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

Tuesday, January 31, 2012


My Dad - Eli, hizzownself - hasn’t moved around a whole lot in his 86 years.

He grew up at one address in Bensonhurst, in Brooklyn. When he got married in 1950, he moved to an apartment with his bride, and then to a house on the south shore of Long Island a few years later. Fourteen years after that, we picked up and moved... a grand total of three blocks away.

His next move was 24 years later, to the house he shares with Toni, his bride of 21 years. That’s five residences in all the years he has walked this planet.

She Who Must Be Obeyed and I have that beat. We’re on our seventh house in less than 35 years... and I haven’t even counted the two of my childhood.

This is all a long-winded way to say that the Old Man doesn’t shift his residence very often. Today, however, was Moving Day. Today was the day Eli moved from his place in the hospital rehab wing to a separate short-term rehabilitation center.

He had spent 38 days in the hospital: five days in intensive care, the rest in the rehab wing. And every one of those days in the rehab wing was filled. Occupational therapy, to help him relearn the tasks of daily life. Physical therapy, to help him regain mobility in his limbs. Speech therapy, to help him recover from his stroke-related dysarthria and to help him manage his swallowing reflex. (This last one is important if you ever want to be able to drink regular, unthickened liquids.)

But in the world of Modern American Medicine, after a month, the money for acute hospital care runs out. You either go home or you find a place that can deal with your issues. We managed to do the latter, the former being an untenable alternative - for now, at least.

Going home is the goal, of course. The light at the end of a tunnel of indeterminate length. All we know at this point is that the Old Man isn’t quite ready to live at home without massive assistance... and yet, he has made slow, incremental progress toward that goal.

Stroke changes everything. In one fell swoop, it has converted a vigorous, active man into an invalid. And yet, diminished as he is, he is still Eli, Hizzownself. His personality and wit shine though in everything he says and does. And that will help him in his new - and, we hope temporary - home.

Monday, January 30, 2012


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...

paninus [pa-ni-nus] (n) - 1. The singular of panini; 2. The unfortunate result of copulating with a woman suffering from a yeast infection.

“Roger hasn’t spoken a word to Jeannette for a month - he came down with a massive case of paninus right after they had a hot and heavy New Year’s Eve, and he hasn’t forgiven her for it yet.”

Wednesday, January 25, 2012


We spent last weekend in Savannah with the Mistress of Sarcasm and her BF Aaron, who played a set Friday evening at The Sentient Bean, a little coffeeshop at the south end of Forsyth Park. And just for shits and grins, we dragooned Houston Steve and his lovely wife Debbie into coming along with us.

It was a delightful couple of days. It had been a long time - something like four years! - since we had spent more than an hour or so visiting the Lady with a Dirty Face, and getting reacquainted was delightful. We stayed at the Planters Inn on Reynolds Square in the historic district, a venerable hostelry in a building that is over 200 years old. Here are some photos:

Good food, good music, good friends. I suppose we’ll just have to go back for a return engagement...

Monday, January 23, 2012


Seen on our recent sojourn in Savannah:

Rocky, the Rabid Raccoon.

This little fellow was perched on a stick in a vintage record store. Yes - a place that sells vinyl LP’s, just like the 350 or so that I have moldering in the Basement d’Elisson. But why buy an old, scratched-to-hell copy of Jefferson Airplane’s Volunteers when you can take this rabid-looking beast home with you to scare the snot out of peddlers?

Say hello to Amelia.

Meet Amelia, the resident Mascot-Kitty at Terra Cotta, one of the Mistress’s old haunts just off of Broughton Street. Houston Steve and I were perfectly happy to give Amelia a little skritchy-love, the which helped keep us from going insane while the wimmin looked at shoes, dresses, and handbags. Gahhhh.

Saturday, January 21, 2012


“Have you ever noticed that the back end of a milking barn has a Dairy Air?”

Friday, January 20, 2012


You may think it odd of me,
But lately I have been studying the Potawatomi.
In so doing, I have learned one fascinating fact about the Lone Ranger’s sidekick Tonto:
He was fluent in English, Navajo, and Sioux, but spoke nary a word of Esperanto.

[Apologies to Ogden Knish.]

Thursday, January 19, 2012


Despite my general avoidance of Baked Goods these days, I’ve always been fascinated with the idea of being able to bake.

Maybe it’s the Appeal of the Unattainable. The baked goods I grew up with almost always came from the local bakery - Lord’s, on Merrick Road in Massapequa, New York was a heavenly place, the aroma of which still lives strongly in my mind - or from the basket of goodies that the Dugan Man would schlep to our back door twice a week as he made his rounds. My mother, a good enough home cook but no Cat Cora by any means, baked exactly one cake in all the years of my childhood; bread and pies were completely out of the question.

Perhaps it’s the chemist and chemical engineer in me. Baking, more than most types of cooking, is more a science than an art, with exact measurements of weight, volume, time, and temperature critical to success.

Regardless, I’ve always felt a certain amount of envy towards the people who know how to handle dough, that mysterious substance that comes of the blending of flour, water, and leaveners.

I baked my first cake when I was in seventh grade, using a recipe that was parenthetically included in one of my science textbooks (there’s that “baking as science” meme again). It was surprisingly good... so I continued to attempt more complex recipes - chocolate! food coloring! - until I managed to start fucking things up. For many years after that I stayed away from baking, only resuming sometime in the early 1980’s when I discovered the books of Maida Heatter.

Bread, though. Bread was always a mystery to me, an unfathomable challenge... for it involved yeast, a living thing, in lieu of physical or chemical leaveners.

Most of my attempts at producing anything bready have, historically, been failures. But now, thanks to the example set by Elder Daughter (a dab hand at making delicious challah bread), I have had a few Good Results. Behold!

Yet Another Challah

It’s ridiculously good. Both Elder Daughter and I have independently tweaked the recipe a few times, and the loaf pictured above is probably my best one yet by popular consensus. It has gotten to the point where I am afraid to make one of these beauties, lest I be tempted to eat the Whole Fucking Thing. Hot out of the oven, it’s impossible to resist the urge to tear off a hunk (the braided loaf is a mighty facilitator of hunk-rippage), slather it with soft butter, and devour it on the spot.

I’ll be happy to e-mail you the recipe - just post your request in the comments or send me a note.

Yesterday, I decided to expand my repertoire (and, alas, my waistline) by making a batch of cinnamon buns. My rationale was that the Mistress of Sarcasm and her friend Aaron, currently visiting us as part of a whirlwind tour of the eastern seaboard, would be able to have something decadent for breakfast... and I could try my hand at giving Cinnabon a run for their money.

The dough, laden with more butter than a challah-style dough, came together beautifully and was easy to handle. The filling was simply a blend of brown sugar and cinnamon, with a dab of cardamom adding its own subtle undertone. There is no better way to give your house the fragrance of a little slice of Bakey Heaven than to stick a pan of these bad boys in a 350°F oven. (I wonder if this is what Martha Stewart’s vagina smells like: a fresh, hot cinnamon roll.)

Iced Cinnamon Rolls

Iced down with the traditional cream cheese goop, they were Pretty Damn Tasty. I’m more than pleased with the results... but to preserve my health and sanity, this is liable to be a Very Occasional Indulgence.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012


The Elisson Bookshelf

It’s been a little over a year - fifty-three weeks, exactly - since I last put up one of these “What I’ve Been Reading Lately” posts. Here are the volumes that have graced my nightstand (and my Kindle app) since then:

January 2011
  • The Hunger Games - Suzanne Collins

    First in the popular three-part series for young adults, I read this mainly because the Missus, who teaches middle-schoolers, had brought it home. A reasonably well-written novel about a dystopian future in which teenagers are forced to murder each other for the amusement of the multitudes... and as a way to curb the rebellious instincts of the populace. In other words, a metaphor for middle school.
  • Edible Stories - Mark Kurlansky

    Short stories, all of which share food-related themes.
  • Well Preserved: Recipes and Techniques for Putting Up Small Batches of Seasonal Foods - Eugenia Bone

    I found this book in a Borders bookstore in the midst of a pre-closing clearance and figured it was an opportune time to learn about small-batch food preservation techniques. It has served as a fine introduction to the world of canning: I am now an enthusiastic practitioner. Pickled asparagus, anyone?

  • Catching Fire - Suzanne Collins

    The second book in the Hunger Games trilogy. More teenager-on-teenager killing action with a completely unsubtle political subtext.
  • Theories of International Politics and Zombies - Daniel W. Drezner

    A scholarly analysis of several theories of international relations, illustrated with the clever use of the ever-popular zombie paradigm. Funny and surprisingly erudite.
  • From Time Immemorial: The Origins of the Arab-Jewish Conflict Over Palestine - Joan Peters

    Eli (hizzownself) and Toni told me about this book after having met Joan Peters on a cruise a couple of years ago. It’s a rebuttal - supported by painfully detailed documentation - of the narrative made popular by the mainstream media and Arab propaganda that portrays Israelis as the usurpers of “Palestinian” land. Essential reading for anyone who wants to learn more about the underpinnings of the conflict in the Mideast.

  • The Emperor of All Maladies: A Biography of Cancer - Siddhartha Mukherjee

    Mukherjee traces the evolution of our knowledge of this most dreaded of human diseases... and the slow but steady advance of medical technology toward prevention and cures.
  • Leisureville: Adventures in a World Without Children - Andrew D. Blechman

    A no-holds-barred look at The Villages, the very model of a Q-Tip Paradise. After seeing the place with Eli and Toni, this book was a must-read for me.

  • Embassytown - China Miéville

    Humans and an alien species come into conflict over a matter of linguistics in this exploration of the connection between mind and language. Yes, it’s science fiction - but it’s unlike almost any other SF book I have ever read, the kind that, after you finish it, makes you scratch your head and mumble, “What the fuck was that?” In case you’re wondering, that is a High Compliment.
  • Tangerine - Edward Bloor

    Another young-adult read, this one about a high school kid dealing with family dysfunction and life in a strange new town in central Florida.

  • The Disappearing Spoon - Sam Kean

    Fascinating facts about the chemical elements. One of those books that looks really interesting but disappoints because of authorial limitations.

  • The Frozen Rabbi - Steve Stern

    A young man discovers an unusual family heirloom in the Kelvinator deep-freezer in the basement of his Memphis home: a 200-year-old frozen rabbi. The book jumps back and forth between the adventures of the (now thawed-out) rabbi in modern-day Memphis and the stories of the people who brought him to the New World.

  • Pump Six and Other Stories - Paolo Bacigalupo

    SF shorts by the author of The Windup Girl. I had read several of these in other anthologies already and was eager to see some more of Baciagalupo’s short fiction. He did not disappoint.

  • The Sabbath World: Glimpses of a Different Order of Time - Judith Shulevitz

    An interview with the author on the radio was what introduced me to this book, an exploration of Sacred Time in the contexts of both Jewish and American Christian culture and history.
  • Early Bird: A Memoir of Premature Retirement - Rodney Rothman

    A temporarily unemployed young man immerses himself in the world of south Florida retirees. Kind of like “Black Like Me” with old white people.
  • The Help - Kathryn Stockett

    Black domestics in pre-civil rights Mississippi find their voice in an aspiring writer, a young white woman sympathetic to their desire to be treated humanely. Perfect grist for the Hollywood movie mill.

  • The Dirty Life: On Farming, Food, and Love - Kristin Kimball

    A young woman takes up the Life of the Soil and describes farming, dirt and all. This was a galley proof that Elder Daughter lent me after her summer of living on a Massachusetts farm, her way of explaining the strange but compelling appeal farm life held (and continues to hold) for her.

  • The Left Left Behind - Terry Bisson

    A disappointingly weak collection of short stories by a talented writer, it comes nowhere near the standard of his first two collections, Bears Discover Fire and In the Upper Room.
  • The Mind’s Eye - Oliver Sacks

    A study of the human brain and some of the peculiar conditions appertaining thereto, by the author of Awakenings, Uncle Tungsten, and The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat. Given the events of the last month, this book has especial significance for me and my understanding of some of the effects of stroke.

  • A Thousand Lives: The Untold Story of Hope, Deception, and Survival at Jonestown - Julia Scheeres

    The story of Jim Jones, his People’s Temple, and the events leading to the infamous mass murder at their colony in Guyana in November 1978.

  • The Cheese Chronicles: A Journey Through the Making and Selling of Cheese in America, From Field to Farm to Table - Liz Thorpe

    More than you ever thought you’d want to know about American artisanal cheese and cheesemakers. Since reading this book, I have made numerous cheesy (and delicious) discoveries... including just what it is that makes stinky cheese stinky.
  • The Last Hurrah of the Golden Horde - Norman Spinrad

    Vintage SF short stories by a master of the genre, the author of The Iron Dream. They just don’t write ’em like this anymore.

  • 11/22/63: A Novel - Stephen King

    Uncle Stevie’s latest Honkin’ Thick Tome - the boy do know how to crank out the pages - this one about a portal through time and a man who sets about preventing the Kennedy assassination. One of King’s better efforts, it examines the consequences of the thousand little decisions we make every day, not just the big ones that create seismic impacts on the world around us.

  • Boardwalk Empire: The Birth, High Times, and Corruption of Atlantic City - Nelson Johnson

    I’ve become a thoroughgoing fan of the HBO series that draws much of its source material from this book... but this is the Real Thing, with the stories of the actual people who, for better or worse, made Atlantic City what it was Back in the Day as well as what it is today. Having spent numerous mini-vacations there with SWMBO’s mom and stepfather, and having an aunt who lived there as a little girl in the Nucky Johnson days, I could appreciate the town’s vivid history better than ever.

  • The Forever War - Joe Haldeman

    A classic SF novel written in the mid-1970’s and inspired, in no small part, by the Vietnam war, The Forever War imagines the impact of relativistic time dilation on interstellar conflict - and on the soldiers enmeshed in it. This is an essential part of the Science Fiction Canon that had somehow eluded me until now. If you have not read it, read it immediately, especially if you’re in any way a Mil-Skiffy fan.

  • Where Judaism Differed - Abba Hillel Silver

    Thoughtful examination of the philosophical differences between Judaism and its daughter religions Christianity and Islam.

  • The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo - Stieg Larsson

    Believe it or not, I had never read any of the Larsson novels until now. Larsson’s novels are not perfect - there’s a lot of extraneous material that could have been snipped out by a discerning editor - but in Lisbeth Salander he has created a most compelling pop cultural character, at once vulnerable and brutal, an emotionally stunted genius avenger. Brilliant.
  • The Girl who Played with Fire - Stieg Larsson

    The second book in Larsson’s trilogy reveals more about what made Lisbeth Salander what she is.

  • The Girl who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest - Stieg Larsson

    The final book in Larsson’s trilogy.

  • Boneshaker - Cherie Priest

    Thanks go to Big Stupid Tommy, who gifted me with this book, a rollicking steampunk adventure set in an alternative history version of Seattle. Priest is no Master Novelist, but she has plenty of fun material to play with. Dirigibles! Zombies! Mad scientists!

  • To Say Nothing of the Dog - Connie Willis

    Connie Willis has written several books about the adventures of future Oxford historians who use time travel to study various periods and events of historical significance: medieval England (The Doomsday Book) and the London Blitz (Blackout, All Clear) being just two examples. Written in the style of a Victorian comic novel, this book has its time-traveling historians frantically searching for a garish church artifact and doing their utmost to prevent the space-time continuum from becoming unraveled with unfortunate consequences. Winner of a best novel Hugo award.
That’s thirty-one books in the course of a year - not too shabby. What have you been reading lately?

Tuesday, January 17, 2012


Any time you slap a picture of yourself up on the Internet - as I noted in the previous post - your run the risk of having a Photoshop Prankster grab it and run with it.

And when you are revealing unto the world a significant change in your appearance, those pranksters will have a field day.

El Capitan may have beat me to it, but I nevertheless could not resist...

The Grim Cavalier
The Grim Cavalier. [Apologies to Franz Hals.]

Eric is known for almost never smiling in photographs despite his generally pleasant disposition. So what better image to chop than “The Laughing Cavalier”?

Monday, January 16, 2012


You never know where pictures you post on the Inter-Webby-Net will end up.

There are plenty of merry pranksters who will take the most innocent images and Photoshop the crap out of them, to ridiculous effect. I myself have been known to get involved in similar nefarious activities.

And then there are the folks over at Worth 1000, who take Photoshopping to a whole new level.

One of their current contests involves creating a hoax planking shot. Imagine my surprise at finding myself in a whole new planking pose...

Hippo Planking

I have no idea who the Photoshop artist is who found my image on the ’Net and used it as the basis for his (or her) contest entry, but I offer a happy fedora-tip! Now, where’s a towel, that I may wipe off all the hippo saliva?

Update: The artist’s name is johndiablo, and his entry scored a bronze medal in this particular contest. Now: is owling next?

Friday, January 13, 2012


Over on Facebook, my buddy Eric is jonesing for a double Whopper with cheese... which set me to thinking about Fast-Food Burgers.

I’ve had an off-again, on-again love affair with Fast Food Burgers for as long as I can remember. I’m old enough to remember when the standard-issue McDungheap’s burger cost one thin dime, and I still recall my first encounter with the Whopper foldly.

Burger King was still a fairly young operation when I first tasted of the Whopper. It was in North Miami Beach - BK was, at the time, a Miami-based operation - on NE 163rd Street, and that burger was a revelation to my 8-year-old self. To my young eyes, accustomed as they were to the thin, dried-out McDungheap burgers, it was humongous... and it had a fine, charcoal-broiled taste that McDungheap's couldn't touch with the proverbial ten-foot pole. Moreover, it came decorated with the Holy Trinity of hamburger condiments: ketchup, mustard, and mayonnaise. (The McDungheap-burger, by contrast, would be dressed only with its traditional squirt of ketchup and slice of pickle.)

McDungheap’s, of course, had to strike back. There came the Big Mac, which upped the ante with an extra patty and layer of bread. I was not impressed. But when the Quarter-Pounder came along, that was something else again.

The Quarter-Pounder with cheese (in France, the Royale with cheese) was, at its heart, a thoroughgoing piece of crap. A plain bun, a steamed, grey meat-patty (albeit a full quarter-pound before cooking), a slice of half-molten American cheese-oid, a scattering of chopped onions, a squirt of ketchup - and yet, in some bizarre way, the Quarter-Pounder was greater than the sum of its parts.

When I drove a Good Humor truck in the summer of 1973 - the job from hell - the Quarter-Pounder was my go-to supper of choice as I wended my way back from my daily route. Sometimes I would devour two: a guilty pleasure.

Just a few years after that I found myself in Houston, where I used to roll for the Great Corporate Salt Mine’s bowling league (another guilty pleasure). On my way to the bowling alley after work I would stop off at Burger King and grab a Whopper. All too often, it was a double Whopper. This did little to help me retain the svelte figure I had when I entered the workforce.

For years, I avoided Wendy’s on account of their square burgers. Square burgers! Just like the ones that would come with our twenty-five cent school lunch back in elementary school, a thin grey patty with globs of Meat-Grease served on a (yech!) buttered bun. But one day in Houston, possibly out of sheer boredom or desperation, I tried a Wendy’s burger. Not bad! (Not great, either.)

She Who Must Be Obeyed still harbors a deep and abiding love for Whataburger, a venerable Texas chain that makes a pretty respectable hamburger sandwich. To me, the best thing about the Whataburger is the easy availability of jalapeño slices as a condiment. Yowza!

As for who offered the best Fast Food Burger, the Elisson fedora-tip has to go to Hardee’s - at least, the Hardee’s of yesteryear, once upon a time a brash start-up out of Rocky Mount, North Carolina. Whether they’re still any good is open to question, but back in the day they offered a tasty charcoal-grilled hamburger that was second to none. Not even the Whopper of yore could touch it.

Krystal, White Castle, Royal Castle and the like have their fans, but the only thing these operations have going for them is Cheepnis. Their burgers are dirt-cheap, possibly because dirt is a primary ingredient. In the world of hamburgers - like the world at large - you may not always get what you pay for, but if you always go with the low bidder, you’re gonna get more than your share of crap.

An aside regarding condiments: There are real regional differences as to condiment preferences. In the New York area, burgers come with tomato ketchup. That’s all: just ketchup. In Texas, on the other hand, the standard-issue Burger Decoration is mustard. Most other parts of the country, your burger will arrive wearing a combination of ketchup and mustard. As for mayonnaise, further your deponent sayeth not.

I don’t indulge in the Fast-Food Burger these days, especially since the best one in these parts - Back Yard Burgers - folded up shop a few years back. Their offerings really did taste like the burgers you might have grilled in your back yard over a nice charcoal flame, plump and juicy. Alas. But since I need to be eating Rapidly Prepared Comestibles about as much as I need a second asshole, I harbor no regrets at their departure.

What’s your favorite Fast-Food Burger?

Thursday, January 12, 2012


What with Kevin Kim and Eric the Blade both deeply involved in mathematics these days, I am pleased to submit for your consideration an algebra problem posited by Houston Steve:

Let V equal the volume of a circular pizza of thickness a and radius z. What is the formula for V?

[Answer will be published in the comments.]

Wednesday, January 11, 2012


The old Year’s ended, and the New begins,
But one dire Fact conspires to sour my Mood:
December’s packed with calorific Sins.
Our Bodies bear the weight of festive Food.

No wonder our collective Ass is dragging
Beneath the Mass of tasty roasted Meats.
We needs must get back on the Diet-Wagon,
Eschewing chewy Goodies, yummy Treats.

Bring on the Veggies - hold the melted Butter
And keep the Chocolate far away from me;
“O, happy New Year!” I am heard to mutter,
My Bev’rages must all be sugar-free.

Fair warning, ye who like to eat much Cheese:
It might just make you Morbier’d-ly obese.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012


I will confess to no small amount of astonishment when I read that Hostess Brands was about to go belly-up, filing for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection for the second time in eight years.

Hostess! The evil geniuses responsible for so many childhood delights (and guilty pleasures of adulthood, at least for some): Twinkies, Ding Dongs, Sno-Balls, et alia. Who is there among us that did not devour their crap in those halcyon Snot-Nose Years?

In my younger days, I enjoyed the occasional Twinkie, but my especial love and admiration was reserved for the Hostess Creme-Filled Cup Cake, a dense chocolatey plug of a cupcake with a shot of sweet vanilla-flavored filling. The best part, of course, was the layer of icing, an eighth-inch-thick encrustation of semi-hardened chocolate goop with a little white squiggle down the centerline by way of decoration. Eating a Hostess Cup Cake was a little like eating an Oreo sandwich cookie: one had to decide upon the specific technique to be employed. Peel the icing off and eat it first? Eat it last? Or just shove the whole fucking thing into your pie-hole in one ecstatic burst of cakey gluttony?

Twinkies, by comparison, were boring. A log of sponge cake with that selfsame vanilloid filling... but no icing or other external attention-getting devices. A purist might argue that this was the Hostess formula reduced to its simplest form: Sweet cake and filling. Of course, it’s hard to use the term “purist” in the context of a product that is composed mainly of artificial ingredients.

And then there was the infamous Sno-Ball.

Imagine, if you will, a Hostess Creme-Filled Cup Cake, sans icing. Shave the top off so that it resembles a flat-bottomed dome. Now let it dry out for a few weeks or months so that the cake, rather than being moist and delectable, is dry, crumbly. Enrobe it in a quarter-inch-thick layer of marshmallow and encrust the whole affair with coconut. This is a Sno-Ball.

The best thing to do with a Sno-Ball would be to chuck it at one’s playmates, as one would do with its namesake. Kids with masochistic tendencies would peel the marshmallow layer off and eat it, an experience not unlike eating a Firestone tire. A sweet Firestone tire. Only the most masochistic would dare eat the dried-out blob of cake. Feh.

Hostess has its competitors in the Fattening Crap department. In New York, there was Drake’s Cakes, makers of an excellent little coffee cake as well as the beloved Devil Dog (think of a hot dog with devil’s food cake in lieu of the bun, vanilla creme filling in lieu of the frankfurter sausage). In Philadelphia, there was Tastykake. And down South, Little Debbie.

Believe it or not, I have never tasted of the Tastykake. And I have no plans to do so... for I have moved on.

If I am gonna eat crap, I will make it myself - and it will be a damn sight better than anything Hostess ever could make.

I suspect that reports of the Twinkie’s impending demise are premature. The bottomless American desire for HFCS-sweetened, preservative-laden baked goods cannot and will not be denied. And if the worst should come to pass, well, there’s always the Tokyo Banana.

What was your favorite Hostess treat when you were a kid? And do you still indulge? C’mon, now - be honest.

[Tip o’ th’ Elisson fedora to Madeline Begun Kane for alerting me to this earth-shattering development!]

Update: Here followeth an e-mail from Houston Steve, received on January 26 and quoted verbatim for your enjoyment and delectation...

You want to know what sucks?

Well, I’ll tell you. The vending machine in my office has Mrs. Freshly’s Chocolate Cupcakes (marked U/D, by the way). They look suspiciously like Hostess Cupcakes, and (i) I’m in a bad mood and (ii) I haven’t had a Hostess Cupcake in years, so I spring 80 cents for them. Here’s the kicker... I figured that they would taste like a disgusting sugar cube, that my fond memories of their rich chocolaty goodness were all bullshit, and I’d be able to move on... but no, dammit! The fucking things were just as fucking good as I fucking remembered them. Now what am I supposed to do? There’s two more fucking packages in the fucking machine. FUCK!

Monday, January 9, 2012


It was Christmas morning - for us, a Sunday morning pretty much like any other - when She Who Must Be Obeyed handed me the phone, a worried expression in her eyes. It was my brother - The Other Elisson - on the line. Not much to be concerned about... except my brother almost never calls us up on a Sunday morning.

“Dad’s had a stroke.”

Ohh, shit.

“It’s not life-threatening, but he’s paralyzed on his left side.”

Shit, shit, shit.

I flashed back to the last time I had gotten a similar phone call. That had been nearly twelve years ago, when Dad had had his heart attack. He had been in the midst of a racquetball game - a regular activity - when, without warning, he had gone into cardiac arrest. Lucky for him he was playing with a retired fire chief who knew how to administer CPR until the paramedics arrived with their jumper cables. They revived him and got him to the hospital, where he underwent multiple bypass surgery.

Later, he would describe the experience as not entirely unpleasant. “I was going for a shot and suddenly I thought, ‘I’m going to faint now.’ There was no pain at all. If I hadn’t woken up, it wouldn’t have been a bad way to go.”

But that was then. This was now, and even though it was not a life-threatening situation, it was most certainly a lifestyle-threatening situation... because a stroke changes everything.

It had come upon him in the dead of night. Toni had been awakened by his breathing, which had become strangely labored. When she asked him if he was OK, he replied that he felt fine... but a few hours later, when he awoke to answer the summons of nature, he could not get out of bed. His left side was completely immobile.

Even as Toni and the Other Elisson tried to assess the situation, Eli argued with them. He was fine, he insisted... despite his complete inability to sit up or walk. This sort of Denial of the Obvious, I have come to find, is not an unusual reaction in one who has suffered a stroke.

Strokes are big-time scary. A stroke can kill you outright if it hits certain parts of the brain, or it can incapacitate you and leave you unable to read, to speak, to recognize loved ones, to swallow. It can create baffling alterations in perception. Its effects can linger for months or years with varying degrees of severity.

We all go through our lives, day by day, not noticing the subtle signs of age as it creeps up on us with its little cat feet. But every so often, cat-like, it will pounce. A stroke is anything but subtle. It is a Giant Step in the aging process, a quantum change of the sort that divides one’s life into two periods: Before the Stroke, and After the Stroke.

At the hospital, a CAT scan revealed that Eli’s stroke had been caused by a thrombus - a blood clot. (The alternative - a cerebral hemorrhage - is less common but even more fearsome.) Because it struck the right side of Eli’s brain, it paralyzed the left side of his body. Fortunately, his ability to swallow was intact, albeit impaired. He would be able to eat without having to use a feeding tube.

Most importantly, his mind was intact.

That’s the thing that, I suspect, is most frightening about any condition that affects the brain. The unique spark that animates each one of us is locked into our skulls - what becomes of us if that spark is altered beyond recognition?

I knew I didn’t have to worry about that as soon as I found out that Eli was sitting up in his hospital bed, cracking jokes. His speech was slurred but clearly recognizable. He knew who everyone was and could remember things... albeit with a few peculiar gaps. He knew he had suffered a stroke, but he couldn’t quite understand why he couldn’t simply hop out of bed and go to take a leak. And the left side of his world was simply... gone. It no longer existed for him.

He’s been in in-hospital rehab now for about ten days, where, with the help of dedicated hospital staff and the loving care of his bride Toni - their twenty-first wedding anniversary was just this past Friday - he will eventually relearn the basic skills of daily life. Walking. Sitting up. Everything we take for granted.

Your thoughts and prayers for Eli’s speedy and complete recovery, Esteemed Readers, are deeply appreciated.

His days of playing racquetball, alas, are over. For now. But he’s still Eli, hizzownself. Hizzownself! I know this without a shadow of doubt.

When, as he was sitting up in his hospital bed, I asked him if he was comfortable, he replied: “I make a living.”

Friday, January 6, 2012


...with a Kindle.

In case you’re the type who enjoys all of the latest Technological Doodads, you might be interested to know that this fine Personal Web-Log is now available on Amazon in the form of a Kindle subscription.

Yes, indeedy - for the princely sum of ninety-nine cents, you can read this drivel wherever you are, as long as you have your snazzy Kindle device in hand. Oh, boy!

Go here and check it out. Even better, write a review. We Media Whores need all the help we can get!

Wednesday, January 4, 2012


Tiger, Tiger
Tiger, Tiger: Painting by Rebecca B.

Tiger, tiger, burning bright
In the forests of the night,
What immortal hand or eye
Could frame thy fearful symmetry?

                              - William Blake

I am partial to tigers, being a product of Princeton University and the Great Corporate Salt Mine, both of which claim felis tigris as mascot. They are, in my view, the most beautiful of the Great Cats... which beauty does not necessarily imply a desire for physical proximity. They are, after all, King-Shit Carnivores, and to them, the vaunted human intelligence is merely the ghost in a machine made of tasty meat.

Nevertheless, I am partial to tigers - and when my sister-in-law Rebecca presented us with the above painting, I was practically ecstatic.

Now all we have to do is find a suitable wall upon which to hang it... and where its fearsome stare will not keep me - or Hakuna - awake at night.