Friday, September 30, 2005

Longing for the Promised Land

Boredom and fatigue overcame me last night. Deciding to watch TV, I found myself glued to a pretty bad movie on WGN. Putting aside the poor script, weak plot, and Meg Ryan playing the role of a drugged out slut (it broke my heart), I was mesmerized by the scenery in "Promised Land." Vignettes showing a car driving across the salt flats and racing a Southern Pacific train through the desert, distant mountains dusted with snow, remote hot springs enjoyed on a winter evening, small towns gas stations, bars and grills, all made me nostalgic for the West. Later, I looked up the movie and found it was filmed around Reno, Nevada and in Utah. Having spent a year in a small town in the mountains of Northern Nevada and over a decade in a small city in Southern Utah, I miss that country. There’s something about sagebrush and the openness of the Intermountain West that gets into one’s soul. Or, at least, it’s embedded in mine, I’m not sure everyone appreciates it.

Wednesday, September 28, 2005

Applesauce, Rogaine & a Poem

The house smells of apples and cinnamon. I was given a ½ bushel of apples today and when I got home this afternoon, I started pealing and made my first batch of applesauce. It’ll be good in the morning for breakfast, as it’s cool and wet here. There’s nothing like warm applesauce. I normally make my applesauce during the baseball playoffs and World Series, but I gave up on the big leagues before the All Stars this year. The Pirates just couldn’t get it together. All my baseball watching this summer was in minor league parks.

A former friend of mine gave me a shirt yesterday. My former friend recently retired from Pfizer where he ran medical test on drugs. The shirt he gave me is an advertisement for Rogaine (the hair growth stuff). Interestingly, this drug started out as way to reduce blood pressure but when they tested it topically, they found out it was a natural hair fertilizer. As anyone who knows me could testify, I am not the best person to go around advertising Rogaine. When I mentioned this to my former friend, he laughed and told me to tell them that I was in the placebo group. Did I tell you, I use to have a friend?

Additional note on Rogaine & Politics and my balding head (September 29): The shirt I'm wearing in the picture is wrinkled because it was presented in a package that resembled a comb. It's also a very thin and cheap shirt--probably because the drug company doesn't really expect anyone to really wear it. After all, who wants to advertise that their full head is the result of hair tonic. There are other drugs that people wouldn't want to advertise either. I wouldn't think I'd want to wear a shirt advertising Viagra, which I don't use either, but that didn't stop former Presidental candidate Bob Dole from going on TV promoting it. Sometimes I wonder how far Republicans will go to make a buck. Suppose I should ask Tom Delay. As for my head--if my former friend gave me samples, should I use them? Or should I shave the top of my head? I haven't been able to shave my head cause there is still too much hippie blood in me.

I haven’t written any poems lately, but this is something I came up with this afternoon.

The dreams of a Balding Man…

After much lingering silence
will I recall the first time I gazed into her eyes,
soft like a doe?
After much lingering silence,
will I remember gently touched her lips
with my finger’s tip before our first kiss?
After much lingering silence,
will I remember how she tasted and responded
when I licked the nape of her neck?
After much lingering and too much silence
I’ll raise my glass, toasting her beauty,
and the clinking of the ice awakens me
from what had been a pleasant dream…

Tuesday, September 27, 2005

My weekend campfire

The sparks from the bonfire that tempers the chilled air race toward the stars. Dropping out of the conversation, I lie back on the ground and look skyward. Trees line the fire ring and abridge the sky, reducing the number of visible constellations. Falling toward the west is Cygnus, great Northern Cross, a swan flying north, the wrong direction for this season. To its east is Cepheus next to his wife Cassiopiea, the queen of Ethopia. Cassiopiea is beautiful, her stars making a clear W in the northern sky. According to legend, her beauty stroked her vanity, getting her hot water with the gods. With her kingdom threatened as punishment for her vainglory, she and Cepheus were forced to sacrifice their daughter Andromeda. Andromeda stands east of her mother, her stars only partly visible tonight. In legend, the helpless girl, bound in chains and tethered to a boulder, stood next to the surf waiting in terror to be ravaged by Neptune’s minions. But she is saved at the last minute. Her cowboy is the wild Pegasus who swept down from the sky and rescued the helpless princess. For his heroic deed, Pegasus now has a prominent place in the autumn sky. The great square of the untamed winged horse stands to the southeast, just above the tall white pines, where he flies proudly across the heavens.

Having once again watched the autumn soap opera, I sit up. The flames have dwindled and the embers glow when poked. I rejoin the conversation. They’ve been solving the world’s problems. Although I know it’s a necessary exercise, my brief travels across the sky have reminded me that it’s also in vain. The same situations play out over and over again. We follow Cygnus in the wrong direction. Like Cassiopiea, at times we become enamored with our own beauty, intelligence or strength, bringing trouble not only to ourselves, but also to those we love. Other times we’re like Andromeda, trapped due to the mistakes of others. But the good news, if there is any, is that our heroes are mostly like to be those least expected to play such a role, like the untamed Pegasus.

Thursday, September 22, 2005

The News You Need to Know

Breaking News: The 100 Minute Bible
Nevada Jack, reporting

From the land that gave us the King James Bible comes a condense version of God’s word that can be consumed in less time than it takes to watch a feature film or have a meal in a classy restaurant. Canterbury Cathedral, the folks who brought us the Canterbury Tales and Canterbury Eggs (oh wait, that’s Cadbury, different folks), has announced the publication of a 100-minute Bible.

"We majored on Jesus because he is the central figure of the Bible," the Reverend Michael Hinton told a leery crowd of reporters. "We also didn’t forget Noah and Jonah," two Biblical characters who go over well here in the land of dampness.

"Most people don’t know the Bible very well," Hinton continued. "Time will tell, but we think this will help alleviate the problem."

"Their readers will get a heavy dose of familiar stories," according to the Right Reverend Bighair, a skeptic of the project. "The familiar stories they dwell on have already enter our consciousness thanks to VeggieTales. "Who’s going to tell Tamar’s story, or the slaying of the Philistines. And what about the beautiful poetry found in Psalms, Isaiah and Revelation?"
"Nobody cares about poetry anymore, anyway." Hinton retorted.

"Are we going to have all ten of the Commandments?" asked Jimmy Swaggart, a former TV preacher currently displaced from Hurricane Katrina. "Don’t pay him any attention," Reverend Bighair advised. "He just wants to know if adultery is out."

Defending the attempt to provide an abridged version of scripture, Hinton reminded the crowd how life is today. "We don’t even have time to do the important stuff," he said, "so it’s no wonder no body has time to seek God’s truth for our lives. At least this way, people can have a clue."

Jane MouseEars, librarian at the famed Oxford University, was quick to point out the benefits of the new compact Bible. "It’ll save us money," she said. "We won’t have to build a new building to house all the books coming out if we can condense our existing stock. If this trend continue, we’ll get Russian novels down to a forty-five minute read. Just think, you can get through Gibbon’s The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire in less time that it’ll take you to watch Atlanta fall in the movie version of "Gone with the Wind."

Ms. MouseEars comments struck a cord with several students attending the unveiling of the 100-minute Bible. "Yeah, we can read the great books of the English language in a month," one bragged. "I could finally get through the Iliad and the Odyssey in an evening," another suggested. "Dude, we can get all our reading done the first September we’re in college and spend the rest of the time partying," proclaimed the head of the Alpha Beta fraternity. It should be noted that this fraternity was formerly known as the Alpha Omega fraternity, but due to a lack of interest in Greek, they decided to shorten their name and require their members to learn only the first two letters of the alphabet.

There were many dissenters at the news conference. One visiting American scholar wondered what the Brits would do to pass time during those wet miserable winter nights. "I cross the pond to read," he noted. "Certainly they’re not going to watch those dreadful comedies," he continued. "Even Monty Python and Peter Sellers movies get old after a dozen viewings."
On related matters, the publisher of Cliff Notes, the preferred condense version for generations of college students, announced that they are filing for an injunction to stop the release of the mini-Bibles. "They’ve stolen our idea," accused Mr. Abstract, the head of Cliff Notes legal department.

In an emergency meeting late last night, the Society of Biblical Literature condemned all attempts of Scriptural abridgement as works of the Devil.

I first heard of this Bible on NPR this week.

For real insight, see: Or the BBC newsrelease:

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

The morning sky...

I left the house before six this morning. Standing high above the maples, the white pines, the beech and the cherry tree that line the back fence was my old friend Orion. It was so good to see him. Winter won't be far off! Today is the last day of summer. In another month, Orion will be rising on the horizon in the evening. By then, the leaves will have fallen and the fire will crackle in the hearth. I will sit by it and read while enjoying a drink and stopping to toast the wind.

Sunday, September 18, 2005

Random observations, thoughts and questions...

I saw the Harvest Moon rise last night (in my mirror as I was driving down I-94). It appeared huge, yet mysterious with a black cloud across the center, like someone placed tape over the moon to hide its name. It took a couple of glances into my mirror to recognize that what I was seeing was the rising moon. This morning I watched the same moon set in the west. I always feel blessed when I see the moon rise at sunset and set at dawn.

Living this far north, the moon takes a very low path in the sky during the summer and seems to always peek through the trees to the south of the house. I dream more when the moon is full and it’s light seeps into the bedroom. I don’t remember any of my dreams from last night.

The headlines for a newspaper I saw Friday read: "Bush says we can’t afford to hesitate any longer in Gulf Relief" or something like that. Where did the word "hesitate" come from? I listened to part of his speech, which sounded a lot like a confession. He certainly didn’t talk the fiscal conservative line, but then he never has. Cut income and increase spending hasn’t worked in my own little micro-economy, why should it work in his macro-economy. Certainly the relief is going to cost a lot of money which would make prudent people question other programs (such as wars and tax cuts). UPDATE, SEPTEMBER 21: I just learned how's he's financing all this. Check this out:

Why are "Fried Green Tomatoes" considered a Southern thing? When I lived in the South, my tomatoes were always harvested red—the way God intended I would think. The only thing about fried green tomatoes that’s southern is the frying. I only started making Green Tomato Relish when I lived out in the high desert where I had tomato plants killed by frost in the middle of June and in early September. It’d only get a few nice ripe tomatoes before I’d lost the vines and would have to make due with green tomatoes. It seems green tomatoes would be a northern delicacy. Would anyone want to share recipes for Fried Green Tomatoes? What kind of batter do you use? Virgin or extra virgin olive oil? Or is that peanut oil? And what do you eat with them?

The Steelers won again today. Even though we got a few more weeks of baseball, I’ve retired my Pirate cap for the year and now am sporting a Steelers’ cap.

Sunday, September 11, 2005

It was not the day to play Martha Stewart

A co-worker gave me all the green tomatoes from his garden on Friday. He’s been supplying us with tomatoes while his wife canned quarts of tomato sauce and salsa. But she was done and he wanted to pull the vines and till up his garden. Since I was Southern, he wondered if I’d like the remaining green tomatoes. Well, I must confess, I’ve never eaten a fried green tomato. But living out in the high desert—where the summer season was so short that I’d only get a handful of ripe tomatoes—I’d become proficient at making a green tomato relish. It’s been two years since my last garden. I know it sounds strange but it was easier growing a garden in the desert than here in this haven for deer which is why I had a garden in the desert but not the nation’s breadbasket. Besides, if you don’t have a garden, someone will take pity on you and give you more than enough tomatoes and squash.

Anyway, back to my story. Friday evening, I sliced up all the tomatoes as well as an amble stash of onions and red and green peppers. The tomatoes and onions were placed in a 12 quart pot with brine to "cure" overnight. All was well. I didn’t get back to my project until late Saturday afternoon. I mixed up the vinegar concoction, added the peppers, rinsed off the tomatoes and onions and added them to the vinegar, through in some spices. I had two large 12 quart pans on the stove—enough relish to get me through a couple years with some extra to give to friends. Things were looking up. But the winds of fate often shift..

While washing the canning jars, I noticed a problem with the drain in the kitchen sink. Actually, the predicament was with the lack of drainage. "No problem," I thought, "I must have ran too many peelings down the disposal." I quickly got to work, getting out buckets and a pair of channel locks (a type of pliers that works well on pipe fittings). I cleaned out space under the sink (for the first time in a year and a half) and started taking pipes apart. But there was a problem. Actually it was a lack of a problem, which indicated a bigger problem. There were no clogs in the pipe. The relish was still cooking and it was about time to put it into jars, but I had not yet been able to wash the jars.

Seeing that the pipes under the sink were fine, I got my snake out (why I own one of these is a long story) and tried to clean out the drain. I couldn’t find any clogs. So I went down into the garage, which is below the kitchen (convenient for the sake of plumbing). It was easy to spot the clean-out plug. When the house was built 50 years ago, someone had plastered the basement. But sometime in the past five decades, there had been problems as the plaster had been chipped away around the plugs and some of the pipes. As this was high over my head, I had to get a ladder and pipe wrench (another tool that’s a long story as to why I own). The plug wouldn’t bulge. With a lot of tugging and some encouragement from a 3-pound hammer it finally began to move. "This is great," I thought. I held a bucket up as I unscrewed the plug and was showered with dirty dishwater and gunk that filled the bucket and sloshed all over me. Yes, the relish is still cooking. I wipe myself off—went to turn the stove down to low—and then back downstairs to clean out the pipe. I kept pulling black gunk out. Soon, I thought I had it open and I put it all back together, but the drain still wouldn’t flow. Again, I went down to the garage, got showered with another batch of water and gunk, and tried to snake it out again. Somehow, the clog had reappeared, just a little further down the pipe. I could never get the pipe completely clean (I don’t have a long snake) and by now the relish is almost mush.

Trying to salvage the situation, I washed up, washed the jars in the sink downstairs (yes, Ms. Stewart, I cleaned the sink with Clorox before hand). Next, I put the jars in a pan of boiling water for ten minutes. Afterwards, I canned 13 quarts of relish (there’s something unlucky about that number, isn’t there?) Tomorrow morning I’ll call a real plumber, until then I’ll just eat out.

If you ever find yourself up this way and have a hunger for a hot dog, I’ll fix you up. I steam my buns, use only good quality franks that have been boiled in beer, and then garnish the dog with a swipe of mustard and some mushy labor-intensive relish. As we enjoy the dogs, we can pound down a bottle of Leinenkugel (a beer from Wisconsin) and I tell you about why I decided not to become a plumber.

Saturday, September 10, 2005

7 Things...

Tagged! Thanks, jadedprimadonna

7 Things I Plan To Do Before I Die
1. Complete the Pacific Crest Trail
2. Canoe the Seal River to the Hudson Bay
3. Publish my dissertation
4. Write and publish a creative non-fiction work dealing with the South
5. Live on a sailboat
6. Spend a winter in a cabin in the northwoods
7. Attend my daughter’s inauguration as President of the United States (gotta live at least 28 more years)

7 Things I Cannot Do
1. Read without glasses (this is a recent phenomena)
2. Tie flies
3. Play the role of Tevye in "Fiddler on the Roof"
4. Attend my own funeral
5. Play a musical instrument
6. Grow hair on the top of my head (this has been coming on a few years)
7. Speak Swahili

7 Things That Attract me to the opposite sex
1. Expressive eyes
2. Inviting smiles
3. Long wavy hair
4. Wit, humor, and intelligence (they go together)
5. A sense of adventure
6. Concern for those who can’t help themselves
7. Long, nicely shaped legs

7 Things I Say Most Often
1. Whatever
2. How ya’ll doing (my southern upbringing)
3. ‘eh? (I’ve spent too much time around Canadians)
4. Yeah, right.
5. You’re wonderful
6. You’re crazy
7. He’s an idiot (tends to be mumbled while watching or reading the news)

7 Celebrity Crushes (I don't know if they're really crushes since I had to look up the names of three of the actresses).
1. Joan of Arc (19 year olds in chainmail? I’m with Mark Twain on this obsession)
2. Monica Bellucci
3. Sylvia Platt (circa 1950) eh--make that Sylvia Plath
4. Veronica Lake (circa 1940, funny and beautiful from another era)
5. Andie MacDowell
6. Shelly Long (funny and beautiful)
7. Chana (Ali McGraw got the boot)

People I Want To Do This List
If there are seven of you who’d like your name to be here, let me know. Otherwise, I’ll not play by the rules. (it wouldn't be right if I didn't break at least one rule)

Thursday, September 08, 2005

Sinus Hell

My sinuses have been killing me for the past few days. It’s time again to start sniffing stuff up my nose in what’s becoming a biannual attempt not to feel like my head is imploding and exploding at the same time. I miss the high desert. There, as long as I stayed away from the rabbitbrush in bloom, I faired well. Here, the spring sinus season seems to run about two months or so and the fall for another two or three months. Relief won’t come until the first good killing frost. To compound problems, we’ve had only .03 inches of rain in the past month. What happened to Katrina. It went east of us. What happened to all the thunderstorms the Great Lakes are known for? With things this dry, the air becomes more and more filled with crap that cause my sinuses to clog. I want to sleep, but when I wake up, my head is so stuffed I feel worse than when I went to bed.

I think I’ve discovered another level of hell unknown to Dante. In this isolated niche of the underworld lies a garden in perpetual bloom. Ragweed, rabbitbrush and lilacs line the eternal path around the inter-circle of hell. Lilies are abundant, especially at the indoor waystations dotting the pathway. (I think it’s noteworthy that Jesus said to consider the lilies of the field—I never said to dig 'em up and bring them inside where the full furry of their scent can be experienced to the maxium impact). Some may wonder what kind of hell has such beautiful flowers, but those of us condemned to walk through its gardens are tormented day and night… My road to perdition must have started when I made out with Cathy in the seventh grade, hiding under the lilacs around the back of the school.

With temperatures back in the high 80s, I wonder if Fall will ever arrive. Any suggestions or remedies for sinus problems?

Sunday, September 04, 2005

Tomato Sandwiches: One of Life's Blessings

There ain’t nothing better during these late days of summer than a tomato sandwich. For those of you whose upbringing wasn’t sophisticated enough to include tomato sandwiches, let me enlighten you on the fine art of constructing a culinary masterpiece. I assure you, my directions are much less detailed than Mr. Orwell’s instructions on making a cup a tea. And a tomato sandwich is much more satisfying to the palate. Take two pieces of soft wheat bread, slather a side of each with Miracle Whip Salad Dressing. Peel a nice sized vine-ripened tomato and the cut it into slices at least an inch thick. Place the tomato slices on the salad dressing side of one piece of the bread. Grind plenty of black pepper on top of the tomato and cap the concoction with the other slice of bread. If you want to get real cosmopolitan, sprinkle some celery seed to compliment the pepper. Having tomato juice run down your chin is a small price to pay for such goodness. Thank God for small blessings.

And just in case you’re wondering, George Orwell has a several page dissertation on making the perfect cup of tea. You can find it in a 2.4 pound collection of his essays that was published by Everyman’s Library. See

Friday, September 02, 2005

Fishing and splitting wood

It was nice to be off today. I spent much of the morning and early afternoon hauling and splitting wood for this winter. I only have a fireplace, but burned over a cord in it last year and ended up having to ration wood toward the end of the burning season. There’s nothing better than reading by a fire. I’ll try to remember that tomorrow when my muscles are sore from splitting wood the old fashion way (with a maul and a wedge). I think I got enough wood for the winter, almost two cords. And splitting wood beats going to the gym any day. This evening I took my canoe out on a lake for a little fishing, but didn’t catch anything. The wind was just a bit too strong for a fly rod and I could get nothing to strike an artificial worm or a variety of lures. Regardless, I got to see a family of swans I’ve been watching since the spring. They are now nearly grown. I also enjoyed watching the sky turn pink and not paddling back to the truck until I saw the first star on the evening horizon (I think it was Venus). The weather is cooler and the mosquitoes are so few that I didn’t even put on insect repellant.

Thursday, September 01, 2005

More thoughts on the Hurricane

I'm not much of one for TV, but last night I watched one of the specials on Hurricane Katrina. WOW. Having grown up on the coast and been through a storm or two, I ain't ever seen anything like that. I feel bad about my joking about hoarding hot sauce. This is terrible. So after watching TV last night, I even turned on the TV this morning in time to watch our fearless leader Georgie Boy reassure us that people look to the White House for answers (or solutions or results, I don't remember the exact quote) and he's going to deliver. Yeah, sure, I'm comforted now. Interestingly, he didn't sound nearly as confident as he was after 911. The only thing he said that I feel I can take to the bank is that this tragedy will not change our activities in Iraq and we'll not have a tax increase (at least as long as he's President). The next President and Congress will get to figure how to pay for it all.

Oh yeah, Bush also warned gas stations against price gouging. This is from a former oil executive! I can sleep soundly knowing a fox is watching the hen house.