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

Sunday, October 31, 2010


O-ho, the Wells Fargo wagon is a-comin’ down the street,
Oh, please let it be for me!
O-ho, the Wells Fargo wagon is a-comin’ down the street,
I wish, I wish I knew what it could be!


O-ho, the Wells Fargo wagon is a-comin’ down the street,
Oh, don’t let him pass my door!
O-ho, the Wells Fargo wagon is a-comin’ down the street
I wish I knew what he was comin’ for!


O-ho, you Wells Fargo wagon, keep a-comin’,
O-ho, you Wells Fargo wagon, keep a-comin’.
O-ho, you Wells Fargo wagon,
Don’t you dare make a stop
Until you stop for me!

- “The Wells Fargo Wagon,” from The Music Man (Meredith Willson)

Meet the new boss
Same as the old boss

- “Won’t Get Fooled Again”, The Who

When it comes to banks in our neighborhood, Wachovia is exceptionally well represented. Throw a rock at random, it seems, and you’ll hit a Wachovia branch. Until recently, that is... because Wachovia has been bought out by Wells Fargo. You know: the guys with the stagecoach, the very Wells Fargo Wagon immortalized on stage and screen by Meredith (he should only drop dead if he weren’t dead already) Willson.

In the last week or so, Wells Fargo signage has gone up on all of the (former) Wachovia branches. Even the Wachovia building downtown was not immune; it now sports a spanking new Wells Fargo sign.

And that is the root of the problem.

I’ve been a customer of Wachovia for years, and I don’t expect any major changes under the New Boss. But now, every time I drive down the street, I see that bright red and yellow Wells Fargo sign, and that fucking song from “The Music Man” starts playing in my head.

When, O Lord - when will it stop?


Zombie Elisson Clan
Clan Elisson, freshly returned from a therapy session with the Vodoun-Doctor.

It’s Hallowe’en, an American pop-culture holiday that has long since outgrown its roots as a bizarre amalgam of Christian and pagan practices and beliefs. Now it’s all about delivering a mild frisson of terror to the toddlers, an excuse for drunken partying to the grownups, and a massive sugar high to everyone.

Zombies, however, take the day seriously: It’s the only day they can move among us unmolested.

Think about it. On the other 364 days of the year, if you see an individual who resembles a corpse in both appearance and aroma shambling around your neighborhood, you’ll either blow him away or run as fast as you can in the opposite direction. But on Hallowe’en, you figure it’s like as not going to be some seven-year-old kid, and you’re going to hand him a piece of candy.

Big mistake.

Big problem for you if it turns out you’re dealing with the Real Thing, hiding in plain sight on the one day it’s possible to do so. He’ll grab you by the Candy-Hand, and within thirty seconds he’ll be carving the cerebrum out of your head with a grapefruit spoon after having cracked open your skull like an extra-large turkey egg.


My recommendation? When the trick-or-treaters come a-knocking at your door, don’t bother handing out candy at all. Just hand out brains. Smart brains, stupid brains, cervelles au beurre noir, shit-fer brains, doesn’t matter. Hand out brains.

If your trick-or-treaters are just that, they’ll run like hell. And if they’re really zombies, they’ll be so busy snarfing up that grey matter, you’ll have time to make your getaway.

No need to thank me. It’s what I do.

Saturday, October 30, 2010


...some call it a stalk. It’s a vegetable most closely associated with spring, but these days it’s available year-round... and I’m happy to eat asparagus pretty much any time.

Roasted Asparagus

This time, I scored some nice, beefy stalks at Costco. A full five pounds, it was, and all I had to do by way of prep was to trim the bottom off of each spear, leaving about 4/5 of each one intact. No laborious peeling necessary. Then onto a baking sheet with a liberal drizzle of extra virgin olive oil and into a 500°F oven. Turned ’em over at five minutes and again at ten, then 3-5 more minutes with a piece of foil covering the tips of the spears.

All these beauties needed by way of seasoning was a healthy scattering of lemon zest - I used three lemons’ worth of zest in view of the huge pile of asparamagoosalum spears - some freshly grated nutmeg, and a sprinkling of kosher salt. Fleur de sel (fancy-ass French sea salt) would’ve worked just fine, too.

Alton Brown - a nice local boy - gets credit for the recipe.

Served at room temperature, they were delicious. Good for you, too. Who gives a crap if your pee smells funny afterward?

Friday, October 29, 2010


Well, not quite Hallowe’en... but close enough.

It’s the Friday right before the annual Scary-Ghosty-Trick-or-Treaty Ritual, a mere two days away. And so, instead of the usual assortment of Randomly-Selected Choonage from the Little White Choon-Box, today’s list is specially chosen to be appropriate for the Seasonal Festivities. Boo!

Let’s see what’s playing:
  1. Ghost Town - The Specials

    This town is coming like a ghost town
    All the clubs have been closed down
    This place is coming like a ghost town
    Bands won’t play no more
    Too much fighting on the dance floor

    Do you remember the good old days

    Before the ghost town?
    We danced and sang
    And the music played inna de boomtown

    This town is coming like a ghost town

    Why must the youth fight against themselves?
    Government leaving the youth on the shelf
    This place is coming like a ghost town
    No job to be found in this country
    Can’t go on no more
    The people getting angry

    This town is coming like a ghost town

    This town is coming like a ghost town
    This town is coming like a ghost town
    This town is coming like a ghost town

  2. Ghosts - Randy Newman

  3. I Scare Myself - Dan Hicks & His Hot Licks

  4. Devorzhum - Dead Can Dance

  5. Dead Man’s Dream - Procol Harum

  6. Dead - They Might Be Giants

  7. My Name Is Death - The Incredible String Band

  8. The Black Angel’s Death Song - The Velvet Underground

  9. Tones for Joan’s Bones - Chick Corea

  10. Spirit in the Night - Bruce Springsteen

It’s Friday. What are you listening to?


“Puppies and Kitties! Puppies and Kitties!”

That is the formula to be recited whilst jamming one’s index fingers into one’s ear canals to prevent the Hearing of Bad News.

Your teenage kid takes you aside and says, “Mom, I missed my last three periods... I think I might be...”

Puppies and Kitties! Puppies and Kitties!

The boss calls you in and says, “I’m afraid I have some bad news concerning your position after the reorganization...”

Puppies and Kitties! Puppies and Kitties!

Your doctor holds a sheaf of lab results, a concerned expression on his face. He opens his mouth to speak...

Puppies and Kitties! Puppies and Kitties!

But sometimes (as Freud might have said) puppies and kitties are just puppies and kitties. And so, submitted for your approval... Puppies and Kitties!

Samson, AKA Sammy. Of course, he has a sister named Delilah...

Bedkuna Too
Hakuna relaxes. What other purpose is there in life?

Cuddly Bernie
Bernadette enjoys the Mistress of Sarcasm’s attentions.

And, lest you think it’s only Puppies and Kitties, now for something completely different...

Mister Skwerl. A baby squirrel temporarily adopted by Morris William and family. Sure hope the little sucker ain’t rabid...

Update: Friday Ark #316 is afloat over at the Modulator... and Carnival of the Cats #346 - with our own post batting leadoff - is available for your amusement at Meowsings of an Opinionated Pussycat.

Thursday, October 28, 2010


Leave it to the Missus to come up with a new twist on an old favorite.

We grabbed dinner this evening at one of the local Chinese joints. It seems that if you want to open a restaurant in east Cobb these days, your choices are Mexican and Chinese, so we had plenty to choose from. The Bamboo Bistro – just up the street a few hundred yards – is where we ended up.

These days, it’s all about the pan-Asiatic cuisine. We have a Chinese-Tibetan place not too far away, and any number of Chinese-Thai restaurants. But the Bamboo Bistro not only offers Chinese and Thai dishes, it even has kimchi – supercharged Korean sauerkraut - available for an appetizer.

I started with the kimchi and ordered chicken panang curry as my entrée. Extra spicy, of course. And She Who Must Be Obeyed selected the egg foo young, a classic Cantonese preparation. Between the two of us, we hit the Korean-Thai-Chinese pan-Asian trifecta.

Here’s where the new twist comes in. SWMBO had requested that her egg foo young (an omelette-like affair crammed with vegetables and chicken and served buried in a gloppy brown gravy-like sauce) be brought out with the sauce on the side. Instead of moistening it with said gravy-like glop, she snagged a few spoons of the panang curry sauce and drizzled it over the omelettes.

Oh. My. Gawd.

I felt like Watson at the transcendent moment of discovery when Alexander Graham Bell realized that his voice had been carried over an electric wire: privileged to be present at the birth of a Great Idea.

Panang Curry Egg Foo Young! A perfect fusion of Thai and Chinese. Why, it’s Kung-Fusion Cuisine!

I shall shout it from the rooftops. I shall shout it in the corridors. I shall shout it in great auditoriums. Panang Curry Egg Foo Young – O, how yummy thou art!

(And my ass will probably be doing some shouting of its own later this evening. Kimchi and extra-spicy panang curry. What the fuck was I thinking?)


There was a small group of us gathered this morning at one of the local Waffle House outlets. Normally, Thursday morning’s post-Minyan meal is taken at Panera, but several of us had dined there the previous evening, and so it was that we collectively decided to mix up the week’s Breakfasty Schedule a bit.

It’s easy enough to make fun of Waffle House, AKA the “Awful Waffle.” It’s nothing fancy, not by a long shot, and it’s about as culturally and ethnically distant from the Local Bagel and Smoked Fish Emporium as it is possible to get. Not to mention that the waitstaff seem to have had their dental care farmed out to the British National Board of Dentistry.

(Q: What has eight feet and twelve teeth? A: The night shift at Waffle House.)

And yet...

The servers are always friendly, and not in that phony “Hi, my name is Chad and I’ll be your server this morning” way. The coffee may not be Sumatran cat-crap roast, or Irish Cream mochaccino latte with skim milk and a caramel drizzle, but it’s straightforward, honest, and palatable. And, while I don’t generally order the waffles – they’re tasty enough, but I don’t need the carbs and calories – the eggs I do get are cracked fresh, not squirted out of a big old tank. All in all, a perfectly good place to grab the first meal of the day.

Houston Steve joined us today, and we could tell right away that he was a relative newcomer to the Casa del Waffle... because the first words out of his mouth when the server showed up were, “Do you have pancakes?”

There were perhaps fifteen people there in that Waffle House, and you could practically hear the “whoosh” of fifteen swiveling heads as they snapped around to see just who it was had uttered the P-Word in the sacred precincts of the Waffle.

“Jeezus, Steve!” we exclaimed simultaneously, sotto voce, through clenched teeth. “You don’t say the P-Word around here!” It is a lèse majesté on a par with saying “fuck” in church.

There’s a reason for this.

Some of us are old enough to remember the bitter Pancake-Waffle Wars of the late 1950’s, as Waffle House and IHOP – the International House of Pancakes – duked it out for control of the Breakfast Cake business in North America. Waffle House had a three-year head start, expanding outward from its original base in the Atlanta, Georgia area starting in 1955, but IHOP, headquartered in California, was an up-and-coming aggressor. It was inevitable that the two would clash as their spheres of influence expanded.

The problem, of course, was that each outfit offered both pancakes and waffles.

Those were scary years. As the respective organizations “went to the griddles,” the conflict escalated into outright violence. Line cooks wore bulletproof aprons - not that it did much good. The bodies of several veteran pancakemen were found in dumpsters with waffle-iron gridmarks seared into their faces, while numerous experienced wafflers met unfortunate ends with spatulas lodged in various body orifices. The streets ran with syrup.

It was only after three years of almost uninterrupted violence that the heads of the two organizations sat down together at breakfast in neutral territory – a Dunkin’ Donuts shop in Apalachin, New York – to hammer out a compromise, a modus vivendi. As part of their agreement, the International House of Pancakes would henceforth offer only pancakes; the Waffle House only waffles.

Much as the threat of Mutual Assured Destruction helped to prevent the Cold War from going nuclear (despite a few close calls), the delicate Waffle-Pancake Balance has held for almost fifty years. For all our sakes, let us hope it continues to do so.

Sunday, October 24, 2010


Hello, Dalí

Museum beckons: Come inside!
Please take this handy printed guide
And see the works of Señor Dalí,
Surrealistic stuff, by golly!
His fame has spread both far and wide -
Inventor of the Moustache Ride.

Friday, October 22, 2010


Following my usual Friday morning routine, I got out of bed at 6:05, having given She Who Must Be Obeyed a ten-minute head start. Brushed my teeth, used the Water Pik, scraped the stubble off my face with my trusty Gillette, showered, got dressed. By 6:50, I was out the door on my way to morning Minyan.

Well, it was not quite a minyan this morning. It’s unusual for us to fall short of our quorum of ten, more so on a Friday, but that’s the way it was. Our attempts to collar random passersby on Roswell Road (“Hey, buddy - are you Jewish by any chance?”) having been unsuccessful, we made short work of the service and were on our way to Waffle House for breakfast by 7:30.

When we got there, the waitress was delivering a couple of eggs over easy and a side of grits to Betty White, who was sitting in the booth adjacent to the window. Her usual seat.

On the way home from breakfast, I stopped to pick up a prescription at the local Publix, grabbing a few supplies for tonight’s dinner as well. Betty was there too, unloading her cart’s contents onto the belt on Lane 5. A lot of vegetables, I noticed... couple slabs of beef... quart of lowfat milk... and a tube of Astroglide. I wasn’t surprised. You don’t get to be a household name in this country without handing out a little squish here and there.

Mid-afternoon, I decided to run over to the gym. You couldn’t miss Betty - she was on the elliptical at the end of the row, the first one you see after you get past the reception desk. After a while, she wandered over to the machines and worked on her lats and abs. I was pretty focused on some quadriceps work at the time - the third set was murder! - so I didn’t have a chance to say hello.

By the time SWMBO and I were through with dinner, we had spotted Betty at least three more times between the two of us. SWMBO had run into her at the gas station as she filled up the Accord, and half an hour later at the nail salon. And when I made a Bunwad Run over to Target, there she was again.

Seeing her on Jimmy Fallon’s late show was almost anticlimactic. You can’t throw a rock these days without hitting Betty White - she’s everywhere.

Nice to know that there’s a place in the American pop culture’s heart for a mature actress, innit?

Thursday, October 21, 2010


The morning air was crisp and cool
Upon this lovely autumn day.
And to myself, “Myself,” I say,
“I think it’s time to drop a stool.”

Prepared to lay my Burden down,
I perched myself upon the Throne.
Releasing, first, a gentle moan,
I crimped a Length off for to drown.

It landed on its end and stood
A sort of Fecal Monument,
Full straight and not the least bit bent,
As though ’twas carven out of wood.

I stared in horror at the sight,
A Poopy-Pillar in the bowl!
It shook me to my very soul
To see a turd tow’r thus upright.

As rare as blizzards fall in Hell,
To “stick the landing” so precise
A figure skater on the ice
Could hardly hope to do as well.

Some men are artists, seeking beauty.
Some men are leaders: mighty, sure,
That guide their States with motives pure,
Whilst I squeeze out an Upright Doody.

Some men place feathers in their cap
With great achievements, noble deeds;
Supplying goods the whole world needs.
But me? I took a Standing Crap.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010


Bison Nachos
Bison Nachos. Image courtesy of Ted’s Montana Grill, used without permission but with deep, abiding affection.

We were dining at Ted’s Montana Grill this evening, celebrating our friend Gee’s birthday. Not to give anything away as regards his age, but he now can feel an especial kinship with a famous American highway, one that runs from Chicago to Los Angeles. (Oopsie.)

As we waited for our orders to be taken, I spied a small placard on the edge of the table. It was an advertisement for Ted’s new Bison Nachos, and it set my mouth to watering.

There was a photograph of a plate of nachos, heaped high with cheese, meat, and jalapeño slices and decorated with an artistically arranged splop of sour cream. Underneath the photograph, the text read as follows:

Nacho Nirvana

Introducing our new Bison Nachos. We smother a stack of freshly fried, yellow corn tortillas with our Signature Karen’s “Flying D” Bison Chili. Then we top it with grated Pepper Jack Cheese, vine-ripened tomatoes, shaved green onions, freshly sliced jalapeños and add a dollop of sour cream. We’re raising nachos to a whole new level.

Indeed, I thought. And then I remembered a summertime long ago - three decades ago, in fact - when She Who Must Be Obeyed and I learned a lesson about the Pernicious Power of the Nacho.

It was the summer of 1980, and we were visiting SWMBO’s parents, then resident in Beaumont, Texas. Her father had, two years prior, taken on a Serious Gig with the Beaumont school system and had moved the family there from Fort Worth. Neither SWMBO nor I cared much for Beaumont... I suspect her folks didn’t, either, but a Serious Gig is a Serious Gig.

Beaumont suffered from the same monotonous scenery and vile climate as Houston, but without the cultural amenities. It did, however, have its redeeming qualities. It had Sartin’s, then located in Sabine Pass. Sartin’s was one of those all-you-can-eat treif seafood places where, in 1980, you could stuff yourself into a Food-Stupor for about a sawbuck; what made it exceptional, though, was the quality and variety of the food there. Shrimp, oysters, fish - those were expected. But they had frog legs, too, in a delicious breaded coating. They tasted like chicken... provided chicken could be raised in a swamp. And, best of all, they had barbecued crab, really nothing more than thin-shelled blue crabs that had been dredged in Sexton’s crab seasoning and dropped into boiling oil until cooked through. You would go to Sartin’s, park yourself at a picnic table, grab a roll of paper towels, and then eat to a fare-thee-well.

[Sartin’s is in Nederland, Texas now. Whether they are still as good as they were in 1980 is anyone’s guess, but their prices have, alas, gone up along with everything else.]

But we were talking about Beaumont. Beaumont not only had Sartin’s... it also had Unlimited Nachos.

It seems that one of the amenities in the In-Laws’ wonderful new home was a built-in microwave oven, an appliance that we ourselves did not yet own at the time. And we discovered that one of the special talents of a microwave oven is its ability to convert a handful of tortilla chips and a pile of shredded cheese into a heap of hot nachos. Even better, the process (excluding assembly) took a mere 45 seconds.

Cheese nachos. Bean-and-cheese nachos. We cranked ’em out by the plateload, limited only by how fast we could pile a plate with chips, bury them with shredded cheese, slice up and deal out the jalapeños, and mash the “start” button. And Gawd, were they yummy.

Within the space of a single week - the duration of our visit - both SWMBO and I had each gained ten pounds. Ten. Fucking. Pounds.

And so, as the image of Nacho Nirvana summoned up memories of limitless microwave nachos... and the ass-fat they gifted us with... I turned my gaze aside. Just in time for our server to arrive.

“I’ll have the grilled salad,” I told her.

Nachos? Fuck ’em.


Bosley and Billingsley
Tom Bosley and Barbara Billingsley. Requiescat in pace.

It seems incredible, but two icons of 1950’s innocence have departed our sphere in the space of a mere three days.

The first, Barbara Billingsley, played that paragon of mid-twentieth century housewifery, June Cleaver, of the long-running television series “Leave It to Beaver.” Ever-loving wife of Ward Cleaver, mother of Wally and the unfortunately-named Beaver Cleaver (whatever were they thinking?), June was the archetypical Eisenhower-era Teevee Hausfrau. Dinner was always ready, hot, and on the table when Ward dragged his ass home from whatever salt mine it was he worked in; no matter whether it was meatloaf, hot dogs and beans, or spaghetti and meatballs (ethnic night!), June would have prepared it while wearing a fashionable dress... and pearls. No housecoat-wearing frumpery was tolerated chez Cleaver. For that matter, semi-foreign expressions like “chez Cleaver” were not tolerated either. This was, after all, the 1950’s, and any display of extraterritorial cultural influences smacked of elitism... or, worse, Communism.

The Cleavers - unlike, say, the rural-dwelling Real McCoys or the Miller and Martin families of Lassie fame - were a solidly suburban clan, and so far easier for me to identify with despite their complete lack of ethnic flavor. That lack of ethnicity - that total white-breadedness - was their most endearing feature. We knew, instinctively, that the Cleavers were not ever intended to be a Real Family. They were a mid-century ideal, America as imagined by Norman Rockwell... with Barbara Billingsley as the ur-matriarch.

Perhaps I hold a special place for The Beav in my heart because the show made its debut on my fifth birthday... coincidentally, the same day the Soviet Union launched Sputnik, kicking off the Space Race. You could fairly say that the United States lost and found its innocence on the same day.

Cut to early 1974, when the bloom was off the rose of the Hippie Era and the cynicism of the late Nixonian period was permeating the Body Politic. Suddenly, the 1950’s started looking awfully appealing in the rear-view mirror of history, especially since enough years had passed that some of the less savory aspects of the day (racial segregation, McCarthyism, H-bomb paranoia) had receded somewhat in the public memory. It was in this burst of Fifties Nostalgia that “Happy Days” was born.

Personally, I never cared much for “Happy Days.” Maybe it was because I saw it for what it was, a baldfaced attempt to exploit that selfsame Fifties Nostalgia, at a time when I had precious little nostalgia for the Fifties. I didn’t like Fifties music, Fifties clothing, Fifties hairstyles, or Fifties attitudes, and I especially didn’t like the sugarcoated Hollywood teevee version. But, clearly, I was in the minority.

It matters not. “Happy Days” went on to enjoy a ten-year run - four more than “Leave It to Beaver” - and today occupies a warm spot in American popular consciousness. And Tom Bosley, who played the role of paterfamilias Howard Cunningham, became a beloved television star.

Barbara Billingsley passed on last Saturday at the age of 94. A mere three days later, Tom Bosley, 83, followed her to that Great Television Studio in the Sky. With their passing, a piece of my childhood (and early adulthood) now belongs to the ages. Ave atque vale!

Tuesday, October 19, 2010


Bobby and Janey lay on their backs in the grass, the warm sun falling on their faces, making them squint. It was one of those lazy fall Saturdays, a day that started with crisp, cool air that rapidly warmed as morning wore on. A day with no school, with plenty of time for watching the clouds.

“There’s an elephant,” stated Bobby.

“That one there looks like a fist.”

Looking westward, Bobby announced, “That’s a corkscrew. And a... a... you know, that ‘and’ thing.”



Bunnies and cotton balls? Not with the Blue Angels in town for the air show.

[Inspired by the real-life aerobatic antics of the Blue Angels and the Canadian Snowbirds at this past weekend’s Wings Over Atlanta Air Show, which created several very unusual contrails over the skies to our west.]



We are really looking forward to tonight’s wine event, an event that promises to be extremely meaty. It will be held at Abattoir - French for “slaughterhouse,” it’s a perfect restaurant name for the Hallowe’en season - the latest creation of Anne Quatrano and Clifford Harrison, whose other establishments (Bacchanalia, Quinones at Bacchanalia, Floataway Café, and Star Provisions) are among the finest in town. You can take it to the bank that Abattoir is not where PETA holds its annual Board of Directors banquet... which is all to the good, as far as I am concerned.

The wines themselves - always the star of the show - will be drawn from the various countries of South America. All are red, with the exception of the Speaker’s Wine and dessert wine... and that’s also all to the good, as far as I am concerned.

I’m hoping Denny and Houston Steve can make it. That way, the political discourse is likely to be at least as meaty as the food.

Speaker’s Wine:
2008 Zolo Torrontes - Mendoza, Argentina

First Flight:
2005 Miolo Merlot - Vale dos Vinhedos, Brazil
2006 Concha y Toro “Terrunyo” Carmenere - Peumo Vineyard, Rapel Valley, Chile**
2006 Concha y Toro “Don Melchor” Cabernet Sauvignon - Puente Alto Vineyard, Maipo Valley, Chile***

Charcuterie: Selection of House Cured Meats and Terrines

Second Flight:
2007 Viña Cornejo Costas Tannat “don Rodolfo” - Cafayate Valley, Argentina
2007 Familia Deicas Tannat Reserve “Don Pascual” - Juanico, Uruguay
2007 Ichanka Bonarda - Famatina Valley, La Rioja, Argentina**

White Oaks Pasture Confit Chicken, Celery, Bacon, Apples

Third Flight:
2008 Gascon Malbec Reserva - Mendoza, Argentina
2008 Achaval Ferrer Malbec - Mendoza, Argentina
2008 Catena Malbec - Mendoza, Argentina

Grilled American Beef 3 Ways: Wagyu Flat Iron, Radish; Georgia Grass Fed NY Strip, Potato, Greens; Prime Black Angus Ribeye, Butternut Squash

2006 Concha y Toro Sauvignon Blanc Late Harvest Reserve - Maule Valley, Chile*

House Made Ricotta Panna Cotta, Plums, Honey

As usual, I’ll weigh in with my commentary after the event. Meat: It’s what’s for dinner!

Update: There were a few last-minute tweaks to the menu and wine list. The confit duck leg was replaced by chicken confit; delicious, but not what I had been so looking forward to having. And, unfortunately, one of the bottles of Don Pascual Tannat - the only Uruguayan wine - was corked, so half of the attendees (including Yours Truly) missed out on that one. The meaty provender, however, was tasty enough to warrant a return trip.

Abattoir, for what it’s worth, is actually located in a former slaughterhouse. If you hold your ear up to the walls and listen very closely, you can almost hear the frantic mooing of the beeves of yesteryear...

Thursday, October 14, 2010


From Hartsville, South Carolina (a frequent stop back in my days with the Great Corporate Salt Mine) comes this delightful photograph - not doctored in any way - of a McDonald’s marquee with a most unfortunate misspelling.

At least, that’s what I think it is. I could be wrong. Perhaps it is a subversive commentary on the quality of the Angus Snack Wrap... or perhaps the Marquee Elves absconded with the entire supply of G’s.

[Tip o’ th’ Elisson fedora to Tim Lavinder for the link.]

Tuesday, October 12, 2010



Springtime may have its cherry blossoms and dogwoods... but here in Atlanta, I love this time of year.

It’s a time of crisp, cool morning air and of sunny afternoons. The leaves are beginning to show some color. In a month they will all have fallen, become brown debris. Now, however, they paint the landscape with splashes of orange and red.

Monday, October 11, 2010


I tried to grab hold of my ladyfriend’s titty -
There’s a slap for that.

Phat beats from the ghetto are heard through the city -
There’s a rap for that.

My eyelids are droopy; I must needs to sleep -
There’s a nap for that.

Quick, comfort the baby, so that she not weep -
There’s a lap for that.

I need to go purchase a new pair of jeans –
There’s a Gap for that.

My bowel is full after eating baked beans –
There’s a crap for that.

The audience cheers for the acting I do –
There’s a clap for that.

I fear I am lost; O, how shall I get through?
There’s a map for that.

My head is so cold as the fall breezes blow –
There’s a cap for that.

And, should I need water, say, where does it flow?
There’s a tap for that.

Now, what’s to prevent my ball reaching the green?
There’s a trap for that.

For riders to hang on, in Brooklyn and Queens –
There’s a strap for that.


“Now, hold on, Mr. Potter. You’re right when you say my father was no businessman. I know that... Do you know how long it takes a working man to save five thousand dollars?” - George Bailey (Jimmy Stewart), It’s a Wonderful Life (1946)

Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, the centerpiece of the Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Universal Orlando Resort.

In the world of Frank Capra’s iconic Christmas movie, Mr. Potter is a ruthless businessman... and George Bailey, when given a glimpse of the world that would have come to pass had he never been born, sees Potterville, a town full of miserable, grasping people who seek oblivion in cheap beer.

In the Wizarding World of Harry Potter - a new attraction at Universal Orlando Resort - Mr. Potter is a student at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry... and a ruthless businessman in an attraction full of excited, grasping tourists who seek oblivion in costly Butterbeer.

When She Who Must Be Obeyed first heard that a Harry Potter-based attraction had opened at Universal, she practically wet herself with excitement. SWMBO and I have both read and enjoyed the entire Potter oeuvre, but what she brings to the party is a deep and abiding love for the Theme Park. The Wizarding World of Harry Potter, combining as it does the characters and scenes from the Potter books and films with the Park Experience, brings the Missus about as close to nirvana as is possible on this planet.

We’ve done the Theme Park thing before. Back in the 1980’s, we visited Disney World not once, but three times. The first time was with Elder (then Only) Daughter, SWMBO being heavy with child at the time. Both Elder Daughter and the young Mistress of Sarcasm were with us for the next two visits. We saw Sea World then, too. Lots of fun, but it was enough to cap the well on any Disneygoing urges I might have had. And then, five years ago, we visited the Universal Studios Hollywood park with our friends Dennis and Deborah and had a blast. So, with a week of vacation looming in the middle of September, we laid our plans to spend some time with Mr. Potter and his friends in the sweaty midsection of the Sunshine State.


You’ve gotta give the Universal folks credit. With their film studio cred, they’ve got the tools and know-how to create a faithful movie-set environment down to the smallest detail. When you are wandering the lanes of Hogsmeade, staring up at the impressive Gothic hulk of Hogwarts looming above you, you really feel as though you’ve stepped into Harry’s wizardly world. Or, at least, a Harry Potter movie set. Only the contrast between the snowy roofs and the 92°F surroundings reminds you that you are still rooted firmly in Muggle-Land.

Of course, the Theme Park Environment is filled with, as Cyril Kornbluth so masterfully put it in “The Advent on Channel Twelve,” his 1958 satirical swipe at the Disney empire, “a thousand catchpenny engines.” Step into Honeyduke’s, the wizardly Confectionery and Chocolate Shoppe, and you will be offered the opportunity to purchase a five-ounce “chocolate” frog for the princely sum of one sawbuck. “Chocolate,” not chocolate - for, despite the misleading (and, unless I misread 21CFR163, illegal) labeling, the list of ingredients reveals that the frog is concocted not of real chocolate, but of mockolate: cocoa, sugar, and palm kernel oil. Dross for the price of gold, as it were.

Zonko’s, purveyor of fine Goat Horns and Sleeve-Tats.

A wall of wands at Ollivander’s.

Gimcracks and gewgaws.
Adjacent to Honeyduke’s was Zonko’s, the practical joke shoppe familiar to those who have read the Potter books. Crammed with a cornucopia of toys, gewgaws, and gimcracks, it was the sort of place that had children standing slack-jawed, mouths agape with wonder at the mysterious Objects of Amusement piled high upon the shelves in their exotic wrappings. And no visit to Harry’s world would be complete without a stop at Ollivander’s, purveyor of Magickal Pointy Sticks. With a core of phoenix feathers and preserved skink tonsils encased in a mahogany-like polymeric sheath, the (replica) Harry’s Wand was the perfect instrument for casting spells (“Expendio Argento!”) or just flat putting people’s eyes out (“Pointy Stickio!”)

The Butterbeer - really, a sort of root beer/butterscotch/cream soda amalgam with a creamy topping by way of a head - was tasty enough... as well it should have been, given that, ounce for ounce, it was as costly as fine Champagne. But this is a mere quibble. After all, we were adults unburdened with attendant hordes of rugrats and all their concomitant expense. Nevertheless, anyone who worries about the state of the world economy can relax: If armies of people have enough disposable income to cover trips to Universal (and all those other Central Florida attractions), then things cannot be all that bad.

Did we have a good time? Of course we did. While I have lost some of my ability to suspend disbelief - a semi-unfortunate side effect of growing older, I suppose - I am no wet blanket. And you cannot help but admire the Universal folks for their ability to create an all-enveloping, immersive sensory environment. They make the Unreal Real, albeit at a hefty fee... and it is a tribute to the child within us all that there is a market for that sort of thing.

Sunday, October 10, 2010


It’s 10:10 a.m. on October 10, 2010... conveniently abbreviated as 1010, 10/10/10. A perfect date for Number Nerds.

Me, I’m waiting for ’Leventy-Leven: 11:11 a.m. on November 11, 2011. That’s right: 1111, 11/11/11, just one year, one month, one day, one hour, and one minute from now. The suspense is killing me.

If you take 1010101010 and convert it from binary to decimal, you end up with 682. 1111111111 converts to 1023. I just thought I’d throw that in.

Saturday, October 9, 2010


JoAnn, Elisson, and SWMBO get ready
to run... or, at least, to walk real fast.
Atypically for a Saturday morning, She Who Must Be Obeyed and I were up at the Butt-Crack of Dawn™ to participate in the Make-a-Wish 5K Walk and Run held in downtown Marietta.

Normally, we sleep in on Saturdays. That is, we get up at 7:30 instead of our weekday 5:45, have breakfast, and then get dressed for synagogue. But this was, as they say, a Good Cause, so I didn’t feel too bad about ditching shul.

Being a certified Lazy Ass, I tend to walk a hell of a lot more than I run at these events, but I surprised myself by actually sprinting through several sections of the course. Not jogging, either, but actually running. Amazingly, I wasn’t especially winded. Was I beginning to get a taste of Runner’s Euphoria from alla them endorphins that supposedly kick in? Who knows?

Afterwards, we headed off to grab a cup of coffee with our fellow team members at the Evil Mermaid, a prelude to an eggy breakfast at the local IHOP. But before we left the town square, we browsed some of the vegetable sellers’ stalls set up at the perimeter of the town square. I snagged a bunch of locally grown free-range beets, and then saw SWMBO checking out some fresh salsa at another vendor’s table.

We had had this fellow’s products before, this Salsa Artisan. For a brief period earlier this year, the open-air shopping area adjacent to our subdivision had made a half-hearted attempt at hosting a farmer’s market, where the Missus had discovered a guy selling his hand-made salsa, bruschetta mix, and chutney. Today, when I essayed a taste of the salsa, I was almost knocked over by the crisp, fresh flavors of ripe tomato, onion, lime, cilantro, and jalapeño. This was the Real Thing. The Shiznit. The Holy Grail.

The vendor is a local fellow, operating under the name Made by Hand Products. He sells his wares here in Marietta, as well as making regular runs up to Chattanooga. I can tell you that if there were any justice in this world (and a reliable distribution system for refrigerated goods), you’d be able to get his products everywhere. But perhaps that’s the real charm: It’s made by hand from extremely fresh, locally produced ingredients... the kind of product that just does not travel well.

Avocado with Salsa

Following SWMBO’s lead, I fixed myself a snack this afternoon by slicing up an avocado and slathering it with that fine salsa. A few chunks of cheese for protein (and a sliced-up jalapeño for extra heat), and I had a mini-meal to reckon with.

When was the last time you had salsa made from really fresh, ripe red tomatoes? For that matter, when was the last time you had a really fresh, ripe red tomato?

Friday, October 8, 2010


“There are two means of refuge from the miseries of life: music and cats.” - Albert Schweitzer

Schweitzer’s quote has inspired at least one blogger... and today, it serves as the launching pad for this week’s Friday Random Ten.

You know the Friday Random Ten, of course. It’s a venerable Internet meme, one that I’ve been using for years... although with a bit less frequency lately. Ten songs, culled at random from the voluminous Tune-Heap that resides in my Little White Choon-Box, representing less than 0.3% of that device’s musical inventory.

What’s playing today?:
  1. Prison Food - Ben Folds

  2. Beautiful - Lee & LeBlanc

  3. California - Joni Mitchell

  4. Devorzhum - Dead Can Dance

  5. Act I, Scene 2: Founders Come First, Then Profiteers - John Adams, Nixon in China

  6. Any Dub You Like - Easy Star All-Stars

  7. Geek USA - Smashing Pumpkins

  8. I’m the Urban Spaceman - Bonzo Dog Doo-Dah Band

    I’m the urban spaceman, baby; I’ve got speed
    I’ve got everything I need
    I’m the urban spaceman, baby; I can fly
    I’m a supersonic guy

    I don’t need pleasure
    I don’t feel pain
    If you were to knock me down I’d just get up again
    I’m the urban spaceman, baby; I’m makin’ out
    I’m all about

    I wake up every morning with a smile upon my face
    My natural exuberance spills out all over the place

    I’m the urban spaceman, baby; I’m intelligent and clean
    Know what I mean?
    I’m the urban spaceman, as a lover second to none
    It’s a lot of fun

    I never let my friends down
    I’ve never made a boob
    I’m a glossy magazine, an advert in the tube

    I’m the urban spaceman, baby; here comes the twist -
    I don’t exist

  9. Your Own Choice - Procol Harum

  10. Act I - Tolstoy, Scene 3 - Philip Glass, Satyagraha

Now that we’ve gotten the Music out of the way, it’s time for Cats. Or Cat, anyway.


Years ago, when I used to carpool to one of the Great Corporate Salt Mine’s outposts in coastal Texas - a ~70-mile round trip - one of the guys used to complain that my music sounded like cats yowling. (He was probably about the same age I am now.) To which Hakuna responds, “You say that as if it’s a bad thing.”

It’s Friday. What music and cats are you listening to?

Update: Carnival of the Cats #343 is up at Mind of Mog. Check out alla them kitties. Now, dammit!

Thursday, October 7, 2010


Cathy, 1976-2010. Requiescat in pace.

We recently heard the sad news that Cathy A. Hillman, 34, passed away Sunday, October 3, 2010 from complications caused by choking on a chicken bone. Survivors include husband Irving, parents Anne and Bill Andrews, and her beloved dog Electra.

Irving, as of this writing, had declined to talk to reporters. Sources close to the family report that he is disconsolate, having recently heard that he was to be the father of a baby girl. Alas, fatherhood for Irving - at least for now - is not to be.

Cathy was at one time a beloved icon of popular culture, but inside sources report that she knew her career was well past its peak. “Marrying Irving was really the beginning of the end, you know,” said one friend who agreed to speak anonymously. “In fact, the expression ‘marrying Irving’ is now used in comic strips the same way ‘jumping the shark’ is used everywhere else: it’s when things have completely gone down the toilet.”

Bill Andrews, who was present at his daughter’s passing, reported that her last word was, “Ack.”

“At first we thought she was just expressing disgust, horror, or surprise in her usual manner, so nobody realized she had gotten a bone caught in her throat. By the time Irving saw her turning blue, it was already too late.”

Doctors stated that a contributing factor was Ms. Hillman’s lack of a nose.

Monday, October 4, 2010


[Here’s a piece of trivia for you: MAD Magazine, Mr. Potato Head, and I were all born in 1952.]

I’ve been thinking a lot about Mr. Potato Head lately. He and the Mrs. are on the verge of calling it quits after nearly 60 years together. There’s been more than the usual amount of bickering lately, and his roving eyes don’t help matters.

Used to be they never seriously considered divorce despite their hitting a rough patch every few weeks. They had the Tater Tots to think of, after all. But now the Tots are grown... and, anyway, what kind of marriage is it when all you have in common is the desire to go out and get fried?


Corn Crepes
Corn (white and yellow), green onions, red peppers, and garlic sweat happily away in the skillet. All of this colorful bounty will shortly be converted to crepes that will be stuffed with fragrant, meltingly tender duck confit.

Yep, the Scourge of Duckburg. That’s me.

Donald, Uncle Scrooge, Ludwig Von Drake, Huey, Dewey, and Louie... they all clear out of town when I’m around. And Daffy, nutty though he may be, knows enough to stay the hell away from Duckburg even when I’m not. (He can’t stand the Disney waterfowl tribe anyway.)

When most people see ducks, they see lovable cartoon characters. Me, I see dinner. And the ducks that value their feathered asses stay the hell out of my way.

Yesterday evening, by way of an advance birthday celebration, I had a meaty, ducky dinner. The meat consisted of a flank steak marinated in teriyaki sauce, courtesy of our friends Gary and JoAnn. I threw a one-bone prime rib roast on the grill on the grill alongside the flank steak to keep it company as it cooked. Not quite thick enough to be a rib roast but really massive for a steak, it was glorious when cooked medium-rare and sliced.

And then there was the duck. I had planned to make corn crepes with BBQ duck confit, using a recipe from Michael Symon. It’s one of those recipes that is actually capable of making me sweat with anticipation, given that (1) it involves duck, and (2) it provides a rare opportunity for me to make use of the tubs of frozen goose and duck schmaltz I always keep on hand.

The Recipe-Wheels had been set in motion several weeks ago when I put up a nice big pan of duck confit. You season the duck with a sugar/salt/spice rub; after it cures for a few days, you simmer it in a pot full of schmaltz for about ten hours. Then you submerge it in the fat, let it congeal, and park it in the fridge for a month or two to ripen. The result is meat that is so unctuous, so meltingly tender, that it will stop your heart out of sheer ecstasy.

With all of the heavy lifting out of the way, all that had to be done today was to make up a pot of BBQ sauce and shred up some of that lovely duck, encased in schmaltz - a 75:25 blend of goose and duck fat - like Han Solo in carbonite. Then came the corn crepes, into each of which I packed a steaming hot load of BBQ sauced duck. A dab of sour cream, an extra squirt of sauce, a handful of fresh cilantro, and Bob’s your uncle: Dinner!

Corn Crepes with BBQ Duck Confit
The finished product: Corn crepes crammed with BBQ duck confit.

It’s pretty unusual for me to eat seriously rich food these days. But these crepes were serious... and worth every cholesterol-laden bite.

Too bad Gary and JoAnn don’t eat duck. For that matter, neither do the Missus and the Mistress of Sarcasm. Oh, well: More for me.

Friday, October 1, 2010


[Click to embiggen.]

This rainbow - a full double arch spanning horizon to horizon - appeared outside our front door last Monday after a violent thunderstorm. We’re talking hail and power outages, the latter of which are ever so much fun when you’re in the back aisles of a pitch-black supermarket. After I made it home (in one piece, thankfully), I caught the glow of the ’bow out of the corner of my eye and was able to capture it with Mr. Nikon.


Hakuna Wanna Nap

Ever have one of those days?