Friday, September 8, 2017

Kentucky Love in the LBC

 Just about a month ago, three of my very dear friends from Louisville, Kentucky came out to California and got to spend a weekend with me. Daniel and Halie Thompson (Whompson for those of us in the know) were doing a week long California trip starting in San Diego, spending two days in Long Beach and then heading up the coast and finishing with two days in San Francisco. Katie Carrico, now a resident in Colorado, came to hangout with us while The Whompsons were here in Long Beach. Now while work did get in the way, I was able to spend time with my friends and add even more great memories of all of us hanging out together. 

Being a proud son of Long Beach, and given it was all three of their first time in California, I was coming up with plans of where to go WEEKS before they got here. I really wanted to show my friends the city I love but didn't want to just do all the touristy stuff. Which bars do we hit? Where do we go to eat, how do I fit this all in while still needing to go to work? While we didn't get to see/eat everywhere I wanted to take the three, I feel there was a good representation of Long Beach. So here is the unofficial Afro on The Rocks tour guide to Long Beach. 

Roscoe's Chicken and Waffles is one of THE places you need to take people when they visit. It has been mentioned in so many movies and songs it's an experience all on its own. And as I told my three friends, I hadn't been to Roscoe's since my Freshman year of College, so I was almost as excited as them to go. And even though we went to the one in Long Beach and not the one President Obama went to in West Hollywood, we did get to sit under the picture of Mr. and Mrs. Obama leaving with leftovers. After putting everyone in a food coma, I had to go to work, so the three of them, who had an Airbnb close to Roscoe's, took a little nap then headed to the beach. Because when you visit a city with beach in the title, you have to go spend time on one right? Close to the end of my shift, the three of them showed up, slightly more red in color than they were in the morning, and then it was off to one of my favorite bars in Long Beach. 

See to me the Prospector is a double whammy. Not only can you get a tasty cocktail, especially when Wade Hammond is working, but if you want a nice steak dinner, it's your one stop spot. While all four of us were hungry, it was just a single drink then off to the next for us. We were only there for 30 minutes, but the Kentuckians learned a fun nickname we have for the city of Fontana; Fontucky. Daniel and I were talking to a gentleman at the bar and I mentioned that Daniel, and the two ladies, were from Kentucky. The man misheard me and thought I said Fontucky and started making some desert jokes. Daniel being confused, looked at me wondering what this guy was talking about and I had clarify with the Gentleman where Daniel was actually from. After our drinks, it was off to dinner, and while this place isn't in Long Beach, it is one of my favorite places to eat in Southern California. 

Brodard Chateau is one of the best Vietnamese restaurants I have ever been to. And while my first choice for dinner with my friends was Los Compadres (in Long Beach) a weekend with 8 people would be a LONG wait, and while worth it, I was trying to show them the town and couldn't spend that much time in one spot. Joining us for dinner was my Mom and Dad, Aunt Amy and my buddy Katy Wade. So much food was ordered, including the spring rolls pictured above. They have a seafood noodle dish that you can get with crispy noodles, I would have to say it was the favorite of the night. Daniel the next morning told us he had dreams about the crispy noodles. After our delicious meal in Garden Grove, it was back to Long Beach for some more drinking. 

Event planning trip advice; when planning to take people on a tour around your city to spots you think are really cool, make sure to see if any events are going on around said spots. I really wanted my friends to check out the Blind Donkey because it's a fun location with a REALLY good Whiskey program, something I knew Kentuckians would enjoy. What I didn't realize that there was a BBQ festival and some type of music event going on in Downtown Long Beach on Saturday, one on Linden Ave. Needless to say it was a bit packed that night at the Donkey, so it was a good thing we were only gonna be there for one drink anyways, it was just finished a little quicker than planned. At this point I could tell my friends were getting tired, the combination of all the delicious food, drinking and being sun burnt had taken the toll on the three so I knew I had only one more place before it was time to drop them off. And knowing that they'd be going to bed early Sunday night, I knew I had to take them to my favorite Dive Bar in Long Beach. 

Louisville loves Dive Bars. Most the places I went when I lived there can be considered Dive Bars and I was never alone in those locations. So I knew I had to take my friends to The Interlude. And as it always does, the Lude sucked us in until last call. The dim lighting, the inexpensive drinks and the friendly locals made the three of them feel at home. Having Tammy, who has a little bit of Southern attitude, behind the bar sure did help too. After last call was made it was time to take my friends to their Airbnb, which also ended up being where I slept that night. Well saying "night" is hard, because just like anyone who is meeting up with old friends who they haven't seen in a little bit, none of us wanted to go to bed. We ended up staying up til about 4 am enjoying beers from Modern Times Brewing, talking about life in both the past and present tense and just enjoying each others' company. When we woke up it was time for breakfast, more importantly to me, it was time for a Bloody Mary.

"Much of Signal Hill was built in this place." Is what any regular of Curley's will tell you when you visit. And while I don't know if all the stories are true about Curley's, I know they build a really good Bloody Mary and a damn tasty breakfast sandwich. Joining us for breakfast again were by Parents and Aunt Amy. After much needed food and a helpful Bloody Mary I took my three friends to my favorite location in Long Beach; The top of the Hill in Signal Hill. I know, I know Signal Hill isn't technically Long Beach, but come on, just because it's a landlocked island created by the Oil Rich so they didn't have to live in Long Beach doesn't mean you can't count it. The first picture of this post was taken by a nice couple for us on top of the Hill. It was just unfortunate that it wasn't a super clear day, because then you can really see almost all of L.A. County. After a little time on the Hill, it was off to our next spot. A Long Beach staple that has had their t-shirts all around the world. 

There really isn't a whole lot I need to say about Joe Jost. Get a Special (a hot dog sandwich on rye bread with Swiss cheese, mustard and a pickle), pickled eggs and a schooner and you have yourself a right of passage in the LBC. The once barber shop turned bar (thank you Prohibition!) is a place where families have gone for generations. Just like me, I have friends who went with their Grandpas when they were kids and plan to do the same when they have Grandchildren. It has been in movies and if you take time to check out the photos that are covering almost all the walls, you can see just how far the love for the bar goes with people in their Joe Jost shirts all over the world. Time was winding down on the four of us hanging out, damnit real life getting in the way! So with just a few hours to hangout there was one area we needed to visit; The Promenade in Downtown Long Beach. 

Before Daniel came out he told me "Beachwood is somewhere I REALLY want to go while we're in Long Beach." Which makes total sense, Daniel and I's friendship started with Craft Beer. The few times I've gone back to Louisville, I have at least one Beachwood beer with me. It is one of the more popular Breweries out here and for sure one of the most renowned Independent Breweries in the United States. And it just so happens that the Long Beach Beachwood is less than a 3 minute walk to their Blendery. So it was a twofer, we got to taste some of their classic beers by Julian and then the fun funky stuff being made by Ryan. As it had all weekend, time flew by and it was time for me to say goodbye to my friends. After two awesome days it was sad to say farewell, but my liver wasn't too mad about it. 

I find myself lucky to have so many close friends. My last post was about two of my favorite people leaving California and this one is about three of them coming to visit California. With the Whompsons and Ms. Carrico I had an amazing time, it was like we were back in Louisville on a Friday night partying at Fraggle Rock (College House), or at Halie and Daniel's wedding 2 years ago, which was a hell of a time. It was fantastic to see the three of them and I loved every second of it. Nothing like having a little bit of Kentucky Love in Long Beach. 

Friday, August 11, 2017

Drinking of friends, I mean thinking of friends.

The month of August isn't going to be an easy one for me. Two of my dear friends, I would say some of my best friends, will no longer be living in Southern California by the end of the month. My buddy Kevin Lappin has already moved to Atlanta, and one of my favorite people Kalyn Dodge is moving to Reno in just over two weeks. And while I'm happy for both of them, I am sad for selfish reasons. While Kevin and I don't hangout all the time, whenever we do get the chance, it is like no time has gone by. Kalyn, who I see almost weekly has become a confidant, there are things she knows about me that will be taken to our graves. And while I could do a whole post with stories about each person, I thought it'd be more fun (and fitting) if I compared two of my dear friends to libations that remind me of them. So Kevin and Kalyn, know that I will miss the shit out of both of you and while thanks to the day and age we live in, I can talk to you at any point of any day, here are Spirits that will most likely cause me to send you a text saying "What's up?" 

Kevin Lappin: Tequila

Kevin and I have been friends since High School, we had a Physics class together but that wasn't how we met. At a dance, our Girlfriends at the time introduced us to each other. We both acknowledged each other and then in class the next week, we started sitting next to each other and partnered up for projects. I can still remember him throwing a golf ball at Rick Shaw for a video project showing how important sound is. While the presentation didn't have the audible thud, it was loud during the filming. Our love for basketball lead us to being great friends and it came pretty naturally. From pick-up games across the street from his house or at Robinwood Park, to us arguing about how the Lakers should be run, there was always some competition, but always in good fun. And now, with his wonderful Girlfriend Tawny, he's in Atlanta. So while there might be a few years of time apart, I know that one day me and my Bud will hangout again. And those are some of the reasons Tequila will always remind me of Kevin.

Tequila was the first spirit I really enjoyed. Being a kid from Southern California it was almost as if liking it came naturally to me. And while I saw it around when I was growing up, it was introduced to me by a female friend. It became my drink of choice for a while and was my drinking partner at some parties. And when I moved to Kentucky, I couldn't drink it anymore because no one, and I mean NO ONE, in Bourbon Country would drink it with me. But when I came home for visits, it was something I reached for. Much like when Kevin comes home to visit us, I'll make sure I will see him. Tequila will also remind me of Kevin because of one of his favorite drinks; Adios Motherfucker. While I myself will never order one in his honor, I will never forget one night at Suds where after two he needed to crash on my couch and at some point left blue stains in my toilet. 

Kalyn Dodge: Scotch

Kalyn and I met through a mutual friend. She was dating him at the time and he wanted to introduce her to his group of buddies he spent Tuesday nights with drinking cheap beer and playing pool. I gave her the nickname K-Chick because after our 3rd or 4th meeting, I couldn't tell if her name was Kalyn or Katelyn. When the couple broke up, I sent her a text saying that while her and her ex might not talk, that wouldn't be the case for the two of us. Fast forward 5 years and she has been added to the list of women I'd do anything for without even thinking once. And as much as I love this woman, she supports all the wrong teams! I mean she roots for the Anaheim Ducks, Anaheim Angels, New York Giants, Portland Trailblazers and the Notre Dame Fighting Irish. If we had never met but ran into each other at a stadium or sports bar, me wearing a LA Kings, Dodgers, New Orleans Saints, Lakers or Louisville Cardinal jersey, and her wearing one of her ugly jerseys, there might have been a stare down, but that's it. One thing we do have in common though is our appreciation for a good Scotch. So obviously, when I drink Scotch, she'll be the first person on my mind. 

Scotch was something I had to be introduced to. When I first tried it I was a huge Bourbon drinker, and it just seemed like it was made wrong. I mean you take something elegant like Whisky, add smoked peat and it gives it this (sometimes) aggressive smokiness that can wreck your palate. Being the opposite of Bourbon, I thought Scotch and I would never get along. But after trying different styles, I learned to appreciate it for what it is, even found a few I am very found of. And with tricky names like Bruichladdich, Bunnahabhain and Caol Ila (to name a few), I sometimes made nicknames up for them when I was getting to know the Spirit. And while I'm not going to have a glass of Scotch on a weekly basis, it something I always have in stock. In fact the bottle pictured above is waiting to be finished by Kalyn and I since we bought it together for New Years Eve two years ago.  

Kevin and Kalyn, you two are amazing people that I am so lucky to have in my life. I am so happy that ya'll are taking these big steps in your life and look forward to keeping up with you. Know that I will always be here for you and will do anything I need to do in order to see you when you're in town. And ya'll better have a couch for me when I come to visit you. To two of my best friends, these drinks are for you.

Friday, July 21, 2017

Naming of a Car

Before I get to the naming of my car, this Blog is called Afro on the Rocks, so I should probably give ya’ll a little bit of booze talk too right? While writing this I am enjoying The Pogues Irish Whiskey made by West Cork Distilling. Working with the Irish Punk Rock Band The Pogues, West Cork blended 7-10 year old Single Malt and 7 year old Grain Whiskey to make this slightly smoky but still creamy Whiskey. Hints of smoke up front give it a bolder characteristic than usually found in Irish Whiskey. Richer notes of apricot and butterscotch add a creaminess to the libation while lean notes of vanilla bean add to the richness without adding sweetness. The smokiness and fruit blend well together and linger nicely on the tongue where a creamy pillow has been laid for them to rest on. The butterscotch becomes a little more toasted on the finish, adding some of the oak qualities to the drink. Super smooth and a lot going happening on the palate; always a good but dangerous combination. Now, let me tell ya'll about my car!

In your late 20s life starts getting real. This year I have a total of 5 weddings to go to, I have had 8 friends have a child in the last 7 months and I have some friends who are even buying houses! I know the fun new saying is “Adulting is hard”, but I have friends who show that to be false. Even I have done a little bit of growing up in 2017. My interest in politics have hit an all-time high, I am now in my second year of paying a life-insurance plan and as noted in another post Goodbye Old Friend ( I have bought a new(er) car. And the more time I spend in my new car, the more I wonder “What am I gonna name it?” 

The tradition of naming your vehicle has been passed down through generations, a process that gives a nonliving object an identity or soul even. Naming a car is a big deal, it will be the base of all things that will happen in your car until you sell it or it heads up to that Big Auto Garage in the Sky. Or it will just rust in a landfill, depending on your feelings about Car Heaven being real or not. Out of all the Adulting my friends are doing, I think having kids is the biggest deal to me. Kids change your whole life, because you are now in charge of this other person and their whole wellbeing. Anything they need, you pay for, anything that is a result of them, you are responsible for and it is your job to ensure that nothing happens to them. As I’m driving around and thinking, it occurs to me that my car has some similarities to having a baby. And then it hit me, like the battery spark that starts my car, I came up with its name. 

Now when I first got the car I was thinking of naming it Jimi, as in Jimi Hendrix. Mainly because it is black, kind of a Hippie and rocks. But that is far too cheesy for me to say on a regular basis. So I stopped thinking about the name until the other day when the spark hit me. Because I now have this car, I have an extra expense in a car payment. Much like if you have a baby, you have extra expenses in food, diapers, baby proofing and all the thousands of other things that go into raising a child. I had an unexpected bump up in my car insurance due to my new car. And yea, I knew it would go up, but I didn’t think the jump from a 93’ Camry to a 14’ Prius C would be THAT much! Just like when you have children, there are unexpected costs, again referring to the THOUSANDS of things needed to raise a child. And I now do not go months without washing my car like I used to with my Camry. Just like as a parent, you can’t let your kid go days without washing. And besides just adding responsibilities, there are some characteristic similarities between me and my car.

Much like me, my car isn’t going up hills very fast. It just isn’t built to move that fast and I haven’t been built like that since well, it’s been a minute ok? My car has been misidentified as someone else’s car before. I also have been misidentified on many occasions; last weekend a guy in Vegas asked me if he could take a picture with me and kept calling me Quest Love. Like me, my car is kind of a Hippie. While it is a hybrid and uses battery power to conserve its gas use, it still uses gas. So it’s trying, but still not fully there. Just like how I recycle all that I can, get mad at people who water their lawns more than twice a week (AND during the day), support smaller businesses over big chains, believe in being who you are and not allowing anyone to tell you otherwise, I still let my water heat up before I get into the shower. We both have the right idea, just not totally committed. And we’re both surprising sizes; everyone I have had in my Prius-C has talked about how comfortable it is inside for thinking it was such a small car, so more room than expected. Just like I, a person that was born 2 months early, who weighed 3 pounds, am surprisingly big for what people expect from a premature baby. 

After making these connections (some may say farfetched) the name of my car made so much sense I knew it was the right name; Junior. In the future, when I’m asked why I named my car Junior, I may give them the whole reasoning behind it. But given that most people won’t want to listen to all of that I just wrote, I’ll just tell them; “Cause it’s the closest thing I want to a kid right now.” And that won’t be completely untrue.