Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Chicago Dogs in Nashville

I've been doing a lot of eating lately. I think the winter is getting to me. Everything looks so tasty.

What's really bugging me is my kitchen. It's completely unfriendly, uninviting. You could say I was spoiled by my mom's kitchen—it was well-designed and has lots of counter space and room for food preparation. So ever since then, most kitchens have been pieces of crap.

The problem I have with my kitchen simply forces me to eat at restaurants. Because, you know, who wants to prepare food on three inches of counter space? It sounds like my fault, like maybe I could take some initiative and remodel the kitchen. Great idea, I'll tackle that as soon as I'm done with the devil room and the mud room (which we scrounged from the edge of devil room).

Yeah, we've been working on that for four months. The going is slow and frustrating because we both work full time. Stoker actually works twice as much as me and he's the brawn behind our projects. I'm not a damsel in distress, but I'm not about to hang drywall myself. Or cut it. Or mud it. Or sand it. What you can count on me to do is to fill the screw holes with mud. That's the extent of my interaction with the mud (aka joint compound).

I've already blogged about the crème de la crème of the hot dog world, the Home Depot hot dog stand (for interested parties, the Home Depot in Berry Hill, across from Hundred Oaks mall). Today Stoker and I got adventurous and tried the Chicago dog from Hot Diggity Dog, located behind the Episcopal church near the Mission in downtown Nashville. It was . . . ok. Just ok. You'd definitely expect this hot dog to knock my socks off, but it didn't.

I guess it's hard to top the BEST Chicago style hot dog. I went in with high expectations. Hot Diggity Dog had the cards stacked against them to begin with. To be fair, it wasn't a horrible hot dog, and at least I could request that the dog be grilled, or in their terms, charred. That was good. And the bun was toasted. But the relish was bright green. How can that be? It was almost glowing, like overly fertilized grass. Or more like that fake grass that comes in Easter baskets. It was weird. And I'll be honest, I prefer jalepenos to the sport pepper.

Next, we need to try I Dream of Weenie, which I hear is located on the East side. It's really about what you prefer, I guess. If you like the sport pepper, you'll like Hot Diggity Dog. If you like unnaturally green relish, you'll enjoy Hot Diggity Dog. So what I'm really telling you is that I prefer hamburger dill chips and jalapenos and strong onions and heartburn. Because that's what the Home Depot hot dog offers. It's great. It's downright American.

Another place we dined at recently is Flyte. World dining and wine. Dun dun duhhhhhhh. It sounds brilliant, doesn't it? It sounds very modern and chic and expensive. It was all of those things. I'll write my own personal review soon, and because I'm so keen on honesty (I seriously can't lie. Not even to shave $3 off the admission to lap swim at a county rec. center -- $3 adds up quickly when you really think about it, doesn't it?), I'll be forced to compare Flyte to my other fine dining experiences. That's just how it goes.

Thursday, February 07, 2008

Overcoming Nightmares Brought on by a Bestseller

I don't have to explain to you how crappy it is to have a nightmare. I know you know. Last night I woke up from the most terrifying dream I've had in years. I think dream sequences are really annoying in books, so I won't get into the subject of the dream or try to explain it to you. That's too hard, plus it's irritating for readers—I mean, I'm not looking for an interpretation. I know what prompted the dream.

It was the book The Historian. Curse that book! I read from it just before falling asleep, and so far I haven't been too worked up over it or anything. I haven't even been truly scared, you know, it hasn't freaked me out. I'm less than a hundred pages in. Not too much has happened—some guy got attacked by some mysterious creature and the medical professionals thought maybe it was a dog bite.

On the neck.

Anyway, I read that part while falling asleep. Stoker was asleep already, so when I turned off the light, I was alone. No light-hearted banter to brighten my mood. I said a little prayer and then fell asleep. I woke up from the nightmare at some point during the night. It wasn't one of those dramatic things either, where a person sits up gasping and sweating and crazed, like in the movies. I just opened my eyes. This incredible fear brought on by a frightening image and turn of events in my dream—I swear it nearly killed me in real life, the fear. I opened my eyes and just stared at the door to our bedroom. I didn't know what I was looking at. I laid there, the image that woke me making my heart beat fast.

I was disoriented. I stared, trying to figure out what I was seeing in the bedroom. And then I felt vulnerable, like the thing in my dream was going to come up behind me, through the window to our bedroom, and kill me. Whatever had been in my dream had followed me into the waking world. And when I tried to close my eyes again, the image was still there.

I woke Stoker up and asked him to talk to me. He asked what was wrong and I told him I'd had a terrible dream. He wanted to know what it was about, but I couldn't talk about it.

Weird, huh? I mean, usually when I've had a bad dream, I immediately want to tell someone. I couldn't bring myself to tell him. It was too vivid. The thought of trying to recount the dream scared me. I guess it felt evil. Something like that. I told Stoker that it had to do with the book, but I didn't want to get into it.

So he said, "Oh yeah. How the historian in it is getting chased by the old guy?" And I said yes, while thinking that he'd said too much, I haven't even figured out that someone is chasing someone else. And then I got scared some more, as my mind put the puzzle pieces of the plot together and realized it must be the historian's professor shadowing him and he's the one who said "He will brook no trespasses."

"You know what that old guy is missing? In the book?" Stoker asked me.

"No," I said.

"He's missing a Glock. If he'd just had a Glock, everything would have been fine. Don’t you think?" I guess Stoker was trying to make me feel safe by reminding me that we have a gun. Ha ha.

But even a gun was no match for the sense of evil the dream had blanketed me with. I needed something to push back the fringes of darkness, it was the reason I woke Stoker up. In the middle of the night, nothing feels real except a fear like that. So we talked some more and I tried not to think of the dream. I told Stoker that we needed to talk about something happy, I needed to get my mind off the dream, because every time I closed my eyes, all I saw was the image that woke me.

Other people might pray or something useful like that, but we talked about The Simpson's. When Homer rides the tiny clown bike and his pant cuff gets caught in the chain and it pulls his pants off. Then Krusty says, "Burn that seat." We laughed about a bunch of other scenes, like new billboard month, and the bag of MSG that Homer buys, and how his unit is burning, but all Homer can think about is clowns. It worked, and then I fell asleep.

During the night, later, whenI woke up again, I swore I wouldn't read any more of that book. I have a mind that's vulnerable to suggestion—at least, my imagination is. I can't listen to Coast to Coast when they're talking about aliens, UFOs, or ghosts, because I have to protect myself. And I hate scary movies. But I didn't realize a book could freak me out so much, especially not one about vampires (which I don't believe in). I guess what got to me is the feeling of evil. Of being pursued. I hate that feeling.

Anyway. "He will brook no trespasses."

I can read the book during the day. Right?

Wednesday, February 06, 2008

The Great Eva Miller: American Idol in Atlanta

It's no secret that I occasionally give in to my weakness and watch American Idol. I don't like laughing at people who are embarrassing themselves, but hey, you put yourself out there, you're fair game. If you were smart, like the rest of us, you'd know implicitly that you suck. We stay home because we know. But I guess some of us need to be told we bite. This is what happens when you end up with a whole generation of kids who've been told they're great. You can do anything! Just put your mind to it.

Ok. I swear it was a bet. I swear her friends put her up to this. I can't believe she pulled it off. Anyway, it was horrifying at first. But then I just let my inhibitions go and I laughed. Next stop: Jerry Springer.

Friday, February 01, 2008

Hot Dog Stands: Yet Another Way Home Depot Makes Dreams Come True

I'm not big into pork. I'm just not. Can't explain it. But the best hot dog* in town comes from a hot dog stand at the Home Depot by Hundred Oaks mall in Berry Hill. Stoker and I were there on Saturday, buying some more drywall (when you're new at hanging drywall, it's easy to make rookie mistakes, like not laying a piece flat to store it). We splurged and got the Chicago style hot dog. It was amazing. And the heartburn was amazing too.

There's another place in town called The Dog. You'd think it would offer the best hot dogs ever. It's got such a cool name. The sign out front is so inviting with its modern appeal. For a long time I could't tell when it was open. The windows out front are so tinted and the open sign was too faint through the window. I went by one Saturday for a chili dog (oh yeah, I go all out when I finally imbibe on pork -- can I say that? Can I say "imbibe on pork?"). I was the only customer there. Inside they had flat panel T.V.'s hanging everywhere, and cool stools standing next to cool chrome-edged tables.

I ordered a chili dog and the guy went through a door and brought it out immediately. There was this illusion that perhaps they were a made-to-order sort of restaurant because the kitchen was in the back. But the hot dog took him three seconds to prepare. The chili was just ok. The cheese was the sort that comes pre-grated: it had a fine powder on it. I don't know how most people eat a chili dog, but I like to use a fork for mine. This was rather difficult, given the dog was lying in wax paper in a plastic basket. The kind with big holes.

Anyway, I mentioned to the two employees working there that maybe it would help business to have a neon open sign out front, you know, the side of the restaurant FACING the busiest street. Tinted windows are cool and all that, but they don't do much for a business**. Most people judge a store by how well-lit it is. If it looks closed, we avoid it. We're like moths. We're drawn to lights. This isn't rocket science. And neon open signs cost, what, five dollars at the Dollar General?

There are other hot dog joints in Nashville. They're springing up everywhere. There are two downtown, one called Hot Diggity Dog and another called I Dream of Weenie. Clever names for simple fare. I haven't tried them yet, but I may. I mean, I won't be looking for the brass ring because I already found it at the no-name hot dog stand outside Home Depot. Can you believe it? The guy doesn't even have to dress it up in a clever name and a modern sign. He just stands there and lets the smell waft through the exit doors and we follow our noses outside like salivating zombies. It's the Field of Dreams story all over again.

*The one indulgence. Sometimes bacon, but that's happening less as the quality of bacon decreases.
**Unless your business happens to be one of the million strip clubs in town.