A New Wrinkle

Chapter 1: The Masked Surgeon.

I mentioned in my last entry that I had to have some minor oral surgery done last week. The bones that hold my teeth to my face are “bumpy”, and apparently that’s enough of a problem that a surgeon has to now go in and un-bump them. This involves peeling my gums back and then vigorously applying a Dremel to the bones until they un-bump. Then they sew my gums back on, and I resume chewing. It’s being done in 4 stages: upper left, lower left, upper right, lower right. Last Thursday was lower left’s turn.

I like my surgeon, which is good because you don’t want to harbor ill feelings towards someone while they’re reshaping your skull with a hand tool. Shaking with rage might result in blood, or a third nostril or something.

However….

When he entered the operating theater last Thursday, the first thing he said was “I’m not going to shake your hand because I have a bad cold. But don’t worry, I’m wearing a mask.”

I worried.

I obsess about getting a cold. Having a stuffy, runny nose and a scratchy throat is hell when your job consists of talking for 8 hours a day. And wearing headphones amplifies any sinus headache into a conflagration similar to those described in the Book of Revelations. I’d rather have Ebola than a cold. AIDS. Cancer of the toenail. Endometriosis. Anything. Just not a cold.

And now some guy with a cold is about to stick his un-gloved hands into my mouth while his own mouth hovers mere inches above my face for about an hour.

But of course, this is not just “some guy”. He’s a surgeon. If he tells me a piece of cotton gauze over his mouth is sufficient protection, who am I to argue? I don’t see the initials “MD” after my name on my Connecticut School of Broadcasting diploma.

He did the surgery.

And I caught a cold.

I still have it too, although I seem to be over the worst of it. I think I have *just* enough left to pass it back to him when I go in this afternoon to have my stitches removed.

Maybe I should warn him to wear a mask. Then call his office in a week and laugh when they tell me he’s got another cold.

Chapter 2: The Long Con.

My last entry also mentioned in passing that the 27th of January was my birthday. Normally birthdays at DangerHouse are a debauched descent into obscene amounts of food, sex, and “Girls und Panzer” episodes. Mouth surgery this year though meant severe limitations on the first two. (No problem with the anime.)

One other tradition that is also strictly adhered to is the “Giving of the Le Creuset”. I think I’ve detailed this in every other birthday entry I’ve done, but if you’ve missed them here’s the concise version: when I was dating NewWifey(tm) I told her the sad tale of how we had a great Le Creuset dutch oven when I was a kid, but my kid sister snagged it after my mother died. That year on my birthday NewWifey(tm) gave me a Le Crueset dutch oven. And she’s done so every birthday since.

So after the sex and the bowl of soft gruel with the candle in it and the second round of sex, I knew what had to be in the big box with the bow on it that she placed in front of me.

But first –

Here’s your card” she said, and handed me this:

envelope 1

“What happened to it?” I asked. “Did the cat get to it first?”

She laughed. “Open it.”

I did, although the envelope was fragile enough that I inadvertently added to the already impressive wrinkle count.

Out came:

envelope and card

Inside was some sentimental and instantly forgettable corporate approved pap. But I had to pat her head anyway.

“Awww, what a nice card. Thank you honey, I’ll remember this one for a long time.”

No you won’t” she said.

“Of course I will!” I said, “It’s really special.”

Pretty memorable envelope too, right?

I laughed. “It sure was. I won’t forget THAT for a while, either.”

Yes you will.”

“What are you talking about?”

She pulled out her phone and started scrolling.

Here, look at this.” She handed it to me. It was a selfie of her holding my birthday card and envelope.

“I don’t get it” I said. “You took a selfie with my card before giving it to me?” I looked closer. There was a Post-It Note stuck to her chest that said: ‘2016 – 1st Year. His comment: ‘I’ll always remember this card‘.

“You got the year wrong.” I said.

Scroll right.”

I scrolled. Another selfie of her holding the same card. But she was dressed differently than in the first pic, and the envelope this time had a tear and a few wrinkles.

And another Post-It Note: “2017 – 2nd Year. His comment: ‘Did the cat attack the envelope or something?’“.

“What’s this all about?”

Scroll.

I scrolled. Same card, but the envelope was now decidedly more battered, with several tears and pronounced crumple zones. A different outfit on NewWifey(tm) yet again, and this time the Post-It read, “2018 – 3rd Year. His comment: “What happened to the envelope? The cat get to it first?

She took the phone back. “This is the FOURTH YEAR IN A ROW that I have given you this card. In the same envelope. And every year you’ve ripped it open and added new wrinkles, and said the same thing: ‘did the cat get it?‘ FOUR YEARS!

“I…what…how…” I fished for something to say.

NewWifey(tm) just smirked. “Do you know that ten years ago my mother sent you a birthday card that was the exact same card as the one she sent you eleven years ago? And she’s been sending you that same card every year since?

I looked at my Mother-In-Law’s card lying on the table that I’d opened earlier that morning. “She did?”

NewWifey(tm) dropped a pile of cards in my lap. They were all identical, just with different years hand written inside them. “I noticed the very first time she repeated the card” she said. “I called and asked her about it and she said, ‘Oh, I buy cards by the box for any man I have on my list. They never notice. I gave the same anniversary card to your father every years for 48 years, and he went to his grave not realizing it.’ So I thought I’d see if she was right.

“I guess she was” I said. “I even said the same stupid thing about the cat.”

Yup.”

“Men, huh? Amiright, girls?”

Yup.”

“So, uh, can I open my present now?”

Yup.

It was, as expected, Le Creuset. Unexpected though was the fact that it was a matching saucepan and small frying pan. It looked old.

I found it at an antique store” NewWifey(tm) said. “The guy said it was from the ’70’s. It looks like it’s in good shape, and the price was right. I hope you like it.”

“I do!” I said. “Er…you didn’t give me this one last year, did you?”

Nope.”

“I knew it. I always remember these things.”

Yup.” She kissed me on the head. “Happy Birthday, baby. I love you. Don’t forget that.”

Waaaaaaaaait – didn’t she tell me that last year? She can’t fool me!

lecreuset2019birthday2

Chapter 3: Largess.

Of course, I had to give the new pans a try that night. So even though I wasn’t supposed to chew I decided on the spur of the moment to make Spanish garlic shrimp (Gambas al Ajillo), which seemed tailor made for that lidded saucepan.

And it was:

birthday dinner 2019

Normally one serves this dish with a loaf of fresh bread to sop up the soppings, but…we’d already eaten the entire loaf of bread I’d made earlier that day. So I made pasta. Pasta that I didn’t have to chew:

birthday dinner 2

Come to think of it, I didn’t chew the shrimp either. I have a very large throat.

Speaking of large, how’s this for largess:

See that bottle of wine? That, and several others of various varieties from the same vineyard were shipped out to my by my buddy Dawson and his wife Annie as a Christmas present to me and NewWifey(tm). They cost more than my first car (a 1974 Beetle, dark blue).

The shrimp were good, but pairing it with that exclusive chardonnay sent it to a level few of my dishes have reached before. Daws, I can’t thank you enough for your thoughtfulness and generosity – again. I’ll never forget it.

Or, I’m pretty sure I won’t. Maybe I should write it on a Post-It note and take a selfie, just in case….

The End.

Have a great weekend everybody! Remember to…uh……

.

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Couple of quickies before we get going:

1. I was driving along the road that skirts our lake last week, taking it pretty slow because of all the ice, when a freaking bald eagle shot right in front of me carrying a (presumably) dead squirrel. He was hauling ass, trying to outpace the dozen or so smaller birds right behind who were either trying to steal his take-out, or just getting him the hell out of their territory (“I have an idea: let’s build a wall! Oh wait, we can fly….“). That close up and with wings fully extended he looked bigger than my dad’s Cessna. If I had been going just 1 mph faster I would have had fresh Eagle and Squirrel Pie for dinner that night. Welcome to New Jersey, national symbol.

2. I took a really horrible picture of really wonderful food:

egg tarts

Ok, follow along here.

I like pecan tassies, and had enough cream cheese in the house to make the traditional cream cheese crust. But I didn’t have any pecans to make the filling.

I like Chinese egg custard tarts, and had enough eggs and cream in the house to make the filling. But didn’t have enough butter to make the traditional puff paste shells.

You guessed it: Chinese Egg Custard Tassies. Those things on the left.

The thing on the right?

Well, I still had cream cheese paste left thanks to my usual disdain for things like “measuring” and “advice”. So I decided to wing a larger tart with that remaining lump of dough. I whisked up some more custard and….

I’ve had a block of plums preserved in…. I don’t remember – booze? spiced wine? simple syrup?…sitting in my freezer since last September when I made another batch of Slivovitz but purchased too many plums. I got sick of seeing that block last week and decided to turn it into plum jelly. But that left me with a block of strained plum solids, which turned out to be delicious. So I spread them out onto a Silpat like a lumpy sheet of Fruit Rollups, and they’ve been sitting in my fridge ever since. (The jelly is wonderful, btw.)

Ok, so I rolled out the remaining paste and lined the tart pan with it, made some more custard and poured it in, scattered the rest of the plum goop over the top, then tossed on some slivered almonds and baked the whole lot off. It looked like – well, let’s just call it “rustic”, shall we? – but tasted wonderful. As it happens, NewWifey(tm) doesn’t like plums, so guess who ate it all in one sitting?

(I did insert a sliver of that plum glop into one or two of the small tassies. That’s what’s poking out of the middle one in the photo.)

You are soooooooooooo jealous right now, aren’t you. You should be.

3. One of the most hallowed of all hallowed radio traditions is the tradition of sending a reporter to the grocery store whenever a big storm is forecast so they can describe the roiling mass of human locusts stripping the aisles clean. So when the big storm hit earlier this week we sent a reporter down to the local Food-n-Shit to get some audio of the mayhem. Most of it was the same ol’ same ol’. But one cut cracked me up. A woman being interviewed said in a very exasperated voice, “Look at this. They’re all grabbing bread! Milk! Eggs! What is there, a French Toast Crisis or something?”  The chef in me applauded her immediate recognition of Pain Perdu and I put it on the air in my very next newscast. Maybe there’s hope for humanity after all.

4. I’m going to make this soon. Yes, I am.

And now, on to The Story!

In our last exciting episode I posted pictures of dead alpacas, live alpacas, and a bar of soap. I also posted pictures of NewWifey(tm) squeee-ing in delight at all of them (although the one picture of her indignation over being ignored happens to be my personal favorite).

One thing I neglected to mention however was NewWifey(tm)’s reaction to those pictures.

I don’t recall her words verbatim, but the general gist went something like:

WAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAHHHHHH!!!

Honey? What’s the matter?

“I put on weight is what’s the matter!” She jabbed a finger in my chest. “WHY DIDN’T YOU TELL ME?!”

What?

“All those times I said ‘does this make me look fat?’, why didn’t you say ‘yes’?”

Honey, are you familiar with something called the ‘self preservation instinct’…?

WAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAHHHHHH!!!

Oh come on baby, you don’t loo-

“This is YOUR FAULT” she said. “All those stupid French sauces! That never-ending bread experiment! All that goddam ice cream! Scones! Cheese! Wine! THIS IS YOUR FAULT!

You know babe, there are three cucumbers in the crisper even as we speak. Untouched.”

I nursed that black eye for a week.

One thing about NewWifey(tm) that I’ve always admired: no matter how upset she is, she can clamp down on her emotions and rationally chart the best course out of whatever problem caused her fury.

THEN she blows a gasket.

So I wasn’t surprised that after she stomped off I didn’t hear anything more about it for two days. I let her stew.

On the third day – and by “day” I mean “middle of the night two hours before I had to wake up and go to work” – she jabbed an elbow in my ribs and said “I want you to research FitBits.”

This time I do recall verbatim my response. It was, “xrnfff…wu…huh? wha…OW! Da fuck?!

She pressed on, oblivious. “I’ve asked on Facebook and all my stitching ladies say they heard from their nephews that FitBits are the new ThighMaster. You’re a news guy. Find out it that’s true.”

I didn’t bother explaining to her that product reviews generally don’t feature in any of my newscasts. When NewWifey(tm) gets it in her mind to do something, she doesn’t even hear me. So I just shut up and researched FitBits as best I could during my few breaks at work the next day.

Cut to the chase: I got her a FitBit Charge 2 for Christmas. Purple.

“Why purple?” she said when she unwrapped it.

It matches my Le Creuset tart pan.

“Yeah it does, but what does that…oh, never mind. Thank you.”

(Side note: it’s a refurb. Got it for 50% off, with full warranty.  The trade off? They only had ’em in purple. But it does match my tart pan. That’s important too.)

She read the manual (people do that?), watched an online tutorial, bragged to her Facebook ladies, then put it on. Now a month later the only times she’s taken it off have been to charge it, and to shower. (So, 4 times….)

I gotta give her credit here, she’s really sticking with it. Every hour she gets her ass off the couch and marches around the house a few times, then goes up and down and up and down and up and down the stairs til she hits her Steps Taken goal. I’m very proud of her, and I always tell her that from where I sit with my pork rinds and 6-packs of Guinness.

(She’s not achieving her sleep goals, though. Every day she shows me the graph of her previous night’s snooze pattern. And every day the readout says she’s getting substandard deep and REM sleep compared to “normal” women her age. “Who are these bitches, and how are they able to nail a perfect pattern night after night? I hate them! I’m so mad I can’t sleep!” I didn’t point out the obvious.)

However, inasmuch as stomping around the house and tramping stairs is meeting her Minimum Daily Steps requirement, she’s been getting absolutely zero credit for “Working Out”. Apparently mere motion isn’t enough to qualify. You’ve got to get your heart rate up to at least 116 beats per minute before Sergent Purple pins that medal on you.

If this was spring, or if we lived someplace like Mordor, NewWifey(tm) would just hop on her dirt bike and get her heartbeat up to 116 within seconds through sheer panic. Or she could mow the lawn with the manual push mower she got for some reason. That would do it. Maybe engage in some power gardening. But as this is winter and we live in Planet Hoth, New Jersey, the gas in her bike is frozen solid, the lawn is under 3 feet of snow, and the only possible gardening she could do is trim her own bush. So…hallways and stairs. Heart rate: 80 BPM. No medal.

Internet to the rescue!

She posted her frustration to her stitching group on Facebook, and the group immediately sprang into action. Women who hadn’t seen their toes since the Reagan administration waxed authoritatively on the best way to keep weight off while building lean muscle. (I was heartened to see more than one recommend “eat cucumbers”). A virtual storm of URLs were hurled at her, running the gamut from astrology sites to genetic engineering labs.

Guess which one she clicked on?

Get In Shape Through Better Sex!

Yup.

I was completely oblivious to all of this, by the way, as I was at work when she got the idea to enlist her “friends”. The first I learned of it was when I walked in the door and found NewWifey(tm) standing naked in the middle of the living room. The only thing she was wearing was the FitBit.

Uhhhhh…is the thermostat up too high for you, baby?

“Shut up. Take your clothes off.”

Don’t get me wrong honey, this really is a pleasant surprise. ButI just got home from work. Can I get some lunch first?

She pushed a sandwich into my hand. “I figured you’d say that. Eat this on your way to the bedroom.”

In between bites I got out, “Why the urgency? You binge watch a bunch of Robert Pattinson movies again?

“No. An article I read said that sex raises your heart rate and burns calories more than even mowing the lawn. I have to get to 116 beats per minute to get my badge, so stop talking and fuck me so I can lose weight.”

She rolled onto her back and spread ’em. I started to protest, as I still had half a sandwich left, but…what the hell. I jammed it into my mouth and hopped on. Something told me she wasn’t worried about formalities.

I have to say, it wasn’t the most erotic of boinks. NewWifey(tm) held her wrist in front of her face the entire time, monitoring her heart rate. I had half a peanut butter and jelly sandwich sticking out of my face, and because I couldn’t chew or swallow while both my hands were bearing my full weight on the mattress, a constant stream of saliva trickled past the breading and onto NewWifey(tm)’s forehead.

After about 3 minutes she pushed me off. “This isn’t working. Let’s try doggie style.”

I hurriedly downed the rest of the sandwich while she got in position. I wish she’d remembered milk.

I saddled up, and we took off. NewWifey(tm) had one hand down on the mattress, the other bent in front of her face so she could read the numbers.

Another three minutes and then, “You really suck at this. My heart rate isn’t going up at all! Get off.”

Man, talk about a college flashback.

As I mentioned earlier, I really admire NewWifey(tm)’s ability to rationally formulate a plan in even the most stressful of situations. And believe me, this was stressful.

“Ok” she said. “Lie on your back. This time I’ll do the work.”

That scared me, mostly because of the look on her face when she said it. “Grim determination” is not the expression you want to see on the face of someone who’s about to start bouncing up and down on a particularly vulnerable member of your…well, on your particularly vulnerable member. But I didn’t have a choice. I lay back and braced for impact.

You know what I discovered? It turns out it doesn’t matter WHAT kind of look is on the face of the naked girl bouncing on top of you. It feels great.

Too great.

NewWifey(tm) heard me starting to breath hard and tore her eyes off the FitBit. To her horror saw that mien start to creep across my features. The mien that said, “In about 40 more seconds I’m gonna suddenly fall asleep.”

“You better not!” she said. “Goddam you, DON’T. I’m at 109 – if you stop now I’ll kill you. Think about dead puppies! Nuns! Nuns killing puppies! Puppies killing nuns!!

I closed my eyes and thought of nuns, but all I could see was Jane Curtin’s nun character tearing her top off in the movie “Nasty Habits”. This wasn’t helping.

Desperate, I went nuclear.

Let me call you ‘James‘” I gasped.

WHAT?!

Just do it!!

“Fine, if you think it will help.” She resumed bouncing.

It helped. “Hey, James” I said.

That’s all it took. Crisis averted. I was good to go again.

110

111

112

113

114

115

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115

.

.

115

.

.

.

.

She screamed. “ONE SIXTEEN! I DID IT!!

So did I.

40 seconds later I was asleep. No stamina at all.

I think I better get a FitBit….

.

This Sunday is my birthday, and in case you missed it NewWifey(tm) has a tradition of making me an authentic Sicilian cassata cake every year on the day:

cassata-1

cassata-2

Sierra Exif JPEG

Guess what I’ll be having this year, though?

Mush.

I had to have some minor oral surgery yesterday, and my mouth is now full of stitches and raw nerves. For the next week I can’t shovel in anything that needs to be chewed, so I’ve got vats of congee, rice pudding, and various smooth soups lined up in the fridge. Guess I’ll stick a candle in one of them and call it a party.

Can’t even drink.

Pity me.

.

cucumber20cartoon

Waka/Alpaca

Happy New year!

I guess it’s time for my “What I Did on Summer Vacation” entry, huh?

Ok.

What I Did on Summer Vacation, by D. Spouse

This all started because I wanted a hat. A warm hat.

Living above the snow line here at the top of Mt. Crumpit it gets cold, oh, 12 months a year. Sometimes more. I mean cold. I don’t even own a refrigerator, just an uninsulated steel locker on the back porch.

Our first night in DangerHouse my alarm went off at 3am. At 3:30 I stepped out the door to go to work.

At 3:30:01 I stepped back inside and put on my coat, hat, and gloves.

It was August.

By October I knew I had to up my hat game.

Since starting in radio I’ve become a scarf guy. I drive to work in the middle of the night, then jump from my car straight to yakking into a microphone. If my pipes are frozen when I arrive at work I sound like Bobcat Goldthwait on helium for the first hour. So I wrap a scarf around my neck like a Palestinian kid slinging a rock at a Merkava Mark Iv.

That was pretty much all the barding I needed for quite some time, but as I say once we moved to Ice Station Jersey it was a whole ‘nother story. A mere scarf wasn’t gonna cut it. What good was having my throat warm if you could hold a curling tournament on my brain? I needed a warm hat.

And so began what has turned out to be a decades-long Grail Quest.

See, I can’t seem to find a warm enough hat. Everything I’ve tried, from K-Mart specials to well trained Pomeranians, has left my size 7 3/8 shivering.  The latest fail was an “Authentic 100% Wool Navy Watch Cap Guaranteed Warm to -71 Celsius!” from Amazon that turned out to be…well, not an “Authentic 100% Wool Navy Watch Cap”, unless the US Navy is now contracting out its hat production to Vietnam, and “100% Wool” now means “10% Wool, 5% Polyester, 85% ‘processed recycled plastic’ “.

Then a couple of months ago NewWifey(tm) asked me if I wanted to accompany her on a work trip to Cape May. A shop there hired her to teach a class at the beginning of October, so she was gonna take a long weekend and get ‘er done.

Now I had gone with her the previous spring to that same shop for another of her classes and had a good enough time, I suppose. The seafood was spectacular and never-ending, our room was half a block from the beach, and we even almost boinked in the sand. Best of all, the tourist tsunami that turns Cape May into the Calcutta of New Jersey every May through September hadn’t arrived yet so we were able walk on the beach again without stepping on a fat dog food salesman from Iowa in a Speedo, or a hypodermic needle.

But…I dunno. Watching a bunch of beehive hairdo’s sit and stitch alphabets and pictures of cats onto swatches of glorified burlap wasn’t really my thing. “I think I’ll pass this time” I said to NewWifey(tm).

She was nonplussed. “What? Why not? I thought you had a great time, other than the abbreviated boink.”

“Eh. I just need a break from the smell of Ensure and Depends. Why can’t you book a gig with the Girl Scouts one time?”

Aw c’mon, go with me. You don’t have to hang out at the event itself, you know. Why don’t you go online and see if there’s any attractions in the surrounding area you can drive to while I’m working?

“Oh, alright….”

So I did, but nothing really grabbed me. I went back to NewWifey(tm).

“I don’t know, babe. I mean, there are a couple of wineries that are open to the public, and even a distillery where I can get really plowed. But they’re pretty far, and frankly Jersey wines are just a step above gasoline. There’s some naval museum or something not far off, but I’m not gay. And there’s an alpaca farm a little further out.”

I added that last one just as an afterthought, and immediately regretted it. I’d forgotten how much NewWifey(tm) loves alpacas.

SQUEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE! ALLLLLLLLLLPAAAAAAACCAAAAAAAAAAS! SQUEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE!!

“Honey, I – ”

Pleeeeeeeeeeeeeeease take me there! I wanna see alpacas! Please! Pleasepleasepleasepleaseplease! I’ll blow you! Right here. Right now. I WANNA SEE ALPACAS!!

She did, so I did.

When we passed through the farm gate the first thing we saw was a dead alpaca:

alpaca s

Then another in the background:

two dead alpacas

“This doesn’t look promising” I said. “So far we’ve seen two alpacas, and two of them are dead. That’s not a good ratio.”

NewWifey(tm) was as white as that one ex-paca. “This can’t be” she gasped. “They can’t all be dead…can they?

We drove further in.

A few tense minutes followed as we wended our way slowly down the dirt road. Then around a corner a barn came in to view, and –

SQUEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE! ALLLLLLLLLLPAAAAAAACCAAAAAAAAAAS!”

Alpacas. Live ones.

After parking you first encounter their most adorable specimens in a small pen, guaranteeing face time. The pen is attached directly to the gift shop. These guys know what they’re doing.

The first one we saw had a penis for a tail.

alpaca g

NewWifey(tm) seemed appreciative.

The main group was just steps away.

alpaca c

NewWifey(tm), being NewWifey(tm), was determined not only to view alpacas, but also befriend them.

alpaca h

I’m gonna feed them” she said. “It looks like they like grass.”

That seemed reasonable. They were all eating grass.

So NewWifey(tm) picked a fresh stalk from our side of the fence, nice and long and succulent, and held it out.

Every alpaca in the place ignored her.

alpaca i

NewWifey(tm) grew increasingly agitated at their indifference.

alpaca b

Look you guys!” she said, waving the stalk. “Here’s a nice one – better than those stubs you’re eating. You can have it, really. C’mon you stupid alpacas. DAMMIT, EAT MY GRASS!

Nothing. She was actually poking them in the nose with it in an attempt to get them to open their mouths. They just walked away and started grazing on stubs again.

By contrast, the little fuckers seemed endlessly fascinated by my camera.

Alpaca D flip.jpg

alpaca 3

NewWifey(tm) was miffed, but still determined. “Let’s go in the shop” she said. “I want answers.” She grabbed my arm and dragged me through the door.

Inside, she stopped. The entire place was filled not just floor to ceiling, but across the ceiling, with alpaca shit. There were alpaca t-shirts, alpaca hoodies, stuffed alpacas from rice grain to life size, alpaca wool blankets, alpaca wool jackets, scarves, hats, coats, throws, gloves, snuggies, and area rugs, plus alpaca statues, alpaca paintings, alpaca snow globes, alpaca puzzles, alpaca keychains, alpaca shaped chocolates, and for all I know actual alpaca shit. NewWifey(tm) just stood there with her mouth open.

“Honey” I nudged her, “Didn’t you have a question?” I pointed to the sales lady, who was almost invisible against the far wall. In her alpaca wool eared hat, shawl, skirt, leggings, stockings, fingerless gloves, and booties, she perfectly matched the wares around her.

NewWifey(tm) walked right up. No preliminaries. “Why are there two dead alpacas inside your front gate?

The woolly sales lady just smiled. “You’re the ninth person to ask me that. They’re not dead, that’s just how they sleep. They’re like those fainting goats. They just plop right over. Don’t worry, they’ll be up and around at feeding time.”

I could see NewWifey(tm)’s forehead smooth some of its lines. That one must have been bugging her. But then –

Speaking of feeding time, how come they won’t eat the nice juicy grass I picked for them? I poked them in the nose with it and everything!

Another smile. “Yeah, they’re funny that way. They eat the crummy little nubs in the field, but not good stalks from your hand. You know what they will eat from your hand, though? Carrots. Alpacas love carrots.”

NewWifey(tm)’s face fell. “We don’t have any carrots.” She looked at me. “Do we?” I shook my head.

“If you buy something” the woolly sales lady said, “I’ll give you a bag of carrots.”

“SQUEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE!!

She grabbed a basket and took off.

That place knows what they’re doing.

Two minutes later NewWifey(tm) dumped a pile of alpaca t-shirts, alpaca hoodies, 5 different sized stuffed alpacas, an alpaca wool blanket, a jacket, three scarves, a hat, a coat, two throws, gloves, two snuggies, an area rug, an alpaca statue, four alpaca paintings, an alpaca filled snow globes, three alpaca puzzles, two alpaca keychains, a bar of soap in a felted alpaca wool sleeve, and seven boxes of alpaca shaped chocolates on the counter.

“That will be $1,749.50” said the clerk.

That snapped NewWifey(tm) out of it. She put everything back except a pair of gloves and the soap cozy.

“$34.90” said the clerk. Turning to me she added, “You know, we have some very warm mens knitted caps. Does it get cold where you live?”

I stopped NewWifey(tm)’s hand reaching for her wallet.

“How warm?” I said.

“Alpaca wool has been used to keep people alive at the top of the Andes since the Incas.”

“How much?”

“$22.50 lined, $34.90 for 100% wool.”

“Honey, give her $69.80” I said to NewWifey(tm), and went to pick out a hat. A snow white model had my name on it. I couldn’t wait for winter to hit so I could laugh at it.

NewWifey(tm), meanwhile, couldn’t wait for something else.

Where’s my carrots?” she said to the clerk, who laughed and produced a baggie. “Here you go” she said. “The bigger pens are out back.”

“SQUEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE!!

Gone.

I followed behind.

alpaca e

Zoom in. Check these guys out. They know that smell a mile away:

alpaca r

It was at that point I lost NewWifey(tm) completely. She wasn’t this happy on our wedding day. Or night.

Behold the magic of carrots:

alpaca j

alpaca l

alpaca m

Somebody’s not happy at being overlooked:

alpaca n

alpaca o

She had to boot these kids out of the way to get to the last group:

alpaca p

They had a nice chat about carrots. The alpaca was in favor of them.

alpaca k

The drive home, all three and a half hours of it, consisted primarily of her beginning sentences with, “Did you see the alpaca that….” Which was fine with me. It was a nice change from listening to the usual three and a half hour long diatribe about anything from periods to how much wax beans suck.

Now then.

The reason I delayed writing this entry until now is….the hat. The 100% Unlined Alpaca Wool hat that kept the Incas alive 722,000 feet up a mountain in the Andes in the middle of winter. *

I wanted to see if that hat would actually be the hat I’ve been waiting for since I moved to the top of Mt. Crumpit in 1999. I wanted it to survive at least one December before reporting back.

The verdict?

The search continues.

The hat sucks.

My head froze wearing that thing – and that was only in November! How the hell did the Incas manage to survive that long if that’s what they were wearing?

I actually called the Alpaca Store.

You should have gotten the lined one” the woolly sales lady said. “They’re warmer. 100% alpaca wool is so fine it makes a very open weave.”

“Why didn’t you tell me that when I bought it?”

Your wife was drooling. I just wanted you out of the store.”

Shit. It’s back to the hot water bottle and babushka, I guess. Until we go back next year when I can get the lined one.

SQUEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE!!

(Hey, you know what DID live up to the hype? That stupid felted alpaca wool bar of soap! Get in the shower, soak it til the lather seeps to the surface, then run that soft, wet, rounded bar over your body and it’s almost impossible not to rub one out. I’ve never been cleaner in my life, I take so many showers now.)

hat and soap

Ciao!

.

.

*Wait, do they have winters in the Andes? I guess it doesn’t matter. At 722,000 feet (thank you, Wikipedia) the Andes are probably as cold as the surface of Pluto year round. Seasons are moot.

(10 bonus points to anyone who knew the title was a Frank Zappa reference.)

Oh, Henry!

Well, my previous post certainly generated its share of comments. Everything from “You rock, I wanna sit on your face!” to “You suck, I wanna punch you in the face!

Guess what my wife’s response was?

She went out and bought me this:

Come On Babe shirt

She dared me to wear it to work, but you never know who played clarinet in high school and still remembers enough of the scale to complain to HR again. So I won’t.

So yesterday was Christmas, and in addition to misogynist mens wear NewWifey(tm) gave me: 8 bottles of scotch, an anime DVD (Azumanga Daioh!), scotch friendly chocolates, head, a Powerpuff Girls coloring book, Ren & Stimpy boxers, a soup Thermos for work, and a Kobe Tai signed collector’s edition poster. (Guess which of those is my favorite holiday tradition?)

Oh, and a watch.

Yes, I know. I know. I have several watches already, including my anniversary Movado, which I love dearly.

But you know how it is when you have a fetish. As MTV used to say, “Too much is never enough.”

And besides, this one is important. It has a green dial. I don’t have a watch with a green dial, a situation that must not be allowed to stand.

I started lobbying for a green faced watch several weeks ago.

I didn’t have to lobby hard.

“What do you want for Christmas this year?” NewWifey(tm) said.

I want a watch with a green dial!” I said. “And a Red Ryder range model air rifle BB gun with a compass in the stock and this thing that tells time!

“I’ll get you the watch.”

It worked!

Sure enough, yesterday morning after the booze and the porn and the cartoon underwear NewWifey(tm) handed me a long, slim box.

I unwrapped it in under a second.

Inside….

hl39-s-0186-3

Woo hoo! Ain’t she purty? British Racing Green, made in England. My Lancaster City grandmother would approve.*

I put it on.

It’s gorgeous.

It’s gorgeous” I said to NewWifey(tm). “Thank you so much!

She didn’t say anything. Didn’t even smile, in fact.

Er…did I say something wrong?”

She sighed. “Turn the watch over.”

I did.

Er…

All I Refuse watch back

 

I looked at NewWifey(tm). “‘Henry’?” I said. “Who is Henry, and why are you saying that to him?

“I didn’t know it would say ‘Henry'” she said. “I chose that stupid watch not just because it had a green dial, but because if you ordered it from the company website they would engrave the back for free. BUT I DIDN’T KNOW THEY’D PUT THE NAME OF THE COMPANY ON THE BACK TOO! AND WHO THE FUCK NAMES THEIR COMPANY ‘HENRY’?!

I should explain something here. Our wedding rings are copies of a 13th century “Posy Ring” that’s on display in the British Museum. The outside is a deeply incised floral design. On the inside is…you guessed it…

Wedding Ring

So NewWifey(tm) jumped, to say the least, when she found she could have the same Ode to Commitment etched into the back of a watch.

What she didn’t realize was that the company also inscribes their name on the back of all their watches. I think she saw it on the website, but thought it would be replaced by whatever she asked them to write.

Nope.

She ordered it straight away.

So now I’m wearing a watch that proclaims my wife’s pledge of undying love and fidelity to Henry.

I can’t say I blame NewWifey(tm). It really is a gorgeous watch. I’d probably flip for Henry, too.

Still…I’m gonna miss her. So Henry, where ever you are, please be good to my NewWifey(tm). She’s been practically like a wife to me. She may not like watches as much as you, but she’s a good kid.

Oh well. Easy come, easy go. I guess I’m back on the market again.

Hey, I wonder what Kobe Tai’s up to these days…?

Ciao, kids! I hope you all had a Merry Christmas, and finally got that pony. Or a watch of undying love. Even if it wasn’t from Henry (you poor thing).

.

*You know, I think I may order one for my dad. It would match one of his two classic British Triumph TR-6’s:

Dad's Triumphs

I just need to convince him that his name is “Henry”. He’s getting old, it might work….

.

Babe.

Goddamit, I really didn’t want to write this entry.

I’m pissed at me, I’m pissed at her, I’m pissed at how much-needed social movements always seem to get derailed.

Let’s do this as a “Play in 9 Parts”, starting with some tedious, but unfortunately necessary, background:

Part 1: Radio

I’m a radio network announcer. I don’t have my own show, but rather appear on shows all over the NYC region – and sometimes country – in various capacities. Sometimes I’m the news guy, sometimes the traffic reporter, etc. In effect, I’m a professional sidekick.

Sullen misanthropes, introverts, and monosyllabic cretins tend not to take up radio announcing as a profession. This is a field populated by gregarious, effusive, often overly effusive, blunderbusses with good vocabulary skills. If your job requires you to talk for 8 hours a day, 5 or more days a week, it damn well better come naturally to you or you are in for a long, painful life. Or a short career.

I’ve been with the same company for exactly 25 years this month (not even a goddam card). Many of the announcers who were there when I started are also still here. Stable radio gigs are pretty rare, so when you’re lucky enough to land one you usually stay if you can.

Needless to say, after all this time few of us stand on ceremony then when it comes to addressing one another. For about a decade, “Hey dickhead, get any last night?” was the default morning greeting to anyone arriving for their shift, man or woman. Hardly anyone uses anyone else’s proper name. It’s either a term of affection (“honey”, “buddy”, etc.), a mock insult, or just “Yo”.

Part 2: Chicks

I think it’s pretty well established by now that I love women. Not to belabor the point, but I love women so much that I’ve even let several of them have sex with me. Not every guy can say that.

I also actually respect women. So much so that I will not entrust anyone, including myself, the critical task of doing my laundry other than my wife. And she’s a woman.

I also respect that many women take fierce pride in their physical attributes. And unlike men, they can apparently gather in large numbers without starting a war (unless there aren’t enough Port-a-Potty’s).

On top of that, I can be platonic friends with a woman – and not just the fat ones. I’m talking about women I’m even sexually attracted to. I know, I know. I’m expecting a call from the Pope any day now, too. “St. Dangerspouse“. I like it.

Part 3: Radio Chicks

In the mid-2000’s our privately held company was taken over by a large network. Overnight the beer in the company fridge disappeared, a dress code was instituted (no more tutus) and a memo was issued regarding sexual harassment in the workplace. It read in part, “There will be no off-colored jokes told in your place of employ“.

Immediately the women on staff revolted.

I have never worked with, or even known, a more foul mouthed, dirty minded group than the women I worked with back then. I swear to god, almost all my best filthy jokes were first told to me by some of those august ladies. I once got into a half hour long argument with one about whether YouPorn or RedTube was the better service.

So that memo caused a real uproar amongst the distaff side, and most indignantly ignored it. Still do.

Part 4: Ch-ch-ch-changes.

Over the last year or so our company has been undergoing an expansion. We’ve added a few new studios, installed new computers in the old ones (running WINDOWS FUCKING 8 for some reason),  built out the Producers Bullpen, and even purchased a new microwave for the kitchen(!).

Of course with more studios and a larger production facility comes the need for more personnel. So they hired some. Mostly young, mostly eager, and mostly with unreasonable expectations about becoming a star. Sorry to burst your bubble, kid, but….

Now I happen to like Millennials. (Of course, I like everybody. It’s one of the reasons I went into radio in the first place. I love talking to people.) I also think Millennials (and their admittedly harder to stomach cousins, the Hipsters) get a bad rap in the larger population, in the way that Gen-X’ers got a bad rap before them, Yuppies got it before them, Hippies got it before them, and on and on and on. Millennials are people. But like all people, they are products of their time. And time always changes.

One thing I love about Millennials is their ability to identify things their elders got wrong, and use all these new digital tools at their disposal to try to change them.

The one I’ll mention is probably the most famous, and also the one most pertinent to this story: the #MeToo movement.

Now when the #MeToo movement broke onto the scene I literally cheered. Despite my (as usual) inappropriate “humor” back there in Part 2, in reality I am a devout, unalloyed, unapologetic feminist who has long railed against gender based inequalities. I’ve written here before how I feel America’s inability to pass the Equal Rights Amendment is going to be one of those things that, like slavery and Georgie Dann, future generations are going to excoriate us for. The #MeToo movement addresses something even darker, and perhaps more immediately urgent to address than passage of the ERA.

Part 5: The Past.

Previously I’d written an entry about being accused of sexual harassment. I won’t link to it – it’s long and overwrought, much like this one – but in a nutshell if you haven’t read it: I was the traffic reporter on a show in Central Jersey, and while music was playing over the air and I was waiting to go on, the man and woman hosts would usually chat with me behind the scene (“in cue” as we say).

This one day we were talking in cue about adult beverages. The male host said he liked whiskies, particularly bourbon. I mentioned my ongoing love affair with wine. And the woman chimed in with, “I like beer, but because I’m pregnant I haven’t been able to have any in months. It’s one of the things I’m most looking forward to after I have the baby!

I then said, “The beer will have an added benefit. In addition to tasting good, I understand alcohol passes into breast milk. My mom always told me that when I was crying as a baby, she’d sometimes sip a beer then give me a feeding to help me fall asleep.”

When I got off the air I had an urgent email from my boss to call him.

The girl filed a sexual harassment claim against me as a result of our conversation. Why? “He referenced my breasts.”

I was put on paid leave while they did an investigation. There were lawyers, phone conferences with the independant investigator, and several sleepless nights. Finally the investigator pronounced I had done nothing wrong, and I know it shouldn’t matter but the investigator was a woman. I was cleared to go back to work.

But the incident will persist on my permanent record forever now. I also had to sign a form acknowledging I’d said “something that caused another person discomfort”.

However…what if the investigator had ruled against me? That would have been it for me, professionally. Do you think any radio station would be eager to snap up a middle aged perpetual support player who was let go after being found guilty of sexual harassment?

I still have nightmares about it. And don’t get me started on how NewWifey(tm) feels about that young lady and her precious breasts. I don’t think I’ve ever seen her that mad in my entire life. And she’s Irish.

And now….

Part 6:

79071_54_news_hub_73864_656x500

Two weeks ago I got off the air one day and had an urgent email from the head of HR for the entire network saying she needed to talk to me about a “work incident”. She was gonna call me at my home number later.

Oh.

God.

No.

Not again.

I wracked my brain. Was I talking about breasts again? I didn’t think so. But…wait a sec. I do talk about cooking on some of my stations. Did a female host object to “chicken breasts”? Sounds ridiculous, but I though “breast milk” was safe at the time also, and look what happened there. So who knows?

I ground my teeth almost down to the bone on the drive home.

*Riiiiiiiiiiiing*

“Hello?”

Hello, Mr. Spouse? This is Natalie, head of HR for the network. How are you?

“Frightened, and about to start a drinking habit. What’s up?”

She told me.

Without any embellishment, this was the “workplace incident”:

I addressed a woman I work with, a woman whom I’ve known for at least 20 years, as “babe”.

“Hey babe, how ya doin’?” was probably what I said, since that’s what I always say. Even to some of the guys.

But this time when I let fly with that greeting, another woman overheard me say it.

And SHE got offended.

That’s when the trouble started.

Rather than tell me she was offended, even rather than tell our general manager, which is the normal course, she leapfrogged right to the top of the command chain.

This is what the top of the command chain told me during that phone call, “In this age of #MeToo….”

I don’t think I need to tell you what the rest of the sentence was.

Of course, I made a feeble attempt at defending my hideous act. It went something like, “Who was the little bitch? I’ll kill her!”

Actually, it was more along the lines of “I’m awfully sorry. Please convey my apologies to whomever it was who was so aggrieved by my thoughtless action, and assure them that that word will never be uttered by me again.” I still have a mortgage to pay, you know.

(I do want it noted here that I did not in turn throw my female coworkers under the bus for calling me “Honey”, “Sugar”, “10-Inch”, or, yes, “Babe” on a daily basis. Yay, me.)

Fortunately Natalie assured me that this was just a warning, and would – this time – feature no repercussions. But it would be noted on my record, and any future instances if reported could result in my termination.

So now in my permanent file it notes I’ve been accused of sexual harassment, and verbally demeaning women. That’s great. In a lot of peoples’ minds, to be accused is to be de facto guilty. The word “acquitted” afterwards means nothing. I better not ever need another job….

You know what bothers me almost as much as being accused of something so heinous, over such an obviously innocuous act? It’s the fact that I thought of everyone at my work as my friend. We all get along GREAT. When I heard someone not only ratted me out, but ratted me out for something so innocent, I literally turned cold. It still hurts to think about it. (I don’t know who it was, btw. The HR head would only say it was a “young lady”.)

Part 7: The Aftermath.

In the very first sentence of this entry I said I didn’t want to write this entry. But the reasons that might be different that what you’re assuming.

I’ve always hated the guy who runs to a woman – his wife, girlfriend, family member, pet, whatever – to explain his side of the story after being called out for doing something chauvinistic. It’s like he’s looking for a female to validate his actions, to agree he’s being persecuted by an unreasonable woman. If he can find a woman to do that for him, he won’t have to lower his opinion of himself. He also won’t have to change his behavior.

This happens a lot. I see it. all. the. time.

And now I worry that by writing this in a public space, I might be that guy. Am I? Am I putting this out there because I want to read comments from people (women) assuring me I did nothing wrong? I don’t think so, but…

But more importantly, I worry about the #MeToo movement.

The #MeToo movement is needed, and needed badly. It is long past due that physical and emotional exploitation devastations women suffer at the hands of men who have power over them be brought to light. Whispering in the shadows because you’re afraid of repercussions has to end.

But of course, since this is something both needed and requiring change, there is backlash. This story from the Huffington Post gives an excellent overview of the sort of ammunition anti-feminists immediately brought to bear once the movement began. A salient excerpt:

This was the moment women had been predicting for months, ever since the national outcry against predatory men began in October. “All it will take is one particularly lame allegation … to turn the tide from deep umbrage on behalf of women to pity for the poor, bullied men,” warned Rebecca Traister in November.”

And that’s what I worry about. That some will hear my story, agree with me that I have now suffered two “lame allegations”, and use that to argue against all of #MeToo. “See? This whole movement is just a way for men-hating women to stick it to us!

Finally….deep breath…..

Women need to be able to discriminate.

Here’s the thing:

The woman who got upset that I merely mentioned breasts. The young lady who got upset when she heard me call another woman “babe”.

They were both genuinely upset. Whether or not I think their consternation was justified, I recognize that their consternation was real. And real consternation does need to be addressed.

My concern is how they chose to address their consternation, when viewed in a larger context. I’m sure both those women realized at the time that I was not a man in a position of power using that power to coerce them. They could have spoken to me directly, or barring that they could have gone anonymously to my immediate supervisor and asked for guidance on how to handle things. Instead, they both immediately pulled the trigger on hitching their claim to a movement expressly formed to address the problem of men in power coercing women.

They weren’t able to, or perhaps willing to, discriminate between “he’s being a jerk!” and “he told me I wouldn’t get overtime if I didn’t give him a blowjob!

And that’s how movements end.

If “#MeToo” starts being used for any and all grievances involving women, it will become so watered down as to become meaningless. People, even well intentioned people who really, sincerely wish for an end to the horrific, entrenched treatment of powerless women, will roll their eyes whenever that hashtag is paraded out.

This movement is too important, too long overdue, TOO IMPORTANT, to die out. It has to keep going. #MeToo seeks to eradicate horrors visited on too many for too long. Don’t risk ruining it for everyone every time some thoughtless guy called you “Honey” by claiming that very specific victimhood. You may end up throwing out the Babe with the bathwater.

Part 8: The Chilling Effect.

I am now afraid to talk to any of the women I work with. I like them equally, I trusted them equally. But one of them has potentially put my job in jeopardy, and since I don’t know who it was, and what else might set her off, I can’t risk talking to any of them any more. I’m keeping my studio door closed between mic breaks, I won’t go to the cafeteria to grab a sandwich with any of the women if we’re snowed in, I won’t offer a lozenge if I hear one coughing. And maybe women outside work now, too. I’m at least marginally in the public’s eye – ear, anyway. Ya never know when a Facebook post is gonna go viral.

Part 9: Conclusion.

Chicks!

Amiright, fellas?

.

(Sorry about the length and serious tone. At least one will be rectified next episode. Stay tuned!)

.

.

Oprah’s Bird

Earlier this year I was sitting around playing Animal Crossing on my Game Cube and sipping Holland House cooking sherry when there was a loud “THWUMPH!” against the bay window behind my head. I turned and just caught a flash of blue out of the corner of my eye.

This didn’t really startle me. When you look out our bay window, beyond the vast field of rosemary, sage, and oregano in those planters, you glimpse the beginning of 30,000 acres of state forest:

Bay Window 1

Granted, not a majestic sight this time of year in the space between summer’s verdant glory and winter’s snowy majesty. But you get the idea. There’s a bunch of trees.

There’s also a bunch of animals, many of whom do not make a distinction between “state forest” and “Dangerspouse’s yard”:

Bear Trash small

Or “Dangerspouse’s property”:

Hammock 2

But it’s not only bears and foxes and turkeys and bobcats and for all I know tapirs that poop in my yard. It’s birds, too. Lots and lots of birds. Lots.

So many that our old cat Gloria used to sit for hours watching them zip by, dreaming she had wings. Or maybe a pellet gun.

Gloria in Repose

With that many birds criss-crossing our property every day, you know a certain number are gonna slam into us. Smaller birds hit the window as they frantically try to out-maneuver the larger bird trying to kill them. Some, I suppose, just fly into the window because they’re retarded. I mean, I can understand them thinking there’s a big open area behind the window – which they can’t see because it’s clear. But don’t they see the cat? And strangely, an awful lot of those retards are hummingbirds.

So when I heard that “THWUMPH!” as I was haggling with Tom Nook over turnip prices it barely even registered. Ho hum. Another day, another bird corpse.

But as I say I did at least turn, and when I did I saw a flash of blue. And it wasn’t hummingbird blue.

That was kinda odd. We do have bluebirds, but so far none have managed to self destruct on our fenestra. Same with blue jays. They’re pretty smart, for all their annoying raucousness.

I looked out the window.

It was a blue jay. A baby, hopping around in circles on the lawn below. He must have just fledged and either couldn’t stay airborne, pegging our window on the way down, or he liked our cat.

I grabbed a shoe box and headed for the door. Occasionally I’ve been able to scoop up disoriented birds and either give them sanctuary until they can fly off, or turn them into stock. All depends on the size.

Down the stairs I went.

By the time I got down to the lawn the little guy was just kinda squatting in place under our Japanese maple. I guess he was tuckered out. The knock when he hit the bay window probably took a lot out of him too. But when he saw me advancing on him with a size 10 1/2 Adidas box he perked back up and took off, hopping and flapping just out of reach as I ran behind him. When he circled back and dove through a hole in the latticework of our front porch I lost him.

Dammit. I didn’t want to use canned stock that night.

Oh well. I knew I couldn’t squeeze my fat middle aged ass under the porch to continue the pursuit, so I went back inside and grabbed my camera. At least I might be able to get a shot to show NewWifey(tm) I at least tried to save the little bugger.

Back down the stairs with the Nikon. Even though I couldn’t see Baby Jay, I could sure hear him. Bluejays are screamers even at their calmest. Trap one under a porch and you could hear him over a South African vuvuzela festival. I peered through the loudest opening and there he was, beak open, bouncing up and down in panic.

I backed up a foot and extended my zoom lens.

And suddenly the back of my neck started bleeding.

OWWWWWWWWWW!

It seems I wasn’t the only one able to pinpoint Baby Jay by his 200 decibel din. Mom and Dad Jay were alerted to Junior’s location just as quickly, but on arrival were alarmed to find a sweaty fat man with a shoe box trying to corral him. They swooped into action.

OWWWWWWWWWW!

OW! OW! OW! OW! OW!

There was a blur of blue and white feathers suddenly whirling around my head, and beaks and tiny bird claws were jabbing at my head and neck. And the noise! I thought Junior was loud. This was what I imagined being stuck inside a VitaMix was like.

I beat a hasty retreat, jacket pulled over my head. They could have him. I had some frozen stock in the freezer anyway.

But as I rounded the far side and made for the stairs, I saw a little head poke out of the latticework siding. Baby Jay must have heard his parents and was looking for them.

I quickly raised the Nikon, focused, and squeezed:

Bird in Lattice 3

Then I hightailed it the rest of the way to the door before Mom and Dad decided they needed to draw more blood.

Pretty good shot, huh? Yeah, I thought so too. Sharp focus on the eye, correctly exposed the subject instead of the brighter background, classic portrait using shallow depth of field to make the subject stand out. In short, I rock. Even while bleeding heavily from the neck, and half deaf.

Later that night I showed NewWifey(tm) the picture and we had a good laugh. The next morning the Jay family was gone, and I soon forgot about the picture.

Until about a month ago when I was flipping through our local free newspaper, the “Advertiser News”. Featured on one of the inner pages was a blurry photograph of a dun colored bird sitting listlessly in a nest, taken by some local reader. It was out of focus, lopsided, poorly exposed, and stupidly framed. I snorted. I could do a lot better than that.

Wait a sec. I did do a lot better than that. The baby jay!

I scanned the photo description for details, and sure enough at the bottom of the page it said “Submit your own photos for consideration at our website“.

To the internet, Batman!

I hit up their home page and hovered my cursor over the “Photos” tab. Sure enough, a drop-down menu appeared with one of the options being “Submit Your Photo”.

Click.

A minute later I was registered – as “Dangerspouse” – and Baby Jay’s pic was uploaded. Now all I had to do was title it.

Hmmmmmm.

I ran through the obvious choices: “Baby Jay in Porch” “Jay Junior Peers Out”, “Toronto Blue Jays’ Mascot Found in NJ”, etc.

They all sucked.

Then it hit me.

Oprah.

Oprah Winfrey calls her vagina “Vajayjay”!

Bingo.

Title: “VaJayJay“. Hit send. Done.

I told NewWifey(tm). “It’s never gonna be accepted” she said. “Somebody there will know what that means.” “Yeah, I know” I laughed. “But it was worth it.”

The next morning I opened my email and saw, “Dear Mr. Dangerspouse, your picture has been accepted for inclusion in our website edition. If it recieves the most votes it may also be included in a future print edition of our paper. Thank you for contributing.”

I clicked on their website, then the photo section.

Holy crap:VaJayJay screen shot EDIT

I wasn’t surprised they printed my photo – in comparison to everyone else’s efforts my pic was a combination of Ansel Adams and Caravaggio – but…they didn’t change my title.

BWAAAAAAHAHAHAHAAAAAAA!

I couldn’t believe it!

Not only that. if you look closely you can see that 4 people had already voted for it as “Best”.

BWAAAAAAHAHAHAHAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA! 

Four Oprah fans, I’m guessing.

I showed NewWifey(tm). “Somebody will call them” she said. “It’s never gonna make it to print.”

One week later:

Jay Front Page Paper

Jay Paper Close Up

On the FRONT PAGE.

But…not as Oprah’s vagina, dammit. And “Dangerspouse” got changed to “Vernon resident”.

The next day, I had 9 votes for “Best”. That’s practically half our town!

Jay Paper With Screenshot

At least they kept “VaJayJay” and “Dangerspouse” in the online edition.

It’s still there by the way, although if you’re reading this in the far future it’s probably on a back page by now.

And hey – if you wanna go there and vote for it as “Best” and move me up the overall rankings, I’d love you forever. See, right now I’m just “Best” in the “Recent” category. There are some pics that have been up for 4, 5, 6 years and through sheer inertia have been gathering votes slowly but surely the entire time. I need to unseat those imposters!

Oh, and since then I’ve submitted several other photos, all of which have been accepted and put up on their website, with a couple also being featured in the print editions. You can see them online in the Photo tab if you click “Highland Lakes” in the column on the right. They should still be there. No more funny captions, but they at least credit “Dangerspouse”. That’s funny enough to me.

Finally, I must give credit where credit is due.

Thank you, Oprah. Your vagina has made me very happy, and locally famous. Not every woman’s vagina can say that.

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addendum:

Speaking of famous vaginas, I was looking for sugar cookie recipes the other day. Normally my first port of call for anything baking is “Bewitching Kitchen” (aka, “The Iron Uptake Chef“), the worlds greatest cooking blog run by the worlds smartest cooking blogger.

But I was on YouTube when the urge to look for sugar cookie recipes hit, so I said to myself “I wonder if Bewitching has a YouTube channel?” So I typed in “Brazilian Sugar Cookies” (she’s Brazilian) and the first thing that YouTube suggested was this.

I’ve watched it 15 (edit: 183 now) times but I still can’t figure it out.

So Sally, if you posted that…could you send me the recipe? It looks GREAT. Thanks.

Ciao!

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RECIPE: Thanksgiving “Butternut Squash with Port and Possum” Soup

Make this a day or two ahead of Thanksgiving to free up stove space on the day itself. It freezes just fine if you want to make it even earlier.

Ingredients:

1 large butternut squash, halved lengthwise. Scoop seeds and stringy pulp into a bowl and reserve. Do not peel.

Light chicken stock, about a quart and a half or so for a decent sized squash

1 stick butter

1 small onion, diced

Port, to taste. My go-to is Fonseca “Bin-27”, a ruby style that is well made, attractively priced, and widely available. But any will do.

Spices: cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg, thyme, salt, and pepper

1 opossum

Method:

Make flavored butter beforehand by simmering the reserved squash seeds and pulp in the stick of butter over low heat. Simmer until the seeds turn golden brown and the butter is colored a nice golden orange. This will take about an hour. Then strain out solids through a fine sieve, pressing hard to get as much butter out as possible. You will lose a certain amount that’s been absorbed by the seeds, so don’t be alarmed. Reserve that liquid. (You can pick out the seeds and salt them for a delicious snack or garnish.)

Pre-heat oven to 400 degrees (f)

Spray, or lightly brush, both sides of each squash half with vegetable oil. Place them cut-side down on a baking sheet lined with aluminum foil. Cooking time will vary depending on how thick your squash is, but in general 45 minutes to an hour seems to be what it takes for the average butternut. You’ll know it’s ready when you smell it burning. Or when you THINK you smell it burning. What you’re smelling is the liquid that has leeched out of the squash and is charring on the pan next to the squash. The squash itself is fine. And probably done at that point. Flip it over. It should look beautifully caramelized, with a slight crust around the edges. A knife should slide easily in as well. If not, pop it back in for a little while longer.

Let it cool.

Once cooled:

In a deep soup pot heat the reserved flavored butter and add the minced onion. Cook slowly for a minute or two, then add the thyme. Cook for another minute and then add the squash flesh. Stir around to form a smooth paste.

Slowly stir in stock, whisking as you go to keep things smooth.

Now you get to exercise creative control: spices!

Most butternut squash soups I’ve had over the years, even at fancy places that you’d think would know better, have tasted more like butternut squash pie soup. Waaay too much brown sugar, waaay too much cinnamon, waaay too much cloves, waaaay too little thought.

Don’t do that. Unless that’s what you want, in which case save yourself some effort and just go buy a WalMart Kitchen’s brand pumpkin pie and throw it in a blender. It’ll taste exactly the same.

So what I recommend is using a savory spice – in this version, I chose thyme – and just accent it a bit with the aforementioned spices. This really is one of those recipes where “to taste” actually means something. Add a sprinkle of spice, taste. Adjust. Repeat. Until you go, “Oh my god, I get what Dangerspouse is going for now!

Generally speaking, I also add a bit of sweetener to the mix. Not much, but I do like some. And one of my favorite things to do is to play around with the sweetener I use. Brown sugar is universally lauded here, and with good reason. Maple syrup gets the nod in many quarters, and I can’t argue. I myself am partial to roasted fruits as they add not only sweetness, but a more complex flavor. Pears are my favorite there.

This time, though, I used port. I had half a bottle left over in the fridge, and went for it on a whim. I’m glad I did. What I did here was add it in two stages: first along with the stock, then near the end, when tasting showed a bit more sweetness was needed. Added benefit: it gave the soup a darker, richer hue. Definitely different.

Let simmer for 20 minutes or so. Doesn’t need long.

Now comes perhaps the single most important step of the entire recipe:

Blitz the fucker.

Get your blender out and start whizzing up the soup. Do it in stages, filling the canister about a third of the way full each time. Empty the whizzed stuff into a clean pot before adding another third, and continue on like that til it’s all done.

The key thing here, the thing that will make or break your dreams of soupy success, is make sure you keep the blender on long enough. I can’t stress this enough. You not only want to break down small fibers that squash are known for (as well as the onion bits), but you also want to introduce a certain amount of air into the liquid through agitation. This will give the soup a creamy appearance and texture without needing to add cream.

Why not just add cream, you stupidly ask?

Because you just spent a ton of time, and a fair amount of money, simmering seeds in an entire stick of butter, making stock (if you used homemade), and adding half a bottle of de$ent Port that you really really would have loved to drink instead of adding to soup.

Adding cream will mute all those flavors. It’ll taste like Campbell’s Cream of Bleh soup. I’ve tried it both ways and I’m telling you, this is one creamy soup you do not want to add cream to. (Test for yourself: ladle out a bowl of the finished stuff, mix in a spoonful of cream, then taste. Now taste the au natural version. What did I tell you.)

Now just adjust salt and pepper, and any other last minute tweaks it might need like another shot of Port (couldn’t hurt).

I originally thought I might dissolve in some blue cheese as well, as Port+Blue is such a famous – and famously delicious – combo. But trying it out in a test bowl showed me the error of my ways. It didn’t work. If you had that brilliant idea also, skip it.

Now you just gotta let the soup cool down before you throw it in the fridge. Never put blazing hot covered soup straight into the fridge. Your electric bill will thank you.

Pour the soup into any large, lidded container you have and let it sit uncovered for a while. Because space is already tight from all the things you’re prepping, and because it’s late November and the temps outside are pretty much the same as in your freezer, place the container on the rail of your back porch to cool down. Leave the lid on the kitchen island.

Hose your wife down and have her accompany you to a local diner to meet some friends. (If you don’t have a wife, find a Mormon and borrow one of his.)

Two hours later arrive back home. Take the lid of the container off the kitchen island and and walk out to the now empty rail on the back porch.

Peer over the railing and look at the opossum eating your Butternut Squash and Port soup, which somehow landed upright, 25 feet below in the snow.

Run back in and grab your camera. Take a picture of the carnage, but without the opossum, who fled after your initial bloodcurdling scream. Hope people on the internets believe you, despite lack of possumgraphic evidence.

Close the porch door behind you. Open a can of Campbell’s.

NEXT WEEK’S RECIPE: Maple and Bourbon Glazed Roast of Beaten To Death Opossum.

Possum Soup

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