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”.

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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.

The Fourth on the Fence

America’s Independence Day celebrations go full-on patriotic today, including a plethora of centuries-old traditions. Barbecues and fireworks. Downtown parades with marching bands. Baseball, apple pie, and ice cream. Flags, and countless costumes of red, white, and blue. Another round of Nathan’s Famous Hot Dog Eating Contest. These are the images consistent with America’s 243rd birthday party. But tennis shoes and tanks? Nope; not what I had in mind.

Photo by Nike

I’m referring to recent headlines, of course.  Nike – in an obvious nod to Independence Day – produced a limited-edition running shoe with the “Betsy Ross” on the heels (the version of the American Flag with a circle of thirteen stars on the field of blue).  The shoe would’ve made it to hundreds of feet were it not for concerns voiced by activist (and Nike spokesperson) Colin Kaepernick.  In response, Nike immediately recalled the shoe.  In response to that, the state of Arizona withdrew financial incentives for the construction of Nike’s latest manufacturing plant.  In response to that, the state of New Mexico created a political fence at the NM/AZ border, inviting Nike to “come on over”.  “Betsy Ross” instantly became a hot topic on Twitter.

Photo by Andrew Harnik – AP

As for the tanks, President Trump requested “reinforcements” for the “Salute to America” parade and flyover in Washington D.C.  In a nod to the U.S. Armed Forces, parade-goers will enjoy a convoy of loud-and-proud servicemen and women and their vehicles.  I can’t think of anything more patriotic: a fortified Independence Day parade in our nation’s capital hosted by the leader of the free world.  But like the Betsy Ross shoes, we have controversy.  D.C. locals are worried about tank-track damage to city streets and bridges.  More predictably, the progressive left sees President Trump’s actions (and Salute speech) as an inappropriate opportunity for political gain.  In response to that, there will be protestors and flag-burners galore.

My Independence Day childhood memories have nothing to do with flag-burning, let alone tennis shoes and tanks.  Our family would trek to the beach in Southern California full of pride and patriotism.  We’d spread blankets on the sand at dusk alongside thousands of others, with a couple of buckets of Kentucky Fried Chicken for dinner.  My brothers and I would run around in circles with sparklers.  When it got dark enough we’d enjoy the fireworks erupting from a nearby pier.

As a teenage boy – and budding pyrotechnic – Independence Day was all about the fireworks.  My dad would purchase a large “Red Devil” assortment and we’d set them off on the beach.  My favorites included “black snakes”, “ground-spinners”, and “fountains”. (Alas, I never experienced the machine-gunner thrill of hoisting a Roman Candle.)

When my own children were young, I delighted in our local (and thoroughly hokey) Independence Day parade.  Our supermarket participated with a group of dancing, shopping-cart-wielding cashiers.  Our dentist shamelessly advertised on a float with a giant toothbrush. But our son carried the flag as a Boy Scout and our daughter rode her pony as part of an equestrian team.  Later in the evening we’d gather at the shore of the nearby lake to watch the fireworks display, fully funded by donations to the local fire department.  Small-town America at its best.

Like any other living, breathing American, I have my opinions on the tennis shoes and tanks.  I don’t think Nike intended to dredge up Revolutionary War-era civil liberties simply by displaying the Betsy Ross on its products.  I don’t think President Trump did anything more than exercise the privilege of the office by serving as host of our nation’s capital’s celebration.  In both cases, I think digging for dirt below the surface only makes things dirtier.  I’d wear the shoes or attend the Washington D.C. bash without an iota of self-consciousness.  I’d simply be an American celebrating our Independence Day.

Nike defended its shoe recall by claiming it’s “proud of its American heritage”, but worried the Betsy Ross would “unintentionally offend and detract from the nation’s patriotic holiday”.  President Trump’s advocates said he’s “… not afraid to buck convention and put his own twist on these types of events”.  How about we get off the fence, take a step back, and remember what we’re celebrating?  America’s birthday deserves more than focus on yesterday’s regrettable events or today’s relentless politics.  Perhaps – just for a day – we could be the “United States” of America once again.