Monday, December 31, 2012

End of the day

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So another year has gone by. What happened?
Well there was summer and winter and rain and all that stuff. There was a hurricane that didn’t knock over any trees so that was all good. There was patching the living room ceiling and replacing the floors in the bathroom and the kitchen. There was buying a drum set and a couple of electric guitars and amplifiers.
Then there was time to meet some interesting women but not really. There was time to wander into a field of strangeness and come out the other end.
Much of the time was spent feeding the yard due to constant reminding.
And what did I write about? Just looking back and reading some of 2012 post I see a few things that seem to be part of my basic makeup now.
Put some stuff out there about getting through the emotions or none-emotions with a realization of what makes me happy and what I fear but know how to take care of it. There is the mundane and worries of the day. There is the usual health, money, safety, and the ability of living by one’s self. There are concerns about communication or lack there of and the thoughts about death. There are views of religion and politics of which I don’t care much about. There is a large amount of silliness being crazy and all.
So what will the next year bring? Kitchen cabinets and appliances I hope. Little better health would be nice and easy to do. Probably have to get some new cloths since I’m running out of hoodies. 
Last year I went to a motel for New Year's eve to partake of the bubbly and enjoy the celebration with strangers, but this year I will break that sorry habit.
My New Year traditions are getting a new calendar, a new toothbrush, new shoes, and a new pen. Since I don’t write as much as I used to, I can skip the pen. Instead I think I will give myself a new daily routine.
We’ll see what happens. It will be just another year in just another life.

Sunday, December 30, 2012

Sleeping

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Part of the fun of dating is sleeping together. It is something couples don’t think about but becomes a fact of life. Either through exhaustion or affectionate cuddling, sleeping together provides hidden secrets that neither asked about nor maybe wanted to know.
How soft or hard should the bed be? How many covers are required? How high should the pillows rise?
Then is the preference in the sheets, pillowcases, and pillows, bedspreads and more bedroom supplements.
But what we don’t want to discuss or even admit are our sleeping habits. Snoring that keeps your partner awake, drooling on the pillow, talking in the sleep, tossing and turning and even more important how much of the bed is required by each person to sleep.
On my resume I admit I snore and drool, I sleep on the right side only, don’t take a lot of space but have restless leg syndrome and toss and turn a good bit.
Won’t get into those weird dreams.

Saturday, December 29, 2012

Heaven


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There are millions of ideas of what Heaven looks like. Fluffy clouds with sounds of harps and people flying around in white tunics are one image. Heaven is a place where you can meet old relatives and friends and everything is peaceful and happy.
So everyone has his or her own picture of what heaven is and what it is for. Our religions teach us if we are good we will rise up to heaven when we die to live eternal rest. Religion also tells us if we are bad we will descend into hell and that doesn’t sound like a good place.
Now if heaven is such a good place, can you choose the age you will appear? Can you drink beer without peeing? Matter of fact there are no toilets or litter boxes in heaven. You can eat whatever you want in any amount and not get fat. There are no guns in heaven because there is nothing to kill. The best part is you can jam with all your favorite rock stars, unless they all went to that other place.
But suppose there is no hell? Suppose it was all made up? You have to remember there was no God or Heaven or Hell before man wrote about the idea without any proof.

Virgin

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Virgin is such an interesting word especially this time of year. Virgin? Defined as someone who has never had sex. And sex being defined as reproductive characteristics including intercourse.
Whatever the definition, the word “virgin” was exposed to my generation as a moral challenge and an obscure element of purity. There were no education classes and no one talked about it. Biblical teaching regarded losing virginity before marriage was a sin, but the story of Immaculate Conception was confusing to the young mind.
Then the body is rushing with hormones and as we take indecent liberties with each other the idea of preserving virginity goes out the window. Sometimes declared as a right of passage or a sign of maturity, the person you lose your virginity with will always be special.
But if you take the definition of “virgin” as not being exposed or participating in an act, then we are all virgins of one kind or another. Could be a mobile virgin without a smart phone or a Thai virgin if you have never tried oriental cooking or Social Media virgin without having an account on Facebook or Tweeter.
So the word “virgin” shouldn’t be a badge of courage or something to be fearful to say.

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Rainy Day

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Yesterday was a rainy day. Not the usual rainy day in this burg where it rains in the morning then clears off or clear in the morning then rains in the afternoon. Yesterday was different. It started to rain before sunrise and continued all day.
Now I was never a guy who was an outside kid. Instead I stayed in my room through most of my childhood, but things are different now.
Everyday at eleven o’clock, I must go outside. I must feel the sunshine against my face. I must view the yard. I must listen to the sounds in the wind.
Perhaps it is a reason to get out of the house? Perhaps it is a reason to avoid being a slug in the house? Perhaps it is just changing the scene?
For whatever reason, yesterday I was trapped in the house. Just like being locked into a jail ceil, I couldn’t go out and enjoy my day. I couldn’t ride my bike. I couldn’t feel the wind in my face. I couldn’t fill my lungs with fresh air. I couldn’t stretch out my arms and legs in a brief exercise.
The house is warm and dry and safe, full of lots of toys and projects that I could get involved with, but I just wanted to get out. Like a cornered cat, I would stare out the window and pace back and forth trying to find something to get my attention.
Television is a bad partner as it always has been but it is an easy escape. A book might be an escape or music or cooking, but the lamp is in storage and I have no book I want to read and the music on the radio I’ve listened to too much and the kitchen is none existent, so I drown myself in bad television.
The evening comes and the rain slacks off. Everything is soaking wet outside, but I put on my jeans and walk out into the dark. There is something that draws me out there.
I use the excuse that I have a sweet tooth craving, so I pull out the pony and ride through the wet streets. I get a view of the leftover Christmas lights on my ride back splashing through the puddles.
Out in “Man’s Land” I stuff myself with a half of apple pie for dinner believing this is better than cookies or chocolate cake.
Satisfied to be outside is accentual to my life. I know it and I live with it.
Today, the sunshine has come back and the songs are in the air. Knowing the critter crewe had a more difficult day than I did, I put out additional treats for them. Then again, they didn’t miss a beat with the seed I left on the covered deck or the coffee cake made by my neighbor.
In the long run, it is not the place that is warm and comfortable or full of treasures that makes you happy. It is the place you are at ease.

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Another Christmas Story

 
The above picture is my brother and I caught digging through the loot under the tree in the mid 50’s.

Christmas was always the final show for the year. I think my parents must have saved up all year to get all this stuff. On the lean years, us boys would get paper toys and on the good years we would get the big things. This looked like a pretty good year with a giant record player, a portable television and a set of drums. Mom always got some big gift like a fur coat, golf clubs, electric organ, or car. 

Dad was satisfied in watching us enjoy the process of unwrapping the stuff. Don’t have any recollection of his childhood or how the season was celebrated or not in his house, but watching us overindulge seemed to make his Christmas day. 

The tradition was carried over to my little apartment and even with a meager salary there was always a tree and decorations and a few poorly wrapped presents. With a larger house the tree became larger with hand-me-down decorations. With garland wrapped up the staircase and lots of candles, the season became another reason to break out the wine and play music. 

Moving to a smaller house, the cards were still mailed and a few presents exchanged until another was part of the picture. Then the Christmas season became my father’s dreams. Christmas became trips to a quaint tourist town, diners under waterfalls by candlelight, shopping sprees that would shake the Rockefellers, suites in plush 5-star hotels, and even a wedding (can’t put that under a tree). 

As the family filled with furry critters that didn’t understand pine trees and dangling sparkly balls and flashing lights, the decorations became limited. Having to work on the holiday toned down the early morning festivities to make it just another day. 

There were a few surprises. For several years I was asked for a diamond ring. Years before the jewelry did not have to have such value, but it became apparent that a ring with a diamond was desired, even obsessed. 

So as the usual boxes sat in a chair and after coffee the handmade cards were read and the colorful paper torn apart to reveal the contents. Since there was no heat many scarves and warm socks and gloves were traded back and forth. 

Yet one glove had a special surprise inside. The look of surprise and anticipation was amazing as she reached inside the gray wool glove to find a small black box. 

Then I found out what my dad spent all year only to delight in the final presentation. 

Christmas day is different than all the other 364 days. All the stores are closed, buses run limited routes, churches have quiet services, and those who have to work would rather be home.

Now I won’t get into the Christmas I dressed up as Santa to deliver presents to a sick boy at home or when I left my family, food and presents to help a friend move.

Instead I will tell you of another special Christmas day. Let me preface this Christmas with a history. At work, the job had changed. The office had changed. The building had changed. A new department, a new title, and overwhelming requirements took over. Days of working 16 to 18 hours became the norm. Fires burnt bright everywhere one turned so there was no thought of Christmas. There was no time for shopping. There was no clue of anything but work.

Christmas eve arrived and I knew I would still be down here tomorrow with a short staff and the same workload. Luckily I was able to sneak out early enough to do a little shopping.

Most stores were already closed so I took the last bus out of downtown and stopped on the way home at a drug store just as it was closing. Now drug stores are not the pharmacies of old. They are mini box stores carrying everything from medicines to toys to soap to those weird things they advertise on television infomercials. 

So I grab whatever looked seasonal; some perfume, a sparkly jewelry thing, a watch, some gloves and scarf combination, and a stuffed bear toy. A couple of rolls of wrapping paper and tape and I was on the way home.

Still exhausted from the day, I went into “Mansland” and roughly wrapped the presents for tomorrow. It was more of a chore than a wonderful experience.

The next morning we woke a little earlier to unwrap before I had to go to work. Hot coffee, television and furry critters rustling through the unwrapped papers we opened out limited Christmas pile. She smiled as if each tacky gift was the best but I knew it wasn’t. 

Looking back, Christmas was a big day, but almost everyday was Christmas. Themes of cooking and plants and animals and crafts and art and books and videos…. the list goes on and on, were always provided for. Dad would have been proud. I tried to be Santa everyday.

So now as I walk pass all the appliances and books and seasonal delights that I would get a request for, I just smile at the panic on everyone else’s faces. I won’t even purchase a present for myself this year. For Christmas is a different kind of day. 

The wassailing to family and friends or playing carols to veterans who didn’t appreciate the effort or Christmas eve deliveries of bird seed to all the neighborhood or hand made cards have faded into history. 

Now I get what I always get.

I’ll just follow my usual tradition with a quiet walk in the cold sunshine and bask in the joy of filling hungry faces.


Sunday, December 23, 2012

Naughty or nice?

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Life continues.
And it really doesn’t change. Whatever we did to grow up and gather values stays the same.
With a little determination and self-reliance we can survive and even have some fun now and then.
So with all the websites and links to social networking, only a few clicks of the mouse and some none descript information could put us in touch with someone to flirt with.
Is it worth the effort? Is it worth it?
Then again, there are places to go and meet other lonely people who with a purchase of an adult beverage will share their most intimate secrets.
So then what?

About 30 some years ago when similar opportunities offered themselves I tried to avoid them. At that time I was still mingling with groups of people that presented possible attachments but my mind was somewhere else. Some possibilities were very attractive, some could be forgotten, some were momentary physical attachments, and some were just weird.
Definitely older and maybe wiser, I see this time with a little more reflection. Opportunities are still available but having spent most of my life with other people either by last name association or emotional choosing maybe not this time.
At this time in life, it would be pleasant to have a person to enjoy situations with, laugh at some moment, dance under the stars, bask in the joy of a gift or warm the bedroom, but…
 
No one to talk with
All by myself
No one to walk with
But I'm happy on the shelf
Ain't misbehavin'
I'm savin' my love for you
I know for certain
The one I love
I'm through with flirtin'
It's just you I'm thinkin' of
Ain't misbehavin'
I'm savin' my love for you

Like Jack Horner
In the corner
Don't go nowhere
What do I care?
Your kisses are worth waitin' for
Believe me

I don't stay out late
Don't care to go
I'm home about eight
Just me and my radio
Ain't misbehavin'
Savin' my love for you

Like Jack Horner
In the corner
Don't go nowhere
What do I care?
Your kisses are worth waitin' for
Believe me

I don't stay out late
Don't care to go
I'm home about eight
Just me and my radio
Ain't misbehavin'
Savin' my love for you
Ain't misbehavin'
Savin' my love for you



Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Death

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The subject is morbid, especially on this season, but it seems to be on everyone’s mind this year.
We for some reason remember birthdays (or celebrations of birth) but don’t remember death dates unless they are around a holiday.
Now I’m not an expert on death because I haven’t been there yet. I’ve had a few deaths in my timeline and a few times should have followed the light but didn’t. I’ve held death, listen to death, seen death happen and even had to pay for death.
Like most kids, a death in the family was never discussed or at least around us. Uncle Fred just didn’t show up at the family reunion because he killed himself in the garage or there is a picture of a guy in the family album but he didn’t come back from the war.
My first experience with death was a friend of mine from elementary school. We were swimming together at the country club pool using our diving mask and diving to the bottom, touching it then turning back up for air. Just stuff little boys do while their moms are on the golf course or clubhouse. My friend’s mask got caught in a suction grate and he drowned. There was a big church funeral and the entire class dressed up and sat in pews listening to whatever they were talking about while his body was laid out before us. Girls in my class were sobbing and everyone wore black. There were no grief consoling or even private talks from the parents about what had happened. There was just I can’t call Jack to come out to play anymore.
There are a lot of industries built on death. Religion for one is based on believing in and paying dues to whichever God you choose because they have scared the pooh-pooh out of you preaching about heaven or hell. Then there are the undertakers who prepare the body for the after-life in yet another pagan ritual.
So maybe this season between the eating and wrapping and drinking and watching the big game, take out the family album and tell your children about their relatives. If any of your family had illnesses this is a good time to discuss that for further health reasons because so many of us don’t know.
Whatever you decide to tell your children about when grandma died and was called back to heaven or even nightly prayers like “Now I lay me down to sleep, I pray the Lord my soul to keep, and if I die before I wake, I pray the Lord my soul to take”; kids need to know there is an end to life. Teach them to appreciate it everyday and they will learn to enjoy the gift they have.
Me? Oh I’ve made my deal with the maker. Everyday will stop and stand still and look around. Each day is different and nature changes its rhythm only to be appreciated once.
And if I die before I wake?

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Why do Super Heroes wear capes?

   Did you ever wonder this? I mean these guys and gals are Super Heroes. They dress in spandex suits with mask and fancy boots with colors that would not make the runway shows. They can run and fly faster than anyone can imagine. They have special powers that can knock down walls and carry cars and stop bullets without getting a tear in their tight uniforms.
   Yet why the capes?
   Capes were produced to protect against high intensity weather. The cape is any sleeveless outer garment, such as a poncho, but usually it is a long garment that covers only the back half of the wearer, fastening around the neck.
 Capes were common in medieval Europe, especially when combined with a hood in the chaperon, and have had periodic returns to fashion, for example, in nineteenth century Europe. Capes remain in regular use as rain wear in various military units and police forces.
 The fashion cape does not cover the front to any appreciable degree. In raingear, a cape is usually a long and roomy protective garment worn to keep one dry in the rain.
 In full evening dress, ladies frequently use the cape as a fashion statement, or to protect the wearer or the fine fabrics of their eveningwear from the elements, especially where a coat would crush—or hide—the garment. These capes may be short (over the shoulders or to the waist) or a full-length cloak. Capes are still authorized as an alternative to the more utilitarian trench coat for U.S. Army officers in mess dress, formal evening uniform.
 In modern times, comic book superheroes, such as Superman, Batman, and Thor are often described as wearing "capes" or "opera capes", although most of these are long enough to count as opera cloaks.
 So why does a Super Hero need to wear a cape?
 As they fly through the sky do they fear their Super Hero costume will get wet? Should they have a hat to keep the rain out of their mask? Maybe something like a bike helmet?
Not all Super Heroes wear capes. The Flash doesn’t wear a cape but that is understandable because he runs so fast it would probably shred. The Green Lantern doesn’t wear a cape and who knows why?
But the biggest Super Heroes “Superman” and “Batman” are recognizable by their capes. I can’t figure how long it takes to get out of the Clark Kent or Bruce Wayne cloths and get into their skintight wetsuits uniforms with their logos on their chest so everyone would know who they are, then have to put on a cape.
Now Batman and Boy Wonder could get their capes caught in the Bat mobile or Superman could get tangled in the swirl of flying at super speed, they keep wearing them.
Maybe it is just a fashion statement but I don’t see the Hulk wearing a cape.
  

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Why don’t we speak the same language?

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Language is the human capacity for communication.  Any estimate of the number of languages in the world varies between around 6,000 and 7,000.  Natural languages are spoken or signed.
Human language is unique because it relies entirely on social convention and learning. Language is thought to have originated when early hominines started gradually changing their primate communication systems, acquiring the ability to form a theory of other minds and a shared intentionality.
This development is sometimes thought to have coincided with an increase in brain volume, and the structures of language having evolved to serve specific communicative and social functions.
Humans acquire language through social interaction in early childhood, and generally speak fluently when they are around three years old. The use of language is deeply entrenched in human culture. Therefore, in addition to its strictly communicative uses, language also has many social and cultural uses, such as signifying group identity, social stratification, as well as for social grooming and entertainment.
Languages evolve and diversify over time. The history of their evolution can be reconstructed by comparing modern languages to determine which traits their ancestral language. A group of languages that descend from a common ancestor is known as a language family. The languages that are most spoken in the world today belong to the Indo-European family, which includes languages such as English, Spanish, Portuguese, Russian and Hindi; the Sino-Tibetan languages, which include Mandarin Chinese, Cantonese and many others; Semitic languages, which include Arabic, Amharic and Hebrew; and the Bantu languages, which include Swahili, Zulu, and hundreds of other languages spoken throughout Africa.
The general consensus is that between 50 to 90% of languages spoken today will probably become extinct.
Listening to the news in the morning as reporters translate languages from all over the world with different dialects and tongues, one wonders if it is true or transposed in message.
Then again, so many other countries understand and communicate in English.
So as we grow global, why don’t we all speak the same language?


Sunday, December 9, 2012

Inspection

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All through life most of us are inspected. These are the standards we live by.
Immediately people think of auto inspections. It is a good place to start for everyone with a motor vehicle must have an inspection sticker replaced by a qualified mechanic every year. This proves that the vehicle is safe to drive. 
This is also the opportunity for a profitable mechanic to find some problem (or even cause some problem) that must be fixed before the sticker could be changed.
Sort of like a family physician doing an annual physical. Like the car, the patient is put up on the rack and examined with a series of test and devices. And like the mechanic, a good doctor will find something wrong that can be combined with a pharmaceutical payback and another follow-up to ease the patients’ worry and a bill that will pay for the Jamaican vacation.
Now getting back to the beginning the first inspection is at birth where they check all the toes and fingers. You don’t get a sticker but you get a certificate.
All our appliances are inspected. All our food is inspected. All our clothing is inspected. It seems that everything in our life has a little tag hung on it that says it has been inspected.
Think about school. The teachers present their lessons and then give examinations that are really inspections to see if you are smart enough to retain enough information to move up a grade.
Then there are yearly reviews at work. Only a positive review or inspection will be rewarded with a raise.
The regulations or requirements of these inspections constantly change but one thing is always constant.
For with all the outside influences and standards and requirements and regulations and even peer pressure there is only one true inspection.
Hope you pass and get a sticker.


Living In A Cloud

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Today is a grey day. It feels like a December day. Cool dampness from the rain yesterday and fog.
Even waking up to the sound of laughing rug rats doesn’t bring on the spirit of the season. Christmas songs are starting to fill the airways with the promise of more to come. With the election over and only news of the disaster when they call my name, I turn to the familiar sites to try and find something worth commenting about or even entertaining. Even an unexpected chat with a giant crush but she doesn’t know it does not brighten the day.
So the usual excuse to move makes me venture into the fog. The air is clammy and anything but inviting to do another project. Perhaps the fog is that in every frame of life’s movie there are other projects to do. Even the ones that have been hidden and almost forgotten are still there. Perhaps the overwhelming thoughts that make the three-hour naps with tossing and turning tolerable continue the fog.
As if the day’s dimmer is on, the routine continues. The garland and twinkling lights try to brighten the season but it feels like dusk instead of noon. A few folks are out walking and you can tell it is the season by their colorful wild sweaters. A pretty blond walks by with a smile and a dog on a string and two sisters cross the street. They are probably going in to make Christmas cookies or baking while sharing a bottle of Chianti before moving into the evening with rum balls and whiskey shots. I don’t know if they are really doing that, but that is my story for today. More rug rats on scooters playing a war game. At least it is not a video game. My thoughts go back to a time when Bill and I would get all out soldiers out of cigar boxes and playing on the steps. I guess little boys must play war. Past the old house where the lady who was always asking for help lived but I guess she croaked because it is gutted, two women walking a dog stop and peer in the windows.  A father and son in shorts toss a ball out in the middle of the street oblivious to anything around them.
Locking up at the store I survey the ever-moving parking lot. The poor guy who parked his massive metal monster in a space on reserved for normal size mobile machine and can’t open his door to get out.
Grabbing my poor old ripped bag I follow the parade into the consumption circus. Today is not as good as yesterday with eye candy but all the other regulars are there. The usual shopping list of peanuts, seed, crappy chicken tenders, a couple cans of soup and a Paul Newman’s thin and crispy Supreme frozen pizza. Can someone live off of pizza and beer? Suppose there had never been an Eve? The world would just be a big Delta House.
Spreading out the feast for the yard apes, it is settling back to watch but mostly listen to the constant chatter about the guys in the white shirts against the guys in the orange shirts.
Perhaps I should take the wash in tomorrow before it piles up? Perhaps I should get into the crowds and buy some new jeans instead of wearing my old dirt covered jeans to court? Perhaps buy a new pair of shoes and throw away the ones I’ve been wearing since last winter? Perhaps shave and take a shower? Perhaps look to see if there is a cheap PC this season? Perhaps I’ll change the battery in the power box so it will stop beeping? Well I did take out the trash.
These grey days cloud my motivation. Just another foggy day in just another life.

Friday, December 7, 2012

Re-Writing History


History can also refer to the academic discipline, which uses a narrative to examine and analyze a sequence of past events, and objectively determine the patterns of cause and effect that determine them.

So why should it be rewritten? Aren’t the facts of what happened clear?

Maybe not.

History is recalled by many different points of view and is recorded in various manners.

In the many yesterdays, people translated what they felt and saw into transcripts that were copied and translated to many languages and cultures. The words might stay the same but the meaning becomes different.

The Bible is a prime example of how words and visions have changed through time.

So why rewrite history?

Well, as I see it, history can be manipulated into whatever form people want to believe at the time.

Point in question was the Civil War.

Growing up in the South in the Capitol of the Confederacy when Jim Crow was still the political status and the popular belief, the history of the War Between the States was very different that what it is today.

Looking back, which is what history is all about, it seems most of the recorded events were about wars and leaders. Our time line has been written by who was killing and conquering whom.  And we are supposed to the civilized being of the planet.

Since most families have photos and comments on letters, their history must be connected through genealogy searches. Today everyone in the family has their own camera to capture still photos or live video to capture every moment of family events and even publish them for the entire world to see.

But is it real?

So as the daily occurrences are analyzed and reported from different points of view, tomorrow’s history will be written.

But don’t worry, it can always be re-written.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Mystery Meat

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Have you ever wondered what the stuff is in your can of beef stew or your chili or your ravioli?
It is mystery meat. Sure, you look at the label and it says you are getting some kind of meat by products but what does that mean?
It may look like something that may have come from a butchered animal and previously cooked in a serial kitchen. It may have been packed into a vacuumed seal can to preserve its quality and freshness.
What the heck is this stuff?
It has texture and some flavor like the product you wish it was pretending to be but in the long run you don’t know what it is you are putting into your body.
Then again so much of our “food” is a mystery. What did the animals eat before being slaughtered for our consumption? How long did the vegetables wait on trucks or trains to be delivered to our supermarkets as “fresh”?
One of my enjoyments of viewing other customers at the local grocery store is watching them look at the ingredients labeled on the products they are about to purchase. Don’t kid yourselves. The containers of the can or jar are not even close to being good for you.
Open a can of beef stew and a can of dog food. See the resemblance?
So go into your local diner and enjoy whatever they serve you for what goes on in the kitchen is a mystery.
So is the stuff that comes out of a can.
Enjoy your dinner. Burp.


Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Fine Dining

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You may remember a time when you had to get dressed up to go out. A time when having a meal became very special event.
Now I will prefix this with the reader knowing that my father was the manager of a private club so some of my examples for fine dining were just part of growing up.
With that out of the way, what happens when you decide to go out for lunch or dinner? You have a favorite spot at a local eatery or a certain taste requirement meaning the search for a specialty restaurant. 
The d├ęcor may be a theme or overwhelming junk on the walls or mixed up decorations that may have been leftovers from the grand parents. There are usually tables scattered about and possibility booths. There maybe table cloths or not with condiments of salt, pepper, and sugar packs in a rack. There are no rugs or much padding on the chairs. The owner or person who runs the register gathers some menus and points you to a table. Unless in a theme restaurant a waitperson will come over in the white shirt black pants uniform and ask if you want drinks. This request is to give the patron time to read the menu and decide what meal they prefer. The whole operation is to get the patron in and out as quickly as possible so the next patron can take the table.
The menu consists of a beef dish, a chicken dish, a seafood dish, and lots of sides. Like theatres that make their money from the popcorn, a restaurant makes their profits from deserts and drinks. Beach restaurants may have more seafood and Midwest restaurants may have more beef dishes, but they all will have dishes preferred for the most patrons. Some chain restaurants offer the same menu wherever you go. The consistency makes it easy on people who don’t really care about variety.
These restaurants are cozy and are fairly uneventful except for the occasional birthday cup cake when perhaps the waitpersons will gather around and sing “Happy Birthday”. 
The real experience of dining out requires a little more work. First, get dressed up. Put on a suit, shower and shave, and put on some of the smelly sauce to be as fancy as if you were going on a date with a movie star. 
Fine dining required waiting for a table. A table covered in one or two linen crisp white tablecloths with polished chairs and silver condiments on the table. The maitre d will check the reservations list before assigning a table. In his dark tux jacket with a snap of the fingers the oversized menus will be handed to a person in a short white jacket to escort you to your table. The ladies will be seated and before the waitperson arrives the water glasses are filled and the party will be asked if there are any other requirements before observing their menus. Always “Yes madam” and “Yes sir”.
After an appropriate amount of time the waitperson will arrive quietly to the table with a linen napkin over one sleeve. Answering questions about the menu and recommending the specials of the chef the waitperson produces a wine list always complimenting the ladies and confirming to the gentlemen their selections are excellent.
Another person arrives and delivers the drinks, testing the wine sample before pouring. Toasts are made and the event of the evening is becoming a civilized festivity. 
There are more folks and knives and spoons on the table than usual at home and little plates and several glasses. The sugar is real in a silver bowl and the salt and peppershakers are silver. The plates are thick ceramic. The linen napkins are folded in a triangle tent and must be carefully placed in the lap.
With the arrival of the salads a silver bowl of crackers are placed on the table. Pats of pure butter are placed in ice. Chilled wine glasses with pure water are delivered and refreshed without a moments notice by the wait staff.
The entry of the entrees is timed exactly when the salads are finished. Steamy plates covered in stainless steel hoods are delivered allow the patron to awe at the chefs presentation. Always asking if everything is up to expectations, the party enjoys the meat and starches with a slight side of vegetables garnished with parsley. 
The steaks are thick, the chicken is tender, the potatoes are soft and creamy and everything is soaked in butter. The coffee is fresh made and the desserts rich. 
Now again I must review that I never saw my father pay for any meal or even tip for the over exuberant service brought on being the bosses son. That alone does alter the perspective on future service expectations but it was great when I could enjoy it. 
Today I realize I have been exposed to some of the finest dining experiences available to the rich and famous. I have inspected the kitchens, met the chefs, watched the process of food preparation and heard the tales of unsatisfied patrons who must be convinced their meal is the best. Behind the scenes it is all a con game.
Just like what you see on all the television cooking shows with all the latest utensils and gadgets and assortment of spices and the flash in the pan preparation it still comes down to frying or searing or baking or…. Well the methods are all the same.
So after all that, what eating establishments do I frequent? 
The mom and pops eatery are my preference. Perhaps the expectations of a French cuisine or an arrangement of foreign spices and special oils to cook are lowered to grease, but there is certain honesty for straightforward cooking with no frills. 
Walking up to a counter and sitting on a stool that is a few feet away from the cook slapping eggs and hamburgers on a hot grill with smoke filling the air and a menu reduced to the basics is appealing. The grease is scraped off from the burgers and another tub of butter sizzled on the grill for the eggs. The toast soaks up the same juices. There is no ceremony just an honest job of heating foot for a customer. 
The waitresses, because most of these places have young friendly girls who present a vinyl covered sheet with a few selections of eggs or burgers or sandwiches with few sides. They make up for a limited selection with a homegrown friendliness. 
The coffee cups as chipped but always full. The chatter and smiles are genuine. The atmosphere is hometown comfortable. There is no rush to get you out and everyone acts like you are neighbors.
  
So the next time you are dining out, decide what your preference is. High style or home grown.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Choked Up

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It is a strange feeling. The breathing seems difficult like there is a hole in your heart. A tear forms in your eye and you don’t know why. It is hard or impossible to speak.
A lot of difference experiences or recurrences can bring on this affect to the body. A memory or a certain sound or an image that seems to make your body throwaway reason and shutter with an uncontrollable emotion.
This is the season when advertisers and foundations work hard to create this emotion on you. Sick puppies or doe eyed children or even the family gathering brings the emotions of the time and breaks down the barriers to donate to a good cause.
Through the years I don’t think I was so attached to the emotions or I just looked past them. Numb to whatever was an attachment to my fellow person or experience was put away for another day.
Watch an extraordinary catastrophe and not blink an eye or hold a dying person without a tear must have been a trained condition. Don’t know if it was learned or just appropriate for the time when men were brave and had no feelings.
Tough it out or man up to the task without giving in to what was churning inside.
But lately I find myself adjust those sick puppy ads or those doe eyed children ads for I know I will react to them.
The first time I noticed it was a Billy Joel concert. He played a song “And we will all go down together” and as I watched, even knowing the song, I broke down. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Qjzjhl-QztE   Just watched it and it still breaks me down. Sure I lived during that time but wasn’t in the fight. I did see the results come home on the train and knew a few who were in those boxes.
 Why this song? I don’t know. It was the first time I realized I could lose it.
Some Kate Bush and Peter Gabriel songs get a similar reaction so now that I realize it I try to avoid them.
I’m not saying it is bad or unmanly or even vulnerable to become overwhelmed by these feelings, yet as we learn about ourselves and know more about ourselves we can accept the occasional choke up.