Wednesday, December 31, 2008

A New Year's Message

I wish for everyone who reads this message a safe and happy 2009.

May the new year be rich in positive experiences, full of love and friendship, and overflowing with positive opportunities for you, your families, and all you hold dear.

And I hope all of us are able and willing to share our good fortunes, all year round, with people who are less fortunate but no less deserving than ourselves.

I wish goodness for everyone who's willing to give it in return.

Winding Down

Plans change and so do I. Yesterday, the plan for today was to go into Houston and explore. Instead, we wandered along backroads to Galveston.

After getting up very late (almost 9:00 am), we ate breakfast and decided to stay another night in the same motel, then head into Houston tomorrow. So, we set out toward Galveston. Along the way, we say considerable evidence of Hurricane Ike, from last September, though none as powerful as in Galveston proper. I took several photos that show the extent of the devastation; I'll post them here when I can hook up my camera to my computer to download images. Suffice it to say the storm was truly catastrophic. And the people who most needed, and still need, help in Galveston are the ones who FEMA somehow manages to ignore or forget.

We wandered all over Galveston, then settled on Joe's Seafood for lunch. It was a small place operated by an Asian couple; I don't know if they own it or not. The clientele appeared to me to be poor, but working, and was quite diverse; Black, Hispanic, White, etc., etc., etc. The oyster po-boys were excellent; I wanted to try the flounder and the shrimp, but I was too full and too concerned about my gluttony to do more.

Then, we headed southwest along the seawall, beyond Galveston proper, to an area where literaly hundreds of homes on stilts (telepone-pole-like posts) had been badly damaged. Photos later. Incredible damage; lots of people who once lived in those homes and others who are working on repairing them, but have no other place to live, are living out of travel trailers. It's a very strange scene.

On the way back, along the same road we took to get there, we came upon a place we'd noticed in the morning, the Bayview Duck Restaurant and Pub. We stopped in to see what it was like and to get, we hoped, a good beer. It was the right place! The guy who runs it is an Engishman who's very nice and accommodating. We asked about the English beers and he offered us samples of a couple he thought we'd like: a combo bitter and Newcastel ale (he calls it a Brown & Bitter) and another one that combines the Newcastle with something else that makes the resulting drink considerably sweeter. I opted not to get a combo, going instead for a Fullers ESB Bitter; my wife got the Brown & Better. We got a snack, too; fried, crab-stuffed jalapeno. Excellent place for a drink and a bite; I highly recommend it. To top it off, its decor is an eclectic mix of old wooden tables, bookcases, artwork featuring books, dark carved furnishings, photos and art of England, and well-worn chairs and tables. A great neighborhood spot.

Then, onward toward the motel. A brief respite there and we were off to an early dinner, aiming to go to a Mexican restaurant just a few blocks away, but deciding instead when we spied a Chinese restaurant to go there instead. We had a buffet dinner at Lee Palace at 6942 Garth Road. I cannot highly recommend it, but it's not bad and I have yet fallen victim to food poisoning, so it's still on the OK list.

Tomorrow, we'll head out before 10 am to my sister's in Houston, where we'll also meet up with a brother and a niece and nephew. We'll treat everyone to lunch (which we may have to bring in because of some medication my sister is on). Then, before it gets too late, we'll head back to Dallas where we have a week's worth of work to do before Monday.

If retirement is anything like this trip, I'm ready for it. The trip was not spectacular, but it was mostly relaxing and took my mind off work most of the time. That's a good thing.

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Southern Louisiana and So Forth

I seem to have lost track of space and time. Where was I?

Oh, yeah, I was getting ready for bed at the Hampton Inn in Natchitoches, Louisiana. It was December 28, a Sunday. The next morning, Monday the 29th, we opted to forego the "free" breakfast at the Hampton Inn and, instead, pay good money for a breakfast at the Huddle House, right across the parking lot. My wife asked for a pecan waffle, "extra crispy," which I gather is waffle house lingo for "completely cooked and toasted around the edges." The cook apparently was unfamiliar with the lingo, as he sent her a disk of batter cooked barely long enough for the waffle iron to leave its imprint. My "over medium" eggs were watery, but tolerable. I noticed something about the place that surprised me, but has since got me thinking there is a deeper reason than I initially believed: they had no Tabasco Sauce, not even any in back. "We have Cajun Chef hot sauce, sir," the waitress said. OK. So I ate my eggs with Cajun Chef.

Back to Huddle House. When I was a mere child, I remember eating at a place called Dobbs House, which could have been a twin of Huddle House. It was a diner style place, the entire exterior wall of which was glass. Formica counter, formica booths with formica-covered bench seats, stainless steel cooking utensils, etc. in plain view. Even their menu had its own special lingo, like the Waffle House of today. Somewhere along the line, I got the impression that Dobbs House and Huddle House were one in the same, or had been, or should have been. Somehow, I'm convinced they are related, in some way. Enough of my aside about the breakfast joint.

After breakfast, we went looking for the aquarium and fish hatchery, which we found in short order. We were among the only guests in days, judging from the guest book. There was no one there to greet guests, only a book and some photos and plaques about the fish hatchery (which is behind the aquarium but not available for a casual tour, it appeared). The aquarium had about 13-15 tanks with an assortment of interesting fish and a few reptiles, including an albino turtle that was doing its best to impregnate a snapping turtle as we walked by.

Next, we went wandering along the Cane River, taking note of some very nice homes right on the water, on both sides of the river. We noted that, on one side of the river, a growing subdivision looked like it could have been a lower middle class subdivision near Dallas. It was ugly and depressing to see a nice little town like Natchitoches sink into the suburban swill of Dallas and like cities. Those monstrous little brick cancers notwithstanding, the river area was very pretty, with enormous oak trees forming massive canopies above the roads.

Then, we went to a little scenic lookout on the river, a place complete with its own national park building (though I'll be damned if I remember the name of the park), made of sturdy logs and tastefully decorated to appear like an HGTV log home. The place was gorgeous and the scenery looking down on the river was just as attractive. There, we saw some courmorants and ducks and other such creatures. Nice viewing.

Before I forget, the only way we could fiew the birds was through our nice new binoculars (one pair for each of us) that we bought at the neighborhood WalMart.

By the time we got back to Natchitoches, it was time for lunch. We made our way to Lasyone's Meat Pie Restaurant on 2nd street, where we had a nice lunch. I had a nice sausage and chicken gumbo over rice, with a side of cornbread. My wife had an interesting Cajun chicken enchilada. We shared a single meat pie. The meat pie was interesting and tasty, but I cannot quite understand how it was successfully made into a local celebrity in terms of foodstuff. Good, but not great, I'd say. Success, though, trumps my personal opinion.

After lunch, we headed out of town, taking Highway 1 south toward New Iberia. Our plan had been to get to Avery Island that day, but we had dawdled a good bit and did so again on the drive, so we got only as far as New Iberia, where we spent the night in a Comfort Inn and Suites, which did not compare (in my opinion) to the beds of the previous two nights. We ended up having dinner at the Ruby Tuesday's next to the hotel and made a relatively early night of it.

This morning, we got up, had breakfast at the hotel (I had build-your-own waffles; my wife nibbled). We set out for Avery Island, only 5 miles or so away. We were looking forward to going to the place I had heard and read so much about. I was ansxious to see how Tabasco sauce was made and was looking forward to seeing the grounds around the factory.

We were greeted by a woman in her mid-forties who apologized several times for her hoarse voice; she things she is allergic to, of all things, Tabasco peppers. At any rate, she said, she was glad we (the group of 12-15 on the first tour) were there. She talked a bit, showed us an 8-minute movie about the history of the Tabasco brand and McIlhenny family, then directed us to walk down a corridor with glass on one side, looking into the factory area. Incidentally, this woman claimed to be a sugar cane producer; she said she had been in the sugar cane business for 21 years and, my later consideration would suggest, she was not very happy about serving the multibillionaire family down the road.

Watching the factory in operation was briefly interesting. The remaning museum-style information wasn't so exciting. So, off we went to the "country store" to see what they had for sale. Our guide earlier mentioned that there were several samples to taste, including chili, and advised us not to "double dip.'" We saw our guide in the store, where she continued to be pleasant. The other two women, not so much. Not at all. When our guide saw someone waiting at the counter to be checked out, she asked in a loud voice, "Are you waiting to be checked out?" The response was affirmative; "Someone will be with you in just a moment," she said. Neither of the other two staff bothered to look up. Our guide then say, very loudly, "Counter help needed up font!" One of the others, an older woman with a very sour face, said just as loudly, "I'm right here!. I'll be there in a second."

The experience continued. When we wanted to taste the chili, we waited around the area where the tasting materials were. The staff looked at us, walked on by, and continued to do stock the shelves. Finally, instead of spending $100 or so on Tabasco-related products, I opted instead to leave without spending a cent and, instead, recommend to anyone considering Tabasco brand think twice.

Remember earlier I mentioned that Huddle House didn't stock Tabasco? Well, our Tabasco guide commented a couple of times about how much (or little) the pepper pickers made when picking tabasco peppers; 50 cents a pound. She also commented in an odd way about how much money the McIlhennys have and how they recently closed the local school because not enough kids were attending.

I started wondering if there is a considerable dislike for the McIlhennys and their brand amoung Lousianans in general and people from around New Iberia and environs, in particular. Maybe there's nothing to it, but it seemed apparent to me that the company's brand would fairly SING at its own corporate store if they treated their people well and paid them a fair wage. The people at the store gave me just the opposite impression. So, until I learn differently, I say SCREW TABASCO BRAND PRODUCTS.

The rest of the day was spent driving west through hurricane-ravaged areas that still show open wounds from Rita and Ike. All along the coast we saw hundreds of abandoned buildings...businesses, homes, trailers, etc. We saw hundreds of demolished vehicles. It was an ugly sight. But we saw signs that recovery is on its way, though not quickly.

For lunch, we stopped at Abbeville, on the Vermillion River, and had lunch at a place called The Riverfront. We both had fried oysters, which were exceptionally good. For sides, my wife had fried sweet potatoes and cabbage & tasso, a very nicely flavored spiced cabbage with tiny but very flavorful chunks of sausage. My sides consisted of plain French fries and Macque Choux (pronounced mach shoo), which is kernels of corn, peppers, a little milk, and I'm not sure what else. It was not terribly good, but not bad. There are two other restaurants nearby that I would love to go to one day...I read a lot about them: Black's oyster bar and Shucks! oyster bar. We drove by them after we had lunch and they, too, were packed with people.

Today, I saw disconcerting signs that the business people who depend on customers for their livelihoods have learned their customer service skills from the McIlhennys. I really don't care whether, as the sign I saw today read, "Darly K's was the first store to reopen after Rita." What matters to me is that the counter help suggests the best thing for customers would be for Darly K to close forever and be replaced by a decent store.

As it was getting dark, we decided not to go all the way into Houston (my night vision is miserable), so we stopped for the night in Baytown, at the Hampton Inn. We didn't want to drive far, so we opted for dinner at El Toro, a local chain that, as it turns out, has excellent food. And here we are.

Tomorrow, we're going into Houston and wandering the city, then we'll get together with my sister the following day...New Year's Day. A brother will also be in town, so we'll see him, too, and if we're lucky my other brother who stopped communicating with me for no apparent reason may be there, too.

Sunday, December 28, 2008

More Riveting Vacation Stories

I'm following the plan, just more slowly than I planned. Tonight I'm at the Hampton Inn in Natchitoches. After lunch at the Mariner on the lake on the edge of Natchitoches (a beautiful place on the lake with great views...and a very nice, if expensive, buffet), I didnt' feel awfully well, so we decided we'd stay here for the we could check into a motel and I'd be able to take a nap.

After my 20 minute nap turned into an hour or more, we went wandering around the old historic downtown area, which is decorated for Christmas with extraordinary light displays and piped-in carols that fill the air. Lots of little antique stores, etc. around the riverfront street and, despite being very cool and rainy, it was a nice place to kick back and relax.

The day disappeared somehow. After darkness fell, we talked about where to have dinner. We ended up at Nicky's, a Mexican restaurant. The service was surprisingly bad; it's obvious to me the staff haven't been trained and, moreover, probably are not treated well. Lots of frowns, very rare smiles, poor service, forgetful waitstaff, etc., etc. But it was packed! I'd bet if they had competition with even moderately pleasant waitstaff, the competition would blow Nicky's away.

Tonight, I Am Legend was on HBO, so absent anything better, that was what we watched. My rating would be an F. Swill, pure and simple.

There you have it. Another day in the life of a vacationing crazy man.

Yes, We Have No Binoculars

The king size bed in the Hampton Inn was not what my back was after. After being unable to sleep most of the night, I awoke with a severely achy lower back and with an inability to move particularly well or fast.

Despite that ugliness, I got up and took a shower, which helped me feel better. Then, it was down to the "full breakfast" they offer here at the Hampton Inn. I envisioned cooking stations where experienced chefs would make eggs Benedict on order or Chinese omelets with congee and wildly exotic herbs and spices. I realized this was a fantasy vision, but I could hope. Instead, they served what I can only describe as twice-scrambled eggs, which was like scrambled eggs but the largest pieces were the sizes of small peas...sort of a scrambled eggmeal. Accompanying them were biscuits and gravy (actually, not half bad), cereals, yoghurt, bananas, apples, juices, and a nice-looking (but not nice-tasting) assortment of mild to "robust" coffees. They tried. Missing were breakfast meats of any kind, which I consider an offense against man and nature, and any attempt to assuage the hunger pangs of anyone other than deeply American travelers. I wanted to see something that might make Japanese travelers happy, but there was nothing.

Today, it's off to Natchitoches (which, my favorite wife told me, is known for its "meat pies"). There's no agenda, just driving and stopping when the mood strikes. My ultimate goal is to actually get the grand tour of the Tobasco Sauce operation at Avery Island, which may require another night nearby so we have a good part of the day to explore the area. I don't quite know what there is to buy there, other than Tobasco Sauce, but they may have unusual varieties that are not widely distributed, in which case I will almost certainly take some to try out. Tobasco is the only brand I would consider helping to promote by wearing its branded clothing; it's my equivalent to religion, I suppose, like wearing a necklace with a cross as some people do. And unlike religions, the Tobasco story is actually believable and based in fact.

Somewhere along the way, we'll find our way to wildlife refuges where we'll have to hope we can get up-close to the wildlife because, as I just realized, we forgot the binoculars! Dammit! We may have to buy another pair!

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Devotion to the Hot Sauce Potion

Tonight, I sit at a desk in my motel room on the outskirts of Shreveport, Louisiana, thinking about today's accomplishments and looking forward to tomorrow.

I started the day later than I'm wont to do on weekends, but still before 7:15. A quick shower, removal of facial hair with a sharp instrument, and brushing of teeth all worked toward making me feel ready for the day.

Last night, I'd responded to a car salesman's lies by calling him on them and telling him that I found them, and him, reprehensible. But, I said, if he'd never again mention paint and upholstery protectorants and if he would cut $2000 off the jacked up price he gave me, I would likely buy his Honda CR-V. I gave him a deadeline of 9:00 am today but never heard from him. Such is life. The bastard will hear from me again, but this time it will be through the Attorney General's office, who will receive this criminal bastard's emails, which prove beyond any doubt that he was involved in "bait and switch," which I personally consider a capital offense. The state does not, of course, but it's not the state this motherfucker needs to worry about, is it?

Back to happier things. I'm in Shreveport. Left Dallas rather late, but still stopped for lunch in Terrell, a town not far east of Dallas. The Mexican Restaurant served swill, and served it badly, but it was non-poisonous, so I forgive them and so will not behead the staff and their families.

We pressed on and decided, again early, to stop in Shreveport. A Hampton Inn, overpriced but able to provide wireless Internet access, was a good selection, I thought, so here we are. Shortly after we arrived, we went for a drive looking for likely prospects for dinner. We found several places that would have served a starvig family whose members have no taste, but they did not meet with our approval. So, we went back to the motel and considered places "not" on the original list...places we drove by on our return to the motel, as we wandered through a decidedly "nonprosperous" part of town. As luck would have it, we hadn't bothered making notes of the names or locations of the places we'd passed by. But we went looking, after dark. The places had disappeared. So, after gnashing of teeth, Johnny's Pizza House was called upon to deliver one of its infamous "Sweep the Kitchen" pizzas, which included not only jalapenos but anchovies! And black olives and ground beef and Italian sausage and god knows what else. It was, unfortunately, not delightful, but it fed the weak and weary, which is all that counts.

Tomorrow, we'll head to Natchitoches (pronounced "Nack-i-tosh"), a place some magazines call one of the best places in the US to retire. Then, after we debunk that myth, we'll head to Avery Island, home of Tobasco Sauce, where I will bow and scrape and pay homage to the great ones who came before us and left us with a legacy of heat, and pain, and sweating necks, foreheads and tastebuds.

And then? Nobody knows. We'll eventually visit family in Houston and Falba, but we're not sure when. We may go south, first, to visit bird sanctuaries. But maybe not.

And I may buy a new car in an unusual place in Texas on our way back home. Or maybe not.

Thursday, December 25, 2008

A Thin Net

A friend I haven't talked to in years got me thinking today, with his email message to the masses who read his occasional diatribe.

Unlike him and others like him who have enormous sums of money to worry about in this tanking economy, I haven't reviewed my portfolio in months. I don't plan to, either. I just know it's ugly and it's getting uglier.

But ugly is a relative term. Ugly isn't so catastrophic to someone whose market losses amount to a few thousand dollars. Ugly is cataclysmic to others, who have lost or stand to lose many hundreds of thousands of dollars. My losses are painful and ugly but not catastrophic. If every penny I have in retirement (except for Social Security) were to disappear, I'd probably be able to eke out a life of desperate poverty, but I would not be likely to be homeless. I hope. I'd be uncomfortable and unhappy and bitter, but not homeless.

Not so my richer friend, I'm afraid. He may not be destitute, but he'd be in trouble. He'd have to worry about how to pay off his and his wfe's BMWs. He'd have to be concerned about the mortgages on their homes. He's semi-retired, but he lives like he's not. And that's the key. I live beyond my means, too. But my irrational spending could be stopped instantly without so much as a whisper; no more restaurant meals and cable TV and high-speed Internet access, and I'd have a zero balance on my credit card bills each month. Well, almost. Bothersome, but not ruinous. I hope.

So, I'm living a less "full" life than my friend, but he has a mighty price to pay for fullness. On the other hand, he has more to say, and that's not pretty.

He says, essentially: "It's not what you have and how much it hurts to lose it, it's what you keep that makes the loss so completely bearable. Because all the acquisitions are just moonshine. Your friends and family are what's important. Your bankers and brokers won't be by your side during the bad times; your friends and family will."

For me, the string of friends and family is very thin. And we're scattered everywhere. And there's no one close. So while the bad times, if they come, probably won't be disabling, they will be disheartening, because we've created such a thin net of family and friends to catch us if we fall.

My advice to myself in my youth: make and keep fast friends.

Pork Tamales on Christmas Eve

It's confirmed. It does not have to be a weekend day for me to pop up early; it only has to be a day when there's no requirement and no intent to go the office. Like today. Christmas day. I was awake hours ago, but didn't get up until around 6:00 a.m.

It wasn't the excitement of exchanging presents that had me up early, as we're not exchanging presents (the kitchen sink replacement and the new axle and rear struts on my car, at a combined cost of about $1700, took care of the "gift" part of Christmas). No, it's the simple fact that the day is mine. I am master of my own fraction of a year.

So, I got up, washed last night's dishes, and made a hellaciously strong pot of coffee, which is (as I type this) putting hair on my chest and causing me to actually feel the caffeine coursing through my veins.

Yesterday, we bought sausage kolaches for the office; this morning, I heated one of two leftover kolaches and decided warmed-over baked goods aren't very appealing. But strong coffee does help.

As is the tradition in my house, I made chile con queso (the lazy man's version, with Rotel tomatoes and white cheese), heated the tamales I bought last weekend, and chased that magic mixture with Tecate beer. The actual tradition would have had me create the chile con queso by chopping onions and peppers and opening cans of evaporated milk and tomato sauce and mixing lots of spices together and then slowly melting the cheese into that mixture in a pan on the cooktop. I've grown lazy in my old age, though, so the Rotel version is acceptable, though not nearly as tasty as the original.

In the "old" days, I would have found a little old Mexican woman who makes a few extra bucks for Christmas by hand-making and selling tamales, using a recipe handed down over the generations. Those tamales would have had the ideal mixture of pork and jalapeños and would have been flavored so perfectly that I would have sworn they contained magical powers. And I would have steamed the tamales for a good 15 minutes to allow them to reach the temperature and texture that made them the be-all, end-all of food. But last night, I nuked both the chile con queso and tamales in the magic microwave. Times change.

Merry Christmas, compadres!

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

It's Beginning to Taste a Lot Like Falba

Today was our staff Christmas lunch. We went out to a chain restaurant.

It was pretty special anyway. The "chain" was Fogo de Chao, a Brazilian steakhouse where the "gaucho" servers slice off fabulous strips of top sirloin, botton sirloin, filet mignon, leg of lamb, chicken, sausage...I could go on. It was exceptional. We've never been to one of these places before...and I was impressed. It's not the sort of place I'd normally consider a target, but I have to admit it was some spectacular food. I probably won't be hungry until April 2010.

I even went so far as to have a dessert, a papaya cream, which apparently mixes papaya with ice cream. And I had an espresso, strong as an ox and served in a regular sized coffee cup that was like mainlining caffeine. Wow.

My staff seemed genuinely appreciative. And they were especially happy when I told them, later, that we would close the office at noon on Christms Eve. Hot damn!

And we won't reopen until January 5! My god, I could reposition my life by then and start a new business!

My favorite wife and I don't have specific plans for our time off. A visit to my sister in Houston on the day after XMas, probably, and a wander down the coast, but nothing in concrete. I'd like to go to Iceland, but that's probably out. Or Syracuse. Hmmm. Maybe Santiago, Chile. But probably just Falba, Texas and maybe a side trip to Galveston.

Monday, December 22, 2008

That's a Car? It Acts Like Rock Cocaine.

The good news is that my car, the 12-year-old Bastard (1997 Toyota Avalon), passed the state inspection this weekend. The bad new is that it should not have passed. I was the recipient of car-care pity.

I learned that the Bastard has "issues." Specifically, the front left drive axle needs to be replaced because of a blown 'boot' that's 'blowing grease.' And for only $275 this can be a problem of the past. Or, I could ignore it and risk a catastrophic failure and the attendant rolling and bouncing and explosion of the car as it bounced along on pavement after losing its ability to steer at some point. I'm allergic, so that's not an option.

It's not just the boot, though. There seems to be a serious oil leak, most likely coming from the main gasket on the oil pan. For only $47 they would have been willing to clean up the oil from the pan and then figure out where it's coming from. I delayed.

And, there seems to be a need for two rear struts. No cost yet; I'll find out in the morning when I visit a "Car Talk recommended garage. But knowing how goddamn loud the "crunch" noise is whenever I back out of my garage, turn a corner, or drive over a piece of gravel or a pea in a parking lot, I suspect it's serious and expensive.

So. Am I going to buy another car? Probably not. Why? The older I get, the more appalled I get at the price of or used. So, I'll probably throw more money at the Bastard until it regurgitates cash on me one day, when I will break out all its glass with an axe handle and scream at it until it melts into a whimpering puddle of steel at my feet.

Well, maybe I will buy another vehicle. I like the Bastard. I really do. But its increasingly expensive habit of mainlining my money is getting hard to swallow.

I don't know. Maybe I should challenge the Bastard to a duel.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Venison Stew

Tonight's venison stew was good! Here is the recipe I used, more or less (adapted from Lone Star Legacy Cookbook):

1 pound of venison, cut into bite-sized chunks, with all traces of fat and tendon removed
1/8 cup flour
2 tablespoons bacon drippings
1/2 cup red wine
1/2 cup hot water
2 cloves garlic, diced
Tabasco sauce, to taste
1 teaspoon dried parsley
1 teaspoon dried marjoram
1 teaspoon dried thyme
1 teaspoon dried basil
1 medium onion ( I sliced it...should have been quartered)
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon pepper
cayenne pepper, to taste
2 carrots, peeled, halved, and cut into chunks
1 parsnip, peeled, halved, and cut into chunks
2 small Russet potatoes, peeled and quartered

First, clean and cut the venison, then soak it for about 2 hours in water with about 3 tablespoons of vinegar; then rinse thoroughly. Dredge meat in flour and brown it, in a large Dutch oven, in the bacon drippings. Add hot water, wine, garlic, parsley, thyme, basil, marjoram, onion, salt, and pepper. Bring it to a boil, then reduce to simmer. Cover and let it cook for about two hours (check occasionally and add water if needed). Then, add the carrots, parsnip, and potatoes and let is simmer for another hour.

What I would have done differently:
Add more wine about 30 minutes before the stew is ready to serve...maybe 1/4 cup.
Add a bit of flour to thicken the broth as it's close to serving time if the liquid isn't thick enough. Try some additional veggies (and don't slice the onion) like, perhaps, turnips, maybe some winter squash, etc. Also, more of the veggies...could have used more carrots and another parsnip or two.

The venison was tasty and tender, with not even a hint of gamey taste. It's amazingly lean, so I could probably get away with eating twice what I actually ate...which makes me think I should go re-heat the leftovers.

Reality Stew

It may not seem like much to people who are used to bitterly cold weather, but to me, the 24 degree temperature in Dallas right now is a horrible thing. I'm afraid my plans to trim some already freeze-damaged plants will be delayed yet again, thanks to these frigid temperatures.

When I woke up early this morning, I could tell the arctic front had swept through with its full force. My teeth were chattering and I got a charlie horse in my legs with every movement, something that happens to me when I'm very cold. Lest you think I've been forced to sleep outdoors, let me disabuse you of that notion; I slept in a warm bed. But I like the temperature to be cool when I sleep, so I had set the thermostat down last night to accommodate my desire. Despite the fact that the thermometer reads a balmy 65 degrees in the house, I know otherwise.

A hot shower, a shave, and a pot of strong black coffee have given me an entirely different perspective on the day. That's good, because in spite of my expectation that I would stay indoors to weather this cold snap, I realized yesterday that I still have not bought any Christmas tamales. I must have pork and jalapeño tamales on Christmas eve or the world will spin off its axis. So, with good fortune, the Dallas Tortilla Factory (which sells good pork and jalapeño tamales) will be open today and, just as importantly, will have at least a dozen tamales to sell. I'm all set on the other Christmas eve staple, chile con queso.

Speaking of food, yesterday was a good day for good food. I made a spicy Indian dish that combines and modifies several recipes I've read and watched play out online lately. I started out planning to make gobi Manchurian (a cauliflower dish that pairs Indian and Chinese food). But, I didn't have enough flour of the right types, so I adjusted my plans. Instead, I made a cauliflower, eggplant, and tomato dish into which I loaded a massive amount of mixed spices that approximated the spice mixture I use in my Chana Dal/Tomato, Garbanzo Soup. Served over basmati rice, it was wonderfully good. I'll ,call my new dish Ghobi, Baigan, & Tamatar Stew with Chavul. Now, I wonder if that's actually a reasonable use of those words?

And more on food. This evening, I'll make venison stew. This afternoon I'll spend time preparing the meat (removing tendons and fat, etc. and soaking in vinegar and water), then braise the meat, add veggies, and wait for the stew to become reality.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

My Money

I've been reading and hearing about horrendous weather conditions throughout the northwest, north central states, and the northeast. For all of you who are dealing with this miserable weather, good luck...stay indoors, if you can, and try to stay warm. I think of the people who have no homes to go to in this godawful weather and I feel too fortunate.

I'm not giving any gifts this year for Christmas. I couldn't, not in good conscience. My money is needed elsewhere.

Thursday, December 18, 2008


  • A new client is, indeed, insolvent. Yet I've agreed to try to turn that around. But I have not agreed to work for free. I made it abundantly clear that I expect to be paid. We'll see.
  • Another new client is much, much more active than I thought...meetings of one kind or another at least monthly, sometimes several times in a assessment of the hours I estimated to spend is in order.
  • I've been eating either canned soup or boxed noodles (the microwave variety, complete with packets of seasonings, etc.) for lunch. I prefer this stuff to my typical sliced deli meats and mounds of chopped tomatoes. At least for now.
  • I'm planning my very limited travels for next year, or trying to. So far, my only business trips look like Houston, Austin, San Antonio (see a Texas theme going?) and Washington, DC, Atlanta, Las Vegas, and Philadelphia. This could change, of course. And almost certainly will.
  • Enough bullets for now.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Am I a Pantheist?

It's too close to Christmas. I'm not a Christmas fan, but there are feelings there that I can't deny. But those feelings don't address the spirituality of Christmas. They address the spirituality of human relationships. I read something this weekend that made me question whether I'm actually an atheist or a pantheist. Hmm. In any event, human relationships come into sharper focus this time of year. Whatever the reason, they just do.

Only Time

There is no reason you should understand, at the moment, why I'm going to write this, but you will eventually, if you continue to read this blog. You see, I'm not writing it for this blog, I'm writing it for a blog that I'll share with a fellow blogger. We're going to collaborate on a story. At some point, when you're older and able to understand these things, I'll explain it to you. In the interim, you may find that I write odd things that are irrelevant to anything else you read here. Well, when you see that, you'll know I'm capturing something for my blog collaboration or I'm slipping into perpetual dementia. Only time will tell.

His trademark expression was "It's a fucking pleasure!" He used it the way others would say "Thank you." But it was much more than that. He emphasized the first syllable of pleasure; that was how listeners could differentiate between his outbursts of anger and his honest expressions of appreciation. Or, at least, that's the way it used to be. The fact that he wore sunglasses whose lenses were damn near black helped confound the meaning. "Pleasure!" It sounded fake, but with him, it probably wasn't. He meant something by it. Oh, it fit his persona, but it really meant something. The question, of course, was: "What?" Dammit, I wish I'd asked him before he got on the goddamn train!

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Let the Saw Do the Work

As I posted a comment on another blog this evening, I realized that my father often called me "Son," instead of calling me by my name. It seemed natural; still does. As I said to my blogger friend, whenever I see an old-fashioned brace and bit, I remember may dad teaching me how to use it. He taught me a lot about using tools, though I've probably forgotten the majority of what he taught me, since I don't use those tools very often.

I never even approached his level of skill on some of the simplest tools. I still can't make a 90-degree cut using a cross-cut saw. I remember him telling me how to use a saw, repeating to me over and over again, "Son, let the saw do the work." I tried to push harder and deeper to cut through the board, but it didn't work. But then he'd demonstrate to me how to use the saw and it appeared to me that he went through it like butter. "See? Let the saw do the work. Don't push down so hard, let the saw do the cutting for you, Son."

I wonder why he didn't call me by my name? I suspect it was because he didn't want to permanently scar me by running through the entire list of all my brothers' and sisters' names the way my mother did...and the way some of my siblings still do. Or, by the time he got to me, number six child, he'd simply gotten confused over which one was named what.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Give the Dog a Bone

When I'm not working (and when I'm not bitching about working too much), here's what I do. I come up with names for dishes that I envision serving in my fantasy restaurant. My fantasy restaurant is going to be a small place, with space inside to sit and eat and a large tin-roofed, covered area outside for dining alfresco. I'll serve food that people can eat in or take home. My place will be a very large, very strange hot-dog stand. Maybe I'll call my place something like Dog Chow or Dog Food.

One of the dishes I'll serve will be an over-sized hot dog on an oversized bun, stuffed to overflowing with mustard and sauerkraut. I'll call it the Alpha Dog.

The hot dog that's wrapped in a very large tortilla that's folded over itself so that it looks wrinkled (and is stuffed with Chinese cabbage, Chinese mustard, and other such delectables), will be called the Shar-pei.

The kiddie-sized version of the hot dog, which will be an under-sized weiner in an under-sized bun, will be called the...Puppy Dog.

The Police Dog will be advertised on the menu as being a "regular hot dog with a donut chaser (sorry, officer, just kidding). " The Deputy Dog will be the same.

My hot dog that's made with rice, bamboo shoots, nori, and rice wine will be the Akita Dog.

The hot dog with the 100% chicken weiner will be the Bird Dog.

The regular hot dog with vodka-mustard will be called Hair of the Dog.

The vegetarian version, made with tofu or paneer, will be called the Not Dog.

The Sheep Dog will be made from a lamb-based weiner served on pita bread with yogurt sauce and spices.

The hot dog served on a bun that's laced with jalapenos and habanero peppers will be either the Rabid Dog or the Snarling Dog.

My down home dog, topped with black-eyed peas and collard greens will either be called the Snoop Dog or the Soul Dog.

As I said, my place will be either for eat-in or to take out. So, when people enter, they'll see a sign that will direct them to one side for eat in (Sit & Stay) or the other side for take out (Fetch).

If I build a second level to my outdoor eating area, I'll invite people upstairs to have a Dog on a Hot Tin Roof.

Wednesday's will be specials, because we'll sell 3 hot dogs for the price of two; I'll call Wednesdays Three Dog Night.

If my place gets busy enough so that I have to give people numbers that we'll call when their order is ready, I won't give them receipts with numbers, I'll give them Dog Tags.

Outside, if he health department permits, I'll let people bring their own dogs on certain days of the week (Dog Days). We'll even have something special for the real dogs on those days, maybe an odd mixture of leftovers, Iams, Purina, etc. we'll call Dog's Breakfast.

We may have a section of the restaurant where people can sit back with their meal, relax, and read a book. We'll call it the Dog Ear section.

Oh, we'll have a Chicago Dog and a Corn Dog and a Kansas City Dog and a NYC Dog and a Coney Dog, of course, but we'll pride ourselves on being a wildly diverse, oddly perverse, totally crazy place. It will be fun. More fun than I have today in this Dog Eat Dog world I'm living in.

I'm still working on how to work in Bitch, Barking Dog, Bulldog, Dog Bite, Dog Meat, Dog Collar, and a hundred other words and phrases.

Do not steal this idea, please, lest I let Lassie the Dangerous Dog loose on you, turning you into Dog Meat.

You may think I'm not serious about this. Believe it or not, I'd love to make this happen. And maybe I will.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Don't Cry for Me, Insolvent Client

I've decided not to celebrate new clients, from here on, until I have vetted them a bit better than simply looking at the Statement of Financial Position they provide..."it's a few months old, but we don't have anything more recent." The reason: twice, now, the brand new client has been utterly insolvent...can't even pay us, much less its hotel bill for its recent conference. The last one to come in that way was shown the door three years later...but by that time we'd gotten them back on their feet and they were on solid footing, financially.

But now...I'm not sure I have the stomach for it again. Our two new clients may quickly become just one new client.


Wednesday, December 10, 2008

The Stupid. It Stings.

I did it to myself. I knew that the Christmas season was the only time of year I could reasonably take off a solid week without guilt or too much of a backlog. But I signed on two new clients, anyway, right at the end of the year. This is on top of having some serious delays on another client, putting a huge amount of work on our plates right not.

But, looking at the good side, we've replaced the 25% cut in fees from one client, and then some. So, we're back to where we started, and a little better, financially (probably very temporarily, though), with only 2200 hours per year of more work. Hmmmm. That sounds like the stupid. And the stings.

With apologies to whoever came up with something similar that I read about not too long ago, but which my aging brain cannot recall in detail.

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Church Service

I spent about an hour today in a Methodist church, the first time in many, many, many years. There were at least a couple of hundred people there, mostly teenagers, to pay respects to a boy who died just a few days ago at age sixteen. His body will be cremated, I'm told.

A girl who I'd guess was about 15 or 16 sat in the pew in front of me, between her mother and her father, with her much younger brother next to the mother. The girl wept during the entire service, tears streaming down her face and then building up in her eyes again and then again rushing down her cheeks and onto her blouse. Her mother and father tried to comfort her but it was no use. She was in pain and there was nothing anyone could do. Her sobbing only occasionally became noticeable to the ear; I think I may have been one of the few people to see her sobbing.

That girl in the pew in front of me was the only person I saw who seemed to be so utterly torn apart by the boy's death. I'm sure the parents were even more grief-stricken, but the girl was so close to me I could feel her sobs.

I've never had much use for churches, but I can see how some people can find comfort there. They want to believe a life is not over, that it's just beginning; the church and its teachings fill that want. They want to believe there was a purpose in a life taken early; the church lets them believe it. They want some greater power to give them hope in a time that's so very, very dark and ugly; the church encourages them to have hope.

When I saw that girl sobbing in front of me, I would have liked to have been able to offer her some comfort.

It's that sort of experience that makes me get angry with myself when I feel like confronting deeply religious people with a challenge to their beliefs. Who are they hurting with their beliefs?

So, in that solemn place where so many people were seeking solace, I chose to be forgiving and understanding of what I consider to be their delusions. And in that place, I think those people would have been forgiving of what they would have considered mine.

A Few Photos

OK, I'm ready to post some photos. A couple of photos of part of this morning's breakfast from The Mecca Restaurant. The plate that the cinnamon roll is on is a dinner plate....the roll is huge. A shot of my brother's neighbor and neighbor's girlfriend and the mountain man himself.

Normal Sunday Routine

This is more like it. It's 5:15 a.m. and I've been awake for quite some time. My allergies or whatever are causing my sinuses to be completely blocked can take some of the credit for the fact that I'm an early riser today.

I got a good night's sleep for a change. I fell asleep while watching Charlie Wilson's War and then decided to make my bedtime official just as the credits were rolling. I'll have to watch it again; I was enjoying it while I was awake.

Saturday, December 6, 2008

The Relative Value of Sleep and Certain Work

It's cold outside. Not the sort of cold that calls for sweaters and light jackets. No, it's the sort of cold that makes me shiver almost to convulsion. It's only 31 degrees, but it's evil cold, the kind of cold that normally does not come with temperatures so warm. I don't know how it happened, but it did. And I'm inside, sneezing, barring the doors against this freakish evil cold.

Our kitchen is now outfitted with a brand-new stainless steel sink, a shiny new faucet, and a new plywood base under the sink, a replacement for the rotted pressed-wood that succumbed to the silent, secret, drip...drip...drip of a badly corroded faucet. This seemingly-small-time fix-up was a nightmare of expense. But it's behind us now; now, I can go back to plotting how I can print earn enough money to build a place in the country. Hell, the place could be in the city, it would just have to be large enough and private enough to make it seem like the country. Such places can be had in Dallas. I just cannot afforrd them. George Bush can. Which is another reason to look out side Dallas.

It's late again, for me, on a Saturday morning. I've only been up for 20 minutes or so and it's approaching 8:00 am. I hate it when that happens. I feel like I've missed a key part of the day; it's so late now that it would be a waste of my time to make coffee because I'd be tempted to stay here and drink it and that would throwing away good weekend time! Damn, I may need to start using an alarm clock on weekends if this late-awakening doesn't stop of its own accord!

But wait, if it's freakish cold outside, what am I to do? Oh, no, I just realized, I do have to go out today. I have to go to the office to get some work done. THAT's why I didn't wake up earlier; my subconscious mind continues to assign value and worth to my work and measures that value and worth by causing more sleep.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

A Different Perspective

I got a call this morning from someone I know, but not terribly well, someone involved in my business. When I picked up the phone and heard her start to speak, I could tell something was wrong. Her words came haltingly and she seemed unable to complete a sentence. To hear this business associate sound so odd was confusing to me, until she reached the point of the phone call: "My sixteen year old son committed suicide last night."

I was stunned and expressed my sorrow at the news but my expression could never have been enough to help her deal with such a horrific reality. I promised to get the word out to her colleagues and she said she would be back in touch when she was able to give me more information. The experience of talking with someone who is so freshly devastated by the worst news they possibly could have gotten...what can I say to describe shook me.

When I called each of the ten or so people I told her I'd call for her, I had a hard time keeping my own voice from cracking.

Today, my problems seem remarkably small and petty.

Monday, December 1, 2008

An Apologist for No One

As I was returning from my one-day visit to see my brother in Falba, I listened to the radio in my car. When I got to the south side of Dallas, I abandoned a fading radio station to see what else was on the dial. I stopped punching the "search" button when I got to a station that was broadcasting what I assumed was Indian or Pakistani music. As each musical piece ended, the female host of the program spoke, expressing regret, condolences, and anger in connection with the terrorist attacks in Mumbai.

During one of her sets of comments, which split mid-sentence between Hindi or Urdu or something and English, she said she was Pakistani and she encouraged listeners not to blame all Pakistanis for the terrorist attacks.

That was a sad thing to hear. The poor woman had to encourage listeners not to blame and her fellow countrymen for a terrorist attack. She had to apologize for something in which she was uninvolved.

Wouldn't it be more appropriate for us to express our sympathy for her, than for her to express her unnecessary apology for something she didn't do?

Bad Monday!

Returning to work today was like jumping into a boiling bath of vinegar and salt. Bad Monday!

Saturday, November 29, 2008

It Was Falbalous

I'm back from a whirlwind one-day visit with my brother at his home in "Falba." It was a great visit and included these experiences, among others:

  • Wandering around a neighbor's 150 acre spread in my brother's old Jeep CJ5
  • Wandering back roads near said 150 acres and visiting with another neighbor who was driving a 2005 Jeep Wrangler
  • Driving into Huntsville for money, food, and liquor
  • Driving my brother's old Ford F150 pickup around the 150 acres looking for the neighbor when the neighbor hadn't answered his cell phone for several hours
  • Meeting up with yet another neighbor on a 4-wheeler after finding the missing neighbor
  • Having an enormous mass of tacos with the 150 acre neighbor and neighbor's girlfriend
  • Starting the day today with coffee, a visit to the same neighbor, and a ride in neighbor's truck around his acreage's bottom land to look for wild hogs and a dead cow
  • A breakfast of fabulous bacon, fried eggs, and pico de gallo
  • Blue-skying and brainstorming things to do with the winnings of a huge lottery
  • Getting instructions on making venison stew and fried venison steak, complete with the frozen venison to go with it.
  • Learning about the work of a poet (Don Blanding) from the early to mid 20th century that my brother stumbled upon and liked.
  • Deciding I, too, like the poet's rhyming work, especially this poem:


    Do not carve on stone or wood,
    "He was honest" or "He was good."
    Write in smoke on a passing breeze
    Seven words... and the words are these,
    Telling all that a volume could,
    "He lived, he laughed and... he understood."

Thursday, November 27, 2008

No Country for Old Men

Tonight, I watched No Country for Old Men. The gratuitous violence and senseless killings should be a warning to us and should give us a reason to try to prevent life from replicating art, the way art has, unfortunately, replicated life.

I'm not amused by the film, but I'm shaken by it.

Look, A Lert

It's 3:25 a.m. and I've been up for an hour and a half. I don't have a clue why. I just woke up and couldn't get back to sleep. And I felt totally awake. So, I got up and turned on the television to see what's on at this ungodly hour.

The major network channels have paid programming. One channel promises that, for only $25, I can become an independent business person, selling cheap imported crap at parties I host. Another channel claims that, if I buy a book for just $24.95, I can reduce my credit card interest rates from where they are now (30% they say) to just 3 or 4 percent, simply by following the instructions in the book and investing an hour of my time.

So, I turn away from the major networks. CNN insists on telling me, over and over again, that the attacks on Mumbai are going to change the way the world's counter-terrorism efforts are structured. A foodie channel shows me how commercially prepared hams are prepared and smoked. Another foodie channel has Rachel Ray extolling the virtues of a place I think is called Chino Latino in Minneapolis. HGTV or one of its twins explains how a simple jig can make the job of squaring a board very easy. Another twin is showing the painstakingly slow process of relocating a large house across a pasture to its new permanent "home."

My desire to learn what's on late-night television now sated, I turn to food and drink here at the house. I'm not really interested in yet another alcoholic drink after having something much earlier, but there's no much else besides water. Well, water it will be, then, since I just don't feel like liquor, etc. What about food? There's nothing quite right to snack on, at least nothing that appeals to me at this hour. I've read several articles in the latest Food & Wine magazine, each of which has pumped up my interest in eating, but I'm not interested in getting dressed and driving out to find a store that is not only open at this hour but is stocked with the kinds of pears, onions, and lamb I would need for one of the more appealing recipes.

What does one do at this hour, then? I'd like to read more, but I can barely get through the recipes, much less actually settle down with a book, until I get a new prescription and new glasses. I can't play loud music because I don't want to wake my wife (and the neighbors). So, I blog about being up and alert at, now, 3:41 a.m.

OK, at 4:00 a.m. I will try to go back to sleep. And then, at 11:30, it's off to the Canary Cafe for a Mediterranean version of Thanksgiving luncheon.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Thank You for The Stinking Holiday Spirit

I don't know whether I'm just a stingy som' bitch who doesn't deserve a thank you or my employees are ingrates. Or maybe both.

I had intended to close up shop about 2:30 or 3 today, but things got in the way. So, it was 4:00 pm before I announced that everyone should go home after they wrapped up anything important. "Happy Thanksgiving and here's an extra hour," I said to them. I heard one verbal expression of thanks. But mostly I heard the door open and close as they scrambled to leave. No "thank you" or "happy Thanksgiving" or "it's about time." Nothing.

I may not need appreciation, but I want it when I go beyond what's required and give a little more than I must. I don't expect people to bow and scrape and express heartfelt devotions, but a fucking "thanks for the hour" would be nice on occasion. Depending on the payscale, it's like I handed them between $30 and $50 when salary and benefits are thrown in. Yet they don't think it's appropriate to say "thank you" for that. Maybe they don't know. Maybe they weren't taught. I'm not going to teach them. Next time, I should just pocket the $50 and send them home early without pay.

"Happy Thanksgiving," I will say sweetly.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Thoughts on Family

Thanksgiving never was a religious holiday for me. It was never a day to give thanks to some master of the universe who dispensed goodness and to whom we all should be grateful. But I "got" the meaning of Thanksgiving, in the secular sense, despite the fact that my family was never one to do much beyond partake in the edible traditions. Turkey and dressing and masses of foods of all kinds were the center of the celebration, even though in our deeply unexpressive hearts I think we all truly appreciated the family we were and knew that's what this tradition was all about. We celebrated being a family and having one another, though we wouldn't verbalize it.

My childhood family is widely dispersed now and it's hard to simply come together, much less recapture that feeling of belonging that was palpable when I was a child. We're rarely together and even when we are, there are too many years of being apart and too many divergent experiences to get through for us to really be a family anymore.

My parents are long gone and there is stress and strain in the relationships between some of my siblings, including me. It's a heartbreaker to realize that family was a fleeting thing and that, once grown, our family morphed into a group of related, but disconnected, people, some of whom are ill at ease with others and don't understand one another and, from the look of things sometimes, don't want to.

I'm still close to several siblings, though apparently I've been discarded by one or two for reasons I can't begin to fathom. But that sense of family is tenuous for many people nowadays.

So, this Thanksgiving Day, my wife and I will eat a traditional family meal at a not-so-traditional restaurant. One sister will eat a Thanksgiving meal prepared by a church and shared with folks whose fortunes are slim and who can use a helping hand. One brother will go hunting with friends. The other two brothers and another sister? I don't know. They won't break bread together, since they're scattered about from Texas to Mexico to California. The niece and nephews similarly will be strewn about the country, enjoying grandparents or extended families or friends or, possibly, their own company.

That's the way families in our society tend to spread apart. And then, as time takes its toll, one by one people grown infirm or die and the ones left behind wish and worry that they didn't take the time and extend the effort to be together for that "one last time."

I wonder if the dispersal of the extended family and the creation of millions of familial diaspora have contributed to the existence of a society whose members often are distant and disconnected and lonely. I guess that won't be a subject of conversaton around my family's Thanksgiving Day meal this year.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Gruel: It's What's for Lunch

It's looking less likely that a trip to Strawn is in the cards today. It's 120 miles one-way to Strawn and it's now 10:26 a.m.

Why do I let myself get all excited about such things?

I guess I won't have chicken-fried steak for lunch today. Maybe a nice cold bowl of watered-down gruel is what I deserve today for being so greedy in my lust for CFS.


Like a crack addict who knows the drug is bad and dangerous but can't stop using, I have a dependency issue with chicken-fried steak. There are dozens of reasons not to eat meat and just as many more not to eat meat dredged in flour and fried in oil. But I can't stop myself. Even the cholesterol police and cardiac squad haven't been able to dampen my lust for CFS. I've to the conclusion that,as Leonard Cohen says, "there ain't no cure, there ain't no cure, there ain't no cure for love." And I LOVE chicken-fried steak. At least I love truly wonderful, magic-laden CFS.

And, if an acquaintence is right, I'm going to have some wonderful CFS today. Unless something unexpected or unnatural or unwelcome comes my way, I'm driving to Strawn, Texas to try a chicken-fried steak at Mary's Cafe. I've never been there, but a guy I spent some time with early this week claims it's the best chicken-fried steak in Texas. And he claims to be a connoisseur of CFS.

He does have some credentials. He rides a huge Harley-Davidson motorcycle, on which he's put 54,000 miles in the last three years, wandering around the back roads of Texas, checking out diners and the like. He says he's eaten chicken-fried steak at hundreds of places all over the state. And he says Mary's is the best.

My personal favorite, thus far, is Ranchman's Cafe in Ponder, just north of Fort Worth. Their chicken-fried steak is, in my view, a nirvana-equivalent.

Maybe I won't even be able to get to Strawn today. That depends in large part on whether my wife has other plans.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Autobiographical Burgery and Such

If you were here over the last couple of days and saw some of my attempts at writing purposive, deliberate fiction, you know why I don't like to share my rough work early, if ever. It's lacking in several fundamental ways and it takes me a very long time to make it right, the way I want to see it. So, I've once again decided to pull off the most recent pieces and rework them, publishing them later in another place that won't conflict with and compare unfavorably to the drivel I typically post on here. If you're really interested in reading them, let me know and give me an email address and I'll see to it that you are among the first to know when I consider what I've written to be worthy of any audience. My email address: kneeblood AT

Next week is Thanksgiving and we have no idea what we're going to do, aside from work the first three days. A local restauranteur with Mediterranean roots sent me an email, encouraging me to have turkey with a distinct flare at his place. We may do that, or we may wander the countryside in search of something tasty.

We probably won't stay home because the kitchen faucet revealed yesterday that it has been leaking for a very long time and has ruined the fibreboard base of the cabinet under the sink, soaking everything we store there. I'll spend at least part of the holiday ripping out cabinetry and hoping it can be replaced and repaired by someone more skilled than I. And, of course, we'll need a new faucet and, while we're at it, should get a new sink. We may go overboard and get new countertops while we're at it, but I'm afraid the cost may dissuade me from doing that.

In the meantime, of course, there will be little use of the kitchen, so we'll depend on Chinese delivery (last night), frozen pizza, carry-out Indian, visits to a favorite Thai place, a visit to a burger joint or two, and other such expensive options.

There's more to tell, but no more energy to tell it. Later I'll regale readers with more, possibly even more interesting, information.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008


Today, as I was ripping north along I-35 near Eddy, Texas (just over half-way between Temple and Waco, I glanced down at my odometer and noticed this: I quickly pulled over to the side of the road so I could capture this momentous moment for posterity. One hundred seventy-five THOUSAND miles! The old blue bastard has served me reasonably well from the first day I took him home from the dealer, spanking new and sparkling. Sure, I've spent enough on his upkeep and repairs to have funded my retirement, but he's been reliable all the way through.

I say all of this as a preface to my real feelings about the Bastard: he needs to be replaced with a young stud, something quick like me (that didn't come out quite right). I need a car with a sense of urgency akin to mine. After all, if I'm going to become a mid-fifties thrill throbber, I need something that will appeal to the dull-witted big-breasted, young sex machines that will try and fail to demonstrate that it's not the thought that counts, it's the cup size.

My earlier considerations of a Honda Element and Subaru Forrester are not looking so attractive now. Maybe a Ford Mustang with seats that recline fully and give off a throaty growl as they are reclining. Or, perhaps a big, beefy Corvette with a convertible top and seductive shift-knob.

I can picture it now: I walk up to a twenty-something woman who has just been poured into a very tight pair of jeans and 36D bikini top that has been reconstructed to just cover a 48EEE package. I put on my best 30-something smirk and say, "Care to take a slow ride in my fast car?" I smile a lewd, lascivious smile, instantly revealing my carnal intentions to this young and easy target.

"Oh, gee, uh, I'm like giving my boyfriend, Apollo, a birthday present tonight. He's leaving for Afghaniraqezuela tomorrow and I may never have a chance to do him again. But thanks!"

And so I set my sights on something else. Maybe 200K?

And then I think back to the train and the meal I'd prepared for someone else, someone who really didn't want a hormone-deficient hanger-on for a travelling companion. I started polishing my pen, hoping the seduction would be more successful and less expensive than the Corvette.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Paying Attention

If I had been paying attention, I would have noticed the frost covering the roof of my house and the houses all around us this morning. I would have wondered why it felt so damn cold as I wandered around the house in my t-shirt and shorts and flip-flops.

If I had been paying attention, I would have realized that the howling winds that I barely noticed yesterday as I dashed from my car to the office building and back were cold winds.

But I wasn't paying attention. I've been so wrapped up in meaningless bullshit that I haven't taken the time to notice the weather changing, the house growing cold, and the need for warmer clothes. My mind has been on things that I've let take on an air of importance that they don't deserve. And the things that really are important, that really do matter, that should be experienced and savored and appreciated for all they're worth, have gone unnoticed.

Yesterday, I did take just a while to turn off the news, leave the office behind me, and try to ease my way back into being human again. After my meeting was over and I went home, I took an aimless, albeit short, drive. Instead of listening to NPR, I put a couple of John Prine CDs (Great Days: The John Prine Anthology) in the player and let his music fill the car. I don't know what it is, but some of his music hits a very sensitive spot in me; I can't help but get very emotional when I listen to it: Hello in There, It's Happening to You, The Oldest Baby in the World, Speed of the Sound of Loneliness.

Today, I get on the highway again. I'll have a solid four hours to listen to music, talk to myself, sing, and write poetry if I want. I'll probaly opt to listen. I have no way of recording anything I might "write" and no audience that I'm willing to share much of it with, anyway.

I'll be back Wednesday. Until then, I may not be in the mood for writing.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

More Work

I won the Saturday 6:00 am bingo again yesterday. My eyes popped open well before 6:00 am and I finally got out of bed just after 6:00. But yesterday, I had to go to a client's year-end planning session all day, so I think my brain tricked itself into awakening early...if it had realized there was a workday ahead, it would have insisted on waiting for the alarm clock to have made such a horrific racket that I would have jumped out of bed just to escape the noise.

The same thing happened today. I got up before 5:45, even though I know I have to drive to Central Texas again. While this isn't, strictly speaking, work, it is to attend a meeting for a professional association on whose board I it behaves like work and treats me like work. At least this time around I don't have to turn right back around and drive home; I'll stay there through Tuesday afternoon. But then, it's back to the real world of work.

During the past week, I secured one new account, tentatively secured another, and failed to get a third. All these accounts are small.

That's my life in a nutshell this week. Work. More work. Awakening early in the hope that I'll have a quiet weekend day. Only to find more work.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Wandering Around the Edges

Jeezus! This has been a wild goddamn week!

It started for me, as weeks often do, with Monday. Monday wasn't bad, though I don't remember much about it. But it couldn't have been bad.

Tuesday, I called Tammie and Torrie at Compass Bank and read them the riot act. They had called and left messages for me, trying to reach some former neighbors who left town in a hurry in July. I have no doubts that these neighbors left huge credit card debts, etc. at Compass Bank. But that's not my problem. And I don't appreciate the goddamn bank trying to involve me in locating the overextended bastards. How dare they call me and ask me to have my former neighbors call them?! A good thing on Tuesday: I got a signed contract from a new client!

Wednesday, I was busy as hell all day long, but we shut down the office (well, we answered phones) at 4:00 pm for our Open House, which was a celebration of our recent move to new office space and our 10th anniversary of being in business. I personally sent out about 110 invitations and got responses from about 75 people. The others either didn't get my email invitations or they are uncivil bastards who don't respond to RSVP emails and are, therefore, scum from the bowels of hell. About 50 said they'd be there. About 45 actually showed up. We had bought enough wine for all 45 to have had a private bottle...along with beer and softdrinks. We ended up with an unopened case of red wine (3 regular bottles and one mega-bottle of one-off red were consumed, leaving our case unopened), 8 bottles of a nice chardonnay, and 8-9 bottles of a much, much better chardonnay that tastes more like a nice New Zealand sauvignon blanc. So, we have plenty of wine for a week or two, but we are considerably poorer. Another good thing on Wednesday: I learned on a phone call that we are getting another national client as of next Wednesday (for contract signing), and physically getting the client in-house on December 1.

Thursday, I drove to Austin to pitch a prospective client. I was out of the office all day long (4 hour drive down, 4 hours back, plus 1 hour with the prospect, then an hour and a half in my office when I returned). When I got back, I worked in my office for quite awhile, then took a cold bottle of wine to Thai Tanee, where I had a very good pad kee mow and some nice cold office-party wine.

Today, I got the word on yesterday's trip: they chose someone else. Fuck! But maybe it's best, since we're going to be going nut-case bat-shit crazy just to bring the other two new one on-board.

Also during the week, I had a wild exchange of letters and bloggestry, etc. with a friend who unexpectedly seduced me, forced me to ride with her on a long and aimless train ride, and then dumped me unceremoniously in the corn fields of Nebraska, waiting in a forlorn depot for another cross-country train to take my wounded ego to a place where it could be soothed and made whole again.

Apparently she needed her space and I was taking too much of it. Fortunately for me, I met a lovely woman on the tracks, a woman who was seeking the same solace and solitude I was after. She and her sister, Mercy, were as sweet as the seasons and twice as nice.

While the sisters were comparing notes and gasping at what they had done, I was talking to an accountant who claimed our books were beautiful and our processes were perfect.

I came home right on time, then grabbed the computer for an international conference call that lasted two hours. Three of the participants were in Kuala Lumpur, one in Dublin, one in Atlanta, one in Lahore, Pakistan, and little old Dallas. Interesting call, but exasperating, nonetheless.

Enough! I must mosy back to my dreamland where I can think and slink and wander around the edges.

Monday, November 10, 2008

I'll Sleep With You in Return for a Late Model Subaru

One and a half hours of testing mattresses is enough for me. Or, maybe not. I really like the Sleep Number. But maybe I like the Tempurpedic even more. Or maybe the old standard inner-spring mattress is my thing. After lots of testing, I don't have a clue. I need to actually sleep with the mattress for a few nights before I know whether we should make a long-term intimate commitment. "I'd gladly trade you a marriage tomorrow for a honeymoon tonight." Or something of that ilk.

But I already know I love the Heavenly Bed that Westin Hotels puts in their rooms. Why not just buy one of those? Well, considering the prices of some of the Tempurpedic beds I saw yesterday, the reason is the same: I could buy a well-equipped late-model car for what they want for their beds!

I know, I know, I spend a third of my life in bed, so I should pay whatever it takes to make that time as comfortable and relaxing as it can be. Easier said than done. If I want to buy a late-model Subaru Forrester, I can pay it out over five years, even more. Not so a bed.

Hmmm, there's a thought. I've heard that sleeping in a Forrester isn't that bad...

Oh, before I forget, as I write this, I have to remember to tell Isabelita Happy Birthday! tomorrow.

Saturday, November 8, 2008


It being the weekend, I had absolutely no trouble popping out of bed this morning well before 6:30. If I had arisen when I awoke, I would have been up around 5:00. But, I did not want to make a racket that early in the morning, for fear of waking my wife and risking her being in a foul mood all day. So, I lay there thinking about all sorts of odd things that, in hindsight, make no sense.

For example, I was thinking about how one could build large refrigerated warehouses out of stackable concrete cubes. Another thought that passed through my mind as I was laying in bed, waiting to get up, was that it would be fun to take a train from Chicago to San Francisco, through the Pacific Northwest, on Amtrak, getting to know the passengers and writing a set of short stories about their lives. I know where that idea came from, though. I watched Bill Moyers Journal last night and heard him talk about just such a trip he took with Studs Terkel back in the 1980s. They got paid for that...I would pay my own way by washing dishes and cleaning up train cars if I could do that.

When I finally did get up today, I spent a good hour in the kitchen, which was a bit of a disaster area after yesterday's laziness. An almost unheard-of early morning breakfast before work (eggs and turkey bacon) left skillets and plates and flatware dirty in the sink. Then, after-work laziness left more of the same in the sink. Then, perfect margaritas left salt-laden glasses and sticky shot glasses and lime juice rings on the counter. The stovetop, which has a built-in spill-attracter and quick-burn-the-spills-onto-the-stovetop-adapter, needed a team of mules to rip the burnt-on oil and such from the surface. I turned out to be the team of mules it needed, along with my side-kick, CeramaBrite. The kitchen is now so clean I would happily eat off of the counter and, in a pinch, the floor.

There was talk yesterday about taking advantage of "dollar days" tonight at the Lonestar Park racetrack, a local horseracing venue. Today, everything is one dollar: admission, parking, hot dogs, beer, everything. Tonight is the first "dollar day" of the season, so I expect it will be a madhouse of people. I personally have no interest (I wouldn't mind so much if it weren't for traffic, parking, and crowds), but I don't want to upset the applecart, so I may bite my tongue and tolerate it if there appears to be a genuine interest on my wife's part.

Because I have to make a presentation to prospective clients next Thursday in Austin, and these prospective clients are among the vestiges of a time long ago when business suits were worn to conduct business, I will try to find a suit today. I really need to have a decent suit; everyone should have one. But, it has been so long since I wore a suit that I have ignored it. If I don't succeed, I'll settle for a sport jacket and slacks, which I already have but which are old and decrepit. That may not satisfy the suits guys, but it's not a big enough client for me to invest too much time and energy. That speaks volumes about my dedication to my business, doesn't it?

There, I've satisfied myself that I can, at least, string words together to form sentences, so I'm going to stop now and make some coffee. Yes, I've been up for well over an hour and have not made any coffee yet. Something is, indeed, going haywire in my tiny little brain.

Friday, November 7, 2008

Perfect Margaritas, Free for the Asking

It's finally Friday night again yet I continue to be unable to think creatively. Is that what over-eating does to me? If I fasted for a month, would I be apt to spontaneously erupt with mind-bending brilliance on a routine basis? Or have I entered that stage of my life in which my brain cells simply shut off for long periods of time, trying in vain to recharge?

Maybe the perfect margarita will help. OK, I convinced myself. I'll make a perfect margarita for myself. I know exactly how to do that. And I have all the ingredients, including damn near a full cup of freshly-squeezed lime juice. I can have more than one perfect margarita. If I empty the cup, I can have a damn litter of margaritas!

Who wants one? Come on over, there's plenty of tequila and triple sec and lime juice.

Dark of Night

The results of this year's presidential election assure that I won't be packing my bags and leaving the country in the dark of night, heading for refuge in Mexico. The election is good, but it's something of a shame I wasn't forced to escape into my fantasyland.


I got up a tad earlier than normal for a work-day. After showering, shaving, and otherwise preparing myself to be acceptable to humankind, I got lost in Wikipedia. There's so much there that I never knew, but want to. The trick, of course, is to ferret out the fact from fantasy and fiction. I'm one who believes the bulk of what is there is based on fact, if not always correct in every detail.

Thursday, November 6, 2008


I've been trying to think of something worthwhile to write for days, but I just can't muster the mental discipline. There's plenty of fodder in the field, just no fire in the belly. In spite of my deep appreciation for the election, there's something gnawing at my elation and I'll be damned if I know what it is. So, I sit in front of the television and listen to Jim Lehrer, letting him think and speak for me.

An exchange with a friend a few days ago described an experience she had that describes, in tone at least, one that I have every now and then: "you wake up happy and it takes you a few minutes to realize your father is dead." I thought I was the only one who had such jarring experiences. When they happen, they knock the wind out of me as sure as a fist to my chest; my world crashes into the edge of the universe and I'm speechless and I can't breathe and everything I've ever known is broken and wrong and ugly and painful and I want the hell out.

It disappears, of course, and all is tolerably well with the world. Tolerably well is not ideal. Sometimes it's not even acceptable.

There's too much that it affects and too many people who stumble unknowingly into the caldron that it creates. Moods cannot redirect rivers and fracture continents and make mountains shatter into rubble. So it's not a mood. Whatever it is, it's not acceptable.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Acting LIke It Was a Weekend

I treated this Saturday and Sunday as if they combined to be a weekend. It was a pleasant thing to do and I shall do it more often if obligations will stand in abeyance on a routine basis.

Saturday, a very late breakfast was had at The Mecca, a very old, very popular diner-style restaurant that I'd seen before, but had never been inside. It is in an old delapidated old two-story house. It's a very old-fashioned place, the perfect combination of wear and tear and great menu items that draws in the almost-famous, would-have-been-famous, used-to-be-famous, and lots of middle-aged and older bikers, cops, families with all their upteen children, and on and on. Most people I know would not go inside because they would be uneasy, at best, or afraid, at worst. It's not a particularly inviting place from the outside, and inside it doesn't get any better, except the staff are friendly and all the people eating there appear to be friendly (or, at least, they don't throw threatening looks toward entering guests). I highly recommend it. Their Saturday cinnamon rolls are said to be wonderful (they say...and I overhead some customers say).

Then, a long drive in the country, north along I-75 to Melissa, thence east to Bonham. An hour or two spent looking for a national grassland area, only to give up after finding and wandering around an old, almost deserted park that was heavily wooded and had a beautiful lake right in the middle. About 8-10 old stone and log cabins, still standing but much the worse the wear for doing so, were near the lake. I'd like to go there and camp one day, but the signs say that is not allowed. That, plus I need thick, soft queen-sized (minimum) mattresses when I camp, along with nice lighting, no bugs, and better eyesight.

On the way home, lured by a sign that advertised home-made tamales, we stopped and visited with a little old white lady who claimed she'd been selling them from the little building in front of her house for 29 years. We bought a dozen and headed home.

When we opened the package, it became instantly apparent to me that it is simply wrong to buy tamales from little old white ladies in East Texas, no matter how long they've been making them. Little old white ladies in East Texas apparently have no idea that tamales are supposed to taste like...nor look like. They were slippery, perfectly formed little brown logs that plopped out of the corn husk casings far too uniformly. They looked to me like (and I don't mean to offend anyone's sensibilities, so if you have sensibilities that are subject to offense, stop reading now) perfectly formed little turds, as if they had been produced by a perfect replica of a perfect little humanoid. They tasted only moderately better than they looked. Fortunately, we had made a rather nice batch of chile con queso which, when used to drown the little turds, helped cover their stench and their unsightliness.

Sunday, another breakfast out, this time at Rosita's, a neat little Mexican place on Maple Avenue. Like other restaurants we like, it's authentic; we can never say authentic what, but it is authentic something. Real food, real waitresses with real foibles, etc. But worth every penny. This morning's meal was ordered off the menu (they actually have a Mexican breakfast buffet that looks pretty good); migas and chilaquiles. The chilaquiles were far better than the migas, but I've long been spoiled by Bigote's migas; there are none better worldwide, I'm sure, and certainly none better in Arlington, where they are located.

Later in the day brought a much more extensive wander, including a visit to the Oak Clff section of Dallas and some strange little eating and grazing places. First was a tiny, very old Mexican grill, with a walk-up window and a couple of old concrete tables and benches. It's on the fringe of the Bishop Arts District, the gentrification of decades of Mexican-American homes and apartments that have succumbed to young, well-off, and tragically un-hip people who don't realize that their lifestyles are killing cultures. Despite the impending death of all things Hispanic, the little place survives and they serve a nice taco de lengua and a decent taco de tercera. Thence, a brief drive down a one-way street, smiling broadly at a Black copy during the process, and a stop at a newly opened coffee/book/bakery shop whose name escapes me. I prowled around, glancing at books about Sarah Palin, books about lesbianism and pottery and their relationship, books about freedom and purity, and other stuff that didn't grab my attention very much. But the purchase of a couple of cookies was propitious. After leaving and driving a good 3-4 miles, I tasted a coconut macaroon and an almond cookies and felt urge to return.

So, a u-turn and undue speed and, bam, there it was again...a place where baked goods drove my life and my decisions. I'm normally not like that for sweets; but these were more than sweets. I can only imagine being hooked on some powerful drug...

More driving and wandering and being hyper-lazy before stopping at a couple of grocery stores and then home to unload it all.

I want to retire. I really do. I want to be independently solvent and have a bunch of grocery stores nearby that will call my name.

Friday, October 31, 2008


55:10 That's my new shorthand for my age; years:days.

Tonight, pleasant little kids and vapid little beasts will be out wrangling candy from innocents like me who have been brainwashed into feeding them all sorts of noxious poisons that beg the little monsters to become diebetic in front of our very eyes.

A far-away friend, Nicole, not only blogs regularly but she distributes fascinating graphics each week. She finds the graphics as she wanders the web and snags the ones that she finds appealing or compelling or otherwise of particuar interest, then sends them to a group of about 80 friends around the world. Her graphics are very interesting, as is her blog. I've never met her, of course, as she and her husband live in Adelaide Australia, but we have become friends by virtue of the web. The web can be like that.

I've decided I'm going to write a complete, all-encompassing political platform for the party I'd like to have been supporting this election. It may take me some time, but when I'm finished, I'm going to publish it here and will ask readers who find it appealing to broadcast it far and wide. Maybe it's possible to get a message across to the current parties that will: 1) inform them that we understand more than they think; and 2) persuade them to give thought to their policies, versus the affect their policies will have on their chances for election.

I've recently become extremely interested in men's clothing styles from India. In particular, I like (and want) the kurta and pyjama. The kurta is a very loose-fitting, collarless shirt and the pyjama is a style of pants that are tied at the waist and become narrower toward the bottom of the legs. They are perfect for Dallas weather, particularly for lounging around the house. I think. I may try to buy some this weekend or at least understand how they fit and what size would fit my odd bulbous shape. The more I see of Indian fashion, the more I like it; even the more formal stuff, which I tend not to like in any stye.

Tonight is pizza night. It's easy and does not require interrupting the time that must be spent dealing with the sugar addicts this evening. Pizza, sliced jalapeños, and an appropriate mixed drink is just the ticket for this last day of the tenth month of the 2008th year.

Thursday, October 30, 2008


I wonder whether regular, prolific bloggers have other outlets for their needs to communicate with people. Surely they can't look at their outpouring of thoughts and beliefs and desires as communications? Maybe they do. Maybe I do. Even with my meager and tentative presentations of my opinions, I don't expect people to actually care. But I know I want them to. But I don't expect it. I don't look at it as a birthright. And I don't consider my little posts to be communication, not in the true sense. Communication occurs in two directions. My posts usually occur as silent verbal vanity. That's not communication.

Back to the point. I don't look at my blog posts as communications. They simply serve as a means for me to capture my own mood and opinion and state of mind from time to time. Only when I truly engage with my readers, in blog-based interchange, do I really communicate. And that's rare. That's not to say I don't want my blog to facilitate communications. I do. I just don't hold out much hope.

I'm not ready to write this, am I? I suppose not. Teresa will be disappointed in me.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Obama Infomercial

I just watched the 30-minute Barack Obama infomercial. As much as I hated the idea going in, I thought the program was absolutely brilliant! He addressed many of the issues the Republicans have been railing about, but he did more than that. He painted his philosophies on a canvass that appeals to damn near anyone who is a decent human being.

As much as I'd really like a new breed, a new party, to be on the ballot, Obama really got me tonight. I've already voted for him, but if I hadn't, I'd have done it again after seeing tonight's program.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Voting for a World Without Us

Today, I joined the legions of others who are worried about the outcome of the upcoming elections. I voted early and, for the first time and perhaps the only time in my life, I voted a straight party ticket. I pushed the button for straight Democratic party. As it happened, there was one race for which no Democrat was running, so I chose the Libertarian candidate, rather than vote for the Republican or leave it blank. The only other important vote was for a bond election to provide funds to replace the largest and most overcrowded public hospital in the region; I voted in favor of that, too.

While I was at the polling place, one of the candidates drove up in an antique car, the open trunk of which was filled with yard signs extolling her candidacy. I approached her about getting one for my yard; after discussing how my yard is situated on the street, I got two signs, one for the corner (I live on a corner where two streets intersect) and one for the alley behind my house.

Later, I stopped in at a bookstore and wandered around a bit before deciding I wanted to learn whether the softbound version of The World Without Us, by Alan Weisman was available. They had a copy, so I now finally have my own copy of the book and can read it cover to cover, rather than snippet by snippet online, etc. If you don't know of the book, it's a "thought experiment" that examines how long it would take for the earth to return to its natural state if humankind were to disappear. While I've not read all of the book, far from it, I've read enough snippets, have heard enough reviews, and have scanned enough summaries to know it is a fascinating and thought-provoking piece of work. I'm thrilled to have my own copy to read and reread. It was a New York Times bestseller, which is not always a good thing, but I have enough regard for people who would buy such books to think that they would have decried its writing if it weren't very good.

I will take my time reading it, thanks to my miserable eyesight, but will write a little something here once I'm some point after I'm done.

Saturday, October 25, 2008


When I try to capture my thoughts and feelings on my blog, I sometimes fail to be completely open and honest because my few readers might misunderstand what I'm saying. For example, if I mention that I have no truly close friends, the reader might misinterpret that in many ways.

It could be interpreted to mean I am feeling sorry for myself for being alone. It could be interpreted to be an admission that I am someone that nobody can every truly like. Or understand. Or care about. Readers could say my statement offers evidence that I do not share my thoughts or feelings with my wife. God knows how many thousands of other misreadings there might be. So, I sometimes simply keep my private thoughts and feelings and observations private. And then I think, what an utterly stupid and unreasonable thing to do! And I think to myself, no matter how few or how many people read my words here, they are not my audience. I am my audience. At least I am my first and most critical audience. So it's silly of me to care, in most senses, what readers think. I'll try to be more conscious of that fact from here on out.

All of that having been said, I don't have much to say at the moment. I may write more about my day later, but it didn't provide much to write about, at least in the morning. My afternoon exploits may make a good post sometime, but not now.

So, for the moment, I'll sit back and think about some of the emotions and thoughts and attitudes I have been experiencing lately and will make a point of jotting some notes so I can write more later. Later, when I share my innermost secrets. Or, perhaps, share someone else's. Or make something up about the way the woman on the corner feels about the signs in her yard.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Hence the Hurry

I expressed to a friend today how Pachelbel's Canon is something remarkable to me. I'm a lyrics guy, a person who is moved by words and their meaning. But Pachelbel did something remarkable with his music (or at least the ways it's currently presented). I can't hear his Canon without welling up with indefinable emotion. Strange, that. I don't know if it's sadness or happiness or just what it is; it's very definitely emotion, though.

I joke about retirement, but I think it's time. I'm too young, by tradition and the clock, but something tells me I better try to do it early or risk losing out on it altogether. So, my energies, such as they are, will be devoted to trying to capture that elusive beast before I'm done.

When I renewed my license recently I signed where I needed to so I could alert the world that I want to give away all the organs for which there are takers. Not yet, you understand, but if I were decapitated in a car wreck or what have you. I don't want to have to deal with all that before I have lived at least 5-10 years in retirements. Hence the hurry.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Anyone for a Little Crack Music?

The evening of my birthday was spent at home, watching television and eating leftover lox. No bagels; they were finished off the first time through. Just lox. And the remnants of the little bottle of capers. And some slices of purple onion.

A client's monthly meeting was held yesterday evening, which explains why I was left to my own devices to get through the birthday dinner. I left that event to others to handle so I could "celebrate" my birthday. And what a celebration it was. There's still a slab of lox in the refrigerator. No more capers and very little purple onion. And still no bagels.

Tonight was another story, though. I grilled a thick New York strip steak, along with okra, some quartered onion, Mexican squash, and jalapeños. I ate far too much, but what the hell, the night after my 55th birtday comes around rather rarely, so debauchery and excess were in order. A few sips of some excellent pinot noir, followed by some serious bourbon, finished the meal.

I was trying to get my mind off my day. Miserable day. Could have been worse, but not much. I'm happy to be away from the office at the moment. Too bad I have to go back tomorrow and jump into a meeting with yet another client...all the way through Saturday mid-day.

I've done some checking and have decided that, on paper, Port Ludlow, Washington is a very interesting place. So, if I can't have the place I fell in love with, the place on the southern coast of Chile, I might settle for Port Ludlow. Assuming Obama is elected. If not, I'm off to Mexico. Back to Port Ludlow. I like the weather and the views. The only part I find unattractive is the cost of living. But if I persuade Congress I need a bailout to save the country's economy, it may be within reach. If I can' persuade them, or if they've already gone through all the money, I may have to open a wholesale crack shop. I'll need to borrow a few hundred thousand dollars to get going, but I'll pay you back the first chance I get.

By the way, if you haven't listened to it yet, I highly recommend you listen to Plastic Jesus. Just double click Plastic Jesus (first item under the Playlist to the right).