The stress of Jenga

April 22nd, 2016 No comments

“Come on out for a relaxing night of great local craft beer and fun games!” is what I was told about Wednesday night. Little did I know that I would go through one of the most intense games of my life and it was Jenga.

Jenga TowerThe fine folks at Spoonwood Brewing hosted a Giant Jenga competition as a part of Pittsburgh Craft Beer Week, Pittsburgh’s 10 day celebration of great local beer.

I have played Jenga 2-3 times in my life and have no idea what the rules are besides “dont knock it over!”. The game seemed pretty simple and with the libations flowing, we were all very relaxed.

8 people were slotted to play and divided into Team Should I Drink That, headed by myself, vs Team Noble Stein Brewing with captain Zack Morrow. After a week of Twitter trash talking it was time to get wood.

When my match started versus Megan we had a moment of truth.

Megan “Have you ever played this before?”
Me: “Twice that I can remember. You?”
Megan: “Same here.”
Me: “Fast game for both of us?”
Megan: “Probably!”

That wouldn’t be the case. Our game would go on for what felt like 45 minutes to an hour. Our hands were shaking and sweaty, we would tip-toe around the board and pretty sure we bit all of our nails off also. Dusk turned to night and if the pressure from the game wasn’t already high the ENTIRE BREWERY stopped what they were doing to watch. Patrons who were eating dinner grabbed their beers and came outside as word spread about the tower.

“IT SHOULDN’T BE STANDING!”

Moves went from seconds to minutes.

“WHAT’S THE LOAD BEARING PIECE?”

The what? What’s load bearing? Wait, what’s my name? Piece? I could go for a piece of pie. Pecan would rock right now. Rock! I’m playing next to a huge rock! Doug, concentrate! Concentrate… concrete. I need to fix the concrete by my steps.

We had several almost-crashes until the tower came down at Megan’s feet. I gave a huge sigh of relief and went back to my table. I was spent and when it came to game 2 I was wiped out mentally. I lasted 5 rounds before caving and knocking the tower over.

When the dust cleared Team Noble Stein Brewing won and Team Should I Drink That cheered as our friends accepted their prizes. We were all winners though because we had a great time with awesome food and good beer. It’s moments like this we wouldn’t have been able to experience 5 years ago but thanks to the craft beer boom and visions of places like Spoonwood Brewing, we’re able to eat, drink, and play while 100% supporting local businesses.

Thanks to Jason Cercone from PCBN & Spoonwood Brewing for images 3-5.

Bringing home the first family gold

April 20th, 2016 No comments

After decades of defeat, a Derda finally brings home the gold!

Pinewood Derby was a staple in our house starting with my brother (who tells me the Selingers always cheated) and continued with myself 18 years later (my car stopped dead on the tracks due to a substance on the tires, thanks Dad). Now my sons are carrying on the tradition but in a slightly different way, with chule cars.

Pre Painted Cars

What’s the difference? My guess is  the type of material you can use plus different colored wheels. Either way it’s a block of wood, 4 wheels and every father’s obsessive nature to show his manliness to build with wood. Me? Yeah I own a drill and one of those hacksaw thingers. I don’t even pretend to know what I’m doing, I left this one up to PaPa.

While in Texas a few weeks ago we brought our kits with us so we could work on them with PaPa and Uncle Josh. The kids weren’t allowed to cut with power tools but they aided in how they wanted the car to look and learned how the cars were made. I also found out I need a dremel kit because now I want to carve away at some wood.

It’s all about how good you look

That’s what I thought at least. I’m thinking of sleek designs and paint jobs only to get the bitch slap of reality on weigh in night that when you need to make modifications, anything goes. In our case the lanes have an inside track to keep the cars straight which also means the weights we had glued to the bottom were coming off and got duct taped to the top. This worked to our advantage for a few reasons.

  1. Teaspoon’s car was camouflaged painted so the weights became “guns”
  2. Moving the weights to the top allowed me to add additional weight which made the car faster and in time trials went from 6th place to 2nd.

Race Day. This is some hi-tech sh*t.

When we arrived at the track for race day it was nothing like Pinewood Derby when I was a kid. TVs were on with instant replay views of the races and there was a projection screen showing the current/upcoming racers. Wait, what? Oh and to top it off there was a digital finish line that went to .000 so serious detail on your time.

When I grew up was based solely on the opinion of the dad watching the finish line when his kid wasn’t racing and ties were settled with the flip of a coin.

Each racer ran 6 heats so each car had 1 race in each lane. It was easy to figure out which lanes were slower based on the dads screaming about lanes 2 and 3. Like I said, this was a serious event. At the end Teapoon’s car finished first in our group overall which won him gold and top half of the racers. 1st through 20 were separated by less than a second so next year I have a mission to shave at least 1-2 seconds off our time.

I’m proud that he took interest in not only designing the car but wanting to learn more about how one car is faster than the other. Looks like I need to upgrade my basement work area if his curiosity keeps growing and that’s one home upgrade that will be well worth it.

Categories: Fatherhood

8 days to fail

March 22nd, 2016 No comments

A month ago I started the “100 Days of Blogging” with the Pittsburgh bloggers group on Facebook and after 8 days I stopped.

Nothing dramatic. No big announcement. I just stopped.

I HAD to stop.

I was sitting up in bed at 11pm thinking “What should I write? Do I take the easy road and just upload a pic just for the sake of making a post so I can keep up with the challenge?”.  Previously I would have caved and made a post but it hit me I needed to let it go. I finally realized I was doing to much.

You may think that a blog post isn’t that big of a deal, and for some it’s not, but I hate going into anything and doing it half-assed. In fact, here are times I overthink things and try too hard for perfection instead of just doing it. The idea of writing and not spending time planning it out wasn’t appealing to me so I gave up.

I have a hard time saying no to side projects because I never want to miss out on an opportunity but the reality is, it’s OK to say “I don’t have time”.

Categories: Misc.

Best burgers and drinking with sudo Irishmen – 40th bday Part 2

February 23rd, 2016 1 comment

My day had a very relaxing pace to it and that was a good thing since my night was about to be kicked up a notch.

Dinner at Benjamin’s Burger Bar

Benjamin’s Burger Bar is one of my guilty pleasures in town and when I found out this was the location of my surprise dinner I realized the secret was out. Behind the scenes my wife and good friends Adrienne and Drew sent out the call for coming out for drinks and grub with me for my birthday. I still don’t know who all was invited but I thank every one of you who could stop out and in some way sent me a message wishing me a special day.

Doug and Drew with EverclearAs I expected, my party was treated top notch. For many it was their first time at Benjamin’s and the overall reaction was “HOW DID I NOT KNOW ABOUT THESE BURGERS!”. Great, now I won’t be able to find a seat but that’s a good problem for Benjamin’s! We had the upper room reserved and while I can’t speak for what everyone else ate, my Buffalo Blue burger blew me away.

South Side Crawl

The only saving grace of our hotel stay was the proximity to the bars on Carson St. Interest in bar hopping days down there ended about 10 years ago. These days I like to have good beer in relaxing atmosphere and actually be able to hear the people I’m there with. That’s how my night started at The Urban Tap, my favorite place to chill on the South Side and on our way there we met up with my old roommate/former co-worker Dan.  I was ready to hang for a bit but apparently there was a plan in place. It was called

“How much can the beer podcaster handle?”

Drew called the group together and announced 1 beer/1 bar was now in effect and our next stop was at Mario’s/Blue Lou’s for old times’ sake. You can’t plan an epic night, they just happen and little did we know we were going to close the bar.

And Now we Dance!

Mario’s was packed which is typical on a Saturday night so we moved over to the connecting bar, Blue Lou’s. Every time I’ve been in this bar I’ve never bothered to venture upstairs and if it wasn’t for Christine watching people head north we would have most likely left.

We finished our drinks with a now crowded second floor and were about to leave until Christine’s eagle eye saw another set of stairs.

3rd floor? WHAT?

Sure why not. THIS was the place to be! Smaller bar but fully stocked with what we needed and the crowd wasn’t overwhelming. This is when they arrived… The Irishmen

The South Side Irishmen

10 friends gathered for their buddy’s bachelor party and dressed in Irish flag outfits while the groom-to-be was the master leprechaun.  Something just clicked and our two groups not only became instant friends but we ended up running the 3rd floor for the rest of the night.

One thing annoying most of us was the abundance of really bad dance/rap music being played on the jukebox and it was up to us to end the night right. Christine and myself crammed in extra cash so our music would get bumped to the top of the playlist and loaded it up with Pearl Jam, Talking Heads, Queen and David Bowie. Millennials, you’re welcome for the education.

Late Night Noms

It wouldn’t be a trip to the South Side if we didn’t stop at Primanti’s for late night food to soak up the beverages. The great thing with the people in our group was that no one gets obnoxiously sloppy. We’re professionals and know our limits. Unfortunately I can’t say that about others falling around the South Side. I ordered my traditional Cap-N-Cheese and soaked in the final moments of my birthday celebrations.

It’s incredibly rare these days that I get to spend a care-free night out and this was not only needed but should happen again with those who couldn’t make it. So, who’s birthday is next?

This is post 8 in the “100 Days of Blogging” with the Pittsburgh bloggers. If you’d like to find out more about the group, join us on Facebook.

My 40th trip around the sun is on – Part 1

February 22nd, 2016 No comments

When last we chatted about my 40th birthday I was crawling out of bed on the South Side waiting to see what was coming next. What happened was one of the best 24 hours I’ve had.

Bob, Doug and Drew

Pens vs Tampa Bay

First part of the surprise weekend was my brother showing up to the hotel at 11:30am with tickets for for the 12:30 Pens faceoff with the Lightning. While the Pens got a royal screw job by the officiating, the D failed them in the 4-2 loss. Plus side were the sweet seats by Fleury in section 116 and you realize how small that ice really is when you’re close. It was great to have legroom, which we don’t have in the 200 level, and the chance to shoot the breeze with my brother. It’s hard for us to get time away from the kids to hang out so this was a seriously needed event. After a few beers and a pic with the Mario statue, we headed back to the hotel to get ready for dinner.

Can someone please pick us up?

The Holiday Inn Express on the South Side continued with their epic weekend of mismanagement. I stayed at this hotel previously and loved it so much it was my main recommendation to folks coming in for beer fests and conventions but now, not so much. First they oversold the hotel and gave away our room so 2 single beds turned into king size bed and a pullout couch. The night manager promised us it would be fixed the next day so what do we get, the day manager saying “well he lied to you. I don’t have anything.”.

Nice eh? Oh it gets better.

As we’re trying to find a solution since our friend Christine will be staying with us also, a group of guys come up to the counter and tell the manager they went into their room and found a woman laying on their bed! Another guy who just checked in also shows up and says he walked into his room and a guy was on the toilet doing his business! They were giving out rooms that were already occupied. Realizing the debacle unfolding, a room opened for us.

Part of staying here is you get a free shuttle that travels 3 miles. Perfect! We wanted to head to the casino across the river. “He’s at Duquesne, he’ll be here in 15 minutes. You have time to switch rooms.” is what we were told. We switch rooms in 5 minutes and get back to the lobby where we find out “Oh it’ll be another 15-30 minutes. He kinda does what he wants.” Now we’re irritated as the window for casino time is shrinking before dinner.

I do a mad install of Uber, Lyft and Ztrip. Lyft is booked, Ztrip wont have a ride for an hour and Uber, well Uber is insane. While they had drivers available the trip to go 2 miles would cost us $22 because of that surge pricing. UUUGGGGGHHH! We were ready to hoof it to the subway.

As if the gambling gods knew we were in need, a Yellow Cab pulls up with a hardcore gritty yinzer who LOVES his casinos at the wheel. We hop in and spend the next 10 minutes getting lessons on what to play, who has the best buffets and what you need to do to hit big. If there’s an ambassador for Pittsburgh, it needs to be this guy! Totally awesome!

HEY HEY We’re the Monkees!

We have an hour before dinner so how can we maximize our casino time? Slots! Actually that’s the worst way to do it but all of the Black Jack tables were full and I have no idea how to play the other games. I need a sign though, what slots do I play? This is when a theme song from my childhood rang loud… “DAYDREAM BELIEVER!”. That’s right, they have Monkees slots machines! Only thing that can make this better would be a Back to the Future game.  In fact, Rivers Casino, get on that!

Drew and I had no idea what was going on but every roll played the song and I was geeking about it. 20 minutes later I finally caved and cashed out my big $.15. What did I tell ya, big winner!

We head to the bar and await our friend Christine who will be driving us to dinner. 2 Manhattans for me and a few Jack n Cokes for Drew and we’re ready to go.

This is where the night gets interesting. More tomorrow!

This is post 7 in the “100 Days of Blogging” with the Pittsburgh bloggers. If you’d like to find out more about the group, join us on Facebook.