You can’t test-drive a house. And that’s insane

Prior to moving into the new house — yes, we bought a house — I’m sitting in our rental, listening to the various noises it makes when the heater kicks in or after a toilet gets flushed.

And it occurs to me that we just spent a ton of money on a place where we will sleep, conceivably for the next 30 years, and we have no idea what it sounds like at night.

You can test-drive a car. Some dealers will even let you take them home for 24 hours. You can try on your clothes. Hell, you can sample beer, wine, and food before buying. Some animal shelters will let you try out a dog or cat to make sure it’s a good fit for your family.

But a house? Nope.

Continue reading “You can’t test-drive a house. And that’s insane”

All Hail the Lord and Lady of Shadow Mountain (we bought a house)

HousePhoto1We closed on a house last Friday. A lovely four-bedroom, four-bath — that’s two each for both of us — in the foothills town of Conifer, west of Denver. It’s up on Shadow mountain and sits on two acres of sloping pine and aspen and other assorted plants that I don’t know the names of. It’s the very picture of serenity, and the close on Friday couldn’t have gone smoother except for the LAST MINUTE FLIGHT TO AND FROM DALLAS THAT CARA WAS FORCED TO TAKE BECAUSE CAPITAL ONE IS NOT ONLY THE WORST BANK IN THE WORLD BUT IS THE EPITOME OF ALL THAT IS WRONG WITH LATE STAGE CAPITALISM IN THE UNITED STATES.

But more on that later.

1.

It wasn’t supposed to be this way. We moved to Colorado last fall with the intention of renting for a year, figuring out where we wanted to live, then buying toward the end of our lease — or even after the lease was up.

Then again, it wasn’t originally supposed to be like that either. We’d come to Colorado last spring with the intention of just buying a house and then moving. We checked out the mountain town of Nederland, which was full of hippies, had a semi-functional traffic circle, a few coffee shops and a lot of houses set on dirt roads where murderers, bears, and murderous bears might lurk. It was small is what I’m saying. And we’d just stayed at The Stanley, so maybe we were primed to think Colorado ghosts were out to get us.

We saw an amazing house in Nederland, one we considered out of our price range at the time (if you watch House Hunters, you know what kind of foreshadowing that is), and some not-so-amazing houses. But we learned that we didn’t know a thing about Colorado in general and mountain (or mountain-ish) living in particular. We also didn’t know what our work situations would be, so Nederland — west of Boulder — wasn’t going to be practical if either of us had to take a job in Denver. Also, trying to get a mortgage while living out of state seemed like it was going to be a pain in the ass.

So we found a place in Superior, a bedroom town between Boulder and Denver, and two hundred yards between the target and a massive open space with trails and amazing views of the Flat Irons.

Continue reading “All Hail the Lord and Lady of Shadow Mountain (we bought a house)”

What I ate in Louisiana: Christmas 2018

If the mountain doesn’t kill you, something else will. Like eating the way I do when I go home for Christmas. I forgot to take photos of a few meals this time around, but I think the ones below will still give you an adequate sampling.

(Speaking of sampling, feel free to buy one of my books!)

We arrived in Opelousas Friday morning after an overnight drive from Colorado (just over 17 hours) and kicked things off with boudin and cracklins from Billy’s, one of the finest meals known to man.

That evening we had fried fish and shrimp stew, courtesy of my stepdad.

Continue reading “What I ate in Louisiana: Christmas 2018”

In which we move to Colorado and almost die on a mountain

IMG_0564

When Ken and Cara moved from Brooklyn to Colorado, all they wanted was a change of pace, to trade the grind of long commutes and a dysfunctional city for fresh air and a slower pace of life. Maybe a little adventure. What they couldn’t have known was that just over two months after moving, they’d be trapped on a mountainside, tears freezing to their faces as they shivered, staring at their useless cellphones, the last light of day leaking out of the thin air.

Man. I should totally write one of those pieces for an outdoor magazine, shouldn’t I.

The biggest problem with this story is we didn’t die. Didn’t come close to it. Maybe if you ask Cara, she might tell you differently. She’ll tell you that, once again, I went out of my way to kill her. And the worst part might have been the indignity of it all. The scuba lessons I signed her up for came with about six hundred things that could go wrong and kill her. Swimming with sharks? Well, duh. They’re sharks. Glacier hiking in Iceland was a day of extremely high winds, crevasses and deadly ice caves.

But snowshoeing? You don’t die while snowshoeing. Hell, we’d been snowshoeing a couple of times before. It was a fun way to spend a day.

Outside Magazine writer: The two were about to make a number of rookie mistakes that often cause trouble for those new to winter sports, well-meaning people whose enthusiasm far outstrips their skills.

Continue reading “In which we move to Colorado and almost die on a mountain”

From the Gumbo Files: The Cajun Traveler Recipe

img_8740Here’s another gumbo recipe that Louisiana folks can argue about. More importantly, most non-Louisiana folks should be able to pull off.

I’ve written extensively about gumbo on this blog and elsewhere, so much so that I get tired just thinking about linking to the other pieces — and the arguments that usually ensue. There’s always some joker from Texas, or New Orleans, or North Louisiana — or even better, who has never set foot in Louisiana, but his grandma was from there — who’s gonna stroll in and tell you all about how wrong you are. “IF IT AIN’T GOT OKRA IT’S NOT GUMBO.” Nope. You’re wrong. Get out of my face. Or some fellow Cajun food snob will pop in with, “Mais, you gotta make you own roux, cher, or it don’t count no.” Mais, I’m here to tell you, you couldn’t tell the difference in a blind taste test. (The point is, people like to argue about food. Also, Cajun gumbo is different fro Creole gumbo is different from New Orleans gumbo.)

Anyway, my longtime friend Toby Dore, aka The Cajun Traveler and proprietor of the Cajun Hostel, has just posted his Chicken & Sausage Gumbo recipe. I’ll let you in on a little secret: When I moved from my basic gumbo recipe toward my advance recipe, it was after watching Toby cook a massive gumbo for one of his annual Christmas parties. I swiped a few steps from him. Clearly, he knows what he’s doing. And he makes a particularly bold old-school choice with one ingredient.

The good thing about this recipe is that it should be easy enough for most non-Louisianans to master and create an authentic Cajun gumbo in their own home. Just don’t skimp on the sausage!

Rocky Mountain Brisket

The last time I barbecued a brisket in New York, I spent $100 or more for what was once considered an inexpensive hunk of meat. Last week, I spent $30 on a brisket at Walmart. It turned out to be one of the best I’ve barbecued to date.

This was to be my first barbecue in Colorado, the first time I had people over, and it was all for the LSU-Alabama game. The game went about as I expected. Thankfully, the meat — brisket, ribs, and chicken — did too, despite a lot of worrying about barbecuing at altitude with variable weather conditions.

Continue reading “Rocky Mountain Brisket”

What a gourd-geous evening in Denver

I guess I’m on a Halloween theme this week. Someone should alert Collin Nissan because this post is all about Glow at the Gardens, an even highlighting pumpkin carving and more at the Denver Botanic Gardens. After all, we know what season it really is.

Anyway. A few photos from the evening.

Continue reading “What a gourd-geous evening in Denver”