"To strive, to seek, to find and not to yield"
- Alfred Lord Tennyson, 1833

"live deep and suck out all the marrow of life"
- Henry David Thoreau, 1845

"Some guys, they just give up living
And start dying little by little, piece by piece
Some guys come home from work and wash up,
And go racin' in the streets."
- Bruce Springsteen, 1977

"...to the heart, there's no time for you to waste.
You won't find your precious answers now
by staying in one place."
- Frank Turner, 2009

"The best things in life aren't things.
They're living and breathing."
- Michael Franti , 2011

"I owned every second that this world could give,
I saw so many places, the things that I did"
- Ryan Tedder of OneRepublic, 2014

All written content and photos by Rob Fulfer unless otherwise indicated.

Monday, April 30, 2018

Birthday RAMPAGE Month!

It's less than a month until my birthday...let the RAMPAGE begin!!

Thursday, March 27 - We went to see Ready Player One at the Opry Mills IMAX  tonight with our buddy, Wayne.  It was a fantastic film that we just might go see again! 
Saturday, March 31 - We spent a good part of  the sunny and beautiful last day of March today buying a new car.  Welcome, "PK Subaru" (Go Preds) to the family!!  We had to have a new car and Ashlee did a great job researching several makes and models until we landed on this  2018 Outback after a lot of deliberation.  We love the color, the gas mileage, the all-wheel-drive,  the safety and all the whistles and bells.  We look forward to taking him on his first road trip later this month down to New Orleans (or just Birmingham - see below).

Instead of burning up the road in our new car, we drove PK straight home and enjoyed the rest of the beautiful day and evening in our back yard sipping wine by the fire admiring our new purchase.
Sunday, April 1- We decided to indulge in a boozy Easter brunch today at Tansuo, a relatively new high-end Chinese Restaurant over off 12th Avenue in Nashville.  We came for the bottomless mimosas which were tasty, but we were floored at how good the food was too.  Above in the foreground is the pork belly fried rice (my personal favorite) and behind it was the tasty and creative General Tso's Bubble Waffle, a unique take on chicken and waffles.  We also had some tasty bao buns, dumplings and wontons from their serving carts.  We must come back to this place!

We hit the movie theater next and saw the somewhat sweet, but overly depressing film, The Leisure Seeker at the recliner theater at the Green Hills Mall.

We ended the Sunday fun-day by checking out the newly refurbished Noelle Hotel in downtown Nashville and its brand new  open-air rooftop bar, Rare Bird, which just opened this weekend.  The outside seating was closed due to some rain earlier in the day, but we were able to a get a couple seats at the heated bar and enjoyed some libations, house-made chips and a nice cheese plate.  The views are outstanding here and we will try and come back to enjoy the outdoor seating soon.
Saturday, April 7 -  We celebrated Ashlee's mom, Evelyn, and her 79th birthday today with a party at her house with lots of friends and family in attendance.  Despite several medical set-backs, "Evie-baby" rolls on and is able to live at home again which is very important to her.  
Overall it was a nice long weekend in Chattanooga with tasty meals (and a few libations...you know...dealing with family and stuff) at Heaven and Ale Brewing, the Frothy Monkey and the Breu Haus.

Friday,  April 13 - We went and saw the late showing of (Cock) Blockers tonight at our local Roxy 10 Theaters with the recliners seats.  It was hilarious from start to finish.  Thanks again, MoviePass!!
Wednesday, April 18 - Congratulations to Ashlee for winning her first (and our first, collectively) HQ Trivia game last night.  Granted, she only won 55 cents, but given the fact the game started with over 1.7 million players and she answered 12 questions in a row to win along with about 9900 other people is still pretty darn good!  I flamed out on Question # 11 and gave the wrong advice on Question # 12, so this win was all hers!

Friday, April 20 -  My birthday didn't go as originally planned since our nephew, Matt, and his fiancee' Sherrae, decided to get married today down in Chattanooga (4/20 get it...yeah, they like to smoke pot..) which we were obligated to attend and then while driving back we got to listen to the Preds lose at home in the first round of the playoffs to Colorado extending the series another game back in Denver.  Tomorrow will be a better day...I PROMISE!
Hey, what else do serve at a 4/20 wedding?  We brought these as kind of a joke and they were gone in 10 minutes!  

All grumpiness and joking aside, it was a beautiful day for a wedding and the couple picked a pretty spot at the base of Lookout Mountain in Rising Fawn, GA, at the take-off and landing strip for hang gliders.  We wish Matt and Sherae (and baby, Phayden) the best of luck and all the best for a happy future together
Saturday, April 21 - My "official" birthday celebration started today down in Murfreesboro with an early lunch (and beer) at The Green Dragon Pub and Brewery, a few more beers at Mayday Brewing, and then a couple hours at the Flashback Arcade playing the classic arcade game (and my all-time favorite), Rampage, plus many more.
We followed playing Rampage by watching Rampage, the movie based on the game and starring the always-great, Dwayne Johnson, back in Lebanon in recliners at the Roxy Theaters.  It was a hoot and a holler to say the least.  We ended the evening back at our place sitting around the patio and the fire pit laughing and enjoying life deep into the night.  Thanks to my great friends Craig, Alison, Wayne, Danny, Brenda, Nate, Ginny, Bethany, and, of course, my true love, Ashlee, for hanging with me and giving me such a fun and memorable day.  
Sunday, April 22 -  The birthday celebration continued today with a delicious brunch at City Tap in downtown Nashville.  Thanks to more of our friends, Doug, Charly and Wendy, for joining us today.  The weather was rainy so most of us headed to catch a movie next over at Opry Mills.  We caught a showing of the new Amy Shumer comedy, I Feel Pretty.  It was a pretty good flick.   Afterwards, along with just Wendy and Charly, we went to the SOLD OUT show of Billy Gardell (of Mike and Molly fame) at Zanies Comedy Club as part of the Nashville Comedy Festival.  He was great as were both of his openers.

We ended the evening a few doors down at Cilantro Mexican Grill noshing, travel planning and watching the Predators finally take the Round 1 series against Colorado with a resounding 5-0 beat down in Denver.  On to Round Two!!  What an absolutely great weekend with my friends to celebrate this old man getting even older.  Thank you, everyone, for attending and sharing in the fun and helping stay as young as I can (at least in my mind)! 

We closed out the month with a long weekend trip to New Orleans to finally get a chance to attend the always-enticing Jazz Fest and Heritage Festival.

Friday, April 27 - We were going to drive down to NOLA in our new Subaru Outback and then Ashlee had the brilliant idea that since we were going through Birmingham anyway, why not just ride the inexpensive Amtrak Crescent Train (like we did back on New Years 2014/15) and take away some of the stress (and danger) of driving another 5 hours.
What a great idea!  We kicked back and relaxed and let Amtrak do the driving as we imbibed in some adult beverages, made friends with our seat-mates and gazed in wonder at the beauty passing by like this sunset on Lake Pontchartain as we made our way in to New Orleans.
We decided that once we  had checked in to our nice hotel, the Marriott Metairie at Lakeway, we would just turn in early and prepare for a long day tomorrow in the Crescent City.

Saturday, April 28 - The music and festival didn't start until 11 AM, so we had time for a leisurely breakfast near our hotel in the New Orleans suburb of Metairie (that "Metry" dawlin') at Russell's Marina Grill.  The food was amazing starting off with these sweet potato beignets 
After breakfast, we Ubered over to the Horse Racing Track and Fairgrounds where the The New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival is held.    It was easy to get in and the festival is laid out really well.  We were very impressed.  Lots of shade, plenty of great food and not real long lines either.  The first new-to-us band we checked out was Tracksuit Wedding out of Denver who were terrific.    We sought out a little of that plentiful shade next in the Economy Hall Tent with the Paulin Brothers Brass Band who were terrific.  We met up there with our friends, Danny and Brenda, who have been to the festival before.
Our next new-to-us band we discovered was, Sweet Cecelia, from Cecelia, Louisiana, a couple hours west of New Orleans.  This lovely and talented Cajun trio and their band are terrific and their cover of The Zombies classic hit "Time of the Season"  (sang completely in French) was very cool.
There were several colorful and joyous New Orleans krewe parades going on throughout the day.  How these folks stand marching and dancing in the heat in this amazing costumes is beyond me.   Before heading to the main stage to close out the evening, we grabbed some food from the numerous vendors.  It's New Orleans, so, of course, it was all delicious.  My cup of  shrimp  and okra gumbo was so good, I went back for another one!
The main stage area was already packed and Bonnie Raitt was already playing on stage when we arrived.  We moved up into some grandstands for a better view of the closer, Sir Rod Stewart (subbing for the ailing Aretha Franklin) who put on a great show.
I had to steal this shot from NOLA.com because it really shows the energy and showmanship of Sir Rod during the show.  Not bad for 73 years FOREVER YOUNG!   (Photo by Brett Duke, NOLA.com | The Times-Picayune)
Since the festival is in the city limits and their are noise ordinances, it's over by 7 PM every night.  Not a bad thing for us aging folks I guess!  We walked back to the French Quarter and along the way took in the unique beauty that is New Orleans.  We also bought Jello-shots from some ladies selling them in front of their house (ahhh, N'AWLINS!) 
When got to the French Quarter, we headed over to the historic Golden Lantern Bar and met up with Ryan, a friend and past neighbor of Ashlee's mom in Chattanooga, who is living down here now.  After that we headed over to the famous Clover Grill and had huge cheeseburgers steamed under a hub-cap  (don't think about it, just go with it).  We closed out the night afterwards since we had a pretty early wake-up call tomorrow.
Sunday, April 29 - The train back to Birmingham leaves at the bright and early time of 7 AM so we upgraded our ride home to a "roomette"  that allowed us to do some snoozing on the way north.  The upgrade also included free breakfast and lunch (what a deal!).  The drive back home was smooth and uneventful.  Just the way you want it.  We will DEFINITELY be doing this trip again.  It's just too easy, too fun and New Orleans and the Jazz Fest are just too awesome!
Another scenic stop for the Amtrak Crescent...Roll Tide....no, not really...

Tuesday, March 20, 2018

MARCHing to Atlanta and Chicago

Saturday, March 10 - We took a quick trip down to Atlanta today to catch one of our favorite singers, LP, at Centerstage tonight.  Ashlee's mom, Evelyn, and our niece, Ella, came along as well.

We got a great price on the historic and quirky Artmore Hotel just up the street from the where the concert was being held.  This little 3-story structure built in 1924 is dwarfed by the new high-rises all around mid-town Atlanta.
Before the show, Ashlee, Ella and I walked nearby to the Center for Puppetry Arts which has a great Jim Henson exhibit including his original work desk and office set-up.
Big Bird really is BIG in real life.  This original puppet used on Sesame Street was part of the collection.

Our friend, Rex, joined us for dinner before the show at DaVinci's Pizza Mid-town and then we walked over to Center Stage Theater for the packed show with LP.  We got there in time for the second opener, Noah Kahan, who was pretty good.  LP's show was tremendous and this was her last stop on a recent North America tour.  I think she's about ready for the big time and the bigger arenas.
Sunday, March 11 - Before heading home, we took some time to visit the World of Coca-Cola exposition in downtown Atlanta.  It's a great , interactive hands-on experience of every aspect of the soft drink giant.

One of favorite exhibits was the tasting room where Coca Cola products from around the world can be sampled.

March 16-18: One of our TRAVEL BUCKET LIST ITEMS got checked off this long weekend as we flew to Chicago to experience St. Patrick's Day in the Windy City.

Cotton-ball clouds on our decent into Chicago this morning
Friday, March 16 -  We took a very early direct flight to Midway Airport this morning and rode the EL in to downtown Chicago for a day of fun and exploration.  We stored our bags at the spiffy Conrad Hotel and headed off for some fun until our room was ready....a very affordable room thanks to Hotwire.com's "buy it blind" option.

Before heading out, we did grab a mimosa at the 20th floor lobby bar of the Conrad Hotel.  Cheers!
Our first destination was a couple EL stops south (for $20 you can ride the EL an unlimited amount of times in 36 hours!) at The Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago's Money Museum:  a free interactive  learning center where you can actually see one million dollar bills stacked together in a cube...(that's too heavy to run with Ashlee...).  They also had a million dollars in $20 bills and another million in $100 bills...show-offs!  

Another cool (and free) stop was inside the Chicago Cultural Center which is housed in a large building built in 1897 and has two incredible large domes made of Tiffany glass
It was time for some more libations and fun so we hopped on the El and headed to the West Loop area and the Kaiser Tiger Curling Bar.  We came here because they boast at having Olympic curling lanes you can actually try out, but the food and drinks were great as well.

We found out quick that curling is much harder than it looks on TV.  We also found out quick that we won't be making any U.S. Olympic teams anytime in the near future.  
We were able to check into our room at the Conrad Hotel after lunch and we were very impressed with it.  We grabbed a quick nap since we had been up since 3 AM and wanted to stay up later tonight to meet our friends, Chris and Tarryn, who were driving in after work from Fort Wayne, Indiana, to join us for the rest of the festive weekend.  After our snooze, we grabbed dinner at Friends Sushi near the hotel and it was fantastic.  

Chicago was gearing up tonight for the big green weekend ahead.  
After dinner we walked down to Spin Chicago for a game we could handle a little better than curling.  This huge ping-pong bar and restaurant was a hoot and we had a "ball" playing...in between drinks, of course.  

Chris and Tarryn got in a little later than expected, so we all just sat around in the room enjoying some libations we bought at the Trader Joe's around the corner and  watched the historic March Madness upset of a tiny #16 seed, UMBC, over mighty #1 seed, Virginia, before turning in for an early rise and a long day tomorrow.
Saturday, March 17 -We began St. Patty's Day in Chicago early with reservations for breakfast and unlimited libations at Kerryman's Irish Bar near our hotel.  Here's two of the prettiest lasses in the joint with some of their "supplements."

  We didn't really know what to expect with the famous dyeing of the Chicago River Green, but it exceeded all our expectations.  The crowds were reasonable so there was lots of easy access to view the river, drinking wasn't out of control so the crowds were laid back and jovial, and the dye is just amazing.  This shot is completely unfiltered and one of a hundred good ones I took.  We highly recommend this inexpensive and easy access experience to everyone.  

We looked for the St. Patty's Day Parade that was going on but never found it.  We did get run out a building while trying to use their PUBLIC bathroom by a cranky old lady who then proceeded to follow us outside when I called her a name...well, that was her mistake because...any way, moving on...

We headed back to the hotel to change because we had a big evening ahead of us with tickets to see the super-popular (and thus super-expensive in terms of tickets) musical, Hamilton.
The show is and was fantastic.  Our balcony seats were not fantastic,  but it's really not that visual of a show and we are glad we experienced it and now we see what all the hub-bub is about.
Sunday, March 18 - It was going to be a Sunday-Funday in Chicago for us today before we flew back home late tonight and another early rise as we had an Underground Do-nut Food Tour scheduled for 9 A.M.

We had four stops on the Underground Do-Nut Tour that included Do-Rite Donuts, Firecakes, West Town Bakery and Stan's Donuts.  All the goodies we got were delicious and we had a pleasant morning stroll through downtown Chicago with our guide and small group.  The river was even still green from yesterday despite the fact that we had read it would only last about 6 hours.
Next up was a booze cruise on Lake Michigan aboard the Anita Dee II yacht.  This cheap Groupon find was a hoot and the weather was the best of the entire weekend during the 3 hours we were out on the water.
Chris and Tarryn had to start their drive home after our lake cruise, but we still had a couple hours to kill so we made one more stop and it turned out to be a dandy.   The Three Dots and a Dash Tiki Bar is a fairly new establishment known for a cool vibe and over-the-top drinks.  Thanks to our do-nut tour guide for pointing out how to find the place down a little obscure alley earlier in the day!

From left to right:  Ashlee's Chief Lapu Lapu (suggested for 2 people...balderdash!), our Captain Dino's Pu Pu Platter (serves 3 or 4...double-balderdash!) and my Aloha Felicia # 2 rum drink.  The food and drinks were amazing!  We can't wait to come back here with a larger group and try the Treasure Chest  drink for $385!!
Our late-night flight home was a few minutes late arriving back in Nashville, but we made good time getting driving and in the bed a little after midnight after a fun, fun GREEN weekend! 

Wednesday, February 28, 2018

FEBS 2018

One of our New Year's resolutions is to dedicate at last one night a week to turning off the TV, phones and computers and to play games.  We've stuck with it so far and actually really enjoyed it.  We finally broke out our beautiful mahjong set we got in China a few years back and learned to how to play.  I also learned that Ashlee is very, very good at it!  We've also been playing a new card game called BLDR that I got for Ashlee for Christmas which was a Kickstarter project of a young kid from Nashville.  It's a very well-developed, fast-paced and enjoyable game.

Ms. Bea thinks I have a  really lousy BLDR hand.
Photo courtesy of the songbirdsguitars.com.

Friday, February 2 - We drove down to Chattanooga after work today to catch a show by Scott Miller at the new Songbirds Guitar Museum along with our friends, Tim and Lavonda.  We have seen Scott many times and this time was especially memorable due to the fact that he and his family flipped their van on icy conditions in Virginia (photo courtesy of Scott's Facebook page) early this morning and still made it to the show with no one hurt thankfully.  This new venue and museum are very cool.  It is located above the Revelry Room venue that we have been to before a couple times and is another great addition to the new vision of the Chattanooga Choo Choo area down on Broad Street.  After the show we stopped by the (also new) Frothy Monkey for a late night (low-calorie) bite to eat and a couple drinks.  The food was exceptional.

A bonus to buying a ticket to see a show at Songbirds is also free admission to the impressive museum they have there.  It's an incredibly large collection of vintage guitars and other stringed instruments.  
Tuesday, February 6 -  Ashlee and I headed over to the Roxy Theater here in town and kicked back in a couple of the recliner seats there to catch a showing of the quirky fantasy love story, The Shape of Water.  This was my second viewing of the film which has 13 Oscar nominations including a shot at Best Picture.   \I thought it was just as good the second time seeing it, and Ashlee liked it a lot as well.
 (Editor's Note:  3/4/18 - First science fiction movie to ever win Best Picture!) 
Wednesday, February 7 -  We decided sort of last minute to go check out one of our favorite voices in music today, Dan Layus (of Augustana) at 3rd and Lindsley tonight.  Our reason for the hesitation was two-fold:  first, another artist we like, Andy Frasco, was also playing in town -- secondly, the last time we saw Dan he didn't play anything from his Augustana days which was  a bit disappointing to us.  We like his new solo stuff, but the Augustana tunes are our favorites.  Since he was the headliner tonight, we figured he had to do some Augustana tunes and we were not disappointed!  It was a great show sprinkled with new songs, solo stuff and some classic Augustana hits.  He even hinted that the band may be getting together again which I predict might be aimed at 2020 when his best-known song, "Boston", turns 15 years old.  (photo courtesy of Dan Layus' Facebook page). 
Wednesday, February 14 - Valentine's Day is supposed to be all about love, so we spent our morning traveling to Knoxville to visit a vet oncologist regarding our oldest cat, Mabel, who has mouth cancer.  They are the only place in the state that treats cancer in animals with radiation and we were hoping our sweet girl might be a candidate.   She was not, unfortunately, but we got a little bit of encouragement with another option of chemotherapy.  We will bring her back next week for her first treatment and see how it goes.  WE LOVE YOU, MABEL!! 
On a happier note, we did spent Valentine's Day evening at dinner at Waffle House, yes Waffle House, where once a year you can make a reservation there, sit at a table with white tablecloths, flowers and mood lighting and have a "romantic" hash-brown or two.  
Oh, so fancy! 

Thanks to our friends, Danny and Brenda, for joining us in the silly Waffle House fun on Valentine's Day.  Next year it's White Castle for a contrast and compare experience! 
February 16 - 22: We took a great cruise to Cuba this week.  See previous blog entry for details.

Friday, February 23 - It was another road trip to Knoxville today with Mabel for her first chemo treatment for her mouth cancer.  She was a trooper and handled it well.  We are hoping for positive results from the treatment in reducing and slowing the growth of the tumor.  On a more fun note, we did have a great breakfast nearby while Mabel was getting her treatment at a little place called First Watch.

Saturday, February 24 - After  spending the afternoon helping our pal, Wayne, do some packing for his upcoming move from Nolensville, we headed back to Lebanon tonight to catch a showing of the new dark comedy, Game Night at the Roxy Theaters thanks to MoviePass.  It was pretty good and Jason Bateman continues to be one of our favorite comedic actors working today.
Tuesday, February 27 -  Ashlee got us tickets to see one of favorite live performers tonight, Brett Dennen at the City Winery in downtown Nashville (photo courtesy of City Winery).  He had a good opener, Dean Lewis, a crooning Aussie with a great voice.  Brett's show was solid as usual and it was a nice post-vacation evening for us.