Moving On

As my registered domain with WordPress is about to expire, I wanted to announce that I have moved my blog to a new space (my last move for quite some time…I hope).

Please visit greggnovachek.com for more current updates. I promise that site will be more active than this one has been.

Thank you.

jus’ chillin’

autumn’s cold breezes
but I don’t want to wear these
long sleeves on my brain

Not a Ghost of a Chance

I spent part of the day today watching football at Buffalo Wild Wings, and when I’m around a wing menu, I often go to the top of the heat scale, because for so many years I told myself that setting my lips aflame was more important than enjoying the flavor of what I was eating.

Today I proved that I might be growing smarter in my old age, and chose the Caribbean Jerk and Asian Zing flavors, which, while they have a bit of a kick to them, are more focused on a handful of spices that provide more complexity of flavor than heat so hot it tastes like burning.

Back in July, one of B-Dub’s temporary featured flavors was Ghost Pepper, and while I knew they would hurt, I couldn’t leave them where they should have stayed…in the kitchen.

Ghost pepper wings

So I ordered a snack size of five wings, determined to finish them and declare victory over a chile. The wings came with a warning that read something like this:

“By ordering these, you are admitting to Buffalo Wild Wings management that you are fucking stupid, and you absolve the aforementioned management from any harm that may come to you. Basically, we are not responsible if your intestines melt. And, no, you may not have a glass of milk. Thank you, and we hope to see you back for Boneless Thursdays!”

As I tied into the first wing, beads of sweat began to form on my forehead, but I powered through and finished it quickly. The second one was a little saucier, and shortly after taking the first bite of that one, I may have begun to cry. You’ll have to ask my wife, who I’m pretty sure was giggling at me.

I forced myself to finish the second wing, but then I sat back and waited for someone to remove the blowtorch from my mouth.

I lost track of time, but I think it took a good 10 minutes for the heat to even begin to subside, and another 15 to feel normal again. I bowed my head in defeat and left the other three wings in the tray.

Needless to say, I enjoyed today’s wings a couple thousand Scoville units more than that painful attempt in July.

Ghost and Thai peppers

At the farmer’s market on Saturday, one of the vendors we regularly buy produce from had a display of hot peppers, and I asked if he had any ghost peppers. He went over to his truck and dug through a tray, picking out two not-quite-ripe ghost peppers and a few tiny Thai peppers.

“I’m just gonna go ahead and give these to you,” he said, mumbling something about my funeral, and wished me luck.

The fact that I even asked about them, and took them when he offered them to me, proves that while I may be getting older and less able to handle the heat I once could, I have work to do on the wiser part.

“I’ve always felt that if you back down from a fear,
the ghost of that fear never goes away.
It diminishes people.”
—Hugh Jackman

Happy Dog, Happy Owner…Mostly

Every day I ask my dog if she’s a happy dog.

It may not surprise you to learn that most days she doesn’t answer. Though by the look in her eyes and the wag of her tail, I’m guessing that much of the time she’s pretty happy.

The reason I ask her is because I want to make sure she’s having a good time with her relatively new owners. Hazel turns a year old in early November, and we’ve been lucky to have her with us since January 4 of this year. And while all three of us have adjusted to a much calmer, more easy-going schedule than those first few trying months of training, I continue to question whether I’m a dog person.

And I’m not sure I like the answer I keep coming up with.

Clearly our Hazel puppy needs a new bed. We remedied that situation today.
Clearly our Hazel puppy needs a new bed. We remedied that situation today.

But because I’m finding out I’m not a dog person, it doesn’t mean that I’m ignoring our smart, loving, funny mini goldendoodle, or treating her poorly. In fact, I think I’m going out of my way, most days, to be extra kind to her and pamper her, because I want her to feel lucky that she gets to grow up and live with two pretty awesome humans like my wife and me.

And I guarantee I’ve never yelled at her as loud as she’s barked at me.

We didn’t dive blindly into the decision to get a dog, and many people told us what an amazing difference it would make in our lives. Even during the potty training months—nightly trips outdoors at 2:12am and 5:26am through not one, but two polar vortices—we heard over and over that it would all be worth it. That the first eight weeks four months six months year was the toughest.

And things are so. much. better. than they were in January, February and March.

She’s a big part of our family, and she’s probably more than a little spoiled. And I think she’s okay with that.

She’s my first dog…came into my life when I was 44. And I’d bet the farm that she’ll be my last dog. (Don’t bet me. You’ll lose your moo-cows.) And that makes me feel kind of selfish.

I love my dog, and it’s clear she loves me, but it hasn’t been that life-changing relationship that it was made out to be when we were deciding whether or not to add our names to a waiting list.

Perhaps I’m better off having stuffed parrots as my only pets.

Or maybe if I wag my tail as much when I see Hazel as she wags hers when she sees me.

“Money can buy you a fine dog,
but only love can make him wag his tail.”
—Kinky Friedman

Early-Morning Reward

Sunrise_Lake Michigan_Sept 25
Sunrise over Lake Michigan (Manitowoc, Wisconsin)

I shared this photo on my other social media sites last week, but I wanted to post it to the blog, too.

This is what greeted me when I reluctantly woke up early last Thursday to take Hazel for a walk along Lake Michigan. The first shot I took with my iPhone was a little darker, so I tried one more shot and focused on a different hue before clicking the shutter, and this is what I got. Unedited.

Almost makes me want to transition into a morning person.

Almost.

“The biggest cliché in photography is sunrise and sunset.”
—Catherine Opie

Show Me How Big Your Brave Is

Today was a Sara Bareilles day.

After a friend posted a link this morning to a collaborative video between Sara and Cyndi Lauper to raise money for the fight against pediatric cancer, I pulled up Sara on Spotify and spent a good part of the day with her songs.

I saw her in Milwaukee in August 2008, when she opened up for co-headliners Counting Crows and Maroon 5. She was gaining popularity with her “Little Voice” album, and came out on stage and sat down at the grand piano and proceeded to be…grand. Musically and lyrically original, with positivity and humor mixed in. She may have been fairly new to the big-time, but she had “it.”

When she finished her 40-minute set, I lay on the grass of the Marcus Amphitheater, with my head on my camera bag, and ignored Maroon 5 until Adam Duritz and Counting Crows came on stage.

Sara’s most recent album, 2013’s “The Blessed Unrest,” gives me a reason to go see her again, this time hopefully with fewer than 12,000 of my closest friends.

Her biggest hit, “Brave,” is staggering, and in the song commentary on Spotify, Sara says that it’s a message she feels she has to listen to almost every day.

“Maybe there’s a way out of the cage where you live,
maybe one of these days you can let the light in.”
—Sara Bareilles, Brave

Go Easy on the Racist Cheese, Please

I’m Sconnie through and through (minus the thick Midwestern accent, I hope), and I love just about every variety of cheese I’ve ever come in contact with…curds included.

But I’ve learned that sometimes too much of a good thing…is too much.

We ordered a pizza for delivery a while back from our favorite local pizza place, and when it arrived, we weren’t sure if we accidentally ordered a Mozzarella Mountain off of the menu, or if maybe they ripped the Costco-sized bag of shreds as they were topping our pizza.

I don’t want to have to hire an exploration crew to go in search of a nugget of Italian sausage or a green olive slice like I’m looking for Antarctica or the South Pole.

And for me, the cheese-to-sauce ratio is key, too.

Declaring that particular pie a gooey, chewy disaster, we tried to be more specific in our orders after that, at every pizza place, whether eat-in, carryout or delivery. We quickly learned that if you ask for light cheese, some servers will look at you with a puzzled expression, as they try to figure out if  their establishment carries low-calorie cheese in its kitchen.

One time we ordered light cheese while dining in, and the pizza came loaded with cheese, anyway. When we received our bill, we clearly saw why they didn’t go easy on the cheese. Instead of writing “light cheese” on our order slip, the server wrote, “white cheese.”

And as we chuckled and looked down at the leftover pizza, it did, in fact, have a combination of mozzarella and orange Cheddar.

Great. Not only are we trying to limit our consumption of Wisconsin’s most popular product, we’re also requesting racist cheese at every opportunity.

One night after ordering a pizza for carryout, I went to pick it up and as the server behind the bar looked over the slip to make sure it was the right pizza, she commented, “You put bleu cheese on pizza?!?”

I must have looked almost as confused as she sounded, and as I began to tell her she had the wrong pizza, she corrected herself, saying, “Oh, oh…that says ‘lite.’ Not ‘bleu,’ “ commenting on the hastily scribbled and misspelled word.

White. Bleu. Orange. Yellow. High-fat. Low-cal. Extra. Light. Or a mountainous gob that’ll keep your jaw working until it’s time to order the next one. This is all so much more difficult than it needs to be.

So we’ve changed our vocabulary a little bit, and now when we order, in person or on the phone, we order our toppings and then state, as clearly as possible, “…and about half the amount of cheese you normally put on.”

And about 90 percent of the time, when the server reads our order back to us, he or she will come to the end and say, “…and light cheese.”

Well…yes, I think to myself.

But it’s not as straightforward as you make it sound.

How can anyone govern a nation that has
246 different kinds of cheese?
—Charles de Gaulle

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