Café Olé

The website for El Cafetalito is entirely in Spanish. I used Google’s translation tool to find out how the site described Café Super. The paragraph read: “It is a blend of premium coffees. It is characterized by its softness and excellent aroma and flavor, prepared with the experience and dedication of over 30 years.”

My wife’s brother and his family live in Guatemala. He traveled to Northern Virginia in December to join his siblings in celebrating their mother’s 90th birthday. He came bearing bags of coffee as gifts.

 I didn’t open the bag of coffee that my brother-in-law gave me until this week. I noticed that it looked quite different from the dark roast Caffè Verona that I usually buy.

  The ground coffee was coarser and lighter in color than typical store-bought coffee. What really matters is the taste and Café Super passed with flying colors.

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David Douglas played in Super Bowl XXIII for the Cincinnati Bengals. He is one of several former NFL players who will attend Second Harvest Food Bank’s second annual Souper Bowl for Hunger. Many of the players, like David, are also former Tennessee Volunteers.

I interviewed David for the East Tennessee Report, a 30-minute public affairs radio program. I simultaneously recorded a video, only to discover that my camera cuts off after 29 minutes. Fortunately, I didn’t lose any audio.

I enjoyed our conversation. I think any sports fan would love the opportunity to speak with David. He told me about tailgating at UT games and about his childhood love of the Miami Dolphins. We also talked about his induction in the Greater Knoxville Sports Hall of Fame.

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Loh and Behold

Parts of Tchaikovsky’s Fourth Symphony are so loud, I could feel sound waves on my face. I loved it.

My wife and I attended the Knoxville Symphony Orchestra’s concert on Thursday night. In addition to the Tchaikovsky opus, the program included the Roman Carnival Overture by Berlioz and Concerto for Cello & Orchestra No. 1 by Shostakovich.

The radio commercial for the concert left me unsure about the Shostakovich piece. I was pleasantly surprised. The comments beforehand by guest conductor Lawrence Loh helped me appreciate the music. He told the audience that the cello solo represented Shostakovich himself and that the rest of the orchestra, especially the horns, represented the oppressive Stalin regime. Cello soloist Julie Albers gave an outstanding performance.

  Before the concert, I ran upstairs to the balcony to take a picture of the stage. I also took a picture of my wife, who had already reached our seats in the tenth row. I’m really glad we bought season tickets this year.

  At the end of the concert, the audience gave a well-deserved standing ovation to Larry Loh and the KSO.

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Funnel Vision

“Mama Jane” Harris has revealed her newest creation via social media. It’s the Funnel Cake Bacon Cheeseburger. I don’t have to imagine what it must taste like. I already know.

I saw Mama Jane on opening day of the Tennessee Valley Fair in September. She told me that she had special ordered smaller funnel cake rings and that the rings would be delivered to her in Knoxville a couple of days later. She urged me to come back to the fair for a sample, with the understanding that the news was embargoed until 2015.

On September 9, I went to the fair during my lunch break. Mama Jane specifically asked that I stop by on Tuesday because it’s usually a little less crowded than other times. When I got there, Jane went to her RV to retrieve the package with the recently-arrived custom-made rings.

  Jane got a burger and some bacon from another one of The Best Around food booths. We walked back to her booth where she poured two funnel cakes that were the size of hamburger buns.

  She dipped the small funnel cakes in a sugary glaze. She then placed the burger and the bacon between the buns. I opted to leave off the cheese. I did get ketchup and mustard.

  We stood in the space behind Jane’s concession booth to take a selfie. Because the product was still a prototype, we couldn’t ask anyone else to take the photo. Jane took a picture of me as I devoured the delicious burger.

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Nalgene Therapy

After years of use, I noticed a crack in my Nalgene water bottle the other day. I had heard that they might replace broken bottles. Sure enough, I found the following notice on their Facebook page:

For Nalgene replacements broken during normal use, e-mail us: Include your mailing address and photo of your broken item.

I followed the instructions on Friday night and received a reply on Monday morning:

Hi Frank,
I have ordered you a new 32oz wide mouth bottle in Slate Blue.
All the best,

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Espresso Yourself

 By the time my wife and I arrived at Cracker Barrel, I was so ready for coffee that I took pictures of items that mentioned my morning drug. The sayings on the bookcase sign and coffee mug in the store reminded me of memes that friends sometimes share with me on Facebook.

I don’t know if I was particularly tired that Sunday or if I have gotten spoiled by strong, dark-roast coffee. The coffee I drank with breakfast seemed to be as weak as what I call “church coffee.” When we got home, I brewed myself a full pot of the stronger stuff.

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Hardee Boys

Although I didn’t get what I wanted at Hardee’s, I did get a nice surprise. I went to a Hardee’s restaurant on Kingston Pike with the intention of buying a turkey burger. The staff told me that turkey burgers were no longer on the menu.

I ordered something else and stepped aside to wait for it. This particular Hardee’s displays pictures of their favorite customers on the wall. I did a double take when I recognized one of the men in the photos.

It was the late Bob Schriver, the father of my friend Fr. Ragan Schriver. I took a picture of the picture and sent it to Fr. Ragan. My friend is a vegetarian and I assumed he had probably not been to Hardee’s.

Fr. Ragan replied that others had told him about the photo but that he had not seen it until I sent the message.

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Tara-ra Boom-de-ay

In the ten months since she performed in last year’s Gatlinburg Improv Fest, Tara Ochs has appeared in at least two projects that garnered national attention. I hope to offer her my congratulations at this year’s Gatlinburg Improv Fest on March 6 and 7.

Tara plays Viola Liuzzo in the critically acclaimed movie Selma.


In October, Tara was seen as the sitcom mom in the Adult Swim short Too Many Cooks, The spoof of TV show intros became a viral video sensation.

  Another too good to be true moment. #werking #adultswim #toomanycooks   A photo posted by Tara Ochs (@taraochs1) on

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A Side of Beacon

An article about Einstein Simplified triggered my Google alert for my own name and a Twitter notification that the group’s handle had been mentioned. The story appeared in The Daily Beacon, the student newspaper at the University of Tennessee.

I can tell from the story that reporter Eric Gibson must have attended our show on Tuesday, January 6. He described a scene in which I played a patient at the ER. I remember the scene better than most because I recognized the voice of the audience member who suggested my quirk. It was my friend, retired Einstein Simplified member Todd Covert. The reporter must have interviewed Todd before the show.

“They started off … in a bar called Manhattan’s which was over in the Old City years ago,” Todd Covert, a retired troupe member, said. “There was a guy who came down here from Second City in Chicago who put an ad saying, ‘If you think you’re funny, come and audition.'”

“So they started the group and were always looking for members to come in.”

After watching one performance, Covert’s wife went up to troupe leader Paul Simmons and confessed that Covert was funnier than any of them. Simmons called him over to talk.

“I auditioned and joined the group, and I was in the group for 10 years,” Covert said.

The group is currently made up of eight regular members. Like other similar versions of improv comedy, they use games between the members, and sometimes the audience, to make people laugh.

One popular game audiences can expect is “Doctor’s Office,” where one member has to determine the ailments suggested by audience members. Frank Murphy, a troupe member as well as a local radio personality, was plagued by a condition that forced him to repeat every question he was asked, but in reverse.

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New Moon

Before taking a MoonPie, I asked the convenience store sales clerks twice to be sure. The treats were, in fact, free at the new Weigel’s in LaFollette during the grand opening celebration. I was interested in sampling a new flavor, Salted Caramel.

The free MoonPies were double-deckers, which made them all the more enticing. I liked the caramel color of the coating and had to keep myself from taking a bite before taking a photo.

 I could tell that my MoonPie was fresh by the softness of the cookies. They weren’t dry either. I tasted more caramel than salt, which was okay with me.

I could imagine warming a Salted Caramel MoonPie in the microwave and serving it with ice cream on top. It’s a great way to eat a MoonPie that I learned at the RC-MoonPie Festival in 2004.

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Glazer Pointer

The Weigel’s store in LaFollette sells a grilled cheese sandwich made with a glazed doughnut. I learned about the “Sweet Glazer” on their Facebook page as I was preparing to do a remote broadcast from the store.

When I got to the store, Roni offered to let me sample a Sweet Glazer. She said that they had started adding bacon or ham to the sandwich. I chose bacon.

She started by slicing a plain doughnut and placing the sliced side down. Roni applied some sugary glaze and put slices of cheese on what used to be the outside of the doughnut. She put bacon slices on top of the cheese.

Roni closed the sandwich and put it on the panini press. She applied glaze to the outside, which used to be the inside of the doughnut. It was ready in a few minutes.

I asked Roni to cut the Sweet Glazer into four pieces instead of two. It made it easier to eat and easier to share with my colleague Todd Roberts, who was there to assist me with the remote broadcast.

As we ate the Glazer, I told young Todd a story about the late Jermaine Stewart. One year, the pop singer was the headliner at Adams-Morgan Day in Washington. Don Geronimo, Mike O’Meara and I went to his trailer to meet him before the WAVA morning deejays would introduce him on stage. Stewart was not yet dressed for the show. An assistant delivered a Big Mac to him. I’ll never forget Stewart, clad only in briefs, looking at the Big Mac and saying, “That’s too big! Just give me half!”

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Booyah or Nah?

Because of everything else that happened in December, I almost forgot that my car window came off its track on Christmas Day while I was in the DC area. The same thing had happened to the driver’s side window last summer here in Knoxville.

The cost to get it repaired was prohibitive. Instead, I told the guys at the shop in Knoxville to close the window permanently and disconnect the switch.

Obviously, I couldn’t drive all the way home with the window slightly open. I found a repair shop near my son’s apartment in Maryland and had them permanently close the passenger’s side window.

While we waited for the car to be fixed, my son and I walked to a nearby discount store, where I was able to purchase some pfeffernüsse at post-Christmas prices. Elsewhere in the store, I saw a wall full of DVDs in the “buyouts” section.

 They had dozens and dozens of ESPN SportsCenter Year in Review 2006 discs. I can understand why nobody was buying them. I don’t know why the store was trying to sell the eight-year-old DVDs. Maybe they should have put a sticker on there to remind me that it was the year of George Mason’s Final Four appearance.

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Does Eat Oats

Starbucks has been offering me bonus stars for certain purchases. Every time I earn twelve stars, I get a free drink.

One of their recent offers promised two free stars with the purchase of a breakfast item. I often get their turkey bacon sandwich but I felt like having something else on Sunday.

 As I ordered an oatmeal, I asked the store manager if they could make mine with coffee instead of hot water. She thought about it for a second and said, “why not?”

It wasn’t my first time. I tried the tasty combination at a Pilot Travel Center almost five years ago.

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Car Pray Diem

Fr. Michael Woods delivered a presentation about the Home Campaign before each of the Masses at All Saints on Sunday. He chose to speak about the fundraising effort before Mass instead of talking about it during his homily. To stay on time, he cut a few hymns and used spoken parts of the Mass rather than the musical versions. As a result, the Mass ended earlier than it usually does.

My wife and I can relate to the theme of the Home Campaign. We participate in a lot of parish activities which makes All Saints feel like home. Fr. Michael is a good friend who is like a family member to us. He offered to show us the construction progress in the parish hall after Mass.

As we walked out of the building, I had no reservations about asking our friend, “Do you have a used car blessing?” Fr. Michael said, “Sure, let me get some water.” He ran back into the church and returned wearing a stole and carrying a bucket of holy water.

On Saturday evening, my wife and I had purchased a used car to replace the vehicle that hit a deer last month. I thought it was a good idea to ask for God’s blessing on Sunday morning. Fr. Michael led us in a prayer. He prayed for my wife and for those she might encounter on the road. He sprinkled holy water on both the inside and outside of the vehicle before dumping the remaining water on the roof.

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