Strawberry Fields Forever

Not quite Beatlesque, but a recent update from one of the musicians I follow, Jake Armerding, professed his love of all things strawberries, including their fields…

I wish I was this passionate about something, maybe not strawberries, but something.  And then I wish I could something like strawberries and tell a story about they are the quintessential fruit…

Wonder if I could find a way to make Clemson the basis for all things?  Maybe I’ll try…

Anyway – enjoy the update from Jake, and check him out if you get a chance:

It’s been said that beer is God’s way of telling us he loves us and wants us to be happy.  I agree with this, depending on the beer, of course.  I would like to suggest an addendum, however — that God’s other way of telling us this is strawberries.

Happy June, better known as Happy Strawberry Season.  Last gorgeous Saturday found me picking them at a farm in Western Massachusetts, and it occurred to me, while brushing leaves aside in search for these clusters of joy, that, really, there is no more perfect fruit.  Let me prove it to you.

First, who doesn’t like strawberries?  (Silence.)  I thought so.  Almost a cliché in the fruit universe, you can’t argue with what works.

It’s a beautiful fruit, undeniably sensual, shaped differently depending on the varietal.  The color ranges from bloodred to a shade I can only call strawberry blonde.  Rather than a big, tooth-chipping stone in the center, seeds pepper the outside of the fruit, a fashionable clothing pattern.  And more than any other fruit except the banana, the strawberry seems almost designed to be eaten:  bite-sized, it comes with a finger handle of leaves at the top for convenient edibility.  (Contrast this with the pineapple.)

The flavors are more varied and complex than other fruit.  You know what I mean — we’ve all bitten into a “bright” strawberry, a “deep” strawberry, a “smooth” one, a “mellow” one.  They are tart, earthy, ambrosial, flowery, savory.  They can take on the flavors of other plants — I ate one in the field that tasted distinctly of peppermint, another of watermelon.  We should have strawberry sommeliers.

The strawberry is uncompromising — something either is a strawberry, or it isn’t.  It’s the only fruit that can’t be faked.  Every so often some overconfident junk food company releases a strawberry-flavored soda, or cereal with small, red strawberry pebbles, or something of the like.  It never works — it always tastes awful.  Why?  Because one cannot simulate its true flavor.  They can fake citrus pretty well, and faux banana, apple, tomato and peach are coming right along.  But strawberries are just too elusive and complex to re-create in a lab.

Perhaps the strawberry’s most effective defense against copyright infringement is its fleeting nature.  It is coy, or maybe elusive is a better word.  It never tastes better than the moment you pick it.  Any plant will eventually rot, but real strawberries have a much shorter lifespan than, say, Granny Smith apples, which can fly in from Australia, lie forgotten in the bottom of the refrigerator for many weeks and still retain a decent crunch.  The fruit is delicate, easily bruised.  It stores poorly — a few days at most, unless frozen, and when thawed, its cell structure collapses, leaving strawberry blob.  So the strawberry retains an air of mystery, a here-today-gone-tomorrow quality … which I’ve never found to be an obstacle.  I just eat more right away.

Picking strawberries is the perfect activity, innocent yet competitive.  It offers the bloodthirsty thrill of the hunt, but disguises it with bucolic surroundings; it lets everyone’s greedy inner child come out in a responsible, adult way.  For several years, my poor, naïve parents sought to entertain their kids with a chocolate egg hunt on Easter morning.  Having twenty inches and forty pounds on my brothers, I must have tallied forty or fifty of those things before one of them even got their hands on one.  I haven’t really come a long way since then, but strawberry-picking gives me a civilized way to appease the cutthroat inside.  Anyone who meanders too close to my chosen patch might notice my body language subtly shift into protective mode, digging my feet in as though preparing for trench warfare.  It’s really immature.

My better half and I picked eight quarts — the amount our CSA share entitles us to — then rose and tried to leave the field.  It was hard.  Luscious red berries kept peeking out at us from under their canopies of leaves, and how could we walk by?  We had to stop and harvest this fruit so patently dying to be picked and eaten.

We tried again to leave.  “Just don’t look down,” we encouraged each other.  “Then you won’t see any more.”  We looked down.  We saw.  We stopped, and picked, and ate.

Finally, somehow, we left.  We drove off into the June afternoon, our car reeking of strawberries.

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The Best I Ever Saw

I’ve been to a few sporting events.  Not a ton, but enough to have seen some pretty amazing things.  After reading Mickey Plyer’s Tigernet.com blog about the best single performance he’s ever witnessed, I thought I would do the same…

Some of the things I’m thinking of may not be considered amazing feats, but to me, on that day, I was impressed…

So, in no particular order here are what I consider to be the three best performances I’ve ever witnessed…

One caveat is that I had to be in the stands for the game. TV does not count…

Honorable Mention:

  • CJ Spiller, Clemson – vs Georgia Tech, ACC Championship game, 2009
  • Julius Peppers, UNC – vs Clemson, October 2001
  • Rod Gardner, Clemson – vs USC, November 2000
  • Greg Buckner, Clemson – vs UNC, January 1998
  • Antwan Edwards, Clemson – vs USC, November 1997

#3 – Bobby Bowden, FSU – vs Clemson, September 1988 – Puntrooskie Call

The year was 1988 and I was a strong 9-1/2 years old.  I bled orange and white – still do today, but I mean at nearly 10 years old, everything revolved around the Tigers (man, maybe I haven’t really grown up)…  The score is tied and Clemson is about to get the ball back, in great field position, with possibly the best kicker in the country.  They are going to win this game…

Then Bobby Bowden happens.  Old man calls for the Puntrooskie and no one saw it coming, certainly not the 80,000 folks wearing orange.  And certainly not the almost 10 year old in the stands…

I grew up a lot that day.  I realized to be a Clemson man, you need an endless supply of heart, because they are going to always require some of it…

#2 – Deion Sanders, San Francisco – vs Atlanta, October 16, 1994 – Prime Time’s return to Atlanta

I saw Deion when he was at Florida State.  He was good then.  He was a freakin’ man in 1994.  He came to Atlanta with an attitude I had never seen before.  He came out swinging – literally, as he and Andre Rison scuffled a bit.  And then he backed it up.  Intercepted a pass and returned it 90+ yards for a TD.  That was one of the few times, in person or on TV, where someone said I am going to do it then made everyone else look like a toddler while he did it…

Full disclosure – I grew up a 49ers fan with a disdain for the Falcons.  I wasn’t sad to see it happen…

#1 – Woodrow Dantzler, Clemson – vs Georgia Tech, September 2001

Mickey went with Woodrow’s performance in Raleigh – the 600+ yard performance.  That was good, but to me, at Georgia Tech, against a Top 10 team, this one was better…

Clemson was down by 2 scores just before the half.  Until Woodrow decided to scamper over half the field for a TD.  Later in the game, Woodrow has the ball with Clemson down 4 and absolutely no momentum after the defense gave up two scores.  Doesn’t matter.  Woodrow finds McKelvey for a TD.  The small Clemson contingent is going nuts…

Of course the Clemson defense decided to give up a field goal.  All that did was allow Dantzler one more chance to be magical.  He scored on a QB draw to win the game…

Music Tuesday

Or maybe it should be called Music Monday – Updated…

After putting together today’s thoughts on how birds never sing out of tune, I came across Jon Foreman’s “Your Love is Strong”. The lyrics include this line:

I look out the window
The birds are composing
Not a note is out of tune
Or out of place
I look at the meadow
And stare at the flowers
Better dressed than any girl
On her wedding day

This is when artists amaze me. To be able to take the words of Matthew 6 and put them in a song – that’s a gift. A gift I’m jealous of, yet thankful for. A gift I can only enjoy in others…

Check it out and let me know what you think:

Muisc Monday

We have this one tree behind our house with limbs that are long enough to be able to touch the side of the house when the wind blows. Well, we have a pretty rough storm Saturday night and these limbs found the side of the house – loudly. Very loudly. I thought I was in some episode of Twilight Zone and someone was trying to break into the house…

Luckily for me a good storm is like strong sedative. The sounds of wind, thunder, & rain, regardless of where I am, will just about put me to sleep, which is exactly what this storm did Saturday night…

The first sounds I heard Sunday morning were birds singing. Really? How could any birds even be alive, better yet singing?

This got me thinking – where do birds go during storms? How come we never see animals strewn about the ground following a bad storm?

Look at Matthew 6:26 – Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them.

So the birds have no home, cannot store food, and sing all the time…

Speaking of singing, how come birds are never out of tune?

I love music. I wish I could write and create music, but I can’t sing a lick. I can’t hold a tune. I can’t even clap and sing at the same time, yet the birds are never out of tune…

So – for Music Monday, think about how God is a God of details. If you do not have the details of music, then what are your unique details? How has God gifted you?

BBQ as a Teacher?

After cleaning, trimming, injecting, and preparing over 45 pounds of future bbq, I realized bbq offers quite a few life lessons. Just in the bbq prep, I was able to come up with the following:

Have you ever made a mess and left it for the morning? Did it get any better? For me, it seems to get nastier and start to grow things.
BBQ has taught me that life is a mess – and messes don’t clean themselves…

Do you procrastinate? I do – a lot…
BBQ has taught (maybe it should read is teaching me) that the more time I spend preparing for something, the better it turns out…

Can you multi-task? I can’t, unless you are allowed to count listening to music as one of the tasks…
BBQ has taught me that life is better with good music. The tedious tasks seem to go by faster and the good times – well somehow they get associated with good music…

Music Wednesday

It’s been some time since I mentioned music I am listening to (rather than what I am not). As such, I feel it is time to offer up a few artists you ought to check out. The first two come from recent NoiseTrade downloads:

Josh Rouse – seriously good chill music. Dude is a great songwriter and knows how to put lyrics together…
http://noisetrade.com/service/sharewidget/?id=2be05d21-d40d-4eab-b373-c16aa746570d

Josh Garrels – guy searching through his faith and how it ties to what he experiences on a daily basis…
http://noisetrade.com/service/sharewidget/?id=1b4c6978-65ad-4745-b812-e81bee0f6189

Cary Brothers – nice sound and kind of catchy. Still trying to figure him out…
http://noisetrade.com/service/sharewidget/?id=2c44b8ef-da23-44d2-bd0a-0e6bacffa034

Another source of great music is eMusic.  When you sign up, you get anywhere between a $10-$20 song credit to buy (and keep) legitimate music and then they have monthly plans with great prices. The cool thing is the standard song runs $0.49 rather than Amazon’s or iTunes $0.99. I just signed up with a $20 credit plus the one month rate of $11.99 and got 5 full-length albums (Amos Lee, Jimmy Needham x 2, Jon Foreman, and Laura Story). Also – after downloading my music, I cancelled and they offered me a free month. That looks to be 2 more albums…

Braves Win! Braves Win!

1992 NLCS. Game 7. Bottom of the 9th. Braves are down 2-0. Where were you?

Me? I was “asleep” because it was a school night and I was only 13. Dad and I had watched a portion of the game earlier in the night, but since the game didn’t start until 8:30 pm, I wasn’t allowed to finish it…

Little did my parents know that I wasn’t actually asleep. No, I had an alarm clock radio that was turned to the local am radio station where I was listening to the likes of Don Sutton, Skip Caray, Joe Simpson, and Pete Van Weren…

I had the radio volume so low there were entire plays I missed, but I was deftly afraid of being caught – and hearing 80% of the game was better than hearing none of it…

As the 9th inning rolled around, I was ready for bed, but not quite ready to give up on the Braves. Then after they scored their first run and loaded the bases, you had the feeling that something magical could happen…

2 outs, bottom of the ninth, bases loaded, down by 1. It all came down to Francisco Cabrera – he of 10 previous at-bats all season. He gets on base, game continues. He gets out, game over…

In his 11th at bat of the season, Cabrera singles to left. Justice scores as does Sid Bream, the slowest man to ever play the game…

The result – Braves Win! Braves Win!

As I’m listening to this, in bed, with the radio barely audible, I’m having to bury my head deep in my pillow to muffle the celebration. Any hint of noise could alert the parents to my not being asleep…

Then I hear footsteps – running through the house. I snap out of the euphoria to realize it’s Dad, and he’s coming for me – quickly. I turn off the radio and pretend to be asleep. I’m afraid I’ve been found out and trouble is coming my way…

Instead, Dad comes in all smiles and ushers me out of my “deep sleep” to let me come relive the ending on tv. I never let on that I listened to the whole thing and just enjoyed the victory with Dad…

All these things combined to cement one of my fondest memories on childhood. To this day I get chill bumps when I hear the radio call…

Maybe my girls and I can have one of these types of memories. Maybe we already have…