Tuesday, June 30, 2009

HAPPY BIRTHDAY, O MISTRESS

Mistress Birthday
The Mistress of Sarcasm in her Youthful Days.

The Mistress of Sarcasm celebrates having completed twenty-seven trips around the sun today.

Sometimes it’s hard to believe how much water has passed under the proverbial Bridge o’ Time. But it has... and the evidence is right before our eyes. A beautiful, talented young woman, where once there stood a little girl.

She is one of the few people who can (almost) make me laugh unto the point of unconsciousness. This is especially scary, because we find the same things amusing.

Mistress and Elvis
The Mistress of Sarcasm celebrates with the help of an inflated King. How ’bout a hunka hunka birthday cake?

I did say “talented”, didn’t I? Take a gander at that pendant. One evening, she was inspired by an antique electric fan - one of the many items in her Great Accumulation of Arty Tchotchkes - and decided to render a miniature version of it in sterling silver, for use as a piece of jewelry. Here it be, in closeup:

Fan Pendant
“Antique fan” pendant in sterling silver, created by the Mistress.

Snazzy, eh?

She Who Must Be Obeyed may have put it best: it may be the Mistress’s birthday, but we’re the ones who received a gift twenty-seven years ago... and it’s a gift that we continue to treasure more every day. Happy Birthday, O Mistress of Sarcasm, my love!

Monday, June 29, 2009

ROASTY

Roasted Corn with Chesapeake Butter

The Grill-Roasted Corn with Chesapeake Butter pictured above is one of the tasty goodies with which we celebrated the Mistress of Sarcasm’s impending birthday yesterday evening. Dinner consisted of Grilled Meat, in accordance with the desire of the Mistress (a chip off the old block, evidently) - and so why not grill a veggie, too?

Our early celebration was necessitated by the fact that the Missus and I are, even as I post this, heading northeast for the week. We’ll stop in Dee-Cee to visit Elder Daughter, after which I will continue onward unto the City of Brotherly Love. Philadelphia! Home of cheese steaks, soft pretzels and mustard, Tastykakes, a certain brand of cream cheese, the first U.S. Mint... and, incidentally, the Cradle of American Independence. Also the site of this year’s biennial FJMC Convention, which is what brings me back for the first time in well over a decade.

But we were talking Roasted Corn, weren’t we? Yes, we were.

To make this stuff, I adapted a Cook’s Illustrated recipe. You shuck your fresh ears of corn, throw ’em in a big pot of water in which you’ve dissolved a half-cup of salt, and let ’em brine for at least a half-hour. Then you put them directly on a hot grill - no foil wrapping. Turn the ears frequently; you want them caramelized nicely but not carbonized. It should take about 15 minutes to get them nice and tender.

While the corn is brining, make the Chesapeake Butter. Combine a stick of softened butter, a teaspoon or so of Tabasco, a couple of cloves of minced, pressed, or finely grated garlic, and one or two teaspoons of Old Bay seasoning. Mix well. When the corn is done, slather the ears with this butter. It’s like a landmine of flavor. Yowza!

We gobbled up the corn along with some Korean-style marinated flank steak, sautéed green beans with lemon-soy butter, and a nice green salad... leaving room for a slice of superb raspberry layer cake (courtesy of Publix). Hey, not every damn thing is made from scratch here!

Saturday, June 27, 2009

A BIT OF RESIDENTIAL NOSTALGIA

Eli and Elisson, 1955
Eli and Elisson, September 1955.

You’re looking at a photograph of Eli (hizzownself) and his young son - Eli’s son, AKA Yours Truly - taken in September, 1955 in front of our old Unqua Road residence in Massapequa, New York. The Old Man is all of thirty years old in this picture; I am a month shy of my third birthday. I’m pretty sure I was toilet-trained by then.

I was a nine-month-old infant when Eli and family moved from Brooklyn to the blue suburban skies of Long Island. As such, my earliest memories are of that house on Unqua Road, our home for fourteen years.

I remember the basement, with its dim, dark, dank corners and the mysterious Heating Oil Tank that sat against the western wall. The basement also served as our laundry room: the washer (and later, the dryer) sat against the eastern wall, while a handy trap door in the bathroom on the main floor allowed us to throw our soiled clothing directly into a waiting basket below.

There was also a crawl space behind the basement stairs, a place so shrouded in mystery, I never thought to explore it. I was content to imagine how we could convert the basement into a makeshift fallout shelter when the bombs started falling - as I figured they inevitably would. Yeesh.

After we had been in the house a few years, there were some necessary renovations. A screened and heated porch was added in the back of the house, and the garage - visible behind Eli’s shoulder in the photo above - was converted into a family room. To replace it, a new detached garage was built on the other side of the house, a narrow breezeway separating it from the house. I have a dim, fragmentary recollection of playing on the garage’s newly-poured concrete slab before the framing was put up.

We moved out of that house 42 years ago, but it still stands. Here it is today:

Chez Elisson - Unqua Road
The Unqua Road house, June 2009.

The original cedar shingles have long since been replaced by vinyl siding, but you can recognize the master bedroom window, the one with the white shutters and windowbox in the 1955 pic. On the left side of the picture you can see where the garage used to be. The steps and railing are new, as is the circular driveway. Our old lamp-post, added after the garage conversion, still stands.

I was curious about how the place looked inside, but not enough to scare the crap out of the current resident by ringing the doorbell.

In August of 1967 we relocated to a new home - new to us, anyway - a grand total of three blocks away.  It was a bit more contemporary, at least by the standards of the day. Here’s a current photo:

Chez Elisson - Pocahontas Street
The Pocahontas Street house, June 2009.

Yes, that caption says Pocahontas Street. Pocahontas Street West, to be exact. If you didn’t care for ridiculous sounding Indian names, you had no business living in Massa-fucking-pequa.

The landscaping has grown a bit more lush in the eighteen years since Eli moved away, and the fence on the left is new... but this is pretty much how it looked when we lived there. The Japanese red maple, now huge, hides the front entry in this view, but my old bedroom window is visible behind the pink azalea. And that long, sloped roof is the very one upon which Danny Baldwin would climb on the odd evening, there to run around and drive my parents insane. [Years later, when he worked for a landscaping company that was doing some work at the house, he sought an audience with my mother in order to proffer an apology.]

Oh, the Baldwins. Alec, Billy, Danny, and Stephen... and sisters Beth and Jane. They lived one street over, at the southwest corner of Iroquois and Sunset Road, in a house that was, at the time, a Legendary Eyesore. It’s a respectable place now:

Chez Baldwin
The Baldwin house on Iroquois Avenue.

As with most Budding Delinquents, I’m sure they were a fun buncha kids. But this is only conjecture on my part. Alec, eldest of the brothers, was six years younger than me, so our paths rarely crossed.

Ahh, if only walls could talk... what stories they could tell!

Friday, June 26, 2009

USELESS INVENTION OF THE WEEK

iPhonebooth
[Photo credit: SWMBO.]

Presenting...the iPhonebooth!

TODAY’S PITH AND VINEGAR

BobG’s comment at this post got me thinking... about an idea for a Great New Reality Show.

Maroon twelve celebrity contestants on an inaccessible island. Give ’em plenty of fine food: steaks, lobster, the works. Gourmet stuff. Let ’em eat to their hearts’ content...

... and then give them a powerful laxative (Ex-Lax in the chocolate mousse, f’r instance) and a pack of Zig-Zags. Now, watch the fun begin.

It would be a real test of ingenuity.

And you, Esteemed Reader, have your own test of ingenuity: What would you call this show? Please share your best ideas in the comments.

PLYING THEIR TRADE

At first I thought the Bunwad-Merchants were pulling a Hershey Bar Scam on us.

The Hershey Bar Scam, for those who are not pruned-up enough to remember, is how the chocolate people dealt with fluctuating raw material costs. For many years, you could buy a Hershey milk chocolate bar for a mere five cents... but it wasn’t always the same size. In 1930, that nickel bar weighed two full ounces, but by 1968 it had shrunk to ¾ ounce. It’s simply a hidden price increase, and it works because people pay way more attention to the price of the package than they do to the amount they buy. But it’s the unit cost that really counts.

For a moment, I suspected that the Asswipe Boys were taking a page from the same book. Or pulling a sheet off the same roll, to customize the analogy.

Most of us are accustomed to using two-ply paper, except on boats and in cheap hotels, where single-ply is the norm. (Ecch. Ouch.) Two plies seem to provide the perfect balance between softness and durability: You want to get the job done with a minimum of irritation and chafing, while at the same time not generating a “bush full of berries” (so to speak).

Technological advance continues apace, however, and the World o’ Bunwad is no exception. Quilted Northern has introduced their “Ultra Plush” line, with three (count ’em) plies of tush-friendly paper. Hey, the razor-blade people are doing it... why not the Asswipers?

When I first heard about this Wonderful New Invention, I was skeptical. I’m not a fan of overly soft Tee-Pee, mainly because it tends to form those nasty dingleberries, the existence of which has now been officially acknowledged by the Charmin Bears:



(That’s right! Bears got dingleberries!)

But a couple of weeks ago, when the Missus and I were on a Bunwad-Hunt, we found a great big package of this Ultra Plush stuff and decided to give it a try, thanks to its being heavily discounted.

It was the Missus who first noticed the difference.

Never mind that the paper was, indeed, both softer and more prone to berrification. That was bad enough... but the clincher was the dimensions of the roll. The three-ply rolls are a half-inch narrower.

It’s not so much that the roll looks weird on a standard Tee-Pee Dispenser. It’s that I’m used to having a certain amount of papery real-estate in my hand when I commence to wiping. I like the roll to be at least as wide as my hand, for obvious reasons.

The package, of course, tells you how many sheets per roll you get, how thick they are, and the dimensions of each sheet, as well as the total area on the roll. But I suspect that a vanishingly small number of people actually look to see the dimensions of the sheets. The Quilted Northern Ultra Plush sheets are are 4 x 4 inches, compared to 4½ x 3½ inches for the traditional products. Narrower but longer.

So it’s not really a Hershey Bar Scam after all. The narrow sheets actually have 1.5% more area. Wheeee!

But I still prefer the traditional Roll Dimensions. I mean, let’s pull an extrapolatio ad absurdum, shall we? If this trend continues, in a few years we’ll see twenty-ply bunwad with individual sheets measuring ½ x 36 inches. They’ll be really soft, but you’ll have to use ’em like Rectal Floss. Oy.

FRIDAY RANDOM TEN

It’s Friday, time once again for the Friday Random Ten, that obnoxious exercise in Musical Miscellany in which I put up a list of songs spewed out (at random, of course) by the iPod d’Elisson.

What’s playing today? Lessee:
  1. Radar - Bernard Herrmann, The Day the Earth Stood Still (1950)

  2. Matchbox - The Beatles

  3. Tell Me Why - The Beatles

  4. Fire And Chains - Frank Zappa

  5. Wachet Auf (from Cantata #1 40) - Wendy Carlos (J. S. Bach)

  6. Train in Vain (Stand by Me) - The Clash

  7. Club Limbo - Squirrel Nut Zippers

  8. The Way You Look Tonight - Stan Getz & Dizzy Gillespie

  9. Bratislava - Beirut

  10. Weapon of Choice - Fatboy Slim

    Break, eject
    Eject, eject
    Break, eject
    Eject, eject

    Break, eject
    Eject, eject
    Break, eject
    Eject, eject

    ’Fore they catch ya chainsmokin’ (word)
    ’Fore they catch ya chainsmokin’ (word)
    ’Fore they catch ya chainsmokin’ (word)
    ’Fore they catch ya chainsmokin’ (word)

    ’Fore they catch ya chainsmokin’ (word)
    ’Fore they catch ya chainsmokin’ (word)
    ’Fore they catch ya chainsmokin’ (word)
    ’Fore they catch ya chainsmokin’ (word)

    ’Fore they catch ya, ’fore they catch ya
    ’Fore they catch ya, ’fore they catch ya
    ’Fore they catch ya, ’fore they catch ya
    ’Fore they catch ya, ’fore they catch ya

    Don’t be shocked by tone of my voice
    Check out my new weapon, weapon of choice
    Don’t be shocked by tone of my voice
    Check out my new weapon, weapon of choice, yeah

    Listen to the sound of my voice (aah...)
    You can check it on out, it’s the weapon of choice, yeah

    Don’t be shocked by the tone of my voice (aah...)
    It’s the new weapon, the weapon of choice

    You can blow with this
    Or you can blow with that
    You can blow with this
    Or you can blow with that
    Or you can blow with this
    Or you can blow with that
    Or you can blow with us

    You can blow with this
    Or you can blow with that
    You can blow with this
    Or you can blow with that
    You can blow with...

    Walk without rhythm, it won’t attract the worm
    Walk without rhythm, and it won’t attract the worm
    Walk without rhythm, and it won’t attract the worm
    If you walk without rhythm (uh), you never learn, yeah

    Don’t be shocked by the tone of my voice
    Check out my new weapon, weapon of choice

    Don’t be shocked by the tone of my voice
    Check out my new weapon, weapon of choice

    (Can’t forget to load it)
    Before they catch ya chainsmokin’
    (Can’t forget to load it)
    Before they catch ya chainsmokin’
    (Can’t forget to load it)
    Before they catch ya chainsmokin’
    (Can’t forget to load it)
    Before they catch ya chainsmokin’

    You can go with this
    You can go with that
    You can go with this
    Or you can go with that
    Or you can go with this
    Or you can go with that
    Or you can go with us

    You can go with this
    You can go with that
    You can go with this
    Or you can go with that
    Or you can go with...

    Organically grown
    Through the hemisphere I roam
    To make love to the angels of light, yeah, and my girl
    I guess you just don’t understand
    It’s gone beyond bein’ a man
    As I drift off into the night
    I’m in flight

    Break, eject
    Eject, eject
    Break, eject
    Eject, eject

    Break, eject
    Eject, eject
    Eject, eject
    Eject, eject

    Break, eject
    Eject, eject
    Break, eject
    Eject, eject

    Eje, Eje, Eje, Eje, Eje, Eje, Eje, Eje, Eje, Eje, Eje...


It’s Friday. What are you listening to?

Thursday, June 25, 2009

EQUAL... BUT SEPARATE

Another fine essay by my friend Ron Feinberg, this one posted at Like The Dew.

It’s (mostly) about Ron’s experiences as a Jewish student at the University of Georgia in the late 1960’s - a time of growing (but as of yet, very incomplete) enlightenment.

As I read accounts of newly-released transcripts of conversations between Richard Nixon and the Reverend Billy Graham in 1973, I find myself completely unsurprised... especially after reading Ron’s post.

Go. Read it all.

THE KING (OF POP) IS DEAD

News flash: Michael Jackson has died at the age of 50, reportedly of a heart attack.

Holy fuckamoley.

More to follow. I have not yet decided whether to include my usual array of tasteless jokes.

A FAREWELL TO FARRAH

Farewell, Farrah

Farrah Fawcett, one of the original Charlie’s Angels, is in the process of getting acquainted with real angels, having passed away this morning at the all-too-early age of 62 after a lengthy struggle with cancer.

Men of a certain age will remember, with a sort of wistful nostalgia, the iconic image of Ms. Fawcett shown above. It was a hot-selling poster Back In The Day, the mid-1970’s answer to Marilyn Monroe, Jayne Mansfield, and the immortal Brigitte Bardot. The red one-piece swimsuit - not overly revealing - encourages the viewer to use the imagination, and the pose showcases Fawcett’s slender shape impressively. But the “sizzle” all comes from that Texas-sized cascade of hair and that big, bright smile. (OK, the perky nips don’t hurt.)

Unlike Monroe and Mansfield, Farrah Fawcett survived past her mid-thirties, long enough for the blush of youth to have worn off her. As she matured physically, so did her acting ability, garnering her a nominations for six Golden Globes and three Emmys.

For many of us, Farrah Fawcett will be forever young, that poster-girl image having been seared into our minds at an impressionable age. But it is a sad reality that youth doesn’t last... and neither does life. It’s a sobering matter to think about, and today’s events force us to confront it.

Brigitte Bardot is still walking the planet, though. She turns 75 this year. Où sont les sex-kittens d’antan?

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

SORRY, MR. SIMON

I got a Nikon camera
I love to take a photograph
So mama don’t take my Kodachrome away


- Paul Simon, “Kodachrome”

I hate to be the bearer of bad tidings, Paul, but Mama Eastman is, indeed, going to be taking your Kodachrome away.

The Big Yellow Box from Rochester, New York - Eastman Kodak - announced this past Monday that manufacture of the venerable color film will be discontinued after the final batch - now in production - is completed. At current usage rates, that means Kodachrome will belong to the ages well before year-end.

Before the era of digital photography arrived and ate the guts out of the traditional emulsion-based photographic film business, Kodachrome - the oldest and longest-lived line of color reversal film - established the benchmark for high-quality slide photography. Transparencies (a more technical term for slides) have a much higher dynamic range than color prints, and Kodachrome offered, as well, very low grain, high sharpness, and accurate color reproduction. It was favored by professionals, especially those shooting images intended for print.

Unlike other color reversal films like Kodak’s Ektachrome and Fuji’s Velvia, Kodachrome does not contain color couplers in the film itself; they are added during processing. What this means is that processing Kodachrome is a gold-plated bitch, using extremely complex chemistry and a lengthy, multiple-step process well beyond the capabilities of your local photofinisher. Kodak could do it, as well as a handful of independent labs, but not the guy in the back room at the corner drugstore. [For many years, Kodak processing was included in the film’s price, but a 1954 court ruling and the resulting consent decree put an end to that practice. Tie-in sales are prohibited by the Clayton Antitrust Act of 1914.]

The beginning of the end for Kodachrome was in 1990, when Fujifilm (the Big Green Box) introduced Velvia, a transparency film offering better color reproduction, even finer grain, and higher speed. Even better, Velvia could be processed by any modestly-equipped lab using E-6 (Ektachrome) chemistry. Photographers deserted Kodachrome in droves... and then along came the Digital Revolution, slamming an electronic stake through the heart of the traditional film business. Polaroid imploded; Kodak began to delaminate.

With Kodachrome now accounting for only one percent of Kodak’s rapidly declining film sales, the handwriting was on the wall. The 74-year-old film would have to go.

I have hundreds - nay, thousands - of color transparencies tucked away in the bowels of Chez Elisson. A goodly proportion of them were shot on one kind of Kodachrome or another: the fine-grained Kodachrome 25, the crisp, contrasty Kodachrome 64. They represent a vanishing technology, much as the Mistress’s collection of shellac 78 RPM phonograph records represents a technology that has since been displaced by digital audio in all its varied forms.

Kodachrome now joins daguerreotypy, wet-plate negatives, and tintypes in the dusty Land of Obsolescence. I will miss it...

...but whenever I pick up my Nikon camera (I love to take a photograph), I don’t miss it all that much. Digital provides high quality, instant satisfaction, instant results, and low cost per image. I’ll remember Kodachrome with nostalgia, but no longing.

[Tip o’ th’ Elisson fedora to the Other Elisson, who provided the link to the WSJ article.]

Update: Looks like Dax Montana beat me to it. His post is here.

BLACK GOLD

Black Raspberries
Black raspberries. Look kinda like truffles, don’t they?

Yesterday, as She Who Must Be Obeyed and I wandered the aisle’s of Harry’s Farmers Market (now owned by Whole Paycheck Foods), we struck gold. Black gold.

No, not Crude Oil. I’m familiar enough with that crap, owing to a 32-plus year career in the petrochemical industry at the Great Corporate Salt Mine.

I’m talking about black raspberries.

We see plenty of red raspberries here, and once in a while - especially at Fancy-Pants Fresh Market - you can snag some golden raspberries. I love ’em both, but golden raspberries taste pretty much like their red brethren despite their exotic appearance.

Black raspberries, though - they’re a Whole ’Nother Thing.

You might expect these bad boys to taste pretty good: like the bastard son of a red raspberry and a blackberry... but you’d be wrong. They’re even better. Black raspberries have a subtle, delicate flavor that is somehow a little... mysterious. Intoxicating. You could even call it sexy.

I took a handful of those black raspberries and threw them in a bowl with some blueberries and cut-up peaches and apricots. It was a perfect Summer Fruit Medley... and all it needed was a handful of Grape-Nuts to convert it into a complete meal. Breakfast for lunch - what’s not to love?

Summer Fruit Medley
A summer fruit medley: Apricots, peaches, black raspberries, and blueberries.

THE QUEEN

Hakuna

I’m Hakuna, Queen of all I survey.
If I don’t like you, stay out of my way.
Despite all my bitching
I enjoy a good skritching
And sometimes, I might even play.


Hakuna is adjusting to life without Neighbor. In the idealized everyone-holding-hands-around-the-campfire-and-singing-Kumbaya world, I might even believe she misses the ol’ Midnight Marauder... but no. I think she’s happier than the proverbial Porcine in Excrement.

Update: The Friday Ark is afloat, with Hakuna in pole position. [Now, there’s a mixed metaphor for you.] Catch Edition #249 at the Modulator.

And for yet more Catness, swing on over to When Cats Attack! Sunday evening for the 276th installment of Carnival of the Cats.

Update 2: CotC #276 is up.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

WE’RE NUMBER TWO

They sat hunched over the dark mahogany table, each with an empty glass in his hand. Robin poured out the single malt, giving everyone a liberal tot.

Ed Norton cocked an eyebrow and grinned. “You sure it’s OK for Tonto to be drinking this stuff?”

“Fuck you, Ed,” retorted the weathered Native American. “I can hold my firewater, thank you very much. Right, Bernardo?”

Bernardo, silent as always, simply shrugged his shoulders.

Dr. Watson spoke up. “I’d like to propose a toast...

“...to the latest member of the Immortal Sidekicks and Second Bananas League: Ed McMahon.”

They all rose, holding their glasses. “Hear, hear!”

“We’re Number Two!” Their voices seemed loud in that small room, almost loud enough to be heard on the Chicago streets below.

“I just weesh ‘Number Two’ didn’t also mean ‘shit,’” said Sancho Panza to himself.

* * * * *

Ed McMahon, Johnny Carson’s inseparable TeeVee Companion, passed away early today at the age of 86. Ave atque vale, Ed – we hardly knew ye.

SIGN OF THE TIMES

So the Missus and I were at the Red Cross blood donation center yesterday afternoon, having arrived there with the intention of giving platelets. As it turned out, I could not do so: I had taken my usual dose of enteric-coated aspirin that morning, and aspirin is, apparently, a no-no within 48 hours of undergoing apheresis.

Since the Missus was going to be having some (minor) blood work done on the morrow, she decided to put off her platelet donation until the end of the week, when we could do it together. But in the meantime, I gave my usual pint of whole blood.

Before you donate blood, you are asked a lengthy battery of questions intended to establish whether your blood products might involve certain risk factors. F’r instance, it’s pretty safe to assume that if you have ever paid to have anal sex with a Somalian circus midget - whether or not said midget is HIV-positive - you will not be donating blood any time soon.

We’ve been donating blood for years, and we’ve heard all the questions before. But this time, there was a new one:

“Have you been male all your life?”

The version SWMBO got was more on the lines of, “Is your gender the one you were born with?”

First time I’ve ever been asked whether I’m a transsexual. And I’m curious. What medical risk factors affect people who have undergone gender reassignment, if any, and are they relevant to the safety of the blood supply?

TODAY’S PITH AND VINEGAR

It’s practically inevitable.

Jack Nicklaus - the Golden Bear - has held most of the Big Golf Laurels these last many years, including an unmatched total of six (!) wins at the Masters.

But the day will come - how far in the future is anybody’s guess - when Tiger Woods will manage to eclipse Nicklaus’s record. And I can just picture the headlines when it finally happens...

“Woods Shits on Bear”

Monday, June 22, 2009

AW, NUTS

Almost five years ago, when I began this particular exercise in Self-Aggrandizement and Time-Wastage, my first post was about Breakfast Cereal. Specifically, it was a review of a now-defunct product called Kellogg’s All-Bran Apricot Bites.

Of course, the post incorporated several veiled references to shit... which calls to mind a proverb. Something about a leopard being unable to change his spots, or a tiger his stripes. But I digress.

Breakfast cereal.

I loves me a nice bowl of cold cereal. Hot cereal’s fine, too, but it’s hard to work up much enthusiasm for a great big steaming bowl of Wheatena on a boiling hot day in early July. No. This time of year, cold cereal rules.

BreakfastCerealwithBerries
The Breakfast of Champions. Or of Elisson, anyway.

Pictured here is a typical Brekkie d’Elisson: shredded wheat (or Kashi Cinnamon Harvest, which has the extra benefit of tasting good), Grape-Nuts, and a pile of berries, drowned in milk. I could, if pressed, eat this stuff all day long... and my colon would probably thank me. (She Who Must Be Obeyed, however, would probably not.)

I am a big fan of the Grape-Nut. In my Snot-Nose days, their ridiculously crunchy, gravel-like texture used to put me off, but their pleasant nutty flavor made up for it. And eventually I figured out that if they sat in milk long enough, they got soft enough to eat without your worrying that they were going to destroy all of your dentist’s expensive handiwork.

You can add Grape-Nuts to almost any other cereal to jack up the Crunch Factor. It’s an especially welcome addition to Weetabix, which are Brillo-pad-like affairs that, unlike the shredded wheat biscuits they so vaguely resemble, turn into mush the moment milk hits them.

But what is a Grape-Nut? It sure as hell ain’t a flake (I am not talking, here, of those misbegotten Grape-Nuts Flakes), and it ain’t puffy like Cheerios. And, the late Euell Gibbons’s protestations to the contrary, it ain’t a wild hickory nut.

Riddle me this: How is a Grape-Nut like an Egg Cream? Just as the Egg Cream contains neither egg nor cream, the Grape-Nut contains neither grapes nor nuts.

As it turns out, Grape-Nuts are simply dried bread crumbs.

Yes. Bread crumbs.

To make Grape-Nuts, they take wheat, malted barley, and yeast, blend them up into a dough, and bake it up into ten-pound loaves. These are then pulverized (using the same sort of device used in the movie Fargo to grind up Steve Buscemi) and dried. Who’d a’ thunk it?

This knobbly, crunchy treat, the invention of one C. W. Post, has been around for 112 years. Its market share is rather thin these days, probably because it is an idiosyncratic product with a mouthfeel unusual in a breakfast cereal (but more common in Fill Dirt). And yet, I love it.

Enough to write a Post about it. (How recursive is that?)

SWEATY SOLSTICE, DADDY’S DAY

We celebrated the conjoint Summer Solstice and Father’s Day yesterday in a most suitable manner, with good friends and Grilled Meats. It’s a sort of unwritten rule, after all, that one must grill meat in the blazing heat of incipient Summer.

Blazing heat, indeed. It was hot as a bastard (however hot that might be) in Destin, and it seems as though we took the heat with us when we returned to Atlanta. But no matter. When the out-of-doors became too stifling, we simply retired to the comfort of Gary and JoAnn’s air-conditioned lodgings. And besides, what’s a Summer Solstice without a little Sweat?

Earlier in the day, the Mistress of Sarcasm and her friend Matt had regaled me with a Father’s Day song she had written just for me. Sample lyric:

You’re the King of Dads
The Duke of Shits
Where your crown belongs
A colander sits

[Refrain]
King of the Castle
Top o’ the Pops
With you as my Dad
The fun never stops
King of the Castle
Top o’ the Pops
Without you around
The Fun-O-Meter drops

(Is it any wonder I love her so much?)

Our contributions to the groaning board? I made an Mango-Avocado Salad, a dish that had been well received during last week’s sojourn in Destin. I had even purchased a mango pitter to facilitate its preparation:

Mango Pitter

Looks like a Razor-Vagina, no? But it’s really just a handy tool for separating a mango’s sweet, slippery flesh from its huge fibrous seed - a tricky task with a plain old kitchen knife.

The Mango-Avocado Salad is easy to make, an important consideration on a hot day. Hack up a few avocados and an equal number of ripe mangos; add the juice of three limes, a handful of chopped cilantro, a liberal sprinkling of chopped red onion, and a minced jalapeño (include the ribs and seeds only if you want a salad with ringburn-inducing heat); mix well and chill for at least an hour to allow the flavors to mingle. The Mistress of Sarcasm, an avowed mango lover, declared this dish to be Big Time Delicious.

Mango-Avocado Salad
Mango-Avocado Salad. Yummy.

Meanwhile, She Who Must Be Obeyed concocted a Crab and Avocado Salad, combining 2 tbsp mayo, 1 tbsp lime juice, ¼ cup chopped cilantro, 1/8 tsp cayenne, and 1 tbsp chopped roasted red pepper; then adding in a pound of lump crabmeat (kosher surimi is an alternative for those scrupulous about dietary laws); finally folding in one avocado (cut into ¼-inch cubes). This makes a fine side dish, but SWMBO elected to serve it as a dip with crackers. It was shockingly tasty; addictive, even.

Crab and Avocado Salad
Crab and Avocado Salad.

I wonder whether Jimbo would have given either of these salads a try. His fear and loathing of alligators is legendary... and what is an avocado but an Alligator Pear?

The Summer Solstice marks the longest day of the year, but this one was over all too soon.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

IN A BLACK HUMOUR

I’m enjoying a leisurely Father’s Day, now that we have returned from our annual period of Restin’ in Destin. Part of that leisure involves watching the U.S. Open Golf Championship, which is being contested this year at the infamous Bethpage Black course.

When the Open first came to Bethpage Black in 2002, they played it up as “The People’s Tournament” - the Open at a course not only open to the public, but actually owned by the state. The first Daily-Fee Muni Open! The Open Open! Tiger Woods won that one - his second U.S. Open victory - beating Phil Mickelson by three strokes and helping give the Black course an indelible stamp of legitimacy as an Open venue.

This year, Tiger is struggling, and Ricky Barnes has a commanding lead midway through Round Three. But as I watch the competitors whack the white pill around, I am transported back in time... back to when I knew every fairway of that harrowing course.

Bethpage Black, it should be explained, is but one piece of a majestic five-course complex. Ninety holes, in toto, divided up into the relatively manageable Yellow and Green courses, the increasingly difficult Red and Blue layouts, and the seriously challenging Black course. The Red, Blue, and Black courses were designed by the legendary A. W. Tillinghast, with the Black his final masterwork.

Back in the day, both Eli (hizzownself) and the Momma d’Elisson were regular players at Bethpage... and when I came of age, I was, too. But while Eli was a capable weekend golfer, Momma was out there a good three or four days a week. She was a charter member of a group that called itself the Fairway Women of Bethpage, and at various times had served as club president as well as club champion. Yellow, Green, Red, Blue, Black - she played ’em all.

There was no greater pleasure for the Young Elisson than to be invited to play at Bethpage (or anywhere else, for that matter) with one or both of the ’Rents. We’d arise at the Butt-Crack of Dawn to go and secure a tee-time (Bethpage was a ten-minute drive away), go home for breakfast, then return at the Appointed Hour to play. The round would last a full six hours, thanks to the crowded conditions, but the slow play was only a minor inconvenience. This was Golf, dammit!

Maybe it was my familiarity with the Bethpage courses that impelled me to take a job as a caddy there. For many members of my generation, 1967 was the Summer of Love... but for me it was the Sweaty Summer of Schlepping Other People’s Golf Clubs. It was a fine job for anyone who enjoyed the out-of-doors, especially anyone who had any kind of interest or ability in golf. Well, I had the interest, anyway.

It was a good education. I learned when to talk, when to be still, when to crack a joke. I learned how to tend a flagstick, rake a sand bunker, find a ball in thick woods, assist with reading a tricky green.

I also learned the value of a dollar, for dollars were hard to come by. Lugging a golf bag around eighteen holes would earn you five of ’em, plus a buck or two for a tip. If you were a glutton for punishment, you could do two loops (thirty-six holes) and make an extra five-and-tip, or carry two bags at once to double your pay. It was a hard way to make a little spending money, yet there were a few grizzled veterans who made a living at it, doing two double-bag loops a day to pull down $25 or so. Wiry bastards, they were.

The pay was the same no matter which course you worked on a given day. And so we dreaded the lengthy Black, at least as much for the misery it inflicted upon the golfers as the wear and tear it exacted upon us caddies... for misery tended to work against the golfers’ Tippy Generosity. But a job was a job, and so we would do our best to grin and bear it.

Bethpage was more than golf. In the winter, when the courses were closed to play and snow would transform them into a white wonderland of hills and trees, we would bring our sleds there. The first holes of both the Red and Black, with their elevated tees, offered excellent prospects for Hill-Sliding... and the park even operated a rope tow at the Green course for skiers.

And so, as I watch the Golfy Luminaries ply their weekend trade today, I see a different Bethpage Black. I see my Dad (Happy Father’s Day!) sinking a long putt on the Red’s fifteenth hole. I see my Mom’s tee shot carry the pond on the Black’s scary par-three eighth. I see a red cap that bears the number 99, perched on my head as I look to see where Mr. Fitzboggle’s tee shot lands. Crap - in the woods again.

I see the Bethpage Black of forty-two years ago. Maybe not quite as pretty, but every bit as challenging. I’d give my eyeteeth to play it with the Old Man once more.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

JACKASS DU JOUR

You can’t avoid the Road-Jackass - especially not in Florida.

Here’s one we saw the other day:

Jackass du Jour - Destin

Can you tell which one’s the Jackass? Sure you can. He’s the fuckbubble in the far right-hand lane, the one who belatedly decided that he needed to turn left.

Here’s a news flash, asshole. Next time you find yourself in this situation, all you have to do is turn right, then hook a U-turn at your earliest opportunity. Now, go choke on a peach pit. Dick.

Friday, June 19, 2009

THIS YEAR’S CHAPEAU

Destin Colander 2009

It wouldn’t be a Destin Vacation without a Colander-Wearing Incident. Must be the water...

FUZZY FRIDAY

The Ark sets sail, its complement reduced
By absent Neighbor, alas with us no more.
Now her antics must serve to amuse
The residents of the Rainbow Bridge’s shore.


Friday Ark #248 is asail at the Modulator, who has done us the gracious service of posting a link to our very first post about Neighbor.

Carnival of the Cats - edition #275 - comes ’round to CatSynth Sunday evening, by which time we expect to have returned home after a week of Sweet Leisure in Destin. Until then, enjoy!

Update: CotC #275 is up.

Monday, June 15, 2009

THE NEW NEIGHBOR

The sleek black newcomer stretched her legs. She liked this new place. Fields of wild ’nip, lots of high places to climb upon in order to survey her new surroundings. And the food was tasty... and plentiful.

From her perch - did I mention that she liked to climb? - she saw a grey cat off in the distance. Despite the fact that the grey one was about a quarter-mile away, she could hear the other one’s purring. Damn! she thought. That one purrs about as loud as I used to breathe, with that miserable asthma...

...which seems to have disappeared mysteriously. Strange. But I’m not about to complain.

The black one jumped down and ran to encounter the noisy little grey cat. “Good Gawd,” she said. “You’re almost as loud as I used to be! And you look strangely familiar. Last place I lived, there were a lot of pictures of a little grey cat, looked just like you.”

“Well, I don’t know where you used to live, but my name’s Matata. Pleased ta meetcha.”

“Neighbor here. And speaking of ‘here,’ what is this place, anyway?”

“I don’t really know. Some of the others call it ‘The Other Side of the Bridge’ or some such. All I know is, it’s really nice... except I miss my sister Hakuna.”

“Hakuna! Holy crap! I know her! She used to hide under the bed all the time. She didn’t like me too much.” At this, Neighbor essayed a wry grin. “I guess you are the grey cat in the pictures after all!”

“Well, Neighbor, welcome to the - heh - neighborhood. Lemme show you around, introduce you to a few of my friends. I got a lotta friends.”

* * * * *

Neighbor, the Mistress of Sarcasm’s Animal Companion, passed away peacefully in her sleep sometime early Saturday morning.

Neighbor was not a Well Cat. She had suffered from various breathing disorders since before the Mistress came into her life five years ago, likely owing to her life as a former Urban Street Cat. Last week, she had suffered a near-fatal asthma attack, an attack that seemingly came out of the blue but that hinted at the seriousness of her health issues. But after treatment and a new regimen of medicaments, she seemed fine.

As we prepared to depart on our Beach Vacation, SWMBO noticed that Neighbor had not come down for breakfast and became concerned. When she saw her lying inert in Elder Daughter’s old bedroom, she fearfully asked me to check on her, knowing what the answer would be. It was left to me to make the sad pronouncement.

Thank Gawd we found her before the Mistress did.

Neighbor’s loss leaves a hole in our lives, the Mistress’s most of all. Neighbor was her boon companion these last five years... and the Mistress gave Neighbor’s all-too-short life a quality it never could have had without her.

Ave atque vale, Neighborly Neighborson. May you always be able to climb the High Places, wherever you are.

Farewell Neighbor

Friday, June 12, 2009

LEBOWSKI’S DREAM

Lebowski’s Dream
The Mistress and friend Matt.
“You said it, man. Nobody fucks with the Jesus.”


Ya gotta admit, the Mistress of Sarcasm knows how to dress up for a bowling party. That headdress? Made it herself, she did. Even Zippy - the world’s foremost Pinhead - would be impressed.

THE SIN OF HAM

This essay will break your heart... especially if you have an aging parent. Even if you don’t, read it. Now.

Ron is a personal friend; his post hits home in a way no anonymous newspaper article ever could. We’ve heard many of his Dementia Tales. Some are funny in that bittersweet way peculiar to stories of madness, others sad. But in the stark glow of the monitor screen, they are frightening... because they force us to ask the question: Is that my future?

FRIDAY RANDOM TEN -
32nd ANNIVERSARY EDITION

SWMBO on Parade
She Who Must Be Obeyed: my loving Helpmeet and Soulmate of 32 years. You can’t always get what you want, so they say... but sometimes you do! I sure did.

Not to imply that I’ve been posting these random collections of my iPod contents for thirty-two years, of course. Thirty-two years ago, had I been doing anything comparable, it would have involved assembling a random assortment of LP cuts, writing them down (or typing them on a - gasp! - typewriter) and then mimeographing the results and sending them out via Snail Mail to people who, mostly, did not give Rat’s Ass One about them. But no.

Thirty-two years ago today, I got hitched to the Love of My Life, the incomparable SWMBO: She Who Must Be Obeyed.

To commemorate the occasion - and since I did not post a Random Ten last week, owing to my being away on my annual Golfy Mini-Vacation - today I will break with precedent and post a Friday Random Thirty-Two: One track for each year the Missus and I have been married. One song for every year she has had to put up with my bullshit. And since we will be away on our annual Destin trip next week, on the off chance I can’t find an Internet connection, this will provide you with a full three weeks worth of Randomized Choons.

So, what’s playing? This:
  1. Wishful Sinful - The Doors

  2. The Whole World (Radio Edit) - Outkast

  3. Help! - The Beatles

  4. Flipper - Béla Fleck & the Flecktones

  5. Black Napkins - Frank Zappa

  6. No Good Deed - Original Cast Recording, Wicked

  7. Ebony - Ahmad Jamal

  8. Art School Girl - Stone Temple Pilots

  9. Knives Out - Radiohead

  10. Get Back - The Beatles

  11. The Barber And His Wife - Original Cast Recording, Sweeney Todd

  12. Eve Of The War - Jeff Wayne

  13. Evaporated - Ben Folds Five

  14. Bookshop Casanova - The Clentele

  15. Helmi Otsalla - Alamaailman Vasarat

  16. Way Back in the 1960s - The Incredible String Band

  17. Kolomeyke - The Klezmatics

  18. Bach: Fugue #7 in E flat major (from The Well-Tempered Clavier) - Wendy Carlos

  19. Fat Man in the Bathtub (Live) - Little Feat

  20. Easily - Red Hot Chili Peppers

  21. Soir De Fête - Yann Tiersen, Le Fabuleux Destin d’Amélie Poulain

  22. Defeat Is Always Momentary - James Newton Howard, King Kong (2005)

  23. Waka Jawaka - Frank Zappa

  24. Arabian Kuu - Tuomari Nurmio & Alamaailman Vasarat

  25. When Yuppies Go To Hell - Frank Zappa

  26. Stone Language - Klaus Badelt, The Time Machine (2002)

  27. It’s Hard To be A Saint In The City - Bruce Springsteen

  28. Misery - The Beatles

  29. Child Is Father Of The Man - Brian Wilson

  30. Cigarette - Ben Folds Five

  31. She’s Too Much For My Mirror - Captain Beefheart and the Magic Band

  32. Domino - Van Morrison

It’s Friday. What are you listening to?

Thursday, June 11, 2009

SKY-TITS

What do you think this is?

Texas Mammatus 1

Is it a close-up of Paula Deen’s cottage cheese-like asscheek? Donovan’s Brain?

No!

This photo will help:

Texas Mammatus 2

Yes, indeedy: Those are clouds. Mammatus clouds, to be precise, captured by Morris William (SWMBO’s kid brother) on his iPhone.

Mammatus clouds bear a vague resemblance to the Pendulous Bosomage from which they take their name. Me, I call ’em Sky-Tits... because it amuses me to do so.

THUNDER AND LIGHTNING

You may recall Thunder and Lightning, the two dramatically-named Tiny Kitties our friends David and Laurie rescued from a dumpster a few weeks ago.

David sent me a couple of pictures of the kittens with Patches, their Bandana-Wearin’ Dawg, who has taken to the Mr. Mommy job with a vengeance. And they’re so stomach-turningly cute, I just hadda post ’em.

Patches and Lightning
Patches and Lightning. “Should I play with her, or just eat her?”

Patches and Thunder
Patches and Thunder. “Yow! Leggo my dose!”

Gotta love them kitties!

Update: Friday Ark #247 is afloat at the Modulator (where else?)

And if that ain’t enough Cat-Stuff for you, visit Carnival of the Cats, the 274th edition of which will be hosted this Sunday evening at Nikita’s Place. It’s Cat-Astrophic!

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

GOOD QUESTION

So we’re watching Paula Deen make a couple of billion-calorie “salads” - one a sort of chicken salad and one a Kitchen-Sink Affair containing broccoli, Cheddar cheese, diced onion, cherry tomatoes, raisins, bacon, mayo, vinegar, sugar, pepper, and salt. Ham, turkey, or chicken optional, sez the Deen of Southern Cooking.

“Great for lunchboxes, great to keep in the refrigerator for an afternoon snack for the children...great for a bedtime snack...These are perfect for that late-night snack.”

Quoth SWMBO: “Who eats that kind of shit before they go to bed?”

ATOP THE LIGHT

Fire Island Light
The Fire Island Light.

During our recent swing through New York and New Jersey, the Missus and I spent a couple of days with Eli (hizzownself); Toni, the Bride d’Eli, and The Other Elisson. One of the highlights of our visit was a trip to Robert Moses State Park, which occupies the western end of Fire Island... and where the Fire Island Light is located.

It’s a short drive from Chez Eli to Fire Island. He’s conveniently located in West Bay Shore, just a few three-wood shots from the Robert Moses Causeway that runs from the south shore of Long Island to Captree Island, thence onward to Jones Beach Island. From there, you can pick up the Ocean Parkway, a scenic westward drive along the shore to Jones Beach - or you can continue on the Robert Moses Causeway until you reach the far western tip of Fire Island. Roll a few miles east and you get to Parking Lot Five, from where you hoof it over a mile-long boardwalk to get to the Light.

[There’s a road - open only to permit holders - that will take you from Lot Five to Kismet, the westernmost residential community of Fire Island. Beyond that, however, cars are verboten. Bicycles and shank’s mare (and ferries to the main part of the Island) are all there is by way of transport if you want to see the “real” Fire Island.]

Given the number of years I lived on Long Island, it’s a bit surprising that I never visited the Fire Island Light until now. But maybe that’s not a surprise after all. We always tend to ignore the attractions that sit (practically) in our own back yards - it’s Human Nature. But here we were, Eli, Toni, SWMBO, the Other Elisson, and me. And the two Elissons - my brother and I - took upon ourselves the task of climbing the Light.

The Light itself was constructed in 1858 as a replacement for the original, smaller lighthouse built in 1826. Not much remains of that old lighthouse - just a ring of bricks in the sand, just west of the newer Light. But imagine the logistics of putting up a 180-foot tower of brick back in the 1850’s. Start at the bottom, build a circular foundation of bricks, and set stairsteps in a spiral around a central metal pillar. Keep going until you get to 180 feet. Yeef.

The central shaft of the Light is cylindrical, but the exterior of the tower is a modified cone. The walls are thicker at the bottom and get thinner with height. The exterior is painted with four horizontal bands - two black, two white. And there are 192 steps to the top of the tower, most in the form of a metal-grate spiral staircase. At the top, the last few flights are narrow wooden treads.

The staircase is provided with rope handholds, but those are a modern convenience. Back in the days when the Light was illuminated by whale oil, the ropes would have gotten in the way as the lighthouse-keeper schlepped five-gallon buckets of oil up that long, long stairway. The oil not only illuminated the Light; it provided fuel for a small heating stove at the top. That stove was not there for the comfort of the lighthouse-keeper. It was there to keep the place warm enough to prevent the oil from congealing on cold days.

Now, of course, everything’s electrified. A rotating lamp sends its 1000-watt beam sweeping out to sea every 7.5 seconds; each lamp is mounted in a turret with a spare that snaps into place automatically should it burn out. Not as romantic as whale oil, but a whole lot easier and more reliable.

Atop the Light, there is a stiff, chilly breeze. The sky is a deep blue on the sunny, clear day of our visit. You can’t quite see that the beach directly south of the Light is clothing-optional. Probably a good thing. People who go nude at the beach are generally not the people one wants to see go nude at the beach.

Interestingly, the Light was decommissioned by the United States Coast Guard in 1974, the year I was graduated from college. Its fate could very well have been the same as that of its predecessor, but a private group (the Fire Island Lighthouse Preservation Society) raised enough money to preserve it, and it was eventually returned to “active duty” in 1986. In 2006, the Coast Guard turned operation of the Light over to FILPS; it is now shown on the official nautical charts as a private aid to navigation.

Public or private, the Light is a beautiful thing. Long may it stand!

More photos below the fold.

Stairway to Heaven
Stairway to (and from) Heaven: The spiral staircase inside the Fire Island Light.

Top Flight
The last two flights are not for the claustrophobic.

Reaching the Top
Elisson pops up like a demented Jack-in-the-Box after his long climb.

Beacon
The top of the tower. You have to lean back over the rail to get a good view... scary.

Eastward View
The view eastward, showing the nearby communities of Kismet and Saltaire.

Lighthouse Doorway
The sea sparkles in this HDR image taken from inside the Light.

Lighthouse
A last look at the Light before heading home.

TODAY’S PITH AND VINEGAR

Barber’s Milk

On our way back from Alabama last Sunday, we saw this sign when we stopped to refuel at one of the gas station/convenience store complexes along the way.

“Isn’t that a tad expensive?” Gary wondered.

“Sure, it’s expensive,” I replied. “You try milking a dude who carries a straight razor.”

Tuesday, June 09, 2009

A NIGHT OF BASEBALL HISTORY

Two Thousand.

No, not an Extra-Humongous Economy-Size version of King Leonidas of Sparta versus the Persians at Thermopylae... it’s the number of wins Bobby Cox has racked up as manager of the Atlanta Braves.

Bobby’s a local boy. Lives right here in East Cobb County. The only time we actually saw him in the ’hood, though, was at the Mistress of Sarcasm’s high school graduation. Bobby sat right in front of us - his daughter was the Mistress’s classmate - and was well behaved, avoiding any arguments with umpires or Board of Education mucky-mucks. A minor stumble on the part of SWMBO’s stepdad David nearly knocked him arse-over-teakettle; fortunately, no harm done.

The Missus and I were there last night at the Ted for Bobby’s historic Win Number 2000. Mostly. The game went into extra innings, and we decided to book after the top of the eleventh. It ended up taking fifteen for the Braves to put the quietus to the Pittyburg Pirates, owing to their having blown an early lead. That’s a looooong-ass game, friends.

The weather was superb and our seats excellent (thanks, Lee and Kent!) - right along the first baseline, fifteen rows up. You could practically see the follicles on the ol’ horsehide.

A Night at the Ted
Atlanta Braves vs Pittsburgh Pirates, June 8, 2009.
History in the making: Manager Bobby Cox’s 2000th win with the Braves.


I’ve written here before about the Bread and Circuses aspect of modern sports, and not much has changed. You still need to take out a second mortgage to enjoy a hot dog and a beer, never mind the astronomical cost of admission. And then there’s the rat’s maze of sideshow attractions to keep the kiddies amused... and the multitudinous opportunities to purchase Licensed Merch. It’s gotten so that the average family has been priced out of the ballpark, in favor of the Corporate Season Ticket Buyer. I suppose we have those ginormous player salaries to thank for this state of affairs.

But I was in no position to complain, with us being the recipients of that Corporate Largesse. Mmmmm... largesse.

By a strange coincidence, we ended up sitting right behind someone we knew from shul. Eagle-eyed SWMBO spotted him first. “Doesn’t that guy go to our synagogue?” she asked.

Indeed he does. A semi-regular attendee at Morning Minyan, to boot. Not only that, he and I have similar names - so similar that only the last four letters of our last names are different, the cause of occasional confusion amongst our fellow congregants. What were the odds?

As I looked at the various fans cutting capers on the giant DiamondVision screen - one young lady in a red dress was so excited to see herself that she started jumping up and down, revealing to the Entire Civilized World her white Granny-Panties - I thought back to another baseball game many years ago... sometime back in the spring of 1970, right after that halcyon year of 1969 when the New York Mets surprised the entire civilized planet by winning the World Series.

It was a night of off-again, on-again rain at Shea, enough to slow the game down horribly but not enough to wash it out. As if that were not enough, the game ran into extra innings (fifteen, I believe - same as last night’s marathon), making it a Late Night indeed. It was after 3 a.m. before we made it back to our respective homes.

We: I was there with my then-girlfriend, and we used the numerous rain delays as opportunities to indulge in a few lengthy smooches under our umbrella.

What both of us had conveniently forgotten was that my girlfriend’s uncle worked for WOR-TV... and knew exactly where we were sitting. And thus it was that during those selfsame lengthy rain delays, unbeknownst to us, the television cameras were trained directly on us, sending images of those long, lingering kisses to the entire New York metropolitan area. (Alas, no giant DiamondVision screens in those days.)

Not as embarrassing as flashing your Tighty-Whities to the entire crowd at the Ted... but much more far-reaching. Because we heard about it from numerous friends who had seen us in tonsil-hockey delicto.

I’d love to reenact that scene today. Minus the rain. And, of course, with She Who Must Be Obeyed.

That, Esteemed Readers, would really be Baseball History.

TODAY’S PITH AND VINEGAR

Today’s Pith and Vinegar is a short but moving quote from the Book of Ruth, Updated:

“For wherever you go, I will go; wherever you lodge, I will lodge; your people shall call my people, and we shall do Lunch.”

Monday, June 08, 2009

SCREWY SQUIRRELS

Back in the 1940’s, the late, great Tex Avery directed five animated cartoons for MGM that featured Screwy Squirrel, a character whose antics were bizarre and over-the-top enough to make Daffy Duck look Amish.

Despite his lack of Redeeming Personality Traits - many people consider him to be merely annoying - I like Screwy Squirrel. You wouldn’t want him living in your neighborhood, but it’s fun to watch him wreak havoc on his victims... as long as you are not one of them.

But Screwy is a cartoon character. Real squirrels (or “skwerls,” as Gradual Dazzle likes to call ’em) do not talk or hit dogs over the head with various heavy objects. Their annoying traits are pretty much limited to invading the occasional attic, demolishing gardens, or devouring the contents of bird feeders.

Most squirrels in the eastern United States are a nondescript grey color, as befits a species known as the Eastern Grey Squirrel. However, during my recent travels to New Jersey and Alabama, I was reminded that not all squirrels are grey.

For example, there are black squirrels. These are simply a variety of the Eastern Grey; they may be found wherever grey squirrels live and in fact constitute a majority of the squirrel population in some places. In Princeton, black squirrels were a common sight back in my Student Days, and apparently they are still plentiful there.

Black Squirrel
Black squirrel, a common sight in Princeton.

OK, black squirrels may be unusual enough, but I’m still trying to figure out what the deal is with the strange-looking squirrels we saw in Prattville, Alabama, at the Capitol Hill golf complex. They looked and acted almost more like meerkats than squirrels, standing up on their hind legs and chittering in derision at any duffed shots. And the coloration was like unto a mashup of Red Squirrel, Grey Squirrel, a splotch of black on the face and white on the snout. Bizarre, I tells ya...

Weird Alabama Squirrel
Alabama Golf Course squirrel. WTF kind of squirrel is this, anyway?

...clearly the result of a diet of Wayward Golf Balls, if you ask me.

Sunday, June 07, 2009

THE OTHER ELISSON

Elissons
The two Elissons, in a photograph taken at the top of the Fire Island Lighthouse.

The debonair fellow you see on the right is - in case you can’t figure it out from the Family Resemblance - the Other Elisson. My baby brudder!

I can still remember the day he was born. As they prepared to haul my mother off to the hospital, she asked me whether I’d like a brother or a sister. I was elated when, later that day, I received the news that I had gotten my wish.

Today is his fifty-third birthday, so I suppose he’s not really a baby anymore. But I’m still glad I got my wish. Happy birthday, bro!

Saturday, June 06, 2009

THEY CALL IT GOLF...

...because “fuck” was already taken.

Thirty-six holes yesterday.

Thirty-six holes today.

Eighteen holes tomorrow.

Oh, the pain. The sweet, sweet pain.

Thursday, June 04, 2009

SAMMY

Sammy in Bed
Sammy - the Kitty d’Eli.

Sammy relaxes in her bed and casts a suspicious (and slightly wall-eyed) glare towards the Photographic Interloper.

She’s a one-man cat, Sammy is. Loves Eli... and nobody else. Approach her too closely and the perimeter defenses are activated. You risk having your life’s blood spilled.

Owing to our similar genetic makeup, she will tolerate my presence, as well as that of The Other Elisson. But it is tolerance at best; never affection. Alas.

Update: Friday Ark #246 is afloat at the Modulator.

Still need your Kitty-Fix? Head on over to Adventures in Cat Philanthropy Sunday evening and check out Carnival of the Cats #273. [Is Cat Philanthropy the same as Ailurophilia? Inquiring minds want to know.]

Update 2: CotC #273 is up.

Wednesday, June 03, 2009

JACKASS DU JOUR

Jackass du Jour

Here’s a woman who is enjoying that most modern of Stupid-Ass American Pastimes: texting while driving.

Sadly enough, she was not the only one I saw today. But she earns Jackass du Jour status simply by virtue of my being able to snag a picture of her at a stoplight.

If I were King, I’d have her head impaled on a stake by the roadside as a warning to distracted drivers. It’d get people’s attention, sure enough... and probably cause them to drive into a ditch while they gaped at it.

RECONNECTIONS

Nassau Hall
Nassau Hall. Built in 1754, it is the oldest building at Princeton University, serving as Capitol for the nascent United States of America for a four-month period in 1783.

She Who Must Be Obeyed and I are back from our New Jersey-New York sojourn, a trip with multiple purposes and multiple destinations.

We visited with Eli (hizzownself!), the Poppa d’Elisson; Toni, the Bride d’Eli; The Other Elisson (my kid brother); and the Legendary Zelda.

While in New York, I had a chance to meet up with Steve V., a friend from elementary school whom I had not seen in something on the order of 43 years. My recollections of elementary school are, of course, necessarily vague after all this time, but I remember Steve as having a sense of humor very much like mine. (Poor guy.) And now, unlike me, he can look at our third-grade class photo and identify almost everyone in it.

But first on the agenda was our once-every-five-years trip back to Old Nassau, AKA Princeton University, my Alma Mater, there to attend my thirty-fifth Class Reunion.

Believe it or not, there are a few die-hards who attend every year, having never missed a single reunion since our graduation year. For us, it’s a lot more fun when a good-sized mob of classmates shows up. That puts us on the five-year cycle.

We always enjoy seeing familiar faces - the ones who show up every five years, like we do, as well as some who appear lass frequently. We exchange stories, catch up on what has gone on since our last meeting. Careers, children, parents, travel... it’s all part of the Great Mosaic. And many times, I have a chance to spend time getting to know classmates that I never knew Back in the Day.

The retrospective viewpoint of this reunion business is a little like a stop-motion animated movie. Lives are speeded up, each frame five years later than the last. Newborn children become prepubescents, then teenagers, then college graduates. Wrinkles appear; hair greys... yet we feel the same.

The first time She Who Must Be Obeyed attended one of these foofaraws, it was thirty years ago, and Elder Daughter (then Only Daughter) was a mere three weeks old. After that, both girls attended Reunions with us... until 2004, when Elder Daughter’s work schedule got in the way. And this year, we were sans children, for the first time ever. It was bittersweet, seeing younger alumni with their families, knowing that those days are over for us... at least, until we have grandchildren we can drag along.

Some of the highlights, for us:
  • Friday evening, a fellow caught our eye. Not content to simply wear his outrageously loud class blazer, he had had pants made of the same material. I had to get a picture of this, so I clapped a hand on his sholuder and said, “Excuse me, but I really need to get a picture of you - would you mind?” As he spun around, I realized that it was none other than my old friend Harpo, AKA Urethra Franklin! SWMBO and I had not seen Harpo for some 28 years, and it was an unalloyed pleasure to reconnect with him.

    Urethra Franklin
    Then: Elisson and “Harpo” in 1981. [Click to embiggen.]

    Urethra Franklin
    Now: “Harpo” and Elisson in 2009.

  • As we waited to take our places in the One and Only P-Rade - a parade that encompasses every class, old to young, with living members - another Friend of Long Standing suddenly appeared. Cracker!

    Cracker and SWMBO
    Cracker and SWMBO await their turn in the P-Rade.

    Cracker (not his real name) and I had met each other when I was a humble freshman, he a not-so-humble sophomore. Having several friends in common, we became friends as well, participating in many Useless Endeavors over the years... and, years later, even working for widely divergent parts of the same Great Corporate Salt Mine. Alas, we fell out of touch; the last time SWMBO and I saw him, it was sometime in the late 1970’s.

    And now, here he was, running up and down along the mass of people gathered to march in the P-Rade, showing off an old photograph taken in his room sometime in the spring of 1973. The photo - you can see it above - portrays three obviously Heavily Baked Individuals, one of whom is familiar to my Esteemed Readers. But which one?

  • The last place you’d expect to hold a blogmeet would be at Princeton Reunions (notables like Tigerhawk notwithstanding), but we managed to get together with Sparrow of All Atwitter, who just happens to be a member of the Class of 1976. And late Saturday evening, under the great arch at Blair Hall, we listened to the Katzenjammers - the very first coeducational collegiate a capella singing group - a group founded when I was still a student. Amongst those founding members was one very songbirdlike Sparrow, and after hearing her, I’d say that she has, without question, the best voice of any blogger I have ever met. And no, that is not Damning with Faint Praise.
More to come, when I feel like writing more.