Saturday, January 27, 2007

The Chicken Wars

I think I have lived in North Carolina (or perhaps Lincolnton) too long. The sign? I have become something of a Bojangles junkie.

It started out (as most things do) innocently enough. But the attraction the new Bojangles seemed to draw was overwhelming. It was crowded. Constantly. I developed a growing obsession with the number of cars in the Bojangles drive-thru line at any given moment in time. And then one day, I found myself in that line. And I discovered that the skinless, roasted chicken at Bojangles is good. Really good. And seeing as I could eat chicken 3 times a day, 7 days a week (yes - I mean breakfast), I found myself craving Bojangles pretty much all the time.

I always like to play a little game when I go to Bojangles. It's called: How Many Cars Are in the Drive-Thru Line Already and How Many More Will Turn in Before I Do?

Usually there's at least 3 cars in the line at any given time. And usually at least 2 will pull in before I can make the turn. I am simply talking about the drive-thru here and not the actual restaurant, which, judging from the parking lot, is constantly packed.

But there's a new kid in town. Bojangles has some competition. KFC has opened up a brand, shiny new outpost catty corner from the Big B. Exit off of 321 - turn left for Bojangles, right for KFC. Who says Lincolnton doesn't offer variety?

The KFC just opened within the last few days. There are signs advertising an all-you-can eat buffet which I don't think Bojangles offers. And the KFC appears to be 2 stories tall - while I still haven't been able to determine if Bojangles offers a second floor dining area (if they do, there are no windows).

Driving by both restaurants last night, I can assure you that most of Lincolnton was eating chicken - somewhere. We passed KFC first. The parking lot was full and I saw numerous folks heading that way for a bucket of the Colonel's best. I wondered if Bojangles would see a dip in Friday night sales now that they had some serious competition. But no worries for the lucky owner of this bustling franchise. I counted upwards of 10 cars in the drive-thru line at Bojangles and the parking lot was, as per usual, packed. I guess Friday night in Lincolnton is fried chicken night.

I am thinking a blind taste test is in order. But I'll save that for a future post.

Now if you'll excuse me, all this talk about chicken has got me hungry. I need to go get me a chicken biscuit for breakfast.

And if that ain't country, I'll kiss your...

Thursday, January 25, 2007

Xanax Schmanax

A reference to Xanax in an earlier post drew some concerns from readers. Ok - mainly my mom and my older brother.

Let me just clear the issue up right now. I have never, ever taken a Xanax. Which also explains why I probably misspelled it. No plastic pill bottles to reference.

The point I was trying to make was that driving at night provoked such severe anxiety (every night I'd leave my office I'd get this huge pit in my stomach and my pulse would start to race as I contemplated the extreme focus and vigilance required - not to mention the fact that oncoming headlights blind me) that I am sure, could I find a psychopharmacologist in a 50 mile radius (which is not as easy it sounds - it's not like NY where's there's a psychopharm on every corner of Park between 72nd and 86th) I am sure she would write me a scrip for Xanax.

Believe me. I need all of my wits when I am driving - day or night. Controlled substances simply aren't an option.

But this is all behind me now. Yes dear readers, I have made it through the darkest, deepest, longest, anxiety-provoking days of winter. And all I can say is, Hallelujah!

I noticed it this week. As I got into my car at 6:01pm on Wednesday it wasn't dark. It wasn't light. We were heavily into twilight but there were shreds of light. And for 10 or 15 minutes my visibility was that much better.

Tonight, I managed to leave at 5:50pm. I had even that much more light. It was if I had something to look forward to. Knowing that the days were clearly once again getting longer. Knowing that I had survived one of my biggest challenges and that I could (no pun intended) see the light at the end of the tunnel.

And it's not just at night. In the mornings, when I go out to feed the goats, I no longer require a flashlight. And every day is that much longer. It makes me overjoyed.

Pretty soon, it'll be light out when I come home and I can go have a glass of wine with Elvis and Ann-Margaret in the pasture.

And if that ain't county, I'll kiss your...

Monday, January 22, 2007

Anyone Can Comment

Although I have not given you much to comment on recently (apologies dear readers), I love when you do comment. However, many of you have mentioned that it is a pain in the ass to post comments because you have to be a member.

Well - I believe I adjusted the settings so that ANYONE can post a comment.

I promise to try and post more frequently. And I hope that you in turn will share your comments.

After all, If That Ain't Country is nothing without you dear readers.
35 Baptist Churches and Counting

I was recently inspired to finally take the leap and get involved in the local community. This is something I have meant to do for some time - figuring that it would be easy to have a significant impact in such a small community. And yet my life - the goats, the driving, the hedge fund, the blog - it has all felt like so much, like there is no room, like if I take on one more thing I will explode. But I finally got the inspiration I needed.

The inspiration came from a woman who I will call Kay and whom I met under rather unorthodox circumstances.

Marty & I were having dinner with Mansour at Willow Creek Inn a few weeks ago and Mansour mentioned that a woman who had eaten dinner there recently had discovered the restuarant through If That Ain't Country. Yes that's right - MY BLOG!!!

To top off the thrill of having a reader who wasn't related to me by blood or a close friend, she had sent Mansour the loveliest handwritten note complimenting him on the restaurant and discussing her goals to bring culture and sophistication (such as can be found at Willow Creek Inn) to Lincoln County.

I was floored.

Another smart, sophisticated woman with good taste and appreciation for the fine things living in Lincoln County? And reading MY BLOG? I couldn't believe it. So Mansour gave me her card and I called her.

When Kay and I first spoke, we clicked instantly. What was meant to be a brief introductory "let's meet" conversation lasted well over 20 minutes as we both kept chiming in with things to add.

We met a week later over a glass of wine at Court Street Grill in Lincolnton.

As it turns out, Kay did not discover Willow Creek Inn through my blog. She had seen the ad in the Lincoln Times and had searched online for more information which led her to comments I had posted on If That Ain't Country. (if I were more technically inclined and less tired, I would have turned that last sentence into a link to the actual comments. But I am neither so you'll have to search the archives. I think I first wrote about Willow Creek Inn in August.)

Kay and I spent over 2 hours talking. The short of it is that even though she moved to the Lincolnton area only a year ago, she is way involved in the community, knows who is who, what is what, and how to get involved.

I'll save the complete Lincolnton 411 for another post, but I did subscribe to the Lincoln Times. I figured, the first step towards getting involved in the community was knowing what was going on.

As I sat in my hotel in Greensboro (another point in the blog where I should have a link but don't have the mental wherewithal to execute one) reading the paper, I stumbled on a most interesting advertisement: Worship With Us This Sunday - Church Directory.

A simple printed page. Black and white text. And a long list of churches. 35 Baptist churches to be exact. 12 Methodist churches. 11 Lutheran churches. 4 Interdenominational. 3 for the Church of God. 2 churches each for the Pentecostals, the Presbyterians, and the United Church of Christ. Also represented on the page with a single church each: AME Zion, Episcopal, Nazarene, Roman-Catholic, Seventh Day Adventist, the Christian Church Disciples of Christ and Wesleyan.

78 churches total listed in Lincoln County. And no synagogues.

And if that ain't country, I'll kiss your...

Sunday, January 21, 2007

The King of Country Music

Yesterday, Marty & I got in the car, drove an hour and 45 minutes to Greensboro, NC and attended a concert with the King of Country Music - Mr. George Strait.

It wasn't my first George Strait concert - Marty and I went to the George Strait Music Fesitval when we lived in Houston. But that was before I actually liked George Strait. Before I really knew his music. All I remember about the festival was that it was at Minute Maid Park (then known as Enron Field) and there were multiple acts before George actually took the stage. I vaguely remember Martina McBride and She-Daisy and by the time George came on, I was ready to go home.

This time was different. This time, I was actually a George Strait fan. I bought the new album right when it came out (after reading a 4-star review in People no less). I listened to it a few times in the car and was instantly hooked on the catchy tunes. I checked George's homepage for tour cities and dates for weeks, waiting patiently for them to be posted. When the dates were finally announced, I was thrilled to see that he was indeed coming to North Carolina. While Charlotte would have been optimal, Greensboro is less than 2 hours away and the concert was on a Saturday. Plus - the O. Henry Hotel in Greensboro is really nice...

So we bought tickets and booked the trip.

The truth is, the fact that I spent a Saturday night at a country music concert is not a refelection of moving to North Carolina. I have long been a fan of country music - going back to my childhood and the country mix tapes my dad used to play in the car to and from Woodstock. What reflects the move to North Carolina is the fact that I had to opportunity to actually go to a country music concert. It's not as if Madison Square Garden is a stop on George Strait's tour.

The opening act was newcomer Taylor Swift. She looked like a cross between Jessica Simpson and Chelsea Clinton with a mop of blonde curls and big teeth. She had a decent voice but what impressed me most was the fact that at 17, she had written over 250 songs, including all 11 tracks on her first album, just released in October. The songs weren't sophisticated or complex - they were the songs of a teenage girl. Simple songs written about boys, broken hearts and unrequited love. They reminded me a lot of what I used to write when I was in high school. Still, she was entertaining.

If Taylor Swift was the new girl on the block, then Ronnie Milsap was the old timer. He was billed as a special guest and while I never would have thought he would have had so many fans, the entire Coliseum was cheering and on their feet for the better part of his 50 minute set. What surprised me most was how many of his songs I knew. I guess with 40 number one hits under his belt, I was bound to know a few.

And then there was George. He is known as the King of Country Music with good reason. His voice is as deep and smooth as ever. He looks the part of qunitessential cowboy with starched shirt and jeans and the brim of his hat shading his handsome face. He sings about everything from milk cows to the hard life of rodeo riders.

His set lasted nearly 2 hours and was a mix of his newer material (which I love) and his older songs. Despite having over 50 number one hits to his credit, he did not sing them all. He sang a lot of lesser known songs mixed in with classics like The Fireman and The Chair. In fact, short of hearing him sing Carried Away (my song with Marty) hearing George sing The Chair live was a true highlight.

The whole evening was great. And after we'd had our fill of denim and plaid and cowboy hats, Marty and I went back to the O. Henry and shared a bottle of Far Niente chardonnay and a pizza with mozzarella and fresh tomatoes.

And I know that ain't country...

Monday, January 15, 2007

City Goats Meet Country Goats

Mom and Dad came to visit this weekend. And while it was not their first trip to North Carolina (I spent 4 years at Duke - they were here for the obligatory parents weekends and of course, graduation), it was their first trip to Lincolnton. Actually, it's usually anybody's first trip to Lincolnton when they come to visit.

The ironic thing of course, is that we spent very little time in Lincolnton. They arrived Saturday afternoon in Charlotte and we spent a few hours in the city having lunch, walking around and picking up some gourmet goodies at Reids.

After a leisurely drive home on the back roads through the country (designed for maximum viewing of cows, horses, silos, bales of hay and other quintessential If That Ain't Country signs of life), we arrived home in Lincolnton. However, we didn't actually see any of the town as Marty and I live right on the border of neighboring Maiden and that's the direction we came from.

Introductions to the grand-goats came next followed by a tour of the house followed by much needed naps for everyone.

We had dinner in Sherril's Ford out on Lake Norman. This entailed driving along more picturesque country roads (now in the dark) and didn't involve Lincolnton.

We didn't actually make it into town until Sunday. With so little to see Marty & I found ourselves narrating every little potential point of interest:

Me: There's the discount strip mall anchored by Fred's and Big Lots.

Dad: They have a Beeper World? Does anybody carry a beeper any more?

Me: I don't know. I never really thought about it. But this is Lincolnton.


Marty: There's our CVS.

Silence. Like anybody cares where we buy toothpaste and shampoo.

The highlight was of course Bojangles - where dad wanted to stop for chicken but where the full parking lot and the line of 10 cars in the drive-through screamed: It's 12pm on Sunday. Church just let out. Do you really want to go to Bojangles???

Including the stop for gas, we probably spent less than 10 minutes in Lincolnton. We didn't stop and get out and walk around which should tell you a little more about where we live.

We drove up to Hickory for lunch and ate at Circus Hall of Cream.

Circus Hall of Cream has been around forever. Marty remembers coming down from NJ when he was a kid to visit his grandparents, and a stop at Circus Hall of Cream for a milkshake was always the first thing on the agenda.

Circus Hall of Cream is painted in garish red and yllow stripes - like a Big Top. It's on the side of a busy stretch of road in Hickory and serves up a bare bones menu - hot dogs, burgers, chicken fingers - and plenty of cool and creamy treats. There's a walk-up window, a drive-thru window and a scattering of picnic tabls outside. They also have a handful of tables and chair on the indside - the chairs have these plasticy, vinyl cushions printed with red, green, yellow and blue balloons.

It's not much in the way of atmosphere - but the food and milkshakes are excellent. They are known for the footlongs and that's what we ordered. Mom was brave and ordered hers "all the way" which in North Carolina means mustard, slaw, onions and chili. Dad stuck to his NY roots and ordered his footlong grilled with saurkraut.
The chocolate milkshake was essentially soft serve ice cream with a tiny touch of milk - just enough so you could suck it up through a straw.

After lunch we headed up to Blowing Rock in the mountains and spent a few hours walking around town, popping into touristy shops. We got some more ice cream at Kilwins and penny candy at the General Store.

The weekend wrapped up with mom and dad feeding the goats when we got home Sunday afternoon.

Following are some photos of the city goats and the country goats:

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And if that ain't country, I'll kiss your...

Sunday, January 07, 2007

Racing Bus

This is an old converted school bus that my neighbor Carl and his friends drive to the twice yearly NASCAR races in Charlotte.

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It's been parked in his back yard since the last race a few months ago and it's the first thing we see when we walk out the back door.

It drives Marty crazy, but all I can say is...

If that ain't country, I'll kiss your...