Boulevard Lunar Ale

August 14, 2008

4.5% ABV bottle-conditioned sixer

My stay in Kansas was never to end! We’d only been there for a mere 15 hours and it felt like an eternity. If you want to become immortal, just move to Kansas and your life will never end. We woke up at 7 AM on Saturday to get an early start on our google-map-claimed two hour drive to Manhattan*. The drive west was generally boring, it was raining torrentially and there was nothing on the side of the road except wastelands and a remarkable amount of halls of fame and museums. Off the top of my head we saw several for aeronautics, one for agriculture, an insect zoo, and a Wizard of Oz museum. Not to mention two wineries. We somehow managed to resist these remarkable temptations and only make two stops along the way.

First, a breakfast run to Sonic. My friends had seen the irreverent commercials for the fast food joint for years up here on the eastern seaboard but had never once encountered an actual restaurant. Suffice to say, we were all greatly pleased by our sublime breakfast burritos with a side of tots. Our other stop was in Lawrence to see the University of Kansas’s Phog Allen Fieldhouse. We struggled to locate it, especially when the only people on campus we could ask directions of seemed to be Nigerian exchange students with no clue about where a “baw-skeet-bol jeem” might be. Nevertheless, we eventually stumbled upon it. And, so glad we did, it was a beautiful facility with an amazing museum that all other college programs should strive to have something as good as. We were in awe at seeing The Big Dipper‘s jockstrap, Bill Self’s spare toupee, and the school’s 2003 second place trophy.

We soon got to Manhattan which was uneventful but the wedding was indeed fun.

Back awake at 7 AM on Sunday, we hungover sped back to Kansas City to catch our noon-time flight. Then, all the trouble began. Getting off the rental car agency-to-airport shuttle bus at our airline, I was stunned to see that my bag was no long on the luggage rack. Some dunce had apparently mistakenly taken my bag instead of his own. My bag was big, black, had Midwest Airlines tags, and had a bum wheel. His was tiny, squat, black, and had no wheels. It was inconceivable to me that he could have mistaken my bag for his. I sprinted down the length of the airport, searching for the stupidest-looking human being I could find.  I was finding those wherever I looked however.  Luckily the entire length of KCI is shorter than a football field so I could check everyone and every visible bag, but unluckily I never found him or my bag.

I was fuming. Apoplectic. If I had come upon this guy at that moment I surely would have popped him. My flight was taking off in an hour or so but it didn’t matter at this point. Especially since the departures monitor had “LGA – DELAYED (INDEF) on them.  The only time a delay has ever been welcomed.

After a four hour circus which involved me speaking to idiots on the white courtesy phone, idiots in the airport police department, idiots in the lost and found department, idiots at Northwest Airlines, idiots at United, and the extraordinarily helpful NON-idiots at Midwest, I finally heard a nearly inaudible public address system announcement (from another idiot natch) that my bag might be at US Airways.

Sprinting down there, I saw my bag, and standing next to it, the doofiest motherfucker the world has ever known. You remember how Gary Larson would draw troglodytic morons in his absolutely brilliant “The Far Side”? Yeah, that’s exactly how this guy looked. Slack-jawed, buck teeth jutting far out of his mouth and over his front lip. Messy bangs down to his brow with a cheap mesh hat on his head and a t-shirt from some vacation decades ago on his torso. He spoke a near foreign language to me.

DOOFUS: Where’s ma’ bag?

AARON: Excuse me?!

DOOFUS: ‘ah got yer bag, so where’s ma’ bag?

AARON: Listen idiot, I don’t have your bag cause I don’t take the wrong bag cause I’m not some dumb motherfucker.

DOOFUS: So wha’ shud ‘ah do?

AARON: I’m guessing your bag is still on the rental car shuttle, taking perpetual loops from airport to rental center and back.

A 5 watt lightbulb went off in his head like the idea had never occurred to him in the previous four hours to call the rental car place.

AARON: Dummy, I just got one more question for you. At what point did you realize you had the wrong bag?

DOOFUS: When ah’ went to the secur’ty line and dey said I had wine and beer bot’les in ma’ bag. I ‘as like, no I don’t…then I ree-lized, hey, this prolly ain’t ma’ bag.

My vices actually saved some retard from unwittingly taking my bag full of an expensive suit, an ipod, and, yes, wine and beer bottles, back with him to Little Rock or Knoxville or wherever the fuck he was from. You see, I had overaccumulated wine and beer to drink before and after the wedding and thus, thinking it a sin to toss the stuff, I had packed it onto my bag which I had planned to check.

Relieved, I went to the shitty airport pub to unwind and wait for my flight to become undelayed. At a certain point, I’d been in the bar so long that I got concerned. I asked the racist bartender*, “At what point of drunkenness will they not let a person on a flight?”

“Yer fine, honey, just don’t wobble.”

I wasn’t, in fact, fine as our noon flight was eventually canceled by 7:00 PM or so. Weather issues in New York. My other delayed friend and I scrambled to find a hotel room to share. Seems the airlines don’t comp you unless your plane is delayed due to malfunctions. At this late of notice, we were only able to get a small single-bed room at the airport Marriot.

We sequestered ourselves back in that room, furious at spending another night in the city, not wanting to ever leave the room til morning. Stripping down shirtless and into gym shorts since it was so freaking muggy, ordering room service so as not to deal with any more locals than necessary, drinking beers and complimentary wine to relax, and watching Olympic men’s gymnastics….well, because there was nothing else on, I swear!. Suffice to say, when the room service waitress arrived with our salads and baked potatoes–us trying to eat healthy after a weekend of decadence and a day of deplorable airport food–she gave a smirk, looking at the two shirtless men watching gymnastics, drinking wine, and sharing a bed. I could tell she thought a lot of sodomy would be happening that night, no doubt taunting the maid on her walk down the hall, warning her about all the anal flowback she would surely have to clean up off the two “New York City fruits'” comforter.

The beer keeping us company and sane was the final Boulevard we tried that weekend, their Lunar Ale. They call it brown beer but everyone else simply calls it a dark wheat beer. I thought it oddly enough smelled, and tasted, like a poor man’s (a very, very poor man’s) La Fin du Monde though. Which isn’t a bad thing to aim for as it’s one of the finest beers in the world and probably one of my top ten favorites. Of course, at a paltry 4.5% ABV, it lacked the potency, bite, and flavor that La Fin has and which all other Boulevards seem to also lack. I really wish the company made beers in the 6 to 8% range cause they might then actually craft something great.

Monday, we were back up at 4:30 AM, trying to get home. Further delays, a plane running out of gas, and later being diverted to Pittsburgh, were all par for the course on this trip, as we finally touched down around 5:00 PM, nearly thirty hours after we were supposed to have seen Kansas in the rearview forever.

B-

*With completely empty highways, speeding along at like 90 MPH in a cheap rental car, we were there in like 85 minutes. I’m sure the record cannonball run from KC to Manhattan is under 45 minutes.

**Indeed she freely tossed around the n-word as if us white folks had some inside joke.  When I told her we had gone to the Isle of Capri and it had sucked she said, verbatim, “Well a course it sucked.  Dat’s da n***** casino.”  Yes, she got a bad tip from me.  Fight the power.


Boulevard Unfiltered Wheat

August 13, 2008

4.6% ABV on draught

Being arrogant New Yorkers and Yankees and Mets fans, we figured we could show up at a lackluster Royals game a few minutes before first pitch, hand over a sawbuck, and be sitting behind the plate within minutes. I am still surprised at how wrong we were. The drive from Arthur Bryant’s to the stadium was brisk, I’ve never seen such non-traffic for a professional sporting event. Kaufmann Stadium looks like America’s biggest minor league ballpark, it’s really unimpressive. What was impressive was how many fans the Royals actually have, or at least had on this night. I figured we’d be two out of maybe 18,000 in attendance, so few asses in the seats that on foul balls we would have this conversation:

FRIEND: Wanna go get that ball?

AARON: Eh…leave it.

And watch as a baseball just rested on a concrete third baseline aisle for several innings until some kid with a little gumption finally walked a few sections over to unenthusiastically retrieve it, yet another one for the collection.

But this scenario was nowhere close to what we encountered as we weren’t even able to get tickets and get into the park until the top of the third. Furthermore, I’ve seen very few sporting events in which a team’s fans were so completely covered in team apparel. And it did indeed take a lot of material to fully apparel these fatsos and their annoying children. It quickly became clear that everyone in Kansas City is fat from ages zero to 14, at which point the girls become stunningly hot (am I allowed to say that?) and the boys become ripped high school football players. Then everyone gets fat again from ages 19 to heart attack. We chuckled at the behomeths returning from the rare but overflowing concession stands lines with pyramids of countless foiled wrapped hot dogs and anything and everything covered in liquid nacho cheese. Still stuffed from the BBQ we didn’t eat anything or have a beer, but I did cool down with a very tasty sno-cone.

The most impressive–in fact the only impressive thing–about Kauffman is the “Crown Vision” scoreboard, a 105 by 84 foot monster that can surely be seen from space. We ourselves confirmed that it can be seen, and easily read, from several miles up the road on George Brett Superhighway*. It is said to be the largest scoreboard in the world and it is by far the most crisp, high-definition screen of any kind I have ever encountered. I’d rather watch that than the game. Unfortunately, neither the Royals, nor any other American or, as far as I know, international sports team has employed my greatest idea ever, one I will use the second I buy a team using all my Vice Blog royalties. You know the “Kiss Cam,” that lame but semi-compelling thing not-making-the-playoffs teams use during timeouts and between half-innings in order to drum up some crowd excitement, turning the camera on unsuspecting couples–and some non-couples–until they finally smooch? Well I am the copyrighted inventor of the “Second Base Cam,” aka the “Grope Cam.” I don’t think I need to explain it in detail or the excitement it will quite clearly generate.

After six innings we were bored with minor league baseball, the countless rubes that actually yelled “CHARGE!!!” at the end of the organ’s “duh, duh, duh, DUT, duh, DUH,” and the huge ignominy over the fact that there was no tribute to Bo Jackson anywhere on the premises. I mean seriously, you guys pay homage to the late Dan Quisenberry but not Vincent Edward Jackson?!

As we left the ballpark we learned two things that were special about this particular Royals game:

1. It was $1 hot dog night.

2. There was to be a fireworks display at the end of the evening.

Like “The Usual Suspects” or “The Sixth Sense,” everything I had seen in the previous two hours had to be immediately reevaluated as I now understand why so many Royals “fans” had shown up for the event. Hicks love fireworks and cheap dogs.

With it now 10:00 PM we planned to head back to the hotel to get a good night’s sleep as we had to get up bright and early to head to Manhattan, KS. En route though, while pondering what Jeter and Giambi do for post-game entertainment on three-game road swings here, we saw a most tantalizing site, The Isle of Capri, a riverboat casino. We swerved over a highway median, parking the rental car in a spare patch of grass to avoid the valet fee before heading in.

There’s no greater example of the retarded, hypocritical laws that govern America than the fact that you can gamble in some cities, and not gamble in others. That we placate the Indians by giving them crappy casinos on worthless acreage. Or that in certain places you can’t gamble on dry land but can gamble on what is ostensibly a boat floating “off-shore” on a body of water, but what is really just a boat-shaped object cemented to the riverbank via stilts and connected to the shore via countless walkways. Yeah, that makes sense. You’re really making the world a better place politicians.

The isle of Capri looks pretty decent from the outside, like something Mark Twain may have worked on and Maverick may have gambled on. However, the inside told a different story as a plume of dense smoke instantly bitchslapped me upon spinning through the revolving doors and entering. I assume using vacuumed sealed revolving doors in a place so rife with tobacco smoke and BO has something to do with a massive eugenics project at a local university.

Upon entering we had to actually apply for a special gambler’s card before hitting the floor. I hate nothing worse than when I have to go through a rigmarole before doing something I don’t have much interest in in the first place. It’s like look, I barely want to be in this dump, now you’re gonna make me present 15 forms of ID and fill out a long SAT form with a number 2 before I can enter? Get real. Nevertheless we did, watching in amazement as the desk clerk scrutinized our NYS driver’s licenses, even calling over an assistant, we no doubt the wealthiest patrons to ever enter this place. Guess they don’t want any Union money. Nevertheless, we put up with this bullshit, mainly because we saw no other place to get a “late night” (10:00 PM recall) drink in the greater Kansas City area.

Upon taking the escalator down to the floor, we were quickly returned to two billion years ago, coming face to face with a much lower form of humanity. For all you creationists out there–and I’m sure Kansas City has plenty–please go to the Isle of Capri and tell me that you are not a higher evolved species than what you see there. No God would create what we saw. Richard Dawkins need only point to this casino’s patronage to turn the whole world into committed Darwinists. What you see there at the Isle of Capri are people pondering how many stools it’ll take to support them, how quickly they can smoke a full pack of butts, and how briskly they can blow throw the month’s government assistance check. The floor was 99.9% slots and of those it was about 95% penny slots. Yet, these people played the games and pulled the levers as if they were about to become millionaires. These people were the absolute opposite of the “Bringing Down the House” MIT card-counting nerds. I’d love to hear these folks’ brilliant strategies for “beating the system” at penny slots cause you know they have some.

Not surprisingly, I saw the first cigarette vending machines I’ve seen since Reagan’s first term. Later we would learn that gamers are only allowed to lose $500 per 24 hours, a stat that is monitored on those stupid swipe cards we had to sign up for. That’s 50,000 penny bet pulls on the one-armed bandit, assuming you’re the unluckiest SOB in the world. And, you’ll have to believe me when I say that if there was an “Unluckiest SOB in the World” contest, the Isle of Capri could definitely submit a few title contenders.

I don’t really like gambling unless it involves betting nerdy kids how many _____ they can consume, or how many _____ they can do naked, or how often they can _____ while _____, so I went straight for the bar to canoodle with the vermin and watch the Opening Ceremonies. There, I was floored to see that every drink apparently comes default with whipped cream: daiquiris, margaritas, White Russians, it didn’t fucking matter. And, I’m not talking a dollop of whipped cream either. I’m talking one of those massive, swirling cones that looks more like soft serve and which empties out half a can of Reddi-Wip. I was starting to understand why every one was so fat. Fuck, in the morning my iced coffee was given to me topped off with some whipped cream that was taller than the cup the actual drink portion came in. Not particularly digging putting 1000 calories of pure fluff into my belly to start the day, I was forced to use my spoon/straw (the most popular utensil in KC) to wrist-shot the goop off my drink and onto the sidewalk. I’m kinda surprised that pure whipped cream isn’t drank in Kansas City.

At the bar I ordered a Boulevard Wheat, sans whipped cream, but unfortunately plus a crummy little lemon slice. Boulevard Wheat is the beer that everyone in KC seems to think is the greatest brew on the planet. And, indeed, it ain’t bad. Light, zesty, wheaty, very refreshing. But just like the brewery’s Pale Ale, far too low in alcohol content. Wonder if that’s some arcane state law influencing things. Alas, it is a pretty good beer especially when the only other things on tap are shitty macros.

After a few plastic pints, far too much televised Yao Ming, and contracting full-blown emphysema, we headed home to clear our lungs and throw away our clothes.

C+

*I wish I was making a joke. [Pathetically small George Brett statue figurine pictured above.]


Boulevard Pale Ale

August 12, 2008

4.9% ABV from a pitcher

Our trip to Kansas (beginning of course in Missouri) started off well. A brief flight on the impressive regional Midwest Airlines (first class seats and fresh-baked cookies for everyone!) before landing at the comically miniscule Kansas City International airport where the pilot hit the trunk pop button and we retrieved our belongings. Quite frankly, we were surprised KCI had interstate flights, much less international, as I’ve seen airports invaded by zombie attacks that were more bumping. The city was likewise dead, the streets so empty during “rush” hour that we were easily able to pull off several mid-highway u-turns after getting lost trying to follow their poorly labeled signs. Luckily, though the city epically sucked, we had enough preplanned activities that we figured we could easily make it through our single night in town.  On hopefully the only night of our lives in Kansas City, we began at Arthur Bryant’s, often cited as the best BBQ joint in the world.

At the corner of 17th and Brooklyn we found an absolute dump, but a cafeteria-style line out the door meant the place’s reputation must surely be accurate. Waiting to order, we salivated looking at the piles of food people were retrieving on upturned shield-sized plates, while also goofing on the folks considered big enough celebrities in Kansas City to earn a framed autographed picture on their wall. Believe me, the Vice Blogger is more than famous enough for such an honor and I was sure to leave behind a dirty napkin with my signature on it. No word if it has been matted and mounted just yet.

We ordered a full slap of ribs, a pound of their noted burnt ends, a huge side of potato salad, and a pitcher of Boulevard Pale Ale, a local brew. Total cost, $32. Unbelievable. The ribs were sublime, literally falling off the bone as we scarfed them down. I would have to call them maybe the best I’ve ever had. The burnt ends were hearty and tasty and the potato salad was rich, cool, and delicious. The beer was better than expected too. A terrific smell and a decent taste. Pretty good but ultimately unremarkable. I think it could have been a truly great one if it had more hops and a higher ABV. Having said that, it was eminently drinkable.

Overall, It was a meal fit for a king. Unfortunately, there wasn’t exactly royalty in the place, every other guest in the restaurant being an obese hillbilly trying to handle their BBQ without getting any on their finest Larry Johnson t-shirt jersey while completely ignoring their rugrats. The restaurant was full of red-sauce covered brats sprinting around, making noise, and nearly touching me with their grubby paws–a prevailing theme for the weekend–but even they couldn’t ruin one of the best meals of my life.

I’m a shameless homer who will never call a BBQ joint better than Dinosaur, but Arthur’s Bryants is right up there. I encourage you to order some of their sauce, it is without question the best I’ve ever had, a flawless blend of sweet, tangy, and spicy with a most unique gritty texture due to the crushed-up dried peppers in the mix. Seriously, order it. You’ll soon enough be pouring that stuff on top of everything you eat–meat, salads, banana splits, everything–it is just that good.  I can’t stop thinking about it.

With inexplicably no moist towlettes in the joint, my hands and especially cuticles would be covered in BBQ fragments for the rest of the evening, but that was fine, it left a beautiful reminder of my splendid meal as we headed off to catch the Triple-A Kansas City Royals in action.

C+