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Friday, September 30, 2011

We all Know Politicians Suck...

... But was mostly just sit on our butts and bitch.  I know we feel petty helpless and figure there is nothing we can do.  Isn't that what they want us to feel?  Look, this country is still a Democracy.  Yes, most of the politicians are in the  pocket of special interests and nobody seems capable of kicking them out into the street where they have to earn an honest living.

There is a reason for this.  Too many of us are content to sit at home and bitch and not willing to do anything about it.  It seems to big a mountain to climb.  Seems like they are all the same anyway.  All promises and hype and the same old shit when they get in office.  Maybe worse.

There is a reason for that.  They expect the American people to accept being screwed over all the time.  They are so used to the citizens of this country being apathetic about demanding the public servants they elect to represent them actually are doing that job instead of rushing to put both feet in the troth and gobbling  up everything they can get.

Apathy.  That is our biggest enemy if we want to change the way things are in our country.  I'm neither a Democrat or a Republican.  I hate them both equally.  But they seem to be a necessary evil until we have the intestinal fortitude to create a centrist party dedicated to the working, middle class and get rid of both of the old guard parties who have forgotten what America really means. 

There are some things that just should not be allowed.  The first is 'earmarks'.  The Good Ole Boy network at its finest.  Every PENNY spent by the federal government should be approved by Congress with every vote on record.  But the earmarks are just back door deals between politicians to bypass the right of all Americans to know how our money is spent and why.

The second is the gross inequality of the Congress of the United States passing laws which only apply to them and not to all Americans.  These laws give them a full retirement after one term.  Where else can you  hold a job for two years and get your full pay for the rest of your life?  Where else can you have the wonderful health care they have given themselves? 

Then there is their ability to pass laws that apply only to themselves and, boy, do they pass themselves some doozies.  And, then, they can pass laws that apply to US but not to Them.  Again, they have passed some doozies.  Don't take my word for it.  The Internet is there and free.  Use your favorite search engine and look into it.

It is wrong and the ONLY reason they get away with it is because WE allow it.  We're too lazy to find out what is going on and too apathetic to try to do anything about it.  As long as that is true the people who say it will never change are going to be correct.  It will only change when enough Americans take action and demand it change.

Write to  your congressmen expressing your opinions of their behaviour.  And if they either ignore you or send you some bs form letter.... kick their lying butts out of office.  And keep on doing that until somebody gets elected who actually has a clue  and the balls (metaphorically speaking as it sure could be a woman) to stand up to the status quo and special interests and fight for what is right for all Americans.

Also there is a movement for a twenty-eighth amendment to the Constitution that I believe should be supported.  If we can't kick enough of them out to make a difference maybe we can force this amendment to be put out to all Americans to approve or disapprove as they feel is right.   I think there are not nearly enough people aware of this and the more that know the better off we will all be and the more the politicians will worry that the American Citizens may finally get pissed off enough to actually take back their own country.

Take a look and make up your own minds.

Some of the Realities of Life

I wonder if there is a time in each of our lives we have a grand epiphany where we realize our own mortality and look forward and see much less future existence than we do when looking back.  I don't think so.  I think it is just a gradual thing we come to see over the years and each of us arrives at the same conclusion at a different pace.

I guess I had a different path to these realizations as I firmly believed I would be dead before my twenty second birthday.  A total explanation of this belief would require much more space and time than I choose to devote to it now.  I'm sure I'll address it more fully at a later date.  Suffice to say New Years of 1978 was a big day for me.  A very traumatic kind of big day.  It meant something I had believed completely was not true.  Those kind of realizations are live changing and mine was.  But probably not for the better looking back on it.

There are a couple of almost irresistible forces at work here.  The first is my complete disillusionment with what I had, at my core, accepted at truth, though I had never followed it.  The second is the fact the human male has a dramatic physiological change between the age of eighteen and twenty-five.  This was a very nasty combination for me.  And, unfortunately, I was not the only one caught up in this.  Again, too complex to be addressed now and, again, there are things that happened during this period that will accompany me to the grave.  They are nobody else's business but, damn, they were fun. 

Due to my complete belief I would die in the fall of 1975 I made some very bad decisions.  Due to my disillusionment in being alive on January 1, 1978 I made some even worse decisions and those decisions mostly just kept on going.  Add in to this squirming mass of mental worms was the growing impact of the insanity I inherited from my mother.  Then there was the stress of having graduated from technical school and spending some months sitting all day with my sister in the hospital just waiting for  her to die while her husband took the night shift.    It was kind of stressful.  I had a very compliant doctor at that time and I was getting a thirty day prescription for Valium about once a week.  I was making a regular trip to Kermit, WV (the nearest legal liquor store) and buying a half gallon of Canadian Mist.  When I'd come home from the hospital in the late evening there was no way for me to sleep so I'd sit at the kitchen table drinking Canadian Mist and popping Valium until I felt I could go to bed and not just lie there thinking.  That would have been in the late '70s.  My sister died in 1978 and we moved to Florida where my brother lived.  Lived there until early 1980.  It is an absolute wonder I survived that eighteen or so months.  I'd like to say those eighteen months were the low point for my life but it was not.  It was just the wildest point.  Again, the details of this are mine to deal with and take with me when I go.

In the early '80s I was finally diagnosed with Grave's Disease (a highly over active thyroid) and the Eastern Kentucky Rehabilitation Center agreed to pay for my treatment and send me back to technical school for Computer Programming where I am now.  Those were relatively good years.  Relatively.  Then I spent the next year "coming in second" for all the jobs I applied for.  I took the Kentucky State test for Computer Operator and scored second in the state.  After  over a year I had heard nothing.  So I was going broke quickly and crazy maybe more quickly. 

Then a girl I was in Computer school with called me and asked me to join the Army with her.  Said she needed just one more to go in as a PFC.  I thought I was too old (32 at the time) but the recruiter called me and told me I could enlist up to 35.  So, being quite a bit on the desperate side, I went to talk to him.  Really, at that time I was out of options, so I agreed to take the ASVAB test. 

Lord I remember that test.  I HATED it.  I don't know how many sections there were but they gave you like forty-five minutes on each section.  after twenty minutes I had completed it, checked my answers three times and just hated sitting there waiting for all the idiots to finish.  Not the best day.

The recruiter picked me up late in the afternoon after the preliminary results were in.  Riding back from Prestonburg to Paintsville I asked him how I did.  He gave me one of those bs answers, "How do you think you did?".  I told him I did not know but I would bet I had not embarrassed myself.  He sat there for a while and then said, "You made a 93.  I have never seen anyone make a 93 before.".  Oh, arrogance, how great thou art!

So, I ended up in Beckley, WV at the regional station to sign up for a MOS (Military Occupational Speciality).  From my ASVAB score they asked me would I be interested in a Military Intelligence MOS.  Sure.  They offered an $8,000.00 enlistment bonus.  So I took the test and apparently impressed them as they seemed pretty excited for me.

Now comes the start of issues.  Like I have implied my past was not lilly white.  But, I was honest with them and they contacted Nashville and got a waiver for me to take that MOS.  I  thought all was well with the world.  As the Waylon Jennings song says, "Wrong".

I may or may  not go into things that happened after that or not.  Suffice it to say I ran into the girl who had talked me into this mess in the Hospital at Fort Jackson.  She was on crutches and they were sending her home because of her feet.  I've never seen or heard from her since.  She spent all of about two weeks in the Army and went home.  While I had some health issues they were not enough to be sent home and I was too damned stubborn to ever admit that at thirty two I could not hang with a bunch of seventeen and eighteen year old kids in basic combat training. 

I made it out.  But there are two days I would never agree to live again.  Perhaps I'll go into those two days at some later date.  That and a few other somewhat interesting (to me) things that happened other than those two days.

Somewhat later in my life I developed the phrase, "Life's a bitch then you die".  Later to find it was not original but for years whenever anyone asked me how I was that is how I answered them.  I may not do it anymore but I have certainly not changed my opinion.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

More About Food I Can't Eat Any More :-)

I cannot tell you how many years ago this happened but I believe it was in 1998.  A co-worker and I had to spend two weeks in Dallas, TX for the job.  For some reason I was considered very conservative where food was concerned and my friend was considered adventurous.  Little did they realize the restaurants he was always talking about the next day were the ones I picked out.  We went to some very interesting places but the night I am going to talk about now is the night we went to the Brazilian restaurant.

I should be able to remember the name of it but my senility is kicking in right now.  With all the cooking shows, tourist shows on now I'm pretty sure everyone knows about Brazilian restaurants.  But in 1998 neither he nor I had heard of one.  We could were just driving around on 'restaurant row' and did not particularly want to go back to the Lebanese place when I spotted this place sitting out by itself and suggested we try that.

(Ok, I just did a search and the name of it is Fogo de Chao. )

We got there and found out it was a one price fits all place.  Pretty much it was (at the time) $24.96 a person for the salad bar and all the meat and sides you could eat.  In 1998 that was a pretty good price for a meal but that was nothing compared to what it would be by the time we left.

We went in and were seated then headed to the salad bar.  It was a very nice one and neither of us skimped on the salad.  Then we headed back to the table to look at the menu but that was pretty wasted.  The waitress explained the procedure with the big, round, checker looking thing that was green on one side and red on the other.   This place had thirteen different meats and when you turned the green side up servers would come by and stop with every one of those meats on big, long skewers and cut you off as much as you wanted.  If you wanted to be left alone just turn the red side up and concentrate on eating.   Lordy, I wish the servers in some restaurants around here were that easy to find or get rid of.

So,  upon finding out there were thirteen different meats we decided we were going to try every one of them.  Now, it was not just the salad bar and meat there were sides as well.  I do remember there was some kind of cactus and baked plantains.  Other than that I really do not remember the sides.  So we started in on those thirteen meats and the servers also kept those hot sides coming even before we got low on them. 

I believe it was somewhere around seven thirty in the evening when we got there.  It was close to eleven thirty by the time we left.  Suffice it to say we did not waste any of the intervening time.  I will not waste either of our time detailing exactly what we had mostly because I cannot remember it.  But a brief synopsis of the meal was I had nine of the meats and my friend had eleven.  We each had a bottle of wine during the meal.  (Bottle, not glass).  After the meal we has some monstrous desert then Irish coffee.  Maybe we had more and those sides kept arriving on schedule the whole time we were there.

It has been over thirteen years so you will forgive me if I do not remember the exact tab we ran up but as best I recall it was around three hundred and sixty dollars including tip.  But it is not nearly as bad as it sounds since we were both on per diem and that was only about three or four days of our food money. 

But, gluttony has its own punishment.  I remember that drive from the restaurant back to the hotel.  Neither of us could even look at another food place.   My friend said he did not sleep at all that night and we were both glad it was Saturday and we did not have to show up for work the next morning.  He said he spent the whole weekend throwing up and could not eat  until the middle of the next week.  I only threw up the next morning but I really did not want any food for a couple of days myself.  And even then it was very small meals.

It was right after that food orgy the symptoms of diabetes began showing up though they were not recognized at the time.  It was not too long after I returned home the diagnosis was made.  Now I cringe to even think of how much food I put down my gullet that night.  It would last me a couple of weeks  now and probably be less expensive as I cannot eat that kind of rich food at all and expect it to stay down,.

Amazing the things one can do when one is young(er) and (more) stupid.  Maybe we would have been better off in the long run going back to Hedarry's (Lebanese place) but I'm sure it would not have been such a lingering memory.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

A Little Introspection

I used to tell people that in spite of getting multiple 'whippings' almost every day of my life until I learned the signs that meant "back off NOW" I was a well behaved child.  I guess I did not get into as much "mischief" as others my age but that stems from one source.  Pure fear. 

Really, my only semblance of conscience was if I would get caught or not.  And if caught could I lie my way out of it.  I don't think I was deliberately malicious but I just never understood or thought about the consequences. Now, I do understand and think about the consequences but I still do not have what I would call much of a conscience.  My only "moral compass" is the Golden Rule.  Do onto others as you would have them do onto you.  Of course that was only as long as it did not interfere with what I wanted to do.

My very first memory of my sister was at the little, log cabin where I was born.  I remember her sitting on the porch with her feet on the top step with my dad on the left whipping her with his belt and my mother on the right side whipping her with a 'switch'.  I later found  out it was because she had "sassed" my mother.   I learned early to not cross my parents or to do my darnedest to make sure I was not caught doing it. 

I have mentioned being born to older parents but that is not the only thing that contributed to my outlook on life.  My mother was a very devout Jehovah's Witness.  My father was a 30 year Navy veteran who despised the Jehovah's Witnesses.  As you may guess  this caused some stress in our house.  Sometime I'll delve more deeply into that as it has a very strong influence on my life post 1975.   Now, though I'm just reflecting on my indifference to what other people considered 'right and wrong'.  To me it was only wrong if it affected me in a negative way and completely right if it was something I wanted to do.

Though,  all in all, I don't think I was ever really trying to hurt anyone or cause anyone any real problems I would do things which did hurt people and did cause them real problems.  I won't detail any of those things here as the 'blow by blow' account would serve no purpose and would involve too many who are still alive.   I was once told there are just some things you take to the grave.  I believe when I get there I'll have to check a couple of bags and try to sneak in an over sized carry on.

However, I also grew up with the saying, "If you can't do the time, don't do the crime."  I've done the time on a couple of occasions in a literal way and I've done the time most of my life in a more metaphorical sense.  Nothing in life is free but we sometimes do not see what the price is until after we've done it. 

Country Eating

I grew up in rural Eastern Kentucky back in the '50s and '60s.  My dad retired from the Navy after 30 years of service in 1952.  I was born in December of 1953.  I believe my dad said when he retired he was getting a pension of $44.00 a month.  From this he was raising three children and supporting my grandparents until they were old enough to get their 'Old Age' pension.  Sounds impossible doesn't it?  But at this time things were a lot less expensive than they are now.  Still, one only depended on the grocery store for staples and those were supplemented by the government surplus program which we knew as 'commodities'.  Made a trip to Inez to pick them up whenever they were giving them away.

Everyone raised a garden and preserved vegetables by canning.  In the late spring people would go out and pick blackberries and huckleberries to eat raw and to make jellies and jams.  Every year my mother and grandmother would work for days putting up tomatoes, pickles, sauer kraut, pickled corn and probably several things I do not remember.  We were pretty poor in many ways but there was always food on the table.

Another way of supplementing our food supply was by hunting.  We were not quite Andrew Zimmer bad but we did eat almost any wild game that could be had.  We ate squirrel regularly.  We had rabbit, ground hog, quail, pheasant and grouse when we could get it.  My grandparents raised chickens so we could have fried or cooked chicken (mmmm chicken and dumplings) on a fairly regular basis.  Every year my dad would order so many chicks (we called them biddies) to raise for fryers.  These chickens were fated to go early to the frying pan.

Once my brother (I believe) killed a woodpecker.  It was cleaned and put into a  pot and cooked all doggone day and still was too tough to eat.  So, the woodpecker population was safe from our appetites. 

My grandparents also raised hogs and there was no better morning to be had than the day after a hog killing.  Fresh  pork was wonderful.  Man, fresh tenderloin with eggs, gravy and biscuits was just the best.  And there was very little of the hog that went to waste.  Especially the fat.  My grandparents had a big, iron kettle.  It was coal black with soot from fires and all the hog fat was cut up and rendered down to lard.  Then it would be put in whatever containers they had and stored in the cellar. 

We had the normal chicken and dumplings and fried chicken but the kids (my brother, sister and I)  loved the 'egg bag' better than anything.  It was unusual to kill a "laying hen" for the pot but when it happened the egg bag (womb?) would be filled with eggs from the size of the head of a pin to in the shell ready to be laid.  We'd hover around the kitchen like vultures waiting on the egg bag to be cooked enough to eat.  I can't remember one ever making it all the way to the table.  Heaven help you if you left the kitchen and missed it.  Nobody was saving you a share. 

We always had bacon because that was cured and we cold keep it a long time.  We would buy those oval cans of ham.  We would have some home made sausage and eggs and home made biscuits at most breakfasts.  But the very best breakfast of all was squirrels, squirrel gravy and home made biscuits.  My favorite part of the squirrel was the head.  There was not a lot of meat on a squirrel head and a lot of people threw them away.  But, I loved them. (I imagine I still do.)  There was a little meat on the cheeks and the tongue was pretty good as well.  But, my favorite part was the brain.

If you take a squirrel head, put two fingers in the eye sockets and pull back the whole top of the skull will come off in one piece and you can take the brain out in one complete piece all the way down to where it connected to the spine.  It was wonderful.  I'd love to have a big plate full now.

In the summers when things were ripening we would always have potatoes, green beans, sweet corn, tomatoes, cucumbers and mother always raised a huge melon patch with cantaloupes (mush melons we called them) and watermelons.  I can remember mother going to the melon patch and bring back a watermelon which she'd cut in half and we'd each have half a melon.

Most every year there would be people travelling the country selling apples and we'd buy a couple of bushels.  Some to eat.  Some to make pies from.  Some to cook down for breakfast (fried apples) and some to make apple butter from.  I was never fond of apple butter.  And my cousin Jerry Lee had a small sugar cane patch and a mill that he would use to make sorghum molasses from.  Those were wonderful if you boiled them until really foamy and put fresh butter and molasses on fresh biscuits. 

Plain baked potatoes, peanut butter and jelly.  I can eat one egg and a small amount of bacon most days.  I guess that makes me even more nostalgic that I would have normally have been when I think about all the things I had growing up.    Where I live and where I work there are masses of grey squirrels just running all over the place.  They love digging holes in my mulch to berry their food then later to dig it up.  They are so used to people and feel so safe they will barely move out of the way on the sidewalk.  And, every time I see them, I can't help thinking how good they would be for breakfast with some gravy and biscuits.  Yummm.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Just a Few Unrelated Memories

My daughter commented on my story of my brother and the possum and it got me thinking about the reality of that story.  I can believe every word of it up until we end at my mother standing and screaming because there was a  possum on the table.  That does not at all sound like the woman who was the bane of my existence for so many years.  I don't see a possum on the table even fazing her.  She may have been screaming at my brother but I don't think she was at all bothered by the possum other than it was on her table.

This kind of relates to another story that I did not experience (not having come into the world for about forty more years) but heard all my life.  Now, it was well known my grandfather was one of the laziest men on earth.  I was told he would set under a tree and read Jehovah's Witness literature while my grandmother and the girls would tend the gardens.  (Hey, see, I come by it honestly.  The reading and the laziness both.)  But  this is just to point out how probable the rest of the story is.

Now this was in those "way back when days".  I'm thinking very late 1890's or very early 1900's.  They lived in a gap in the hills along the river which the whole family has referred to as "the Poppy gap" ever since I can remember.   It was just down river from the Tom Price gap.  I guess  you have already guessed places picked up the names of their occupants.

Really nothing there now.  The strip mining stopped just before getting there.  Only thing really left is a big stone that was the front step and a hole in the ground where the cellar used to be and a lonely line of dead fruit trees beside the path.  And a huge persimmon tree.  I used to go sit under that persimmon tree quite often.  Waiting on squirrels which never came.  Well, mostly never came.

But, my grandmother (Victoria DeBoard VanHoose) had to get up well before daylight to take the shotgun and go kill squirrels, clean them and have them cooked  before waking my grandfather up.  Now, tell me the child of this woman would have stood screaming at the sight of a possum.  Just does not seem likely.

Monday, September 26, 2011

My Mother, My Brother and the Possum

This is not something I remember on my own, just as a story related to me by my brother.  One must also realize at this time (around 1959, 1960) moonshine was still pretty common in our part of Kentucky.  So, this would not have been unusual.  Not the moonshine part anyhow.  How unusual the other part was I'll leave it up to anyone reading this to decide.

We lived in a log cabin at the forestry tower on Spring Knob.  The county line between Martin and Johnson county went through our front yard which was also the road to the parking spot beyond the house.  The house was four and one tenth miles from the blacktop road.  I have this marked down in indelible memory as what my dad always said about it.

My brother, at this time, was attending Mayo Vocational and Technical School.  He had quit high school so as to be able to attend Mayo and graduate before he was eighteen and the tuition went up.  So he would walk from the tower to the road to catch a ride to Paintsville to school each morning and he would run the distance back from the road each evening to go squirrel hunting before dark.

Somewhere along about half way between the road (At the afore mentioned "Spicy Gap" and the tower lived a man who made "charred moonshine".  I don't recall his name though I knew it very well at one time and I'm sure my brother could tell you with no hesitation.

Now charred moonshine was not like the normal rotgut stuff.  He bought used bourbon barrels and actually aged his product in them.  Very high class moonshine.  That is not unusual. Many of the Eastern Kentucky moonshiners made such quality product they were given jobs by the bourbon distilleries to make it for (legal) commercial sales.

One evening my brother was running from the blacktop to home when he passed this man's cabin.  He was asked if he would like some apples to take home.  So he stopped and the man gave him a bag of apples as well as some good moonshine.  How much moonshine I do not know though I was told by one person somewhat later in life my brother could drink a quart and you'd never know he had been drinking.  So, let us just say he had a quantity of the good stuff before he took his poke (yes, back then a paper bag was called a poke) of apples and headed on home.

It was getting fairly late and darkness was approaching as he walked (staggered?) on the road home when a possum (o'possum to you city folk) crossed the road in front of him and climbed a tree.  He put the poke of apples down and threw rocks at the possum (missing for obvious reasons) until it got too dark to find rocks.  Then he started throwing apples from the poke.  Prior to running out of apples he knocked the possum from the tree and it sulled up.  Otherwise known as playing dead.

So he took the possum by the tail and the poke of what apples remained and continued on home.  It was good and dark when he got home and everyone else was in bed asleep.  (Hey, no electricity and lamp oil costs money so we went to bead early)  So he came in the house and sat the bag down on one side of the door and the possum on the other and went to bed on the sofa he slept on and went to sleep.

Early the next morning he was awakened by my mother's screams coming from the kitchen where she had gone to start breakfast.  She was in front of the stove staring at the possum sitting on the kitchen table.

Funny, that is where the story always ends.  One day I'm going to have to ask my brother what ever happened to the possum.  I'm pretty sure we did not eat it though possum was a regular part of the diet in that part of the country at that time.

My Life and Ennui

A young lady made a comment regarding the using of "ennui" in one of my first posts.  Trust me, I know what "ennui" is.  I've had a lifetime of experience.  However, it reminded me of many years ago when I had Grave's Disease. (Hyperactive thyroid is the simplest explanation).  I had been trying to find out what was wrong with me (other than the obvious mental disorders) for some years and when it was finally diagnosed we had to figure out some way to pay for the treatment.  I was out of work as was fairly common in those days.  As I recall this was around late 1983.  Not a good time for an unskilled person looking for work in rural eastern Kentucky.

However, the East Kentucky Rehabilitation Center was located in the same county where we lived at the time.  Someone, I forget who, suggested we contact them about paying for my treatment.  Much to my surprise they agreed.  As one of the prerequisites was to take a manual dexterity test and an IQ test to determine what kind of rehabilitative training I should take.  Now, I will be the first to admit I have horrible hand/eye coordination but I've never hand any trouble with IQ tests.  Actually, I rather enjoyed them.

Once the results were in I had an appointment with my counselor to go over the results.  I went to his office and sat down in the visitor's chair and he did not say much of anything at all for a while.  He just sat and looked at me.  The first words out of his mouth were, "Have you been bored  with everything your entire life?".   So I said I had.  Hey, it was true after all.  Like for the whole of my high school years I never took  a single book home to study or do homework.  I took care of it all in a study hall.  I helped several people out as well.

When I was a senior my English teacher made the mistake of stating at the beginning of the year that before the year was out she could tell who had written any paper just by the writing style.  Ooooo, can we say "challenge"?  We had to do a book report at certain times.  I forget the exact timing but I know it was four times a year.  Best of my recollection I turned in four with my name on them and somewhere around ten to twelve with other people's names on them.  Lowest score on any of them was an 88%.  I must have gotten sloppy.

To add to the story, I never read but one book that I did a book report on all year.  Everything else was done from "Classic Comics" or just straight BS.  (But, intelligent BS.)    I remember doing a book report for one of the smartest girls in our class just for the challenge of it.  It was on Jane Eyre.  I never read the book.  I never read the comic.  I spent about five minutes asking her questions about the book then did the report. Only got a 92% on that one.  Boo, hiss.   Teacher was silly.  I knew my classmates.  I knew what their vocabulary was like.  I just wrote like I thought they would write.  It was simple.

But I loved that English teacher.  Mrs Butler.  She only had one lung and she missed almost as much school as I did.  Cold day and we had a substitute.  There was this one young redhead.... but that is another story.  *smile*  I loved to sit in the back of the room and chat with her.  By this time, of course, you should have realized I rarely ever paid attention in class.  With my massive reading habit by the time we hit something in class I'd already gone through that months to years prior.  Yes, ennui, was my constant companion.

Kind of rambling I know.  But, the end result of my Grave's Disease was the EKRC paid for my treatment.  (I had to drink radioactive iodine) and paid to put me through computer school as well as paying me to go.  What a deal!  I finally found something that interested me and got paid to do it.  Can we say heaven?  Plus there were lots of lovely young ladies to spend my time with when I got bored again.  Which was most days. 

But I did have good teachers.  I did the twenty four month course in eleven months but I spent the last six weeks playing around with things that interested me because I was still getting paid and I had to wait for school to end to graduate anyhow. 

Yeah, I know all about ennui.  I even used that as my screen name on AOL back when it first came out.  What was that?  Around 1988 or so?    I remember once some female type person asked me if that meant I was bored or boring.  Told her she'd have to make up her own mind. Don't think I ever heard anything from her again.

Well, that is the end of another boring story. 

A Few Memories of My Brother (Younger Years)

I have one brother and he is twelve years older than I.  He's my hero and has always been.  I always wanted to be him.  But, I'm not.  I never was and never will be.  But, in some ways we are enough alike to be scary considereing we spent very little time together in my formative years.

I suppose one of the strangest is our unwillingness to make left turns.  Both of us, we discovered, will almost run out of gas rather than turn left into a gas station we'd have to turn left out of.  Another is our hatred of going through the drive through at fast food places.  A third is an unwillingness to sit still while driving.  I'll go miles and time out of my way to keep moving rather than sit in heavy traffic.  Perhaps what we really have in common is a lack of patience.  My wife, in fact, says I have "negative patience". 

Being so much older than I there are few memories of my brother in the very early years of my childhood.  I was told, though I have no memory of it, that when I was about six months old my brother held me up to the kitchen ceiling (I'll explain in some later post) and dropping me (accident I'm sure) on my head. 

The first memory I have for sure of my brother takes place on the road (dirt of course) that ran in front of the small, log cabin where we lived from my birth until I was four.  The road came out of the creek below our house and ran up a small incline to a place known as 'The Wash Rock".  I had just gotten a tricycle and he took me and the tricycle up to the top of that hill and let me ride off by myself.  The road was very rutted at the time so I made it just a few feet, hit a rut and fell over.  I don't know if I cried but I probably did.  I was quite the wuss when I was young.  Still am, I guess.

The next real memory I have of him is when I was about five.  By that time we have moved over on "Stafford" just down route 40 from the "Spicy Gap".   He would whittle 'rockets' out of wood and throw them up in the air for me.  Of  course he did not just hurl them by hand.  He would cut a stick and tie a length of twine to the end.  Then he'd put a know in the other end of the twine.  He would cut a notch in the 'rocket' so the knot in the twine would catch and hold there.  Then he'd lean back and hurl the rocket skyward with all his might.  I thought it went miles high and took for ever to come back to earth.  Of course this was not the case but it was like magic to me then.

Also at Stafford, the outhouse was across a street from the house.  I can remember one day I had a piece of string I was playing with.  I have no memory of how it got started but I can remember my brother was using the outhouse and I'd go across the bridge and he would tie my hands behind my back.  Then I'd run back across the bridge to the kitchen where my mother or dad would untie me and them I'd go back to be tied again. 

When I was six (no variety of preschool existed) I was sent to stay with my grandparents at Nat's Creek.  They lived just down the creek from the place where I was born.  The school teacher (Mrs Cooper) lived in the house where I was born and taught the one room school in the area.  It was called Preston's Gap school

My brother would take me to my grandparents on Sunday evening and pick me up on Friday nights.  One night stands out in particular.  It must have been in winter or early Sping as the road was very rutted and we got "center bound".  Those who have not driven on dirt roads after a thaw do not understand how many problems this engenders.  Center bound is where the ruts are so deep a part of the car sits on top and the wheels do not touch the ground and you get zero traction.

I sat in the car while he jacked up the right real wheel then  hunted rocks to put under it and fill the deepest part of the rut so we could have traction and not get stuck again.

My brother taught me that actions have consequences with the statement, "Hit me anytime you want but I will always hit you back twice as hard."  But, I enjoyed hitting him so I got smacked back quite  a few times.  We lived at Spring Knob Tower at the time.  Small log cabin.  Kitchen, Living room/bedroom and a small addition at the back that had another small bedroom and a porch.  The big bed was in the main room where my mother and I slept.  My dad slept on a fold up bed over in the corner by the fireplace and my brother slept on an old sofa  by the wall opposite on the other side of the fireplace.  I remember one morning my mother told me to go wake William up for breakfast.  So I went to where he was sleeping and hit him in the nose with all my strength.  It woke him up alright and his nose bled for ages it seemed.  However, I lived in terror of his retaliation for days.  Don't remember him ever repaying that one though.

Ok, that is enough for now.  Other stories later.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Cooking my own food

I received an email today from a friend from school who recently had looked me up on FaceBook.  I had mentioned buying a bread machine and she said I must like to cook.   Got me to thinking about it and there are times I did/do enjoy being in the kitchen  and then there are times I'm only there long enough to fix something simple.  But, there is a stereotype of the "bachelor kitchen" with only a month old slice of pizza and beer in the refrigerator.   It seems to be a popular misconception men do not know how to feed themselves or  think that is what a woman is for. 

Made me think about how I grew up in regards to cooking.  The first thing I can recall learning to cook was popcorn.  From the time I was four until almost eight we lived in a small, log cabin at a forestry tower on top of a hill in eastern Kentucky.  A place called Spring Knob.  It was four and one quarter miles from the black top road.  I know this because that is what my Dad always said.  This was from 1958 (Maybe 1957 even) to sometime (September I think) 1961.  

This was a place where electricity had still not found its way.  We had an outhouse sitting out past the tower and a well beside the house.  It was not a 'dug' well but a 'drilled' well so we had to draw out the water with a bailor.  Dad always said the well was drilled into an old coal mine as parts of the year the bailor was filled with about seventy percent water and thirty percent crickets.  Have to put the water in the bucket then clean all the crickets off the top.

But we did have an LP gas stove.  Since there was no electricity we had no refrigerator.  Everything we had was from non perishable stock.  And a lot of it came from the government surplus give away program and was referred to as "commodities".  Powdered milk, powdered eggs and the best American cheese EVER.  Came in a huge, brown box.   I don't know how many pounds it was but to me it seemed huge.

Of course we had a garden every year as well as the garden at my grandparent's where everybody would go while my "granny" and mother would can veggies galore.  I don't recall exactly where Poppy and my dad were at this time but I know neither of them were ever very much involved in gardens from planting to harvesting to canning.  Just the women.  And me.  But, be that as it may, that is a story for another day.

I am not sure just what age I was when my mother started me cooking.  The very first thing I can remember, though, was "popping" pop corn.  Pop corn was the ultimate treat for me as a very small child.  We rarely had store bought pop corn.  We grew it in the garden.  Then we'd pick the ears and let them dry out.   So, when it was popcorn time the first thing someone had to do was 'shuck' the ears then 'scrub' them together to knock the kernels from the cobs.  Once we had enough mother would take me to the kitchen and put some kind of stool, box, chair... something... up in front of the stove. 

She'd bring out a huge (to me)  heavy (to me) cast iron skillet and put it on the front burner.  (Right front as I recall.)  At first she'd light the gas flame and put the bacon fat in the skillet but later she started letting (making?) me do it all.  Once the fat was melted we'd put a few grains of corn in the skillet to judge the proper time to pour the rest of the corn in.  When those few kernels popped it was time.

We'd pour in the rest of the pop corn and quickly cover the skillet with an old, white, enamel lid.  It did not take long for the corn to be popping merrily along and I would stand on that whatever and shake the skillet back and forth holding the lid on with a folded up dish rag.  That is dish towel to those of you not blessed with an Appalachian upbringing.  Once the corn had finished popping mother would pour it into some other container.  I have  no memories at all of what that might be but I'm quite sure she would not have allowed me to eat it straight from the  skillet.

I don't remember whether we put the salt on before popping or after but that, in my memory, was the best pop corn ever.  Nothing today comes close to comparing.  Over the years I've tried all the other pop corn methods.  Jiffy Pop, Air poppers, microwave popcorn.  Still, nothing compares to that old cast iron skillet with bacon fat and home grown corn. 

There have been many cooking innovations in the half century since that time but there is still nothing better for cooking than an old, well seasoned, cast iron skillet.

That was my first cooking memory but sure not my last.  In '61 we moved from there to a little place called West Van Lear so I could go to school rather than living with my grandparents and attending the one room school as I  had done the previous year.  I'm not sure the exact reason but I suspect it may have  been my attendance (or lack thereof) that first year.  Since it was a pretty good walk to school my grandparents would not send me if it rained, snowed, looked like it MIGHT rain or snow or was too cold.  I spent many a happy hour "skinning the cat" on the old quince tree when I should have been in school.

I don't think it hurt me though.  I had said I'd make straight "A's" that year and I did.  Well, almost.  I did get one "B" in effort.  Can't figure why. 

I don't really have any memories of cooking at all while we lived there.  Other than when we'd go to my grandparent's house for canning and I'd get stuck chopping cabbage for sauer kraut for hours.  But I did, at least, get to eat the cabbage cores. 

Then in spring of 1967 we moved back to Nat's Creek where my grand parents lived and where I had been born.  Nothing as far as the eye could see except relatives.  Had to go a good piece to find someone I was not related to.  But, there, I got back into helping mother cook again.  I generally made the gravy of a morning.  Lots of time I fried the bacon and eggs.  When it came pie making time I was the one who did all the stirring of the filling.  And, I was always full of questions about what we were doing and why.  That is where I learned my method of adding ingredients.

I'd ask my mother, "How much should I put in?".  She'd tell me, "Just add it 'til your conscience is clear".  Take that Emeril.  Even now I really do not measure ingredients.  And sometimes I've had an overly clear conscience.  Still, right now, not having really cooked in years I bet I could make fried chicken, chicken grave, home made biscuits and whatever veggies were handy that  you'd lick your chops over. 

So, the foundation for cooking was laid early with me.  When I was married I cooked on Sunday mornings a lot to let my wife sleep in.  I baked the turkey and made the dressing at Thanksgiving.  During the years I was divorced and living alone the Kids and I would make cookies at times.  My cooking was fairly limited then as I had other  problems and food did not seem to be very important.

But, still, I never went hungry.

Now, I'm considered "too messy" by my wife and almost forbidden to cook anything at all.  The way my stomach has gotten that is no big hardship.  Nobody cooks much in this house any more.  I 'nuke'
a potato and slather it with butter most nights.  We get old and times change. 

Well, this short commentary seems to have run long.  I'm sure there will be other (many other) episodes from my younger life detailed (with some names omitted to protect the guilty) here over time.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Pain, pain, pain... A very unwelcome guest has departed.

For the time being at least.  Last night was the first night in many, many nights I have not awoken to leg pain that required more pain medication, more pain rub or both.  Mostly both.  I made it though the day without pain though my leg was getting pretty tired and leaving work still required a limp.  But blessedly no real  pain. 

But these long weeks of pain have had me thinking about pain in general.  There are many people in this world who suffer much greater pain in their lives than I suffer any day.  Yet I was thinking of how little tomorrow means if it is filled with this pain and what would it be like to end it now.  I've often wondered about people who choose to end their own life.  Seems such a drastic and close-ended solution.  Things change.. what if you're just WRONG?  There is no "oops" here.  But even with my minor (relatively speaking) pain I have had a small look into the life of someone in torment day and night and now begin to understand the appeal of stooping that pain any way at all.

I guess pain just becomes another kind of insanity after a while.  Pain clogs the mind and stops rational thought.  Pain becomes a world of it's own.  Eventually,  stopping that pain is all a person desires.  I am talking about physical pain but I'm sure emotional pain is much the same.  In fact, I know it is.  There are a lot of people in this world who are in deep physical and/or emotional pain every day.  Many choose to stop it permanently.  Many, though, choose to find a reason to endure one more day.  Day after day.  They are truly blessed with strength beyond what is normal.   

If you know someone around you filled with pain with no chance of it easing yet they choose to go on each day.. cherish them.  It takes a special strength of will and character to endure that and keep on going.  But I can see why Dr Kevorkian had so many clients. 

Well, that is my gloom for the evening.  :-)  Have a great night all.

Wendy's hamburgers

I grew up in a very isolated part of eastern Kentucky.  We had one place that would typically today be identified as "fast food".   It was the Dairy Queen on Broadway.   It was only open nine months out of the year back then so in the winter we were without a fast food option.

Of course that changed over the course of time.  But I remember the absolute culture shock when I first ventured into a McDonald's on a trip down I-75 to Florida.  I went in as I had been witness to all those commercials over the years and asked for my "normal" burger.  Cheeseburger with lettuce, tomato and mayonnaise.  Much to my shock and disbelief I found they did not have lettuce, tomato or mayonnaise.  Just mustard, onion and pickles.  I got one and, needless to say, it was just as dry, tasteless and completely devoid or redeeming characteristics then as now.

But when Wendy's finally came to Paintsville I was in "hog heaven".   Big, juicy burgers with plenty of lettuce, tomato and mayonnaise.  Yes, baby!!!  Give me two triples with cheese, lettuce, tomato, mayonnaise , large fries and a large frosty.   Hey, this is not joke.  Back then that was my Wendy's order.  Of course now it's a single with cheese, lettuce, tomato, onion and pickle.  NO frosty.  NO fires.  MAYBE something to drink but mostly I'm going home.  And, honestly, mostly I go to Wendy's since I can turn left at the light, right into the parking lot, then out the back and come back to the light with a straight shot across and back home. 

But, this morning I came across an article on Yahoo regarding Wendy's changing their signature burger for the very first time since the franchise began back in 1969.  ("Was the summer of '69..."  Pardon me... old rock flashback there.)   I know  there is just not one whole heck of a lot one can say about a burger.  Beef and bun at it's core with optional toppings and condiments.   Here it is late in 2011 and they have been spending massive time, effort and money on researching these changes since 2009.

I mean, "a pickle chemist was consulted".     " So, executives were shipped off to eat at burger joints around the country to measure burger characteristics like fatty flavor, salty flavor and whether the bun fell apart."

"Among the proposed changes were some golden nuggets. Tasters said they wanted a thicker burger, so Wendy's started packing the meat more loosely, trained cooks to press down on the patties two times instead of eight and printed "Handle Like Eggs" on the boxes that the patties were shipped in so they wouldn't get smashed. "

Okay, so no more meat just pack what we have more loosely to make it look thicker.   Yep, that is just what the consumer wants out of a burger.  Oh, and when you get to the end you find out they are also changing the prices.  Guess whether it is going up or down.  Uh huh.   Okay everyone act surprised.

I suggest you read the entire article.  It is quietly amusing how far Wendy's went to give us a new burger.  Oh holy Wendy's we are not worthy.  We are not worthy.  Makes me feel obligated to go get at least one just to see if there is even any discernible  difference. 

Well, the wife has a late doctor's appointment today as well as an even later hair appointment.  Might be the day to fight the humongous crowd (yeah, right) at Wendy's and try that new sucker out.  Can't wait.

Monday, Monday... Can't stand that day.....

The Mamas and Papas I believe.  But it seems to be a kind of universal feeling.   The weekend is  behind us and nothing ahead but the work week before another lovely weekend arrives.  I have no more love for a Monday than anyone else but today does not quite seem as bad as usual.

For the first time in months I slept the night through without a middle of the night wake up call for more pain medication or to rub down my leg with pain cream.   For once both my left hip and left knee were not hurting at the same time.  I'm learning to be very thankful for such small things.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

About the Title

I grew up in Kentucky back in the 50's and 60's.  That was a time of great change in this nation.  Lots of things happened.  Things that changed our world forever.  The first I really remember was the Beatles.  I'm old enough to have watched the Beatles on their first appearance on the Ed Sullivan Show.  I guess the second was the "so called" sexual revolution.  Not sure how much of a revolution that was as looking at the world population I believe the secret may have gotten out some time before.  Still, that is a mark of the 1960's.  Burning bras and draft cards was the "in" thing to do.

But another thing became quite popular in those days.  It had and it still has many names in many places but in Kentucky it was called "rabbit tobacco".    Every country boy (and girl) knew where to find it.  In the late summer and early autum we'd find it and roll it in whatever we  had handy.  Brown paper bags were good.   Stolen cigarette paper was best if we could get it.  Somehow it was better even than Prince Albert.  (you got to be a certain age to appreciate that). 

But they claim it is a mind altering experince and one can reach new levels of illumination.  Idon't recall ever being illuminated by it.  Actually, I don't remember being too much effected by it at all.  But at the time we'd smoke anything that would burn.  Tobacco, rabbit tobacco, corn silt, grape vines, stick weeds.... we were smoking fools for sure.

But it does bring back memories.  Lying on my back in the sun on the side of a hill in a hidden meadow smoking rabbit tobacco.  I guess that is what this is all about really.  Memories, thoughts, imaginings, walks in the woods or what was, venturing into the forest of what might have been.  Thoughts, dreams, illusions and delusions.  Smoking rabbit tobacco. 

A brief statement on the (lack of) purpose for this blog.

I don't have a "normal" mind.  At least that is what I've been told ever since I can remember.  Even my mother said I was "mentally retarded".  But that is a story for another day.  Suffice it to say being a mentally retarded accident was an interesting introduction to life.  Kind of puts one in one's place from the beginning.

But for some reason this deficient mind of mine keeps on working and producing "odd" thoughts.  (Well, what other than odd would you expect?  Really,  now.)  So, out of boredom (someone explain the difference between boredom and ennui, please) I decided to create this little hole in reality where I can wander among the future and past, the real and unreal, the serious and fanciful things that inhabit my little chunk of "reality" every day.

Wisdom or answers, I have none.  Questions I have many.  Opinions galore.  Purpose?  Perhaps it is for my own amusemement or just some place to idle my time away in meaningless essays on meaningless activities in a  meaningless existance.    We'll see.

I'll put the link out on Face Book in case anyone cares to look.  Is it arrogance to imagine someone else might care to read my ponderings?  Probably.  Then ask me do I give a damn.  Come here or stay away.  It's all the same to me.  This is my place to rant, rave, delve into philosphy and question everything anyone (including me) holds as holy.    Come by if you'd like.  Don't if you'd like.  All the same to me.  All the same to the world in the end.