“The ramblings and grumblings of author Ad Hudler”

They grow 'em big out West ...
Thursday, February 28, 2013

Was shopping in the Safeway grocery store in my hometown of Burlington, Colorado the other day when I came across this:


That's one big jalapeno pepper, folks. And it's no Anaheim, no poblano -- it's an honest-to-goodness jalapeno, and it's the biggest I've ever seen. (Okay, so we did pose it on my mom's much-smaller hand to make it appear smaller, but still ...)

When I was a kid, working at my parents' newspaper, it was not unusual for some old guy or gal to walk in, holding their freak of nature they'd grown: some dirt-encrusted pumpkin or squash or zucchini -- and they were always HUGE. We'd take their picture and put it in the paper, and it would be the talk of the town for awhile.

Now that I'm older, and a certified Master Gardener, I wish I knew what they'd done to grow such monstrosities. What did they use as fertilizer?

Or do we really want to know? 

Sometimes my editor makes me climb the walls.
Monday, February 25, 2013

Good morning, y'all. Here's my latest AdVentures column for Nashville Lifestyles magazine. Warning: Do not try this at home. 

We're dressed in harnesses reminiscent of a sumo wrestler's uniform. Attached to the front of my harness, just below my belly button, is an aluminum oval called a  carabiner, which I am staring at with both skepticism and respect.
"There is no way this thing can hold me up," I say to Taylor, our instructor at Climb Nashville.
Tied to my carabiner is a rope that rises to the ceiling, 40-feet up, looped through a pulley at the top, then falls back down to earth … where my daughter Haley holds the other end.  Just minutes before, she had scaled the wall herself, and as her belayer it was my job to make certain there was no slack in the rope during her ascent, so that if she slipped and fell the rope would catch her at that spot, and then I could lower her, via the pulley, to terra firma.
Now, it's my turn to climb – and I balk. "I weigh 230 pounds," I say. "My daughter here weighs 130 at most. How can she hold me if I fall?"
I remember a childhood cartoon: the piano over the sidewalk, being hoisted to an upper-level apartment when someone lets go the rope, letting it plummet to the ground. It is shattered beyond repair.
"The equipment re-distributes the weight," Taylor reassures me. "You saw how easy it was to hold your daughter's weight. It'll be just as easy for her. Really."
I look over at a thin, bald man who is traversing a climbing wall with the agility of Spiderman. He lets go one hand and dips it into a bag of powdered chalk attached to his belt. He can't weigh more than 170. Every man climbing here today is lean and lanky, unlike myself.
I then recall the warning sign on the bathroom wall: Climbing is Dangerous!. I look over at the middle-aged woman who is midway through her own seemingly successful inaugural climb. I take a deep breath, then begin the safety banter we'd been taught.
"On buh-lay?" I ask Haley.
"Buh-lay on!" she answers.
"Climbing," I say.
"Climb on!"
A climbing wall – and the ones at Climb Nashville are inside – is speckled with a series of different-colored and different-shaped bumps and knobs that you step and grab onto. Each one has a number beneath it such as 5.6 or 5.9, which is the difficulty level based on something called the Yosemite Decimal System.  Taylor has assured us that the white trail is the easiest, so I reach for the first white knob and pull myself up. "Please, God," I whisper. "Don't let me be the piano."
Instantly, I'm surprised at the ease of ascent. It feels similar to climbing a ladder, although the forearms work harder because they must grip foreign objects.
In just under three minutes, I surprise myself by reaching the summit.
I freeze in place.
"Let go!" Haley yells. "I've got you! You can rappel down."
"Let go?!" I yell to the ceiling.
"Let go!"
"Let go?"
"Let go!"
It takes every bit of courage I have, but I let go the knobs. An exhilarating chill races through my nervous system as I defy the law of gravity. My heart beating hard, I lean back in my harness and place my life in the very-capable hands of my daughter.

Breath easier ...
Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Seen at my local car wash ...

Has anyone tried one of these? It reminds me of a home pregnancy test (But are they as accurate?)
And: Is there an adjustment/feature that can tell you when you have bad breath?
 Another invention I need: A voice-sensing device, discretely hidden on my person at parties, that lets me know when I've crossed the line into AssholeLand. Because my wife can't be with me at all times.

The Perfect Writing Space ... for a special-needs author
Tuesday, February 12, 2013

I recently was invited to participate in a literary event at Norris Furniture in Fort Myers, Florida, my old stomping grounds. It was called Writer's Domain -- and they asked me ahead of time to fill out  a questionnaire detailing my vision of the perfect, most inspiring writing spot, which a team of talented decorators then tried to create.

 Two items at the top of my list: Gin. And birds. And I was very pleased at how well my appointed decorators -- Joyce Froney, Jean Allen and Cyndy Hintze -- exceeded my expectations.

Yes, that is a flute of champagne on the desk, which was kept full most of the evening by Tyler, the young man who'd been assigned as my go-fer. (Good luck after graduation this spring, Tyler. I'm sure you'll do well in Dallas or wherever you land.)

And, yep, there's the full bottle of gin. They even said I could take it as a party favor, although I had to decline because it exceeded the TSA size requirement. "I can make you a martini," Tyler offered more than once. "I can open it right here and now for you." I declined, however, knowing my visitors were expecting knife-sharp wit.

Yep ... a real parakeet! He was chatty as can be. He was released into the wilds of southwest Florida after the event, last seen landing on the snout of a 'gator out by the airport.

They knew I wore boots and hat and used these to decorate my spot, although they were ladies boots that looked more Michael Jackson than Ad Hudler. And note the apron and kitchen utensils, a nod to protagonist Linc Menner, from Househusband.

I would like to offer a  sincere thank-you to my hosts, Paula Robertson and her folks, and to Rene Norris and her folks. Writer's Domain was a clever, fresh idea for a literacy fundraiser. Plus, free food and free champagne, and I managed to sell some books with help from the girls from the local Barnes & Noble.

And Rene: One of your sales guys had his eye on that bottle of Bombay Sapphire. Can you please put it in your desk until I return in a few months?

Signs of a Civilization in Decline: #4882E2
Friday, February 8, 2013

What these signs should really say: WARNING: INATTENTIVE PARENTS IN THE AREA!

Best Pimiento Cheese Recipe Ever
Wednesday, February 6, 2013

In the Hudler house we have what we call the Food Bible: a collection of recipes, torn from the pages of magazines and cookbooks and taped into a big journal book. For inclusion in the Food Bible the recipe must be loved by all three of us -- myself, Carol, and Haley. And whenever we're together -- which isn't that often anymore because Haley is nearly 22 -- I go to the Food Bible and choose an entree that I know will please us all.

Our newest inclusion is a spicy take on an old-time Southern favorite: pimiento cheese. It contains raw garlic, Tabasco sauce, and half a habanero chili. I know habaneros are hot -- remind me to tell you the horrific story some time about how I almost ended up in an emergency room with first-degree burns on my private parts -- but the heat is cut dramatically by the cheese in this recipe. If you like spicy, you'll love this.

Right, Mom?

Mmmmmmm, she says.

Credit for this recipe goes to Saveur magazine.

1 10-ounce package sharp white cheddar
1/2 cup packed, jarred pimientos, finely chopped, plus 1 tbsp. brine, reserved from jar
1/4 cup mayonnaise
1 clove garlic, finely chopped or through a press
1/2 habanero chile, stemmed, seeded, and finely chopped.
Kosher salt and fresh ground pepper, to taste.
Tabasco, to taste.

Directions: Finely grate cheese and transfer to a food processor, along with brine, peppers, mayo, garlic and chili. Season with salt, pepper and Tabasco, and pulse until lightly chunky. Put atop your favorite crackers. Or, as we do: Make a sandwich with roast chicken, sliced tomatoes and a thick spreading of this tasty orange treat.