Category Archives: Steve

Organized Lightning

Way back in August I was invited out to the Junck farm to play with his drone. That was the moment I officially got drone fever.

I played with the drone for at least 45 minutes. I would share some pictures from that experience, but I have yet to see them. That is how the drone crashes.

Steve was in town helping his parents with an electric car tour. The tour culminated with a car show at the Junck farm.

Here are some pictures from that event:


Junck Electric Car Show

Junck Electric Car Show

Junck Electric Car Show

Junck Electric Car Show

Junck Electric Car Show

Junck Electric Car Show

Junck Electric Car Show

Junck Electric Car Show

Junck Electric Car Show

Junck Electric Car Show

Junck Electric Car Show

Junck Electric Car Show

Junck Electric Car Show

Junck Electric Car Show

Junck Electric Car Show

Junck Electric Car Show

Junck Electric Car Show

Junck Electric Car Show

Junck Electric Car Show

Junck Electric Car Show

Junck Electric Car Show

Speaking of Drone Fever, here is where I currently stand on the goals I need to accomplish to pulling the trigger on that drone:

1. Pay off car.
2. Bank fraud refund.
3. New rear brakes.
4. Big 12 Championship Game Trip
5. Remaining Self-Directed Training Budget – $355.20
6. 2019 Calendars
7. Iowa State Bowl Trip
8. Subscribe to Des Moines Register
9. Hope to not get screwed over by the GOP Tax Scam.
10. DJI Mavic Pro 2
11. Sony RX0
12. Sony Alpah a7II

The Birthday Party of Fate (Roundup)

I’ve thanked all these people in person, but I’d like to publicly thank everybody that helped out in some either small or big way with my birthday party on Saturday.

Big shout out to Scott for making tons of delicious mouth watering chicken and jalapeno cream corn. I only wish I would have had time to help do more than just brine the chicken. If I am so inclined to do this again next year and you are so inclined to help with the food next year, I will have to schedule this so I can be more hands on with the process. I may have been The Master, but Scott was undeniably the Smoker Master. I just can’t overstate how amazing the chicken was people.

Much love to Scott’s (better-other-less high maintenance) half for making the Pick and Pluck. If I would’ve thought of it, I would’ve bought several gallons of ice cold chocolate milk to knock down while setting up shop on that thing.

Thanks to Logan and Corinna for holding down the grill and making an assortment of hot dogs and sausages to compliment the mouth watering chicken. I don’t really have any photos of the event, perhaps next year I can talk him/them into doing some candid photography for the party.

I’m always able to count on Dae Hee when I need some assistance. He came over and helped put up the canopies for the outdoor dining area, the tent for an additional child area, moved all the chairs from the basement to the outdoors, and watched 2 hours of GAME OF THRONES. A pretty solid effort!

Thanks to Jason for loaning me his Cornhole set.

Thanks to Shannon for loaning me her canopies, although I’m still unclear where one gets tailgating tents that don’t have Iowa State colors. Or why a person would even want such a thing.

Thanks to Jesse for laminating the beverage identification signs.

Thanks to Teresa for helping out in various tasks before the party started.

Thanks to my Mom for making a copious amount of side dishes and desserts. Nobody went home hungry. That is for sure.

Finally, thanks to everybody that took time out of their lives to come visit me:


Teresa
Brandon
Logan & Corinna
Aunt Linda
Kio
Steph, Katie, Jeff, & Yin
Carla, Jason, Alexis, and Johnathan
Mom
Scott, Melissa, Austin, and Porter
Steve
Dawn, Kevin, Scott, and Kayelee
Jen, Derrick, Evie, and Layla
Sara, Shawn, and Gretchen
Jesse, Kelly, Kalista, Saydie, and Taylan
Willy
Dan and Angie
Suzie
Monica and Jeff
Bethany, Dae Hee, and Nora
Jason, Will, Ben, and Nader
Andree
Anders & Nicholas
Shannon and Jason
Geri
Michelle, Craig, and Lily
Kim and Kevin

A special thanks to Dae Hee, Bethany, and Nora who came from Minnesota. Aunt Linda who came from Kansas. Stephanie who came all the way from Brooklyn. I guess I’m morally obligated to visit her in October now. Right?

Since I think that this party was a success on some level, I am tentatively planning on doing it again next year. Tentatively thinking about some time on Memorial Day Weekend next year. We’ll see how the cookie crumbles.

Now to the less than stellar news…

The Photo Booth was a success, but far from perfect. It turns out that the photo booth program I used has a painful little quirk. If the “Finish” button wasn’t pushed at the conclusion of the photo session, the program timed out and didn’t save the photo strip! The good news is that it did save the original images. The bad news is that there will be a night in my future where I’ll be piecing together photo strips from saved images. Yeah me!

For that reason, I did load up all the images into the party gallery. Not just the “finished” photo strips.

To see those images, click on the link below… (You can also download them by clicking on the down arrow icon.)

MANOS & PHOTOBOOTH IMAGES

However, thought I would share a few of them here as well:








































But the good news is that I now have a thousand different ways to improve the photo booth for next year. Tentatively.

365 Day Photo Project: 141-147

Getting through the holidays and getting caught up on some photo editing. I apologize for the delay. I know it weighed heavily on you.



Day 141 – Candy Canes


Day 142 – Holiday Sparkle


Day 143 – Something Beginning with S


Day 144 – Weather


Day 145 – Tree


Day 146 – Decoration


Day 147 – Joy is…

Themes for next week:

Day 148 – Naughty or Nice?
Day 149 – Shining in the Night
Day 150 – On the Street
Day 151 – How You Relax
Day 152 – Cold
Day 153 – Hot
Day 154 – With Color

A Small, Intimate Gathering

I had my, what could theoretically become, annual Birthday Barbecue on Saturday.  I would like to thank all of the people that attended and made the evening special:

  • Bardole, Shannon
  • Bennett, Charlotte
  • Cousin, Amy
  • Daniel, Jeffrey
  • Degeneffe, Austin
  • Degeneffe, Melissa
  • Degeneffe, Scott
  • Dill, Colby
  • Dill, Dan
  • Dill, DJ
  • Gorshe, Derrick
  • Gorshe, Jen
  • Henning, Monica
  • Howard, Jesse
  • Howard, Kalista
  • Howard, Kelly
  • Howard, Saydie
  • Howard, Taylan
  • Hugen, Todd
  • Janson, Jay
  • Jauhari, Andree
  • Jenson, Terra
  • Johnstone, Jack
  • Johnstone, Jason
  • Junck, Sara
  • Kahler, Logan
  • Kahler, Russ
  • Kewer, Jeff
  • Krause, Dawn
  • McAlpine, Willy
  • Nitchals, Peggy
  • Parsaei, Nader
  • Perkovich, Becky
  • Roberts, Lori
  • Roberts, Steve
  • Runestad, Anders
  • Stensland, Carla
  • Stensland, Johnathan
  • Wever, Ada
  • Wever, Amanda
  • Wever, Greg
  • Yin, Amy

Next year, I will move the barbecue back to its traditional spot of the Saturday of Memorial Day weekend.  Feel free to circle the date May 28 on your 2011 calendar that you have yet to purchase. It will perhaps be an even smaller and more intimate gathering.  I might start instituting a survivor type invitation policy similar to the fashion of invites that Jay uses for Symposium.

Special thanks need to be extended to the following people:

Sara for taking the pictures for the invitations.

Sara for providing the s’mores goodies.

Jay for making three desserts: chocolate raspberry cookies, key lime bars and apple crisp.

Steve for providing homemade salsa and chips.

Becky for making a pasta salad.

Scott and Melissa for bringing a banana creme pie.

Shannon for baking a fresh rhubarb pie with rhubarb picked from my personal rhubarb patch.

Johnathan for bringing over cornhole.

Logan and Russ for running the grill.

Mom for baking a cake and creating a watermelon fruit thing.

Derrick for being the fire-starter.

Andree for being the best dressed person at the party.

Shannon for opening the party.

Willy for closing the party.

There isn’t any photographic evidence to support that this party existed. I was too busy to touch a camera and Sara didn’t take any pictures this year. Maybe next year I will add “Party Photographer” to the list of Staff positions for this shindig.

If you wish to be hired for this position (no pay, no benefits, possibly a STAFF t-shirt*) simply send the answer to the following question to bennett@photography139.com:

Why would I make an awesome Party Photographer?

I suppose I should start planning Friendsmas now. It can wait a couple of months.

*That is not a joke. There will be staff t-shirts next year.

Punch Myself in the Face

I had decided to shave all the way down to a dirty naked face last weekend. It had been over 3 years since my chin had tasted air and felt the rays of sunlight. My chin was dreadfully dry and desperately in the need of some moisturizing. Lots and lots of moisturizing.

For some reason, I allowed myself to be sold by Jesse on shaving down to just a moustache for one glorious day. Despite my better judgment, I did it.

On Thursday night I spent close to an hour in the bathroom slowly trimming my beautiful goat down to a dirty stache. When I had completed my task, I had to make a conscious effort to stop myself from punching my reflection. I hated that dirty stache.

Although I had stayed up well past my normal bedtime to complete this mission from the devil, I couldn’t sleep at all. I knew that I had violated the natural order of things.

I showed up for work the following day and tried to avoid everybody. Well, I did stop to see Micky. He deserved to see the stache since he has been a rock for me in the Busted Furnace Support Group that we have with Vest every few days.

Jesse showed up at work about an hour after I did. He was still sporting a splendid goat. I felt that I had been had, but he showed me his clippers. He went to the restroom and came back looking like the same type of doucher that I looked like.





After taking those pictures of Jesse looking so wretched. I allowed myself to be photographed in this horrible state.



As I was posing for this picture, the World’s Greatest UPS Man came in with his daily delivery. He seemed to enjoy how wretched I looked.



Then Jesse and I posed for a picture.

I have known Jesse since I moved from unannexxed Boone to Urban Boone and enrolled in Mrs. Ford’s 2nd Grade Class. Over the years we have posed for many a photo together. But I have not a doubt in my mind that this is the worst picture of us ever.



That night Jesse and I went to Trivia Night for FNSC. We had 3 missions.

The first mission was to drink as much sweet tea out of mason jars as was humanly possible. Check and double checked.

The second mission was to pilot Team Stache from the complete and utter futility that has been its history all the way to mediocrity. Check and double checked. Team Stache (I’m not sure what they were known as before FNSC showed up and revolutionized the game) had never finished above 3rd to last. We piloted the team all the way to respectability. We finished almost exactly in the middle of the pack of 24 teams. Although we would have surely finished higher if the Sports category would have included sports questions. The Winter Olympics and NASCAR are not sports. Although I’m pretty sure that the judges would have given us points for picking Brewster Baker as the answer for the question about the winner of the 2010 Daytona Left Turnathon. But we were overruled.

Mission 3 was to be the table that had the most fun. Check, double checked and triple checked. I knew every member of Team Stache (Jay, Willy, Geri D., Shannon and Jesse) very well with the exception of Papa Smurf and his wife. At the end of the night I wasn’t sure if Mr. and Mrs. Papa Smurf loved or loathed us. They seemed to run hot and cold on us and certainly weren’t fans of our lengthy discussion of how great Kenny Rogers was in Six Pack. However, Mrs. Papa Smurf called Geri D. on the following day to tell her one and only one thing – She had never had so much fun at Trivia Night and it was all because FNSC is the bee’s knees! She wanted to make sure that we would be returing to Trivia Night in 3 months. I think FNSC might just make a return, but the moustaches won’t. I’m kind of thinking that our team theme on that night will be “lumberjacks”. A little tribute to my boy Steve Roberts.

After our team huddled up and put all of our hands in and shouted “Mediocrity!!!” I tried to convince Jay to come over in the morning to take a couple of photos of the stache before it was clipped from my face and washed down my sink into the dark, dank drain of history.

Jay insisted on taking the pictures that night because he couldn’t stand to know that this moustache was even in existence.

Jay came over and took some pictures of the porn alter ego that Micky wanted me to create with the moustache. He even named such a character “Hammer”.

Here are a few publicity stills for a movie that will never exist starring “Hammer”.



“Did you call a repair guy?”

“Mrs. Robinson, there doesn’t seem to be anything wrong with this water heater…”

“It is kind of hot in here. Do you mind if I take off my shirt?”

Although I think most people were just being kind, the reviews on the moustache were mixed. Mixed between people who were honest and people who were struggling to come up with something that didn’t sound cruel.

4 women from work commented that it looked “good”.
Andree said, “Are you hosting a Do-It-Yourself show on channel 11 tonight? You look exactly like Al from that Home Improvement show.”
Jen said, “I’m totally laughing out loud!” I will point out that she actually typed out “laughing out loud” as opposed to “lol”. These mean two totally different things. Jen also admitted on Sunday that she had shown a stache picture to Dionne from work. Her response was perhaps the most honest. “He needs to shave that immediately.”
Shannon said, “The soul patch makes the stache work.” I still don’t know what she means by make it work. As near as I can tell it doesn’t work at all.
When I sent the picture to Jill, I warned her that it would make her want to punch me in the face. Her response. “U don’t deserve a punch in the face! It’s not bad, especially considering NO ONE should have a moustache long term in the 21st century.” Jill must be a pacifist because I definitely deserved a punch in the face for looking like that!

Although Jesse will be celebrating Moustache Day again next year, I will be passing. I don’t think I have the discipline to make it through the day without hurting myself and that wretched upper lip hair.

Happy Birthday Jesse!

Today is the anniversary of the birth of Jesse Lee (Lex) Howard. Here is but a poor sampling of pictures of the times we have shared in recent years.


After beating that net!


In Clinton, Iowa on The Road Trip – 2006


With the World’s Largest Cheeto


Jesse’s Picture on The Friend Wall. Eating a Bob’s Dog – LeMars, Iowa


Wearing an Old Lady’s Hat


Before Jen and Derrick’s Wedding


With Lowell in Arizona


Hanging Out at Snookies after lobbying Tom Harkin’s staff.


With his Family


Disappointing Steve.


In the Denver airport.


With his Duke Burger


Enjoying the View of the Falls with Jackson, Faust and Jay.


In Mallard, Iowa


Failing to tickle me.

Of course there are many more pictures of Jesse in the Friends Album of the Snapshots Gallery. (Recently downsized)

Or you can click on the link below:

One more time, Happy Birthday Jesse!

Why Would He Post This?

I don’t really believe in the Greatest Hits album concept. So it will seem somewhat hypocritical for me to reach back into the archives and re-post what I consider to be a classic of my past. But there is a reason for it, other than that I love the sound of my own words… 

Chapter 3: Tenderloining It!

Tenderloining it! I’m sure if you were to rush to your dictionary you would fail to find the term “tenderloining” anywhere within its pages. One of the great things about language is the fact that it is constantly evolving. What was not a word, a correct usage, or a correct spelling will over time be absorbed and become a part of the language. Language evolves. New words are added. Old words are left behind like a vestigial tail. 

“Tenderloining” might not be an accepted English word yet, but if I have my way, it will be a common term in the near future. It will be common to hear people answer questions about their weekend plans with the simple two word retort: “Tenderloining it!” or the variation, “The wife and I are going to tenderloin it up!” The variation will sometimes be accompanied by the optional international “raise the roof” gesture. Two high shrilled “whoos!” will also be optional. 

I personally had been aching to go tenderloining for almost half a year now. I have been passionate about the tenderloin ever since I knew such a sandwich existed. I have been interested in the concept of perfection since I learned that it wasn’t attainable. I have been fascinated by the concept of rankings since I received my first issue of Sports Illustrated as a child. I had been aching to go to a restaurant known as Darrell’s Place in Hamlin, Iowa ever since I knew that they served what was considered to be the best tenderloin in the state. 

Now if you lived in a sissy state like Nebraska, Massachusetts, or Arizona; having the best tenderloin in the state might not mean much. On the other hand, in a state like Iowa (where we know our meat) having the best tenderloin is quite an accomplishment. 

I had to make my own estimations though. A tenderloin aficionado such as myself can’t just merely take the word of somebody else. I had to see, smell, and taste for myself. Not by myself though, but with somebody. 

I am not a solitary creature. If I were to ever send a secret to Post Secret, that wasn’t something meaningful or actually deep, it would be that I don’t like to eat alone. But it just isn’t my fear of dining alone that made me seek out a compatriot for my tenderloin roadtrip. 

It is my belief that a roadtrip, although it can be made alone, is much better when shared. Although this wasn’t going to be a long roadtrip, it was still going to be over 4 hours roundtrip, plus dining time. I needed to find somebody to share the adventure. 

I took a look at the list of my normal roadtrip chums. It didn’t look promising. Most of my friends that would be interested in such a venture had the type of job where you have to work on weekends. My friends that don’t work on the weekend wouldn’t want to drive 2 hours just to eat a tenderloin. There was the possibility of Willy. He only works 4 days a week and does enjoy hitting the open road on occasion. Plus despite his vigorous workout routine, his dietary habits are far from exemplary. The only problem with Willy is that his planner is imaginary and he is notoriously flaky. Particularly when it comes to committing and then backing out of roadtrips. 

Then there was the possibility of Jay. He was definitely a fan of the roadtrip. He is as reliable as Willy is flaky. There were just two problems with Jay. The first one being that in order for him to get a Saturday off, he has to ask for it one lunar cycle in advance, do a rain dance, wish on a falling star, and pray for a miracle. Then if everything breaks just right, he gets a Saturday off. The second problem is that Jay on occasion likes to eat “healthy”. I was worried that we would make the 2 hour drive to Hamlin and when we got there he would embarrass us in front of the locals by ordering a salad. 

When it seemed that all was lost, I was given a surprise. I was discussing my desire to try the state’s best tenderloin with Baier one day. He announced to me that not only had he been to Darrell’s Place, but he was willing to proclaim it the best tenderloin that he had ever taken down. 

Eureka! I had my compatriot! Baier is from Audubon, which is a mere stone’s throw from Hamlin. Not only did I have a compatriot. I had a guide. I had access to a wealth of local knowledge. This might have been divine intervention. 

The only problem now was scheduling a time to make our pilgrimage. It didn’t turn out to be as easy as I had suspected. Despite us both not having most weekends free from work (me from the computer mine and he from his cushy financial planner job) it turns out we sure had a lot of other commitments. It seemed like our schedules were never going to line up. It seemed that the sun and moon crossed paths more than us. 

Yet when all hope seemed to be lost Baier came to me with an offer. He was going to Audubon with his family to witness a dance recital. I could ride along with them, but that would mean spending the night in Audubon. Or I could drive myself and then drive myself back. That would mean losing the communal spiritual experience that is the roadtrip. 

Then I got an e-mail from Shannon about the possibility of getting a little scratch for taking pictures of beans. After I met with her I knew that the shooting schedule was going to be tight. They wanted a pretty quick turnaround. I sent an e-mail to Baier telling him that I needed to back out of the trip. I would have to “work” on Saturday. It turns out that in this relationship I was the one that was flaky. 

Although I badly longed for the taste of the state’s best tenderloin, it did not hurt me too much to send the cancellation notice to Baier. I’ve been called a “true believer” in the past. This roadtrip that we were going to make wasn’t pure. This roadtrip wasn’t all about the tenderloin. This roadtrip was all about a dance recital with a little bit of tenderloin on the side. A little diversion. Nothing more. 

“Tenderloining it” isn’t a diversion. It isn’t eating lunch because we are hungry. “Tenderloining it” is the activity. It is the alpha and the omega. It isn’t the delta, the gamma or the epsilon. I wanted this experience to be about the tenderloin, not something we can do because we are in the area. 

Baier sent an e-mail back that consisted of his booing me. It is not the first time that I have been booed by him. I do not know if it is something that it is in the water in Audubon or if it is merely a Baier family trait, but it is the manner that he shows his lack of approval for the actions of his friends. Although I have been booed numerous times in the past, I had not been booed by him since I told him I was going to watch Barack Obama speak and I asked if he might be interested in attending as well. He booed me. 

I am not a fan of booing. When I attend sporting events I go to cheer for my team. I do not go to deride the other team. I only crack out the “boo” when I am facing evil in its purest form: the Nebraska Cornhusker football team. 

Like all the times in the past, I told Baier that he was a big kid now and he needed to use his “words”. 

He booed me again. Then there was silence. 

Late on Thursday I got an e-mail from Baier. The e-mail was entitled “My Final Offer”. This sounded an awful lot like an ultimatum. Although it has never been diagnosed (nor do I even fathom that something like this exists) I have a firm belief that I suffer from a Psychological Reactance Disorder. I considered for a second not even opening up this ultimatum. 

Then a vision of the best tenderloin in the state of Iowa danced across my head. I decided to take the risk of opening the arrogantly title e-mail. I gave Baier his “final chance”. 

Turned out that his final offer was actually a pretty good offer. He proposed that I take off work an hour early on Tuesday. He would pick me up and then we would be on the road to tenderloin greatness. Furthermore, he proposed an extra stop to help settle a family dispute. 

Baier’s old man used to run a Ford dealership in Exira, which is about another stone’s throw from Hamlin. The Old Man always claimed that Darrell’s Place did not deserve its place in the Tenderloin Pantheon. A place in Exira called the Red Barn served the superior tenderloin. Baier proposed that we call ahead and order 1 tenderloin to go from the Red Barn and then split it between us on the way to Hamlin. He was proposing nothing less than Tenderloin Judgment Day. 

The prospect of sitting in judgment on not 1, but 2 tenderloins excited me. I wrote him back immediately that his proposal was accepted and I looked forward to the 2 Tenderloin Roadtrip, as it will become known to future generations. 

The Tuesday came. It was New Taste Tuesday and it was Steve’s turn in the rotation. There was some debate about whether or not it should in fact be Steve’s choice since on the previous Tuesday he had vetoed Frank’s choice of The Café and then took us to Dublin Bay. 

Frank chose to take the higher road and allowed Steve to have the choice and Steve chose Indigo Joe’s. I was hoping that this would be a quick restaurant since I was hoping that we would have enough time left over for us to make a stop at Best Buy so I could pick up the 2 Disc Special Edition of “Pan’s Labyrinth” and Steve would still have time to have his smoky treat. 

As we were cruising down Duff I hatched a rather brilliant plan. Indigo Joe’s is a sports bar. I could have a tenderloin for lunch and have perhaps the first 3 tenderloin day in recorded history. (Although some killjoys would no doubt want an asterisk placed next to my record and it stated that in fact I really only had 2.5 tenderloins.) 

However, it would be a moot point. Indigo Joe’s does not have a tenderloin on their menu. A mistake they would compound by having extremely slow service. Which slightly surprises me since we sat in the bar area and I almost always get fantastic service when I sit in the bar area. That surprise aside, my dream of buying “Pan’s Labyrinth” was squashed. 

I returned to the mine content to just finish out my workday. 

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

A little after 5 pm Baier showed up. I was done with my work for the day and I only had to hand off the kid that was job shadowing me to the Company President. It had been about 20 minutes since Angie handed the kid off to me and I had yet to show him anything that even slightly interested him. I offered to show him the insides of a computer and he said he didn’t want to see them. He was equally unimpressed by our server rack The South Parker Server was also a bust. It was after 5 so I handed him off to his next keeper. 

By the time I handed him off we were already behind schedule. So my brief hope of making a stop at Best Buy was once again extinguished. Instead I grabbed the Maxxum 5D and we loaded up his car and hit US30 heading west. 

On the way to Exira we made polite conversation. It ranged from the buffoonery of many NFL players to the times we shared at Dasher Mismanagement to religion to capitol punishment. They were the type of every day conversation that two intellectual giants have when they are sharing one another’s company. I wonder if it was the kind of conversation that Van Gogh and Gauguin might have shared when they lived together in that yellow house in Arles. Perhaps Baier and I could open up a colony in southern Iowa for fellow tenderloin lovers. That might just be a pipe dream though. 

About 10 minutes from Exira Baier called The Red Barn and placed our order for one tenderloin. Perhaps two dudes with less security in their sexuality might not have been able to split a tenderloin. Fortunately we didn’t have this problem. 

When we arrived at Exira he pointed out The Red Barn to me. At first I thought he was joking. From the outside it looked like a little shack. It was maybe ¼ the size of the Whistle Stop Café in Boone. It wasn’t even a barn. It was a tragic misnomer. The Red Tool Shed would have been or accurate name. I tried to remind myself that looks could be deceiving. Some of the best barbecue in the world is in a little dump called Big Daddy’s in Des Moines. This could be the Big Daddy’s of Exira and the tenderloin world. 

We didn’t stop though. Baier just cruised right on by. I peered at the window longing for the tenderloin that waited for us inside. 

“Where you going?” I demanded. 

“I’m going to give you the tour of Exira. Plus I need to stop at Casey’s and do some damage to their restroom.” He answered. 

Truth be known, Baier is not the type of guy that would use that type of description of the human body’s biological function of waste disposal. I just feel like if I didn’t make the description more colorful, it might be less believable. Women need to think that when men are together without female supervision that it is utter chaos. A steady stream of profanity, crotch grabbing, scatological humor, and rubber necking. 

It is safer to think that he said something along the lines of “drain the lizard, take the kids to the river, see a guy about a horse, or drain the main vein.” Truth is that he probably said something to the effect that he need use Casey’s facilities. 

Whatever he said, I got the nickel tour of Exira. It consisted of driving up one road and stopping at Casey’s. While we were at Casey’s I also decided to take a leak. When I got out of the bathroom Baier was standing in front of an ATM machine. He seemed to be staring it down. But he wasn’t attempting to use it. He was just staring at it. 

I broke his concentration by offering, “It must have impressed the natives when this type of technology became available to them two weeks ago.” 

“I’m just trying to decide if I want to get any money.” 

We stood there in silence for a few moments and then he indicated that it wouldn’t be necessary. Moments later we were back in the car driving the six blocks back to The Red Barn. 

We parked on the east side of the restaurant. The Red Barn is a rectangular shaped building. We entered through a door that was square in the middle of one of the long sides of the rectangle. 

Once inside I checked out both halves of the restaurant. On the left it looked like we had walked into somebody’s kitchen. It was not the industrial kitchen that I was used to seeing. It looked like my Grandma’s kitchen. The difference being that my Grandma has a pizza oven in her kitchen. I didn’t see a piece of equipment that looked that professional grade in this kitchen. 

The other half of the restaurant contained four tables. Three of those tables were filled with townies. I have often heard the term small town hospitality. I have often been the recipient of small town hospitality. Don’t think that I dislike small towns. To the contrary, I hate cities. I love small towns. That being said, we were not the recipient of any small town hospitality. 

The townies were staring bullets at us. For whatever reason, they did not want us there. I hoped silently that our sandwich was ready and we wouldn’t have to occupy the 4th table and wait. I didn’t want to answer any question like: 

“Where you boys from?” 

“You from the city? I can smell city on you!” 

“You boys ain’t from around here, are ya?” 

“Those are pretty clothes ya wearin’. You get those at a JC Penny’s” 

“You want to squeal like a pig?” 

My hopes were answered though. A teenage girl was working the counter. Baier stepped up to the counter. I subconsciously stepped with him. I didn’t want to separate too far from him. Just in case one of these townies wanted to back up the smack their glares were talking. 

“I have a to go order for Baier.” He said. 

The girl turned around and grabbed a brown paper bag that had his name written upon it. She came back and said, “$3.65” 

Baier pulled out his credit card and said, “Do you take credit?” 

The teenage girl began to speak, but before she could I cut her off, “Dude, we are in the sticks! You really think they are going to take credit cards.” 

As I uttered the words I realized that I had just exponentially increased our odds of having somebody make one of us squeal like a pig. The bad news was that we didn’t have a young Burt Reynolds waiting in the car for us. 

Baier was nonplused and repeated the question. 

Now that I had insulted the area, she seemed a little embarrassed to say, “No, we don’t.” I think she was wishing that they did take credit cards so she could have shut me up. 

Baier moved on to form of payment number two. 

“Do you take checks?” 

“Yes, we do.” She said. 

“From out of town?” 

“No we don’t.” 

“But my parents live in Audubon.” Baier tried to negotiate. 

At this point I could feel the eyes of 6 or 7 townies burrowing into me. I had my wallet out and was reaching for the cash that I had brought with me because I didn’t even think we would see an ATM machine where we were going. But before I got my twenty out, the teenage girl had turned and walked back to a wall. I presume that behind the wall was the fryer. 

“Can we take a check from out of town if their parents live in Audubon?” 

The voice that answered was not kind or friendly. In fact it could only be described as snotty. That voice answered, “I’d prefer not to.” 

The teenage girl came back up to the counter and gave us the bad news that we had already heard. 

“That is really okay,” I said pushing the twenty into her hand. “I have cash.” 

She took the money and brought me back my change. Baier grabbed the sandwich and I made haste to get out of the line of sight of the townies. 

Once I was back outside the fresh air emboldened me. Although I felt very claustrophobic inside the restaurant, I wasn’t quite ready to leave the fair town of Exira. I reached into the backseat and grabbed the Maxxum 5D. I felt like taking some pictures of the area. 

I had only brought my 50mm lens. It has pretty much become my standard lens and I hardly ever switch to a different lens. A fixed focal length lens is a good lens for a photographer to use when they are first starting out. It teaches you discipline. So I was not able to get any wide angle shots of anything, but I took some pictures of The Red Barn, the Exira town sign, and of some grain bins. 

I got back into the car and Baier asked if I wanted to go see the “Plow in the Oak”. It was nearby. I most certainly did. 

I had read about the “Plow in the Oak” on a few occasions. It is exactly what it sounds like. A plow that over time is slowly being devoured by an Oak tree. Legend has it that a farmer left the plow next to the oak to go off to fight in the Civil War. As the years piled up and the owner never returned the oak grew around the plow. Eventually it gobbled up the plow. 

I had even seen pictures of the “Plow in the Oak”. Jay and Willy had once stopped and taken pictures of the oddity on a rare roadtrip where Willy hadn’t flaked out. 

We headed out of Exira and stopped at the “Plow in the Oak” Park. It was decided that we should have dinner before desert. We split up the tenderloin and took it down. It was indeed a very tasty tenderloin. One of the best tenderloins I have ever had. However, could it compete with the tenderloin that legend claims is the best in the Cyclone State? That was yet to be determined. 

We exited the car and followed the signs that pointed us in the direction of what we had come to see. At the far south end of the park there is indeed an oak tree with a plow sticking out of two sides of it. Not much though. There was maybe two inches of the plow sticking out on both sides. If I was the type that did any reckoning, I’d reckon that the plow would be completely devoured within the next 5 years. 

As we walked back to the car Baier became excited. I think he was invigorated by smelling his native air. He stated that he wished we had more time so we could go see the “Tree in the Road”. 

Knowing full well what the answer was going to be I asked, “What is the ‘Tree in the Road’?” 

“It is a tree in the middle of a road.”
Honestly I am interested in seeing this oddity, but I’m more interested in a people that would just let a tree grow in the middle of a road. These aren’t my people though. I’m a Boonie. I don’t think I will ever quite understand the mentality that just watches a tree grow in the middle of a road and doesn’t think: 

“We might want to do something about that.” 

I merely indicated that we will have to do that sometime. Then I handed over the Maxxum 5D. 

“Hold this, please.” I said than I began digging in the backseat for a tripod. 

At the beginning of every great roadtrip I think about taking a roadtrip group picture. I always envision a picture of the group of hardy travelers pictured next to their noble steed. I never end up taking this picture because Willy flakes out and puts me in a foul mood. This time I wasn’t to be denied. 

“It is time for the roadtrip group picture.” 

“What is that?” 

“A picture of us with our noble steed.” 

I began to setup the tripod and the camera and I turned around and saw that Jason was sitting on the hood of his car. 

“Think you will have time to get up on the hood of the car?” he asked. 

“The timer will be set for 10 seconds, which will be plenty of time, but are you sure that your hood can handle this much weight?” 

This was the question I thought, but what I really thought was that this picture is going to look kind of gay. I wondered if it was things like this that had made some scholars postulate that Gauguin and Van Gogh had “got it on! Whooo!” 

“It can handle it.” 

“This might look a little gay.” 

He answered, “For two people less secure in their sexuality that would be a problem.” 

It was an airtight argument. Neither of us was the type to answer a question about a perceived feminine activity with the answer, “because I’m not gay” or “let me check, nope I don’t have a vagina.” 

So I started the timer and jumped softly onto the hood of the car next to Baier. Quite frankly though, I was never really very comfortable. It seemed to me that any moment the hood was going to collapse and the roadtrip would be over. That would have been a tragedy for Baier’s car and a tragedy for future generations would only know this roadtrip as the “Failed Tenderloin Roadtrip”. 
 

Once I was back outside the fresh air emboldened me. Although I felt very claustrophobic inside the restaurant, I wasn’t quite ready to leave the fair town of Exira. I reached into the backseat and grabbed the Maxxum 5D. I felt like taking some pictures of the area.

I had only brought my 50mm lens. It has pretty much become my standard lens and I hardly ever switch to a different lens. A fixed focal length lens is a good lens for a photographer to use when they are first starting out. It teaches you discipline. So I was not able to get any wide angle shots of anything, but I took some pictures of The Red Barn, the Exira town sign, and of some grain bins. 

I got back into the car and Baier asked if I wanted to go see the “Plow in the Oak”. It was nearby. I most certainly did. 

I had read about the “Plow in the Oak” on a few occasions. It is exactly what it sounds like. A plow that over time is slowly being devoured by an Oak tree. Legend has it that a farmer left the plow next to the oak to go off to fight in the Civil War. As the years piled up and the owner never returned the oak grew around the plow. Eventually it gobbled up the plow. 

I had even seen pictures of the “Plow in the Oak”. Jay and Willy had once stopped and taken pictures of the oddity on a rare roadtrip where Willy hadn’t flaked out. 

We headed out of Exira and stopped at the “Plow in the Oak” Park. It was decided that we should have dinner before desert. We split up the tenderloin and took it down. It was indeed a very tasty tenderloin. One of the best tenderloins I have ever had. However, could it compete with the tenderloin that legend claims is the best in the Cyclone State? That was yet to be determined. 

We exited the car and followed the signs that pointed us in the direction of what we had come to see. At the far south end of the park there is indeed an oak tree with a plow sticking out of two sides of it. Not much though. There was maybe two inches of the plow sticking out on both sides. If I was the type that did any reckoning, I’d reckon that the plow would be completely devoured within the next 5 years. 

As we walked back to the car Baier became excited. I think he was invigorated by smelling his native air. He stated that he wished we had more time so we could go see the “Tree in the Road”. 

Knowing full well what the answer was going to be I asked, “What is the ‘Tree in the Road’?” 

“It is a tree in the middle of a road.”
Honestly I am interested in seeing this oddity, but I’m more interested in a people that would just let a tree grow in the middle of a road. These aren’t my people though. I’m a Boonie. I don’t think I will ever quite understand the mentality that just watches a tree grow in the middle of a road and doesn’t think: 

“We might want to do something about that.” 

I merely indicated that we will have to do that sometime. Then I handed over the Maxxum 5D. 

“Hold this, please.” I said than I began digging in the backseat for a tripod. 

At the beginning of every great roadtrip I think about taking a roadtrip group picture. I always envision a picture of the group of hardy travelers pictured next to their noble steed. I never end up taking this picture because Willy flakes out and puts me in a foul mood. This time I wasn’t to be denied. 

“It is time for the roadtrip group picture.” 

“What is that?” 

“A picture of us with our noble steed.” 

I began to setup the tripod and the camera and I turned around and saw that Jason was sitting on the hood of his car. 

“Think you will have time to get up on the hood of the car?” he asked. 

“The timer will be set for 10 seconds, which will be plenty of time, but are you sure that your hood can handle this much weight?” 

This was the question I thought, but what I really thought was that this picture is going to look kind of gay. I wondered if it was things like this that had made some scholars postulate that Gauguin and Van Gogh had “got it on! Whooo!” 

“It can handle it.” 

“This might look a little gay.” 

He answered, “For two people less secure in their sexuality that would be a problem.” 

It was an airtight argument. Neither of us was the type to answer a question about a perceived feminine activity with the answer, “because I’m not gay” or “let me check, nope I don’t have a vagina.” 

So I started the timer and jumped softly onto the hood of the car next to Baier. Quite frankly though, I was never really very comfortable. It seemed to me that any moment the hood was going to collapse and the roadtrip would be over. That would have been a tragedy for Baier’s car and a tragedy for future generations would only know this roadtrip as the “Failed Tenderloin Roadtrip”. 

Fortunately the ten seconds flew by and the shutter clicked. Potential disaster was averted. The hood and car were still in one piece as we hopped off the hood. We hopped back in the car and got back on the highway. Destination: “Best Tenderloin in Iowa.” 
 

We pulled into Hamlin five minutes later. There isn’t much to the town. I’d say a few houses, Darrell’s Place, and a junkyard. Darrell’s place and the junkyard are right next to one another. Literally the east wall of Darrell’s place is facing a junkyard. There is a fence in the parking lot that separates Darrell’s place from the junkyard. 

I had only seen something like this on one other occasion. Not surprisingly, that other occasion is south of the Mason-Dixon Line. When we were in Louisiana and we were searching for a place to eat we drove past a Church’s Chicken that sat on a corner lot. On two sides of the lot were streets. The other two sides of the lot were fences that separated the restaurant from a junkyard. On that day we chose to keep looking. On this day, I accepted the junkyard as just a small town quirk. A story that could be told later: 

“The tenderloin was fantastic, but you won’t believe this little factoid. It actually shared a wall with a junkyard. I’m serious.” 

We pulled onto the lot. I was relieved to see that this was an actual full sized restaurant. Although it looked like it was a steel building and a little more like a year round State Fair food stand than a restaurant, I was glad for its size. At least if we were crowded in with townies, at least we could keep some distance. 

We walked in the door and sat ourselves. We choose a table that was near a stack of Darrell’s Place merchandise. I also noted that we were directly in front of a lottery machine. This restaurant had bathrooms. Two bathrooms, one for men and one for women. It had a salad bar. I had a full bar. Although it wasn’t enormous, this was a real restaurant. Not a food stand masquerading as a restaurant. It isn’t that I mind food stands. On the contrary, there is pork place that sets up shop in downtown Boone that is incredible. I just prefer that things be true to themselves. Don’t pretend to be a restaurant when you are a glorified food stand. 

I looked over the merchandise and although I had full intended to purchase some memento to remember the trip, I only came home with a belly full of pork and a brain full of memories. It turned out that the merchandise was horribly ugly. Not in the splash the American flag and an eagle on a t-shirt Harley Davidson style ugly. (Also known as Art in the Park ugly – I mean really who looks at a saw blade with a picture of John Wayne painted on it and hopes they have enough wall space left for that.) It was more like they had taken no effort to design anything at all. The shirts and hat only said the name and address of the place in a nondescript font. I decided to pass and I sat down across from Baier. 

I was facing the west wall. The west wall was filled with booths. Those booths were filled with people. Note that I write people and not townies. These people seemed to be interested in their own conversations and their own compatriots. When they did look at us, it seemed like they were happy to see us. We weren’t invaders from the big city horde. We were fellow travelers in the night, only seeking the best tenderloin we could find. This was the kind of small town hospitality you read about it. 

Darrell’s Place is the kind of place that keeps the menus on the table. We were looking at the menus when the waitress came to take our order. 

Baier had the unmitigated gall to ask me if I was going to get a tenderloin. Did he think that we had traveled over 2 hours for me to see what kind of burger this joint made? Did he think that I was going to embarrass him like Jay had once embarrassed Jesse and I buy ordering boneless wings at Wings to Go? Did he think when I was offered a heaven, I would say, “No thanks. I’m going to check out purgatory and Hell first and see what they have to offer. If I don’t anything I like I’ll probably settle on heaven if the property taxes aren’t too high.” This was the sole purpose of our trip. Why would I drop the ball? Would I look at the menu and be think “Ooh they serve catfish! I wonder if that is any good?” 

It was with no small amount of incredulous that I said, “We drove halfway across the state to try this tenderloin, why would I get something else?” 

The waitress then said, “You didn’t drive halfway across the state for this.” Then she shot me a look that said, “Keep your BS to a minimum mister. This is Hamlin, Iowa. We only want straight shooters in our midst.” 

I was going to be called out on the carpet for speaking the near truth. So I reiterated. “Actually we did. We got off work and drove from Ames for this. Although perhaps not literally half the state, I think it is in the general ballpark.” 

The rest of the ordering process went fairly confrontational free. The only hiccup being that they served two different types of fried cheese. Now here is another little secret for you. I love me some fried cheese. When the day comes that I have a massive coronary from eating all this fried food and the doctor tells me no more “fried cheese products”, I’ll have to look him straight in the eye and ask him, “How many more heart attacks do you think I can survive?” or perhaps I will just tell him that I read somewhere that fried cheese was an antioxidant and was good for your heart and I believe things I “read” more than what some doctor is going to tell me. 

We reached the compromise that Baier ordered one type of fried cheese and I order the other. I have no doubt that history will record this event as the “Great Fried Cheese Compromise of 2007” and it will be placed next to the other great compromises of history like “The 3/5 Compromise” and the “She Sure Married Beneath Her Compromise” that is seen the world over. 

As we sat waiting for our fried food to come our way I noticed that the people of Hamlin sure enjoy playing the lottery. Somebody must have come by our table to visit the lottery machine every few minutes. 

After the third person came by to self tax themselves and move the tax burden from the wealthy to the poor, our food arrived. At first I was a little bit worried. The tenderloin looked identical to the tenderloin we had just eaten in Exira. The conspiracy theorist in me was worried. What if The Red Barn had secretly infiltrated Darrell’s Place in a bit of corporate sabotage and stolen the recipe of the greatest tenderloin in Iowa? 

One bite into this sandwich assuaged my fears though. Although the breading was identical, the sandwich did in fact taste different. This was indeed the superior sandwich. The only thing that the Exira tenderloin had going for it in comparison is that you have to ask the good folks at Darrell’s Place to toast your bun. Yet having to ask for your bun toasted is a small price to pay for the superior hunk of meat. 

The fundamental question remains: “Is it the best tenderloin in the state of Iowa?” It was a great tenderloin. Perhaps the greatest I have ever had, but I am not ready to proclaim it the greatest in the state. I still need to do some research on this subject. 

As for the fried cheese? One type of fried cheese was basically the same fried cheese that you can find in about every restaurant in the world. I’m not knocking it. It is some pretty good stuff. 

The second fried cheese product was a bit different. It wasn’t quite as good, despite being unique. This fried cheese still had the consistency of a curd. It was good, but not quite as good. 

We finished up our meal and paid the bill. As we exited the building I noticed that we had lost most of the light. I grabbed the Maxxum 5D and took some low light shots of the parking lot and the junkyard. After I was satisfied with what I had I got back in the car and headed towards home. 

The ride home included more polite conversation about religion and the NBA and old times at Dasher Mismanagement and making fun of Guthrie Center. When we were about 20 miles outside of Ogden on 169 Baier said that he was disappointed in Russell. He had told Russell that Greg and Amanda were getting married and Russell hadn’t told Andree.
“What?” 

“Yeah, he never told Andree.” 

“I didn’t know Greg and Amanda were getting married.” 

Fortunately the ten seconds flew by and the shutter clicked. Potential disaster was averted. The hood and car were still in one piece as we hopped off the hood. We hopped back in the car and got back on the highway. Destination: “Best Tenderloin in Iowa.” 

Housewarming Invites

I had a housewarming/birthday shindig on May 23. I made individual invitations for those that were invited. I’d like to share some of them.



Willy


The Kahlers


Nader


Sara


Shannon


The Roberts Family


The Hiatts


The Howards


Jay


Jeff and Yin


The Gorshes


The Baiers


Bethany and Rebecca


Casy


The Degeneffes


Geri

Geri requested a new picture of us be taken because she wanted a picture where she wasn’t looking at me as if I was the smartest person in the world. I guess I never noticed her having an expression different than what I’m used to seeing by the majority of people in my life…

Life, Partly

There is an old Oscar Wilde quote that goes, “True friends stab you in the front.” This has and always will be the friendship philosophy of Christopher D. Bennett. But there is a better quote by a different writer that best encapsulates what happened to me on a morning a few weeks back:

“Life is partly what we make it, and partly what it is made by the friends we choose.”

Tennessee Williams

I have a few rituals I perform every morning when I get to work. But the most important is when I walk past Corey Schmidt.

I stop and I say, “Good morning friend.”

He answers back, “Good morning friend.”

I have to admit that this simple act of acknowledging a friend has made some people confused, angered and jealous.

Steve for example is jealous that I do not stop by him every morning to say those 3 simple words. I have pointed out to him that I always stab him in the front, but that wasn’t enough for him. So now I make time during his lunch break to listen to him regale me with stories from the old country (Mason City).

For example, he told me the story of when his dad took him to visit his grandpa at work. Only it isn’t a heartwarming story. His grandpa worked on the kill line in a slaughterhouse. You can imagine what watching cattle get strung upside down and having their throat cut can do to a small child’s psyche. It is why Steve is the way that he is.

But this isn’t a tale of jealous or killing floors. This a tale of friendship.

One morning I came into work and stopped and said, “Good morning friend.”

Corey retorted back, “I have something for you.” Then he handed me a grocery bag.



It was no longer a good morning. It was a great morning!