Gus’s World Famous Fried Chicken–Little Rock, AR

Let’s face it. I love fried chicken. I’ll throw back a box of Popeye’s any day. Another local favorite (I’m from Louisiana) is Southern Classic. Apparently they are so ghetto, they don’t even have a web presence. I won’t even turn my nose up at KFC or chicken from the grocery store. Fried chicken is a southern institution and I’m doing my part by enjoying it.

It’s not difficult to fry chicken, but there is an art to it. Personally, I don’t care to fry because the splattering grease and clouds of flour turn my kitchen into a disaster area. I love cooking, but I’d rather get prison shanked than scour a greasy kitchen.

About a year ago I encountered the fried chicken that puts all others to shame. I was at the original Gus’s World Famous Fried Chicken in Memphis on my first encounter. (Actually I think the original original is at a house in the sticks, but this was the original restaurant if my memory doesn’t deceive me).

The beans are punched up pork 'n beans, but the tang complements the spicy chicken.
The beans are punched up pork ‘n beans, but the tang complements the spicy chicken.

Today as we were passing through Little Rock, AR, I was compelled to try one of Gus’s latest satellites. It has the homey appeal of the Memphis location, but is punched up some as if a hipster was trying for the old authenticity, but you could feel the slick veneer. It’s all marketing, anyway. I really don’t care what a place looks like. In this case, the proof is in the chicken.

The crunch of the crispy skin is incredible. If you pay attention, you can tell that the skin tastes a bit like cracklings, or as we call them, cracklins. The juicy chicken contrasted by the über crispy, pork-esque skin is what makes Gus’s stand apart from the others. That, and they season the meat with a firey blend that adds yet another dimension.

This location isn’t quite as good as the Memphis restaurant, but don’t let that stop you from a day trip in search of culinary delights. I’d easily drive three hours (one way) for their chicken.

IMG_4738

 

Andy’s Frozen Custard–Jonesboro, AR

Though I cannot say that I’m a frozen custard connoisseur, I can confidently claim that Andy’s Frozen Custard has some top shelf product.

IMG_4731.JPG
It’s so thick.

I went with an espresso concrete made with chocolate custard. The experience was surreal. I was with Alli, my oldest daughter, and we immediately had to park so that we could enjoy this high viscosity treat.

The texture was smooth. It was silky smooth, no–velvety smooth. I visualized strolling in the woods on a warm spring day when a buck rustled from the bushes to show off his velvety antlers. This must have been a tame deer, because I imagined him coming up to me to hand feed him some corn while I lick his velvety skull protuberances to experience the appeal of frozen custard that is unmatched at Andy’s.

Even if you don’t experience strange nature hallucinations, you will be glad to enjoy a frozen custard from Andy’s.

Here’s a tip: I ordered a medium and regretted the fact that I didn’t order a large. The medium is plenty big, but I feel slightly hollow that I just didn’t gorge myself.

Covenant of Sin

I just read a disturbing Yahoo News article regarding an evangelical couple with a gay son. The story ends tragically, and the impression I’m left with is that the lesson learned is to change Church policy instead of submitting to the sovereignty of God.

My heart goes out to families like this. There are no simple answers and how can one even begin to comfort parents who have lost a son.

There seems to be confusion between acceptance and affirmation. Acceptance is possible without condoning sinful behavior. Affirmation is an attempt to normalize sin, regardless of God’s stance on the matter. After all, He created the universe. I don’t think He is wishy washy on matters of sin.

Ultimately, there is only one issue at hand: either the Bible is divinely inspired or it’s not. Do we believe God, or is He a liar? If God is Truth, then we are called to holiness. If God is a liar, then He is unworthy of our worship.

If we cannot trust the Bible, then we can disregard any notions of absolute morality. In fact, this point marries well with relativism. I’m sure the subject has come up while waiting in line at Walmart when somebody opines, sodomy may be true for you but it’s not true for me.” Besides, we are talking about people wearing pajamas or full size sheets safety pinned in place. Personally, I try to keep my conversations light, but to each his own.

This brings up another question. In John 14:6, Jesus says, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” This statement refutes relativism. Is Jesus a crackpot or is he telling the truth? If Jesus doesn’t lie, look into his numerous statements that authenticate the Old Testament. If the Old Testament was wrong, Jesus could have set the record straight by telling us that there were abuses in Sodom and Gibeah, and He has been through anger management training. Jesus could have waved the rainbow flag of surrender chanting, “Gay is OK.” But He didn’t.

In Matthew 19:5, Jesus obliquely denounces homosexuality. His assertion is that a man will cleave to his wife. Some want to ignore that. Some want to ignore the Old Testament. Some want to dismiss our call to righteousness. Some twist our freedom in Christ as license to commit some of the most heinous of sins.

So which is it? If the Bible is not the divinely inspired word of God, then it is utterly useless. Aleister Crowley, a Satanist, said, “Do as though wilt.” Do we do what is right in our own eyes or do we seek fellowship with God?

If faith is based on fabrication, you are a fool to partake in its abominable sacrements. If the Bible is divinely inspired, we mustn’t create a god in our fallen image. We must take the Bible at face value and practice the tenets of the Bible as they stand.

It’s interesting to see how people try to have it both ways. John 14:5 says, “If you love me, you will keep my commands.” So which is it? Do you love Jesus Christ that brings salvation, or do you embrace your sin which reaps judgment?

Another Day With A Dog’s Eye View

This is one of those days I spend laying on the floor staring at the tv. I’m not really watching it. It’s just a distraction. A distraction that isn’t all that effective as I’m still splayed out on the floor. I’m facing an opponent that will not be second fiddle to anything. It doesn’t matter what I want to do. I’m on the floor trying to distract myself from the pain.

This is just one day in the life of a chronic pain sufferer. The label doesn’t matter. My label happens to be ankylosing spondylitis. I like to shorten the name to make it more intimate. After all, I spend more time with AS than I do with my wife.

The kids just came home from school. They haven’t even been home for two minutes before I start barking at them. Conflict and stress have a tendency to ratchet the pain from “unbearable agony” to “I want to put a gun in my mouth.” And no, I don’t own a gun. I’m sure I’ll be awarded Dad of the Year any day now.

I took my Humira shot yesterday. That is four days before my next scheduled date. I guess that’s about normal for me. I metabolize medicine quickly. If I have dental work done, I usually get a double dose of Novocain. I’ve also had shots during procedures to keep the numbness alive. 30 minutes after I leave, the numbness is just a memory.

My last shot was last week. I had the shot Monday night, and the next day I was on a whirlwind road trip from Louisiana to Alabama. Strike one. I was back in town Wednesday evening. Long periods of immobility are bad for my joints. They stiffen up, but this time, before I had time to recover, I spent Thursday in the kitchen to bake up 60 dozen cookies. I was in a commercial kitchen so it only took about six hours. I was on my feet and constantly moving. Strike two. The pain has been escalating daily to a full on fury. I could tell my last shot that should have been helpful for two weeks had lost all benefit nine days later. That’s strike three. I hope to start feeling some relief by Sunday or Monday.

I have about 6 days a month where I feel really good. Then there are the days before and after the shot that either ramp up or taper off from the good days. I could have anywhere from 12-16 days a month like this. These are precarious times where I am pretty mobile, but may enjoy the presence of low grade fevers or I may have some angry joints where the others are still drowsy. The remaining 8-10 days a month are nothing but horror.

My feet and ankles are cool to the touch but they burn as if I’m wearing menthol socks. If it’s not a cool burn, my lower extremities are hot with a more pronounced pain and redness. The knees only vary in intensity from a mild ache to a sharp pain that may be compared to burning your leg to a stump with acid. Then we have the hips, shoulders, and neck that like to garner attention, but my lower back usually squeals loudest. It reminds me of my five year old’s hissy fits that I just let her have whatever she wants as I am assaulted with the feeling of some cosmic finger nails scraping against my chalkboard soul.

My family has it worse. My wife has a cripple for a husband. I look normal, so I’m sure she fields comments that she is supporting a lazy deadbeat. My kids have an irritable parent who isn’t driven by love or compassion. The goal is pain-avoidance. Drama increases the pain. Even my dog has been getting yelled at lately. What’s the deal with the barking and snarling because she heard the UPS man?

It’s great when I’m feeling well because I forget how bad the pain has been the past days and weeks, but when I’m hurting, I can’t remember those fleeting moments of bliss. I cannot visualize either if I’m not experiencing it. Either I’m drowning in the sewer or I’m laying under a shade tree on a nice sunny day with the smell of BBQ wafting in the air and the sound of kids frolicking in the distance.

Maybe tomorrow will be better. Maybe I’ll spend my day on the couch. I better not get carried away and start making big plans. This floor isn’t too bad.

We Live in a Civilized Society?

I was reading “Judges: Such A Great Salvation” when I came across an interesting sentence regarding God’s judgment. Davis stated, “We need to beware of thinking that God avenges only when he makes a racket.” (p. 125) It caught my attention because when we consider God’s judgment, we usually think of natural disasters or some other cataclysmic event. We forget that God’s wrath may be poured out slowly over time.

Such is the case in America today. We might surmise that God is exercising a judgment of abandonment with the rise of immorality. We are a culture of death where we kill the unborn and the infirm. We even sanction doctor-assisted suicide as a sort of pre-emptive strike.

We also see all manner of sexual sin from adultery and pornography, to widespread acceptance of homosexuality. The apostle Paul writes, “Therefore God gave them up in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, to the dishonoring of their bodies among themselves, because they exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever! Amen.” (Romans‬ ‭1‬:‭24-25‬ ESV) This is the world we live in.

It is apparent that morality is on a downward trajectory and it seems that God is judging America, not with a loud bang (at least not yet), but slowly and methodically where we are ensnared and are not even aware of it.

Or I may be mistaken and the normalization of sin might actually be evidence of an intrepid and virtuous society. A society where somebody’s “choice” trumps the sanctity of life. A society that advocates the wholesale slaughter of unborn babies for reasons that can be as hollow as being inconvenient to being as depraved principled and idealistic as being favorable to the unborn baby because we subjectively decide that being born would infelicitously affect his quality of life. See, eugenics is propitious not only for society at large, but for the aborted child as well.

We have fallen so far that we believe (at least in limited cases at this time) that murder is advantageous to the murderee. Or to use an actual word, a favor had been done for the victim beneficiary.

I must live on another planet because I thought a favor was something good like cutting a little old lady’s lawn without compensation. I suffer from chronic pain and am unable to work, and I anticipate this particular brand of goodwill will expand from terminal patients to other patients with a questionable quality of life. Forgive me if I seem ungracious, but I would like to decline this favor in advance. I wonder if benefits such as these will ever become mandatory.

Identity Crisis

Consider a world where your identity is based on how you project yourself instead of DNA and common sense. Before we embark on this journey of self-actualization, let’s dust off our Bible to read Psalm 139:13-16. The Psalmist writes, “For you formed my inward parts; you knitted me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well. My frame was not hidden from you, when I was being made in secret, intricately woven in the depths of the earth. Your eyes saw my unformed substance; in your book were written, every one of them, the days that were formed for me, when as yet there was none of them.” It sounds as if God, had already planned and designed each of us before He ever created the universe.

I’m aware that there are those who do not believe in the God of the Bible. Some don’t believe in God at all. That’s fine. If that is the case, the concept of rejecting our DNA to redefine ourselves might seem reasonable. After all, we just evolved over billions of years. We are just evolving ourselves rather than waiting for random chance to catch up.

If we believe in God (or any god for that matter), we are only cleaning up His mess. He created the moon and the stars. He created the green grass and the blue sky. He created giraffes and gnus. His perfect will created you and I. But He made a cosmic mistake. With every fiber of my being, with my limited knowledge and fickle emotions, I look in the mirror and see a man staring back, but in the deepest recesses of my soul, I know that I should have been born a cat.

I have pictures of me playing with balls of yarn as a kitten child. I’m ashamed to admit it, but I have a nasty catnip habit. I think the strongest marker that assures me that I should have been born a cat is that I catch mice and small birds and proudly lay my trophies at my wife’s feet.

IMG_4701.JPG
This image of a cat is courtesy of Wikipedia.

What do you see in the above picture? If you see a man, you are narrow-minded and intolerant. Any reasonable person sees a picture of a cat. God must be a rascal to trap a cat in a human body. I can’t imagine the torture he must have endured to self-evolve into his real self–a cat.

Sadly, this is not just an isolated incident.  There are hundreds, perhaps thousands of transhumans.  Some may believe this is a mental delusion that should be included in the DSM V.  It’s not.  We need to exercise compassion and love for these poor creatures.  They should not be derided as deviants or some kind of abomination.  They should be accepted and affirmed.

This image of a sloth is courtesy of Xuilla on Flickr.
This image of a sloth is courtesy of Xuilla on Flickr.

Imagine the horror of living in a body that is not your own.  Look at Slothman.  Look at the pain in his eyes.  He has to wear a ridiculous getup because he cannot afford his transformation.  Is it unreasonable to have the government pay for him to become a proper sloth?  What’s the deal with his claws?  Are those chopsticks?  It’s ridiculous to even entertain the notion that a sloth can hang in a tree with chopsticks.

These poor transhumans need to be integrated into society as the creature that they are on the inside.  You can’t possibly imagine the pain these manimals carry.  I do, though.  I’m a cat trapped in a man’s body.  People laugh at me when I wear my cat outfit made out of a patchwork quilt and a snow tire.  Admittedly, it doesn’t look very catlike, but I cannot afford anything else.

This is the world we live in.  A world with no common sense and no ultimate sense of morality.  We are in a world of deviancy and corruption because we think we know what is best.  Proverbs 3:5 tells us not to lean on our own understanding, yet we mutilate our bodies and souls for cheap thrills.  Or worse, we desecrate our bodies as we take a “moral” stand against righteousness.

Cracker Barrel–Meridian, MS

We were passing through Meridian, MS and I had the fever for some pancakes. I’m sorry I didn’t have a better option than Cracker Barrel, but I really needed some pancakes. Where’s an IHOP when you need one?

For starters, the service was nice, but sluggish. It took forever to get my weaksauce coffee. It tasted like black water with sugar and cream. I like coffee that will bite you with authority. Maybe some with chickory.

The eggs were over easy, yet the whites were rubbery. The sausage was some of the saddest I’ve ever eaten. I would have been ashamed to serve that sausage to my dog. It tasted old and reheated. But I didn’t go for sausage. I wanted pancakes.

Remember the Three Stooges episode where they were trying to eat some vulcanized pancakes? When they were finally able to cut through and eat those delights, they started choking up feathers? Now you know what Cracker Barrel pancakes are like.

I’m convinced people don’t go to Cracker Barrel for their fine dining, it’s for the jelly jars and rocking chairs.

Nick’s in the Sticks–Tuscaloosa, AL

I joined up with a friend from Dallas in Shreveport for a road trip to Tuscaloosa, AL. For hours he kept telling me that we needed to get to town in time to eat at Nick’s in the Sticks. It was a grueling drive, but worth every mile.

Normally, if I’m chasing food out of town, I’m chronicling my barbecue escapades. Those are fun adventures usually spend with my beautiful fifteen year old daughter, Alli.

Just so you know that as I stalk my next meal, it can be quite varied. The whole family is beginning to warm to the idea that life is a culinary adventure. We are planning on hunting fried chicken over Thanksgiving break in Memphis, TN.

Granted, we came for other business, but the lure of the kill steak quickly overshadowed our original intentions. I’m just trying to be clear that we came to Tuscaloosa for a reason other than eating as driving seven hours for dinner is just crazy. It may be crazy, but Nick’s just might be worth it.

IMG_4689.JPG
The lighting was so dim that I was unable to capture an image of my steak, but the warm, yellowish glow in the men’s room allowed me to take a picture of this ancient paper towel dispenser.

I enjoyed a succulent ribeye with onion rings. The onion rings were good, the steak was excellent, and the ambiance just whispered that you found a hidden gem.

This establishment definitely flies under the radar as my friend was introduced to it a couple of years ago by a local. Next time I’m in town I don’t have to worry about what I’m going to eat for dinner.

Peggy’s Homemade Pizza–Natchitoches, LA

It seems that I’ve eaten pizza all over the Midwest and South, and most pizza is generally adequate. There are times when my taste buds catch a flicker of excitement like when I had Pizza Luce’s in Duluth, Davanni’s in Minneapolis, Damgoode pies in the Little Rock area, and Square Pizza in a Kansas City suburb. For some reason, I’m thinking Lawrence.

Nevertheless, I have always lamented to my wife that we are unable to get good pizza in the Shreveport area. They are improving as I think Rotolo’s is pretty good, but I want pizza that leaves an indelible mark on my psyche. I want a pie that will brand its excellence on my mind. I think I found one of those gems in Natchitoches. I never imagined I’d find that place essentially in my backyard.

The place was recently relocated to what used to be a residence. It’s nothing fancy, but I’m never looking for fancy. I’m looking for food.

The thin crust surprised me as there was an outer crust to hold. Apparently, they curl up the edges to make a nice handle. The toppings were of excellent quality and were in a nice ratio. Ever have the pizza with too many olives? It can have a deleterious effect on you.

IMG_4679.JPG

I was satisfied with just pizza, but the family wanted to try the cinnamon sticks. Never have I sampled such a treat. The dough is folded, so there are actual layers within the breadsticks. The outside is crunchy while the inside is toothsome. Very satisfying as you dip them into the icing.

I tend to be critical of the food I eat, whether it’s at a restaurant or if I beat myself up the rest of the night because I get distracted and cook my steak medium rare instead of rare. (That really raises my hackles.) Peggy’s is easily one of my top 10 favorite pizza restaurants. We are still in town, so we might swing back for some more cinnamon sticks.

Did Jesus Come to Bring Peace?

Some people say that Jesus was a great teacher. Others say that he came to demonstrate love. These are true, but what did Jesus say? He stated, “Do not think that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I have not come to bring peace, but a sword.” (Matthew 10:34 ESV) Isn’t this contradictory? What does this mean?

This certainly doesn’t sound like Joel Osteen’s namby pamby Jesus. The kind of sniveling god that wants our attention so badly, he grants us our best life now to buy our affection. I don’t know about you, but I have numerous difficulties in my life. I deal with chronic pain and will likely never see a pain-free day the remainder of my life. I’m not whining. I’m just stating a fact.

Everyday, people deal with suffering and loss. What about their best life? Is the six year old girl with leukemia living her best life now? I digress, but Osteen is selling people a false Jesus. Jesus is less concerned with your material wealth or physical health or comfort than he is with your soul. Jesus did not come to bring peace, but division. (Luke 12:51)

What is the cause of this division, anyway? Jesus once said, “Whoever hates me hates my Father as well.” (John 15:23 NIV) He said that after he told the disciples that the world will hate them. That really is the crux of the matter. Either you love Jesus and are in opposition to the world, or you belong to the world and hate Jesus.

I once belonged to the world. I was a pseudo-Christian, where I outwardly professed my faith (rather meekly in mixed company), but I lived as an atheist. Jesus had no impact on my life. As a matter of fact, I ridiculed real believers and denigrated God if it meant ratings. (I was a disc jockey at a rock station.) I clearly remember what I was like. I thought I could just wear the moniker and continue business as usual.

John 9:39 resonates with me. “Jesus said, ‘For judgment I came into this world, that those who do not see may see, and those who see may become blind.'” I now realize that I was blind most of my life. I can also see many that profess their sight, when, in reality, they cannot. I’m reminded of the episode of House M.D. where Foreman contracts some crazy disease where he goes blind but his brain thinks he can see. Many think that they can see, but all they see is a poor facsimile of Jesus. Most notably, it’s Prosperity Jesus.

The whole idea of the cross seems ridiculous to unbelievers. 1 Corinthians 1:18 states, “For the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.” This is something I can’t explain. I remember I mentally “accepted” Jesus, but my heart was dead. Only after I was broken both physically and spiritually could I understand what it meant to be saved. It is transformative. Jesus came not to bring peace, but to give life.