The Chinese Buffet

I need a fix.  No I’m not talking about drugs.  I’m talking about Chinese food.  About once every two weeks (sometimes sooner), Carole and I need a fix.

While living in Springfield, we had a number of choices, some of them really bad.  We usually judge the restaurant by its hot and sour soup.  If the soup is really good, the rest of the food will probably please us.

A number of years ago, we found a Chinese buffet in Kingstowne.  It was called, appropriately, King’s Buffet.  Yes, the hot and sour soup was really good.  The lunch was inexpensive and they usually had a big crowd.  The place had no atmosphere and the guy at the next table may be wearing an undershirt.  But if you need a fix, you are willing to make certain compensations.  We went to King’s Buffet for years.

Then a few years back, Carole was spending a few days at the Fort Belvoir Hospital and I needed a fix.  So I slipped over to the King’s Buffet.  The was a sign on the door that said, “Closed until further notice.”  I was shocked.  Uncertainty is so unsettling.

Well, we found out later that the King’s Buffet was owned and run by a Chinese family (surprise) and the members of the family got into a furious fight.  The police were called and all the help shot out the back door.   I think the politically correct term is “undocumented immigrants.”  “Further notice” never came and the location is now some kind of a wireless phone store.  I felt like I lost a friend.

So Carole and I went on a quest to find the best Chinese buffet in the area.   Don Quixote did better than we did.  If we went on Wednesday, the place was closed on Wednesday.  Unfortunately, we found a place in the Rolling Valley area that was open.  When Carole went back to the buffet line, she saw a roach fall into the General Tso’s chicken.  The fellow standing next to her notified the help and the tray was taken to the back.  I don’t want to speculate on what happened in the back, but more General Tso’s chicken soon appeared in the buffet line.  Bon Appetit!

Then there’s the Blue Pearl Buffet in Springfield.  The fellow in the undershirt is still sitting at the next table, but the food isn’t very good.  You guessed it, the hot and sour soup is bad.  We have been to the Blue Pearl a few times when we were desperate.  The Blue Pearl is the kind of place that will make you kick the habit.

We found a great Chinese buffet called the East Garden.  The only problem is it’s in Charlottesville (that’s 120 miles south).  Of course, there are some excellent Chinese restaurants in the area. There’s the House of Dynasty and, our favorite, the Asian Grill in Springfield.  Darren Ho, the owner of the Asian Grill, has told us why we should never go to a Chinese buffet.  What he told us were things we already knew (food may have been prepared days earlier).  But at a buffet, you can get a little of this and a little of that.

My favorite treat at a Chinese buffet is steamed rice smothered in General Tso’s sauce.  I avoid the three-day-old chicken, the red-hot peppers and especially, foreign objects.

Written by PJ Rice at

Copyright 2017

The Changing World


Isn’t satellite radio great? You never have to change your radio station. You can listen to “Willie’s Roadhouse” all the way from here to El Paso. Satellite radio also gives you a chance to listen to old time radio shows. They have a station (maybe now it’s called a channel) called Radio Classics where you can listen to Gunsmoke, Bob Hope, Jack Benny and even the Shadow. “Who know what evil lurks. . .” You know the rest.

The other day I flipped over to Radio Classics and guess what was on? Duffy’s Tavern, “where the elite meet to eat.” That got me thinking – where have all the taverns gone? When I was growing up, there were taverns everywhere. The corner tavern.

In high school, we were too young to go to a tavern. There were drive-in diners and our favorite place, the “Parkway.” You could go into the Parkway and for a reasonable price get a barbeque pork sandwich and a Coke. And when no one was looking, you could carve your initials on the table. You didn’t want to put your hand under the table.

I have fond memories of McDonald’s back in the 60’s. You could get a burger, fries and a Coke for 35 cents. Now that’s nostalgia. In fact, as we were struggling to get me through law school, that was a big night out.

Now there are all kinds of specialized burger places. I’ve only been to 5 Guys a couple of times. It seems like they only had about three tables, so I guess it’s mostly a carry-out place. The burgers and fries aren’t too expensive and the grease is free. Take a bunch of napkins. BGR, The Burger Joint is a little more expensive, but the burgers are bigger. BGR has on its menu “The 9 Pounder.” It cost $80.00 and feed 10-15 hungry people. It comes with a “river of Mojo sauce.” I could devote a whole column to the 9 Pounder, but I’m going to stop right here.

The Springfield Mall is now the Springfield Town Center. It was a major renovation and is a vast improvement over the Mall. You no longer have to fear being mugged in the parking lot. They have a BGR and a Zinburger’s. Zinburger is sort of an upscale burger joint. I knew it was upscale because when they gave me the menu listing the burgers, they also gave me the wine list! The Kobe Burger was $15.25. No fries, they are extra. But you can get double truffle fries for only six bucks. Maybe a cabernet sauvignon is in order. However, if you are ordering the Seared Ahi Sandwich, then, by all means, go with a white wine.

Written by PJ Rice at

Copyright 2017

Just Another Christmas Poem – 2016

It was an election year and boy was it bad,                                                         The choices we were left with were truly sad.                                                     Hillary and The Donald, we’re not knee deep in clover,                                 The only good news is that the campaigns are over.

But life goes on while the idiots fight,                                                                        And we had a good year, even in spite.                                                                   Health wise we’re fit, at our senior age,                                                               Nothing is perfect as we turn the page.                                                             No major problems is always a plus,                                                                                                                 Heading for 58 without much fuss.                                                                           

Saw Becky and the kids, when we went out West,                                         Time with the family, then a RAJA fest.                                                               Our great-grand daughter, Lydia, has a baby brother,                              Spoiling baby Bennett is at the top of our druthers.                             Thank goodness for FaceTime, it’s not really tricky,                                              But all Lydia want to see is our dog, Nikki.

Took Becky and Missy to Lancaster, the shopping was fab,                              Then we zipped over the Chesapeake, for some Maryland crab.             They stayed over the Fourth, to honor our nation,                                    The Fairfax had sparklers, what a wild celebration.                                      

Thanksgiving with Paul & Sandy, and Josh & Jack,                                                Our youngest at 17, is a whiz on the track.                                                                     Paul has a new job, still in the corrections  biz,                                      Superintendent of a Diversion Center, whatever that is.

Travel, we travelled, but not so much,                                                                             Jack’s 60th high school reunion, to keep in touch.                               Two-week cruise in the Caribbean, tux no longer required,         With sweat pants and a tee shirt, you’re suitable attired.

Two trips to Lake Anna, with dear, dear friends,                                             Just keep driving south until the road ends.                                               The Suter’s may be the best hosts we know,                                                The Lore of the Corps was part of the show.

People at The Fairfax are planning our days,                                                           So many activities, we’re just in a haze.                                                         Carole has zumba or yoga, it seems every day,                                         Jack has the Council and chorus and golf still to play.                                         Then, there’s luaus, The Fourth and Halloween,                                    Service birthdays, New Years, it’s just byzantine.                                             Trips to museums & restaurants, traveling every route,                                      And these activities, quite frankly, are wearing us out.

This year was sad, because we lost close friends,                                  Such a surprise, when a vibrant life ends.                                                                     It makes us cherish each and every day,                                                             And with that in mind, we just want to say,                                                              Take care of yourself, the whole blessed year,                                       Enjoy everyday with a smile full of cheer.                                                              We’re thinking of you at this Christmas time,                                                                  Have a wonderful New Year when all the bells chime

                           Merry Christmas

Written by PJ Rice at

Copyrights 2016


Pills, Pills, Pills

Some time back, I had a buddy tell me that pills weren’t necessary.  They were just a crutch.  If you eat right, exercise and remain composed, you won’t need medication.  It sounded good to me.

Then my blood pressure shot up. Whoa.  I’ll tell you, when your blood pressure shoots up, it’s hard to remain composed.  I solved my blood pressure problem with a little pill and decided my buddy was a doofus.  Eating right and exercise are great, but sometimes we need help.

As the number of pills increases, so does the complexity of life.  I suspect that most people around my age spend some time each week organizing their medications for the next week.  Those of us retired from the military can’t complain about the cost.  I don’t mind spending an hour at the Fort Belvoir Hospital Pharmacy for free stuff.  Of course, I am so cheap that I refuse to drive on the toll lanes around DC.

Then the pill I had been taking for years changes its size, shape and color!  It had something to do with some new generic drug that is supposed to be as good as the original.  That’s what the FDA says.  I have no idea.  Hey, I’m just trying to keep them off the floor so the dog doesn’t get them.

Now for the $64 question.  Is it OK to take your pills out of their original containers and put them in your weekly pill dispenser?  We all do it, but is it legal?  I guess the correct answer is it depends.  It depends on the type of drugs you are taking.  Certain drugs are called scheduled drugs and are controlled by the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA).  If you have a prescription for Oxycodone or Xanax, I’d keep it in its original container with your name on it.  One fellow who was carrying his Oxycodone in a little plastic bag didn’t fair too well (Duh).

My son, Paul, used to be the Deputy Warden at the Fluvanna County Correction Center for Women (FCCCW).  Every once in a while, on visiting day, they would cordon off the parking lot and search the vehicles.  They would find long knives, sawed-off shotguns and lots of pills.  They would confiscate everything.  So, if your daughter or granddaughter is at FCCCW and you are going to visit her, don’t take all your pills in your weekly dispenser (or your sawed-off shotgun).

Now, what about flying?  You can’t go on a trip and not take your pills.  We aren’t frequent flyers, but when we fly, we keep our pills close by.  I have searched through the Transportation Safety Administration (TSA) list of prohibited items, and I didn’t find anything prohibiting medications.  They do recommend that medications be clearly labeled (but they don’t require it).  Believe me, the TSA has bigger problems to worry about than whether pills are properly labeled.  If I were traveling overseas, I’d be more cautious and try to find out what the rules are in the countries I was visiting.

Finally, if some strange looking dude at the airport asks you to hold his medications while he looks for a friend, don’t do it!

Written by PJ Rice at

Copyright, 2016


Images are so important.  And a retirement community wants to have an image of being  young and vibrant.  I’m not sure why, but it seems to be the case.  It must be for new prospects.  Being warm, comfortable and well fed is enough for me.

Carole and I took a few days off last month and went to Ocean City.  We walked on the boardwalk, but also spent our fair share of the time sitting on the boardwalk benches.  As I sat there watching people pass by, I noticed a lot of them had tattoos.  That’s when it hit me.  The Fairfax retirement community needs a tattoo parlor!

I’ll bet we would be the only retirement community in the country with our own tattoo parlor.  Take that Greensprings.  Talk about young and vibrant.  One of the problems with tattoos is when you get old, they fade and your skin sags.  But since we are already old and our skin already sags, we won’t have to worry about our tattoos changing shape.

I know we are limited for space in the Community Center, but I think I have a fix for that.  We could put the tattoo parlor in the back of the beauty salon.  One of the benefits would be that a woman could get a tattoo while she was getting her hair done.  I’m sure if we can pull this off, we will get a lot of free press.

I know I am thinking outside the box, but here at The Fairfax we have some outstanding artists and art classes.  Wouldn’t it be great if one of our own up-and-coming artists became a tattoo artist.  Probably more free press.

Themes are also important with tattoos and we have some naturals.  We have the patriotic theme and the wildlife theme.  I’m thinking of getting an American flag on one arm and a blue heron on the other.  I can’t convince Carole that a tattoo will make her more youthful and vibrant.  I know what we could do.  The first month we could run a special on tramp stamps!

I just reread what I have written and I’m not sure everyone will agree with my approach.  Don’t you just hate doubting Thomases?

Written by PJ Rice at

Copyright 2016

Cruises are Not What They Used To Be

To be totally honest, there aren’t many things that aren’t as good as they used to be.  That may  tell you more about me  than it does about those things.  A while back, we were on a 14-day cruise with Holland America.  We had a great time (thanks in no small part to a super calm sea), but things aren’t like they used to be.

It used to be that there was always a Captain’s Reception.  Anybody who wanted to could greet the ship’s captain.  Then that changed with the fear of spreading germs.   You could still greet the captain, but he wouldn’t shake you hand.  I guess that made sense.  Well, on our cruise, we never saw the captain.  We heard him a couple of times on the intercom, but for all I know, he was sending those messages from Amsterdam.

Then there’s the issue of what to wear to dinner.  It used to be there were formal nights, informal nights and casual nights.  On formal nights, most men wore a tuxedo.  If they didn’t have a tux, they could get by with a dark suit.  On this cruise, I looked over the dress requirements and to my surprise, there were no formal nights.  They now call them Gala Nights and you are encouraged to wear gala attire (whatever that means).  Well, I saw ten times more tuxes at The Fairfax New Years Eve party than I saw on the 2100 passenger Nieuw Amsterdam.

I was walking to our table on a Gala Night and I noticed a fellow wearing a polo shirt.  Maybe it had been autographed by a rock star and was thus gala attire.  I hate to sound like a snob,  but cruises just aren’t what they used to be.

If it wasn’t a “Gala Night,” then it was a “smart casual night.”  I have yet to figure out what isn’t smart casual.  I finally concluded that smart casual means you must wear matching sneakers.

Something else I noticed for the first time.  Once you open your cabin door with your key card, you then have to slip it into a slot by the door or your lights won’t work.  This is not a problem.  The problem is that when you decide to go somewhere and grab your key, the cabin goes dark.  If you wife is taking a shower at that moment, she will not be happy.

I always like to participate in the recreational sports activities on board.  They have competition in ping pong, putting, shuffleboard, bocce ball, and badminton.  Well, Eric, our so called “sport director,” set up the badminton tournament outside while the ship was moving and we were dealing with a 35 miles-per-hour wind.  Then when we had the putting contest, he kept talking the whole time people were putting.  Egad.  Then Eric set up the bocce ball tournament on a mostly tile floor.  Eric should have concentrated on teaching line dancing.  OK, maybe I am a snob.

Written by PJ Rice at

Copyright 2016

Writing for The Fairfax

It’s been a long time since I posted anything.  No, nothing bad has happened to me and I haven’t stopped writing.  Since I moved into The Fairfax, a military retirement community, I have been writing for their monthly paper, the Flambeau.  When the Flambeau is published, each resident gets a copy in their mail box.  Then I go around and brow beat them until they read my article.

I’m using the by-line of Jack Rice because no one would know who PJ was.  PJ was sort of a high school/college thing.

Anyway, some of the stuff I’ve written is worth passing along.  Back in March, I wrote about a scam call I received.  I entitled it

The Pearl-Colored Mercedes

Isn’t it great that we can pick up prescription refills at the Clinic?  That’s where I had been.  Having picked up the refills, I was heading back to my apartment when my cell phone rang.  I looked at it and it said the call was from Kingston, Jamaica.  Well, many of us have an international background, so you might be surprised that I don’t know a soul in Jamaica.

The fellow told me he was calling from New York and that I had been selected as the winner of 2.8 million dollars and a pearl-colored Mercedes (I thought the pearl-colored Mercedes was a nice touch).  I know, I know, you are supposed to hang up on these guys, but I was curious as to how the scam worked.

He wanted to know if I was excited.  I told him I was, but it seemed too good to be true.  He told me that he was speaking the “honest to goodness truth,” and “this was no baloneys.” (I have to confess, I don’t know how to spell baloneys).  He told me that we needed to trust each other and that he was going to give me a lot of information about himself so I could trust him.

We then spent the next ten minutes with me taking down information ) I was back in my apartment).  He gave me his name and badge number (BF 200 664).  How much more official can you get?  Then he gave me the package code number, the pearl-colored Mercedes code number and the $2.8 million code number.  He told me not to share those numbers with anyone or they might steal my prizes (Heaven forbid)!

He asked me if I was familiar with Global Delivery Services.  I told him I wasn’t, but was it something like UPS or FedEx?  He said it was and they would be delivering my prizes today.  He said that I should dress up nice because they would take some photos.

I had been talking to this jerk for about 20 minutes and he finally start to get around to the scam.  He said that his company is affiliated with a number of banks and he read me off a long list of banks and asked if my bank was among them.  I told him we were with Bank of America.  He then asked me if my credit card was with them.  I told him no, which was true.

I sensed we were getting to the critical moment and I was trying to be cautious.  So I asked him if he knew where I lived.  After all, they were going to deliver my prizes today.  He said, “North Carolina.”  (I live in Virginia).  I asked him if he had an address and the phone went dead.

Oh well, it’s probably for the best.  After all, I probably couldn’t get an assigned parking space here at The Fairfax for me pearl-colored Mercedes.

By PJ Rice

Copyright 2016


Bowl Games, and Games, and Games

Remember how great it was when there were only four bowl games and they were all played on New Year’s Day?  After a night of singing Auld Lang Syne you could just sit on the couch with your feet up and take in a little football.

There was the Rose Bowl, Orange Bowl, Sugar Bowl and the Cotton Bowl.  Truth be known, the Sun Bowl is  older than the Cotton Bowl, but it is played in El Paso and has never made it big like the other four.

Now, how many do we have?  It’s 40 or 41, depending on whether the BCS Championship Game is considered a bowl game.  They don’t call it a bowl game, but BCS stands for “Bowl Championship Series.”   I still don’t know.  There were so many bowl games this year that Nebraska got invited with a losing record (5 wins and 7 losses).

And the names of bowl games are wild.  Some that struck my fancy include the Taxslayer Bowl, The Popeyes Bahamas Bowl and the Buffalo Wild Wings Citrus Bowl.  That got me thinking about what the future might hold.  How about the I Can’t Believe Its Not Butter  Bowl; or simply the Chiquita Banana Bowl?  I wonder if we will ever get  to the point where a university refuses to play a bowl game because its name is so ridiculous?  Not a chance!

A friend of mine, Chet Young, set up a bowl game pool.  You had to select the winners, considering the spread and different games had different point values depending on the importance of the game.  I selected my winners, and sent them to Chet.  I added a note that said, “This is a piece of cake.”

I lost five of the first eight games and then it went down hill.  Gee whiz.  I started really feeling badly for the teams I had selected.  I felt like my selection had cursed them.  There is an old saying, “If you can’t be good, be lucky.”  I couldn’t seem to be either.

Chet came out with a pool for the NFL playoffs.  I passed for some reasons more obvious that others.  I now realize that picking winners was somebody else’s piece of cake.

More importantly, I had a horse in the race.  I would have conjured up all kinds of ways to get the Redskins to the Super Bowl.  Silly?  You bet, but that’s what you do.  If we beat Green Bay and the Seahawks beat the Vikings, then we go to Arizona and the Seahawks go to Carolina.  Under this strange tortured scenario, we beat the Cardinals and the Seahawks beat the Panthers.  Now the NFC championship games is being played in Washington, DC (really Landover Maryland).  I wasn’t sure we could beat the Seahawks, but at least we would have home field advantage.

Now, looking back at the playoffs, I would have gotten one out of five NFC playoff games right.  And, the only game I got right required the Viking kicker to miss a chip shot.  I don’t think I would have made a very good river boat gambler.  All of us should stick to what we do well.  Isn’t that right Pete Rose?

Written by PJ Rice at

Copyright 2016.

You Like That?

Two years ago, I decided that Kirk Cousins was the answer for the Redskins.  I watched him in the preseason and decided he had that very rare skill to find and hit an open receiver in a game that was going at 110 miles per hour.

This is a rare skill that is limited to the likes of Tom Brady, Payton Manning and Kurt Warner.  Hard to believe skills.  But then last year, when Kirk got his chance, it just didn’t work.  He didn’t look like the QB I had seen in preseason.  Hey, I’ve been wrong before.

Then, again, in preseason, I saw the same spark that I saw the previous year.  I know, I know, it’s preseason, but still I saw something.  Of course, Robert Griffin III, who is a great athlete  is not a great pocket quarterback.  He would get back in the pocket and if something didn’t click in the first two seconds it was over.  He would take off or just freeze.  I would hear others say, “His line doesn’t give him any protection.”  Well, if you stand there long enough, no line is going to protect you.  People would say, “You have got to respect his willingness to hang in there and take all that punishment.”  I would prefer he did something smart and avoided the punishment.

I can’t tell you how proud I was when Coach Jay Gruden announced that Kirk Cousins was his quarterback for this season.  What impressed me most was that Gruden made the decision well knowing that if it didn’t work, the owner, Dan Snyder, would fire him.  But what really startled me was Gruden asserting that he had the authority to decide who was to be his QB.  That may sound silly to you, but after watching Snyder run the Redskins for the last 15 years, I wasn’t sure how much authority our coach had.

I predicted the Redskins would go eight and eight.  At the time I made it that was a very optimistic  prediction.  Some commentators had ranked the Skins 32nd out of 32 teams.  But from what I had observed, I thought they would win some games.

Going into week seven, the Redskins had two wins and four losses.  Then they fell behind the Buccaneers 24-0.  But the Skins came back and won the game 31-30.  It was clearly the turning point in the season and after the game, Kirk screamed at the assembled media, “You like that?”  The expression has taken on a life of its own.  I don’t think it will take us to the Super Bowl like “Who Dat!” did for the Saints, but it sure guaranteed my eight and eight prediction and a trip to the playoffs.

The Washington Post sport writers who had been finding fault with Cousins were probably what lead to Cousins’ outburst – “You like that?”   Anyway, they have all acknowledged they were wrong and have done their mea culpas.  Me?  I’m doing fine.  I’m a little smug, but suffering with the Redskins for so long, I think I am entitled to be.  Go Skins!

Written by PJ Rice at

Copyright 2015

First Christmas at The Fairfax – 2015

This year has been a scramble, but not really that big a mess,                   The poem has to go out early, so you have our new address.

We moved to The Fairfax, you’re never ready for the call,                         Sixty days to change your world, from oversize to small.                             For junk you need to haul – For a realtor you need to call –                         With movers there’s a brawl!

The sixty days was frantic, but we decided we needed a break,             We met the Suters, O’Roarks and Holdaways,                                                   Down at their Virginia lake.                                                                                                 A week away put us in the groove,                                                                                    We came back refreshed ready for the move.

As retirement communities go, The Fairfax seems the best,                            We scrutinized and scrutinized, and The Fairfax met the test.               The Community Center has everything, it really should be a hooter,         But suddenly you’re dodging a walker and cornered by a scooter.

There comes a time in life when your body needs repair,                            Doctors snipping and clipping and you start to lose your hair.                      The year was not so bad, it really wasn’t crummy,                                                   Jack had his eyes repaired and Carole got her tummy.

A 19-day cruise to Hawaii, we started the year full of glee,                                             But on our fourth day over, we rescued a pilot at sea.                                         (Film at 11:00).                                                                                                                       We moved in in May, took a break in June,                                                         RAJA in Colorado Springs was just the right tune.                                         Ken and Barbara Teel, old friends from V Corps,                                                    Came up early from Amarillo and we had laughs galore.

The kids are doing well, not much to really say,                                                       Life’s a series of episodes, living day by day.                                                         The girls came in June to help us unpack,                                                                       Alone with all the work, there was still time to kick back.                                                 Eastern Shore shopping, nothing too drab,                                                                 Then on to Harris’ for a taste of crab.

The Rice’s from C’Ville came up, and were helpful in a pinch,                         They moved a fully loaded buffet one critical inch.                                       Then Paul and Jack took over, to storage went boxes and a curtain, Jack is now 15 or 16, we’re never really certain.

Politics just makes me sick, I think Hillary’s a felon,                                                     I thing Donald Trump’s a nutcase and the world’s one sick melon.                                I’d like to see a bright spot, a world back on its feet,                                                                   Where people really accomplish things, not just sit around and tweet.

Christmas is a starting place, where people think of others,                               Where people lend a helping hand and don’t worry about their druthers.                                                                                                                                                So with that in mind and our thoughts of you clear,                                                      HAVE A VERY MERRY CHRISTMAS AND A HAPPY NEW YEAR!

Jack and Carole

Copyright 2015



BOO! I saw you smile!