One Month At A Time

Mail bag: West Virginia State Penitentiary

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I don’t get tons of email from readers, but I do get some. This one felt like a full blown letter and I just wanted to share it.
Dear Mr. Lynch,

I was in Charleston this past weekend for a birthday party for my wife’s one year-old grandson.  She is from Nitro, and my dad’s family is (was) mostly from the Huntington and Louisa, KY areas. While the festivities were going on I was able to find a quite spot and read your paper.

When I was a kid (about 4), we moved from Ceredo  to Fall River, Massachusetts.  My dad worked for General Foods Corp, and had married a Maine Yankee when he was a Navy pilot.  After my two sisters were born in Huntington she had had enough of WV and wanted to get back up North. Over the years we would make the trip back to Louisa to visit grandparents,cousins, aunts and uncles in the summer. A very long and tedious trip. Coming off the Pennsylvania Turnpike we would head west and eventually connect with Route 2/7 in Moundsville, and follow the Ohio River on our way to Huntington. He would drive us by the prison to impress on us that it was where the bad guys go. I think there was a glass factory my mom also liked to visit. We would even see chain-gangs on the roads.  Your fine story gave me some background on the prison. I was under the impression it had all been torn down.

I worked for The New York Times for 23 years before retiring down here in Prosperity, SC where most of my wife’s family migrated too from WV.  It is pleasure to read your paper.  Every time I am up your way I get a copy.  It is great to see how well a “small” market paper can do with great writing and good design (still has the size of a newspaper). We have an awful paper here in Columbia. The State would be out of business if it didn’t have obits, cooking and USC football to cover.  It is really sad, but it is not much better than the local weeklies.

Keep up your fine writing and picture taking.  Tell the editor, next time you risk your life and sanity, that you want to be on the front page above the fold.

Sincerely,
Rush L. Workman
Prosperity, SC

“Asylum” with Founders Porter

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Continuing October’s Thrills and Chills theme, I’m writing about horror movies and beer on the blog. Today’s film is the 1972 flick “Asylum.”

Our beer is Founders Porter.

The Movie: “Asylum.”

asylum

I had high hopes for this one. A lot of the cooler, quirkier horror films came out of the late 1960s and early 1970s –and I have always been a Peter Cushing fan (Most people remember him as the guy who was Darth Vader’s boss in “Star Wars” or as the guy who did those meh “Dr. Who” films).

The description on Amazon listed him as a star and sold the film as one of the best horror anthologies.

No. No, it isn’t.

“Creepshow,” off the top of my head, is much, much better.

At best, “Asylum” is a bland, uninspired mess with thinly drawn characters, a dull plot and special effects on par with the aforementioned “Dr. Who” television show of the time. The brightest moment in the whole thing concerned a batch of idiotic looking robot toys that sort of become grotesque by the end –but it really feels like the film missed out by just being cheap.

If the producers should have doubled the film’s budget to at least $20 they might have had something, but they must have sunk all their money in fabulous location shooting or a good booze for the writers or something.

Likewise, Peter Cushing is only barely in the movie. He shows up twice in one of the vignettes, but little depth is given to the motivation of his character.

Basically, Cushing is wasted on this, and I’d need to be wasted to watch this again.

It’s not even bad enough to be fun for the wrong reasons –just dull.

The Beer: Founders Porter.

porter

I bought this one entirely for the witchy-like lady on the cover –and had hoped to spend this beer on something good, but alas, no…

I liked the beer. It had nice chocolatey/coffee notes and a light chewy mouth-feel. I like a good porter and this one was pretty decent –but not as good as my beloved Big Timber porter.

Got a movie? Got Beer? Think the two would go together. Let me know. Drop me a line at lynch@wvgazettemail.com –or just post here.

“Let The Right One In” with Magic Hat #9

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Continuing our monthly exploration of what beers go with which horror films, I picked out an old one, 2008’s Swedish vampire film, “Let the Right One In,” and one of my go to beers when I can’t find anything better to drink, Magic Hat #9.

The Film:

letrightonein

“Let the Right One In” is about the difficulty of finding a true friend and navigating the world when you’re an outsider. In some ways, “Let the Right One In” is like a lot of other teen dramas, except periodically someone is brutally murdered and drained of their blood.

The story revolved around Eli and Oskar, a couple of 12 year-olds living in the armpit of the Sweden (which isn’t really all that bad, just kind of run down). Oskar is a meek and awkward kid who is being continuously bullied by a group of his classmates. At night, he spends his time fantasizing about stabbing his tormentors and collecting newspaper clippings of brutal murders.

Eli is a centuries old vampire shacked up with an old guy named Hakan who acts as a kind of caretaker and henchman.

If this were “Dracula,” Hakan would be Renfield, a thrall, but Eli and Hakan’s relationship is not so cut and dried. He loves Eli, but it’s a weird kind of devotion that is difficult to define –not exactly the love of a parent for a child, a child for a parent or a husband for a wife, but something of all three.

Eli and Oskar meet. Eli says he can’t be Oskar’s friend and immediately begins manifesting unnatural abilities. Oskar misses the social cues that would warn other people to stay away or maybe invest in a firearm.

They become friends anyway, despite Eli’s misgivings.

The pair learns from each other –Oskar learns to be brave when he has a weapon in hand and can easily overpower his opponent; Eli learns the secrets to the Rubik’s Cube.

The audience learns that cats do not like vampires. At all.

Joking aside, I’ve loved this one since I first saw it. It does a pretty good job of capturing the wide-eyed naivete of being 12, while also showing that being a pre-teen vampire is a drag.

The Beer:

Pairing the film with Magic Hat #9 wasn’t exactly inspired, but it was what I had stashed in the back of my fridge. I did have a batch of beer I got from the Wine and Cheese shop at the Capitol Market earlier in the day, but all of that stuff was still warm.

Still, Magic Hat #9 is a pretty good beer –not a great beer, not a life changing beer (which does not exist unless said beer suddenly makes me 10 years younger) –but a pretty good beer. It’s a good beer to have after mowing a lawn or raking leaves. It’s a good beer with a fairly depressing slice of vegan pizza. It’s a good beer to slug down whether you’re binge-watching some weird Canadian sci fi show on Netflix or catching an old film that’s held up pretty well despite the various advancements in vampire movies.

First off, let me say that I’m not a huge fan of flavored beers.

Flavored beers taste like a marketing ploy aimed at rich sorority girls and shandys are like the Arnies of the beer world (An Arnie is a half lemonade and half iced tea. Recently passed golfing legend Arnold Palmer drank them so often, people started calling the drink by his name.

Still, I wasn’t paying for Lienenkugal’s Harvest Patch Shandy and it seemed like a good start to this month’s “One Month at a Time” side project: pairing beers with horror films.

First up, “The Witch.” 

the witch

IMDb describes it as “A family in 1630s New England is torn apart by the forces of witchcraft, black magic and possession.”

The set up is a Puritan family leaves town after they have falling out with the local church authorities over some interpretation of the New Testament.

I missed what they were arguing over, but given the time period, it could have been over punctuation.

The family moves out on their own, where they establish a poor farm, struggle to feed themselves and somehow attract the attention of the local witch who then tirelessly works to destroy them.

On its face, “The Witch” is like a lot of similar films set during the Salem Witch Trials era. Christians in the new world are under siege by what they perceive to be diabolical forces. In many of these films, the villain turns out to be the Christians themselves, who are just thick-headed jerks or whatever.

This one goes in an entirely different direction.

The devil is very much at work on this small family and there’s no real explanation for why, other than “just ’cause.” There is no logical reason why Satan is interested in this particular family and nearly as disturbing there’s no help on the way. God is in his heaven and can’t be bothered to lift a finger to help a (possibly) slightly misguided but devout farmer, his wife and their five innocent children. No heroic, young preacher stops in to save them with a glowing cross or just the right prayer. Angels don’t turn up wielding a flaming sword.

The family is effortlessly crushed under the hoof of something far beyond their understanding.

It was kind of fascinating to watch a horror film so relentlessly bleak and pessimistic.

In some ways, “The Witch” reminded me of something like “Jaws,” where the people are warned not to leave the safety of the beach because there’s this giant shark trolling out there in the ocean somewhere, which will eat them if it gets the chance. Everybody shrugs it off, of course. They know better, go for a swim and, predictably, are eaten.

The Beer: Lienenkugal’s Harvest Patch Sandy

pumpkinbeer

As I mentioned at the beginning, I’m not a huge fan of flavored beers –and this one is no exception. It has a rich, pumpkin flavor, which would be perfect if it was Thanksgiving and you just didn’t feel like dunking your pumpkin pie into a frosty mug of Coors Light while watching the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade.

I don’t know. Maybe this is for the all girls in yoga pants to sip on when they get bored of their gas station grade Pumpkin Spice Latte.

I wasn’t impressed, but I finished the bottle.

I liked “The Witch,” and the Lienenkugal’s Harvest Patch Sandy technically paired well with the movie. Both were thought-provoking and had an unexpected flavor, but, were each, in their own way, kind of depressing.

 

Triathlon: Gu!

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With the upcoming race, the subject of eating has come up.

While my race isn’t all that long compared to an Iron Man, it’s long enough. It’s been suggested that it wouldn’t hurt to have something between the bicycle portion and the running race (only a dork eats in the pool).

The problem is: I can’t eat and run.

I’ve tried, but even a piece of toast is too heavy for my stomach. It becomes something that restricts my breathing and makes running longer than 200 yards next to impossible.

So, I don’t eat, but with the swimming, biking and running, there’s a good chance I could “bonk,” become light-headed and groggy, which isn’t good either.

Probably, if I was a lighter American and not wildly overweight, I could handle a short sprint triathlon with nothing more than a mineral water and a stick of gum, but I’m an ox.

So, I began looking into things I could take along –and discovered GU.

GU is basically a flavored sugar gel that also contains amino acids and probably caffeine.

allgu

I hit up the Cycle Shop in Kanawha City and bought three different types to try out. The idea was that I could give them each a shot and then hopefully have one or two to choose from on race day.

First, the good news: They’re all vegan, including the maple bacon.

Second, the bad news: There’s a reason they come in opaque packages. You don’t want to look at this stuff.

On the charitable side, it looks a little like shampoo. On the uncharitable side, just don’t look at it.

gu1

Of the three, the peanut butter tasted the best. It tasted a little like some kind of peanut candy, but it contains no caffeine.

Also, I couldn’t tell if it improved or assisted my performance since I wasn’t actually training, but typing in the newsroom. I did like the flavor, however. It was yummy.

gu2

The maple bacon was a novelty. I haven’t actually tasted bacon since December, and Andrew at the bicycle shop sort of warned me about this one. He said, “If you can think of it as like wine tasting. It’s very up front with the maple and then the bacon is at the end.”

I didn’t taste a lot of bacon.

And after a short while, I felt vaguely angry. That could have been the 20 mg of caffeine talking, but that’s barely half a cup of coffee.

I wasn’t overly impressed.

gu3

The Tri-Berry was highly recommended. My triathlon mentors seemed to like it, but it tasted like candy with a vague chemical aftertaste –sort of like Runts, maybe.

Unlike the maple bacon, it didn’t fill me with hate.

That was a bonus.

So, I figure I’ll bring along the peanut butter and the Tri-Berry, in case I need a bigger pick me up than just some sugar and peanut goodness.

If I do something like this again, I’ll look into some of the other flavors –you know, after I get a better bike.

Triathlon: Final week

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Well, here we are, down to the last week of my training.

Looking back on it, I think I should have pushed the running portion a lot harder in the beginning. Also, I think I should have jumped harder into the mix rather than eased into training. Those first couple of weeks, I did a little cycling and a little swimming.

I wish I could have found a slightly better bike.

I almost bought another bike. For the last two weeks, I’ve been driving past the Capitol flea market on Greenbrier Street and noticed a blue 10-speed sitting out in front of a junk dealer.

I stopped in Saturday to look at it. The bike was $30, but needed new tires and probably brakes.

I decided to pass.

I’ll manage with the one I have. It’s a tank, but it’s my tank.

During this last week, I’m tinkering with my nutrition to see if by cutting out some of my starches I can maybe drop a pound or two and increase my energy a little. One of the books I’ve been reading, “Primal Endurance,” pushes staying away from refined grains, potatoes, and basic starches.

It may be too late for all of that, but a pound is a pound, right? That would be one less pound to carry.

I’m also going try out some of these energy gels I’ve been hearing about. “Primal Endurance” doesn’t like them, but I need to be able to refuel somehow during my race –and I can’t handle much on my stomach and still run. I don’t think I could keep down a banana or a Cliff bar.

I plan to work out hard the first part of the week and then slow it down by Friday. I won’t do a lot Saturday, just rest, stretch and try to hydrate up.

I’m going to try to get some extra sleep somewhere and try to meditate to relax.

Right now, I figure my biggest problem is anxiety. I’m worried that I won’t complete the race. I’m worried that I’ll embarrass myself and come in dead last.

All of this is silly. None of it matters.

I’m doing this.

Going Vegan!: Well, maybe

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A while back, I took a trip to the other Charleston, which is very nice, if you like beaches, peaches and whatnot.

One of the things I really enjoyed was a place called “Smoothie King,” which offered a bunch of vegans smoothies.

Keep in mind, I haven’t had anything like a milkshake since last fall.

The smoothies I had were fantastic –and I’ve never been a real hardcore smoothie kind of guy.

Smoothie Stop seems promising, but… there’s a lot of yogurt and whey on the menu, and I don’t know if the sherbet is vegan or not (Sometimes, it is… Sometimes it is not…).

Anyway, since I go to the Y a lot, I’m hopeful.

I hope it opens soon.

 

IMG_20160722_075559323

Throw Back Thursday: Dispatches from the dark

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After a long break, we’re back in the blogging business.

Here are a couple of “official” blog posts I did while I was unplugged in June.

Thanks again to Sullivan’s Records and Bluegrass Kitchen for putting up with my nonsense (though not a lot. I only wrote four posts by hand)

It seemed like I should have shared this earlier, but meh… triathlon training is hard.

To put it in perspective, I started blogging late. Mostly, because in the beginning, I wasn’t sleeping particularly well.

 

one month-blog3

 

Here’s another:

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Going Vegan! At Long Last!

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Ben&jerry

Walk (and by walk, I mean walk slowly or maybe skip entirely), don’t run toward this stuff.

I was so excited when I heard Ben & Jerry’s was doing a non-dairy line.

I wanted to try it. I ranted and raged when I couldn’t get it. I sent emails to their headquarters complaining that my neighborhood store wasn’t part of their distribution chain. I wanted to have vegan ice cream that was just like the real thing, and I thought, if anybody could pull it off, it had to be to Ben & Jerry’s.

Yeah, about that…

This stuff is sweet, but kind of thin. It is reminiscent in taste to grocery store brand ice milk. It’s not remotely as creamy or as rich as the regular stuff. The brownie chunks taste ok, but have the grainy texture of the inside of an old, foam pillow.

It’s like diet vegan ice cream for people who hate themselves a little.

Honestly, they should have skipped the almond milk and gone with cashew milk, which does taste good in vegan ice cream. I had a pint from the SO Delicious company a few weeks ago, and it was pretty fantastic.

This was not great.

I don’t like it, and don’t see myself buying more –or, really, any of Ben & Jerry’s other products. If Ben & Jerry’s non-dairy frozen desserts are all made with almond milk, they’re all going to have the same base problem, regardless of whatever flavors they jam into the carton.

I am so disappointed.

I bought this stuff at Target, if you want to give it a shot.