Sunday, December 31, 2006

2006 - AVE ATQUE VALE

Today is the last day of 2006.

It’s the day that marks the end of the year in which Elder Daughter moved from Cambridge, Massatoozis to Washington, D.C. The year in which we welcomed a new niece, Madison Ann.

It is also a year that several friends and acquaintances did not live to see out.

Gravel-Voice Larry. Howard. Joe. Rob Smith. Their absence leaves an empty space in our lives.

I always joke about bad times, saying: Like Kidney-Stones, this, too, shall pass. Kidney-Stones, indeed. Had me one of those this year, too.

And yet...there were plenty of good times, too. It was a year in which I got to meet a lot of fascinating people, many through my Online Journaling activities. You Blown-Eyeds and Blown-Star Blodgers know who you are.

This was the year in which She Who Must Be Obeyed had her long-dreaded jaw surgery. Now that it’s over with - and with the prospect of getting those braces off in another month or two - she feels and looks a whole lot better. Not that any improvement was needed, mind you.


She Who Must Be Obeyed: This year’s model.

Long-time readers of this site know that December 31 is a special day for me and SWMBO: it is the anniversary of the day we met in the waning hours of 1975. And so it is - as it has been these past 31 years - far more than a simple New Year’s Eve for me.

We don’t have a whole lot planned. Dinner with a few good friends...and with both Elder Daughter and the Mistress of Sarcasm, a rare and special treat. Meeting up with a few more good friends afterwards. A few Adult Beverages thrown into the mix...but not so much that I cannot enjoy the company of the woman I have loved for so many years, or the wonderful children we are privileged to share.

On December 31, I prefer to spend more time thinking about the year to come than the year just past, for what is past is past. We cannot change it now, but we can, to the extent our puny human abilities permit us, affect what happens next.

Happy New Year, Esteemed Readers. May “what happens next” be happy, safe, and healthy for you and your loved ones, without limit to any good thing.

HOMELAND SECURITY: ON THE JOB

A few months ago, the Daddy d’Elisson - Eli, hizzownself - took one of those Stress Tests as part of his annual physical.

It’s the one in which they inject you with radioactive thallium. For about three days afterward, you’re “hot” enough to register on a Geiger counter. Sounds scary, but they say it’s harmless, and who am I to argue with the Sawbones Union?

Eli’s still physically active despite his eighty-one years, playing racquetball at least three times a week, so he passed his Stress Test with flying colors. The doc sent him on his way with a note that explained To Whomever It May Concern that he would be glowing in the dark (figuratively speaking) for a few days.

The note, as it turns out, came in handy.

A day or so later, he and Toni were invited to a Mets game by Toni’s youngest son Curtis and his wife Michelle. They took the train into New York from their home on the south shore of Long Island, then the subway to Shea Stadium. Convenient!

The subway station sits right next to the stadium entrance. They went in, and then had to walk to the opposite side of the ballpark to get to their seats.

They had almost reached their section when a brace of cops tapped The Old Man on the shoulder, saying, “Sir, please come with us” in a tone that made it clear refusal was not an option.

Waiting for him were a couple of Homeland Security agents. They had been tracking Eli since he had first entered the stadium grounds and were very interested to know why he was radioactive. Had he been, perhaps, handling nuclear material? Was he trying to smuggle an atomic device into Shea Stadium?

Good thing he had the doctor’s note. It saved him from, very possibly, an Unpleasant Colonic Probe. Now, that would have been a helluva Stress Test.

So: Rest easy, America! Homeland Security is on the job!

Update: Apparently, this is not such an unusual problem.

REFRIGERATOR ART

Those of us with small children know the pleasure of seeing the creative output of our progeny slapped up on the side of the refrigerator.

Who among us has not taken a particularly fetching piece of Juvenile Artwork and attached it to the icebox – a task for which the Refrigerator Magnet is eminently suited – so that Random Kitchen Passersby may see it and make the “Oooooh, Aaaaah” sounds?

Each of our daughters has, in her own way, an artistic bent that has resulted in the creation of memorable Fridge Art. Years ago, when the Mistress of Sarcasm was but a toddler, she took it upon herself to draw a portrait of the Grandmomma d’Elisson, who was roughly ninety years of age at the time. And the Mistress captured every feature, right down to the numerous melanin-rich skin tags with which her Great-Grandma’s face was festooned.

The Momma d’Elisson finding this extremely amusing, she immediately added the Mistress’s Magnum Opus to the Gallery o’ Crap adorning the front of the fridge. It stayed there for years.

Elder Daughter’s work has not gone unnoticed, as well. Herewith a drawing – a Valentine! – she made for me at the tender age of six. I have carried it with me in my briefcase every day for nearly twenty-one years.



Alas, as our children get older, their output of Refrigerator Art tends to diminish. Its place on the fridge is gradually taken over by PTA bulletins, calendars, coupons for local businesses, party invitations.

But this week, Elder Daughter gifted me with Yet Another Piece of Refrigerator Art. Brought me right back to the days of her youth, it did.



I invite my Esteemed Readers to offer their speculations in the Comments as to the subject of the drawing. As you exercise your imaginations, keep in mind that this is my daughter we’re talking about...

Saturday, December 30, 2006

NOTES FROM THE ROAD

The start of our trip home from Foat Wuth to Atlanta was delayed thanks to bad weather. We had planned to get out of Dodge mid-day Friday, which would have permitted us to break the 13-14 hour drive into two manageable chunks while arriving home Saturday afternoon. But as we said our final goodbyes, preparing to pull out of the driveway in our fully-loaded SWMBO-Mobile, the sirens started going off. Tornado warning!

Discretion being the better part of valor, we elected to camp out one more night with the In-Laws, departing at the ridiculously early hour of Oh-Dark-Thirty 0315.

The front end of the trip was interspersed with blasts of heavy rain, but leaving when we did allowed us to drive almost all of the way in daylight. Driving in the heavy rain at night is No Fun Whatsoever. And thus it was that we arrived home safely earlier this evening.

Herewith just a few short observations from the voyage:

Northeastern Louisiana. Guy in jeans and camo cap, driving a humongous Ram 350 extended-cab pickup, pulls in next to us at the convenience store / road pee location. Is that a Blue-Tick Hound in the cab with him? Hell, naw...it’s a Kitty! With a collar! And a heart-shaped name tag!

Mississippi. Cars in ditches everywhere. What is it about drivers in Missi-fucking-sippi, that they gotta drive into the ditch?

Any state (select one at random). Hey, you - yeah, you, driving that eighteen-wheeler in the left lane? Fuck you.

Why take the plane? Driving is much more fun.

Friday, December 29, 2006

ROAD AMUSEMENTS

We have a drive of roughly 13-14 hours ahead of us as we wend our way back to Atlanta.

Anybody familiar with the mechanics of Long Drives knows that avoiding boredom is of primary importance...especially for the driver. Over the years, through numerous Family Journeys, we have evolved our own methods, the which Yours Truly is pleased to share with my Esteemed Readers as a Public Service.

First, let us dispense with the Technological Solutions. Yes, we have a portable DVD player, and yes, we have the iPod d’Elisson. The latter may be connected to the car’s audio system, availing us with the vast Music Library I have accumulated over the years. But solitary activities such as watching DVD’s or listening to an iPod through headphones do not count as Road Amusements. They are entertainments, but they do nothing to bond the vehicle’s occupants together in a shared experience. For that, you need Road Games. Something to involve everyone in the car.

There’s the Alphabet Game. The rules are simple: Spot a sign that contains a word beginning with the letter “A.” Announce the word loudly to everyone. Now start looking for a word that begins with “B,” repeating the process until all the letters are used in sequence. In rural areas, this game moves slowly...but when you hit a sizable town, look out.

The Elisson family has its own unique Local Option Rules. Only words imprinted on fixed objects are eligible. Nothing on a moving vehicle (whether that vehicle is in motion or stationary) may be used. No abbreviations. And the X? Ahhh, that’s a tricky one, for X-rated newsstands or Xerographic Services are thin on the ground.

Sick of the Alphabet Game? There’s the License Plate Game: Jot down the states or provinces of the license plates you see. Can you get all 50 states? Not likely...

How ’bout the Green Room? This game can only be played if there are one or more riders in the car who are unfamiliar with it. Only certain articles may be brought into the Green Room; only certain actions may be performed in the Green Room. You can drink beer, but not wine or whiskey, in the Green Room. If Nature calls, you can pee - yes, you can piss - but you can’t urinate. It’s also OK to make a doody...but taking a crap is verboten. And so on...until the newbie figures out the Rule of the Green Room.

Almost any time of the year, you can have fun playing Roadkill Roundup. “Look, Daddy - there’s an armadillo!” “Hey, check it out - a dead, bloated cow!” If you like, award points based on the size and rarity of the Squashèd Beasts: armadillos in Texas are fairly common, but it’s unusual to find a flattened peacock pretty much anywhere.

When all else fails, there’s Reading Aloud. We have spent many happy hours with me or SWMBO reading various Works o’ Literature to the girls...an activity they - and we - still enjoy. You can’t go wrong with a Dave Barry book...it makes the miles fly by.

These days, when we see one of those newer-model SUV’s blast by us on the freeway, cabin-mounted DVD player aglow, back-seat occupants enmeshed in rapt, drooling attention, we have to laugh. But it’s a rueful laugh. These people don’t know what they are missing.

They’re missing out on a chance to enjoy each other’s company, and that is a Sad Thing.

FRIDAY RANDOM TEN - HOMEWARD BOUND EDITION

This afternoon, we will begin our long journey home after nearly a week in the Bowels Heart of Texas.

She Who Must Be Obeyed, the Mistress of Sarcasm, Elder Daughter and I had a very pleasant dinner yesterday evening in Foat Wuth with Momma d’SWMBO, her husband David, and two couples - friends of very long standing.

Our hosts were Ted and Rita and Al and Rose. Sounds like a movie about a foursome, but no. Ted is an aeronautical engineer - still actively employed in a career spanning over four decades - while Al (who bears an astonishing resemblance to Bill Macy, the actor who played Bea Arthur’s husband Walter Findlay on Maude) is familiar to just about anybody who ever rented a tuxedo in Texas, Oklahoma, Louisiana, or New Mexico.

Soon it will be time to get on the road...but not until we take a peek at this week’s Friday Random Ten. What does the iPod d’Elisson have on tap for us today? Let’s just take a look:
  1. Peaceful Inside - Moonraker
  2. One Angry Dwarf (live) - Ben Folds Five

    September ’75 I was 47 inches high
    Mom said by Christmas I would have
    A bad-ass mother G.I. Joe
    For your little minds to blow
    I still got beat up after class

    Now I’m big and important
    One angry dwarf
    Two hundred solemn faces are you
    If you really wanna see me
    Check your papers and the TV
    Look who’s telling who what to do
    Kiss my ass good-bye

    Don’t give me that bullshit
    You know who I am
    I’m your nightmare, little man
    Vic, you stole my lunch money, made me cry
    Jane, remember second grade?
    Said you couldn’t stand my face
    Rather than kiss me
    You said you’d rather die

    You’ll be sorry one day
    Yes you will, yes you will
    You shouldn’t push me around
    ’Cause I will, yes I will
    You will be sorry when I’m big
    Yes you will be sorry

  3. Everybody Hurts - R.E.M.
  4. Chopsticks (live) - Ben Folds Five
  5. Feelin’ Alright - Traffic
  6. Act I, Scene 3 “Cheers” - John Adams, Nixon in China
  7. Myst Theme - Robyn Miller
  8. (They Call Me) Dr. Professor Longhair - Professor Longhair
  9. Ram People - Moonraker
  10. I Don’t Want To Spoil The Party - The Beatles
It’s Friday. What are you listening to?

FUZZY FRIDAY

Matata in Puddy Prison
Matata, self-imprisoned in a laundry basket.

No, Miss Matata is not really in the Brig, despite her numerous Crimes and Peccadilloes against the Bifurcated Gods. For we are, as Bifurcated Gods go, slow to anger, abundant in mercy, showing compassion unto the thousandth generation, even of those Kitties that unroll the Bunwad and barf hairballs out upon the Carpet.

But she and her sister Hakuna are aboard the Friday Ark, the 119th sailing of which may be seen over at the Modulator.

Don’t forget to bid farewell to 2006 by visiting the New Year’s Eve edition of Carnival of the Cats, to be hosted at Watermark. Guzzle Champagne and watch the ball drop among the Bloggy-Sphere’s finest assortment of fuzzy friends!

THE LITTLEST SPIDER-MAN

This morning, our young nephew William felt the Call of Nature.

One thing I have learned in all my years of Parent- and Unclehood is, you do not want to ignore a four-year-old child, especially when said child announces, in a semi-frantic manner, “I gotta poop!

And She Who Must Be Obeyed, who is also privy (you should excuse the expression) to the same wisdom, was right there to help.

Unfortunately, at that moment, both upstairs bathrooms were occupied: one with little William’s mother, the other with Elder Daughter.

That left only the downstairs bathroom, which William was reluctant to use.

“There’s a spider in that bathroom, Aunt SWMBO!”

Well there was one there...once. But now there was no way to convince William that the downstairs bathroom was not a permanent Spider-Lair...much as it is impossible to convince some people that nests of zombies do not live in rural Tennessee.

But the necessities of the moment demand decisive action. Quoth SWMBO, “You just let me deal with the spider.” And thus it was that little nephew William proceeded forthwith to have a Successful Poopy Event.

But a certain small irony did not escape my eyes. Not ten minutes prior, what did William have on but his Spider-Man costume? What was he bouncing about the house but his official Spider-Man bouncy-ball?

O, sweet contradiction of Childhood, that one may wish to be a Spider-Man, yet have no contact whatsoever with actual (or imagined) spiders?

Thursday, December 28, 2006

A PLANO BLOGPOST (NOTHING FANCY)



Hello.

Elisson here, liveblogging from the Shops at Willow Bend in Plano, Texas. Da Goils are off shopping for shoes or some such Random Crappola, and I have elected to piss away a few precious minutes at the Apple Store, AKA “Ye Olde Candy Shoppe for Bigge Kiddes.”

I am digesting my lunch, a Caramelized Pear, Free-Range Gorgonzola Cheese, and Hummingbird Liver pizza from the Left Coast Yuppified Pizza Kitchen. I am also playing with a humongous iMac with a 24-inch flat-screen display. What kills me is that I could buy this machine for roughly two large...about what I paid (in 1991 dollars) for our first family computer, a Mac LC with 2 MB of RAM and (gasp!) a 30 MB hard drive. Yeef.

Dinner tonight with the Momma d’SWMBO and her friends. Ora pro me...

WHADDAYA THINK...

...the cats are up to while we’re gone?

Lessee...


Matata adopts the Fetal Position on the sunroom loveseat.


Hakuna curls up on Elder Daughter’s bed.

Of course...they’re snoozing!

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

AN EPIPHANY

As I write this, I am sitting in Morris William’s house in Denton, Texas. Baby Madison is taking a mid-day nap upstairs; She Who Must Be Obeyed, Elder Daughter, the Mistress of Sarcasm and I are watching Mean Girls on the DVD player.

Actually, SWMBO, Elder Daughter, and the Mistress are watching the DVD. I am sneaking the occasional peek as I pound away at the keyboard on SWMBO’s laptop.

It’s a rare delight, having all of my girls together in one room.

The Mistress of Sarcasm flew in from Atlanta last night. She’ll ride back with us in the car in a couple of days. Based on past experience, she will sleep at least eight of the 13 hours the trip will take.

In the last few days, I’ve had a chance to see Elder Daughter in a new light.

I’ve watched her at a gathering of her grandmother’s friends, talking confidently and comfortably with elderly people, most of whom she had never met. I have observed the ease with which she would initiate conversations, draw people out.

And I have had a chance to talk with her at length about various Matters of Personal Import.

It has been a real epiphany for me, an epiphany that may have begun two months ago when the Missus and I visited E.D. at her new digs in Washington. As she dressed for dinner with her boyfriend’s parents, I began to see her in a new light - as the mature woman she is in the process of becoming. The hours we have spent together this weekend have served to confirm that impression.

There comes a time - if one is fortunate - when a father realizes that his offspring have, in some significant way, exceeded him. As I listened to Elder Daughter, I had exactly that realization: that she has powers of observation, analysis, and empathy with respect to human relationships that, in many ways, far surpass my own. She is wise, my child.

It’s the damnedest thing, this business of being a Daddy. Your children start out tiny, vulnerable, helpless. You are the pillar of strength in their lives, the fount of all blessings, the source of all wisdom. And gradually, slowly, inexorably, they grow...

...and then, one day, you realize that your children have something original to say, and that while they may still come to you for advice and counsel, they are sufficiently experienced and intelligent to offer their own. And you feel...successful.

It’s a fine, fine feeling.

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

BEAVER TUESDAY

Well, Denny has his Saturday Boobage, and Marcus has his Friday Fishing. So why should Elisson not offer up some mildly salacious thrills?

I had refrained from posting photographs of this nature previously...mainly because there was no discreet way to place the pictures “below the fold.” But now that I’ve modified my template to allow extended entries, it’s full speed ahead.

Welcome to the first installment of Beaver Tuesday at Blog d’Elisson!

Caution: Not Necessarily Safe For Work, depending on the policies of your Place of Employment...




Beaver sculpture at the Old Loyalist Cemetery, Saint John, NB.

Just Dam!

A 100-WORD CHRISTMAS STORY

When I was ten, I wanted a Red Ryder for Christmas.

Miss Shields made us write a Christmas theme. I wrote five pages on the glories of the Red Ryder. She gave me a C, said I’d put my eye out.

Santa Claus at Higbee’s Department Store? Same thing.

For weeks, I dropped “subtle” hints around the house. Must’ve driven Schwartz, Flick, and Kissel nuts at school. I was obsessed.

But when Christmas came, I got it!

Of course, within ten minutes, I had put my eye out. But I loved my Official Red Ryder Carbine-Action Two-Hundred-Shot Range Model Icepick.

Monday, December 25, 2006

MERRY CHRISTMAS

The Management here at Blog d’Elisson would like to extend warmest wishes for a Merry Christmas to our Esteemed Readers of the Christian persuasion.

It is to be hoped that you will not be spending the day sitting on your Bloated Duff in front of the computer monitor. Rather, you should be held in the warm embrace of family and friends, of the people who love you...and whom you love. Eat, drink, be merry; enjoy the day.

Heat up the wassail, you old fossil.

Tune in to TBS and watch A Christmas Story incessantly. It’s a movie that means a lot to me, a Jean Shepherd fan of long standing.

For us, of course, it’s just a Monday - a Monday on which, conveniently, nobody must work. We will not engage in our traditional Christmas Day activities - eating Chinese food and going to the movies - for we have other plans, given that we are visiting with SWMBO’s family in Foat Wuth. The Momma d’SWMBO has planned a pleasant gathering of family and friends at which she can show off her new baby granddaughter Madison.

Can’t say I blame her. The kid is Pretty Damn Cute.

Sunday, December 24, 2006

CATS AND FOOD

Are the topics of two recently-posted Carnivals.

There is, for Food Lovers (and who is not a Food Lover in this, the heart of the Holiday Season?), the 122nd edition of Carnival of the Recipes, hosted this week at Morning Coffee & Afternoon Tea.

And, of course, there is the incomparable, the inimitable, the One and Only Carnival of the Cats, the 144th edition of which is up at IMAO.

144? Why, that’s just gross!

DELI MEAT

Has this ever happened to you?

You’re blissfully, contentedly occupied with the somewhat mindless activity of Face-Shaving. You have applied a thin coating of lather to your beard. You have a razor with a fresh, sharp blade. Everything is copacetic...

...and then, you whack an enormous chunk of meat out of your face.

I fuckin’ hate that.

Did it a couple of days ago. I could feel the blade catch on a piece of skin just at the edge of my chin. It was just like slicing deli meat at the local Publix...except deli meat doesn’t sting when you slice it.

Thank Gawd I had a chunk of styptic pencil handy.

Anyone here familiar with the ol’ Styptic Pencil? It’s basically a stick of alum, a highly astringent chemical that causes your Face-Meat to squinch up, cutting off any blood leakage. Stings like a bitch, but it beats walking around with a piece of blood-clotted tissue stuck to your face. Us Razor Blade Boyz like to have that styptic handy, just in case.

We old guys have faces that carry the scars of a lifetime. I have, under my chin, a lump of scar-tissue, a souvenir of someone treading on my head as I glided soundlessly at the bottom of a swimming pool in my adolescent years. On my left cheek is a barely noticeable gouge, all that is left of a mole I had removed a few years ago. And now, I have a reminder - one that I suspect will be permanent - of one morning’s misadventure with Mr. Razor.

Ah, well. Time to head to the store. I’m getting an inexplicable hankering for some rare sliced Roast-Beef...

ELISSON: MASTER OF THE OCCULT

There is an aspect of me that few know about, an aspect about which I am somewhat circumspect. For there are activities that one does not discuss casually in the company of people one does not know well.

My studies in this dark and sinister area came relatively late in life, beginning as I entered my 40’s. Now, with me in my mid-50’s, they have taken on a new urgency.

I speak of Dark Matters...for I am a Master of the Occult.

None of that Harry Potter bullshit for me. That’s kid stuff.

I’m talking Real Occult here: the Fecal Occult Blood Test.

Yes, once a year, I take the dreaded Popsicle Stick o’ Doom and apply the Evil Sample unto the Magic Slide, whence it is delivered unto mine Sawbones, who pronounceth the Verdict: Blood or No Blood in the ol’ Poop-Chute.

Those of my Esteemed Readers who count themselves among the Younger Set may be unfamiliar with the Black Brown Arts, the exercise of which is undertaken on an annual basis for those of us of a certain age. All ya gotta do is:
  1. Take a crap.
  2. Stab that Bad Boy with a Poopsicle Stick, extracting a Core Sample.
  3. Schmear that sample in a thin layer on the Test Slide, in the little bitty 1/4 inch by 1/3 inch square reserved for that purpose.
  4. Get another sample from a different part of the Evil Log...or, even better, from the Neighboring Log (should there be one).
  5. Apply Sample Two to the little bitty square right next to the first little bitty square.
  6. Fold the flap over and seal the Test Slide. Fill in the requested information on the front panel of the slide.
  7. Repeat this entire process for the next two times you pinch a loaf.
  8. Seal the completed set of three slides in handy-dandy foil-lined envelope. Drop the sumbitch in the mail to your physician.
  9. Figure out what to do with those nasty used Poopsicle Sticks. You can’t flush ’em...
There is a certain amount of art involved in the process. Applying a thin Smear o’ Stool to the slide is trickier than it may appear at first flush blush. This is because you are dealing with a substance of variable texture and consistency, using a tool that is ill-suited to the job. A Poopsicle Stick, after all, is not an artist’s Palette-Knife.

Nevertheless, there is room for Artistry.

Some folks may opt for a simple, monochrome schmear, but not Elisson. I am a veritabobble Rectumbrandt, a Poocasso of the Stool Sample, applying my sample in bold strokes, using varying thickness and texture to make a Personal Statement.

Perhaps it is the result of that same atavistic instinct that leads toddlers to spread their excrement on the nursery walls like so much peanut butter, an instinct that, in my case, never achieved expression until my latter years as a Master of the Occult.

I am immune to criticism. I know my art stinks. But in what other manner can a painter put so much of himself into his work?

BACK IN TEXAS

She Who Must Be Obeyed, Elder Daughter, and I arrived in Foat Wuth this evening after pounding our way across 830 miles of interstate highway.

We made the trip in 13 hours 15 minutes, managing to average over 62 miles per hour - this despite the occasional pee-breaks and fuel refills...and an actual sit-down breakfast at an IHOP in Oxford, Abbalamma. Ol’ Lead-Foot SWMBO handled the lion’s share of the driving chores: 10 hours to my 3:15.

We stopped to gas up once we hit Texas, pulling over at one of the Great Corporate Salt Mine’s far-flung outposts in Longview. At the pump in front of us, a specimen of Moronicus Texicanus Orientalis* was pumping a load of high-test into his Impala (no, not the stereotypical pick’m’up truck) whilst puffing on a lit ciggy. Brilliant, fucking brilliant.

Meanwhile, Elder Daughter had gone into the convenience store, where the clientele - what is it about East Texas? - slammed her Redneck-O-Meter needle right to the peg. A country song was playing on the Muzak, and E.D. chuckled to herself...because she knew every word to the song.

You can take the girl out of Texas, but...aaah, you know the rest.

We marveled, as we always do, at the amazing amount of development that has taken place along the I-20 axis in the last 30 years. There is a spot on westbound I-20 between Dallas and Fort Worth where the road builds up a certain amount of elevation (a neat trick in these parts), offering the motorist a sweeping vista of the land to the west. Tonight, the panorama was studded with a myriad twinkling lights, encapsulating in one gestalt the blessings and curses of civilization. The sparkling, beautiful lights and the accompanying amenities come at the expense of the wide open spaces. But it do look raht purty on a clear evening.

I love driving this time of year. It’s no doubt a throwback to days long ago, when we would take a Sunday drive from our suburban home on the south shore of Long Island to my grandparents’ apartment in the Bensonhurst section of Brooklyn. The drive home afforded an opportunity to look at the displays of Christmas lights that festooned houses adjacent to the Belt and Southern State parkways. I can still picture the twinkling, multicolored lights, feel the crisp winter air.

On arriving at the Momma d’SWMBO’s place, we were greeted by an enthusiastic Nephew William, a smiling (for a while, anyway) baby niece Madison, SWMBO’s brother Morris William and his wife Rebecca - and, of course, Momma d’SWMBO and hubby David. SWMBO’s other brother (who comments here as Bro in-Law d’Elisson) showed up a bit later.

Damn, it’s nice to be back in Texas. Not that I’m a stranger around here, mind you - but much of my routine travel takes me to Houston, far from the northern reaches of the state around Fort Worth and Denton where we’ll be spending the week. And I’m gettin’ a hankerin’ for some Texas barbecue and mebbe some a’ them grilled jalapeños.

[*East Texas Moron. (No, he wasn’t Asian.)]

Friday, December 22, 2006

EIGHTH NIGHT

Chanukiah

CONNECTIONS

Connections abound in Bloggy-World, as we all know. Some of them are even able to provoke surprise, as witness this clip from a recent post at BigHominid’s Hairy Chasms:
...weird interconnections of the blogosphere: Rory and Elisson are correspondents, and I saw that Elisson had left condolences for Skippy as well. We all seem to travel in overlapping circles.
Indeed. And as I mentioned to BigHominid in an e-mail, his site is where I first found Rory, who had been linked thanks to a post he had written about Fucked Up Soup (don’t ask).

And there are connections in Meat-World, as well.

I’ve already written about the Mystical Connection between me and Houston Steve. But we have a whole raft of Steves in the neighborhood - a veritable Legion of Stevies - and I also share a Mystical Connection (albeit much more indirect) with another of them...

Yesterday morning I attended services, as I often do, with the Minyan Boyz. Said services were especially lengthy today, despite its being a weekday: it was the sixth day of Chanukah, which invariably is Rosh Chodesh (the new moon, which marks the transition from one month to the next) as well. And thus the normally uncomplicated morning service is enriched with the addition of full Hallel, readings from two - count ’em, two - Torah scrolls, and Musaf. If all this sounds like Greek Hebrew to you, no problem: all you need to know is that a service that normally runs 30-35 minutes gets stretched to an hour.

But that was not all. We also had an ufruf, when a soon-to-be-married groom is called to the Torah with the all of the attendant rabbinic blessings and wise words. The groom, in this case, was the son of Shanghai Steve, who is both one of the Minyan Boyz and one of our congregation’s Legion of Stevies. After services, we all went over to Shanghai Steve’s house to celebrate the occasion with a deluxe breakfast.

Shanghai Steve got his nom de blog from me owing to his unusual history. Born in Berlin, his family emigrated from Nazi Germany when he was two years old. After escaping from Berlin to Venice, they boarded a steamer bound for Shanghai, where they lived for the next seven years. The Japanese overran the city, but despite being allied with Nazi Germany, they did not share the Nazi animus toward Jews - and Steve’s family survived.

Not all of them, though. Hanging on a wall, in a frame, were two postcards written from the camps, by uncles and aunts that did not make it through the war. They bear postage stamps with Hitler’s face; return addresses with all-too-familiar names, Bergen-Belsen and Theresienstadt; and stamped instructions to write only in German.

The house was warm and inviting, filled with artwork, books, and evidence of a family love of music. Shanghai Steve’s mother-in-law had been a concert violist, raised in a cultured home. On the wall behind the grand piano there was an old viola in a display box; it had belonged to Steve’s great-uncle before World War II and had survived the war years thanks to his Christian neighbors.

Peter Max There were also several Peter Max originals on the walls, thanks to there being a Mystical Connection between him and Shanghai Steve. It seems that Peter Max, another Berlin-born Jew, had also sought refuge in Shanghai as a child during the war years. Eventually, he emigrated to the United States, where he lived, for a time, with a family named Zeisel on Bay 26th Street in Brooklyn...across the street and perhaps a block away from where my father, Eli Hizzownself, grew up. Another Mystical Connection...whod’a thunk it?

FRIDAY RANDOM TEN

Tonight - Friday night - marks the beginning of the end. Of Chanukah, that is. We’ll fire up all eight lights on the ol’ Chanukiah; tomorrow, we wipe it down and put it away for next year.

This evening, Elder Daughter arrives from Washington, D.C. Then, at the Butt-Crack of Dawn, tomorrow, we will pile in the SWMBO-Mobile for the day-long trek to Foat Wuth and Denton, Texas. It’s Baby-Squeezin’ Time™!

The Mistress of Sarcasm will join us out there Tuesday, which means that we will have several days to enjoy each other’s company before getting back in the car for the long drive home in the waning days of 2006.

Meanwhile, however, it’s time for the Friday Random Ten. What does Elisson’s Little White Choon-Box have in store for us today? Lessee...
  1. Conquistador - Procol Harum

    Conquistador, your stallion stands
    In need of company
    And like some angel’s haloed brow
    You reek of purity
    I see your armour-plated breast
    Has long since lost its sheen
    And in your death-mask face
    There are no signs which can be seen
    And though I hoped for something to find
    I could see no maze to unwind

    Conquistador, a vulture sits
    Upon your silver shield
    And in your rusty scabbard now
    The sand has taken seed
    And though your jewel-encrusted blade
    Has not been plundered, still
    The sea has washed across your face
    And taken of its fill
    And though I hoped for something to find
    I could see no maze to unwind

    Conquistador, there is no time
    I must pay my respect
    And though I came to jeer at you
    I leave now with regret
    And as the gloom begins to fall
    I see there is no, only all
    And though you came with sword held high
    You did not conquer, only die
    And though I hoped for something to find
    I could see no maze to unwind

  2. Waiting For The Rain - The Judybats
  3. Tiny Cities Made Of Ashes - Modest Mouse
  4. Fearless (Trance Remix) - Pink Floyd
  5. Imagine (World Trade Center) - John Lennon
  6. All The Time In The World - Russell Garcia, The Time Machine (1960)
  7. Movie Pot - Mitch Hedberg
  8. Beauty Killed The Beast - III - James Newton Howard, King Kong (2005)
  9. Piggies - The Beatles
  10. Theme From Flood - They Might Be Giants
It’s Friday. What are you listening to?

FUZZY FRIDAY

This week’s sailing of the Friday Ark - the 118th in that noble Series - is thankfully unencumbered by power outages and other technological problems. Go pay a visit to the Modulator’s magnum opus and enjoy the Hairy (and non-hairy) Menagerie.

The 144th Carnival of the Cats (gross! Hah!) will be hosted Erev Christmas (that’s Christmas Eve to all y’all Non-Hebrews out there) at IMAO. Hmmm, I wonder who’s gonna write that post? Frank J.? Right Wing Duck?

Thursday, December 21, 2006

THE VISITOR: A 100-WORD CHRISTMAS TALE

Ho! Ho! Ho!

The visitor took the brightly wrapped gifts from his smoking sack, arranging them at the base of the tree.

He looked around. The children, no doubt, were cowering beneath their bedsheets.

On the mantel, cookies sat next to a glass of milk. He ate them, dumping the milk in the sink. A quick search through the liquor cabinet revealed a bottle of single malt; he drained half at one gulp.

He vanished up the chimney, trailing a faint pong of brimstone.

It was a one-time gig thanks to an unfilled straight, but they’d remember Satan Claus’s visit.

[Submitted as my entry for Weekly Challenge #36 at the 100 Word Stories Podcast, of course!]

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

MEET MORTY

I recently finished reading Neal Gabler’s landmark biography, Walt Disney: The Triumph of the American Imagination. It’s fascinating reading, providing a wealth of background information on the life of the man who would go on to create the House of Mouse.

In many ways, Mickey Mouse’s life paralleled that of his creator. At the start, Mickey was mischievous, a troublemaker. While not outright malicious, the early Mickey had attitude. He was a sassy little motherfucker.

But as time passed, Mickey’s personality changed. He became bland, boring. He was the Good Guy, the exemplar. [In like wise was Walt Disney’s personality (at least the outward manifestation with which the public was familiar) bland and exemplary. Reporters did not hear him say “Fuck!” or watch him drink.]

Eventually it became necessary to create other characters, characters that could do the rotten, mischievous, nasty things that Mickey could no longer do. And, beloved as Mickey may be today, it is those characters with whom many people feel a special affinity. Donald Duck might have been a pain in the ass, but at least he was an interesting pain in the ass. (For a Disney character, anyway.)

Now, in the early years of the 21st century, there is once again a need for a new character, one that can revitalize the Disney franchise. A character with ’Tude. A character with Sass. A character that can be a Merry Prankster, but who can play the heavy when the need arises.

Meet Morty Maggot.



Morty (short for Mortis) Maggot has those googly eyes that are so appealing to the kiddies. Look at that cuddly shape - perfect for the stuffed animal crowd! Those tusk-like mandibles give him a walrusy aspect, too - and walruses are a proven Cartoon Commodity (just ask Walter Lantz).

I can see Morty now, strolling down Main Street USA, nibbling on Snow White’s elbow at the Character Breakfasts. He’ll no doubt have his own attraction, with a platoon of audio-animatronic fly larvae - his brethren! - strumming their banjos and singing at the Country Maggot Jamboree.


Hiya, kids! Let’s cuddle!

Best yet, when Morty gets a little long in the tooth, he can move on to the next stage in his metamorphosis:



Freddy Fly!

[Tip o’ th’ Elisson fedora to Velociman, who has been unusually creative in his choice of Sidebar Photographs lately. And thanks to Nicole Ottawa and Oliver Meckes (www.eyeofscience.com) for the imagery.]

IN WHICH ELISSON GRACES THE SMALL SCREEN

It was back in early September that the sanctity of the Local Bagel and Smoked Fish Emporium was invaded by a television crew from the local Fox affiliate. Road Warrior Reporter Brett Martin had come to spread the news about the best fresh-baked bagels and smoked fish in town.

Now, thanks to the magic of YouTube, you can watch this brief excerpt from the morning’s Intrepid Reportage to get a glimpse of the Minyan Boyz and see where Yours Truly eats breakfast.



Try not to throw any hard objects at the computer screen.

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

DA GOILS

Because it’s been ten minutes since I last posted a picture of the cats.


Matata cuddles up in some dry cleaning film.

No, we don’t let her play with this stuff unsupervised...but Miss Matata sure do love her 0.3 mil polyethyene film.


Hakuna relaxes on the daybed.

Hakuna, meanwhile, may be found on the daybed in the computer room or on Elder Daughter’s bed. Or lurking in the box spring, if there’s any evidence of an upcoming visit to the vet in the air.

ON LOBSTER



It has been said that “it were a brave man who first eat an Oyster.”

True, dat. I imagine one caveman calling to another: “Hey, Grag! Looka this rock here! Holy Crap - it’s got a loogie in it! An’ I’m gonna eat it!”

As food, oysters are even more non-intuitive than eggs: “Hey, Grag! Looka this round thing here what came outta this chicken’s ass! I’m gonna eat it!”

But then there’s the noble Lobster, proof positive that humans will eat almost anything: “Hey, Grag! Looka this giant cockaroach I just pulled outta the water! I’m gonna eat it!”

Yes, it were a brave man who first eat a Lobster. Or a stupid one. And, if careless, one lacking a few digits. For lobsters - at least, the variety that live in the cold waters of North America’s eastern seaboard - have some honkin’ big pincers, and they’re not bashful about using them.

I have been known to consume a few of these giant crustaceans from time to time.

“But, Elisson! You’re a Jew! Ain’t that against the rules?”

Alas, it is. But the Dietary Laws have never been my strong suit, despite the fact that I have become somewhat more observant over the years. Face it: I come from a family where, like as not, the second Passover seder would consist of take-out pizza. Freethinkers, apikorsim (heretics), whatever you wanna call ’em, my parents were not what you would call model Hebrews - at least, insofar as ritual and observance was concerned. And in this one area, at least, the apple did not, as the saying goes, fall far from the tree.

But we were talking about Lobster.

I learned to eat lobster at my mother’s knee, she having learned the art from her mother. The Momma d’Elisson was feared and loathed in lobster tanks throughout the Northeast, for she could fair demolish a lobster, leaving only dry shards of chitinous shell.

Once upon a time, I was host to a group of sales representatives, visiting from the Great Corporate Salt Mine’s far-flung Asian outposts. They were visiting our New York-area offices, and not a man-jack among them had ever laid eyes on a Maine lobster. We remedied that one memorable night at the Palm in Manhattan, with four-pounders all around. Back then - it was 1980 or ’81 - you could get a four-pounder at the Palm for what today seems like the bargain-basement price of $40.

Those of you who will cavil and say that large lobsters are not as good as those shitty one-pound chicken lobsters they sell at (gag) Red Lobster are way off base. Lobsters are like Dicks: bigger is better, although having small one is better than having nothing.

On my thirtieth birthday, She Who Must Be Obeyed and I celebrated by going out to the Yankee Clipper, a restaurant in Freeport, New York (now defunct) that offered lobsters in sizes ranging from merely large to the truly immense. We split a ten-pounder, which went for the (then) luxuriant tariff of $60. When they brought that monster out, on a trencher the size of a pool table, a hush fell over the dining room as everyone in the place stopped to gape at the behemoth.

I’d like to say that we ate the Whole Fucking Thing, but no. We saved the large claw - fully the size of a dinner plate - and took it back to my parents’s house, there to be made into Lobster Salad the next day.

Was it good? It was exquisite. Nice and tender - not at all tough, as some of the Needle-Dick Small-Lobster crowd would have you believe.

And then there was the summer of 1988, when we vacationed for a week in Cape Cod. One night we went to the fishmonger and purchased a brace of enormous lobsters - a couple of eight-pounders and some four-pounders - the latter for snacks, I suppose. It’s the one time I remember having had so much lobster that I was thoroughly sick of it for months.

Lobster was not always a luxury food. One hundred years ago, it was considered trash, suitable only for fertilizer or the poor man’s table. Last summer, my friend Lisa and her husband G related to me how, years ago in New Brunswick, the wealthy children would bring lunchmeat sandwiches to school; poorer families’s kids were given lobster rolls. And lobsters would be planted in furrows in farmers’ fields, there to enrich the soil. Eat a lobster? How...nekulturny.

Things are different now, of course - and those same salt-of-the-earth lobster fishermen who lived in mean circumstances in years past are now building hilltop manses with that lobster money.

It was while I was in New Brunswick this past summer that I had a most memorable luncheon, hosted by this charming couple:


Winston and Mary.

They had invited me, a complete stranger, to their summer home at the campgrounds in Hampton, New Brunswick, for a fine repast of lobster rolls, seafood chowder, and a most excellent blueberry pie.

The lobster rolls were superb; the homemade seafood chowder, replete with chunks of lobster and scallops, was completely over the top.

As for the pie, I have described the McKay’s Farmstand Wild Blueberry Pie in loving detail elsewhere, but I have not shared Winston’s philosophy of pie-cutting. Being a staunch Baptist, he makes the sign of the Cross - i.e., he cuts a pie into quarters. Why serve a World-Class Pie in dinky portions?

Of course, there’s a certain irony that attaches to eating lobster in Maritime Canada with Winston and Mary, my most esteemed hosts. And that is the fact that their own daughter won’t go near the stuff.

What kind of Canajun doesn’t eat lobstah?

Monday, December 18, 2006

UNLEASH YOUR INNER POLLOCK

Pollock

You likee?

Simply go to this site and you, too, can create masterpieces of abstract art, simply by dragging your mouse. Click to change colors...and experiment, experiment, experiment!

It’s the perfect site for the modern Renaissance man...and it’s certainly a lot less messy than the technique this guy used.

MUSIC...WITH BALLS



Amazing, innit?

There’s an e-mailed Urban Legend floating around the Inter-Webby-Net to the effect that the video above is of an actual machine. To wit:
Please open this one - AMAZING (for real!)

This incredible machine was built as a collaborative effort between The Robert M. Trammell Music Conservatory and the Sharon Wick School of Engineering at the University of Iowa. Amazingly, 97% of the machines components came from John Deere Industries and Irrigation Equipment of Bancroft Iowa - yes, farm equipment!

It took the team a combined 13,029 hours of set-up, alignment, calibration, and tuning before filming this video but as you can see it was WELL worth the effort...

It is now on display in the Matthew Gerhard Alumni Hall at the University and is already slated to be donated to the Smithsonian.
As I often do when I get items like this in the old e-mail bag, I checked it out at snopes.com, and, as I expected, it is not what it is advertised to be. There are just a few small problems:
  1. There is no Robert M. Trammell Music Conservatory.
  2. There is no Sharon Wick School of Engineering at the University of Iowa.
  3. There is also no Matthew Gerhard Alumni Hall at the University of Iowa.
  4. It’s pretty obvious to the casual observer that the video is a brilliant piece of computer animation...but animation nonetheless.
Simply scrape the Internet Bullshit Frosting off; you are still left with an entertaining video confection.

[Tip o’ the’ Elisson fedora to Auntie Zelda for the link.]

YOU ASKED FOR IT

Several of my Esteemed Readers have expressed an interest in SWMBO’s recipe for Peerless Potato Pancakes. Latkes, that is. At the risk of getting Cut Off (husbands of long standing will know what I mean), I am pleased to share with you what I know.

Like many home-grown dishes, there is no fixed recipe for making these beauties - only a series of guidelines. But I am happy to share them with you, in the belief that whosoever spreads the knowledge of how to prepare and enjoy the Good Things in life makes the world a better place. [It’s all about tikkun olam at Blog d’Elisson: Repairing the World.]

Here’s what you’ll need:

Idaho russet baking potatoes
Yellow onions
Eggs (large or extra-large)
Matzoh meal
Salt
Freshly ground black pepper
Peanut oil
Plenty of paper towels

All measurements are approximate, as befits a Grandmotherly Recipe. With enough practice, you’ll be able to make these babies just the way you like ’em.

Peel the potatoes and grate them coarsely, using a box grater or a food processor. The food processor is a tool that Grandma didn’t have; its chief advantage is that by using it in lieu of a box grater, you are less likely to contribute some extra protein and flavoring agent - blood and knuckle-meat - to the recipe.

For every three or four potatoes, peel and grate a medium-sized onion. Mix the onion and potato together thoroughly.

If someone suggests to you that you should “grate” the onion and potato in a blender, kick him or her in the crotch and get as far away as possible. Such a person is a Bad Influence and must be avoided. As it is said, “To eat latkes made with blender-grated potatoes is to deny oneself a portion in the World to Come.”

You will want to drain the potato-onion mixture thoroughly. The best way to do this is with one of those salad spinners. Dump the grated potatoes and onions into the basket of the spinner and give it a few quick spins until you’ve extracted as much liquid as possible. Put the potatoes and onions in a large bowl.

Now here comes the “touchy-feely” part.

Crack in an egg and mix thoroughly with the potatoes and onions. Now, sprinkle in some matzoh meal to dry out the mixture a bit. You want to add just enough eggs and matzoh meal to bind the potatoes so they’ll hold together in a pancake shape; too much, and your latkes will taste eggy or doughy rather than potato-ey. SWMBO ended up using only 9 eggs for ten pounds of potatoes, so do NOT use a heavy hand with the eggs.

Can I use flour instead of matzoh meal? you may ask. For that matter, what the hell is matzoh meal?

Yes - you can use flour...but I strongly recommend matzoh meal, which is made by grinding baked unleavened bread to a coarse powdery consistency. Matzoh meal gives these little cakes just the right flavor and texture. Of course, if you make them during Passover (and you’re an observant Jew), flour is not an option.

Salt and pepper the whole mess to taste. Last time SWMBO made these, she inadvertently added a lot more pepper than she usually does, and it jazzed the flavor up nicely. So feel free to add plenty of pepper.

Now, let the batter sit while you get your skillet full of peanut oil heated up to at least 375°F. SWMBO uses peanut oil because it has a neutral flavor and a high smoke point: You can heat it until it’s hot as a bastard and it won’t burn. Hot oil is the secret to latkes that are crisp and not greasy.

Shape the batter into thin patties and fry ’em until they are golden brown, turning them once. Drain on paper towels and serve piping hot.

If you must, for logistical reasons, prepare this recipe in advance, you can keep the latkes warn in a medium oven...but they are best served right out of the hot oil.

Enjoy!

Sunday, December 17, 2006

SENSE MEMORY

Latkes

This Friday, before the mob descended upon us for our annual Momma d’Elisson Memorial Chanukah Dinner, we fired up our Chanukah lights and then lit the traditional two candles for the Sabbath.

We use an oil menorah these days. There is something about the soft, warm light from an olive oil lamp that transcends the ordinary. It’s also easier to clean than those damnable drippy candles.

As SWMBO lit that first lamp, a distinctive, almost delicate aroma composed partly of burning olive oil, partly of match-sulfur, hung in the air. And it triggered a sense memory deep in my Reptilian Hind-Brain that had my mind drifting through an ocean of Chanukah past.

There are two senses that can work that sort of magic on me more effectively than any others: hearing and smell.

[I hear Jethro Tull’s “A New Day Yesterday” or “With You There To Help Me,” and I am instantly transported back to my freshman tear in college. I smell the paraffinic pong of a just-lit candle, and I am a grade-school lad once again, watching with anticipation as my parents kindle the lights of Chanukah.]

Later that evening, as I bit into a crisp potato pancake, steaming hot and still glistening with oil, that sense memory struck me again. This time, it took me back to my grandmother’s kitchen, that magical place whence came the most savory roast chicken, the most delicate chicken soup with kreplach.

To this day, the memory of my grandmother’s meatloaf brings an appreciative smile to my lips - this, despite the fact that I am not normally a Meatloaf Fan.

But as I stood there in reverential reverie, it occurred to me that SWMBO’s latkes are every bit as good as my grandmother’s were. Maybe even better.

Memories are fine, but we live in the present. And I am blessed to have a life that exceeds my memories.

Now: Where the hell are the rest of those latkes?

ELEGANCE

The hospitality industry covers a broad range of quality, both of properties and of the guests that frequent those properties.

You have your SRO hotels in the Big Cities, places that exist to warehouse winos and addicts. For that matter, you can include homeless shelters in the mix.

You have cheap motels that rent rooms by the hour, where shouting and the occasional meaty slap of fist against flesh may be heard through the paper-thin walls.

On the other end of the spectrum, you have Grand Hotels, paragons of elegance, where a room will set you back several Benjamins and where you can get a case of chilled Dom Pérignon sent up to your room at any hour of the day in order to fill your bathtub, you decadent bastard.

And you have intimate, stylish lodgings, where guests appreciate quiet grace and discreet, attentive service. Like this place:




Understated elegance in Savannah.

All of these, from one end of the spectrum to the other, coexist peacefully in Accommodation World. This peaceful coexistence is possible only because, with rare exception, the quality of the clientele is a solid match for the quality of the establishment. When there is a mismatch, look out.

Here followeth a story of the Guests from Hell, a group of people who, at first blush, appeared to be well matched with their intended place of lodging, an elegant little bed-and-breakfast in the heart of Savannah’s historic district. The kind of crib where the least costly room will set you back three Benjamins...not exactly your Motel 6.

Several months ago, this little group checked in, ostensibly with excellent credentials. The gentleman claimed to be a food critic with a notable southern newspaper, and so the concierge happily arranged a reservation at a fine dining establishment in Tybee Island several miles to the east.

The concierge was appalled when, several hours later, she received a call from the restaurant’s host. Apparently, the guests’ behavior was appalling during dinner, at the conclusion of which they stiffed the waitstaff. No tip. Zilch. Not only that: They had apparently gone into the restrooms and stuffed towels into the sink drains, causing a flood. The host had called to alert the concierge, lest these fine folks attempt a similar stunt at their place of lodging.

Their stay at the bed-and-breakfast ended the following day; fortunately, it was incident-free.

Amazingly enough, several months later, this same group booked in at the B&B once again. Whoever accepted the reservation either was unaware of their previous adventures or was operating under the Presumption of Innocence. Perhaps they had no way of connecting the guests’ names with the growing body of legend surrounding their exploits. Had such a connection been made, it’s likely that these cowboys would have been sent packing before they even arrived.

And so it was that this very day, our Intrepid Gang o’ Guests, having found their way back to Savannah, had booked a (rather costly) tour that involved spending considerable time with Minerva, the gris-gris woman that you may remember from the film Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil.

The woman who played her in the film was an actress, but Minerva (a minor but significant character in John Berendt’s book) is a real person. And apparently, these people managed to rub the real Minerva the wrong way, to the point that she did not want to have anything to do with them. Boom. Tour cancelled - with nary a dime for the tour operator, who was already out-of-pocket for both gasoline money as well as her time.

The experience apparently disappointed our Intrepid Guests to the point that, upon returning to the B&B, one of them went into the little restroom in the first-floor bar/drawing room and proceeded to take a steaming shit in the linen hamper. And then water it down with whiz.

Why these assholes are not being gently escorted out by the police even as we speak, I have no idea. But they will be given the old Heave Ho first thing in the morning.

If I were the concierge, I would find a way to sneak a human turd into each piece of their luggage. And pack their car's hubcaps with bait shrimp. And make sure that no hotel in North America with better than a “This Place Sucks” rating in the Michelin Guide will ever allow them to book in.

Elegant, what?

ANIMAL IN-SINK



It’s amazing that Matata can cram her eleven-pound bulk into a bathroom sink and manage to look comfortable at the same time. In-sinktive behavior, I call it.



Perhaps it’s the reassuring presence of SpongeBob Squarepants that she enjoys.

Or perhaps it’s the knowledge that Carnival of the Cats #143 is up at houseofchaos.

Technorati tags: , ,

Friday, December 15, 2006

STOOL: A 100-WORD TALE

Eddie walked into Clancy’s, looking for an empty seat. There - next to that platinum blonde with the Cosmo! Maybe she wasn’t a Working Girl. Riiight.

“Ah wouldn’t sit down theah effen Ah wuz yew.”

The warning came from the end of the bar. Strange little guy, clad in buckskins, sporting a coonskin cap, reeking of pine.

“I’ll sit wherever the fuck I want, Mark Trail.”

With that, Eddie slid onto the barstool. It shattered into flinders, dumping him unceremoniously to the floor.

“H-h-how’d you know?”

“Name’s Dan’l Boone, and Ah know more about B’ar Stools than jest about anybody.”

FUZZY FRIDAY

After a late start (owing to a pesky power outage), the 117th Friday Ark is afloat, the Modulator at the helm.

Not enough kitties for you? Be sure to visit the Carnival of the Cats, the 143rd edition of which will be hosted Sunday evening at houseofchaos.

Chaos? With four cats? You betcha.

FRIDAY RANDOM TEN - CHANUKAH EDITION

Today is not only Friday: it is Erev Chanukah. This evening at sundown, the Jewish Festival of Lights will begin.

We will celebrate the day in our time-honored traditional way, by having a monstrous Dinner Blowout featuring take-out Chinese food (a staple of Jews throughout America), along with the obligatory potato latkes. Both Chinese stir-fried dishes and potato latkes meet the basic requirement of Chanukah foods, being fried in oil. Technically speaking, we could also drag in a few dozen doughnuts - the traditional Israeli sufganiyot or the larger, more Zeppelin-like Berliners - but that would be gilding the lily.

She Who Must Be Obeyed will be in charge of latke production. SWMBO is a dab hand at making latkes, and I will put her crisp, golden-brown potato pancakes up against any competitor. Hers are always made from freshly-grated potatoes and onions, bound with egg and matzoh meal, and pan-fried in exceedingly hot peanut oil. Small batches only, thank you.

As for me, I will be in charge of arranging the delivery of the Chinese food to coincide with our guests’ arrival. Something I am not too likely to screw up.

Chanukah, by the by, is a relatively minor Jewish holiday, inflated in seeming importance here in the United States by its close proximity to the culturally ubiquitous Christmas. How minor? Well, its origins are recent enough to have escaped mention in the Torah...which means that the myriad restrictions of Big-Time Holidays do not apply. So observant Jews can drive, light fires, chop wood, etc. And play with those fucking dreidels.

To Christians, Christmas rates a 10 out of 10 on the Holidometer. To Jews - at least, the ones who aren’t all suffering from identity crises - Chanukah is maybe 3 out of 10. It’s not all that big a deal.

But we’ll enjoy it anyway. Food, drink, family, and friends. What is there that’s better?

OK - enough of this Holiday Prattle! It’s time for the Friday Random Ten!

Let’s take a look and see what the iPod d’Elisson is spewing out today:
  1. Sunset Road - Béla Fleck & The Flecktones
  2. Madman Across The Water - Elton John
  3. You Better You Bet - The Who
  4. Freylekh Zayn - The Klezmer Conservatory Band
  5. School For Monsters / The Money Song (Reprise) - Avenue Q, Original Broadway Cast
  6. Waiting For The End Of The World - Elvis Costello
  7. Tupelo Honey - Van Morrison

    You can take all the tea in China
    Put it in a big brown bag for me
    Sail right ’round the seven oceans
    Drop it straight into the deep blue sea
    She’s as sweet as tupelo honey
    She’s an angel of the first degree
    She’s as sweet as tupelo honey
    Just like honey from the bee

    You can’t stop us on the road to freedom
    You can’t keep us ’cause our eyes can see
    Men with insight, men in granite
    Knights in armor bent on chivalry
    She’s as sweet as tupelo honey
    She’s an angel of the first degree
    She’s as sweet as tupelo honey
    Just like honey from the bee

    You can’t stop us on the road to freedom
    You can’t stop us ’cause our eyes can see
    Men with insight, men in granite
    Knights in armor intent on chivalry
    She’s as sweet as tupelo honey
    She’s an angel of the first degree
    She’s as sweet as tupelo honey
    Just like honey from the bee

    You know she’s all right
    You know she’s all right with me
    She’s all right, she’s all right (she’s an angel)

    You can take all the tea in China
    Put it in a big brown bag for me
    Sail it right ’round the seven oceans
    Drop it smack dab in the middle of the deep blue sea
    Because she’s as sweet as tupelo honey
    She’s an angel of the first degree
    She’s as sweet as tupelo honey
    Just like honey from the bee

    She’s as sweet as tupelo honey
    She’s an angel of the first degree
    She’s as sweet as tupelo honey
    Just like the honey, baby, from the bee
    She’s my baby, you know she’s all right...

  8. In Taberna - Estuans Interius - Christian Thielemann, Orff: Carmina Burana
  9. Tommy: Overture - The Who
  10. Fixing A Hole - The Beatles
It’s Friday. What are you listening to?

Thursday, December 14, 2006

TELL IT TO THE JUDGE

It was the summer of 2004, and She Who Must Be Obeyed, the Mistress of Sarcasm, and I were returning from a week-long road trip to the Northeast. A few days to attend my 30th college reunion; a few days to visit with Eli (his ownself) and Mrs. Eli; a few days in Cambridge with Elder Daughter.

After a full day of driving from Boston, we had stopped for the night somewhere on the southern marches of Richmond. At the Butt-Crack of Dawn, we hightailed it out of there, headed south on I-95, intending to stop for breakfast after we had gotten a few miles under our belts. Sure enough, as inevitably as the sun rising in the East, the cabin of our sedan gradually filled with the lusty sounds of borborygmus.

That’s a 50¢ word meaning “Gut Rumbles.” The sound an empty - and moderately pissed-off - stomach makes.

SWMBO, our trusty driver, was easily persuaded to stop for breakfast. This we did at a Crapper Barrel near the Virginia-North Carolina border.

I’m sure many of my Esteemed Readers are familiar with the Crapper Barrel. Not only can you get your all-day breakfast, your meat ’n’ three, your countrified chicken ’n’ dumplin’s there - you can also load up on Old Time Radio CD’s (superannuated content meets modern technology!), old-fashioned regional sweetmeats, Christmas gewgaws ’n’ gimcracks, and jes’ plain ol’ Crappola. And you can drive yourself batshit playing that stupid-ass game with those fucking golf tees and the triangular piece of wood. Yeah, you know the one I’m talking about. The one where you keep playing until your food is cold and your brains have turned to pudding because you Just Can’t Fucking Figure Out How To Leave Fewer Than Eight Tees.

There we sat, waiting for our stacks of hotcakes and bowls of steaming hot grits to arrive. I was into my 37th round of the Stupid-Ass Tee Game; SWMBO and the Mistress were having a conversation; and I began to feel as though eyes were boring into the side of my head.

They were - and they belonged to Ol’ Banjo Eyes. Eddie Cantor!

For hanging there on the wall next to our table, placed there for purely decorative purposes, was an ancient Parker Brothers game board, with Eddie’s demented grin front and center.


Tell It To The Judge. [Click to embiggen.]

The game? Tell It To The Judge, a board game in which one would attempt to navigate one’s car from the garage to the Club without suffering humiliating breakdowns or being arrested for trivial moving violations.

Tell It To The Judge was around for years, but eventually it disappeared from the Gaming Tables of America. That jaunty 1930’s Art Deco design and jazz-age theme were not enough to save it.

As soon as I saw that board, I knew I had to find one of those games. When we arrived home that evening, I began scouring eBay. Within a few weeks, I had a near-mint condition game, complete with playing pieces, cards, and Play Money.

Let’s take a look at that money. It’s almost like Bizarro World Monopoly Money, with Eddie Cantor’s exophthalmic grin (so reminiscent of the grinning mascot of George C. Tilyou’s Steeplechase Park in Coney Island) shining forth from the center of each bill.


Eddie Money.

Every so often, I like to imagine a world in which Tell It To The Judge turned out to be the smashing success amongst its brother Parker Brothers games, rather than the greed-soaked Monopoly. It would be a world in which Ventnor Avenue and Park Place would be mere footnotes on the pages of history, not cultural-geographical icons. It would be a world in which the demented leer of Eddie Cantor, Ol’ Banjo Eyes, would be as familiar to the average American McDonald’s burger-eater as Old Mr. Moneybags is today, and in which the Pursuit of Mazuma would take second place to Evading Motorcycle Cops as the Great American Board-Game.

I think I would like such a world.

[Cross-posted at Leslie’s Omnibus. Tip o’ th’ Elisson fedora to Ivan, whose recent post at Thrilling Days of Yesteryear got me thinking about Mr. Cantor.]

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

ICH BIN EIN JELLY DOUGHNUT:
A 100-WORD POEM

Sometimes, after dinner,
I crave a Berliner -
That noble and perfect dessert.

But a gluttonous sinner
Will bite his Berliner,
An act that may cause it to squirt -

Take a napkin and pin ’er
Between your Berliner
And you. It will keep off the dirt.

Then enjoy your Berliner
(It won’t make you thinner -
Your diet it’s likely to hurt.)

You might want your Berliner
Washed down with some gin, or
Some human breast milk - you pervert!

I feel like a winner
When I eat my Berliner
Without getting jam on my shirt.

After dinner? Berliner!

DAX: GONE DARK

Anyone know what happened to that most esteemed Dax Montana?

I’d link to The Dax Files, but I get a message saying that the website cannot be found. Wha’ hoppen Dax?

Has Real Life become more important than blogging? Just Damn!

Update: Well, at least Dax’s site isn’t completely dead: only moribund. The link started working again. But with no new posts in over a month, it smells like Big-Time Blog-Vacation to me. Or perhaps the baleful influence of that other Sabbatical-Taker.

THE M.B. IN M.B.A.:
A 100-WORD BUSINESS CASE STUDY

Charley strode into the cavernous drafting room to announce the good news: Simionics had won the contract to design the DFW Airport!

Simionics, Incorporated was on a roll. The new job followed right on the heels of their last project - the Hartford, Connecticut interstate highway network.

Somebody once said that if you put an infinite number of monkeys at an infinite number of typewriters, eventually you’d end up with the complete works of Shakespeare. Simionics wasn’t quite that ambitious. They had 500 chimps, 500 drafting tables: just enough.

A hard-flung turd caught Charley on the chin. Fucking monkey business.

[The theme for Weekly Challenge #35 at the 100 Word Stories Podcast is, of course, Monkey Business. And anyone who has been to the Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport or who has driven the roads around Hartford knows exactly where I’m coming from.]

Monday, December 11, 2006

SURPRISE

You know how when there’s an occasion coming up that involves Gift-Giving, and some people are smart enough to shop for all the things they need to buy well in advance, and they buy all that stuff and in some cases wrap it up and in other cases just leave it in its original packaging, and they stick it all in the closet for safekeeping and they hope nobody finds it before the Gift-Giving Occasion arrives, and yet somehow when you’re looking for some Random Shite and you stumble upon this closet fulla all kinds of crap, most of which you’ve never seen before, and you see that one of the boxes has somehow broken open and you can see what’s inside?



That never happens to me.

NOT THE SAME OLD KUGEL

Best Recipes

You like food? Sure you do. Everybody likes food.

Except maybe that bulimic girl who sits next to you on the Metro bus Tuesdays and Thursdays. But she weighs only 67 pounds and looks like Death backing out of a shithouse. And she has that stinky Bulimic Breath. Feh.

But pretty much everyone else likes food.

Me, I love food. And my ass continues to thank me by indulging its Expansionist Tendencies.

I not only like to eat food, I like to cook it, too. That, in turn, leads me to post the occasional recipe here. After all, if you have something you really like, don’t you love to share it with your friends? Sure you do.

It’s like evangelism, without all that unpleasant “going to hell” business.

There’s an outfit out there that calls itself The New Pamphleteer, and they are in the business of - yep, you guessed it - publishing pamphlets. Here’s their mission statement:
“Our modest goal is nothing less than to reinvent the book for the 21st century. By reviving the mid-length literary form - longer than an article, shorter and much cheaper than a book - The New Pamphleteeer returns to the origins of publishing to find the future of print in a digital world.”

“A unique publishing enterprise that marries a powerful 18th century literary form to 21st century technology.”
One of the pamphlets these folks offer is entitled Blog Digest #1 - The Hezbollah War. Edited by Michael Totten, it comprises a selection of blogposts that convey the immediacy of the war in a way that the MSM cannot. Even better: one of my favorite reads, Treppenwitz, is represented therein.

“But, Elisson - what does this have to do with food? You were talking about food, remember?”

And so I was. The latest offering by The New Pamphleteer is, in fact, a collection of recipes entitled Best Recipes of the Jewish Blogosphere...and one of Yours Truly’s posts is included.

As it says at The New Pamphleteer’s site, “These recipes from the Jewish blogosphere aren’t just the same old kugel...All recipes include URLs for the original post, and links to other Jewish blogs are on the back page. Treat your friends and relatives to this unique inexpensive Hanukkah gift which they will appreciate long after the holiday is over.”

Just click on the picture above to go to The New Pamphleteer’s website, where you can order up a truckload of these bad boys. They’re reasonably priced at $4.00 the book (of which I receive absolutely zilch, so I’m not doing it for the money!)

Sunday, December 10, 2006

CATS AND JEWS

Getcher Cats and Jews here!

Well, not here, exactly. Go to the following Gathering Places:

For the Cats: Carnival of the Cats #142, at House of the (Mostly) Black Cats.

For the Jews: Haveil Havalim #97, at Random Thoughts.

Ya wanna cat? Here’s a couple cats for ya:


Matata builds a Dry Cleaning Bag nest as Hakuna looks on skeptically.

Cats and Jews! Getcher Cats and Jews here!

A CHANUKAH EDITORIAL

[If Dear Abby can get away with reprinting the same frickin’ Holiday Columns every stinking year, why not Blog d’Elisson? We are therefore pleased to offer this previously published Editorial Response, one that is both timely and appropriate to the season. Chanukah begins at sundown on December 15 this year.]

We take pleasure in answering thus prominently the electronic-mail communication below, expressing at the same time our great gratification that its faithful author is numbered among the friends of Blog d’Elisson:
“I am 8 years old. Some of my little friends say there was no Judah Maccabee and that Chanukah is a load of crap. Papa says, ‘If you see it in Blog d’Elisson, it’s so.’ Please tell me the truth, was there a Judah Maccabee?” - Patty O’Furniture
Patty, your little friends are wrong. They have been affected by the skepticism of a skeptical age. They do not believe except what they see. They think that nothing can be which is not comprehensible by their little minds. All they care about is that fat red-suited guy who schleps presents to Yenemvelt and back. All minds, Patty, whether they be men’s or children’s, are little. In this great universe of ours, man is a mere insect, an ant, goornisht, in his intellect as compared with the boundless world about him, as measured by the intelligence capable of grasping the whole of truth and knowledge.

Yes, Patty, there was a Judah Maccabee.

He existed as certainly as dedication and courage and devotion exist. He kicked some serious ass back in the day, Judah did, throwing the Greco-Syrians out of Judea and reclaiming the holy Temple. His struggle was a struggle against assimilation, against those who would be seduced by the pop culture of the day. He fought his battles so that we Jews would retain our cultural identity and not be swallowed up in the prevailing pagan mainstream. Alas! how dreary would be the world if there had been no Judah Maccabee! It would be as dreary as if there were no Pattys. (Or furniture.) There would be no candle-lighting then, no singing Ma-oz Tzur (or even those stupid dreidel songs), no commemoration of the miraculous rededication of the Temple. No Judah? We would even today be schmearing ourselves with olive oil and burning pig hearts as sacrifices to Zeus. And our Christian friends would have no Christmas - for the culture that gave rise to Jesus would have been wiped out. The eternal light - the ner tamid - with which childhood fills the world would be extinguished.

Not believe in Judah? You might as well not believe in fairies. Or the Matzohball That Does Not Sink. Or Eliyahu ha-Navi. You might get your papa to hire men to watch all the seder tables of the world to catch a glimpse of Eliyahu, but even if you did not see him, what would that prove? Nobody ever sees Eliyahu ha-Navi drink his wine at the Seder table, but that is no sign that there is no Eliyahu ha-Navi. The most real things in the world are those that neither children nor men can see. Did you ever see fairies dancing on the lawn? Of course not, but that's no proof that they are not there. (Although those footprints in the grass were more likely made by your Papa as he tried to sneak back into the house with a snootful of booze after the office Xmas party.) Nobody can conceive or imagine all the wonders there are unseen and unseeable in the world.

You can tear apart the knish and see the tasty filling inside, but there is a veil covering the unseen world which not the strongest man, nor even the united strength of all the strongest men that ever lived could tear apart. Only faith, poetry, love, romance, can push aside that curtain and view and picture the supernal beauty and glory beyond. Is it all real? Ah, Patty, in all this world there is nothing else real and abiding.

No Judah Maccabee? Thank G-d he lived - and lives forever. A thousand years from now, Patty, nay, 10 times 10,000 years from now, he will continue to chase the Greco-Syrians out of Judea and combat the forces of cultural assimilation, making glad the heart of childhood.

Happy Chanukah!

[Originally posted on December 25, 2004.]

RECONCILIATION: A 100-WORD PIPE DREAM

Abdul Abulbul Amir is revered for bringing East and West together.

Back in 2052, Amir was an impoverished cleric living in Dearborn. Many of his brethren denounced America. They could only envision a future of struggle, Islam versus the powers of the West. Theirs was a bipolar world of Muslim and Infidel, of which only one could be right.

But Amir had a vision.

“Surely, a country that can make a dessert this wonderful is no Great Satan!”

And so, he began preaching a new message of love for America from a true Religion of Peace:

“Imam and Apple Pie!”

Saturday, December 09, 2006

A STUDY IN MOTION


Hakuna attempts to catch the Laser Mouse. Good luck with that...

Friday, December 08, 2006

GOOD QUESTION

Gayle Miller, who writes at And you thought YOU were cranky?, responded to a comment I had left over at sisu that made reference to our annual Chanukah tradition: Chinese take-out and potato latkes. In doing so, she posed a question that has bedeviled great minds for generations:
Elisson - what is it with Jewish people and Chinese takeout? I keep asking my boss but he’s Observant and hasn’t a clue?
Great question, Gayle. And there is no simple answer.

First, I’ll venture to say that the extreme popularity of Chinese food among Jews is primarily a phenomenon of the less observant movements. Reform Jews typically pay little, if any, attention to the dietary restrictions of kashrut; Conservative Jews, while nominally adhering to halakha (religious regulations), include among their numbers many who are not strict followers of the dietary laws. [Like me. Ahem.]

For most Orthodox Jews to eat Chinese, a kosher Chinese restaurant is required. These are thin on the ground outside of major metropolitan areas.

Having said that, what is it about Chinese food that attracts Jews?

First of all, someone else cooks it. This is especially important on Sunday evenings, when the typical hausfrau is worn out from Weekend Amusement. With Monday looming, who the hell wants to cook?

Second, Chinese food looks kosher. Sorta. Bear with me here.

Fact is, Chinese cooking (as well as other Asian cuisines, Indian food being a notable exception) eschews the use of dairy ingredients such as milk, butter, or cheese. It’s rice, vegetables, meat, and fish. So, nominally, the probihition against mixing meat and dairy is not an issue.

As for that meat and fish, sure, there’s the prohibited pork and seafood a-plenty. For that matter, none of the meat is likely to be kosher even if it comes from a kosher animal, since the appropriate ritual slaughtering techniques do not prevail amongst the Chinese. But since these ingredients are generally hocked up into little bitty pieces, it's easy enough to pretend that “it’s all beef and flounder.”

Third, the stuff just happens to be Damn Tasty. And what hungry (non-observant) Jew is gonna argue with that?

That’s my story, and I’m sticking to it.

I’ve found some support for (a few of) the above theories in a fairly scholarly piece by Jessica Carew Kraft at New Voices. Kraft additionally points out that “Chinese cuisine uses ingredients common to Eastern European food like chicken, cabbage, and celery, as well as copious amounts of garlic and onions.”

But her take on some of the sociological considerations affecting the immigrant Jews of the early 1900’s is especially revealing. Quoting sociologists Gaye Tuchman and Harry Levine, Kraft notes that
Jews were also attracted to Chinese food because it was something different. Jewish immigrants came to see many of their own customs as antiquated and inappropriate for their new life in America. For many of them, Chinese food symbolized a cosmopolitan and sophisticated experience, and thus provided an escape from Jewish provincialism.
Read the whole thing.

What’s funny to me is, I’ve spent a lot of time in Asia: Taiwan, Hong Kong, China, Thailand, Singapore, Indonesia, Malaysia, Japan, Korea. And on Sunday evenings, everyone orders pastrami sandwiches from the deli carry-out...

“It’s Sunday. What’s for dinner?”

“Let’s order in some Jewish.”

Hey, it could happen!