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Archive for December, 2008

Grocery Store Sake

Yesterday I spent more on food and for a small party with two close friends than I spent on the bathrobe and new model kits I gave to myself last week. That’s because our friendship is more valuable than terry cloth and polystyrene.

One reason I shop at Schnuck’s is that a my friend MR is a union man, and Schnuck’s is a union supermarket. The other is that Schnuck’s has the best rotisserie chicken I have found in the tri-county area. Otten I pay more there ($2.50 for Campbells Chunky Soup compared with $2.48 at Shon ‘n’ Save) but considering how few groceries I buy (being single and barely employed though I do dress) I value the added dimension of moral imperative which transcends pocket-book imperative.

Stop me if you’ve read this before: the joke about the fellow who asks a dazzling woman at a party and asks if she’d sleep with him for $20,000. She says “Yes, I think I would.” The fellow asks if she’d sleep with him for $20? and she says “Just a minute, you deletable expletive. What kind of a woman do you think I am?” He replies, “We’ve both know what kind of a woman you are. Now we’re just haggling over price.” When it comes to grocery shopping, I know what kind of hummin’ bean I am. I will not haggle over price.

For the Tuessday night gathering, I was intriqued by party platters of sushi in the coolers near the deli. I thought sushi was raw, and “dangerous” even though millions of folks eat it every day. The label said this sushi was cooked. BINGO!
I would either enjoy something for the first time or not enjoy it and let MT and TC have my share.

So, committed to Japanese mode, my next question was, what kind of crackers go with sushi? (Can you see the hayseeds in my ears?) Eons ago, Dad had crackers with his sardines, so I assumed crackers were part of sushi life. I asked the woman behind the deli counter, and she said she didn’t know. I should ask at the sushi counter (the raw suchi counter where other seafood delights twinkle like stars over a freon-fed ocean. The fellow there said crackers aren’t served with sushi.

OH

Okay so I had to something to serve in harmony with cooked sushi, which I intended to be the modest main course of the food element. The answer came to me like the hot kiss at the end of a wet fist (Thank you Firesign Theater). SAKE!

The wine aisle at Schnuck’s seemed the natural place for sake so I started on the left side going south and scanned the four shelves looking for a clue that said ORIENTAL ANYTHING figuring once the alphabet was sighted, I could find the target. I wondered, as I read hundreds of linear feet of Merlot, Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, Chablis, Champaigne, Sangria, Burgundy, Port, and Mogen David if the store even CARRIED sake. I visited the store’s service counter and asked if they sold sake. The woman called the beverage manager who told her over the phone — she relayed it to me: “the end of aisle 8 top shelf on your lsft” — and as I neared the end of the aisle, he came out and walked me to the exact spot. They had two kinds: on in a small container, less than half a pint, and another which seemed about a fifth.

GEKKEIKAN The Finest Sake, $5.95

And on the back label, it included recipies for Sake on the Rocks, Sake Screwdriver and Sake Bloody Mary. How frikkin’ Nihon is THAT? WOW!

It and the sushi (“If you knew sushi like I know sushi. Oh  . . .oh.  . . . oh what a …”) were the high point of the evening in terms of what came in through the gullet. In terms of what came in through the ears, good conversation topped all, followed by listening to vinyl records of the poetry read by e e cummings and Vachel Lindsay and the Firesign Theater’s Marx-Lennon album. MR set me straight about sake too. It’s a distilled spirit; not a wine. BTW, the hearty red MR & TC were the perfect harmony for the rest of the incredible edibles consumed.

Grocery store sushi and sake expanded my life last night. Sushi nf the uncooked kind will find me for sure in 2009. And I shall likely reaquaint myself with sake as well, heated next time.

May your life be as well blessed as mine was Tuesday night, and may everyone reading these words experience expanded horizons and a happy new year!

Live long . . . . . . and proper

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A curious anomaly caught my eyes as I was watching Meet the Press this morning. It appeared in the Sunday State Journal-Register. I’m keeping my subscription to the local paper going at the cost of not renewing my subscription to The New Yorker which I LOVE when it COMES.(More about that issue later.) The SJ-R anomaly involved a back pages (you know on the left hand side  of an odd-numbered page in a column slimmer than the usuals) which announced that the Obamas — are there any others? — are spending the holidays in Hawaii. That “news” was broadcast on most media starting last Tuesday at least. The SJ-R ran story about the Honolulu blackout affected his house and he was asking for no special favors, despite tie passing inconvenience Thursday or Friday or Saturday. I KNOW this because I remember it even though I couldn’t find it during a fast thumbing through disassembled sections of the past few days’ papers.  So it strike me as interesting how the news of the blackout affecting the rented sea-front house was followed in today’s front section back pages by the news they are renting a sea-front house in the 50th state. Funny thing, news.

The funnies at the end of This Week were almost the only thing that kept me near the living room during Meet the Press and the 50-something minutes with the This Week sub host. And not even the TV reprise of “the year in late nite funnies” proved worth my devotion to the cause.

Y?

The two shows were pretty much rehashes of the past year, including the encores of Letterman, Leno and etc. MTP’s visit with David Axelrod of Obama and the Israeli foreign minister live in Jerusalem were okay, but only the Israeli official was NEWS. The other “players” including Sentators Sherrod Brown and a nice enough fellow from Tennessee were okay, but they were reacting only to the future, and that isn’t news to me. It was interesting that among things funded in the proposed bail outs were a convention center hotel in Cleveland and an entirely new airport less than an hour’s drive from an established metro airport in Tenn. If those aren’t Pork Barrel politics despite all the Congress’ and Obama’s solemn reassurances that they’re cutting the pork out of all this, the ceaseless OINK OINK OINK from Capitol Hill and the Chicago transition offices must be coming not from a porcine Pavarotti but from the Bluebird of Little-Cat-Feet Happiness!

I’ll be renewing my subscrip to The New Yorker, but what seemed to hold such promise when my check for my first bought ‘n’ paid-for subscription cleared was not sustained. It was mostly a matter of rhythm. What I understood is a weekly is not. Several times (at least four) they skipped a week as issue were combined to cover two instead of one. What I liked about weekly issues is what I like about the Sunday SJ-R. There will always be Bernie Schoemburg, always Dave Bakke, always Tom Landis and always Opus — oops! Well Doones’ at least.

BTW I am keeping my subscriptions to internet comics as suggested by Larry Imlay this time last week. I had to fill out a WHALEovalot of survey forms that drove me semi-nuts before I quit. The daily emails come with Doon’, The Boondocks (which I LOVE), Mother Goose and Grimm (98% GOLD) and BC. The downside is not the advertising because advertising is part of life and if you think otherwise, consider how many advertisements your eyes fly by on the way to Sunday’s SJ-R Doo’. The downside is the small size of the renditions of the comics too small to cover a postcard; not that the daily SJ-R funnies are any bigger. But I save the best of the Sunday newspaper funnies, and these days, not even every Sunday’s D’ makes the cut.

Now it’s back to the aviation history bidness which I engage in large part for the same reason prisoners in solitary often construct houses piece by piece by visualizing them and putting them together. Aviation history keeps my mind alive on days when there are no better options. I’m not whining; just reporting.. Y’all have a good Sunday!

Live long . . . . . . and proper.

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Listening to Dad in 1992

Have you heard of the instrumental group The Greenwoods? In the 60s when I was still attending Springfield Junior College on north Fifth St., I heard them for the first time, and they instantly became my favorite instrumental music organization. Dad had a friend who was a factory representative for Decca (might have been Capitol) Records, and the gentleman would loan Dad the latest releases so he could tape them on his state-of-the-art system in our living room. Dad owned the top Sony and Ampex recorders and treated High Fidelity, later Stereo (and yes, in the early days, they were upper-cased) recorded sound as others might bottles of rare vintage wine. I knew from the first time The Greenwoods’ Silver Dagger (track one on the album and Dad’s tape) it was the sharpest, intelligent (in tune, perfect rhythm, superbly mixed) sound of traditional folk I would ever hear, and I was right. After my parents were divorced, I went off to college elsewhere and started my life-long trek on the road to nowhere, I remembered that album. I copied several songs. tried to imitate what I could as a solo guitarist, and incorporated several “quotes” for my own performances of songs including John Riley and and The Riddle Song. When Dad moved back to Springfield to be close to his “number one son,” he rented a house on Pasfield, set up housekeeping and installed his latest tape recorders. In a world of cassettes and micro-cassettes, he stayed with reel-to-reel.

He had every reel tape he had transferred from vinyl to mylar since about 1960, all cataloged and numbered of course, and among them was the never-forgotten tape of The Greenwoods. During one of many afternoon visits to his place, I took my portable cassette recorder and placed it by the speakers in the living room to record the tape while he and I chatted in the nearby kitchen. Dad and I were sharp enough to connect my recorder to his by the appropriate wire and jack plug link, but nothing fit. A simpler arrangement would work. And it did.

During Saturday afternoon, glancing through my few cassette tapes, I came across The Greenwoods, which I’ve not listened to in almost 10 years, mostly because I have many CDs and hardly ever put a cassette into my Sony player. Today, driven into “cassette mode” by the pleading  pap of ANOTHER WUIS canned fund raising day-long COMMERCIAL, I put on The Greenwoods after finishing my earlier H&Q posting.

The first thing I heard was Dad’s voice talking to me, “setting the law down,” which is the only way he shared his opinois, as the tape began recording but before The Greenwoods began. For the duration of the tape, between musical numbers,  mostly Dad’s voice filled the void. Sometimes I can be heard as well. What we were talking about for close to half an hour is a mystery. At the distance from recorder to kitchen with a wall and open entry arch between, our voices are muddy and hard to understand. I could play the tape a little slower on another machine I have to understand the words, but I don’t want to know that much. It was a typical encounter with him: contentious, arms’ length verbal punching and counter-punching. The tone and identity of both voices are as recognizable as yesterday’s dirty dishes. As I listened to the beautiful music I had heard for the first time in the 60s, heard again in 1992 and have played probably three five times since, I felt awash in regret for how we parted company for good when he died on December 12, 1994 and how I wish I could talk to him today.

They would be different conversations. I think Dad would have been as argumentative as always, but I believe I could react better, deal with him better, with a thicker skin protecting my still incredibly delicate equillibrium. I would not have to come out on top of every conversation. I would try harder to understand his side, and if I couldn’t  because it would compromise my “integrity” I would fight less because I respect the man he was anyway.

Or maybe not.

If you have a tape recorder and parents ALIVE, I recommend you visit one or both in the kitchen of your choice with a small recorder of some kind and TALK TO THEM. Talk about their lives, what they remember when they were kids and what they remember of you growing up. Do not talk to them about how either of you are doing today. The memories are what you will cherish. And if you really want to do something constructive, make a copy of the conversation and give it to your parent(s) along with some kind of player so they can listen to it. I wager both of you will appreciate the effort. I wish I had done this with Dad and Mom before it was too late.

Today, the closest I can get to my father (who art in heaven) is that tape of The Greenwoods. True, I have documents, and things he owned that I own now, including an almost totally broken 1986 Ford Escort, but what I would like to have more than all of that are tapes of Mom and Dad and I just talking to each other. I don’t know that such a tape would improve my life or non-career, but it would make it easier to shed a loving tear or two because I didn’t do better with them when I had the chance.

Live long . . . .  and proper.

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And So This Was Christmas

The reverbs (okay, echoes, which is not to say memories but is to say often recurring memories but saying reverbs instead) are over and it’s time to return to earth, the better hummin’ bean for the day.

I’ve been in PRODUCTION MODE all week, working like a man possessed (which some who know me say I am) with the aviation magazine indexing project for AeroKnow. I have several thousand aviation mags in the collection and in recent weeks at Rock City, I decided to COMMIT myself (something many who know me say I should have done when I turned 60, but I don’t mean that kit of commitment) to indexing every aviation periodical in the collection and publishing the results at AeroKnow. It’s not as hard as it may seem to readers who don’t know the kind of labor I have already devoted to the general idea. So when I’ve not been eating or watching Charlie Rose or Scrubs or Sex and the City, most of my conscious hours have been devoted to that. Yes, it’s driving me a little nuts . . . . tedious but not difficult . . . . but I feel this is part of my nutty covenant with Destiny, so I’m doing it.

I may not be able to keep a can of Pringles in the house very long, but I had no trouble waiting until Christmas Day to open a few “presents” I had purchased earlier in the week. They included some model kits I had purchased from a friend one I purchased from a LOCAL hobby shop and more importantly, a new bath robe I purchased from JC Penney.

The visit to the store — where last Christmas season I had rung a red kettle bell for Salvation Army — showed how good retail people can be. When it was time to pay for the robe, I discovered I had either LOST my drivers license, which was NOT in the usual wallet window, or left it at home. I fumbled through my pockets, embarrassed as the dickens after trying to charge it on my Penney charge card which I’ve not used in three years. The charge was declined by the big computer in God knows where, and the sales associate explained it was probably because I  haven’t used it for so long. YES I took an application. Management was called over when it appeared I did not have my license, but after I mentioned I write for Springfield Business Journal and Illinois Times, they allowed me to pay for the robe with a check anyway. THANK YOU J.C. PENNEY PEOPLE!

After arriving home, I found my driver’s license on the dresser. THANK GOD!

I had enjoyed MY seasonal feast solo Christmas eve: rotisserie baked chicken, Brussel sprouts with melted Colby cheese and the best baked beans I could find with Carlo Rossi Burgundy and later, Neapolitan ice cream. It was a remarkable repast that came together without a glitch.

Christmas Day I had an invitation to visit and commune with an artist friend Sonia, her family and another friend of theirs. I took my time in the morning and truly enjoyed breaking in the new bathrobe (Burgundy-colored of course) while working on aviation history most of the morning. I had things perfectly timed to arrive at Sonia’s at noon on the dot and almost did.

The surprise came when I tried to enter my car and found the door wouldn’t open. Even the passenger side door was frozen shut. So in dress slacks and tie, I entered the car first through the hatchback (which I’ve not done since last SPRING), opened the driver’s side door from the inside, backed out of the rear of the car, sat down in the driver’s seat and . . . . discovered I COULD NOT CLOSE MY DOOR! The latch would not catch!

So what the HELLAMI g’wine to do? NOTHING was going to keep me away from that dinner! So I drove the 12 blocks to Sonia’s house with my left hand holding the driver’s side door closed and the right hand doing the driving and shifting. I found early that I could engage turn signals by holding the steering wheel with my upper leg while my right hand reached across and kept the door closed and I activated the signal with my left hand. It was a busy drive!

The meal and company were superb. I had taken my geetar and sang my Christmas song trilogy (for the first and ONLY time this year DANGIT) and departed in late afternoon as restored to my faith in and appreciation of my fellow humanity as I have ever been when not blessed on that special day with a female companion. I didn’t feel short changed by the day at all. . . . not majorly short changed at any rate.

The next day, I debated for 20 minutes after arising whether to drive over to the car mechanic shop, a small, one-man place less than two blocks away to see about getting my car door fixed. I figured he’d probably be closed on the 26th, but my conscience would not declare me “fit for the rest of the day” if I did not ACT with deliberate speed and determination. So I hopped into the Blue Goose after removing the several strips of Scotch tape which I had used to keep the door shut overnight and motoring over. Of course . . . . he was closed. But I felt the better man for having made the effort.

I re-applied Scotch tape strips to the door, and had a pleasant rest of the day.

Today the 27th as the sky drenched the city in a downpour of rain and I worked on indexing aviation magazines, my friend George from across the street called. “Did you know your driver’s side door is open?” he said. I explained the situation to George, thanked him for calling and went outside into 50 degree (balmy) air and heavy rain which had washed the tape off my doors. It took ten minutes to rig some twine strung from my rear view mirror to the car roof’s rain channel above the doors to hold the thing reasonably shut. I won’t be able to drive with it like that, and it looks goofy, an open invitation to predators, but that’s the best I can do for now.

Monday I shall again drive to the mechanic’s shop and hope he’s not taking the whole week off. That will be exciting.

Ooo bla dee, ooo bla dah, life goes.

Live long . . . . . . and proper.

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Midnight Redemption

I almost entitled this Midnight Couch Potato, but I reconsidered when I realized there is no passive enslavement to the magic electric screen which I associate with most davenport tubers during football and baseball games. My growing attachment to two hours of Springfield Fox channel 55 between 12:30 and 2:30 has come since word came from Rock City I will be even less the part-time employee the rest of this winter than I was (gladly) during the past summer and fall. I no longer must be at “the office” at the former time, so I’m staying up later. Once I discovered two consecutive episodes of Sex and the City (SATC) starting at 1:30, I began leaving my home office a little early so that I would be comfortably (comftably if you prefer) ensconced in the easy chair with wine or iced tea when it began because the opening credits with Sara Jessica Parker is a joy to the eyes and eros. And in the course of arriving five minutes early . . . . then 10 minutes early . . .  then half an hour early . . . . then an hour early, I became happily hooked on Scrubs, another show I didn’t watch before it went into syndication.

Scrubs is a hyper-sharp, witty, fast-moving romp with more inside hipness than a collection of Firesign Theater records and visually delightful as well. If you liked Arrested Development and Northern Exposure (I still weep, so to speak because they are gone.) you will be hooked on Scrubs before the long intro breaks for the first round of commercials. Placing Scrubs and Sex and the City in succession is a masterstroke of programming! There are belly laughs a plenty in Scrubs. Strange, perhaps from 12:30 to 1:30, but I can use laughter (Scrubs) and eye-candied affirmation of my humanity (SATC). The whole cast are my ideal crowd.

The two shows, back to back redeem me in time for bed. I am not pulling the sheets over me as my heart rumbles, awash in angst and uncertainty. They are more than entertainment; they are therapy.  They conclude at 2:30 which is the perfect time to tune into Channel 20 and the early morning ABC news program which I used to watch religiously, and if not religiously, at least very regularly. I am NOT doing what I would be inclined to do if I weren’t working at all: which is watching the early morning news until 3:30 or so. I’m going to bed after SATC because after being baptised, immersed into comedy and dreamy whimsy, I don’t want to grow up by watching the news. I’m going to nod off to sleep with the news as I listen to BBC radio on WUIS and they inundate me in tales from Zimbabwe, and other hotbeds of American concern. Since I began getting into the Scrubs and SATC routine, I nod into dreamland earlier.

I WISH I could hang with folks in Springfield who are half that urbane as the scripted characters in Scrubs and Sex and the City.

The surprise is that I do hang with people in Springfield who hare half that urbane and sometimes even more so. Sometimes thay are more urbane than some of the wonderful characters on SATC! I am truly a lucky married mother’s son. I hope you are so lucky as well.

Have your self a merry one on the 25th!

Live to your expectations if you can, . . . and don’t give up trying.

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Passion Flower
By Job Conger

To a virgin in the night
In a land almost forgot
And a time when faith grew dinner by the hour
From a manger’s meager light
Came the dawn of a new day
With the birth of God’s own son His passion flower.

(chorus)
. . . Passion flower, planted simply to atone
. . . .For the sin and the hate not of his own,
. . . .And to show the way beyond the pain
. . . .To eternity and sweet salvation.

Joyous news by angels came
To the shepherds with their flock
And the wise men with their majesty and power
Heard the word shared in God’s name
Journeyed far to find the town
And the manger with the mighty passion flower.

(chorus)

Many saints have come to be
Since the seed of God’s desire
To restore His covenant with souls grown sour
Bloomed for all humanity
Yet, how many still don’t share
The joy and hope of the desert passion flower

(chorus)

May the love, that heaven scent,
Reach the heart of everyone
And then lead wayfaring strangers grim and dour,
To the heaven’s firmament
Promised to the ones who seek
To know God’s son, His redeeming passion flower.

(refrain)

I wrote this pems/song December 12, 1993, A year later, to the day, my father died.  The irony of the timing has stayed with me like a cockleburr picked up during a hike in a meadow. We are all passion flowers, esteemed readers of Honey & Quinine. The birth of new life requires it. How we bloom is up to who gave birth, and it’s also up to us. My Wintebliss wish (Christmas wish if you prefer)  for all H&Q readers who have read these words and all who have read and heard the words of my poem/song is for you to bloom as God intended, as your parents hoped and as you hope as well.

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The Word that Drives Me NUTS

It’s not obscene or profane, and there is a difference, you know. Obscene disparages the body and profane disparages the spirit in my lexicon; perhaps yours as well.

There are other words which affect me the way a silver cross affects a thirsty vampire. One of the words is “Antartic” which the mentally challenged say instead of Antarctic. Another is “comftable” that mostly Democrats all over and Republicans living south of Juneau, Alaska seem to say with “chalk-moved-the-wrong-way-on-a-blackboard” consistence — not to be mistaken for consistency (which is another matter entirely so don’t you darely get me started OQUE? The word that can bring me to my knees, metaphorically speaking is spelled with three letters. A child can say the word and nobody cares. It’s a wholesome word.

As many responsible citizens of Springfield, Illinoise do (I hope) I listen to Chicago radio station WGN which airs John Williams (whose mom was born in Springfield) until 9 a, Kathy and Judy 9 to noon, Bob Surrat noon to 1, a parade of auditioning talk show candidates from 1 to 4, Steve Cochran from 4 to 7, sports talk with a terrific host whose name I have forgotten (though I seldom listen to him because of other demands) Milt Rosenberg from 9 to 11 and Steve and Jonnie — probably mis-spelled from 11 to God knows when because I’m keeping the mice awake with my snoring when they go off the air. Point is I know ‘GN and I love and respect ‘GN. What I don’t respect are two commercials that I hear too often and have me reaching to squelch volume more frequently than when I listen to Karl Scroggin’s excellent classical music program  on WUIS. One of the commecials is for “1-800-Lou to Go” Lou Malnotti’s Pizza. The other is for a commercially manufactured dessert whose pronunciation — the incredibly refined and yet not SUBTLE things they do with those three easy letters — drives me NUTS!

The word is …… you won’t believe me, but it’s true . . . . . . . .

pie

When your five-year-old nephew says he wants it after eating his spinach at a family gathering, he’s cute. There is love in his eyes and love in yours. When your spouse or friend says he or she would like a slice of it with ice cream, all is right with the world. But the way it is said in this commercial and often elsewhere, the word comes from the mouth of the sayer as though it was a drop of water placed upon your skin in the course of five minutes.

The word PHHIIIIIIAYEEEEEEEEEEEE. becomes a production number that in real time lasts a fraction of a second but to my nerve synapses lasts an interrogation interlude at Abugraib Prison! Honest to gosh, some people who say pie could blow out a candle at 10 paces! Some could dry a towel hanging on the bathroom rack after a recent shower by saying PIE.  With the right voice and harmonic resonance a person with a trained voice could probably shatter a wine glass by saying it one time!

The experience of hearing the beginning two seconds of the commercial on WGN about is souring me a mite regarding the whole Wintebliss ethos — Christmas ethos if you prefer. I need a foot pedal for my radio so I could just disconnect the frikking circuit the instant I hear the commercial begin.

What word — “Job” as in Old Testament Job notwithstanding — drives YOU NUTS when you hear it? Share it in the comments and explain why. I can’t be the only real American with this verbal “rotten pecan taste-in-the-ears” syndrome, can I? You tell me.

And when on Wintebliss Day — Christmas Day if you prefer — the fine people welcoming me to their glorious feast ask me if I’d like anything under my ice cream for dessert, you know what I will say, don’t you?

Got any cake?

Live long . . . . . — just a minute . . . .

Must share this or else “yule” miss it. “Rachel” of Channel 55 Fox TV interviews two very dignified black matrons, no doubt well respected forces in their community on Springfield’s east side. They promote a fund raising Saturday breakfast event for the hosting organization. I am not pulling your leg, or any other part, when I tell you they explain this no-doubt worthwhile organization supports the needs — I’m not making this up, I swear to you —

“of teenage women, between the ages of 16 and 21.”

My hand to God you read it here.

Live long . . . . . and proper.

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