Dazed and confused? Not me. I’m just Lost in the Cheese Aisle.

Saturday, July 31, 2010


A street scene in southwest Florida. [Click to embiggen.]

A few weeks ago, as She Who Must Be Obeyed and I were headed back home from South Florida, we saw the above street scene somewhere near Naples.

It was the truck that caught my attention.

“BAITMASTERS,” read the legend on the side. “The Bait of the Masters.”

I could not help but be impressed. We were looking at a whole truckload of Master Bait!

Friday, July 30, 2010


Or, the Fine Art of Caricature.

While I was in New York last weekend, I had an opportunity to visit one of my Friends of Long Standing, the good Doctor Harpo.

Esteemed readers who have followed my antics for a while may remember Harpo from a piece I wrote last year after reconnecting with him at Princeton Reunions. And if you wonder where that sobriquet came from, you need look no further than the photographs in that post: That shock of curly, reddish-blond hair has always called the Silent Marx Brother to mind.

[The other nickname I have for the good Doctor is “Urethra Franklin” - which makes perfect sense given that his name really is Franklin, and he’s a urologist.]

In any event, Doc Harpo was gracious enough to put me up overnight, and as fate would have it, his place is conveniently located on the Upper West Side just a short walk from Central Park... in a gorgeous old Beaux Arts apartment building that is an official New York City designated landmark.

We hooked up with Harpo’s girlfriend and a few schoolmates to grab a pizza at one of the local establishments, and then it was back to the apartment. I had already seen Harpo’s elder son Logan - it was the first time I had clapped eyes on the strapping Princeton grad since he was about two years old, and to say he had changed was a minor understatement - but now I had a chance to meet younger son Jensen for the first time.

It was a little like stepping back in time 35 years or so... because Jensen is the spit ’n’ image of his Daddy. You’d be hard-pressed to distinguish a contemporary photograph of Jensen from one of Harpo taken back in our college days. Lookee:

Harpo and Jensen
Doc Harpo and son Jensen (Dartmouth ’10). Father and son? Or clones?

This Harpo thing has been part of the Doc’s identity for a long time. Just how long? Recently, as he was going through a box of his old junk and detritus that had been stored at his mother’s place, he found this:

Arty Harpo
Caricature of Doc Harpo from 1974. [Click to embiggen.]

It doesn’t take a huge leap of imagination to see that it’s a caricature of the good Doctor. But who is this “Logan” fellow? Harpo’s son wasn’t walking the planet back then.

Why, it’s me! Logan was my nickname in college, a nickname that was bestowed upon me after I made an abrupt tooth-rattling, bowel-clenching two-wheeled left turn onto Logan Avenue in Asbury Park, New Jersey one day in 1972. It’s purely a coincidence that Doc Harpo would later name his firstborn son Logan... but I’ve always taken quiet pleasure in that coincidence. And it’s an amazing little piece of synchronicity that Harpo found that drawing - a drawing that had lain hidden for thirty-six years - until just a few days before I called to announce my plans to visit New York.

Thursday, July 29, 2010


From the irrepressible Dax Montana comes this fascinating piece of computer imagery: an interactive M. C. Escher-inspired panorama.

If you were one of those people who, back when you were a doped-out college student, would get stoned and stare at Escher’s surrealistic lithographs with a thin stream of drool hanging out of the corner of your mouth, then this should provide endless hours of Useless Amusement. Enjoy.

Tribute to Escher in Barcelona


On the boardwalk with Toni, The Other Elisson, and Eli. Sharp-eyed observers will spot the old Parachute Jump tower in the distance, right next to The Other Elisson’s head.

Last weekend, as I sat and enjoyed my seafood dinner with Eli (hizzownself), Toni, and The Other Elisson, we began casting about for something to do Saturday afternoon. Toni tossed out a suggestion: Why not take a ride to Brighton Beach?

I thought this was a capital idea. Long a Jewish enclave, a huge influx of both Jewish and non-Jewish Russians beginning in the 1970’s had transmogrified the place into something resembling Moscow West. I had not been to Brighton for something approaching three decades and was eager to see how it had changed.

Brighton - named after the English beach resort where Elder Daughter made her home for close to a year - is sandwiched between Manhattan Beach to the east and Coney Island to the west. It’s right on the Atlantic Ocean, with a boardwalk that runs along the shore. Our mission, however, had nought to do with taking the waters or catching a few rays: We were there in search of Exotic Foods, of which there were plenty.

Once we found a parking spot - not an easy task, but Eli and Toni were more than up to the job - we headed straight to Tatiana’s Café, right on the boardwalk. Eli and I enjoyed bowls of cold, refreshing green borscht made with spinach and dill; Toni had barley soup; we all followed this up with a lemony beet and arugula salad. A light meal, it was perfect sustenance on what had to be the hottest day of the year.

The meat counter at M&I International.
Fortified by our luncheon, we began our real mission: raiding the various Exotic Food Shoppes along Brighton Beach Avenue. Chief among these is M&I International Foods, a rambling, three-level affair where you can buy pretty much anything you might have a mind to eat. Meats, prepared foods, smoked fish, canned goods - it’s all there. You want Russian hot cereal mix? A bottle of ice-cold kvass (the Russian answer to Coca-Cola, a beverage made from fermented bread)? They have that stuff too.

Kvass: Bread in a bottle.
Toni and I were in our element here. While she raided the meat counter, I found a square of prune-nut strudel and a couple of slices of sturgeon. The only thing holding me back - I could have bought the place out - was the fact that I was on the road and had no place to put things save for The Other Elisson’s fridge, and that only for the night. So I was, out of necessity if nothing else, good to go.

Did I mention that Russians were thick on the ground here? Street signage was all in Cyrillic, and the various shopkeepers spoke an amalgam of Russian, Ukrainian, and heavily accented English. Eli and Toni, who have been to Russia, say it’s more Russian in Brighton Beach than in Russia these days, and I have no reason to doubt them. They don’t call this place “Little Odessa” for nothing.

Purchases in hand, we repaired to the third level, where there is a café of sorts. We ordered a few cold drinks and were shortly joined by the Sweetheart of Sheepshead Bay herself, the ever-charming Erica, who lives just a mile or two away from Brighton.

Brighton 3
Eli (hizzownself), Toni, Erica, and Yours Truly in Brighton Beach. [Click to embiggen.] Photo by The Other Elisson.

We had a lovely visit there, sipping iced coffee and talking about all manner of things. At one point I had to gently steer the conversation away from some of the events of an infamous Helen blogmeet - events involving an inflatable sheep, a broomstick, and Velociman - items and personages the mere mention of which caused Toni’s eyes to grow very wide - but we had a splendid time together, conversing on Matters Brooklyn. Alas, all too soon, it was time for us to hit the trail and head for points east... whereupon we all managed to cram ourselves into the Elimobile to deliver Erica right to her front door.

All in all, a fine afternoon - never mind that it was hotter than the hubs of Hell. Next time, though, we’ll wait for cooler weather... and it’s gonna be vodka and caviar, baby! Nashe zdorovʹe!

Wednesday, July 28, 2010


Union Station HDR2a
Union Station main hall, Washington, D.C., as seen in a High Dynamic Range image.

My last Northeastern peregrination was a little different from the usual, mainly owing to my reliance on mass transit for so much of the heavy lifting.

Instead of simply flying from Atlanta to Washington, D.C. and thence onward to Points North, I elected to change things up: I flew to Washington, sure - but from there, it was trains all the way.

Perhaps I was emboldened by my positive experiences with train travel in Japan two years ago... or by the warm nostalgia summoned up by my memories of traveling on the Florida Special from New York to Miami and back, forty-eight years ago. Or maybe I didn’t want the expense and hassle of driving a rental car in New York, or the aggravation attendant upon flying into any of the New York airports, where unpredictable delays are the order of the day. No matter. I decided to fly round trip from Atlanta to Washington, and use Amtrak to get to and from New York. And I’m glad I did.

The only automobile travel I did between last Thursday morning and yesterday afternoon, when I drove myself to and from my usual offsite airport parking lot in Atlanta, was courtesy of The Other Elisson and Eli (hizzownself). Everything else - between Washington National Airport and my various landing spots in D.C. and New York, that is - was via Washington’s Metro, Amtrak, the Long Island Railroad, the New York subway system, or good old-fashioned shank’s mare. Taxis? Pfaugh.

There’s a lot to be said for a conveyance that allows you to sit comfortably sans seat belt, wander up and down at will, stop in the dining car for a cup of coffee or a snack, and even plug in to a 100 volt AC outlet to run a laptop or recharge a smartphone. And there is a grandeur in some of the classic train stations that is lacking in modern airports.

Take Grand Central Station in New York, for example... or Union Station in Washington. The latter has a gorgeous domed ceiling and plenty of marble statuary, just the kind of public space you’d expect to see serving as a Best Foot Forward for a nation’s capital city, back in the day when everybody who was anybody would arrive by train. Now it’s packed with restaurants and shops, making it a perfectly comfortable place to while away an hour or two of waiting time. (Any place with a good bookstore, or with a shop that sells Neuhaus chocolates, is OK by me.)

Union Station HDR1a

The best thing about Union Station, though, was meeting Elder Daughter there Monday between trains. We had missed each other on the front end of my trip - since she had been away attending the international AIDS Conference in Vienna, I had gone on to New York rather than staying in D.C. Thursday evening - but now she was back, and was able to pry a few minutes loose from her ridiculously hectic schedule to take lunch with her Old Man. Afterwards, we hoofed it down to the Metro (escalators never work when you have a heavy valise in hand) and each of us caught Red Line trains - she to Silver Spring, I in the opposite direction towards the airport. And strangely, I felt like I had just spent a few moments back in the 1940’s... had I been wearing my Panama hat and a tropical-weight linen suit, the illusion would’ve been complete.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010


One being the eye you see with, the other the Old Brown-Eye.  Yep: this was a day of Assholes and Eyeballs, for between the Missus and me, we had both of ’em checked out.

I am happy to report that the news was good for both of us.  No polyps, diverticulae, or other Nasty Situations were discovered in SWMBO’s nethers, and the recovery of my left eye from its recent bout with iritis (AKA acute anterior uveitis, if you prefer the Fancy-Pants Wording) is proceeding apace.  Lookee:

Notice the dilated pupil on the left - my left eye as seen in this mirror image. Yes, it looks weird, but it’s supposed to be dilated.

Still taking steroid eyedrops, but now I can cut back to three times a day... and I only need to dilate that bad boy once a day.

But if you want photos from SWMBO’s procedure, you’re shit outta luck.


The Old Grey Hare
“Ehhh, what’s up, Pruneface?” A grizzled Bugs confronts an ancient Elmer in “The Old Grey Hare.” ©1944 Turner Entertainment Co., a Time Warner company.

There is a classic 1944-vintage Bugs Bunny cartoon - a great favorite of mine from back in my Snot-Nose Years unto this very day - entitled “The Old Grey Hare.” Directed by the immortal Bob Clampett, it flashes us forward to the far future, with the Voice o’ God intoning “Come, Elmer. Come past the years 1950, 1960, past 1970, ’80, ’90... When you hear the sound of the gong, it will be exactly 2000 A.D.!” It is there that we meet an elderly Bugs Bunny and Elmer Fudd who - in a flashback within the flashforward - reminisce about their childhood and the beginnings of their rivalry.

Watching that cartoon as a child, it was amusing enough to imagine that far future world, and to picture a wrinkled, moustachioed Elmer Fudd... and a grizzled, arthritic (“dern this lumbago!”) Bugs Bunny, complete with white Abe Lincoln beard. But, just as with the science fiction of the Golden Age, reality has a way of catching up with those archaic Future Visions. And as with SF, so with the world of cartoons.

This is a long-winded way of mentioning that today is Bugs Bunny’s seventieth birthday.

Yes! Bugs, the irrepressible bunny with the Brooklyn accent, is officially a septuagenarian... for it was on July 27, 1940 that the theatrical cartoon short “A Wild Hare” was released.

Although several earlier Looney Tunes films had featured a rabbit (“Porky‘s Hare Hunt” in 1938 being the first), “A Wild Hare,” directed by Tex Avery, is the first film to show Bugs Bunny in his fully-developed form, complete with his well-known design, voice, and catchphrase (“Ehhhh, what’s up, Doc?”). And, appropriately enough, it also features the ever-frustrated Elmer Fudd in the first of many fruitless Lapine Pursuits.

It’s hard to imagine Bugs Bunny being seventy, but time, like shit, happens. At least he’s younger than Ringo Starr... by a few weeks, anyway.

Saturday, July 24, 2010


Dinner Friday evening was a perfectly enjoyable affair, courtesy of Eli (hizzownself) and his bride Toni, who treated both Elissons to a fine Fishy Meal at the Legal Sea Foods outpost at Roosevelt Field.

The Other Elisson and I had spent the day roaming about the Island - Long Island, that is - checking out old, familiar neighborhoods and academic haunts. One of the highlights of the day was a visit to the Fairway Market in Plainview, a place that looks like the bastard child of a three-way between Zabar’s, Dean and DeLuca, and the local Safeway. There also seems to be a little Stew Leonard’s thrown in as well.

I had been hearing about Fairway for years, mostly from Toni, who is a huge fan of the store’s organic produce and meats, but I’m not sure the advance reviews really prepared me for what I saw: nothing less than a gourmet supermarket jacked up on steroids.

Of course, the first place I headed to, out of a sense of Professional Obligation, was the cheese aisle, and this one was majorly impressive. Only my reluctance to befoul The Other Elisson’s fridge kept me from purchasing a wedge of Stinking Bishop.

The meat department featured an array of serious beefy protein, including two-inch thick prime porterhouses... and a dry-aging cold-box in which a platoon of mold-encrusted primal rib sections were arrayed. I forced myself to move on, narrowly avoiding slipping in the puddle of drool that had collected at my feet.

There was a kosher foods section that was as extensive as any I had ever seen, and baked goods of all kinds... but it was the smoked fish counter that really got my attention, with a variety exceeded only by Zabar’s. Nova, Irish smoked salmon, Scottish smoked salmon, gravlax, sable, you name it - it was all there, all lovingly sliced by hand to your order. And order I did, with the fish slicer graciously offering samples of the various glistening, salty treats.

But now it was dinnertime, and as Eli and the Other Elisson attacked their desserts, Eli regaled us with a True Story, the kind that could only happen in New York.

A number of years ago, he and my mother had gone with a group of friends to Ratner’s, the famed dairy restaurant located on Second Avenue on New York’s Lower East Side. Everyone was seated; the orders were taken; the dishes were all brought to the table. All, that is, except one: Eli’s.

As he waited for his food to show up, Eli noticed an elderly gentleman at an adjacent table, a sort of gentleman familiar to anyone who spends a lot of time in places like Ratner’s. This fellow had made a meal of the free pickles and sour tomatoes, bowls of which were set out at every table as an appetizer... and he had enjoyed several of Ratner’s famous onion rolls as well. It was anybody’s guess whether he would actually ever get around to ordering a meal at this point, especially since he had fallen asleep after his lusty noshing.

Meanwhile, everyone at Eli’s table - except Eli - had finished dining. As soon as everyone’s plates had been licked clean, the waiter showed up, napkin ceremoniously draped over forearm, with Eli’s meal in hand.

“Take it away,” Eli said acidly. “I don’t want it, now that everyone else is done eating. We’re just going to go home, and I’ll eat there.”

Whereupon the waiter immediately turned, walked over to the table where sat the elderly gentleman, still sleeping away. The waiter smacked the old fellow on the head to wake him up and dropped Eli’s plate in front of him.

“Here’s your dinner,” he announced, and walked off.

Only in New York.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010


The Missus and I see a goodly number of idiots on Atlanta’s highways in the course of our meanderings about town.

First off, let me state right up front that every city is riddled with Idiot Drivers: Atlanta possesses no monopoly. In fact, despite the coarsening of society over the past twenty-five years, Atlanta still has a noticeable minority of polite motorists - the kind of people who, say, will actually make room for you to accelerate onto the freeway. It is, alas, a shrinking minority.

Other cities have their own driving personalities. New York? Fuhgeddaboudit. Aggression is the order of the day... and as soon as you cross the rivers that separate Manhattan from the other boroughs, that aggression steps up to a whole new plateau. Yet Manhattan is downright sedate compared to Mexico City, Paris, or Rome.

South Florida is riddled with Elder Drivers, folks with declining sensory and motor capacities who, in many cases, shouldn’t even be walking, much less driving. Put a metric buttload of ’em on I-95 at 70 MPH and your nerves will get so jacked up as you drive along with ’em that your asshole will pucker up tight enough to pull five pounds of cotton batting out of your front seat. Yipe!

We’ve dealt with the moron tailgaters, the ones who will get up so close behind you - at 75 MPH, no less - that you can’t even see their front bumpers. Or the ones that decide, at the last possible second, that they need to get off the freeway NOW, despite the fact that they’re in the far left lane and there are four crowded lanes of traffic to cut across in 1/16 mile.

I’m always astonished at the people who blithely ride along in the front passenger seat with their legs propped up against the dashboard, or even hanging out the window. Comfy? Sure... unless the airbag goes off, in which case that leg is going to be reduced to several pounds of hamburger and bone shards.

But something we saw this afternoon takes the Stupidity-Cake.

As we cruised eastward along I-20, headed toward the Mistress of Sarcasm’s place, we saw a sedan in the lane next to us, packed with a full complement of passengers and piled with luggage. That in itself was unexceptional... except that the package shelf - that flat area behind the rear seat - was heaped with detritus.

Now, it’s never a good idea to store objects of any sort on that package shelf. There have been numerous fatalities caused when even small, lightweight items are suddenly launched forward into the heads of passengers during collisions. Even something as innocuous as a box of tissues can become a deadly missile in the event of a Sudden Deceleration.

But these geniuses had a whole watermelon parked on that shelf.

One good, hard, abrupt braking maneuver - or, even better, a good old-fashioned wreck - and suddenly that watermelon comes flying forward with the force of a cannon shot. Gallagher would be appalled at the results: not all of the red pulp splashed throughout the car’s interior would be from the watermelon...

Tuesday, July 20, 2010


Years ago, when our family lived in our first home on the south shore of Long Island, air conditioning was a luxury we experienced only at places like the local movie theatre. We certainly had none in our house, and that was perfectly all right. There were only a few days during the year when things were hot enough to be uncomfortable.

In 1967, when we moved to our second home - a grand total of three blocks away from the first one - we entered the world of Climate Control: We now had a house that was equipped with (gasp!) central air conditioning.

No longer did we have to sleep on top of our bedclothes on those sweltering summer nights, with only a fan to stir the sultry air. Now we spent our summer days in electrically generated comfort.

Upon being graduated from college and moving to Sweat City, I found myself living in the sort of climate in which air conditioning was not a luxury, but a necessity. Sure, the hardy settlers of coastal Texas had managed to make a life for themselves in the blast furnace-like heat, but most of the Northerners who, at the time, were migrating to the Sunbelt in great hordes, were in no wise like those old-time Texians. We were, rather, conditioned to conditioning. We had become Temperature-Wimps.

Houston, focus of one of the great surges of population growth in the mid-1970’s, would never have seen one iota of that growth without cheap energy. Cheap gasoline allowed people to drive around the monster-sized metropolis; cheap electricity powered the air conditioners that made the city livable.

Atlanta is not nearly the sweatbox that Houston is. The humidity is a lot more reasonable, and, owing to the area’s 1000-foot altitude above sea level, it almost always cools off after the sun goes down, even on the hottest summer days. Compare that with the Texas Gulf Coast, where you can break a sweat merely walking outside to get the newspaper at six a.m.

That said, Atlanta can get brutally hot this time of year... and we pussified Latter-Day Americans need our A/C. We get cranky without it.

And that, of course, is the situation we found ourselves in yesterday evening. I had gone upstairs to fetch something or other and immediately noticed that it was hot and stuffy. Eighty-seven degrees, well above the 77-degree A/C setpoint. Crap!

Now, our upstairs A/C unit is marginal at best, inevitably going down at least once every summer. It will need to be replaced sometime in the next year or two, but we’re trying to squeeze as much life out of it as we can. Was this it? Was this the death knell for our Cool-Machine?

No. Not yet. Our HVAC service came out and established that the problem had been caused by a short in the control circuitry... possibly resulting from one of the myriad storm-related power surges we get here in the Land of Thunderstorms. One replaced part and we were good to go.

We had to endure one night without aircon. It sent SWMBO over the edge... or, at least, downstairs to sleep on the sofa in our still-cool den. But it didn’t bother me too much. Maybe it reminded me of those long-ago summer nights in our first home, when the heat was a pleasant reminder that it was still summer, with school a far-away concern.


’Kuna Was Here

Is it just my imagination, or is this photograph of Hakuna with her head peeking out from her Circular Bed reminiscent of a well-known World War II-era graffito?

Kilroy, by Patrick Tillery. From Wikipedia.

Update: Friday Ark #305 is afloat at the Modulator, with our own Hakuna in pole position yet again. And this Sunday, don’t forget to drop by Three Tabby Cats in Vienna for the 332nd edition of Carnival of the Cats.

Monday, July 19, 2010


Tisha b’Av, the most mournful holiday of the Jewish calendar, begins this evening at sundown.

Observant Jews will keep several traditions, among them fasting for at least 25 hours (no food or water); abstaining from marital relations; and not wearing leather shoes. As night falls, we will gather in synagogues to hear Megillat Eichah - the Book of Lamentations - chanted in its ages-old, dirgelike melody by the light of flickering candles.

And I, following my own ridiculous tradition, will post the following Irreverent Poem:

Tisha b’Av

Hey, it’s what I do. No need to thank me.


From Houston Steve comes this amazing video of one Stephen Wiltshire (another British Steve!), a man with a remarkable eidetic memory. Watch as, after a single forty-five minute overflight of Rome, he draws an astonishingly accurate panorama in pen and ink, by memory alone.

The human mind is capable of marvelous feats. As for me, I’m perfectly satisfied to be able to remember what I had for breakfast this morning.


El and the Mistress

The Mistress of Sarcasm and I have a little Photobooth Phun in this picture taken in Destin two years ago.

Sunday, July 18, 2010


When I was a young Snot-Nose growing up on Lawn Guyland, one of the features of our backyard was a nice-sized buddleia - a butterfly bush. It must have been about six feet high, festooned with purple blossoms that attracted butterflies like a lap dance attracts politicians.

I was an Intrepid Butterfly Hunter back then. Armed with my stupid-ass butterfly net, I would capture those wingèd beauties by the dozens.

No trap-and-release for this boy, not back then in those environmentally insensitive days. My captures would immediately be transferred to a killing jar, where carbon tetrachloride vapors would put the quietus to them in moments. (Gawd only knows what those same carbon tet vapors were doing to my genetic material, or how many brain cells they were killing... but who thought of such arcane concerns back then?) The now-defunct butterflies would then go into a relaxing box, where a moist environment would soften them up enough to permit unfolding and flattening out the wings on a mounting board, there to dry thoroughly. At the end of the process, you would have a lovely preserved specimen, suitable for display in a mounting frame or for shoving in a shoebox until it gradually decayed into a desiccated pile of Butterfly-Dust.

Our buddleia was a powerful attractant. Butterflies of every variety would flock there, along with enormous hummingbird moths and fat bumblebees. And no butterfly was safe from my youthful depredations. Tiger swallowtails, regal fritillaries, admirals, yellow sulphurs, monarchs - all of these were grist for the Elisson Butterfly-Mill. I still have a few of those dried-out sumbitches, even after all these years, moldering away in a shoebox... a reminder of lazy, wonder-filled summer days of long ago.

I recalled our old Butterfly Bush a few days ago when we stopped by for a visit with my cousin Diane and her husband Charles, just outside of Tampa. They live in a butterfly-friendly environment, hard by a wildlife refuge - with a yard filled with buddleia and bordered by milkweed.

Take a walk in that yard and you just might stumble upon some hot monarch-on-monarch action:

Mating Monarchs
Monarchs in the grass, alas.

Or you might see a giant swallowtail supping upon that sweet, sweet nectar:

Giant Swallowtail 01
Giant Swallowtail 02
Big fella: The elusive Giant Swallowtail.

All of this nectar-sipping pleasantness is just fine, but one thing I have learned in those many years since I chased those fluttering, elusive creatures around the back yard fifty years ago: Beautiful as they are, butterflies are still flies.

Friday, July 16, 2010


Computing with Hakuna
Hakuna feigns indifference as SWMBO, elbow visible at right, toils away on her laptop computational device.

Hakuna, though she is mostly a cat who appreciates her solitude, will occasionally cozy up to her pet humans. No, she is not quite as cuddly as the late Matata, who would climb all over SWMBO and me... but she does have her moments.

Perhaps she is wondering when she’ll get a whack at the machine. “Hey, how do I get to the Friday Ark?”

Update: Getting to the Friday Ark is simplicity itself - just go to the Modulator, where the 304th voyage has already begun.

Sunday evening, When Cats Attack will host the 331st edition of Carnival of the Cats, the blogosphere’s longest-running Kitty Kollection. Be sure to stop by and tell ’em Elisson sent you.

Update 2: CotC #331 is up.


The ol’ Stink-Eye: Notice the whacked-out, noncircular pupil on my left eye. No fun, this iritis business, I assure you.

It’s Friday, time for yet another installment of the Friday Random Ten. You know the drill: ten randomly-selected cuts from the Cheese Aisle-Pod, posted for your listening pleasure. (Assuming you have the same songs in your Musical Library, that is, which is unlikely given my bizarre taste.)

Today’s selections are not, however, random. Instead, we will explore the themes of Vision and Eyes, since my left one is, (how can I put this delicately?) all fucked up. So, let’s see what’s playing today:
  1. The Eyes of Fate - The Incredible String Band

  2. Her Eyes Are A Blue Million Miles - Captain Beefheart and the Magic Band

    I look at her and she looks at me
    In her eyes I see the sea
    I can’t see what she sees in a man like me
    She says she loves me

    Her eyes

    Her eyes
    Her eyes are a blue million miles

    Far as I can see

    She loves me

    Her eyes

    Her eyes
    Her eyes are a blue million miles

    Far as I can see

    She loves me

    I look at her and she looks at me

    In her eyes I see the sea
    I can’t see what she sees in a man like me
    She says she loves me

    Her eyes

    Her eyes
    Her eyes are a blue million miles

  3. I Believe My Own Eyes - Tommy, Original Broadway Cast

  4. Brown Eyed Girl - Van Morrison

  5. Reting’s Eyes - Philip Glass, Kundun

  6. You Won’t See Me - The Beatles

  7. I Can See For Miles - The Who

  8. Sound and Vision - David Bowie

  9. Smoke Gets In Your Eyes - Stéphane Grappelli

  10. She Blinded Me With Science - Thomas Dolby

It’s Friday. What are you listening to?

Thursday, July 15, 2010


(Or, Stop that, or you’ll go blind.)

Sometime last week, I had noticed that my left eye appeared to be a bit irritated.

My eyes will occasionally get slightly bloodshot, especially late of an evening. A drop or two of anti-redness eyedrops, and bingo! No more red.

But this was different. The redness was persistent. Nevertheless, I thought little of it until last Saturday, when we arrived in South Florida. By that time, my left eye - the oculus sinistrum, as the Eyeball-Croaker would call it - looked like a golf ball made of lean bacon, and it felt as though someone were shoving icepicks into it.


We ate dinner alfresco that evening - SWMBO and I, accompanied by Aunt Marge - at a place in Hollywood called Argentango. The specialty there is a humongous skirt steak, grilled Argentine-style; I had the junior version, half the size of the original, yet still weighing in at 14 ounces. Buried in chimichurri, it was superb... but I was having a hard time seeing it, owing to the fact that I was wearing my sunglasses despite the sun having gone down.

The next morning, I stopped in at one of those drugstore walk-in clinics, figuring that I had come down with a case of conjunctivitis: the old Pink-Eye, scourge of elementary schools the nation over. And that’s the diagnosis the Doc-in-the-Box arrived at, using her handy-dandy Computer Diagnostickal Questionnaire. A bottle of antibiotic eyedrops, and I was on my way.

Not so fast, podnuh.

After several days of instilling drops every four hours, my left eye still looked like boiled shit... and felt worse. A filmy haze obscured my vision, rendering me useless for the trip home: SWMBO drove the entire 750 miles unassisted. (I don’t call her Iron Woman for nothing!)

First thing today, I went to see my own ophthalmologist. The good news was that, no, I didn’t have conjunctivitis. All of my paranoid anti-contagion measures were unnecessary, because what I have is not contagious.

I’ve got iritis, an inflammation of the iris and its surrounding tissues. Ouch.

All I can say at this point: Eyedrops - and dark glasses - are my friends. And I will be spending a lot of time with my friends over the next few weeks.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010


One of the time-honored ways She Who Must Be Obeyed and I pass the time on long road trips is by playing the License Plate Game.

It’s not anything that requires a whole lot of brain power. You look at the various license plates you see on the highway, make a note of what states or provinces they’re from, and tally up the total at the end of the trip. Simple stuff.

There’s even iPhone software to help you keep track of the tags you’ve found. Yep - there’s an app for that! (Because sometimes pencil and paper are so... archaic.)

One of the things we could not help but notice was the incredible - nay, ridiculous - variety of Florida tags. There is a profusion of different license plates, allowing Sunshine State motorists to proclaim their love and allegiance to any number of causes, be they sports teams, colleges, or favorite ideologies.

Just how many different plates are there? To find out, I went to Florida’s official license tag website, where I discovered that, in addition to the two “standard” license tags (one with the traditional Sunshine State motto, the other with the pandering-to-the-religious right In God We Trust motto), Florida offers an amazing 115 - count ’em! - specialty license tags. Here’s the breakdown...

Environmental: 20, including “Save the Manatee,” “Sea Turtle,” and “Save the Whales - Collect Them All - Win Valuable Prizes”
Miscellaneous: 49, including “Live the Dream,” whatever the hell that means, and “NASCAR”
Professional Sports Franchises: 9
Universities: 36

Holy fuckamoley, that’s a lotta different tags! But is that an anomaly? How about Georgia?

Well, Georgia currently issues 109 different specialty tags, including those for universities, various branches of the military (and specific conflicts), and other “special interest” plates. So maybe Florida is nothing special...

...except nowhere else have we seen so many people actually driving around with all those different tags. In Georgia, you see ’em... but they’re not, seemingly, on every other car. And you don’t see the sheer variety you do here in SoFl.

What’s the License Tag situation like where you live? Inquiring (and easily distracted) minds want to know.

Update: SWMBO had a theory about why Florida specialty tags appear to be so numerous: In most states (e.g., Georgia), the specialty tags carry more-or-less the same color scheme as the basic tag... but in Florida, the designs are all completely different - as though a rainbow had thrown up on ’em (quoth SWMBO). And I think she has a good point.


Gary Greyhound was unprepared for the strange, unfamiliar desires that began to occupy his mind. At first he attributed it to the one-year itch, but after a while he realized that there was more to it than that.

This was different.

This was… exciting, in a way he couldn’t explain.

Gary had always felt secure in his sexual identity. His bitches loved him, and he returned the favor. That would never change.

But what they didn’t know wouldn’t hurt them, would it?

The nights he spent frisking about town with Danny Dachshund would be his secret... living on the down-low.

Monday, July 12, 2010


She Who Must Be Obeyed and I are on the road again, which fact accounts for the relative paucity of posts here over the past few days. We’re in South Florida - a place that She Who Must Be Obeyed characterizes as being “a mishmash of gold and shit” - visiting Uncle Phil and Aunt Marge.

Phil has been having a rough go of it these past several weeks. Healthwise, he is what the medical community calls a “hot mess,” with two nonfunctional kidneys and a ten-year-old case of prostate cancer that has metastasized into his bones. But radiation treatments have brought relief from the pain he had been suffering when his cancer manifested itself, and lately he has been eating well enough to put on a few pounds. That’s Phil: the Energizer Bunny (keyn ayin hara).

This evening, we smuggled an apple knish into his room. His eyes lit up like those of Charlie Bucket upon seeing the innards of Willy Wonka’s Chocolate Factory for the first time, and he snarfed up that knish (the half of it we gave him, anyway) with ecstatic delight.

(An apple knish is, of course, the bastard child of a potato knish and an apple pie.)

When we’re not visiting with Phil, we’ve been trying to keep Marge entertained. Last night, SWMBO and I fixed dinner for her and a few old friends. We had raided the Whole Foods in Aventura for the necessaries, in the process running into Aria Kagan, one of the contestants on “The Next Food Network Star,” a very personable young lady in the midst of a family shopping expedition. The menu included roasted sockeye salmon with chimichurri, avocado-mango salsa, sweet potato purée with roasted garlic, braised bok choy, arugula and spinach salad with shaved Parmesan and lemon - all thrown together in a mere couple of hours, to Marge’s astonishment and delight.

This afternoon, we ran off to Pompano Beach, site of the infamous Festival indoor flea market. SWMBO and I had been there back in September; the only thing that has changed since then is a general diminution in Shopper Traffic. The place was just this side of desolate... a function of a miserable economy, a reflection of slow mid-Monday mall activity, or both. But it was the perfect encapsulation of SWMBO’s description of South Florida, and so a perfect place to spend a few hours.

We’ll be back on the road in a couple of days, headed home. Posting will be unpredictable and intermittent. Like always, eh?

Thursday, July 8, 2010


Cuddling Sisters

Hakuna and the late Matata get in some sisterly cuddling in this photo from sometime in the early 2000’s.

I’m not sure whether Hakuna misses Matata, gone now for over two years. But we sure do...

Update: Friday Ark #303 is afloat at the Modulator... with our girls in pole position! This Sunday, be sure to check in with Nikita at Meowsings of an Opinionated Pussycat for Carnival of the Cats #330.

Update 2: CotC #330 is up.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010


I wandered over to my buddy Ivan’s site this morning, where I discovered that today is Ringo Starr’s seventieth birthday.

How terribly strange to be seventy! (Whoops! Wrong artist.)

Back when I was still in high school - and the Beatles were still a functioning enterprise - my then-girlfriend gifted me with a copy of the original edition of Alan Aldridge’s wonderful book, The Beatles Illustrated Lyrics. Aldridge, a talented graphic artist and illustrator (among other things, he designed the record jackets for Elton John’s Captain Fantastic and the Brown Dirt Cowboy and The Who’s A Quick One), had assembled a remarkable collection of images - his and other artists’ work - that managed to capture the essence of every published Beatles song.

Elderly Beatles
The Beatles as oldsters: painting ­©1969 Michael Leonard.

One of the images in the back pages of the book was the above illustration by one Michael Leonard, a speculative portrait of the Beatles as elderly men.

Alas, John Lennon and George Harrison never made it to “elderly.” But Paul McCartney and Ringo Starr are still walking the planet with us, and they are, with today’s Happy Occasion as witness, Getting On Up There. As are, I suppose, many of us.

Ringo and Paul look pretty good, though... a stark contrast to, say, Mick Jagger and Keith Richards, both of whom look as though their blood was replaced by a blend of embalming fluid, caffeine, and Reanimator Juice years ago.

Happy birthday, Mr. Starr! Long life and good health to you.


Upon examining the calendar, I realized that today is my Bloggy-Versary: I put the very first post up at my old site exactly six years ago.

Dayum, that’s a lotta water under the bridge.

Looking back on that first post, I see it includes references to both Food and Shit, two of my favorite topics. And despite my having moved to these shiny new digs, nothing much has changed, more’s the pity...

Tuesday, July 6, 2010


Truck stop hot dogs share the Hot Rollers with some cylindrical impostors: frankfurter-shaped hamburgers. Horrors!

One of the long-standing traditions of American Independence Day celebrations is the grilling of meats. Hamburgers and beefsteaks are popular choices, but the quintessential Fourth of July comestible is, of course, that most American of foods: the Hot Dog. And hot dog is so much more American-sounding than frankfurter sausage, a name that reveals the Germanic origins of this Cylindrical Meat-Food.

Hot dogs are just one of a vast family of sausages, concoctions consisting of meat, fat, spices (and sometimes non-meat components), packed into a casing and then cured or cooked. The original casings, of course, were animal intestines, which come in a convenient hollowed-out tubular form. Alas, many modern sausages have dispensed with the casing. But I submit that a frankfurter with a natural casing that pops when you bite into it is the only authentic kind.

Sausages! They are manifold, from the porky delights of the Italian salumeria to the garlicky kosher salamis that inspired the famous sign in Katz’s Delicatessen (site of the Fake Orgasm scene in When Harry Met Sally): “Send a Salami to Your Boy in the Army.” Liverwurst. Bratwurst. Boudin. Cappicola. Sopressata. Knackwurst. The scary French Andouillette. And the humble Frankfurter, king of them all.

Growing up in the late 1950’s and early 1960’s, we had hot dogs frequently; they were an inexpensive source of protein and were easy to prepare, to boot. In school, nasty porky hot dogs would appear once a week, served on a (gak!) buttered bun. At home, hot dogs and beans were also regular menu items, except there we would have all-beef dogs. (Not that my notoriously nonobservant parents had any objection to pork, mind you. They just didn’t think it belonged in a hot dog... and, to this day, I agree.)

Frankfurters were generally not restaurant fare, with one notorious exception: the Big Bow Wow, the completely unhygienic source of the finest grilled hot dogs on Long Island’s south shore. And that brings me to the real point of this post.

How should you prepare a hot dog?

Some will steam them, others boil them. The now virtually defunct Lum’s chain used to steam them in beer. But me, I like ’em charcoal grilled.

Get hold of some good beef hot dogs, preferably dinner size. Kosher dogs, like those from Hebrew National, have a nice dense, salty, beefy, garlicky flavor and texture - everything else is an also-ran. Slash those dogs on the bias, then put them on a hot grill until they char; that’s how to do it. Whether you serve them minimalist-style with mustard only, or whether you pile on the sauerkraut and relish, that’s up to you. Chicago dog, with cucumber spears, fluorescent green relish, sport peppers, and celery salt? Be my guest. Ketchup? Be ashamed.

Kosher Beef Franks
The Real Thing: char-grilled Hebrew National beef franks. Yowza!

Bite into one of them - man bites dog! - and you are not simply having a meal. You’re having a bite of America.

Sunday, July 4, 2010


Patriotic Berries
SWMBO’s patriotic dessert: an American flag composed of raspberries, blueberries... and Greek yogurt.

Independence Day - the day on which we Americans celebrate our country’s having become independent from the British crown - is a joyful day for most of us. I have wonderful childhood memories of annual Fourth of July clambakes and outdoor grilling spectaculars at the home of Al S., one of Eli Hizzownself’s business partners. Al’s place had two major attractions: (1) a huge, two-acre lot, inconceivably spacious to a typical South Shore kid like me, and (2) an honest-to-Gawd built-in swimming pool. We would swim all day, gorge ourselves silly on char-grilled burgers and hot dogs, and then set off every firecracker, Roman candle, and aerial bomb we could get our hands on as soon as the sun went down. Happy days.

As a certified Propulsion Engineer and lover of pyrotechnics, I’ve gotta love any holiday on which fireworks are part of the officially sanctioned celebrations.

But the Fourth is a bittersweet holiday for She Who Must Be Obeyed... and, by extension, for me. Has been for a long time... for it was on this very day thirty-five years ago that SWMBO’s sister Polly was struck by lightning and killed instantly.

All the grilled hot dogs, picnic goodies, and fireworks displays in the world cannot erase that memory.

I never knew Polly. I met SWMBO almost six months after that terrible Fourth of July, at a time when the psychic wounds of the family’s loss were still fresh and raw. But I know that even today, thirty-five years later (more than twice Polly’s entire span of time on this planet), not a day goes by when SWMBO does not think of her lost sister.

A few days ago, as we were cleaning out the contents of our old bedroom furniture to prepare for the arrival of the new, She Who Must Be Obeyed happened upon several faded snapshots of Polly, photos that had been taken in the last weeks of her life and that had been tucked away in her nightstand, unnoticed, for years. She sat on the floor and wept, then... and I grieved, too. I grieved for the sister I never knew.

So if SWMBO or I seem a little subdued on this happiest of our National Occasions, we’re just thinking about our family’s Missing Piece. SWMBO has her memories to fall back upon; I, having none, must imagine the sister I never got to know.

Saturday, July 3, 2010


Hatty Maddy

Our niece Madison models the latest in Cowboy Chapeaux.


Disposable aluminum roasting pan (with clear plastic lid): $2.59

Assorted vegetables (cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, parsnips) for eleven people: $15.35
Convection oven: $3,200
Elisson realizing that he put the fucking vegetables in a 400°F oven without detaching the plastic lid from the bottom of the aluminum roasting pan: Priceless

* * *

Yes, this really happened.

My Dinner-Party Assignment was pretty straightforward: Prepare roasted vegetables for eleven people.  I filled two pans with cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, and parsnips, oiled ’em up and seasoned ’em with kosher salt and freshly ground pepper, and threw in a whole head of garlic.  With the oven cranked up on full convection at 400°, all I would need to do is roast those bad boys for about twenty minutes or so, turning them occasionally.  Easy peasy.

Good thing She Who Must Be Obeyed and I were astute enough to notice the distinctive pong of hot, smoking polystyrene wafting through the kitchen before things got really serious. There was a puddle of molten goop on the floor of the oven, and it took a moment before we figured out exactly what it was. D’oh!

Fortunately, no real damage done... and the veggies were deemed especially tasty after we finished them off in JoAnn’s oven later in the evening. Hey, maybe I’m on to something here!

Maybe I should call the Food Network and pitch a new show: “Cookin’ with CRS* - Recipes for the Memory Impaired.” Whaddayathink?

[*CRS = Can’t Remember Shit]

Friday, July 2, 2010


It’s Friday, time for yet another installment of the Friday Random Ten. You know the drill: ten randomly-selected choons from the Little White Choon-Box, all listed nice and neat.

What’s playing today?
  1. Cheap Reward - Elvis Costello

  2. Shake Ya Ass - Richard Cheese

  3. Mix Tape - Avenue Q, Original Broadway Cast

  4. Reminiscing - Russell Garcia, The Time Machine (1960)

  5. Soma - Smashing Pumpkins

  6. On The Run - Easy Star All-Stars

    From Dub Side of the Moon, a reggae cover of the Pink Floyd classic.

  7. Time Out For Fun - Devo

  8. Three Is A Green Crown - The Incredible String Band

  9. In The Wee Small Hours Of Sixpence - Procol Harum

  10. Haqq Ali Ali - Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan

    Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan:
    If you like qawwali, he’s your man.

It’s Friday. What are you listening to?

Thursday, July 1, 2010


Hakuna’s Gaze

Hakuna sits at the top of the stairs with one of her classic Inscrutable Expressions, thinking Deep Thoughts. But what is she thinking?

Perhaps she is wishing the Mistress of Sarcasm a happy birthday. Not likely.

Perhaps she is thinking about the Mistress’s new kitty, Bernadette. “They better not even think of bringing that damned cat over here...” Unlikely as well, since Hakuna does not know of Bern’s existence.

Too bad for Hakuna. Bernadette, in her first week with the Mistress of Sarcasm, has shown herself to be a sweet, affectionate cat. She’d be a wonderful companion for Hakuna, if not for Hakuna’s extreme distaste for feline companionship.

What do you think she’s thinking, deep within the convolutions of her Kitty-Brain?

Update: Friday Ark #302 is afloat at (where else?) the Modulator. For even more Cat-Bloggery, visit Mind of Mog Sunday evening to catch the 329th edition of Carnival of the Cats.

Update 2: CotC #329 is up.