Friday, January 17, 2014

Don’t bother double checking your calendar or regret throwing away that dried up tree you tossed out a few weeks ago. Just bear with me on this one…

Christmas 2013 is not over for two reasons. One is that we still have Christmas gifts to mail and thank you notes to send out. The second is that we still have our Christmas story to tell. I have not figured out how to connect this website directly to UPS but this blog will at least allow us to share our Christmas adventure with the world.

Christmas morning… the children come storming into Mom and Dad’s bedroom way too early for a couple of people who were up way too late drinking wine and wrapping presents from Santa. Their excitement overpowers any hopes of just a few more moments of precious sleep and we are forced out of our beds so we can shuffle into the living room and display all the surprise and astonishment that we can muster at the fact that the miracle of Christmas happened once again. Blurry eyed, we watch as hours of delicate present-wrapping is undone in a matter of moments and only hope that hundreds of hard earned dollars spent are at least somewhat appreciated.

Well, that is how it goes for us… every other year. On those off-years, Ivan shares that experience with his mom, which is the way things have to go for parents with separate households. This year was one of those off-years and we woke up to an empty nest with his arrival not scheduled until 3 pm.

Some years we enjoy these quiet Christmas mornings with a Screwdriver or a Blood Mary. Others we frantically wrap his Christmas presents because sometimes there is really no better way to feel truly alive than to experience the pressure of waiting until the last minute to get things done. This year, however, we started a new tradition.

One of the best things about living in Greenville is the climate and the proximity to the mountains. Therefore we elected to take advantage of these geographic qualities and spend Christmas morning doing something truly unique.

Christmas morning we went for a hike.

It was a chilly but sunny Christmas morning, we had half the day to spend to ourselves and we live less than ten minutes from Paris Mountains State Park. So we packed a bag of snacks and drinks, laced up our hiking boots and Chris donned a Santa hat for warmth and festive Christmas-trail cheer. Our only fear was that like everything else, the park would be closed and our Christmas fun would literally die at the gate. I suppose we could have called ahead but that really is not our style so we cruised on up the road and hoped for the best.

We received our first official Christmas present of the day when we discovered that not only was Paris Mountain State Park open but admission was FREE. I guess the state parks and recreation division was feeling the spirit of Christmas as well and they made a kind gesture to the handful of adventurers that shared our desire to spend the morning in the woods. By handful, I mean we saw less than five other cars in the entire park and even less people to show for them. The natural serenity of the parks trails was certainly amplified by the almost complete absence of human existence.

We started at the furthest end of Paris Mountain State Park and ventured out on a roughly six mile loop around North Lake (also known as Reservoir Three because it was actually part of the Greenville water supply way back when).  Just because we wanted to go for a hike does not mean we wanted to work too hard on Christmas so we picked out a relatively easy trails that resembled a casual walk more than a strenuous climb. We started on Brissy Ridge Trail, hopped on Pipsissewa and then did the North Lake Loop before returning the way we came in.

I should also admit that I spent most of our time on the Pipsissewa Trail just saying the word “Pipsissewa.”  I think it might be one of my favorite things to say and I now feel compelled to say it out loud a few times right now…

…Ok, now I have that out of my system. Anyway, the biggest surprise of the day came about a mile from our car at the end of the hike. While we were strolling around the lake, some jolly soul hiked into the trail and decorated a random pine tree in the woods.  Covered in red balls and gold tinsel, the tree also held a note to the forest ranger that promising that “the elves” would return to remove the decorations after Christmas. Furthermore, this note was signed by “Mrs. Claus.”

Naturally this gave us a pretty good laugh and we spent the last mile of our hike giggling about this random act of Christmas decorating with me still saying “Pipsissewa” from time to time. We got home just in time to take a couple showers, have a snack, snatch the kiddo, and head over to my parents’ house to watch them bicker.

Obviously it would have been my preference to wake up to an excited eight-year-old still enamored by the idea of Santa Claus. I have to think that we only have another Christmas or two (at best) to watch him cling to this innocent belief in the guy with the flying sleigh. Since that was not an option, however, we were delighted to spend a quiet Christmas morning together in the woods.

The hike reminded us that we live in a pretty awesome part of the world where we can go from downtown to a hiking trail in under ten minutes and, even better, not be miserable hiking through the woods in December. As a bonus it was a pleasure to see the Christmas spirit of the folks who elected to open the park for free and the mystery person (or people) who snuck into the woods to decorate a Christmas tree just for a laugh. After weeks of watching people attempt to trample each other to death or mow strangers down in traffic just so they can get the perfect pieces of plastic crap to put under their trees, it was a pleasure to enjoy the serenity of the woods with a few subtle hints of the true spirit of Christmas.

I have a sneaking suspicion that this might turn into an every-other-year tradition. Merry almost-a-month-after-Christmas folks! Now we just have to mail some presents…

Posted on Friday, January 17, 2014 by Brett B.

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Monday, September 30, 2013

I swear this is nowhere near as dirty as it sounds.

Last week we were enjoying a family game night with a round of Junior Scrabble. Since anything worth playing is worth winning, we had to get out the dictionary because Chris was challenging a word that I had played. I could have used the online dictionary to prove to see if the word that I had made up was going to pass muster, but I have a thing for old school Miriam-Webster edition that I have had since middle school.  I just like scanning the pages and seeing what other new and interesting words I stumble across on the wandering path that may or may not lead to my intended destination. 

That is when I saw the heading on page 1,361. That is the magical page that begins with “womanlike” and ends with “wood pussy”. Naturally I had to read the definition so I can immediately begin to insert this into my daily vernacular.

wood pussy n (circa 1899): SKUNK

Quickly forgetting that my son is only eight years old, I read the definition out loud. Naturally, Chris and I laughed as if we were the grade school aged members of the room but Ivan did not even bat an eye. I had barely finished reading the definition before Ivan inquired “So, wait… we’re actually going to the Albino Wood Pussy Music Festival next weekend?”

I have a couple of thoughts on this…

First and foremost, will my Father of the Year trophy be mailed to me or will someone hand deliver it?
Secondly, where in the world did this name come from? If skunks actually bore any resemblance to cats then, maybe it would work? Also, did you know that “polecat” is another feline-related nickname of the skunk? Did you have any idea that skunks were once classified as part of the weasel family before genetic research earned them classification as their own unique group? How about the fact that I am obviously such a nerd that casually stumbling across the word “wood pussy” during a game of Junior Scrabble leads me to research skunks on the Interwebs?

Finally, and most importantly, let us return to the significance of Ivan’s question. Yes, we most definitely are going to the Albino Skunk, Wood Pussy, and Polecat Music Festival this weekend.  At this point, it is as celebrated a date in our household as Thanksgiving, Christmas and our wedding anniversary. 

A quick search of this blog brought to my attention that this will be the fifth Skunk Fest in a row that I have used this forum to tell you about the best music festival in our area. So, after telling you to go see “LiveHumans Making Music”, getting all sorts of excited about “Spring Skunk 2.0” and even offering a “Quick Note From A Cripple” when I was incapacitated from shoulder surgery and pain pills, what more could I possibly tell you about The Albino Skunk Music Festival?

Well, since Zeigler is always adding, building and making Skunk Fest bigger, there are a few things, actually.

For starters, this fall’s Skunk Fest will not just feature The Community Tap serving delicious craft beer from under one little tent. Instead, they are going all out with a full-blown beer garden. Seven breweries will share their love of craft beer under one tent and keep your taste buds entertained for the duration of the three-day performance.

How about a bike ride? This year Zeigler brings you Tour De Skunk. Provided you do not spend too much time at the beer garden Friday night, you might feel good enough to go on one of two Skunk bike rides on Saturday morning. The “short” ride is a 13 miler to Campbell’s covered bridge and the real athletes among you can take the 34 mile trip to the 1820 Poinsett Bridge. Proceeds go to Brown Bird’s Dave Lamb who is battling leukemia. 

I will no doubt contribute to the fundraiser but I will do so from the comfort and safety of the beer garden. Take lots of pictures, folks. We will keep an eye on the kegs.

Finally, the festival is about music. Lake Street Dive and Seven Handle Circus have absolutely owned the Skunk Stage in years past and I am stoked that they will both make their Skunk appearances on Saturday night. That alone makes Saturday the can’t-miss night of the festival. Actually, from the time Tonight’s Noise opens up at 3:15 on Thursday, on through Sons of Bill, Frank Solivan & Dirty Kitchen, Darby Wilcox, The Ragbirds and Lonesome River Band Friday night, the whole festival is just three can’t-miss nights in a row.
I guess this is why we go to Skunk Fest every year. 

Make this weekend about albino skunks, wood pussies, polecats or whatever weird double entendre gets your motor running. As long as that motor runs out to Greer for the “greatest show on dirt”, you will be a happy camper. 

Now for a brief moment of shameless self promotion… hey Anderson, folks – this week’s issue of The Upstate Be will contain an article on Skunk Fest written by yours truly. For more Skunk news and less juvenile skunk nicknames, pick it up and get the whole story of Skunk Fest. 

Can I get a “FEST-A-VUUULLLLL!!!!!!”?

Posted on Monday, September 30, 2013 by Brett B.


Tuesday, September 3, 2013

I hate it when you guys have fun without us.

Now, I admit we are having a pretty outstanding time of our own right now but come Saturday we are going to be just a wee-bit jealous. Even though we would not trade our current plans for anything in the world, Upstate beer drinkers are going to have a damn good time of their own  (that is, of course, those of you that plan on attending BewHaHa).

You see, if you are going to BrewHaHa this Saturday then you are in for a treat. Anderson, South Carolina’s first ever craft beer festival will feature the delicious nectar of more than 20 craft breweries, tasty offerings from Anderson’s best restaurants and great live music. If you are in town why would you want to be anywhere else?  And please don’t say “the Clemson game” because they are playing S.C. State which does not really count…

To be honest, we’ve been looking forward to BrewHaHa for months. Our intent was to help out with our friends from Quest Brewing Company and catch up with a ton of friends from Anderson that we just do not get to see enough of anymore. Then we realized that I am incapable of reading a calendar and that I scheduled a separate trip that conflicts with BrewHaHa.


Good planning has never been my strong suit so I guess I should be used to mishaps like this. At any rate, I am just a bit dismayed that I will not be able to see what my favorite breweries are bringing to town for this event. From Quest in Greenville to Oskar Blues in Brevard and Founders Brewing Company from Michigan, some of my favorite breweries on Earth are going to be in attendance.

It is not just the beer I was excited about either; no visit to Anderson is complete for us without a trip to Summa Joe’s. Conveniently, they will be at BrewHaHa and even though I do not know what they are making, I can guarantee that it will be delicious. Also, Uptown Lounge has put together a great little menu that features some of the local breweries’ beers cooked into the food they are serving up. You need a little sustenance to compliment a day of beer drinking and I have little doubt that Summa Joe’s and Uptown are going to satisfy that need in spades.

Finally, since you cannot drink beer and eat good food in silence, BrewHaHa is bringing in four bands to entertain your earholes while you get your festival on. Local favorites TJ Lazer, Sam Anderson, and Peartree Music Company are all taking the stage but the special treat is the lovely Darby Wilcox. Although Darby is an Anderson native she has only returned to town for one performance in that last whole-bunch-of years. She is a great talent, one of our dear friends, and with her band The Peep Show puts on a show that should never be missed.

So, get your tickets and get your butts to BrewHaHa. The event itself should be motivation enough but just in case you need more of a reason, do it for us. Take lots of pics, tell us all about it, and let us live vicariously through you. We will do the same and swap stories later…

Posted on Tuesday, September 03, 2013 by Brett B.

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Friday, August 16, 2013


Weekends are rarely as relaxing as we would like. Housework, yardwork, baseball and soccer games, birthday parties, etcetera devour much of our free time. The little time that is left is often filled with recreational excursions such as hiking trips, concerts or dinners with friends. As much fun as these “play days” always are, it is often something that involves advanced planning and a filled-in square on a calendar.

So, imagine my surprise on a recent Sunday morning when Chris asked me a question that I have not heard in ages… “What should we do today”?

Seriously? We do not have anything planned? Neither of us is working, the lawn is mowed, the dishes are done and the laundry is all washed and put away? We are not due at somebody’s house at some time to celebrate somebody else’s something-or-another? How is God’s name did this happen?

Chris’s first idea was to take the dogs for a long walk. I cringed a bit since this sounded too much like “work” as our dogs are not the most disciplined creatures on four legs. I was quickly relieved, however, when she remembered that Rocco, our mentally feeble canine, chewed up his own leash and therefore a walk would require a trip to the Laurens Road Pet-Smart. On this particular morning, neither of us had time for that.

Conversation wandered as we lay in bed and I told her about an odd encounter I had a few days earlier. I was in front of our house getting something out of our car when a random older gentleman approached me and started telling me how nice our neighborhood was. Naturally I prepared myself for a sales pitch and silently debated how obnoxious or sarcastic I would be when I told him to take a hike. Naturally I was thrown for a bit of a loop when he turned out to be nothing more than an art lover from North Carolina who parked on my block and walked to the Greenville Museum of Art.

Instead of being a salesman, this guy was just a thrifty fan of art who did not want to pay for parking on his trip to the free museum. It made sense, too, because we live that close to the museum. On a nice day the short walk is totally worth the two or three dollars one might spend on paid parking. For some reason, though, it is a walk we have never made. Fortunately for me, this gentleman was more than happy to tell me what we were missing and insisted that I see the “amazing exhibit that leaves in September”. 

I would be willing to bet that my new friend named, and even described, the above-quoted exhibit in our conversation but I have to be honest: I am just not that attentive to total strangers. I was probably thinking about the weather, a drink, work or my family (hopefully not in that particular order). 

Anyways, several days after this odd encounter, it was decided on a rare, lazy Sunday morning… Let’s go to the museum.


First of all, check the hours before you go to the Greenville Art Museum. They open at one o’clock on Sundays, not noon like you may (or may not) assume. If you have to kill an hour, do not go to the Children’s Museum next door. They do not allow time-killing walkthroughs and, as a rule, adults are not allowed in without children because that would be “kind of creepy”.  As much as we did not consider this before walking in, it makes perfect sense. 

Instead we went to Roost, which was only two blocks away and enjoyed a Bloody Mary (for Chris) and a Quest Kaldi Imperial Coffee Stout (for me). I am 100% certain that Kaldi is the best breakfast beverage that has ever been invented but I suppose that is a story for another day. I digress…

Two blocks away from home, the Greenville Museum of Art is pretty damn impressive. I had some weird memories of being there as a child around Ivan’s age but this time I was actually interested in the art (as opposed to focusing on nagging my mom and dad about when we were leaving or why I had to whisper).  I would like to go back in time and whisper in that kids ear and tell him that one day he will grow up to appreciate this place. On the other hand, a strange adult whispering in the ear of a child is probably as creepy as strolling through the Children’s Museum without a child, even if you are a master of time travel. 

On to the actual art… The first floor featured an exhibit entitled “Wyeth Vs.” which compared works of Andrew Wyeth alongside comparable works of his contemporaries. I was reminded that I have known of Andrew Wyeth since I was a child but besides knowing him as an “artist from Greenville”, my education never evolved. We saw some great pieces but, as a whole, the point of the exhibit was kind of lost on me. 

Artistic Sophistication: 1                Brett: 0

Everything changed in the next room. “Southbound” takes a fascinating look at the evolution of Southern culture through the work of artists spanning the 20th century. Artistic works spanned from the early 1900’s, to examinations of the Civil Rights era, into various perspectives of racial identity in modern times. This exhibit grabs your attention in a big way. Some of these works moved us to second and third viewings, not just for the quality of the art itself, but for the story the work told. If our museum tour had ended here, we would have left fulfilled. Instead, we had three more rooms upstairs to visit.

Upstairs we stumbled on the exhibit the random stranger had recommended to me in the street earlier in the week. The “feature presentation” (or whatever they call it in the art world) was entitled “Masterpieces of American Landscape from the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston”. That is pretty self explanatory, right? The Boston Museum of Fine Arts lent the little Greenville Museum of Art their collection of landscapes dating from the 19th century to today. To compliment this, the museum displayed “Landscapes from the Southern Collection” to add a more local feel to the main attraction. 

The work in both of these rooms was incredible and, in some cases, breathtaking. The final exhibit of the day got me, though. The last room we visited was dedicated to David Drake. Before I stepped foot in that room I did not have the first clue who David Drake was but now I am totally fascinated by him.

David Drake was a slave in South Carolina. Unlike many slaves, David was taught a skilled trade and worked in pottery. David further deviated from the norm by learning how to read and write. Apparently this knowledge was deemed dangerous and illegal at the time but David took things a step further… he openly and defiantly inscribed many of his works with poetry and his signature. To this day he is the only known slave to produce signed, identifiable works of art. 

I have to be honest – I am not a sophisticated art lover. If I see something I like, I can point at it and grunt “wow, look at that”. As far as art history and sophisticated analysis go, though, I am not much more educated or sophisticated than my eight-year-old. When I looked at David Drake’s pottery I saw some clay pots with some somewhat-legible scribbles on it.  Once I learned who he was, though, my appreciation swelled.

Of all the slaves that lived and died in America, all but a handful remain anonymous. Of all the members of that suffering populace, despite all talents, abilities and creativity, only one can be named as an artist. David Drake stands as the lone representative of artistic creativity for an entire culture. Once I read that, I realized that I was no longer looking at a clay pot but a rare artifact representing a lost chapter in American history.

This was way better than taking the dogs for a walk.


So, I lied a little bit earlier. We did have plans for Sunday but I had forgotten them when we were in bed making plans for Sunday. Whoops. 

Every summer The Warehouse Theater presents their Upstate Shakespeare Festival. The festival lasts most of the summer and is split between two plays every year that are performed every weekend at the amphitheatre in Falls Park. I have known about this for three or four years now but, for a variety of reasons that include hectic schedules, prior obligations, absentmindedness, and general stupidity, I have never made it to a single performance.

True to form, it came to pass that this particular Sunday marked the last Shakespeare performance of the season. I knew that if I missed it again than I was doomed to kick myself for the entire fall, winter and spring… I have done that the last several years and I resolved not to do it again. 

Now, I admit that I hated Shakespeare in high school as much or more than the next guy. Memorizing and reciting Romeo and Juliet with an assigned partner in front of my freshman English class was never my idea of a good time. It was only slightly worse than watching my classmates stumble through the same assignment. I maintain that whatever members of academia decided that this was an effective method of teaching kids an appreciation for Shakespeare should never be allowed around children again.

As an adult, though, I have different views on Shakespeare. Call it maturity or something…

I suppose that there are reasons that Shakespeare is still celebrated almost 400 years after his passing. Once us modern day ‘Mericans get past all the funny-speak, it becomes obvious that his plays are brilliantly scripted and superbly written. Most importantly, they are totally original which is a concept most modern day entertainers know very little about. 

For me the change came several years ago. Being that I am a total geek for Roman history, I revisited Shakespeare's Julius Caesar for the first time since 10th grade. I picked up the flow of the language in just a few pages and immediately found an appreciation for Shakespeare that I had never thought possible. I quickly realized that the animosity I had harbored since high school was unwarranted and I began to develop an interest in more of his work, be it print or on stage.

So, Chris and I packed up a cooler with wine (for her) and a Stone RuinTen IPA(for me) and headed downtown for a little extra culture on an artsy Sunday. The selected play was The Comedy of Errors which is about as an accurate title as one could give this production. Simply put, it was a comedy based on a series of mistaken identities. With the emphasis on comedy, this play was a far cry from any of the Shakespeare I was force-fed in high school.

I have no interest in recapping the story but I must say that The Warehouse Theater did an amazing job with this presentation. They followed the script and stayed true to the soul of Shakespeare’s story and inserted a healthy share of modern day twists and shenanigans along the way. We sipped our tasty beverages, laughed out of our folding chairs and tried not to kick ourselves for ignoring this production for the last too-many years.

So there you have it… from waking up without a clue to appreciating Shakespeare in 10 easy hours. With a couple hours at a museum somewhere in the middle of it all, we are now officially sophisticated, cultured, refined and, well, all sorts of other words that did not previously describe us. We will be back here in a few days to talk about a beer festival, which is typically more our style, but if you need us in the meantime you should probably check the local museums…

Posted on Friday, August 16, 2013 by Brett B.

1 comment

Thursday, August 1, 2013

I honestly do not know who declared that today is National IPA Day. I could probably look around the interwebs for a bit and find out if this is government-recognized national holiday or just something a bunch of beer geeks dreamt up in their mom’s basement. It really does not matter though… I am celebrating and I don’t care why.

When it comes to beer I want India Pale Ale, the hoppier the better. Pale ales, stouts, and porters are all delicious and have their own special places in my diet but ultimately I want hops, hops, and more hops. So if somebody has declared today as the day to recognize my favorite style of beer then I am all in. I am typing this at 10 AM… Is it too early to get this party started?

First a bit of history… The IPA is a great example of the old proverb about necessity being the mother of invention.  In the 1700’s British beer drinkers were wetting their whistles to their standard ales. Since England was a world power and had men all over the world, really important supplies like beer had to be shipped to whatever new land thirsty Brits were claiming as their own. 

India posed a problem though: It was too far away for the beer to travel without spoiling. Since it is a scientific fact that it is impossible to take over faraway nations without a good beer in hand this was a major dilemma. Science came to the rescue, though and it was soon discovered that hops had a preservative effect on the beers England was shipping to its men in India. More hops were added to the brew and it traveled safely to India without spoiling. 

The imperialists were free to conquer India with a good buzz and all was right in the world once more. That is, unless you were a native of India, but I suppose that is another matter altogether. The point is that eventually beer drinkers in England took notice and decided that even though they did not give a flip about preservative effects, the hopped up beer tasted delicious. The IPA became a hit and (thankfully) became a fixture in the beer world for centuries to come. 

Does anyone else want to drink a good IPA and conquer something right now, or is it just me?

Anyway, our actual IPA Day celebration kicks off at The Community Tap for their IPA Day tasting. I have no idea what those guys will have featured for this celebration but I know I am excited about it. It starts at 5:00 which means we will be there around 4:45ish because you just cannot be too early for a tasting at TCT. 

From there we head over to Quest Brewing Company for their new Thursday night concert series. Quest’s Ellida IPA is a great beer and I would be satisfied just having that as my celebratory beverage on this great day. However, there is a limited supply of Ellida that was aged in a freshly dumped Buffalo Trace Bourbon barrel and I am pretty sure that this will have the majority of my attention as long as it lasts.

Quest will also feature local guitar prodigy Marcus King making Quest’s third attempt to stage a performance outdoors without getting rained out. Performances were moved indoors due to showers on the grand opening and Darby Wilcox lasted all of two and a half songs last Thursday before a monsoon nearly swept her away. We worked pretty damn hard building that stage in time for the grand opening and it would be really nice to see someone actually perform on it... here’s hoping tonight is the night.

Also, Neue Southern Food Truck will be in the parking lot slinging their delicious fare. I am still dreaming about their BLT that I devoured on Sunday and cannot wait to see what they are serving up for dinner tonight. 

A tasting, a brewery, a concert and great food… yeah, I would say we have a good day ahead of us. This is going to be fun. Happy IPA Day, folks!

Posted on Thursday, August 01, 2013 by Brett B.

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Monday, July 22, 2013

May 1? I am a little embarrassed that it has been this long since our last post. What the hell? Has Brett been too busy drinking beer to post anything at all in the last three months?

Actually, um, yeah, that’s part of it.

The truth of the matter is that I have been extremely busy but I cannot lie and say that there has not been a lot of beer consumed along the way. This is what happens when you find yourself stationed at a brewery six or seven days a week. You see, I have the pleasure of being friends with the guys at Quest Brewing Company and have been helping them out on the construction of the Upstate’s newest brewery. 

Posted on Monday, July 22, 2013 by Brett B.


Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Last July we expressed our disgust at the results of The Upstate Be’s “Best of Be” results. This was in no way a knock on the publication itself but rather the poor taste expressed by the voting public. Winners included Subway for best sandwich and Pizza Hut for best pizza and my brain still hurts from trying to understand what type of person takes the time to vote for such mediocrity. 

This year we are going to be a bit more proactive. Instead of waiting to pull our hair out over the results we would like to encourage everybody with a sense of taste and loyalty for local businesses to make sure they cast a ballot that recognizes the hard work, dedication and overall importance of local business people. 

Posted on Wednesday, May 01, 2013 by Brett B.