Saturday, July 30, 2011

Steely Dan, Shuffle Diplomacy Tour, July 29, 2011

My wife and I went to the Steely Dan concert last night at the MGM Grand Theater at Foxwoods.  As always they deliver.  Steely Dan, yes I do know where their name comes from, has been on the music scene since the sixties.  Walter Becker and Donald Fagin met at Bard College.  When they graduated they moved to New York City to peddle their songs.  They even toured with Jay and The Americans.  Can’t Buy A Thrill was their first album produced under the Steely Dan name. David Palmer, Jim Hodder, Denny Dias and Jeff “Skunk” Baxter formed the rest of the Band.  David Palmer was the vocalist on Dirty Work.  Google Jeff “Skunk” Baxter for an interesting history on this legendary musician.

This is my fourth time seeing them and they didn’t disappoint.  They are touring with a fantastic musical ensemble. The Shuffle Diplomacy tour includes the jazzy chops of the Miles High Big Band and the sultry voices of the Embassy Brats.  Here is a link to view the band members. Of special note was Keith Carlock, the drummer.  All night long he was laying down some fantastic licks.  He is a beast! 

The show opens with the rhythm section playing a jazz riff.  The horn section slowly walks in one by one and begin to trade fours.  The house fills up with a delicious jazzy, bluesy sound.  Becker and Fagin walk in and the band breaks into Aja.  They do an extended version of it.  Great opening.  The arrangements are new and give the music a very cool, summery feeling.  What always impressed me about Steely Dan was the complexity and precision of their music.  Every, note, beat, pause and breath has a meaning.  The lyrics are funny, playful, complex and sometimes employ name checking, obscure literary references and unusual patterns as a musical device.  When they play live, the same precision and attention to detail show through. 

Show Business Kids, a favorite of mine, was completely rearranged to give it a very cool swing feel.  Deacon Blue had a lush, rich, dense layer of harmony and sound.

Dirty Work, originally sung by David Palmer was deftly handled by the singing voices of the Embassy Brats. Aside from being gorgeous these ladies could sing.  They cleverly traded verses and joined together at the chorus.  

For Papa Don’t Take No Mess, a James Brown hit, each member showcased his or her talent.  Especially notable was Michael Leonhart on trumpet.  Leonhart, is the youngest person to ever win a Grammy. Keith Carlock had me on my feet during Reelin’ in the Years.  He was laying down a very complicated shuffle groove featuring a ton of ghost notes and pulling a few licks from the late Jeff Porcaro’s Rosanna Shuffle. As a drummer myself, I was in awe!

The encore was Kid Charlemagne, which kept the crowd on their feet. 

Next time they come to town, check them out.  I know I will. Yes, I do have the Steely Dan t-shirt!

Set List


Black Friday

Hey Nineteen

Black Cow

Time Out of My Mind

Show Business Kids


Deacon Blue

Dirty work

Papa Don’t Take No Mess

Home At last



My Old School

Reelin’ in the Years

Encore-- Kid Charlemagne

Thursday, July 28, 2011

What's For Supper?

Persian Chicken Kabobs

1 ½ half pounds of boneless chicken, I used white meat, but you can of course use dark.   Cut into cubes/chunks because you will be putting these on skewers.  I have a set of metal ones.  If you use wooden ones, be sure to soak them in water for about 15-20 minutes.  This will make sure they don’t burn during grilling.

·      1 TSP salt
·      ¼ TSP pepper
·      3 cloves of garlic minced
·      1 small onion fine dice
·      ½ TSP saffron –expensive but well worth it I used a lot less and it still very tasty
·      ½ TSP Turmeric used extensively in Middle Eastern and Indian cooking.  Gives it that rich yellow color.  Also very good for you.
·      3 TBL fresh lime juice. Don’t even think about substituting lemon juice. 
·      ¼ cup of olive oil

Mix marinade in bowl.  Put the chicken in bowl, coat well and put it back into the refrigerator for at least ½ hour.  I marinated it for an hour, and you can even marinade overnight. 

Heat the grill to 400 degrees.  Thread the chicken on the skewers.  I dumped the rest of the marinade onto the chicken and then put it on the fire.  NEVER use a marinade on the side after it has had chicken in it.  Either make more marinade, OR set some aside for dipping.  Cook each side for about 10 minutes or until the inside is NOT pink.  You can use an instant read thermometer to check doneness.  160 degrees.  Enjoy!
Serves 6

Watermelon Feta Salad

She is my new best friend in the blogosphere. 
Serves 8

Saffron Quinoa

1 medium onion diced
3 cloves of garlic minced
¼ TSP saffron threads
1 cup quinoa
2 cups of water
1 TBL extra virgin olive oil
salt and pepper to taste

In a medium saucepan heat the oil on medium.  When the oil starts to shimmer, add in the onions and salt and pepper to season.  Sweat them for a few minutes until they just start to turn golden.  Add the garlic and cook for 30 seconds.  Add the quinoa and stir.  Add the water and saffron.  Bring to a boil then reduce to simmer, cover and cook for 20 minutes.  Check every now and then.  Give it a shake and remove from heat when done. 
Serves 4-6

Roasted Vegetables

Anything in the house.  Tonight I used

1 onion sliced
4 ounces of mushrooms halved
1 small head of broccoli  florets
¼  head of cauliflower florets
1 TBL extra virgin olive oil

Cut up the vegetables and put in bowl.  You can salt and pepper to taste or an herb blend. I love Penzey’s spice blends.  Tonight I used Sunny Paris.  You can use whatever dry herbs you like.  Add the spices and oil.  Toss well.  You either roast at 450 degrees in the oven until done or if you have a grilling basket, use that.  The cauliflower usually takes the longest so you might want to put that in first, wait about 5-7 minutes and then toss in the rest.  You can use carrots, peppers, squash, whatever you like as vegetables.  The roasting brings out the natural sweetness.  Experiment and you will wonder how you ever made vegetables otherwise.
Serves 4

Depending on how many you are going to feed and amount of left- overs you want, adjust the amounts appropriately.  I used one chicken breast and that was enough for both my wife and me and leftovers for tonight. I used one half of a watermelon and still have about half of the salad left over.    

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Thanksgiving In July, Thanksgiving Comes Twice In The Scott Household

Thanksgiving is an important holiday in our household.  So important, we celebrate twice a year.  Yes. Twice!  So important, that when we built our house, we ordered double ovens just for Thanksgiving.  But it wasn’t always like that.  Years ago, my family used to go to my aunt and uncles’ house in Fairfield, CT.  At the time, my uncle was a wealthy car dealer.  We used to say we were going to the “big house.”  We were treated like second-class citizens because we were the poorer relatives.  My aunt would boast about her latest golf trophy and my uncle would bluster about, telling us how much money he was making. Back in the day, a Chevrolet dealership was a license to coin money.  You had to be pretty stupid to screw one up.  My uncle though, eventually managed to run it into the ground.  I didn’t feel too sorry for him because I had once bought a used car from him and the clutch went after three days.  He wouldn’t fix it. 

Anyway, the whole family would get together, and we would pretend we were having a good time.  My auntie was a good cook, or I should say her cook was a good cook.  The meal was the normal overabundance of food and drink.  The table groaned with a huge turkey, stuffing, side dishes and desserts.  All homemade mind you.  Afterwards, we would repair to the den and watch football.

After dessert, my mother who hated my aunt, still does, would give my father the high sign.  Gotta go!  We would all lie and say what a good time we had and can’t wait to see you again.  We would hop into our piece of junk of a car and ride home.  What a relief. 

After the downfall of my uncle, we needed a place to have Thanksgiving.  Unfortunately, no one in my family would step up to the plate.  We therefore began to celebrate Thanksgiving in restaurants!  I don’t know anything more depressing than spending Thanksgiving in a restaurant.  Overcooked, desiccated turkey, served with pasty potatoes, dried out stuffing, canned cranberry sauce drenched in salty, gloppy, gravy. Yum! All served by a sullen wait staff that looks as if they would prefer sticking themselves with sharp objects than waiting on you. What a great time.  We did this for a few years, each Thanksgiving being more miserable than the one before.  

About two months before my wife became my wife, she said under no circumstances was she spending Thanksgiving in a restaurant.  Well, that left only a few people ready, willing and able to make Thanksgiving.  My mother hates to cook, my sister-in-law is incapable of cooking, so that left us.  How hard can Thanksgiving be? Back then, well it was touch and go.  We had the year that we ran out of food.  Well, we didn’t really, but Howie, my sister-in-law’s brother-in-law pretty much piled his plate with enough turkey for eight and then proceeded to eat it.  My wife and I had to literally pick stuff off the carcass to eat. Then we had the year when Howie, again, stole the hakaka.  The what?  My wife is not sure if the word is a real or made up word, but her mother named this particular piece of turkey anatomy.  The hakaka is the best part of the bird.  Our family literally fights over this part.  The hakaka, is the part of the tail end of the bird that covers the stuffing.  During roasting, the skin, meat and stuffing all fuse into a piece of crispy, crunchy goodness.  Usually, we cut it off first, and then pick at it.  Howie, stole the entire hakaka and ate it all by himself.  No wonder he suffered a heart attack later that year.  Then we had the year that we decided to get a fresh turkey.  When we opened the plastic wrap, we found the turkey had turned rancid.  That was fun.  We had to go to the store, get a frozen one, plunge it in warm water until it thawed.  Dinner was delayed a while that year. 

Now, we have Thanksgiving down to a science. We make our cornbread, pies, and ice cream from scratch.  Our secret for cooking the bird is to smear it with spicy mustard and roast it at 325 degrees for about 22 minutes per pound.  We usually get at least a 22 pound bird, so we start early in the morning.  Hours of preparation go into this meal.  Planning, shopping trips, cutting, dicing, and cooking.  It’s over in twenty minutes.  Then the kids go and watch the game and in another twenty minutes, they all snoring soundly. 

So, how did we come up with Thanksgiving in July? When our older son was dating his wife, she would only go to Thanksgiving at her parent’s house. Reasonable enough.  He raved about how good the food was, how much fun we had, what comfortable couches we had to fall asleep on after the meal.  She was almost convinced.  Then my wife had a brainstorm; let’s celebrate Thanksgiving in, you guessed it July.  So we planned everything and went shopping to buy all of the necessary accoutrements.  Everything except the turkey.  Try and find a 20 plus pound turkey in the summer.  Try real hard.  It’s not there.  D. B. Cooper is easier to find.  We scoured the grocery stores searching in vain for a turkey during a heat wave.  Stop and Shop had two fresh turkeys. We grabbed the biggest one and ran to the checkout.  Whew.  We were a little hesitant given our history with fresh turkeys.  But the turkey came out fine and a new tradition was born.  We now buy two turkeys at Thanksgiving.  One get eaten right away, the other goes into our freezer. 

Thanksgiving in July has become a permanent part of the Scott household.  It has its own traditions such as drinking mass quantities of beer, a blow-up pool that only gets put up for three days, endless rounds of horseshoes and cornhole, plus the usual insults, teases, name-calling, put downs and other sundry ways of saying I love you.  You have to be pretty thick-skinned to survive in the Scott household.  Curiously enough, my kids won’t let us share TIJ with anyone unless they vet them.  Adults, sadly, are not welcome. We would probably not be invited, except that we MAKE the dinner. My normally placid home gets turned into a frat house for three days.

As with all good things, it comes and goes too quickly.  My kids slowly depart and we are left with an empty house.  But we do not despair.  Real Thanksgiving is just around the corner.    


Monday, July 25, 2011

The Burger Quest-The Counter, West Hartford, CT

The Burger Quest takes us to The Counter, in West Hartford, CT.  I had mixed feelings about The Counter.  I’ve read some not so flattering reviews about the food.  A friend of mine said that when she had eaten there, the burger was dried out.  Not a good endorsement for a premium burger establishment. 

My wife and I decided to go there for a late lunch.  We get there at about two.  Not too many people there, so we were seated immediately.  The décor is pretty funky.  Exposed ductwork, cool greens and browns with lots of silver.  There is a lot of glass, which gives the place a bright, cheery feeling.  It’s also located on a corner, which helps with the people watching.  The server brings our menus and explains how to order.  You get an order sheet that allows you to build your own burger.  Type of burger; beef, chicken, turkey and yes, even a veggie.  Type of cheese, toppings, premium toppings, and even bun.  They also have daily specials for each category.  I didn’t do the math, but I suspect there are thousands of variations of burgers.  For the less creative or those who are unable to make a decision, you can order an off the shelf “signature” burger. 

My wife and I start to tick off the boxes.  I order a 1/3 lb. after cooking beef patty, with Gruyere cheese, dill pickles, grilled onions, hard boiled egg slices and tomatoes, applewood smoked bacon, on a Portuguese hard roll and roasted garlic aioli sauce on the side.  

 Sal, my wife, orders a 1/3 lb. beef patty, with cheddar cheese, dill pickles, grilled onions, black olives, applewood smoked bacon on a regular bun with Russian dressing.  We split a “Fifty/Fifty;” half onion rings, half fries.  I go for a Coke, Sal gets an iced tea.   


The Counter gets its beef from Meyer Natural Angus.  Meyer is another premium rancher that offers humanely raised cattle that are hormone and antibiotic free. You can order steak from them on-line.  Four 8oz. New York Strips are selling for  $79.15.  Filet Mignon more your style?  Try four 8 oz. filets for $103.45. Quality, junk free food is costly. 

The burgers arrive, but not the o-ring/fry combination.  Oh oh.  Getting the server’s attention is not easy.  We decide to dig into the burgers and continue to try and flag her down.  As I bit into mine, I realized that ordering the Portuguese hard roll was a mistake.  The burger and its accompaniments start to squirt out the other side.  The combination of bacon, cheese, and the other ingredients are good.  The burger is perfectly cooked to medium.  I gingerly pull a piece of meat off and pop it in my mouth. Good flavor, not great flavor. I’m a little disappointed because the premium beef should have a premium taste.  I liked Sal’s burger because of the black olives.  A stunning move.  The olives added a salty kick and great texture. 

We finally flag down a waiter, at this point anyone will do, and ask if he could check on our o-ring/fries.  A minute later they come out.  The fries are shoestrings dusted with a nice spice blend.  They have a great potato taste.  Sal likes them better than the 5 Guys fries.  The onion rings are disappointing.  They are greasy and slightly undercooked.  The “Fifty Fifty” is served with ranch and BBQ sauce on the side.  I don’t care for BBQ when it’s not served with BBQ, but the ranch dressing was very good. 

We get the bill and it totals $31.75 plus tip for two burgers, two soft drinks and fry/o-ring combo.  This is a premium price for an okay dining experience.  I don’t like it when my meal is not served properly.  While the burgers were pretty good, they weren’t great.  Unfortunately for The Counter, there are plenty of other premium burger joints competing for their customers.  I probably won’t be one of them.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Burger Quest--Corey's Catsup and Mustard

The next stop on our Burger Quest brings us to Corey’s Catsup and Mustard, located in Manchester, CT.  Corey’s was a “fan favorite” on Guy Fieri’s Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives.  A fan favorite is when they send the camera crew, but not Guy Fieri.  Sal and I had tried to go in March, but because it was during the Big East games, we were told it would be an hour wait.  I don’t care how good the food is, if I am hungry, I’m not waiting an hour.  We ended up at, you guessed it, Five Guys.

Fast forward to summer vacation.  We get there a little past five on a weeknight.  We are immediately seated.  The waitress takes our drink orders.  They didn’t have Harpoon UFO, so I ordered a Sam Adams Summer Ale.  Excellent beer, but a lot of other places carry Harpoon, so I was a little disappointed.  Sal orders her usual water.  Corey’s is a small place that looks as if it was an Italian restaurant at some point.  Brick walls with arches, tin ceilings and a very nice bar area. There are flat screens all over the place.  Looks like a great place to catch a game.  The bathrooms are labeled buns and burgers.  I figured out I was a burger.  They were very clean too.

The menu is very extensive.  They have soups, salads, sandwiches, wraps and a diet menu.  They even have a fries menu.  Since we are on the Burger Quest, we naturally concentrate on the burger page.  Corey’s offers a huge assortment of burgers.  The burger is a 7 oz. patty that is ground daily.  Yes, for some bizarre reason, they even have a veggie burger.  Sal settles on the Bacon, Bacon, Bacon, BLUE Burger.  This burger naturally comes with a huge amount of bacon, mushrooms, caramelized onions, bleu cheese, Corey’s House sauce all piled on a sesame seed bun.  I opt for the Man Burger.  Are you sitting?  This burger is a stack of pastrami, a fried egg, bacon, horseradish cheddar cheese, House sauce on a hard roll.  Whoa!  We also order an onion ring/Cool Ranch Fry combo.   

Sal and I chat as we wait for the order.  We talk about what a great summer we’ve been having.  We have been very busy, the weather has been great, who could ask for more.  Finally our order arrives.  I’m stunned.  The burger is enormous.  Thankfully it comes with a knife to cut it.  Sal and I split the burgers and dig in.  

As I bite into my sandwich, there is an explosion of flavor.  The salty pastrami, meaty burger and bacon overwhelm me.  Add in the warm tang of the horseradish cheese and House sauce.  And don’t forget about the fried egg.  It is very delicious.  The Bacon, Bacon, Bacon, BLUE Burger is no slouch either.  The ton of bacon is very crispy, the mushrooms add an earthy flavor and great texture.  The sharp bleu cheese gives it a great tang.  Sal says, “The meat at Max Burger was richer.”  We weren’t crazy about the fries.  While a great concept, the Ranch Fries failed on two counts.  Too salty and too greasy.  The ranch dipping sauce was good though.  The onion rings were underwhelming as well.  They were a little soggy and lacked freshness.  Sal did not like the cole slaw either.  She is tough on slaw because she happens to make the best slaw in the world.  Really!  In all honesty it appeared to be an afterthought. 

I liked this place because the burgers are very creative.  The 7-Napkin Burger has BBQ brisket with two patties.  The Jersey Burger has a spicy sausage patty, topped with ham and roasted red peppers.  They have some very unique offerings. The value is terrific.  I could have had just the pastrami on my burger as a sandwich and would not have felt cheated.  They did miss the mark on the side dishes. Even though I’m not a fry quest (maybe next summer) I still like the side dishes to get the same attention as the entrée.  It’s all in the details.   Two beers, two burgers and a fry/o-ring combo totaled $29. 

All in all, a decent meal at a decent price.   I’d go back in a heartbeat, provided my heart is still beating after we finish the Burger Quest. 

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Ke$ha-What a Brilliant Mind!

 I think that when the record companies start to look at why record sales have been declining for the last decade, they might want to take a close look at a few things. Let’s start with Autotune. Autotune is the audio plug in that makes anyone or anything with a mouth sound like an opera singer.  You don’t have to actually be able to carry a tune.  Autotune will make sure that you have perfect pitch.  It is now a standard in contemporary music production.  Years ago you actually had to have a modicum of singing ability to make it as a star.  The marketplace would recognize soon enough if you were serious about your craft like the Beatles or just another one hit wonder like Whale’s smash hit “Hobo Humpin' Slobo Babe.” Remember that one?  I didn’t think so.  Autotune is also responsible for the robot like effects that make T-Pain sound, well, like T-Pain.  What up Bartender?

Listen to the Bobby Hatfield of the Righteous Brothers sing “Unchained Melody.”  What a set of pipes!  Clean, crisp, pure and, oh by the way, on key. Or how about Roberta Flack singing “The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face.”  Hauntingly beautiful.  Listen to any Roy  Orbison songs.  He could hit three octaves.  Same thing with Freddy Mercury of Queen.  These people had talent.  I realize these days that time is money and most, if not all, song production is done with Pro-Tools.  Producers and engineers don’t have time for take after take until the artist gets it right.  One or two takes, click the mouse, adjust a dial or two and voila, perfect song.  Did too many lines of cocaine last night?  No problem! Autotune will fix that.  Randy Jackson says, “You are too pitchy dawg!”  Autotune will fix that too.  It is unfortunate that electronics has displaced talent. 

The other reason is lyrics that border on the absurd. When I was growing up and listening to records, you know vinyl, we listened and tried to divine the meaning of the lyrics.  You couldn’t Google the lyrics and a lot of albums simply did not come with lyrics on the liner notes.  We would spend hours listening to the songs over and over again until we could not only sing them, but figure out what they meant.  Songs like; Simon and Garfunkle’s Bridge Over Troubled Waters, One Love by Bob Marley, or Whiter Shade of Pale by the Procul Harem.  I mean Charlie Manson thought the Beatles were talking to him through the White Album.  That’s hardcore stuff.     

Fast forward to today for a little...

Back door cracked
We don't need a key
We get in for free
No VIP sleaze
Drink that kool-aid
Follow my lead
Now you're one of us
You're coming with me
It's time to kill the lights and shut the DJ down
This place about to-
Tonight we're taking over, no one's getting out
This place about to blow (repeat several dozen times)

That little ditty was penned by serious songwriter Ke$ha who considers herself a songwriter before and above everything else.  She has writing credits on Britney Spears new song “Till The World Ends.”  Here is a sample...

This kicked in, got your tongue tied in knots I see
Spit it out cause I'm dying for company
I notice that you got it
You notice that I want it
You know that I can take it 
To the next level baby
If you want this good sh@#
Sicker than the remix
Baby let me blow your mind tonight

That’s pretty serious songwriting.  I’ve been trying to unlock the meaning of “If you want this good sh@# Sicker than the remix” for weeks.   I’m still stumped.

How does this creative mind come up with these powerful lyrics?  Here’s a quote from the Esquire Magazine interview. “I'll usually go out, have one f!@#ing insane night, come home half-drunk, stumbling, and write down a few words. The next morning I'll wake up and be like, Whoa, this story needs to be told.”  Whoa is right.  Who knew writing could be so easy?  I think I will now kill a bottle of Jack Daniel’s and write the next Pulitzer Prize. 

Friday, July 15, 2011

I Believe I Can Fly; Actually I Did!

My wife and I have been talking about zip lining for over a year.  We had planned to do it last summer, but life got in the way, and it never made the cut.  We were determined to do it this summer.  A friend of mine recommended Empower in Middletown, Connecticut.  We checked the weather, picked a date, and made reservations for the canopy tour.  They have other tours such as scavenger hunts, team building and personal development. Total for two adults, $93.59.  Not cheap, but this is summer and my wife and I want to have fun.

We arrive and check in.  The facility is gorgeous.  There is a tidy pavilion on a well-groomed field that abuts the wooded course.   We sign a waiver that no one reads which absolves them of any and all liability.  Don’t worry, safety is paramount here. You are securely attached to a safety line at all times. 

The rest of the people in our group show up and we introduce each other.  There is a mom who woke up her two high schools boys and told them they were going zip lining today.  Surprise!  A father and son team doing the bonding thing. Three kids ages eleven through fifteen, who were with their grandmother.  Grandma is seventy-seven! Three years ago she went skydiving.  Twice! 

John and Nick are the guides/instructors--two very engaging young men.   They line us up and help us into our harnesses.  Very snug, but comfortable.  The webbing is thick and sturdy and the hardware is in good order.  The helmets are wiped down and disinfected between runs. We clip into the safety line and climb the ladder to the start platform.  Once on the platform, instruction begins.  We are told what to do for every conceivable scenario.  How to turn when you are on the zip line.  Where to place your hands.  And even what to do if you are the unlucky one who gets stuck in the middle of the zip line.  Not someplace that I want to be, so instead of my usual comments and cracks I listen intently. Nothing says stupid more than embarrassing yourself in front of a group of strangers.  Oh, the guides are taking pictures of you too! 

I’m very excited and a little nervous.  One of the guides clips in, and zip lines to the other platform.  It looks cool.   He will be catching you as you land on the platform. One by one our group gets on the zip line and goes.  My turn.  I step onto the platform, wait for the zip on signal, lift my feet and I’m flying. Wow! I start to rotate a bit, so I steer the rig and I’m back on track.  This is amazing.  I feel the warm air rushing past my face as I watch the ground whizzing by.  The platform is approaching, I stick my legs out, here it comes, smile for the camera, BAM, hit the platform, the guide grabs me and it’s over way too soon.  What a rush! My wife and I high five each other and babble about how incredible that was.  We wait for the rest of the group to finish.  

The next two zip lines are under the tree canopy.  We are flying through the forest. I think of the Star Wars scene where Luke and Leia are racing through the forest on the speeders.   It is so exhilarating. My wife is grinning from ear to ear saying, “Amazing! Fantastic! Out of Body!”  

Everybody is fist bumping, shaking hands, making jokes, calming nerves and encouraging each other.  The group of strangers is becoming a team.  A good thing too because the next stop on this journey is the Obstacle Course.  To the right--the cargo net and tightrope.  To the left--the Indiana Jones Temple of Doom style  bridge.  My wife goes for the bridge.  I opt for the cargo net.  I grew up watching World War II movies and inevitably there would be a scene of grim GI’s scrambling down a cargo net. I didn’t think too much about the tightrope.  Rookie mistake.  We’ll get to that later.

Team Bridge goes first.  My wife will pick up the narrative.  “The first bridge doesn’t appear to be too daunting since all the planks were joined together by two steel cables running through the ends on each side.  Hold on to the cable, put one foot in front of the other and go!  Just put your foot on the center bolt and walk.  Piece of cake until the next one.” 

Team Cargo Net goes next.  John, our guide, tells us how to hold it.  The key is to push your hips into the rope.  That way you aren’t putting the strain on your arms.  You want your legs to do all of the work and use your arms to stabilize yourself.  I get on, push my hips into the ropes and crab across.  The team is cheering me on, I’m making my way across, I stop, smile for the camera, and continue. I get to the other side, hit the platform and shake my head in wonder.  I just traversed a cargo net, fifty feet above the ground.  I am so amped from the adrenaline. I cheer the rest of Team Cargo Net across, yelling advice and encouragement. Everyone makes it across. 

It’s time for Team Bridge to cross the second bridge.  My wife will continue. “Bridge Two looked like a dozen swings tied to a steel cable on either side.  Not so easy.  Just put your foot on the center bolt and walk.  For people like me with short legs, the 2-foot separation between swaying planks was a stretch…stretch I did!  Nick said, “Slide your hands to the next knot, then put your foot on the plank and lift the other foot up.  Don’t put two feet on the plank at the same time or you’ll be rocking like a teeter totter.” Nick was right!  One foot on a plank at a time, slide to the next knot, keep going.  Easy for him to say.  He’s not uncoordinated like me.  Each time I lifted the back leg, the swing slammed into the heel of the front leg.  I never thought walking the plank could be so painful.  Finally, the white-knuckle event is over and I am swaying on terra-firma 50 feet above the ground.  The youngest of our group froze on the second plank.  She turned white as a ghost.  I was sure Nick would have to rescue her.  I started cheering her on and the rest of the group joined in.  Finally she had breached the divide and was safe with the rest of us.”

Team Tightrope now has to cross.  Picture this.  A twenty-five foot wire strung between two trees with ropes hung vertically, spaced every three to four feet.  Got it?  I step onto the wire, and grasp the rope.  Immediately I begin to sway. Not good.  I remember what the guide said, “hold the rope high to prevent wobbling.”  I steady myself and begin to inch my way across.  The ropes are cleverly placed just out of your grasp to make this challenging. I begin to wobble again.  I stop, take a few deep breaths, compose myself and concentrate.  I am now totally relaxed. It is a fantastic feeling when you are totally focused.  Everything is crystal clear.  It’s a zen like feeling that is similar to when I target shoot.  I block out everything and concentrate on the task at hand.  I will my way across.  Finally I hit the platform. 

Everyone finishes, and we start to come down from the adrenaline rush.  We were congratulating each other for conquering the most difficult part of our journey. We were beaming with pride because of our accomplishments. 

There are two more zip lines.  The longest is 650 feet.  I cannot wait to get back on the line.  Clip in, and take off.  Amazing!  The last line brings us back to the ground. 

  Our group forms up for one more picture, and then a short hike back to the pavilion.  We remove our gear shake hands and hug our new friends.  Sallyanne and I discreetly tip our guides for the fantastic job they did.  This was without a doubt one of the most fun times I’ve had in while.  Check it out.  I guarantee you will have a blast.