Philly West Review

Tonight I tried one of the newer restaurants in Missoula, Philly West. The place is located on Higgins street, in between Ryman and Orange. It is actually in the same location as where the former burrito shop, La Parrilla*, used to be. The restaurant serves food that you would find in Philadelphia, with their cheesesteaks being their signature item. Philly West, from what I can tell, is trying to capitalize mostly on the large college population in Missoula. Situated right in the middle of the downtown district with late hours and a menu that would satisfy anyone after a long night of drinking, it is pretty obvious who they are targeting. Even though I am so much more sophisticated than that (yeah right!!), I decided to try it out.

                                   The new reastaurant in Missoula, Philly West

I went to Philly West with my friends Dan and Rosie. Immediately upon entering the restaurant, you see that it is nicely decorated to fit its Philadelphia theme. Right to your left when you go through the door is a painting of the liberty bell and it just becomes more and more Philly after that. Pennants, pictures, and paintings reflecting the city cover the walls. On one of the sides, there is a map of the United States painted onto one of the walls. All of the states are painted black except for two, Pennsylvania and Montana, which are red. A depiction of a Rocky silhouette on top of the stairs covers a wall in the back. Phillies, Flyers, and Eagles memorabilia is present. The word “cheesesteak” and its definition is also painted high on one of the walls. There is plenty of seating with an assortment of high and low tables. There is a marble wrap around counter up a little ways and to the left of when you walk in that serves as the place to order take out. On the other side of the counter is the wait staff area. A little further back is the kitchen area which is in the full view of customers. It is an inviting, hip atmosphere.

                                     I liked this map they had on the wall

We had a cute waitress who was very attentive, polite, and easy going with us. When it comes to the menu, if you are in the mood for some greasy, genuine Philadelphia food, this place is for you. The variety is great. Besides their cheesesteaks, you can also select from pizza, stromboli, sandwiches, and pasta. They also have lots of tempting side items such as french fries (they have pizza fries and gravy fries on the menu), different kinds of cheesy bread, and mozzarella sticks. The restaurant is about as casual as you can get. The menus are paper, condiments are already on the table contained in a six-pack bottle beer container, flimsy silverware is wrapped in a basic white napkin, and the food comes out in baskets.
Wanting to get the full “Philly Experience,” I ordered from the cheesesteak portion of the menu. I got the pizza steak, which is basically just a regular cheesesteak with pizza sauce added on. Rosie got the vegetarian stromboli and Dan went with the chicken wings. I should mention that Wednesday at Philly West is “Wing Night” and wings are only twenty-five cents each…not bad! Dan took full advantage of this deal and got sixteen wings.
It took about twenty to twenty-five minutes for us to get our food, the perfect amount of time in my opinion for a place like Philly West. Rosie and I got our dinners at the same time with Dan getting his dinner about two minutes after us. My cheesesteak came with a pickle and I ordered french fries with it as well. The sandwich was loaded with meat. The bread (hoagie bun) was very soft and fresh. Both meat and bread were very warm. Even though the cheesesteak contained tons of meat, it was not hard to eat. I could simply pick it up with my hands and eat it without making a mess. While it was very pleasant to eat and chew, I found the meat a little too salty and lacking a tad bit in flavor. Of course, it did not stop me from eating the whole thing. The crinkled cut fries were very basic, nothing special there. When it came to Dan’s wings, he said they were okay. But you do have to understand that Dan’s favorite food in the world is wings. He orders them everywhere and when he is not thinking about girls or working out, he is probably thinking about wings. I would not be stretching it if I said that he has probably ordered wings at every restaurant in Missoula that offers them (SIDE NOTE: Ask him what his favorite wings in town are and he will answer the Old Post without even hesitating). I tried one of his wings and found it pretty good. They had plenty of sauce on them and an average amount of meat. Not bad by any means, but not spectacular. I did not try Rosie’s stromboli but she said it was really good. I will not argue with her.

                                                 Our food!!

The next time I go to Philly West I am definitely going to get their pizza. I watched our waitress bring a couple of them out to other tables and they looked fabulous. The ones I saw were deep dish style with the crust about four inches high. It looked like there were about five pounds of cheese on them as well. All three of us were tempted to go over to the tables that had ordered the pizzas and ask for a slice.
Pricing is about average at Philly West, except of course if you get wings on Wednesday, then you are getting a great deal. My sandwich was $8.50 and I want to say Rosie’s stromboli was $7.50. For what you get in relation to what you pay, I would say that the prices are just about right.
While I would say my cheesesteak was nothing spectacular, I will try Philly West again. They have too much stuff on their menu not too. I also have to order a pizza soon from the place. I know they have daily specials so I might go in when I can cash in on one of those…it just gives me an excuse to eat out. I wish Philly West the best of luck in Missoula. Don’t Blink.

* – I thought La Parrilla was okay. They had some really interesting and creative burritos listed on the menu, I just don’t know if they actually tasted as good as they sounded. I would say it was not really close to the quality of Taco Del Sol but a little bit better than El Diablo. Basically, I believe the construction that was going on right by the restaurant for what seemed like forever and the highly competitive burrito market in Missoula proved to be the downfall for La Parrilla).

Other Missoula Restaurant Reviews I Have Done:
Double Front Chicken
Yo Waffle

Back When I Was a Child Prodigy

Last night I blogged about the State of the Union Address and how it has always intrigued me. I explained how I grew to appreciate the speech so much because of the reverence it was given in my household growing up. Well, I think I left a small piece of the equation out last night. I actually did it on purpose though because I wanted to elaborate on that small piece in tonight’s post. Believe it or not, my love for the State of the Union didn’t just start when I was nine years old, it actually started much earlier.

When I was a little kid, I had an obsession with the United States Presidents. A full blown obsession. When I turned three years old, I became fascinated with money, both coins and bills. While I could care less about the value of the money, I wanted to know everything about the faces who graced the bills and coins. It did not take long before I knew whose face was on every U.S. piece of currency from the penny all the way up to the rare $100,000 bill (Woodrow Wilson was on that note). After my parents explained to me that there were many more Presidents who existed but did not have their image on currency, my young brain felt the need to know about these “left out” leaders. My parents bought me a United States Presidents poster and a deck of U.S. Presidents flash cards. The flash cards had the image of the President along with their number and the years they held in office on the front side and then a pretty basic bio on the back. These cards held my attention better than any toy or game I had. Through my constant urging, my parents would continually quiz me on whose face was on each card. They also read and re-read the bios so often that I am sure they probably could recite them even today from memory. Pretty soon I did not even need the cards. By the time I turned four years old, I knew the name of every single United States President in order along with what number they were (I.e. George Washington = #1, James Monroe = #5, Ronald Reagan = #40, etc.).

I quickly became a hit amongst my relatives, especially when it came to my mom’s large extended Italian family. We would be at family get-togethers and great aunts and great uncles who seemed to me to be all at least 100 years old would get an absolute kick out of my little talent. “NUMBER 23!?” they would shout at me. “Benjamin Harrison,” I would confidently say immediately after the number came out of their mouth. “NUMBER 12!?” Zachary Taylor. “HOW ABOUT NUMBER 34!?” Dwight Eisenhower. They would then switch it up….”WHAT NUMBER WAS MILLIARD FILLMORE!?” Number 13. “OKAY, OKAY, HOW ABOUT WILLIAM MCKINLEY!?” Number 25. It was second nature to me…and yes, I liked the attention.

My parents started reading to me United States Presidents books from the adult section of the public library. As the books contained biographies of each President which were quite lengthy, my mom or dad would read one biography, or sometimes two if I was very lucky, each night to me. I collected more and more Presidential memorabilia. Our neighbor across the street who was a former high school history teacher and who also shared a love for the Presidents would come over with a mini quiz book on our favorite subject and ask me questions. At the age of four, I knew every random detail there was to know about the Presidents. Who was the only President not to marry (James Buchanan), which President held the first Easter egg hunt on the White House lawn (Rutherford Hayes), which President served in both world wars (Dwight Eisenhower)…all this stuff I had tucked into my brain.

When I was five years old and entered Kindergarten, I would stand in the middle of the circle and recite the Presidents to my classmates. When it was my day to be VIP, I would bring in my President books to show off. Teachers from all the different grades in the schools would come into my classroom and play the same game that my relatives would play with me (“TELL ME, WHO WAS THE #20 PRESIDENT!?” James Garfield).

When I entered the first grade, a strange thing started to happen. My interest for knowing everything about the Presidents started to wane a little. I became more interested in the WWF and sports. As the next couple years of elementary school went by, my knowledge started to deteriorate. I was no longer the “little genius” that I once was. I was pretty much just a regular kid.

I do feel a little bad because I think my parents had pretty high hopes for me when they saw what I was doing and retaining at the years of three, four, and five. I have talked to my mom and she said this to me, “Well Brent, at that age dad and I really thought you were going to go on and do great things… . (after a little bit of silence on the phone)…not that you aren’t doing great things right now!” Thanks Mom 🙂

I know she means well and I completely understand what she was trying to say. I think maybe when I was four years old she saw me working for NASA rather than in sports. But oh well, that’s how it goes. I can kind of see my parents watching me go through my schooling only as a slightly higher than average student and looking at each other when I was not around and asking “What happened to our Einstein??” Despite not winning that Nobel Peace Prize (well at least not yet anyway), I know they are proud of me for the person I have become. All three of us can live with that.

So I guess the point of this story is twofold. First of all, I told it so I could brag a little bit about the knowledge (or just great memory skills) that I had when I was a little guy. Come to think of it, I don’t really even know if I can toot my own horn too much about that because as I have lived my life I have heard of other cases where toddlers have mastered the Presidents of the United States as well. It is kind of weird, there is just something about our nation’s leaders that grips even the youngest of minds.

Okay, so I guess that leaves me with the second, and real, reason why I told this story, and that was to continue to explain my love for the State of the Union Address. When I was young, I developed a love for the Presidency. While a lot of my knowledge has left me, my passion has not. The State of the Union Address is the grand showcase of what it means to be President. It embodies the spirit, tradition, and pride of the office, something that took hold of me when I was three years old and has still not left me twenty-two years later. Don’t Blink.

The State of the Union Address: More Than Politics

Tomorrow night President Obama will face the nation to give his State of the Union Address. Now I will watch to see what he has to say about the economy and about health care. I will watch to see what he has to say about foreign policy and what he has to say about the military. I will watch to see what he has to say about social security and what he has to say about energy. I am curious to see what he outlines regarding issues such as education, web censorship, gay rights, Occupy Wall Street, and immigration. Online gambling and the environment are a couple of other topics I look forward to him addressing. Also, I want to hear him really lay the groundwork for why he should be elected to a second term. Obviously, I am ready to watch the State of the Union for its intended purpose, to hear the report on where our country currently stands and the gameplan for this year.
However, the policy part of the speech is not even close to what interests me most about the State of the Union. While I do have a genuine interest in politics, I don’t really have what you would call a passion for the subject. I read the newspaper every day, I educate myself on the issues, and I have a pretty firm stance on where I stand. But I never felt inclined to join debate in high school nor have I ever or would I ever openly campaign on the streets for a specific candidate (unless if it was a family member). I would never engage in a political discussion with co-workers nor would I write on this blog a political manifesto. Because I don’t have an innate fire for politics, the meat and potatoes of the State of the Union only does so much for me. But that is fine, because as I just said, there is something else that attracts me to this certain night.
I love watching the State of the Union for the tradition, formality, and importance of the speech.
Growing up, the State of the Union was always on at my house. I can remember coming home at night from whatever practice I had and then my dad turning on the TV, always just in time for us to see the important people start entering and taking their seats in the House Chamber. Then would come my absolute favorite part: “Mr. Speaker, the President of the United States.”
The State of the Union Address was the only thing growing up that my parents ever allowed to be on the TV while we ate dinner. The speech held a special distinction and importance that allowed it to air on our small kitchen television set. Even though I come from a sports family, no game or sports program ever interrupted our family dinner time, but the State of the Union did.
This reverence and respect for the speech was harnessed in me at a young age and it has stayed with me ever since. I have held onto this special mystique and still watch the State of the Union as a twenty-five year old with the same awe and appreciation as I did when I was a twelve year old.
As I said, the politics really take second fiddle for me when I watch the SOTU. As opposed to watching the speech, I focus more on the “show.” I love watching the camera zoom in on all the various people in attendance at the event. Seeing the past Presidents is always cool. You always want to see how they are holding up and how their wives look as well. I also use the speech to really make an assessment on how the current President looks himself. The Presidency is brutal and it ages everyone. You would be crazy if you said President Obama has not aged about ten years in appearance since taking office. In last year’s SOTU it became pretty obvious to me the toll it had already taken on him. There are always special guests that make appearances as well that help make the speech fun (I will always remember Rosa Parks getting a standing ovation during one of Clinton’s speeches). Growing up, I would always look for our representatives from Washington State to be caught on camera and would always feel a sense of pride when a certain senator or congressperson was specifically singled out and a graphic would show up with their name and their designation as a rep from my home state. I love to people watch in general and to see how individuals react in certain situations so watching how politicians, dignitaries, and special guests conduct themselves during one of the most formal events in the nation (aside from Inauguration Day) is very intriguing to me.
I like the absurdness of the speech as well. The long periods of applause for the President are always uncalled for but deep down inside I know that is just the way it is, no matter what person or which party is in control of the White House. I also get a real kick out of watching the people in attendance at the speech who don’t stand up and applaud for every sentence that the President says. Watching the non-standees shake their heads and grimace always makes me laugh. The way the speech is completely scripted is also humorous to me as well. The media already has a copy of the speech before the President even begins to deliver it. But again, that is just the way it is and what tradition calls for. So even though I find it silly, I also find it totally acceptable.
Finally, what I appreciate so much about the State of the Union is just the importance that is placed on it. Even though the speech is scripted pretty much to each and every word and even though the President is not even required to give such an address, the nation stops everything that it is doing for it. All major networks, public service stations, and the many cable news stations carry the speech live. As a kid I remember clicking through every station that carried the speech, making notes of which stations were using which camera angles and being amused that some of the stations had the speech more delayed than others. The debate on all the news stations both pre and post speech is intense. After the speech, you know the President is going to be hailed a hero by his party and then absolutely picked apart by the opposition party. I eat up the statistics that will come out after Obama’s speech tomorrow: The total minutes of clapping, the number of times he said the word “occupy”, the rank of where his speech falls all-time in length, the number of times he took a drink of water, etc. etc. Twitter will be crazy tomorrow night. Expect big delays. Nothing against you President Obama and CNN, but I will not be getting your tweets directly to my phone tomorrow, I plan to watch it myself, thus I do not need a play-by-play on what is said. And it pretty much goes without saying that this year’s State of the Union carries with it even more weight and scrutiny than usual as it is a Presidential election year.
Enjoy the show, ummm I mean speech, tomorrow night.  Please count it as just another example of how lucky we are to live in this country. Our nation’s leader is going to give us an assessment on where the country is at and how we plan to move forward. After that, the Republican Party gets to give their rebuttal. In so many countries where citizens are kept in the dark and thought of as too stupid to comprehend such important issues, we get to hear about what concerns our country and then engage in discussion about it. Be sure to watch the State of the Union tomorrow night. Don’t Blink.

I Hate the Snow

Over the past twenty-four hours, Missoula has experienced its first major snow storm of the winter.  The fact that it came this late was a little unusual but from everyone who I talked to and from every Facebook status and Twitter update I saw, the reaction was the same…pretty much right down the middle. You either hate it or you love it.
I personally detest the snow. I know it is a matter of opinion if you like it or don’t like it but there is one thing I know that is fact: There are far more negatives to the snow than positives. I really don’t know how else someone can take the other side of that argument. If you are missing a screw or two in the head and you like the snow that’s fine, but please don’t argue that in the long run the benefits of snow outweigh the hardships. If you think you can prove it, make me a list.
Okay, I have to say this right from the onset to be fair: I am not a dedicated skier or snowboarder. I personally really don’t like either. Growing up I played sports year-round and that took up all my weekend time. I guess I never really gave either skiing or snowboarding the time it needed to grow on me. I had to preface this post with that.
Another topic I want to address before I get into my main reasons for hating the snow revolves around the people who say they “love” the snow but really don’t. I figure that if I took a poll right now, fifty percent of the people who I asked if they like the snow would say yes and fifty percent would say no. Out of the fifty percent who said “yes”, I would say that thirty-five percent are really lying. These people claim they heart the snow and will get all excited about it and post on their Facebook page how they want to make love with it and post pictures of themselves making snow angels. But check back with them in a few months when it is April and there is still snow on the ground and their tune has changed. Their Facebook statuses have totally reversed and they will openly bitch to you about how annoying it is. But I am even giving these fake snow lovers more credit than they deserve. The truth is, most of them start complaining about the snow after around a month of the stuff sticking around. Some are even less loyal, cursing the snow only a week after they initially praised it. And I kid you not, some even take less time than that to flip-flop. I saw more than a few people post last night about how excited they were for the snow to come and then just tonight, yes I am talking about TONIGHT, these same people radically changed their minds and denounced the snow. Looks like those eight inches really got to you, huh? I honestly equate “snow lovers” to fair-weather, band wagon jumping sports fans. They love the snow when it is new and everyone is excited about it but after a while they withdraw their support. It is pathetic.
Reasons why I hate the snow? Let’s just start off with the obvious one…they make the roads terrible. I don’t particularly enjoy slipping and sliding around in my vehicle when I come down the Rattlesnake each morning. I wish I did not have to cautiously watch my rear view mirror to monitor the person behind me who could lose control and smash into my car at any given moment. I am not fond of sacrificing fifteen minutes of sleep so I can get up early so I will have ample time to make the commute to work given the bad conditions.  To be honest, I hate the wrecks, injuries, and deaths that winter weather causes each year. I hate the wear and tear it causes my vehicle, especially now that I have a new one. I hate how it makes long distance ground travel sometimes impossible, how it cancels flights, and how it ruins the roads long after it has finally disappeared for the season.
I dislike the snow because of the added work it inflicts on so many of us. If you drive a snow plow and  whenever a snow storm comes it is a big pay day, good for you, but  most of us are not that lucky.  Sure, shoveling snow provides somewhat of a workout but that is the only silver lining I can find. Truthfully, shoveling snow is one of the leading causes of heart attacks. It also kills backs. It also wastes a lot of time. The last thing I want to do is start my morning shoveling my driveway or end my day doing the same thing. When the county snow plow is absent for an ungodly period of time that is more work for us as we have to assume the duty of clearing off the street that borders our driveway. When the snow plow finally does come, well, then we get the task of shoveling mounds of snow because our driveway got plowed in. I don’t relish the time that the snow takes away from my schedule so I can remove it and I don’t care for the workout it gives me either…I rather be in a gym.
I shake my head at the people who say “the snow is just so pretty.” Okay, it is kind of cool to look at the moment it falls. At that point it is the whitest it is every going to be. From then on, it is going to look uglier and uglier as each day passes. Nothing is a bigger eye sore than driving around town and seeing the big mountains of black, dirty snow. After it has been trampled in and driven through, snow turns into dark, disgusting slush. Snow that is on lawns and on campus also attracts dirt along with yellow stains and other unnatural substances that don’t come from the sky. When the snow does finally melt, it leaves streets flooded and lawns dead. Not really that appealing to the eye if you ask me.
Snow makes my shoes, socks, and nice pants wet. It is a terrible feeling. With the eight inches of snow out today, I didn’t stand a chance. By the time I brushed all the snow off of my car at the end of the workday, my bottom half was sopping wet. When the snow starts to transform into a slushy mess, it is even worse. Dark, murky water pops up with every step you take and it sprays your pants, making them look terrible. I hate it.
Snow discourages people from going out and having fun. If there is a snowfall, it is definitely going to deter some people from leaving their homes. Working in athletics, this is bad, bad news. Probably one of the most detrimental things that can happen on the day of a basketball game is for a storm to roll through. Once the streets have turned to garbage because of the snow, who is going to want to drive over to Dahlberg Arena to watch a 7pm basketball game and then have to travel home at 9:30pm when the roads are worse than when they came? This puts a damper on all things ,however, just not in my area of athletics. All types of businesses that depend on customers suffer. Retail stores, supermarkets, and bars all take a hit.
The white stuff also completely ruins events and routines all together. A lot of the times I won’t get my morning paper. Mail is late. Deliveries don’t occur. In some bad circumstances, school is even canceled. I grew up in Spokane which experiences its fair share of snow so just like Montana, school was rarely called off. However, the times it was, I always shook my head in disbelief at the idiots who celebrated it. 180 days of school is 180 days of school and there was never once when we did not have to make up a snow day. I didn’t care how much snow there was, I would have assumed just gone to school rather than make up the canceled day during one of our scheduled “learning improvement days” or, the worst scenario, at the end of the school year when summer vacation was supposed to start. Nope, my parents would never let me skip those make up days.
Finally, let’s just talk comfort level here. When it snows, it is cold out. Usually it is windy too. I don’t like being cold and miserable. I hate walking outside and immediately losing feeling in my fingers. I don’t look forward to sprinting towards my car in the parking lot or in my own driveway because the conditions are so harsh. Winter just sucks in general. I would take a scorching hot, humidity filled 100 degree day over a painfully cold, snowy, and windy one.
This rant has gone on long enough. I know I have set a personal record for the amount of times I said “hate” in a post. After reading this you probably ask why I even live in Missoula. Well, besides the cold and snowy months, it is a nice place to live. Eventually though, I do want to live in a place that has hot temperatures six months of the year and then mild temperatures the other six. I don’t need four seasons. But until that time, I am still going to roll my eyes whenever people get enthusiastic about the snow and I am still going to silently pout when we get dumped on. Here’s to the summer! Don’t Blink.

Burial or Cremation?

I don’t think about death often but every now and then I do think about how I want my physical remains to be taken care of. Usually these thoughts occur when I attend a funeral or read the obituaries in the paper. I do find it interesting what people’s final wishes are and how they wish to be taken care of. I know there are many different options and ways to deal with a dead body but to simplify things for this post it seems to come down to burial or cremation.
Coming from a pretty large Catholic family, traditional casket burial was the norm. When a family member died, their body was embalmed and prepared for viewing. After the rosary vigil service was over (a Catholic rite that precedes the funeral service), the general public would pass by the open casket to say good bye one last time to the person who passed on. The next morning the family and funeral party would get one last physical glimpse of their loved one before the casket was closed forever…probably one of the saddest moments one can experience on this earth. The casket was then transported in the hearse to the church where the funeral service was being held. Once the service concluded, it was out to the cemetery for burial.
Although I grew up with this type of “protocol” so to speak when it came to death, as I got older and attended more funerals outside of family and outside of my Catholic faith, it became apparent that there were other ways to gracefully lay to rest the remains of loved ones. I quickly became acquainted with cremation. As a youngster I would quiver at the thought of having my body entered into a fiery oven and reduced to dust. However, as I grew older and saw many people go the cremation route, I started to warm up (no pun intended) to the idea. I would definitely say that the majority of funerals I attend these days the deceased is cremated. Even more and more Catholics are being cremated, a new trend in the faith.
With all of that in mind, I don’t know exactly what I want for my final wishes regarding my remains. However, when it comes to my immediate family members remains, I think I find more solace in burial than cremation. I find  a gravesite with the assurance that their body is lying peacefully in a coffin under the ground much more comforting than an urn of ashes. Don’t for one second think I don’t realize the benefits of having the ashes of a loved one though. When you have the cremated remains of a family member, they are always with you. If you travel or move, they are with you every step of the way.
However, I just like the thought of knowing that the body was laid to rest fully intact. I like to know that inside the coffin the loved one is there in some type of human form, whether it just be bones. Ashes just lose some of the human element of that person for me that I kind of still long for when someone passes on. Of course this just explains the weakness of our brains because the physical body has no bearing whatsoever anymore after death but it still gets me.
Cremation is much cheaper than burial and it requires far less arrangements than a burial does. Whenever my parents talk about what they want to do when their time comes, my dad is always fond of simply saying “throw me in a box and burn me.” It is just the unselfish nature of my dad to not want to add any extra stress or expense to his survivors (This is in contrast to my mom who is much more traditional, wanting to be laid to rest in the burial plot with the rest of her family). Although I think I would rather see my dad buried, I know it is one of the most important things to respect the wishes of someone when their end comes. My dad always romanticizes that after he is cremated he wants his ashes sprinkled in left field (his position) at the little league stadium he played his home games at when he was a kid.
Again, a subject like this is not something that I spend much of my time thinking about. However, sometimes these types of things crawl into my head. I think another reason for my pro-burial views is that I have an attraction to cemeteries. I find them fascinating. The history and mystery of each tombstone in a cemetery really captures my interest and imagination, I have stayed in cemeteries for long periods of time. I have only met a couple of other people in my life who share this same type of interest so I know that is a clue that I must be pretty weird. Moving on…
Sorry if I disappointed anyone with this post tonight. I know it kind of deviated from my usual rant that usually deals with sports, pop culture, the last place I ate at, or the trip I just got back from. Sometimes I do like to reflect on things that are a little deeper. Think about what you want and know what your family members want. Don’t Blink.

New Vehicle and New Pride

Early this afternoon, exactly twenty days after one of the most pride-deflating mornings of my life, I got back what seemed to be a part of my freedom: Personal transportation.
I realize that majority of the people in this world do not have cars. I know a lot of people in the United States don’t have cars. But for what I do, where I live, and who I am, a vehicle is necessary. So, after a search that lasted about ten days, I am the owner of a 1999 Toyota Solara.

                                My new car! – 1999 Toyota Solara

My initial plan was to simply fix up my old car once the insurance adjuster delivered his final verdict on my old Mercury. I was going to take the settlement money, exercise my right to buy back the car at a ridiculously low rate (called “owner retain”), and then use the leftover money to pay for the repairs. The insurance adjuster totaled my car but if you know anything about the insurance business, you know they are quick to total anything. The fact of the matter was that my car was definitely fixable, it just depended on how much I wanted to spend to repair it. Initially, the body shop guy I was dealing with promised me that he would be able to fix my car for a cost low enough that I would even pocket some of the settlement cash after the repairs. To me at the time, this seemed like a no-brainer. I would get my beloved car fixed while at the same time pulling in some dough. However, after we got the word from our insurance on how much we were going to get back, the body shop guy gave me a higher estimate than before.

                                      My damaged old car – 1997 Mercury Sable

At the urging of my parents and other people whose opinions and trust I hold dear, I decided to send my old car to the auction block and to take the settlement money ($3,000) and buy a new car. I made this decision after my insurance gave me their settlement number, about a week and a half after my accident. By this time I was already going crazy with no car. I wanted to make a quick, and smart, decision on a new vehicle.  If you know me, you know I am not that huge into cars. I don’t know too much about them and I don’t worship them. I rather spend my money on travel, concerts/sports, clothes, gambling, girls, and other stupid stuff. Going in I told myself I was going to use my settlement money combined with around $3,000 to $4,000 dollars out of my own pocket for my next vehicle. With those parameters established, the search began.
Car searches are always stressful and long, especially when you don’t have much time to devote to it. Luckily, after about a week of searching, a promising lead showed up in Spokane. Because I have family in Spokane, the area was on my radar as an area to search. The second I found out about a guy with a flawless reputation who only sells about three to four cars a month who so happened to have a nice car in at the current moment (the Toyota Solara), I knew things were looking up. My parents went and checked out the car and my dad called me back after taking a test drive and he said, “Brent, this is a nice car. I think it is perfect for you.” Done.
The next day we got the car checked out by my parents’ local mechanic and after it graded out with flying colors, I bought it. It had things that appeal to someone like me…a sporty look, a sun roof, leather seats. It also fell in the lower half of the budget I set for myself. It just seemed right. Today my parents graciously brought the car over the mountains and to my driveway. Driving it around with my dad in the passenger seat I told him he was right on when he told me his initial reaction to the car.
I am so ready to have a vehicle again. The past few weeks have been very humbling for me. If my accident did not cripple my ego enough, the constant requests I had to make of my co-workers and friends for rides surely did. Throw in a couple of tough moments in my personal life over this period of time and I have to say that the end of December 2011 and the first couple weeks of January 2012 will not go down as the happiest time in my life. But by the end of last week things really started to take a positive turn and I am transitioning back to the old Brent.
Again, I can’t thank my co-workers and friends enough for all of their help. To all of you who are reading right now…THANK YOU. Your generosity and willingness to help me and haul my ass around is truly appreciated. For those of you who don’t know, I live away from pretty much everything in Missoula so it was a sacrifice for these people to come and pick me up and/or drop me off.
I would like to personally thank everyone who picked me up/dropped me off at work over the past few weeks:  Toby, Jimmy, Tim, Misti, Nick, Ashley, Christie, Lauren, Sophie, Nick, Rachel, Chris, and Mike.
Also, thank you so much to my parents for the support and help from the time of my accident all way up through the purchase of my new vehicle. Love you.
Believe me, I am going to treat my car like gold. By this I just don’t mean keeping the outside and inside looking immaculate. While driving it I am going to make clear, intelligent, alert, and thoughtful decisions while behind the wheel. I am also going to make good decisions on when not to drive as well. It is time to build my driving record back up, pay it forward to some people who really helped me, and to enjoy the great life I have been given. I have learned some valuable lessons. Don’t Blink.

Double Front Chicken Review

Having lived in Missoula for around six years now, I have tried many of the landmark restaurants around town. However, one of the most popular and oldest places around the city had eluded me for the longest time. A couple nights ago I decided to go eat at Double Front Chicken.
Double Front Chicken is a fried chicken haven located in downtown Missoula on the street that the restaurant is named after (Front). The history of the place is well documented but I would be lying if I said I knew the details about it. What is fact is that the restaurant has been around for many decades and is etched in Missoula lore as having the best chicken in the state of Montana.
Friday night I went through the doors of Double Front for the first time. Upon entering the front door you are greeted with a door right in front of you and then a door to the left of you. For someone who is visiting for the first time it might cause some confusion on which one to enter. However, I chose the left door and I made the right choice because it took me into the restaurant area. Once in the restaurant area things were no longer confusing. In front of you is the dining room area with an assortment of tables and booths with the kitchen area and carry out counter further back.  The dining room is cut in half left-to-right by a three foot high divider wall. The restaurant was pretty full and as we made our way to a booth on the right half of the restaurant I felt the sharp stare of just about everyone in the place.
If you like blue collar places, Double Front is the place for you. Everyone in the restaurant looked like they had just gotten off work at either the railroad, the cement plant, or the mechanic shop. Overalls, hats, and fu manchus dominated  the place. Because I was sporting neither of these three things probably explained why it felt like I was getting eye balled by the entire place. The smell of grease and fried food engulfed the whole restaurant. Lighting was pretty bad, there was absolute no concern or attempt at aesthetics. Double Front Chicken on this particular night was a one-waitress operation. With the restaurant pretty much full, it took a little bit of time to get served.
Of course I did not come to Double Front for the presentation, cliental, or service. I went for some chicken! To be fair to the waitress, it did take some time for her initially to come over to our booth but after that she was pretty speedy. When she came by for the first time I ordered a Shock Top and after she came back with the drinks we put our order in. We got the appetizer sampler and each of us got the white meat half dinner.
The timing of when our food came out was a little unusual. Probably about twenty minutes after we put our order in, our appetizer sampler came out. The waitress put it down at our table and then probably not even a full minute after we got our appetizer, our chicken dinners came out as well. I probably would have liked the two parts of the meal spread out a little more for two reasons: 1. I generally like to eat my appetizer before the main course and 2. It was way too overwhelming having all of this fried food in front of us at once.
Okay, ready to hear what the appetizer sampler was? It was a whole bunch of onion rings, mozzarella sticks, macaroni wedges, and corn nuggets (can you say “heart attack”?). The macaroni wedges were simply macaroni and cheese enclosed in fried dough. The corn nuggets? Corn enclosed in fried dough. It pretty much explained why America is so fat. I should mention there were just two of us so we had way too much food in front of us just with the appetizer sampler, not to mention the chicken. I mean there is not too much to critique about the appetizer. If you like fried food, you are in heaven. My favorite part of the sampler was the corn nuggets but after you eat enough of it, it all pretty much tastes the same.

                                                      The appetizer sampler

As I said earlier, I ordered the white meat half dinner. It consisted of a breast and a wing. In addition, the dinner was served with a bunch of french fries.  The menu says that all chicken dinners take around thirty minutes to cook but that night their fryer must have been working a little better than usual because we got our dinners within twenty minutes. To sum up their chicken in two words: Good and greasy. Because I don’t eat fried chicken too much I can’t really get too specific about what makes it so good but I can tell you it is very different than say chicken from KFC, Popeyes, or Chick-Fil-A. It is not as fried and it is not as dry. The breast had so much chicken on it, you definitely get a lot for what you pay. Even if I saved myself the thousands of calories and held off on ordering the appetizer sampler, I would gotten more than enough to eat with just the white meat half dinner.

                                             My white meat half chicken dinner

I mentioned the price…the bill came to $33.49. That included the two white meat half dinners, the appetizer sampler, and a couple beers. Definitely a value dinner. However, you do have to ask yourself if the cheap price is worth it. Again, what I ate for dinner that night was anything but healthy. I know just from that meal I probably surpassed the recommended caloric intake for a guy my  age for a whole week. It was definitely not one of those meals that after you eat it you can smile and say “That hit the spot.” Rather, my stomach felt upset and I felt a little disgusted with myself. Of course this is not the fault of the restaurant at all, it is just the consequence of what happens when you eat way too much fat and grease during one sitting.
Yes, I would recommend Double Front Chicken for someone who has never tried it before and who has a love for chicken. It is definitely not a place that I would go to on a regular basis though.  However, if you have a craving for some good chicken and you don’t mind punishing your body and clogging some arteries, give Double Front  a try.  Don’t Blink.

Another Missoula restaurant review: Yo Waffle

What’s in a Name?…Lots

So this topic has always made me shake my head but has never really given me the passion to write about it until a couple instances this week. One case centered on a famous newlywed couple and one case dealt with a statistic. After hearing about the first case that involved Beyonce and Jay-Z I was half way tempted to write my reaction about the whole larger issue but decided to hold off. After I saw the statistic that Darren Rovell retweeted yesterday, I could not hold back any longer.

What is up with parents who give their children actual birth names that have absolutely no fit for a human being? I understand that the world’s population keeps getting larger and larger and that it is nice to have some sort of individuality but at some point you would think parents could tell the difference between a unique name and a stupid name.

Earlier this week, it was discovered that Beyonce and Jay-Z decided to name their newborn baby “Blue Ivy.” I don’t know if that sounds more like a stripper’s name or an ice cream flavor at Baskin-Robbins but I do know it is no fit for a person.

Probably even more ridiculous was the statistic that sports business guru Darrenn Rovell (@DarrenRovell) retweeted today from the account of Paul Swangard (@PaulSwangard). The stat proclaimed that in the United States right now, there are 33 children named “ESPN.” What the hell? Okay, I am a huge sports fan but if I ever name my kid after a sports station please send Child Protective Services to my house.

I guess the main issue here is that parents take little time to recognize the impact that the name they give their kid is going to have on him/her for the rest of his/her life. I mean long after the parents are six feet under, the kid they gave birth to is still going to have to suffer from their birth name (unless they had already legally changed it). Could you imagine a fifty year old business executive going into work to start the day and his secretary greets him with “Good Morning ESPN. Remember, you have a meeting in your office at 8am.”

But excuse me for even looking ahead that far down the road, could you just imagine what childhood must be like? I remember growing up and seeing fellow classmates and friends suffer because their name deviated just a little bit from the norm. Growing up with a name that is so far off the crazy train is going to be just pure hell. Teachers won’t take the kid seriously, classmates and friends will be confused and will definitely make fun of him/her.

If you ask me, a bizarre and inappropriate first name can have implications even more serious than a person who has tattoos that are non-coverable. When applying for jobs, if you go in for an interview and you have a tattoo on your neck that says “F@#$ You” (which I have seen) chances are you will not get offered the job. But with a strange name, you probably won’t even get an interview in the first place. Let’s face it, employers are not going to take seriously a person who turns in an application and above the line where your first name is supposed to go it reads  “Apple” or “Prince Michael.” I know I would not call the person in for an interview with a name like that.

The travesty in this whole thing is that it is of absolute no fault of the person who is given the name. From the moment that the birth certificate is signed, that baby is screwed. He/she is unfortunately handicapped by the stupid and impaired decision by his/her parents. Yes, the kid will be given more appropriate nicknames and opportunities will surface for the person to legally change his/her name but the stigma of the initial birth name will still follow.

Before I end, I just want to bring up the most repulsive and offensive baby names I have ever heard of parents giving out. A few years ago it came to light that a couple named their son “Adolf Hitler” and named their daughter “Aryan Nation” (Click Here for the Sad Story. This is totally true….and sad. It goes without saying, some people should have absolutely no right to reproduce.

Let’s just remember to bless babies with decent, real names. Show some respect and don’t hinder your child’s future for whatever crazy and popular idea you have at the time. Remember, the kid has to live with the name, not you. Don’t Blink.


I thought hard before doing this post because I hate alienating possible readers. The fact that I excluded many of my non-iPhone friends just a few posts ago (Words With Friends) made me even more hesitant to put this one on the shelf for a while. However, because I like think this application is so cool, I couldn’t help myself.
If you own an iPhone and you have not done so already, you need to download Instagram to your device.
I am not an app guy. I am very selective on which ones I get. In fact, my iPhone consists of only one and a half pages of applications, many of those coming with the phone in the first place. Saying that, I am kind of trying to get the point across that if I have an app on my phone it is not because it is some sketchy, worthless, data absorbing waste of space. You can trust me, Instagram is going to be worth your while.
A little over two weeks ago my friend Chris introduced me to Instagram. Knowing my love of taking pictures and of my love for Twitter, he told me it was pretty much something that I had to get. Instagram is an application that takes advantage of the awesome camera that iPhones have and lets you share pictures with fellow users whenever you feel like it. Making this tool even cooler, Instagram offers about fifteen different effects that you can apply to the pictures you take. Let’s face it, everyone knows that a picture (and the people who are in it) looks way better when it is in black and white or has a rose tint to it. Once you submit a picture to Instagram, it automatically saves in your iPhone’s camera roll with whatever effects you applied intact.
Instagram is the picture version of Twitter. Instead of sharing what you are doing and experiencing through 140 characters, you share it through pictures. If you love Twitter, you will love Instagram. If you hate Twitter, you will also probably still love Instagram just because it offers so much more creativity and options than Twitter ever could. Yes, you can snap a picture and post it to Instagram to explain what you are doing at the given moment but people use it in many more different ways. Users will take pictures of everyday things, whether it be out in nature or just around the house, and share with the Instagram world. Users will take much more candid shots of themselves and post, a far cry from many of the staged pictures you see on Facebook. Quotes and news headlines are also captured and shared. Yes, there are definitely the dreaded food pictures that always surface as well (I am so guilty of this). Animals are readily shared. Statements are also creatively pushed out through Instagram as well. The options are pretty much endless.
Like Facebook or Twitter, you can establish a connection with your friends. Instagram uses Twitter lingo as you “follow” these people. Your followers make up your feed. Your feed contains all the pictures in chronological order that the people you follow have posted. You have the option to “like” pictures and “comment” on pictures. It is a lot of fun to do both of these things. Instagram has been around for a little while but I think it is really now just starting to generate steam. Right now I have around fifteen followers and I am following probably around twenty-five people.
Why am I following more people than I have followers? Is it really because I am that big of a loser in that I follow people but they have no interest in following me? Well that is part of the reason of course but another reason for this is the “popular” feature that Instagram has. I don’t know technically how Instagram does it, but they pull together a bunch of the most viewed and commented pictures on the service and make them viewable to the whole Instagram community. In this “popular” feature you will find some of most bizarre pictures you have ever seen along with some of the hottest girls you have ever seen. It is pretty fun to click on these pictures and go to the user’s profile who the picture belonged to and look at all of their other photos they have submitted. From there, if I really like them I will follow them. It is kind of funny seeing some of these girls who get on the popular page. I will go to their profile and they will literally have hundreds of pictures they have just taken of themselves. Obviously there following is huge and each picture has loads of comments and likes. Instagram is a great way to get exposure…especially if you happen to be hot.
So sorry to bore all of the people who don’t have an iPhone or who would never even think about getting an application like this. However, if it does interest you, GET IT. You will have a lot of fun. You can find me on Instagram @brentreser. Please start following me, I love seeing pictures that my friends take!  Ready…set…TAKE PICTURES! Don’t Blink.

People Who Think They Know About Sports

I have a few pet peeves that I detest. They include standing in line, excuses, people who are late, liars, and laziness.  In addition, I have an additional pet peeve that I seem to encounter every single day: People talking about a subject that they know nothing about. Now I hear people spout off in pure ignorance about basically every single subject under the sun but what I can’t stand the most, and what I do hear the most, are people who jabber about sports when they should just shut up.
Of course this hits me the hardest because I grew up with sports, played sports, and work in sports. I know all of you out there who have a certain profession or interest must cringe whenever you engage in a conversation with, or just simply overhear, someone talking about your passion with the confidence that they know it like the back of their hand. It is maddening.
Because sports is such a major part of society, especially where I live and the campus that I work on, I understand that it is going to be a subject that is discussed frequently. I welcome this and think that it is great.  I appreciate when people ask questions about sports, offer general/factual statements and opinions,  share their enthusiasm for a team or a game, or preface whatever they say with something like “I am not an expert on this but I think…” or “I admit I don’t understand this but to me… .” Where I have a problem is when a person or group of people start talking out of their asses about something they know nothing about (such as a rule, a coaching decision, statistics, personnel moves, or any of the finer points of sports) with the conviction that they are preaching God’s truth.
I experience these type of people mostly at the gym. Mainly I am subjected to this clueless banter from the time I set foot in the locker room through my time up on the weight room floor. As I have said before, I work out on campus at the rec center. Since about June, I have started working out during the lunch hour. This time slot attracts a lot of male university employees, professors, and retirees. They like to work out in little packs. For most of these people, this time is not really about working out, it is more about socializing and giving themselves the impression that they are working out. Fair enough, I try to just zone them out and do my thing. Students also strut around the gym talking sports with the attitude that they are Scott van Pelt. Just some things that I overheard today, keep in mind that it was the day after the BCS title game: Nick Saban is leaving Alabama for a higher paying job elsewhere, there will be a BCS playoff next year, Jim McElwain is becoming the defensive coordinator at Florida and Brent Pease is becoming the head coach at Colorado State, and Brent Musburger attended The University of Montana. I hear people spread misinformation like this on a daily basis. What really gets me though, and where I really have to hold my tongue, is when I both talk with people and overhear people talk about the Griz. You would be surprised at how many people just don’t have any idea about what is going on with the various UM teams. But since Grizzly Athletics is the number one draw in town, people are always going to be talking about them…no matter if they have a clue or not.
I think guys are especially prone to talk about sports and give off the false impression that they know what they are talking about just because it is kind of the masculine, macho thing to do. I mean you can pretty much prove your manhood if you can participate in a solid sports discussion. But come on now, cars are also a masculine subject that guys like to talk about. You could put my knowledge of cars into a thimble but that does not mean that I am going to act like I know the difference between a 1967 ferrari and a 1969 ferrari. Just save yourself the embarrassment of sounding like a complete idiot and avoid engaging in/starting a conversation that you really don’t know anything about. If a conversation starts innocently enough and is within your capabilities but it then becomes a little too advanced, simply claim ignorance. You will be much more respected if you do.
I want to make a distinction here. In this post I am pretty much calling out the people who walk around talking about a subject they don’t have much knowledge about. They are good people and have good intentions, they just get ahead of themselves and want to maybe fit in a little too much and act as if they know about the intricacies of athletics. These people are saints compared to the armchair quarterback losers I talked about in one of my most passionate posts ever. Just wanted to make that clear.
So again, stick to talking about what you know. If you don’t know something, don’t engage in the conversation. If you feel like you are missing out, do your homework and gain some knowledge on the subject. Remember, eventually someone will see through the BS. Don’t Blink.