20,000 nicky-nicky bruthas in the corner... Of the cell block, but they come from California... Population is none... In the desert and the sun... -- "By the Time I Get to Arizona", Public Enemy
Saturday, March 12
For the second straight Spring Training vacation, That Bootleg Family stayed at The Westin Kierland in North Scottsdale. Like everyone else in this challenging economy, we're trying to be as fiscally responsible as we can. However, there remain five items that are always worth overpaying for: (1) wedding photography*; (2) wedding florist**; (3) a really good steak***; (4) bras and panties****; (5) vacation lodging. Simply put, a seven-year-old boy needs room to be a seven-year-old boy. If my son Jalen wants to use a kid-sized padded bat and foam-rubber baseball while turning the "living room" area of our hotel room into Yankee Stadium, I won't get in his way. Literally. I'll be in the bedroom familiarizing myself with the NFL Network -- which my cable provider doesn't offer in San Diego -- or determining where the hair ends and extensions begin on one of the area's local news anchors. You can't do this in a Motel 6.
* -- Don't cheap out on wedding photography, my unmarried friends. The extra cost is directly connected to experience, professionalism and quality. I've seen some low-rent wedding albums over the years. I've also seen this.
** -- And, while I'm on a roll, men folk...let's agree to collectively avoid those $9.99 supermarket bouquets on Valentine's Day. Cool? Cool.
*** -- Growing up, the steaks at Sizzler were the gold standard for this gourmand. While I was in college, Black Angus was where the elite would meet to eat meat -- but, for me, not until payday. With a little more disposable income, I soon discovered the $35 bone-in rib eyes at admittedly pretentious locations such as Mr. A's, Morton's and Fleming's. And, they were good.
**** -- I needed a fifth "worth overpaying" item, so I asked Mrs. Bootleg. This was her contribution. I probably shouldn't put my wife's undergarment preferences out there for the world to read, so I'll just accept the virtual high-fives from my male audience and move on.
On Saturday morning, after our first night in Scottsdale, I tweeted:
Lifelong streak of restless sleep during the first night in a hotel continues. I blame the unfamiliar bed or the possible boogeyman under it.
20 years ago, I made the mistake of sharing the "unfamiliar bed" lamentation with my some of my best friends. They deservedly turned it into one of the longest-running, insulting in-jokes of our collective clique. Did it compare with the open shame of my other friends? M'man Smitty was obviously balding by the age of 16. Vig once admitted to a crush on Kate Hudson's grandmother. And, JP would probably like a mulligan for this 10th grade makeover.
I've eschewed my usual time-stamped travel diary format because the first four hours of my Saturday morning were spent in a parental tug-of-war with my son Jalen. I wanted to take him to the Musical Instrument Museum in Phoenix followed by an entire afternoon in the hotel swimming pool. Jalen, however, suggested a convoluted "swimming pool -- museum -- back to the swimming pool" plan. "We can do it", Jalen insisted. "The pool opens at 9:00 AM!" He then slipped on his swim trunks and forlornly stood by the front door. By mid-morning, he had me rooting for the return of Jim Crow.
The Musical Instrument Museum (MIM) was recommended to me by TBG reader and Arizona resident, Ms. Kristen. With Mrs. Bootleg shopping at the nearby Kierland Commons, I opted to roll the dice on Jalen's surprisingly agreeable track record with museums and my unfailingly enjoyable experiences while meeting TBG readers for the first time. Jalen was still pouting about the swimming pool when we arrived at the museum, but after five minutes (four and a half of which were spent on the below mixing board) Jalen asked, "Can we come back tomorrow with mommy?" He soaked up every exhibit, but absolutely lost his mind at the Experience Gallery -- a room full of instruments that the kids (and their dads!) are encouraged to play. And, Ms. Kristen couldn't have been nicer or more considerate in the few minutes we spent with her (continuing my eight-year streak of meeting readers who aren't killers or crazy people). MIM will never again be associated with an unlistenable musical experience. (For obvious reasons, the last musical instrument pictured is my favorite.)
We picked up Mrs. Bootleg -- who was weighed down with bags from local mom n' pop storefronts such as Ann Taylor Loft and Victoria's Secret. My wife even engaged in some self-medication during her retail therapy, treating herself to a champagne lunch as she mingled with North Scottsdale's beautiful people. The only things missing were theme music and the opening credits.
Jalen did get LOTS of quality time with the swimming pool and water slide. Since I'm a self-taught swimmer with terrible technique and Mrs. Bootleg is a black woman, our son is unquestionably the best swimmer in the family. I do, however, make the skin-tight Body Glove top rock, y'all.
Dinner plans with two of Mrs. Bootleg's friends were unfortunately scuttled. In hindsight, it might've been a challenge for Jalen to meet this couple since, as my son succinctly put it: "But, they don't have any daughters!" Instead, we scoured the casual dining scene and hit up Chick-Fil-A. I mention this because I tried the Spicy Chicken Sandwich Deluxe for the first time. Let's see how quickly I can get into "TBG Eats" mode. Current weight: 159.8 lbs. From Chick-Fil-A's website: a boneless breast of chicken seasoned with a spicy blend of peppers, hand-breaded, pressure cooked in 100% refined peanut oil and served on a toasted, buttered bun with dill pickle chips, green Leaf lettuce, tomato and pepper jack cheese. Decent, but when will the fast food industry recognize that processed cheese and fried chicken should be segregated today, segregated tomorrow, segregated forever? Grade: 3 (out of 5).
The evening ended with a hall pass from Mrs. Bootleg and beers at Papago Brewing Company with JP. Located in the middle of an extensive strip mall, its no-frills appearance belies the glorious high-end nectar that's brewed within. I spent the night with their El Robusto Porter. I was a little embarrassed ordering it sans accent, but my ersatz Spanish experience wasn't as awkward as ordering this.
Next: Good friends, good times, great beers, passed out!