Friday, March 30, 2007


The Momma d’Elisson, age 20.

Today is March 30. At sundown this evening, it will be the 12th of Nisan on the Hebrew calendar, three days before the start of the Passover holiday...and my mother’s Yahrzeit.

It was March 30, 1988 - nineteen years ago - that Mom had her meeting with the Unexpected Visitor.

Perhaps Unexpected is not the right term. Unwelcome, certainly - but not unexpected. The handwriting was, as they say, on the wall. It had been only a few months before, at Thanksgiving, that Mom noticed some alarming symptoms. She was tired. There was a yellow tinge in the whites of her eyes. Her feet were swollen. And when she walked, you could hear fluid sloshing around in her abdomen.

Lethargy, jaundice, edema, and ascites...all symptoms of end-stage cirrhosis of the liver. What had happened?

Unbeknownst to any of us, Mom had contracted a case of chronic active hepatitis - the same condition that was later to affect Naomi Judd. But in Mom’s case, the disease did its work quietly, asymptomatically, for years...until her liver had, effectively, been converted into a fist-size chunk of useless tissue.

Two months later, in January, Mom and Dad came to visit us at our home in central Connecticut. Mom looked different: shockingly gaunt. Part of this was due to the hepatitis; part of it was due to the low-protein diet she had been placed on in an effort to slow the progress of the disease. With care and luck, the doctors had told us, Mom could live another ten years or more.

Deep in my heart, I knew it was not to be. We took a walk together, my Mother and I, and as we talked and strolled among the bare trees, I had a vision of her as a white-haired little old lady. And I knew - knew - that this was a vision of a future that was not to be. It was a bitter realization, but it stung with the sharpness of truth.

It was in mid-March that things went downhill rapidly. The slow accumulation of toxins in Mom’s blood - toxins that could no longer be cleansed by her ailing liver - created a condition known as portal vein-systemic encephalopathy. She became confused, semi-delirious. Thus began her one-way journey into the hospital, the “Patient Motel.” (Patients go in, but they don’t come out.) She spent the next two weeks alternating between a sort of twilight consciousness and full lucidity.

Mom knew she wasn’t going home. One afternoon, she told me that she wished she could have spent more time with her granddaughters. After hearing this, I went out to the parking lot, got in my car, and broke down, sobbing, for half an hour...the only time I cried.

The end came in the early morning hours on March 30. Dad and my brother (the other Elisson) had gone home, exhausted. Mom’s big brother Phil and I were there, holding her hand as she slipped away. After making a few necessary phone calls, I walked out of the hospital into a warm spring morning. It was the first day of the rest of my life...and my first morning as a motherless child.

This evening, I will light a candle to my mother’s memory.

Tomorrow morning, I’ll recite the Mourner’s Kaddish in synagogue.

Tomorrow night, at dinner, I’ll order a perfect Rob Roy, straight up. Mom was not much of a drinker, but when she did have a cocktail, that was her Poison of Choice.

And, over the next year, as always, every time I play a round of golf, every time I read a science fiction book, every time I tell a ribald joke, every time I do the New York Times Sunday crossword, I’ll remember Momma.


Is it Friday yet? Yes, it is, Skippy.

It’s the Friday before Passover. The Unleavened Provisions have been laid in, and She Who Must Be Obeyed Last will repair to the kitchen Sunday to begin a frenzy of Food Preparation in advance of the first Seder Monday evening.

We’ll have a medium-sized crowd here, eleven in all - and that will include Elder Daughter, who is winging her way to Atlanta this evening. The Mistress of Sarcasm is here now, but, alas, she will not be able to stay through the beginning of the holiday. At least the two sisters will have the weekend together with us.

What’s on the Little White Choon-Box today? What Random Musical Treasures ’n’ Pleasures await? Let’s just take a look, shall we?
  1. I’m Not Angry - Elvis Costello

    From his first album, My Aim Is True, which burst upon the scene in bizarre coincidence, the same month that other Elvis joined the Choir Eternal.

  2. Freedom Jazz Dance - Miles Davis

    We heard Brian Auger’s cover version last week. Between the two, I prefer the original.

  3. Theme from New York, New York - Skanatra
  4. I’m Willin’ - Seatrain

    A Country Ode to the Long-Haul Trucker, covered here by a folk-rock group that was briefly poular in the early 1970’s.

  5. Hey Jude - The Mutato Muzika Orchestra

    From The Royal Tenenbaums movie soundtrack. Wes Anderson’s musical choices are always a little eccentric...perfectly matched to his films.

  6. Candle - Matisyahu

    Not to be confused with “Candle in the Rain” (Melanie) or “Candle In The Wind” (Elton John). No, no.

  7. Mystery Dance - Elvis Costello
  8. Changes Are No Good - The Stills
  9. Choosing - Philip Glass

    From the Kundun soundtrack.

  10. Barnyard Story - Procol Harum

    Chicken in the farmyard,
    There’s an oven in your bin.
    You’re growing old with sorrow,
    You’re growing fat with sin.
    I was living in the graveyard,
    I was hanging from the wall,
    I was living in the desert,
    I was trying not to fall.
    Once I stood upon Olympus,
    Then the heavens opened wide.
    I beheld that flaming chariot,
    And I saw the sacred bride.
    Now and then my life seems truer,
    Now and then my life seems pure.
    All in all, my thoughts are fewer -
    Maybe death will be my cure.
It’s Friday. What are you listening to?


Tasty Morsel
“Mmmm...this is rather a Tasty Morsel!”

A secret, unknown to Small and Great
Is “What do the Modulator modulate?”
So ask that question, if you wanna,
When you visit the Ark, with its Collected Fauna.

Friday Ark #132 has been posted at the Modulator. In other breaking news, Dog Bites Man and Sun Rises in East.

Be sure to swing by IMAO this Sunday evening for the 158th Carnival of the Cats. Hmmm...I wonder who’ll be writing that post? Laurence? Right Wing Duck? Bueller? Bueller?

Update: CotC #158 is up...and it’s a brilliant April Fool’s edition, complete with photoshops. Don’t miss it!

Thursday, March 29, 2007


When Kevin Kim, the BigHominid of the eponymous BigHominid’s Hairy Chasms, adds you to his blogroll, he does not screw around.

Not content with a little line of text on the sidebar (like 99.9% of us) or even a little bitty image file (like El Capitan), Kevin creates mini-masterpieces of GIF art for each one of his blogroll links. I am impressed.

I mention this bit of Linky Bidnis because there’s a bizarre sort of Karmic Connection ’twixt us.

First of all, Kevin has an exquisitely coprophilic sense of humor...and as evidenced by my last post, that means we speak the same language, more or less.

Second, Kevin is a Koreablogger. Now, I don’t have a whole lot of Cultural Commonality with most Korea bloggers, except for my enjoyment of kimchi, garlic, and bulgogi, my affection for the music of Skankin’ Pickle, and my having visited Seoul 17 years ago. But it was a blog written by an expat in Korea - Incestuous Amplification, long since defunct - that awakened my interest in blogging. Long before I put cursor to screen, I explored this guy’s blogroll. It was only a matter of time before I happened upon Kevin’s site...which, at the time, was of interest to me mainly because he had a link to another blog - What Not To Do in Korea - that featured a thoroughly hysterical soup recipe. That was my introduction to Rory, who is now back in Australia telling us what not to do there. So in a sense, landing on the BigHominid’s ’roll is a little like returning to my Bloggy Roots.

Go pay Kevin a visit. He’s a twisted bastard...and he’s got a new book out, to boot! It’s entitled Water from a Skull, and you can find it at Cafepress simply by making clicky on the piccie below.

[What the hell. Maybe he’ll plug my 100 100-Word Stories book when it comes out...]


When Nature calleth to you,
“Drop the kids off at the pool,”
There is no finer “outcome”
Than a smooth and pointy stool.

A gentle, pointed taper
Keeps the Ring from slamming shut;
At least, that is the story
Told by Experts of the Butt.

To strain, producing gravel
Gets my nose all out of joint.
But all’s right on Earth and Heaven
When my Turd comes to a Point.

Just as Uncle Remus taught us,
The Tar-Baby is no friend.
But things are never sticky
When you crap with Pointy End.

It’s painless and it’s quiet
Needing very little paper.
These blessings all accrue to you
When your Doodie has a Taper.

Recall the words of Mr. T:
“I pity the poor fool...”
But you won’t need his pity:
You’ve a smooth and pointy stool!


Sammy under the Table

Sammy - that’s short for Samantha - is a year older than when we last saw her down at Chez Eli. She’s looking more substantial, less waif-like every year.

She is still alternately shy and feral, but there is no question but that she has become more mellow, even unto the point of permitting me to give her head-skritches without trying to rip my arm off.

It helps that I have the Family Pheromones. Sammy is devoted to Eli, and my brother and I smell enough like him (I suppose) that she will deign to put up with us. But cuddly and Excessively Friendly, à la Matata, she is not.

Sammy Reposes on the Patio

She is a beauty, though...


Beauty and the Beast: the Kitty and the Crocodile.

[OK, technically speaking, it’s an alligator, not a crocodile. But I liked the alliteration.]

Matata meets Albert
  • “What the hell is this thing?”
  • “I don’t remember calling Dial-A-Croc.”
  • “Tastes like chicken.”
[Insert your caption in the Comments.]


Following hot on the heels of the SF Book Meme is this new Great Big List o’ Literature, picked up from Richard over at Shadowscope.

The drill - you know it by now - is to boldface the titles you’ve read. Some folks italicize the ones they want to read (but have not read yet) - but I will not bother with that.

I’m not sure what the selection criteria were for this list, either for inclusion or relative ranking. They’re not all classics, but I suspect that all were, at one point or another, best sellers.

  1. The Da Vinci Code (Dan Brown)
  2. Pride and Prejudice (Jane Austen)
  3. To Kill A Mockingbird (Harper Lee)
  4. Gone With The Wind (Margaret Mitchell)
  5. The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King (J. R. R. Tolkien)
  6. The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring (J. R. R. Tolkien)
  7. The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers (J. R. R. Tolkien)
  8. Anne of Green Gables (L. M. Montgomery)
  9. Outlander (Diana Gabaldon)
  10. A Fine Balance (Rohinton Mistry)
  11. Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire (J. K. Rowling)
  12. Angels and Demons (Dan Brown)
  13. Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix (J. K. Rowling)
  14. A Prayer for Owen Meany (John Irving)
  15. Memoirs of a Geisha (Arthur Golden)
  16. Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone (J. K. Rowling)
  17. Fall on Your Knees (Ann-Marie MacDonald)
  18. The Stand (Stephen King)
  19. Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban (J. K. Rowling)
  20. Jane Eyre (Charlotte Brontë)
  21. The Hobbit (J. R. R. Tolkien)
  22. The Catcher in the Rye (J. D. Salinger)
  23. Little Women (Louisa May Alcott)
  24. The Lovely Bones (Alice Sebold)
  25. The Life of Pi (Yann Martel)
  26. The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy (Douglas Adams)
  27. Wuthering Heights (Emily Brontë)
  28. The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe (C. S. Lewis)
  29. East of Eden (John Steinbeck)
  30. Tuesdays with Morrie (Mitch Albom)
  31. Dune (Frank Herbert)
  32. The Notebook (Nicholas Sparks)
  33. Atlas Shrugged (Ayn Rand)
  34. 1984 (George Orwell)
  35. The Mists of Avalon (Marion Zimmer Bradley)
  36. The Pillars of the Earth (Ken Follett)
  37. The Power of One (Bryce Courtenay)
  38. I Know This Much is True (Wally Lamb)
  39. The Red Tent (Anita Diamant)
  40. The Alchemist (Paulo Coelho)
  41. The Clan of the Cave Bear (Jean M. Auel)
  42. The Kite Runner (Khaled Hosseini)
  43. Confessions of a Shopaholic (Sophie Kinsella)
  44. The Five People You Meet In Heaven (Mitch Albom)
  45. The Bible
  46. Anna Karenina (Tolstoy)
  47. The Count of Monte Cristo (Alexandre Dumas)
  48. Angela’s Ashes (Frank McCourt)
  49. The Grapes of Wrath (John Steinbeck)
  50. She’s Come Undone (Wally Lamb)
  51. The Poisonwood Bible (Barbara Kingsolver)
  52. A Tale of Two Cities (Charles Dickens)
  53. Ender’s Game (Orson Scott Card)
  54. Great Expectations (Charles Dickens)
  55. The Great Gatsby (F. Scott Fitzgerald)
  56. The Stone Angel (Margaret Laurence)
  57. Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets (J. K. Rowling)
  58. The Thorn Birds (Colleen McCullough)
  59. The Handmaid’s Tale (Margaret Atwood)
  60. The Time Traveler’s Wife (Audrey Niffenegger)
  61. Crime and Punishment (Fyodor Dostoyevsky)
  62. The Fountainhead (Ayn Rand)
  63. War and Peace (Leo Tolstoy)
  64. Interview With The Vampire (Anne Rice)
  65. Fifth Business (Robertson Davis)
  66. One Hundred Years Of Solitude (Gabriel Garcia Marquez)
  67. The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants (Ann Brashares)
  68. Catch-22 (Joseph Heller)
  69. Les Miserables (Victor Hugo)
  70. The Little Prince (Antoine de Saint-Exupery)
  71. Bridget Jones’s Diary (Helen Fielding)
  72. Love in the Time of Cholera (Gabriel Garcia Márquez)
  73. Shogun (James Clavell)
  74. The English Patient (Michael Ondaatje)
  75. The Secret Garden (Frances Hodgson Burnett)
  76. The Summer Tree (Guy Gavriel Kay)
  77. A Tree Grows in Brooklyn (Betty Smith)
  78. The World According To Garp (John Irving)
  79. The Diviners (Margaret Laurence)
  80. Charlotte’s Web (E. B. White)
  81. Not Wanted On The Voyage (Timothy Findley)
  82. Of Mice And Men (John Steinbeck)
  83. Rebecca (Daphne DuMaurier)
  84. Wizard’s First Rule (Terry Goodkind)
  85. Emma (Jane Austen)
  86. Watership Down (Richard Adams)
  87. Brave New World (Aldous Huxley)
  88. The Stone Diaries (Carol Shields)
  89. Blindness (Jose Saramago)
  90. Kane and Abel (Jeffrey Archer)
  91. In The Skin Of A Lion (Michael Ondaatje)
  92. Lord of the Flies (William Golding)
  93. The Good Earth (Pearl S. Buck)
  94. The Secret Life of Bees (Sue Monk Kidd)
  95. The Bourne Identity (Robert Ludlum)
  96. The Outsiders (S. E. Hinton)
  97. White Oleander (Janet Fitch)
  98. A Woman of Substance (Barbara Taylor Bradford)
  99. The Celestine Prophecy (James Redfield)
  100. Ulysses (James Joyce)
Hrm. 47 out of 100; less than half. Is that a good thing? Or a bad thing? I dunno.

Richard and I agree: The Bible really does not belong on this list. But I have read both the Hebrew and Christian versions (preferring the JTS and King James translations, respectively), and substantial chunks of the former in the original it gets the Boldface Treatment.

I read James Clavell’s Shogun when I was in Japan...King Rat when I was in Singapore...and Tai-Pan when I was in Hong Kong. Knowing the settings made those novels stand out much more than they otherwise would have.

The only frustrating thing about these damnèd lists is that they remind me that there is a world of Great Literature out there that I have yet to experience. Classics, as yet untouched. Steinbeck...Ayn Rand...Dickens...James Joyce...I have got to get on the stick and read me a few more Good Books.

Meanwhile, I have two of Steve H.’s tomes on their way to me at this very moment. Great Literature? Maybe...but fun, certainly.

Read any good books lately?

Wednesday, March 28, 2007


This post by David Bogner on The Unexpected Rewards of Blogging really has more to do with the occasional Surprise Visit from a fellow blogger or commenter than it has to do with any material rewards that may accrue from Bloggadocious Activity...but I can personally confirm that both are real and valid.

Over the last two-plus years, I have met a small mob of bloggers, as evidenced by the “Bloggers I’ve Met” section of my sidebar. Some have been at full-blown blogmeets (the annual Blown-Eyed Jawja Blodgers gathering in Helen, Georgia being a notorious example), while others have been on more of a one-to-one basis. But all, without exception, have been enjoyable.

Elder Daughter once asked me whether I thought blogging could build communities. It was a question that had come up in a panel discussion, and by coincidence, the Missus and I were in Helen attending our first debauch blogmeet. The evidence was right there in front of us: We were among a group of people that had, all things considered, precious little in the way of common experience, politics, and lifestyles...but who all shared a mutual attraction based on their online writings. Despite my being new to the group, I was treated like a long-lost brother. It was startling, and yet it felt so right.

I’ve met fellow bloggers in Boston, Fort Worth, Houston, and even in far-off Saint John, New Brunswick, where I’ve been treated as family by people who would normally be mere Electronic Acquaintances. I’ve visited other bloggers’ homes; other bloggers have visited ours. Ars Electronica as enabling technology for social interaction? Why not?

And sometimes, strange, exotic foodstuffs will appear in the mail, sent by Semi-Mysterious Blog-Buddies.

But, getting back to David’s post, I have never had a Bloggity Tribute of Girl Scout Cookies show up on my doorstep. And for that, I am grateful.

Ahh, Girl Scout Cookies. Every year, the package contains less; every year, the price is steeper. It’s the Hershey Bar school of inflation: If you can’t raise the price, shrink the quantity. And if you can do both, mazeltov!

We don’t keep a lot of Girl Scout Cookies around. With She Who Must Be Obeyed being diabetic, and me being allergic to cookies (I break out in Fat-Ass), we just do not need the temptation in the house.

But a couple of weeks ago, when we were doing our first round of pre-Passover shopping, my attention was caught - alas - by a pack of Girl Scouts outside the supermarket door. And there were a couple of boxes calling my name.

Counter-intuitive, no? Here we were, preparing to lay in a week’s worth of Unleavened Provisions, and I’m buying frickin’ Girl Scout Cookies. But Passover was still three weeks away, plenty of time to consume the (potentially) problematic goods.

Besides, we’re sympathetic consumers. Back when we lived in Sweat City, our girls were involved in Scouts - in particular, the Mistress of Sarcasm, for whom we actually served as Cookie Parents one year. Imagine one room of your house completely packed, from floor to rafters, with cookies. Mmmmm, yeah. And, in a strange twist of fate, the Mistress today works right next door to the birthplace of Juliette Gordon Low, founder of the Girl Scouts. Call it Cookie Karma: I had to get a box or two.

There were a few new (or semi-new) varieties there, and I needs must try at least one. Hell, I ended up with three different kinds. There were the brand-spankin’ new (to me, anyway) Café Cookies, with a whiff of coffee flavor. These turned out to have almost a spekulaas-like texture and flavor (think Biscoff™) and were a big hit. There were All Abouts, a shortbread cookie with a rust-proof undercoating of milk chocolate. And, of course, I hadda get a box of Thin Mints, to be tucked away in the freezer. Nothing beats a frozen Thin Mint cookie.

It seems that there are two bakeries currently licensed to produce official Girl Scout Cookies: Little Brownie Bakers and ABC/Interbake. Each baker can offer up to eight varieties of cookies; but three types are mandatory, sayeth the Girl Scouts: Thin Mints, Peanut Butter Sandwich/Do-si-dos™ and Shortbread/Trefoils.

Unfortunately, dammit, the baker that serves the Atlanta area does not offer Lemonades, those tasty little lemon creme-filled sandwich cookies. But it’s just as well. At 75 calories per cookie, that’s a whole lotta Fat-Ass in a box.

We eschewed the yummy - but dental filling-rippingly gooey - Samoas. Coconut, caramel, chocolate...and a visit to Mr. Tooth-Croaker. No, thank you.

What kind of Girl Scout Cookies do you like?

Tuesday, March 27, 2007


Several weeks ago, as Velociman and I were attempting to wangle our way into the Snake Pit at the Claxton Rattlesnake Roundup, we struck upon a mutual Shared Memory, that of having visited Ross Allen’s Reptile Institute and Serpentarium in the wilds of central Florida back in our Snot-Nose Days. Having that kind of history might help explain why the two of us felt compelled to make the closest possible approach to the Dangerous Critters that had been a-gathered for our amusement and delectation. It was a fascination born of simpler days.

These reminiscences must have been bubbling just below the surface of my normally placid mind during our weekend pilgrimage to Chez Eli. As we were casting about for something to do Sunday afternoon, a Collective Light Bulb of Ratiocination lit up above our gathered heads.

“Let’s go to Silver Springs!”

Silver Springs

Silver Springs, indeed. How could we not go? Located a relative stone’s throw from Ocala, which in turn is the Wide Spot in the Road nearest to Eli’s Florida home-away-from-home, Silver Springs is a venerable Sunshine State Tourist Trap Attraction. It sits on the site of an enormous fresh water spring, one that gushes millions of gallons of fresh, clear water a day, water that has traveled hundreds of miles through the limestone aquifers of Georgia and northern Florida. It is a riparian nature preserve, home of the famed Silver Springs glass-bottomed boats.

The Seminole Indian village that used to sit here is, alas, now defunct. At the very least, I observed no Casino Tracks during our visit. But there was plenty of other stuff to see. Alligators! Crocodiles! Snakes!

Gator Jimbo

Silver Springs houses a collection of monster reptiles that would make a certain Rest Stop Proprietor crap a blood clot in fear. One of these bad boys, an American crocodile fully thirteen feet in length, looked to be an inert block of granite, carven with reptilian Scale-Runes.

Huge-Ass Croc 1
This little feller is 13 feet long, the biggest American croc in captivity.

But then, he moved. He opened his mouth in a Honkin’ Big Smile. Check out that gaping maw. It’s the last thing your poodle - or you, for that matter - would see before Mr. Antediluvian Jones goes into his spasmodic Death-Roll, dragging you under to put up in his little mud-cupboard, there to...soften up a wee bit before becoming the Main Course. I took these pictures standing less than three feet away, protected only by a plexiglas shield over which I reached with the camera.

Huge-Ass Croc 2
Open wide!

Then he flipped around and scuttled away. Fast. Granitic as he may have appeared, that bastard could make tracks. You do not want one of those things chasing you through the swamp, unless your Mission in Life is to become Crocodile-Shite.

Huge-Ass Croc On the Move
On the move. [Click to embiggen.]

So, yes, we took the Obligatory Glass-Bottomed Boat Ride. And we wandered around for a while, looking at the miscellaneous Flora and Fauna, of which there was a plenitude. But seeing this sign brought everything full circle:

Ross Allen Island

Yes, Ross Allen, his ownself! Long since deceased, and his Reptile Institute along with him, Ross was that selfsame Legendary Snake Wrangler who figured so mightily in the memory banks of both me and Velociman. And he was not forgotten.

For it had been full forty-six years since my father and I had last trod the earth of Silver Springs. We - Eli, the Momma d’Elisson, my brother and I - had been road-tripping our way from North Miami Beach to New York in true Touristy Fashion, and Silver Springs was the first stop on the way. We rode the glass-bottomed boats; we visited the Seminole Indian village.

The next morning, bright and early, we headed over to Ross Allen’s Reptile Institute.

We had a long day of driving ahead of us, and so we wanted to see the snakes and then get the hell out of Dodge. Despite the early hour, Ross Allen opened the place up for us - just us! - and gave us what amounted to a private tour of the facilities. I never forgot it, being all of eight years old at the time.

And now you can see it, too: a one-minute peek at a true American Legend, Ross Allen. And both little Elissons...and their Momma. Glass-bottomed boats, alligators, hog-nosed snakes (with which my brother was not exactly thrilled), and the Old Rattlesnake ’n’ Balloon Trick.

Where else but Florida?


“A loaf of bread, a jug of wine, and thou beside me...and pretty soon, I’ll be fat, drunk, and in trouble.” - Alfred E. Neuman

Tonight was the Sommelier Guild of Atlanta’s March tasting, featuring wines produced from the Malbec grape.

Normally, Denny, the Grouchy Old Wino Cripple, writes these little affairs up, but he was off somewhere doing whatever it is that SRF­’s® do. Perhaps he is still recovering from his trip out to Texas to help Dash and Christina celebrate their official housewarming. Regardless, he was not present for a fine evening of Tasty, Winy it is up to me to provide the proper documentation.

What was on the menu this evening? Inquiring minds want to know...

Speaker’s Wine:
Zolo Torrontes 2006 (Argentina)

Flight #1:
Château Famaey 2002 (Cahors, France)
Sawbuck 2004 (California)
Bleasdale 2002 (Australia)
Bellevue “Tumara” 2002 (South Africa)

Accompanied by: Large duck salad with mixed greens, citrus dressing topped with duck confit

Flight #2:
Valdivieso Single Vineyard Reserva 2005 (Argentina)
Terrazas de los Andes Reserva 2004 (Argentina)
Norton Reserva 2004 (Argentina)
Catena 2004 (Argentina)

Accompanied by: Pork tenderloin medallions with fig demiglaze, potato gratin

Flight #3:
Maryhill Reserve 2002 (Washington State)
Nieto Senetiner “Cadus” 2002 (Argentina)
Viu Manent “Viu 1” 2004 (Chile)
Tikal “Amorio” 2005 (Argentina)

Accompanied by: New Zealand lamb lollipops with sheep milk Pecorino Romano risotto

My favorites were the Bleasdale and the Tikal, the Viu Manent running closely behind. But from a value standpoint, the Bleasdale takes the prize: at a retail price of $15, it’s half the price of the Tikal, and less than a third of the price of the Viu Manent.

The food? Duck confit and delicate little lamb chops are right up my alley. Everything rocked.


Kumquat Man
Eli shows off some home-grown kumquats.

One nice thing about Florida: You can live off the fat of the land.

Sure, there are restaurants and supermarkets a-plenty...but when you want to be Mr. Eater of Local Produce, you need never go hungry.

There are lemons...


There are kumquats...


Tasty little fellers. You eat the whole fruit, rind and all, spitting out two or three small seeds. Eli and Toni had so many of these suckers growing in their back yard, they ended up canning a few dozen bottles full of ’em.

There are loquats...


Loquats have a mild apricot-like flavor. As with kumquats, you eat the fruit, rind and all. But unlike kumquats, these babies have gigantic, impressive-looking seeds, suitable for stringing necklaces.

Strawberry Shortcake

Sunday night, we had Toni’s homemade strawberry shortcake. Fresh Plant City strawberries, marinated in a little syrup from some of her home-canned kumquats, served over lemon pound cake and topped with whipped cream. Reddi-Wip™? Not on your tintype, buddy. With Toni, it’s all homemade, all natural.

But the bestest treat of all didn’t even come from Florida...

Curry Chips
The latest taste sensation from Canada.

It came in a mysterious box that showed up on our doorstep last week, a gift from Chickie Carmarthen. Curry flavored potato chips!

You can’t get ’em here in the States. No, they’re only made North of the us, along with poutine, donairs, and Tim Horton’s coffee, yet another reason to love our friends who live in the Land of the Maple Leaf!

Monday, March 26, 2007


Chez Eli

She Who Must Be Obeyed and I spent this past weekend in Florida at the winter home of the Daddy d’Elisson - Eli, his ownself - and his bride Toni. Eli and Toni, in the last few years, have transformed themselves into full-fledged snowbirds, spending three months at their Citrus Hills pied-à-terre, the other nine in the New York ’burbs.

Saturday evening, after a pleasant dinner at a restaurant with a magnificent sunset view, we repaired to Chez Eli to watch a frothy romantic comedy on the DVD Machine. The movie was The Holiday, featuring Kate Winslet, Cameron (“Too big to fit in here...”) Diaz, Jude Law, and Jack Black, the latter in a desperate (and likely futile) attempt to build credibility as a Romantic Male Actor. A pleasant and amusing diversion, it was...

But what really made the movie for me was the presence of an elderly actor in a supporting role, an elderly actor who was the first celebrity I clapped eyes on in Real Life.

Let’s hop in the Wayback Machine and set the dial for the spring of 1961, when I was in the third grade. That was a momentous year, owing mainly to the fact that we had a teacher who, in addition to getting married early in the fall (thus necessitating our learning to spell a longer and trickier name), had a passion for the Field Trip. We went everywhere. With the wonders of New York City just a train ride away, we visited the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Museum of Natural History, the Hayden Planetarium...and one memorable day, the NBC Studios at Rockefeller Center.

For a third-grader, the chance to see “behind the scenes” at a major television station was tremendously exciting. That day’s Field Trip culminated in our watching the videotaping of a couple of episodes of “Password,” then a popular quiz show hosted by the legendary game show host Allen Ludden. The show would pair a celebrity contestant with one chosen by audition from the ranks of the Great Unwashed, with each one in turn trying to help the other guess the Secret Word through the use of one-word clues.

The celebrity contestants? Anne Jackson...and her husband Eli Wallach.


I had no idea who the hell either of these ostensible “celebrities” was, but my Dad - Eli, his ownself - acted impressed when I told him whom I had seen. And seen not once, but twice, for after the taping we saw Mr. Wallach and Miss Jackson outside the studio. Right there, on the sidewalk! Walking! Alongside the Regular Folks!

I was impressed, at the time, to find out that Wallach was Jewish. Hey! We got something in common! Plus, ya hadda love a guy named Eli, am I right?

It was five years later that Eli Wallach would be seen in the iconic role of Tuco.

Tuco, Too

And another forty years later, here he was in The Holiday, playing lovable but irascible neighbor-cum-legendary Hollywood screenwriter Arthur.

Eli Wallach

Made me feel like a kid again, it did.

[Tip o’ th’ Elisson fedora to Velociman, source of all things Tuco, for the images from The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly.]

Friday, March 23, 2007


...can be yours for the taking.

If you want to listen to last week’s Radio Sandy Springs Health Hour (with Yours Truly as Guest Host), simply go here, scroll down the page to the March 16 show, and follow the instructions to listen to the streaming audio or to download a copy. The links will only be active for a couple of weeks.

Be sure you listen to Eric’s phone-in comments on the Claxton Rattlesnake Roundup - just go to the 46 minute mark. Foot-long Corn Dogs, indeed!


Oh, boy! It’s Friday.

Last night, I returned from my ill-advised trip to Sweat City. Ill-advised, because it’s not a good idea to travel when you are suffering from Mogo on the Gogogo. Right now, I feel like hammered dogshit. Ball-peen hammered dogshit, if you will...but in a little while, I will toddle over to my physician’s office in the hope that he can prescribe a Helpful Medicament that will offer surcease from these, my sufferings.

They say that music hath charms to soothe the savage breast. Mayhap a Random Selection of Musical Arcana from the iPod d’Elisson will serve to soothe the Fevered Brow as well. Lessee:
  1. Uncle Meat - Frank Zappa
  2. The Hussein Skank - Skankin’ Pickle
  3. Freedom Jazz Dance - Brian Auger’s Oblivion Express
  4. Words Of Love - The Beatles
  5. Scene 12: Unaware Of Its Taboos - Philip Glass, Les Enfants Terribles
  6. Rock And Roll Music - The Beatles

    Just let me hear some of that rock and roll music
    Any old way you choose it
    It’s got a back beat, you can’t lose it,
    Any old time you use it
    Gotta be rock roll music
    If you wanna dance with me
    If you wanna dance with me

    I’ve got no kick against modern jazz
    Unless they try to play it too darn fast
    And lose the beauty of the melody
    Until they sound just like a symphony

    That’s why I go for that that rock and roll music
    Any old way you choose it
    It’s got a back beat, you can’t lose it,
    Any old time you use it
    It’s gotta be rock roll music
    If you wanna dance with me
    If you wanna dance with me

    I took my loved one over cross the tracks
    So she can hear my man a-wailin’ sax
    I must admit they have a rockin’ band
    Man, they were goin’ like a hurricane

    That’s why I go for that that rock and roll music
    Any old way you choose it
    It’s got a back beat, you can’t lose it,
    Any old time you use it
    Gotta be rock roll music
    If you wanna dance with me
    If you wanna dance with me

    Way down south they had a jubilee
    Them Georgia folks they had a jamboree
    They’re drinkin’ home brew from a wooden cup
    The folks are dancin’ - they got all shook up

    And started playin’ that rock and roll music
    Any old way you choose it
    It’s got a back beat, you can’t lose it,
    Any old time you use it
    Gotta be rock roll music
    If you wanna dance with me
    If you wanna dance with me

    Don’t care to hear them play a tango
    I’m in the mood to kick a mambo
    It’s way too early for a congo
    So keep a-rockin’ that pi-a-no
    That’s why I go for that

    Rock and roll music
    Any old way you choose it
    It’s got a back beat, you can’t lose it,
    Any old time you use it
    Gotta be rock roll music
    If you wanna dance with me
    If you wanna dance with me

  7. How Long Has That Train Been Gone - Professor Longhair
  8. Tol’ko s Toboy - Leningrad
  9. No Reply - The Beatles
  10. Ride The Cliche - Stone Temple Pilots
Jebus. Just how many “Randomly Selected Tracks” do we have here from the frickin’ “Beatles For Sale” album, anyway?

Ahh, well. It’s Friday. What are you listening to?


Early Friday morning, when the sky’s still dark
The animals set sail on the Friday Ark
Captained by Steve, the Modulator.
You can visit ’em now, or stop by later.

Friday Ark Number 131 is up at the Modulator - who, I am sure, will ring in with a corrected Voyage Number any time now.

Sunday evening, be sure to visit the Carnival of the Cats, the 157th edition of which will be hosted at Scribblings.

Update: CotC #157 is up.

Thursday, March 22, 2007


The crocuses and daffodils send up their tender shoots;
The heavy snows are melting. No more need for rubber boots;
Our diets undergo a shift toward greens, away from roots.

The Sun hangs in the western sky until it’s very late;
The birds and bees go seeking for their Reproductive Mate;
The Jews all eat their Matzoth, guaranteed to constipate.

Our allergies are active as the pollen coats the land;
Expectant tourists venture on the beach to test the sand;
While eating Meaty Off’rings from the local Hot Dog Stand.

All hail the Vernal Equinox! O, Spring has come again!


Felted Kitties
Reasonable Facsimiles? The Mistress of Sarcasm’s collection of Felted Kitties.

The Mistress of Sarcasm is a lady of many talents. Among those talents is the ability to convert Miscellaneous Lint into miniature replicas of animals: the ancient and well-respected art of Felting.

Mostly, near as I can tell, it involves repeatedly sticking a needle into a pile of lint until it begins to assume the shape of a Familiar Beast.

I understand that she is working on a life-sized Felted Replica of Matata, to be constructed entirely out of Matata’s shed fur. Upon completion, I will be happy to post images for your delectation.


“Sputum? Damn near killed ’im...”

I’m sitting here in my little Home Away From Home at the headquarters of the Great Corporate Salt Mine in Sweat City...and I feel like ass.

Monday morning, I awoke with an ominous tickle in the back of my throat, the opening Shot Across the Bow in the latest Battle of the Respiratory System. Crap.

Crap, indeed, for I had several critical meetings scheduled this week at various Texas outposts of the Great Corporate Salt Mine. To miss the meetings would delay my projects for several weeks, and so I decided to tough it out and make the trip.

Big mistake.

The trip on the Silver Aerial Bus was OK, all things considered. The flight was oversold - an omen I chose to ignore - and I ended up wedged into a center exit row seat thanks to several people who volunteered to take the next flight. Being in the exit row meant there was decent legroom despite my being crammed between two fellow passengers...but the lemon-ginger tea I gulped down did little to soothe my throat, which was growing more tender by the minute.

The penalty for flying with even a mild case of the Stuffies, of course, is the ol’ “Ten Pounds of Cotton Wool in a Five-Pound Sack Head” syndrome. It took until late in the evening for that obnoxious semi-deaf feeling to ease up. I elected to hit the sack early and dope myself up heavily with ComaQuil™, thus ensuring a moderately restless night followed by a woozy morning.

By now, my throat felt as though I had been gargling with hydrochloric acid. With a ground glass chaser. I had also developed what the sawbones likes to call a “productive cough.” That’s when you hock up great, green gouts of loogage at frequent intervals. And it was in that condition that I plowed through two presentations, the second of which required a ninety-mile round trip to the east side of town. Sweet.

Afterwards, it was straight to bed. I didn’t even bother to order up a room service dinner. Sleep was fitful.

Aggggh. Just a few more hours and a couple more meetings, and I can get on the Silver Aerial Bus and go home.

Tuesday, March 20, 2007


I was looking through a few old pictures from the Elisson archive this past weekend, and I found a few of an old friend and colleague that brought a smile to my face.

Jan was a chemist, a native-born Netherlander with a lovely wife and a clutch of blond, blue-eyed kids. We first crossed paths back when I was in the midst of my first assignment at the Great Corporate Salt Mine in Baytown, Texas. He was in his thirties, thirteen years my senior - yet we became good friends.

Never before or since have I met anyone with a finer instinct for the Practical Joke.

Once, we had - by coincidence - stopped at the same filling station to gas up our cars. Jan found a humongous beetle wandering around on the ground. Not a cockroach, but comparable in size to a big-ass Texas roach. He popped that sumbitch right in his mouth, just to see the bug-eyed expression on my face.

Another time, he had a small army of his Dutch relatives come flying in from overseas for a visit. He picked them up at the airport, drove them out to Baytown, and dropped them at the house. He then drove off.

What he didn’t tell them was that he had dropped them at a random house in the neighborhood, not at his home. Imagine your standard-issue Texan, confronted with a gaggle of Dutch-speaking furriners at the doorstep, luggage in hand for a week-long stay: Hilarity ensued.

One prank Jan pulled - arranged in advance with the wife of one of his neighbors - could have gotten him shot. He got in said neighbor’s bed and buried himself (fully clothed, of course) under the covers. By and by, in comes Mr. Neighbor, who gets in bed, not realizing that the lump in the bed was not his Missus, but the nutty Dutch guy from next door.

Jan essayed a couple of tentative grunts. After a while, Mr. Neighbor decided that he was going to have to perform his Husbandly Duty - if only to get some rest. He reached over...

...only to be greeted by the sight of a bearded man. Yaaaaaaaaagggggghhhhhh!

Jan leaped out of the bed and sprinted for the door, barely giving Mr. Neighbor time to figure out what was going on, much less to find a Handy Weapon. I can only imagine the fun when Mr. Neighbor’s wife confessed to being in on the gag.

And then there was the time we almost got ourselves arrested at the Galleria.

The Galleria, an upscale shopping mall on the west side of Houston, decided to hold a Dutch Festival one day in the spring of 1978 1976 (I think). Jan and I decided to take a long lunch and drive the 35 miles into Houston so that we could pass out fake anti-Dutch hate literature (“Stop them before they drain our lakes and put windmills everywhere!” “They’re trying to poison us with their insidious cheese and chocolate!”). This we did...but the Galleria’s security people were not amused. They were this close to clapping us in irons when we managed to convince them that it was a practical joke...and most definitely not for profit. After all, Jan himself was Dutch...

A few years later, after I had been transferred to a different Corporate Salt Mine outpost, I had occasion to travel to Europe. Stopping in Amsterdam, I grabbed a postcard and mailed it off after jotting a quick note to my old friend. Something on the order of, “If only the Americans United to Beat the Dutch could see me the belly of the beast!”

Sadly, Jan never got the postcard. Later I found that, that very week, he had been in Galveston, running - as was his custom - on the hard-packed sand of the beach. He keeled over with a massive coronary infarction and was dead before he hit the ground. He was forty years old.

I cursed the Unexpected Visitor then. Bad enough that Jan died young, leaving a widow and three now-fatherless kids...but why couldn’t he have gotten one last laugh from that postcard?


Beads of sweat began to trickle down Ibrahim’s brow. This bothered him. He did not want to appear nervous, but it was stifling in the small room.

His next card skidded across the table. Four of spades, not much help there. He was in too deep to back out now, having jumped into the betting with his pair of pocket aces. Maybe they would be enough...

No, they weren’t. Fuad raised, confident as always. Ibrahim folded: no choice.

He was down to a grimy pair of boxer shorts and an explosive belt. Gaza Strip Poker was not for the faint-hearted.


Tummy Tata

Hey, there, Big Boy. Howzabout a little skritch?

Monday, March 19, 2007


The Irish Edition - celebrating Saint Patrick’s Day, o’course - of the Carnival of the Recipes is up and running at Sun Comprehending Glass.

[Next week, be sure to look for Carnival of the Recipes at Guy Understanding Doorway. And the week after that, the Pre-Passover Edition at The Missus Figuring Out My Bullshit.]

Sunday, March 18, 2007


Those of us who spend time exploring Matters Spiritual will, on occasion, speculate as to the nature of the Deity (assuming He/She/It exists).

We Old Testament types believe rather strongly in One God...but even One God may present different aspects of the Ineffable and Unknowable. Thus we have the various images of God the Father that contrast with the Shekhinah, the feminine aspect of God. The contrasting attributes of justice and mercy all may be found within this single Godhead.

Christians, with their notion of a triune Godhead, translate one facet of the Godly Personality into corporeal form. But even there, one may find several different interpretations of that bodily manifestation. To wit:

The spiritual.

The companionable.

Which one fills your spirituous spiritual need best?

Saturday, March 17, 2007


The easy ability to find specific images on the Internet, thanks to powerful search engines like Google, sometimes has comic results.

You may remember, from a few years back, the photograph of Bangladeshi Islamicists admiring an Osama bin Laden poster collage...evidently made with photographs lifted from the Internet. How did we know that they came from the Internet? Because one of them had Sesame Street’s Bert in it. The guy making the poster pulled a Photoshop from the “Bert Is Evil” parody site. Hilarity ensued. Except maybe for Poster Boy, who was probably beheaded for the screw-up...

Osama ’n’ Bert
See if you can find Bert.

We use Google Image Search at our own risk.

The latest casualty? A news show in Augusta, Georgia, doing a segment on the new, “healthier” Krispy Kreme whole wheat doughnuts. Memo to the intern who, no doubt, did a quick Google search to find a graphic: Be sure you actually look at the graphic before you use it...

Here’s a still photo, in case you didn’t see it clearly in the video:

Krispy Kreme
Just how good are Krispy Kreme doughnuts?

When I first saw this in an e-mail from bro-in-law Morris William, I thought it might’ve been Photoshopped...but then I found the video [tip o’ th’ Elisson fedora to t.a.m.s.y. at The Answer May Surprise You]. Good Gawd.

Friday, March 16, 2007


Dougie shambled into the cafeteria and took a seat at the end of the table, far away from his fourth-grade classmates.

Oh, how he envied them. He watched as they opened their sack lunches, digging into their peanut butter-and-jelly sandwiches, their salami-on-ryes.

For him, it was an endless parade of sardines on cream cheese, of tuna salad. Weird, fishy sandwiches, the aroma of which clung to him all afternoon. Other kids avoided him, calling him “Fish-Boy.”

It wasn’t easy being the son of the Gorton’s Fisherman.

And the fins growing out of his head and back were no damn help.


...and a voice for the Internet. Dat’s me.

If you care - and why should you? - you can listen to last week’s Radio Sandy Springs Health Hour (with Yours Truly as Guest Host). Of course, the show has relatively little to do with Health.

Just go here, scroll down the page to the March 9 show, and follow the instructions to listen to the streaming audio or to download a copy. The links will only be active for a couple of weeks.

Today’s show should be available sometime next week; I’ll post the link when it goes up.


Friday yet again. (Huzzah!)

I’ve just returned from my hour-long Radio Hosting gig at Radio Sandy Springs, where I have filled in for my pharmacist buddy Richard these past two weeks. Even got a phone call from Eric during the show.

Eric, in his call, mentioned the lack of Rattlesnake-Based Foodstuffs at the Claxton Rattlesnake Roundup: a disappointment to most of us who made the journey. But I didn’t weep overmuch. I’ve eaten snake. It tastes remarkably like chicken...assuming your chicken spends its lifetime slithering on its belly.

He also brought up the fact that foot-long Corn Dogs were available, even if rattlesnake tacos were not. A foot-long hot dog is not especially noteworthy, but a foot-long Corn Dog is. You need Mad Sword-Swallowing Skillz to eat one of those, considering that a Corn Dog always comes impaled lengthwise on a stick.

I’m trying to imagine Miss Rattlesnake Roundup 2007 eating one of those...heh.

Anyway, it’s time for my weekly ritual of checking out the Random Musical Spewage of the Little White Choon Box. Whadda we got today, Johnny?
  1. Freddy Freeloader - Miles Davis
  2. 5 Years - Björk
  3. Wishful Sinful - The Doors
  4. Catholic Girls - Frank Zappa
  5. Kouman Sa T’a Ye - Boukman Eksperyans
  6. Alone Down There - Modest Mouse
  7. All You Need Is Love - The Beatles
  8. Disarm - Smashing Pumpkins
  9. Space Control - Bernard Herrmann, The Day The Earth Stood Still
  10. Another Generation - Fishbone
It’s Friday. What are you listening to?


On Friday, the Ark will set sail.
The Ark will set sail without fail.
The floor might be dirty
On Voyage One Hundred Thirty
But at least there is no need to bail.

Friday Ark #130 is floating across the Bloggy Sea, piloted by the expert hand of the Modulator.

Be sure to stop by Pet’s Garden Blog Sunday evening for the Third Anniversary Edition of Carnival of the Cats. 156 weeks pass by so quickly when you’re skritching the kitties!

Update: Carnival of the Cats #156 is up.

Thursday, March 15, 2007


Matata reveals her Gaping Maw. Almost looks like she’s laughing...but at what?


Or, what Elisson will be doing tomorrow morning.

Once again, I will be filling in for my pharmacist friend Richard, who is currently enjoying a relaxing Italian Holiday. Little does he know that, in his absence, I am defiling his Radio Sandy Springs Health Hour slot.

Well, he knows I am filling in for him. What he does not know is the sheer level of depravity to which I am prepared to subject his listeners.

Once again, I will be offering bogus Medical Advice to callers. I will have the Merck Manual available, the better to goggle over the fifty-cent words therein. I will have my assortment of 100-word stories, culled from my files and cleansed of Foul Invective. I will have full details on several of Dr. Israel Patel’s fine products: Dr. Patel’s Lingam Lotion (for enhanced turgidity!), Dr Patel’s Snakebite Curative (never a dissatisfied customer!), and Dr. Patel’s Bulletproofing Ointment (never a dissatisfied customer!)

And I will give a full report on the Claxton Rattlesnake Roundup. The parts of interest to a general radio audience, that is. FCC regulations prohibit my getting too specific as to the behavior of certain, ahhh...Online Web-Journalists once outside the environs of Claxton. Something about Public Decency, or the lack thereof...

You can pretty much forget about picking up the show on the radio (1620 AM) unless you are actually in Sandy Springs. But you can catch the show streaming over the Inter-Webby-Net at Go to the Radio Sandy Springs site to get the call-in number, and you can light up those lines!


We wanted - nay, we insisted - on having some sort of Meaty Protein this evening, in honor of IEATAPETA Day.

I had planned on a thick ribeye steak, done medium rare with the red juices pooling in the plate. Bone-in, if at all possible: When there’s a bone, you know you’re eating a Former Animal.

But then we found the perfect place, hard by Georgia 400 in Roswell.

I looked at the menu, and my eyes started to bug out in anticipation.

Veal chops, from the tenderest milk-fed baby veal. Scaloppini, too.

Foie gras. I love foie gras, cooked rare, practically quivering on the plate. It ain’t exactly heart-healthy, but IEATAPETA Day comes but once a year. I could splurge.

That’s when I saw the specials.

They had wheal chops. That’s a cut carved out of a fetal whale. Whale veal: Wheal!

But what finally caught my eye was the foie gras. Not just any foie gras: baby seal foie gras.

It had an amazingly silky texture, with just the faintest pong of the sea. Served over baby arugula with a drizzle of 100-year-old balsamic vinegar, it was absolutely breathtaking. I washed it down with a glass of golden Sauternes. hour later, and I still can taste it.

How was your IEATAPETA Day? If you didn’t get enough meat, I’ve posted a few shots below the fold.

Boeuf Bourguignon

Beefy Dinner




Back in the days before Political Correctness became a societal bugbear - and when children actually played outside and got dirty - we littl’uns used to enjoy playing Cowboys and Indians - or a thousand variations of the same. Kings of the Wild Frontier, we were. Deerstalkers, muleskinners...we did it all.

Nowadays, I suppose it’d be Western Animal Husbandry Workers and Indigenous Americans...but the game is the same. I chase you, you chase me, we pretend to shoot and/or scalp each other unto death, we flick a few boogers at each other, we find something else to do.

On a related note, I remember when kids would wear their Hallowe’en costumes to school. You could get away with this only if you were in elementary school. In third grade, I wore an Indian Indigenous American outfit to school. Feathers, warpaint, leather fringed vest, the works. It was fun, except for the merciless razzing I got from the fifth-graders. Truly a Nerdly Moment...but that’s what the old Snot-Nose Days are all about, eh?

The Great Mythos of the American Frontier, that was a big thing. The Fess Parker-inspired coonskin cap craze died down before I was an age to care about such things, but the epic stories of how the American West was settled rang loud in our ears, as did the names of the many heroes of those stories: Dan’l Boone, Davy Crockett, Andrew Jackson, Sam Houston, and all the assorted characters of the Wild West era. Fictional ones, too. Mike Fink, Pecos Bill - we knew ’em all.

I was reminded of all this when I found a treasured old volume in a box in the basement. The box, crammed with chess and checker pieces, poker chips, dice, and a Roulette Wheel in working condition, was an unlikely place for a book to have hidden itself away, but no matter. What mattered is that I had found an old friend, a treasure from the days when kids could still play Frontiersman...

Nasty Bumppo
Why, it’s...Nasty Bumppo!

Wednesday, March 14, 2007


Tomorrow is the Ides of March. Meat-bearing animals, beware!

Yes, March 15 is the fifth annual EATAPETA Day: International Eat A Tasty Animal for PETA Day.


Let’s go back five years and ask Meryl Yourish, originator of this fine tradition:
PETA has started yet another offensive ad campaign. This one really reaches bottom - they are using Holocaust terminology, quotes, and pictures to liken the “slaughter” of animals to the slaughter of the Jews by the Nazis...

...So let’s make up our own outrageous publicity stunt. Let’s designate March 15th as International Eat an Animal for PETA Day. Everybody set the date on your calendar, and either go out and enjoy a great steak, or cook one at home. Or cook up some chicken or fish or anything else that PETA wouldn’t want you to eat.
Planning a big, beefy feast? Gonna choke down some chicken? Make an event of it: register it at the PETA Is Full Of Crap site and join the crowd of people who want to rub it in PETA’s collective faces.

Like Meryl, I despise PETA’s revolting publicity antics, their advertising campaigns that equate the human exploitation of animal species for food to human exploitation for labor (slavery, i.e.) or the systematic genocidal murder of other humans. It is insulting to humans, and I am not ashamed to admit that I am a Speciesist.

I’m against gratuitous cruelty to animals, make no mistake. But I’m also a “Humans Firster.” A Speciesist. I’m happy that we occupy that little spot close to the top of the Food Chain. Would you rather have it any other way?

Me, I think I’ll have a nice, thick steak. What are you having?


Some of you may have gotten a “Photobucket Bandwidth Exceeded” message earlier today in place of some of my images.

Looks like the photos of our Rattlesnakey Adventures drove enough traffic to the site to blow out my 10GB free monthly bandwidth allowance. I’ve since fixed the problem: all it took was a few simoleons, judiciously applied.

It’s partly my fault. I tend to put up fairly large images, trimming them down for display on the page while incorporating a link back to the full-size pic. I could shrink ’em down, but some of the photos here just look better in their 17-inch-monitor-sized glory.

Ahh, the things I do for my friends...


...unto someone with a head full of Whiskey and Snakes?

I don’t know, but I can say that they may be passing strange.

Early Sunday morning, I had a remarkably bizarre and vivid dream, a dream that incorporated so many diverse images and elements that it left me almost breathless. At the risk of appearing completely insane to my Esteemed Readers, I’ll essay to describe it as best I can remember...

I recall being in a large jet aircraft. It’s not unusual for me to dream about traveling by air, given the amount of time I spend shuttling about in the Silver Aerial Bus. I had forgotten to turn off my BlackBerry, however, and it sent the plane into a steep dive...

...and suddenly we were outside, looking at the plane as it sat, freshly materialized, on an asphalt parking lot. It was night-time, and beyond the parking lot, in the direction we were compelled to go, was a river.

Crossing the river would be difficult, as it was not so much a river as a series of cataracts plummeting from an almost vertical rock face of indeterminate height. But I resolutely pointed myself in the direction of that steep wall.

As I approached, the cascading water seemed to diminish, revealing a stony edifice of astounding complexity and height silhouetted against the darkling sky. I looked up at it, realizing that it was inspired by the Fortress of Ultimate Evil from the movie Time Bandits. What the fuck!??!

Suddenly I found myself inside, amidst a haze of electronic noises and whirring, fast-moving objects reminiscent of the video game sequences in Tron. The other passengers on the plane with me had disappeared. After a few bewildering moments, I managed to navigate my way to an exit.

Outside, I found myself in a daylit world of cartoonish characters reminiscent of the “Toontown” scenes in Who Framed Roger Rabbit? People shared the pathways with various seemingly sentient animals, careening willy-nilly through a world of saturated colors and rapid movement. I noticed various familiar-looking round objects scattered hither and yon, whereupon I realized where I had ended up.

I was in a future world. The “plane” had not been a plane at all, but a time machine that had transported me a hundred years into the future. And not just any future, but one in which the real world had been replaced by an electronic construct similar to that in The Matrix.

Unlike the electronic simulacrum of reality in The Matrix, this was a benign Virtual World. It was nothing less than Second Life, applied to the entire Real World by its future denizens. They had turned their backs on First Life, finding it wanting. The people and Furry Animals were avatars - stand-ins for the people who had created this new world.

I touched one of the round objects (“Sit Here”) and I - or my Future Avatar - promptly sat down. The inhabitants of this strange world had heretofore ignored me, but now that I had figured out what was happening, I knew I could find a way to communicate. I got up and began walking.

Further confirmation of the Second Life-like nature of the place came when I took a snapshot of myself and a few of the passersby. For, following the traditions of SL, when one takes a snapshot, one must react with an exaggerated “High Five” gesture. I was learning the language and customs!

But now a new problem surfaced. A box containing Essential Scripts had been stolen - by whom, or why, I could not tell. But the missing scripts were the ones that held the Virtual World together. Without them, the people of the future would be dumped into a Real World with which they had no experience. It would be a disaster!

I had to act fast. Already, there was a massive spot of deresolution growing in the sky just over the horizon, a rapidly growing zone of nothingness.

Running along the path, I ran into the one person who could save the world! It was...Elder Daughter! Looking remarkably like her normal early-21st Century self, too!

And that is when my alarm awakened me. Holy Crap!

So: Wazzup with this peculiar dream? Wazzup with all the Filmic References? Was the powerful influence of a combination of Vodka and Snakes at fault?

What nutty-ass dreams have you had lately?

Tuesday, March 13, 2007


Having boarded the Silver Aerial Bus this evening, I now find myself in Baton Rouge, Lousiana Louisiana.

It has been a while since my last visit here: about two years. The renovated airport is a far cry from the dingy little facility that used to serve as the gateway to Louisiana’s capital back in the 1980’s.

Busy as I was with preparations for tomorrow’s meetings, I elected to order up a room service dinner. Meh. I had been looking to satisfy my Gumbo Jones, but, alas, no luck. Outta gumbo, they said.

Ah, well. It was probably crappy gumbo anyway.


Snake Shirt

“Boy, you ain’t a Southern Gentleman ’til you’ve handled a snake.” - The Senator

Okay, so it’s not an exact quote. But that’s not important.

What is important is that this weekend, we saw a Childhood Dream fulfilled. Ronald McDonald House and Make-A-Wish Foundation combined could not have pulled it off with more aplomb, even if their mission statement were broadened to include making real the wishes of men in their late 40’s, raddled by Existential Despair and the ravages of Ketel One instead of by fulminant leukemia. But inside every man there lurks a little boy, a little boy who might still have his dreams of snakes...and monkeys...and Pimpish Headgear. Why should those dreams go a-wanting?

Given that Denny has already done such a superb job of recapping this past weekend’s Exercise in Collective Insanity, it’s almost not worth me rehashing the same old events. Like trying to gild the lily, as it were.

But you wanted snakes, and I’ve got ’em. Enough to send this guy off the deep end, quivering in fear for the next several months.

A little background, first, however.

This little event began as a demented seed in Velociman’s brain. He had mentioned the possibility of going down to Whigham, Georgia in January for the local Rattlesnake Roundup...the latest in a long series of Episodic Attacks of rattlesnake fever on his part. One would have thought the boy has snakes living inside his head, but ol’ Uncle Elisson could see what was afoot. It was that old Childhood Dream, floating to the surface like a half-decomposed drowning victim. And while Eric and I were game, the stars were not in alignment for a late January Reptile Run, alas. But that is only because another, more auspicious occasion was looming just over the horizon.

For it was about this time that Shoe began casting about for an entertaining venue for her impressionable young sons, both of whom were going to be on Spring Break beginning March 10. The fearsome Velocibrain sprang into action: Ain’t that when Claxton, Georgia has its annual Rattlesnake Roundup? Where I’ve been trying to assemble the Jawja Blodgers for the last three years?

Perfect. For Claxton has much to recommend it. It is located a mere hour from Savannah, meaning that good accommodations, food, and drink - the latter in copious amounts - may be had there. And Claxton has fruitcake! Being, of course, that it is home to the famous Claxton Fruit Cake, purportedly an exemplar of the genre.

Fruitcake Factory
Claxton, home of World Famous Door Stops Fruit Cake.

Well, as in all these Bloggy Situations, one thing led to another...and this Saturday just past found an intrepid group of demented fucking idiots Jawja Blown-Eyed Blodgers in Claxton, ready to get down and dirty with alla them sah-NAKES! Eric the Blade, Velociman, Zonker, Denny, That 1 Guy, and I were joined by the ever-redoubtable Georgia and Recondo32 as we headed out of Savannah. Meanwhile, She Who Must Be Obeyed and the Mistress of Sarcasm wisely elected to go shopping while we dealt with the reptilian hordes.

I had a pretty good idea of what to expect, for SWMBO had this thing figured out from the get-go. “You guys are wasting your time. It’s just gonna be like that stupid Apple Festival in Ellijay. A bunch of booths selling arts and crafts, turkey legs, corn on the cob, and funnel cakes.”

Fun with Funnel Cakes

Indeed. For it ain’t a Country Fair without Funnel Cakes. And other Random Fried Comestibles.

And Claxton had all that crap. But it had the Venomous Reptiles, too...and somewhat north of 10,000 Reubens wanting to get a glimpse of ’em.

Getcha Snakes Right Here!

There was a covered arena, ringed by bleachers, with a fenced-off area: the ominous-sounding Snake Pit. In it, a fellow yclept Steve Scruggs, who bills himself as the Snake Master, was just finishing up a demonstration by handing out autographed pictures to the kiddies. The crowd was five deep at the front of the enclosure and the bleachers were packed. It was like a ballgame. Snake fever - Catch it!

Inside the Snake Pit there were several pens in which the snakes writhed, hissed, and shook their rattles menacingly.

Velociman and I walked around to the back of the Pit. There had to be a way in. We hadn’t schlepped all this way to see the Fearsome Beasties from twenty feet away, oh no.

That’s when we saw the Snake Master hizzownself in the midst of a Media Interview, taking off his Snake-Proof Boots in preparation for a break. When the interview was done, we got his attention.

This is where the Digital SLR comes in handy. With a honkin’ big lens, a high-end amateur DSLR looks enough like a professional model that most people won’t notice the difference. It was all too easy for V-Man and I to claim bogus Media Credentials and earn a coveted invite into the Pit.

[My credentials weren’t totally bogus. I really am planning to mention the snakes on Radio Sandy Springs when I do my next show this coming Friday morning.]

And thus it was the Velociman and I found ourselves in the Belly of the Beast, so to speak. It was very like that moment in Star Trek IV when the spectators at the aquarium suddenly notice Spock swimming in the tank amongst the whales. Except we were in the tank with two hundred assorted venomous snakes. Chicka-chicka chick!

V-Man in the Pit
Up close ’n’ personal.

There were Beauty Queens galore, mostly of the Georgia home-grown variety, posing for Photo Ops with a monster (dead and stuffed) Eastern Diamondback. Later, when Steve Scruggs began the next round of demonstrations, these same Beauty Queens had a chance to hold real live rattlers, and I can tell you that they were not quite as cavalier about it.

Beauty Queens...Plus

A Live One!

I shot my pictures, grabbed some movie footage, and then it was time to go while Denny could get a lift back to the car.

Outside the Pit, the crowds milled around. People admired each other’s Smokeless Tobacco purchases. Some spoke in an incomprehensible Deep Souf Country Patois. Bear in mind, I have lived in the South many years and have traveled extensively throughout the world. There are few varieties of English I cannot understand...but in Claxton I heard some new ones.

Tobacco Reubens
Wanna dip?

Lovely young ladies. Honkin’ big snakes. Funnel cakes. And a little boy’s dream, come true at last. Only in America, chirren.

[Click on any photo to embiggen. Plenty more pics below the fold!]

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Runners in Downtown Savannah
Runners in downtown Savannah.

Nothing like a road race at Rush Hour to help keep things moving along smoothly, eh?

Blodgers in Claxton
The Blown-Eyed Blodgers get ready to face the snakes.

The Grouchy Old Cripple.

It ain’t a Country Fair without NASCAR.

Beauty Queens
A trio of lovely ladies.

Miss Rattlesnake Roundup 2007
Miss Rattlesnake Roundup 2007.

Beauty Queens and Apprentice
Hey, kid...after the show, we’re gonna feed you to those snakes.


...and More Snakes...
“Lemme out! I wuz framed!”

...and Yet More Snakes...
A few of the 200+ rattlers at the Roundup.

...and Still More Snakes
A honkin’, humpin’ heap o’ Herpetical Honeys.

Check Out My Snake!
Wanna see my other snake, Missy?

Yours Truly and Velociman show off our Snakey Trophies.

Snake Shirt
The Jawja Blodgers went to Claxton and all I got was this lousy T-Shirt!

That 1 Guy
That 1 Guy.

Recondo32, Velociman, and Zonker relax post-Roundup.

Getting Lit
In Savannah, even the buildings get lit for Saint Patrick’s Day.

Velociman: Living the Dream in Claxton.

The Straight White Guy.

I ain’t ’fraid of no snakes...
A few of the Intrepid Blown-Eyes...and the Mistress of Sarcasm.