Columns

2010.12.15 What I learned: Morenci 2010 Edition

on . Posted in By The Way

When my son-in-law Taylor visits, I’m always able to extract a guest column. This one arrived by e-mail four hours before deadline. Plenty of time the way we work.

By TAYLOR BALLINGER

The old cliché goes “You learn something new every day.” I suppose it’s true, considering I get on Facebook, Twitter, and a number of news sites daily and there’s always some new bit of information I’m receiving on there. For instance, did you know the Mona Lisa has no eyebrows? Did you know that in 2000, Pope John Paul II was named an honorary member of the Harlem Globetrotters? Here’s one more thing I recently learned: it’s against the law to mispronounce “Arkansas” (Ar-kan-saw) in the state of Arkansas.

This past weekend, Rosie and I came up to Michigan for “the Big Chill at the Big House” hockey game, and a baby shower. I wasn’t on the internet much, but I still managed to learn something new each day of the trip.

• (Friday) – If you get a chance to go to “America’s Number One Place to Pig Out,” do it. Just know that you’ll regret it for a couple of days.

Rosie and I, along with our Canadian friend Ryan, drove up from Little Rock on Friday morning. We had an extra ticket to the hockey game, and figured Ryan, a former high school hockey player, would love to attend.

On the route from Little Rock to Morenci is a little town called Sikeston, Missouri, home of Lambert’s Café. I don’t know how to describe Lambert’s other than it’s like Cracker Barrel on steroids. Each plate comes with enough food for at least two people, they are constantly passing out rolls (literally throwing them through the air) the size of softballs, and the drinks come in 34 oz. mugs. Rosie got the fried chicken tender platter, which came with eight large chicken strips, two sides, and several pass arounds (foods that don’t count as sides, but the servers just bring around to each table without any limit) like fried okra and fried potatoes and onions.

Ryan and I each got the small chicken fried steak (11 oz. as opposed to 16 oz. for the large), which is about as unhealthy a food as you can eat. Our meal came with three sides along with the pass arounds and rolls. Lambert’s is the portrait of American gluttony.

The food was delicious, but I’ve never felt so disgustingly full. Sikeston is about eight hours from Morenci, and we didn’t eat the rest of the car ride. We did, however, spend most of the ride groaning and complaining about our stomachs being so full.

On Sunday morning we got up to take Toronto to the Greyhound station for his trip back to Toronto. I asked him what he wanted for breakfast and he said “nothing, I still can’t really think about food after Friday.” That, ladies and gentlemen, is one substantial meal.

• (Saturday) – Outdoor hockey is almost as fun as indoor hockey.

Rosie, Maddie, Ryan and I had a great time at the hockey game Saturday night. It was not too cold, the rain held off just long enough, and the atmosphere was electric. The Big House clearly wasn’t meant to host a hockey game, though. With the ice at the center of the football field, everyone was pretty far away from the action. We were fortunate to have seats up a little higher, so we could see everything, but the folks down low couldn’t really see above the boards.

It was exciting to be a part of the record-setting crowd, but I feel like the game-watching experience would have been much better indoors. In an arena we would have been able to see and hear the action much more clearly. That way, Ryan could have better explained to me what was going on, because let’s face it, I never played much hockey growing up in Kentucky.

• (Sunday) – The Lions are going to be good soon.

I watched Sunday’s disappointing Lions/Packers game (I’m a Packers fan) at my grandfather-in-law’s house, and I’m convinced that in a few years the Lions will be a formidable team. Their defense has been good all year, and they have some solid offensive players as well (Jahvid Best, Calvin Johnson). Thanks to another bad record, they will get a pretty high draft pick in 2011, and if they can hit another home-run like they did with Ndamukong Suh, they’ll be in business.

Next year, if Matthew Stafford is healthy and productive, and the defense is again improved, I think the Lions may sneak into the playoffs. I hope so, anyway. I don’t cheer for any team over the Packers, but I think it’s about time the Lions were relevant again. The good folks of Michigan deserve a decent professional football team.

• (Monday) – If the windchill is hovering around zero, put on some pants.

Like a fool I decided to wear shorts for the car ride back to Little Rock on Monday. I figured that we would only make a few stops, and that the car would stay pretty warm, so I wanted to be comfortable for the trip. The cold temperatures froze our windshield wiper fluid, though, and we had to stop about 10 times to get out and clean the nasty road-salt spray off the front and back glass. It wasn’t bad if the breeze was stable and the sun was out, but those gas station car-ports block the sunlight and act as wind tunnels. I got a lot of funny looks during our stops – and I deserved each one of them.

Now it’s Tuesday morning and I feel a bit feverish. Maybe it was being exhausted from finals week and not eating well on Friday and then being outside all day Saturday that got me feeling a bit sick. Or maybe it was dressing like it was a cool fall afternoon and not a miserable winter morning. When I was a kid and wanted to wear shorts in the winter my mom would rationalize it by saying “he’ll put pants on if he gets cold enough.” Well, mom, I think I’m retiring my shorts for the winter.

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