Daily Independent (Ashland, KY)

November 3, 2013

Tim Preston: Challenge stands; wall crawling; calendars; and the royal treatment: 11/3/13

Tim Preston
The Independent

ASHLAND — I was unable to be there in person, although I did enjoy watching the video captured last weekend as Jonathan Stevens of Ashland and buddy Eddie Fitzwater of Greenup in their attempt to be the first to beat the “challenge” at The Lamp Post Café in Ashland. You can watch the action on YouTube by typing in “Lamp Post Challenge.”

I especially enjoyed the soundtrack the cafe staff assembled for the event, starting with “Eye of the Tiger” and including “Eat It” and “Cheeseburger in Paradise.” Perhaps the best use of music comes at a point when you can tell Stevens and Fitzwater are having their own doubts about completing the meal, providing a perfect cue for “We’ve Only Just Begun.”

Because of good timing, the place was nearly empty as I sat down with Shane Fields to review the event and I immediately noticed the house system was playing music from Burt Wills, a local guy who recently returned following an impressive career as a blues musician in Texas. Fields said both challengers did well during the first 15 to 20 minutes of their quest to finish a 2-pound Full Moon Burger with all the trimmings, accompanied by two pounds of french fries, a 20-ounce drink and topped off with a massive strawberry croissant.

“One of their wives kept telling them to shut up and eat,” he said with a chuckle, explaining the guys were essentially “two buds doing something fun,” instead of being hardcore competitive eaters. Both did well before giving up, he said, although Fitzwater packed away the most, finishing an estimated 75 to 80 percent of the oversized meal before calling it quits.

Confident in the degree of difficulty built into the Lamp Post Cafe challenge, Fields encouraged anyone who thinks he or she can tackle the task to just let him know when.

“Call and let us know and we’ll be ready for you,” he said.

The Lamp Post is also now taking reservations for holiday parties and taking orders for pickup and catering. For more information, call (606) 325-5283.

Behind the scenes

I had one of those “greatest-job-in-the-world” moments recently during a relaxed behind-the-scenes tour of the Community Trust Bank building in  Ashland. It was also a reminder that while I’m always awed by interesting architecture, I don’t really know the language. So, if I call a feature by the wrong name, please remember there’s a reason why I usually write about cheeseburgers.

The best part of the visit was undoubtedly the invitation to follow Larry Royster through a hole in the wall, right behind photographer Kevin Goldy on our quest to get a glimpse at what Cindy Blanton called “the gargoyles” that had been hidden by second-floor renovations years ago. There, among the wires and anchors holding the ceiling in place, remain numerous plaster-cast accents and hand-painted scenes depicting mythical creatures, cherubic figures and water urns. The animal figures Blanton called gargoyles and Royster described as phoenix figures prompted a truly OCD information scramble between myself and reporter Mike James, trying to determine if the paintings were actually of griffins or hippogriffs, with no firm answer to the question after many minutes of Internet questing. Anyway, it was just a treat to have a few minutes enjoying the craftsmanship of the building’s original workmen.

The bank also houses some great handpainted accents, provided by a Florida artist whose name seems to have been forgotten even though her work continues to be appreciated. The artistic flourishes are especially notable in the big board room, where bank officials have retained the original board table used by Ashland Oil when that company was such a vital part of the local economic engine. Blanton said the big table was moved in three pieces “and weighs a ton.” We speculated the beautiful tabletop is made primarily with cherry wood, although something tells me we may have missed the mark on that.

There’s a ton of available information about the 11-story structure at the corner of 16th Street and Winchester Avenue, including some great old reproduction photos in the bank’s lobby. If you want to get into the true nuts and bolts of the place, get online and search for information about architects “Schenck & Williams.”

And, my appreciation to everyone at the bank who provided such a great diversion on an otherwise cold and rainy day.

Royal treatment

I felt pretty guilty last week while checking my voicemail and listening to a reader who was not at all happy after driving a 45 minutes to check out a restaurant I had written good things about.

The food wasn’t bad, she said, but the portions were less than desired and there should have been more meat in the equation, advising I need to realize I often get “the royal treatment” when visiting area restaurants.

I would love to declare “not guilty” on this, but I know it is true because I regularly hear from people who read this column and check things out for themselves. The only defense I have is to repeat I have always said I am no more qualified to be a restaurant critic than anyone else who tends to eat food on a daily basis, and this column is actually a thinly disguised small-business report (with an odd predilection for cheeseburgers, bacon and barbecue).

I have no doubt local restaurant owners tend to be a bit generous when I visit because I rarely leave without being overly full, and carrying a bag of desserts to enjoy later. I often enjoy those meals while sitting down and hearing the owners’ stories, and it would be a hard sell to say they aren’t also putting their “best foot forward” and hoping for a good writeup.

As I’ve written before, there is also a matter of subjective taste. My personal theory is we tend to appreciate foods the way our moms and grandmothers made them. I think that is particularly true when you are talking about things like chicken salad, barbecue, chicken and dumplin’s or even bologna sandwiches. I know I can form a complete opinion about a stranger based purely on his or her preferences for cornbread (soft or crusty) or bacon (chewy vs. crispy).

While I’m on this topic, I want to encourage everyone who has an “I-ate-there-once-when-they-first-opened” experience to reconsider their “I’m- never-going-back” declarations. We are blessed with such an abundance of restaurants in the area, it is easy to dismiss a new business for even a minor offense. If you’ve based an opinion of a restaurant upon performance in the first days of business, and it has remained in business for a couple of years since, it probably deserves another shot at your business.

So, to wrap this one up, I just call them like I see them and pass along the opinions of others as they are offered. If (make that when) my secret field agents or myself make a bad call, I always stand prepared to be corrected.

Calendar talk

To my shock, we are approaching the end of 2013 and oddly enough I have a pair of unrelated notes about calendars.

The first is the 2014 “Ashland Goes to War” wall calendar sold by the Eastern Kentucky Military Historical Society. The guide to the days of 2014 incorporates some excellent historic photos, which were captured by one of the area’s most respected photographers, Frank B. Elam. The calendars cost $10 and are available at The Lamp Post Café or Premier Duty Gear (the old Army/Navy Store) or by calling Matt Potter at (606) 547-2607.

And, from the recent meeting of area community organizations, I have a note asking people to contact Bob Hammond at the Ashland Alliance with information about meetings and events for other groups (such as the Eastern Kentucky Military Historical Society, Optimists and other civic-type clubs) for the calendar it shares with the public.

The alliance has established a community calendar at ashlandalliance.com. Submit information to Hammond at bob@ashlandalliance.com or (606) 324-5111. Also, the alliance is looking for information about the Boyd County Rural Lions Club, the Greenup Lions Club, Habitat for Humanity, the Optimist Club of Cannonsburg, the Optimist Club of Catlettsburg/Boyd, the South Ashland Lions Club and the Westwood Lions Club.

The alliance needs to know who the main contact is, contact information and the day, time and place of meetings.

TIM PRESTON can be reached at (606) 326-2651.