Archive for April, 2011

Hanging out at the Watershed

Monday, April 18th, 2011

It was a rainy Friday night in Georgia (cue for a song) and our friends invited us to join them for dinner to celebrate their 27th wedding anniversary. They had read some good reviews about the Watershed restaurant over in Decatur which was owned by one of the Indigo Girls (cue for another song.) and we had reservations for 7.45pm. Our friends picked us up and we set off in eager anticipation.

To my mind the hostess greeting you at the restaurant’s entrance sets the tone for the remainder of the evening, and the lady who directed us to our table would have been better employed greeting mourners at a funeral home. I like minimalist in interior design, but draw exception when the restaurant’s décor and layout reminds  me of a school canteen (cafeteria.) I maybe old fashioned but I am partial to booths and I don’t like being seated in the middle of the room which has the ambiance of sitting in a gold fish bowl. Continuing the scholastic theme the tables were too small for 4 adults and they were obviously purchased as a job lot from a local elementary school.

Moving onto the menu, their signature dish was roast duck on a bed of sautéed Brussels sprouts. I had prepared sprouts the night before and, much as I like them, decided to avoid eating the green balls in successive meals. One of the items on the menu intrigued me. It was listed as a hanger steak. I have ordered and eaten most types of beef cuts but had never come across a hanger steak until now.

 The pretentious waiter proceeded to indulge in a series of charades to demonstrate where on the cow the hanger could be found. Flapping his arms with gay abandon, he indicated the hanger was cut from the folds that drooped on either side of the cow’s head. I really wanted to determine whether it was lean or fatty, and he finally said it was one step removed from rib eye in consistency which I don’t care for.

The hanger didn’t sound very appetizing and I ordered the flounder. We decided to share some appetizers which comprised some crawfish pies and a plate of wild mushrooms on a bed of toast.

Five minutes later the waiter returned and went down on his knees at my side on the premise that I could be the Prince of Wales, and whispered in my ear that they had just sold out of flounder. Sometimes waiters remind me of second hand car salesmen in terms of sincerity. He recommended the special which comprised a porterhouse lamb steak. Now the only parts of a lamb I find palatable are the rack and the leg and as none of us had heard of a lamb porterhouse, and I was quite skeptical.

My circumspect waiter assured me that I would not be disappointed and I reluctantly accepted his advice. The lamb turned out to be a glorified chop which provided an exercise in locating some edible meat from the grizzle and bone. The side orders resembled regurgitated food which would have made a kangaroo proud. Quite frankly, it was one of the worst entrees that had the temerity to pass my lips.

The appetizers were quite satisfactory, but the entrees were over priced and forgettable. I have never been impressed with a restaurant where the appetizers outshine the entrees. The prices for a bottle of wine were outrageous and we confined ourselves to a glass of wine each which still cost $10-$15 a piece.

Our lasting impression of the Watershed was one of being ripped off. We agreed that perhaps the depressed economy had taken its toll on the menu, and the management was forced into buying cheaper cuts of meat, but irritatingly charged premium prices. Fortunately, the company was great and we determined that our chastening culinary experience would build character and make us think twice before venturing outside our neighborhood. The Blue Ribbon Grill down the road was recently voted No 1 in the city for its meatloaf for goodness sake.

Spurs Blown Away

Sunday, April 10th, 2011

I have been a long suffering Tottenham Hotspur fan for more years than I care to remember, and on yet another big match occasion they never fail to disappoint me. This season, Spurs qualified to play in the Champions League for the first time in their history. They performed very well in the group stage defeating the holders Inter Milan, and then proceeded to beat AC Milan in the knockout stage to reach the last eight. They were drawn against one of football giants of Europe, Real Madrid, and realistically I was not expecting them to overcome their illustrious Spanish opponents over two legs.

Neither did I expect them to capitulate in such an abject fashion. Last Tuesday, they played the first leg away to Madrid and lost 0-4. Five minutes before the teams were to enter the cauldron of Bernabeau Stadium; Aaron Lennon cried off sick and was quickly replaced by Jerman Jenas. Spurs manager Harry Redknapp was forced to change tactics to suit the new formation which had a very unsettling effect on the team.

Unsurprisingly, they conceded a goal after only 4 minutes. To make matters worse, their lone striker, Peter Crouch, received two yellow cards for reckless challenges within 16 minutes and was duly sent off leaving the team to play the rest of the match with 10 men. The mountain they had to climb at the beginning of the match had changed its name from Kilvey to Everest.

Lennon later claimed that he had felt unwell for a few days, but decided to “give it a go.” I’m sorry but that’s unforgivable when you consider the number and expertise of medical staff employed by premiership clubs. Harry Redknapp also has to take his share of responsibility for allowing such a bizarre incident to happen. The manager and players have all made similar stereotype noises by claiming they can overcome a four goal deficit with the crowd behind them in Wednesday’s second leg. Don’t hold your breath, and will the last one to leave please switch the ventilator off.

Postscipt:  In 1962 Spurs reached the semi-final under the old format of the European Cup. In those halcyon days only the champions of their respective countries were admitted to the competition. Under the rules of the Champions League the top four teams in the English Premiership are invited to compete. Spurs finished fourth in the premiership last season to claim their place which also broke the recent monopoly of Man Utd, Chelsea, Arsenal and Liverpool.

PPS: Tottenham Hotspur predictably lost the second leg 0-1 to Real Madrid, going down on aggregate by 0-5. Only 5 minutes into  the game they had a genuine claim for a penalty which was ignored by the Italian referee. I believe that was the turning point  since an early goal would have put pressure on Real and  given the home crowd something to cheer about.

Otherwise, Spurs confirmed they are good team who can hold their own in the top six in the premiership but are unlikely to make any serious waves in the Champions League. Some of the individual performances by Spurs players left something to be desired. Apart from a couple of telling contributions, Lennon and Van der Vaart were missing in action presumably enjoying cucumber crustless sandwiches on the patio. It’s difficult to imagine Pavlychenko as an international striker, but that’s the reality. He received a glorious opportunity to score from one of Lennon”s rare passes and ballooned his shot way over the bar.

 Gareth Bale looked quite dangerous in the first twenty minutes and then proceeded to drift out the game. I hope I’m wrong but I get the feeling he’s a one trick pony. He has speed and acceleration but is very left footed and becoming quite predictable. Tom Huddleston returned to first team action following a lengthy layoff through injury and needn’t have bothered. He is very one paced which is not effective at this level. The Brazilian goalkeeper Gomez committed  a schoolboy error by allowing Ronaldo’s tepid shot to bounce out of his hands and roll tantalizingly over the line. Quite frankly he cannot be trusted at this level and is another player who needs to be on his way at season end.

Spurs achieved  a great victory over two legs in the qualifying stages over the holders, Inter Milan. However that result has now been placed in perspective by Inter Milan’s comprehensive defeat against German side Schalke, losing 3-7 on aggregate. Schalke play Manchester Utd in the semi-final and they could provide an upset since everyman and his dog are anticipating a final at Wembley between Manchester Utd and Barcelona.

It is 24th May and the 2010-11 The Premiership finished on Sunday which resulted in Man Utd being crowned champions for a record 19th time. Following a dogfight at the lower end of the table, Blackpool, Birmingham (winners of the Carling Cup) and West Ham were relegated. Tottenham finished 5th which means they will play in the second tier Europa Cup next season. Incredulously, manager Harry Redknapp claimed that this was Spurs’ best season ever.

Once again, Harry revealed his barrow boy tendencies by attempting  to make a silk purse from a sow’s ear. Does he think long suffering Spurs fans are stupid? We were well beaten by Real Madrid in the quarterfinals of the Champions League by an aggregate score of 0-5 and he has the audacity to commend such a performance. Following their removal from the competition they then proceeded to give up the ghost on  4th spot in the premiership  which would have secured another season in the Champions League. 

Unbelievably he then trots out some hogwash about requiring only two players for next season to challenge the top four. Yes, you guessed it; yet another midfielder, and a wait for it, a new striker. Look Harry, as any decent manager worth his salt knows, the good and consistent teams are built from the back. Gomez is a clown and needs to be replaced. The back four is a shambles because your best partnership in cenral defense are Dawson and King. King cannot be wrapped in cotton wool for another season and sadly he has to go.

In addition to Gomez and King the following players need to be shown the door: Hutton, Crouch, Defoe, Kranckjer, Woodgate, Huddlestone, Polaccios, and Lennon. In my opinion Redknapp has a major rebuilding job on his hands and minor tweaking is not going to cut it.

Surviving Wrestle Mania

Sunday, April 10th, 2011

 It was my son’s (Richard) idea to fly to Atlanta to attend Wrestle Mania XV11 and then it grew like Topsy. My son-in –law (Arthur), also living in England, jumped on the band wagon aided and abetted by my daughter and grand daughter, and my stepson (William) who lives near Atlanta completed the collection. Little did I know that my altercation at the Marta station on our way to the Georgia Dome with the homeless guy and police woman would be the highlight of my evening?

These three young guys are big wrestle mania fans and basically I was along for the ride. I grew up with wrestling in the sixties in Britain when ITV televised bouts at 4.00pm on a Saturday afternoon with the indomitable Kent Walton commenting in his transatlantic accent. Names that spring to mind from that era include Jackie Pallo, Mick McManus, Bert Royal, Billy Two Rivers, Shirley Crabtree (who was actually a man!) and the unforgettable Les Kellett. When I was a child I played with childish things, but when I became a man I put away childish things and discovered Smirnoff.

Richard described this event as being the Super Bowl of wrestling and as we had paid $100 a ticket, I was determined to try and joy the event for its own sake and abandon my preconceived perception of what I was about to witness. The mayhem was taking place between the 6.30-11.00pm at the Georgia Dome, and to make matters worse Richard encouraged us to leave home around 4.00pm and we were sitting in our seats at approximately 5.30pm. Vendors were out in force around the stadium so Richard and Arthur purchased T-shirts at the exorbitant price of $30 and programs for $20 a piece.

I didn’t realize that time could stand still until I was sitting in the Georgia Dome surrounded by demonized individuals mostly clad in wrestle mania T-shirts. Kudos, however, to Richard and Arthur: at least their shirts portrayed different slogans to the masses. Bring It On!

William told his mother that I couldn’t possibly enjoy the event as I was unaware of the sub plots and the history between the wrestlers. Get a life son! I appreciate a rumble in the jungle as much as anyone. Instead, I witnessed a tag match featuring 8 wrestlers that was reduced to one minute because The Rock (aka Dwayne Johnson) allowed his diatribe of an introduction to overrun for five minutes. Later in the proceedings we were subjected to two announcers supposedly settling a grudge match by cavorting in and out of the ring for 15 long minutes which resembled exchanging handbags at dawn. Even dyed in the wool fans were chanting: boring, boring. Where was Scottie when I needed him?

I must admit the introduction and entrance of the wrestlers to the arena were truly spectacular. Via a fanfare of blistering music, an array of flashing lights and a series of explosive fireworks each wrestler emerged like a Roman gladiator to thunderous noise from the capacity crowd; the bigger the name the bigger the fanfare.

For the benefit of any wrestling fans still reading my blog and to prove I was paying attention to some of the proceedings the main events included John Cena vs. The Miz for the WWE Championship, where John Cena looked to regain the WWE Championship from the Miz. Another match was the 2011 Royal Rumble winner Alberto Del Rio going against the champion Edge for the World Heavyweight Championship, The Undertaker vs. Triple H in a Singles Match was also featured where Triple H looked to break the 18-0 winning streak of the Undertaker at Wrestle Mania.

Apart from Randy Orton (Fliss’s favorite I believe) the under card was very forgettable. Maybe if Stacey Keibler had been persuaded to make a come back I would shown more interest. Anyway, I don’t believe Wrestle Mania endeared itself to America by having some second rate singer performing America the Beautiful instead of The Star Spangled Banner. Furthermore I had no objection to Wrestling Hall of Fame inductees being paraded before us, but why on earth was Drew Carey inducted into their Hall of Fame?

Turning to some of the action, the vinaigrette featuring Edge was mildly entertaining, but having made a “surprising” comeback and pulling off an “unexpected” victory, he proceeded to vandalize his opponent’s luxury car which was parked on the entrance ramp. There were hundreds of kids in the stadium witnessing the demolition ,and call me a prude if you like, but I don’t really believe that’s the kind of message you should be sending to impressionable children.

Placards and banners adorned the stadium from every angle which reminded me of a Democratic Party Convention anointing their Presidential candidate. The main event of the evening featuring Triple H against the Undertaker was reasonably choreographed despite the fact they spent more time out the ring. After allegedly beating each other to within an inch of the ER, but with no hint or trace of blood, The Undertaker was left prostrate on the canvas.

 Meanwhile Triple H slipped out the ring and disappeared under its canopy only to emerge brandishing a sledge hammer with the intent of beating The Undertaker to a pulp (fiction Sic.) A little blond kid sitting immediately behind me was in a frenzy and screamed: “Kill him, kill him!” William assured me that the sledge hammer was only a prop and Triple H wouldn’t actually use it to pulverize his opponent into oblivion. Gee son, he had me worried for a minute.

By now I was having dark thoughts and secretly hoped that The Undertaker would be exterminated leaving us all to catch the train home. Fate played a hand yet again and he managed to avoid the heavy weight of the hammer and ran out the victor, but was carried back to the dressing room on a stretcher. Well, he is fifty years old and obviously nodded off on the canvas; lucky blighter!

Putting my cynicism and negativity aside, I’m happy to say that I owe Wrestle Mania a huge debt. It was the catalyst that enabled us to have our three children all together for the first time in nearly 18 years. I was also given the unique opportunity of attending an event with my son, son-in-law and stepson for the first time and they all thoroughly enjoyed the evening. 71,617 people filed into the stadium, making it the highest attended entertainment event held at the Georgia Dome. They can’t all be wrong, can they?

Some advice to Wrestle Mania organizers: Dwayne Johnson (The Rock) who hosted the event is still the fans’ favorite gauging the reaction of the crowd. He hasn’t wrestled in seven years but it is patently clear that he needs to abandon the microphone and get back in the ring. The ham clearly outweighed the beef on the night and the Organizers should consider enrolling their wrestlers into the Actor’s Studio. Just a thought………