Witten Wedding

Ah, wedding bells. My old buddy Adam married his lovely sweetheart Nicole on June 21. They got hitched in lovely Sarasota, FL, and I took the trip down for the festivities.

It was a blast.

It was supposed to be an outdoor wedding, and it rained all damned day. But you know what, rain? You can't drown love.

They moved the ceremony indoors. It was the same place the reception was to be held. What's that mean? Break the glass, shout "mazel tov", and start the party.

It was so nice to see all the people at the wedding. Sarah Fried Chicken, Jen, Carson and Christy, Dave and Shannon, the Cliftons, etc. (Know who any of those people are? If not, you're missing out.)

There was food and beverages and dancing. And! Since it was a Jewish wedding (well, half-Jewish anyway...), there was this!

Hava nagila, hava, baby. I'm such a gentile. I unabashedly love the novelty of lifting the bride and groom in chairs and dancing them around. (Well, novelty for me...)

Weddings: Fun parties, plus all that forever togetherness stuff. Fortunately, I'll get to go to roughly 6,000 of them in the next few years.


Not for me, so much.

I spent my birthday in Vegas.

I was there for work.

I spent most of my time in interviews and meetings.

About two hours before I left for the airport, I laid out five crisp dollar bills as my gambling allowance. On my fifth quarter, I won fifty bucks. I used that fifty to putter around the casino losing money and drinking ice-cold beer for free. I ended up giving it all back to the casino.

I left Las Vegas two dollars in the hole, a year older, and both wondering and sorta knowing why people love the town so much.



Hey guys. I fell off the blog wagon, but it's time to climb back aboard.

In the interest of continuity, I'll give you guys some info on the next phase of my journey.

The weekend of June 7, my mom, brother Tommy, sister-in-law Amber, and their daughter Bailey all jumped in a car with me and we headed down to Pawley's Island, on the coast of SC.

Pawley's is a great place with beautiful wide beaches and beautiful old houses. The self-described motif at Pawley's is "arrogantly shabby", and even though it's just south of Myrtle Beach, strict zoning has helped it maintain its quaint and homey mood.

The house we went to, which belongs to some close family friends, is well over 80 years old, and has survived hurricanes and erosion and family reunions. It typifies an old breed of beach house that's disappearing. It's simple in its design: Central hallway, bedrooms along the hall that also open onto porches that wrap the house. Scrubbed pine floors. Cypress wall paneling. Boardwalk to the beach.

These days, new construction tends to be bland condos or inflated megamansions. I'd take an old-timey beach house any day.

Anyway, the star of the show, as usual, was Bailey.

She seems really at home on the beach. She's not afraid of the water at all. She's not afraid of anything, really, except for the dark and moths.

We kicked back on Pawley's for the weekend and enjoyed every minute of it. These pictures will come in handy on a stressful winter day. There is such a thing as warmth and relaxation.


Boiled Peanuts

Perhaps my favorite thing to eat on the planet are boiled peanuts. (Then again, there are a lot of other things on that list, but let's talk about the peanuts for now.)

Some of you guys aren't that familiar with these little goobers, so howsabout a primer?

Boiled peanuts are just that: Peanuts that are boiled (in-shell) in salt water. They can be served hot or cold, and are a popular snack in a lot of the South, particularly in the summertime. Because they're boiled, they're soft (not unlike a cooked bean).

They can be made with any raw peanut, but the best ones are made with green peanuts, which are fresh peanuts that haven't been dried. They create these wonderful little boiled peanuts that are fresh-tasting and impossible to stop eating. They're very hard to get out of season or away from where they're grown, so summer time down South is prime time for these little guys.

You can also make boiled peanuts with dried raw peanuts, but these don't turn out as well. I can get dried raw peanuts in Chicago, but because they don't contain their own moisture, you have to soak them overnight before cooking, and then cook them in a crock pot for about a day. Still, beats nothing.

You can find boiled peanuts in roadside stands and small grocery stores throughout the South, but I'll let you in on some of the very best boiled peanuts on the planet.


1) Lakeside Market: Sumter, SC
This is a little market that sells fresh produce and potted plants and such. It's run by an older gentleman that grew up on the land on which the market now sits. He ran several other stores, and eventually moved back to the corner on which his house once stood and built this little place. They boil their own peanuts in the store, and he says they have it down to a science, so the peanuts turn out consistently good, batch after batch. They're a little on the small side, but they are good. If you like your peanuts hot, this might not be your spot. They keep their peanuts in paper bags in a refrigerator.

2) Allsbrook's Boiled Peanuts: Manning, SC
I grew up on Allsbrook's. This place made the peanuts by which I will always judge all other peanuts. They were made at a little roadside market on the way to Lake Marion, and were sold all over Clarendon County. At some point, the business changed hands (I hear there was scandal involved), the business lay dormant for a few years (known as the Great Boiled Peanut Drought of 19-odd-something) and later the daughter or daughter-in-law of Allsbrook started turning out peanuts (though not under the Allsbrook's name. They were Funny's Boiled Peanuts. They were almost as good, though). Of late, I understand that someone in the Allsbrook family has gotten their hands on a peanut pot again, and Allsbrook's peanuts are back. I haven't gotten my hands on any yet, but maybe soon.

3) The cooler in the back of a pickup truck: Near Eastover, SC
Where highway 378 meets highway 601, there is a little parking lot of an abandoned store. In that lot, a dude has been selling peanuts for at least a decade. He's got signs out on 601 about a hundred yards from his spot in either direction. The signs are hand-lettered on plywood. "boiled p-Nuts". Lowercase, except for the "N" in "nuts". You can get "new crop" or "old crop" peanuts. He has two big metal cookers on a trailer where the peanuts get the business, and I have a suspicion that he might use just a tiny touch of fatback in process, because the peanuts are uber-flavorful. I recommend the 'new crop'. He keeps the peanuts in ziplocks in a cooler to keep them warm after cooking, so warm peanut lovers take note.

This is just a tiny cross-section.

A full book is in the works.

Anyway. Boiled peanuts are good, man.


So, in keeping with the intent of updating you fine folks on my travels, let's review:
1) London
2) Nice
3) Crazy trip from Nice to Charleston.
4) Charleston for Spoleto
5) Sumter to hang out with the fam and roast in the heat.

That takes us up to about May 31, when I went to Wild Dunes, down on Isle of Palms (near Charleston) to celebrate Adam's Bachelor party.

Here's the only picture I took:

There are pictures out there of Adam wearing a sparkly bachelorette tiara, but, sadly, I don't have those.

Rest assured, it was a good time. A little time on the beach. Some fun.



For realz.



So, in between all of these travels, I've gotten to spend a good deal of time with my niece, Bailey.

I talk about her all the time, and a quick perusal of this blog will turn up posts from many chapters of her two years and nine months on the planet.

I last saw her this past Christmas, and the five or six months intervening between then and now have made all the difference. She's moved from Bailey the Toddler to Bailey the Kid.

She's enormous. 99th percentile, heightwise. Her legs are, conservatively, 17 feet long, and she can dunk a basket without lifting her arms.

Seriously, though. The kid's tall.

And talks. I don't mean "makes noises with her mouth". She really talks. Complete sentences and a ridiculous vocabulary and all that. I know these things are pretty standard for most humans, but it's amazing to see all of this coming out of such a young person.

She's funny, too. Sometimes unintentionally. Sometimes totally on purpose.

She's really sweet, too. She's affectionate and polite. She's giving. She's crazy. (In a good way).

As our entire family says, with every bit of love and affection we're capable of, "She's something."

I'll be back soon with more highlights from my various trips.



After all that insanity that accompanied my trip back to the States, I was ready for a little relaxation. Fortunately, that's exactly what I found.

The Fowler Family Radio Hour did three shows at the American Theater in Charleston as a part of the Piccolo Spoleto Fringe Festival. The Harrelsons (some close friends of mine from Sumter) and their sister Lucy are some of the sweetest people on the planet, and Lucy saw fit to let us stay in her beautiful home in Mt. Pleasant.

We sat on porches (the house has 3) and took walks and ate lazy brunches on the porch.

We made trips into Charleston before the shows (which got solid reviews), and hung around after for nice dinners and other diversions.

We also got down to the beach! That was a first for Kevin (pictured below. He's the furry young gentleman between my friends Joe and Shelby .)

Kevin wasn't the only guy who was making a first-ever trip to the ocean. Devin, who was awesome enough to come down and play piano for us, is a Michigander and was an ocean first-timer. I think both he and Kevin dug the seashore.

Good food. Hospitality. Some sun and salt and sea and sand.

It was exactly what I think we all needed.

We hope to return to Spoleto next year. I, personally, only stayed away from Charleston for a couple of days. We left on Tuesday, and by Friday night I was on Isle of Palms near Charleston yet again.

More on that later.


Hard to leave.

It was hard to leave France.


Not "I'll miss the moonlight on the Mediterranean" hard.

More like "there are strikes and solidarity strikes on top of those strikes, and I can't actually make my flights" hard.

First: Transit workers strike in France. They're not Sarkozy fans over there. I mean, in case you haven't noticed, we have a somewhat unpopular president in the good ol' USofA as well, but he's not eliminating 35,o00 gov't jobs and divorcing his wife to marry a hot 20-something. Sarkozy on the other hand... less shy on both fronts.

Taxi drivers were largely striking, too. There were some cabs, but not many. Plus I was trying to get to the Cote d'azur airport in Nice, and it was the week between the Cannes film festival and the Gran Prix in Monaco, so that airport was the spot.

When I got to the airport, my plane hadn't taken off, but the flight was closed. They wouldn't let me on.

Well, I was trying to get to London in time for my flight from London to Washington, and on to Charleston. It was Thursday, and I had a show Friday night at Spoleto.

So? Time to catch another flight to London, right?


Second: An air traffic controller strike that started just after my first flight left delayed every flight by a couple of hours. No hope of making Heathrow in time for my flight. I rescheduled for the first flight out Friday morning.

I snagged an EasyJet flight to London (couldn't get to Heathrow, so I had to hit Luton, and then take a bus between the two airports. That was kinda cool. I was the only one on the bus, so it was like having a giant cab all to myself. )

I got to Heathrow around 11pm (after getting to the Nice airport around 7am...) and found a dark spot in a corner, unfolded my garment bag and used it as a mattress. I caught a couple of hours of airport sleep, and then grabbed my flight from Heathrow to Dulles.

There were no flights from Dulles to Charleston that day. I got one to Columbia instead. My brother Sam picked me up in Columbia and we drove down to Charleston. We hit a big wreck on I-26 and my car started to overheat while we were stuck in traffic.

We ended up getting to Charleston around 5:30pm (11:30pm Friday, Nice time. 40+ hours after getting to the airport in Nice, according to my math....). I was several hundred dollars poorer from the fees and fare differences associated with my changes.

I got a shower and headed hit the stage by 7pm for the first night of the Fowler Family Radio Hour at Spoleto in Charleston.