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

Nick, Dan and Doug

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

Bob, Doug and Drew

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.

Forty

40th Birthday Cake

40th Birthday Cake

Thank you all who made the surprise weekend festivities possible! I’m lucky to have all of you in my life. Full details coming tomorrow but right now I need to catch up on that sleep thing.

Cheers!

This is post 6 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.

Into the unknown

Pittsburgh 10th St BridgeI’m currently in a hotel room on the South Side with one of my closest friends. Wait, that sounds bad. I’m hanging out in a hotel room for the weekend. There, that’s kinda better.

My 30s were not what I was expecting when I was 29 but looking back I realize how innocent I still was and the level of maturing I needed to do. Since I’ve been on a time travel kick as of late, let’s do this up time line style. Give me a blues riff in B, watch me for the changes and try to keep up.

  • 30 – 3 months after my birthday, the age of “Should I Drink That?” kicks off an unexpected career in craft beer, social media and opening the doors to meeting 95% of the good friends I have today.
  • 30.8 – Dad passes away. Wasn’t ready for that gut punch.
  • 31 – Created a video that went viral as the 1st ever chug of a Dogfish Head 120 on YouTube which results in death threats by beer snobs. Move to Cranberry to live in what I thought was an upscale townhouse so I could be closer to work. HAHAHA SUCKA!
  • 32 – Life is great and we’re expecting our first chillllldddd…. OMFG we’re all being let go! The stable job I had since I was 22 is about to go poof. WTF do I do?
  • 33 – You’re a daddy earlier than expected… and were just laid off 6 days ago. What the heck are you going to do? PENS WON THE STANLEY CUP! YOU WON A MUSTANG! Dang, guess I have to go back to work. Oh look, higher ed his hiring!
  • 34 – Snowmageddon drops 48 inches in a few days on us. Walls and ceiling start falling in. Screw it, let’s buy a house and move to the *gulp* South Hills. I’ll finally have my office so I can record and… what? You’re pregnant again? Hi there kid #2! You’re a little early also. Great seats in the endzone for the Winter Classic though. Won a few major awards for work in podcasting.
  • 35 – Got me one of those fancy college degree thingies and it came with honors. Not too shabby! I finally get to see one of my idols, Chris Cornell, in concert.
  • 36 – Started homebrewing. Appeared in multiple publications for craft beer. Podcast is showing no signs of slowing. Pat Metheny becomes my mortal enemy.
  • 37 – Rock out covering the NCAA Frozen Four. Corporate America is calling and wants you back with a sizable raise. FOOL YOU! We’re laying you off but thanks for 7 months! Introducing the Stay-at-Home-Dad!
  • 38 – Time to get back to work. I go solo on the podcast and get up close and personal with Garth Brooks.
  • 39 – Took my first vacation in 16 years that wasn’t for a wedding. Spent weeks in Waco Texas, Chautauqua NY and camping in Jellystone Park. Of course I still have to blog about it because I basically took the year off from writing. Bought my first new(ish) car. We also went back to the 90’s with an incredible show by Collective Soul.

That brings us to today. I really have no idea what is happening and that’s exactly what I wanted. Most of the time I need to know every detail of what’s going to because the OCD project manager in me comes roaring out if we fall behind. Kinda like Clark Griswold in Europe.  I’m twitching a little bit but I also expect a cocktail in my hand shortly to make it all better.

So 40. Looks like we’re finally going to meet tomorrow. If you’re anything like the 30s were I’m in for one heck of an adventure that doesn’t seem to be slowing.

This is post 5 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.

2/19/09 – a moment in time

Driving with Kids

I was up at 4:30am this morning, sitting on my couch, binge watching MadMed and thinking about how great it was to have quiet time to write. Just as I was in the perfect spot I heard the slow rattle of a bear and shuffle of my youngest son’s feet across the carpet.

Driving with Kids“UUUUGGGHHH there goes my free time” I thought but as he curled up on me he said “I just want to lay here with you. I love your birthday every day.” and fell back asleep.

Yeah, I went “awwww” too just like you did.

How did I get to this point in my life though? Not saying it’s a bad thing but what has happened over the years to bring me to this specific moment? Let’s as the Doc.

Doc Brown made this quote in Back to the Future 2 ” Unbelievable, that old Biff could have chosen that particular date. It could mean that that point in time inherently contains some sort of cosmic significance. Almost as if it were the temporal junction point for the entire space-time continuum. On the other hand, it could just be an amazing coincidence.”. I’ve joked about trying to figure out the significant moments in my life that could have changed the course of everything and skewed the timeline, similar to Marty, Doc and Biff. I found the date.

2/19/2009

I look at this as a red letter date in my history. Significant things were about to happen and I was scared shitless. I won’t sugar coat it for you, I was freaking terrified but every bit of who I am today started on this date.

After 11 years this was the last day at my first “professional” job. Dad was a hard core union guy for the state and always told me that once you get into a corporation, you work there for life and retire with a pension. It’s “what you do”. That was before dot-coms disrupted all business models and I still thought we would last forever. Adding to the drama, we were expecting our first child in April, cars weren’t running well, our townhouse landlord was terrible to us. I thought the world was over and we’d have to pack up and leave.

I didn’t have time to sit back and dwell in my fear and anxieties. Six days later my first son decided he was ready and kicked his way out 2 months early. Everything in my life changed within hours and there was no one I could turn to because really, who the hell does all of this happen to at once?

There I was at 33, unemployed, baby in the NICU, fighting with the state over unemployment benefits, and experiencing levels of stress I didn’t know existed. My world was collapsing and I was on the verge of having a complete mental breakdown.

Thanks to amazing friends and family I kept going. I made myself stay strong and who I was started to come out.

I jumped full steam into my podcast and taught myself this new thing called social marketing and how I was going to sell my show which shot to the top of the iTunes charts. My corporate experience and new found knack for digital marketing lead to gigs in higher ed at RMU and back in the corporate world of CONSOL Energy before being laid off due to a sale in 2013. The silver lining was spending an amazing year at home raising 2 sons where I became a respected dad blogger and craft beer writer. No matter how much of a kick in the nuts each situation was, I came out a stronger person.

Today I enjoy my job kicking ass at all things digital along with speaking engagements on the topic, I have 2 rockstar knuckleheads for kids and the podcast is still a top 20 on iTunes. While I miss the old company and the people I worked with, I wouldn’t be the person I am today if February 19, 2009 never happened.

This is post 4 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.