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And You Shall Know Us by the Trail of Ribs: Deep South Road Trip Report

Brunswick, Ga., March 7; photo by Mary Bakija; click to enlarge

“Hey,” said the Tugboat Captain about two months ago, “JetBlue is having a crazy sale. Let’s go somewhere!”

And that’s how we found ourselves flying to Savannah, Ga., on the morning of March 1 (only $49 each way!) and then embarking on a 1600ish-mile road trip that took us to New Orleans, where we spent a weekend with two old friends of mine, and then back to Savannah, where we caught a flight home on the evening of March 7.

Here’s a pretty close approximation of our route. The line shown in blue is how we got from Savannah to New Orleans, and the red line is how we drove back. The daily indicators in green — Day 1, Day 2, etc. — show where we ended up at the end of each day of the trip (click to enlarge):

In retrospect — well, even in foresight — it was too much ground to cover in too little time, plus there was a logistical hiccup on the next-to-last day that threw a monkey wrench into our schedule. Still, we saw some great sights, ate some damn good food (and also some mediocre food — I’ll get to that), discovered a watering hole for the ages, and spent time with two of my favorite people on the planet. Not bad. Here’s how it went. (The photos that follow are a mix — some taken by me, some by the Captain. In general, if a photo is really good, you can assume it was hers, not mine. All can be clicked to enlarge.)

Day 1 — Wednesday, March 1: We caught a morning flight to Savannah, rented a car, and headed straight to lunch at Mrs. Wilkes’ Dining Room, a former boarding house that now serves world-class traditional Southern food. The seating is family-style — 10 people to a table, so you’re basically forced to make chitchat with strangers, which is a good thing — and the food is all-you-can-(over)eat.

When we sat down, the table was already groaning with more than a dozen different dishes, and at least 10 more came out soon after that. I can’t remember all of them, but they included fried chicken, meat loaf, beef stew, pork barbecue, red rice with sausage, mac and cheese, cornbread, biscuits, corn dressing, and a lot of vegetables — succotash, cucumbers, mashed sweet potatoes, butter beans, baked beans, green beans, rutabaga, creamed corn, squash, collard greens, black-eyed peas, and definitely a few I’m forgetting. It was insane. The price — $22/head — seemed like a bargain.

After lunch, we walked through Savannah’s biggest park and then headed off to Tybee Island, where we went for our first beach walk of 2017. It was a warm day but breezy down at the water — perfect.

At one point the Captain looked down and spotted a sand dollar. But when she picked it up, it was still alive! It had all these little tendrils on the bottom that were wriggling about. Live sand dollars may be common for some of you folks, but we’d never seen a live one before — so cool! I shot some footage of its underside, but what you mostly see is the sun sparkling off of it, which makes it hard to make out the movement of the tendrils. But trust me, they were moving!

A bit later, on our way to our motel, we spotted something odd in somebody’s backyard: a giant globe, with the name of a local mortgage company. It seemed like something worth investigating, so we pulled over to have a closer look. The globe was was fenced off, but we managed to get some decent pics:

We drove around the corner to the other side of the house to get another view of the globe and found that the house’s mailbox was painted like the moon.

We later learned that the globe had originally been a natural gas storage tank.

We crashed for a bit at our motel, then went out for dinner (just salads, because we were still recovering from the mega-lunch), and then went to check out downtown Savannah, where there was one landmark in particular that I wanted to see: the Lucas Theater. It had such a great marquee that I could almost forgive the spelling:

Day 2 — Thursday, March 2: This morning we bade farewell to Savannah and headed west. Our first stop was at Georgia Southern University in Statesboro, which is home to an unusual attraction: the U.S. National Tick Collection, which is technically an arm — or perhaps a segmented leg — of the Smithsonian Institution and is billed as the largest curated tick collection in the world.

The collection is in the basement of the school’s math and science building. It’s open for public tours, but only during certain hours — which, unfortunately, did not coincide with our visit. But they have a “permanent collection” on display, which is basically a hallway with a few museum-style placards and a few creepy-crawly specimens. Here are some pics (if you can’t see the slideshow below, click here):

Looking at blood-sucking bugs can bring on a powerful appetite, so we headed over to Vandy’s Bar-B-Q, which showed all the signs of being a top-notch ’cuery: It’s been in business since 1929, it claims to have one of only six open-pit smokehouses in the state, it’s a nondescript cinderblock building with a rusty sign, the locals pile in at lunchtime, and the waitress is a hoot. We ordered a chopped pork sandwich and a chicken platter and couldn’t wait to dive in.

Just one problem: The meat wasn’t the least bit smoky. Like, zero smokiness. It tasted like it could have been cooked in an oven instead of a smoker, which defeats the whole point of barbecue. Very disappointing. The weird thing is, we snuck around back to check out the smokehouse after we were done eating, and it definitely smelled smoky. But none of that flavor or aroma was imparted to the food (or at least not to our food).

This wasn’t the first time I’ve encountered this problem (nor would it be the last time we encountered it on this trip), and it leads to something worth discussing: Barbecue is super-popular, and there’s this big lore and mystique surrounding it, but the reality is that a lot of barbecue — most barbecue, really — is mediocre at best. That’s part of why there’s a mystique around it, because it’s hard to do well. I know all of that, and yet I still have the urge to pull over and sample the fare at every single roadside barbecue joint I see, even though I know the experience will usually be disappointing. I can’t let go of the fantasy that this will be the place with the mind-blowing ’cue. And occasionally that fantasy becomes reality. Much like the nibble on the end of the line that keeps the fisherman down at the lake all day, those occasional top-notch barbecue experiences are enough to keep me seeking out the next one. But man, I wish there weren’t so many disappointments along the way, like the smokeless ’cue we had at Vandy’s.

We tried to salvage things by going off in search of pie for dessert. But not just any pie — Mennonite pie. I associate Mennonites with Pennsylvania and no idea they had sects or communities in the Deep South, but the Captain’s travel research had uncovered a Mennonite pie shop in the Georgia town of Montezuma. Sure enough, they had shoofly pie, just like the Mennonites in Pennsylvania. But we were in Georgia, so we decided to get pecan pie. They were only selling whole pies, not slices, so we got one for ourselves and sampled it in the car. Deeee-lish! A good corrective to the disappointing lunch. (Oh, and the Mennonites also had some goats. Since we were feeding ourselves, we fed the goats as well.)

Our next stop was a bit more somber: Andersonville National Historic Site. It was here that the Confederacy built one of the Civil War’s largest and most hellishly overcrowded military prisons. At one point 45,000 Union soldiers were held here as prisoners of war, and 13,000 of them died (mostly from scurvy, diarrhea, and dysentery), making Andersonville the war’s single deadliest spot. Think about that: More people died in a prison than in any battle. The commander was eventually hanged for war crimes.

The entire prison was later razed, and the only things currently on the grounds are a re-creation of a small portion of the stockade fence that once encircled the 26-acre facility, a correspondingly small re-created portion of the “deadline” (an inner fence that prisoners were forbidden to cross, or else sentries situated in crow’s nests along the stockade had orders to shoot them), and some tents and shanties like the ones the prisoners had lived in. It probably doesn’t look like much in the photos I’m about to show you, but we had read a bit about Andersonville before arriving, and the visitor’s center had some excellent displays that helped us visualize what the prison had been like, so that small portion of the stockade was enough — we could extrapolate what the rest of the scene had been like, and the overall effect was really powerful. A very strong piece of interpretive museum work.

Off to the side were memorial monuments from the various Union states whose soldiers died at the prison. Most were of modest size, but Wisconsin’s was enormous. It was odd to see these Union monuments in the heart of the Confederacy — again, powerful stuff.

But Andersonville’s most affecting sight came at the end of our visit, when we visited the facility’s military cemetery. Those 13,000 dead prisoners are all buried here, and the sheer number of small tombstones hit like a punch to the gut. Again, these images don’t come close to conveying the scope and impact of what we saw.

We would have lingered longer, but the site was about to close, so we hit the road again and pushed on to Columbus, Ga., where we had hoped to get a drink at a place called the Sputnik Bar, which looked like our kinda place. Unfortunately, when we showed up we found that the bar was closed and the building had a “For Sale” sign. But after some quick internet research, we found an excellent substitute: the Pop-A-Top Lounge, which looked even more like our kinda place. Here’s how it looked when we walked in, and a bit later after we walked out:

Does that look like sheer perfection or what? And what we found inside absolutely delivered on that promise — a surreal scene of near-Lynchian proportions. Among the topics that were discussed: the obvious fakery/conspiracy of the supposed “moon landings” and the fact that Mexico is “a paradise” (“I mean, I haven’t been there, but I know it is. Who wouldn’t want to get deported there?”). Another highlight was the guy who walked in with a big wooden box and promptly sold it to another guy by convincing him that it would be “great for your grenades.” Sorry, no photos (definitely not the kind of place for that), but trust me when I say that this was one of the highlights of the trip, and probably one of the top 10 bar experiences of my life.

Soon it was time for dinner. We had our eye on a soul food place just across the river in Phenix City, Ala., and that brought up a problem: Georgia is in the Eastern Time Zone, but Alabama is on Central Time. We figured the restaurant, being in ’Bama, would observe Central Time, and we had planned accordingly. But when we arrived, we found they were getting ready to close. Turns out some businesses on the ’Bama side of the river, including this one, run on Eastern Time, even though they’re technically in the Central Time Zone, just so the larger Columbus-based community can all be running on the same system. It was all very interesting (I’ve never lived near a time zone border, so I’d never thought too much about this issue), but it left us scrambling to find a new dinner venue.

We eventually settled for a barbecue place in a strip mall back in Georgia. The food was okay — certainly better than our flavorless lunch had been — but nothing special. Plus it was, you know, in a strip mall. Pfeh.

Then we found a motel where we could crash for the night. Our room featured an amusing detail: I’ve seen plenty of cigarette burns in motel sheets before, but I’d never seen an iron burn on the rug.

Day Three — Friday, March 3: Our day began with breakfast at a Columbus spot called Ruth Ann’s. My pancakes were excellent, but what I really liked was the building’s architecture. As a friend remarked when I posted a photo on Facebook, the place looks like an insect that could shake loose from its moorings and walk away:

Before leaving Columbus, we stopped at a gas station to get ice for our cooler. The station’s convenience store included something I hadn’t seen before: a rack of “fully explicit” porno DVDs, all in no-frills packaging and organized by race. The one Asian entry was yellow — classy!

From there we headed west into Alabama. Our first stop: the Museum of Wonder, an unusual folk art installation housed in a series of repurposed shipping containers in the town of Seale. The museum is one of several projects spearheaded by a local eccentric named Butch Anthony. We had read about him and were hoping to meet up with him, but he didn’t respond to our emails — dang.

Still, the museum was really interesting and fun. We enjoyed walking around and snapping pics (if you can’t see the slideshow below, click here):

From there we headed west, because there was another museum we wanted to see (more on that in a sec). Along the way, we passed through the town of Union Springs, where we saw a sign that said, “Bird Dog Statue,” along with an arrow. That seemed worth investigating, so we followed the arrow and found a statue of a hunting dog right in the middle of a busy downtown intersection. The statue proclaims that Union Springs is the “Field Trial Capital of the World” and also features a list of people enshrined in the Bird Dog Field Trial Hall of Fame. (I confess that I’d never heard of a field trial before, but Wikipedia quickly informed me that it’s “a competitive event at which hunting dogs compete against one another.”) A handsome mural on the wall of an adjacent building showed a scene with hunting dogs flushing out some game birds.

It was all very interesting, but the positioning of the statue smack in the middle of the intersection seemed like a traffic hazard. (Granted, the fact that I was standing in the street and taking photos probably didn’t help the traffic flow either.)

Eventually we made our way to Georgiana, site of the Hank Williams Boyhood Home Museum. This is where Williams lived from age 7 to 11, and where he got his first guitar. It’s mostly an endearingly amateurish hodgepodge of memorabilia, most of which has nothing to do with the home itself or with Hank’s boyhood, nicely epitomized by this fork:

Note that the placard doesn’t say Williams used the fork, or that it was from his room, or that it was used in the hotel on the same night or even in the same decade as the final night of Williams’s life. It’s simply from the same hotel. It’s hilarious — I laughed out loud when I saw it.

”¨Still, there were some legitimate highlights, most notably an amazing quilt made by a fan. It too has nothing to do with the home or Williams’s childhood, but it’s a spectacular piece of work and was pretty much worth the price of admission all by itself. Great chain-stitching, too (if you can’t see the slideshow below, click here):

There was some other worthwhile stuff — royalty statements, scrapbooks, records, and some amazing curtains. Also, in an unexpected uni-related twist, there was a photo of Williams wearing a baseball cap. Anyone know which team this might have been for?

After this, we hopped on the Interstate (something I usually try to avoid during road trips, but we wanted to make up some time) and headed to Mobile, where we stopped for a late-afternoon snack: oysters.

I like oysters a lot, and I actually have something of an oystering pedigree (my Long Island hometown, Blue Point, is the namesake for the bluepoint oyster), but it had been a long time since I’d eaten Gulf oysters, and I’d forgotten how mild they can be, with none of the briny mineral complexity of cold-water oysters. Not awful, but not fully satisfying either.

We had plans to eat crawfish for dinner in Biloxi, Miss., so we returned to the road. But just outside of Mobile we passed a VFW Hall. VFWs are almost always interesting places, and this one was open to the public, so we pulled over and stopped in for a drink.

This led to a conundrum. As you can see on the sign, it was Steak Night. The post’s commander was grilling ribeyes in a shed adjacent to the hall, and it smelled soooooo good. We sat down at the bar and were quickly informed that we could get a full steak dinner, including salad and sides, for $14 — extremely tempting! But you can eat steak anywhere; crawfish, not so much. So we stayed for a round of drinks, chatted with one extremely friendly veteran at the bar, and then reluctantly said our good-byes and pushed on.

We eventually arrived in Biloxi, where we headed to Taranto’s, an old-fashioned ramshackle crawfish house. I love crawfish and have eaten them many times, but this was the Captain’s first experience with them. She dove in like a champ.

No iron burn on the rug at our motel this time around. But there was this:

Days Four and Five — Saturday and Sunday, March 4 and 5: One of the many nice things about buying a Mennonite pecan pie during a road trip is that you’re likely to have several days’ worth of leftover pie. And if you happen to be in a town with a beach — like, say, Biloxi — that makes for a perfect breakfast:

While we ate pie, I googled something I’d been curious about: As we’d driven toward and around Biloxi, we’d noticed that every traffic intersection on US-90 included a little round sign featuring a numbered shrimp, with the numbers running in sequence:

Were these part of shrimp driving tour? A shellfish tour? Turns out they were installed by the local tourism board as a guide to local eateries and attractions. Interesting.

We needed to get to New Orleans, so we hit the road again, but we made one more stop in Mississippi: the INFINITY Science Center, which is a NASA facility. It has all sorts of cool-sounding exhibits and tours, but we didn’t have time for that. We just wanted to see the massive first stage of the Saturn V rocket that they keep in the parking lot. This rocket was supposed to blast off toward the moon as part of the Apollo 19 mission in 1973, but that mission was cancelled, so now the rocket has become a kitschy roadside attraction. Here’s the Captain trying to look like she has the Right Stuff:

Onward! We soon arrived in New Orleans, where we would be staying for the weekend at the home my longtime friends Rob Walker (a great writer) and his wife, Ellen Susan (a great photographer). I somehow neglected to get a photo of them during our stay, which is a shame, because they’re such a cool-looking couple. They were also incredibly gracious hosts. Hanging out with them was the highlight of our trip. At least we got a shot of their excellent dog, Russell.

Our New Orleans weekend was a whirlwind of eating and attractions. Here are a few of the highlights:

Lafayette Cemetery No. 1: New Orleans cemeteries are fascinating places. Most of the city is below sea level, making burials impossible, so people are entombed in above-ground crypts, many of which are in very poor repair, resulting in a very spooky, surreal atmosphere. Some cemeteries offer guided tours, which provide lots of historical background, but we decided to take a self-guided walk through Lafayette No. 1 (if you can’t see the slideshow below, click here):

Pharmacy Museum: Louisiana was the first state to require pharmacists to be licensed, and the first pharmacist to be issued such a license was in New Orleans. The New Orleans Pharmacy Museum honors this history with a huge collection of 19th- and early 20th-century materials — potions, elixirs, pills, instruments, and a lot more. Fascinating and entertaining (if you can’t see the slideshow below, click here):

Jazz Museum: The U.S. Mint used to have a branch in New Orleans, and that building is now the site of the New Orleans Jazz Museum. The first floor is devoted to the history of the mint itself, with lots of old coins — very cool (sorry, no photos). The second floor currently has an excellent exhibition about Louis Armstrong, which we enjoyed very much. I only took one photo, but I think you’ll like it: It’s a portrait of the baseball team that Armstrong sponsored in 1931. The accompanying placard says that Armstrong “made sure that his semiprofessional New Orleans team had the finest, whitest uniforms in town. He later joked that his players were so proud of their uniforms that they didn’t like to slide.” That’s Satchmo in the suit at far-right:

Food: We ate food. A lot of it. Such as:

•  Shrimp po boys with a side of gumbo: One of those things that you pretty much have to eat if you’re in New Orleans, right? Right.

•  Beignets: Another New Orleans staple. Fried dough dusted with powdered sugar. The most popular place to get them, Cafe Du Monde, was mobbed, so we got them at Morning Call instead. Just as good. Probably the single best thing we ate in the city.

•  Crawfish étoufée and seafood gumbo: At one point we had dinner at Mandina’s, a great neighborhood spot I’d been to many years earlier. We wanted étoufée and also wanted gumbo, so we ordered both and shared. The funny thing is that both dishes are essentially seafood-laden brown glop served with rice — one in a bowl, one on a plate. Honestly, these two versions tasted pretty similar too, although that’s not such a bad thing, because they were both quite good.

•  Grilled oysters: Back in Mobile, where we had those bland Gulf oysters, the menu had also included grilled oysters, which featured a topping of breadcrumbs, cheese, and butter. We didn’t order them in Mobile, but the same thing was available at a New Orleans oyster house that we visited, so we decided to try it. Pretty good — sort of the oyster equivalent of baked clams.

•  A really weird steak. At one point we had dinner with Rob and Ellen at a fancy new-ish restaurant and shared a bunch of food, including a dry-aged steak served with a big-ass marrowbone and — get this — a scattering of escargot. Stange but delicious.

One other New Orleans note: While walking around the French Quarter, I spotted a guy unloading a delivery of ice cubes that will presumably be of interest to Uni Watch readers.

Day Six — Monday, March 6: We had two days to scurry back to Savannah for our flight home, so we left New Orleans pretty early in the morning. Our plan was to drive to Dauphin Island, just south of Mobile, and take a 40-minute car ferry ride across Mobile Bay (our idea of fun, because we love car ferries).

But when we arrived at the ferry, we learned that service had been suspended due to high winds. This was a drag (no more car ferry!) and also a major inconvenience, because now we’d have to drive around Mobile Bay, which would take a lot more time — and time was something we didn’t have in great supply. It was all very frustrating, and a lunch stop for a plate of what turned out to be overcooked, overpriced shrimp didn’t help matters. Things weren’t working out, and we were cranky. This was the worst part of the trip.

We pushed on along the Alabama coast and crossed the border into the Florida panhandle, where we made two stops. The first was in Pensacola, where we took photos of the “Futuro House,” a house that looks like a UFO (lots of additional info here and here):

Just east of Pensacola we went for a walk on a beautiful beach. The surf was extremely choppy and dramatic-looking, the sun was starting to set, and everything felt magical. But again, we were pressed for time, so we were only able to stay for about half an hour.

Soon it was time for dinner. I probably should have known better by this point, but I found a well-reviewed barbecue joint and insisted that we go there. My ribs and hot links looked great on the plate, but again — not a hint of smokiness. Let me repeat that: zero smoke. What the fuck? The Captain was smarter — she ordered rice and beans.

It had been an unsatisfying day, and it was about to get worse: In order to keep up our schedule, we had to drive a three-hour late-night haul to get to Tallahassee, which is sort of like paying someone to kick you in the shins. A stop at a good donut shop helped, but just barely. Overall, not a good day.

Day Seven — Tuesday, March 7: Scattered around the country are a handful of Johnny Appleseed statues. One is at an apple orchard, another is in front of a defunct restaurant, and one has been repurposed as “Johnny Donutseed,” which shows Johnny eating a donut and drinking coffee, instead of holding an apple (further info here). That statue is at a truck stop in the Florida town of Lloyd, so we went there to eat donuts for breakfast — a fun way to start the day.

Our plan for the day was to head back to Georgia, make two key stops along the way, and then get back to the Savannah airport in time for our 7pm flight. As usual, though, we encountered interesting things that we hadn’t counted upon, most notably a series of very evocative abandoned businesses. The first one was outside of the Florida town of Yulee, just south of the Georgia state line, where we found a decaying motel and its accompanying gift shop. It was all deserted, overgrown, perfect.

If you can’t see slideshow of the gift shop below, click here.

A few miles after we crossed into Georgia, in the town of Woodbine, we came across another ruin, this time for a barbecue joint called Moody’s (further info here). Bonus pathos points for the “Open” sign, still swinging in the breeze. I accidentally had one of my camera’s filters turned on, but maybe that wasn’t such a bad thing:

Just a few miles ahead was yet another wreck: the Georgia Girl Drive-In. Imagine how great this sign must have looked in its neon-illuminated heyday:

This stuff was all great, but we were on a tight schedule, so we pushed on and made our way to Jekyll Island, a spot along the Georgia Coast. You have to pay a $6 parking fee just to enter the island, which is kind of ridiculous, but it was worth it for what we were there to see: Driftwood Beach, which lives up to its name and then some. It’s a beach filled with uprooted trees and tree limbs, all left to petrify — absolutely spectacular. We walked around, had a few beers while perched on a tree that was laying in the shallow surf, and generally felt transported to another world (if you can’t see the slideshow below, click here).

We had one more stop to make before heading to the airport: Gary Lee’s Market — yet another barbecue joint. I know, I know, but two friends of ours had personally recommended this one, so our confidence level was pretty high. And it delivered! Excellent ribs and sausage, and decent chicken wings, all nicely smoky. The sausage was so good, in fact, that I bought some extra links to bring home. (Had to put it on ice, which I thought might cause problems with the TSA folks at the airport, but they had no problem with it.)

That was our final stop before heading to the airport. By 10:30pm, we were back home in our apartments in Brooklyn.

Three post-trip notes:

1. I spent a fair amount of time driving around the rural Deep South from 1989 through 2002 but hadn’t road-tripped in that region since then. One big change: There were fewer Confederate flags on display this time around. Like, a lot fewer (and not a single stars/bars bumper sticker). I count that as progress.

2. The use of “y’all” seems to have increased exponentially. I mean, it’s always been a common Southern-ism, but now it seems like it shows up almost every other word. Or maybe I just noticed it more this time around.

3. A few days before the trip, I mentioned here on Uni Watch that I’d be vacationing through the South. Several of you who live in the South sent me emails asking to meet up with me, offering to buy me a beer (or even buy me dinner), that sort of thing. Those invitations were extremely generous — really, I appreciate each and every one of them — and I’m sorry I ultimately decided to turn them all down. Part of it is that, as I mentioned throughout this travelogue, we were pressed for time. And part of it is that I want my vacations to be, you know, vacations — I don’t want to be thinking about Uni Watch or engaging in uni-related chatter. I also don’t want to subject the Captain to any more uni-related chatter than she normally endures on a regular basis. Thanks for understanding, and thanks again for the very kind offers.

That’s it. We’ll get back to regular uni-related content tomorrow. My thanks, as always, for your indulgence with these travelogues.

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Culinary Corner: Over the weekend, the Tugboat Captain and I made a big recipe that included, among many other things, cutting up a duck and roasting it. Ducks are fatty, so there were lots of lobes of fat and wattles of skin that I removed as I did the butchering. The Captain then took those scraps and cooked them in a pot, rendering out the fat, which we needed for a later step in the recipe. (I’ll tell you about that larger project at a later date.)

After the fat was rendered out, we were left with a small amount of duck skin crackilins. The Captain tossed them with some paprika, cayenne, salt, and pepper, which made for a perfect mid-afternoon snack (click to enlarge):

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Essential reading: Adam Rubin, who until recently covered the Mets for (he’s now the SID for a small NYC-area school), is the best MLB beat reporter I’ve ever encountered, and probably the best there’s ever been. He recently did an interview with The -30-, and it should absolutely be required reading for anyone interested in a career in sportswriting, anyone who’s interested in knowing what it’s like to be an MLB beat reporter, and anyone who’s interested in the Mets. Some of it is inspiring, some is depressing, but all of it is fascinating. Highly, highly recommended.

That site, incidentally, has lots of good interviews with sportswriters. So if you like the Rubin interview, you may want to delve into the archives.

(My thanks to Mets Police for tipping me wise to the Rubin interview.)

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Pill design: For years I’ve taken a daily prescription pill to help control my allergies and asthma. The pill used to be a brand name, and then a generic version became available, but the pill’s shape remained the same: square with rounded corners.

The other day I refilled the prescription and was surprised to find that the pills were round. Had the pharmacist mistakenly given me the wrong drug? I went back to the drug store and asked him.

He said, “Oh, didn’t I put a green label on the bottle? We have these labels that say, ‘This is the right medication, even though it looks different.’ I should have included that — my bad.” Then he showed me his big bottle of pills, just to confirm that I’d gotten the right drug. Apparently this happens all the times with generics, although I don’t think it’s happened before to me.

Round pills are so boring. I like the old version better.

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Signal Flare: If you’re a sneakerhead and a size 9, drop me a line. Thanks.

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The Ticker
By Alex Hider

Baseball News:  Robinson Canó has been wearing a captain’s “C” for the Dominican Republic’s WBC team (from Zach Leosi). … Jonathon Lucroy has been wearing a stars-and-stripes chest protector (also from Zach Leosi). … Phil mentioned in yesterday’s Ticker that the Cubs’ David Berg is wearing No. 00. But yesterday, pinch runner  Elliott Soto stepped onto the field  also wearing No. 00 (from Tom Esktrand). … Tom V.  sent along a photo of Dennis DeYoung of Styx wearing a Cubs jersey in the video for “Come Sail Away.” …  Boston and Philly went  red-on-red in spring training action yesterday. …  The Akron RubberDucks will wear  Canton-Akron Indians throwbacks in July (from Andrew J).

Football News:  WR Alshon Jeffrey wore No. 17 with  the Bears, but he won’t wear the number with his new team, the Eagles. … Martellus Bennett let Packers fans pick his new number. Looks like he’ll be wearing No. 80 … This Steelers fan has built  more than 100 helmets  from various eras (from  Dell Michaels). … Florida State will wear padded helmet covers during spring ball.

Hockey News:  The Ducks warmed up in ’07 jerseys yesterday to commemorate the 10th anniversary of their Stanley Cup title (from Louis). … Kings goalie Ben Bishop has a  new mask  (from  Bizbo). …  The Manitoba Moose wore  retro unis yesterday, which included this awesome shoulder patch (from  Patrick Thomas  and  Alexander Kinkopf).

NBA News:  According to this story, the Thunder have had the most success this season when wearing their orange jerseys. … This might be the strangest Frankenjersey we’ve ever seen:  LeBron James and James Harden? (From  Stros Bros.) …  Zach Loesi  sent along a few notes regarding Saturday’s NBA action: The Warriors and Spurs went color-on-gray, and the  Cavs and Magic, the Hornets and Pelicans  went color-on-color. … Also from Zach: On Sunday the Knicks wore white on the road agains the Nets; the Suns and Blazers went orange vs. black; and the Heat and Pacers went black vs. yellow.

College Hoops News:  Cincinnati wore their red unis in the AAC Championship yesterday (from Tom Gelehrter). … Good shot of the changing of the floor at UD Arena in Dayton, where the First Four will be played Tuesday and Wednesday (from Kurt Sutton). …  Lots of logo mixups on ESPN yesterday: They mistook  Kansas State for Kansas yesterday morning, they were  still using North Dakota’s old Fighting Sioux logo, and they didn’t have a logo on file for Northern Kentucky (from Greg Davey  and  Josh Claywell). … Check out the unis for the 1977 Vermont women’s basketball team. Sleeves and skirts! (From  David Bailey.)

Grab Bag:  NASCAR driver Danica Patrick recently appeared in a Coca-Cola ad wearing a suit bearing the name of her sponsor, Nature’s Bakery. The problem is, Patrick’s team is currently suing Nature’s Bakery, so they had to edit out the company’s name (from David Firestone). …  Golfer Adam Hadwin’s scorebook almost acts as a NOB (from Petunia). …  North Carolina’s gymnastics team has leotards with argyle trim (from James Gilbert). …  Lathrop High School in Fairbanks, Alaska, wears  Lakers-inspired uniforms  (from  Aaron Walling).

•  •  •  •  •

What Paul did last night on Friday night: On Friday night the Tugboat Captain and I were sharing burgers and beers in the West Village when she surprised me with an early birthday present: tickets for that night to see Exhibitionism, the big museum-style Rolling Stones installation that was located just a few blocks away from where we were sitting.

The Stones haven’t been relevant from a creative perspective in 35 years and have essentially been an oldies act for longer than they were an artistic force (or as New Yorker editor David Remnick has written, they’ve become the world’s greatest Rolling Stones cover band), but I’m still a big fan, and I loved Exhibitionism. I had worried that it might be a half-assed amalgam of memorabilia all thrown together without much rhyme or reason, but it was a lot more professional and sophisticated than that, with lots of storytelling, interactive displays (I particularly liked the consoles where we could remix certain Stones songs or isolate certain instruments within the mix), original notebooks and sketchbooks, and a very amusing re-creation of the London apartment where Mick, Keith, and Brian lived in 1962. They depicted the kitchen as a wreck filled with dirty dishes, open bottles of milk left out, and so on (along with a very nice linoleum pattern on the floor; click to enlarge):

I was having too much fun to take more photos, but there was one quote from Keith that I thought would be of interest from a Uni Watch perspective. Here (click to enlarge):

Exhibitionism’s final day in New York was yesterday (hence the pre-birthday timing of the gift), but it’s opening in Chicago in April. The ticket prices are sort of ridiculous (if you have a super-sweet girlfriend who’ll treat you, that’s a good way to go), but I’d still recommend it for Stones fans.


I realize that today’s entry was (a) really long and (b) a lot more Paul-centric than uni-centric. Thanks for sticking with it.

Comments (102)

    Editing alert from a Louisiana (Prairieville, outside of Baton Rouge) resident: It should be “Mandina’s” instead of “Mandnina’s.”

    Also, gumbo and etouffee are usually not so similar. Gumbo is supposed to be more like a soup (that’s why it’s usually in a bowl). A good etouffee is usually not so soupy (that’s why it’s usually on a plate), and sometimes even has a bit of an orange tint. Just depends on who makes the etouffee.

    I know. (In fact, I spent most of the weekend making a gumbo.) It’s just how those two dishes happened to be served at Mandina’s.

    Thanks for the travelogue! And, having been to Andersonville myself, you just get an eerie feeling in your gut in that place.


    “But trust me, there were moving!”
    “so went there to eat donuts for breakfast” we went

    While I do enjoy the travelogue it’s hard to find my daily uni info at least on the mobile side. It would be nice to have it expand when I have the time to read it, but still have easy access to the uni updates. Love the Steelers helmet collector his collection is amazing.

    Paul, you left us (at least me) wanting more details on the Pop-A-Top Lounge experience. Anything else you can share? A top 10 bar experience in your life sounds like there must be stories to tell…

    Great recap as always–thanks for the detailed and entertaining travel update!

    Among the topics that were discussed:

    – The obvious fakery/conspiracy of the supposed “moon landings.”

    – “Mexico’s a paradise. I mean, I haven’t been there, but I know it is. Who wouldn’t want to get deported there?”

    – “We keep the potato chips in the fridge because the meese eat ’em.”

    Really, you had to be there. The lighting, the characters, the chatter, the setting, the guy who walked in with a big wooden box and promptly sold it to another guy by convincing him that it would be “great for your grenades.” Nothing I can describe can capture how perfect it was.

    But hell, I just listed some stuff for you in this comment, so I can include that in the text as well. I’ll do that now.

    When I first read that Alshon Jeffrey wouldn’t wear 17 with the Eagles, my first thought went to Harold Carmichael.

    Lots to chew on; I love your travelogues. The food is always the highlight. Even your bad meals are described in an entertaining fashion. I especially liked the Hank Williams quilt and the Driftwood Beach. Great stuff.

    Great travelogue, PL. Have you hit all 50 states? Mississippi is one of 10 I have missed and the only one on this side of the Mississippi River. May have to follow your tracks.

    Hawaii may be the best state in the union. You may find the pace and service a bit slow compared to the east coast; but the beach will forever change you. And you’ll love the loco Moco.

    Good stuff! Having spent the last 7 years in the South (South Carolina, to be exact) before recently relocating, the bane of my existence during this time was sweet tea. I never adapted and its overwhelming popularity makes finding quality unsweetened tea a rarity.

    Ah, there was a lot of sweet tea during this trip — but none of it consumed by me, because I’m not an iced tea fan in general. Sweet, unsweetened, or otherwise, I ignore it. But that’s just me.

    I lived in the south in my mid teens, I liked sweet tea, but I’m in love with unsweetened. Drink a half gallon everyday, don’t like soda or really any hfcs beverages.

    my father was a bird hunter and he collected cast iron hunting dogs on point, so that that stop in Union Springs is of particular interest to me. He would have loved checking that place out. Very cool.

    I really enjoyed reading about your trip. The only thing better would have been a slideshow in a living room with narration.

    It was nice to hear someone be discerning about barbecue as well. Many times people believe slathering some sauce on meat is good barbecue, but smoke is a necessity. More often than not, my favorite barbecue has no sauce and just a nice rub.

    Yeah, I’ve recently been coming to the realization that most of my enjoyment of barbecue is the fact that I like the sauce, and the meat itself isn’t anything special. I agree that the reputation and mystique associated with barbecue is greater than the actual product many times.

    Great stuff, Paul…I always enjoy the travelogues. Your enthusiasm in the writing is infectious.

    When I was a kid, we had a neighbor who’d dropped a hot iron in the living room, and there was a big burn in the carpet exactly like the one in the photo. I found it fascinating, and was always unable to resist touching it and picking at it!

    Also, there’s a Futuro House along Hwy 12 on the Outer Banks in NC, just before you get to Hatteras. It’s close to the road, and you can just walk right up to it…we got out of the car to take a photo of it a few years back and a guy dressed like an alien came out to pose for pictures. Startled my kids at first, but they loved it, but I couldn’t help thinking “That dude just sits there in an alien costume all day in the August heat waiting for someone to stop for a photo?”

    I usually stay in Duck or Corolla, so I don’t go all the way to Hatteras, but this just might make me change my next vacation to OBX a little.

    It’s a great stop along the way on a day trip to Ocracoke. Which, though a bit of a haul from Duck/Corolla, is totally worth it. Easy for me to say, though, as we usually stay in Avon (which is also great!)

    I can’t tell from the map but did you have to drive through that infamous Mobile tunnel on the way back to FL? BTW I am not a fan of that stretch of I-10 on the FL Panhandle all the way to I-95, what a long, long drive!

    I just get panic attacks driving through that tunnel, even as a driver! Anyway, I enjoyed the travelogue and hope to hit Savannah sometime too. I was in NO briefly for a half day, drove there on the way back from Houston and decided to get the Cafe Du Monde beignets from a strip mall branch as we figured the actual one would be chaotic as usual.

    Obviously we’re all here primarily for uni-centric reasons but I believe that your travelogue entries are not only welcome but constitute some of your best writing. Thanks.

    Glad my hometown of Savannah got to play host to you. Mrs. Wilkes is a hands down favorite with locals and visitors alike, but looks like your food experience went downhill from there. Trip mighta been a bridge (or in this case a state) too far. We could of fed and entertained you for days without subjecting you to Alabama and Mississippi. Next time come down for a few days around St. Patricks…we put on our best show.

    Sooo much goooood food!

    When I was in Savannah in late February, ages ago, the weather did not cooperate and we did not go to the beach. It looks as wonderful as advertized.

    That also was so long ago I was not yet allergic to pecans. Your pics remind me of how much I miss pecan pie and also pralines, which were done very nicely in Savannah owing to the competition. Glad you got to enjoy.

    My wife and I have had the same tendency to try to cover too much ground when planning our vacations. We end up spending a lot of time driving, rushing to get to the next place, packing and unpacking at the motels, being too tired and rushed to enjoy the places where we are. We can’t afford to take many vacations, so we want to try to maximize what we see when we do go, but it ends up being not as relaxing and enjoyable as a vacation should be.

    While this is the first NCAA tournament appearance for the Northern Kentucky Norse (in their first year of eligibility, no less), they won their conference tournament a week ago, so ESPN should have had plenty of time to find their logo and have it ready to go when the brackets were revealed.

    I normally stick to uni related comments but since today’s content was heavy on non-uni items here I go. First off, I’m not nearly as big a Rolling Stones fan as Paul is. Not even close. With that in mind however I disagree when Paul repeatedly says they haven’t been musically or artistically relevant for 35 years. I have truly enjoyed some of their later work especially the mid and late 1980s records. Obviously, music is a form of art so to each his own. I find it a bit condescending to say that the band has been “Irrelevant”. Maybe to some they are but plenty of people have enjoyed what they have created over the past 35 years. Why not just say “I’m not a fan of the music they’ve made since the early 1980s”? What’s irrelevant to one may be thoroughly enjoyable and have meaning to others. By the way. I don’t put very much stock in what music critics say. The same for movie critics. Some of my all time favorite music and movies were panned by critics but it hasn’t stopped me from loving and appreciating those things.

    Your comment is basically an argument against the existence of cultural criticism. You don’t have to agree with or even care about cultural criticism, but it still serves a role in our society.

    We’ve explored this topic on Uni Watch before. Here:

    As for the Stones, if you like their late ’80s and ’90s work, good for you. But it’s hard to argue that they’re creatively relevant when they haven’t released any new music (an album of 1950s and ’60s blues covers notwithstanding) since 2005. They’re an oldies/repertoire act. Nothing wrong with that — I happen to like quite a few oldies/repertoire acts — but let’s not mistake it for artistic relevance. And I say that as a huge Stones fan.

    Ruth Ann’s is a must for anyone visiting Columbus. In my two visits I developed an addiction to the Captain Crunch french toast. I’ve tried to replicate the recipe at home to no avail.

    Thanks so much for the Travelogue! I enjoyed it immensely.
    And although I don’t always say such, I enjoy them all, and in general your entries that have nothing to do with uniforms as well.

    Thanks, good stuff!


    That’s it ! I’m having crawfish and gumbo for lunch. Not New Orleans style gumbo, though.

    Thoroughly enjoyed the travelogue! Thanks for sharing. Am curious though if you purposely omitted the douchebaggery of the Gas Globe in Savannah? ;)

    Biology professor here, so please excuse me for going full nerd… but the general population might find this interesting:

    If you look closely at those “tendrils” on the underside of a sand dollar, you’ll see that they’re basically tiny little straws, and they’re all connected to an internal system of pipes (for lack of a more biological term). The sand dollar can very precisely control which straws are erect and which ones are floppy (sorry, it’s the most accurate description I can think of) by moving water through that system of pipes, into and out of individual straws. With the right pattern of making certain straws erect and others floppy, they can move across the ocean floor. And that’s basically how they walk.

    Wow, great explanation about the Sand Dollar. My folks live on the Gulf side of FL, and I’ve picked up hundreds of live Sand Dollars (always put them back, FYI). I find the movement of those little tendrils mesmerizing. Paul, you mentioned you had never seen a live one; do they not have them in the Northeast? I’m not sure I’ve ever been to a beach where I’ve not found a live one in the sand just a few feet into the ocean. In FL they are pretty much everywhere. If you put one back in the shallows, or in one of those little tidal pools that form, you can actually watch them sort of burrow their way back into the sand. Way cool.

    I always thought that the point of a football helmet (at least part of the point) was to deflect a portion of the impact so that your head and neck doesn’t absorb as much of it. A padded outer layer would seem counterproductive to that theory, though, admittedly, I don’t know if the science behind that is sound or not.

    Imagine catching a medicine ball thrown at you as opposed to deflecting it to the ground with your hands…

    I’d assume the idea is that the padding is supposed to absorb some of the force of the impact. It’s basically the same idea as the crumple zones in a car. The energy that’s used to compress the padding is energy that isn’t being directed into the player’s head.

    What an awesome road trip! Thank you for sharing it Paul. I always enjoy these, and the food reccomendations. I have a document on my laptop of placed to visit to eat and I made a few notes on it today!

    Truth on the generic medication. I had one that was a capsule that was always purple (to look more like its brand name counterpart) and one month just starting being a bright blue. It was quite bizarre.

    Fantastic post!

    With regard to the Hank Williams baseball cap, there’s been a link that it’s the Nashville Vols, a minor league team from 1901-1963.

    link of the pictures of the Vols link I can find don’t quite match up (the N has serifs, whereas Hank’s is sans serif). The second photo is from after he passed away; geographically it would make sense and the serif N caps could be from another era?

    I found another blog that identified it as a Vols hat, but I haven’t found any photos of Vols hats with the plain N.

    I do like the idea of the team playing at Sulphur Dell.

    Great looking trip. I would have easily gained 20 lbs.
    Next time you’re in New Orleans I highly recommend the World War II Museum.

    Paul, whenever you decide this site has run its course, I’d suggest you have a real future for a travel/obscure locales blog. I absolutely love your travel entries. Always really cool observations off the beaten path. Have you ever thought of being a travel writer?

    Absolutely fascinating video here – what 1951 NHL Stars do in the off-season!!


    Some great but brief on-ice footage, lotsa jersey eye candy and even on player on a baseball team in the off-season. Subscribe to this channel while you’re at it, he posts many full and partial NHL games of the past.


    Glad to see you had oysters at Felix’s. I think thats the one directly across the road from Acme Oyster Company, no?

    Every bit as good, none of the wait. Miss that place!

    So glad to see you went to Tybee Island, Paul. Tybee is where me and my wife went on our honeymoon, every vacation afterwards, and where we plan to settle down after my military service. I recommend going to the Original Crab Shack and Gerald’s Pig & Shrimp next time you are in the area.

    How do you always find such GREAT bars. The Pop-a-Top is exactly the type of place I always search for on trips.

    What’s your secret??

    I do tend to have a good nose for such places, or good radar, or whatever — call it what you will. It would be fair to say that one lobe of my brain is near-permanently assigned to being on the lookout for such places as I move hither and thither.

    In the case of the Pop A Top, my secret weapon was…. google. When we found the Sputnik closed, we spent a few mins feeling depressed and then I think I just googled “columbus ga taverns” and scrolled thru the results until I found something that didn’t look loathsome. One exterior photo of the Pop A Top was all we needed — it was the Right Place. So we scooted over there.

    In love with that Georgia Girl Drive In sign, too bad somebody doesn’t grab it and bring it back to life. Would be a shame for it to rot all to hell.

    It’s true that etoufee and gumbo can seem like essentially the same things. Back in the 80’s I was a waiter at a cajun restaurant in Austin, and I copied down all the recipes from the restaurant’s notebook because they were so dammed tasty! The owner said they were derived from those of Paul Prudomme. The roux for both dishes is essentially the same. With gumbo you mix it into a pot of seafood stock; with etoufee you only add it to a few cups of stock. That said, there are countless other etoufee recipes (kind of like the many mole recipes.) The pic from your trip looks a lot like what we served and it’s really great!

    I recall part of my training at Officer Candidate School at Ft. Benning was a “field trip” to Andersonville. It is, indeed, a very somber place.

    And with Columbus, GA and Ft. Benning being the home of the Infantry, strip clubs, etc. are prevalent on Victory Drive, just off the base.

    Great travel log!

    Did you happen to stop anywhere in the FL panhandle or Tallahassee?

    A lot of great seafood and history in the area.

    I suffer from the same problem with asthma and allergies especially during the spring here in California. After the heavy rains the past few months, the pollen will really be flying in the air. I definitely sympathize. I have to carry two inhalers, plus taking a pill once a day.

    Great travelogue!

    The strip mall ribs look like they have a fair smoke ring on them, but tlink of good ‘cue.

    Is it just me, or does the Captain have a look of “oh great – more fucking BBQ” on her face in the last picture?

    Nice to have y’all down in my neck of the woods. Lots of memories on Driftwood Beach, Tybee, Columbus, the panhandle, etc. Too bad you missed the Boll Weevil Monument in Enterprise Alabama.

    And the Braves’ beat-writer Dave O’Brien also regularly dishes on BBQ and music. Check him out on Twitter or Instagram.

    I concur that Hank Williams is wearing a Nashville Vols hat. I believe Ebbetts Field Flannels have done a couple issues of this hat over the past 20 years. Jerry Cohen of EFF has a tremendous trove of pictures to support all of their hat & uniform releases.

    The next time you come to the South, I suggest that you drive US 98 from Fort Walton to Medart, FL. It is a beautiful drive that (mostly) hugs the Gulf and goes through towns that time forgot like Apalachicola, Carabelle, Panacea, etc. I believe it is the closest trip to California’s 101 that you can find on the east coast. From there go north through Tallahassee and head east from Bainbridge on US 84. Again a great drive through some fantastic scenery and towns like Cairo (birthplace of Jackie Robinson), Thomasville, Valdosta, Waycross and Jesup before ending up in Savanah. But don’t stop there. You must visit Charleston, SC. It is simply the town you can’t miss (and is so much different than Savannah). Great architecture, food and the most fun MiLB park anywhere.

    I used to travel those corridors extensively and there is so much history and unique sights. I love railroads and going to minor league ballparks and would try to schedule games and do train spotting wherever possible. Definitely worth a trip when you have more time.

    BTW- IMHO, in addition to lousy BBQ, the South has some of the worst seafood restaurants anywhere. As a kid from St Pete (c1960), I am constantly disappointed in the seafood quality offered throughout FL. You’d think otherwise but finding good seafood is a rarity.

    I concur on visiting Charleston, especially now that the renowned link has an outpost there. However, I imagine you might enjoy the trek to linkin Hemingway (arguably better to some).

    As a Carolopolite of ten years’ standing (and a regular at the Joe), I must concur. And if you do come by, get the fried chicken at Miss Martha Lou’s.

    month still has the letter R in it, so you are still safe to eat oysters. Had some locals out of the Chesapeake a few weekends ago and they were delicious.

    well now it is since we have modern refrigeration and strict regulations.

    but because of that “rule”, they have always been fall/winter fare for me.

    But you specifically used the word “safe,” implying that it was a universal thing, not a Todd/personal thing. That’s why I said it was a myth.

    Like I wrote in the lede, I come from an oystering town. I know my bivalves!

    The dreaded smokeless “bbq”. That story reminded me of this site. They travel around the south and interview pitmasters. It’s a great source for good bbq recommendations, too. link

    Since you were in Brunswick, I thought y’all might’ve gone on to Saint Simon’s Island and had Southern Soul Barbecue. Their’s has the smoke. Y’all went almost equidistant north and south of where I live in south Georgia and unfortunately, we have a dearth of good ‘cue joints. An excellent book on the Camden county area of Georgia (Woodbine, etc.) is Praying For Sheetrock by Melissa Fay Greene and another is Ecology of a Cracker Childhood by Janisse Ray.

    You were so close to great BBQ near Gulf Shores,AL. Foley,AL is home to the Downsouth Barbecue. Some of the best we have ever had. Maybe next time!

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