Depends.

I’d like to start this entry with an old, but illustrative, joke.

Cast your risible timeline back to 1956. Back when American Jews were legally restricted from so many resorts – among other things – that they had to start their own in the Catskills. Back when America was “great”, in other words, at least according to those in red baseball caps.

The most famous of these resorts was Grossingers, and it’s here that our Borscht Belt joke takes place….

It’s the first weekend of summer at Grossingers and a group of Yenta are hovering near the check-in desk carefully eyeing every arriving patron. When they spot an elderly gentleman coming through the door that they’d never seen before, one of the women immediately accosts him.

“You don’t look familiar” she says. “Are you new here?”

The man looked down at the floor. “I was just released from prison” he said. “I spent the last 40 years behind bars for killing my wife. I strangled her when I saw her talking to another man, then put her body through a wood chipper.”

The Yenta’s eyes grew wide. “Oh my god!” she said. “So you’re single?”

I haven’t been able to update because my dad came to visit for a couple of weeks, and our computer room is also our guest room. I was sweating it out the entire time he was here that he would start my computer and click the “PORN FOLDER! DON’T CLICK!” folder. (I should probably name it something no one will click, like “My Poetry“. I should also probably not have it be the only folder on my screen.)

My dad is really, really cool. Even though he’s getting up there in years he still blasts around the country on his motorcycle, works part time restoring classic British sports cars, and plays a mean accordion. He’s funny, well educated – a retired research hematologist – and doesn’t wear black socks with sandals.

He’s also single.

My mom died fairly young, of a rare cancer, about 20 years ago. She’d married my dad right out of school and in true Italian Catholic tradition immediately started pumping out kids – 5 in their first 7 years together. Her knees didn’t touched for almost a decade.

Growing up I never once heard my parents argue, let along fight. I honestly can’t remember either one even muttering something derogatory under their breath when the other wasn’t around. They were still desperately in love 30 years later when my mom left, and afterwards my dad never dated. He still wears his wedding ring.

So last month my dad called and invited himself to Easter dinner. He’s been doing this more and more lately. It’s partly because I’m the best cook among the siblings (of course). But mostly it’s because it gives him an excuse to drive one of his restored Triumph TR-6’s for 5 solid hours with the top down, pretending he’s competing in the Mille Miglia.

Here are his two babies:

Dad's Triumphs

I don’t know what he took that picture with. Probably something he got free with a magazine subscription. Or in a cereal box.

I absolutely love when my dad comes up for a visit, even if I know it’s just to sample my cooking. We really get along great, and on top of that he always brings beer. NewWifey(tm) loves him too, and for the same reasons. So when he invited himself we gave a hearty assent.

The day after that invite I took a call from our good friend “Ella”. Ella is one of NewWifey(tm)’s stitching buddies, but I like her a lot too. She often comes over – again, for the food mostly – and we always have a good time. So when she phoned and NewWifey(tm) wasn’t around, I felt comfortable chatting her up. At one point in the conversation I happened to mentioned that my dad would be joining us for Easter dinner.

There was a pause. “Are you making a lot of food?” Ella said.

“Don’t I always?”

Another pause. “Would you mind if I joined you this year? I was supposed to go to my nephew’s, but his daughter got sick and.…”

“Of course you can come!” I said. “You’re always welcome, you know that.”

Thank you. I’ll bring wine.”

When NewWifey(tm) came home later that night I told her that Ella would be joining us for Easter dinner.

NewWifey(tm) immediately turned pale.

Why the hell did you invite HER?!” she said.

I was shocked. “What do you mean? She’s one of our oldest friends! We’ve had her over for plenty of holiday dinners before. What’s wrong with inviting her to another one?”

NewWifey(tm) sat down on the sofa and put her head in her hands.

I don’t know what we’re gonna do” she said. “This morning Ruth called. I told her SHE could come over then.”

I stood, not comprehending. “What’s the problem with that? They’ve both been here plenty of times, and they get along just fine. I don’t understand….”

NewWifey(tm) raised her head. “Are you dense? They both want to come over because they know your dad is gonna be here.”

I snorted. “That’s crazy. They want to come over because I’m the best damn cook either of them have ever met. They tell me that all the time. I mean, c’mon. They’re not interested in men any more at their age.”

NewWifey(tm) shook her head. “Are you that fucking clueless about women? They’ve each met your father separately, and neither of them have been able to shut up about him ever since. It doesn’t matter how old they are. They’re single, and he’s a catch. If they both show up at our house on the same day he’s here, there’s gonna be blood.”

“Well at least it won’t be menstrual blood” I said. “That ship sailed long ago.”

She shot out a heel and caught me hard across the shin. “You just watch. They’re both going to arrive dressed like you’ve never seen them dressed before. And when they spot each other, I’m telling you, it’s gonna be a very restrained, very ladylike cat fight to the death.”

I shrugged. “Whatever. It’s not like dad’s gonna notice anyway. He’s not interested in ANY woman.”

That’s irrelevant” said NewWifey(tm).

Fast forward two weeks to Easter. Dad arrived the Thursday before, and he’s already fashioned a new quarter panel out of sheet metal to replace the one that was rusting through on our Ford Escape, helped NewWifey(tm) replace the bad faucet in our back bathroom, beaten me on my own track on our dirtbikes, and purchased three cases of beer for the feast.

On Easter morning Dad and NewWifey(tm) went to some church service (I’m still a devout atheist), while I got started prepping dinner.

For the record, I made:

Individual braided Easter breads, with the egg in the center (I actually made these the night before because of oven space considerations, and also so they’d look good on the table when the guests arrived).

Asparagus and shallot soup puree.

Potato salad.

Roast ham with an apricot, orange, whisky, and thyme glaze. Plus a tureen of gravy made from extra glaze mixed with ham stock.

Stuffed leg of lamb cooked in a Romertopf, roasted on bed of baby potatoes, garlic, and thyme fronds, with a rosemary and fennel top crust. Gravy made from pan juices.

Brandied pan roasted mushrooms with summer savory.

Bowl of extra roasted baby potatoes from lamb dish.

Curried rice and squash biryani.

There were a few oddities in there, like the potato salad in addition to roast potatoes, and the biryani. But they were specifically requested, so there they were. I exist to serve. Or cook, anyway.

While I was midway through my prep work Ella showed up. Three hours early, and in a full Christian Dior Jackie Kennedy outfit – a red sleeveless number that hugged every fold of her fat. Plus 3 inch heels.

She was also carrying a case of wine. “I didn’t know what kind to get” she chirped. “So I got a bunch.” She looked around. “Did your dad come up...?”

I told her that he and NewWifey(tm) would be home shortly, and she could make herself at home. She sat primly at the kitchen island, pretending to be interested in how I tunnel boned out a full leg of lamb, making inane small talk. All the while she kept her head cocked so our front door down the hall stayed in view.

About an hour later I heard NewWifey(tm)’s car coming down the road. I went to the front door to greet them, Ella right beside me.

NewWifey(tm) and dad pulled into the driveway.

Right behind them came Ruth’s car. I heard a faint gurgling sound on my left and turned. It was coming out of Ella.

Ruth got out of her car wearing a sleeveless red Coco Chanel dress, probably a size too small, and 3 inch heels. My dad went to her car and lifted out the case of wine she’d brought along. She put her hand on my dad’s arm as he carried it to the house.

The gurgling sound became a prolonged hiss.

“Oh, hey, look who’s here!” my dad said when he walked in the door. “Ella, it’s great to see you again!” He gave Ella a peck on the cheek. “NewWifey(tm) didn’t tell me you were coming. Let me just put this wine away and we can all chat while Danger cooks.” He walked towards the kitchen carrying the case. As soon as his back was to us Ella shot a feral look at NewWifey(tm), who stared straight ahead with a completely blank expression.

I went back to the kitchen.

For the next three hours I chopped and mixed and kneaded and basted and basically kept too busy cooking to notice what was going on elsewhere. In the other room I could hear my dad laughing and chatting breezily as he always does, our two guests tittering along every time he laughed. NewWifey(tm), meanwhile, didn’t really talk much that I could hear. But every 15 minutes or so she would come into the kitchen for another glass of wine, the same blank expression on her face.

At 2 o’clock, right on time, dinner was ready. NewWifey(tm) had a very nice table setting ready, as usual:

Easter Table

As we often do, we set an extra setting in case anyone showed up unexpectedly. It’s happened too many times in the past for us to neglect this now. Being the best cook anyone you know knows has its drawbacks sometimes.

I sat at the head of the table, NewWifey(tm) opposite. My dad sat immediately to my left. After some covert glaring and very subtle elbowing, Ella sat across from him, Ruth to his left. The smell of Avon ‘Eau d’ Wildflower’ perfume was overwhelming. I set out three of the 24 wine bottles they’d brought, and NewWifey(tm) grabbed one and placed it right in front of her.

My dad gave a brief and cheerfully fulsome prayer, then we dug in.

Or rather, my father and I dug in. Ruth and Ella each made a show of lifting every bowl, platter, or tureen that was passed to them. But when it was all over there was barely a forkful of any one thing on either of their plates. NewWifey(tm) didn’t even bother with the pretense. She just poured herself wine.

Dad and I, meanwhile, neither noticed nor cared. Each of our plates were spilling over with two kinds of meats, two kinds of potatoes, a kaleidoscope of gravies swirling together, mushrooms, etc. We tore into the breads, drank the soup right from our bowls, and worked our way through the two remaining bottles of wine while laughing and talking alternately about my work and his cars.

None of the ladies said a word. Ruth and Ella studiously kept their heads down and pretended to lift food to their mouths, while NewWifey(tm) just got more and more plowed.

By the way, I do want to pause here for a moment and mention something about ham.

You’re making ham wrong.

Yes, you are.

In the future, please make your ham like this:

Easter ham

Thank you.

Now back to the story.

Actually there isn’t that much of the story left to tell (you’re welcome). After about an hour and a half of being completely oblivious to the fully pitched female battle going on around us, my dad and I patted our bellies and declared the feast a success. My dad gave some heartfelt expressions of thanks to the ladies for their generosity in coming up to join us (not to mention the 2 full cases of wine). In return they gave overly effusive expressions of appreciation for being able to see him again. “And my, your son is quite the talented cook! You must have been a wonderful father for him to have turned out like that.” They each plastered on a smile that would have put the Joker to shame, and each patted one of his arms. While looking at each other.

NewWifey(tm) still hadn’t changed expression. It had been hours.

My dad stood up and made to clear his plate from the table, but Ruth swooped over his arm and grabbed it first, just barely beating out Ella who was simultaneously lunging for it from across the table.

My dad didn’t notice a thing. He thanked Ruth for being so thoughtful, then headed for the living room. Ruth shot a smug grin at Ella, who instantly turned the color of blue ice. To her credit though, she did manage to force a treacly smile in return.

For the next hour or so we all sat around the living room chatting. I set out a platter of small pastries and a variety of liquors, along with a pot of tea and coffee. Ruth and Ella flanked my dad on the sofa, laughing over loud when he made a joke and smiling brittle smiles at each other when my dad addressed them both.

Eventually though I could see that the effects of alcohol and several metric tons of holiday foodstuffs were taking its toll on him. His head started lolling back into the cushions, and the gaps between his sentences were getting longer and longer. I knew from experience he wasn’t going to be able to go nap-less much longer. I had to wrap things up.

“Well ladies” I said, “it’s been wonderful having you both here to share our Easter dinner, and we can’t thank you enough for all the wine. But unfortunately I do have to go to work tomorrow, which means I need to get to bed in about an hour. So I hope you don’t mind if I pronounce this feast over, and kick you out the door.” (They’re old enough friends that I can talk to them like that.)

They in turn thanked us for hosting them, and each gave a way too long hug and kiss on the cheek to my father. Then the two red dresses marched down the driveway to their respective cars, and after a moment where they each glared wordlessly at each other from behind the wheel, they drove off.

I closed the door and turned back inside. My dad was already asleep on the couch, head fully back, mouth open. NewWifey(tm) was in the wing back chair next to him, a fresh glass of wine in her hand. She still hadn’t changed expression.

I gently shook her shoulder. “It’s ok honey, they’re gone” I said.

NewWifey(tm) gave a short shake of her head, as if waking from a dream. She looked around, then took a deep breath. Color started returning to her face.

Are they really gone?

I nodded.

Jesus” she said. “The same dress. The same fucking dress. It was worse than I thought.” She drained her glass. “We better get your dad to bed and clean up. You have to be up early for work, remember.”

“Yeah, I remember.”

.

I went to work the next morning, and by 2 o’clock I was back home. NewWifey(tm) and Dad were having lunch. Leftovers. I joined them. We drank another bottle of wine. I told them about my day, what news stories I was covering. My dad told me he wanted to go into Manhattan while he was here and check out some museums. NewWifey(tm) said she’d take him if I was too busy working.

After the meal my dad excused himself to use the bathroom. When he was out of earshot I said to NewWifey(tm), “So, did he say anything about Ruth or Ella?”

Depends” she said.

“Depends on what?”

No – Depends. Adult diapers. Your dad found a pair of them in the bathroom when he got up this morning. One of our two combatants must have left them there by my mistake in her haste to get back to your father.

“I’m guessing he didn’t find that a particularly alluring revelation about them?”

She laughed. “Let’s just say he’s too much a gentleman to admit it skeeved him out. But both called this morning to thank us – him – for the ‘wonderful time’ they had yesterday. And both times he waved the phone away and had me tell them that he’d gone out sightseeing.

“Are you going to try to find out who the culprit is?” I asked.

Are you kidding? I don’t have a death wish” she said. “The one who left it would be mortified, the other would be furious that you father could think it might have been her. Both would probably try to strangle me for not finding it before him. I’m just gonna let this one slide.”

I nodded. “Yeah, it’s probably for the best that they never know. Still, I can’t help but think that if he played his cards right he’d probably be in for a 3-some.”

Ewwww!” said NewWifey(tm). “With THEM? Would you?

I thought about it a moment. “Depends.”

And with that stupid joke, I finish this entry.

Almost.

My dad stayed on another couple of weeks, and had a great time. He fixed a bunch of stuff I’d been too lazy or stupid to address, we ate a bunch of great food, rode motorcycles, watched “Girls und Panzer”, did some sightseeing. By the time he left most of the gifted wine was gone, also. And on the last day, just as he was leaving, he handed me two wrapped packages.

Give these to Ruth and Ella next time you see them, will you?” he said.

“What are they?” I asked.

Depends.”

I stared at him, mouth open. He laughed.

I’m just kidding. I got them each some pignoli cookies from Little Italy. They didn’t eat much when they were here, but maybe when they’re not fighting over me their appetites will return.” He hopped into his little British Racing Green Triumph TR-6 and blasted down the road towards home, an arm breezily waving goodbye as he left.

Well goddam. I guess my father, at least, isn’t that fucking clueless about women. How did that skip a generation…?

G’night kids. Don’t forget to check the bathroom before you go to bed. It could cost you a 3-some.

Ciao!

.

.

Sorry, Syria.

When last we left, Our Hero was shaking his fist at The Injustice Of It All and proclaiming long and loud for all to hear that he was going to reproduce a certain chicken dish as a show of solidarity with the long suffering denizens of Syria. As if that might help.

Welllllllllll………

Change of plans.

Dates are not on sale this week.

Sorry, Syria. I feel bad for you. But not 12-dollars-a-pound bad.

However I already thawed the bird, so I had to do something with it. I kicked around various ideas, like tea smoking it or maybe making another super concentrated stock.

But as I was surfing around the food sites here at WP, I came across a really cool food blogger who posted a pretty inventive recipe for “Chicken and Celery”. Infused oils are all the rage these days, and he makes a particularly toothsome looking one from tarragon that seems worth trying.

Now, he calls the chicken portion of his plate a “ballotine”. I take slight exception to that, but only slight. Technically (and I turn to my 1963 edition of “Larousse Gastronomique” for this) if this dish is made with chicken it’s “galantine”. If it’s made with any other meat, it’s ‘ballontine”. We made that distinction when I was a chef, and I still do today. However, that may be a bit of pedantry on my part, as Prosper Montagne, the author of “Larousse”, also notes that the distinction was becoming blurred even in 1963, and they were for all practical purposes interchangeable terms now.

But dammit, I’m gonna tenaciously carry that torch anyway! It makes me feel smart. Ish.

Oh, and I have to say we only called it “galantine” if it used the entire fowl. Boned and rolled parts were given individual names. Still, what M. Suresh posted to his site looks gorgeous, so I don’t care what it’s called.

(BTW, I also note that “Larousse” lists 13 different recipes for celery, and my copy of Escoffier’s magnum opus lists 11. Hardly an unappreciated veg, at least at one time!)

Anyway, I had this thawed chicken that was dateless and needed to get busy. So galantine it was!

Prep for this dish actually does involve just a tad bit of knife skill. It’s not impossible by any  means, but if you’re not comfortable working your knife around in slippery conditions…maybe get your mommy to do it for you. Or practice more, dummy.

Ok, so the basic premise of a galantine is this: a whole chicken has all its bones ripped out without cutting the meat into pieces or tearing the skin. Then you can either stuff it or not, after which you roll it into a fowl cylinder, and either bake it off or braise it. When it’s done you’ve got this tube of meat that you just slice into rounds and blah blah blah. It’s easy, but again, it does take some doing.

Here’s my step-by-step for tonight’s dish:

No mise en place shot. (Oops.) But it’s simple: a chicken, some twine, salt, pepper, jam, and a few other things I’ll get to as we go along.

I decided not to stuff the roll, just flavor it, and braise rather than roast.

Here’s the bird splayed out with it’s skeleton cruelly yanked and laid to the side. I removed the backbone first then used the boning knife to scrape the meat away from the rest of the carcass. I like leaving the last wing joint in, because it looks like my loaf has an erection when it’s finished:

Galantine 1

Next I flipped the bird over, salt and peppered it, and spread a paste of Trappist fig jam mixed with a little lemon preserve and Maille mustard. Then a sprinkle of thyme over that:

Galantine 2

Then you just close it up and tie it:

Galantine 3

(See what I mean about the erection? Who can resist??)

Once that was done I heated some rendered chicken fat in a dutch oven and started browning it. Er…ignore the twine trying to escape at the ass end:

Galantine 4

When it was browned all over I added some very rich stock that I’d simmered with a garlic clove and a little white wine, and dotted the top with butter:

Galantine 5

(That erection’s looking better and better, huh? I’m actually kinda jealous….)

Then cover and into a slow oven (~300) until it’s done. (Uhhhh…165? Yeah, that sounds good.)

When done, remove the tube-o-bird to a cutting board to rest, while you cook down the braising liquor and turn it into sauce/gravy by waving your magic spatula (and thickening with a starch slurry, a shot of heavy cream, a little Sherry vinegar, a scrape of nutmeg, and sprinkle of cheyenne pepper).

Then cut the loaf open and trim away the piece that falls apart so people who see it on the interwebs won’t think you’re a poser, and set it on a stupidly fancy plate that you’ve first poured some sauce/gravy in because you saw them do that once in Hell’s Kitchen, and the guy won! Musta been that gravy on the plate:

Galantine 6

I have to say, stuffed galantines look prettier (Google it), but I personally prefer unstuffed. Besides: look at that erection!

Speaking of erections, gotta go serve this to NewWifey(tm) now, and I just know she’s gonna be very very appreciative afterwards. Especially since there will be wine involved.

Ciao!

And, uh, sorry again, Syria. I hope this doesn’t hurt your chances for peace. But, y’know, 12 bucks a pound. That’s just wrong….

.

.

Date Night

I’ve mentioned plenty of times before, usually right after some event involving massive human bloodshed or promise of same, that I hate the part of my job that forces me to pay attention to events involving massive human bloodshed or promise of same.

I think it’s fair to say the US attacks on that Syrian airbase qualifies as one of those events.

Whether you think the strike was right or wrong, whatever you think the motivation may have been, or however suspicious the timing may seem to you, there is at least one thing that’s certain: this will do about as much to heal the situation as all previous attempts by America the world to bring about peace by bombing the shit out of the bastards.

Jesus. I wish I could bury my head in a good book or a bad redhead and pretend like none of this is happening. Or rather, happening again. Ignorance really is bliss.

But of course, ignorance is also cause for termination when you’re a news anchor. And I like being able to buy food more than I hate knowing ocelots might be starving. So I immerse myself in the story, again and again and again, until the numbness of repetition brings its blessed release of feelings. Other than feeling the need to drink, that is.

Wait a sec here. Did I really just write a lengthy ode to empathy fatigue as a preamble to a cooking entry? Apparently I did. But why? Was it cathartic? Was it the grappa? Maybe I just have a massive ego….

Actually, there is a bit of a tie-in. Back in 2011 when the wider Arab Spring uprising spread into Syria I knew I had to do something drastic. I had to get to the A&P Supermarket on Rt.46 in West Paterson.

The A&P Supermarket on Rt.46 in West Paterson, NJ was the only supermarket in a camel journey’s radius that had an entire section devoted to foods imported from Syria. For those of you who aren’t familiar, Syria has (had) as large and as rabidly devout a food culture as any other nation you can name, and the comestibles they exported rivaled all of them.

And I knew when I heard the news in 2011 that I was about to be cut off from my supply. It’s tough to package preserved lemons in glass jars and ship them out when your jars keep getting blown into billions of jagged shards by government air strikes. Along with your factory.

So I basically wiped out all three shelves of Durra and other products from that once fair country in one trip, and have been doling them out in a very miserly fashion ever since.

Now that Syria is front and center in the news again, I thought I’d dip in to some of my last remaining stash as a show of solidarity. Not that it will do any practical good by any stretch of the imagination. For fuck’s sake, the Women’s March on Washington was the largest protest in US history…and marital rape is still not rape. So do I think making a chicken dish with the last of my Syrian paprika is gonna stop Dr. al-Assad from killing his patients instead of curing them? No. Of course not. But…but…I’m just tired of being sad all the time, you know? This is the only thing I can think of that allows me to contemplate what’s happening over there without breaking out in dry heaves.

So here’s what I’ve decided. I’ve decided to reproduce the dish I made a few years ago that used that same Syrian paprika to great effect. Back then I just winged it, having been inspired by a palate of dates I found on sale on my way home from work. This time, though, I’m actually going to work off the pictorial I posted of the process. I’ll finally get to see how good a teacher I am!

Ok, so this is the tutorial as I posted it:

Step 1. Mise en place. (As I wrote) “The chicken marinated for two days in rose water (plus a little orange blossom water I had left), ginger slices, saffron threads, and Syrian paprika. The stuffing was made with dates, almonds, saffron, a touch more rose water, and a drizzle of olive oil to bind. ”

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Step 2.The halved chicken, backbone removed. For the paste, the dates soaked in hot water to soften, then were pounded in the mortar with the almonds, a few more saffron threads, a bit more rose water, and a little olive oil. (Keeping the almonds rather chunky, not pounded to dust.) I slid the paste under the skin of each half and massaged it in, reserving some for service:

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Step 3.On cabbage leaves, dusted with more paprika, and into steamer baskets“:

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Step 4.  “Steaming in the wok. About 35 minutes (breasts to 160 degrees), rotating top and bottom baskets halfway through. The steaming liquid was water plus the drained marinade, a few fresh ginger slices, the chicken back, and another shot of rose water. It smelled like a Moroccan spice bazaar in my house….“:

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Step 5.  “Out of the steamer and onto a half sheet. Brushed with olive oil, a sprinkle of coarse sea salt, then under the broiler to brown“:

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Done. I saved some of the paste to serve on the side, which turned out to be a good idea. A very nice spread not only for the chicken, but later chilled, formed into balls and rolled in coconut shreds as truffles. Dinner AND dessert. What more could you ask of one dish?“:

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Not the greatest pictures (my little Nintendo DSi called into service there), but you get the idea.

I’d forgotten I made the leftover paste into truffles. What a stroke of genius, eh? Actually, I was just jonesing for some sugar. Desperation forced my hand.

I remember this being a very flavorful dish. I think it’s a go. I have a chicken in the fridge, so I’ll start marinating that tonight as I also have both rose water and orange blossom water stocked (they carry them at Walmart!). Tomorrow or Monday I’ll scope out dates, and probably Tuesday after work I’ll assemble it all.

It’s a date! With dates!

I just wish Syria could join me….

.

.

Wolf, interrupted

I still have a job.

For now.

I think.

It’s rather surreal. Here it is Wednesday, and I still am not sure what the situation is. On Monday some announcers were let go, but not as many as I expected, and (critically for purposes of my continued existence) not me. Our entire sports department was jettisoned.

Some announcers jumped ship proactively after they saw the writing on the wall. A few even defected to the new company.

On the other hand, a number of announcers who found themselves with no radio stations left were kept on. What the company did was, they pulled a station or two off everyone else’s schedule and gave them to those guys in order to justify keeping them employed.

I have to say that was a very heartening move, although at the same time it makes for a rather bizarre situation overall. Many of us, myself included, now have insanely light schedules. In fact, they took so many stations from me that I have an entire hour in the middle of my shift where I have nothing to do. Nada. Zip. Ugatz.

Not doing anything is the most stressful thing I’ve ever been paid to do. Seriously, I know it’s what THEY TOLD ME TO DO, but I still have this nagging fear that “they’re gonna see me just sitting here not doing any work and my ass is gonna be gone!” So even though I’m doing what THEY TOLD ME TO DO, I still pretend to work during that hour just in case someone in authority pokes their heads in. I put on headphones and give fake newscasts that are broadcast nowhere. I write stories, edit sound, engage in banter with nonexistent co-hosts. It’s crazy.

But not when you’re panicking on the inside imagining that sooner or later they HAVE to wise up to the fact that they’re paying 3 people to do the job of one, and let’s see, who have we seen doing the least around here that we should let go….

No. Then it’s not crazy.

It’s psychosis.

To add to the maddening, ulcerating uncertainty: after Monday’s bloodletting and reshuffling we all thought it was done with. So on Tuesday those of us who were left started to breathe again. But then today two more announcers were shown the door. Two who thought they were safe.

So now none of us think we’re safe again. Was that the last firing? Or will the hammer fall again? A girl I know there told me she thinks that’s it, because the company has already budgeted for the number of announcers we have left, regardless how much work each one is assigned. But next year when they write the new budget, will they…?

Still, the wolf at the door has at least been pushed to the end of our driveway for the time being. He’s still slavering at the sight of me and NewWifey(tm), but he’s being held – however tenuously – at bay for the moment. I actually bought real groceries on the way home from work today – not the clearance stuff that normally would be turned down by even the poorer shelters around here.

Ok, that’s enough. I hate writing downer entries, and this is the third in a row. I didn’t even write TWO in a row when my mom died. And she was like a mother to me! (Even my dog’s death only warranted one dolorous entry. And I arguably loved him more than my mom.)

From now on, then, unless I get concrete news one way or the other, I’m jumping off this ship. I’m going back to food, sex, and ridiculous adventure stories. The kind I’ve championed since I began blogging in 1973 (according to Wikipedia).

To that end, then, I present you with tonight’s dinner:

Kakiage 1

KAKIAGE!

I intend this to be an instructive bit of food bragging, by the way.

It’s not so much that my technique was (as always) flawless, or this dish featured some genius twist which elevated it above its more plebeian cousins.

No. What I would love to impart to you is this (he said, filled (as always) with overweening hubris):  STOP BEING AN IDIOT WHEN YOU COOK!

Wait. That came out wrong.

Oh well. I stand by it.

No, seriously, here’s the thing. When I came home from work today all I saw in the fridge was a lone carrot, an onion, a couple of asparagus spears I’d forgotten about, a half a red bell pepper, and the last breast from a family pack I’d purchased on sale last Sunday. A lot of my friends, and I suspect a lot of you, would look at that mess and say, “Ok, I’ll saute the chicken breast and throw the veggies on…ah, fuck it. I’m calling for a pizza.”

DON’T DO THAT!

When you’re faced with a pile of seeming disparate ingredients, think outside the box. Use your imagination. Have fun! Or at the very least, don’t panic.

One good go-to to keep in your bag of culinary tricks is…dum dum dummm...battering! Almost anything can be dunked into batter and either deep or shallow fried to great effect. In fact, there’s a restaurant in Brooklyn that’s built its entire business around this very concept. I took NewWifey(tm) there for her birthday a couple of years ago because she’d developed a fixation on their deep fried mac ‘n cheese, and it was every bit as disgusting and wonderful and stupid and brilliant as you’d imagine. I had the deep fried pizza.

Sorry. Got off track there. The point is, learn to make a simple batter. I won’t give you a recipe – you gotta show SOME effort here. I mean, what am I, YouTube? – but trust me, you can do it. And once you learn that meager skill, you have a serious option for probably 90% the leftovers you’ll ever come across.

(AAAAAAAAAAAnnd shut up. It is NOT fattening. Not if you do it right. Make sure the oil is hot enough, and it will crust the outside without soaking in. Then dump the finished lump onto a rack or a wad of paper towels. That way most of the oil clinging to the outside will slough off also. Deep frying, done properly – AND THAT’S NOT IMPOSSIBLE FOR YOU TO DO, YES EVEN YOU – puts remarkably little oil in your mouth. For godsake, don’t believe the Food Nazis!)

So that’s what I did here, although because I’m me I made it more special than you. I made the Japanese version of “dump stuff in a batter and fry it”, called “Kakiage”. It’s slivered veggies that you mix into tempura batter and shallow fry like patties. Sometimes shrimp or other seafood is added, but all I had was that chicken breast, so…chicken breast. Home cookin’, yo.

Now…and I’m gritting my teeth as I’m typing this…if any of you out there are of Japanese extract, you might be frowning at that picture and saying to the monitor, “Um, Danger, those kakiage look a little…flat.”

Shut up. I know.

Funny story.

Tempura batter, I don’t need to tell you (*cough*) really has only one cardinal rule: DON’T OVER MIX IT, JERK! When you pour the ice water into the flour, you basically just swirl it a few swirls with a chopstick and then stop. It should look like a lumpy mess. If you stir – or god forbid whisk – until the batter is smooth, you are guaranteed to come back as one of those beetles that lives on bat guano in your next life. And you’ll eat shitty tempura.

So I was careful to just give 2 or 3 swirls of the ol’ chopsticks after adding the ice water. I hate eating guano.

And as soon as I did my doorbell rang.

Stupidly, I answered the door.

It was Jehovah’s Witnesses. Again. Two very nice, very prim, young ladies with pamphlets and smiles. NewWifey(tm) was out for the afternoon, so I was left to dislodge them myself. Which I did, but it took a good 5 minutes. They’re like ticks.

But 5 minutes was 5 minutes too much. When I returned to the kitchen I saw my batter had turned to sludge. I had to add more water to loosen it, and that meant…stirring.

GRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRR!!

Fucking cult zombie parasites! It’s bad enough they prey on the desperate and feeble minded, but do they have to destroy people’s batter with their lies too?

Shit.

So yes. The kakiage is flatter than it should be. Blame god.

Still, it tasted like heaven. When NewWifey(tm) got home a few minutes later, that’s where it took her, too.

And the dipping sauce was perfect, as was the sake. So there.

Ok, gotta go pack up the remains. I wonder what I can make with leftover kakiage? Hmmmm. I wonder what would happen if I made a batter…….

Ciao!

The War on Women

Ugh. I came across as a whiny little bitch in that last entry, didn’t I. “Waaahh! I might lose my job! Waaaahhh!” Jesus, Danger, be a man. Get drunk and shut up.

Good advice! I’m working on both as we type.

But first, thanks to everyone who left a note and/or shot me an email with words of comfort and suggestions of varying degrees of helpfulness. They all touched me deeply. To quote Stewie Griffin, “When the world is mine, your death shall be quick and painless”.

When I started typing I fully intended to end this post here. Despite my rather flip tone, in reality I’m rapidly devolving into a puddle of sweat and urine the closer it gets to Zero Hour. Sitting in this chair writing an entry is taking time that could be better spent hand wringing and babbling incoherently. So I was just gonna jot a few lines to get yesterday’s pathetic screed off my front page, then get back to pacing back and forth and picking invisible cockroaches off my skin.

But that wouldn’t be fair to you, dear reader. If there’s one thing my audience demands, it’s an unnecessarily long, overly wordy entry. Or at least that’s what I tell myself every time I write an unnecessarily long, overly wordy entry. Which is most of the time.

But I just don’t have it in me today.

So instead, I’ll dredge up an unnecessarily long, overly wordy entry I did years ago. No wait – TWO entries, written days apart from each other, about the time two of my buddies in the military came to visit while on leave. That’ll keep you busy for a while. Problem solved!

Here ya go, then. Two from the archives. I chose them because gender identity issues seem to be all the rage with the kids these days, and if that’s what it takes to get eyes on the page now, so be it. I’ll ride the wave. By the time you’re finished reading it all I should know if I’m still employed or not.

Now cast your mind back to those halcyon days of 2004, during the early stages of the Iraq War….

************************************************************

HOO-AH!

Two buddies of mine, both currently incarcerated in the Army, showed up at Dangerhouse last Monday looking for shelter while they deserted. “Sure!” I said. “Glad to help!” (Helping people be more like our President is one of my missions in life.) (*2017 elucidation note: George W. Bush was president then, and he’d famously deserted his post when he was in the service. But he was wealthy, so it was laughed off. By the wealthy.)

It was only after I’d set them up in our guest rooms, they’d unpacked, and had 7 beers each that they told me they were just kidding. They were only on leave, not abandoning ship. They knew I’d never let them stay if they weren’t deserting though (correct), so they felt justified in their initial deception.

I actually feel kinda bad for these guys. They both joined the service in August of 2001, having been duped by oily recruiters into believing the glossy pamphlets that showed buck Privates lounging in hot tubs in the Orient, playing golf in Palm Beach, and dining at Chuck E. Cheese’s in front of animatronic mice. Plus – money for college! How do you resist that when you’re 17?

Three weeks into Basic Training their Drill Sergent had them all fall out of their barracks. He announced, “Ladies, the United States of America has just been attacked by terrorists. All hot tubs and golf courses have been shut down, and all animatronic animals have been destroyed as possible WMD’s. We will now issue you desert gear, because that’s where you’ll be heading after Basic is over. Dismissed.

Two months later they were pitching tents in a sandstorm in Kuwait.

Like I said, I feel kinda bad for these guys. Aside from the shock of going to war when they’d only signed up to take monetary advantage of Uncle Sam, they were now choking on the obvious lies fed them as the reason they were out there in the first place, shaking a kilo of sand from their pubic hair every night.

And then there was Shit Duty.

No, not the generic “shitty duty” that every soldier complains of.

Shit Duty.

You may have seen reference to this elsewhere, but if you haven’t, it will be my pleasure to enlighten you….

See, one of the reasons the average Baghdadian was a bit miffed after the Shock and Awe wore off, and why rose petals were not strewn over the corpses to welcome the liberators, is that they were thirsty. And hot. And dirty.

It seems that unexpected “collateral damage”, suffered when enough ordinance to destroy the Death Star is dropped on you, includes things like water, electricity and basic sanitation services.

That meant, among other things, no working toilets. The Iraqis literally had no place to go.

Which meant the Coalition Forces also had no place to go.

Now, this really wasn’t a problem if you just had to pee. With temperatures averaging 125 degrees(f), and 0.02 % humidity, you could just whip it out and the stream of urine would evaporate before it passed your knees. (Female soldiers just peed where they stood. The stain dried in seconds, and had the added benefit of evaporative crotch cooling).

But if you had to poop, that presented a real problem. Feces – at least healthy feces – is notoriously reluctant to just disappear into thin air like its liquid cousin. It just lays there, drawing flies and fouling your water source, until you’re forced to move and invade a country with a working sewer system.

Well, the US Army did not want to go that route.

…at least not yet.

So, they came up with “Shit Detail”.

Here’s what soldiers posted to urban Baghdad had to do when they opened the bomb bay doors and dropped a couple:

They had to take a dump in a can. Like, y’know, an empty soup or coffee can.

That was their toilet.

I’m sure you realize the drawback here. Coffee cans don’t flush. They just lie there, dutifully holding their contents until somebody shakes it out of them.

Hundreds of thousands of hideous, poop filled coffee cans.

Everywhere. Every day.

Of course, this was not a situation the Army could allow. It was already hard enough on the guy delivering folded flags who had to explain to weeping parents that their kid was killed because at 18 he really wasn’t a good enough a driver to handle a Humvee and rolled it into a ditch. If mom and dad started reading “Dysentery” and “Cholera” on the toe tag, it could become a real PR problem. They had to do something about that shit.

Did you know that shit burns?

I remember reading that Injuns used to burn “buffalo chips”, the solid exhaust from that noble beast, for both warmth and cooking. From all accounts it worked pretty well, and with very little odor. Personally I don’t think I’d resort to burning shit in my grill if I ran out of propane, but to each their own. The point is, the Military seems to have read the “Johnny Paleface” series also (or picked up a few pointers first hand during 19th century slaughtering runs). And if it was good enough for those redskins, it was good enough for our dog faces.

The troops were ordered to burn all their shit.

Every day, each soldier would take his reeking can to a compound on the outskirts of camp and dump it into one of numerous 55 gallon drums. When a drum neared “full”, the soldier on Shit Detail poured something like rocket fuel over the mess, lit a match, tossed it and ran, all at the same time.

FWOOOOOOM!

Gaaa-aa-aa-aak!

“People chips” are decidedly NOT “buffalo chips”. The smell is ferocious. On top of that, 50 gallons of solid human waste will not stay burning on its own. The soldier on Shit Detail has to return to the mound of flaming turds and stand there stirring it with a long stick until it all burned down to ash.

Now, I’ve been assaulted by some bad odors in my time. My parents lived (briefly) just a mile downwind of a pork abattoir, and on humid days you had to hold a gasoline soaked rag to your face to keep from going blind. But seeing the look on these guys faces as they tried to fathom what evil they did in a past life to deserve this detail, what hateful god toyed with them for no reason, what baneful, pernicious bacteria were harbored in the guts of ordinary looking people, well, I knew I’d never be able to match them. Nor would I want to. They got visibly pale as soon as they started their description, with eyes morphing into the classic “Thousand Yard Stare” within seconds.

It was a bad smell.

And it hung in the air like a brown gauze curtain every day, every place they went, even if they weren’t on Shit Detail. You just can’t Fabreze away a smell like that. The entire city reeked, and it was made worse by the open sewage pits that the locals used – in that oil rich region they had no fuel for Shit Details of their own. Both these guys said that it wasn’t the fighting, the heat, or even the sound of bullets snapping past their ears from snipers that they’ll remember longest about their stay. It will be the the unrelenting smell of burning human shit.

I’m glad I was considered too mentally unstable to enlist now.

Anyway, they’ve only been here 2 days and already they’ve eaten 217 dollars worth of hamburger meat and emptied 5 cases of beer. And that’s only because they sleep til noon every day. At least they’re polite, even if Every. Fucking. Thing. must be referenced to the military somehow. Seriously. Walking through the woods with Casey the WonderCorgi yesterday was a non-stop lecture on the value of every tree and mound for either cover or ambush. My Mighty WRX, for all its speed and handling, would provide very little protection for me if I were even to come under small arms fire, I was disturbed to find out. For christsake, one of them even managed during a MaxiPad commercial, “You know, you could use one of those things to clean your gun barrel in an emergency.” Thanks, I’ll stock up. Never know when my Remington .308 might have a heavy month.

Overall though, it’s been a relatively pleasant experience. Yeah, I’ve got a few bruises from submitting to their demonstrations of “humane prisoner chokeholds”, but otherwise I can’t complain. It was even funny seeing their shaved heads craning upwards at every single skyscraper, like total tourist geeks in camo, when I took them to Manhattan for the first time. And another bonus: I can’t say that I’ve ever had this much fresh game – gutted AND skinned – stuffed into my freezer. Mmmmmm, mmmm! That’s good bear!

My only complaint?

I wish they wouldn’t leave their filled coffee cans all over the house.

Old habits die hard, I guess. Hooah!

Have a nice Labor Day, y’all! Hope it’s not a shitty one.

Ciao!

**************************************************************************

HOMELAND SECURITY

Over the weekend I got to play Tour Guide. Again.

Every time we have guests at Dangerhouse, I am assigned the duty of ferrying them to and around New York City. NewWifey(tm) thinks that because I worked there, and now report on the roads there, and used to hang out there back when I was DangerSingle, I am somehow more qualified than her to escort a gaggle of gawking bumpkins around the piles of trash – human and otherwise – to the usual tourist spots. While she may be right, I’m not always happy about it. Mostly because I’m usually exhausted from having worked all night, or sullen because I’m dragged out on a Sunday – my one day off. How dare they tear me away from my Maker’s Mark and Cartoon Network!

For the past week and a half I’d managed to stave off the inevitable by pleading various maladies or extenuating circumstances (“Gosh, I’d love to take the guys into the City honey, but I broke a shoelace and K-Mart is all out of my favorite brand.” “Owww, my pancreas is really acting up today….” “My, uh, wife died. Wait, no – my sister. My sister died yesterday. I forgot to tell you. Grief and all, y’know. But I have to go to the funeral today, so you go on without me….

But by last Saturday I had run out of excuses. We (myself, NewWifey(tm), and the two vacationing soldiers) piled into the Ford Escape and shot down Rt.3 to the Lincoln Tunnel. NewWifey(tm) was driving.

Here’s why NewWifey(tm) was driving:

I am scared shitless to drive in Manhattan.

Now you know.

If I’m in a car on the FDR Drive, the West Side Highway, or any street or avenue in between, I become SweatyJello Man. Seriously, that would be my undoing on Fear Factor:

Now it’s Dangerspouse’s turn. All he has to do is steer the Dodge Omni up Riverside Drive for 15 seconds and he’ll have won the enti…WAIT! HE’S BAILED OUT!! He turned the key, let the clutch out, then opened the door and jumped! My god, I don’t think he lasted even…nope, there it is – not quite one second on the clock. That means our 13 year old Chrone’s Disease chick with the 48DD’s and overflowing bag is our winner!

And I don’t even have to be driving. I actually had a girl break up with me once because I started crying when she drove me from her 81st street apartment down to Soho for an art exhibition. I looked like the apologizing Jimmy Swaggart when I got out of the car. Needless to say, she did not drive me back. Or anywhere else ever again, for that matter.

So for the past umpteen years, whether on business or pleasure, I go no further than the North Bergen Park-n-Ride. There one can stop safely on the Jersey side of the Hudson River and be whisked into Midtown Manhattan enclosed within a 12 ton steel NJ Transit bus. They deposit you at the Port Authority building, where you then can take subway lines to anywhere else in the City or immediately pick up a cab. Or walk.

And by extension, that is how NewWifey(tm) has gone into the City for the past 5 years also.

But not this time.

This time NewWifey(tm) figured out that based of the number of sights the guys wanted to see and how far afield they were strewn from each other, we’d bankrupt ourselves paying for all the bus, taxi and subway fares getting to them. But if we drove….

No fucking way.” I said.

But huuuuneeee….

‘But honey’ nuthin. You know what a pussy I am about driving around New York on a regular day. How much of a quivering wreck do you think I’m gonna be driving around on SEPTEMBER FREAKIN’ 11TH?! And the guys want to visit Ground Zero! Do you know what kind of gridlock there is going to be Downtown with all the street closures??

I bet the guys would like to know where you’ve hidden your porn….

It costs $6 to take the Lincoln Tunnel from New Jersey to Manhattan, but at least there wasn’t a line at the tolls that morning. I think everybody was using the Holland Tunnel, as that empties out just blocks from the World Trade Center site. So by comparison, midtown was relatively empty.

So was my stomach. I emptied it on the corner of 8th Avenue and 47th street, not 5 minutes into our trip. And I wasn’t even driving!

Despite fortifying myself with a breakfast of Bacardi 151 and Tylenol PM, I was shaking like Michael J. Fox on a caffeine jag and panting like Ron Jeremy after a 6 hour sauna shoot. I was not a pretty sight.

Nor was it a very dignified sight to the two guys sitting behind me who’d just spent the past 15 months cruising around Baghdad in a Humvee being shot at. I don’t think they quite understood my level of stress.

Nonetheless, despite my psychotic sideshow NewWifey(tm) did an absolutely fabulous job of driving and parking. At the two uptown and four midtown destinations we actually found (legal!) slots on the streets, each of which cost an average of $1.00 at the meter.

Then it was time to go…downtown. To Ground Zero. By car.

All in all, I suppose it wasn’t quite as bad as I imagined it would be. Of course, standing on the steps of Hiroshima’s Town Hall on the morning of August 6, 1945 wouldn’t have been as bad as what I was imagining. But still.

The only problem was, there was absofuckginlutely NO PARKING anywhere within 450 block radius of Ground Zero that day. Every vertical surface had a yellow “Absofuckinglutely No Parking” sign plastered to it, and rooftop snipers packed cheek-to-jowl making sure everyone adhered.

We adhered.

Unfortunately you can’t get a view of Ground Zero from your car, as there is a huge blackout fence surrounding the entire site. If you want to take a gander at one of the (now) world’s most famous piles of dirt, you have to ascend a gangplank to a windowed walkway that spans one entire side. There you breath in the unfiltered asbestos alongside a fat dogfood salesman from Boise there on vacation with his fat wife and fat kids. Or a teary eyed old Vietnam vet who knows instinctively what should be done to the bastards who perpetrated this horror, and shares that knowledge with everyone on line in loud, belligerent tones. If you even look at him, he takes it as a challenge.

I told NewWifey(tm) that I would circle the block in the car while she and the guys went up and gaped. She could page me when they’d had their fill, and I’d pick them back up. She hugged me and thanked me for my almost unbelievable gesture of altruistic self-denial, then she and the boys trooped up the steps and disappeared into the silver walkway.

I began to circle the block.

No big deal, right? Go up a quarter mile, get in the left lane, stop for the light. When the light turns green, you turn left. Do it again at the next corner. And the next. And the next. Keep going until you are paged and you can switch off driving duties again. Right. No big deal.

It was a white knuckle trip the whole way. In all my years of working and playing in Manhattan, this was the very first time I’d traversed any of it driving a car. I know it was only one square block I was going ’round and ’round – and a rather deserted square block at that – but years of built up imagination overrode any perception of reality that tried to creep in. I was a mess.

24 long years later NewWifey(tm) paged me to come pick them up. I pulled to the curb, opened the door and fell out onto my knees to kiss the filthy sidewalk. Alive! I climbed back into the passenger seat and NewWifey(tm) assumed command again.

Well,” she said “by not having to wait for public transportation between sights, we’ve actually seen everything we’d planned to see several hours more quickly than I’d thought. I’ll tell you what, I’d really like to get my hair done. Why don’t I drive us up to Devachan (her favorite salon) and I’ll get my hair done while you guys walk around and amuse yourselves for an hour or so?

That sounded fine with me, and there was no dissent from the soldiers, either. In fact, there was no sound at all from the soldiers. They were fast asleep, as they generally were whenever they weren’t marching. I braced myself, and NewWifey(tm) pulled out into traffic.

It didn’t take long to get to Devachan, and once again we were fortunate to find curbside parking at a meter within a block of our destination. I fed 12 quarters into the slot (1 hour) and we waved goodbye to NewWifey(tm).

Ok guys, what do you want to see?” I asked.

“Hookers!” they answered in unison.

Figures.

Mind you, they didn’t actually want to conduct a business transaction with them (or so they told me). They had just heard about New York City hookers, and wanted to see if they were All That.

I had to explain to them that there is a hierarchy:

First come the “Tunnel Rats”. These are the homeless addicts that turn tricks at the mouth of the tunnels into and out of the City. Their clientele leans heavily towards the frustrated commuter heading back to the boroughs for a meal of lukewarm meatloaf and canned peas, with a cold spouse. They charge 5 bucks for a blowjob and get all the business they can swallow. You can get AIDS just by looking at them.

Then there are the streetcorner girls. These are the ones most often depicted in movies, standing under an arc lamp in ripped hose and smeared lipstick. They charge between 20 and 50 dollars, which you will pay to her pimp. But you do get a room for that price. Be aware: if the room is clean, it’s a Vice Squad trap.

After that comes the Barflies. They hit you up for drinks at any bar, and you feel flattered that a hot chick has actually initiated a conversation with you! But then, when you suggest going back to her place, she names her price and you realize she was just looking at you as an ATM with legs. And if you say “no”, you’re still out the price of her (many) drinks, so you got fucked anyway.

A step up from that are the gals who work in “Gentlemens’ Clubs”. Many of these acrobatic hardbodies supplement their income in the back room between sets, but be prepared to feel physically inadequate next to them if you partake. And if you do go, bring LOTS of cash.

Finally, there are the Call Girls. These are the ne plus ultra of the breed. They are discreet, classy, and as fast and expensive as a Ferrari. I have no knowledge of them whatsoever.

One last bit of hard learned wisdom did I impart: “Boys” I said, “just remember that the best looking ones are always guys. Trust me.

And with that, we went beaver shooting.

We had pretty good luck too. Devachan is not far from Madison Square Garden, so we hoofed it over there and planted ourselves on a convenient overlook. Sure enough, several tastefully under-clad women were slowly promenading around the large courtyard and sidewalk around that sporting venue, bending low at cars that passed by, advertising their wares. Every so often one of the cars would stop and a young lady would be whisked away. This scene played itself out several times while we sat there.

I found it damn boring myself, being a jaded almost-local and all. But my two buddies found the entire parade to be both endlessly fascinating and amusing. Especially when I would chime up with, “Ok, that one’s a dude – check out the Adams Apple. Ooh, a pageboy cut – she’s a cop…

45 minutes later and we started back to the car, to either meet NewWifey(tm) or to stuff more quarters into the meter.

Turning the corner where we’d parked, we immediately spotted the bright red Ford Escape.

And two guys trying to break into her!!

One guy was working a Slim Jim into the passenger side window while the other stood with his back to him, scanning the sidewalk for gendarmes.

I turned to my buddies.

Guys, those two scum up there are trying to steal my car. Do me a favor – run back around the corner and see if you can find a cop. I’m gonna confront them and see if I can scare them off. But hurry, these guys work notoriously fast.

They looked at each other, then one of them said to me “Wait here.

I didn’t have time to reply. One immediately crossed the street at an angle, heading away from the thieves. At the same time the other guy started up the sidewalk directly towards them, but slowly and with his head down as if lost in uncaring thought. By the time he was directly opposite the lookout guy, the first one had swung over nonchalantly to a point just above the dirtbag with the Slim Jim.

I think I’ve mentioned before that I’m a pretty big guy, at 6 foot and 220 pounds. An ex-boxer, so not ALL of it is fat. Yet. The point is, I really didn’t have any qualms about taking on those two guys by myself. Especially as I was fortified by rage.

My two soldier friends, by comparison, probably tipped the scales at 145 and 165 respectively.

These are not the big hulking meatbags you see in movies like “Predator” or “Gookfest of Gore”. These are guys who have that lean, wirey toughness that come from months of living on MRE’s and not enough water, sprinting everywhere under 60 pound field packs at full speed trying not to get shot.

But of course, you can’t tell that just by looking at them in their skater street duds.

I decided to just wait and watch.

It was all over in a second. Say what you want about the dubious morality of our military’s current mission(s) – and I do, as do my buddies – but when it comes to the actual nitty-gritty of fighting per se, no one can say that the Army slacks off in the teaching department. The two jerkoff thieves were stealthily flanked, and then pounced upon so quickly they didn’t even have time to gasp in surprise. There was a blur of elbows, fists and boots, and mere seconds later two bodies were face down on the ground, a knee on each neck and both arms pinned behind them. Other than a slight whimpering from one of them, there was no sound during the “fight”.

Typical of New York, probably a dozen people passed and not one of them paused in their stride, or even appeared to look.

But somebody stole the Slim Jim.

I walked up the sidewalk.

What should we do with them?” they asked me.

I looked down at the thieves. The guys were applying just enough pressure on their necks to make their eyes bulge from lack of air, but not enough to actually render them unconscious. There was a casualness to their tone and ease to their manner which indicated this was not their first time executing these maneuvers. I made a mental note to quit arguing with them for the duration of their stay.

But right now I had to make a command decision.

Boys, we’re gonna let them go…after we rough ’em up a bit. Almost every cop is Downtown at Ground Zero right now, and the ones left up here are probably working Vice and won’t want to be bothered with petty hoods. Let’s just drag them into this doorway and leave them with a few ‘reminders’ that they should be more civic minded in the future.

My friends stood up, simultaneously lifting off the ground by their wrists the two miscreants. They pushed them roughly into the unlit doorway I’d pointed to. The one began whimpering again.

All right you two…” I began, and pulled my fist back. The troopers held them firm.

Wait a minute….

I looked at the one who was whimpering, and now that I was just a few inches from his face I could see –

his mascara was running!

Mascara?

These were NOT Goth looking guys. No boots, no black, a tan.

I lifted up one’s shirt.

Then the other’s.

BOOBS!

Two CHICKS were trying to steal my car!

My two soldier buddies had just beaten up two GIRLS!!

Jesus! The prettiest hookers are guys, and the toughest looking guys are chicks. What a world.

I swear to god, they looked like guys. Lumpy guys in baggy clothes with short hair and baseball caps. Grungy faced, no waist, shapeless, dirty GUYS! I swear!!

Well, we certainly weren’t gonna work over a couple of girls, even if they DID try to steal my SUV. It’s just, I dunno, not American, you know? Or at least not gentlemanly, which may mean more to me now under this particular administration.

I decided just to go through their pockets. One of them had a Lane Bryant gift card on her, so I tore it up. She started sobbing.

We were even.

We watch them sprint as fast as they could away from us, then just hung out until NewWifey(tm) emerged with her new coif. We gasped and fawned at her new beauty, and she beamed with conceit.

What did you guys do?” she asked. “Anything interesting?

My buddies were studying the sidewalk intently and stayed silent. They weren’t gonna admit they – two US Army soldiers – had just pounded two teenaged girls into the pavement. Finally I piped up, “No, nothing exciting. Walked around and looked at some buildings. Saw the Garden, had a hot dog. Just killed time….

That’s nice” she said. “I’m so tired of always coming into the City with you and having something weird happen. It’s good to have at least ONE uneventful trip.

I nodded, and we all piled into the Ford. The trip back through the Lincoln Tunnel was indeed uneventful, but I still clung to the handrests the entire time until my fingernails bled. I wish I could get over this fear of driving in the City! It really is a safe place, after all.

Still, next time I think I’m gonna go by helicopter. That seems more relaxing for some reason.

G’night kids.

And remember: Using the mass transit system benefits everyone. Please, do your part.

Ciao!

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Fred Garvin, Male Prostitute

Things have been rather tense at the ol’ Radio Ranch lately.

A few months ago we heard rumor that our network had just lost our biggest client, one of the nation’s largest radio groups. We heard about it first in an online trade magazine since, of course, the “communications industry” does not communicate directly with its employees.

The rumor turned out to be true. The radio group’s contract was up for renewal, but we were underbid by a start-up network. Starting this morning, April 1st, we are no longer on their airwaves for the first time in almost 30 years. Thirty years! .

I can’t tell you what a big deal this is for our company. About a third of our radio announcers are employed exclusively to service this group, with almost another third performing ancillary functions for them. Come this morning, they have nothing to do.

But here’s the weird thing. None of us have been told what to do. You’d think someone in management would mention, at least in passing, which of us should come to work on Monday and which of us should grab our passport because we’re being given a one-way ticket to Dumpsilvania.

As I mentioned a few posts back, we lost everything in the Crash of ’07. Ten years later we’re at least no longer contemplating letting Chinese black marketers harvest our organs so we can make a mortgage payment. But we’re not so far out of the woods yet that we’ve taken them off speed dial, either. If I lose this gig, some hard choices await us. Like: food or porn. Can’t have both, at least not with the severance package our union negotiated.

Needless to say, I can’t breathe.

The same thoughts keep spinning around in my head. Middle aged. No real skill other than the ability to talk for hours non-stop about absolutely nothing. Overweight. Halitosis. Bad fashion sense. Addicted to midget porn.

And that’s just my wife. I’m even worse.

*sigh*

Forgive me if this isn’t/wasn’t much of an entry. I really am almost paralyzed by fear here. Yeah, I might be one of the lucky ones they keep on. But because the consequences will be so dire if I’m not, you know that’s all my brain keeps running in a continuous loop. I mean, what will I do if I’m kicked to the curb? There are no radio jobs out there any more, and it’s been so long since I cooked professionally I’d have to start back as Vomit Cleanup Boy again.

I guess I could prostitute myself. It may not be the most stable of professions, but at least it’s all-you-can-eat, and you set your own hours. And NewWifey(tm) is almost ridiculously over qualified to be my pimp, seeing as she’s already armed and owns a hat with a long peacock feather in it. All I’d really need to do is find an emergency care proctologist who takes my HMO.

Can I sigh again here?

*sigh*

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On the other hand, there was one bit of brightness that broke through my inner gloom this morning.

My buns!

I steeped a couple of Earl Grey teabags in a cup of hot water to make a double-strong brew, then used that liquid to make some breakfast buns for NewWifey(tm). (This is all part of my ongoing “if it doesn’t kill the yeast, you can make bread out of it” experiment.)

Check it out:

Earl Grey Buns 2

I had a lot of fun making these, playing around with different shapes and sizes. Basically, I broke the dough into smaller balls, rolled those balls into flat ribbons, sprinkled each ribbon with a bit of brown sugar, then rolled each back up. Oh – and I zested some orange peel into the dough. Gave them more of a Lady Grey flavor than straight Earl Grey, if you’re up on your tea flavors.

They came out really good, although next time I think I’ll skip the zest. I love the bergamot flavor of Earl Grey, and the orange kinda overwhelmed it a bit. Also, they never browned as much as loaf bread made from the same (non-tea) dough, even though the internal temperature hit the same 195. Maybe it was…actually I have no idea. They just didn’t brown as much as bread. Didn’t affect the crumb or flavor, though. NewWifey(tm) was eating them like a chipmunk, stuffing new ones in her cheeks before swallowing the first one. They were good.

Ok, breakfast is over and I can’t think of anything else to write. So…back to worrying.

Wish me luck.

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The Price of Turnips

I can’t believe I’ve spent the last two weeks staring at a giraffe’s ass.

Oh well. Gotta jerk it to something, right? Might as well be pregger giraffe porn.

Actually, if truth be told I’ve been staring at a lot of animal asses lately.

Two years ago, almost to the day, I wrote an over-long post about the one and only time NewWifey(tm) seriously considered leaving me. Reader’s Digest version: she couldn’t get over the fact that I was cheating at the game “Animal Crossing” in order to make a fortune selling turnips.

To be clear, since this reflects on my good name: I was not cheating at Animal Crossing. I found a way to game the system. There’s a difference.

After harsh words and many tears we eventually came to an understanding. Basically, she shuts the fuck up about it while I continue my merry turnip cheating…er, “gaming”…unabated. Pretty good compromise, no? But she’ll thank me for it eventually. Oh yes she will, when we’re wanting for nothing in our dotage. As long as we want virtual turnips. And you know we will.

But being vigilant takes work. I’m not gonna sugar coat it.

In order to insure I get the best prices for my turnips I have to bring both my Nintendo DSi game units to work with me every day, each loaded with an “Animal Crossing” cartridge.

Every day from 5:40am to 6am I get my one and only break at work. So every day at 5:41am I’m in the 7th floor mens room sitting in one of the stalls while I check prices. I don’t even have to go to the bathroom usually, but I’m pants down in there anyway every single day. If Tom Nook, the shopkeep racoon at Nookington’s, offers a good price I hustle back to my studio, flip the other DSi on, connect them wirelessly, and start selling my stash. If he’s being a dirtbag tightwad little rodent though, I have to wait til 8am until his shop opens in the other DSi, and I check there.

All in all it’s a harrowing way to make a living. But if I want to corner the turnip market, that’s the only way. A man’s gotta do what a man’s gotta do when it comes to kids games.

Well lemme tell ya, all my hard work and toil finally paid off last week.

Tuesday morning 5:41am I’m sitting in the handicapped stall (poverty is a handicap) firing up my first Animal Crossing of the day. I didn’t have high hopes. The past several days ol’ Nook hadn’t offered more than 70 Bells per turnip – far less than I paid Joan the Warthog for them the previous Sunday. So I was in a pretty glum mood.

Nonetheless I got my character up and out the door right on time. I didn’t bother to check the blinking mailbox icon – probably the Jester outfit that Truffles the Pig asked me to order for her. I could get that later. She wasn’t even awake yet.

I made a beeline for Nookington’s.

Standing inside, as usual, was Tom Nook, proprietor. The Man. Or rather, Raccoon. I faced him and pressed the “X” button. No small talk. I chose “Check Turnip Price” from the menu and closed my eyes. The little 8-bit animatronic voice chirped nonsensically as his texted response spelled out. When it stopped, I opened my eyes.

“615.”

615? That can’t be right. There must be dirt on the screen. I tore off a sheet of toilet paper, spat on it, and wiped it down.

“615.” It was still there.

615? 615?

Holy CRAP!

615 Bells per turnip is like Powerball numbers in Animal Crossing. I could retire!

But I had to hurry. That price would only be good for 3 hours, and I had an entire landscape of turnips I had to sell in both that game, and the one in my other DSi. I leaped up, zipped up, and ran back to my studio.

(Amusing little side note: I was so excited that the first thing I did when I got back to my studio was call NewWifey(tm) to tell her the good news. I sometimes forget that not everyone has already been up for 3 hours at 5:50 in the morning. Needless to say, she did not greet my news with the level of enthusiasm I expected.)

To sell that many turnips in that short an amount of time requires some pretty deft juggling when you’re on the air. When writing my newscasts I used as many audio clips as I could, rather than voice it myself. That gave me a few extra minutes per mic break, as did re-using some old copy each hour. During my live banter I kinda put my mouth on autopilot and let it yammer away thoughtlessly while my brain and fingers were running back and forth to Nookington’s as fast as I could. I can’t say that I’m proud of my on-air performance that morning, but once I deposited the last of my millions with Pelly the Pelican banker at Town Hall it would all be worth it.

Right around 8:30am when things were at their most hectic my studio door opened and Carissa, the announcer in the studio adjacent to mine, stuck her head in.

Hey Danger, would you happen to – OHMYGODYOU’REPLAYINGANIMALCROSSING!!!

She came running over and grabbed the DSi out of my hand. “Holy shit, I used to LOVE this game!” Then she looked at me funny. “Uh, why  are YOU playing this? This is, like, a game for 9 year old girls.”

I explained to her that NewWifey(tm) got me the game something like 9 years ago and I just kept playing it out of habit, and now I had amassed so many 10’s of millions of Bells – probably more than anyone in history – that I was just too far down the rabbit hole to save myself. I can’t stop. I’ve tried.

She laughed at my story, and giggled at the DSi as she walked my character around for a bit. Then she said, “Hey listen, I still have the old GameCube that I used to play mine on. Would you like it? It’s been gathering dust in my closet since I was 13, and I have no plans to ever use it again. I think you’d enjoy playing it on a big screen instead of just this little hand held thing.

Would I? Oh man, between that and my two DSi’s I’d never have to go outside again. Take that, Vitamin-D!

The next day she handed me a tote bag with the GameCube and all her old games: Animal Crossing, Super Monkey Ball 2, Fairly Oddparents Breakin’ Da Rules, SpongeBob Squarepants Battle for Bikini Bottom, and Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 4. And a memory card.

Sweeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeet.

That night I hooked it up to our Big Screen and kicked back in the recliner. “Hold my calls!” I yelled to NewWifey(tm). She rolled her eyes. I never get calls.

Oh. My. Joystick. I was in Heaven from the moment that bouncy theme kicked out through my 200 watt soundbar.

Lol. I played her saved character first. What a riot to see what items a 13 year old girl thought was important to save in her inventory! Not like us mature guys, I can tell you that. I had fun going around her town chatting with the idiot friends she’d made. I actually was able to find out the exact date she last played, because they told me. In months. “I haven’t seen you in 129 months!” several of them said. So I was the first person to play that game in 10 years and 9 months. No wonder so many of them said they were hungry.

But after a few quick hours I erased her game and started my own. Gotta do it right, and right from the start. I’m very responsible when it comes to important things like this.

So I built a character and gave it a cool name that was simultaneously cute and ironic, set it up in its little starter hut, and did all that other preliminary stuff games always make you do before you can put the hammer down. Then I headed for the bulletin board.

The bulletin board in Animal Crossing lets you know about upcoming events. But various characters can also put up notices, and so can you as a player. And from playing my little DSi version, I knew you could access alternate alphabet characters that let you creatively bypass their profanity filter. Oh ho ho, I have endless fun with that one….

Anyway, first things first I wrote a notice on the board and took a pic, then emailed it to Carissa (“Tortimer” is the elderly turtle Mayor of the town):

Bulletin Board

It went over very, very well. Carissa immediately wrote back, “TRY ME NIGGA”.

I love my job.

Ok, well, there’s more to tell to the story but I’ve gotta get back to Nookington’s now before it closes and order the last of the “Fruit Series” furniture bits I need to complete my set. If I don’t have it all assembled by tonight I lose bonus points.

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Ok, I didn’t spend ALL weekend wrangling turnips and watermelon shaped tables. I had to eat, too.

Scored a deal on frozen seafood assortment packs at Price Chopper last week. They dropped the price AND made it 2-for-1! I grabbed two full trays for 3 dollars.

I used them to make a brown rice paella, something I’ve wanted to try for a while just to see if it would work. I soaked the rice in hot water for an hour, then drained and dried them a bit before using them the usual way for paella. I had leftover shrimp stock and a bit of fish fumet, so that was the liquid, along with saffron and some odds and ends additions.

It came out good, but the real star was the loaf of bread I’d made earlier in the day out of leftover braised cabbage and apples mixed into the dough. They melted in (can’t see any, can you) and left a wonderful rich, sweet/savory symbiosis of flavors. The texture was incredibly soft, too. I know one doesn’t normally serve bread with paella, but…look at that bread!

Brown Rice Paella

(Ok, yeah, it doesn’t LOOK all that special just sitting there in that shot, you’re right. But trust me, you’d blow me for another slice.)

Speaking of, I’ve really gotta blow outta here. My virtual hut isn’t gonna decorate itself, y’know.

615!!!!

Ciao!

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