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

Tuesday, April 30, 2013

NA PO WRI MO, DAY 30:
THAT OLD-FASHIONED ROCK ’N’ ROLL

That Old Fashioned Rock ’n’ Roll

I knew a man named Sisyphus who toiled without end
To roll a boulder up a hill he would his efforts bend
And daily as he reached the top, why, down that rock would roll
So he’d perforce begin again, this ever-damnèd soul.

It seems to me that we all share this Sisyphean lot:
We struggle every day to earn the things we haven’t got,
We labor ever harder just to keep that which we own,
And toss and turn throughout the night, awak’ning with a groan.

And yet we’re not in such a rush to see our labors end,
Though daily life can be a grind, existence is our friend.
We don’t know what awaits us on the far side of the Styx,
Thus most of us choose Life o’er Death if we should get our picks.

[Thus endeth No Po Wri Mo 2013. A poem a day may not keep the doctor away, but it has provided some small degree of amusement... for me, anyway!]

APRIL GUILD EVENT

Mulderbosch Cabernet Sauvignon Rosé
Mulderbosch Cabernet Sauvignon Rosé, the Speaker’s Wine of the evening - first in the batting order.

I had to pass over last month’s Guild event, seeing as how it fell on the second night of Passover (heh!)... but I’m much more interested in tonight’s winey dinner anyway. This time we’ll be at 10 Degrees South, a perfectly appropriate venue for a tasting that features the wines of South Africa.  It’s a country that I have never had the opportunity to visit, although Elder Daughter has traveled to Cape Town on business.  I wonder what she would make of this evening’s Bill of Fare...

Speaker’s Wine:
2011 Mulderbosch Cabernet Sauvignon Rosé*

First Flight:
2011 Buitenverwachting Sauvignon Blanc*
2011 Glen Carlou Chardonnay
2011 Spice Route Chenin Blanc***

Lobster Spring Rolls - Mild spicy lobster meat, served with peri-peri aioli

Second Flight:
2010 Leopard’s Leap Pinotage-Shiraz**
2011 Barista Coffee Pinotage***
1998 Meerlust Pinot Noir

Boerewors - Sliced lean beef sausage served with a side of tomato and onion sauce

Third Flight:
1997 Delheim “Grand Reserve” Red****
2010 Rust en Vrede Cabernet Sauvignon***
2007 Meerlust “Rubicon”**

Sosaties - Skewered beef fillet marinated and topped with a sweet apricot curry sauce, and served on a bed of yellow and white basmati rice

Dessert:
2011 Nederburg Late Harvest Riesling

Di’s Delight - Warm, moist fruit sponge cake served with a scoop of vanilla ice cream

Lagniappe:
1984 L’Ormarins Cabernet Sauvignon**

I am happy to report that Houston Steve will be joining me in tonight’s Winey Adventures.  As usual, I’ll update this post after the fact with my quick ’n’ dirty analysis of the evening’s offerings.

Update:
The sosaties were very nice, although their vinegary curry sauce tended to work against the wines.  Far better was the boerewors, with a mysterious spicy undertone that Houston Steve figured out to be cardamom.  As for the wines, there were a few very nice ones along with a clunker or two.  Among the older vintages, the 1997 Delheim displayed its maturity far better than the 1984 L’Ormarins and the 1998 Meerlust, the latter somewhat old and tired and showing a bizarre hint of smoked paprika at the finish.  And, surprisingly, I actually liked the Spice Route Chenin Blanc, despite its being a white wine.  Who knew?

Monday, April 29, 2013

ANOTHER BRIGHT IDEA

So, the Missus and I were out having a fine Cantonese dinner with our friends Johnny and Jackie Tabs, and when we saw the sign advertising one of the restaurant’s dinner specials, Johnny and I had just about the same idea at just about the same time.

Why not open an Asian restaurant and Internet café and call it “iPad Thai”?

CHUTZPAH ON A PLATE

Meatballs with Sunday Gravy
SWMBO’s veal and turkey meatballs with spaghetti and Sunday gravy, AKA tomato sauce.  Yumm-O.

I gotta give props to She Who Must Be Obeyed: It takes a lot of chutzpah to invite Italians to a home-cooked Italian dinner when you ain’t Italian.  But she pulled it off with panache to spare.

Very early on in our life together, I discovered the Missus had a flair for the classic (among many Italian families, anyway) dinner of pasta with meatballs and her own homemade “Sunday gravy” - tomato sauce.  Not for her the crap in a jar - she used a recipe that had originally come from a family friend and that had been passed down to her by her mother.  Whether it was linguini, spaghetti, manicotti, or her ridiculously tasty stuffed shells, it would come to the table buried in a pile of glorious red deliciousness.

We don’t eat a whole lot of pasta these days, it being particularly deadly to the waistline and the Glycemic Index, but last night the Missus trotted out the Red Stuff (and then some) to an audience that included some friends whose lineage can be easily traced back to that familiar boot-shaped peninsula.

There was a heap of meatballs and sauce, of course, served atop whole-wheat spaghetti and/or spaghetti squash (for the carb-averse).  There were zucchini boats: split logs of zucchini decorated with tomato slices, garlic, and Parmesan, roasted off in the oven.  There was sautéed broccoli rabe with garlic and crushed red pepper.  There was a loaf of killer garlic bread, the kind that could knock Nosferatu off his feet a city block away.  And there was a tasty green salad with romaine, arugula, and other assorted leafy goodies thrown in, dressed with SWMBO’s inimitable style.

Zucchini Boats
Ahoy, matey - thar be zucchini boats in these waters!

Vampire Killer Garlic Bread
Vampire Killer garlic bread. Nosferatu, beware.

But, of course, the best part is the birthday cake, for this was not just a mere dinner, it was a Birthday Celebration for our friend Shelly T... which means everyone had to sing the Birthday Song:

This is your Birthday Song!
(It isn’t very long.)

It was a most enjoyable (and most delicious) evening.  And now that she’s out-Italianed the Italians, I guess the next thing the Missus will tackle is preparing a sushi dinner for the Japan-America Society of Georgia.

BERNIE, IN HELL

“We are such things as dreams are, Madoff.”

NA PO WRI MO, DAY 29:
THE LAMENT OF THE POET LAUREATE

The Lament of the Poet Laureate

Free verse is a curse
And rhyme is a crime
A lim’rick’s beneath all contempt

A paean’s obscaean
And a haiku, I pooh-pooh
A sonnet is somewhat unkempt

The tanka is ranka
Than an ode in a commode
And an elegy makes me verklempt

The epic’s dyspeptic
A hymn makes my head swim
Writing poetry don’t pay the rent

Sunday, April 28, 2013

NA PO WRI MO, DAY 28: TECHNOLOGY

technology

technology, technology
allows us all to talk and see
long distance video is free
and telephones are smart and wee

technology, technology
it’s everywhere i fucking see
is that an iPad on your knee
while you sit down to crap and pee?

technology, technology
o, what is to become of me

Saturday, April 27, 2013

HOT BREAKFAST

Sichuan Hot Eggs
Sichuan Hot Eggs. Not for sleepyheads.

I’m partial to a hot breakfast, myself.  If you are too, and you really want to experience a culinary wake-up call, try some of these Sichuan Hot Eggs.

All you do is take two or three eggs and crack ’em into a bowl. Beat them with a fork or a whisk - hell, I ain’t particular - with a glug of half-and-half and a pinch of kosher salt.

Take an eight-inch nonstick omelet pan and add a couple of teaspoons of Sichuan hot oil.  Then heat it over a medium-high flame until the oil starts to shimmer and get pleasantly fragrant.  Pour in the eggs and cook ’em just the way you like ’em... omelette style or scrambled, whatever.

When they’re done to your satisfaction (“I likes me eggs dry and me wimmin moist”), plate them and give them a goodly sprinkle of Sichuan Doom Powder (a 50:50 blend of cracked Sichuan peppercorns and sea salt).  Then serve ’em forth.

It’s worth noting that Sichuan pepper doesn’t have the same kind of heat that, say, black peppercorns have, nor does it have the kind of fruity/vegetal burn that chiles impart.  They create a sort of numbing, electric sensation, amplifying any other flavors in the vicinity.  The Sichuan hot oil, in addition, has flavor notes of ginger, garlic, and star anise (among others) - there’s a lot going on, flavor-wise.  And if that’s not peppery enough for you, you can always dose these bad boys with some Tabasco, Texas Pete, or (even better!) sambal udang bercili, the piquant Malaysian/Indonesian condiment made with hot chile peppers and dried shrimp.  Yowza!

This stuff’ll wake your ass up, all right.

NA PO WRI MO, DAY 27: GONE FISHIN’

Loxtini
Feed your brain and soul with a Loxtini: smoked salmon flavored vodka, dill-infused vermouth, and a chunk of gravlax by way of a garnish.

Gone Fishin’

Fish is brain food, so they say
So have a chunk of fish today
And if you really want to think
Pour yourself a nice stiff drink

Friday, April 26, 2013

THE LONE OAK OF SHARON

Sharon Twin Oaks
The iconic Twin Oaks of Sharon, Connecticut, as seen from State Route 41 in June 2012.

Nothing lasts forever, even mighty oaks.

I was appalled when the Mistress of Sarcasm reminded me that one of the majestic Twin Oaks of Sharon, two trees that have graced a field in rural northwestern Connecticut since before the American Revolution, had been sundered in twain and toppled this past fall.  Alas, its six-foot-diameter trunk was no match for Hurricane Sandy.

Just two trees in the middle of a field... but what magnificent trees!  As you rode south from the Hotchkiss School on State Route 41, they would appear on the right, down the hill... a stunning vista that practically demanded that you stop the car, get out, and just gaze.

That view is sadly diminished today.

Fallen Twin Oak
The Twin Oaks this past winter.  Photo courtesy Jonathan Doster.

The Sharon Land Trust, the mission of which is “to protect and preserve lands of special scenic, natural, environmental, recreational, historic, or agricultural value to the rural atmosphere of the town of Sharon,” conducted a poll of area residents in order to determine how to deal with the fallen oak, as well as how to go about replacing it.  Should the fallen tree be replaced?  Or should two new twin oaks be planted now so that when the elderly survivor eventually gets toppled, there will be a second set of twins?  The latter alternative won... and the remains of the fallen tree will be cut up and distributed to local artisans who will turn it into original works, the sale of which will help defray the costs of maintaining the remaining oak.

We tend to think of trees as permanent fixtures of the landscape.  They can, and do, outlast us.  But they, too, are ephemeral... for in the fullness of time, nothing endures.  Even the sturdy Kaboom Tree of Englewood, Tennessee - bane of many a careless driver - eventually fell victim to the forces of Nature.

Ave atque vale, O mighty oak!  By the grace of the Eternal, may your corpse ever be spared the indignity of being converted into a mailbox that resembles a bear!

NA PO WRI MO, DAY 26: RANDOM TEN

The iPod d’Elisson
The iPod d’Elisson... source of music and, yes, even poetry.

Random Ten

At puberty I was sworn to secrecy
But all I got was humble kidney pie
If you should ask me to give you the reason
I’m going back to the ones that I know
Childhood living is easy to do

Let’s have a round for these freaks and these soldiers
Rise at midnight and sing songs till the dawn
Look for the girl with the sun in her eyes
Trying to get a ride to the other side
I ain’t no crazier than you.

[This is a poetic version of my Friday Random Ten post... each line comes from a song coughed up at random from the iPod d’Elisson.  Can you identify the songs and the artists for each line?]

Thursday, April 25, 2013

TAKES A LICKING...

... and keeps on ticking.  If you are of a Certain Age, you’ll remember those Timex watch ads, the ones in which John Cameron Swayze subjected watches to all sorts of cruel and unusual punishment, after which the watch would be shown to be functioning perfectly. (Or at least appearing to.  If it started losing three hours a day, who could tell?)



Speaking of ads featuring products having the snot knocked out of them, anyone remember this vintage American Tourister ad from 1980?  It shows a gorilla beating the living shit out of a couple of suitcases.  The American Tourister bag survives without so much as a scratch; the inferior competitive product, on the other hand, is bashed to flinders.

Now that everyone uses rollaboards or boxy wheeled bags, the old-school hard-shell American Tourister valise is a quaint memory.  But I traveled with one for years, all around this little blue pill of ours.  And that bag was tough... but not quite as tough as that ad would have you believe.

Years ago - it was, if I recall correctly, back in 1989 or thereabouts - I was getting ready for a lengthy overseas trip.  We were living in the northeast at the time, and just to complicate matters, I had tacked on a stop in Atlanta.  There, the Missus and I would visit her mom and stepdad together over the weekend, after which she would remain a few days more while I headed off to do my business in Indonesia and China.

I had packed my suitcase, a hard-shell American Tourister affair that I had had for many years, with all the things I would need for the trip.  Lots of suity and jackety stuff.  Plenty of shirts and undergarments.  And then we set off for Atlanta.

You know that sinking feeling you get when that luggage belt stops after everyone has claimed their bags, and yours has not yet shown up?  Sure you do.  That’s generally when you hike over to the baggage office to fill out a small pile of forms and pray that your bag will eventually appear and be delivered unto you.  Which is precisely what I did.  SWMBO’s bag, happily, had arrived in good order, so it was just mine - the one crammed with a two week supply of business clothing - that was missing.

What happened next was a bit unexpected... and unnerving.

“Uhhh, Mr. Elisson?  Would you mind coming around back here?  Can you identify this bag?”

Squishcase: flattened American Tourister bag
“Looks like the gorilla got a bit overenthusiastic this time, Mr. Elisson.  Sorry.”

Well, yes, I could, for it was my trusty American Tourister.  But it had been crushed, almost as if someone had driven a dump truck over it.  The baggage claim people were actually embarrassed.  Errr, we’re really sorry about this, they mumbled.  We’ll replace it immediately, they mumbled.  And they did, providing an equivalent hard-shell valise on the spot.  All I needed to do was transfer my stuff from the old bag to the new and we could be on our way.

Shit, I thought, as I looked at what was left of my poor, flattened valise.  My clothing is destroyed!  I’m gonna have to buy replacements fast, too - I leave for Singapore in two days!  But, shockingly, when I pried the damned thing open, not a stitch of clothing was out of place.  The bag had been smashed to smithereens, but there was not so much as a pull in my costly worsted wool (tropical weight) suits.

All things considered, this still would have been a pretty good advertisement for American Tourister.  For Delta Airlines?  Not so much.

MUG SHOTS

Harry Pot o’ Coffee
Harry Pot o’ Coffee... an ephemeral piece of artwork in foamed milk and espresso.  Courtesy Kazuki Yamamoto and NPR.

When we were in Israel last summer, one of the wonderful little treats that accompanied the massive buffet-style hotel breakfasts we had every day was the coffee.  Specifically, it was the espresso bar, where you could walk up and have your espresso, cappuccino, or latte made to order.  Often the barista would add an extra little touch: a leaf, delicately drawn in the contrasting brown and white of the coffee and steamed milk froth.  It was an ephemeral piece of art, one that would last mere moments before disappearing down my gaping, caffeine-starved maw... but it never failed to make me smile.

This art form is nothing new, of course.  Anyone who has ever ordered a pint of Guinness from a reasonably skilled bartender has seen a shamrock rendered in Stout-Foam.  This is kinda-sorta the same, but without the alcohol.

Now, however, artists in Japan are now upping the ante, with remarkable creations in milk froth.  Peanuts characters, kitty cats, Einstein, Edvard Munch’s “The Scream” - all have been rendered on the small canvas of the coffee mug.  What do you call this art form?  Baristart?  Mug shots?

Design philosopher Leonard Koren, quoted in the NPR piece linked above, has this to say about Japanese aesthetics: “...Many things are beautiful precisely because they are short-lived and fragile.”  What better example of fragility than a film of froth in a coffee cup?  And what better way to find beauty in an unexpected place?

GETTING PICKLED

Pickled Brussels sprouts
Pickled Fart Balls Brussels sprouts... the perfect garnish for a Fartini, perhaps?

Stand around in my kitchen long enough, and you might get pickled, too.

No, it’s not Adult Drinkage I’m talking about (for once).  I’m talking about shoving stuff in jars and covering them with hot vinegar brine.  Yummy.

Assorted Pickles
An assortment of pickled goodies. From left to right: Fresno peppers, red onions, Brussels sprouts.

They’re refrigerator pickles, meaning that I just covered the various veggies with hot pickling brine without going through the ritual of water-bath canning... which simply means they need to be kept in the fridge.  No big deal.

These all taste better if they have a chance to marinate for at least a day, but I’m almost not inclined to wait.

NA PO WRI MO, DAY 25: ’HOOCHEE MAMA



’Hoochee Mama

On days when the sun is shining
And I feel my lazy bones
There’s just one place I go to
To satisfy my jones
A river runs right through it
Right through my neighborhood
And that’s where you can find me
’Cause she makes me feel so good

I love my Chattahoochee Mama
She’s deep and she is wide
My Chattahoochee Mama
Grab your tube and come inside

Some banks, they keep your money
Behind a big ol’ steel door
But the banks I love the very most
Are along the river’s shore
I like to walk ’long side her
She never lets me down
But beware the man who crosses her
In her waters you will drown

I love my Chattahoochee Mama
She’s deep and she is wide
My Chattahoochee Mama
Grab your tube and come inside

I love my Chattahoochee Mama
She’s deep and she is wide
My Chattahoochee Mama
Grab your tube and come inside
Grab your tube and come inside
Grab your tube and come inside

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

NA PO WRI MO, DAY 24: DEAD DOGMA

Dead Dogma

I once had my dogma
Squashed flat by a karma
One time in the Year of the Rat.

To soothe all my sorrow
I went and I borrowed
A honking big ol’ baseball bat.

With which I beat that yin-yang,
And knocked out his front fang
Saying, “That, my dear fellow, is that.”

So when you drive your karma
Stay away from my dogma
(Which now I’ve replaced with a cat.)

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

NA PO WRI MO, DAY 23: THE RITUAL

At the Wall
A quiet morning moment of reflection at the Western Wall. (Photo by Rahel Jaskow.)

The Ritual

I wake.  Across my Face I drag a Blade
And rinse myself.  The Soap flows down the Drain.
I dress, and kiss She Who Must Be Obeyed,
And then I’m off to face the daily Pain.

But first I stop to say the ancient Prayers,
Enwrapped in Tallit and Phylacteries,
And there I praise the One who heals all Cares,
He Who created Ocean, Birds, and Trees.

’Tis strange.  Though my Belief in Him’s not strong
This daily Practice comforts, gives me Peace.
“May we do what is right, and not what’s wrong,
And may the Day when Hate and Bloodshed cease,

Come soon.”  It’s for these Things that I must pray;
Know you a better Way to start the Day?

Monday, April 22, 2013

HAMBURGER HELPERS

Hamburger Helpers
Your burger needs a buddy. A few Burgerly Accoutrements: Romaine lettuce, sliced beefsteak tomatoes, sweet Vidalia onions.

Every so often, the Missus and I will get a jones for grilled meatstuffs.  And it doesn’t always have to be a thick, juicy steak (not that there’s anything wrong with that!) - sometimes hamburgers and hot dogs are just what the doctor ordered.

We put on a regular Meat-Fest yesterday.  Burgers three ways: beef (ground chuck and round), bison, and turkey.  And tube-steaks, in both beef and bison varieties.  She Who Must Be Obeyed doctored the burgers up by mixing a goodly dose of Montreal Steak Seasoning into the meat, which gave it a wonderful peppery, garlicky flavor.  And since the patties were going to be grilled (as opposed to searing them in a skillet), she put a dent in the middle of each one, so they would cook up without developing unsightly Burger Bulges as burgers on the grill are wont to do.

To make those burgers and dawgs happy, we had plenty of condiments in our condimentarium.  Ketchup, sure - the Missus is never without a goodly supply of ketchup near to hand - but also yellow mustard, wasabi sauce, sriracha mayo, and coarse-grain Dijon mustard.  Of course, the traditional Hamburger Helpers were on hand as well: lettuce, tomato, and sweet Vidalia onion.

I don’t know how you like your burgers, but I’m a medium-rare guy.  Rare’s OK, too.  I like it to be kinda cool and red in the center, e coli be damned.  As for hot dogs, I like to grill ’em until they get a nice char on the outside... there’s nothing as tasty as a well-charred Frankfurter Sausage.

The only unfortunate aspect of the whole affair?  Too many leftovers.  Which, of course, is not unfortunate at all.

NA PO WRI MO, DAY 22: LIFE

Life

Let me without misgiving state:
It feels really, really great
To occupy some real estate
Upon our planet Earth.

Like ears of corn, or choc’late bars
Or guys who drag-race funny cars
My atoms come from distant stars
(A source of constant mirth).

There’s not too much I have to do,
Except to breathe out CO2
Convert my food to pee and poo -
That’s life, for what it’s worth.

Sunday, April 21, 2013

NA PO WRI MO, DAY 21: A ROYAL BIRTHDAY SALUTE

A Royal Birthday Salute

O, Happy Birthday, Lizzie
We’re glad that you’re the queen
Of jolly, jolly England
A place that’s really keen

We’re glad that you can celebrate
This trip around the Sun
Let’s raise a glass to you, dear lass
We hope that you have fun

[Today, Queen Elizabeth II celebrates her eighty-seventh birthday, just a few months behind Eli, Hizzownself.]

Saturday, April 20, 2013

NA PO WRI MO, DAY 20: GO GENTLE

Go Gentle

Rage, rage against the dying of the light.
So Dylan Thomas said. He was half right:
Old age may burn and rage at close of day,
But rage, directed in a loved one’s way
Serves ill the one who helped us in our fight.
Thus, do thou go gentle into that good night.

Friday, April 19, 2013

IN WHICH I COMBINE TOM CLANCY AND AN OLD POOP-JOKE

I started reading Tom Clancy’s novels almost by accident, having picked up a paperback copy of The Sum of All Fears while enduring a lengthy layover at the Dallas-Fort Worth Airport some twenty-odd years ago.  A few pages in, I was hooked: How could you not love a book with suspense, international intrigue, high-level politics, and an atomic bomb-based terrorist plot?

It didn’t take me long to catch up on all of Clancy’s Jack Ryan novels and wait for new ones, each one packed with obsessive amounts of military and technical detail, not to mention Scary Ideas.  Clancy’s novel Debt of Honor (1994) ended with a pilot using an airliner as a flying bomb, kamikaze-style, to take out the U. S. Capitol and most of its occupants... a fictional attack that seemed eerily prescient following the events of September 11, 2001.

I got all the way up to Teeth of the Tiger (2003) before I ran aground.  It was a small factual error - insignificant, really - having to do with a character’s having a 1948 silver dollar.  But I knew that there is no such animal, so with the thinnest of reasons my suspension of disbelief went straight down the toilet.

Among Clancy’s prodigious output are two books in the Jack Ryan series: The Bear and the Dragon (2000) and Red Rabbit (2002).  It would have been especially amusing had he elected to combine the two volumes into a single mash-up tome: The Bear and the Rabbit.

“Why, Jack - how is it that your suit stays so nice and clean?”

NA PO WRI MO, DAY 19: SO HAPPY

So Happy

Laboring masses cry,“Thank Gawd It’s Friday!”
Overjoyed at the end of the week.
Not me: I say, “So Happy It’s Thursday!”
But please do not think me a freak.

When one is retired, each day’s like another,
The weekdays, at least, seem the same.
But I find amusement my own way (O, brother)
By playing the Acronym Game!

Thursday, April 18, 2013

NA PO WRI MO, DAY 18: EXPLORATION

Talmudic Levon

Exploration

There is so much I yearn to know
And places where I’d like to go
Atop the case with all the books
With photographs in hidden nooks
Behind the couch and on the floor
And in the world beyond the door

I curl up in the bathroom sink
In shower stalls I take a drink
In Daddy’s closet I might hide
(I hope I don’t get locked inside!)
The DVR warms my behind
While I grab the cord on the Venetian blind

The defining trait of cats, you see:
Is our “’satiable curtiosity!”

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

GETTING TO KNOW YOU...

...or, Jimbo’s worst nightmare.

Levon makes a new friend.  Tries to, anyway.

Levon and the Gator (1)
Hmmm... what’s this Gawdawful thing?

Levon and the Gator (2)
Whatever it is, it’s ugly as hell...

Levon and the Gator (3)
Dude, your breath stinks.

LEAN, MEAN, AND GREEN

Asparagus with Lemon Zest and Nutmeg
Asparagus with lemon zest and nutmeg.

Springtime is the perfect time to eat asparagus, otherwise known as the Vegetable That Makes Your Pee Smell Nasty.  (Research has shown that most people indeed produce stinky urine after eating asparagus, but roughly 22% of the population lacks the ability to detect its peculiar aroma.)

That odoriferous side effect doesn’t faze me, though, nor does its diuretic properties.  Because, well, asparagus!  It’s honkin’ delicious, low in calories, and easy (I almost said “easy-peasy,” but then I thought better of it) to prepare in any number of different ways.

You can stir-fry it.  You can steam it.  You can grill it.  And you can roast it, which is what I generally do, using a technique I learned from local boy Alton Brown.

All you do is trim the bottoms off the stalks - that’s the unpleasantly woody part - after giving them a good rinse.  Spread ’em out on a baking sheet and schpritz ’em with a little olive oil, then stick ’em in a 500°F oven to roast.  Ten minutes is plenty - midway through, shake up the pan or turn the stalks over using tongs.  When they’re done, take ’em out and season with a few pinches of kosher salt.  Then (the secret of the recipe!) add a goodly amount of  lemon zest and freshly grated nutmeg.  (I use a Microplane grater to zest the lemon as well as for grating the nutmeg.)   Serve hot out of the oven or at room temperature... it kicks the ass of pretty much any other green vegetable.

Asparagus.  Lean, mean, and green.  Gotta love it!

SCOTTY, PASS THE SYRUP

The other day, I sat down to breakfast at the local IHOP with the Minyan Boyz. Irwin the Paintner was buying, as is the tradition when one is celebrating a birthday or observing a Yahrzeit: in this case, his birthday. And this is what was delivered unto me:

IHOP-1701 (1)
Your typical IHOP breakfast.

Eggs, turkey sausage, a short stack.  Tasty looking, sure. But, somehow, its familiar appearance reminded me of something that was Not Breakfasty. Then I remembered...

NA PO WRI MO, DAY 17: ADIEU

Adieu

On finishing our life’s long toil
And shuffling off this mortal coil
Sometimes it is a great surprise
The ways and means of our demise

Some by water, some by fire
Some by crazy Uncle Meyer
Some by drought and some by flood
And some, bacilli in the blood
Some by knife and some by gun
And some from having too much fun
Some by food and some by drink
And some because they didn’t think

Some by the hand of evil men
They knew not where, they knew not when
One moment here, next moment not
Such was their tragic, painful lot

Repentance, prayer, and charity
May soften the severe decree
When comes the time to say adieu
May grace and mercy follow you

[an interpretation of the U-netaneh Tokef prayer recited by Jews on the High Holidays, inspired by recent events]

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

NA PO WRI MO, DAY 16: I AM OF THE EARTH

[Today’s poem is by Houston Steve, who takes on the topic of human significance in a boundless, timeless Universe. Not only is it a thoughtful meditation, it is (to be hoped) a welcome break from my own dopey, feculent poetry. Enjoy.]

 I Am of the Earth

I am of the Earth
I have been a part of it from the beginning
I shall be a part of it until the end
And when the end comes
I shall continue to be a part of
Whatever comes next

For I am formed of bits of matter
That have been a part of
The Universe
From the time of the Big Bang
Or whatever caused those bits to
Fly
Coalesce
Take shape
And form
Me

When the time is done for this accidental form
That is me
To detach
Then I shall return
Slowly
Surely
Inevitably
To the bits of which I am made

And then
When the Earth is done
And the bits continue their flight through the Universe
Perhaps
One day
They shall find each other once again

But without doubt
With or without my consent
With or without my complaint
With or without my knowing
I shall continue my flight through
The Universe
Forevermore

Monday, April 15, 2013

NA PO WRI MO, DAY 15: TAXATION VEXATION

Taxation Vexation

I hate to pay my income tax
I’d rather suffer forty whacks
Or get a stretching on the racks
I hate to pay my income tax

To calculate the income tax
Can break the most determined backs
Especially if one is lax
And waits to calculate the tax

To pay this tax, it really sucks
It makes me part with all those bucks
To part with bucks doth sorely vex
I hate to pay my income tex

DAY OF REMEMBRANCE

A Wreath of Remembrance
A memorial wreath left at the Wall of Remembrance, Latrun, by the U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Command.

Tomorrow, Israel celebrates sixty-five years of independence... but that independence came at a steep price.  Today is Yom ha-Zikaron, the Day of Remembrance - Memorial Day.  It is a day to remember and honor the nearly 23,000 soldiers who gave their lives to defend the land since 1860, along with the nearly 4,000 civilian victims of terror attacks.

Considering Israel’s size, it is an especially sobering statistic, comparable to the loss of over a million Americans.

Wall of Remembrance at Latrun
Part of the Wall of Remembrance at Latrun, this section honors those who gave their lives in the period between the Six-Day War (1967) and the Yom Kippur War (1973).

May their memory endure as inspiration for deeds of charity and goodness in our lives. May their souls thus be bound up in the bond of life, and may they rest in peace.

Sunday, April 14, 2013

NA PO WRI MO, DAY 14: THE RELUCTANT QUEEN

The Reluctant Queen

Good Queen Nefertiri
Would often grow weary
Of her husband's amorous intentions.

“O, great Pharaoh Rameses,
My head aches, don’t mess with me
To your harem devote your attentions!”

Saturday, April 13, 2013

NA PO WRI MO, DAY 13: A TAXABLE DACTABLE

A Taxable Dactable

Higgledy-piggledy,
Last-minute Charlie
Begins gath’ring papers
To calculate tax.

Charlie’s the ultimate
Procrastinator-Man.
Not just opinion, Sir:
These are the facts.

[It’s not exactly a double-dactyl, but it’s pretty damn close.  And if you substitute “Elisson” for “Charlie,” it’s even closer.]

Friday, April 12, 2013

NA PO WRI MO, DAY 12: CATHEDRAL

Cathedral

They call it the Cathedral of Golf,
that place where trod Jones, Snead, and Sarazen,
and where Furyk, Woods, and Couples yet contend.
Patrons watch in awed silence
as their heroes struggle for elusive victory
amidst azalea- and dogwood-clad greensward.
It is awesome, this Cathedral,
and there in Augusta
with bended knee and hushed voice
the supplicants offer their obeisance.

At the state parks and munis
where I learned to play the Scottish Game,
it was different.
Teebox waits were interminable,
the fairways execrable,
footprint-cratered bunkers rarely raked.
Not a cathedral there, but
a raucous, down-home church
filled with gospel music
and the oath-filled singing
of weekend players.

Thursday, April 11, 2013

ON PETS AND THEIR OWNERS

They say that, after a while, pets and their owners tend to resemble one another.

What sort of pet would a Russian general own?  Here ya go:

General Elisson and Commandant Woofer
General Elisson (my great-great-great grandpappy, perhaps) and Commandant Woofer.

The resemblance is uncanny... even unto the Van Dyke.  Or is that the foamy sigil of madness?

[Tip o’ th’ Elisson fedora to Barry R. for the unforgettable juxtaposition.] 

FIVE YEARS AGO TODAY...

...Elder Daughter and I embarked on a most wonderful Father-Daughter Bonding Experience: a ten-day trip to Japan. It was unforgettable.

Japanese Lanterns at Asakusa
Lanterns at Asakusa.

Fuji-san
Fuji-san, as seen from the ropeway between Togendai and Owakudani.

Would I go back again? In a New York minute, I would. And I would love for She Who Must Be Obeyed to have the experience.

IT’S NOT THAT EASY BREATHING GREEN

Ahhh, Atlanta in the springtime.

There’s no prettier place.  Cherry blossoms, azaleas, dogwoods all festoon the verdant hills. But it’s anything but paradise for allergy sufferers.

Six days ago, the pollen count in Atlanta was a mere 5.  Today it is - count it! - 8024, driven mostly by huge amounts of tree pollen.  Keep in mind that anything above 1500 is considered to be “Extremely High.”  As ridiculous as this number is, it’s not any kind of a record: Last year, the pollen count on March 20 was 9367.  Holy crapoley!

Green dust encrusts everything.  Houses, cars, roads all bear a thin coating of pernicious, powdery pollen.  The stuff hangs in the air like a miasma.  A few minutes ago, driving along Roswell Road, we drove through what appeared to be an entire fogbank of Tree-Spooge.  Yeef.

Spring Pollen
Pollen covers the SWMBOmobile like talcum on a baby’s ass.

Kermit the Frog once said that “it’s not that easy being green.”  As much a pain in the ass it may be to spend each day the color of the leaves, though, it’s a whole lot worse having to breathe green.

Stephen King oughta come visit.  This has “The Next Great Horror Novel” written all over it... at least, before a line of violent storms moves in this evening to flush it away.

Now, where da Zyrtec at?

NA PO WRI MO, DAY 11: GREEN FOG

Green Fog

Green fog comes
on little frog feet

It sits on our cars
and in our lungs
until a cleansing rain
washes it away.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

BYE, ’BOU

No More Bou
No more ’Bou to love, alas. The local Caribou Coffee is on its way out, giving the Evil Mermaid free rein in the immediate neighborhood. Just damn!

The mood was uncharacteristically glum this morning as the Minyan Boyz piled into the local Caribou Coffee outlet for our post-davening breakfast.

We had gotten the word already through the Social Media Matrix, but the printed paper signs plastered to the windows made it official: this coming Sunday would be the last day Caribou would operate the place.  Eventually, thanks to the miracle of corporate buying and selling, it will be reincarnated as a Peet’s Coffee shop... but until then, it will stand mute, defunct.

The baristas were melancholy, as befits people who have just received their walking papers.  The next days would be filled with happy, jovial activities: updating résumés, arranging interviews, checking the classifieds (Does anyone still look for jobs in the classifieds anymore?), and wondering how to pay next month’s rent.  I do not envy them...

...and yet, we will miss them.  We’ll miss the place, too, with its high vaulted ceilings and wooden tables, but it’s the people that made the place special, far more than the caffeinated delights they doled out.  They would always manage a smile, even when the drive-thru line was packed and things got more than a little frantic.  They knew us well enough to have our orders ready within seconds of our walking in the door - often without even having to ask.  (“Hot cereal, no sugar, no salt, with a half-side of craisins, golden raisins, and almonds; mug of coffee, half light and half dark roast, with room.”)  And if our services ran overlong owing to some calendrically driven quirk of the liturgy, they’d notice when we showed up late.

As I was moved to observe when I had a kidney stone some ten years ago, this, too, shall pass.  Things change, and given sufficient time, everything changes... and the things we love (or like) eventually go away.  But we are not obligated to be happy about it.

NA PO WRI MO, DAY 10: ASH

Ash

In the grey ash
Of Popocatepetl
I saw a single
Red rose pepetl

[Originally posted here.]

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

THE CHEESE AISLE DICTIONARY, Vol. 16

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, the Word of the Day:

Facedooking [feis-du-king] (n) - Utilizing social media while simultaneously engaged in the act of defecation.

“Oh. My. Gawd!  Did I just see you taking your iPhone into the bathroom with you?  Were you Facedooking?  You totally were, weren’t you?  Did you post your status as ‘dropping the kids off at the pool’?  I think I’m gonna hurl!

MORE BAGELLY ADVENTURES

Dead Sea Salt and Montreal Steak Bagels
Dead Sea Salt and Montreal Steak bagels, fresh out of the oven. [Click to embiggen.]

In the normal course of events, I try not to consume too much in the way of breadstuffs in general and bagels in particular.  Nevertheless, I cranked out a batch of home-baked bagels yesterday... as requested by the Mistress of Sarcasm.  How could I say no to my baby?

Sure, it’s more work than simply cruising over to the Local Bagel and Smoked Fish Emporium, but where else are you gonna get flavors like Dead Sea Salt, Montreal Steak, and Black & White Sesame?

Hot out of the oven and slathered with sweet butter, or bedecked with a few thin slices of smoked salmon, these bad boys were All That. Now: what’s for lunch?

NA PO WRI MO, DAY 9: THE LONG DRIVE HOME

The Long Drive Home

She stacks her luggage by the door,
a staging area.  Soon it will be crammed into
the trunk, the back seat, every available cranny
as she prepares to embark on the long drive home.

A thousand miles separates us,
save for those brief - all too brief - visits
when her laughter lifts us up
out of our everyday cares and routines.

Then comes the tearful farewell,
the ’til-we-meet-again, the embraces, the
wave of the hand as the car pulls away,
the birth pang ever renewed thirty years on.

Godspeed, child.

And don’t forget to wear your galoshes.

Monday, April 8, 2013

NA PO WRI MO, DAY 8: SUSTENANCE

sustenance

on a languid sunday afternoon
the wife and i took a stroll down by the river
there we espied a woodpecker perched high aloft a nearby tree
his presence announced by the staccato tap-tap-tapping of his beak
as he searched for morsels
his head hammering against the hollow bark

how like a human, i thought –
bashing his brains out
in the constant search for sustenance

Sunday, April 7, 2013

DORA: A 100-WORD STORY

Dora had traveled extensively in her younger days, but eventually she settled down.

After acing her ESL course, she was graduated from high school with top honors, no doubt helped by her stupendous knowledge of geography. But four years of college helped turn her interests in a different direction: toward the world of medicine.

An ace with a scalpel, she naturally drifted into a specialty in surgical oncology. If there was a tumor, she could find and extirpate it. Her cure rates were astonishing; hospitals the world over sang her praises.

Nobody could do exploratory surgery like Dora the Explorer.

NA PO WRI MO, DAY 7: CHICKEN AND EGG

Chicken and Egg

In Hebrew they say Oaf for “chicken,”
And Oeuf is the French word for “egg.”
I know you may think I am kiddin’,
But no, I’m not pullin’ your leg.

And that makes me think of a riddle,
A conundrum to vex the Ein-Sof*.
Though they both might end up on a griddle,
Which one came first: the Oeuf or the Oaf?

*Ein-Sof (“Without End”) is one of many Hebrew expressions used to refer to the Eternal One.

Saturday, April 6, 2013

NA PO WRI MO, DAY 6: GLIDE

Glide

I wish I had some Astroglide
So I could squeeze my Double-Wide
Into that little parking space
About six inches ’neath your waist

Friday, April 5, 2013

NA PO WRI MO, DAY 5: GLASS WASTELAND

Glass Wasteland

It seems, these days, when one turns on the Tube,
Of decent Programs there is quite a Dearth.
Budweiser Clydesdales!  Janet Jackson’s boob!
And ev’ry horny Bachelor on Earth.

“Unscripted” Shows grow ever more inane,
And those with scripts, they also are but Shite. 
I tell thee, ’tis enough to cook one’s Brain,
And listen to the Radio just for spite.

The Glass Teat on which we suck, ’tis dry and sere:
There’s nought but Ads for Autos and for Beer.

[Tip o’ th’ Elisson fedora to the ever-irascible, ever-talented Harlan Ellison (no relation), who titled his collections of his television criticism The Glass Teat and The Other Glass Teat.]

LOCAL COLOR

The Missus and I always enjoy it when one or both of our usually Remotely Located Daughters comes to visit.  This time it’s the Mistress of Sarcasm who has been gracing us with her presence as she prepares to spend a weekend in Savannah attending a wedding.

It’s a good time to be here in north Georgia.  The cherry trees are blossoming...

Cherry blossoms and Bradford pears
Cherry blossoms in Marietta

...and that means that the dogwoods and azaleas cannot be far behind.  Pinks, purples, reds, and whites.  Nice.

The trees are not the only thing that’s colorful, though.  Lookee:

French Macarons
Macarons - delicate French cookies from Alon’s Bakery. The intensity of the colors is matched by the intensity of the flavors... and that blue one (black currant) was a total knockout.

These jewel-like French macarons bear little or no resemblance to the familiar coconut macaroon that is a mainstay of the Passover dessert table... and yet you could certainly make a pesahdik version if you wished, since the outer shell is mainly egg whites, almond flour, and sugar.  [That was not an issue in any event, since the holiday was over.]

We saw these little fellows over at Alon’s Bakery and Market, where we had gone to have lunch the other day.  It was mainly the blue one that caught my attention.  How often do you ever see blue food - except for those damnable semi-frozen slush drinks that taste vaguely of raspberry and that stain the tongue a horrible cyanotic blue-purple?  Was this little macaron Windex-flavored?  No: It was black currant... and it was intensely flavored without being cloying.  I could have eaten a dozen of those little sumbitches, but they were expensive (and calorific) enough to warrant some degree of restraint.

There was more colorful food yet to come, though.  The Mistress had developed a jones for one of her favorite light supper dishes, a Carrot Apple Ginger soup made according to a recipe she had found at Joy the Baker.  This soup hits all the right flavor notes: The mild earthy sweetness of the carrots is complemented by a bit of apple and given a jolt of warmth by a substantial dose of fresh ginger.  It’s substantial, yet not overly rich... and that bright color is especially appealing on a grey day in early Spring.

Carrot Apple Ginger Soup
Carrot Apple Ginger Soup, one of the Mistress of Sarcasm’s favorites. I can see why.

The Mistress will, alas, have to head back north in a few days.  Perhaps she can take some of our local color with her.

Thursday, April 4, 2013

NA PO WRI MO, DAY 4: A LOVE POEM

A Love Poem, Only Mildly Scatological, With Embedded Link

The Missus observed, as we sat down to our meat
That my poetic output with Romance ain’t replete.
Not so! quoth I, and searched all through the files
That reside on my devices in a myriad of piles,
Only to come up empty.  No hearts and flowers,
Just poems about excretion, and flatulence in showers.

* * *
Eleven score of poems bedeck my site,
Oft-times I think of doody when I write.
And yet, amidst the poems of poop and piss,
Somehow, I’m proud to say I salvaged this:
A song of love, writ to my Valentine.
Romantic?  Yes, indeed - and it’s all mine.

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

NA PO WRI MO, DAY 3: ROLE MODEL

[Yes, it’s National Poetry Writing Month.  Have you written a poem today?]



Role Model

Monkey see and monkey do
Monkey pelt you with his poo
Monkey not care who he screw
I wish to be a Monkey too

No Man can take the Monkey’s measure
For Monkey is a man of leisure
In jungle Monkey takes his pleasure
His throbbing Organ is his treasure

Monkey not have sharpest wit
He argue just by throwing shit
Thus demonstrating that he’s fit
’Midst human brethren for to sit.

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

NA PO WRI MO, DAY 2: A PASSOVER VALEDICTORY

A Passover Valedictory

A truth I have discovered after years of observation
Of the Paschal Season rituals of the Israelitish nation:
Eight days of eschewing breadstuffs, save, that is, for matzah
Is quite sufficient to tie your kishkes up in knots-a.

[Today is the final day of Passover 5773.  Tonight: Chinese food!]

Monday, April 1, 2013

NA PO WRI MO, DAY 1: SLIMMERICK

[April is National Poetry Writing Month: Na Po Wri Mo, for abbreviation enthusiasts.  The challenge: Write and post at least one poem a day.  Anyone?  Anyone?  Bueller?  Janeen is doing it - why not you?]

Slimmerick

Frederick desired to become a slimmer Rick.
He accomplished his goal by resorting to a simple trick:
By paying careful attention to the food that he ate,
And paying a trainer to instruct him in the art of lifting weight,
He eventually lost a few pounds, equivalent to a cinder block-style brick,
And in case you haven’t noticed, this poem in no way resembles a limerick.

MEET THE NEW BOSS (SAME AS THE OLD BOSS):
A 100-WORD TALE OF ECCLESIASTICAL SUCCESSION

[I originally published this little piece on April 20, 2005, the day after Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger was elected Pope by the Conclave of Cardinals at the Vatican, at which time he selected the Papal name Benedict XVI.  Given the recent accession of Pope Francis, I thought it would be fun to carve away a bit of the verbiage and convert it into a 100-word story.  Enjoy.]

Mob enforcer Tony “Eggs” Benedict settled himself upon the park bench, the slats groaning from his 325-pound bulk. He took one last draw on his Camel and flipped the butt to the ground, where it smoldered.

“Haddaya like that?” Tony said to himself. “They pick a German Pope, and he goes and names himself after me!”

Later, in the gloom of the confessional, he was disappointed to find that his newly-shared Papal Name swung no weight with Father Rindisi.

Whackin’ a guy still got you 200 Hail Marys, with 50 Our Fathers thrown in if Father R. was feeling pissy.