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Sunday, June 28, 2009

Salmon: The Other Red Meat

Well, not really, I know. But we got together for a belated Father's Day (travels prohibited it last week) and Dad bought a wild-caught Copper River Sockeye salmon filet to grill.

I've grilled a lot of salmon, eaten a lot of salmon in restaurants. Never seen salmon with such a bright red color. Grilled some veggies and had all sorts of other trimming son the table, wild/brown rice, a couple kinds of salad, etc.

But this salmon was, without a doubt, the best salmon I have ever eaten in my life. It tasted just like other salmon I've eaten but more so in every dimension. Makes me want to move to Alaska just to bait a hook. I had a slight mis-step getting it off the grill, the fish separated from the skin, but no harm. The fish was moist, light, flaky and too delicious.

Em had fun playing with her cousins. She bought Candyland at a thrift store yesterday and was thrilled to have apprentice players.

That and the elephant pool set up out back. Which had a timid spray until Mo came out and took one look, cranked the water pressure. All of a sudden the water was shooting clear up through the canopy over the pool.

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Musicale (Getting Reacquainted With Stage Fright)

This was the usual dinner party at Melissa's except she had this idea that Foolkiller's first performance should be part of it.

Okay, she says the band will never be called Foolkiller. Seems really dead set against it. But if I pretend otherwise, maybe she'll come around. She hates all my other suggestions even more (such as Camel Toe, Split Wet Beaver, A Confederacy of Dunces, Three Rails of Blow & A Hooker, etc.) It seems I can't come up with an alternative so bad it makes Foolkiller look good enough by comparison.

Anyway, Rachel & Meghan were our merchandizing act, our opening band. They played Mozart, The Sinfonia Concertante for Violin, Viola and Orchestra in E-flat major, K. 364 (320d). Well, not all of it, and they didn't have an orchestra, so humming and laughter tended to fill those roles.

Well, that and the occasional daughter wrapping herself around Mommy's leg.

I saw Rachel cringe every time she made a mistake, but dude, this is a piece neither had played in over twenty years. They were sight-reading it. I started to video them, and Rachel told me to knock it off. So I found this on YouTube: it was more or less like this but with Melissa's furnace where the orchestra should be:

So anyway, I realized listening to them that not only did they have balls to do this, but any slight mis-steps were perfectly understandable given they were reading it cold. Such things are unavoidable, even by the most accomplished musicians.

Suzuki Bow from Chixulub on Vimeo.

Whereas the band Melissa says can't possibly be called Foolkiller, we've been working for months on this handful of songs. And rehearsed as recently as yesterday. So all my self-critical interior voices were saying to me, Self, what's your excuse?

It's the interior voices that give me the nerves. Mostly, anyway. It crossed my mind that Meghan did go to Julliard, which is about as elite as it gets. But Melissa's done (if I recall) a Berklee summer program and graduated from Eastman, and I don't get nerves loading my gear into her basement to play with her.

Really my nerves weren't bad for Weenie with a Tragic Cramp and Vertigo. Well, there was an aborted run at Vertigo, where Em came running downstairs to get me (she was being paid a bit to keep an eye on her sister while I participated in the musicale, with the understanding that she come get me if I was needed. Needed as in a seizure, or really egregious behaviors. I almost dropped my guitar trying to get it off and get upstairs before finding out all it was, Mo had asked to go home. She was bored.

So anyway, those first two songs weren't total train wrecks. I've played better guitar solos, but we started and ended more or less together.

Then it came to Code Monkey, the number I sing. My knees went a bit wobbly and my mouth went dry. I realized in mid-phrase that I was running out of breath because I hadn't inhaled when I should. We started out fast (because I start us off and I was having a little anxiety attack) but by the first chorus we were slower. But at least we were together, so I guess that means we were listening to each other enough to speed up and slow down in unison.

There's a level of stage fright that actually improves my performances. This was about 16 levels above that, a fight or flight response that could have gotten someone killed, at least if pitchy singing were a gun. I was having fun, don't get me wrong, so much so I suggested we go ahead and inflict Modern Love on our audience. And as we started it, I noticed my middle, ring and pinky fingers on my right hand quivering. My thumb and index were holding the pick, which kept them steady, but the other three were having a full-blown nervous breakdown.

I know I need to practice a lot more, and we need, as a group, many more hours of rehearsal. The part I have trouble figuring out is why I want to go do it again, given that performing in front of even the smallest and friendliest audience possible made such a credible attempt at scaring me to death.


Picked up Em from Camp Chippewa this afternoon, where she spent the week. The artist formerly known as Frau Lobster went there when she was a little honyock.

I was surprised going in and seeing the place how beautiful it really is. Almost made me wish my parents had sent me to camp. But my parents never went to camp themselves, so I don't think it ever crossed their minds.

The cabins aren't air-conditioned, though, so that cured me of that false nostalgia. There's probably a word that actually means nostalgia for something you never experienced, and if there's not there certainly should be.

I asked Em what she did all week and she struggled with an answer. 'Same old same old,' and 'I don't know.'

Then she talked to her Mom on the phone and told her extremely detailed stories about what she'd done at camp. Then at the musicale at Melissa's, she was telling some of my friends, in detail, what she did. I guess there's a blockage when it comes to explaining camp to a Dad who's never been a camper...

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

May I Offer You Some Schadenfreude With That?

Okay, first off, I have to share this with you.

Goodnight Daddy from Chixulub on Vimeo.

My ex emailed it from her phone last night when circumstances prevented my routine bedtime call. It's important, because it is easily the high point of the dark period since Monday evening's bike ride and Steak & Shake scene...

My car was in the shop for a mighty $1291 in repairs, for a start. This was true, actually, Monday. It just wasn't until late Tuesday that my mechanic was finished with the two radiator fans, the timing belt, water pump, and I'm pretty sure a heart-lung-liver transplant on my 97 Accord.

This right after my home's AC blower fan melted down to the tune of $547. Right on the heels of the $125 snaking of three (or more) pairs of Mo's underpants from the sewer line. And all this while my income has been cut by 20% for months—not that this decreased my child support, mortgage, or any other obligations along the way...

How could it be any worse? Jehovah! Jehovah!


So I'm on I-35 this morning driving a car that hasn't even been out of the shop for a whole day and I see wisps of steam? Smoke?

I pull over, pop the hood and find it's steam (that's good, I think, at least the fucker's not on fire). Green stuff is leaking all over my brand new, very expensive radiator fans. I call my mechanic, who dispatches a character I'll call Igor simply because I didn't get his name. Igor showed up in an old Buick Century that was a mobile testament to mechanical prowess. Only a wizard could keep this thing running. His wasn't quite the same year, I don't think, but it was basically the car my 97 Accord replaced.

Igor tried to tighten the hose clamp on the leak (where the radiator met hose, but to no avail. The bottleneck that comes out of the radiator was crumbling. I didn't know they could do that. A radiator is a device filled with boiling-hot fluids all the time, I thought they were made out of, I don't know, METAL or something. Nope, this one's plastic. And toast. Another $179 plus tax and tow.

Did I for just a moment wish I'd let that salesman push me back to the finance office when I test drove that Nissan Cube? No, not really. I love the Nissan Cube, it is the perfect automobile, my dream car (if they offered it in yellow anyway), but no. I have no desire to be on that awful TV show where they show the fat chick and the dirtbags repossessing people's cars. And since I can afford, presently, a car payment of about zero, that's where the whole Nissan Cube affair would end.

I've had plenty of humiliations in life: divorce, bankruptcy, being 39 years old and having to ask Mommy for help with bone-crushing car repair bills, but I've never had a car repo'd. I haven't had a car payment since I was 22, when I paid the last payment on my one ill-advised car loan, and consequently I've not been vulnerable to this one particular shameful experience.

It's not that I've totally embraced the Dave Ramsey Lifestyle or anything. I have a couple of credit cards, full ones. I have no emergency fund saved and see little opportunity to put one together. To hear Dave tell it, if I had an envelope with $1000 in cash hidden in my freezer or coat closet, all this shit wouldn't break. I can't prove the theory wrong since I've never in my life had anything that resembled this 'emergency fund.'

As the skit goes, where does this 'saved money' come from???

But anyway, lest you think this is all about appliance and car repair, it gets better. Well, worse, but I'm counting on schadenfreude to make this worth your time. Sincerely, I hope you enjoy my misfortunes because I can't. It's okay, laugh a little at the Lobster, I'll laugh at you when you're circling the drain. Depending on who you are, I probably already have.

Igor dropped me at work and had my car towed back. If you're not impressed he had this old Century running, check it out: the air conditioning even worked. Impressive for a car built before the invention of air conditioning.

My Dad (dropped me at the garage to pick up the car) offered to take me and Mo to dinner. My night for the girls this week but Em is at camp.

So we go into Bob & Dee's, a restaurant Mo has eaten at and enjoys. And she's loving on me like I'm the reason we're in there. And I order her the three piece fried chicken dinner, which has every single one of her favorite foods, and she's got her lemonade.

And she starts shouting. She cups her hand over her mouth to create and echo and, well, it's more like a bark than a shout. But it's fucking loud.

So I roll out the tried and true admonishments to use her quiet voice, and it's not even making a dent. I try a time out and she screams, and I mean a coach's whistle can't compete with this. So we box up the food and leave, and as a consequence I took away her favorite soundtrack to being in the car (the Jolly Rogers, which she refers to and asks for as the 'Silly Rogers') and the computer. As in, when we get home, no computer because you made bad choices and ruined dinner.

I know I could have stayed and eaten and let Mo ruin everyone's dinner, but I'm not an asshole. Well, not that kind of asshole anyway.

We get home and I hit the garage door opener and nothing. Then I notice the house looks eerily dark.

Now, I mentioned above I've had a few unexpected expenses lately, right? And I've been on 32 hour weeks for a few months, so money would be tight anyway. I paid my electric bill on the way to work today because today was the cutoff day if I didn't. And because I only last night had enough money deposited to cover that check.

So I figured they had cut off my power before anyone checked the drop box and I was screwed. But I tried the after hours number trying to think of an angle that would get them to turn the power on at 7:00 p.m. My CPAP, my autistic daughter, the fact that you can't live by candlelight with a child who can't abide a lit candle (they're for blowing out) and who likes to eat candles.

Fortunately, everybody's power was out. Yay! It was a fallen tree and a messed up doo-hickey. Driving around, killing time (the car was much easier to share with Mo than an unlit, un-air-conditioned house), I even saw the linemen make the final vital repair: placement of a doo-hickey on a thingy up the pole. I saw a spark and the cherry-picker came down and I asked them if that meant the power was back on and they said yes.

I love those guys. And envy them their completely recession proof jobs.

All the while we were in the car, Mo asked for the Silly Rogers. And I repeated, over and over, 'No, you made bad choices and wouldn't find your quiet voice. Your bad choices ruined dinner, no Silly Rogers, no computer.' After an hour and a half, I think it almost sunk in. She tried to turn on the computer, first chance when we got home of course. I'd locked up the power chord, so nothing doing.

I'm aware, by the way, that some of the stuff I'm bitching about here is the result of my own bad choices...

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

I Rode With Elvis

Roj is one of my bestest friends in the whole world. He drew the buckaroo lobster in the masthead of this blog, the only tattoo I've ever gotten. But I haven't seen him in over ten years.

Not because he lives in Copenhagen or something. He lives in midtown. No, Roj is a bit of a hermit when he's not acting. If I really wanted to see him, I should have decided to shoot a movie. Then he'd show up.

Turns out, there's another soft spot. Cycling. JSC talked Roj into coming to Trek for the Monday night no-drop ride. No-drop is what I call the No Lardass Left Behind ride. And that's me, the one bringing up the rear huffing like he still smokes 3 packs a day (I quit 14 years ago).

Roj showed up, in character, with his Mongoose BMX bike, circa 1981. Restored including replacement decals. And a girlie backpack with a flashing light. And a skateboarding helmet.

I was reminded of one of my favorite books, Apathy and Other Small Victories by Paul Neilan.

I bought the bike from a junk shop for twelve dollars. It was an old-fashioned cruiser with a high aristocratic seat and handlebars, the kind beautiful Italian girls with perfect posture ride in films set in the 1940s, pedaling past olive groves...

...I thought I had some local color, some neighborhood folk hero charm...

...Until the day I caught my reflection in a storefront window. Sitting high on a girl's bike, my bulky rain pants yanked up to my neck, my shiny yellow Gorton's fisherman slicker, my tiny child's helmet like a vulcanized yarmulke on top of my head. Those smiles and thumbs-up were really saying, "Look at that retarded boy riding his bike in the rain. And all by himself too! Good for him!"

Okay, so Roj's bike isn't a girls' bike, but it has one gear and tiny wheels. And most of the riders in this group wear the full uniform of padded bike shorts, a rash-guard like shirt, a camel-pack, etc. Many have special pedals that require a shoe with a cleat that hooks in to allow them to pull as well as push the pedal.

I was so relieved. For once, I wouldn't be the slowest member of the group. The one the leader asks, 'Feeling energetic?' of before deciding whether to take the way he wants to go or the easy/short way.

Except Roj smoked me. I was riding a $2000 mountain bike borrowed from my brother (thanks Bro!), a bike so easy to propel I felt like I was cheating. And I was getting my ass handed to me by the goofy guy riding a child's plaything.

Oh, the shame except I love Roj. I prize eccentricity and have collected my share of strange friends. And if he's not the weirdest one, he's tied for first with someone.

Like I say, Bill Clinton was President last time I saw Roj, I think. Well, I saw him with his sister at a sidewalk cafe last year, but I was on the clock and on the move and couldn't stop. It felt like an Elvis sighting.

So I rode 12 miles in the sweltering heat and humidity of Monday evening (gotta train if I'm going to finish the MS ride—SPONSOR ME!!) with Elvis. I didn't even want to be outside, it was so hot. But if I'm going to do 170 miles in two days, I gotta train when I can. Help me out, I'm trying to talk Roj into riding, too. And he'll be the one on a BMX bike, nobody will believe it...

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Give It To Us Raw and Wrrrigling!

I don't eat out much, let alone in toney restaurants like Kabuki. But this is where a shit-ton of old friends were meeting and I really wanted to be in on it. Common denominator, all but one of us went to high school together.

I tried to think, when was the last time I ate some place this upscale on my own dime. And I think I was still married. I tend to think of Five Guys as an extravagance, or for that matter McDonald's or Long John Silver's.

Sushi, though, is one thing I've never learned to make at home. I had the Chirashi platter tonight, with some roe and Uni on the side. Delicious.

I have to say, though the restaurant is very upscale, I was surprised at the service. This is where Julie and Roger deflowered me of my sushi virginity, but when I showed up early, I was abruptly told they didn't open until 5:30. It was 5:25. When I came back and we went in, I made an inquiry about the beers available and instead of an answer, I was given a menu that didn't list the beers. I ended up having a Mai Tai instead, but anyway...

This was about friends, friends I hadn't seen in a long time (from two days to four months to 20+ years), and we had a blast. Though at one point one of my dinner mates asked what one of the things on her plate was and commented, 'I'd ask the waitress but she'd probably reprimand me.' So I wasn't the only one who thought she was a little short on the service side.

Sorry, but have you seen the news? This recession that's going, it's impacted everyone I know and me, big-time. If Kabuki's sales aren't off this year, I'll eat my shoe. You'd think they'd be falling over themselves, nine customers walk in. Granted, nine separate checks, but we're slow where I work, too, and I don't care how high-maintenance a customer is, I want their business.

I over-ordered. My cash should have been ample, but when the check came I only had about a 4% tip available. Good thing the waitress ignored my empty Mai Tai (which was gone before my food arrived). Since she never asked me if I wanted another drink (I did), I didn't go over my money. Normally, I'd feel really guilty leaving such a tiny tip, but in this case I'd say it was fair.

I'd still go back to Kabuki. Being deflowered by Julie and Roger there alone makes it special. And it is great food, if pricey.

And we had so much fun. I'd have paid every penny twice to hang out with this crew, and it wouldn't have mattered if they fed us at all.

And yes, Julie, I'm posting this under Grub. And I'm giving you credit, right here, for most of the pics. All the good ones were taken by Julie (plus all the ones with me in them); if they're a tad dark and noisy, she was using my camera with its child-like capabilities.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009


Dinner tonight was a couple of veggie wraps, each containing:

red onion
alfalfa sprouts
fresh cracked pepper
wasabi sauce (on one)
soy ginger dressing (on the other)

Sunday, June 14, 2009


Em has gotten into buttons, which she insists are called 'flair.' I tried to explain this was strictly an Office Space definition, possibly ripped from the real life employee manual of T.G.I.Fridays, but she doesn't believe me.

Anyway, she wanted more flair for her bag/purse/thing. And I got out my old collection, almost all of which dates back to when I was a high school nerd attending science fiction conventions with my weirdest friends.

A lot of the custom ones are very obviously printed on a dot matrix printer. Some are hand-written by me at age 16 or 17. Many are embarrassingly pseudo-clever.

One that's not as old as that, Em wanted to know 'why her hair is like that?' I told her that, if she knew, she wouldn't want the button. And she took my word for it.

This flair was all in a plastic bin with some other evidence of how much of a geek I was back then. Actually, it probably paints me as worse than I was. There are gaming dice, but I only tried role-playing games (Gamma World) once. But I liked the idea of roll playing games (still do, or I probably wouldn't be playing Mafia Wars), so I'm probably as guilty as if I'd played a lot of D&D. Then there was the WWI cigarette lighter I enjoyed using to light flaming wands of death back then. The tobacco companies claim they don't want to hook kids, but only a kid would pretend they like cigarettes long enough to become dependent on them. And finally, a religious necklace I wore despite my atheism when I was the pagan bass in the St. Theodore's Russian Orthodox choir.

Saturday, June 13, 2009

File Under 'Belongs In a Condo'

My dinner was interrupted by a solicitor wanting to know if I'd like to have that dead tree removed.

What dead tree?

The one that doesn't have any leaves on it.

Oh, that dead tree. Honest, I hadn't even noticed that it was dead, obvious as it is. This is another piece of evidence that I should never live in a house unless its a house so cheap I can afford a lawn & landscape service to take care of the yard around it. I'm pretty sure such professionals would notice a thing like a dead tree.

$450 was his bid to take it down to a stump. He said he didn't know anyone with a grinder small enough to get through my gate to do the stump removal. I guess I'll get some additional bids to make sure that price is competitive, though it's an academic pursuit at this point. I wonder how long I realistically have to come up with the dough to do something about this thing.

Late For Dragons, Way Early For Chalk

The idea was to hit the Plaza and check out the dragon boat races, then go to Crown Center for the Chalk & Walk, a sidewalk chalk event.

We got to Flush Creek in time to watch the first and second place boats shake hands on a good race and paddle back up the murky stream to the dock. It was all over.

So we headed to Crown Center and when I couldn't see any evidence of the sidewalk chalk thing, I asked and was told that's next week. Way, way early. Yeah.

We looked around Crown Center some, but having recently been it wasn't all that novel.

Em had asked about having cheeseburgers for supper, so I lit the fire when we got home and got after it. She said these were in a league with Five Guys—she knows how to butter her old man up. I made smaller patties this time, 1/3 cup per, mashed out to about 3/16" to 1/4" thick. It was tricky getting them all on the grill and back off without them bursting into flames (between my hot fire and the thin patties). I should have popped for the leaner ground beef, but I think the flavor Em was responding to is the taste of 80/20 ground chuck cooked very hot and fast. I know most of that excess fat drains off into the fire, but I'll bet what's left behind is worse from a health standpoint.