Friday, April 27, 2012

Those, Sir, Are Nuggets

I'd never heard of Boston Pizza before our trip to Niagara Falls. Turns out the company has locations in Canada and many US states, just not in the Carolinas. Who knew?

When the Boston Pizza commercial appeared on screen to help fill the gap between hockey periods, the company heralded its latest addition to its menu: All Meat Wings!

Uh, um, huh, wha?

Apparently the oft-used phrase Boneless Buffalo Wings didn't satisfy the Boston Pizza marketing department. That, or the name is trademarked by some other restaurant. Maybe Chili's Southwest Grill? They have boneless Buffalo wings. I should know, I've eaten my share of them. They serve well when you're craving the spicy goodness of chicken wings but can't afford to have your fingers tinged red up to the second knuckle and your face smeared with bleu cheese dressing.

But, the benefits of not slopping yourself full of Buffalo sauce up to your earlobes aside, the brazen claim of that Boston Pizza commercial was the feather that broke this chicken's back. I don't care how convenient they are or what you call them, they aren't wings.

Wings have bones and shreds of meat so small any rational human being wouldn't waste time attempting to extricate them. The joy of wing eating doesn't come from sustenance. People don't finish a dozen wings and push back from the table, satiated, unbuttoning their pants to relieve the strain of a bulging belly, and announce loudly to world they are full. They push back, greasy and stained, sweat beading on their foreheads from the heat, bits of chicken dangling from their teeth like Quint from the jaws of Bruce the shark, wondering how many more dozens they can eat before their tastebuds are permanently damaged.

But these boneless bites are all about sanitized, generic quantity. And when you break them down, they are nothing more than breaded breast meat (I hope) coated with sauce and served with a side of dressing for dipping. In short, they are chicken nuggets.

Chicken nuggets are not manly. Chicken nuggets require little effort, no tearing meat off bones that stack high like morbid structures in ancient catacombs beneath Paris. Chicken nuggets satisfy no deep-rooted, caveman-like desire to hunt and gather. Chicken nuggets are pacifiers for children too fussy to eat real food.

So, do me a favor Boston Pizza, Chili's, and yes, even you Buffalo Wild Wings -- hold your hype and modify your menus. Those breaded shams you're shilling may taste good in the spicy sauce, but that doesn't make them wings.

© 2012 Mark Feggeler

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Shot Heard Round the Rink

Every person at the rink realized what was going on except for me, My Lovely Wife, and Senior Awesome.

Our 10-year-old sons were understandably excited about being invited to practice Monday evening with Senior Awesome's traveling hockey team. The German wants to be a goalie, you see, and the Italian is best set loose on offense. This really isn't surprising. It is in the German's nature to observe and react, whereas the Italian prefers to throw himself into the fray and follow wherever the puck may lead him.

My Lovely Wife and I greatly appreciated the willingness of the coaches to allow our boys to interfere with their practice. Anyone with kids these days knows how precious time can be, so for them to dedicate time to teaching our boys basic technique and skills was a generous offer. Knowing almost nothing about hockey -- be fair, less than nothing -- all we understood was when the coach gave the word our boys were to exit the rink and let the teenagers get to work.

The team warmed up, taking shots on their goalies while our boys messed around at the other end of the rink. When they finally were called over, our boys devoured the instruction offered by several team members. The German learned how to brace his hip against the post and position himself in anticipation of an attack on goal. The Italian received pointers on how to handle his stick and control the puck. We proudly watched our fast learners from the cold metal bleachers.

As anticipated, our boys were ushered out of the way so the teenagers could split into teams for a quick scrimmage. They glided gracefully up and down the rink, knocking each other into the boards, passing the puck like pros, and mercilessly slapping the puck at top speeds toward the goals.

Then the unthinkable happened. The coaches called for our boys to join the big kids out on the rink to take part in their scrimmage. While My Lovely Wife started in with her standard hockey-mom panic cheer -- "Oh, man. Oh, man. Oh, man" -- I put on a brave face and acted like it was a wonderful thing the coaches were doing. Of course, the over-protective father inside my head was ranting like a lunatic.

At two thirds the height and weight of most of the players on Senior Awesome's team, the German and the Italian looked like easy pickings. But our fears were unfounded. The German joined goalie Katie in goal. As play brought the puck near them, Katie told the German how and where to stand while the rest of the team, in full understanding of the newbies in their midst, seemed to magically dial the action down to slow motion. For the Italian, the players graciously backed off the puck as the coaches hollered for him to chase it down and bring it to the goal.

The only glitch came late in the scrimmage when one of the players, in his enthusiasm to score, apparently forgot about the little kids on the rink. My Lovely Wife and I saw the play but didn't really give it much thought. It wasn't until we heard the coaches calling out to Senior Awesome that we realized there might be cause for concern.

"Look who's in the goal! Look who's in the goal!" the coaches yelled.  Senior Awesome took his shot. Fortunately, Katie bumped the German out of the way and pulled off a magnificent save.

The best part of the entire experience was watching how deeply red Senior Awesome's face became when the coaches and several of his teammates ribbed him for forgetting his girlfriend's little brother was goalie. As one of the players joked: "You almost took out your future brother-in-law!"

Who knows? Maybe sometime in the not-too-distant future, he might actually intend for the puck to hit its mark...

© 2012 Mark Feggeler

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Canadian Burn

My Lovely Wife has, on many occasions over the past twenty years, roasted my pasty pale hide in the equatorial sun for her own sick enjoyment.

Vacationing for her means escaping to a steaming, sun-washed tropical location. We've cruised the Caribbean, meandered through Myrtle Beach, adventured around Atlanta, and repeatedly returned to the flamingly fiery funparks of Florida. Our vacations typically require me to squeeze or spray SPF6000 into every last pore of my body until every possibility of ultraviolet rays sneaking their way to my pigment-challenged skin has been entirely eradicated.

And if the difficulty of avoiding sun-poisoining weren't enough, there's the heat. I might live in North Carolina now, and I have acclimated in recent years to my adopted climate, but it doesn't change the fact I'm a Yankee born and bred. If the thermometer tops eighty-five degrees and I move more than one muscle at a time, I'm going to sweat. Profusely. From my scalp.

Yes, I'm a head sweater and it isn't pretty.

So, when work brought me northward during this year's spring break, it seemed a perfect opportunity to bring the family along for a non-traditional vacation in the Great White North. Can you imagine my delight at the prospect of a vacation with no sun screen, no hat head, no fear of dining alfresco, no veering off from the pack to walk in the slim slivers of shade cast by random trees and buildings? I would be at home with my own kind, thanking the heavens for the remaining winterly tilt of the Earth.

When we arrived, it was almost too much of a good thing. Ohio was frigidly, bitingly cold, but we toughed it out for several hours at the zoo and left the next day for Niagara Falls once my work in Columbus was complete. We scanned the weather forecasts that promised temperatures in the fifties and sunny skies for our two days across the Canadian border. Perfect for a pale New England boy.

We began our second day at the Butterfly Conservatory and exited an hour later into lovely spring weather. From our hotel we sauntered sans jackets to the skywheel, then down through Queen Victoria Park, and along Niagara Parkway to catch glimpses of double rainbows at the Horseshoe Falls.

As we walked, the all too familiar signs began to appear. Twice I caught myself trying to adjust the brim of a hat I knew wasn't on my head. At one point I found myself sinking into shadows cast by a wall. The skin on my expansive forehead was beginning to grow taut, and when I pressed my hand to it I could feel the transfer of heat to my cool palm.

Good Lord... Could this really be happening? This was Canada.

Freaking Canada!

I ask you, what kind of genetically mutated cave dweller manages to contract a sunburn in Canada in fifty-degree weather with the chilly mists of Niagara Falls swirling through the air around him?

© 2012 Mark Feggeler

Friday, April 13, 2012

Bond the Beer Swiller

I was never one of those kids who went crazy over James Bond. To be sure, I saw the movies and enjoyed them, but I also enjoyed Gilligan's Island and The Brady Bunch, too, so it wasn't like I had impeccable judgement.

All these people getting upset over the new Bond drinking a brewskie instead of his signature martini seems so silly. They probably are the same ones who got up in arms about him being a blonde. Does it really matter what he drinks?

Anyway, maybe the Broccoli family finally figured out what old Cubby couldn't, that Bond was a failing industry spectacle -- an overdone, underwritten, under thought, overhyped remainder of cold war days. Before the reinvention of Bond with the most recent version of Casino Royale several years ago, the last decent film in the series was From Russia With Love. Okay, maybe Dr. No, but only because Ursula Andress let her bikini do the talking for her.

I tried watching some of the "classic" Bond films not long ago, and I wished I hadn't. By the time Sean Connery left, they had degraded into what looked, and sounded, like extended versions of Laugh In episodes with a few poorly choreographed fight scenes thrown in. When Roger Moore took over, the whole thing went to hell in a hand basket. Have you witnessed the catastrophe that was Moonraker? I doubt a single person involved with the making of that film wasn't drunk or stoned at the time.

Timothy Dalton? Boring. Pierce Brosnan? Too skinny.

But now, here comes Daniel Craig to reinvigorate the series playing a tough Bond with depth of character in films with better scripts and better production values than any of the rest and people want to bitch about blonde hair and beer? I'm just happy he and the Broccoli family are making good movies.

Mar Feggeler, 2012