Wednesday, August 31, 2005


Gonif being the Yiddish word for “thief.” I think it has so much more character. Anybody can be a thief - look at the bastards looting their way through the flooded streets of N’Awlins - but you have to have Big Brass Ones to be a gonif.

I met a fellow years ago in the course of my wanderings around the Southeast as a fresh-faced young Plastic Resin Pedlar. He was the Formaggio Grosso at a small film extrusion company in the Carolinas. Never did any business with him; a couple of years later, after one of my customers passed this little story, I was glad of it.

Seems this guy, prior to his assuming his current Exalted Position, used to sell stretch film for one of the local manufacturers - a company that has since grown to be a Titan of the Industry. One day he goes to his Sales Manager with a proposition: he wants to buy $400 worth of nuts - candied pecans, that sort of thing - to be given out as holiday gifts to his customers. The Sales Manager, being properly imbued with the Christmas Spirit, thinks this is a capital idea, and so he authorizes the expenditure and gets the Intrepid Salesman a cash advance to pay for the nuts.

Shortly after the New Year, the Salesman quits his job. Seems a new opportunity came along - the very same Exalted Position he now occupies.

Couple of months go by, and the Sales Manager gets a call from the Nut Company: “When are you guys going to send your payment for those nuts we shipped you back in December?”

And that is when the Sales Manager realizes that he has Been Had.

He is now out $800 - the $400 he fronted to the Gonif, and the $400 he has to pay the Nut Company. And he is Not Happy.

But he is even less happy when the next December rolls around. For that is when the customers started asking him, “Hey, y’all had those great nuts last year. Will you be selling them again this year?

Now, that, Esteemed Readers - that is a Gonif.


Sometimes there’s nothing Matata likes more than a Tussle with the Tassels on my loafers. She will roll all over my feet and generally comport herself like a Cat-Whore.

Damn, but it’s endearing.


The Missus just called.

She’s still on her way home from work, but she took time out to warn me that there will be traffic tie-ups on any road on which stands a Filling Station.

Yes, Esteemed Readers: the Gasoline Panic of 2005 has begun.

Georgia is in a bad way, in that the pipelines that supply this little corner of the world with gasoline are all down. The gasoline comes from the Gulf Coast, of course, and Miss Katrina has screwed that area over to a fare-thee-well, as we all know.

Until the pipelines are up and running again, the only gasoline in Georgia is what’s already here. Existing inventories should be adequate for about ten days. That’s what the AJC says, anyway, and I am not privy to any inside info here at the Great Corporate Salt Mine.

Prices have punched through the $3 level, after having dipped to as low as $2.499 in the last few days. I paid $2.599 yesterday, and that’s beginning to look like the Bargain of the Week. SWMBO saw at least one station offering their wares - regular, mind you, not the Fancy-Pants Blend - at $3.299. With Labor Day approaching, $4 petrol would not surprise me overmuch.

It’s beginning to look like we are Well and Truly Fucked.

Oh, well. I’ve seen this crap before, both in 1973-74 and 1979, and we’ll live through it. Like a kidney stone, this, too, shall pass; and, like a kidney stone, it will be painful for the duration.

I won’t complain. Our house has not been blown to flinders; it has not been inundated by a vile soup of turds, mud, snakes, dead animals, and human cadavers. Our brethren and sistren in the Big Uneasy, coastal Mississippi, and several spots throughout Georgia cannot say the same. Our prayers, thoughts, and our Financial Assistance be with them.


If you are not, as of yet, a regular reader of Velociworld, you are missing out on some of the finest Southern-fried yarnspinning it has ever been my pleasure to clap eyes on.

Read his story about Gene and Joe. You will not know whether to laugh or to cry. As much of a gem as that post is, it’s by no means atypical for the V-Man.

For some perverse reason, when I read Velociman’s screeds, the voice I hear in my head is that of Kevin Spacey, in the role of the late Savannahian Renassance Man, Jim Williams. Accurate? Who can say? As of yet, I have not met the man, but that fault shall, hopefully, be corrected in roughly one month’s time. Assuming, of course, that Helen has not been blown away to Helen Gone.


Beck, the Grand Panjandrum over at Incite, presents this week’s edition of the Carnival of the Vanities. Go thou and get thy fill of Fine Blogposts.

Of course, “Fine” is in the eye of the beholder. Maybe I should say “Self-Assessed As Fine” Blogposts.

There has been a lot of discussion lately about the Rules of Engagement in the Carnival, prompted by a recent host’s decision to rate the submissions on a 0-10 Scale o’ Bloggy Quality. Me, I don’t really give a Rat’s Ass whether the host likes my submission. If I get it in on time, just link it and Shut The Fuck Up.

Of course, that’s just my opinion. I could be wrong.


Elder Daughter.

It was eight years ago today that She Who Must Be Obeyed and I were dropping Elder Daughter off at Boston University, there to begin her career as a College Undergraduate. Seems like a lifetime ago...

It was a busy and exciting trip, and a long one, since we were residing in Houston at the time. Houston and Boston are a looooong way apart, Esteemed Readers.

Fortunately for my aching ass, by the time Elder Daughter moved out of the dorms and into her own apartment (thus necessitating schlepping her furniture up from home in a U-Haul truck), we had moved to Atlanta. So the drive was a mere two days of horror and aggravation instead of three. Small favors, ’n’ all that.

But there we were, at the start of Freshman Year, carrying all of E.D.’s necessities we could shove into our Checked Luggage. The voluminous and/or heavy stuff went by way of UPS, which was a minor inconvenience because UPS picked the end of August 1997 to go on strike. Bastards.

The big news of the weekend, of course, was the untimely death of Lady Diana Spencer. The Princess, married (in a fairy-tale wedding) to the Horse-Faced Prince who would later wish to be a tampon lodged up another woman’s burgoolie. Damn, life can be amusingly perverse.

The enormousness of the weekend’s events didn’t strike us until much later (Not the Diana thing. Sad, sure, but the loss of a far-away Public Figure is an abstraction, an emotion that touches you on the periphery.) We had left our Little Girl in a strange and distant city, there to begin the first steps toward establishing herself as an Independent Adult - but we were in good spirits as we headed back to Sweat City that day.

I think the real impact came about a month and a half later, when the Missus and I flew up to Boston for Parents’ Weekend. Having to get on a plane for four hours just to see our daughter was weird enough, but it was the farewell at the end of the weekend that was the toughest. We had gone to dinner and were, all three of us (the Mistress having remained behind with family friends and relatives in Houston) crammed into a taxicab. The plan was to drop Elder Daughter off near a T station, thence to return to campus, while we went on to the airport.

It was a cold night, as late-October nights in Boston are wont to be. Elder Daughter, all bundled up, got out of the cab, waved to us, and disappeared down the maw of the T entrance.

SWMBO and I just looked at each other, with tears in our eyes. Our baby was really, truly on her own here...and no longer a baby. No longer a little girl.

We hugged each other then, there in the back of that taxicab. And then we flew home.


She Who Must Be Obeyed.

Yes, today marks the completion of another Orbital Voyage for She Who Must Be Obeyed.

We’ll celebrate quietly, the two of us. The Mistress of Sarcasm and her boyfriend Mickey will head out in their separate directions today – he to his Ancestral Home in Arkansas, she back to Savannah – leaving us to observe the Sacred Day by ourselves. (Although the Mistress is thinking about hanging around for another day, which is fine with us.)

Last Saturday evening, we got together with a few friends to celebrate the Missus’s birthday (and to inaugurate Gary’s new deck, built with almost four months worth of sweat equity). And last night, we went with the Mistress and Mickey over to Badayori, where we packed our collective faces with all-you-can-eat sushi and related foodstuffs. So there has been plenty of Birthday-Related Jollity already.

Some people dread birthdays, but SWMBO and I love ’em. Each birthday means we’ve survived another year. Still walking the planet, still warm and vertical, still taking up oxygen. These are good things.

And every year I’ve known her – it’ll be 30 come year-end – she is more beautiful to me.

Neither of us are fresh-faced twenty-somethings any more, but that Don’t Mean Shit. What matters is that when I look in her eyes, I still see the same sparkle I saw when we first met. She still makes me feel like a Randy Teenager, and we make each other laugh.

“Bis Hundert-Tzvantzik Yoor” – ’til one hundred twenty years, darling, and may I be privileged to enjoy ’em with you. Happy Birthday!

Birthday Queen


Don Surber hosts this week’s Blogpost Roast over at - what else? - Don Surber.

Now, there’s some Creative Blog Naming for ya...

[And don’t be fooled. This week’s Bonfire is #113, not 112, no matter what Don says.]

Tuesday, August 30, 2005


Once in a while, I trot out the Big Words. Not too often, because people have a tendency to take me to task for it. Puttin’ on airs, and all.

Today at breakfast with the Minyan Boyz, I used the word “anthropomorphize.” It was in the context of a discussion of the nature of God. We Jews use the term shekhina to refer to the “feminine aspect” of God’s spirit – the nurturing, caring, merciful facet of divine behavior. The point I was making so eloquently at the time was that referring to any aspect of God by invoking human characteristics such as “feminine” or “masculine” is anthropomorphizing: attributing human qualities to something that is not human.

We do this with animals. How often do we say that a cat “loves” us? Or that a dog is “smiling”? These are human characteristics – useful as descriptors, perhaps, but misleading if we truly believe them to be expressive of human qualities.

Similarly, the nature of God is fundamentally a mystery, one that lends itself to anthropomorphism. An example: the biblical Priestly Blessing, in which we say “Yisa Hashem panav eilekhah v’yasem l’kha shalom” - May God cause His countenance to shine upon you and grant you peace. Can God really be said to have a face? We attribute human qualities to the Master of the World in an attempt to understand, to know the unknowable. How far we carry that attribution forms the essential dividing line between the Jewish and Christian belief systems...but this really was not meant to be a religious post.

We were talking about Big Words.

And yes, I got the Raised Eyebrows and Snarky Comments for using that Fitty-Cent Word. That’s OK; I can take it.

But we English-speakers are pikers when it comes to the All-Time Champeens of the Fitty-Cent Word: the Germans.

German is a great language for taking several semi-related concepts and mashing them together to make a Really Big-Ass Word. Anyone who tries to read a German scientific journal knows what I’m talking about – but this business of Big Words is not confined to the world of Science.

Americans got a taste of this some years back, when Volkswagen came out with their “Fahrvergnügen” campaign. Fahr-vergnügen: literally, “driving enjoyment.” A funny-sounding, attention-getting word that was a bitch to pronounce – and advertising is all about the attention-getting.

But you can make up your own German words. Just mash a few concepts together, and presto! A brand-new, fitty-cent word. F’rinstance:
  • Pflaumensafttrinkenvergnügen: the joy of drinking prune juice.
  • Käfervernichtungvergnügen: the joy of killing cockroaches.
  • Unterwasserschwimmenvergnügen: the joy of swimming underwater.
  • Schimpfwörtergebrauchenvergnügen: the joy of using foul language.
  • Senftmanngeschichtenlesenvergnügen: the joy of reading The Adventures of Mustard Man.
Hell, some of these are so long, they’re not fitty-cent words; they’re at least a buck-fitty.

What kind of Stupid Excessively-Long German Words can you come up with?


Technology always was a double-edged sword, and the Orgasmotron was no exception.

That was the popular name for it. The geeks that created it called it the Cerebrostimulator, and it swept the world.

A minor surgical procedure was all it took to implant the socket. The control unit was about the size of a Blackberry. You could stimulate every pleasure center in your brain with a touch of a button.

Hamburger. Pizza. Orgasm.


76 countries banned it, even before people started dying.

700 consecutive orgasms, no food for weeks. They died like flies, but with smiles on their faces.

[It does not do to dwell on dreams and forget to live. - J. K. Rowling, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone, 1997]

[Cross-posted as a comment at 100 Words or Les Nessman. The theme for the day is to write a post based on a randomly generated quotation.]

Monday, August 29, 2005

A SUMMER EVENING the best time to relax in a hammock.

The Mistress and Mickey


As September turns to October, the thoughts of Georgia Blogfolk turn to the sun-dappled Mountains of North Georgia, where the Southeast Writers’ Conference will take place.

And this time, SWMBO and I will be making the scene.

I’m not quite sure what to expect at Chateau Kristy, hard by the river in Helen - half-rubber and Adult Beverages, to be sure - but I am looking forward to finding out whether some of the fine writers whose Crap I Be Reading are as twisted in person as their Manic Bloggy Utterances make them out to be.

I may just have to burn a few special CD’s...and pack a few essentials. Cigars. Whisky.

And the digital camera. Blackmail is still a powerful force, not to be taken lightly.


I’m not sure whether to thank Roxanne or lob a brick at her for this little gem of a meme, but it’s Monday, and my brain is still full of Weekend Sludge. So let’s have some fun with it.

The idea is to examine, in glorious detail, the Depths of Suckitude of the music that was popular when you got out of High School. Philosophy being, I suppose, that the music that was popular during the time you made that high school-to-college transition is the music that shaped your Sonic Consciousness.


Anyway, here’s what you do. You go to the Music Outfitters website and type your high school graduation year into the search tool. Select the “list of the 100 most popular songs” and you will get the Raw Material for the next step in the process, which is to look through the list and decide which songs you hated, which ones you liked, and which one was your favorite.

Post the list on your Online Journal, striking through the songs you hated (or still hate) and boldfacing the ones you liked (or still like). Bold and underline your favorite song. No opinion? Leave it as-is.

After looking through the list for 1970, I realized that I was fortunate enough to get out of high school in a year when there was a reasonable amount of good music playing on the pop circuit. Yes, there are songs from that year that still make me retch, and there are others that were played so much that they just wore me out. “All Right Now” by Free is a good example. It’s not a terrible song per se, but it seems that when I was off at college, I’d hear that song every fucking time I ate in the dining hall. I therefore associate it with Dining Hall Food and early classes: not a felicitous combination.

And the Jackson Five? Gaaaahhhh.

The Carpenters? Gaaaaaaahhhhhhhh.

But we had some good stuff, too. The Beatles were still on the charts, fer cryin’ out loud.

All y’all who had to grow up listening to 1980’s music? I weep for you.

Anyway, here’s my list. What does yours look like?

  1. Bridge Over Troubled Water, Simon and Garfunkel
  2. (They Long To Be) Close To You, Carpenters
  3. American Woman / No Sugar Tonight, The Guess Who
  4. Raindrops Keep Fallin’ On My Head, B.J. Thomas
  5. War, Edwin Starr
  6. Ain’t No Mountain High Enough, Diana Ross
  7. I’ll Be There, Jackson 5
  8. Get Ready, Rare Earth
  9. Let It Be, The Beatles
  10. Band Of Gold, Freda Payne
  11. Mama Told Me (Not To Come), Three Dog Night [Randy Newman’s version is much better - and he wrote it]
  12. Everything Is Beautiful, Ray Stevens
  13. Make It With You, Bread
  14. Hitchin’ A Ride, Vanity Fair
  15. ABC, Jackson 5
  16. The Love You Save / I Found That Girl, Jackson 5
  17. Cracklin’ Rose, Neil Diamond
  18. Candida, Dawn
  19. Thank You (Fallettin Me Be Mice Elf Again) / Everybody Is A Star, Sly and The Family Stone
  20. Spill The Wine, Eric Burdon and War
  21. O-o-h Child / Dear Prudence, Five Stairsteps and Cubie
  22. Spirit In The Sky, Norman Greenbaum
  23. Lay Down (Candles In The Rain), Melanie and The Edwin Hawkins Singers
  24. Ball Of Confusion (That’s What The World Is Today), Temptations
  25. Love On A Two Way Street, Moments
  26. Which Way You Goin’ Billy?, Poppy Family
  27. All Right Now, Free
  28. Julie, Do Ya Love Me, Bobby Sherman
  29. Green-eyed Lady, Sugarloaf
  30. Signed Sealed, Delivered (I’m Yours), Stevie Wonder
  31. Ride Captain Ride, Blues Image
  32. Venus, Shocking Blue
  33. Instant Karma (We All Shine On), John Ono Lennon
  34. Patches, Clarence Carter
  35. Lookin’ Out My Back Door / Long As I Can See The Light, Creedence Clearwater Revival
  36. Rainy Night In Georgia, Brook Benton
  37. Something’s Burning, Kenny Rogers and The First Edition
  38. Give Me Just A Little More Time, Chairmen Of The Board
  39. Love Grows (Where My Rosemary Goes), Edison Lighthouse
  40. The Long And Winding Road / For You Blue, The Beatles [L&WR had too many frickin’ strings for me. The version recently released on Let It Be - Naked is much better. FYB is just fine.]
  41. Snowbird, Anne Murray
  42. Reflections Of My Life, Marmalade
  43. Hey There Lonely Girl, Eddie Holman
  44. The Rapper, Jaggerz
  45. He Ain’t Heavy, He’s My Brother, Hollies
  46. Tighter, Tighter, Alive and Kicking
  47. Come And Get It, Badfinger
  48. Cecelia, Simon and Garfunkel
  49. Love Land, Charles Wright and The Watts 103rd Street Rhythm Band
  50. Turn Back The Hands Of Time, Tyrone Davis
  51. Lola, Kinks
  52. In The Summertime, Mungo Jerry
  53. Indiana Wants Me, R. Dean Taylor
  54. (I Know) I’m Losing You, Rare Earth
  55. Easy Come, Easy Go, Bobby Sherman
  56. Express Yourself, Charles Wright and The Watts 103rd Street Rhythm Band
  57. Still Water (Love), Four Tops
  58. Make Me Smile, Chicago
  59. House Of The Rising Sun , Frijid Pink
  60. 25 Or 6 To 4, Chicago [OK song, if you like Chicago. Played to death.]
  61. My Baby Loves Lovin’, White Plains
  62. Love Or Let Me Be Lonely, Friends Of Distinction
  63. United We Stand, Brotherhood Of Man
  64. We’ve Only Just Begun, Carpenters
  65. Arizona, Mark Lindsay
  66. Fire And Rain, James Taylor
  67. Groovy Situation, Gene Chandler
  68. Evil Ways, Santana
  69. No Time, The Guess Who
  70. Didn’t I (Blow Your Mind This Time), Delfonics
  71. The Wonder Of You / Mama Liked The Roses, Elvis Presley
  72. Up Around The Bend / Run Through The Jungle, Creedence Clearwater Revival
  73. (If You Let Me Make Love To You Then) Why Can’t I Touch You, Ronnie Dyson
  74. I Just Can’t Help Believing, B.J. Thomas
  75. It’s A Shame, Spinners
  76. For The Love Of Him, Bobbi Martin
  77. Mississippi Queen, Mountain
  78. I Want To Take You Higher, Ike and Tina Turner
  79. The Letter, Joe Cocker
  80. Ma Belle Amie, Tee Set [Or, as I called it, “Ralph Bellamy.”]
  81. The Bells, Originals
  82. Yellow River, Christie [Written by I. P. Daly?]
  83. Somebody’s Been Sleeping, 100 Proof and Aged In Soul
  84. Vehicle, Ides Of March
  85. Gimme Dat Ding, Pipkins
  86. Lay A Little Lovin’ On Me, Robin McNamara
  87. Up The Ladder To The Roof, Supremes
  88. Travelin’ Band / Who’ll Stop The Rain, Creedence Clearwater Revival
  89. Come Saturday Morning, Sandpipers
  90. Psychedelic Shack, Temptations
  91. Without Love (There Is Nothing), Tom Jones
  92. Are You Ready?, Pacific Gas and Electric
  93. Woodstock, Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young
  94. I’ll Never Fall In Love Again, Dionne Warwick
  95. Look What They’ve Done To My Song Ma, New Seekers
  96. Walk A Mile In My Shoes, Joe South
  97. The Thrill Is Gone, B.B. King
  98. It’s Only Make Believe, Glen Campbell
  99. Call Me, Aretha Franklin
Note: If you’re wondering about the relatively small number of songs in boldface, keep in mind that this was what was playing on the Top 40 stations all year. I was not then, nor am I now, a big fan of the kind of Pop Music that got played on the radio. Back then, I was listening to a lot of Procol Harum, Jethro Tull (the good, early stuff), Frank Zappa, Chick Corea, Stanley Clarke, and Miles Davis.

And if you’re wondering, “Why only 99 songs?” it’s because the list I got from the Music Outfitters site was missing Number 26. My list has been renumbered, but it’s in the correct order.

Sunday, August 28, 2005


Limericks are the bottom-feeders of the poetry world. Simply structured and often profane, good limericks are like all great Filthy Literature: you know ’em when you see ’em.

When I was newly graduated from college, my Dad gave me a great and prodigious gift - a book entitled The Limerick, by one Gershon Legman. Mr. Legman, it seems, has made it his unique Scholarly Endeavor to study Matters Sexual and Scatological. He has written several tomes examining the institution of the Filthy Joke, and his landmark collection of limericks contains over 1,732 individual poems, all of them hair-raisingly obscene.

Most great limericks are written in English, but occasionally you will find one in other languages, where they are more of a curiosity than they are Works of Quality.

Except for this one, created 12 years ago by my friend Harris. It may well be the only limerick written in Hebrew, and it is definitely a Work of Quality.

I will provide it here, for the delectation of my friends and Esteemed Readers who are familiar with the lashon kodesh (here, appallingly misused):

V’hayah ish u-sh’mo Nachum,
V’hu lo hayah talmid chacham.
Hu m’tzacheik im ha-beitzim,
U-shalakh chazak eitzel ha-eitzim.
V’anachnu omrim, “Eil malei rachamim.”

[English translation is provided in the Comments.]


This morning, as the Missus and I were heading out to run a couple of errands, we made a sad discovery. A hummingbird, with tiny, iridescent green feathers, lay dead just outside our garage door. My guess is that it somehow smacked into the door, with fatal results.

Hummingbirds are delicate, jewel-like creatures. They have an evanescent beauty, made all the more elusive because they never sit still. Wings forever beating, at most they will hover for a second or two, then dart away.

This one’s wings no longer beat.

In a snarkier frame of mind, I could have made all sorts of comments about how tiny the little drumsticks were...not a lot of white meat...

but the poor little guy was so beautiful, even in death, that I couldn’t bear to crack wise.


Requiescat in pace, little one. May you enjoy plenty of sweet nectar in the World to Come.


Matata Collage

Annoying Little Twerp hosts this week’s Carnival of the Cats.

Next week, be sure to visit the Carnival as it heads over to Ferdy’s place at The Conservative Cat. Ferdy, you will recall, is the genius behind the Carnival Submission Form, a wonderful tool that has facilitated the gathering of all sorts of Carnival posts throughout the Bloggy-Sphere.

And in two weeks, come on back here to Blog d’Elisson, where Yours Truly will host the 77th Carnival of the Cats. Hakuna and Matata are already making preparations to assure you a Memorable Carnival Experience.


Most organizations have some kind of Hazing Ritual, either formal or informal. Stupid as it may be, hazing is a way to create emotional bonds between members of a group, which is why attempts to stamp out some of the more egregious examples of it meet with so much resistance.

Hazing will typically become newsworthy when a particularly stupid or dangerous version of it goes sour. Shaving your head and standing in the middle of Main Street with your pants down are examples of the first type; chugging an entire fifth of mezcal and sticking the worm up your ass is an example of the second. (That worm’ll kill you, man.) Every couple of years, some college freshman gets croaked when a hazing ritual goes too far. There’s an uproar, the co-participants are punished, and two years later, it’s the Same Old Shit.

I never had to endure the type of hazing that went with joining a fraternity, mainly because there were no fraternities where I went to school. (Thank you, Woodrow Wilson.) But after I went to work, I still had to prove that I had the Right Stuff.

In my early days of working for The Great Corporate Salt Mine, I actually had a chance to make use of my snazzy new Chemical Engineering degree. I would, from time to time, have to leave the confines of my office and go out to the Chemical Plant, which was located in the midst of what was then the second-largest refinery in the country. There, I would usually be involved in running tests on various pieces of equipment, trying to figure out what we would have to modify in order to expand our capacity by (say) 50%.

As a young engineer, I had to deal with Veteran Process Operators – the guys that actually pushed the buttons and turned the valves that ran the plant. I also has to deal with the plant technical managers – engineers like me, but, like the Process Operators, grizzled veterans. Hell, if you had been there two years, you were a grizzled veteran to me.

And these guys always liked to give young, fresh-faced engineers a hard time. The classic method was to send the Fresh Meat to the top of one of the fractionating towers to catch a sample.

If you’ve ever driven past a refinery or chemical plant, you may have noticed a lot of very tall, vertical tubes, festooned with platforms, vertical ladders, and a whole lotta piping. Those are fractionating towers. They’re nothing but gigantic stills, in which mixtures of chemicals are boiled and condensed in order to separate different components.

Think of them as a giant, economy-size version of Rob’s little Homemade Moonshine Wine Factory.

And what you would do is climb those vertical ladders until you got to the right spot on the tower to catch your sample…depending on which tower, and what you were trying to get, that might involve a climb of 50, 75, or 200 feet. If you were lucky, the sample port would be conveniently located at one of the horizontal platforms, so you could stand or crouch while catching the sample. The horizontal platforms really were there so that you never had a vertical climb of more than 25 feet or so – you would climb, come out on a platform, and walk around the platform to get to the next ladder. That way, if you fell, you wouldn’t fall all the way down – just to the next platform down. Ouch.

To catch the sample, you would hook a metal cylinder – a “bomb” – to the sample port. Open a couple of valves, close a couple of valves, and you had your sample. You would then climb back down and deliver the sample to the lab, where they would test it in order to get some meaningless result.

Because the objective of the exercise was not what was in the sample bomb. It was to see whether you had the ’nads to climb that huge-ass tower. The taller, the better.

And I’ve gotta tell you that even on a sweaty Texas morning, the view from the heights of Fractionation World is pretty exhilarating…even if all you’re looking at is a damn Refinery.

Top o’ the world, Ma!

Saturday, August 27, 2005


I used to use that Internet site 1-800-FLOWERS.COM to send flowers on occasion. Convenient, fast, and most of the time the local florists who actually delivered the product at the other end did a decent job.

But not any more. Not after one of their little “promotions” backfired.

Most of these florist-and-seasonal-gift operations are good at sending reminders. They’re like Major Charities: if you ever did business with ’em in the past, they never forget you. Try to dodge that Alumni Association solicitation, or that thing from United Way. Likewise, try to dodge the pile of e-mails from 1-800-FLOWERS.COM.

But they sent me a “reminder” the other day that I did not appreciate…and She Who Must Be Obeyed appreciated it even less.

Via snail mail, they sent a nice card, reminding me that I had sent a gift (presumably flowers) to someone about a year ago – would I like to remember that occasion again?

Sounds pretty routine - but here’s the problem:

First, the person I supposedly sent this gift to was not someone whose name I recognized.

Second, the person I supposedly sent this gift to was not someone whose name SWMBO recognized – and she’s the one who opened the letter.

Third, the person I supposedly sent this gift to was female.

The way I discovered all this was through the phone call I got at the office just as I was about to leave. It was She Who Must Be Obeyed, and there was a definite frosty tone in her voice.

“Who is this ‘Kim Holland’?” she asked. For that, indeed, is the name that was on the Reminder Card.

Well, I don’t know any Kim Holland…but SWMBO wasn’t buying it. It’s like asking someone (other than Michael Jackson), “Did you molest that child?” Whether you’re guilty or innocent, you are going to deny it: you are screwed no matter what. So now I’m driving home to deal with a pissed-off wife.

It gets better. While I was driving home, SWMBO Googled the name “Kim Holland” to see whether this person had an Internet footprint. Turns out she has an Internet footprint the size of Godzilla’s: she is, apparently, a Figure of Note in the Adult Entertainment Bidnis. After I got home, just for shits and grins, I clicked on one of the links that came up in that Google search. Bejus! They was pictures of cooters ’n’ wee-wees, all next to each other ’n’ such!

And now I’m having to deal with a pissed-off wife whose husband, for all she knows, is busy sending flowers and/or chocolates to a Fuckflick Floozy. Sweeeet.

Of course, as soon as I got home, I called 1-800-FLOWERS and had them check their records. Sure enough, they could find nothing to indicate that I had ever sent anything to this particular individual. While the young man on the phone was busy reassuring the Missus that her husband was not, in fact, an asshole, he observed that this Miss Holland apparently received flowers and what-not from a lot of people. A lot of lonely, frustrated people, I’ll wager. The reminder card had - no surprise to me - been a mistake.

The last thing I ordered from 1-800-FLOWERS, it seems, was a bouquet of flowers, a little less than a year ago. (Since then, I’ve given my business to, who provide a higher-quality product.) Who got the bouquet?

SWMBO, of course. It was for her birthday, which falls on the last day of August. Alas, no good deed shall go unpunished.

Well, she has finally stopped giving me the stink-eye, but I just know I will be catching shit over this little episode for years. Every time she wants to stick it in and twist it, all she will have to say is, “Kim Holland.”

And thank you, 1-800-FLOWERS. Thanks ever so much!

Friday, August 26, 2005


Emperor Penguins
Photograph courtesy of 75 Degrees South.

The Internet places a world of resources and data at (literally!) our fingertips.

If you like Geographic Exotica, there are tools like Google World. But if you want a human perspective, you have to go to Online Journaling World. Yep: the Bloggy-Sphere.

The picture above is courtesy of Simon, who writes at 75 Degrees South. He’s a British researcher who has been stationed in Antarctica since late 2003, a source of fascinating information about day-to-day life in the Deepest of the Deep South. Some of his photographs are magnificent, capturing an extraordinary natural setting - and others, like the one above, are simply whimsical.

No, it’s not an Army of Short Bastards in Formal Dinner Clothes. It’s a huge flock of emperor penguins. As you try and count them all, just try to imagine these little guys living outdoors 24/7 in one of the most hellish environments on Earth. Try, also, to imagine just how much Fish Protein this flock converts to Penguin Guano every day. Good thing Simon has heavy boots.

Go pay him a’ll be fascinated by the goings-on at the Bottom of the World.


With foreign languages, sometimes a little knowledge is a dangerous thing.

That’s usually my problem. I know a respectable amount of French and German, having studied them in high school (and, in the case of French, middle school). I know liturgical Hebrew, although my conversational skills are nil. I can scrape by in Yiddish – thanks largely to my high school German. And over the years, in large measure due to business travel, I’ve picked up a smattering of Flemish, Japanese, Bahasa Indonesia, and Spanish.

My gift – and curse – is that even if I know only a few words of a language, I can generally pronounce them well enough so that people assume I know far more than I do. This results in them launching into a high-speed monologue of which I understand precisely zilch. After a while, my glazed-over eyes are a tip-off: “You don’t understand a fucking word I’m saying, do you?”

Years ago, a wiseacre by the name of Ethan Mollick concocted a website called the “I Can Eat Glass Project.” The premise was beautifully demented:
The Project is based on the idea that people in a foreign country have an irresistable [sic] urge to try to say something in the indigenous tongue. In most cases, however, the best a person can do is “Where is the bathroom?” a phrase that marks them as a tourist. But, if one says “I can eat glass, it doesn’t hurt me,” you will be viewed as an insane native, and treated with dignity and respect.
The original I Can Eat Glass page provided translations of that fine phrase into over 100 different languages and dialects. It’s long gone, but archive copies and extracts are still floating around the web; a good one is here.

Sometimes, knowing just a little bit of a language can get you in trouble. At our post-Minyan breakfast this morning, one of the Minyan Boyz, who shall remain nameless at his request, told this little story on himself:

Seems that, years ago, he was living in Israel but had not yet become fluent in the Local Lingo. One day, he found himself at a juice stand, where he decided to purchase a glass of carrot juice.

A glass of carrot juice, in Hebrew, is kos mitz gezer.

He requested kos mitz gever.

The counterman gave him a really strange look. Eventually, my friend was able to make himself understood. He got his carrot juice, but it was only some time later that he understood the reason for that slack-jawed expression of combined horror and amusement.

In Hebrew, “kos mitz gever” means “ a cup of man-juice.”

A rather critical distinction between the “v” and the “z” there, innit?


Friday brings with it two Bloggy Linkfests:

The Friday Ark (Edition Number 49) is up and running at The Modulator.

And this week’s Carnival of the Recipes - number 54 - is hosted by Caltechgirl over at Not Exactly Rocket Science.

As a former rocketeer, and as a person holding an engineering degree, I’ve got to admire a Scientific Lady who can post a Roundup o’ Recipes as fine as this one. But Caltech? I dunno. I had a high school acquaintance who ended up going there. Strange guy...used to sneak swigs from a bottle of mint-flavored mucilage he used to keep in his desk in sixth grade. Mucilage. That’s glue, folks. Yeef.

Thursday, August 25, 2005


Many years ago, I discovered a recipe for the “World’s Best Hot Fudge Sauce” in the Magnum Opus of chocolate books, Maida Heatter’s Book of Great Chocolate Desserts. With a heavy fluid consistency that turns to wet tar in contact with ice cream, it is probably the finest Hot Fudge Sauce I have ever put in my mouth. I’ve tweaked that recipe to give you my own version below, but I want to be sure to give Credit where Credit is Due. Props to Maida, Chocolate Goddess!

I take my Hot Fudge seriously. One time, I was with She Who Must Be Obeyed and the girls, out for an evening Ice Cream fix at the local Friendly’s. I ordered a Hot Fudge Sundae:

“I’d like a Hot Fudge Sundae, please. Can you make that without the nuts?”

“Sure, no problem.”

“I also don’t want the whipped cream and cherry. Too distracting.”

“OK, sir, we can do that.”

“Tell you what, I don’t even want the ice cream. How about you just bring me a bowl of Hot Fudge?”

“Er, ahhh…OK, sir. If that’s what you want.”

That’s what I wanted. That’s what I got. I ate it all, and I loved every delectable bite. If only they had access to this recipe:

Elisson’s Chocolate Asphalt

3 tbsp butter
½ cup heavy cream
1/3 cup dark brown sugar, firmly packed (you can use light brown in a pinch)
1/3 cup granulated sugar
½ cup Dutch-process cocoa
Pinch salt
1 jigger Cointreau

Heat the butter and cream in a heavy saucepan over moderate heat until the butter is melted and the cream just comes to a boil. Add the sugars and whisk until completely dissolved. Taste the mixture to make sure there are no undissolved sugar crystals.

Now whisk in the cocoa and salt. The mixture will be thick, but be sure to get all of the lumps broken down – mash ’em against the side of the pan with a rubber spatula if necessary. Add a shot of Cointreau (my tweak), stir thoroughly to mix, and set aside to cool if you’re not using it immediately.

Warm this slowly in a microwave or over very low heat and it will get fluid enough to spoon over ice cream. When it gets cold, it will set up like asphalt. Chewy, yummy asphalt.

If you’ve reheated it a few times, it may get too thick to deal with, in which case you can stir in a few drops of water to thin it out. Be sure you store it in a container that can either be warmed or that has a wide enough opening to pry the fudge sauce out of when it’s cold.

You must use Dutch-process cocoa for this recipe to get the right flavor. Dutched cocoa is treated with alkali; it has a different color and flavor than plain, untreated cocoa. Check the label if you are not sure.

I’ve recommended Cointreau, but Grand Marnier works well, too. I think the slightly more bitter pong of Cointreau sets off the powerful chocolate flavor of this sauce better.



Hakuna, The Imperious One, tends to be aloof much of the time as befits her Kitty Nature. She will unlike her sister, never deign to walk upon the Great Bifurcated Ones with whom she lives.

Once in a while, however, she will snuggle up next to one of us and allow herself to be given Respectful Skritches.

Skritching Hakuna

Skritching Hakuna some More

Meanwhile, her normally whorish sister Matata relaxes in her “Ass B. Phat” pose. Is that a Kitty Butt Elephant I see?

Ass B. Phat


When I was seventeen,
It was a very good year...

[Not necessarily. Zits, Driver’s Ed, Regents exams...who needs it?]

But something is seventeen.

And that would be the Carnival of Comedy, now seventeen weeks old! The latest one is up at The Conservative UAW Guy.

Republicans ’n’ Funny Stuff. Guns ’n’ Jokes. Who’da thunk it?


This post, by the Velocimeister His Ownself, kicked over my Reminiscence Engine and set it to running.

It was spring of 1966 - possibly ’67 - and we were in the midst of our Annual South Florida Pilgrimage. We would spend several weeks visiting the Grandparents: the curmudgeonly Grandma Ann and her equally curmudgeonly Grandpa Abe. Despite their mutual orneriness, they were sweet to the grandkids; we always looked forward to our vacation with them.

Even more, I looked forward to spending time with my cousins: Andy, who was my age, and Diane, who was a few years older. Uncle Phil and Aunt Marge would host the Passover Seder, and my brother and I would spend the night at their house - if not on that night, then another one.

The night of our visit that year, Phil had gotten prepared by taking a couple of cots into the house from the garage. Later in the evening, he would set up the cots and my brother and I would sleep in them. But in the meantime, the family sat in the den, enjoying the time together.

All of a sudden, Diane shrieked. A roach!

Not just a roach, mind you, but one of those South Florida Specials, a nice, fat Palmetto Bug. It scurried across the shag carpet, with Aunt Marge screaming, “Phil! Kill it!”

Which he, ever the dutiful husband, did, and everything settled down. But not for long.

Three minutes later, another Monster Roach. Another flurry of excitement. Another job for the brave Uncle Phil.

But we all agreed that when Numbers Three, Four, and Five showed up within the next five minutes, something was Not Right. And that’s when the little Light Bulb o’ Recognition lit up.

They were coming from the cots.

Sure enough, all those months the cots were sitting in the garage, some intrepid roaches had built themselves a fine nest inside the aluminum tubes that made up the frames of the cots. And now that their home had been relocated to New Pastures, it was time to go a-foraging...with horrifying results.

Phil grabbed those cots and flung them into the backyard...and my brother and I were left to contemplate how the rest of the evening would have gone had we not discovered the source of the Roachy Infestation. You do not want those bastards walking all over you as you sleep.

But that’s South Florida for you. Got Insect Fear? Get over it if you want to live there.

Wednesday, August 24, 2005


They used to say, “Join the Navy and See the World.” Well, that’s one way, but if you want to do it the easy way, just download a copy of Google Earth.

Holy Crap.

The Web-based Google Maps site, with the ability to jump back and forth between a map and a satellite image, was impressive enough. They’ve also added a Hybrid view, which combines elements of the maps with satellite imagery. But Google Earth, which uses a program that resides on your computer, is ridiculous.

You start with a 3D image of the Earth floating in space, as seen from a distance of about 4,000 miles. Type in a location - a postal code, a city name, a street address, a three-letter airport code, a geographical feature - and instantly, you zoom right to it. The images are downloaded as you scan, zoom, or tilt the landscape.


Depending on what part of the planet’s surface you are looking at, the level of detail ranges from 15-meter resolution all the way down to 1-foot (!) Many of the images date from two or three years ago, but the mapping is constantly being upgraded.

I can look at my house and see whether there was a car in the driveway when the photograph was taken. I can look at the crater of Mount St. Helens in three dimensions, or spin my way around Stone Mountain. I can bring my point of view to 50 feet above Runway 9R at Atlanta’s Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport.

Stone Mountain

Aside from the sheer Google-eyed wonder of it, there’s the beauty of our little planet to consider, too. Here is a random view of the Alaskan wilderness:


The only real issue I have with Google Earth is that it can become a huge time sink. It’s all too easy to get lost for hours, looking at the Big Blue Marble that is our planetary home.


Dear Mr. Debonair,

What’s worse...warm beer, cold pizza or wet toilet paper?

(signed) Just Wondering

Dear Just Wondering,

The answer to your three-part question depends on just what it is with which the toilet paper is moistened.

First, let us examine the question of cold pizza.

Cold pizza may seem vile, especially when the delivery man shows up at your door and you are expecting a nice hot pizza - the kind that cooks the skin on the inside of your mouth - and instead are handed a congealed mess. And, indeed, under such circumstances it is acceptable to beat the delivery person with the cold pizza, or the box in which it came.

But leftover cold pizza can be sublime, especially when you are nursing a hangover and you cannot stand the High-Decibel Snapping, Crackling, and Popping of cold cereal. Not to mention the deafening crunch of every nerve-ending-grating bite. At such a time, Cold Pizza is a Good Thing.

Now, let us consider wet toilet paper.

It may shock you, Just Wondering, but there are advantages to using Wet Toilet Paper. If you have ever crimped off an Exceptionally Sticky One, the benefits of using moist paper will immediately be obvious to you. But there are some caveats with which you should be familiar.

First, conventional Toilet Paper is not designed to be used when wet. It is an exceedingly risky business to moisten Conventional Bunwad, as it is designed to disintegrate. You do not want to be cleansing the area, to put it delicately, when the paper falls apart in your hand, leaving you in the horrifying position of having hand-to-rosebud contact.

And moistening the paper by swishing it around in the bowl is Too Horrifying to Contemplate.

No, what you need to do is purchase one of any number of commercially produced, pre-packaged Moist Bunwad. It is available both as individual sheets and in roll form; the latter version requires a special dispenser to keep the product in moist usable condition. These products use a special kind of paper that resists tearing, even when wet - so you are less likely to commit inadvertent Anal Probery whilst engaged in the act of Cleansing Oneself.

Finally, let us discuss the matter of warm beer.

There are, to be perfectly candid, many excellent ales and beers that are best served, not at the teeth-crackingly cold temperatures most of us Americans associate with Mass-Produced Horse-Piss, but at a cool “cellar temperature” much like wine. When these fine products are enjoyed at, say, 50-55°F, instead of just above freezing, their multifaceted flavor profiles are most evident.

But warm beer? Christ, that blows.

[Mr. Rico Suave, AKA Mr. Debonair, will be happy to answer your questions. Just send ’em to Elisson, c/o this blog, and we’ll make sure to pass them along.]


While thinking about the corned beef and anchovy pizza I shared with Laurence Simon Monday evening (his wife wouldn’t go near the thing), I had to admit to myself that I enjoy sandwiches that some folks might find downright scary.

Corned beef and pastrami on rye with mustard is pretty normal.

Corned beef, tongue, and pastrami disturbs a few people, but I like it.

Trowel on some chopped liver, and you’ve really got something. A little Russian dressing on the side, and you are in Deli Heaven.

When I was a kid, peanut butter and jelly was every kid’s mainstay. But we would mix it up a bit.

Cream cheese and jelly. On that obnoxious, colorless, squishy Wonder Bread, of course. This was still considered a “mainstream” sandwich; I remember a lot of my friends bringing these to school in the old Brown Bag.

But how ’bout cream cheese and green olives? I used to eat these as a third-grader.

Even better, cream cheese and sardines. Yummers. Even today, I sometimes get a jones for one of these bad boys. I like to think of it as the Mutant Cousin of cream cheese and lox.

And, when you are truly desperate, have a Salt and Ketchup sandwich on rye bread. I used to love ’em....but, then, I was a weird kid.

For a while, Fluffernutters - peanut butter and marshmallow fluff - were popular, but to me, that sweet crap was just that: crap. Give me something savory any day.

Of course, I’m not a kid anymore. My tastes are a little more grown up. More...rafinée. Betcha a caviar and cream cheese sandwich would be Damn Fine right about now.

What Bizarre Sandwiches do you like?


I have learned, after years of traveling at the behest of the Great Corporate Salt Mine, that it pays to have a relaxed attitude toward the little bumps in the road of life.

A few years ago, I was scheduled to fly to Sweat City on a Continental flight that was running 45 minutes late. A frustrated Corporate Executive-Type was not happy about the delay, and he was taking it out on the airline’s gate personnel. Screaming, yelling, red-faced.

“Dammit, I’m going to miss my meeting!”

After the airline representatives politely (in so many words) told the asshole gentleman to fuck off, and after he had had a chance to calm down a little, I said to him, “Buddy, if a 45-minute air travel delay is all it takes to screw up your whole day, then you are scheduling yourself way too tightly.” Surprisingly, he nodded – and didn’t slug me.

When you travel, shit happens. Excrement takes place. Feces occurs. And so, I have learned not to sweat the small stuff.

Take yesterday afternoon, f’r instance, heading home to Atlanta after a routine two-day trip to the Headquarters of The Great Corporate Salt Mine. I left the office well ahead of my flight, knowing how dastardly and unpredictable the traffic can be in Houston, given the enormous amount of Road Construction overlaid on a Frantic Base Load o’ Too Many Frickin’ Cars.

But yesterday, there was no traffic.

I flew along the Sam Houston Tollway. Prepared with coins for the tollbooths, I was able to use the Exact Change lanes, which, mercifully, were not clogged with the usual Brain-Dead Road-Clods who pull into the lane and belatedly realize that they lack the Required Coin. Arse-holes.

No, there were no idiots, for once. And none of the usual wrecks and sundry disasters. Why, only the day before, some nutcase had jumped off a Tollway overpass, snarling traffic for hours. But that was then, and this was now.

No waiting to check in – I had done that in advance, on-line. The security line at the Delta terminal was practically nonexistent. Zoom. Hey, things seem to be moving right along. Sweeeet!

Ah, not so fast, Bub! The infamous Atlanta weather was not cooperating, and the dreaded ATC delay reared its ugly head. Boarding was held off for an hour, then another 45 minutes. Once on the plane, we sat at the gate for another 90 minutes. Wheels-up at 8:45, thereabouts: four hours late. Foo.

When the pilot told us that we were going to be in a holding pattern 100 miles outside of Atlanta, I wasn’t surprised. Meh.

Once on the ground at Atlanta, we sat for half an hour while airplanes were shuffled around at the gate. Crap.

Get out to where I pick up the jitney to the parking lot, only to see the damn thing cruising away. I wait ten minutes for another one to show up. Shite.

Get in my car, drive home. At this hour, the roads are deserted, and fortunately there’s little evidence that, only a few hours before, a full three inches of rain had fallen. I pull into Chez Elisson at 1:05 a.m.

Late? Damn right, I’m late...and I’m not exactly happy about it. But: I’m alive, I’m home safely, and there’s a warm bed upstairs with SWMBO in it. Things could be worse.

Tuesday, August 23, 2005


Get out the marshmallows, kids!

It’s time once again for the weekly Bonfire of the Vanities, our chance to roast ourselves over the Cleansing Flame o’ Self-Ridicule. This week, you can toast those marshmallows over at Rightwing Nuthouse, where the Bonfire is fueled by many Wooden Posts.


Hopefully, Lair Simon will forgive me the title of this post, but I couldn’t resist. He is, after all, the twisted genius behind This Blog Is Full Of Crap, and all of its associated Crapsites.

After a full day of dragon-slaying at The Great Corporate Salt Mine, what better way to unwind than to spend a pleasant evening with Mr. and Mrs. Simon?

We made a run to Keneally’s Bar, there in the beating heart of Sweat City. Atypically for a Monday, the place was jam-packed, which kept Sean, our waiter, hopping.

And every time he hopped, the table would fill up with Guinness and good things to eat. Ever have Irish nachos? Yes, they are just what you would imagine them to be - nachos on a base of thinly-sliced russet potato. Santa Begorrah!

That was the appetizer. After that came the pizza, made with a razor-thin Tuscan-style crust. Sharp enough to slit your wrists with™. While Lair's better half enjoyed a vegetarian special - olives, onions, and bell peppers - Lair and I had ours with corned beef and anchovies. Great combination, but one that might make some people want to slit their wrists.

What do you call a corned beef and anchovy pizza? Why, an Irish Lady, of course!

All of this, of course, was washed down by lashings of cool Guinness.

There’s something ineluctably haimish about a good neighborhood bar. There’s a special Bar Pong in the air, that smell of smoke and beer that, for me, brings back memories of that hole in the wall in Oyster Bay, New York, where my friend Walter and I used to hang out more than thirty years ago. The only thing missing was the quarter-a-game pool table.

Next time I’m back in Keneally's, I expect that there will be a framed picture of Edloe hanging on the wall. You may have seen it: it’s the one where the Queen Grumpus is wearing that dopey Irish leprechaun hat. And I’ll drink a Guinness to her memory.

Monday, August 22, 2005


Dear Mr. Debonair:

Q: What is the appropriate way to enjoy a Martini?

A: It is generally considered to be good form to drink the Martini.

Martinis should always be made with an olive - if you use an onion, it is a Gibson, not a proper Martini. Mr. Debonair also recommends that Martinis be served straight up in a Martini glass, never “on the rocks.”

And remember, a Martini should be dry - dry as the Sahara on a summer day. Mr. Debonair says, “I like my Martinis and my scrambled eggs dry - and my women moist.”

[Mr. Rico Suave, AKA Mr. Debonair, will be happy to answer your questions. Just send ’em to Elisson, c/o this blog, and we’ll make sure to pass them along.]

Sunday, August 21, 2005


Back in Houston, Sweat City, again, after an uneventful ride on the Great Silver Aerial Bus.

There’s something about stepping off an airplane into Tropical Heat. No matter where you are in the world, the aroma is pretty much the same, a kind of hothouse funk mixed with the delicate pong of kerosene. It’s buried in memories forty-five years old and more, from our family’s annual peregrinations to South Florida. I’ve inhaled that same heady perfume in Mexico City, Bangkok, Singapore, Hong Kong, and Taipei...not to mention Jakarta. Except in Jakarta, there’s also a layer of burning cloves, the contribution of millions of kretek smokers.

And it smacks me in the face every time I get off the plane in Houston. Except, maybe, in the dead of winter - all twenty minutes of it, that is.

It was thirty-one years ago this month that I made my first major trek to Houston. Previous visits, transitory in nature, had been undertaken for the purpose of nailing down employment - but in August of 1974, I made that titanic drive from the suburbs of New York with the intention of settling here. I had a gig with the Great Corporate Salt Mine in hand, and I was ready to begin my Full-Blown Adult Life, eighteen hundred miles from home.

What was I thinking?

To arrive in Houston in August is to see Sweat City at its sweatiest. It is, to use the local parlance, hotter than the hubs of hell...and, unlike, say, Atlanta, it never cools off. I remember walking the thirty feet from front door to curb at six a.m. to retrieve the daily fishwrap and finding it hot enough to moisten the brow.

And then, there are the Texas Roaches, big as your thumb. The day I discovered that those sumbitches can fly, I nearly crapped a load in my britches right then and there. WTF!??!

They don’t kill ’em around here...they name ’em.

No, this place is not to be prized for its climate, or for the colorful Local Fauna, all of which have likely served to toughen the average Texan to a fare-thee-well. What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger, they say, and therefore the people who grow up here are Pillars of Fortitude.

But they are good people. I have lived here in Texas - more specifically, Houston - for thirteen out of the last 31 years, and the experience has left me richer in so many ways. Not least, of course, because that is where I discovered True Love.

That True Love waits for me, back in our home in Atlanta. I hate to be away, but it makes it that much sweeter to be back.


El and Hakuna
“Hakuna - whatta ya say we check out the Carnival?”

Running Scared hosts this week’s Carnival of the Cats.

Jazz has posted this Carnival early, so you can enjoy a few extra hours of Kittalicious Fun!


El and the Mistress

We’re at the Apple store in Alpharetta’s North Point Mall - the Mistress’s iPod is acting kerflooey (again!) and so we are having it checked out.

Meanwhile, I’m screwing around with a Power Mac G5 with the Biggest. Fucking. Screen. I have ever seen. Humongous, man, and yet, because it’s flat, it has a modest footprint.

I’ve owned big-screen TV sets that were smaller than this. It’s a 30-inch Apple Cinema HD display, and the little card here says they want three large for it.

And there’s a snazzy Sony HDR-FX1 HDV Handycam Camcorder hooked up to it, too. Another $3700. It’s what I used to snarf the picture above.

Ahh, Toys for the Big Boys. Fun to play with, but I’ll go home and be content with my dinky-ass HP machine with the 19-inch flat-screen.

Oh, and SWMBO and the Mistress say hello!

Saturday, August 20, 2005


The Mistress

The Mistress of Sarcasm came up from Savannah Thursday night. But it is a temporary thing, a visit only. Alas, she has decided that she wants to stay in Savannah rather than move back home with the ’Rents.

She is now beating the streets, looking for Gainful Employment.

Ah, the Real World. Nothing else quite like it.

But for a few weeks, at least, she’ll be here with us, and for that I am well pleased. I am not quite ready to saw off her corner of the table and break her plate.

Friday, August 19, 2005


Beth Donovan helps the Carnival of the Recipes kick off its second year with this fine collection of Edible Goodies over at She Who Will Be Obeyed!

Not to be confused, of course, with The Missus, AKA She Who Must Be Obeyed. It’s dangerous to mix your Swim-Bo’s with your Swoo-Bo’s, am I right?

Beth is the originator of this weekly Recipe-go-Round, and I have to say that it’s a lot more useful than most of the political tripe that gets blogged these days. Hot air might help you float a balloon, if you have one...but Food is Food. And I likes me some food.


It looks like Steve - the Modulator - has succumbed to the popular practice of numbering his weekly publications of the Friday Ark.

Well, fine. Know, then, that Edition #48 is up, running, meowing, and barking.

And, as usual, the meowing is a lot louder than the barking.

Thursday, August 18, 2005



The Internet is a wondrous thing, at times. People you haven’t heard from in years can use it to track you down, if they are of a mind to do so.

A couple of days ago, I received a mysterious e-mail. It was from an unfamiliar ID, but the subject line (“Re: Nothing”) didn’t have that spammy feel to it, so I opened it up. And it was addressed to me. My real name, not my bloghandle or e-mail ID.

The note started off with a series of questions:

“Ever launch a home-built rocket into the air only to have it fall on a neighbor’s roof and explode? Polevault in your back yard? Caddy at Bethpage [State Park, home of the 2002 U.S. Open] in extreme heat?”

...and so on.

Well, the answer to all of these questions was “yes,” but what was especially intriguing was that whoever sent the note actually knew my caddy number.

Which meant that there was only one person on the planet who could have sent that note. It could only be my old friend Walter, he of the Infamous Vermont Applejack Escapade. Some of my Esteemed Readers may also remember seeing his name in this post as well.

Walter and I go way back. I first encountered him in my first grade classroom, back in (gasp!) 1958. Many years later, in high school, we were thick as thieves, but as our college careers progressed, we saw each other less and less frequently. The last time I saw him, it was at Magic Mountain in Vermont, where I had taken She Who Must Be Obeyed for a day of skiing. Or, more properly, to drink hot chocolate in the ski lodge while I froze my ass off on the windswept, icy mountain. It was December 1976, SWMBO’s first trip to the Northeast. And while we were there, by sheer coincidence, we ran into Walt. At the time, I hadn’t laid eyes on him in three years. We visited with each other for a while, then went our separate ways.

And then, almost twenty-nine years later, this Mysterious E-Mail shows up.

A few exchanges of messages served to nail down the Mystery E-Mailer’s identity. It was indeed my old partner-in-crime, and the next evening, we had a lengthy telephone conversation.

How strange to know who was on the other end of that telephone line, yet to be so unfamiliar with the voice. The voice my brain wanted to hear was one from three decades ago, but the one I heard sounded’s dad! Who, I was pleased to hear, is still alive and well, living in the same house on Long Island’s south shore in my old home town.

A lot of water has gone under the bridge in those 28-plus years. Each of us has married – amazingly, only one time for each of us! – and each of us has two offspring (his are boys, mine girls) as well as two cats. Our families have lived in several places over the years, but our seven houses in four states trumps Walter’s three houses in two states.

As it happens, my old friend travels on business from time to time, and those travels take him to Atlanta, where he generally stays within a rifleshot of my office. Who knew? So the prospects for a reunion are excellent.

Walt and I had a lot of adventures, back in the day. Yes, there was the backyard pole-vaulting (Walt was a track star of sorts). There were the rockets. There was the Yellow Beetle. There was the Jean Shepherd Press Conference. There was the Caretaker’s Cottage with the freezing bedrooms, the even colder bathrooms, and the Ski-Cycle of Death. There were the Baked Evenings. There was Schlepping Golf Clubs for Little Remuneration. There was Making Fun of Bob Kohlus’s Jeep. In such a wise did we help each other navigate the Treacherous Shoals of High-School Life.

Reconnection. Recalling those old stories, filtered as they are through 35 years or so of my imperfect memory, brought a smile to my face. Walter, I’m glad you took the trouble to track me down.


It happened that there were two mouse–brothers.

Life was hard for these mice. Vicious cats roamed the neighborhood; other animals constantly made life difficult.

There was the duck, all harsh voice and shrill temper.

There were the dogs. One, though he could speak the language of people, was so dimwitted as to be a danger to himself and others. The other was, after all, a dog, and what dog does not enjoy sport with helpless mice?

It all changed when brother Mickey, after lengthy study, procured a Steamboat Operator’s License.

Moral: Wish upon a star, my ass. Study to succeed!

[Cross-posted at 100 Words or Les Nessman.]


Any time you wonder why our economy sometimes seems to be falling behind those of the Asian Tigers, think about this little story.

Last Friday, the Missus and I met a few friends for an early supper at one of the local Bread and Soup Dispensaries. One of the corner tables was occupied by a small mob of Asian teenagers. It was a mixed group, mostly girls.

And they all had their school books with them. They were grabbing dinner and having a study session...on a Friday evening.

I’ll be willing to bet that a goodly number of their non-Asian schoolmates were out partying and getting drunk. The Mistress of Sarcasm went to high school here - for a couple of years, at least - and she would tell you that that is the extent of the social life for a lot of these kids. Well, that and High School Football, which is practically the same Object of Quasi-Religious Devotion that it is in Texas.

Maybe this is overly anecdotal, but it seemed to us, as we looked at that studious group of kids that night, that there is a lesson there, staring us in the face. The young men and women whose cultures value academic achievement will eventually be running things. The young men and women whose cultures do not will be flipping burgers, waiting tables, and shining shoes.

Where do your kids go on a Friday night?

Wednesday, August 17, 2005


The 152nd Edition of the Carnival of the Vanities is up at WILLisms.

Will Franklin has taken the extraordinary step of rating each post on a 0-10 scale, from 0 (Worthless Drivel) to 10 (a Post to Make Shakespeare Weep with Jealousy). OK, those descriptions are mine, but you get the idea. Ballsy, that, and sure to piss a few people off.

Nothing like a little controversy to flush out the lurkers. Heh.


Usually, when I get Gas Pains, it’s the intestinal kind...but this is no Disgusting Elisson-style Post about Flatulence. For once.

No, this is pain of the gasoline-driven sort, and it’s a pain that is familiar to almost all of us.

Seems like just a few weeks ago I was grousing about petrol prices bumping up above the $2.00 mark. Especially since I got dinged with the cost of refueling the monster U-Haul truck I used to transport the Crap o’ th’ Mistress up from Savannah. That was $2.089 a gallon...a $50 fill-up.

Within the last three days, the prices hereabouts have escalated dramatically, from $2.399 to $2.649, which is what I paid to gas up the car of She Who Must Be Obeyed this morning. Filling that tank cost over $37, a new Personal Best. Yeef.

Ah, the Great Corporate Salt Mine giveth, and the Great Corporate Salt Mine taketh away.

There’s no point in getting nostalgic. When I learned to drive, gasoline cost 32.9 cents a gallon - sometimes even less. You could buy a dollar’s worth of gas if you were short of cash. It wasn’t much, but it was enough to get you fifty miles down the road. But after the second oil shortage, I was paying $30 for a single tank of gas. (OK, it was a big tank. But, still!) And that was in 1979 dollars! Ouch!

Prices - both in current and in constant dollars - dropped throughout the 1990’s. As late as 1998, you could score a gallon of regular for as low as 87.9 cents in these parts. Only three years later, I was paying over $2.50 a gallon...but that was in New York, where people are accustomed to getting screwed over for the necessities of life. Typically, prices in the Atlanta area have tended to be on the low side, so I never complained.

The irony of all this is that gasoline is still a bargain, relatively speaking. If you look at what we pay for other useful liquids - like milk and water - gasoline is downright cheap. Remember, one gallon has enough chemical energy to push a nice heavy car anywhere from 15-30 miles. That’s a lot of work packed into a small volume.

It’s the rapid change in the price that leaves us gasping.

Even today, I won’t complain...much. I’m old enough to remember the gasoline crunches of 1973-74 and 1979, and those were no fun at all. Not only did prices skyrocket, but you couldn’t buy what you needed...and the result was the infamous phenomenon of the Gas Line. Not to mention rationing.

At least today, we can still buy what we want, at prices that are still well below what people in most other countries pay.

And we can kick ourselves in the ass for not creating a sensible National Energy Policy when we had the opportunity to do it without being under the gun. We can repent, at our leisure, for buying all of those Honkin’ Big SUV’s instead of efficient little cars.

It’s gonna get worse, people. China’s economy is growing, and they have a burgeoning middle class, all ready to compete with us for those Middle-Class Pleasures we have taken for granted. Like gasoline, and personal transportation devices to burn it in.

And there’s a shitload of those folks out there.

Tuesday, August 16, 2005


In the late evening, if she’s not snuggled up against SWMBO’s left boob, Matata likes to roll over on her back and give me the Fluttery Eyelash Treatment when I try to get into bed.

Sexy Thang

Sexy Thang Too

Sorry, Matata. I’m already spoken for.


Filthiest. Movie. Ever.

And quite possibly the funniest.

No nudity, nothing graphic - just Words and Descriptions of the Rudest Sort. So rude, in fact, that the entire 3,500-screen AMC chain is refusing to show it.

Not bad for a documentary.

The movie is simply a deconstruction of what some have called the most infamous joke in the world of comedy. It’s not a joke you are likely to ever see performed in any stand-up act; it’s more of a “secret handshake” among professional comedians, one that they do in each other’s company.

The joke, per se, is simplicity itself. Guy goes into a talent agent’s office, trying to plug his family’s act. He goes into a lengthy description of the act, and after he finishes, the talent agent asks him, “What do you call yourselves?”

The answer: “The Aristocrats!”

That’s it. That’s all there is...except it’s all in how you tell it.

The Family Act, you see, is whatever the comedian telling the joke wants it to be. And it is always completely obscene. Excrement, bodily fluids, violence, incest, Extreme Sex Acts of every decription - all of these are grist for the mill. As long as I’ve been walking the planet, I even learned some things I didn’t know. (Don’t ask.)

The more out-of-control and over-the-top it gets, the funnier it is.

But the movie is not simply a parade of Talking Heads telling the same joke. That would be boring. No, there’s history, there’s Detailed Analysis, there’s a real look into the workings of the Mind of the Funnyman.

And some of this stuff is sheer brilliance.

Kevin Pollak, for example, telling the joke while doing a dead-on Christopher Walken impression.

George Carlin, who delivers the most amazingly scatological version of the joke. You won’t know whether to laugh out loud or retch.

Billy the Mime “telling” the joke. Yeah, mimes usually suck...but this works.

The cast list reads like a “Who’s Who” of contemporary comedy - and every comedian brings his or her unique spin to the proceedings.

I loved it - and you might, too. But go only if you have a strong stomach. This movie is not Family Friendly (it’s unrated, but would certainly be NC-17 for language and Extreme Crudity). I suspect this Bad Boy will have a modest showing in theaters but will have killer DVD sales.

Go visit the movie’s website if you want a little taste of what to expect.

Then go see it. But don’t say I didn’t warn you.


This week, TechnoGypsy hosts that Esteemed Collection of Bloggy Crapola, the Bonfire of the Vanities. Read ’em and Retch.


It looks like the ever-redoubtable Velociman is throwing his Do-Rag into the ring.

I urge you to get behind his Exciting and Degenerate Agenda, especially since I’ve already scored a position in his Administration. No flies on me, brotha.

Hell, I even can bring a Celebrity Endorser on board.

Bill Sez: “Vote Whig!”


The story is told of a judge who, as he worked through the day’s caseload, noticed an elderly couple sitting in the back of the courtroom.

Did I say elderly? The two of them looked to be Older than Dirt, bent with age...and that was sitting down.

Perhaps fearing that the two oldsters would dry up and blow away if they were kept waiting too long, the judge asked them, “Can I help you? What is your business before the court today?”

The old man rose haltingly to his feet and shuffled up to the bench. In an astonishingly loud voice, he announced: “We want a divorce!”

The judge was taken aback.

“Sir, how long have you and your wife been married?” he asked the man.

“Hmmm, let’s see...Next April, it’ll be seventy-six years.”

“Seventy-six years!” expostulated the judge. “You’re telling me that you and your wife have been married almost seventy-six years, and you want a divorce now? Why now, after all this time together?“

The old man considered for a moment before answering.

“We wanted to wait until all the children were dead.”


Timothy Treadwell: A Haiku Tribute

Oh, Mr. Choc’lit -
Hold me in your warm embrace.
Nibble on my face.

Bears are so cuddly.
Look at that one, cuddling Tim
In his intestines.

Bears shit in the woods.
It’s their nature - what they do.
Tim Treadwell: Bear Shit!

(Inspired by the spirited discussion over this old post at Frizzen Sparks. Old stuff it may be, but it’s newly relevant in view of the recent release of the film Grizzly Man.)

Monday, August 15, 2005


The Missus, she is ailing - never a good thing, and especially never a good thing this early into the School Year. The district’s kids returned to class only this last Wednesday.

Flat on her back with a rip-roarer of a cold, a cold that first manifested itself as a sore throat Sunday morning.

So I got home, heated up some beef barley soup for her, and let her get some badly needed bed rest whilst I ran off to a meeting.

As for me, what did I eat? “No soup for you!” quoth the little Soup Nazi in my head.

Instead, I sliced up a handsome, red tomato and dressed it with a squirt of olive oil, a shot of balsamic vinegar, a sprinkle of Fleur de Sel (that most Fancy-Pants of sea salts), and a handful of crumbled bleu cheese. Bing: Vegetable. Or salad, take yer pick.

Now for the Protein.

I had procured a meaty Chicken Titty over at the local market, which I proceeded to pound flat with my Chicken Titty Hammer. From Pamela Anderson to Calista Flockhart in 90 seconds, you could say. A dusting of freshly ground black pepper, and into the (lightly oiled) Pyrex baking dish with ’em. Now began the fun.

Yesterday, I had run up a small batch of Blueberry Chutney, inspired by Kimberly’s recipe - and by the pile of berries sitting in our fridge. I took this fine chutney and slathered the Pounded Chicken Bazooms with a liberal coating of same. Then, into the oven for a half hour at 350°F.

The result: a perfect balance of the sweet cooked-down berries, the tang of the vinegar and onions, the punch provided by the ginger and spices, and the mellow chickeny background. So delicious, Emeril LeGasbag would pronounce a mighty “Bam!” with every tasty bite!

All washed down with a frosty tumbler of Sunsweet Prune Juice.

OK, I’m kidding about the Prune Juice. I ain’t that old yet. Nor am I quite that perverse. Yet.

Ah. She Who Must Be Obeyed is beginning to stir. Time to go swab her Fevered Brow.

Update: Per Kimberly’s suggestion, next day I tried the blueberry chutney on some nice, thick salmon fillets. This might even be better than the chicken, as good as that was. Try it!


During my years as a college student, back in the Mid-Cretaceous Era, I spent two summers working in a Vitamin Factory...and it damn near killed me.

No, it wasn’t the work. Aside from the horrendous daily commute – twenty miles each way, along the infamous Southern, Cross-Island, and Belt Parkways along the south shore of Long Island – the work per se wasn’t all that difficult. Mostly, it involved pushing pallets of boxes from Point A to Point B, either with a hand truck or forklift, along with plenty of Order Picking. If things got a little slow, there was a “cool room” wherein temperature-sensitive products were stored at a pleasant 50°F. It was an easy task to make a nice little nest among the boxes there and take an extended break, far from the roving supervisorial eye...a welcome respite from the otherwise sweaty and smelly warehouse.

Did I say “smelly”? Hoo, boy, you have no idea. Take a vitamin pill – a real vitamin pill like One-a-Day brand, not those sissy Flintstones – and chew it up. Tastes like ass, doesn’t it? Now, imagine that smell permeating the very essence of your being, eight hours a day, five days a week. I would come home every day with the powerful urge to boil myself, just to make the Vitamin Pong go away.

Once in a while, I got drafted for more exotic tasks. Like “destruction detail,” for instance.

Old, expired medications, or ones that don’t pass the quality control tests, would need to be destroyed. Most of the time, the stuff that had to be 86’ed consisted of controlled substances. Leaky glass ampoules of meperidine sulfate. Huge bottles of amphetamine sulfate tablets. Phenobarbital capsules. Diet pills – that lovely combination of barbiturates and speed. All kinds of heavy-duty Uppers and Downers. I’d take pills by the thousand and throw ’em in the hopper. Glass ampoules, same thing – right into the grinder. All chopped up and flushed down the drain. On “destruction detail” days, the local Aquatic Life would be stoned out of their fishy minds, there in Jamaica Bay.

Talk about temptation! I was dumping drugs with a street value of thousands and thousands of dollars into that Hopper o’ Destruction. It took a phenomenal effort of self-discipline to keep from stuffing this crap into my shorts and smuggling it out. Some of these drugs were being disposed of simply because the requisite Federal paperwork got to be too much to handle. Medicinal cocaine – absolutely pure cocaine hydrochloride, packaged in glass vials and ampoules for use as a local ocular anesthetic. Hundreds of grams, all down the drain. Enough to pay my entire college tuition and then some...or send me to jail for a few decades.

One time, I was drafted to make a delivery. A truck had left the warehouse, leaving behind a critical rush order: diet pills for a notorious North Shore “fat doctor.” My overseer was sweating bullets, knowing that his ass would get reamed if the order wasn’t delivered. Too many questions would be asked about a missing order, given the astronomical street value of the products involved. What to do? Why, draft the Elisson Delivery Service!

We packed my car – a 1965 Chevy Malibu that was, by most standards, “marginal” – with as many boxes of pills as it would hold, leaving just enough room for me to cram myself in. And I delivered the goods on time and intact, to a surprised (and skeptical) doctor, with all of the appropriate paperwork. Fat ugly bastard he was, too. But the irony was lost on me at the time. Had I been stopped for a defective tail light or some such, I would even now be languishing in the bowels of the New York State prison system – every one of those pills was a Class III controlled substance, and having a carload of them Would Not Have Looked Kosher.

The biggest real threat to my Life and Well-Being, though, came from Ethanol. Vitamin “E” (with the E in quotation marks). Good old Drinkin’ it happens, an ingredient in numerous Medical Elixirs.

One day, I was assigned to help make a thousand gallon batch of Liver Tonic. Chock full o’ Vitamins and Iron, that stuff. Also chock full of alcohol.

The way you make a thousand gallons of Liver Tonic is, you pump about 650 gallons of hot water into a huge-ass stainless steel tank. There’s a big propeller-style mixer in the bottom of the tank to keep things all swirling around – you get that started up. Then you start dumping in the solid ingredients, all preweighed and in paper sacks.

A few pounds each of Vitamin B1, Vitamin B2, and Vitamin B6. A dash of B12. A few fifty-pound sacks of Desiccated Liver Granules. Some saccharin to make it taste decent enough to actually swallow.

The last ingredient, of course, was the alcohol. Four 55-gallon drums of it. 190 proof grain alcohol – 95% ethanol, 5% water. Suitable for fueling rocket engines, this stuff burns with a clean, blue flame.

Each drum had a huge Tax Stamp on it, indicating that the Feds had gotten their slice of excise tax. Each one of those stamps cost about $2000, which works out to $9 per quart. [Ever wonder why your booze costs so much? That’s why.]

One at a time, I hooked up each drum to a pump and a hose, fitted with a fritted glass filter to catch any stray lumps of crap or metal that might have found their way into the drums. I stood on a catwalk near the lip of the tank and started pumping that alcohol into the tank.

And as soon as the alcohol hit the hot broth in the tank, a goodly amount of it flashed into vapor, filling the air above the tank with the Heady Funk of Vitamin-Enriched Liver-Flavored Vodka. And after breathing that stuff in for a few minutes, I started to get a little...woozy.

Wisely, I took a break and let my head clear before tackling the next drum. Holy Shit! It would have been all too easy to get completely wasted on those 190-proof fumes, and then topple off the catwalk into the tank. I could only imagine it:

“Hey, Lewis! Where the hell did Elisson go? He was just here... Say, what’s this eyeball doing floating in the Liver Tonic?”


Sometimes I wonder how I survived that place. Wotta couple of summers!