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Monday, November 21, 2011

GoSparky!: Study Abroad

GoSparky!: Study Abroad: SPARKY’S BLOG 11-18-11 FRANCE Chef Michel Bouit broke through the threshold like he owned it and asserted his baritone persona in ...

Study Abroad







SPARKY’S BLOG

11-18-11
FRANCE
Chef Michel Bouit broke through the threshold like he owned it and asserted his baritone persona in such a way that filled the entire room with enthusiasm.  I was pushed back to memories of pure giddiness when I was a boy hearing the good humor truck nearing our block.  The anticipation of this man’s arrival had been something I’d longed for ever since I was chosen to be part of the International Culinary Educational Experience as I had imagined him to be a jovial European type using fantastic stories and gesturing with his hands communicating with his entire body and he did not disappoint.

When he began describing the trip’s itinerary to us it was like the words coming out his mouth were notes on a harp being plucked by expert fingers playing songs of angels.  His wonderful rich and thick French accent resonated with all the students and I felt as though I was falling into a trance-like state as chef Michel elicited a stirring in my imagine on how much fun we would all have. 

Eating the finest foods and drinking the finest wines France has to offer sounds like a fairy tale that is too good to be true, but here I am listening to how lucky I am to be involved in this magical adventure; an adventure that will last me a lifetime; an adventure that I will treasure and cherish; an experience that will help me with my culinary endeavors and a realization of how lucky I was to be laid off in Detroit just a few years ago.

The world’s economic plight has become my treasure trove of education, passion, lasting relationships and friendships, an unleashing of creativity and most of all a path towards a real career that I feel will make a difference in my life as well as the community that I will reside in.

Have a great day and never give up!

Mark (Sparky)

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

GoSparky!: Zoobilation

GoSparky!: Zoobilation: "SPARKY’S BLOG 8-2-11 Zoobilation Every major metropolitan area usually has a zoo and Indianapolis is no different. The zoo in Indy is ..."

Zoobilation

SPARKY’S BLOG
8-2-11

Zoobilation

Every major metropolitan area usually has a zoo and Indianapolis is no different.  The zoo in Indy is a nice and clean atmosphere with a lot of panache.  I like it because of how it marries flora and fauna into the fabric of what they want to accomplish and that is to minimize the concrete and establish a feeling of wilderness.  Bravo, job well done.

It takes lots of money to keep up a place like your local zoo and most folks don’t realize this or understand how difficult it is to drum up support or the finances for such an endeavor.  The zoological society of Indianapolis is partnered (to a degree) with the state park system as it is located within the confines of the “White River State Park” as is the AAA minor league Indianapolis Indians (affiliate of the Pittsburgh Pirates) and the NCAA athletic organization.  The whole shebang is located along the banks of the White River and it is gorgeous.

What's Chef looking at?

Ben and Nora (the brains)











One of the ways to drum up money is to throw a fund raiser and that’s where Zoobilation comes in as a venue for donors to enjoy the park and zoo with a strolling dinner so-to-speak.  I was able to take part in this year’s event because I’m a volunteer for Second Helpings and they were invited to attend this event as a Culinarians sponsor. 

Restaurants from around the city are invited in to show their wares and tasty fare (free of charge of course) as a way to showcase their establishment and feed the hungry donors.  You can imagine they are all putting their best foot forward as a matter of pride.  That pride is also rewarded with “Best-in-Show” awards in several different categories.  It’s a feather in your cap for a year’s time to bring home one of these awards which will most certainly be put in an area that can be shown off to your customers.

The atmosphere was electric for me as this event requires a high level of decorum and dress.  All the men were wearing tuxedos and the women in high fashion evening gowns.  There were variations on the theme of course as differing personalities wish to show a “personalized” style when they attend an event such as this such as:  snake ties, giraffe cummerbunds and I even saw a guy wearing what looked like fish and turtle zooba pants…remember those?  They were a hit for the gym scene in the mid-nineties…fantastic stuff indeed.

I'm getting ready for the crowd to arrive


The ladies were a bit more demure and well, lady-like.  Oh sure, there were some dresses that showed a bit more skin than usual and thankfully the women sporting this attire could pull it off quite well thank you very much.  Seriously, thank you very, very much.

Mr. Zooba pants!
 
Our booth featured mini cupcakes with tropical fruit and pulled pork crostini’s with a spicy Caribbean salsa adorned on top of a deep fried plantain.  They were delicious and seemingly flying off the plates as we struggled to keep up with demand from the passersby.  Chef Sam Brown and Chef Liz Gimenez certainly know how to tickle the palates of the Indy elite as folks would scurry up to our fa├žade and exclaim they heard someone talking about the food we were serving.  Well done chefs.
 
Have a great day and never give up!

Mark (Sparky)

Saturday, July 30, 2011

GoSparky!: Family Wedding

GoSparky!: Family Wedding: "SPARKY’S BLOG 7-30-11 Family Wedding Who doesn’t look forward to a family wedding? I know I do and have looked forward to the wedding pos..."

Family Wedding

SPARKY’S BLOG
7-30-11

Family Wedding

Who doesn’t look forward to a family wedding?  I know I do and have looked forward to the wedding posted in this blog for a year.  You see, my cousin Kimberly is an extremely organized person and made sure that the whole family knew plenty in advance (1 year) to book our airfare and hotel room for the occasion.  Kimberly’s only daughter and the first of her 3 children was the one getting married
.

Mom and Dad
My sister Cristal and husband Gary

                                  
 Emily, my second cousin, was a picture of beauty while walking down the aisle toward her future husband but wait….I’m getting ahead of myself.  The first day of my trip started out at 4:30am as my flight left Indianapolis at 7:00am that day.  I don’t mind getting up early at all as long as it’s for a good reason and seeing family is as good as it gets.  I had a layover in Atlanta on my way down to Tampa, Florida and the first leg of my trip was just a little bit too memorable.

I was sitting in an aisle seat with the spot next to me empty when the crew started closing the plane’s door then I saw the flight attendant smile at what looked like someone approaching.  Just as I thought I would have a roomy flight down to Atlanta my eyes became affixed upon what would be a most uncomfortable experience.  A morbidly obese man was inching ever so close to my roomy utopia as he would have to stop for an intermittent breath like he was running or jogging in a race.  I, immediately, began praying hard to god that he NOT sit next to me.  I told god that I would be a better person, stop cussing, have pure thoughts, help little old ladies across the street whatever, just please don’t have this guy sit next to me.

Crap!!  He stopped just short of my location to put his luggage into the overhead bin and I knew he was going to have a ticket designated next to me.  Yup, I was right but just before he shoehorned himself into our row he whispered into the attendant’s ear a few mumblings that I couldn’t quite hear and stood there while she quickly walked to the front of the aircraft.  She returned with a seat-belt extension (yes, he was that big) for the gentleman and he began his arduous task of getting himself situated into his seat which I thought would be impossible.  Sitting down and getting buckled in took this man a little over 2 minutes and I instantly became a little heartbroken for him.  He was sweating profusely and would not look me in the eye as he apologized for taking so long.  He was clearly embarrassed and I felt nothing but melancholy at that moment.
As I tried to sit in my seat the gentleman realized he needed to move sort of sideways to allow me get situated before we could take off.  It was a full flight and there was nowhere else for me to sit as my upper body was pushed into the aisle.  The flight attendant looked at me and sort of winced realizing my discomfort. 

About 20 minutes later the same flight attendant ran the drink cart into my shoulder with what seemed to be extreme prejudice.  I had nowhere else to go as the sharp edge dug into my shoulder blade and then slid down the entire side of the cart.  She tried to physically push me back into my seat as she walked by without saying a word.  Not “excuse” not “I’m sorry” nothing.  Okay fine, whatever, at least the next flight has to better than this right?

Have you ever gotten into a car with someone who has really bad breath?  Breath so bad that there is no relief unless you open the window … that’s what was waiting for me in Atlanta.  This gentleman looked familiar as he talked incessantly on his phone to the studios back in Bristol, Connecticut.  As soon as I heard the words “STUDIO” and “BRISTOL” I knew this guy had something to do with ESPN as he was talking about the NBA draft to what seemingly sounded like a player on the other end of his phone conversation.  “So do any of the first 5 guys picked remind you of anyone you played with” was one of his questions.

He sat kitty-corner from me in the terminal but, unfortunately, right next to me on the plane.  His breath smelled like some rotting creature crawled down his throat and died there only to emit a dearth of death reminiscent of a landfill of slaughter-house carcasses with a river of raw sewage running through it. Okay, maybe it was worse than that.  The guy on the other side of the aisle offered him some gum which he turned down not realizing he was offending our olfactory sense in the worst possible way.

Emily dancing with her father Roger


Yes, Emily was beautiful on her special day and to me, more so as I harkened back to my trip down to her wedding and the special memories I have of the fat man and the stinky dude.  Enduring folks like that make any occasion a treasure….getting a root canal would have been pleasurable compared to spending any more time with my two traveling companions.

 Me and my god-parents Uncle Harvey and Aunt Alma

Somehow, some wine was spilled on the brides dress…wine from my glass which should have been horrific to me but I couldn’t stop thinking about what I “experienced” to get to that very moment and in many ways I couldn’t care less that the bride now had wine stains on her wedding dress.  I apologized, of course, as she acted as though her world was shattering a tiny bit and couldn’t help but giggle a little as a smile creased my face.  I think Emily thought I was a little evil and scurried away to greet more guests.

Have a great day and never give up!

Mark (Sparky)

Friday, July 22, 2011

GoSparky!: Jewel within the City Limits

GoSparky!: Jewel within the City Limits: "SPARKY’S BLOG 7-22-11 A Jewel within the City Limits I was reading an issue of “Outside” magazine a few months back and they were listing..."

Jewel within the City Limits

SPARKY’S BLOG
7-22-11

A Jewel within the City Limits
I was reading an issue of “Outside” magazine a few months back and they were listing all the best parks for wildlife and outdoor activities within the limits of the city in which they reside.  Much to my pleasure, Indianapolis was on the list with Eagle Creek as its representative.  The article went on to mention all the amenities that Eagle Creek offered to its aficionados.  I thought to myself, “Self you need to check this out”.  Well it took me up until just a couple weeks ago to get around to taking the trip all the way across town for a visit (only 20 minutes).

You remember the movie “Pee Wee’s Big Adventure” where Pee Wee is picked up by a burly truck driving woman by the name of Large-Marge?  That’s the vision that welcomed me at the front gate of my exciting excursion into Eagle Creek except my version lacked any kind of personality.  No worries, I didn’t come to chat with a gate-keeper, I came to experience the park.

 EAGLE CREEK

My first order of business was to figure out where I was going to embark on my afternoon adventure.  I brought my mountain bike to transport me through the park and keep me closer to nature so-to-speak.  Driving around in a vehicle, even if it is a Jeep just didn’t seem to cut the mustard.  By looking at the map given to me by “Large Marge” at the entrance; I figured I’d park the Jeep in middle-ground and make a large loop around the park.

The very first thing I happened upon was a small lake nestled in the middle of a meadow.  I heard children screeching with laughter and upon further inspection I noticed they were playing tag.  Remember tag?  I recall many a day when my fellow mates and I would play this fantastic rite of passage game honing our NFL running back skills. 

I noticed a small gaggle of geese and swans in a bit of a stare-off further down the meadow directly adjacent to the lake.  I fantasized they were “West Side Story” rivals like the Jets from New York and the Sharks from Puerto Rico….they would circle each other as if they were dancing in a Broadway play – mesmerizing stuff.  Then I got a little too close and the swans began hissing which made me a little nervous.  The geese, however, dispatched with the mamby pamby hissing and immediately began charging which hastened my departure.

My next discovery was an outdoor bird sanctuary and small collection of buildings nestled high on the bluffs overlooking a large reservoir.  I sat on a nearby bench next to a pond watching finches, sparrows, robins, cardinals and blue jays.  Again, I fantasized about all these species being one big family going about their business of providing for one another gathering stuffing for nests and worms to feed the young.  On that day all species seemed to get along just for me to watch in their entire splendor.  It was almost as if they were putting on a show being in such close proximity to one another.  Then all of a sudden I heard some high pitched cackling and a blue jay absconded with an egg from another nest, so much for harmony eh?

Pushing on, I was dying to get down to the beach and marina to check that out for future activities like fishing, kayaking, swimming and people watching – if you know what I mean?  The first thing that caught my eye was an enormous kite being flown by a guy that could be my doppelganger.  I thought I was looking into a mirror except he’d been at this kite game much longer than I.  He was able to swoop the kite inches from the ground harassing his dog to no end.  He had a border collie and they have boundless energy which served well in this instance as Mark 2.0 would bomb his dog time and time again to the delight of Fido as this canine ran and ran after that darn kite.  It was pretty cool to watch until the collie jumped up and caught the kite tearing it to shreds giving my twin pause for his eagerness to “entertain” his pet.  I almost pee’d my pants laughing at his gaffe.

EAGLE CREEK RESERVOIR

On my way up the hill from the beach and marina, I noticed a red-tailed hawk circling above.  This creature is my sister Cristal’s favorite bird of prey.  She has pictures and books of them and dreams of flying along-side them as they dive for their meal.  Speaking of prey, several smaller birds weren’t too happy with such a large presence dominating the sky above their home.  I’m sure you’ve seen them…swallows or sparrows shooing away the hawk in vain only to see this predator return to feast on one of their young?

Not today, I’ve always wondered why the predator bird doesn’t swat down or turn on its pestering cousin only to see with startled eyes that very thing occur.  I couldn’t believe what I was seeing.  Not only did Mr. hawk seemingly put on the brakes in mid air to catch one of the birds in its talons but took advantage of a mortal mistake by the other coming too close to the sharp beak of the red-tailed death machine and clamped down on the second smaller bird and flew away with lunch AND dinner.  Birds of a feather are captured together?

If all this can happen to me in half a day of observation…imagine what you could witness on numerous visits to a truly great park within the city limits of Indianapolis, IN. 

Have a great day and never give up!

Mark (Sparky)