This year, I went whole hog and got a 3-day pass to Chicago's main Ribfest. So this past weekend, I had a lot of ribs.
First, I should note that on days 2 and 3 I took friends. This is important because if you share four 3-bone samplers with someone you don't feel like you ate an entire pig as you stagger home from the event. Or five samplers. Not that I ate that many ribs on Friday...maybe.
Second, the weather Saturday and Sunday ranged from cool and damp to cool and rainy. Between that and arriving Friday evening just after opening, I didn't see the balls-to-the-wall crowds that I've usually encountered. Here's Saturday evening, after the rain stopped:
Contrast with, for example, 2013:
(Parker, having just turned 13, didn't go this year, poor old dog.)
Having three days, I got to try a lot of ribs:
- City BBQ, locations in Downers Grove and Orland Park: smoked, tug off the bone, firm meat; original sauce was sweet-tangy, "brush fire" sauce was a little spicier. Not great, 2½ stars.
- Austin Texas Lightning (two visits), itinerant: Smoked for 4 hours, then grilled. Tangy original sauce, good kick on the spicy one. Tasty meat but a lot of salt. Not bad. 3 stars.
- Famous Dave's, national chain: Pretty good meat, tug-off-the-bone; sauces all right, sauces OK but with lots of HFCS, so I have to ding them for that. 2½ stars.
- Fireside Grill (two visits), right in my neighborhood: tug off the bone, good crunchy finish on the grill, ladled-on sauce with good spice and flavor. My favorite from Friday. 3½ stars; will visit soon.
- Big Joe's Backyard BBQ, Homer Glen, Ill.: Dry meat, overcooked; sauces was eh, way too sweet. Good-sized bones. 2½ stars.
- Base Hit BBQ (two visits), Austin neighborhood of Chicago: Fall-off-the-bone, really tasty meat, nice char, excellent sauce. My favorite from this year's Fest. Worth a trip out to the West Side. 4 stars.
- Mrs Murphy and Sons Irish Bistro, Chicago: My favorite from years past, and still good, but their sauce tasted sweeter to me this year (which is not a good thing for my palette). Fall off the bone meat, really tasty. 3 stars.
On Sunday I also stopped by itinerant Chicago BBQ, which was just as itinerant as in years past, and just as acceptable. 3 stars.
Now: was the $100 3-day pass a good deal? It came with $50 in food tickets (which I used, and then some, because 3-bone samplers cost $8), free entry to the festival (a $30 value), skip-to-the-front access for drinks (saved some time), and air conditioned bathrooms (nice to have with their real soap and running water). I will probably do it again next year, especially if we have a hot June, which will make the cooler bathrooms maybe worth $20.
But before that, on July 4th, I'll bring Parker to the Windy City Ribfest less than 400 meters from my front door.
Is it that I set a new personal record for steps, getting over 15,000 every day for the last 11? Nope.
Is it that, for only the second time in three years, I got enough sleep four nights in a row? Nope.
Is it that Parker turns 13 today? Yup.
And just check out his fashionable birthday present:
For comparison, here he is 10 years ago:
No, I haven't forgotten about my favorite food festival of the year. For the last 10 years, Ribfest has been the second weekend of June. This year it's the third weekend of June. I've no idea why.
Next weekend, then, I'm going to visit all three days and sample all 12 rib vendors. Already bought my ticket.
Parker, alas, will not come with me this year. He doesn't like to walk very far now that he's pushing 13. Even though Ribfest is less than 3 km away, that's about twice as far as he wants to walk under the best circumstances. But next Sunday is his birthday, so he might just get a bit of grilled meat anyway.
Parker got his leg stitches out yesterday. Mysteriously, the suture in his neck had already dropped off. Regardless, both incisions have healed well enough for him to ditch the cone:
His fur is growing back pretty quickly too, in part because it's winter. He really, really liked going to the vet yesterday. And he's a much happier dog today.
A week after his surgery, Parker seems a lot better. He's resumed his previous walking pace, and seems generally less sullen, despite the fact that I'm out of the house a lot more this week than the last few. We also switched up his antibiotics which should help his body get rid of the last bits of gunk around his knee.
His stitches come out next Wednesday, and with that, his cone comes off.
Further updates as the situation warrants.
He has a weird haircut and he's back in the cone for two weeks, but Parker is otherwise happy and healthy.
My wallet, however... Jeez, these older models cost a lot in repairs.
Parker's surgeon just called. She had no difficulty removing the plate from his leg and she got the fatty cyst out of his neck without complications. She also identified the screw that had hidden the infection from his immune system and has sent it in for culture, but she suspects it's a run-of-the-mill bacterium that, absent the screw, his body would barely have noticed.
He'll be a little wobbly for a day or so and he'll have to wear his cone for two weeks, but the surgery wasn't nearly as invasive as the original repair. So, he's expected to make a full and speedy recovery before the end of the month. I'll pick him up tomorrow morning and post photos of his new haircut shortly after.
As I mentioned earlier, Parker has developed an infection around the implants in his leg. In itself this isn't life-threatening, but it is pretty uncomfortable, especially when stuff oozes out of his leg.
So, tomorrow he's having the implants out. And while he's under anesthetic, the surgeon will also remove a fatty cyst from his neck—also not dangerous, just uncomfortable.
The surgeon, his regular vet, and I all agree that this is Parker's last surgery. No matter how healthy he seems right now, at 12½ he hasn't got a lot of years left. But removing the steel from his leg and cleaning out the infection (which could well be a biofilm) will make his last few years a lot more comfortable.
I'll post an update when Parker comes home Thursday morning.
My friend's mutt, finding happiness and interesting lighting in Durham, N.C.:
I'll have a Parker update Tuesday afternoon. Stay tuned.
In the last half 2018, I made a number of changes in my life that I had put off for years. I moved, got a new car, repaired my dog, and made a couple of changes in my personal life to clear a solid path for next year. What that will bring overall, I have no idea.
Every year at this time I post some statistics for comparison with previous years. In 2018:
- Travel was way, way down; in fact, I traveled less in 2018 than in any year since 1998, with the longest gap between trips (221 days) in my entire life. Overall, I took the fewest trips (7) on the fewest flights (11) to the fewest other countries (1) and states (7) than in any year since 1995. I did beat 2017's total flight miles (44,680 km this year against 31,042 km last year), but only because of three trips to London. (Side note: the Republican party shut down the US government during two of those trips.)
- I posted 518 times on The Daily Parker, up 62 from last year and 59 from 2016, and the best showing since 2013 (537). The A-to-Z challenge helped.
- Parker only got 133 hours of walks, significantly less than last year, principally because of his leg injury. Not to mention he's 12½, slowing down, and wants a nap, dammit.
- Fitbit steps didn't change much: 5,262,521 for the year, up 2% from last year. It was, however, my best year for steps since getting my first Fitbit in 2014. It also had my biggest stepping day ever.
- Reading went up just a tiny bit, from 17 to 24. One of my friends read over 100; I'm not going to be there until I take a year off from work. (I predict that will happen in the 2040s.)
The only resolution I have for 2019 is to bring all of these numbers up, but only slightly.