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

Monday, October 31, 2011


Submitted for your approval... a few more-or-less familiar faces from the recently concluded Hysterics at Eric’s.
RM and KG
Rube and HW
El and DDL
[The last one would never have occurred to me. Tip o’ the Elisson fedora to the lovely (and obviously imaginative) Anna for suggesting it!]


Well, if it were our holiday, that’s what we would call it.

But no. It’s just plain Hallowe’en.

Today I got to spend most of the day in a Golfer Costume, whacking a small white ball around the eighteen holes of the Standard Club. Now I’m trying to write a post while fielding a myriad of interruptions by prepubescent children (and some postpubescent ones, too) ringing the doorbell and asking for candy with the Ritual Invocation that is at once both request and veiled threat: “Trick or Treat!”

She Who Must Be Obeyed took the whole Hallowe’en Getup business much more seriously:

Addams Family
SWMBO and a few of her colleagues dressed up as the Addams Family.

As for me, I’ll just work my way through my Ridiculous Headgear collection as I answer the (incessantly ringing) doorbell. Right now it’s the Top Hat.

Saturday, October 29, 2011


Liveblogging from the Straight White Compound in Tennessee...


Connecticut Snow
The Mistress of Sarcasm took this photo of her back yard Saturday as a rare October snowfall pounded the Northeast.

The Mistress of Sarcasm has been residing in the State of Connecticut for all of two weeks... and she is now enjoying (heh!) her first snowfall of the season.

There are four inches already on the ground, with another 10-15 expected through the remainder of the day and night. Hoo-hah!

Meanwhile, here in the Volunteer State, it’s sunny and in the low sixties. As much as I love a good snowfall, I am rather pleased to be here, where the forecast calls for pleasant climes and gently falling bloggers.

Update: The Mistress’s power is out... which means her Skype, heat, and water are out as well. Current predictions are for the outage to last several days. At least the roads are clear enough for her to make an escape - thank Gawd for small favors!

Thursday, October 27, 2011


My first trip to Europe was to a little country that’s packed with big flavors.

I speak of Belgium, a sliver of a land wedged between the Netherlands, France, and Germany. Oh, yes, and Luxembourg. Can’t forget Luxembourg.

That first trip was a week-long business-related jaunt back in 1979, done at the behest (and expense) of the Great Corporate Salt Mine. I divided my time between Antwerp and Brussels... and, as luck and the calendar would have it, the week was neatly divided in twain by a holiday that fell right in the middle of the week. That gave me a day to visit the medieval towns of Ghent and Bruges.

Belgium has a somewhat stodgy reputation, but it’s pretty much undeserved. The Belgians are not as dour as the Swiss, and not all the women look like potatoes. And, between the Flemings and the francophone Walloons, they know their food and drink. If you’re a lover of waffles, chocolate, beer, or French fries (which actually originated in Belgium, where they are typically served with a dollop of mayonnaise), then a visit is certainly in order.

Beer! These guys drink more beer per capita than anywhere else in the world and produce more different styles of beer than anywhere else. Sure, you can get your Pilsner-style lagers in Belgium, but what’s the point when there are gaboons of artisan-brewed goodies like lambics (gueuze, kriek, framboise, et al.), wheat beers, Trappist beers, dubbels and tripels?

Chocolate! You can’t throw a rock in Brussels without hitting a chocolate shop. And they’ve got the goods. Neuhaus, Corné Toison d’Or, Leonidas, even Godiva (the real Godiva, not the Campbell’s Soup-owned version) - and they are all of them excellent. I’ve never had better chocolates than the ones I’ve had in Belgium... not even in Switzerland.

Waffles! Thick ones (Brussels-style), thin ones, stroopwafels with their layer of caramelized sugar syrup... good Gawd.

The Belgians are said to serve French-quality cuisine in German-size quantities. Many local favorites, like carbonnade Flamande and waterzooi, are stewlike affairs: quintessential peasant food. But there’s Haute Cuisine, too. I had one memorable meal at La Couronne, a restaurant in the Grand-Place of Brussels, complete with fine wines, langoustines, and thinly sliced agneau de printemps... another time, at lunch, an ethereal side dish of asperges blance en sauce mousseline sauce that might have even been worth the $30 the Salt Mine paid for it.

The Grand-Place - the living, beating heart of Brussels - is considered by many to be the most beautiful town square in Europe, besting even Moscow’s Red Square. Its combination of Gothic, Baroque, and Louis XIV styles is remarkably harmonious. On that first visit back in 1979, my arrival coincided with the appearance of the Flower Carpet - a 19,000 square foot array of colorful begonias that decorates the Grand-Place for several weeks in August every other year - and so the square was even more striking than usual.

Walking around the town square of Antwerp in the late evening and watching the locals at the sidewalk cafés snarfing down their platters of moules frites (mussels and French fries) - in the summer, there’s still plenty of light even at 10:00 pm - I was captivated by the sights, smells, and feel of it all... like a smaller, more intimate version of the Brussels Grand-Place.

I haven’t been to Belgium since 1992, and it’s about time I went back. Those waffles and chocolates are calling.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011


Over the years, I’ve worn all kinds of crazy chapeaux. Everything from Glengarry bonnet to pith helmet to Hornèd Buffalo Hat to colanders of every description. (Not to mention my signature Panama.)

And just to show you how ecumenical I am after the previous post, here I am sporting a Knights of Columbus helmet.

K of C Elisson


Tefillin Elisson
Yours Truly, in chubbier days, attired for morning prayers in tallit and tefillin.

Every weekday morning, observant Jews prepare for morning prayer by wrapping themselves in a fringed garment (tallit) and donning phylacteries (tefillin), small leather boxes containing sections of Scripture handwritten on parchment and affixed to the arm and forehead by leather straps.

Traditionally, a young man receives his first tallit and set of tefillin when he becomes a Bar Mitzvah - at the age of thirteen. (In some communities, unmarried men do not wear the tallit, a convenient way of letting people know they’re available.) If the young man is religious, he will use these ritual objects routinely; if not, he will set them aside to be trotted out at rare occasions. And when they are used frequently, they become more familiar and personal than other personal adornments such as watches and rings.

Because they are so personal, these ritual items are rarely, if ever, lent or borrowed. Wearing someone else’s tefillin, while perfectly acceptable, would feel weird... like wearing someone else’s jockey shorts. And deliberately walking off with someone else’s tallit and tefillin would be completely beyond the bounds of civilized behavior: unthinkable. Which makes it all the more strange that, about eight months ago, my minyan buddy Barney’s tallit and tefillin disappeared.

Like many of us minyan regulars, Barney stores his Ritual Devices, neatly packed up in a velveteen sack, in a cubby adjacent to our synagogue’s small chapel where weekday services are conducted. The cubbies are unlocked: who would ever think to borrow or (gasp!) steal someone else’s tallit or tefillin? But one day, his were gone. Just up and disappeared, they did.

Barney was massively irritated, but he refused to buy new tefillin. They’re fairly expensive, but that wasn’t the issue. He was convinced they would eventually resurface, and to replace them too soon would be almost like an act of disloyalty.

Sure enough, they showed up in their old, familiar place... right after Yom Kippur.

It was easy enough to figure out what had happened.

Someone had come to morning minyan one day and had - probably completely inadvertently - grabbed Barney’s bag instead of his own. But unlike Barney, this was a one-time-a-year synagogue attendee, someone who did not realize his mistake until Yom Kippur rolled around and he had occasion to open the bag. Embarrassed, he must have quietly stuck it back where he had found it without saying a word to anyone.

This morning, as I led the morning service, I could see Barney standing in the rear of the chapel, donning his tefillin for the first time in eight months. He was smiling... no doubt happy to be reunited with his Old Friends. I smiled too.

Monday, October 24, 2011


In the last few weeks, the flowers near our front doorstep have been growing in mad profusion. The combination of nectar and warm weather makes a powerful attractant for bees and butterflies.

Yesterday, I managed to catch a couple of shots of this handsome fellow:

Gulf Fritillary - profile

Gulf Fritillary

I remembered enough from my childhood butterfly-chasing days to identify him as some sort of fritillary... but what kind? A little research established that he was a Gulf Fritillary (Agraulis vanillæ), also known as the Passion Butterfly on account of its larval-stage diet of passion flowers.

Butterflies. They’re pretty enough, to be sure, but I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: However beautiful it may be, a butterfly is still a fly.

Update: Friday Ark #358 is up at the Modulator. Stop by and check out the Miscellaneous Fauna!


Way back in my Snot-Nose Days, I visited the New York World’s Fair.

No, not the one that ran from 1939 to 1940: I’m not that damn old. This was the 1964-65 version.

There was a lot of impressive stuff at that World’s Fair... if, as I was at the time, you were easily impressed. There were the architecturally adventurous pavilions - if you’ve seen Men in Black, then you’ve seen the New York State pavilion, with its flying saucer-like towers. There was the Unisphere, a stainless steel globe that symbolically portrayed the Unity of Mankind On Earth. Kum-Bay-Fucking-Ya.

There was the General Electric Carousel of Progress, offering glimpses of American families past and future as they went about the business of chewing up the Earth’s resources in pursuit of the ideal, electrically facilitated Middle Class Lifestyle. So popular was this exhibit that it was picked up lock, stock, and barrel and carted off initially to Disneyland and thence to Walt Disney World, where it may be seen unto this very day.

There was the “Great Moments with Mr. Lincoln” show at the Illinois pavilion, in which a robotic Honest Abe stood up from his chair and began speechifying. I recall that, to my sixth-grade perception, it was shockingly, eerily realistic. The show eventually evolved into the Hall of Presidents attraction at - you guessed it - Walt Disney World.

There were Brussels waffles - humongous, thick, floor mat-sized confections served with strawberries, a scoop of ice cream, and a hefty dollop of schlag. Good Gawd.

And there was the Bell Telephone pavilion, where you could see a demonstration of AT&T’s futuristic Picturephone technology. The boxy, kludgy Picturephone was a bust - there were only a handful of public Picturephone booths, and the cost was a jaw-dropping $16 for a three-minute call - but at least people knew it could be done.

Fast forward four-and-a-half decades.

Nobody back in 1964 would have dreamed of devices like laptop computers, iPads, and smartphones that each carry more computing horsepower than Mission Control did back during the days of the moon shots. But here they are... and we also have this:

Skyping with the Mistress and Bernie
Using the magic of modern technology - a MacBook with built-in webcam and free Skype software - The Mistress of Sarcasm converses with the ’rents while cuddling sweet Bernadette.

Sometimes I wonder about our modern technology and whether it is, on balance, a Good Thing. But not when the Missus and I can carry on a conversation with the Mistress of Sarcasm and see every facial expression, every grimace and grin, despite her being at a thousand-mile remove. Hooray for Skype!


For most Americans, the holiday season is just around the corner, with Hallowe’en batting leadoff, followed by Thanksgiving and Christmas. It’d be accurate to call it the Fourth Quarter Trifecta, but then I would be mixing my baseball and horse racing metaphors, wouldn’t I?

In our ridiculously commercialized society, this year-end concatenation of celebrations manifests itself in the form of decorations, costumes, and holiday sales. Hallowe’en, the Mack Daddy of costume-driven events, seems to be in some sort of demented feedback loop with our country’s pop-cultural fascination with zombies and vampires. (Ya gotta love a holiday that celebrates Candy and Grue in equal measures.) Meanwhile, the cooking mags all feature turkey recipes, and Christmas decorations have already begun to appear in the malls. It’s a festive mash-up! It’s ThanksChristmaWe’en!

It’s unfortunate, is what it is. When all of those late-in-the-year holidays get conjoined, each one of them loses a bit of what makes it special.

We Red Sea Pedestrians believe in a concept called l’havdil - differentiation. We differentiate between the sacred and the profane, between the Sabbath and the six days of Creation... and we differentiate between our own holidays, so that each one’s individual identity is preserved.

Here’s an example. One of the central ritual observances of Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year, is the sounding of the shofar - the ram’s horn trumpet. During Elul, the month preceding the holiday, the shofar is sounded every weekday at morning services, a form of spiritual preparation for the Jewish New Year. But on the day before Rosh Hashanah, the shofar is not sounded, so as not to diminish the special nature of the holiday.

For the same reason, we don’t eat matzoh (unleavened bread) before Passover when we are required to consume it. (Also because matzoh is famously constipating.)

If we were in charge of the year-end holidays (which we’re not), the Thanksgiving stuff would appear only after the pumpkins, candy, and costumes were all put away... and Christmas decorations would be kept under wraps until after the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, the official shot signaling the beginning of the Christmas season. But that’s just us.

Speaking of holiday seasons, our has just ended. The parade of Jewish holidays that began end-September with Rosh Hashanah, moving on through Yom Kippur, Sukkot, Shemini Atzeret, and winding up this past Friday with Simchat Torah, is now over... at least until Chanukah rears its exaggerated-out-of-all-proportion-to-its-importance head in late December.

I enjoy Simchat Torah. I like the comically informal Torah service, during which we clown around, wear ridiculous headgear*, and march around the synagogue with all the Torah scrolls. I am always moved by the last passages of Deuteronomy, when Moses ascends Mount Nebo to die, but not before gazing out upon the Promised Land that he will, himself, never enter... and by the reading of the creation story from Genesis that immediately follows it in our never-ending cycle of study. And the enormous quantities of single malt Scotch don’t hurt a single bit. But that’s all over for another year.

May we all be here to greet the next Holiday Season, whichever one you choose to observe!

*This year I wore three different hats: a jingly harlequin cap, an antique top hat, and my Warrior Dash souvenir buffalo helmet.  (Alas, no colanders.)  Too bad we don’t take photographs on holidays... at least, not in synagogue.

Sunday, October 23, 2011


Several weeks ago, as I walked through Elder Daughter’s neighborhood in Philadelphia, I looked down and saw an interesting little plaque embedded in the sidewalk...

Sidewalk Plaque

Why, it was nothing less than an old-school Designer Label - an identifying mark that also served as a miniature advertisement touting the fine sidewalk paving services of Frank J. Ginder, Inc.

I was impressed. As an advertisement, the plaque could not have been especially effective: People don’t sign paving contracts based on shiny chunks of metal embedded on the promenade. Whiskey-soaked entertainment was probably more of a deciding factor. Nevertheless, these guys were proud enough of their work that they stuck a brass plate in it.

Elder Daughter saw another one a week or so later:

Sidewalk Plaque Too

Hmmm. Steve J. Leuzzi was clearly very impressed with himself (“King of Concrete”), although not so impressed with his work that he would stick a brass plaque in it. No, he opted for the inexpensive Incused Stamp... appropriate, I suppose, given that he was working with plain old boring smooth concrete instead of the pebbly stuff his predecessors used.

You don’t see a lot of identifying marks on things as prosaic as sidewalks... except in older Northeastern cities. Which is too bad. It made me a bit nostalgic for the beautifully designed manhole covers of Japan, each one a miniature work of art in iron.

There are other types of identifying marks, as well. For example, anything imported - Swiss watches, French wine, and everything made in China (i.e., every damn thing in Wal-Mart) - must be clearly labeled with its country of origin.

F’r instance:

Tube Pan

Here’s a venerable old cake pan - the kind of toroidal tube pan that’s used to bake sponge cakes - sitting in Elder Daughter’s kitchen. When I saw it, I did a double-take, for that pan had once belonged to my grandmother!

I still remember that pan from my Snot-Nose Days, and the manifold uses to which it had been put. Most particularly, I remember the marble cakes that came out of that pan... and my sense-memory of them is so clearly etched that all I need do is close my eyes, and I can still taste them. They had a flavor that was uniquely their own, and no marble cake I have had since then has come close to duplicating it.

Eli, hizzownself, had given the pan to Elder Daughter several months back, ensuring that it would enjoy continued utility... the best possible memorial to his mother.

And as I looked closely at that pan, its many small nicks and pits serving as testament to years of happy usage, I saw its identifying mark:

Tube Pan Lid

PALALUM, it said. Pure aluminium, made in Palestine! This pan predated the establishment of the State of Israel, which meant that it was at least 63 years old and probably much older. It’s entirely possible that it came with my grandmother when she emigrated from Europe in 1922. Oh, the stories that pan could no doubt tell...



I’ve always been partial to the tiger, that most beauteous and regal of Big Cats. This is, in part, due to tigers being mascots of both my Alma Mater and the Great Corporate Salt Mine for which I toiled for over three decades. Throw in a sugary breakfast cereal, beloved of my childhood, and you have a Tiger Trifecta.

My affection for tigers is also, in large measure, a result of my never having met one Up Close and Personal. For while beauteous tigers may be, they also occupy a spot on the Food Chain somewhat above us inventive and dangerous humans. A tiger has absolutely no compunction about killing and eating said humans should the opportunity present itself. And thus my love for the tiger is a love that I practice at a safe remove.

All of this is by way of prelude to the terrible story of Terry Thompson, who until recently operated the Muskingum County Animal Farm, a private exotic animal preserve in Zanesville, Ohio. Thompson collected unusual and dangerous animals like normal people collect bottle caps or cigar bands, and the state of Ohio, in its grand and glorious wisdom, expressed the same interest in regulating his activities as it does in the regulation of bottle cap or cigar band collections. Which is to say, none.

Here is a man who had been cited for animal abuse on at least one occasion and who had recently returned from a prison stint on Federal weapons charges... yet he was permitted - to the extreme annoyance of his neighbors - to maintain his personal wild game preserve without interference or molestation by the state.

Apparently, the financial and/or emotional burdens of his zoological hobby had become too much to bear. Thompson committed suicide last week... but not before releasing his menagerie from their cages.

Let’s put aside the unfortunate matter of Mr. Thompson’s suicide - a matter between him, his family, and whatever God he chose to believe in - and focus on the beasts in his care. Whether his act of releasing the animals was motivated by spitefulness, perversity, or sheer stupidity, we can only guess... but he had to know that by doing so, he was condemning them all to death.

Lions and tigers and bears, running amok in the Ohio countryside. Of course, they had to be put down. Fast.

During the night after Thompson’s self-destruction, an escaped lion killed a monkey, and bears and lions were charging at horses kept at the preserve, according to Muskingum County Sheriff Matt Lutz.
When the carnage was over, 49 animals were slaughtered, including 18 Bengal tigers, 17 lions, six black bears, a pair of grizzlies, three mountain lions, two wolves and a baboon.
What a tragedy. Eighteen Bengal tigers is over one percent of the total population of this glorious endangered creature.

In a rational world, the state would have nipped this sorry business in the bud, carting the animals off to a zoo long before Thompson became overwhelmed by his debts and other personal demons. Ohio has a lot to answer for... as does Thompson, who, alas, is in no position to say very much at this point.

Saturday, October 22, 2011


Q: What’s the difference between a watchmaker and a gastroenterologist?
A: Not much difference at all. They both spend a lot of time examining movements.

Friday, October 21, 2011


“Any man’s death diminishes me, because I am involved in Mankind; And therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls; it tolls for thee.” - John Donne

“Every time a murdering son-of-a-bitch dictator dies, an angel gets his wings.” - Elisson


Moammar Qaddafi, the self-styled King of Kings of Africa and the absolute ruler of the Great Socialist People’s Libyan Arab Jamahiriya (AKA Libya), is now worm fodder. I, for one, will not weep for him. He was, after all, a colossal Dick.

Yes, I’m familiar with John Donne’s thoughts on the death of any man. However, I believe that there are plenty of people walking the planet whose existence diminishes us all. Qaddafi was one such man; there’s a whole laundry list of others. Osama bin Laden, Adolf Hitler, Saddam Hussein, Nicolae Ceauşescu, Josef Stalin, Pol Pot... there are plenty of people both living and defunct without whom the world is, or would be, a better place.

[Ask the families of the victims of the Pan Am 103 bombing what they think of Qaddafi’s demise. I suspect they won’t be shedding a lot of tears... unless they are tears of joy.]

I have no idea what the new revolutionary government of Libya will be like. If it follows the usual pattern, the idealists who won the struggle will shortly be replaced by yet another group of bloodthirsty pragmatists who know how to Run Things, and a new strongman will shortly hold the reins of power. Absent the imminent arrival of the Messiah, I expect no big surprises from the new Libya. They will give lip service to their new-found freedom while continuing to suppress dissent, along with making life miserable for anyone who is not a male Muslim.

But give ’em credit... they booted out Qaddafi.

I wonder whether Saddam Hussein would have met a similar fate at the hands of his own countrymen had the United States not chosen a more direct intervention path back in 2002. I wonder whether the Syrians will eventually do the same with Bashar al-Assad: give him the old Ceauşescu treatment. Not that the replacements will be much better.

Egypt provides the template for the fruits of the Arab Spring. They’ll still harbor an irrational hatred of the Zionist Entity; they’ll still oppose the values of Western civilization; they will be as grains of sand in the eyes of the Crusader Nations; they will make no effective contribution to the general health and welfare of mankind. But, as in the land formerly known as Yugoslavia, they’ll be able to operate without the restraints formerly imposed upon them by their tyrannical leaders... whether those restraints served a useful purpose or not.

Hey, that’s democracy, folks!

Meanwhile, an entire industry of cockamamie costume creators has been thrown out of work. For if Qaddafi was good at something, it surely was at playing dress-up... whether in an Africanesque dashiki-like affair or a military strongman’s uniform, complete with medals, badges, and Scrambled Eggs. He was the very model of a Cartoonish Crackpot Tinhorn Dictator - it would have been amusing except for all the people he murdered.

Houston Steve likes to say, What Goes Around, Comes Around. Indeed... and now, another angel is sporting a set of wings.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011


Yes, indeedy - it’s that time again. Tomorrow is Hoshana Rabah, AKA Whomping Willow Day!

We Red Sea Pedestrians may not handle snakes or flagellate ourselves, but we have our own nutty rituals. Schlepping palm fronds and fruit while marching around in circles? Smacking willow branches against the ground to knock the leaves off? Hey, why not? At least it keeps us off the street corner.


The Great Big Googly Eye Testing Device.

Today I paid yet another visit to the Eye-Croaker... but for once I didn’t mind going. This was for my regular periodic checkup, not for dealing with another bout of iritis. Which meant I got both eyes dilated, not just the left one... leaving me looking like one of those big-eyed puppies in the Cheesy Art section of Wal-Mart.

I also got to look through Mister Googly, the Great Big Googly Eye Testing Device pictured above, to have my refraction checked. It’s a procedure that hasn’t changed much in the 47-odd years since I first visited my hometown optometrist to get my first pair of spectacles. “What looks clearer, A or B? This way, or that way? One, or two?” It has always fascinated me how that machine, packed with lenses and dials, can zero in on a lens prescription that gives me 20:20 vision despite the fact that my unaided vision sucks rocks.

Good news: no significant change in my prescription. Yay!

Bad news: There’s a cataract forming in my left eye, probably as a result of the steroid therapy used to treat my iritis. Fortunately, it has had no effect on my vision so far; when and if it eventually does, I’ll deal with it.

Now my main task will be to avoid being out of doors without dark sunglasses.

Friday, October 14, 2011


...Now hold your head up, Mason
See, America lies there
The morning tide has raised the capes of Delaware
Come up and feel the sun
A new morning is begun
Another day will make it clear why your stars should guide us here...

We are sailing to Philadelphia
A world away form the coaly Tyne
Sailing to Philadelphia
To draw the line
The Mason-Dixon Line

- “Sailing to Philadelphia,” Mark Knopfler

Mark Knopfler’s song played inside my head as we crossed the border between Maryland and Pennsylvania - the actual Mason-Dixon line - earlier today.

Mason, an astronomer, and Dixon, a surveyor, had demarcated their eponymous line back in the mid-1760’s in order to settle a boundary dispute arising from conflicts in the land grants that established the Pennsylvania and Maryland-Delaware colonies. But the line came to symbolize the cultural boundary between the Northeastern U.S. and the South, a boundary that still carries weight unto this very day.

South of the Mason-Dixon line is the Land of Dixie; north of the line is Yankee country. That’s where we were headed.

We had started out mid-morning the previous day. Since we would be driving both a truck and a car, I wanted to avoid the usual route up Interstates 85 and 95, a route that would take us through the great traffic-packed megalopolis of the eastern seaboard and cost a metric buttload in tolls. Instead, we went by way of Chattanooga, picking up I-81 just east of Knoxville, Tennessee.

Interstate 81 slices upward through eastern Tennessee and then runs the length of the knobbly spine of Virginia - the Blue Ridge Mountains - through the Shenandoah Valley. After brief segments of West Virginia and Maryland (the borders of which resemble a jigsaw puzzle where the road cuts through), it’s a long slog through the anthracite hills of Pennsylvania until Scranton, where we turned eastward on I-84. It’s a far more scenic drive than the eastern seaboard option, especially this time of year: all rolling hills enrobed in foliage that became more colorful as we continued north. During a brief interlude of clear skies near Roanoke, Virginia, the low mountains practically glowed with leaf-colors lit up by the setting sun. Alas, most of the drive was in varying degrees of cloudy skies, drizzle, occasional light rain, and some terrifyingly dense patches of fog.

Interstate 84 was reasonably navigable, at least until we reached the Connecticut border. Suddenly it was automotive asses and elbows, a dense pack of cars and trucks all jockeying for space and moving at the speed limit. Fortunately, we only had a few miles of this moiling motoring before turning north on US Route 7 towards our destination... whereupon the traffic dropped away and my old memories of living in New England came flooding back.

It was no easy trek, this. A thousand freeway miles, followed by thirty some-odd miles of twisty, narrow country roads, wending through small towns, around steep hills, and alongside chill, rushing rivers. Despite overcast skies, the fall colors were on full display. Red-painted barns and fields of grazing cows could have been yanked out of picture postcards.

There was no doubt that we had crossed the line: This wasn’t the South anymore.

As the first stirrings of dusk began to settle in, we pulled into the driveway of the Mistress’s new home, a little cottage tucked against the side of a mountain. Within ninety minutes, the truck had been unloaded and the long process of Settling In had begun. A lasagna dinner across the way with her housemate’s mom made a fine, warm welcome... and Bernadette was already checking out her new surroundings.

Window Bernie
Bernadette checks out her new surroundings.

Today will afford me a little time to explore the area, but I know this with certainty: My daughter will love her life here. She will thrive and sparkle. And if that’s not a reason for her stars to guide her here to the other side of the Mason-Dixon line, what is?

Wednesday, October 12, 2011


The U-Haul truck is packed up and sitting in the driveway. The Mistress of Sarcasm’s car is loaded with miscellaneous personal effects. In a short while, we’ll be headed out, beginning a two-day trek to the northwestern reaches of the great State of Connecticut... the Mistress’s new home.

This is a bittersweet moment.

The Mistress has been on her own, more or less, for many years: technically, the Missus and I have been Empty Nesters for roughly a decade, depending on how you define the term. But, unlike her Elder Sister, the Mistress has always been close at hand even when not sharing household arrangements... never more than a four- or five-hour drive away.

That is about to change.

It will be a big adjustment for all of us, but for She Who Must Be Obeyed and me, it brings back memories of that moment fourteen years ago when we watched Elder Daughter disappear down the entrance to the subway in Boston as our taxi swept us away to Logan Airport for our Houston-bound flight. We would no longer be right there to soothe the little bumps and bruises of daily life, no longer on the spot in the event of (Gawd forbid) a Big Problem suddenly arising. Our baby would be on her own in a very real sense.

Now it’s déja vu all over again, as the immortal Yogi Berra is said to have said... and our other baby will be far away.

Look, it’s not as though she’s a snot-nosed little kid. But when you have daughters, they’re always your babies.

Godspeed, Mistress! I wish you nothing but good things without limit as you begin your life as a Connecticut Country Girl. Just remember - it gets cold as a witch’s tit there in the winter. Warm underwear is your friend, and don’t forget to wear a hat. And your galoshes.

Monday, October 10, 2011


An amazing 3 minute, 30 second time-lapse video from Dustin Farrell of Crew West. Watch it in full-screen mode, preferably on a high-definition monitor. Holy crap.

Landscapes: Volume Two from Dustin Farrell on Vimeo.

Tip o’ th’ Elisson fedora to Kevin Kim for the link, which in turn came from here.

Sunday, October 9, 2011


Yet more stuff that should be in the dictionary but isn’t.

Long-time readers of my previous site may recall the Blog d’Elisson Dictionary, installments of which may be found in that site’s Archives.

For other entries in the Cheese Aisle Dictionary, simply click on the sidebar link for Cheese-Dic.

And now for the Word of the Day...

rhetardical question [ri-tar-di-kal kwest-chun] (n) - A stupid question, especially one posed for its persuasive effect without the expectation of a formal reply.


Back in the spring of 1993, there was a Seinfeld episode entitled “The Smelly Car,” in which Jerry’s car picks up a persistent pong - possibly due to a valet’s body odor - and eventually must be abandoned, for its stench clings to everyone who rides in the car.

That episode resonated with me. Back in my early Snot-Nose Days, my Dad had the use of a company truck. Riding in that truck was exciting and a bit scary for little old me, for it was so much higher up than our family sedan. But any pleasure I may have had disappeared one day after a gallon of concentrated liquid cleaner spilled on its floormats. Even after a thorough washing, that powerful detergenty aroma never went away... and it was obnoxious in extremis. I avoided that truck from then on.

A number of years ago, one of our friends spilled milk in the wheel well of her car. The ensuing Spoiled Milk Pong impelled her to trade that car in as soon as she could scrape the maggots out of the wheel well. And yet another friend traded in a brand new car the very morning after an incident involving too many Margaritas - an incident that is best left to the imagination.

The Mistress of Sarcasm can now hear these stories with a sympathetic ear, for she has just had her own adventure with Car-Funk.

A week or so ago, she began complaining of an unpleasant smell in her ride. Following our recommendation, she took it to a car wash and had it thoroughly scrubbed... but the stench not only got worse, it picked up an additional mildewy aroma.

Given that she was facing a 1200 mile drive in the next few days, having a stinky car was not an option. So she began rooting about under the seats to see if she could find the source of the aroma.

She found it.

A friend had been riding with her some time back and had been carrying a metal travel canister full of coffee. Somehow, the canister ended up under the passenger seat, where its contents proceeded to ferment and funkify most fiercely. Thank Gawd the damn thing was sealed up: Had any of the contents leaked out, we would have had to set fire to the car.

How bad was it?

Let me put it to you this way. Imagine an exquisite blend of spoiled milk and shit, with just the faintest whiff of Dead Body. That gives you a starting point. Now dial it up until the Stench-O-Meter begins to melt. It was bad enough so that you could actually see wavy Stink-Lines rising from the car just like in the comic strips.

We took the offending cylinder and eighty-sixed it, burying it deep in our garbage bin lest it scare hardened sanitation engineers away. (Fortunately, our trash pickup was later that very day.) Then began the lengthy airing-out process. Thank Gawd for Febreze Industrial Strength!

I am happy to report that the situation appears to have been rectified. And I’m thankful... because it would have been so hard explaining to the neighbors why we were burning that car in the driveway.

Friday, October 7, 2011


Only Elisson spends three days in the City of Brotherly Love - Philadelphia, Pee Ay - without tasting of a single cheesesteak hoagie, without a single nibble of a soft pretzel with mustard. But it’s not exactly as if I was starving myself.

To begin with, my main purpose in traveling to Philly was to help Elder Daughter with her relocation. This involved picking up a U-Haul truck in Washington, D.C., stuffing it with her furniture and miscellaneous personal possessions, driving it on up to her new home roughly 170 miles away, and then schlepping the aforementioned furniture and miscellaneous personal possessions in the front door of the new place.


I was all fired up for the task. Semi-literally. For we had eaten lunch in Silver Spring at Nando’s Peri-Peri, where I had snarfed down a serving of their extra-hot chicken livers, leavened only with a handful of pepper-encrusted nuts. Yowza!

When we turned onto Elder Daughter’s street, I was almost bullshit with fear... for the street was barely wide enough to allow the truck - a mere ten-footer - to slither by without taking out its mirrors on the numerous telephone poles or sideswiping the cars parked along the right curb. Elder Daughter handled the pilotage with aplomb; nevertheless, when we got out, my ass yanked ten pounds of upholstery stuffing out of the front seat from having been squinched up so tight.

Unloading the truck proved easier than loading it, and once we were done, it was simply a matter of finding a parking place on some other street and settling in for the evening. The previous occupants were kind enough to leave the recipe (and ingredients!) for a concoction called a Mercer Mayhem - bourbon, bitters, and sweet vermouth - and so we had a couple of nightcaps.

The next day, after repositioning most of the Daughterly Materièl, Elder Daughter busied herself with the task of painting her new room. But first, we needed some food. A short walk away we found Ida Mae’s Bruncherie, a fancy-ass name for a tiny neighborhood joint. We had come for pancakes, but something on the day’s list of offerings caught my eye...

Ida Mae’s Menu

Right there at the top! Chocolate Babka French Toast! Holy crap - these were my kind of people. Food perverts!

[No, I did not order the Chocolate Babka French Toast. I had come for pancakes, dammit, not a heart stoppage. But there will be a return visit.]

Later in the afternoon, after further adventures with paint, we grabbed an afternoon snack at Kraftwork, a local gastropub located a short walk away from Elder Daughter’s place. Beer was first on the agenda. She ordered a pint; I opted for a flight of four. To soak up the alcohol, we ordered up a cheese plate: a board with several tasty fromagey goodies.

Beery delight. Front, from left: Young’s Nitro Double Chocolate Stout, Mikkeler Black Hole Cognac Imperial Stout, Southern Tier Imperial IPA, and Boon Kriek Lambic. Rear: Southampton Double White.

Cheesy goodness.  Clockwise, from bottom right: Rogue Echo Mountain Blue with apple and honey, Humboldt Fog with sour cherries, Mad Tomme, Constant Bliss. Center: Parmesan flan.

About this time, E.D.’s roommate and her dad arrived, so we ran back to the apartment to help them. Another truck; more schleppage. We knew the drill.

Once all the furniture and miscellany had been carried in - including one mammoth sofa, the legs of which we actually had to saw off in order to get it through the front door - it was time to celebrate a Job Well Done. And also, incidentally, to celebrate my having completed yet another Trip Around the Sun... for it was, indeed, my birthday.

After downing a few beers at one of the local hole-in-the-wall establishments and watching the Phillies squeeze one out over the Cards in the NL divisional series, we all took a stroll to the El stop and caught a train into Center City, there to drop in at the Good Dog Bar, where I had the ridiculously indulgent Duck Confit Pot Pie.

Duck Confit Pot Pie
The Duck Confit Pot Pie at Good Dog. Could Rembrandt have painted a more beautiful pie?

Yes, you heard that right. Not some lame-ass chicken pot pie, but one crammed with tender, succulent duck that had been cured and cooked slowly in its own schmaltz for many hours, the ultimate in unctuous goodness. Holy shit, was it good. The twelve-year-old Macallan single malt that accompanied it wasn’t too shabby either... a pleasant birthday tipple, to be sure.

Was that enough? Oh, no, that was not quite enough. For just a few blocks away was Capogiro, home of the finest gelato I have ever put in my face... and there was no way I was leaving Center City without a taste. Chocolate malt, sea salt, and pistacchio Siciliano were just the ticket.

It would barely be worth mentioning the sandwich E.D. and I shared by way of a late breakfast (or early lunch) the following day, an Arista hoagie purchased at a tiny-ass hole-in-the-wall establishment called Paesano’s. It was slap-your-momma delicious - a perfectly baked hoagie roll crammed with roasted suckling pig tasty white meat with broccoli rabe, Italian long hots, sharp provolone, and natural jus - and at $8 the sandwich, the highest quality-to-cost ratio I’ve seen in about forever. It was hardly surprising to find that that very sandwich had been selected as being among the top ten restaurant dishes for $10 or less by Bon Appétit Magazine.

Now that Elder Daughter lives here, I’ll be a much more frequent visitor - next time, the Missus will join me - but we’ll be sure to block out some serious Eating Time in our busy schedule when we come!

Sunday, October 2, 2011


Blowing Rock
Blowing Rock, North Carolina. Photograph taken October 2001.

The air was crisp and cool this morning, carrying the elusive scent of late-blooming holly flowers. The temperature had dipped into the 40’s during the night for the first time since May. There had been a few teasing hints of cooler weather, especially over the last few days... but this was the Real Thing. Fall had finally arrived.

It’s only a matter of time before the leaves begin their annual spectral shift from the greens of the warm months to the bright reds, yellows, and oranges of early autumn. They’ll end up brown, desiccated, and shriveled - don’t we all? - but we’ll have a few precious weeks to enjoy their beauty, highlighted by the bright blue skies of Fall, before the dismal, dreary days of late November set in.

I love this time of year. It’s the between time, the time of change. There will be a lot of changes in these next few weeks, as both Elder Daughter and the Mistress of Sarcasm relocate to new lodgings... and I, as always, will hope that the changes are for the better in every way possible.

And now I will prepare to board the night train...


When writing on your blog each day,
Sometimes your inspiration
May find itself all stoppered up
From mental constipation.

Unlocking the Creative Juice
Must needs cure your depression.
If you would let those juices loose,
Heed this, my little lesson:

There’s a golden stream of consciousness
From which your notions flow.
It doesn’t take a lot of work
To get your thoughts to go.

Just drink a quart of soda pop
Or a shot or two of whiskey
To fill your bladder to the top
With lots of nice hot pisskey.

Now go, let fly that Golden Stream
Release that inhibition -
No writer’s block can long withstand
A lengthy bout of pishin’!

[Based on a comment originally submitted over at Jimbo’s place.]