Saturday, August 30, 2008

The Charlotte 500, Lap 51: Metrolina Greenhouses

While you can't shop there, Metrolina Greenhouses is still an impressive place to see. A huge complex on the eastern edge of Huntersville, Metrolina's 4.4 million square feet of greenhouses look like something out of a science fiction novel. They are one of largest growers of poinsettias, including painted poinsettias, which you can learn about through a video on their website.

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The Charlotte 500, Lap 50: Matt's Chicago Dog

It's been over a year, and I'm finally hitting # 50 on my list of 500 things to do in Charlotte. You could say I'm dogging it, but that would be a downright awful pun since this post features Matt's Chicago Dog on Catawba Avenue in Cornelius. Chicagoans are used to seeing places like Matt's - hot dogs, burgers, italian beef, pizza puffs - at every strip mall, but in Charlotte, they are few and far between. And, in this land of barbecue, it's nearly impossible to find Vienna beef, aka Real Hot Dog. Of course they carry the Carolina Dog (cole slaw and chili), which seems to be a rule here, but they also have a very good Chicago Dog and great fries. We will definitely be back to Matt's.

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Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Baseball History!

Baseball history was made last Saturday night at Fieldcrest Cannon Stadium, home of the Kannapolis Intimidators, Class A affiliate of the Chicago White Sox. In the first inning of the Intimidators' 8-2 victory over the Greensboro Grasshoppers, I caught my first ever foul ball at a baseball game.
Seated in the third seat of the second row on the outfield end of the third base dugout, I bare-handed a screaming one-hopper off the bat of some guy from one of the teams (the thrill of victory forced all the finer details from my mind). Not only did I get the ball, but I discovered something possibly more important to a baseball fan - the secret of snagging those elusive rawhide spheres. What you need to do, when you see a screamer headed your way, is: 1) close your eyes; 2) duck hastily, as though your life (or your front teeth) depended on it; 3) let the ball carom off the ankle of the guy next to you; 4) open your eyes; and 5) wrap your hand around the ball as it rolls lazily under your seat.
It helps (your ego) immensely if you can concoct a story to make it sound as if you made the play of the game. And you don't even have to lie to make it sound heroic. For example, while the details in my five-step plan for catching a foul ball are, in fact, the way it really happened, I did snag the ball with one bare hand. And it really was a blistering one-hopper, the likes of which cause even a flower-tongued soul like myself to exclaim, "Oh $%#&!!" Of course, I would never say anything like that out loud, unless I'm behind the wheel, but something along those lines did cross my mind as I saw the ball whistling in my direction. It's at moments like those that I wish I had bought the cheap seats.
So, maybe it wasn't one of those amazing grabs that earns a highlight on Sports Center, but for me it was something I'll always remember - my first real foul ball! It certainly beats the story I've been leaning on the last 27 years, in which the Andy Frain usher in the left field bleachers at Wrigley Field handed me a ball he had retrieved during batting practice of a game against those stinking Mets. That occurred at the first game back after the players' strike of 1981 (which brings up much more disturbing thoughts about actually being able to remember, vividly, things that happened soooo long ago). After nearly three decades, it's nice to have a different story to tell, even if I have to polish it up to make it sound good. Plus, you can't really count on impressing people for long with stories about how some old guy handed you a ball simply because you were the cutest kid to stroll through the ballpark gates.


Tuesday, August 19, 2008

The Charlotte 500, Lap 49: Fuel Pizza

Fuel Pizza looks pretty cool - like one of those old small town diners you'd see in Mayberry, except it serves pizza rather than meatloaf and spare ribs. The pizza was supposedly New York style, but, in my opinion, didn't quite measure up. We ate in at the South End (located at the south end of downtown, oddly enough) location and picked up at the Davidson location. I don't know if it was a difference in kitchens, but the eat-in pizza wasn't too bad, but the pick-up pizza was a big disappointment. Fuel is popular around Charlotte, so it makes my list.
The picture is of the South End location, but it's another one of those corners where I can't seem to get a red light in order to take a good picture.

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Sunday, August 10, 2008

The Charlotte 500, Lap 48: Dilworth Starbucks

Yeah, I know, Starbucks isn't all that exciting, but the location in Charlotte's Dilworth neighborhood is the coolest one I've seen. Unfortunately, I was only able to get a picture from the car - and wouldn't you know I've never gotten a red light at that corner. The porch is giant, for a coffee shop, and it's a great area to watch people and enjoy the weather. And your coffee, of course.

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Friday, August 08, 2008

The Charlotte 500, Lap 47: Berry Brook Farms

Berrybrook Farm in the Dilworth neighborhood, just south of Uptown (downtown) Charlotte, is a health food/drink/vitamin store that's been around since 1972. Its trademark feature is the old wagon out front (of course I didn't get a picture of that). The small store includes all kinds of groceries, a juice bar, and a sandwich "shop".

The sandwich shop has only a few selections, such as tofu hot dogs (Tiffany wasn't thrilled) and a veggie wrap that was very good. After you buy your sandwich, you can eat out on the front porch. At the juice bar, you can get juice made of numerous fruits and veggies, or you can do as I did and get the Everything Juice, which pretty much includes everything - carrots, garlic, ginger, cilantro, etc. That was an awesome juice. As for groceries, you can get everything from breakfast (I got some great puffed kashi and millet) to dessert. They also carry organic sodas and energy drinks.

Berrybrook Farm is a cool place, a smaller, more home-y version of chains like Trader Joe's and Whole Foods. I wish it was a bit closer to home.

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