Dec 30, 2017

Creamy Peanut Hockey Pucks



Mazapán
De La Rosa
Where have these things been all my life?  They're like little creamy hockey pucks that melt in your mouth and tastes kind of like the peanut butter inside of a Reese's Peanut Butter Cup.  That's far from a perfect description.  It's just one of those things that you have to taste for yourself.  I can't even begin to put into words how amazing they are.  Seriously, from the first bite, this made my top 5 favorite candy list.



One of the things that I love about El Paso is how chill folks are around here compared to Northeast PA.  There's just a relaxed vibe here.  For example, I got these two Mazapán while I was at Applebee's having a few drinks with Christian.  A woman came into the restaurant and was offering them for sale, along with a few other snacks and flowers and things.  She wasn't pushy or anything like that; just a nicely dressed older woman trying to make a few bucks by selling snacks at the bar.

I just can't picture that happening back home without a heightened level of aggression.  Hell, you can't walk through the Wyoming Valley Mall without being stalked by a shouting salesperson from a kiosk who is trying to squirt hand cream on you or clean your glasses.  In the tri-state area, you keep your eyes forward and tune people out, but in El Paso, just about everyone is just so friendly to be around that even a sales pitch is a pleasant experience.

Dec 29, 2017

Cabo Clamato


Cabo Joe's
7942 Gateway Blvd. East
El Paso, TX
The ridiculous beverage in front of me is a Clamato with Dos Equis, Valentina hot sauce, Worcestershire sauce, lime juice, two skewers of shrimp, two boneless wings, a giant slab of beef jerky, and a chicken burger on a stick.  Oh yeah, and a shot of tequila, because why the hell not?

Dec 28, 2017

Aladdin's Castle Tattoo


Ink Xpressions
7924 Gateway Blvd. East
El Paso, TX
The Aladdin's Castle arcade was one of my favorite places to go when I was little.  My dad and grandpa took me to the one in the Laurel Mall in Hazleton all the time.  This lamp icon was one of the logos from their tokens.  Artwork by Alex Bexfield.

Dec 27, 2017

Enchilada Cheeseburger


Angry Owl Southwest Grill & Cantina
4799 North Mesa Street - El Paso, TX
I was told about their enchilada cheeseburger before I came, and I'm happy to say that it lived up to the hype.  The Tejas Fries topped with bacon, cheese and green chile was a great bonus!

Dec 26, 2017

Sun City Souvenir


Ink Xpressions
7924 Gateway Blvd. East
El Paso, TX
Wanted to take home a souvenir from my time in the Sun City.  Artwork by Alex Bexfield.

The Health Benefits of Tacos

 

Cabo Joe's
7942 Gateway Blvd. East
El Paso, TX
Enjoying The Matador, Mr. Adada and La Jolla, each of which are superior to meth.

Dec 25, 2017

Christmas Travel


My company was good enough to fly me home to spend Christmas Eve and Christmas Morning with my family.  However, the work in El Paso isn't done, so I spent a big part of Christmas Day in the air..

Dec 24, 2017

The Berwick Lights



Berwick Christmas Boulevard
Berwick, PA
Well, we made it.  For 13 consecutive years, we have come to the Berwick Lights during the holiday season.  The streak is unbroken.

Dec 23, 2017

For The Love Of God: No Mayonnaise!


Charley's Philly Steaks
Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport
Atlanta, GA

Dear Atlanta,

  • Mayonnaise does not belong on a Philly Cheesesteak.
  • Lettuce does not belong on a Philly Cheesesteak.
  • Tomatoes do not belong on a Philly Cheesesteak.
  • Pickles do not belong on a Philly Cheesesteak.
  • Bacon... well, alright, that's a solid addition.

Disturbing Faces in an Airport Bathroom


Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport
Atlanta, GA
We are fast approaching Black Mirror levels of consumer feedback surveys.

Nine Hour Layover in Atlanta (part two)


Sweet Water Brewing Company
Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport
Atlanta, GA
Six more hours to kill before my flight.  Shrimp nachos and beer will help pass the time.

Nine Hour Layover in Atlanta (part one)


Papi's Cuban & Caribbean Cafe
Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport
Atlanta, GA
You can see in my eyes that this wasn't my first Long Island iced tea of the day.

I'll Be Home For Christmas


El Paso International Airport
One of the best parts about this trip is that I get to be a Christmas cliché.  I'll be back in Texas in two nights, but at least I get to go home for the holidays.

Dec 22, 2017

Sun City


The sunsets in El Paso are really beautiful.

Dec 21, 2017

May The Thirst Be With You


Cinemark
11855 Gateway Blvd. West
El Paso, TX
Spent the evening with a few of the guys that I'm in town to train.  We capped off the night with a screening of Star Wars: The Last Jedi.  It was my third time seeing it and I'd be happy to go back for a fourth.  They were serving Star Wars themed adult beverages, but I had a pretty good buzz going before we got there, so I sat this round out.

Dec 20, 2017

Red Beer


Mystic Grape
2270 Joe Battle Blvd.
El Paso, TX
A red beer is tomato juice, Worcestershire sauce and Tabasco sauce mixed with the beer of your choice (Dos XX).  They're served pretty much everywhere in El Paso, and I am very appreciative of that.

Dec 19, 2017

Chipotle Pineapple Margarita with Seared Scallops


Landry's Seafood
6801 Gateway Blvd. West
El Paso, TX
This was one of the best seafood meals I've ever eaten.  The scallops were served with garlic spinach, grape tomatoes and crab orzo - outstanding!  The margarita was Milagro Silver Tequila, Disaronno, Monin Chipotle Pineapple, fresh lime juice and a spicy Tajín salt rim (or so says the menu).

Dec 18, 2017

Dallas After Midnight


The flight from Dallas to El Paso was delayed three times and is now expected to take off just before 1:00 AM.  All of the stores and restaurants in the terminal have closed for the night.  Ugggh!

Dec 17, 2017

Pizza Cheesesteak


Pizza Cheesesteak
Jet Rock Bar & Grill
Terminal D - Philadelphia International Airport
Philadelphia, PA
My trip back to El Paso started off a bit rocky.  The flight from Avoca to Philly took forever to take off, so I missed my connection to Dallas.  Flying out of Philly now at 6:15.  In the meantime, I'm in the perfect place to get fat and drunk.

Dec 16, 2017

Shepherd's Pie


Powerhouse Eatery
60 Powerhouse Road
White Haven, PA
On the way to ROH Final Battle, we stopped at the Powerhouse for lunch.  Their shepherd's pie is tasty, but the real attraction here is the restaurant itself.  It's inside of a 1907 coal-to-steam power plant that once provided electricity to a sanatorium.  It's a mixture of beauty and accidental cyberpunk with an incredible view.  Not a bad place to grab some food and drinks.

Dec 15, 2017

Forever Our Princess


Star Wars Episode VIII: The Last Jedi
Regal Cinema - Hazleton, PA
Rest in peace, Ms. Fisher, and thank you for being a part of some of my happiest childhood memories.

A Taste of Home


Tony Luke's
Philadelphia International Airport
Philadelphia, PA
They were opening up the restaurant as soon as I walked up, and I have just enough time to order and enjoy a steak before my flight starts boarding.  It's fate!

Dec 14, 2017

Freakin' Amazing Airport Burger


Four Peaks Brewing Company
Sky Harbor International Airport, Terminal Four
Phoenix, AZ
Flying home for the weekend and I have a few hour layover in Phoenix.  I found an awesome pub called Four Peaks where I decided to get a cheeseburger topped with bacon, mushrooms, avocado and giant slabs of bacon.  Washed it all down with three Kilt Lifters.  Napping on the flight to Philly is going to be nooooo problem.

Dec 13, 2017

Tacos and Clamatos


Little Shack
1355 George Dieter Drive
El Paso, TX
The only bad thing about this place is that I couldn't stop singing "Little Shack of Horrors" in my head as I ate, but I only have my pop culture addicted brain to blame for that.  The Baha Tacos are stuffed with shrimp, bacon and chorizo.  The Clamato was loaded with shrimp and clams and topped with a Dos XX.  If I survive the rest of my time in El Paso, I'm going to need to buy bigger pants.

Dec 12, 2017

Ribeye Tacos


Crave Kitchen & Bar
11990 Rojas Drive
El Paso, TX
I was very tempted to go for the Green Chile Chicken & Waffles again, but the ribeye steak tacos were out of this world.  After spending time in El Paso, I don't think any tacos anywhere else are going to be good enough.

Dec 11, 2017

Chico's Tacos


Chico's Tacos
1365 George Dieter Drive
El Paso, TX
I first heard about this place from Gabriel Iglesias as the place where you can drink a taco.  He wasn't wrong.  Definitely a cool place worth visiting if find yourself in town; sort of like the El Paso equivalent to Pat's and Geno's.

Dec 10, 2017

Tacos, Margaritas and Menudo


1810 Taqueria Y Borracheria
1441 North Zaragoza Road
El Paso, TX
Incredible tacos, delicious margaritas and free menudo to top it all off.  What more could you want?

Dec 9, 2017

Mystery Shot


Whiskey Dicks
1580 George Dieter Drive
El Paso, TX
I was told at the time what this shot was, but several drinks that followed obliterated the synapses responsible for keeping that information safe.

Dec 8, 2017

Spicy Strawberry Chicken Biscuit


Whataburger
1310 George Dieter Drive
El Paso, TX
The best feature of my hotel is the 24 hour Whataburger right outside.  The whole menu is available for a limited time to me (we don't have Whataburger in NEPA), but I'm still a sucker for fast food temporary menu items.  These are pretty good and they should be fairly easy to replicate back home.

Dec 7, 2017

Christmas in El Paso


Christmas in El Paso
Santa was marching up and down the median on the road just outside of my hotel and screaming for people to get out of their car.  'Tis the season!

Dec 6, 2017

Mexican Candy


I'm in El Paso for most of the rest of 2017.  The city is right on the USA / Mexico border, and lots of candy from Juárez finds its way into the stores.

There is no way I'm leaving this city without gaining 20 pounds.

Dec 5, 2017

Texas Waffles


Hampton Inn
12055 Gateway Boulevard West
El Paso, TX
As much as I love the mini chalkboard toast pun, I love the massive Texas-shaped Belgian waffles even more.

Dec 4, 2017

Menudo


La Malinche
910 North Yarbrough Drive
El Paso, TX
My class was amazed that I had never heard of menudo other than the group that Ricky Martin performed with when he was a child.  It's supposed to be able to cure a hangover, so this past Sunday was the perfect time to give it a shot.  Not bad.

Dec 3, 2017

Circle-K Reality Check


I’m in El Paso on business, so I’ve been checking out all of the different places to eat that we don’t have back home. The back seat of my rental had a Chicago Pizza from Peter Piper’s and a bag of food and sauces from Taco Cabana. On the way back to the hotel that I’m calling home for four weeks, I spotted a Circle-K convenience store. We don’t have those back home either, and I was hoping to take a cheesy selfie to post with references to Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure.

As I pulled in, I saw a homeless old man with a long grey beard. He had kind eyes, and was hunkered down between a garbage can in front of the store and a cart of things that he owned.

I suddenly felt like the world’s biggest asshole.

Here I am, a guy with a back seat filled with more food than I could eat and a warm bed waiting for me a few miles away even though I don’t even live here. Who the hell am I to have all of this while this man tries to keep warm in front of a convenience store?

I went in the store even though I really didn’t need anything. I managed to find our Spicy Butterfinger Peanut Butter Cups, so I bought a bunch of them for my class, and I did a quick inventory of my wallet to see what I could offer this man.

When I came out, he looked a bit frightened at first, but I gave him some money. I had no idea what to say, so I asked if he was ok. What a stupid question to ask. But his eyes met mine and he thanked me and wished me a happy holiday in a voice that made tears come to my eyes.

Yeah, sure… I’ll have a happy holiday, but what about this man? Why the fuck can’t we muster up enough compassion for each other to treat people with kindness and to make sure that everyone has a safe place to sleep and enough food to eat. Why the fuck can’t we do that?

I never got my selfie. I got a much better look at myself than any photo could provide, and I felt ashamed that I’m not a better man who could figure out a way to truly help people.

Dec 2, 2017

December Thoughts...


I was at Whataburger buying a burger that I really didn’t want.  While I was waiting for my food, two people sitting at a table started laughing.

I should know that they’re not laughing at me.  The logical side of my brain knows that it’s just a bunch of friends hanging out, having a good time, laughing at some inside joke or something funny that one of their friends said.  But the emotional side of my brain is putting a knot in my stomach and an intense desire to get out of there so that I won’t hear them laughing at me.

When these moments happen, the song “People Are Strange” plays in my head.  It forces its way into my consciousness like an old friend that barges into your house without being invited.  I’ve never heard or read anything in my life that captures the way that I experience that moment of isolation, sadness and anxiety as the words that Jim Morrison sings on that track.  I wonder if he felt it too.

There are two shields that I have to protect myself from this world: humor and work.  At work, I have a purpose.  I have a reason to be there.  I have a role to play and a job to do.  When that is taken away at the end of my shift, all that’s left is me - with no purpose and no reason why anyone would want me to be there.  On good days, I muddle through with awkward silence and eventually disguise myself as a normal person.  Other times, I’m just waiting for the other shoe to drop, where I say or do something stupid and everyone present thinks that I’m an idiot.

My other shield is humor.  It’s usually self-depreciating humor, cheesy puns or old man jokes that come to mind.  These are like laughter absorption shields.  It’s as if my subconscious is saying that as long as I keep them laughing with me, they won’t start laughing at me.  I wonder if that’s why so many comedians seem to be clinically depressed and turn to self-destructive behavior or suicide.  Did they just get to be so good at being funny to protect themselves that they were able to turn it into a career?  I wish I could have met Robin Williams over a cup of coffee to talk to him about this.

So, if you’re someone who knows me and you’ve cared enough to read this far, please know that I am trying.  If I act strange, or I look down, or I rant about something stupid, it’s not deliberate.  I am trying every day that I leave my house to just be normal and to get along with people and fit in, and it hurts like hell when I feel like I’m not, but please know that I am trying.  And if you don’t know me and you’ve stumbled across this little collection of thoughts and you feel the same, please know that you are not alone and that you can’t give up.  You just fucking can’t.  Fight through it and move on, and do what you can to help others.  You may be the only person that someone else can relate to about this.  It’s like being able to speak a secret language.  You can help someone who isn’t coping as well with this and keep them from giving up.

Take care…

- Will

Dec 1, 2017

Wings at The Shack


The Shack Wings & Brew
1883 North Zaragoza Road
El Paso, TX
One of the students in my class evidently knows the owner of this place and brought my colleague and I here for dinner.  The wings were pretty incredible.  I can't remember what I drank, but it was the first of a few stops and it did the job.

Nov 30, 2017

Everything's Bigger in Texas


West Texas Chophouse
1135 Airway Blvd.
El Paso, TX
The appetizer was an entire head of cauliflower covered in melted cheese and almonds.  I couldn't even get through a quarter of it if I wanted room for the massive steak and potato that was yet to come.  Even though I was so stuffed that I couldn't move, I had to try the  Tres Leches - a vanilla cake soaked in milk, vanilla and rum.

Nov 29, 2017

Luchador In The Box


Jack In The Box
1318A George Dieter Drive
El Paso, TX
I've never been to a Jack In The Box before today so I can't say for sure, but I'm guessing they don't all have a AAA luchador painted on the wall.  I love this city!

Nov 28, 2017

Green Chile Chicken & Waffles


Crave Kitchen & Bar
11990 Rojas Drive
El Paso, TX
I've had chicken and waffles before, but nothing like this.  If the rest of the food in El Paso is anything like this, I'm not going to want to leave.

Nov 27, 2017

Sushi Burrito


The Sushi Place
1327 George Dieter Drive
El Paso, TX
The Sushi Burrito is a pretty interesting concept.  If it wasn't so filling, I would have ordered a second one.

Nov 26, 2017

In Enemy Territory


Wearing enemy colors in Atlanta on my way to El Paso.

Nov 25, 2017

The Thanksgiving Night Tradition


Thirty years ago, the World Wrestling Federation aired the first Survivor Series live on pay-per-view on Thanksgiving night.

The main event that night was a five-on-five tag team elimination match.  It was one of the rare times that Hulk Hogan wasn't victorious at the end of a pay-per-view in the 80's.  His team lost when Andre The Giant pinned Bam Bam Bigelow and became the sole survivor for the bad guys.

Nov 24, 2017

Hazleton's Swan Song

Swan Song
Robert R. McCammon (1987)
The best post-apocalyptic novel not called The Stand was first published 30 years ago.  It includes not one, but two mentions of Mob City in it's pages.  The second reference to Hazleton goes so far as to call out the First Presbyterian Church downtown on the corner of Broad and Church Street, though I can't say if they've ever had a Rev. Bowden.

Nov 23, 2017

Thanksgiving Reflections



Every year for Easter and Thanksgiving, Dad brings us to Genetti's at around lunchtime for their holiday buffet.  The food is good, and I'm always happy to spend time with pop, but it's just not the same since my grandparents passed away.  We would invite him over for dinner at our place, but he spends the holidays with his wife's family.

That's why this time of year reminds me that I should try to live in the moment and be thankful for the happiness that you have.  This is especially true for the happy moments that become so much of a part of our routine that we take them for granted.  The little things that have put a smile on our face on an almost daily basis have happened so many times in the past that we have no doubt that they'll keep on happening.  If we pause and think logically about it, we all know that these things don't go on forever.  The world changes.  Our lives change.  People die.  However, all of those things seem so far away from the moment that we're in that it's easy to forget that the things that have made you smile every day will someday be a distant memory.  We rarely ever recognize when we're experiencing one of those moments for the last time as it's happening.

One of those moments for me is having lunch with my grandparents during the summer when I was out of school.  Grandpa usually came home for lunch, and Grandma would have a sandwich waiting for him.  It was usually ham (which my grandparents called "cold meat") and American cheese on a Kaiser roll with butter.  Sometimes they would have turkey or lebanon instead of ham, but it was usually ham.  We would sit at the kitchen table, have coffee and chat about whatever while having lunch.  It was an ordinary, everyday lunch that has happened thousands of times from my childhood to my teenage years and through my 20's, but not too long into my 30's.  I can't say for sure when the last time was that the three of us sat at the kitchen table and ate lunch.  I'm certain that on that day, when I took my last bite of sandwich, I had no idea that it would be the very last.  So today, I try my hardest to be thankful for every pleasant moment, no matter how much they've become a part of my daily routine, because I probably will never know when I'm experiencing it for the last time.

Nov 22, 2017

Give A Dog A Bone




Harvey is very happy with his new bone.