Strange Bedfellows

Welcome to Masters Week, sports fans! Even if you don’t know the first thing about professional golf, you’ve probably heard of The Masters.  The tournament begins again this Thursday (for the eighty-sixth time) at Augusta National Golf Club in Georgia. If you have nothing better to do this weekend, you can watch a dozen mind-numbing hours of the television coverage. While you’re at it you’ll discover the Masters traditions, like the champion’s green jacket, the clubhouse top-story “Crow’s Nest” (where the amateur golfers reside), the famous pimento cheese sandwiches, and of course, Waffle House. Wait, Waffle House?

Question: When do waffles and golf belong in the same sentence?  Answer: When it’s April at The Masters. Why?  Because alongside the golf hats, shirts, and commemorative this-and-that for purchase at the souvenir shop, you can buy a limited-edition pair of Adidas golf shoes for your long walk along the course.  The shoes will set you back $200 – a little pricier than most – but hey, they’re limited-edition.  You’ll be among the select few advertising Waffle House on their heels.

Before you think waffles and golf shoes are the most random “pairing” (ha) in the history of merchandising, remember; The Masters is in Georgia.  So is Waffle House.  Their headquarters is right down the road in Atlanta and they have over 400 restaurants across the Peach State (way more than any other state).  In other words, a pair of Waffle House Adidas at The Masters may earn as many thumbs-up as strange looks.

Speaking of strange, Adidas took the breakfast look of its limited-edition shoe to an extreme.  Besides the rear-facing logo, a square-after-square print runs along the side, in a muted tone meant to represent waffles and syrup.  Adidas calls it “batter-like colorway” (a phrase you’ll never hear again, ever).  Including syrup in the design and labeling it “batter-like” might be how Adidas keeps distance (and lawsuits) from competitor Nike, which famously created its first shoe using a waffle iron. Whatever. Shoes and waffles still make strange bedfellows.  I mean, look at the marketing photos spaced throughout this post.  Clever yes, but isn’t your first thought, “Get your dirty sneakers off my dining table!

[Props to Adidas, if you have buyer’s remorse with your breakfast kicks, at least you also get a shoebox looking exactly like a teeny, tiny Waffle House.]

I’m not on my soapbox to knock Waffle House; quite the opposite.  Any restaurant keeping the doors open sixty years after the very first plate deserves my respect.  So does a restaurant where waffles are the main event because I love waffles.  If they’re on the menu, I’ll order waffles whether at Waffle House, Belgian-style, or made-to-order at the finest champagne brunch.  I’ve even been known to eat an Eggo or two.  Ideally, top your grids with strawberries and Chantilly cream, with syrup on the side for dipping.  Heaven on earth.

I’ve only been to Waffle House twice in my life.  Was it a memorable experience?  NO.  Both times I perched on a backless stool at the counter.  Both times I sat next to characters I’d never, ever choose to dine with.  Finally, the Waffle House kitchen is right there in the wide-open so you can watch your breakfast being prepared.  Wouldn’t say it was the most sanitary process I ever saw.

Waffle House does have its charms, however.  The original menu had just sixteen items; today, well over a hundred.  Each location is open all-day-all-night, which has some customers believing Waffle House doors don’t lock.  Each location also has a jukebox, including favorites from the “Waffle Records” label (Ex. They’re Cooking Up My Order by Alfreda Gerald, released in 2006).  Finally, two percent of all restaurant eggs in America are cracked at Waffle House.  Two percent is rarely a big number but in this case, it’s got a lot of zeroes.

Waffle House did make a famous mistake once.  In the 1960s, the chain was approached by one S. Truett Cathy, looking for an outlet for his proprietary chicken sandwich.  The sandwich was added to the menu for a short time, but sales were so strong Waffle House worried its waffles would lose the spotlight.  So Cathy moved on, and of course, Chick-fil-A soon became an even more popular place to eat.

Note the Waffle House shoebox

To be fair, the Adidas shoe isn’t the first time waffles and golf crossed paths. In 1996, Kevin Costner starred as a down-on-his-luck golfer in Tin Cup, which included a memorable scene at a Waffle House just before the U.S. Open.  Somehow this worked better than waffle-golf shoes.

According to its website, Waffle House has 10 locations in my home state of Colorado versus 439 locations in Georgia.  Do the math.  If a hundred Georgians order two waffles a day in each of those restaurants, Waffle House is cooking up over 600,000 Peach State waffles every week. WHOA. Now there’s my excuse to go to The Masters!

Some content sourced from the ESPN.com article, “Waffle House and Adidas team up for waffle-themed golf shoes”, and Wikipedia, “the free encyclopedia”.

——————–

Lego Grand Piano – Update #12

(Read about how this project got started in Let’s Make Music!)

We’ll be “playing” the keyboard for the next few weeks. Bag #12 – of 21 bags of pieces – added another seven keys to the five I constructed last week, which puts us not quite halfway across the board.  I’m showing the complicated mechanical action in the photo because once the keys are installed it’ll be hard to see.  Notice how pressing the piano key down makes the rounded counterweight to the left go up.  The weight strikes the piano string above it (once inside the piano), and Voila! Music.

When you work on one of these Lego projects for almost ten hours you notice things. Little things. Today I realized, for the first time ever, Lego imprints its logo on every one of the thousands of raised “bumps” on its pieces (like the beige bumps just to the left of the black piano keys here).  A perfectionist would have all of those logos facing the same direction. Nope, not gonna happen; we’re on a one-way street here.

Running Build Time: 9.6 hours.  Musical accompaniment: Handel’s Water Music. Leftover pieces: 3

Conductor’s Note: Water Music is a collection of short pieces for a large orchestra.  Because Handel wrote the set of suites for King George I for a concert on the River Thames, Water Music is often performed outdoors.  Next to his choral work Messiah (“HA…lle-LU-jah!”), Water Music is Handel’s best-known composition.

Small Fly

Whenever we travel to our favorite little town in South Carolina, we have the option of a connecting flight through Dallas/Fort Worth (DFW) or Atlanta (ATL) to get there. DFW is the fourth-busiest airport in the world, with five terminals, seven runways, and 164 gates. The airport property covers twenty-seven square Texas miles, with its own zip code, police, and fire departments. Meanwhile, ATL is merely the busiest airport in the world, hosting 300,000 passengers and 60,000 workers every day. One of ATL’s runways is so long they hold an annual 5k running race on it. DFW and ATL are mega-ports and can be mega-stressful to pass through, which is why landing in little Augusta, Georgia, our final flying destination, is like a breath of small-town fresh air.

Augusta Regional Airport (“…at Bush Field”, or simply “AGS”) is the smallest airport in the world.  Okay, that’s not even close to true (especially if you consider landing strips in cornfields) but it sure feels like it.  AGS sits quietly on the banks of the Savannah River, just west of the Georgia state line.  It’s served by the smallest aircraft of Delta and American.  Its tiny terminal building is shaped like a capital “T”, with two little ticket counters at the top, followed by a quick stroll down the middle to a boarding lounge the size of an oversized living room.  If you average out the flight schedule, AGS has a single plane touching down every two hours.  They should hire the Augusta High School marching band to welcome each landing (“Go Orioles!”)

The first time I realized AGS was big-time-small was after a late landing on a weekday night.  Walking down the brief concourse the airport was noticeably dark.  The rental car counters were already shuttered for the night.  At baggage claim, the single attendant (literally, the only employee in the building) announced bags would be hand-delivered to the curb instead of circulating on the belt.  Yep, they just lined ’em all up by the waiting cars.

Watch the planes from the “front porch”

My other AGS big-time-small moment was the first time I saw the parking lot (free for 30 min, $8/day).  Half the lot was given over to rental cars.  Think about the number of rental car spaces you need for an airport where just a handful of planes land each day.  Now double the number.  That’s the size of Augusta Regional’s parking lot.

The design of AGS, boasting one-story red brick, proud white columns, and suburban landscaping, reminds me of the clubhouse of a golf course.  In fact, Augusta Regional bears the nickname “The Country Club Airport”, entirely fitting since The Masters professional golf tournament is held every April just twelve miles from its runways. 

Lounge outside (past security) before you board…

AGS reminds me of my first small airport experience back when I was a freshman in college.  Flying from Los Angeles (LAX – second-busiest in the U.S.), I deplaned in a modest midwestern town, and for the first time ever descended stairs onto the outside tarmac instead of through a jetway to the terminal.  I happened to be the first passenger off the plane, which meant leading a line of people to the glass doors of the boarding lounge.  Only I couldn’t open the glass doors.  They wouldn’t “push” despite my best efforts.  Several greeters on the other side of the glass (this was pre-9/11) gestured to “pull” instead of “push”.  Took me just a little too long to figure that out.  Believe I heard the words “city boy” as I was on my way to baggage claim.

When we landed in Augusta most recently, we were the last flight of the night.  As we sat on the park-like benches at the curb waiting for our daughter to pick us up, I watched one of the few remaining employees bring in the trash cans and turn out the lights.  She made sure we had a ride, then locked the terminal building doors.  Only one other passenger was waiting to be picked up.  It was a little strange to be among the last couple of people on the property.  I mean, most airports don’t even close.

… or play a little golf.

At Dallas/Fort Worth, you can rent private rooms at the “Minute Suites” for naps or freshening up right there in the airport terminal.  There’s even a full-service spa.  In Atlanta you’ll find a Starbucks in six of the seven airport concourses.  Augusta Regional? How about a soft pretzel at the one concession stand, or an overpriced unofficial souvenir from The Masters?  Doesn’t matter.  You can show up less than an hour before your departure, and you can take in the take-offs from a comfy rocking chair.  Yep, this little small-fly is a pretty sweet landing pad.

Some content sourced from the Augusta Regional Airport website.

——————–

Lego Grand Piano – Update #8

(Read about how this project got started in Let’s Make Music!)

Last week

Our instrument really came together this week, as you’ll see in the second photo. Bag #8 – of 21 bags of pieces – not only connected both large pieces, but also added strings!  We now have enough of the black frame in place to where our little gem is finally starting to look like a piano.

I went with Haydn’s “Surprise Symphony” today because I completed this section in the early morning hours and needed the famous jolt the orchestra gives you at the end of an otherwise piano movement. (Yes, “piano” can be an adjective).  Haydn was famous for these little “jokes”, placed randomly the middle of his compositions.

This week

Running Build Time: 6.75 hours.  Musical accompaniment: Haydn’s Symphony No. 94 in G Major. Leftover pieces: 4 (including a couple of piano strings).

Conductor’s Note: We’re getting very close to boxing in the complex mechanics of the instrument… and I’m nervous.  We have a couple “loose ends” in there which must somehow attach so they’ll do something productive (like make music).  Hoping next week’s Bag #9 addresses this concern.