Archive for November, 2005

The design for my Zen-artist signatory stamp is finally ready

November 29, 2005

Unfortunately I can’t show it to you here within the blog, but it is finally ready . . .

. . . and with its now-reality, I can, I’m going to for the first time ever reveal to you – my friendly reader(s) – my “Zen name” (beside my deep and abiding faith as a large-C-Christian, I’ve been a practicing Zen Bhuddist for over 30 years), which is: raba

Just out of curiosity, take a geuss as to what “raba” means. When a lay Zen acolyte is initially accepted into the Zen community as I was when I was seventeen years old way back when, it’s tradition that their sensei/teacher/mentor/master gives them a “Zen name”, almost always a Japanese-based name which is reflective of who they (the student) are at their very core.

So, what do you think “raba” in Japanese means? “Light”? “Stone”? “Fire”? “Path”? “Dumbass”?

Nope, none of those . . . in Japanese, the literal translation of “raba” means “mule”, as in the highly intelligent and persistently stubborn cross between a horse and a donkey, and for the wags in the audience reading this, NO, it Does NOT mean “jackass”, it means “mule”, Smile.

For all this time of keeping this gift of my Zen name to myself, I’ve shared it with one, maybe two other people outside the Zen community before sharing it with my wife and stepdaughter recently, but now it’s time to come public with it, since come the proverbial Katrina or California wildfires I’m going to plunge back into my art – which will include a blended East/West style of Zen calligraphy and art – and set up my online gallery at zenmule.com, which I registered the domain for last year and am just now getting ready to put underpinnings of foundation to . . . okay, okay, so mules procrastinate as well be outright stubborn sometimes, sue me, Grin!

With my creation of a design which will become my signature stamp, and no, I didn’t choose to use the Japanese kanji characters which would spell out “mule” for my stamp design, prefering, and keeping in the spirit of the confluence of blending both Western/Occidental and Eastern cultures which is one important aspect of who I am as a man and person and which will be the driving force behind ZenMule.com, choose instead to hand-draw (using Corel Draw to create the initial design and Paint Shop Pro to polish it) the initials “R-H-K-C” inside a polygon that’s inside an oval, RHKC standing for Raba H. Kent Craig, my full Zen name.

So, today by announcing this becomes the first step in that journey of the next ten thousand, and I couldn’t be happier.

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Lewis BBQ in Durham, a rare find, truly great Eastern-NC-Style barbecue

November 29, 2005

If my wife and I hadn’t found Smokey Bones in Fayetteville and Greensboro NC, respectively, last month which – even though they’re a regional chain and chain barbecue restaurants generally are mediocre at best, ‘Bones is not mediocre – offers simply the best pulled-pork barbecue I’ve had in over 20 years, then I’d be plugging Lewis BBQ in Durham which, despite the fact I moved to Apex this past June not 5-6 miles from Lewis’, I finally managed to get to for lunch yesterday and all I can say is WOW!!!, if not for Smokey Bones and Lewis’ is 98% as good as Smokey’s, just a more traditional Eastern North Carolina chopped pork style, then I’d be telling you that Lewis has the best barbecue I’ve had in over 20 years, yeah, Wow!

Per my SOP, I’m going to eat there at least one more time before writing a formal review of them and putting it on my wildly popular NC-BBQ Page

http://hkentcraig.com/bbq.html

. . . so look for it there sometime between now and Christmas, but please do consider stopping by and enjoying Lewis’ fine porcine fare if you’re near the intersection of NC Highways 54 & 55 just off I-40, they’re just south of the Golden Corral there on the right on ’55 as you head south.

In praise of Hardee’s simple #9 breakfast bowl combo

November 28, 2005

This post is an example of one of the primary reasons I went back to blogging, to talk about things publicly and try to plug and/or warn of things which have my day-to-day attentions, such as the humble working man’s breakfast fare of Hardee’s “Low-Carb Breakfast Bowl”, their #9 Combo if you’re a customer of theirs, which to me is a work of culinary genius.

Considering because of my “different” genetics all I can eat is basically meat and carbs and a few complex enzymes, when I find something I truly enjoy eating such as Hardee’s Breakfast Bowl, a very simple yet elegant combination of cheese, eggs (albeit poured from a container, Sigh), bacon, ham and sausage all layered into a totally filling for the stomach and totally satisfying for the tongue and the psyche, I just have to spend the five minutes to talk about it here.

Denny’s used to have something a little similar, their “meat lover’s skillet”, but at my local Denny’s (I never went to any Denny’s before The Year 2001, discovering their “meat lover’s skillet” while on traveling on vacation that year) while still available it’s no longer on the menu and no longer served in a ceramic skillet and in a bowl instead, you can still get it but you have to ask for it specifically off-menu but it’s still very good indeed.

But the Denny’s offering while excellent has tiny potato cubes as filler to keep from having to spend too much food costs on actual meat and cheese and the Hardee’s Breakfast Bowl has their “tater’ tots” on the side and is nothing but pure carnivour protean in the actual plastic bowl it’s served in and has twice or close to three times the actual meat of Denny’s offering at less than half Denny’s price, the total price of the Breakfast Bowl Combo at my local Raleigh #19 Hardee’s, and this is the actual bowl of meat eggs and cheese plus tots and unlimited beverage bar refills (I love Hardee’s sweet tea) for just $4.74 while Denny’s meat skillet with sweet tea but without tip is about nine bucks.

I also stop by Bojangle’s for their authentic country ham biscuits for breakfast from time to time, but considering the simple yet total primal sensory satisfaction my inner caveman gets from Hardee’s offering, most mornings if/when I’m out and about and am passing close to one, it’s no contest, my inner comfort-food-seeking savage always wins.

The Panthers win ugly, but win nevertheless

November 28, 2005

The Carolina Panthers victory yesterday was one of the ugliest, most boring football games you’d hope never to see, but it was a win never the less and The Panthers now lead the NFC South Division with a record of 8 & 3.

For all but the last five minutes of the game it was a battle of who was going to hypnotize the other team into deep slumber first, trying to accuse both teams of putting the other team to sleep from sheer boredom would be almost too cruel so I want to use slightly nicer language, but then it was like The Panthers woke up from their nap with a “hey, we’re the friggin’ Panthers and we do have Steve Smith who leads the NFL in all major categories as a wide receiver so maybe we should get the ball to him now that we’re near the goal line” and BOOM – touchdown – which was the margin of victory over, over whoever the heck they were playing, oh that’s right it was the Buffalo-Boring-Bills, 13-9.

Sure, The Panthers are a much better team that what was exhibited yesterday, but it is Week 11 of the season and now all teams and all players are starting to get nicked up and the recovery cycle of snapping back from the physical fatigue of taking ten consecutive weeks of hard beatings is basically gone, even the most fit of atheletes about this stage hurt like mothertruckers every single moment of every single day from now through the (hopeful for them) playoffs and this is where the truly better teams start to show themselves as being the class of the field, when their star players start showing less effects from the accumulated pain cycles than do lesser atheletes on lesser teams. You might not think a player who can normally run a 4.5-40 yard dash now slowed in Week 11 down to a, say, 4.8 or 5-Flat makes a huge difference, but in the world of The NFL where it’s the best 500 physical-based atheletes (sorry NBA and MLB and MLS fans, but the gestalt pain threshold for NFL players is in a differrent universe when compared with “your” sports) who also have raw world-class speeds, Yes, it makes a huge difference.

Anyway, will The Panthers win their division? Let’s see, they play Atlanta this coming Sunday and all but one of their remaining games are with division opponents, so, if I was a betting man – which I’m not – I’d say no they won’t win the division, there’s simply too much and better roster talent out there, but they’ll probably get a wildcard spot on the basis of their overall record.

Duke assassinates another quality opponet

November 26, 2005

Of course Duke will lose “a” game this year, probably three or four of them, that’s what the three point shot and the shot clock does, give weaker opponets a chance to knock of clearly stronger opponets if the stars align correctly during a game, but Duke’s methodical and fearless handling of Memphis in the NIT/National Inivitational Tournament’s championship game makes you wonder.

To Memphis’ credit, they hung tough, giving The Dookies all they wanted for the entire game, it was tied 67-67 with 41 seconds to go in the game before Duke qietly and without even touching the gas slipped into their fifth-gear overdive and before Memphis knew what happened, Duke cut their heart out of their chest and handed it to them on a platter, in the most effecient and cold-blooded manner possible, another basketball “assassination” at the hands of The Hassassin’s Guild Of Durham N.C. otherwise known as the Duke men’s basketball team.

Since Coach K came to the program they’ve taken on his personality more than any team in America has assumed the personality of their coach -ever- with the possible exception of Dean Smith when he was coaching ‘Carolina and Coach K has the mindset of the penultamet assassin, someone who studies their opponent endlessly before striking, someone who trains himself in mind and body endlessly too so that neither body nor mind will fail, someone who trains their soul to be fearless by accepting things as they are and not as he would wish them to be, someone who although a good Catholic is the embodiment of a true Zen master-warrior crossed with a ninjitsu-master-of-the-night as well, some and some-team that simply knows and accepts their position in life and carries out their assigned tasks with emotionless, piano-wire-garotte-around-the-throat effeciency.

Such coolness under pressure, especually when down however many points during a game before seemingly slipping into a higher gear at the last possible moment and winning has lead to very quiet whispers never published in the mainstream sports media about some Duke players in the past possibly “shaving points”. I’ve said it before in previous blogs and will say it again here: nothing could be further from the truth! Coach K is simply too honest and too honorable a man and too knowledgable a coach for him to tolerate even a hint of any player at any point in any game not giving 100% of their abilities to the team effort. Considering that Duke’s bench, even their third-string bench, is stronger than most other teams’ starting five, even the mere thought of any Duke player trying to negatively influence the outcome of a game by giving less than 100% at all times is simply impossible, simply impossible.

Duke’s one of those teams that everyone loves to hate and for sometimes good reason, with supreme confidence often does come the parallel perception of supreme arrogance and hubris as well, and Duke’s rope-a-dope resilency and not kicking into their shadow-fifth-gear-overdrive quick enough has indeed cost them some games, but, and I’m not a Duke alum or anything close, Duke shouldn’t be castigated because they have the best and most talented active coach in men’s college basketball nor because they continually re-load their roster with the nation’s top high school talent year after year.

Just remember “the law of balance” and that with success of their men’s basketball team, comes “the balance” of Duke’s men’s football team, a team which couldn’t beat most JV high school football teams even after being spotted nine-and-a-half points and pray that the current coach of said team, Ted Root, finds some sort of job after Duke’s football season mercifully comes to an end while the Duke’s glory basketball team quietly takes the focus off the misery gridiron team until next year at least.

A Thanksgiving vision of an eerie Civil War kind

November 26, 2005

My wife and I were driving down Tryon Road in the southern part of Raleigh on the way to catch the early morning Thanksgiving sale at the Super Kmart in Garner (she’s a serious shopper, what can I say) when we crossed the bridge over the railroad tracks just before Tryon deadends into Highway 401 South when I saw them.

My wife being a non-empath and a “severe” Christian really doesn’t believe in psychic phenominae and even though she knows I’m a “for-real” empath and I couldn’t not be this way anymore than I couldn’t be anything else that I am, I was simply born this way, she tolerates my occasional expression of something “interesting” that happens to me despite the multitude of filter-layers constructed over the years by myself to prevent “hard-wall” conscious reckonings but she also poo-poos them about figments of my imagination only, which who knows, while they’re very real to me, shoot, they could be mental constructs of a creative mind and nothing more, I don’t think they are, I think they’re real when they happen but still, one never truly knows.

Still, when I looked up the railroad tracks and saw two forms in full Civil War-Era Union soldier unforms, one of them carrying what looked like an 1863-era-issue .54 caliber musket/rifle and the other lightly burdened only with field pack and a walking stick as they made their respective way heading north into Raleigh on the same railroad track or at least the same railroad track right-of-way which has been unchanged since the 1840’s when it was first laid down and which served as the conduit for virtually every single Union soldier in the various Southeast theatres who eventually made their way home after the war ended, literally tens and hundreds of thousands of Union soldiers being shipped by rail to this area before being mustered out and sent home, still, when I saw these two very detailed spirit forms not a hundred yards from me albeir as we drove 45 miles an hour over the Tryon Road bridge, still, the sight of them definitely caught my attention and I made mention of them to my wife who gave me one of her polite but sincere “ppphhh-shaws”.

I hadn’t seen such a clear vision of a spirit, any spirit let alone a couple of them just sauntering along in weeks if not months. Like I say, normally my mental “filters” keep them out of the forefront of my conscious mind, thankfully.

But hey, it was Thanksgiving Day (which began as a holiday in “the north” way before it was celebrated in “the south”) and they seemed happy enough as they seemed to be making their way further north, further to home, on this the most home-oriented of American holidays, so it seemed fitting that their spirit-bundle would be especially bright and strong on Thanksgiving Day.

Bless my wife, she does so willingly tolerate aspects of me and who I am even though sometimes she thinks I’m so full of “it” that that’s why my eyes are brown she still lets me talk about this or that part of me even though she doesn’t believe a word of it and we go on with our marriage and relationship, one skeptical counselor and one empathetic creativist who still manage to be in-love with each other.

I have to admit, though, I can’t wait until we both enter a “reality distortion zone” which sometimes happens when someone, even a total skeptic like my wife is, is with me when an event or an occurance that’s meant for me happens within a tiny physical-space “zone” and is experienced virtually identically by someone else. When that does happen, I’ll blame it on Steve Jobs, since being around him at times was said to be like “entering a reality distortion zone” too, Grin!

Thanksgiving, the most special of holidays to me

November 24, 2005

 

Being a Christian, you would think Christ-Mas would be the most special of Holy-Days to me and it actually is, but we’re talking “Old Christmas” which is generally celebrated on March 6th or March 8th either/both of which are probably a lot closer to the day of Jesus’ actual birth than the Roman holiday of Saturnalia (which was always celebrated on December 25th, BTW) which the early church fathers in the second or third century AD/ACE  hijacked and misappropriated in order for the “new” religion of Christianity to be better able to compete with the old Roman religions which weren’t old when Christianity was still quite new to the world, so in the light of “Western culture Christmas” on December 25th being a total and near-shameful sham to me, being a native-born American (born in Columbus, Ohio but brought to Cary, North Carolina as an adoptee at age seven months old which is why I claim to be a Cary and North Carolina native despite my physical birth being somewhere else, my metaphorical re-birth through adoption landing me in Cary instead of Columbus), ever since I came to consciousness at age five, Thanksgiving has become the most welcome if not important holiday to me.

The whole PC/politically correct-thing about what it does or doesn’t represent to American Indians aside, while most holidays are at least happy if not joyful, I find that our American Thanksgiving has high degrees of both somber-ness and reflectiveness about it which I find totally refreshing, kinda like a gentile Yom Kippur but with football and better food.

The purpose(s) of this or that holiday shouldn’t all be the same, anyway, and what makes Thanksgiving such a totally unique American holiday is that, for 95%-98% of all Americans, on each year’s Thanksgiving we as Americans find ourselves so blessed that almost all of us have much, much to be thankful for and so much of the rest of the world, without getting too esoteric or maudlin-ly philosophical on you, really doesn’t have much of anything on any given day to be thankful for, not usually, and definitely not as much as America and Americans does and do, and I’m not talking just about material stuff, I’m talking about (while recently eroded because of such patently anti-American laws such as the so-called “Patriot Act”) are our basic freedoms, basic “natural rights” freedoms such as, to give you one quick real-time example, the Freedom Of Expression and The Freedom Of The Press both of which are totally embodied in my now-expression of those two typical American freedoms by my writing this tome and publishing it in this-here blog of mine, two expressions of basic human rights-freedoms which a couple-billion of Chinese citizens don’t have, at least not wholly and fully like I do as an American.

That’s what and why I am thankful for, this and every Thanksgiving: that, by the literal grace of God of being in America and living as an American, that I have more freedoms and opportunities and blessings to be thankful for every single day of every respective year – not just on this one special day per year which focuses and acknowledges them more – than I would have otherwise had I been born anywhere and anytime elsewhere and elsewhen in this world’s timestream.

 

My favorite local burger joint, Christie’s in Cary, is on the way out apparently

November 22, 2005

I honestly never thought I’d have to say these words, but after the worst lunch I’ve had anywhere in the past couple of years and having it foisted upon me at my favorite local cafe’ and burger joint no less, Christies in Cary at the corner of Maynard and E. Chatham across from The Circus Barn ice cream shoppe, I’m afraid the recent change in day-to-day management (I’m not sure of actual ownership, none of my business) has marked the eventual deathknell for a place I’ve been to literally hundreds of times over the past ten going on almost fifteen years and brought at least 100+ eventual “new converts” to over that time as well.

A while back I discovered their incredible “Salisbury steak” which is nothing more than one of their (in the past) incredibly superb hamburgers cooked in a pressure cooker and the resulting brown gravy which was ambrosia to me atop perfect mashed potatoes and upon finding that off-menu item (though it was on their daily menu chalkboard) quit eating what I always told everyone was simply the best hamburger I’ve ever had and ate their Salisbury steak only after that first bite hit my palate, but today, what I had, what was served to me and what I managed somehow to eat was, well, terrible.

Instead of cooking their premium ground beef patty in a pressure cooker (along with lotsa other ground beef patties to be served fresh that day to eager customers) for hours until soft enough to cut with a sharp look, what I was served was an old hamburger at least two maybe three or more days old with some weak store-bought brown gravy from mix just splashed on it, and more than irritated I was just sorely disappointed, because I knew it marked the end of Christie’s era as reigning local burger and cafe champ.

The excuse for what was called a hamburger steak with gravy was so tough I almost sent it back but managed to get it down, it was literally like trying to eat a boilded leather bottom from an old shoe, and when I complained to the manager, not to complain as much as to offer constructive feedback so she/they could go back to the “old ways” of doing it right, she tried to blame the lack of their truck showing up (sorry, but a beef patty is a beef patty and there’s no excuse for serving old hamburger patties 2-3 days old which were NOT cooked in a pressure cooker, the way “The Christies” used to do it) but even she knew that wasn’t even a good attempt at a lie.

I told her I’d come back one more time, Maybe, this has been my lunch refuge forever it seems like after all, and if it was still like today’s Carnivorous Horriblous, then Christie’s will have lost me as a customer, for good, forever. I hope next visit is better, is like Christie’s of old, is all I can say.

Today is my birthday . . .

November 22, 2005

 

. . . and since I don’t acknowledge let alone celebrate birthdays, mine or anyone else’s, I’ll just let this one, my 49th for this time around, go quietly unnoticed . . .

My new/revised review of Hog Heaven Bar-B-Q in Durham, NC

November 19, 2005

After getting several outright hatemails and many disagreeing emails about my panning review of Hog Heaven Bar-B-Q in Durham this past February, I and frequent lunch dining companion Russell Smith who accompanied me to HH first time around went back for “seconds? today, and if you’d like to read what we found this time, please go to:


http://www.hkentcraig.com/BBQ39.html