Oh, Henry!

Well, well, well. My previous post certainly generated its share of comments, didn’t it. 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.

Now yesterday was Christmas of course, 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.

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 which must not be allowed to stand.

The lobbying for a green faced watch therefor began 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).

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*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….

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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?

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

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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.

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, I rock.

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. Including my pic of the sun rising with a storm coming in overhead, which they printed the next week:

Sunrise small 1

You can see them online in the Photo tab if you click “Highland Lakes” in the column on the right. There’s a bunch in the “Warwick” tab also. 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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It’s a Girl!

georgia-okeeffe-flower-of-life-ii-print-l-16319-fn5_25x30

I wasn’t ignoring you. I made the mistake of binge watching every Philomena Cunk, every “Glove and Boots”, and every “Ozzy Man Reviews” video back-to-back, and only now stopped laughing.

So where was I?

Oh yeah. Vaginas.

Imagine one of your male buddies comes up to you and says “Hey, wanna see my vagina?” What would you think?

You’d think one of three things was about to happen:

1) If he’s under 18 he’ll introduce you to his new girlfriend, who will giggle appreciatively at being so designated.

2) If he’s between 18 and 78 he’ll pull a novelty silicone sex toy from behind his back and mimic humping it. Or maybe more than mimic.

3) If he’s over 78 he’ll introduce you to his new girlfriend, who will giggle and give him his scheduled meds.

So when my 30-something year old buddy said to me, “Hey, wanna see my vagina?” I was fully expecting an anatomically correct and fully functional model of Asa Akira’s money maker to be produced.

I was not expecting a real vagina.

If you go waaaaay back through my archives you’ll eventually happen upon the time I housed two of my buddies while they were on leave from the army, and how they attacked a guy in Manhattan who was trying to steal my car but stopped when they realized it was a chick.

After being discharged from the army (honorably, somehow) one of the two moved west and became a commercial pilot. The other stayed on the east coast, became an engineer, and now does…I dunno, engineering stuff. He lives in Brooklyn and we’ve kept in regular touch over the years. I got to know him really well.

Or so I thought.

Back in 2014 he – oh, let’s call him “Buggles H. M. Worthington-McGee III” (not his real name). Anyway, Buggles called me and asked if he could come over. He sounded stressed. I said sure, and we made plans for that Saturday.

Saturday morning I drove to the Park-n-Ride and sat til his bus arrived (like most sane New Yorkers he’s too scared to own a car himself). He looked as stressed as he sounded over the phone. We drove the hour back to DangerHouse in silence.

When we walked in the door he spoke his first words.

Waddaya got to drink?

“Let’s see…wine…a 6 of Sierra Nevada IPA…Maker’s Mark…some girly liqueurs …homemade slivovitz…homemade limoncello…Pims Cup….and I think water.”

You got Everclear?

“Uh…that’s kinda, you know, poison.”

Yeah. Got any?

“No.”

Fine. Maker’s Mark.

I pulled down two tumblers and the bourbon. He grabbed the bottle and filled his to the brim.

“You want a bigger glass?” I said. “Just a straw?”

He shook his head and downed it.

He poured another. Downed it.

I’m a girl” he said. He poured another.

I grabbed the bottle. Was it Everclear?

“Dude” I said. “You’re a lightweight. Two drinks and you’re already telling stupid jokes.”

I’m not joking”  he said. “I’m a girl.

“Do tell” I said.

And he did. I got the entire story of how he always felt “different” as a kid. How in adolescence he thought maybe he was gay, but…no, that wasn’t quite it. Nor was he just a cross-dresser…sorta. Maybe.

Thinking it was a phase he did the overcompensation thing. Dated chicks. Bought a sports car. Took up cock fighting (er, the animal kind).

Then he joined the Army and went to war. Served on a mobile rocket launcher team in Iraq, then as an explosive ordnance disposal specialist once the main fighting was over. When he was rotated back to the States he made chief armorer at his base.

He had biceps. He pooped into a can out in the field. He jerked off into his “special” sock at least twice a day. He ate Spam.

In short, he did everything every soldier does. Like a man.

Except he wasn’t.

Four years of fighting, pooping, jerking, eating rubber lunch meat, and doing every other stereotypical he-man thing on the planet did nothing to stop him feeling “different”. A week after being discharged he knew. He knew he was a girl.

It was a riveting story.

Or it would have been if I hadn’t fallen asleep 15 minutes in. Seriously, what is it with chicks and their need to recount every event in real time? Do none of them even know what “synopsis” is? *

That sold me.

“Ok, you’re a girl” I said. “Did you tell your folks?”

Yeah. My mom gave me a hug and said she loves me no matter what. But then she went to the store and bought a bottle of Everclear.”

“She loved her soldier boy” I nodded. “What about dad?”

He stared at me a minute, then saidYeah, I always figured. Just don’t come home pregnant one day.'”

“He always was pretty perceptive” I said.  “So Buggles, is there anything I can do to help you out here?”

Yeah. First of all” he said. “My name isn’t Buggles H. M. Worthington-McGee III any more. It’s Bunny H. M. Worthington-McGee III.”

“Ok. Um..so, Bunny, what can I do for you? I mean, I don’t know what girls are even into these days. Wanna go, I dunno, chintz shopping or something? Find a salad bar? Do you need to buy maxi pads?”

She shot out a fist before I could duck and caught me flush in the sternum. I barely managed to keep my chair upright.

“Jesus, Buggles! You don’t have to – OWW!

She caught me with her other fist, in the forehead this time. “It’sBUNNY‘! I will seriously fuck you up if you forget that again. And if I hear ‘do you wanna buy chintz and tampons’  even one more time I swear I’ll ram my dick so far up your ass you’ll see it when you brush your teeth. I’m a fucking GIRL, dammit, and you better start treating me like one. NOW.”

“I said ‘maxi pads’, not tampons. There’s a difference.”

She cocked her fist again.

I quickly waved my hands. “Fine, fine! So then, Bunny, what DO you want to do?”

Drink.”

She stood up and grabbed the back of my collar, lifting me out of my chair with one arm til my feet were a foot above the floor. I weigh 220 pounds. We went to a bar and drank.

.

The next several years were kind of interesting. Apparently you can’t just walk into a doctor’s office and ask to have your dick cut off, then go get fitted for a training bra. Bunny had to undergo a psych evaluation to determine if wanting to get her dick cut off was just a phase. Y’know, like all us guys go through. (Usually after nailing our nads on the top bar of a bicycle.)

When they determined that, yes, she did suffer from genuine gender dysphoria…they still didn’t cut her dick off. She was required to live like a girl to see if she could handle it first. She was put on hormone therapy which gave her both tiny little boobs and, for a few months, the emotional disposition of a 14 year old girl. She called me a few times literally sobbing into the phone that we don’t understand her, and she hates us! Hates us! I never felt like punching a girl before – especially one with 15 inch biceps – but let’s just say she’s lucky she lives over an hour away.

Once that initial tsunami of hormone tides simmered down though she became much more pleasant, and it was at this point that NewWifey(tm) took over. Bunny now needed things like dresses and heels and makeup and curling wands and earrings and other shit that I know as much about as I do tact.

I have to say, NewWifey(tm) was in her element. For all her motorcycle racing, general contracting, auto mechanic ways, she still has a real soft spot for girly-girl trappings. So once a week or so she drove from New Jersey across lower Manhattan, through the Battery Tunnel, and a mile into Brooklyn so she could ferry Bunny around to various estrogen-themed stores. After shopping they usually hit up a salad bar, drank mimosas with little umbrellas in them, and talked about boys. I assume.

But once Bunny’s wardrobe was filled and her bathroom was stocked and she stopped falling in heels and she got used to being paid 25% less than what she made for doing the same job as when she was a man, we lost contact with her for a while. She had to get on with her life, after all.

Then last spring she phoned us up again.

“Yo Bunny, good to hear from you! What’s new?”

Not much. Got some new curtains for my place. Chintz.”

I knew it.

“Great! Er…did you want to talk to NewWifey(tm)? Need help with eyelash extensions or something?”

Nah, I got that down” she said. “I need to talk to you. I’ve got a favor to ask.”

“Shoot.”

It’s a big one.”

“Can’t be any worse than when you asked me to hold your purse while you tried on training bras. Fire away.”

She took a deep breath. “I’m getting my dick cut off in a few weeks and I need a place to stay while I recover from the surgery.

“Is that all? Sure. We’ve got a pull-out bed in our computer room. How long do you think you’ll need?”

“….. 12 weeks.”

“Twelve WEEKS? As in, 3 months? As in, all summer??”

“………….yeah.”

I sighed. What could I do? The poor guy needed help. Besides, maybe when it was all over and he was…she was….healed up, she’d throw me one.

“Ok, you can stay. But I’m not putting up chintz curtains.”

Deal.”

A few weeks later Bunny got lopped (I’ve been wracking my brain trying to think of a funny name for the surgery, but I can only come up with one for the female-to-male version: an “addadictomy”. Thank you, thank you.)

Three days later she was released and NewWifey(tm) drove out to pick her up. Bunny wasn’t allowed to sit upright, so for the drive home we stuffed the back of the Rogue with yoga pads and cushions and bolsters so she could lie flat and in relative comfort til we got her home. It was just like my college van.

I, meanwhile, stayed home and prepped the hand truck.

Yes, the hand truck. Aside from not being able to sit upright for the first several weeks, Bunny was also not allowed to climb stairs.

From the driveway to the front door of DangerHouse requires climbing two flights of stairs.

So…hand truck. I got out our big green 2-wheeled fridge mover and duct taped a bunch of cushions up the inside. Then I threaded a series of motorcycle tie-downs along the rungs, and after that tried to jury-rig a ramp for the stairs so the wheels could roll up instead of bounce. That’s when I discovered I suck at jury rigging ramps for stairs. After my fourth failed attempt I gave up. She was gonna have to bounce.

For all my ineptitude at ramp building though, the modified fridge mover was an unqualified success. When NewWifey(tm) pulled up with the Rogue and popped the back lid, I was able to slide Bunny out feet-first like a 2X4 right onto the bottom lip of the cart. We made sure she was aligned dead center, then I strapped her in with the motorcycle tie-downs from forehead to ankle. Except for the face guard, and a few more straps, she looked exactly like

17299_large.

We had to be mindful of the two catheters that Bunny had inserted, the tubes of which snaked out from under her hospital gown and were emptying into seperate bags. One tube emptied her bladder, the other the fluid buildup inside her newly constructed tunnel. Both were almost full. I slung one over each of Bunny’s shoulders and told her to stay as still as possible since I was wearing new sneakers.

Then came the stairs. Brilliant design or no brilliant design, lack of ramp meant that Bunny’s new lady bits were going to get their first pounding. I wondered if the surgeons crafted her a cherry. If so, I had a funny feeling I was about to pop it.

However, NewWifey(tm) to the maidenhead’s rescue! At the last second, as we each grabbed a handle and prepared to lift/hoist/bang Bunny over the first step, NewWifey(tm) said, “I got an idea” and disappeared into the garage for a moment. She came back with a long, broad, woven nylon strap that she looped through the bottom rung of the hand truck, then across her own back, where she tied it off while hunched over. By straightening up she was able to lift the bottom portion of the cart with her back and shoulders, and when done in synchrony with my pulling the top handles it made for a smooth transition from one step to  the next. Brilliant!

It took a while but eventually we made it to the top, most importantly with Bunny still a virgin. We got her through the front door, unstrapped her, and gingerly fireman carried her to the bed we’d prepared. We laid her down on the wedge pillow the hospital sent her home with, and that’s when she said it.

Wanna see my vagina?

“No” I said.

YES!” said NewWifey(tm).

I left the room while NewWifey(tm) took the tour.

You can come back in now” she called after a few minutes.

Bunny was fast asleep on pain meds.

“So what did it look like?”

Like a family sized pack of ground beef” she said. “The entire area is swollen like an Easter ham, and there’s mats of dried blood everywhere. You would not want to fuck it. Not yet, anyway.

“You underestimate me.”

Suit yourself.” She paused a minute. “I wonder if they gave her a cherry...”

The next week was pretty uneventful, if somewhat disgusting. Bunny couldn’t do much other than lie there and take pills, so NewWifey(tm) and I took it in shifts to bring her food and empty her bags. NewWifey(tm) was solely responsible for changing clothes and spot-cleaning matted genitals. Carefully.

After a week Bunny had her catheters taken out, and that’s when things got exciting. A nurse arrived that morning to do the deed, carefully sliding each out and inspecting the area for signs of infection. After giving the thumbs up and some advice about cleaning procedures, she left. Bunny was very relieved at having them out, and immediately fell asleep.

Then she woke up.

I have to pee” she said.

I was the only one in the room. NewWifey(tm) had left for a beer run as soon as Bunny zonked out.

“Fine” I said. “Second door on the left.”

You don’t understand” she said. “This is the first time I’ll be peeing as a woman. I’m not sure what to do.

I looked at her. “Apparently you’ve forgotten my backstory” I said. “Allow me to refresh your memory: I’ve never peed like a girl either. You’re on your own, sport.”

Yeah, but -”

“C’mon, how hard can it be? You sit, and relax. Boom, done. Just don’t forget to wipe now. I heard that’s important.”

She still looked anxious, but apparently the urge was great enough that she couldn’t waste time arguing about it any more. She waved me over. I helped her to her feet, then down the hall to the bathroom. As I closed the door the last thing I saw was her looking down at the toilet with an expression of extreme concentration and…just for a second…fear.

I went back to the living room and resumed my game of Animal Crossing. Tom Nook, the racoon proprietor of Nookington’s Department Store, was offering to buy turnips for the almost unheard of price of 674 Bells apiece. I had only paid 92 Bells per turnip when Joan the wart hog came through selling them the previous Sunday. I was gonna make a killing! I started loading up my sack.

But before I could tote my first load back to Nookington’s and claim my booty, Bunny screamed. Loud.

I ran down the hall and banged on the door. “You ok in there??”

Help! Help!” Bunny screamed. “Get in here! Help!

I threw open the door. Bunny was standing in the middle of the floor, ghost white, holding the bottom of her nightgown up around her knees.

There was pee everywhere.

Everywhere.

“What the hell happened?!” I said.

I don’t know!” Bunny started sobbing. “I sat down and relaxed my pee muscles, and pee just started shooting everywhere. The first stream went straight up in front of me! It almost hit me in the head! Then I leaned over to try to get it in the bowl and it started coming out sideways! I stood up and tried to stop it, but I couldn’t. I couldn’t stop peeing! I COULDN’T STOP PEEING!

I reached over to pat her shoulder, but stopped. It was soaked with pee.

“Don’t worry about it” I said. “NewWifey(tm) will clean this up when she gets home. She’s a woman, they’re good at dealing with this kind of stuff.”

Bunny shot me a hard look, and I realized what I just said. “I mean…ah….NewWifey(tm) is better at dealing with this kind of thing than I am. I’m a real girl when it comes to…”  Shit. Did it again.

Bunny started sobbing again. “Oh my god” she said. “What if they put my pee-hole in wrong? What if it’s sideways? Backwards? Danger, you have to check it for me.”

“I…what?”

You have to look down there and tell me if my urethra is coming out the front or is pointing sideways or something. This is important!

“Why do I have to look?” I said. “Can’t I just get a hand mirror and YOU look? That’s what they do in porn movies.”

She sobbed harder. “What kind of friend are you? I’m asking you, my buddy, to look at my vagina! Why would you -”

The door opened.

It was NewWifey(tm). She stood in the bathroom doorway holding a 6-pack of beer, her mouth open as she took in the scene in front of her.

To her credit, she immediately figured out what was going on.

“Oh, honey” she said to Bunny. “Did you try peeing all by yourself the first time?”

Bunny nodded, eyes closed.

NewWifey(tm) sighed. “This is why we always hover over the seat when we pee in ladies rooms” she said. “It’s impossible to aim these things. Pee just hits folds and hair and all kinds of stuff on the way out and ends up ricocheting all over everything. C’mon, let me show you a few ways to make it easier.”

With that she handed me the beer and motioned me to leave. I was happy to comply. NewWifey(tm) must have been a good teacher. I never heard a bathroom scream again.

After that there really isn’t too much to tell. It surprised me that a guy who just had his dick cut off and a vagina drilled into him required so little care. Bunny gradually got stronger, and every day was able to walk around a little more. After a few weeks she could sit upright in a chair, although on a special donut pad so her new pudendum didn’t get mashed. And…that’s about it.

Oh – except for the dildos.

This was something I wasn’t expecting. Apparently when you drill a hole in someone, that someone’s body tries to close the hole. Y’know, to keep things like germs and small rodents out. If you accidentally drive a nail through your thumb, a week later you’re not still looking through the hole, right? It scars over.

Same thing with a manufactured vagina. The body doesn’t go, “Oh look, I have a new vagina. Sweet!” It goes, “OHMYGOD THERE’S A BIG HOLE DOWN THERE! CLOSE IT, QUICK!!!” And it tries to. Every. Day. By scarring the hole over until it’s air tight.

Bunny, like (I assume) every other girl who’s had this surgery, doesn’t want an air tight vagina. She wants a vagina.

So to make sure she has one, every day she has to insert a medical grade dildo and work it back and forth for several minutes to break up any internal scar tissue that might be forming. The surgeon sent her home with a selection of 4 dildos, color coded by diameter. She started with basically a drinking straw sized one, and every two weeks or so was instructed to increase to the next larger one until she got to the largest. At that point she had to stick with it for the rest of her life.

She named all her dildos (chicks!). Purple was “Barney”, blue “Big Blue”, green “The Incredible Hulk”, and finally….

“The Great Pumpkin”. Of course:

Great Pumpkin

After a while we got used to hearing her say, “Excuse me, I have to go meet the Incredible Hulk” after dinner, then come back a half hour later with a huge smile. It didn’t bother us…but I threw her bed sheets out after she left. The Hulk was never the most sanitary member of the Fantastic Four, you know? Best not to take chances.

I suppose the only other thing worth mentioning is the surgeon’s preoccupation with orgasms. As in, he was determined that Bunny have one. At least once a week NewWifey(tm) had to take Bunny back to the hospital for a follow-up exam. And every single time, once the exam was over the surgeon would have Bunny lie on her back while they diddled her clit. First they did it for her, then they had Bunny do it herself.

It was a longer process than you would imagine. Apparently there’s a trick to just finding the thing, if you’re new to it. Then, once she got a handle on the geography, there was the small matter of tolerating what felt like a bolt of fire shooting from her groin to her uvula from even the slightest stroke. Rather startling, I was told, and not exactly what she considered “pleasurable”. At least not at first.

But then, finally, about two months in, she came home from the hospital, threw open the front door, and screamed, “I CAME!!

If only I hadn’t had company over at the time. Oh well. I’m sure they’ll come back someday.

That’s about it.

Just…um….

On her last day, the very last day, before she went home, she said to me, “You’ve done so much for me. I’ll never be able to thank you. But I have one last favor to ask. Dozens of people have seen my vagina over the past three months. But not you. You’re one of my oldest friends. PLEASE. It would mean so much to me. Just take a peak. I went through so much to get it, and I’m so proud of it. I want you to be proud of it too...”

So…I looked at my Army buddy’s vagina.

Yup.

It’s a girl!

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* He said, noting the irony of a statement like that placed in the middle of a “Paradise Lost” length entry.

The Birds and the Bees

For the past three weeks I have been completely consumed by (as opposed to consuming) vagina. Vagina vagina vagina vagina vagina. I think I’ve heard, said, and seen more vagina in the past week than I’ve heard, said, or seen vagina in the last 4 decades. It’s actually kept me from updating, I’ve been so immersed in vagina. Allow me to explain why.

Oh wait! First I have to update everything mentioned in my last report:

1. Two bees, or not two bees:

B-Team

Yup. I went to the needlework shindig in a beekeeper costume. It was painful and humiliating and I cried when she put it on me. NewWifey(tm) on the other hand was joyous and empowered and left a trail of honey everywhere she went. I think it was honey.

2. Hotel food sucks. I made my own:

Risotto mis en place

Rice Cooker Risotto

(Crappy picture of asparagus and shrimp risotto, using stock made by simmering the shrimp shells and asparagus trimmings. Other guests were beating down our door to get some once the smell leaked out.)

3. NewWifey(tm)’s products sold well, so we were able to afford gas to get home.

4. After a long, heartfelt, and at times contentious phone call, I convinced NewWifey(tm)’s friend to ditch her stupid plan to have me make filet mignon while they were putting us up. She agreed to Châteaubriand. But when I arrived I found she’d instructed her butcher to cut it into four individual portions, thus negating the entire reason for serving Châteaubriand in the first place. Oh well. I made them perfectly anyway. Of course. That, despite the fact that I was still mostly drunk following our adult beverage tour.

5. In addition to the distillery crawl we’d also hopped the border into North Carolina to take the EIGHTY FUCKING DOLLARS PER HEAD tour of the largest private residence in these United States. Eighty dollars per rube! No wonder they could afford it.

We didn’t pay the 80 bucks, though. In addition to not having 80 dollars between us, let alone each, it turns out our hosts have season tickets which allows them to bring two guests along gratis, and we were it. Take that, wealthy rail tycoon scions! That’s one less egg in your caviar ration this week.

(Two bits of trivia I learned on the tour, and I suspect they’re interconnected: none of the 43 bathrooms in the estate have sinks, and the average lifespan back then was 51.)

6. After the needlework show we drove to NewWifey(tm)’s mom’s house in Ozarkistan for a 3 day visit. Her mom fills a 2-gallon hanging bird feeder every morning, and every morning every cardinal within a 50 mile radius lines up on the fence waiting for her to go back inside:

Lots of cardinals

It was easy to tell the married couples:

Married Cardinals

These birds may look dainty, but don’t let the little bastards fool you. They do not suffer interlopers:

x Cardinal and interloper

Unless the interloper is bigger than them:

Woodpecker 2

I’m called woodpecker for a reason, small beaks. Scram.”

They scrammed:

Woodpecker 3

It was a pretty windy morning the day I shot these (from inside the kitchen, through a door screen, hand-holding a zoom with the fastest shutter speed I could manage, thankyouverymuch) and some of the smaller birds were struggling to maintain their perch, not to mention their dignity:

x chickadee and cardinal

Hang on, Chickadee!

Birds with larger craniums opted for more secure structures:

x Cardinal on iron rail

The jig was up when one of their lookouts spotted me and alerted the flock:

x Cardinal peering between slats

And so ended my one and only foray into avian voyeurism.

It did remind me of a great joke, though: Did you hear the Pope came down with Bird Flu? He got it from a cardinal….

Thangu. Thangu verra much.

7. This tiny little town at the top of Arkansas is apparently known as one of the best trout fishing spots in the country. Not being a fisherman myself though, I basically spent my three days there listening to Mom tell stories about her cat and eating BBQ (it was worth it for the BBQ).

For a town that probably has fewer people than I have teeth, they do for some reason have two rather large thrift stores. On my last day there, in a lull between “Adventures of Fluffy” chapters, I walked over to one to check out their wares. The first thing I saw when I walked in was – I kid you not – a wall of 8-track tapes, flanked on one side by a wall of Playstation-2 games, and on the other side by a wall of 8-bit NES games. Five bucks each.

Pretty much everything else in the store was contemporary to those. Lots of home canning gear, farming implements, checked polyester bell bottoms (’70’s?), etc. But not seeing anything appropriate for someone who resides in this century, I headed for the door.

Right at the exit though there was a small glass case that held their stock of “jewelry”, the majority of which seemed to be those plastic rosaries the Sisters of the Perpetual Fist throw into their envelopes along with the donation request. But off to the side there was a bucket – a literal bucket – that was filled almost to the brim with watches. And next to the bucket was a pile of watch straps. The sign in front said, “All Watches $5, Straps $1“.

I asked the clerk if I could see the bucket, and when she handed it over I dumped the contents onto the counter. I sifted through a ton of all womens watches, almost all of which were junky cheap fashion dreck – the kind with the word “Quartz” on the face, and nothing else. There was an exception though. One of the last watches to drop from the pail was a dark grey number, and to my surprise when I picked it up found it was a ladies Skagen 4SSS. A recently discontinued style, but it looked in near mint condition with only a small scuff on the back (probably from being tossed into a bucket).

I know this wasn’t on the order of finding a Faberge Egg or anything, but still. Seeing something of that quality buried among watches most people wouldn’t pay 5 dollars for new was quite a surprise. The only thing that might have startled me more would have been if I’d seen a “Vote Bernie!” bumper sticker on one of the pickup trucks in town. Or anything other than a pickup truck in town. And for that matter, an American pickup truck. They don’t even allow foreign phrases in that part of the country. Y’all.

Anyway, needless to say, I forked over a fiver. While I was at it I also grabbed one of the mens watch bands, an unmarked reddish leather job that had obviously never been worn. It didn’t have a brand name or even the size number on the back, but I decided to be a maniac and throw caution to the wind for once and take THE BIGGEST CHANCE OF MY LIFE. I paid the dollar.

As luck would have it NewWifey(tm) needs a watch. But she doesn’t want a watch that she has to wind or shake or even worry about the battery going dead. I was actually planning on ordering either a Seiko Solar or a Citizen Eco Drive for her once we got home, as both run off solar cells and never need attention for as long as there is a sun.

However once she saw the Danish designed and Swiss made Skagen, her adamant objection to quartz power evaporated faster than my pride did when I first put on that beekeeper getup. Score! A hundred fifty bucks saved.

On the ride home we stopped and got a battery for it – cost twice as much as the watch itself, dammit – and she hasn’t taken it off her wrist since.

Skagen face

And hey – the $1 mystery watch band turned out to fit my blingtastic Seiko “Cocktail Time” dress watch perfectly!

Check out the happy couple:

Seiko and Skagen 2

8. After three days we said goodbye to Mom and spent the next three days driving home.

For 2 days and 21 hours of the trip it was sunshine, lollipops, and rainbows…never mind, that was a stupid song. But yeah, from Arkansas to Missouri to Tennessee to West Virginia to Virginia to Pennsylvania it was clear sailing. Blue skies overhead, fields covered with new grass, trees starting to bud.

Then on Saturday we crossed into New Jersey.

What the HELL??

Is that….snow??

My god!

This is what I get for ordering NewWifey(tm) to adhere to a strict media blackout for the duration of the trip. Neither of us had any idea that in our absence the eastern seaboard of the United States had been slammed by not one, but two Level 7 Armageddon Snowpocalypse Death Matches. The last weather forecast I saw when we’d left on our little jaunt two weeks prior showed nothing but cheery little sun emojis over every day of the week. After that, nada.

The last hour of that 8 hour trip we grew increasingly tense, as every mile seemed to be buried an inch deeper under snow than the last. By the time we reached the top of Mt. Crumpit and pulled up to DangerHouse you couldn’t tell ground features anymore. I actually thought someone had built a shed in our driveway while we were gone until I realized it was drifting snow that had piled against and over our Subaru Forester to the height of our second floor window.

And guess what? Our snow shovels were in the garage. In the garage that our now 20-foot tall Subaru Forester was parked right up against so no thieves could break in that way.

I was wearing chinos and a polo shirt. Sneakers. NewWifey(tm) was in leggings and a sweatshirt. Open toe sandals.

I got out of the Nissan and started snow-swimming up the driveway.

It took 3 hours to get to the Subaru, tunnel down to the driver’s side door, back it up far enough to open the garage, grab boots, coats, and shovels, swim back to the Nissan where NewWifey(tm) was listening to the Harry Potter audio book series (Dumbledore dies, sorry), then both shovel enough of the drive to get the Nissan off the street. We couldn’t use the snow blower because 1. the snow had already compacted down enough that it was the consistency of wet clay, and 2. it was still two feet over the top of the blower. It had to be shovels.

On Sunday we drank three bottles of wine and ate Entenmann’s chocolate covered donuts all day. We dunked.

9. The next day I went back to work. And that’s when vagina happened.

But this post is already too long. Sorry, but vagina will have to wait. Clam up. If you will. But don’t worry, I’ll get to that story more quickly this time. Trust me, it’s worth it. Vagina always is.

Ciao!

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Meat and Greet

But first, a cautionary tale:

YinYang Cake 1

See that? That’s what happens when someone who was apprenticed for years to a CMC until becoming sous chef at a fancy French restaurant drinks half a bottle of The Glenlivet single malt on a dare. He suddenly realizes the cake he made for use in a trifle the next day had better be eaten RIGHT NOW. Wait – but with frosting! Wait – with frosting dyed black and white and shaped into a yin yang! That would be sooooo deep! Wait – I don’t have black dye. Wait – if I mix every color in the box together I bet it’ll turn black. It’s not like it’s gonna turn out some sickly shade of goat vomit green or anything. And hey! NewWifey(tm) has a box of tiny sugared donuts! I bet if I stick some mini chocolate chips in them they’ll look like faces. Hmmmm. They don’t. Wait – they will if I add noses! Ummmmm….aha! Baby carrots! No – CANDIED baby carrots. Yes! It’s beautiful!

Kids, don’t drink. You’ll just end up dyeing.

You know what the worst thing about that whole fiasco was? I don’t remember how it tasted! Going down or coming up. I’m sure it was good. I made the cake while I was still sober, after all. (This is in sharp contrast to the bread I made on Ambien: I remembered eating it, but not making it.)

So here’s the scoop. NewWifey(tm) is shooting out to her annual industry shindig next week, me in tow. While there she’ll try to sell enough stuff to afford gas to get home. She’s pretty chuffed about her prospects this year, as last fall she released a new product and it got a lot of good press in industry rags over the winter. Shop owners will probably mob her booth to get their arthritic mitts on this Latest Greatest Gadget.

Without going into detail, the Gadget is a thread waxer. NewWifey(tm) did a smart thing. Last year the maker of a popular synthetic thread waxer decided to stop making their product, leaving a lot of beehive hairdo’s who stitch very unhappy.

NewWifey(tm) decided to step in and fill the gap, but with a natural thread waxer. She already has a line of 100% beeswax decorative waxers. Packaging them in a more industrial form to capture the market looking for a substitute was a no brainer. So that’s what she did, adopting a honey bee theme to emphasize the “all natural” aspect.

It took about 5 weeks of constant work down in her basement office designing the thing, melting all the wax (thankfully without repeating her previous waxing disaster), printing off labels and card stock, forming packaging, etc.

Finally she emerged from the basement with this:

Beeswax Bliss Combo 2

Yep. That thing is why I didn’t get sex for 5 weeks (with her, anyway).

That aside, I was very proud of my funny little honey. And I told her so.

“I’m very proud of you, my funny little honey” I said. “You worked hard, and it looks great.” (Guys: if you can fake sincerity, you can fake anything. Practice.)

Funny you should mention ‘honey‘” she said. “I’ve decided to deck my entire booth out in bee stuff to help promote this thing. I’ve got black and yellow table coverings, plastic novelty bees to hang up all over the place, and I’m handing out honey sticks to everyone who passes by. And I’ll be wearing this.”

And she pulled out a plastic bag with a black and yellow blob inside. Which looked like this when un-blobbed:

Bumble Bee Outfit

I laughed. “That’s too cute! I love it.”

I’m glad to hear you say that” she said, “because you’re wearing this.”

She pulled out another plastic bag, this one with a beige blob inside. She gave the blob a shake and held it out.”

Ohhhhhhhh no. No. I am NOT wearing that.”

“Ohhhhhhhhh yes you are” she said.

“Nuh-uh. No way. It’s enough that I’m going to this stupid thing with you in the first place. I’m not dressing up in some demeaning outfit on top of that. I’m a star – I have to consider my image.”

A ‘star‘, huh? Well, star, I’m gonna kick your astral if you don’t play along. I put a lot of time and effort into this thing, and I want everything to be perfect when the curtain goes up on opening night. That means all cast members in costume.”

“No.”

Remember those 5 weeks without sex? How’d you like it to be 5 years?

Beekeeper

Eh. Stardom’s overrated.

So I’m going to the national gathering of needlework professionals this year dressed as a beekeeper.

NewWifey(tm) better come across with that honey.

(BTW, a word of advice should you ever be tempted to impersonate the proprietor of an apiary yourself. That “one size fits all!” suit was made in China, where there IS only one size: small. I’m a regular manly-man sized American. I can’t breathe. Just get an American sized beige shirt and write “The Beekeeper” in Sharpie on one breast. You’ll be much happier. You can order the hat, though. Chinese people apparently have morbidly obese heads just like ours.)

That solved, we moved on to discussing the trip itself. I’m taking a couple of extra days off so NewWifey(tm) and I can do a little sightseeing after the event, maybe try some nice restaurants, and fuck on clean sheets for once. That sort of thing.

Hey, my friend “B” and her husband live not far from there” said NewWifey(tm). “Can we go visit if they say yes?

“Yeah, sure.” (“B” came to visit us without her husband while she was on a business trip last year. She stayed for a few days, and I enjoyed her company immensely. She complimented my cooking. That’s all it takes.)

NewWifey(tm) called her friend, and stayed on the phone for about an hour.

When she hung up she said, “We’re welcome to come, but on one condition. You have to cook dinner. She’s been telling her husband about the Châteaubriand you made while she was at our place, and he wants in on that action.”

I groaned. I hate working vacations.

But…fine. This isn’t the first time a good deed has come back to sting me in the astral.

“Oh, alright” I said. “So she wants me to make that Châteaubriand?”

Not quite. She wants filet mignon. They don’t want to buy a full $100 tenderloin just for one meal.”

GAAAAHHHH!

I hate making filet mignon. You know why? Because butchers. As in, there are none. When you buy filet mignon in those plastic covered trays in the supermarket, you’re buying the product of some sleepy $14/hour corporate wonk with a knife who came in at 4 in the morning to put as many trays on the shelves as he could before the store opened. Do you think he cares if all 4 of the meat discs in any given tray are a different thickness? Pfffff. He has a quota to meet, and caring takes time!

That’s a real problem. Different thicknesses mean different degrees of doneness if you cook them all together. And with tender, lean cuts like filet mignon, there’s little margin for error. They transmit interior heat more readily than fatty cuts, so they’ll over-cook much more quickly if you don’t pull them off the heat at the right time. If you have 4 rounds of meat on the heat, each just *slightly* thicker than the next, and pull them off the heat at the same time, you run the risk of having the thickest one practically raw, the next thickest medium rare, the next medium well, and the thinnest a briquette.

Unless you’re a foursome where one likes bleeding, another likes pink, another brown, and another carbon, you’ve gotta stand there and pull each off in turn. Which then presents another problem: unless you want everyone to eat at different times, you have to keep the thinnest ones warm until the thicker ones cook. Setting aside the fact that most home kitchens are not equipped with warming lights, filet mignon is so finicky that even warming lights can throw things off.

Wow. I just wrote three paragraphs about something probably no one cares about.

Woo hoo, I rock!

Anyway, what could I do? I’m a guest who’s being asked to do a favor for his host. I’ve gotta suck it up and just do the best I can.

“Ok” I said to NewWifey(tm). “Tell her filet mignon is fine.”

Oh, one other thing” said NewWifey(tm). “They’re taking us sightseeing first. And they know how much we like wine, so for lunch we’re going to a place with an extensive cellar. After that – get this – there’s a distillery just a few miles away that gives tours and samples! How cool is that? We’re gonna be absolutely plowed by the time we get back and you have to start cooking!

Cook.

Filet mignon. For four people.

Drunk.

Please, somebody, email this picture to my host:

YinYang Cake 1

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Ciao, kids! I probably won’t be able to update from Beehive Central for a few days, so play nice while I’m gone. Or I’ll kick your astral when I get back.

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