Thursday, March 15, 2007


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Monday, March 12, 2007


The Big Finn's write-up on last Saturday's Madrid tapas crawl is now posted.

Click HERE.

If you do go to his blog, you'll quickly realize that I've shamelessly stolen the following pictures from it.

Sorry, but he's a much better photographer than I am.

Sunday, March 11, 2007


Who says that the blogosphere is a vast wasteland of social misfits? A sorry substitute for real human interaction? Who said it? Bring him here, because I'm in possession of a roundhouse kick with his name on it.

Following on the heels of my excellent Madrid outing with Ang--Indiana's most trusted journalist--and her boyfriend, "The Boyfriend," I had the opportunity to meet another set of long-time blogger buddies.

That's right! Yesterday, in Madrid, I met The Royal Family--Mr. and Mrs. The Big Finn.

We hadn't previously met. Or spoken. To be honest, it's not clear that either of us was truly convinced that the other existed. It was a bit like "Santa Claus meets the Easter Bunny."

But at 2pm yesterday afternoon, I rounded the corner of the Melia Gran Fénix Hotel near Plaza Colon, and there they were! Live, in the flesh and just as cute and cuddly as they seem on the computer screen.

It hardly felt like a first meeting at all. It was more like getting together with old college roommates. They were friendly. They were interesting. They were funny. They were visibly very much in love with each other. And...most importantly...they brought gifts!

Yes, that's a floating COCONUT candle. Just what every bathtub needs--or, at least, just what mine needs. How long must Basel Airport security have stared at this sphere-shaped object with attached wick before finally deciding to let it pass onto the airplane?

But--moving into the "I'm not worthy" category--there was another gift. You see it above, but you probably don't believe it. Yep...I am now the proud owner of The Big Finn's legendary--and much-coveted--Gorilla Tripod!

I sprout goosebumps just thinking about it.

This is the same Gorilla Tripod that nearly got TBF bounced from a cathedral in Italy. And now it's mine! All mine! As if this VTB isn't already clogged enough with self-photos of my crow's feet and receding hairline.

BTW...TBF has a new, even more impressive tripod (see photo above). This one doubles as a back-scratcher.

Wiping the tears from my eyes and stiffening my spine, we commenced our tapas crawl. And in this respect, the Finns were good sports. Not only did they walk about a hundred kilometers (many of which were walked in circles, thanks to my hopeless navigational skills), but they ate anything and everything.

Snails, sweetbreads, cod, foie, pig ears (yes, pig ears!)--they tasted it all, and they did so without any peer pressure from me.

"TBF? Are you suuuuuure you want me to order the pig ears?"

"Yeah, Tragger! Bring it on!!!"

In case you're wondering, we did not--repeat, NOT--drink any absinthe yesterday. Not because we were behaving; but rather, because none of the bars had any. Doh!!!

Even without an absinthe hangover, I expect that both Mr. and Mrs. TBF awoke this morning remembering only 20% of what they ate yesterday. So, as a humanitarian gesture, I list below in chronological order exactly what we ate and drank, and where we ate and drank 'em.

- Slice of chorizo sausage on a round of bread.
- Pincho (i.e., slice of bread topped with...) of duck jamon and eggplant.
- Pincho of tuna belly with "stirfried" vegetables.
- Pincho of smoked bacalao with...uhhhh, help, TBFs?!
- Pincho of duck sweetbreads and pate.
- Wine: Les Terrasses (Priorat)

BAR REVUELTA (Cava Baja, near the Plaza off of Calle Toledo)
- We walked in hoping to order deep-fried bacalao hunks, but they stopped serving. We immediately left.

MATRITUM (Cava Alta, 17)
- Tomato bread with slices of jamón iberico.
- Croquettes stuffed with jamón.
- Kind of a crunchy, shrimpy, creamy, toasty thingee.
- Wine: Viñas del Vero Syrah (Somontano).

CASA DE AMADEO (Plaza Cascorro, 18)
- The bastard was closed. We felt dejected; deprived of our obligatory glasses of snail juice. But just when things seemed hopeless, Mr. TBF steered us into...

- Pimientos de Padrón (little fried Galician green peppers with sea salt; some spicy, some not).
- Snails in a paprika broth.
- Calf sweetbreads sauted in olive oil and lots of garlic.
- Deep-fried cubes of pig ear (salty, crunchy and well-received by Mr. TBF).
- Navajas (i.e., razor clams).
- Cañas (i.e., little glasses) of Mahou beer.

TXACOLI (Cava Baja, 26)
- Wine: Glasses of Txacoli (a young, tart, white wine--similar to Portuguese Vinho Verde--from the Basque Country served in squat little Basque glasses).

LA CASTELA (Doctor Castela, 22--My favorite tapas bar in Madrid, BTW)
- Fried chistorra sausages with french fries.
- Chipirones Encebolladas (i.e., small calamari with sauted onions and drizzled with a nuclear green olive oil and squid ink). Personally, I think this was the best dish of the day.
- Pincho of apple puree, mushroom and foie.
- Pincho of bacalao with tomato "foam."
- Wine: Albariño (a tart white from northwest Spain).
- Glasses of sweet, red vermouth for Mr. and Mrs. TBF.

LA MONTERÍA (Lope de Rueda, 35)
- At this point, none of us were hungry and all of us were tired. So, Mr. TBF had a final caña of Mahou, Mrs. TBF has a glass of manzanilla sherry, and I had a caña of Laiker non-alcoholic beer. We watched a bit of the Real Madrid vs. FC Barcelona game on TV.
It was a fantastic day (IMO). Hey TBF's, let's do another crawl soon. But let's do it in Chicago, eh?

Kiitos for the visit. I had a blast.

Friday, March 09, 2007


...The Big Finn.

Uhhh...would somebody pass the eucalyptus branch, please?

Friday, March 02, 2007


I had a date with my long-time girlfriend, Jasemine, tonight.

It was as much a humanitarian visit as it was social. Jazzy got "fixed" yesterday, and I felt that she might appreciate my loving/healing touch on a lonely Friday night.

Indeed she did. And despite the presence of numerous stitches on her freshly-shaved belly, she and I still engaged in our traditional post-greeting bout of Greco-Roman wrestling (middleweight division)--an event for which I always wear a nylon jacket, as it resists the stench of doggie drool more effectively than does cotton or wool.

If you're wondering why Jazz is wearing a Pittsburgh Steelers T-shirt, it was on the recommendation of her vet. It was intended to keep her from nibbling at her stitches. A fine idea in theory; although the reality is that Jazzy managed to disrobe no fewer than three times during the course of this photo shoot.

Jazzy! She's big. She's brassy. She's beautiful. And she's mine...all mine!