Wednesday, December 31, 2008

We Must Remember This

Lately I don't seem to care to read anything but History, likely in part to be a sign of a stubborn perversity of character, for I am an American, and it has long been observed, by ourselves and others, that Americans are more interested in what comes next than in how we got here in the first place. History, after all, is bunk.

At first we literally had no recorded past--no institutions, no traditions--except those we brought as European immigrants; it was in freeing ourselves from the oppressive weight of that past that we transformed a mixed body of captives, immigrants, and despised survivors into something that had never been known before--a New Order of the Ages: Americans. Moreover, this successful rebellion against the past promised an ever richer and brighter future; the untapped wealth of the new continent, technological innovation, and the genius of a free people combined to insure that, no matter how much the present was better than the past, the future would be better still. The Neo-Conservative insistence that they make history rather than subject themselves to it exemplifies a rich vein deep at the core of being American.

My generation felt a widespread suspicion of this assumption of Progress, though it was not the first to feel it threatened; the "Lost Generation" of post-WWI intellectual modernists, those who got through the Great Depression--other generations of Americans had gravely considered if "progress" could, or should continue, only to emerge with the triumph of the Grand Alliance over the Axis Powers in WWII and the New Deal repairs to Capitalism , which continued for two more decades until questions re-emerged about inclusion into the brighter world--minorities, women, the poor; what we have come to call "identity politics"--and the wisdom of including unwilling peasants around the world at the point of our guns.

In my Sophomore year of high school--1961--the U S moved from being a Creditor to a Debtor nation, a condition which has persisted and accelerated. Also in that year, the U S began to apply its new strategic doctrine of "Flexible Response", as opposed to the "Massive Retaliation" of the Fifties under Eisenhower, to Southeast Asia: opposing what was seen as Soviet expansion in the Post-Colonial world with ground troops rather than atomic bombs. And in Albany. a county seat town in SW Georgia, local Black people were demanding the rights of U S citizens.

It has, at best, not been Progress, but more the opposite, ever since; the size of the U S foreign debt is perhaps the single most salient economic fact of our lifetime, it is still heresy to ask if the U S must continue to spend hundreds of billions to police an increasingly resentful world, often through the most brutal and unpopular of local, Westernized surrogates. There has been some advancement towards a more inclusive society, but even here, failure is pervasive. There has been no victory--no triumph over evil--since these questions were raised nearly fifty years ago. Instead, we has been presented, since at least 1980, with repeated policy errors compounded by the need, popular and elite, to deny that these facts exist.

Obama's election is widely hailed as a sign that these trends may finally be reversed, and that we may, for he first time in decades, be part of the solution rather than the problem. Maybe, but I do not see Obama nor the associates he has chosen so far, to be leading the way, especially in foreign policy; at best, he may provide an opening for us to point the way we want to go, which I believe he will then follow, but he is far too shrewd a politician to stick his neck out that far ahead. The more significant question is whether or not we have become so degraded by our experience in this new world so as to prefer willful ignorance. If not, we may indeed take a step towards being a city, if not that example for all others of Winthrop's sermon aboard the Arabella, one ready to take its place among others.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Home Sweet Home

The furniture has been here for nearly a month, so it's been long enough to acquire a more lived-in look. From the top, the Dining area (I am not responsible for the "chandelier") looking towards the entrance (on the left), the Living area from the dining table towards the fireplace, and the living area from the entrance with the kitchen and a bath in the background. Reminder: close the door on interior shots.

Just in Time

I went to the Phoenix airport last Tuesday afternoon for my flight home. Regrettably, I neglected to observe one of the Prime Rulez for U S domestic flights: Nevah Accept a Connection Through Chicago between December 1st and April 1st, so I went back to Nimsey's (Daughter: short for "Lil Nimrod") for another night and another try, which brought me to the airport parking lot in Hartford at about 1:00 AM Thursday, with the cheerful holiday greeting from the shuttle driver "We gotta Big Storm comin' in tomorrow night, and another Sunday." After a half-hour of ice chopping, I was on the road with the basics running through my head: get Scarlett, go to pharmacy, re-stock larder. I finished about ten minutes before the first flakes fell in earnest; the above shot is from the front window Saturday morning.

Other than bringing a camera with an almost dead battery, not bringing my cellphone charger,
and the above, the trip went smoothly. I must figure out how to get some of the better pictures from Nimsey's e-mail to my photo file, as we depended on her camera, but I did get a couple before the battery died.

The big news was Carter Wonderbaby (shown) learning to crawl Sunday afternoon, which he repeated half-heartedly for Mommy's videocam, and refused to do for Daddy for the next day or so, perferring to sneak in practice while Daddy wasn't looking. For the experienced, he was at the rocking back and forth on hands and knees stage, and the raised on hands and push off straight-legged with feet stage, which he often enjoyed, but which produced no forward motion, which eventually annoyed him on occasion.

I have been recovering over Lamb and a Lobster, Shrimp, and Whitefish Gratin with Leeks and Carrots; I shall have to ask Paul and Jane to allow me to join the Mutual Workout Encouragement Society and Camp Meeting soon. And get myself to church Wednesday night.

A Blessed End of Advent and Joyous Christmas to all y'all from Miz Scarlett (also shown) and me.

Monday, December 8, 2008


For those who may not have quite given up hope that I may blog, however unlikely that may be beginning to seem, it won't be this week; I leave for a week in Arizona tomorrow. Yes, I will bring my camera, but not my laptop.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Spare Thou Those

This was in response to a book review Paul posted a link to at his place: Byzigenous Buddhapalian. Bacevitch is Andrew J Bacevitch. The Limits of Power: the End of American Exceptionalism, which was recently published and is apparently getting some attention.

Bacevitch, as quoted in the link and on Rachel Maddow's show Friday, says nothing that is inconsistent with the conventional wisdom of the History of U S Foreign Relations over the past forty years.

The more interesting question to me is why anything Bacevitch is saying should be news to anyone who claims to be informed about the subject, whether scholar, pundit, or public official. The short answer is, of course, "sin", or, as he points out more specifically: the arrogance, greed, and self-righteousness which permeates, but is not limited to, all these groups.

A friend of mine joked during the '96 elections that the trouble with Republicans was they didn't really believe sin as an experiential fact. Another very astute friend, when I asked him what he was currently reading in the Summer of '06, replied *Immoral Man and Moral Society* I take some comfort in reading the President-Elect has been influenced by his reading of Reinhold Niebuhr. None of this should be taken to claim Niebuhr as an infallible guide; to do so would be oxymoronic, intrinisically contradictory to his point. He was, for example, far too ready to belittle or ignore the U S role in the formation of the Cold War.

He does, however, keep an important insight before us, which may be especially useful as we attempt to discover thirty years of Republican sin in detail and to do what we can to make amends; it is always too late to control the outcome, but it is always time to repent and make the effort.

"Spare Thou those who confess their faults." eh?

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Election Day in Connecticut

One of the first things I did after moving last month was to go to Town Hall and register to vote in my new location. Later, I looked up the voting location on a map; it's a middle school in a part of town I ordinarily wouldn't go.

Late this morning, armed with the paper I got when I registered, I went looking and found the site with very little trouble ( passed the side street it was on, but looked and noticed the name as I passed, so I doubled back). I found a parking place close to the entrance and, though there was a steady trickle of people making their way to the entrance, there was no line outside, only a man with an Obama sign and a woman with a McCain sign standing in the proper place, quietly chatting with each other.

There wasn't a line inside either, and the registration paper saved me an extra step, as my ID (driver's license) still has my old address. One side, a paper ballot, and it was done within a minute or two.

I joined the sign carriers to chat for a few minutes, and joked about how congenial they seemed. They both said something like "Hey; we're all in this together."; it seemed courteous not to point out that was a Democratic point this year. Both were friends and veterans of many an election. I did remark that the lack of a line might be attributed to the fact that both campaigns make the same assumption about the way Connecticut's going; I don't suppose there are lines in Utah either.

In all, a low key and steady event: the way "Nutmeggers" like to think of themselves.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008


OK, briefly:

I've been ill, but am fine now, thanks, I've moved, gotten a new computer, and a new innertubes server, the last being a major part of the delay. I also have new phone service with a different provider; Ill get an e-mail together later for those of you who wish to keep track of me off the tubes. If you have not been part of this elite group in the past, you may apply in the comments to this post.

Sorry for the delay; fighting the corporate powers is tedious, as some of you know from your own recent experience.

That is all.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Internet Disruption

Hi all, my Internet service has been interrupted due to the move. I'm fine and should be back online next week.

09/23 Tuesday afternoon

I'm back in person on the innertubes; thanks to my lovely and gifted lil Nimrod for the first part of this message, and to Mimi for letting you all know the trouble was with the Internet provider, and not me.

Tha-t-t-t-hat'a all, folks.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Blogger Down: Returns to Action

Dear all:

I have been in the West Haven VA Hospital since Thursday PM, but now (4:21 PM 09/15/08: Happy B'day, Mimi!) am back home. Symptom: "kidneys took the weekend off" says the Doctor, who had a nice sense of humor. I felt sluggish and w/o appetite Saturday, went to bed after church Sunday, skipped a meal or two, and passed out Tuesday AM getting up. At this point sanity and good sense dictated calling 911 to to be admitted; I chose to try to get enough strength to do it myself Thursday Noon. Thanks: I've already thought so, too.

Treatment consisted mostly of continuous hydration by IV for 72 hours, another 24 to make sure the kidneys were still moving towards "normal" levels with liquids by mouth, then discharge for follow-up Monday to make sure I'm ready to do the MRI that is still scheduled for the 26th. Explanations await the MRI, but tentatively, since I've had no major changes in diet or habits for over a year, the hypothesis is I got dehydrated, partly because of my Ileostomy (I have no colon, and cannot re-absorb liquids as efficiently as before, but that was 26 years in July), which avalanched. The Ultrasounds suggest "something" "or or near" the left kidney, but the indications are so vague the techs struggle to decide what to say about it.

For the time being, I'm well, but still a little puny (Alas! Not in size.) which will likely delay my anticipated move until at least the first of the month.

So what did you guys do this weekend? Divest?

Monday, August 25, 2008

Tomato Season

sometimes seems as if it will never come, especially with a cool, rainy Summer such as this has been. Nine pounds (8.98, to be precise) may seem like a lot at once, but after slow roasting half, and making Ratatouille with the rest, I may have to get a few more by Friday. Oh, yeah, Gazpacho: make that maybe five pounds more.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

The Meaning of It All, Courtesy of Mr. Idle

The Expanding Universe song from "The Meaning Of Life"; click on the post title to view it.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Georgia On My Mind

My first reaction was, "Why does that dolt want to take over South Ossetia? Does he think the Russians won't intervene? Or does he think the Americans will intervene on his behalf?"

The historical background is that Ossetia, and the other autonomous areas Georgia attempted to invade, have been independent and at odds with Georgia since before the Russians showed an interest more than two centuries ago.

The economic context is equally plain: the Russians furnish Europe with oil and natural gas. With Ukrainian independence, Russia lost most of her Black Sea ports; Georgia provides an avenue for Caspian oil while leaving the Russians out, which gives other major interests (can you say "Exxon Mobil?") an opportunity to deal from a position of dominance.

The Georgian President clearly decided to end a long standing border feud, which may very well have included Ossetian irregulars taking advantage of Russian protection to engage in provocative acts. Unambiguous information about the deployment of troops and their potential on both sides is lacking; Georgia claims to have withdrawn, and to have been invaded by Russia, but, given the distances involved and the effective range of modern weapons, "withdrawal" and "invasion" mean relatively little at this point.

The Russians, to their credit, have already called an emergency meeting of the Security Council to intervene, which the U S later urged as if it hadn't already happened. The French are working "on the ground" to appeal to both sides for a cease fire. And contradictory statements as to the facts come from both sides, as civilians die, and flee, and weep.

"Great power" theory, developed in the late stages of Western Imperialism, does allow for the sponsorship of small, relatively weak states by the powerful. It does not follow that the powerful should choose whom they will sponsor foolishly, with only one factor predominating. Especially, it does not allow the weaker state to determine the course of the Great Power, by sending a brigade in support of other foolish adventures, nor to entice the Power into a conflict far greater than the interests at stake. The morons directing U S foreign policy appear to be committing both these errors here, at a time when their ability to back up such idiocy is grievously lacking.

Saturday, August 9, 2008

A Little Late Night Fun

The dance group Pilobolus with a piece to The Lovin' Spoonful's "Summer in the City". If you're almost that old, but not quite, you may remember the group leader, John Sebastian, doing the theme to the TV show "Welcome Back, Kotter."

Friday, August 8, 2008

The Casualties of War: Rape

I accepted Military duty for two reasons: to insure I would be able, in the future, to visit my mother in the U.S., and to avoid being raped in prison.

Since my era, when most women in the armed forces were nurses and therefore officers, whom enlisted swine were not to think about, on penalty of violating The Military Code, much less touch, the integration of women in "non-combat" roles (Tell that to Major Tammy Duckworth, who ran for Congress without legs) has changed the interaction of male and female service members. I would feel more sympathy for military supervisors, who must struggle with protecting rights on both sides, while dealing with ambiguity and getting on with a very difficult task, except that rape is a matter of power, and they have the power, and are often the guilty parties.

Anecdotally, a friend is a victim of such circumstances. She is multi-lingual, forceful, and directed; she now finds it nearly impossible to leave her house, to drive is impossible, and using public transport is planning a mission, with plenty of prescription help. The Army (she's a reservist) and VA deny she's got any reason for PTSD, in part because the 24 hour battle she was in, with ammo running low, doesn't count 'cause she's a girl. Girls aren't supposed to be in combat, therefore it didn't happen.

I'm brought back to this shameful horror, not that it's ever very far away for me, because of a report in the Sacramento Bee (part of McClatchy; if this doesn't work, use the link to the right under "U S news source worth reading": ) for the testimony before the California legislature of a sailor for Veterans' rights. You will also find the story of the female "contractor" who was gang-raped by her co-workers, and kept in an eight foot metal box, until a sympathetic guard gave her a cell phone to call her father.

Whether I agree with their commitment to the military or not, these are dedicated and responsible people who have been brutally treated, denied, and cast aside to defend the indefensible. Clearly, the U S armed forces need a thorough housecleaning, which will not happen without the persistent, active investigation of such wrongs. This will be possible only with the active interest of the public.

With the oceans of horror this maladministration has brought us, we may want to allow ourselves to overlook one or another example; we cannot allow ourselves to overlook this one, for it is a part of a much deeper systemic evil: the denigration and suppression of women, the silencing of their voices. The U S military has failed, grossly and dishonorably, to address this evil; however, I think they may, if firm direction comes from the ultimate civilian authority. The military heard Truman say "Blacks are an equal part of the armed forces", and subsequent administrations continued it. It only takes a boss who says "Cut this shit out, and I mean it." for it to work.

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Pillar of Fire

A volcanic eruption with a lightning storm at Chiat, 1300 km. south of Santiago, Chile. Our place is fragile indeed, but in the hands of El Shaddai.

H/T AZ Dollar Bill, Combat Medic, and good person, who is also the source of the Swan picture.

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

OK, OK; Here We Go Again.

Above: tonight's supper: Rockfish (very much like Red Snapper) with sauted Fennel and Red Onion, leftover potato salad (which didn't go well), and snap beans with Roasted Red Peppers. The wine was a rich Alvarinho from Portugal: Auretus 2005 from Trajadura, the color of honey and almost as rich, but with the varietal acidity and minerality which makes it so good with seafood. This one would also match very well with Roasted Chicken and other dishes I would hesitate to put an Alvarinho with; thus far I had only drunk the Spanish Galician version of the grape, Albarinyo, which has decidedly less weight and depth.

Below: supper a night or so ago: Seared Lamb with garlic and Ratatouille, with a little too much squash. I have several variations of this classic dish running in my head, now that tomatoes are in; nonetheless, to not abandon the concept altogether, there must be eggplant, plenty of olive oil, tomatoes, garlic, and basil. After that, the discussion may begin: are you an innovator or just plain whacko?

All of it was pretty tasty, aside from the usual post-mortem of "less of this, more of that". All of it is relatively quick and easy, without processed ingredients, because a) I'm lazy, b) I'm convinced it's good, and c) only rarely do I get so curious (Duck Confit, for example) that a & b get overwhelmed.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Thank All Y'all

for your good wishes. I had a wonderful dinner at my all-time favorite restaurant*, and suffered the penalty and reveled in the pleasure of gluttony, and got the owner/ chef's** recipe for Duck Confit: woo hoo!

* Arugula in West Hartford

** Christiane Gehami

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

It's Here!!!!!!

The Really Important Event, or, more accurately, the sixty third anniversary of the Really Important Event. Whaziz? The birth of the only JohnieB that ever was (to my knowledge).

So here's your invitation; no reservations required, nor need you check razors, butcher knives, forty-fours nor other tools at the door, though we do request you keep their use to a minimum till the party gets goin' good. Thank you.

Poetic Justice: Dreaming for Action.

Part Two: The Transformation of Energy

Older people remember a time when no aspect of life was planned around energy use. Children did not learn in school how to grow and prepare their food; almost all transportation, over long distances, used the oxidation of fossil fuels as the energy source; end use of products were "off the books", generating enormous material waste in "landfills".

At first, only a few "tree-huggers" sought comprehensive change; then, as more people began to look for ways to escape endless commutes in expensive SUVS, local solutions began to appear. City councils and legislatures were driven to provide alternatives, and some long-cherished privileges were lost. Innovations were difficult at first, then local efforts began to combine, and demand grew that obstacles be eliminated. The economic boon to areas that cooperated was made known by the new entrepreneurs.

The solutions were coordinated with public-private consortiums to develop renewable energy sources; the new systems were mandated to use a rapidly rising percentage of "clean" energy, creating a major market. On the private level, major public funds were directed to low-cost loans, privately administered, for green construction and renovation, and for R & D. The new companies formed to provide the services provided new and productive work, partnering with educational institutions for their training programs.

Though the transformation is far from complete, it is well underway, and well-established; today wind turbines are far more common than "gas stations", and private vehicle ownership is far less common: most people don't want the bother, though there are still specialized uses. Gardens connected to schools, neighborhoods, and workplaces are commonplace.

Monday, July 21, 2008

Final Alert

Tomorrow is the Really Important Event; watch for announcement.

The Really Important Event Update

Two more days left

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Sunday Dinner with JohnieB

You'll notice a certain similarity: fish simply prepared and pasta with Asparagus and fresh peas, with local fresh Chevre, peaches, and blueberries for dessert; this is pan-seared Sea Scallops and Couscous.

Part of the reason is lack of imagination/ laziness, perhaps, but the peas and asparagus are still beautiful (the shells on the peas were yucky, but the peas weren't affected) and the asparagus may well have been the best of the year so far: firm and green with tightly closed, dense heads. I love Moroccan/ French style Couscous, and it is ready in minutes. It has a slight nutty but unobtrusive flavor which goes wonderfully with fresh vegetables. Besides, I am beginning to sense I have an audience for this kind of thing, and I didn't want to disappoint either one of y'all.

Pan-seared Scallops are a real treat, and terribly simple, but they must be done correctly; overcook them and you may as well eat rubber. A cast iron skillet, or one with some thermal mass, on medium high heat, with butter to coat. Place the scallops on the surface for one minute, turn them, and remove the pan from heat. Leave the scallops for perhaps a minute, no more than two, which in my opinion is pushing it, plate and eat. No salt, no herbs, no damned fiddlin' around with anything, except a fork. I like Chardonnay, malolactically fermented (without oak) for this. The current one is "Razor's Edge" from Australia, but Tolossa from California (Sonoma, I think) and many French White Burgundies are wonderful.

Countdown to the "Really Important Event"

Three days left.

H/T Eileen Fluffikins the Episcopali-Fem

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Not a Cook; Not a Problem

Store bought cooked and deveined Shrimp, store bought Spinach Ravioli, with Asparagus, fresh peas, and red Scallions, with my best oil and Brittany sea salt. Yes, you must boil the Ravioli in salted water for five minutes, and the peas/ asparagus for 2-3 minutes. You can boil water, right?

Oh yeah, it took almost ten minutes.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Sunday Dinner at JohnieB's

Okey-dokey; here it is: Salmon en Papillotte with an herb mixture, some of which was intended for BBQ dry rub (as far as I remember, mustard, lemon pepper, lavender, tarragon, fennel, and maybe celery salt), the evolving potato salad (I added fresh marjoram last night), and a Tomato Foccaccia from Kathy the Genius Baker. The wine is an exemplary Vin du Pays D'oc, a 2006 Pinot Noir from "France", without the intensity and focus of some high end Pinot, but hey: it was $10, and has more than enough fruit and varietal character for anybody. A terrific Summer Red called "Hob Nob".

The only improvement I can think of is to cook the fish over charcoal or a wood fire, to get some smokey flavor.

Back to eating.

Poetic Justice: Signs of A Better World

Part One: the Closing of The U S base at Guantanamo

The new administration shut down the prison facility at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, and repatriated over 70% of the survivors with reparations and incarcerated others in the United States after trials. After several years, the facility was re-opened under the UN's auspices for those convicted of War Crimes in its World Court at the Hague. In 2014, the first prisoners--William J. Haynes II, formerly General Counsel of the U S Dept of Defense under Rumsfeld, and David Addington, former Counsel and Chief of Staff to Cheney, both disbarred attorneys, arrived at the new facility. The trials of former Attorney General Gonzalez, former Defense Secretary Rumsfeld, and Ex-Vice-President Cheney continue. Former Attorney and Law Professor John Yoo, who served in the Attorney General's office, remains a fugitive. The former President remains in exile in Dubai.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Workers Dying

The United Farm Workers report the second death this week from Heatstroke in California, the fourth in the last two weeks, aged from 64 to 17.

Heatstroke is preventable, but, by the time the victim shows symptoms, it is often a crisis, frequently fatal. The symptoms are easily distinguishable from the much more benign "Heat Exhaustion"; one victim is pale, grayish, the other is flushed and ruddy. Any civilized legal code will require that supervisors be able to recognize and deal with the difference. Regrettably, "civilized" does not describe those in charge of growing our nation's produce.

Many of the deceased leave dependent children, or, in one case, were children themselves. But they are Mexican migrants, not human beings, whom Godde made and loves. Their deaths are part of doing business, and there are many who will eagerly take their places, and not ask "Why is this position open?" The impetus for change has to come from elsewhere; neither bosses nor potential workers, for the most part, will do it. Legislators, and that means the public, must put a stop to what, in effect, is homicide. It is shameful to us all.

I will attempt the link:>; visit for details.

Scarlett's Avocations

Poppa, make it come down and play!

They're still around; I'm sure of it!

One of Scarlett's pleasures is find moths to play with her. She works very hard at persuading them that it will be as much fun for them as for her, but this rarely has much effect, much to poor Scarlett's displeasure.

Last night, there was an especially large specimen, which she very much wished to examine, but it insisted on remaining on the ceiling: taunting poor Scarlett, who began to mewl every few seconds to express her frustration and displeasure: damned bug! After a bit, Poppa decided he might perhaps swat at the creature and encourage it to fly lower and more slowly: alas! Preliminary ballistics estimates indicate that Poppa may have gotten too much of the critter with the old T-shirt-- the tool of choice; though the remains were not found, much to Scarlett's disappointment, it is possible it ended up in the wastebasket, where she disdains to look: TBTG.

Nonetheless, Scarlett continued in hope, scanning the room for some time, and springing up the wall in attempts to capture what Poppa could not see.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

For Those Trying This At Home

Several have expressed interest in that Lamb/ greens below; here are a couple of ideas to jazz it up.

Oil-cured olives w/ herbs. Better yet, Tampenade (paste of olives, garlic, and oil) on toast rounds

Shaved red onion/ Capers

Artichokes, Lemon Zest, and Mint, with a milder vinaigrette (easy on mustard, lemon juice instead of vinegar)

Green beans, Favas, or Green peas

Sunday, July 6, 2008

Sunday Dinner at JB's

I hope it looks good; it was: warm lamb w/ Rosemary au jus with mixed greens and a Mustard Vinagrette, Spinach Ravioli w/ roasted garlic (not shown) and a 2002 Old Vines Tinto del Pais (Tempranillo) from the Cigales region. Hedonistic maybe, but easy: 20-25 minutes to make, like falling off a log. Of course, for three or four, providing you are able to get your kid to consider it (I wasn't), it could get 'pensive, but for us single Hedonists, let me say: (giggle , snicker) "Free at last!"

Saturday, July 5, 2008

Thanks to a Visitor

How long ago was it: sheez--maybe five years, maybe more.

As is the case with many parishes, mine organizes fun outings for fellowship, especially in the Summer months. Here, it could be Tanglewood Saturdays, with a Picnic, or a trip to NYC; this was down the road to our local minor league baseball team, the New Britain Rockcats. I took my Godson, who was about eleven at the time. All together, adults and kids, maybe twenty people. I enjoyed the game, and the GS was enjoying hangin' with his buds; it was fun to compare live baseball at this level to the only other examples I could remember--American Legion (older kids to teens): amateurs forty years ago. As is usual, there were all sorts of promotions--kids' events, and yada yada--associated with the thing, and, as the game ended, there was to be a fireworks display; after a few hours of fun with people I know and love in the sunshine, my guard was down.

GS was down near the field, by the first base side, when I knew I had to leave immediately. I got him, and said "We gotta go." which he accepted; maybe he sensed I wasn't just being an adult spoilsport. We went through the concession area in silence, and around the high metal fences of the practice field in near dark, with the flashes and booms behind us: flickering on the walls. I was holding his hand, and realized I was doing it to remember I was nearly 60, and not 22, in the U S and not Vietnam. As we made our way back to the parking lot beyond the trees, I explained tersely what was up, and he said "Godde will take care of us". And I knew where I was. When I told his Mom, she said, "He's always had Spiritual insight."

I must say more. He's nearly HS graduation age now, and, though he acolytes, I've lost touch with him, as men sometimes, to my sorrow, do. I have tried to reach out, but little has happened. He has had serious anger issues for most of the time since, and has, according to his Mom, been violent in school more than once. He's African-American, growing up with a single Mom, and, even if he graduates, which I don't know about, it will be from one of the worst school districts in the country: under Federal court orders for decades, isolated from the money and power which are available in abundance across the town line in every direction, full of drugs and violence. He's gifted, angry, and Black, and we haven't provided him with a fair chance, and he knows it.

I'm sorry, but I don't know what to do but grieve. Should I at least hope he isn't murdered, or that he doesn't end up in jail? Or, as some of us decided in Vietnam, is it better to die or be wounded, and get it over with? I feel as if we have been swept away by the powers of this world into the pit, without any help.

Thursday, July 3, 2008

Happy Independence Day

10 May 68: I'd been in Vietnam for a month and six days, and things were beginning to shake out; I was assigned to the Interrogation Section of the Detachment, because of my language training, though I'd had no formal training as an Interrogator. Hence the assistant OIC (Officer in Charge) of the section, a stocky young black man, was to show me the ropes. After the evening meal, we had returned to the Stockade, instead of showers, volleyball, and beer, to get me started with my first enemy soldier.

The Stockade was just a bulldozed area, surrounded by barbed wire, with a corridor through the middle and several sections covered by a tent on either side. We "drew" the POW from one, under the supervision of the MPs, and took him to another with a table and maybe a chair or two.

Em tien gi? ("What's your name?") And the answer, the Lieutenant showing me the steps and having me do them, the POW graciously helping us out. Several more questions, and answers.

Then a sound they both recognized, but I didn't, a kind of whirling whistle, then a sound "SHUMP!" They both "move out smartly" the Lieutenant taking me and the POW, who doesn't need any coaxing, straight out the front gate beyond the compound to a hole in the raw red earth: 2 feet wide, maybe six long, and about five-six feet deep, the three of us: the Black officer, the North Vietnamese soldier, and me at the bottom of the hole. We wait, and there are more whirling whistles, maybe three or four, then SHUMP, then no more for maybe five minutes. It's an odd place--MLK has just been shot, and I'm in the bottom of a hole with two men of color who know what's goin' on, and I don't, yet, in some sense-- the brotherhood of those being shot at--we are together, and politics is irrelevant. Then the Lieutenant decides there's been enough training for the night; it's almost as if he and the POW know this, or have decided this, and are letting me know.

It's nearly dark now, and we go back to our tents, the Lieutenant and I, and wait for maybe an hour, or a little more. We begin to hear an occasional fireworks like sound from the distance: "Maybe a probe at the perimeter." says the LT. Shortly the guys who were taking showers and playing volleyball start showing up; the rockets (Soviet 122 mm. Katusha) had hit the ammo dump just across the airstrip maybe 200-300 meters away from them. People were scrambling, soapy, wet, and naked, over the wet pallet floors for cover. The Club NCO had broken out the hard liquor (unheard of in I Corps!). After a little while, they had decided to come back.

I still had some booze I had brought from the rear back South in the Highlands, which was consumed as we sat on top of the bunkers, listening to the automatic weapons fire (we thought) and the small explosions of mortar or rocket fire (RPG: a different sort) until the small hours. Then, about 1 or 2 am, there was an enormous fireball from the direction of the airstrip; the sounds of gunfire/ explosions having increased steadily all the while. Within another hour or so, another, similar explosion; each was 10,000 gallons of gasoline exploding, surrounded by three days' worth of artillery rounds, rockets, ammunition, grenades, mortar rounds, and other assorted very lethal stuff for a 23, 000 soldier unit. We waited for another hour or so after the second big bang, then drifted off to our bunks.

The next morning, about five hours later, with some rounds still "cooking off" (exploding because of heat), I wander up the hill to take a piss, passing the bunker we'd been sitting on most of the night a few meters to my left. In the grass, just off the path to the piss tube, I noticed a jagged piece of metal, maybe 9-10 inches long, four wide at most, and a little less than 1/2 inch thick: jagged and razor-sharp on every edge; it weighs maybe three or four pounds and is still hot from the explosions. Twenty feet to the left and one of us would have had no skull worth taking notice of.

Civilians insist on shooting off fireworks to "commemorate" our Independence, even though it is often illegal; perhaps you can understand why I neither want nor need such reminders.

I'd Like to Thank PJ

instead of the rest of youse bums; I mighta never got picked for de Bootifull award.


Thanks to all my wonderful internet friends, and mom and apple pie and this grate land of ours and of course godde... (Gratuitous cummings reference) And to da nice Creator of this thing, very little of whose blog I am able to read, but Padre vouches for her, and we all know what's dat worth?

Ahem. Many of my choices are those who have already gotten named, but some of the omissions (so far as I yet know) cannot stand

1) Mimi at Wounded Bird ( I'd rather think she's already been chosen and I've missed it than to believe nobody's named her yet.

2) Wormwood's Doxy ( The blogger name alone would be ample reason, but there's the person behind it: tough, bright, deep and compassionate. Not the most prolific, but always one of the best.

3) The Cunning Runt at Little Bang Theory ( Good dinners, fun friends, and the best Nature Photographs I know, except for that one recent lapse indoors! Go there and see for yersef.

4) Like some of the others, hardly overlooked, and for good reason, Tobias at In a Godward Direction ( You wanna understand stuff?

5) Only one more!?? This is impossible! OK, now the curve, not a blog exactly, but the website for the Washington bureau of McClatchy newspapers, which is practically the only consistent evidence that investigative journalism as an institution has not yet died in the U S (

As soon as tech support gets back to me, I'll make this all purty and like it's 'pposed to be, mostly. Imperialist rule mongers.

Sunday, June 29, 2008

Sunday Dinner at Grandpa's

Probably looks, at first glance, a lot like last week, and--sure enough--there are broad similarities; I'm learning to use parchment paper, no matter what time of year it is, so whitefish from the oven: this week, a whole trout with butter, lemon oil, lemon pepper, Tarragon, and celery salt, being too lazy to go downstairs to fetch in some Lovage. The Pasta is Whole Wheat Orioccioche ("Little Ears"); Bionaturalae makes the only one I've tasted I really liked.

The Vegetables bring some familiar cast members back: Fava beans and Asparagus, with a odd little addition: Seawort. I love Favas, despite their association with a certain fictional evil genius (Still: Fava beans with Chianti and Liver??!! Anyway.) and despite the fact they are almost as much trouble as they are worth. They deliver what Butterbeans promise. Seawort is tender, grassy, and Salty, with many minerals, as it is a sea plant; it works as a seasoning as much as an additional vegetable element.

The wine is an Austrian 06 Huber Gruener Veltliner.

Monday, June 23, 2008


Can anyone tell me why we have a Congress, or a Supreme Court, for that matter? Either or both seem to be expendable on the grounds of efficiency and cost-cutting. Constitutional interpretation can be (is) handled by a small group within the Justice Department (sic) of recent graduates from Pat Robertson's law school. Pelosi and Reid's Congress can be replaced by a GS-9 with a rubber stamp.

No president in history comes close to Dubya in the number, frequency, and magnitude of "high crimes and misdemeanors", yet the Congressional leadership refuses to avail itself of our only remedy. Don't worry; it'll all be over soon.

This week, a "compromise" by the Democratic Congressional leadership on FISA shredded and flushed the Constitution, one which allows the Attorney General to forbid federal courts from considering questions which he/she asserts concern "national security", and which removes private entities and public officials from any future liability for their crimes. The Democratic nominee endorses it, though he claims it's not perfect. One "supplemental funding" bill after another sails through Congress to continue the war, while members of the armed forces continue to be victimized by multiple tours and the denial of appropriate services and treatment by administration officials, including "medical professionals." A suicide bomber killed more than fifty people in Iraq a day or two ago, an Iraqi government official killed a U S soldier and wounded 5 others South of Baghdad yesterday, while U S politicians talk of the "progress" we're making there, as the resurgent Taliban controls more of Afghanistan. Meanwhile, reporters in the war zone such as CBS's Lara Logan complain they can't get these stories on TV. She did, on the Comedy Channel, thanks to Jon Stewart.

For some time, perhaps years, most Americans despise Congress even more than the rest of the damned guvmint; the numbers I saw this week are between 70 & 80% for Democrats, Republicans, and Independents. In 2006, we voted for a new set of rascals with the demand they do something about all of this; again, why do we bother electing them?

With so few signs of hope from the princes of this world, what from the princes of the church: specifically, from the Anglican Communion? The recent GAFCON meetings in Jordan and Jerusalem did well as farce, with Big Pete trying to enter Jordan while under suspicion of at least condoning, if not directing, a massacre of Muslims in Nigeria and pointedly ignoring the Bishop of Jerusalem's requests not to meet in the Holy Land.

All this is described, in his opening address, as a sign of God's working through "orthodox biblical Anglicans" (such as Santa Barbara's Ahramson and Virginia's Minns) to restore the "church" destroyed by teh Evil Gay Menace headquartered in the U S and Canada. The Communion leadership, including the Archbishop of Canterbury, has been so grossly negligent in punishing these miscreants, despite the patient pleas of the faithful (mostly from Nigeria through Uganda to Kenya) that outside measures, such as GAFCON, have been forced upon True Biblical Orthodox Anglican Leaders, Big Pete being first among them. Nonetheless, as one observer noted, none of them seem to be willing to leave the cesspool of depravity the Anglican Communion has become in their eyes, no matter how much so many of us long for it. In this, it seems to me, that we are not dividing or destroying the church or the Anglican Communion, but recognizing that, in their thought, word, and deed, such as are in GAFCON have already done so.

I don't often say so, but I'm really fed up.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Too Much of A Good Thing Is Just What I Had in Mind

Here's the end result; I must make a note that Blogger wants to upload these in reverse order. Software rulez. Perfectly delicious, so far--I haven't started dessert--and so easy to do; I do know that cranking it out for a family is a different story, and nobody has time to shop, but I still wonder, what's so peculiar about eating this way?

Peach, bing cherries, and raspberries w/ fresh Chevre, Cod en papilotte with fresh scallions, peas and asparagus dressed with olive oil.

You might say it began with a friend's mentioning of Catfish en papillote, but it's probably more accurate to at least mention clean dishes vanishing before my very eyes and, hey, ya gotta have at least a knife to spread the peanut butter, right? So I like to think it's a reward for a clean kitchen, including pitching the soupy greens in the crisper and forgiving myself for wasting food, and adding a few plants to the back porch; really, though, it has to do, more than anything else with the rich blessing Godde pours out this time of year: cherries, peaches, and raspberries with fresh Chevre is dessert, and dinner, besides the fish, is fresh green peas and beautiful asparagus from the Great White North. Thanks, Canada!

Shelling peas was a common task in my childhood: sitting on the front porch after breakfast with a big bowl full of purple hull peas to be cooked for lunch. Most of the day's cooking would be done by 10:00am or so; supper (the evening meal) was often made up cold, though stovetop cooking could be a part. Then, shelling peas was a chore; now, it seems a homey pleasure: as good as eating them.

Some of the new additions don't show--dill and oregano are behind the sage on the upper shelf, Lavender is in the window, and Rosemary in the back of the lower shelf.

Friday, June 13, 2008

"A Perfectly Gawgous Vegetable Dinner"

Dinner, the Revised Standard Version: no favas, new red potatoes, hericots verts, and shallots on the greens, w/ Vinaigrette, S &P, and Raspberries win over Strawberries.
Dinner as originally planned: Bing Cherries, Fava Beans, baby greens, A tomato and Artichoke Foccaccia from Kathy the Baker, red berries, and an Unoaked CA Chard. The fresh local Chevre is missing.

The cherries are not part of dinner, but are out as a snack until they're gone (Probably Sunday).

Anarcho-Syndicalist Commune, or: Woodstock Nation

Discovered again at Mimi's (, which is also on the blogroll to the right.
My politics (shown) have been consistently in this area for some time.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

The Aforementioned Little News

I had a good flight and trip to Arizona, though I was one seat away from a screaming two year old for four hours plus. I found when I could see what the parents were doing to cope, and heard the stories, it was much easier to bear. It was delightful talking to the parents, when they had time, and to the couple next to the Dad, whose wife turned out to be another Disciples Minister with many of the same acquaintances I have. Prayers for Ben and Susan, Dominic and Michelle and their families, and remember the stranger, whose struggles you do not know.

I settled in smoothly, and took Peter out (Walking! In Phoenix! Very rad!) for Pizza (They were Greeks from Chicago, so the Pizza was very good, and with Anchovies!), then up the street for handmade Sorbet and Gelato in a place owned by a Gay couple who are friends of my Daughter's business partner, which I didn't find out till later.

Thursday I showed up, though I felt I was coming down with something: "No sweat; Carter's got a cold." Friday I stayed in my room, eating Kung Pao Takeout to clear my head, and missing the chance to care for Carter while Amy made podcasts at her partner's eco-friendly home/ business site. By Saturday I felt well enough to doze in front of the TV with Carter on my chest while Amy had time to eat, shower, and run errands. He still sleeps better (and longer) if he's being held; he had just started a "eat and fuss all night--sleep all day" routine the day before I arrived. It turned out the best thing I could do was hold him: darn! Sunday we took him out for his first outing, and Amy got her first massage since delivery Monday, then I got to do laundry for the return flight.

We added two boys to my seat section in Nashville, so I got to play Grandpa with them. The flight was delayed, then diverted by bad weather, so we flew to Buffalo for a gas stop/ wait, which put us into Hartford well past one AM, which wasn't so bad, as it was only ten something Phoenix time, but harder on the boys, who were asleep before it was all done. The little one, about six, got chewing gum for his ears, which ended up all over his hands!

These are mundane ("worldly") things, with grace in more moments than any of us notice, except perhaps in the "Ohhh! and Ahhhh! baby encounters; I've alluded to only a few of the others in this first post. This does not mean there weren't many more.

Pictures AZ 06/03-06/10

Apres le bain
, what does every baby turn to when wrapped in a nice clean towel? Bien sur, la merde!

Dad and the boys. Peter is a step-son to Jeff, but it looks like the beginning of a beautiful friendship, for which I am very grateful.

Mother and sons; Dad barely visible on the right.

Carter on the floor in his infant playpen: awake for once

Peter and Jasmine at Ju-Jitsu; she is a little older and larger and just as skilled, so they push each other's growth.

A Teaser

We'll be back in a few hours with more photos and a little news.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Greater Love Hath No One

A belated Memorial Day post.

One of the frustrating things to me about communicating with non-veterans is the facility with which the focus turns to, and remains with, horror. Though there are some sad details--the hero, one of them--dies in the beginning, this is about love, and not misery.

Imagine that you arrived in Vietnam four or five days ago, the place the whole world is watching and talking about. After a couple of days drawing gear, you are driven by truck along the infamous, if you are paying attention, and you are, Route 9, which runs parallel to the DMZ about 6 miles South of it. It is dotted with lonely little hilltop outposts, all of which have been the site of at least one ferocious battle, and most often many more than that, in the last year between the Marines and the enemy. You stop at one long enough to join your unit, and go to a bunker in a night position a mile or two to the Southwest where you join another Marine in a two man position, who helps you to settle in. You are scared shitless: literally; you couldn't go if you tried.

You've set up two hours on guard, two off, and just when it's so dark you can't see a thing., there is an enormous flash and boom right in front of you; the concussion lifts you and throws you both violently against the back of your bunker. The veteran Marine is calmly talking you through it: check your body parts, still there? Are you bleeding? Wounded? You both are up now, because, as he explains, the enemy is likely to attack, which is true. There is a firefight until near dawn: killing and being killed. In the intervals, to keep you relaxed, he tells you about his sister back home, whom he loves, and how he's not sure he wants to show you her picture until he knows you're the kind of guy that deserves the favor.

At first light, he shows you how to clean up and prepare to move to the next position. He has baptized you into your unit; he has shown you, the new guy, things you will need to know to make it out alive. As you prepare to move out, a sniper's bullet suddenly kills him. Alive, and a helpful older friend, then dead; you have never seen a person die before. You move towards him, then hesitate, overcome by shock. another of the older members of the unit sees this, and tells you, "Look; last night you needed his help, and he gave it. Now he needs you to get him back home." So you carry his body to your next position, a mile or so; you have been in the field in Vietnam for less than one day, you have, barring being killed or wounded, approximately 390 more to go.

Forty one years later, you're thinking of looking up the guy's sister and telling her how much her brother loved her, and how much you loved him.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Gardens in a pot

OK: enough letting the adorable duo keep the place open (and didn't they do a fine job? A hand for the lads, if you please.); Grandpa Johnie has to write something, and, while awaiting permission for a more serious and belated Memorial Day post, here's some whimsy (without the formidable Miss Vane)

Gardening in a third floor walk up in town long after Osteoarthritis has set in requires ruthless practicality; ya aint gonna grow peas (Southern or those nice lil Yankee things), pole beans, squash, eggplant, lettuces, or much of anything, in fact: not even tomatoes (I've tried: not worth it). You must put your efforts in minimal and minimalist directions; it also helps to have a good greengrocer/ plant seller nearby.

Thus the herb garden under whatever windows are available, or can be made so. This weekend I bought and potted Spring Onions, Chives, Marjoram, Sage, Peppermint and Thyme. (A photo may follow when I learn to load stuff onto the 'puter). For reasons personal to my supplier (he's a recent Widower) Rosemary and some of the others I may usually expect weren't available, so I looked at the stuff outside Whole Paycheck this evening while picking up some Sole for dinner. The Rosemary and Lavender looked OK, but how often (and for what) do I use fresh Oregano (it was Greek, though)? Savory, I haven't seen. What am I leaving out? Basil? Too much hassle for a bunch--maybe for the occasional Marinara, but not for Pesto or other bulk uses. A nice little Bay tree would be lovely.

These are partly rhetorical--brainstorming aloud--and partly an at-large question; what have you grown in pots? Any tricks,or advice you'd share.

Our lines are open and ready to receive your call.

Saturday, May 17, 2008

I Have Two Adorable Grandsons

Peter, 10 years, holds his little brother Carter, 3 days. Aren't they wonderful? And, no, that's not really a question, so make with the "Ooooos and Ahhhhs" already.

Carter Reid born May 13, 2008

Friday, May 16, 2008

Blame Eileen

What Alcoholic Drink Are You?

You Are A Martini
You are the kind of drinker who appreciates a nice hard drink.
And for you, only quality alcohol. You don't waste your time on the cheap stuff.
Obviously, you're usually found with a martini in your hand. But sometimes you mix it up with a gin and tonic.
And you'd never, ever consider one of those flavored martinis. They're hardly a drink!

Share this Blogthing easily by copying the code below:

Or share this Blogthing with a direct link:

Newest Quizzes

Take a Random Quiz

List of All Blogthings

Get Blogthings by Email

Delivered by FeedBurner

Keep Track of New Blogthings



Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Updates: May 13th, '08

I'll be out for a few hours (it's almost Noon); SIL at home says "best time: yes!" almost 0900 his time (and his first! He sounds excited!)

See all y'all later.

2:28 PM EDT, three hours ahead of Phoenix. I tried calling the home and Daughter's numbers, which are in "message" mode. SIL and I were probably too excited to remember how we were going to stay in touch. I expect they are in the middle, perhaps at the Birthing Center, and I will hear as soon as there's any news.

3:20 PM

I found my SIL's phone number, and left a message: just afternoon, Phoenix time. Continuing prayers for all.

3:47 pm

don't you just love it when things start to happen a bit, when you've been waiting? SIL just called from the birthing room: pains 2 minutes apart and "growing stronger" (lovely euphemism, isn't it?), 80 % dilated. 1 cm across (10 is max). I read this as systems go and running, though marked by who knows what fear, hope, love? I expect things to begin to hop, (is that a Regionalism?) so there may not be time to share news for a bit from their end. SIL will pass the knowledge of your prayers and support to daughter, who requested them for her struggle.

I'm not sure there's been a final decision on by what name he shall be called.

Anxious: who? Me?

10:12 PM

Daughter just called from Phoenix, , sounding like an old hand, with the new baby crying in the background. Both are fine; he was born about two hours ago: 4:30 Phoenix time.

Thank you all for your prayers and support.

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Department of Dumb Things to Do Inadvertently

While living in Oklahoma c. 1980 for a M. Divinity, I took my United Methodist friends up on an invitation to supper on a weeknight: very casual, en famille. I had taken the car stereo out a day or two before, including the radio, so I was soundless. As I was leaving in late afternoon (Prime Time for these things), my elderly Landlady poked her head out of her side of the house and said, among other things "There's storms brewing this evening.", an entirely common exchange, especially in Spring or Autumn. "Storms" may ALWAYS include tornadoes in this context; " I didna hear yet of none sighted on the ground, but we all know it's possible." I nod and pull out, and within minutes am on a highway (4 lanes, but not Interstate).

There is a village halfway between my origin and my destination: a drive-in, a good sized Roman church, and a very few houses and streets: no traffic lights, but signs that say they'd really like you to slow down a little. As I slow from 60 to maybe 50 on the edge of town, I look once again at the cloud that has formed within the ten or fifteen minutes since I left the house. It forms a diagonal line at approximately 45 degrees from top to ground: sharp and distinct; it appears to have drawn by a ruler: black on one side, sunshine on the other. The first very big and forceful drops hit my windshield. Within a matter of seconds, I am in the village, doing ten miles an hour and reducing my speed further; it is raining so hard I cannot see the hood of my car, but catch glimpses of taillights in front of me. It is not so much a matter of going anywhere, but maintaining one's position as long as one is able; I think "If the windshield isn't destroyed (some of it is clearly big hail by now) I won't stop yet." Then, within a minute or two, the rain and hail are sharply reduced, and I can see a very wet road with limbs here and there, so I proceed carefully to Sam and Sharon's. I can't find Sharon and the kids at the Parsonage or the church next door, but a note saying "Sam, we're in the storm cellar." So where have the Methodists put this storm cellar?

As I continue my search, Sam and his golfing buddy pull up to park in front of the house. He tells me there were tornadoes on the ground, and still are to the SE, as we learn through the static when we join Sharon, the girls, and their next-door neighbor, whose cellar they use. Sam tells me, or we both learn, one of the tornadoes had touched down about 100 meters to our North, and was running parallel to the highway we were on, until it crossed about 1/2 kilometer behind us, removing the roof of the drive-in. Sam and his buddy got out of their car and lay in the ditch, getting soaked, while I drove, oblivious to the larger context.

I had cleaned up after a tornado touched down in a residential area just north of my undergraduate school: volunteers putting a community face on the anti-war (1970) movement. One had destroyed a small part of a small town where my first congregation after Seminary was located. My Oklahoma kinfolks always had a dugout for home canned goods and a quick trip if need be; now I am reminded of scurrying to the bunker outside the hooch when we heard the first "incoming" rounds go off--122mm Katushya rockets--in Vietnam, a once a week occurrence.

I have never before realized how much I take these experiences as "given": for granted; "everybody knows that." Keep living, keep learning.

Thursday, May 8, 2008

My Friend In Surgery

My friend and Vietnam Comrade, David, started his surgery about an hour ago. He does appreciate the attention of the prayer posse, as do I.

05/ 14 UPDATE

I saw Dave tonight; he says he expects to go home tomorrow, but he's in a lot of pain, and his body is still adjusting to the new, if temporary, regimen. He'd had a good day, then a long nap (medicated), then woke up in considerable pain.

This an Airborne Combat Veteran who was Evaced to Japan wounded; if he says "It hurts; I need something." they better give it to him, or I will be angry.


Tuesday, May 6, 2008

This the Most Sumptious of Feasts: Really.

Since I visit to Syro-Palestine in May, 1997, as news reports echoed with the Israeli Right's support of the undermining--A marvelous, Godde-given, dare I say? opportunity for a multireligious team of loving Archeologists turned Cheap Trick Politics, a banquet (and I've seen others, perhaps more worthy), but to my taste this needs to be in the glorious Mediterranean Spring/ Summer, and with time and beds and food and carrying on for whatever time's needed, on a villa or a few, in city or two: can you imagine, much less use, 23 species of oregano, as on Cyprus?

I was very pleased with Kevin's, the Cathedral Choir's, and our Soloist's Kevin Murray's performance of Vaughn Williams (And Herbert's) Five Mystical Songs early Sunday Evening; perhaps the Heavenly Feast, in this Sillilissima Season of Political Nonsense somehow masques real experience, and therefore politics is on my mind. Which, let no one deliberately misunderstand me and half-grant what I wish, does not mean I want to talk about any aspect of the damned foolishness, nor the ways it's being covered, nor how we managed to end up in such a pickle (I taught that to unwilling Undergrads, who learned something, for eight years; I can bore the best of them. Oh, except model freaks: "Depicting Waterloo at the crucial fifth hour, when ...")

How do we get the political systems to respond to the best, and not the worst, in ourselves?

Come, My Light, my Feast, my Strength:
Such a Light, as shows a feast:
Such a feast, as mends its length:
Such a Strength, as Makes a guest

Monday, May 5, 2008

Majestic Duck Leg: My First Cassoulet

I tried a Duck Confit about three weeks or more ago, and decided "WTF?" and started a Cassoulet today. I think encountering Martha Stewart's version in a magazine at the Vets Center was the final straw. It's not that easy to find a recipe; there appear to be roughly as many as there are cooks who make it; the main traditions are associated with three towns in SW France: Toulouse, Carcassone, and Castelnaudary. All consist of white beans cooked with meats: pork, preserved Goose (Carcassone) or Duck (Castelnaudary), and Mutton (Toulouse and Carcassone). Castelnaudary has the Cassole, the earthenware pot it's traditionally made in, from which the name of the dish comes (in Occitan). Some speculate that the pots of beans were made while bread was being baked in the village oven, then placed in the oven as their loaves came out, to cook in the residual heat.

I am grateful for the Internet, the luscious Goddess who passes along traditions I may, and do, connect, in a belated Beltane celebration, for such a delicious grateful attention to beans, broth, and meat over the centuries. After going over a number of recipes, I felt I understood the base: Baked beans with meat: essentials including beans, meats, garlic, and tomato. I do thank my brothers and sisters at the Polish butcher's: servers and customers alike, for revealing themselves through their food.

The stock in which the beans are cooked before being baked is important; I used the Ham butt with Rind, carrot and an onion studded with whole cloves, 1/4 c. tomato sauce, and a bouquet garni of Leek, Thyme, Bay Leaf, and Lovage (celery taste; I grow it) in cheesecloth. I went to the Cathedral Art Show--I missed the Eucharists today--then, coming back around 1:30, cooked the beans for a bit, then went back for Choral Evensong and a Concert of Vaughan Williams's Five Mystical Songs on the Herbert texts which was wonderful, finished the beans and put things together for a slow oven roast in a cast iron Dutch Oven: ham butt and rind; great sausage and hams and veal! And WP's (Whole Paycheck's) version of Andouille, which aint that bad, I hope.

I sampled it before going to bed: late; I believe it lives up to expectations, and look forward to the next few days of seconds.

Friday, May 2, 2008

This Post is NOT About Food (Really)

It's about looking for a butcher shop. Bear with me, vegetarian friends.

As I explore new recipes, some of the ingredients are getting a little more exotic, from the perspective of a simple country boy like myself (and, no, I didn't go to Harvard, though I have driven through it several times and spent some enjoyable time in its bookstore), such as Garlic pork sausage a la Languedoc. It seemed as if my choices had come to supermarkets (ugh!), a local store which does only Yuppie specialty cuts (Whole Tenderloins, anyone?), and Whole Paycheck. Tofu is looking better than it used to.

Today I ask my friend and greengrocer Mike, who used to work at Yuppie Meats years ago, and he came up with two recommendations: one general and one Polish. New Britain, where the grocer/ farm is, is a small working class (Stanley hand tools) town with a large Polish community. I've had a great meal or two with friends at local restaurants like Krakovia, , so I decided to try to find the butcher shop Mike described.

OK, I get lost a time or two and have to double back, but then I think I've found it: Polish, begins with "N", and on Broad street; I'm the only customer there who orders in English. Good so far, but it doesn't seem to fit Mike's description. With the help of another customer, I order some Kielbasa (tough, right?) but also learn the place I want is about 3-4 blocks further. When I see it, I know it's the right place as I park. It's a small store with a big L-shaped meat case, with six or seven staff behind it and a dozen customers in front. One arm of the "L" is for cured meats, the other for fresh. When my turn comes, I awkwardly apologize for speaking English, and try to describe what I want: cured ham, garlic sausage, fresh pork shoulder. The lady takes me in hand, and in thickly accented, barely discernible English, explains what many of the items are. It is rushed, and getting more so, but she shows me, and answers my questions as best she can, and gives me several samples: some of the best meats I've tasted in many a year.

I have more trouble with the fresh meat side, but one of the other staff jumps in to help, and it is solved quickly. By this time, I'm re-thinking a couple of things I passed up in cured meats the first time, and several customers pitch in to offer comments and suggestions, including the names for "black sausage" and "cured Ham" in Polish.

I basked in, and am now reflecting on, the helpfulness strangers showed, the pride they took in the ways their people had developed, not only simply to feed themselves, but to celebrate the gifts of abundance Godde had given them, and how they had used it. The counter clerk had pointed out how lean the sausage was "No Fat!", and a customer advised "we shouldn't eat this, at our age, but a little is good." and another "This one is good for the heart." "This one you saute with onions, or just slice it and eat it."

I was a stranger, and was welcomed, and taken in, to be shown the things we all delight in here.
The meat was secondary.

Thursday, May 1, 2008

Not Only Official, but Reliable

I'm still surprised by how much the climate changes here with a fifty mile trip North; last night Amherst radio was calling for frost warnings. It was noticeably cooler here, but nothing like that.

The Crocuses and Daffodils are gone, and the tulips--red, yellow, even purple--are in full bloom, as are multitudes of flowering trees spreading pink and white all over town. The tree in front has lost its red buds, and is now a bronze color: preparing to leaf. I can no longer see through the tops of Elms and Beeches behind the garage which mark the property line; there are several shades of green, from almost yellow to at least three darker shades, though none so much so as they will be in Summer: all bright, lively, and beautiful.

I've noticed some Forsythia along the highway for a couple of weeks, but it's not yet fully developed. I have a chance to make a progress check later this afternoon. All this means I can start to take the itch to restore my kitchen herbs and maybe a tad more somewhat seriously; my planter's sense has never fully adapted to New England: tomatoes go in the ground on Memorial Day, instead of starting to eat them. I have to keep reminding myself.

All of which brings up the other itch--moving: UGH! Twelve years' worth of HEAVY, mostly junk. Still, living on the first floor and having a real kitchen looks better every year, not to mention enough room for more than one guest at a time AND maybe even a 10 X 20 garden patch of my very own.

And then it gets complicated. New England (Gawd save it!) is expensive, though it does offer a good many amenities which are more scarce elsewhere. And not even grandchildren are reason enough to live full-time in Arizona, even Flag. Nonetheless, the culture I crave is not the dominant one in Connecticut, rather the eddies and sloughs of different drummers, who keep eccentricity alive in out of the way places, and Vermont is too damned cold in Winter. The best answer, for now, may be a return to the small town area around UCONN, in the Northeast part of the state, though I am concerned about getting too far away from active life.

Nutz: it looks as if I'm back to Craigslist.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Boeuf Bourguignon

I have just eaten the first Boeuf Bourguignon of my life, thanks to Ms. Child, Godde love and keep her--I made it myself. I don't know how it compares to others, but, if it gets any better than this, I expect to die of completely solid arteries within two years. Yeah, it's a lot of work, but it all shows up in that wonderful sauce.


Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Blackberries or, Granny: an Introduction to Theology

I think there's an earlier draft of this somewhere in the innards of this contraption, which likely indicates I ought to return to pen and paper.

The world is this big in 1950 or so: my house and the following: across the street one door down is my Daddy's older brother, Unka B. Behind his house is the small frame building from which they run their electrical contracting business. There are two massive oak trees, one in the center of the yard, and one marking the border of the next lot beside the path. There's an outdoor brick fireplace/ grill between the trees, and below it, at the end of the shop, under the second oak, my Uncle's toy: an Air conditioner he designed and built. Later this becomes the business. Beyond that is an overgrown lot behind Granny's house, which is past the vacant lot between the two houses, where a covey of quail live; my Uncle likes to squat by the brick grill at dusk and whistle until the birds appear at the edge of the yard. Unka B bought the three lots and built two houses just before the war, one for him and one for his parents.

The most important place is, of course, Granny's house, where we make cookies (I have an identical bowl in my kitchen now; I don't think I've ever used it, but it needs to be there), and spend Friday nights to get away from our parents. Granny makes us anything we want for supper, but sometimes things don't taste as they should, which we have learned is because Granny was a Yankee and can't help it. We sometimes tease her about this.

One of the very best suppers in Summertime is Cobbler, which she is the best at making. There are two kinds, and I still can't tell which is the better: peach (OMG!) or, maybe even better, blackberry: biscuit dough baked over sweetened fruit. Sometimes Strawberry Shortcake, in which the dough is baked separately, with layers of fruit and whipped cream, is a nice change, but blackberry may be best, because we have the fun of picking the berries. Between Granny's yard and her neighbor's, at the back, are two rows of blackberry bushes whose branches arch back across one another, forming a tunnel full of sun and the best berries--a cathedral-- which no adult can reach, because they're too big to pass through, but we're not, and we fill our buckets while they struggle with the briars. Brer Rabbit got nuthin on us. As my mama was confined to the nursing home in the last few years, she told me my Grandfather and namesake, Granny's husband, had planted the blackberries; I hadn't known that.

Granny taught me to read before I went to Kindergarten; school being an unusual favor at the time for my class; it was a private school. I remember Bugs and Daffy, but I suppose there were Three Little Ducklings as well. She had a big upholstered chair with wide arms; each of us could sit on a side and read along. She taught us songs, too: "Rock a bye, Baby", and others.

She would tell me sometimes "I wouldna trade a farm for ya." which I thought was sweet: a farm with all kinds of animals and things! I didn't know then that she had left Indiana and the security she may have thought she had found with a husband twenty years her senior, at nineteen, with a baby Unka B and another on the way, when Dad Wood's siblings sold the farm out from under them when their parents died. He had left college and his dream of being a Methodist Minister to care for them and the farm for twenty years, buried a first wife and raised a daughter; he never went back to Indiana again. I know very little about the lineage from which my surname comes; it stops, for all practical purposes, with him. A farm, and the security, and the position it conveyed, was nearly everything in Indiana at the turn of the Twentieth century; I meant more to her than that.

When Granny died, in 1963, my cousin, Unka B's daughter, told me Granny suddenly sat up, at the end, and said "I see my mother" and fell back, to speak no more. Granny was a step-daughter, in an age when that mattered; she never spoke of the woman who raised as anything but "my step-mother," though she was close to her half-sister, Pauline.

Over the years, I have come to realize that, when I think of Godde as a human being, I know what She looks and sounds like, and I'm sure who it will be, should we still know such things, who will greet me in my time.