Alright, Pizza King, show me what you've got. 

Looks like what you've got comes up a little short.  I had hard pressed to find a measurement of 8" so once again, disappointment reigns at Pizza King.

In my shock I forgot to take an unobscured picture of the pizza so this, and the next photo, will have to do.  So let's talk about this pizza... the crust was crunchy, though it did have some chewy bits.  Honestly it was like a Jeno Party Pizza.  The sauce was underwhelming, like it wanted to have flavor but just didn't know how.   The amount of toppings was quite good and they kept up to their motto of "good to the edge", or at least they had toppings to the edge.  But this also gave it a Party Pizza vibe... not a good thing.  As for the flavor of the toppings, well, like everything about this pizza it just seemed to fall a bit short.  Maybe it I had put some garlic powder on top or parmesan cheese or even some salt it would have fared better.  'Tis a pity.

As for the "Feast", I ate the entire thing on my short drive home and immediately made myself a peanut butter and jelly sandwich.  If I spend $7.66 on lunch I'd better be blown away by the flavor or I'd better be very full.  It's probably a good thing I didn't end up with a larger pizza because then I'd have made myself eat the entire unsatisfactory thing, which would have led to further regret.



So how about those stats?

Toppings: 7 (quantity) + 4 (flavor) / 2 = 5.5
Value: 2 (68 cents per ounce)
Overall Score: 3.5

Pizza King, I hereby dub thee THE KING OF DISAPPOINTMENT!  I wouldn't be surprised if even Little Ceasers scores better.


Tuesday, August 4, 2020

Metaphor Time

This past spring I picked up a box of wildflower seeds from Dollar Tree. It was on a whim, but aren’t most purchases from Dollar Tree? I didn’t really have a spot in mind but then I remembered the field behind our house, one that is attached to an elementary school but is mostly a field of grass with one ball diamond and an area that is sometimes used as a soccer field. There are a couple of sections of bare dirt ten feet or so off a roadway, sunbaked and barren, but I figured why not?

One evening the kids and I hacked into the hard earth with shovels, not really breaking down farther than a couple of inches. We didn’t really work that hard at it because it was only a buck. Then they sprinkled the seeds and the mix inside the box seemed to be mostly perlite filler, but again, just a buck. Then we raked over the seeds and I lugged a couple of five gallon buckets of water over from my house to get the seeds settled in. Some spring rains provided the rest of the water and a week or two later, after the mowing crew did their first mow, we gathered up a few armloads of grass to make a rather incomplete mulching. Over the next few weeks we would check our garden in the field when walking over to the playground but nothing was happening and we soon forgot about it.

Fast forward to July. Where we live July is dry and hot, the time when you stop mowing the lawn for a few weeks because it’s not growing. One morning while taking a walk I was going past our barren plot and it occurred to be to check. I wasn’t wearing my glasses so I walked down the ditch from the roadway and over to the forgotten garden. There were flowers! Scraggly, spindly things holding on for life, but there they were, pops of color growing out of what was little more than dried mud.

My mind was turned to prayer and God’s overflowing goodness. I’ll pray for something for a day or two and then saunter off on my merry way, forgetting my request. But behind the scenes God is often working while I do nothing. And then BLAMMO! FLOWERS! I don’t know how many times I had even forgotten that I’d asked for flowers or wasn’t even looking for them to bloom and passed them on by. Or if I see them I don’t put two and two together and fail to thank the One who answers prayers with blessings.

Make up your own allusions for this next part. They started mowing the field and the first couple of times they mowed around the patch of dirt. But eventually a government employee mowed zoomed over the top, nipping off the flower heads. Fear not… one week later and these stubborn plants were beginning to flower again.

Wednesday, May 6, 2020

May 5, 2020

Even though the government is graciously allowing us to slowly recover our rights I'm still working in my basement. My cold basement. Sure, I could put in a heater but A) The room I'm in isn't small so I'll be paying to heat up a large space and B) the heat will just head upstairs after a cursory nod in my direction. So each day I put on a long sleeved flannel shirt over my t-shirt* and head into the darkness. I've got three bright lights on here, plus the one in the fishtank (hello fish, my constant companion) and I've situated my desk/folding table so that I'm facing the lone 8" X 24" window (hello outside, where I can see that it's sunny but deceptively so because I know it's only 45 degrees), but the former owner did this room in medium brown paneling so it's dark here no matter what. At least today it's 68.2 degrees. When I start work the heat is just kicking on so it's about 60 degrees. During April it peak at 66.6 degrees each day... not sure what that's all about.

As one who fights self-isolating and generally only needs a little socializing this totally blows. I'm not sure how extroverts aren't cracking up. My wife keeps tabs with her usual group of people (she would correct me if I called them her friends but they are at least close-ish contacts) and there are days when she's completely socialed out and needs copious amounts of alone time to recover. Me, not so much. I stink at keeping in touch with people**. And of course I only write these here blog posts when I'm down and need some therapeutic purging. Last week I was fine and dandy and actually waved my backside at "the law" by picking up Mike and driving 45 minutes to Bluffton to jam with Andy. And every Saturday I've been playing electric guitar in The Ridge's praise band. I really don't know how off I'd be without the praise band playing. I admit that I'm not very good at playing about any instrument (some more or less than others) but I enjoy it and I'm grateful that I'm allowed to play.

In other worlds, I'm building the worlds largest playhouse. About fifteen years ago I built one that was only 6' X 6' and my older kids (who are now almost exclusively old enough to drink) wished the could have spent the night in it. We had a small yard and I had to fit a swingset and a playhouse in there... what do ya do? So this time it's 8' X 12'. A shed, if you will. And to make matters worse I decided to put a barn-style room on it, which extends up 4' and makes the entire thing ten and a half feet tall. It's only about 6" taller than the neighbors shed so still I'm a bit concerned over what I've gotten myself into. I have one more wall to frame and then up they go! The roofing joists are assembled and the wall covering is mostly cut-out so it will look proper in no time. Did I mention that this thing has six windows? Yes, I'm cashing in some savings but hey, who needs to eat. I mean, really? Fasting is supposed to be good for the body and spirit and I'll surely find that out in about five years when we run out of savings.

I suppose I should get back to work. As soon as I find my misplaced gumption. I lost it about six years ago*** and find bits and pieces of it now and then but lately it seems to be hiding from me again. Perhaps it's under the couch.

* Yes, I wash them both. The T-shirt changes but the flannel does not. I will surely burn it after this governmental experiment is over.

** Thanks to Adam and Roger for your texts in the past six weeks. I wish I had interest in a hobby like board games and once I played a very enjoyable round of Zoo Keeper where you "grow" baby animals and once played Ticket To Ride but other than that my board playing experience is very bland. Oh, I have a HeroScapes set or two in the closet, just another attempt of trying to make a friend. Maybe one day Andrew and I will play that. Maybe that day is today. And Roger, if you read this, I got your group text and I meant to respond but yes, my flip phone doesn't handle group texts very well and one day because one week and now it's a matter of "Well, it's rather late to respond so I won't." That's why I stink at keeping in touch with people.

*** Burn-out is no laff-riot, kids.

Friday, January 10, 2020

End of 2019 Music Roundup

It’s difficult to believe that’s been twenty years since Y2K mania swept the country. I don’t feel old but maybe I should…

I guess I should do some writing and what better writing to do than an end of year list? Lazy, yes, but it’s less lazy than doing nothing.

Heart – Jupiter’s Darling
Sure, it’s from 2004. This list is the best that I heard this past year, a kind of “New to me” list. Anyway, this album is amazing. I’ve been a medium Heart fan, loving Dreamboat Annie but never really digging much past that. But this album is stellar! It’s got amazing melodic hooks, searing guitars, and vocals to climb the walls! I had never noticed it before but Heart are fans of Led Zeppelin and nowhere is this more apparent that on this album. Absolutely killer.

The Claypool Lennon Delierum – South of Reality
Crazy psychedelic fun! As a weird bassist I should love Claypool but I find his usual stuff technically interesting but melodically boring. Plus he takes one or two ideas per song and drives them into the ground. Here, though, he makes actual songs and Lennon’s contributions just send everything soaring into the stratosphere! Beatley? Sure. But inventive, melodic and anything but boring.

I Don’t Know How But They Found Me – 1981 Extended Play
An EP by a guy who was the bassist in the band Panic! At the Disco for a while. Loads of insanely catchy hooks, breathy vocals, super saturated synth tones and a whompin’ good time. A bit like PATD, sure, but definitely its own thing.

The Rembrandts – Via Satellite
I was glad to finally have some new Rembrandts music and there are a couple of really good songs but sadly it seems like it’s incomplete, like maybe they needed to work on the songs a bit more before committing them. I found a note from maybe five years ago with this title so is it possible that albums been waiting to find a company to release it? It’s not bad by any stretch but I only listened to it for maybe a month whereas their previous albums (except L.P.) still get regular listens twenty plus years later. Kind of disappointing.

Neal Morse – Jesus Christ The Exorcist What is not “kind of” disappointing but is actually really disappointing is this double album by Neal Morse. It just can’t make up its mind. Is it a church cantata with simple parts so regular folks can sing it? Or is it a prog album with a few complicated passages? And maybe I missed it but I don’t recall there being ANY exorcisms discussed in the lyrics… it’s just a kind of more Biblical version of Jesus Christ Superstar but without those pesky catchy melodies, something Neal normally has in spades. I really tried to like this but it’s just bland. Sorry.

Devin Townsend – Empathy
Also disappointing is this latest album by Devin. I think the problem is, at least for me, is that now he takes himself too seriously. I mean, there are videos leading up this album where he’s doing psychoanalysis on himself and the songs and whatnot. I wouldn’t exactly say the music is pompous but you can’t just throw a few kittens into the video for an overblown choral wash and say, “See? I’m still fun.” I was attracted to Devin’s music because he WAS fun and didn’t seem to take it all too seriously. It’s not like I’ve liked everything he’s done (which isn’t to say that it wasn’t good, it just didn’t appeal to me) but the ratio of Likes to Blah is way too low. He’s now officially on my “listen before I buy” list.

Tuesday, December 17, 2019


I realized that I haven't written anything in a while. Since I use this here blog as therapy that must mean that things are going decently. Calm and quiet-like, except for the brewing holiday storm, which is usual.

I'm still going to the mens Bible study and still not connecting with anyone. If anything it's worse this year because they consolidated the Thursday early morning study into the Wednesday evening so there's a large influx of old men. I used to pine for a mentor, an older Christian who could help guide me and be the involved father I didn't have but for the most part I found these aged saints to have no more idea of what's going on then those of us in their thirties and forties. Sad but true. But I still go and every few weeks get determined to speak up and share instead of sit sullenly in a mid-row seat.

What I think has made a difference is the band. I've been posting and responding to Craigslist ads for at least three years, never really getting a good response. Then about a year ago I was able to connect a few responders so that we had a bass player, a drummer, and two guitarists. We got together three times and hobbled through some songs and then the host flaked out and said he was busy on house repairs, when actually he formed a duo and was performing in the spring. But the drummer and I kept in touch and practiced at his house, just the rhythm section. After a few mis-fires we found a guitarist who played well and sang well and was enjoyable to be around and was willing to be around us geezers and so we've have maybe four jams sessions. There are few things like two hours of wailing away at a fuzz-laden bass to lift one's spirits.

And that's about it. I haven't written any fiction this year... not even a haiku.

Monday, September 23, 2019

Walmart Tire Center

I guess it's a good thing if one's life is so uneventful that this about all you have to write about...

I went to the Maysville Road Walmart Tire center for two new front tires and to have a slow leak in a rear tire repaired ($10). My first warning was that the kid checking me in was hoping around from foot to foot and couldn't keep still. I wonder what he was on. He didn't seem to have a problem following what I wanted so I dismissed it. I also asked if the two new tires could be put on the back, the repaired tire on the front and just be charged to move the one rear tire to the front ($2.50 per tire rotation). He said sure. Then he went out and sat in my van for about three or four minutes before driving it into the bay. Odd. When he came back in I asked for an estimate and he said about an hour. Then he said that he was wrong about the tire rotation cost and that they would have to charge me for all four tires. I said to forget it. Then the tire tech came in and said that the tire size on his form was wrong, that it was R17, not R18. I had told the kid the correct size. I happened to overhear the tire tech say the name "Douglas" so I asked. It turns out that the kid also put the wrong tire on the form. I asked for a Goodyear and he entered Douglas. But the kid wasn't doing the work so I let it slide. About 90 minutes later the tech comes in with my to-be-repaired tire to show me the nail and to inform me that the tires are old, showing me where it connected to the rim and how it was broken away at one point. He could put it on but wasn't completeley comfortable with the safety. Sure, I say, put on a new tire. We've had the van about six months and even though there was lots of tread the van had likely sat in storage for some time so who knows how old they were. Well, from reading the informational posters in the waiting room I learned that there IS a way and I checked the remaining original tire when I got home. 2015. That doesn't seem too old... So now it's two hours and I have three new tires. Except that the tires were $91 each online and rang up at $102 each. Bring in the manager and ten more minutes to fix this, all while the kid is standing behind the manager, occasionally making a strange arm gesture that I only hope was drug or nerve related and not some kind of gang threat. Next time I'm going anywhere else.

Monday, June 10, 2019

A Two Talent Guy

As part of my plan to be around more Christian men (I guess I should call this “fellowship” but in the case of introverts there isn’t much fellowshipping, just being it the same room will suffice… but I digress) I had been going to a weekly men’s Bible study while my younger kids were in youth group. Overall it was quite good, which is sadly a lot more than I can say for most Bible studies I’ve been in. The culmination of the study, and the kick-off of the summer series, was held a month ago at a guys house close to the church. I don’t know how many acres he had but there was a decent-sized pond, a 4000 square foot house (give or take… probably give), a vehicle building about the size of my house, recreational vehicles, and wooded areas with trails for the aforementioned recreational vehicles. Before we began the guy spoke, admitting that he was a little self-conscious to have such property but that when he first started out he had nothing but his clothes, $20 and a chip on his shoulder toward God and how all he has now is from and for the glory of God. Unlike a lot of rich Christians I really do believe that his heart is true and that this wasn’t just some story he uses to justify his desires.

I hope you’ll believe me when I say that I wasn’t envious of this man’s house, property, or wealth. However it did make me wonder a bit as to why God isn’t blessing me with such an overabundance of material thingies. I don’t even have ONE recreational vehicle, let alone the two (or was it three) that this guy had released from his out building. But like I said, it didn’t really bother me and I didn’t spend a lot of time thinking about it that evening.

As soon as I woke up the next morning I thought about the story of the talents and it hit me that I’m not responsible enough to handle ten talents. Oh. Uh, thanks for that bit of info, God. No one wants to admit or realize that they aren’t the ten-talent guy in the story but hopefully I’m at least worthy of two or three. I’ve lately come to realize that I’m not a ten-talent guy when it comes to my work, my marriage, my parenting, my musical and artistic talents, and my writing so why not also admit it with my Christian walk? I’m not hitting it out of the park in any area of my life so why not just be whole-hog average and tepid? More likely, though, I’m the fearful guy in the story. I have lived most of my life in fear-mode but God’s been working lately to relive me of this burden. But that’s another story.

This past weekend while sitting outside on a porch swing doing my morning devotionals* another thought came to me (and again, I had not thought about this man in the between time) of “Just what is it you want and don’t have that is making you unsatisfied?” And so I sat and looked at the fifth-acre I have and the 2000 square foot house and thought about the two dependable Honda** vans out front of it and my amazing, creative, intelligent kids and (last but certainly not least) my amazing, creative, intelligent and (last but certainly not least) beautiful wife and I had to admit that there really wasn’t anything I was wanting. Not even a guitar. I would absolutely HATE having to mow and take care of all that man’s property and all that house. And it’s not like we would be inviting people over and using the space for (shudder) fellowship. If there’s anything I’m wanting it’s that I would like to be able to afford to take my family on vacations like I see other people, maybe a week at the Smokey Mountains or up in Michigan, some kind of experience.

While walking to work this morning another thought came to me*** “So why don’t you TAKE a vacation like that? You’ve got savings, though you don’t want to touch it FOR FEAR that you’ll need it later. But what good is it just sitting there when you can use it for a vacation?” Hmmm…. Maybe so, maybe so.

* And lest you think I’m Mr. Spiritual, which I wish I was but I ain’t, I only manage to read and pray regularly on weekends and days I have off. I know I should do more, like in the early days of my faith, but I’m thankful for the time I do take and I look forward to these quiet moments.

** I never thought I’d own a Honda vehicle and now I have two? Sure, they are older but still kick hiney!

*** Most likely these “thoughts” are promptings by the Spirit but I am hesitant to lay claim to such.