I first heard about the Aurora massacre when I got up Friday, and spent the rest of the day dealing with news coverage. We got through it fairly well, with a strong package in place by the end of the day that explored a number of angles involving the inexplicable attack.

From an editor’s perspective, I was surprised with how smoothly the coverage progressed. And then I thought about that fact. Truth: People are doing this so often that journalists now have a standing template on how to cover massacres. I can’t even begin to describe how terrible that is.

Previously: Saying goodbye to Capital Q | Hokum home

I said goodbye Tuesday to Capital Q, a barbecue joint in Chinatown near my office. It closed today, after serving for many years as the only place that produced somewhat reliable Texas-style brisket in the District. The reason for the closing is an old one: The rent’s gotten too high to sustain business in an area that has completely transformed in the 15 years CapQ has been around. The Washington City Paper has a video report on the departure of the restaurant:

I almost always had one of two main dishes at CapQ — the brisket, which on its best days was very good and on its worst days was really forgettable, and a middlin’ pulled pork sandwich that always served as a fallback when the brisket didn’t look good. They also had chicken and ribs, but the portions of those were too enormous for lunch and the ribs could be kind of pricey. I also tried the smoked turkey and pulled beef, and rejected them; they also had a good Texas-style sausage (hard to find in this area) but I preferred the other choices. Finally, I was a fan of the spicy sauce, although most people chose the sweet mild one.

Both Chinatown and barbecue in this area have gotten a lot better since CapQ first opened. A lot of people with Texas ties seem to like Hill Country a few blocks away, although it’s reportedly expensive (I still haven’t been there). Urban BBQ also has its fans and frankly, I still like the ribs at Rocklands, especially the one in upper Georgetown. But CapQ was the convenient place for me, and I had been going there every couple of weeks or so for the last three-plus years.

Naturally, I got brisket with spicy sauce on my final visit. Here it is (well, the last half of it):

Capital Q brisket

Previously: The first half of this statement… | Hokum home

The second half…well, I suppose that somewhere, people are arguing over the second half. From the home page of today’s NYTimes.com:
Disgorgement

Previously: The new generator | Hokum home

The new generator

In: Hokum

9 Jul 2012

We only lost power for a few minutes in The Big Ol’ Derecho of ’12, but some of our neighbors didn’t get theirs back for days. Coming on the heels of Hurricane Irene in ’11 and Snowmageddon in the winter of ’09, I’m starting to accept a world where multi-day power outages look likely even though I live in a metro area.

And so, I finally caved in and bought an emergency generator. I bought a Champion 46515, a very common and inexpensive model that will power the fridge and a few other things in case the power goes away. It needed a break-in and oil change after five hours (after that, it’s 100 hours between oil changes), so I fired it up Sunday, plugged an electric smoker into it and cooked some ribs:

I have other friends who have completely given up and installed whole-house generators, but this should do the job for our tiny house at a price that won’t break us. And if I catch a gig at a location that doesn’t have power, this will solve the problem. But the fact that I really think this is necessary, in an area filled with millions of people, is a pretty sad commentary.

Previously: Sixteen trips to Vegas | Hokum home

Sixteen trips to Vegas

In: Hokum

8 Jul 2012

I’m heading for Vegas next month for boys’ trip. That will mark my 16th visit there in 19 years. Let’s run ‘em all down, shall we?

1. Bally’s, back when it was a fairly high-end hotel. I remember a few things: Trying not to blow it with my still-new girlfriend, learning how to play blackjack and wandering around the Caesar’s shops for the first time in an exhausted haze. The fake sky in there is still one of my favorite things to see in Vegas, even though other malls in town have copied the effect.

2. Stayed at Circus Circus
to save money. Should have spent the money to stay elsewhere. Had my first screaming-hot blackjack run at the old Stardust and was given a torrent of abuse for refusing to bet more than $25 a hand, even though I simply couldn’t lose.

3. Went to a convention at the LV Convention Center and stayed at the adjacent Hilton. The casino there was sleepy, but I was happy to extract enough cash from it to go home and buy a bed with the winnings.

4. Stayed at the MGM Grand and got hammered at the tables everywhere. This made me so miserable that I didn’t return for nearly three years.

5. Stayed at the divey Imperial Palace,
in a room straight out of 1976. The mirror on the ceiling was creepy, but I still have a soft spot for this low-roller casino. One of the people with us on this trip won $35,000 playing $5 Let It Ride, when he hit a royal flush with a $1 bonus bet out. The pit boss said he had been working there for more than a decade and had never seen anyone hit the royal (Let It Ride is a derivation on stud poker; the odds of hitting a royal are 1 in about 650,000).

6. Stayed at the Aladdin (now Planet Hollywood). Rooms there are nice. The casino ate me alive.

7. Fitzgerald’s downtown (now the D Resort). I remember this because I purchased some crazy-cheap package over the first weekend of March Madness that included car service from the airport, rooms and a couple of comped meals. The rooms were nicer than I expected and this is probably the best deal I’ve ever gotten as a Vegas low-roller. This is also the first time I ever played craps — at Binion’s, of all places, back when this now-forgettable downtown joint was full of characters and smart-assed dealers at the craps tables.

8. Fitzgerald’s
again on a one-day layover after a San Francisco vacation.

9. The Tropicana on my first boys’ trip. I also call this “The Trip Where I Decided Never to Drink Tequilla Again.” However, I did have some fine luck at the craps tables and came home a winner.

10. The Flamingo on a trip with my family. I got off the plane, checked into the hotel, walked into the Barbary Coast (now Bill’s Gamblin’ Hall) next door, sat down at a table with family members and walked out of there a couple of hours later with an extra grand in my pocket. I managed to hang on to most of it through the trip. This is the only time I’ve ever gambled black chips.

11. Planet Hollywood
on a boys’ trip. Got an outstanding bargain on the hotel rooms because the hotel was in the midst of being converted from the Aladdin. We never noticed the construction at all.

12. Bill’s Gamblin’ Hall
with a bunch of friends. Most of them actually stayed at Bally’s across the street, but I wanted to try Bill’s because I had read TripAdvisor reviews about the place. The hotel is small and sits over one of the divier casinos on the Strip, but the rooms are unexpectedly nice and the one we had featured an outstanding view of the Bellagio fountains. It was noisy, though — the rooms with views are extremely close to the intersection of Flamingo Road and the Strip, and that location is a vortex of crazy. Most bizarre moment: Running into about half of the usatoday.com tech support staff at 1 a.m. at a craps table at Bill’s.

13. The Golden Nugget
for my 50th birthday. We stayed in the then-brand-new Rush Tower and the room was perhaps the best I’ve ever enjoyed in Vegas. The pool area at the Nugget is something special as well, although we couldn’t really enjoy it in January. Also took a fun tour of the Neon Museum.

14. Harrah’s on a boys’ trip. Harrah’s is for gamblers and folks who want to have old-school Vegas-style fun. One of the boys slipped, fell and cut his noggin open at Toby Keith’s bar here on the first night. I already was in bed by that point, fortunately; most of the other folks on the trip spent the night in the emergency room, waiting for the unfortunate victim to get patched up.

15. The Flamingo
, again with some family members. Really enjoyed some quality family time around the blackjack tables at Carnival Court, even though the bands there are so loud that you can’t even talk to each other. Also had a memorable Valentine’s Day meal with my wife at the Top of the World restaurant at the Stratosphere. The Only-In-Vegas moments at that bizarre revolving rooftop restaurant included watching the lights twinkle on in the valley and the Strip as the sun set, and seeing bungee jumpers fly by the windows as we had dinner 107 stories up.

And that brings us to Trip 16. I currently have reserved a Go room at the Flamingo, although I might opt to save a little more money and stay next door at Bill’s, which gives you access to the Flamingo pool and lets you get in and out of your room without the cross-country hike necessitated in many Vegas hotels. And I owe my wife another trip, one with just the two of us at a nice hotel. Vegas never gets old to me.

Previously: The Nats at the halfway point | Hokum home

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About this blog

Hokum is written by Randy Lilleston, a Washington-area journalist. This blog contains a variety of insignificant thoughts. I started it in March 2006, but a stupid unfortunate event in November 2007 led to the accidental deletion of all posts before August 2006. Enjoy.

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