Friday, August 26, 2016

No Satisfaction

  Whenever I get the urge to ramble but don't want to spend any money, I go for a paddle in the canoe. I keep the canoe on the bank above the river. It's a narrow river and shallow this time of year. Sometimes I have to get out and pull the canoe over a sandbar.
  This morning I put on my boots and grabbed a paddle. As I approached the canoe I heard a buzzing and saw hornets in the branches overhead. I retreated to the stern of the canoe and flipped it upside right. Hornets poured out of the nest they had built in the bow. I retreated around the corner of a nearby building.
  I might as well do something useful since I can't go canoeing. As I painted some trim, my wanderlust kept bugging me. My mind wandered to a beautiful campsite overlooking Hayes Lake. There's a fire ring there with a grate. I could cook myself some lunch and enjoy the ambience. My thrifty self said that the lake is ten miles away and a day pass to the park costs five dollars. It was hot painting the trim and I imagined the cool breeze off the lake and the smell of my hot dog as it roasted on the grate.  OK, OK, we'll do it!
  I finished my job, washed the brush and gathered some supplies in a canvas beach tote, some firewood, some sauerkraut and mustard, some matches. I had bought some hot dogs last month but accidently grabbed a package from last year out of the freezer. Or it might have been from two years ago. Hot dogs keep forever though they do eventually revert to their essential element: hoof of cow.
  The park was deserted on this Tuesday afternoon. The ranger station is only open on the weekends but there are envelopes for you to leave your fee. There was little chance I'd get caught if I didn't pay but lately the vision of the heavenly scales weighing my good vs my evil deeds has been coming into clearer focus so I did the right thing.
  There's a main campground with electric hookups etc. but I headed a mile or so down a dirt road to the primitive campsites. Then it's a five minute hike to the bluff overlooking the lake. There was a good breeze but it was blowing from the wrong direction and the mosquitoes had at me. Fortunately I had packed some spray. I got a little fire going and swung the  grate over the flame. The grate was an inch thick and would take some time to heat up. The lake was pretty but it was stuffy in the woods. The tops of the trees swayed in the wind but the air was dead in my camp.
  I tossed my hot dog on the grill and realized then that it was from the ancient package. I threw on more firewood, scraps of 2x4s from a construction project. A thick black smoke coated my lunch. How many carcinogens am I adding to those already in the hot dog? The cast iron grate was absorbing all the heat. The mosquitoes were getting through my defenses. I slapped the meat on a bun, dressed it and choked it all down.
  As I drove home I conceded that my excursion had been a flop. But I also conceded other trips had turned out much better than I had expected. You just need to keep on rambling.

                              The lake is lovely dark and deep
                                But I've a bloody blog to bleep

Sunday, August 21, 2016

The Nostalgia of a Nun

  I had an adversarial relationship with the sisters of St. Joseph at Holy Name School. They wanted to instill knowledge in my mind. I wished to remain as I was. Thanks to their persistence and support from my parents, I learned reading, writing and enough arithmetic to send me down the line I was to follow. These nuns were formidable presences in their flowing veils, their black serge tunics, and their stiff white aprons and clanking rosary chains. Even the class bullies and toughs backed down. You messed with a nun and you were replaced quickly and permanently by the next kid on the waiting list.
  When I told my parents about the rigors of life with Sister Conese or Sister John the Baptist, my father would say you're lucky you never had Sister Eubestrabius. This woman had been a mule skinner out west before entering the convent and our dad said that after eight years under her thumb, WWII had been a piece of cake. A piece of cake that sometime blew up in your face, but still preferable to camping with Sister U.
  One day in fifth grade, sister was talking about goldenrods. They were in a poem I think, and sister lowered her book and said, "What do goldenrods make you think of, girls and boys?" No one ventured a guess. Even Joseph R. and Mary C. the honor roll kids were struck dumb. "This is easy." sister said. "What do they remind you of?" Nothing. Absolutely nothing. Finally she had to tell us that they should remind us that the school year was about to start. Mary nodded in assent and Joseph simpered yes, yes.
  Now sister had grown up during the depression when goldenrod took over the idle fields and shuttered factory yards, while we students lived in a manicured suburb where the goldenrod was relegated to railroad cuttings and the yards of the mentally ill; places we were forbidden to go. We associated goldenrod not with sweet sorrow but with danger. And beyond that, none of us could imagine sister as a child dreading the approach of another nine month stretch in school. To me, she was the face of this punitive system that was wasting my youth.
  I don't know if sister was chagrined that none of us shared her nostalgia, but after that day she stuck to trains travelling east at 60 mph and the glorious exploits of the Crusaders retaking the Holy Land for a century or so before losing it to the Saracens once again.

                       Shot with an iPhone 5S by Chairman J.

Monday, August 15, 2016

The One Egg Joe

In this blog, I claim to have invented a new way to make an omelet. For me a well made omelet is the height of cuisine. The interior of an omelet should exhibit baveuse This is French for bovine nasal discharge. Disgusting oui, but apt. As a youth I made a lot of scrambled eggs and it took many years to break that habit. I watched others make omelets; I watched YouTube videos; finally I saw a chef on a cooking show make a one egg omelet an a gigantic pan. That's it! Keep it thin.
I favor the one egg omelet. I'm watching my cholesterol. On the other hand, I like lots of stuff inside, cheese, veggies, ham, etc. But my thin omelet can't handle the load. It rips apart as I try to get it onto the plate. It's edible, but ugly. In a flash of inspiration I realized I could slide the egg and melted cheese onto my plate then add the preheated stuffings and fold over the sides. Beautiful. Someone else may have come up with this method as well.  I don't care. I developed it on my own. It's like the guy who developed the theory of evolution the same time as Darwin. He gets credit, though no one remembers his name.

                                            Step one:

                                            Step 2


Saturday, August 13, 2016

Lime Jimmy

The Catholic Church says a child reaches the age of reason at age seven.  I don't know about that. When I was eight someone told me my cousin Jimmy was exactly twice as old as me. I reasoned that when I was 50, Jimmy would be 100. When I was 150, Jimmy would be 300, and so on. Children also think they live forever.
Jimmy was one of those rare teenagers who take an interest in kids so he was my hero. He had a sailboat and he took us sailing, but not as often as I wished. One day I begged him to take me out for a sail and he said Introibo ad altare Dei. He said he'd take me sailing if I could tell him what that meant. He was an altar boy and had the Latin mass memorized. Though I'd been hearing these words weekly for years I didn't realize it was the opening line of the mass. In my fantasy life I said "I will go to the altar of the Lord, Psalm 42.  Let's go sailing!"  In reality, I was stymied.
When Jim was in college he had a summer job delivering mail in the town of Hull south of Boston. Hull is a five mile long peninsula. Along most of the main road you can see the ocean to one side and the bay to the other. One hot day while riding my bike, I came across Jim delivering mail and magazines to the cottagers. He had the full USPO uniform and heavy leather bag, with the dropbox key chained to his belt. I followed along, chatting away until we reached the local drug store. Break time. Jimmy bought me my first lime rickey. Ah, delicious on a hot summer's day.
Jimmy thought I would leave him alone after that, but no, I was ready to go the distance. He was too nice to tell me to beat it, but he did give me his jacket and asked me to drop it off at his house a couple of miles away. I don't know about this next part for sure, but I can imagine him returning to the drug store to call his mother. "Joey will be dropping off my jacket in a few minutes. If he plans to rejoin me give him a lime rickey."
"A what?"
" I mean a glass of ZaRex."
Indeed, when I reached the house, Aunt Anna offered me a glass of ZaRex which I accepted.  ZaRex was a sweet fruity syrup you mixed with cold water. I just learned that Babe Ruth used to pour it over chipped ice during his time with the Red Sox. When he was sold to the Yankees, Ruth said it was the one thing he missed about Boston.
Aunt Anna offered me a refill, but I declined. "I have to go home and study my Latin," I said.

Friday, August 12, 2016


Declutter! Simplify! Why? I rather like the clutter. I feel comfortable in its midst. It makes me feel secure. Yes there are times I get stressed when I can't find an important paper or a tool, but with the help of St. Anthony, it always turns up. Had I been the decluttering type, I might have thrown it out.
As the guy who wrote Winnie-The-Pooh said, untidy people are always making interesting discoveries. For example, the other day someone sent me an email with a picture of a fly in amber. That reminded me that I had a fly in amber too. I had thought of it many times since I packed it away 16 years ago in preparation for a total remodel of our house.
I had bought the amber at the Agassiz Natural History Museum at Harvard with the kids a few years previous. After several hours of hard thinking at any museum, we always reward ourselves with a memento from the gift shop. The kids usually opt for something like a chocolate dinosaur while I go for the fossils. The pieces of amber on display were very expensive; those with regular sized flies in them. These flies had been going about their business millions of years ago when they got stuck in a resin flow and were fossilized. I found a small piece I could afford. The fly within was tiny, but there was also the wing of normal sized fly.
Once back home, the piece of amber went into the "museum." Our museum was initially the area in front of the books in the built-in bookcase, one of the few pieces of furniture I ever made. In fact the only furniture I have ever made has been bookcases.  Our museum contained Civil War bullets, worry beads from Greece, small vases made by the kids in art class, small pieces from toys that had been broken, e.g. the plastic motorists who survived the crushing of a parking garage. The small vases soon filled with smaller items, tacks, paper clips, morning glory seeds. The main treasure besides the amber was a graffitied chip of the Berlin Wall which Matt had bought during his post-secondary tour. It came with a little stand and a certificate of authenticity.
Where was I? Oh, yes, the email that made me think again about my own piece of amber. This morning I went out to the garage. There atop a tall cabinet were three small cardboard boxes. I lifted the top box down and blew away the dust and dirt. On the box in my handwriting was the word "Museum." Inside was the chip of the Berlin Wall and a small box containing several Minie balls and more items too numerous to name. I took down the second box, also labeled "Museum." This box contained mostly gnarled but decorative pieces of tree, also some kids toys but no amber. The last box was larger than the other two. I spotted some fossils inside, a good sign. Some worry beads, a cup full of foreign coins, a small plastic box with a magnifying glass in the cover for examining insects, and inside this plastic box, the amber, as bright as it had been that day millions of years ago.
And people tell me to declutter!