The stress of Jenga

“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.


Moves went from seconds to minutes.


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

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.