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I’ve never been a regular at any bar, restaurant or other such establishment. Why go back to the same place for the same food on the same plate over and over again?

But last Saturday we chowed at La Chaya Bistro on Nicollet Ave., and people, let me just riff for a minute. After my first dining experience at La Chaya, I’m ready to become a regular.

The staff at La Chaya, first and foremost, know how to get it done. From hostess to wait staff to chef/co-owner Juan Juarez Garcia and his team in the kitchen – friendliness runs rampant. The place is immaculate and beautiful – both inside and out. The service was spot on. And the chef truly knows more than his way around a kitchen preparing menu items with flavors from both the Mediterranean and Mexico.

Within a minute of taking our seats we were presented with bread and a garlic butter that was lick-the-knife good. For our 90 minutes dining experience at La Chaya, we shared a calamari/shrimp appetizer with a spicey red salsa; a panilla cheese, avocado and tomato salad; and, for an entree, pepper-crusted halibut with zuccini, and crusted mashed potatoes. The plates were beautiful and each one had incredible flavor – perhaps because La Chaya uses a lot of organically produced foods in its dishes.

Here’s a great little secret in Minneapolis – and the owners are doing things right. They’ve won me over and I want to become a regular – a fixture of sorts – at La Chaya. Put my name on a table, Juan. See you all at 7 sharp.

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As I recently shared with someone who means a great deal to me, if there were one singer/songwriter’s CD that I was allowed to have on my iPod, I’d select David Gray’s, “White Ladder” record. So many good tracks on that effort.

There’s a silver lining on all aspects of our lives, no matter how hard you question, wonder, or worry. No matter how dark it may be at any given moment. If we just remember and keep a watchful eye open for it.

Here’s Gray’s “Silver Lining.” No one sings it like he does.

Lyrics

Take this silver lining
Keep it in your own
Sweet head
And shine it when the night is
Burning red
Shine it in the twilight
Shine it on the cold, cold ground
Shine it til these walls
Come tumbling down

We were born with our eyes wide open
So alive with wild hope now
Can you tell me why
Time after time they drag you down
Down in the darkness deep
Fools and their madness all around
Know that the light don’t sleep

Step into the silence
Take it in your own
Two hands
And scatter it like diamonds
All across these lands
Blaze it in the morning
Wear it like an iron skin
Only things worth living for are
Innocence and magic, amen

We were born with our eyes wide open
So alive with wild hope now
Can you tell me why
Time after time they drag you down
Down in the darkness deep
Fools and their madness all around
Know that the light don’t sleep

Woah, wooah

Time after time they drag you down
Down in the darness deep
Fools and their madness all around
Know that the light don’t sleep
Know that the light don’t sleep

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My Most Favorite Place

CaribouWhether it’s a cup of Obsidian dark roast or a skim vanilla latte I’m after, the crew at Caribou always come through. This morning my order included a cinnamon chip scone. What’s better than that on a cool autumn morning.

While I;m reading my paper in the corner of the shop, in walks a girl and her boyfriend – they might have been 20 years old. She proceeded to be flamboyant as he placed their order, clearly still half-cocked after a night of drinking. He remained polite and attempted to quiet her down. They sat sipping their coffees and all too frequently she laughed loudly and swore.

“Oh, fuckkkkkk!!!’

“Not SO loud,” he’d say. But she kept at it until the shift manager finally walked out from behind the counter and asked her to keep it down.

She gave the manager a dirty look and said, “This coffee is too hot to even drink.”

 

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In my always-on search for good writing, I peruse new blogs from time to time. Friday nights at 11 p.m., as my son lies sleeping on the living room floor…just for example.

I’ve been reading a blog for a couple months now that frequently offers some terrific writing. With a blog named “Wordsmith Extraordinaire,” one would expect good stuff. Extraordinary stuff, actually.

Here’s an example of the fine writing offered by Jill Terry, the aforementioned wordsmith. I particularly liked reading and re-reading this post and hope you’ll spend two minutes digesting it as well.

“Overwhelming,” by Wordsmith Extraordinaire.

And speaking of blogs, can I just say that one of my pet peeves is reading super-long and boring posts that go on and on ad nauseum. Writing post upon tome-length post should be outlawed. I mean, I really can’t add even the best of blogs to my blogroll if I can’t read a new post in a few minutes.

I live by this “life’s too short to waste it standing still” approach and it applies to blog posts as well. I think web logs were invented to give us all a place to convey our thoughts or talents in a direct and brief way. If there’s a novel inside of you, go write a fricken novel…using your computer and hard drive – not a blog.

And that’s all I have to say about that.

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In a recent informal survey conducted by Minneapolis radio station KFAN AM-1130, listeners were Jason Bourneasked to cast their vote for who they viewed as the bigger bad ass.  Jason Bourne (Matt Damon, who has starred in three Bourne movies in the past six years), or James Bond (roll them all up into one Connery, Lazenby, Moore, Dalton, Brosnan and the newest Bond, Daniel Craig).  The winner hands down – 58% to 42% was the Jason Bourne character played by Matt Damon. Perhaps because The Bourne Ultimatum was just released and perhaps because Bourne doesn’t use all the gadgets that Bond relies on to get himself out of scrapes.

Another interesting fact:  Matt Damon is keeping Hollywood in business as an actor. For each $1 he earns in salary for the roles he plays, his moves earn $29 back for the studio.  So if Damon gets paid $10 million for a movie roll, the studio can expect a windfall of $290 million. Not a bad payday for either party.  The female netting the most per dollar? Jennifer Aniston.  I like Aniston, but I’d never give her “star power” when compared to the likes of Angelina Jolie, Julia Roberts and Charlize Theron, to name only three.  For every $1 Aniston earns in salary, the studio nets back $17, raising another sticky wicket: There’s just no sense of equality among men and women when it comes to salaries – even in Hollywood.

300

The movie “300” came out on DVD last Friday. I managed to stop by a Blockbuster on the way home Monday evening and grab a copy that had just been returned. Can I just say, yawn. Action movies are great and the cinematography in this movie was amazing, but after the first hour they had very little left to do except kill the Spartans. There’s only so many times that a closeup of a spear running through a body with blood spurting out in every direction is remotely interesting.   I can just imagine all the computer enhancers sitting around the editing room on this film getting off on the sequences as they added blood spatter here and there trying to one-up each other with each kill of a Persian or Spartan. And, oh, by the way, if I had to listen to the lead actor in this movie shout “SPARTANS!” one more time, it really would have been the end of him on my television.  In fact, I stuck out the entire movie so I could see him get pelted with hundreds of arrows. That was worth it!

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Every now and then my work group lets its collective hairs down for fun. Thursday afternoon was one of those days. The lot of us found ourselves in downtown Minneapolis at Brits Pub – one of the coolest, most happening places in the city. We were there for a buffet of food and an afternoon of lawn bowling.

Imagine walking out of the second floor of a downtown bar on a beautiful July afternoon. The temperature hovers around 80 degrees. The Stella Artois, bootleggers or Long Island ice teas quench all thirsts. Out on the patio we sit next to a field of closely clipped green grass. There must be an acre of it. Jealous employees working at Target’s corporate headquarters look down on the bar patrons from their bright red painted cubicles wishing it was Friday at 5, but it’s not. Too bad for them.

I’ve never lawn bowled before, but I have played bocce ball. Lawn bowling is kinda like that, butBrits with different scoring rules. Participants divide into teams of two or four and square off by first throwing a small billiards-sized cue ball looking ball, the “jack,” out onto the grass. The goal then is to get all four of your team’s larger, weighted balls closest to the jack. One point is awarded if you have one ball closer than your competitors. Two points if you have two of your four balls closer to the jack than your opponent, and so on. Hitting your opponent’s balls out of play is encouraged and considered strategic. At least this is how we were instructed to play and score our single-elimination tournament.

Lawn bowlers who are communicators by profession tend to get a little catty after a beer or two. Trash talk ensues. “Im’ma boot your ass clear to Stillwater with this toss!” Cheating happens. A measureing tape becomes necessity to determine who’s balls are closer in to the jack because our obviously blurred keen eyes can no longer discern distance.

The first teams out of the tournament, including my own, won the benefit of sitting in the shade and drinking even more. But over the course of two hours, a winner was decided in the great Medtronic Lawn Bowling Festival hosted by Brits Pub. Of course the winners did so by hook and by crook. What else would you expect?!

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This weekend marked the kick0ff to the annual Aquatennial held in Minneapolis every July. Today, the milk carton boat races took to Lake Calhoun with the city as the backdrop. The boats, all in their splendid milk carton, glue and clear tape construction, stayed floating.

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