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

Tuesday, April 24, 2018


Getting an MRI is unlike most people’s daily experiences... unless one’s day consists of lying uncomfortably supine while being shoved into a narrow tube and being subjected to an array of buzzing, clanging, and whanging sounds that would do Edgard Varèse proud.

It’s not much fun, but at least it doesn’t involve having objects inserted into various Bodily Orifices. So there’s that.

And it’s an opportunity to demonstrate one’s ability to take a nap under adverse conditions. If people can snooze on the New York subways, how hard can it be to sleep in what may be likened  to the bastard offspring of a casket and a giant metallic doughnut?

As for results, we’ll just have to wait, won’t we?

Postscriptum: As my friend Mr. Bogner points out in the comments, I may not have had an object inserted in me, but I was, rather, inserted into an object. I suppose one could think of it as the metaphysical inverse of a colonoscopy.

Saturday, April 14, 2018


Everyone has, buried deep in the crevices of his or her brain, a well of childhood Food-Memories... and for many of us, those memories involve some kind of hot cereal.

Whether you called it hot cereal, porridge, or mush - the latter having a decidedly negative connotation - it was (and is) a completely different experience than the typical cold cereal-with-milk breakfast. Cold cereal is quick and easy. Hot cereal is work-intensive - a morning meal more suited to lazy weekend mornings or snow days.

Oh, sure - there are plenty of “instant” hot cereals. Instant oatmeal. Instant grits. Tear open the packet and add hot water: Bingo! But those are beneath contempt. A proper bowl of porridge takes time.

So let’s take a look at some of these cerealic delights, shall we?

Grits. Grits are made from hominy, alkali-treated ground maize. I consider grits to be in their own category, more of a savory dish that can be served with breakfast than a breakfast by themselves. Grits can be doctored up with cheese and other tasty components, but sweetening a bowl of grits is an act that is committed only by Northerners who are inexperienced and ignorant of the Way of the Grit.

Farina. Farina is a form of milled wheat, popularly sold under the brand name Cream of Wheat. It has a mild, innocuous taste. In my Snot-Nose Days, I thought Cream of Wheat was pretty nondescript, but I actually learned to appreciate its mild, wheaty flavor as I grew older. Best augmented with a bit of butter and/or cream and your sweetener of choice.

Cream of Rice. This is a proprietary brand of coarsely ground rice. That’s it - just rice. It’s probably the only cereal I can think of that’s even more bland than Cream of Wheat... perfect for invalids. Add a little butter and milk and you have a hot breakfast even a toddler can appreciate. Throw in some scallions, a piece of fish, and maybe some chili oil, and you have a passable version of congee, AKA chuk, the ubiquitous Asian rice dish.

Oatmeal. Many of us in America grew up on rolled oats, which take all of fifteen minutes to cook. Quicker cooking versions are available, but the tradeoff is the loss of oatmeal’s characteristic texture. And - speaking of texture - steel-cut oats have a delightful nubbly mouthfeel, which comes at the expense of a longer cooking time. The Mistress of Sarcasm introduced me to the pleasure of steel-cut oats with a spoonful of peanut butter stirred in, and they’re also great when cooked with some Earl Grey tea.

Maltex. Now we head into the realm of the obscure, with this semi-superannuated cereal made of a blend of wheat and malted barley syrup. It’s still around, but not a common supermarket item. All I can say is that I liked it when I was a kid.

Maypo. Those of us of a certain age will remember the ads for this maple-flavored oat cereal, in which one Marky Maypo (voiced by an actual four-year-old) would insist, “I want my Maypo!” to the eternal consternation of his Dad. I was never a fan: The stuff was too sweet and mushy for my taste.

Wheatena. This one is also pretty obscure, but your local Superdupermarket might actually carry it. It’s a wheat-based cereal (as is obvious from the name) with an assertive flavor that is a million miles away from the bland Cream of Wheat style. A hot bowl of Wheatena transports me back sixty years in time like few other breakfasts can do.

So: What’s your favorite hot cereal?

Postscriptum: This morning I made myself a pot of Earl Grey steel-cut oats. First I steeped the tea in hot milk, then cooked the oats in the scented milk. A little Irish butter, some Demerara sugar, and Bob’s your uncle! Magnificent. Try it!

Monday, April 9, 2018


I have written numerous times about my perverse ability to make up dopey songs - or dopey lyrics to actual songs - a talent that has, on occasion, caught my daughters flatfooted.

F’r example, there was the time Elder Daughter was attending a performance of “Jesus Christ Superstar” in Boston with a group of her college friends. It’s an outdoor performance on the Common, and ED and her buddies are all singing along:

Jesus Christ, Jesus Christ -
Who are you, what have you sacrificed?
Jesus Christ, superstar -
Who in the hell do you think you are?

At this point all eyes swivel toward Elder Daughter. “Hey, those aren’t the right lyrics!” And she responds, “Yes, they are! I learned them from... (growing realization that she has been duped)... my Dad! Aaarrrrgggh!

And then there was the time Allison E., the daughter of family friends - roughly the same age as Elder Daughter - was playing French horn in a concert. The program included a selection from George Frederick Handel’s oratorio Judas Maccabeus - “See, The Conqu’ring Hero Comes!” and as she began playing, she completely lost her shit. Wait, what?

Elder Daughter, back in her Snot-Nose Days, was learning Suzuki method violin, and when she began learning that particular little chunk of Judas Maccabeus, I made up some of my trademark Nutty Lyrics to go with the tune:

Zippy the Pinhead
Has a polka-dotted suit
And he thinks that he is cute
In his dotted suit.

Zippy has a friend named Shelf-Life
He’s got great big lips
Shelf-Life has a girlfriend, Vizeen
She’s got enormous hips...

I like to believe that my little tune kept ED interested in violin at least long enough to learn “See, The Conqu’ring Hero Comes!” - but who knows? She and her friends (including Allison E.) found it amusing enough. What I do know is that when Allison remembered it some twenty-odd years later, French horn in hand, mouthpiece to her lips, she lost both her composure and her embouchure.

Which brings me to today’s story.

Apparently, both Elder Daughter and the Mistress of Sarcasm have been watching a series on Netflix: Wild Wild Country, a documentary about one Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh, an Indian guru, and the eponymous community he established in Oregon: Rajneeshpuram.

Both girls had the same reaction when the Bhagwan appeared on the small screen. Why is this dude’s name so strangely familiar?

And that, of course, is when they remembered... from early childhood, another of Daddy’s stupid songs:

Excuse me - I have to pish
Don’t you know I am a follower of

Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh

He’ll satisfy your ev’ry wish
Just as long as you’re a follower of
Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh...

(sung to the tune of “Forty-Second Street”)

Until they started watching Wild Wild Country, they had never known that the Bhagwan was an actual person - but they had known his name for three decades. How ’bout dat?

[Why do I do this? I blame Mad Magazine.]


As I was driving around the back roads of North Cobb County a few days ago, I decided to listen to some music. Old music. Music from my Semi-Degenerate College Years. And I didn’t have to lift a finger: I simply said, “Hey, Siri - play Chick Corea.” And Siri complied, pulling up one of my favorite Chick Corea compositions: “Guijira,” from the Inner Space album.

Inner Space was my first introduction to Corea’s work. I first discovered it in the spring of my sophomore year of college, back in 1972, when it was a newly released vinyl double album. Most of the tracks had actually been recorded six years earlier.

It was fascinating. Real jazz - modern jazz, but nothing like the jazz-rock fusion that was becoming popular among my age cohort. And the personnel! Hubert Laws, Woody Shaw, Joe Farrell - each one hugely talented individually, but together in the ensemble directed by Corea, greater than the sum of their parts.

“Guijira” was a particular favorite of mine, a track that featured Hubert Laws’s flute, Chick Corea’s masterful piano, and a soaring trumpet solo by Woody Shaw, all with a subtle Latin foundation. Forty-six years later, and it still gives me the shivers.

All those years ago, I would gently pull the LP from its sleeve, place it on my turntable, and carefully drop the tonearm onto the spinning vinyl - and music would soar forth from my speakers. But no more. My copy of Inner Space is gone, having been deep-sixed along with all my other vinyl LP’s earlier this year... a casualty of the Great Purge.

And yet I still have my Inner Space. Now it resides on my computer’s hard drive and in my mobile devices in the form of a string of ones and zeroes. And I can call it forth with the touch of a button... or with the simple command, “Hey, Siri.”