Monday, December 31, 2012

The Hollow

I'm working my way through the Hercule Poirot novels. I've made it through more than half of them. With The Hollow I think I've stumbled across the point in which the author, Agatha Christie, has learned to hate Poirot. (I really need to read her autobiography for myself. She wrote and said a few colorful things about her most popular character, and not all of them are very nice.)

What I found most interesting about this particular Poirot novel is how completely superfluous he actually is. She developed the other characters very well, more than I've seen from her in other novels. Poirot makes almost a cameo appearance. The plot develops and everything seems to be happening around him as usual, but in reality that exactly what's going on – it's all happening around him. He doesn't seem to interact with the plot as he did in his earlier novels.

My two favorite characters are Lady Angkatell (Lucy) and Henrietta Savernake – Lucy's first cousin. Lucy is a delightful airhead who somehow seems, in her own vague way, to be a very good judge of character and is able, through her seeming ditsyness, to manipulate people when she feels it's necessary. Henrietta is an artist and, like Lucy, has a unique perspective on life. Though Lucy introduces Henrietta in the first chapter by talking about her, we first get to know her in the second chapter as she's working feverishly on a new sculture that has completely consumed her mind for days, and she is even jerked awake in the middle of the night wondering about it. She is also a good judge of character, but her character (no pun intended) is stronger, more straightforward. We learn that it's also not beneath her to manipulate when there's a good cause.

The cast of characters consult with Poirot, and Christie uses these conversations to delelop the plot. However, they could just as easily be talking with each other. In the end, Poirot doesn't bring about the solution to the problem; he simply witnesses it. He plays the part of the beneficent father figure. But, if one needs a sounding board for the thoughts going through their minds, it may as well be Christie's most popular detective as anybody else. And, there is very likely a very good reason for adding him to the story: money. I would imagine, though I have no evidence of this beyond the very-convincing circumstantial, that a Poirot novel sold more copies than a non-Poirot novel. So slap his name on the cover, by all means. He certainly does no harm, unless you happen to loathe him.

Another favorite character, who appears with Poirot from time to time, is Ariandne Oliver. She's in Cards on the Table, but she makes a much more colorful appearance in Mrs. McGinty's Dead. What I love about Ariadne is that she seems to be a caricature of Mrs. Christie herself. A flighty, nonsensical writer of mystery novels who talks a lot and has a comical affection for apples. She also hates her main character. My favorite quote from the book: "'How do I know?' said Mrs. Oliver crossly. 'How do I know why I ever thought of the revolting man? I must have been mad! Why a Finn when I know nothing about Finland? Why a vegetarian? Why all the idiotic manerisms he's got? These things just happen. You try something – and people seem to like it – and then you go on – and before you know where you are, you've got someone like that maddening Sven Hjerson tied to you for life. And people even write and say how fond you must be of him. Fond of him? If I met that bony, gangling, vegetable-eating Finn in real life I'd do a better murder than any I've ever invented.'"

Through Ariadne Oliver, Christie seems to be making fun of herself and her readers at the same time. (In Greek mythology Ariadne is the daughter of Minos who helps Theseus find his way out of the Labyrinth. Could there be a deeper reason for Christie's choosing this name?) And yet, ever-faithful to her readers, she continued writing his novels. He appears in The Hollow, which is more or less his 24th novel out of 35, which doesn't count the numerous short stories. Christie could, and did, write other things – though mysteries seem to be her strong point. Even then, she has other sleuths. But, she always came back to Poirot because that's what her fans wanted.

I'm enjoying experiencing the development of Poirot more than I expected to. I was never too fond of him in the first place, but at least I'm in agreement with the author on that point.

Thank you for your time.


Monday, December 17, 2012

Arguments I Cannot Win – Men's Hats Inside

December 17, 2012

Second installment of my Arguments I Cannot Win theme. Why is it rude TODAY for a man to wear a hat indoors?

There are a plethora of reasons why the sentiment originated, but all of the ones I can think of do not seem to apply today.

Things to consider:

  • Men do cover their heads in a Jewish synagogue to show respect.
  • Men remove their hats in a Christian church to show respect.
  • Everybody wears a hat on a construction site to avoid a concussion.
  • Men who have been wearing a cap have hat-head and their hair doesn't look its best.
  • People don't make a habit of throwing sewage out their window any more, nor do many men wear top-hats very often unless they're on Broadway.

So, why the rule? Honestly, It's rare that I hear anybody mention it any more, but periodically it will come up and nobody has been able to give me a good reason except to say that it's rude, and that in and of itself is the reason. It's rude to fart in public because it's offensive (olfactorily speaking), but a hat isn't hurting anybody.

My usual exhaustive research led me to threads in which people left their opinions – at about 50% for each side – and articles on etiquette, which don't bother with the why's, just being very specific about the rules. (In an elevator in an apartment building the hat comes off, in an elevator in a public building the hat stays on, unless a woman is present in which case it comes off until entering the hall because then you are 1) in a public space again and 2) walking.

I, for one, think it's silly and it needs to go away, and I don't even wear a hat that often. Of course, I have no hope or desire to enter any society that is above the ones just above those who sit on sofas on their front porch and wear house shoes to the grocery store.

Thank you and have a good day.


Monday, December 10, 2012

Self Discovery

December 10, 2012

There comes a time in every gay man's life when he discovers that he's a bitch. This realization, for me, did not come as a surprise, nor did it bother me particularly. I've always considered myself a very friendly person, and most of my friends will tell me the same. There's more to being a bitch, however, than being unfriendly. It's a deeper state of being. Come to think of it, people have been telling me for years that I'm a bitch. I suppose I had to come to this in my own time.

After living by myself for 2 years I've decided that I like living by myself. I suppose if I were to cohabit again, I could make it work as long as I had, as Virginia Woolf suggested, a room of my own. I've gotten used to my space and my own ambiance. I've grown accustomed to my own pattern of life. And now I've grown old and I'm afraid that I'm stuck in my ways.

I hate television. I abhor television. This is something that started before I moved out of my parents' home. The habit of my family, as with 99% of the people I know, is to have the television on. They wake up and turn the television on. They come home and turn the television on. They used to come into the living room – this was before having televisions in every room in the house, including the bathrooms, was a reality for most families – as I was saying they'd come into the living room, turn the television on and promptly leave the room. It just had to be on.

I think my negative feelings began when I was trying to learn to play the piano and one was only allowed to practice if the television was not on. Having the television on at all times was at odds with what I was trying to accomplish. That was the first time I considered how odd it was to turn it on and leave the room. It's the first time I really noticed. And trying to struggle against that was futile. My family accepted my and my brother's being gay much more easily than they ever accepted the fact that I wanted to turn the television off.

Fast forward to years later when I was trying to date somebody and he, also, has every television he owns turned on at all times, whether he's home or not. I learned something else about myself: television sucks my brain out. He would be talking to me and I would be staring at the television completely absorbed in a sitcom that I find revolting. Commercials, documentaries, sitcoms, movies... it doesn't matter. Something about the television captures my attention and doesn't allow me any bandwidth for personal conversations. He has actually demonstrated this phenomenon to his friends, saying something to me in front of a television as I stare unblinking at the moving colors and sounds of a commercial for prescription medication aimed at helping people who have restless legs and not enough sense to take 2 Advil.

So, now I live alone in an almost televisionless environment. I own a television for the first time in my life and every few months I'll turn it on. Mostly I have it to watch movies. Anyway, I was out of town this past weekend and sharing a hotel room with nameless. I woke up first and took a shower. I could hear the television as I was rinsing off. When I got out he went to take a shower and left me alone with that electronic brain-sucker. The show he had landed on was one in which F.B.I. agents feel that they can describe to local authorities the personality of a person who is committing heinous crimes so that the local authorities – with the help of said F.B.I. agents – can apprehend the perpetrator. Rather than turning the television off while I had the opportunity I sat on the bed in front of it watching the graphic detail of the show's portrayal of victims being tied up and held in a dark, damp place awaiting their inevitable fate, which they've already witness with the previous unfortunate persons – a fate involving humiliation, sexual obsession and slow and painful death. Frankly, I think the people who write and produce shows like this are far more disturbed mentally than any criminal that has ever been prosecuted and the fact that people watch them speaks volumes about our society as a whole and not in a good way. Plus, the television's volume WAS SET TO VERY LOUD SO THAT ALL OF THE INCREDULOUSLY HORRIFIED SCREAMING AND DESPERATE CRIES FOR HELP WERE REVERBERATING OFF THE WALLS.

All of this before my first cup of coffee.

So, when we got to the place we were going and nameless went to the other room to be a part of a church service put on by artists and which was – from what I gather from the people who attended – a very touching and motivational talk, I stayed behind and listened to my Christmas music playing softly as I nursed my first cup of coffee in the quiet bliss of a large hall devoid of other people.

My point, and I do have one, is that it would seem that I am the one who is not like the others. It's eArnie Painter who is different and unusual for not enjoying having a television blasting first thing in the morning, much less on a program of such graphic and horrible subject matter. And, I wasn't particularly friendly for a while. I have come to accept that I'm set in my ways, I don't want to change them and that this probably means that I'm a bitch and I'm really okay with that.

Now I'm alone, enjoying a cup of coffee in Corporate Coffee Shop and It's rather peaceful watching people do what they do.

I'll write more later.


Monday, December 3, 2012

Ask the Editor – Christmas vs. Xmas

Because I'm working my poor little self to death these days and haven't had time to sit in a coffee shop furtively watching other people interact with each other while I drink my coffee with the lid off so that I can indulge both my olfactory and my gustatory senses I haven't had the time to post anything here. It's not that I haven't wanted to. At night I long to go – the next day – to a coffee shop and sit still and watch. I think of things to write about during the day, but I don't have time to even write down the ideas.

But, Christmas is upon us. So, I thought I'd present this episode of the oh-so-popular Ask the Editor series. Christmas vs. Xmas.



Saturday, November 24, 2012

Good Luck Grill

Quickie post,

A place I love to eat is the Good Luck Grill in Manor, TX. I learned about it when I lived in Elgin. I will still drive out there to meet Nameless for dinner periodically. They have some of the best catfish I've ever had. (If you're not into catfish they have great chiliburgers and chicken-fried steak.)

Fried Catfish, coleslaw, and a chili cheeseburger peaking out from behind the paper. And fries.
I think it's fun to have a place to drive to for dinner – a little "out of the way, but worth it" kind of place.

That is all for now.


Saturday, November 17, 2012

Rosa de Hiroshima

I came across this song much in the same way I came across the song for which this blog is named. I knew a man from Brazil and he introduced me to the singer Ney Matogrosso. It was actually a different song he wanted me to hear when he lent me the album – a greatest hits album. Of course, I listened to the hell out of that other song (Tem Que Rebolar) which his cousin would dance the hell out of when he got drunk. Oh, those crazy Brazilians. But, I listened to the whole CD and Rosa de Hiroshima caught my attention.

Then tragedy struck. Due to the disparity of civil rights in this country my friend was given a 5th-class ticket back to Brazil and there was nothing I could do about it. (We had dated I would certainly have married him if that had been an option.) But alas, it was not to be. I have spoken to him on the phone and we still communicate via email, but the CD in question remains in my possession.

I pulled the CD out the other day to listen to Tem Que Rebolar, and I remembered this first song on the CD. It is hauntingly beautiful. Reading the title, one doesn't have to speak Portuguese to know that it's Rose of Hiroshima. I speak some Spanish, so I can follow along a little. But, listen to it with an ear that doesn't understand the words. It's just amazing.

As usual I did my exhaustive research (I looked the song up on Wikipedia) and the only article I could find was in Portuguese. I was impressed that I understood it, most of it anyway.The song began its life as a poem. The poem was written by a rascal named Vinícius de Moraes, who, from what I gather, married 9 times, was known as O poetinha and was an integral part of the birth of Bossa Nova, along with Tom Jobim and João Gilberto. (I have also begun to explore Bossa Nova and I'm familiar with these other two gentlemen.) Quite the Bohemian, O peotinha was, working in music, literature – including poetry – and theater.

As a song, it was released in 1973 on the debut album of Secos & Molhados, featuring Ney Matogrosso as lead singer with his oddly soprano voice. It was a cry for peace in the nuclear age. (I'm of the generation that remembers thinking that any day the leaders of the nations were going to "press the button" and start a nuclear war, annihilating civilization as we know it.) It was released in an era of dictatorship in Brazil and ended up being one of the most-played songs of the year. They were rebels with a cause.

Watching the video one can't help but be distracted by the flamboyance of the singer. (Freddie Mercury had nothing on Ney Matogrosso.) But, just like Freddie, I can't help but be captivated by his talent as a singer and an artist. One can feel the message just from the aesthetics. Its beauty goes beyond the manifest. There is something about it, some underlying quality that defies expression with words. After listening to it a few times I felt it more than heard it. This live version is even better than the studio recording on the CD that I have. I can see that he's been on stage singing a while – he's covered in sweat. This song is slow. As the flute leads the introduction Ney covers his face with his arms and then opens up into the song. He has my heart, my soul in his hand as he sings slowly, deliberately in his soprano voice that just floats along with the flute. Then, after listening to it several times and I began to understand the words, they stabbed me in the heart. They exhort us to think, to think about the people affected, in harsh detail. And then the song ends, leaving me to die in the last lingering instrumental notes.

This is a song. This is art.


Sunday, October 28, 2012

Glass Milk Bottle

October 28, 2012

It's the little things. Like a milk bottle made in Spain out of recycled glass.

I was feeling stir-crazy after being at home by myself all day long, so I stepped out to hunt down my most recent obsession. I had seen one of these the other day while looking for something else. Then last night something in my mind started telling me that it HAD to have this. That I must have this or I cannot go on. I fought it for a while, but when cabin fever joined the battle against me I lost.

I know that many detractors will say horrible things about my actually using it, but it's glass and it's cool and I'm okay with it. Plus, it makes me happy.

Thank you.


Friday, October 26, 2012

Random Photo Day – Statue of Mary

Random photo day that happens to end up on a Friday. This is a statue of Mary at St. Thomas More Catholic Church in Austin, TX – my parish. I've tried several times to get there with the right light. Finally, I've accepted that I'm not going to get there just before sunup ever, so here's what I have. It's a lovely little spot to do the Rosary. There's even a sign asking people to be quiet because it's a prayer area.



Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Chemical Sensitivity

I would like to take a moment to discuss an issue that has been weighing on my mind. I've thought about writing about it for a while, but not until this past weekend did I feel such an urgent need to do so.

There is a portion of the population living among us with a certain disability. I'm trying to watch my words in spite of myself. I mean, there is a controversy as to what to call this issue, even as to its very validity. And that's where I am in disagreement with a great number of other people. I have seen with my eyes the effects, and I refuse to believe that it is all in their heads.

The issue at hand is Chemical Sensitivity, or Multiple Chemical Sensitivity, as many sources seem to refer to it. We live our lives exposed to untold numbers of synthetic chemicals  most of which we don't notice. However, there are people who are more sensitive to them than others. There are people who are sensitive to the point of its being debilitating. They find it difficult, if not impossible, to function in a world full of these. In reading about it, I have found that commonly cited irritants are cigarette smoke, pesticides, plastics, perfumes – including scented products – gasoline/exhaust and paint.

I have a friend who has chemical sensitivity. She has been living with this since the 1970's. The things listed above are precisely what she has complained about. (Okay, she harps on the dangers of plastic, but I haven't heard her say specifically that it causes a reaction for her.) I'll give you a small background of her story.

She is an artist. She found herself living in San Francisco (or that general vicinity) and she began to help a friend with dying silk scarves. Her friend had been doing it a while, and found that she couldn't keep up. So, my friend began to do the dying portion of it; taking the scarves and dipping them into the liquid that contained the dye. The dye got into her skin and into her body. She started getting sick, and then Very Sick Indeed. She stayed with a friend and then decided that since clearly she was going to die she'd go back home to family and die with them instead of doing so in a friend's house.

That started a new life for her, one in which she has learned to boost her immune system with vitamins and healthier living and to avoid perfumes and vehicle exhaust at all cost. She lived with an oxygen tank for close to 19 years and has strengthened herself to the point that she can get by without it, though the occasional reaction does require that she use a kindly EMS's oxygen to get herself back on her feet.

She describes the problem as a stretching and freezing of the facial muscles, which causes her speech to be impaired, making it difficult to communicate to anybody what's going on. (Not that they would really understand what she was talking about even if she were able to say it.) This progresses to her diaphragm moving erratically, which makes it difficult if not impossible to breathe. All the while she's losing her ability to think clearly and she'll end up collapsing without realizing she's done so. She has described many, many occasions in which she's had to crawl out of a room or building.

This past weekend I witnessed the first phase. She was around perfume for longer than she should have been and her face looked like she had a mask on. I even had to say, "You're not kidding, are you?" It was unreal. Her upper lip was pulled down, closing the nostrils and it was stretched all the way down. It looked like her face was turning inside-out. She explained to me what was going on, but without the use of her upper lip and with her nostrils closed it was difficult. This happened several times that day; I'd see her walking outside with her mask on. The experience haunted my mind for days. It still does. I couldn't sleep that night. What's worse is that I only saw the superficial part of it, the least dangerous. She told me that it was only the first phase and it was not as urgent as all that because she was able to get to fresh air, and her face did clear up almost immediately when she was outside.

But, if that disturbed me so deeply, imagine living with it for 30 years. Thirty years of avoiding crowds, buses, churches, anywhere where there might be perfume. Avoiding exhaust in a world full of cars and trucks. Avoiding letting somebody into your car to change the oil because he might leave residual cologne in the air and on the steering wheel. And all of this doesn't even touch on the things that affect her digestive system, and her skin and other parts of the body – the pesticides in the grass and on the food, the chemicals in synthetic plastics and fabrics around food, clothing, furniture and everything else we take for granted... it boggles the mind how much we allow ourselves to be exposed to every waking minute of the day.

The American Medical Association doesn't seem to want to acknowledge the problem as real, but the CDC has taken steps in response. The last time my friend was in a hospital the nurse there told her that they hadn't been allowed to wear cologne in years. According to The Chemical Sensitivity Foundation, HUD considers MCS to be a disability w/r/t housing. (My friend has had to struggle to find a place to live that she could tolerate – without treated wood and without pesticides sprayed regularly, etc.)

What can we take from this little story? First of all, please be aware that there are people who truly are more sensitive to chemicals than the rest of us. It's not in their heads. (I read about a small surge in the issue due to the air at the time of 911 and due to the Gulf Wars.) Second, take a minute to consider everything that you allow yourself to be exposed to. It's kind of disturbing if you stop and think about it, but we should at least be aware.

If you are interested in reading more, the website for The Chemical Sensitivity Foundation is

Thank you.


Thursday, October 4, 2012

Random Photo Day – Dallas Arboretum

October 4, 2012

This past spring we were in Dallas and we were going to go to the Kimball Art Museum, but my friend, Glo, suggested we go to the Arboretum because it was in full bloom. Of course, I didn't have my camera, but I borrowed one. And, it was full daylight, but you do what you can with what you have.

This is a tulip from one of the many gardens they have. It is definitely worth a trip there, especially in the springtime.



Monday, October 1, 2012

Random Photo Day

October 1, 2012

So, I've noticed a trend in the blogs that I stalk: Photo Friday. Well, it's not Friday, but I can post a photo. It lacks alliteration, but I think I make up for it in being different. Maybe I'll call it Random Photo Day. When I have nothing better to say I'll pull a photo out.

Another thing, I'm not a photographer. I love to take pictures, and I'll post some of my own, but my niece is a MUCH better photographer (and she has a MUCH nicer camera than I), so I'm going to post one of her pictures and see if I don't get shot, sued or taunted.

Here's a shot that she took in the rain. It's not recent, but rain doesn't go out of style.


Grass in the Rain, by Roslyn Guerrero
In the Rain     –Roslyn Guerrero


Saturday, September 29, 2012

Arguments I Cannot Win – DST

September 29, 2012

There are some arguments that I will never win. That doesn't keep me from advancing them. I present them to my friends and coworkers, none of whom are in the position to change anything. But, I gotta say something!

Daylight Savings Time

Now, don't get me wrong, I appreciate getting home in the daylight. My only question is, why do we lie to ourselves? I think it's a good idea, so let's get Wall Street and banks to open and close an hour earlier every day. America will follow. I suggested this to one coworker and she immediately objected that she didn't want to get up earlier. I sat looking at her with a straight face until she realized that she was, indeed, getting up earlier. She was just lying to herself about it, so it's okay.

And, why just during the summer when there's already more daylight anyway? Let's do it year-round. We need it more in the winter time, anyway. It's actually a little traumatic to go OFF of DST and get home in the darkness. Reality doesn't have to be sad; we can just all adjust our schedules ONE TIME and leave it that way. Even as it gets darker earlier it will be gradual and not the shock we experience every autumn, which is depressing enough as it is.

My brother lived in Costa Rica and he told me that they would sporadically observe DST. He said he would see campaigns reminding everybody to change their clocks, and people would scoff at the absurdity of the idea... and then not do it. How do you convince a nation full of intelligent people to pretend it's an hour earlier than it is? He also told me that it gets dark at 6PM every day of the year. So what would be the point of bouncing back and forth anyway? I do not know the current DST situation in that country, but 6PM is a terribly early time to get dark. They should definitely do things early.

I cannot find a definitive answer about this, even though I looked online for at least 3 minutes. I saw the suggestion that an essay by Ben Franklin brought it up, and that it was originally used as an energy-saving device. After that, I think this is one of those things that continue simply because it placates the masses, and God knows that the masses must be kept happy and spendy.

So, I think it's a good idea to move everything an hour earlier. I think it's a good idea to get home after a day at work while it's still light out. I think it's an idea that we should embrace, accept and acknowledge, rather than lying to ourselves.

Respectfully submitted,


Thursday, September 13, 2012

Empieza a llover

Long, long ago
In a land far, far away...

Qué romantico, ¿verdad?

Well, it was a long time ago. I was 21 years old, and now I'm older than 21. The land was, indeed, far away. According to Google maps it is 2,255.5 miles from Austin, TX to San Ramón, Alajuela, Costa Rica. They even give you driving directions if you're interested.

It's raining, I've just left work and now I'm sitting in corporate coffee shop waiting for Nameless to get finished with his haircut so we can go to dinner. I woke up this morning with a strange feeling of contentment. I'm not sure what I did to deserve that, but I'll take it. Now I feel like I'm just kind of drifting along on the edge of a dream, drinking a pumpkin spice latte and enjoying the cooler weather that this week has brought. And I'm enjoying the rain.

So... long, long ago in a land far, far away I was visiting my brother, whom I barely knew, and he was taking me around the beautiful countryside of Costa Rica where he lived. He had a whole circle of friends that we visited at different times. We visited waterfalls and parks and friends and we ate wonderful Costa Rican food and drank Costa Rican coffee, which is just a different beverage than anything I've had before or since.

A few things about that trip are worth mentioning. I was young. And stupid. Costa Rica is a rain forest, which means it rains a lot. Rainy season hadn't officially begun, so it rained slightly less than half the time as opposed to the constant rain for weeks on end that my brother told me about. I love rain, I always have. I had discovered international music (Spanish) and Juan Luis Guerra was all the rage with his Bachata Rosa album. My brother didn't have a car, so we walked and rode buses a lot. I was 22 years old and very naïve with regards to sex and love, and I was gay and somewhat lonely in general. And I had a 32-inch waist.

I met a man named Gustavo. (What the heck; I'll use his name. How many Gustavo’s are there in Costa Rica?) I barely spoke Spanish at the time (which, from what I gathered from my brother, might have actually helped the situation) and we were sitting on a patio of a club in San Jose having drinks and eats. I was doing my best to talk to Gustavo, but I had learned my Spanish from Mexicans and the Costa Rican accent is very different. We talked about music and stuff and nonsense. I do remember mentioning that I had always wanted to be kissed in the rain. I don't know that he took me entirely seriously. I was young, I was naïve and a little silly. But, I was giddy and happy, and free.

Gustavo had dark hair and dark eyes and beautiful full lips and I left him in San Jose when I returned with my brother to the mountain town of San Ramón. But, he came to visit me, he rode a bus and we walked to the station to pick him up. We all hung around the house and played card games, listened to music, ate and lounged, talking during the afternoon rain. (You could set your watch by the afternoon showers.) Later, it cleared up and Gustavo and I sneaked out for some pretext that I don't remember. As we walked through the streets of San Ramón amidst the smell of the food and earth, it began to rain again. I could tell that he was a little wary of making a spectacle, but he put his arms around me in the light rain and he looked me in the eyes, and gently he put his lips on mine, and he kissed me in the rain.

Monday, September 10, 2012


Me, I like to use cast iron when I cook. Somehow that Iron is bound to end up in my food, enriching it just by virtue of having been cooked in an iron pan. For the same reason I don't heat things up in plastic. Those carcinogens are bound to end up in my food, and I have enough going against me as it is. Glass Is Life. (I mean, I wouldn't put cast iron in a microwave.)

It all begins with a little yellow box. Fideo. Mexican vermicelli. The price of the little yellow box was 4/$1.00 when I was in school. The price the other day when I bought a box was 4/$1.00. And, it's been a few years since I was in school; I'm just saying.

So, I lied about it beginning with the little yellow box. Indeed, it is all about said box, but for me it begins with onion, garlic and green chilies. I give the onion a rough cut, white or yellow onion. A few cloves of garlic chopped. I like garlic. Heat a cast iron Dutch oven over medium heat and when it's ready add oil. I generally use corn oil, but feel free to use vegetable or olive oil. When the oil is hot, add the onion and the can of green chilies. Sauté for about 5 minutes then add the garlic. (I like to give the onions and chilies a head start.)

Heat another skillet, add a bit of oil and brown a pound of ground beef, after seasoning it with salt and pepper. Once the ground beef is browned (it doesn't have to be completely cooked at this point; we're going to cook it further later) remove it from the pan, being as conscientious about removing the juices as you please. If you've removed everything then you'll need to add a tad more oil to the skillet and brown the fideo until it's toasted.

Back at our Dutch oven, add a can of tomatoes to the veggies. I break these up with my spatula – the metal kind used for flipping pancakes. When I was in school my mother told me that I would need to learn how to cook with a spoon, and I believed her. I felt that when I grew up I would cook properly, using a spoon, and in the mean time I continued using the spatula. More or less the same way that I believed that when I grew up I would like girls, and while I waited for that transition I continued dreaming about the boys in my class and the male teachers. But, let's face it, my cast iron skillet and Dutch oven are flat on the bottom and the spatula is flat on the end. They match. I can scrape the bottom of the Dutch oven infinitely faster with my flat spatula than I could with a round spoon – the spoon makes very limited contact with the bottom. And about the girl/boy thing... I have since given up on that transition. It was lies, all lies.

So, the tomatoes are cut up; add the fideo, ground beef and a can of beef broth. (Or, if you're really a Susie-Homemaker and you have beef stock in the freezer use that, just have it thawed out when you begin.) I usually add about a half a can more of water to the can, swill it around, pour some into the chili can, swill it around and then pour all of it into the tomato can, swill and pour it into the Dutch oven.

Bring all of this to a boil and then reduce the heat, cover and let cook for about 15 minutes. Or 10, I forget. When you've cooked it, remove the lid, give it a stir, scraping the bottom, unless you've burned it in which case you don't want the burned flavor infusing your food so don't scrape. When it is stirred/scraped, remove it from the heat and cover. Let stand.

Here's the thing. You can eat this after 5 minutes or, you can let it cool, put it in the fridge and eat it hours or a day later. The flavors blend and are enhanced by a little bit of waiting, much like marinara sauce. Leftover fideo tacos with flour tortillas is possibly the best food on earth.

And, that's how I make fideo. Not that you asked.

Thank you for reading. Please check back for further unsolicited recipes.


Sunday, September 9, 2012


September 9, 2012

There's something magic that happens after midnight. I'm not referring to the witching hour, though maybe it's related. Things are different to a mind that is not accustomed to being conscious at that time. It's more than a different frame of mind; it's like a separate reality. Thus it was for me last night when I couldn't sleep and I was listening to K.D. Lang's album, Drag.

I've owned the CD since around 1998 and the first song on it that struck me was The Air That I Breathe. I fell in love with that song immediately. I remember listening to it and literally forgetting to breathe, just listening to her voice carry the tune. When she sang, "Sleep, silent angel, go to sleep," then I'd come back to myself. It is almost a completely different song from the original Hollies' version, and perhaps it transcends comparison. I listened to it... a lot. For that reason I listened to the CD a lot. Some of the other songs kind of sneaked into my brain and sat there waiting. Theme from the Valley of the Dolls I also appreciated almost immediately. The others were just kind of very beautiful Other Songs helping to create a wonderful album.

Several years later, around the time that I went to a funeral for my mother's husband, I began to notice Till the Heart Caves In. "How much is not enough, how much is through? How long will I be getting over you? How much grief and sin, 'til the heart caves in?" That last line struck a cord with me as I watched my mother during the funeral and after.

A few nights ago I noticed that I have become very fond of My Old Addiction. I'm not gonna lie; I skipped over the song more than once. It's very slow. It's very different from your average pop tune. But man, when you're in the right mood the song is AMAZING. I did a little research and learned the origin of the song and that made it even more so. Its original title is Chet Baker's Unsung Swan Song and in it the writer, David Wilcox, tries to capture what was going through the musician's (Chet Baker) mind in the  minutes leading up to his tragic and mysterious death. (He apparently fell from a 2nd story window and hit his head on the concrete. Cocaine and heroine were found in his system.) The song captures the turbulent life and takes us right up to the moment he leans out the window. I hate to use the same word twice in one post, but this song transcends music. I have never experienced a song the way I do this one, now that I've read about its creation.

So, last night when I couldn't sleep I put this song in and listened to it 3 or 4 times while I piddled around on the computer. When I got too occupied to set it to play again, the rest of the album played and eventually Hain't It Funny came on. Up until last night I didn't care for the song. But, last night – after the witching hour – I finally heard the muted trumpet. The song has a magic of its own – Lang's version, anyway, which is the only version I've heard or care to hear. It occurred to me that if I were listening to it as a person who DIDN'T speak English (I love listening to songs in languages that I don't speak or understand) then it would feel completely different. The lyrics aren't bad, but they don't speak to me much. The music and her voice, however, speak volumes. It's reminiscent of Miles Davis. Thanks to the magic of the post-midnight mindset I can appreciate this song in a way I never did before. I sat there at 2 in the morning and played it, then played it again.

It's a very special album that can fascinate you after you've already owned it for fourteen years. If you don't own it, perhaps you should check it out. Keep in mind that some of the songs can grow on you. At least give yourself the opportunity to be moved.


Monday, September 3, 2012

Nostalgic Lies

Seeing the rippled reflection of clouds on water makes me nostalgic for life in the colder climate of Canada. Of course, I've never lived in Canada or even been there, so I don't really know where all this nostalgia is coming from.


Sunday, September 2, 2012

Labor Day 2011

September 2, 2012

News as it happened

This weekend is Labor Day. Last year we were in the middle of a drought and on Labor Day the winds picked up. Fires that might have otherwise been localized spread until they became something like I've never seen. In Bastrop County the fire began as local news with residents evacuating and fire fighters on the scene. Then it grew. The fire department requested help from other fire departments, from helicopters, from anybody who could possibly help with the growing nightmare. In the end 34,000 acres and 1,500 homes burned. Over a million trees were lost. That is only Bastrop County. Steiner Ranch also had fires and the residents had to evacuate. There was a fire in Leander, there was a fire in Pflugerville, there was a fire near Riatta Apartments in Austin, there was a fire in San Antonio. We all sat around wondering where the next was going to hit.

I thank God that I was not harmed, nor any of my property. I remember putting the cat carriers by the door so that in case I had to evacuate I would be ready to round up the cats. (You couldn't be preemptive and go somewhere else like with a hurricane; nobody knew where the next fire would happen.) I carried a packed suitcase in the trunk of my car for days. My younger brother was living with his family in Australia for a few months at the time. He heard the news over there that Steiner Ranch was burning – not terribly far from his home.

It was terrible to not know. To not know where the next fire would start. To smell the scent of smoke and water from miles away and know that it wasn't over. To see haze when you looked out the window. To see all of the people who were out of their home and in shelters, to see people on TV who knew that their homes were gone and to see people who didn't know. To feel the illusion of security draining away.

A year later they are still rebuilding. Organizations like the Bastrop County Long Term Recovery Team are helping people who don't have the resources to rebuild. This year we have had rain and it hasn't been over 100º for a record number of days like last year. But, who can forget how easy it is for everything to go up in smoke? Especially when Colorado has so recently gone through the same thing.

Here's to a better Labor Day 2012.


American Gods

September 2, 2012

American Gods

When I first picked this book up I noticed that I was reading a different kind of novel. I noticed the male hormones dripping out of it when I read. I noticed that it was 'interesting' and other patronizing adjectives and descriptive phrases that I might have used.

About halfway through the book something inside of the pages reached out of the book, grabbed me by the neck and refused to let go. I couldn't sleep; I just wanted to read. I didn't want to cook or eat or anything. It was difficult week at work. (I think I mentioned that I read slow.)

The book is magic. I would be 50 pages from the end. Then the next time I picked it up I would be 100 pages from the end. Then I'd read and read and read and I'd be 90 pages from the end. It's like I was reading in place. It's a long book!

But, I kept having to go back and reread things that I had read because they come up again. There are so many sublime phrases in there, so many things said. Then, one of them will come back to the protagonist and I'd have to go back and reread. This is when a Nook – and its search feature – come in handy. Don't get me wrong, I love books on display in my home and I love to feel the paper in my fingers, but I also love to click on a word and look it up in the dictionary (though sometimes Nook's dictionary uses the same root word in its definition, which we were taught in school never to do) and I like to be able to search a word and easily go to where it is printed in the book.

But, about the book. It was captivating. I was forced to learn some mythology and vocabulary. Gaiman is inordinately fond of the word 'diorama', which might be one of those things that mean something that I didn't catch. The book is full of things that mean something, but that I didn't catch until later when it was pointed out. Maybe the excessive dioramas are – collectively – something that he left unexplained, something to be appreciated by those who are bright enough to understand.

I mentioned before that it was Gaiman's introduction that actually brought me in. He writes about having written the book, having it go through the editors and as a 10th anniversary thing he was allowed to put back in what seems to be about 12,000 words. He didn't say that the book reverted back to its original form; he seems to have agreed with a lot of the edits. He just feels that the book is better this way than without those particular parts. It is long this way. It has 560 pages. That's a lot of pages for a slow reader. The average Agatha Christie has around 200 or less.

And, much like the movie Memento I feel the need to go back and read it again now.

I very much recommend this book.


Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Inspired by Stuff On My Cat (.com)

They were not amused (??)

I have inadvertently put a box everywhere that I might be in my apartment so that no matter where I am, Anastasia is in a box near me.

And now she had a doggie salt shaker on her, which was donated to me by Emancipet. (Odd that a non-profit donated something to me, but I didn't ask questions. I just went with it.)

Good night.


Monday, August 27, 2012

That's the kind of crazy I am this year

August 27, 2012

Here I am sitting on my patio, drinking coffee and reading. My cats hung around, ate grass, now they're lounging on the concrete under the stairs. It's really nice. I like that I decided to stop spending so much time and money in the corporate coffee shop. I like being home.

Or, do I? I'm sitting on the patio. It's 90º. I'm drinking hot coffee. Yet, I'm outside because that's just the kind of crazy I am this year.

I've always kind of unconsciously avoided being at home. I mean, this dates back to the first time I had an apartment. Odd that I'd pay money every month for a place I didn't want to be. For a while I couldn't sleep on my bed; I could only sleep on my sofa. I don't know. Perhaps I'm claustrophobic. I don't entirely understand it, but it seems to be going away slowly, on its own.


But, here are a couple of pictures of my patio/porch.

Anastasia keeping an eye on things

Sunday, August 26, 2012

BYRC – Appointment with Death

August 26, 2012

I have read all of the Miss Marple books I could find and now I'm working my way through the Hercule Poirot series. It just so happened that the next book on my list was Appointment with Death, which was published in 1938, so it qualified for the Birth Year Reading Challenge. It's kind of cheating because the challenge is supposed to introduce us to books we wouldn't have otherwise read, and clearly I was about to read this one anyway. But, oh well.

The story itself is 178 pages on my Nook, and the Nook is generally comparable to actual books w/r/t the number of pages. The publisher fills up the rest of the 209 pages with a list of Poirot books, snippets about the books and an "essay" by Charles Osborne, which was actually a list of facts about the book and its subsequent appearances on stage and screen. It was taken from a biographical companion to the works of Agatha Christie. I realize that I put far too much of my personal reactions in book reviews that I write, but that was just entirely too dry. (It was a little informative, though.)

In this novel Christie incorporates a dominant matriarch who is actually a "mental sadist". This sort of character is commonplace now, especially in TV, but I don't know how common it was in 1938. I did deep, in-depth research on the subject (I read the Wikipedia article on the book) and I did not find any reference to this aspect one way or another, so I can't report how edgy Christie was in writing about dangerously deranged people. (I'm trying not to be offended that the sadist is American.)

As usual Poirot interviews the suspects, but this time I couldn't help wondering why they agreed to be interviewed. I mean, I wouldn't have answered his questions; I wouldn't even have answered his summons to the interview. He didn't have any authority. A couple of the girls looked at him with pleading eyes, but why would they plead with this person who was not an official detective, when the real detective wasn't even present? Why would they collectively agree to gather together in the end with him so that he could reveal who did it? I don't remember ever feeling this way with the other Poirot novels, so I suspect that Christie didn't do as good a job this time of justifying it.

Not only that, I didn't want him to find the answer. She did a good enough job of creating the dominant, sadistic mother/bitch that I wanted him to keep his Belgian nose and his luxurious moustaches out of the family's business. Even the ending didn't satisfy me in this respect; it did not justify – in my eyes – his interference.

Christie married an archæologist in 1930 and from what I understand her experiences with him led to this novel – its location, anyway. I enjoyed her description of Petra and it seems accepted that it is accurate. In the snippets of her Autobiography that I read she shows acute interest in archeology and a longing for the Middle East whenever she left it.

I also read that she learned to hate Poirot, but was faithful to her readers and kept writing about him as long as they kept enjoying him, which was all of her life. I much prefer Miss Marple, though there are far fewer of her novels than of M. Poirot. I think I'm okay with that. Her Marple novels seem much more involved, especially with regard to character development. Christie wrote her first Poirot novel (indeed her first novel) in 1916. (It was published in 1920.) Published in 1938, Appointment with Death is her 16th Poirot novel, which doesn't even count the 4 novellas and many short stories. I can't help feeling that she's tired of him by now.

I read this Novel basically in one day. I enjoyed it, partly because it was not too taxing while I lay on the sofa drinking coffee. I have no real love for Poirot, but I do have a love for Christie's writing style and the whodunit nature of her books. I enjoyed the scenery she paints, even if I wasn't as fond of these characters that she used to paint it.

Thus concludes my review of the first book I read on my Birth Year Reading Challenge. Next up, I believe, is Are You There, God? It's me, Margaret.

More later,


Monday, August 20, 2012

Birth Year Reading Challenge

August 20, 2012

I stumbled across this (I didn't StumbleUpon™ it, I just stumbled across it in the old fashioned way) on a blog called 'Wednesday Book Club'. It sounds like a good challenge, plus it will point me in a new direction as far as reading goes  – one that I probably would not have gone on my own. You can read the ins and outs about it on the link above.

Birth Year: 1970

There are some wonderful books from this year. I had no idea that some of them were as old as I. The Judy Blume, for instance. Who would have thought that that young adult book was 42 years old? I know I like Ruth Rendell. (I already read Agatha Christie, which applies to the next section as well.) Oliver Sacks is fun anyway. Toni Morrison – I've read Beloved so I think this would be a good book to follow up with. We are allowed to alter the list, so I might do that, especially depending on the availability of some of the titles. For the moment, though, here's my plan:

Are You There, God? It's Me, Margaret – Judy Blume
Passenger to Frankfurt – Agatha Christie
A Guilty Thing Surprised – Ruth Rendell
The Bluest Eye – Toni Morrison
The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat – Oliver Sacks
If Only They Could Talk – James Herriot


My mother's birth year. (Forgive me for spilling the beans, Mom.) Like I said earlier, I'm already working my way through the Agatha Christies. I haven't read P.G. Wodehouse and this is as good a reason as any.

Mr. Popper's Penguins – Richard Atwater
Appointment with Death – Agatha Christie
The Code of the Woosters – P.G. Wodehouse

This is 9 books. I believe I can do this in 5 months. As I said I might have to adjust depending on availability, and the actual substance of the books. I'm not in the market right now for a 700 page novel.

But, I'm excited about this game and I look forward to completing my list, even if that means taking days off from work to finish. :-D

I'll keep you posted.


More Dictionary Fun

August 20, 2012

Actually, my favorite segment of Ask the Editor is called Octopi. This is where I really began to enjoy watching these videos. I looked for it on YouTube and it's kind of amazing to see the strong feelings people have about this. I mean, there are people like me who say ♫ ♥♥ I love this Video! ♪ ♥ and then there are some very strong opinions about whether or not Ms. Stamper is correct. She has an advantage in that she is actually an associate editor for Merriam-Webster so her credentials are already kind of established. She also has in her favor the fact that she is entertaining – especially in this video – while most of the other people leaving comments simply sounded bitter. One way or another, though, I suppose it's worth it if this program inspires dialogue about words and language.

I have to admit that Octopus is not my favorite word, but her presentation of the word makes up for it. Who would have thought that a linguist would have so much personality? (Well, I would because I know some, but in general who would have thought?)



Saturday, August 18, 2012

Thrift Store Heaven

August 18, 2012

Yesterday I went to meet up with Nameless and Patricia. You may remember them from my experience at The Oasis. Well, my friend, Sarah Fisch, posted on her Facebook that she was eating Pollo Pibil in Los Angeles and that caused me to crave Cochinita Pibil. There is only one restaurant that I know of in Austin that makes this and it's called Azul Tequila; on Lamar and Ben White (next to Target). So, I called Nameless and informed him that we needed to go there to eat soon. He said that Patricia had already expressed interest in getting together for dinner because she was going to be in town. So, things were loosely arranged.

I met up with Patricia at the corporate coffee shop on Anderson Lane near MoPac. We broke out my new netbook, which I am currently writing on, and searched around for galleries and other goings-on. Nameless had suggested going to thrift stores, possibly because every time he calls me on a Sunday I'm at Goodwill browsing.

It turns out, Patricia is the absolute queen of thrift stores. She didn't even need the computer when it came to that topic; she IS the database, complete with ratings – her own and her friends'.

We got a late start, from a thrift-store-shopping point of view. Next-to-New closed at 4 pm. I demanded that since they are in a service industry they should stay open later than that. She told me to take it up with the Episcopalians. So, we slipped over to Savers. It was more or less like a Goodwill, which means that you never know what's going to be there. I found a raku piece and two other pieces of hand-thrown pottery – two small glasses. The two others were by the same artist and he/she seems to be more advanced as a ceramics artist.

Then we went to Top Drawer. I have been seeing this place since I've lived in Austin and I had never been in there. Wow! What a place! I saw a Japanese figurine that I thought my sister would love. He was only $6.  While we were growing up my mother had two little statues that seem to be in the same style, and I thought that Lottie had them now. I sent her an image of him and then called her. She happened to be in the middle of an anxiety attack so I talked to her for a while. Then, when she saw the picture her voice changed and I felt that she genuinely liked him. Guess what. He was half off! $3!! She doesn't have the other two, but she will now have this one. He's missing a hand, but after 8 children all of my mother's things are chipped and missing limbs and digits.

Japanese Figurine from Top Drawer

Nameless found a set of 9 Mikasa cup/saucers. $1 apiece after the markdown. They also had a set of 4 Wedgewood cup and saucers. I was tempted to get them just because, but I wasn't in love with them and $35 is $35. Nameless also found two nice frames made of Birdseye wood (this is according to him and Patricia). They are very nice frames. I told him I'd buy them for him, but he told me to buy them for me. I have them; we'll see what we do with them.

We did end up at Goodwill – the one on Lamar and 2222. It was kind of a let-down after Top Drawer, but Patricia was having more fun. She found a glass bowl for water for her cats. I found a piece of ceramic, which I believe is a Tim Farmer original. It's a pancake bowl; it has a handle and a spout to pour the batter onto a griddle. I don't usually find 4 pieces of hand-thrown ceramics in the same day.

Afterward we went to La Palapa for dinner. (Azul Tequila was very far and they were very hungry.) After dinner we went to Whole Foods in downtown, which is our regular dessert place. We headed straight to the back and Nameless and Patricia got what they always share – a chocolate-lined edible shell with cream in the bottom and mixed berries on top. I got what I always get, a crème brûlée. They put fresh berries on top just because they love me. I think that this is a wonderful tradition. We ate outside under a wooden cover next to what would be a water course, if they had water running through it.

On the way back we stopped at Wheatsville so Patricia could go grocery shopping. I had been there before, but suddenly I saw it with new eyes. That place kind of rocks. I'm definitely going to have to go back and check out their bulk rice selection and their produce. Nameless found some cream that helped the calluses on his hands. He didn't buy it, but he sampled the hell out of it. I'll probably get him some when I'm in there next. It's not cheap, but it's good stuff. Their dishwasher recommended it, and that's a recommendation worth taking when it comes to hand-cream.

I like our little adventures. I love having friends who enjoy doing things like this, and it was Patricia's turn to shine. She knows her way around thrift stores and Wheatsville.

Raku Piece from Savers

Two Ceramic Glasses from Savers

Tim Farmer Pancake Bowl – Goodwill

Frames from the Top Drawer

Details of Frames

I'll write more later. Until then I remain,

Yours truly,


Tuesday, August 14, 2012

American Gods

August 14, 2012

A new kind of book. My Nook recommended a book to me a long time ago and I'm just getting around to reading it. It seemed good, and it still seems like a good book. It's intriguing. However, after I've read for a while I have to get up and wash the testosterone off my hands. The other day at the corporate coffee shop I had to wring it out of my shirt; the book was dripping virile hormone while I read. I guess I've been reading Agatha Christie and chick flick books too long. I'm not used to this. The main character's name is Shadow and the book opens with him getting out of jail. That should give you a good idea.

But, the title of the book indicates something, and the blurbs hint at a supernatural quality. It's interesting in its own way. The version I'm reading is the 10th anniversary edition. Apparently, the author was allowed to put back in some text that had been edited previously. He – Neil Gaiman – wrote an introduction describing the writing of it, and the opportunity to revisit it. That's what caught my attention more than anything.

It's dark; it's brooding. It's humorous in a disturbing and sinister sort of way. So far, it's not an action-packed thriller. That's not what I meant by testosterone. Relevant and prescient, American Gods has been lauded for its brilliant synthesis of “mystery, satire, sex, horror, and poetic prose” (Michael Dirda, Washington Post Book World). It's not a light book that I can read on a Saturday afternoon while I neglect laundry. This one engages the mind quite a bit more and holds my attention.

I had to be in the right mood for something like this, but I'm enjoying it. I needed to get away from my rut and experience new literature.

More later,


Sunday, August 12, 2012

Mothers are the Necessity of Invention

August 13, 2012

Yesterday morning I went shopping. I suppose that the order in which I go to stores plays a part in my overall shopping experience. I began at Kohls because I have a coupon (30%!) and because I knew more or less what I wanted. On my way home I remembered that I needed 8 beach balls for an event with some guys from church the next morning (this morning) so I decided to go to the HEB Plus, rather than my nice little HEB grocery store around the corner from my apartment because they'd be more likely to have beach balls.

Once I got inside the store I was greeted by their electronics department. Why a grocery store needs an electronics department I'll never know; especially when there's a Best Buy so close with whom they can't hope to compete. But, the racket and lights from that section greeted me as I walked by with my basket. I saw a bin of movies for $6.99 and up, and I glanced through them. Mostly they were sequels of formulaic movies that I wouldn't have cared for in the first place, but it doesn't hurt to look. As I continued along my way I was getting jostled by the people in there. I suppose a huge grocery store on Saturday I should expect to be busy, and I would have actually expected it to be busier.

I started to look for the beach balls first so that I wouldn't forget them. (I am I, after all.) I looked through their seasonal stuff and I saw floating things to go on kids' arms and other air-related items, but I couldn't find beach balls. That was irritating and it was more irritating that I couldn't find anybody to help me.

At the meat market there is a small kitchen and the chef there has a microphone and she was VERY excited about what they were cooking that day. I don't think that I'm just being too sensitive when I say that she was being too pushy;she was definitely too loud. I managed to get around to the ground beef and as I was looking for what I wanted two different people stepped in front of me to pick something out. As I walked through the store looking for the rest of the things on my list I was passing endcaps and bins of marked down movies and toys and a TV set up in the middle of the aisle playing new releases that they had on sale and I just needed a few things like napkins and cream and ground beef, but every time turned around there was some display screaming at me visually and the music and occasional announcements screaming at me literally. Employees were offering samples, which is nice enough, but they rather blocked the flow of people. I began to imagine a sinister Disney-type movie with the staff and products in the store singing and dancing for my attention and everybody wanting me to have a good time with this or that new electronics product, whether I wanted it or not, and I was getting pushed around and clinging to my basket as ear phones danced in front of me, twirling arm-in-arm with video games, all the while taunting me because I'm not cool enough to spend my hard-earned money on the latest gadgets and shiny things. In the cartoon in my mind I kept saying that I just needed a few things on my list, while some insipid product tried to grab my hand. An austere looking older woman with a triangular face said darkly to the man beside her, "Get that list."

I stopped at the deli to get sliced turkey breast and people were pushing past me, walking in front of me without any consideration while talking with each other very loudly over the general noise pollution. Kids were running around, literally running. There were people waiting at the deli for help, but not too many, especially for a Saturday; and people behind the counter were actually very nice – not like Julio at my little HEB who knows what kind of meat I like and how I like it cut and who likes to suggest different types of meat for me to try and who will shake my hand when he sees me on this side of the counter – but they were pleasant enough.

I finally found somebody to help me with the beach balls. It turns out they were where I had originally looked; I just couldn't see them between all of the other recreational floating devises. There weren't lines to speak of at the registers – thank God because I might have had to leave my basket. The cashier asked if I needed anything else and I told her a glass of wine and a Xanax. She gave a small explosive laugh and I was on my way. In the car on my way home the first song I heard was Cough Syrup, by Young the Giant. It seemed strangely appropriate. Go listen to it.

All I could think of on the way home is that they are going to tear down my little HEB and open an HEB Plus in its place and this is all I'm going to have to look forward to. It's a little like one of those ghastly old church songs, They Tore the Old Country Church Down (Built a big new church way uptown...). It seems a little like people have become so accustomed to environments like this, and at the same time people are becoming accustomed to the increasing prevalence of mood-altering prescription medication. It's an American adage that necessity is the mother of invention. Calvin (from the cartoon Calvin and Hobbs) says that mothers are the necessity of invention. This is the kind of turn-around that I feel is happening. Don't try to fight the slow march of progress, and at the same time pharmaceutical companies are creating a market for themselves. I, for one, think that mood-altering medications should only be taken recreationally. I prefer to avoid any true anxiety.

My cat's take on the situation

My response

More later,


Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Absence and a Cat

August 8, 2012

My Dear Readers,

I don't know what's happened to me lately. I feel that I don't want to sit in front of a computer for hours after sitting in front of a computer for hours at work. I don't know how this happened. It's certainly not because I have developed a life; I'm not doing anything strikingly interesting. I've cooked a few times. I've folded some laundry, but when is there NOT laundry to fold?

So, here's an interesting picture of a cat that sits close to the driveway of my friend Glo's studio. It is one of her sculptures and it's not glazed; it is in bisque.

Thank you and good night.

Love ever,


Monday, July 30, 2012

Ignorance is Bliss

July 30, 2012

There's something surreal about coming of age when you've led a rather sheltered life. There are so many things that you're supposed to know, indeed that people assume you do know, and yet so many of them you've not even heard of. I wasn't raised in an Orthodox Jewish or an Amish society, but we definitely were not part of Main Stream America. I speak of my sister and myself, the sixth and seventh of my mother's eight children – the first and second of my father's three. And, there is the key to it all. I did not create this blog to bash any set of people, even those who happen to be my father. But, one can't deny that a father has quite a bit of influence on his children and as it turns out my particular father happens to hate people and he went to great lengths to make sure that we, also, hated people. He has his own history and reasons for being who he is, but there you are and there you have it. The five older siblings had a different father and they had their hands full with him, from what I understand, and my younger brother came along 5 years after me, and he began kindergarten and graduated from the same school system with the same class of people and he had a different life than Lottie and I did.

Some things aren't worth going back to try to recoup. I mean, at the age of 42 I don't think I would get a lot out of watching Ferris Bueller's Day Off or The Breakfast Club. They both seem to be movies made for teenagers growing up in the 80's. IMDb writes this about Ferris Bueller, "A high school wise guy is determined to have a day off from school, despite of what the principal thinks of that." That along with the smug look on a very young Matthew Broderick's face make me think that I should let this particular phenomenon go. About The Breakfast Club it writes, "Five high school students, all different stereotypes, meet in detention, where they pour their hearts out to each other, and discover how they have a lot more in common than they thought." Now, that sounds more substantial, but I can't help but think that this is basically a formulaic showcase for an up-and-coming brat pack. I will admit that it's entirely possible that I'm wrong, and if so, then so be it.

Even drugs seem pointless. I mean, most people did their experimentation with marijuana, cocaine and so on in high school and college and most of those people have moved on to different things. Like children. It feels like if I were to try to start now it would seem like a pathetic middle age crisis and that's not really the image I want to foster while I'm going through a middle age crisis.

It's really interesting how, during the transition into the world, I couldn't tell what was new and what was old. When I was in high school I heard a song, which I now know is called Rag Doll and is sung by Aerosmith, and I remember thinking that it was a good song and I distinctly remember assuming that it was an old song that had been played for over a decade. Turns out, I was hearing it as it was released. I was actually hearing it at the same time that my classmates were; I had just assumed that they'd all known the song all their lives. That's another thing about growing up sheltered; you assume that everybody else knows so much more than you do. You probably assume this because 95% of the time it's true, but there are times when you accidentally come face to face with something contemporary.

While others were listening to The Cars, Pink Floyd (We Don't Need No Education was old, but still incredibly popular in Boerne, TX), AC/DC, Led Zeppelin and others that I mix up in my head but that I'm certain were popular when I was in school, we were getting down to the rhythms of The Andrew Sisters, Glen Miller and Peggy Lee. My little brother once called me in San Antonio from college in Austin to confirm to whomever he was talking to that there is, indeed, a song called Praise the Lord and Pass the Ammunition. (There is.)

It's not that I think I missed out on so much. I mean, I like Peggy Lee and Spike Jones. But, it's awkward when somebody makes a reference to something and you're left standing there with a blank look on your face because you didn't even have the sense to know that you were supposed to recognize whatever it was that was just referenced. And, you learn out of self-defense not to talk about new things unless you know for ABSOLUTE certain that they are new. About two years ago, I heard a new song that I kind of liked. It was being played on an alternative radio station, so I had reason to believe it was relatively recent. And, even though I've been through this same thing so many times, it never occurred to me that the song just might not be new. Then, while I was in a waiting room somewhere, I heard The Man in the Box by Alice in Chains on a TV show about the best videos of the 90's. According to Wikipedia, that song was released in 1991.

A lot of this is my fault. About the time I graduated high school I developed a distaste for TV and I gave up watching it. That's not to say that I got my news and stayed up-to-date by reading magazines and newspapers and thus look down my educated nose at the television-watching boors. I just puttered along in ignorance, and still do to a great extent. I'm much more aware of current events these days. And now that there are home computers on every desk in every house and office and on every phone and radio and even on refrigerators I can always log into Facebook and see what people are making fun of with ecards and then I can google the key words and figure out what's going on. This is how I figured out that a man in Florida really did eat another man's face while that other man was alive. But, I'm not entirely sure that I wanted to know that. Plus, if I can be delighted to hear a new song, who cares if it's been around for two decades?

These days I read the online version of the Austin newspaper at work; I read Newsweek on my Nook and I listen to KGSR, which has a mix of folkish singers, singer/song-writers, alternative musicians, and some musicians who are played on every other radio station known to man. Church is nice because the Bible's been around for 2000 years. We're all kind of on equal footing in that regard, though granted some people have spent more time studying it than I have. I mostly accept that I'm ignorant to everything I should know and I savor Agatha Christie mysteries, Masterpiece Mystery on PBS and I don't even try to understand what's going on in the contemporary world of popular culture. I'm too far behind and it's just not worth trying to catch up at this point. I have, however, stopped apologizing for it. Now, when I flaunt my ignorance I do it with a flair. Then I go home and google whatever it was I missed, unless I've lost interest by that point, which happens about half the time.

Well, it's getting late again and my head hurts and I want to sleep tonight, so perhaps I'll go to bed. I'll write more soon.

Until then I remain,

Yours truly,


Jason Hooper

July 29, 2012

Being that I can't sleep I could either stuff my face with cookies and milk – which I've already done, but I could continue to do it – or I could post something. I would like to go into more detail about this particular subject, but for the moment I will just post some pictures that I took on a recent trip to Rockport – an art festival that was there.

We were in the booth next to Jason Hooper, a potter whose work I love and of whose work I have a few pieces. I've shown them here in context in previous posts. My plan was (is) to gather all of my pieces together and take some pictures of them, but for the moment I'll show you what I saw there. He was kind enough to let me take pictures, and while I'm not the world's best photographer let me make up for that by saying that I LOVE his work and I will definitely be collecting more of it in the future.

Tea Set


Vase and Tall Tea Set

Salt and Pepper Cruets

Tall Teapot

Business Card Holders (left) and Cell Phone Seats (right)

Cell Phone Seat

I love functional art in general, and his designs and colors are fabulous. Plus, he's from across the pond and he has a quaint accent and it's just fun to sit with him and chat.

If you're interested in his work, here is his web site: I will admit that he has more work than what is represented there, so if you're REALLY interested I believe he has a "Contact Us" page, which I would highly recommend you utilize.

Thank you and good night.



Sunday, July 22, 2012

Pizza Margherita Experiment

July 22, 2012

I mentioned a problem earlier that I had looked at my expenses. That post had to do with my attempt at breaking my addiction to going to the nearby corporate coffee shop, which I still enjoy doing. I like to sit and watch the people there, aside from drinking the coffee. At the same time that I looked at how much I spend on coffee and covert people watching I looked at how much I spend a month on food and clearly I should weigh 458 pounds by now. The lesson from all of that is that I've been broke for the past 6 months and didn't realize it and that I will be broke until the 2nd week in November. I don't know how this works out, but I did a basic budget and that's what it tells me. This is assuming, of course, that I keep within my budget, which allows for much less money being spent on food.

I've been eating at home. Sandwiches, salads, chicken, sausage, rice, pasta... things that I have in the house already or don't cost that much. I do allow myself fresh vegetables. However, I've also felt the need to be more creative with my food because, while I buy good deli meat, sandwiches get old after a while.

I have a basil plant, so I did a search for things that I could do with it. The most popular was a pizza margherita. There a zillion different varieties of recipes so I read a few and decided to do something that would work for my home.

First is the crust. I'm not about to buy yeast and begin making bread. One of the ideas was to do something quick, so making a crust, though it would be immensely fulfilling, would be too involved at the moment. Maybe later. I decided to buy a crust, but when I got to the store a focaccia bread in the bakery caught my eye and it was about the same price, so I picked it up. Of course, it's almost universally understood that pizza margherita is supposed to use a very thin crust, but I'm not trying to be traditional here.

I wish, I WISH that I had had homegrown tomatoes. I picked up a vine-ripened tomato. I already had mozzarella cheese in the fridge. It's not the balls of fresh cheese, though that would have been even better. Again, we're thinking budget and I already had this ingredient.

So, I cut the bread in half. It was slightly over a foot long, and that's a bit much for one sitting. I brushed the half with olive oil – after drizzling it from my Jason Hooper hand-thrown ceramic olive oil bottle. I put very thinly sliced tomato, I put kosher salt and fresh ground pepper on the tomatoes, and added mozzarella sliced about 1/4 inch thick. I tore up pieces of basil, sprinkled it across the top, and drizzled the whole thing with more olive oil. Then I put it into on a cookie sheet into the oven, preheated at 400º. Almost all of the recipes called for 8 – 9 minutes, but this was done in 6.

Once I took it out of the oven, I added more fresh basil to the top.

Result: I would probably skip the basil before cooking; I think cooking it killed the flavor. Again, using home grown tomatoes would make it SO much better (I just LOVE home grown tomatoes) and I can see that a thinner crust would be good, but this bread toasted and was slightly crunchy and was wonderful to eat even without anything on top. Another thing that is almost universally agreed is to be spare with the ingredients – don't cover every millimeter of crust with stuff.

The tomatoes cooked down to be like a sauce and I had layered mozzarella on top of some of the pieces, and basil on some. I did a pretty good job of mixing up the stuff on top for a variety of flavors in each bite.

I will definitely do this again. I will also try to find a market for homegrown tomatoes because there's just nothing like fresh homegrown tomatoes to make life better.

Thank you for reading.