What the eve of September means to you

September Eve leads to thoughts about pumpkin patches.

By JOHN E. BIALAS
Broadmoor Bureau Chief

It’s the eve of September and it means a lot to you.

It means going to The Dollar Tree for autumnal designs, Halloween candy and Thanksgiving decorations.

It means rushing to Hobby Lobby in hopes of loading up on Christmas decor.

It means coming up with a list of easy dishes you can make for Friendsgiving and Thanksgiving, and you shop at Rouses for some ideas.

Photo by Toa Heftiba on Unsplash
On September Eve, you’re looking forward to an autumn leaf served with your ghost roast. Photo by Toa Heftiba on Unsplash

It means you are ready to rock October with haunted houses, corn mazes, scary makeup and horror movies.

It means dreaming of your first Pumpkin Latte of the season while you are in the Starbucks drive-thru.

September Eve means letters to Santa, even though The Claus isn’t thinking of you as he hits the beach for Labor Day weekend. Photo by srikanta H. U on Unsplash

It means Christmas planning and sips of hot chocolate. Letters to Santa and wish lists for family and friends.

It means you want to clean the fireplace, even though your AC might keep going full blast through Oct. 1.

You forget that you live in South Mississippi. You forget about the Labor Day weekend and the baseball and football that go with it. You want to bypass it all.

It’s Aug. 31. September eve. Almost 90 degrees, but change is coming.

Happy fall, y’all!

Editor’s note: This post’s featured photo is  by Hide Obara on Unsplash. Inspiration for this post came from 40 Holiday Blog Post Ideas by Amanda Cross, who, unlike me, is sincere about the holidays.

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This is not your father’s Hugo’s pizza

Hugo's Pizzeria in St. Louis posted this photo on its Facebook page in March. The restaurant will be opening soon, but it has no relation to the old Biloxi Hugo's except in name and the love for making pizza.

By JOHN E. BIALAS
Broadmoor Bureau Chief

This is not your father’s Hugo’s pizza.

That was the message Paul Hampton sent me  last week with a link to a story about a new St. Louis restaurant that is opening soon in Midtown.

Hugo’s Pizzeria is the name and the story from Feast Magazine said “the debut menu features a variety of specialty pies including a pizza with garlic oil, mushrooms, Fontina and rosemary. Twists on traditional toppings include a variety of housemade pepperoni options including French duck, Buffalo chicken, vegan, spicy beef and a house version made with grass-fed beef.”

Paul is correct. This is not your father’s Hugo’s. In fact, it’s not your mother’s Hugo’s and it’s not your Hugo’s.

The Hugo’s that Paul and I are referencing is the old Biloxi restaurant that served straightforward Italian food and the best pizza south of Chicago. It’s one of my all-time favorite restaurants.

This was the place that began the tradition of French dressing on pizza, and the wildest toppings, if you want to call them wild, would be shrimp and anchovies. I usually went for the large sausage or meatball along with a cheeseburger po-boy, a plate of onion rings and two Barq’s.

Grass-fed was never a concept when I was introduced to the Biloxi Hugo’s during my Catholic elementary school days in the 1960s. Had it been a concept, I probably would have spit out grass-fed food. What 12-year-old in their right mind would have wanted grass in their food?

At 65, I grasp grass-fed and I’m sure the grass-fed and not grass-fed food at the St. Louis Hugo’s will be very, very good. I hope to go there someday and erase the memories of my worst pizza experience, which was in St. Louis more than 20 years ago.

Patty, Kristin and I went to a restaurant on a Saturday evening in the classic Italian neighborhood of The Hill. I don’t remember the name of the restaurant, but the place was so packed we had to wait 90 minutes for a table.

I had no doubts the pizza would be great because this appeared to be a popular restaurant, but things started going downhill on The Hill when we had a very mediocre salad before our large pizza arrived.

I wish the pizza had never arrived. It was terrible. Cheap American cheese. Cheap white cheese. Wafer-thin crust. Cheap pepperoni. Pupperoni would have been preferable.

This was easily the worst pizza experience in my life. It was shockingly bad, and Patty and Kristin felt the same way.

All these years later, we’re still dealing with a form of PTSD  called Pizza Traumatic Stress Disorder. Maybe the St. Louis Hugo’s will be the cure. I know the Biloxi Hugo’s would be.

Editor’s note:  The image with this post is a photo that Hugo’s Pizzeria in St. Louis published on its Facebook page in March. The restaurant will be opening soon, but it has no relation to the old Biloxi Hugo’s except in name and the love for making pizza.

 

 

 

 

 

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Walked into hot bar, walked out with cool book

The Saturn Bar on St. Claude Avenue in New Orleans hosted a book launch and reading Thursday night. JOHN E. BIALAS

By JOHN E. BIALAS
Broadmoor Bureau Chief

I walked into a hot New Orleans bar around 7 p.m. Thursday and walked out around 8:30 with a cool new book.

I was among the many who packed a back room at the Saturn Bar for the launch of “The Futilitarians: Our Year of Thinking, Drinking, Grieving, and Reading.” a post-Katrina memoir by New Orleans writer Anne Gisleson.

This is her first book, and she writes about being in the Existential Crisis Reading Group and their meetings from January 2012 to December 2012.

Had I known the temperature of the back room before I got to the bar, I would have come up with my own subtitle:  “Thinking, Drinking, Grieving, Reading and Sweating. A Lot of Sweating.”

Actually, it felt nice and cool when I walked into the bar.  The AC was going in the front room, but the back room was hot.

It was sweaty hot. It was drip-from-your-forehead hot.

No matter.

I was more than happy to be there because of the presence of Octavia Books, one of my favorite Uptown stores, and my first chance to go to the Saturn Bar, a Bywater dive on St. Claude Avenue.

Octavia Books had a table in the front room to sell copies of “The Futilitarians” and I was one of the first to buy one. I had cash in hand, money left over from a trip to Colorado in July.

Gisleson and other ECRG members did an entertaining hour-long reading that included music, and before I left the bar, she signed my copy of “The Futilitarians” after my short wait in line.

Now that I’m back home in Gulfport, I believe “The Futilitarians” will be a challenging, thought-provoking and emotional experience. I look forward to reading it starting this weekend.

And I predict no sweat will be involved.

 

 

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Why I thought Beatles song was about Ginger Baker

A box of Good News candy inspired the Beatles song "Savoy Truffle," written by George Harrison. This is a cropped version of a photo in Harrison's book "I, Me, Mine."

By JOHN E. BIALAS
Broadmoor Bureau Chief

The South Mississippi rube that I am, I’ve always thought the Beatles song “Savoy Truffle” was about Cream drummer Ginger Baker.

“Savoy Truffle” is a George Harrison song on “The White Album,” which came out in 1968, and I got the Beatles record shortly after it was released. Sometime later, I also got an 8-track of “The White Album” and I would play it in my car.

I tried to find the original Beatles song on YouTube, but instead I came up with a nice consolation prize: Dhani Harrison, George’s son, doing a cover version.

“Savoy Truffle” is one of my favorite songs on “The White Album,” and when I was younger, I was obsessed about it. I was addicted to the sound, the lyrics and George’s singing. I would listen to the song over and over again on my record player in my bedroom and on my 8-track player when I was driving to Edgewater Mall in Biloxi.

I thought the lyrics gave clues the song was about Ginger Baker.

Creme tangerine and montelimar
A ginger sling with a pineapple heart
A coffee dessert, yes you know it’s good news
But you’ll have to have them all pulled out
After the Savoy truffle

Cool cherry cream, a nice apple tart
I feel your taste all the time we’re apart
Coconut fudge, really blows down those blues
But you’ll have to have them all pulled out
After the Savoy truffle

You might not feel it now
But when the pain cuts through
You’re going to know, and how
The sweat is going to fill your head
When it becomes too much
You shout aloud

I thought the words “Savoy truffle” were British slang for the way Ginger Baker played blues shuffle beats on his drum set.

I thought “creme tangerine” was a George Harrison reference to Baker, Eric Clapton and Jack Bruce, the rock stars in Cream, the short-lived super power trio.

I thought for sure I heard “Ginger slings with a pineapple heart,” believing pineapple heart was some kind of narcotic Baker enjoyed using while playing for Cream.

And I thought “the sweat is going to fill your head” was about withdrawal from pineapple hearts.

I’ve had these thoughts since I was 16 years old. They have entertained me for 49 years.

Then last week I got the extended 2017 edition of the 1980 George Harrison book “I, Me, Mine” and it it he explains what “Savoy Truffle” is all about.

Harrison writes that the song is about Eric Clapton’s addiction to chocolate candy at the time and the cavities the guitar god got from eating too much.

“He was over at my house and I had a box of Good News chocolates on the table and wrote the song from the names inside the lid,” Harrison says.

The box included “Ginger Sling with a Pineapple Heart.”

No matter the story, Ginger Baker slings with a pineapple heart.

Editor’s note: A photo of a Good News candy box is in Harrison’s book “I, Me, Mine.” For this post, I cropped the photo and made it the featured image.

 

 

 

 

 

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I turned against Jerry Lewis when I was 11

A screen grab of Jerry Lewis' IMDB page.

By JOHN E. BIALAS
Broadmoor Bureau Chief

I turned against Jerry Lewis when I saw “The Nutty Professor” at a movie theater at Keesler Air Force Base in Biloxi in 1963, the year the film came out.

I was 11 years old at the time and months later I would enter the sixth grade at Nativity Elementary.

I was never a fan of “The Nutty Professor.” Jerry Lewis’ Nutty act was too goofy and his Joe Cool was too pompous, and the kid in me believed the latter part reflected the real Jerry. I didn’t like the real Jerry.

Give me his 1950s films and, much later, “The King of Comedy,” the 1982 Martin Scorsese work of geninus in which Rupert Pupkin stalks Jerry Langford. Those movies represent Jerry Lewis’ best.

My favorites include “The Delicate Delinquent,” “The Sad Sack,” “Rock-a-Bye Baby,” “The Geisha Boy,” “The Bellboy,” and “Cinderfella.”

All are from 1957 to 1960 and they are classic LOL comedies. A theater at a military base was usually the venue for the films because my Dad was a sergeant in the Air Force. His tours of duty took us to  Japan and the Philipines before we moved to Keesler in 1960.

We lived in base housing and our address was 5440 C Street, which was within walking distance of at least three movie theaters.

I saw a lot of movies at those theaters, and “The Nutty Professor” was a classic. It was a classic disappointment. I couldn’t handle Jerry Lewis playing two roles, one as Professor  Julius Kelp and the other as Buddy Love.

Perhaps I was too young to appreciate a man drinking a magic potion to improve his social life.

Had I been 21, maybe I would have enjoyed the premise.

After “The Nutty Professor,” Jerry Lewis had a couple of good 1960s films, one of them “The Disorderly Orderly,” but none matched the awesome entertainment he provided in the 1950s.

And don’t get me started on his Labor Day telethons. Though working for a great cause, the man was over the top and unwatchable.

I’m sorry I don’t love Jerry Lewis as much as you do, but his death brings out the contrarian in me.

 

 

 

 

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Did you know it’s ‘Troglodyte’ Thursday?

'Troglodyte' is the third track on 'It's Just Begun,' The Jimmy Castor Bunch's second album.

By JOHN E. BIALAS
Broadmoor Bureau Chief

Did you know it’s “Troglodyte” Thursday?

I didn’t know it until I woke up at 11:15 a.m. thinking of the song, a funky comedic tune on my mind for the first time since the 20th century.

If I’m going to think about the song all day, and I have, might as well make it “Troglodyte” Thursday. It’s certainly a throwback.

The song was released as a single in 1972. Forty-five years ago. I was 20 back then. That’s also the year I started Boogie, a rock-music fanzine I published until 1975.

“Troglodyte” was a Top 10 hit for The Jimmy Castor Bunch and I was going to write a Facebook post about it once my day got going, but I decided to make it a blog post instead because I’ve going a week without writing one.

I went to YouTube and found a televised 1973 performance.

“Troglodyte” would be great for a karaoke night on the town. Imagine millennials reciting the lyrics, dancing and dropping the mic in triumph before an appreciative club crowd.

Here are samples of the lyrics:

“Gotta find a woman, gotta find a woman, gotta find a woman, gotta find a woman.”

“This one woman just lay there, wet and frightened.
He said: Move… Move.
She got up, she was a big woman, big woman.
Her name was Bertha, Bertha Butt, she was one of the Butt sisters.”

Make “Troglodyte” Thursday a new tradition. Do it tonight if you gotta find a woman or even if you don’t have to gotta find a woman.

Do the Castor karaoke.

 

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Striving to win Sir Paul vs. Phil Collins debate

The Phil Collins memoir 'Not Dead Yet' was published in 2016 and comes out in paperback in September 2017.

By JOHN E. BIALAS
Broadmoor Bureau Chief

GULPORT, Miss.  It all started on Oct. 18, 2016, with a Facebook message from Sun Herald sportswriter and longtime colleague James Jones.

“Sir Paul took a shot at my boy Phil,” James said.

James’ message included a link to a story in which Phil Collins, promoting his memoir, “Not Dead Yet,” revealed he still resents Paul McCartney after the Beatle allegedly mocked an autograph request at a Buckingham Palace party during the Golden Jubilee of Queen Elizabeth in 2002.

In an interview with the Sunday Times in 2016, Collins said that “McCartney came up with Heather Mills and I had a first edition of ‘The Beatles’ by Hunter Davies and I said, ‘Hey Paul, do you mind signing this for me?’ And he said, ‘Oh Heather, our little Phil’s a bit of a Beatles fan.’ And I thought, ‘You f**k, you f**k.’ Never forgot it.”

Phil Collins requested an autograph like this one. Sir Paul mocked him.
Phil Collins requested an autograph like this one. Sir Paul mocked him.
This 1997 photo of musical luminaries appears in the 2016 Phil Collins memoir 'Not Dead Yet,' which comes out in paperback in September 2017. Phil, right, is next to Paul McCartney. Looks like a perfect autograph opportunity for Phil.
This 1997 photo of musical luminaries appears in the 2016 Phil Collins memoir ‘Not Dead Yet,’ which comes out in paperback in September 2017. Phil, right, is next to Paul McCartney. Looks like a perfect autograph opportunity for Phil.

 

I got the feeling I was supposed to side with Phil and James.

This sarcastic thought raced through my mind: “Oh, I feel sorry for Phil Collins.”

James and I agree on a lot of things. We think actor William Devane is cool. We like old TV shows like “Happy Days” and “Laverne & Shirley.” We like the classic Rat Pack movies like “Ocean’s 11” and “Robin and the 7 Hoods.”

I’m entertained when James talks about Frank DeFazio, Carmine “The Big Ragoo” Ragusa, Lenny, Squiggy, Shirley Feeney and Laverne DeFazio. He says we have worked with Laverne-like women in the Sun Herald newsroom, ones without the nasal Bronx accent but with the attitude.

James always mentions Doug Barber, our longtime Hall of Fame sportswriter colleague, when he talks about the Newsroom Lavernes.

The Newsroom Lavernes pushed Doug around. Doug is usually fearless about women, but the Newsroom Lavernes always intimidated him. Maybe that’s why he retired a couple of years ago.

James and I imagine Doug would shiver just seeing this Laverne DeFazio line.

Touch my “L,” sweetie, and your teeth go to Peoria!

James and I don’t agree on Phil Collins. James is a fan. I’m not a fan. I’m a Paul McCartney fan.

I told James “Phil Collins is a hack. His songs are terrible and he’s not even a good drummer. Sir Paul is a better drummer than Phil Collins.”

Yeah, I’m quite aware drumming isn’t Sir Paul’s day job. Phil has played drums more often, and I have to admit, far better. I just wanted to antagonize James.

James seems to think “Against All Odds (Take a Look at Me Now)” is a great song and I think it is sappy and syrupy stuff. 

I couldn’t believe we got caught up in this. James is in his 40s and I’m in my 60s, but the more I got into it, the more I enjoyed it. It was good-natured.

I told James that Phil was a 13-year-old extra in the Beatles movie “A Hard Day’s Night” in 1964 and perhaps that would have been a good time for Little Phil to ask for Paul’s autograph.

“U cold-blooded,” James said.

Our Facebook exchanges, all from his home to mine, carried over to the newsroom, where James sought sympathy for Phil from anyone.

He found it from the Page One designer, who was told the autograph sob story and then called Sir Paul “a big old douchebag.”

When I heard that, I thought, “Oh, brother.”

James, with someone finally on his side, told me, “Take that, you hater.”

Roy Rolison, my sports editor from back in the day, chimed in on my Facebook page with an old photo of Paul playing the drums. Roy was on my side.

“Paul has created an online instructional site to tutor, show the ropes to Phil Collins,” Roy said.

I have no idea if James saw the snarky post. Maybe he was listening to “Take a Look at Me Now.” If not that, maybe “Higher Love,” the only Steve Winwood song he likes. 

I retired from the Sun Herald on March 3, 2017, and I brought up our Phil-Paul exchanges during my little farewell speech to the newsroom on March 2.

Much of my prepared speech, which I worked on up to the last minute after a couple of weeks, was about parting shots and inside jokes. James said many nice things about me, but I had to poke him one more time.

“James, I’m ready to bury the drumsticks, though I still think Sir Paul is a better drummer than Phil,” I said.

The line got some laughs, but I doubt that’s the last word.

Not dead yet, you know.

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7 day trips in 9 days on road to Colorado and back

The Big Texan in Amarillo was one the restaurants we stopped at during our seven day trips in nine days. JOHN E. BIALAS

By JOHN E. BIALAS
Broadmoor Bureau Chief

Rented a Nissan Maxima, downloaded the Waze travel app and took our sweet old time from Gulfport, Mississippi, with seven day trips in nine days on the road to Colorado and back.

My wife, Patty, organized just about everything for our vacation to attend the beautiful Rocky Mountain wedding of my nephew and godson, Ryan Bialas, to Taylor Thomas.

Ryan is the youngest of the three sons of my brother, Mike Bialas, and Mike’s wife, Carmen, and the family is from Lafayette, Colorado, which is in the Denver area.  Taylor and her family are from Fort Collins, Colorado.

Patty made all the hotel reservations and figured out the interstates and highways to take, and all I had to do was drive when I felt ready to get behind the wheel.

The routine went something like this: Get up at 7 a.m. or 8 a.m. with me or Patty as the driver, and when Patty did the driving, I was navigating or napping.

When I wasn’t navigating or napping, I was driving and making meal plans and thinking of places to escape the monotony of traveling for nine hours or so.

Patty and I stayed in harmony about how to break up the boredom of  the 2,800-mile round trip that started Saturday, July 22 and ended Sunday, July 30. Here are highlights:

First destination: Plano, Texas, July 22

Long before Plano, we had to get off Interstate 49 for a doughnut fix in Louisiana, and it was worth it. Rickey Meche’s Donut King in Carencro was the place and I hope I get a chance to go back there.

I used the Waze app to find this place. My keywords were 'donuts in Carencro.'
I used the Waze app to find this place. My keywords were ‘donuts in Carencro.’ JOHN E. BIALAS

Maybe the next time I’m in Louisiana,  I will make a day trip from my daughter’s home in Madisonville just to load up on the biggest apple fritters you’ll ever see. The one I got on this trip lasted three days.

The Waze app, with its map and precise directions, helped us get through the death trap of traffic in the Dallas area, and after we checked into our hotel, we went to In-N-Out in Frisco for dinner.

It was our first trip to the popular fast-food burger chain, with locations primarily on the Pacific Coast and in the Southwest.

A trip to In-N-Out in the Dallas area.
A trip to In-N-Out in the Dallas area. JOHN E. BIALAS

The double cheeseburger was good, but I’ve had much better at such places as Company Burger, Five Guys, Whataburger and Steak and Shake.

The highlight was knowing I’ll never want to go to In-N-Out ever again.

Second destination: Las Vegas, New Mexico, July 23

A friend told me to stop at The Big Texan restaurant in Amarillo, Texas, right off Interstate 40, and we did around 1 p.m.

This is the place you get a 72-ounce steak  for free if you can eat it in an hour. I thought I deserved a prize for eating a 9-ounce ribeye in nine minutes.

The featured image for this post was taken outside The Big Texan. It’s one of the few vacation photos I have left after losing nearly all of them because of an iPhone update.

Hours after going to The Big Texan, we were in Las Vegas, New Mexico, and yes, New Mexico has a town named Las Vegas. It’s a small town and it’s the real Stark Vegas. It makes Starkville, Mississippi, the original Stark Vegas, look like Las Vegas, Nevada.

After driving through a couple of bleak-looking neighborhoods, we found the best part of Las Vegas, New Mexico. We stayed at the historic Plaza Hotel downtown.  It has  New West and Old West vibes. I was expecting the jingle jangle of cowboy boots among cellphone rings.

The hotel is known for hosting celebrities, and it overlooks a park. We spent the night in the John Lithgow Room and down the hallway is the Javier Bardem Room.

The Plaza Hotel has a strong connection to the Oscar-winning 2007 movie “No Country for Old Men,” which stars Bardem, Tommy Lee Jones and Josh Brolin.

Patty and I were happy no violence and mayhem ensued during our visit, and after our vacation, we started watching the TV series “Longmire” because it, too, is connected to The Plaza Hotel.

The Plaza Hotel in Las Vegas, New Mexico.
The Plaza Hotel in Las Vegas, New Mexico. PATTY BIALAS
The park across from the Plaza Hotel in Las Vegas, New Mexico.
The park across from the Plaza Hotel in Las Vegas, New Mexico. PATTY BIALAS

Our room had a big bookcase with a lot of books, and though I saw no Cormac McCarthy works, I looked through a very old copy of Nathaniel Hawthorne’s “Twice-Told Tales.” The Hawthorne book must be worth something.

The hallways also had bookcases filled with books, and once I got through admiring all of them, Patty and I walked across the plaza to a pizza place that has three lanes of bowling. Roll and dough at JC’s New York Pizza Department.

Our waitress, a graduate student in psychology,  told us she is an Ohio State football fan. That led to a long conversation between the young woman and Patty, who will talk about the Buckeyes with anyone, even rival fans from Ann Arbor, because she is an Ohio State graduate originally from Columbus.

Third destination: Boulder, Colorado, July 24

We stayed at the University Inn, which looks like a motel in “No Country for Old Men.”

The room was small and had a bad bathroom scent. The good thing about the University Inn is that we could walk to the Pearl Street Mall, where I spent about 45 minutes roaming through an awesome bookstore that reminded me of the old Kroch’s and Brentano’s in Chicago.

Another good thing about Boulder was the bottle of chocolate milk I got at Alfalfa’s, which is across the street from the University Inn.

The Boulder bottle is now in our fridge at home and filled with fresh chocolate milk.
The Boulder bottle is now in our fridge at home in Gulfport and filled with fresh chocolate milk. JOHN E. BIALAS

After four days of drinking the milk, I brought the empty bottle home and I refill it every few days.

Fourth destination: Estes Park, Colorado, July 25-27

We stayed with Mike and Carmen in the Deer Mountain Loft at the Rustic Acre for the next three nights, and when we got there, we saw guys playing wiffleball.

Patty said, “That’s Eric over there playing ball.” I said, “No way Eric is playing wiffleball. He’s in his 30s.”

As usual, I was wrong and Patty was right. Eric, Mike’s oldest son, was playing ball with his brother, Matthew; their cousins; and their friends, T.J. and Sam, who are brothers.  I’m guessing T.J. and Sam are in their late 20s or early 30s and they seem to embody the spirit of Vince Vaughan.

All those guys have lots of energy and share a competitive spirit.

Ryan Bialas pitches in the twilight at the Rustic Acre in Estes Park.
Ryan Bialas pitches in the twilight at the Rustic Acre in Estes Park. JOHN E. BIALAS

Ryan played ball later on, and there were ground rules, adult refreshments and cornhole, all leading up to the rehearsal dinner. And what did everyone have for dinner? The best food on earth. Pizza, and there was a lot of pizza.

Twenty-five pizzas were ordered from Antonio’s. Mike and I went to pick them up and we were the delivery boys.

I enjoyed the sausage pizza and I also liked the Buffalo chicken pizza, a really big hit with others. Donald Dorcik, who is from D’Iberville, Mississippi, and is the youngest brother of Carmen, took this photo of the pizza fest early on.

The rehearsal dinner offered quite a variety of impressive pizzas.
The rehearsal dinner offered quite a variety of impressive pizzas. DONALD DORCIK

The pizza proved to me that Ryan is truly a Bialas. Marinara apparently runs through his veins and you have to have that in the Bialas family. My grandson has it and he’s only 5. He must have picked that up from his mother.

The Rustic Acre is five minutes from Rocky Mountain National Park.
The Rustic Acre is five minutes from Rocky Mountain National Park. JOHN E. BIALAS

The Rustic Acre is 420-friendly and outside tables have pots for your pot. I have no idea what you do with the pots. I do know the owners of the Rustic Acre are Ohio State fans and that made Patty more than happy. She is the one who makes me believe Woody Hayes is a saint.

July 26

The second day at Estes Park was the big day: Ryan and Taylor’s day. Hours before the wedding, I took a 30-minute walk and I’m glad I did. I saw seven elks lodge in front of an American Legion post. Talk about harmonic convergence.

One of the seven elks I saw have lunch at the Legion post in Estes Park.
One of the seven elks I saw have lunch at the Legion post in Estes Park. JOHN E. BIALAS

Ryan and Taylor’s wedding at the Della Terra Mountain Chateau was a late-afternoon ceremony outdoors with a view of the Rockies, and I teared up when T.J. talked about how love is like a dog. I laughed, too, and Patty and I were proud to be on the first row with Mike and Carmen.

At the reception, I told Taylor her new last name will often be mispronounced and misspelled, but I wasn’t telling her anything new.

“Yes, like B-i-a-l-i-s.”

July 27

The third day Patty and I went to Rocky Mountain National Park. We spent two hours driving up and back and saw patches of frozen tundra at the highest peak we reached.

Frozen tundra? I thought only Lambeau Field in Green Bay has it.

Fifth destination: Amarillo, Texas, July 28

We stayed at a really nice Marriott Courtyard, which is in a historic building downtown, and across the street is Acapulco, the best Mexican restaurant of all times.

Patty's dinner at Acapulco's in downtown Amarillo.
Patty’s dinner at Acapulco’s in downtown Amarillo. JOHN E. BIALAS

We ate at Acapulco after visiting the Cadillac Ranch right off Interstate 40, where people were spray-painting old cars partially buried in mud.

A Cadillac Ranch souvenir shop is down the road, and I got a T-shirt and a steak restaurant recommendation: Logan’s is the best in town. Logan’s? Really?

I’m more than happy we went to Acapulco.

Sixth destination:  Natchitoches, Louisiana, July 29

We stayed at the Church Street Inn Hotel, a really cool B&B downtown next to a Catholic church. We like Catholics. We are Catholics.

No sign of Sally Field, Julia Roberts, Dolly Parton, Daryl Hannah, Shirley MacLaine and Olympia Dukakis at the 'Steel Magnolias' house.
No sign of Sally Field, Julia Roberts, Dolly Parton, Daryl Hannah, Shirley MacLaine and Olympia Dukakis at the ‘Steel Magnolias’ house. PATTY BIALAS

We walked to the “Steel Magnolias” house,  named after the 1989 film shot in town, and afterward met a genial high school coach from Bossier Parish.

I’ll call him Johnny Treme, who told me a lot of things in about 10 minutes. One of them is that he thinks Slap Ya Mama seasoning is much better than Tony Chachere’s, and I didn’t even ask him about Cajun seasoning.

Coach Treme was sitting in front of a women’s shop with his son and his wife, and his other son was at a basketball camp at Northwestern State, which is in town.

Coach Treme’s wife has a wonderful Cajun accent thicker than Bobby Hebert’s and Ed Orgeron’s, and I never thought anyone could out-Cajun those two.

Final destination: Back home to Gulfport, July 30

And the day after we got home, Tilly was back home, too, after her stay at the doggie hotel in Biloxi.

Day 2 of Tilly back home after nine days at her home away from home.
Day 2 of Tilly back home after nine days at her home away from home. JOHN E. BIALAS

 

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