beef AND chicken

funny No Comments »

I cooked chicken last night, and beef a few nights ago.

That may not seem like big news, per se, but I was vegetarian for a long time, and some habits die hard, or are difficult to explain to other people.  I made the switch around fifteen years ago, after listening to a radio interview with Howard Lyman, a former rancher who had become an advocate against the egregious practices performed by the meat industry, and who eventually chose the ultimate middle-finger salute to the industry by becoming a vociferous vegetarian.  I found that compelling, as well as poetically hilarious, and decided to follow suit.

I gave up meat for probably seven or eight years, until I started spending lots of time with a woman (it always seems to come down to that, doesn’t it?) who was mostly vegetarian, but would occasionally eat teriyaki chicken or something, which always smelled amazing and renewed cravings that I’d forgotten or buried.  That choice worked for me.  Eating meat every once in a while could be okay, and was probably good for my body, too.  I started to incorporate meat back into my diet again, slowly.  I would sometimes order a burrito with chicken on it, or get curried chicken at a Thai restaurant, maybe one or two meals a week.  Maybe once or twice a year, I’d have a burger.  And not a veggie burger, either, but a BURGER burger.  I didn’t have to tell myself I couldn’t have any of that stuff—nothing makes you want something more than when you tell yourself you can’t have it—I just didn’t want it, and it took a while to develop a taste for it again.S

One of the interesting things about making the switch to a vegetarian diet and then back to an omnivorous one is that there are still habits that I find myself clinging to that are hard to explain, or simply don’t make any sense.  I have a hard time watching someone pull a turkey leg off and eat it, for example.  It kind of grosses me out to watch the tendons pull and everything.  For a long time, I wouldn’t cook meat in my kitchen, I would only order it when I was eating in a restaurant.  I have a couple of formerly vegetarian friends who are the same way, so I don’t feel like a freak, at least not in that respect. Ha ha.

My family members were kind of mystified by all of these changes.  It took years for them to understand my decision to become vegetarian, and once they finally got it, I gave them The Old Switcheroo and started eating meat again.   Many of my friends and family members are excellent cooks (a few are even at the professional level), and I would always try whatever they made, which led to some confusion on their part.  “Hey,” I heard more than once, “I thought you were a vegetarian, but you just ate pulled pork.”  “That’s right,” I would smile mischievously and say, “because you spent a whole day laboring over it and barbecuing it to perfection, and I’m sure it’s the most amazing pulled pork I’ll have in my whole life.  I’m not gonna miss out on that.”

These days, I pretty much eat everything—albeit in moderation—though I do try to get organic, free-range, naturally fed meat instead of chickens who’ve been crammed into tiny cages and force-fed ground chicken beaks and eyes and stuff.  It’s easy to make choices like that living in Portland, since the quality of restaurants here is famously high, and demand creates a good supply.  I’m sure if I lived in pretty much any part of the rest of the country, it would be much more difficult—not to mention expensive—to eat this way.  I should mention that this kind of thing is what the rest of the country finds quaint (if they’re being kind; ‘precious’, if they’re not) about Portland.  There’s a famous scene in the TV show “Portlandia” that takes concern for the welfare of animals (while still ultimately choosing to eat them, it should be noted) to new and funny heights.

I told you all that to tell you that I set a new standard this week, by cooking beef AND chicken in my kitchen.  It felt very strange and funny to be shopping in the meat section again.  As I was preparing dinner (stir-fried beef, green peppers, and green onions over Japanese noodles) I wrote on Twitter, “For the first time in years, I just stir-fried actual beef, in my actual home, to be actually eaten by the actual me.”  For the record, it was delicious.  What I had forgotten, however, is the extraordinary length of time that the smell of beef lingers in the places where it’s been cooked.  I went out the next day to run some errands, and when I got home, the bovine smell was still pretty overwhelming, and it stuck around until yesterday, which was three days after I cooked that meal.  I don’t imagine I’ll be doing that very often.

So there you have it.  I pretty much eat everything, and now I even cook it at home sometimes, too.  But I do still have some quirks to deal with.  Actually, I have rather a lot of quirks, but you’ll have to wait until some not-so-distant point in the future in order to read about them.


finally, a bolus

funny, true, Yakima No Comments »

When I was a kid, even well into my teens, I didn’t like very many foods.  These days, I eat and enjoy pretty much anything from any part of the world, but it wasn’t always so.  Peas and cole slaw were my two least favorites.  The first grade school I went to had notoriously nasty peas.  I don’t know what they did to them, but I’ve never tasted anything like them either before or since.  It was a Catholic school (despite the fact that my family wasn’t Catholic; that’ll be a story for another day), and one of the nuns would stand over you and force you to finish everything on your plate.  It was nightmarish.

Ironically, the same school had one dish that was a hit with everyone, and we always looked forward to it when it came up on the menu.  It was called Hamburger Gravy Over Rice, and I’ve never seen that anywhere else either.  I somehow talked my mom into making it at home once, but it wasn’t the same.

I’ve grown to like peas, particularly the ones in the pods, but cole slaw still remains elusive to me.  The other day, my friend made some that was delicious, and that reminded me of a story that has become famous in our family.  Not long after Mom and Dad split up, when I was about ten, Dad took Brother and me to ColonelChicken for dinner.  We sat in the ‘terrarium’ room, with the fountain and leafy plants.  I ate my chicken and mashed potatoes, and even my biscuit, but I left the dreaded cup of cole slaw untouched on the table.  ColonelChicken’s was the worst.  Dad told me that we weren’t going to leave until I ate the entire thing.  I balked, and he got angry, so I picked at it and ate it as slowly as possible, washing it down with water as I did so.

The minutes ticked away, and Dad was getting irritated.  “Come on!” he yelled.  “You could eat that whole thing in one bite!”

“No I can’t,” I said, “I’ll gag.”

Do it,” he said sternly, wrinkling his forehead in the way that signified genuine anger.  “All in one bite.”

“Okay, but I’m gonna spit it out.  It’s so gross!”

“I don’t care.  Eat it.  Now!”

“Okay, but don’t be surprised by what happens.”

I dipped my spork into the cup until I had the entire contents resting on it.  I held my breath and slowly moved the spork to my mouth.  I had to breathe, eventually, and as soon as the smell hit my nostrils, I had to fight back my gag reflex.  Dad was still giving me The Look, so I had no choice but to ease the spork into my mouth.  It was the worst bite of anything that I’d ever tasted.  I chewed a little bit, but I could feel my gag reflex about to happen.  I reached for the water glass, but it was too late.  My body rebelled, and the disgusting bolus (I love the word ‘bolus’, and finally have the opportunity to use it!) exploded from my mouth all over the table and floor.  Dad was furious, and he grabbed a bunch of napkins and cleaned it all up.

“See?  I told you that would happen,” I said, unable to stop myself from laughing.  Dad couldn’t even look at me, he was so mad.  I sat in the chair and laughed as he mopped the floor.

That was the last time I ate the cole slaw at ColonelChicken, and quite possibly the last time Dad ever forced me to eat anything.  I guess he learned, albeit the hard way, that my warnings had merit.

These days, the tables have turned.  I got my mom to eat sushi for the first time two years ago, which is funny because she actually lived in Japan for a couple of years before I was born, but never tried sushi because she was afraid of it.  I told her that was hilarious.  “It’s good enough for them; good enough for you.”  She said that on the air force base, food would sit around for a while, sometimes, and if I’d ever smelled some of the things that were in storage, I’d be afraid of sushi too.  Fair enough.

As a bookend for this story, here is the secret recipe for the cole slaw in question.  I will pass, thank you very much, but please report back to me if you actually make it and enjoy it.


Today I. . .

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got up early.

cooked an amazing breakfast of soft boiled eggs, chicken apple sausage, and toast with boysenberry jam.

tentatively scheduled a job interview for Monday, but it’s too soon to say any more about it.

washed the dishes.

talked to my dad on the phone, and inherited a bookcase that he and my grandpa made before I was even born.

chatted with Thuy.

heard about a great idea that CellistSkip has for tracking instruments.  (Don’t want to say any more. . .it’s a good idea!)

spent two hours working on my car.  I got the defective part out, and need to find its replacement.

went to SafeGrocery and bought food and a bottle of wine.

made an awesome dinner of pasta, cheese, green onions, and chicken apple sausage.  (Gotta use up that sausage!)

watched a TV show about the beginning of hip-hop.

It’s only 6:30 in the evening.  There’s plenty of time to make this day even more productive.

not quite there yet

dreams, love, pictures No Comments »

I had two romantic dreams this morning, the first of which was more so than the second.  I remember very little of the first, except that I was walking through a park, and I saw two young guys practicing a form of acrobatic dance.  I slowed down to watch them for a while as I passed by.  I walked a bit further and saw a girl who was doing the same sort of dance.  What a coincidence, I thought, they should all be friends. There was a long scene that I don’t remember, but I was back to the park later, walking in the direction from which I came.  As I walked closer, I saw that that the guys and the girl had joined forces and were now acrobatically dancing together.  I gave the group a smile as I passed, and the girl grabbed me and pulled me into an embrace that was surprisingly intimate, yet still looked like part of the dance.  “I just had to meet you,” she told me, “I don’t know why yet, but I felt that I needed to know you.”  We sort of danced around each other for a little while, in that intimate way, while we talked a bit and got to know each other.  It was very beautiful.  Then the dream changed to another scene, the rest of which eludes me.  This is unfortunate, because I do remember that it was also pretty romantic.

* * * * *

Dream #2

I was lying in bed with a girl, T, and our relationship wasn’t particularly close yet.  We hadn’t been seeing each other long, maybe a few days, and for some reason we were both wearing pajamas while we were in bed.  She resisted and got annoyed when I tried to cuddle with her, so we had an incredibly long, uncomfortable conversation before we ended up just cuddling anyway.

When we finally got up, we decided to call one of our female friends and go hiking.  We stopped in at a convenience store on our way up to the hills, and after we’d bought some supplies, the three of us hit the trail.  T led the way, then me, then our friend.  T got a long way ahead very quickly, and the other two of us weren’t able to keep up with her.  We walked and talked with each other instead, and said things like, “Man, she sets a grueling pace,” and “I sure hope everything’s okay up there,” and “I was hoping we’d all get to have some time together; I wish she’d stayed with us.”

After hiking for a while, we arrived at a turn-of-the-century inn that was nestled in a little valley between the hills, and since the front doors were wide open, we walked inside.  There was a lot of activity, and the place seemed to be a sort of retreat.  As we walked from room to room, we saw different things happening.  One room was the quiet room, where people were reading books or admiring the scenery out the windows.  Most people were single, but there was a married couple standing by the window.  In the next room was a dancing class, which appealed to both T and our friend, so they immediately took off their hiking boots and jackets and spontaneously joined the group, which the group seemed to encourage.  I gave them a little wave, and continued walking through the building.  I came to a large kitchen, in which a cooking class was in session, where they were making omelettes in the old-fashioned French way, over a fire in the huge oven.


As I passed one of the young women in the class, she was pulling a long-handled omelette pan out of the oven, rather awkwardly, and it looked as if she was having some difficulty, so I reached over and helped her maneuver it onto the prep table.  We made a few jokes back and forth, and had a really short but great conversation, and I thought to myself that already this girl and I probably had a better relationship than T and I had.  I bid her adieu, and walked out of the kitchen into a library room, where I saw a writer I’d met a few times standing next to one of the bookshelves with a guy friend of his.  I walked over to join them, and Writer asked me how it was going with the new girl I’d been seeing.  By the way he worded the question, I could tell that he knew we weren’t particularly close.

“I don’t know yet, we’re still figuring things out.”

He smirked.  “Do I know my audience, or what?  You been together long?  You f**k her?”

“We’re not quite there yet,” I replied.  “Like I said–”

He cut me off.  “Man, I could never do that.  If we don’t have sex, I’m outta there.”

“Hey, most of my friends are girls.  T and I are taking it slow, that’s all.  Seeing where it goes.”

He gave me a dude-I-just-feel-sorry-for-you look, and we changed the subject and talked about other things for a minute, then I took my leave to find my companions.  I saw them in a large dance performance room, which had bleachers on one end that were packed with people.  I found a seat before they did, so I motioned for them to join me.  They were on their way when a girl plopped down on my right, and dropped a huge duffel bag and overcoat next to me.  I told her that my girlfriend’s sitting there, and asked her to please move them underneath the seat.  She grumbled but finally agreed.  T and our friend weren’t able to make it through the milling crowd, however, so they decided to sit on the floor in front of the bleachers.  That figures, I thought, T and I are kept apart once again. The group of dancers walked out to the middle of the floor, and the show began.

At this point, the dream changed and I found myself in my home, which was an old farmhouse.  It was comfortable but needed a few repairs here and there.  I was walking across the gravel driveway, from the house to the shed, when a dog ran by me.  He was running from Cletus, my crazy neighbor with long black hair who was wearing a black suit, top hat, and John Lennon sunglasses.  He was chasing the dog with one of his homemade guns that had a short, flared barrel.  As he ran by, the dog yelled back to him (yes, the dog was yelling), “Don’t shoot me, Cletus, you hillbilly!”

Cletus lived in the next house down the road.  There was a large orchard between our houses, so we didn’t interact very much.  He was about five years older than I, and his two adult male cousins lived with him at his house.  A few seconds after Cletus and the dog ran past me, his two cousins came running by with two guns of similar design.  I said to them, “Okay, guys, that’s enough; just let him go,” and one of them turned and ran toward my shed, where I was leaning in the doorway.  He was either high or drunk, but I knew he was harmless, so I was unfazed and stood with my arms folded across my chest while he pulled out a switchblade and started to wave it around.

“I don’t recommend you do that,” I said, pausing at one point to lean away from one of his pathetic lunges.  “We’re neighbors, and at some point we may need to. . .help each other out.”

By way of an answer, he lit something on fire and stuck it onto the door jamb next to me, then laughed and ran off to join his brother.  I expected it to explode or something, so I shut the door and waited.  Nothing happened, so after about ten seconds I opened the door, grabbed a small hand towel, and snuffed the little fire out.  I’m gonna need to talk to Cletus about this one, I thought to myself, and that’s when I woke up.

miscellany, and Greek misogyny

blogging, funny, music, Oregon, Portland No Comments »

When I wrote last, I had a feeling that this week might get away from me, but I had no idea just how much that would happen.  Most of alll, it was time spent reconnecting with friends who I’ve not seen in years.  The total for this month is now up to twenty two.  TWENTY TWO.  . .and it’s due in a large part to Facebook.

This week, I had two rehearsals, four gigs, two trips to the beach, and as soon as I finished Gig #2 the other night, at ten-thirty at night, I got a text message saying, “Did you get my text yesterday?”

“I don’t think so.  Which one?”

“About me being in the hospital?”

“OH MY GOSH.  No, I didn’t!  What happened?  Are you okay?”  [I tried to call her, but she couldn’t answer.]

The rest of the story is that she got really sick on Wednesday with what she thought was food poisoning from bad cream in her coffee, but she kept getting worse throughout the day, so she went to the hospital Wednesday night, to find out that she had frickin’ appendicitis, so she got her appendix sucked out through her navel on Thursday.  RockShowGirl and I raced over to see her Thursday afternoon, just as her mom was arriving to take her home for a few days.  She’s there now, sans appendix, recuperating with her new friend Percoset.

I drove RockShowGirl to her condo downtown and then came home back to clean up my place, in order that FriscoFriends could stay here tonight.  They arrived five minutes after IrishBand had finished Gig #3 on Thursday night, and we talked at the venue for a while, before driving back to my place and retiring to the front steps with glasses of wine.  We all slept in late yesterday, and I tiptoed out to the living room to retrieve my keys, so that I could walk to the grocery store and be back before they awoke.  I whispered, “Is either of you awake?”  The fakers both instantly opened their eyes and stretched their arms.   I laughed and said I’d be right back with coffee and ingredients for breakfast.  We had scrambled eggs with mozzarella cheese, with fresh tomatoes and basil from the garden (I got slimed by a slug who was attached to one of the tomatoes, and it took hours to get all of that sticky, yellowish, gooey crap off of my hand!), French press coffee, and toast with homemade raspberry jam courtesy of Mom ‘n’ Stepdad.

At about half past noon, we happily piled into our respective cars and caravanned to Seaside, where we met up with their family, who I’ve also known for years.  It was a great time.  They told me to bring my bike, since everybody else had theirs as well.  That turned out to be the best idea of all.  We rode up and down the Promenade, and all around the town, and I found the house we used to stay in when I was a kid that belonged to our family friends.  It’s also located right along the Promenade, and it was nice to see that unlike the rest of Seaside, it was unchanged, save for the fact that it is now a vacation rental home.  We rode to the ice cream shop for cones, and down along the riverfront marina and walkways as well.  In a great show of our Second Childhood, three of us raced to the top floor of a parking garage, and back down to street level, skidding on the sidewalk and having the time of our lives.

Then it was time for dinner, and a walk down to the beach, which included a small fire, s’mores, and a radio-controlled car and plane.  First time I’ve ever flown a model plane, by the way, and it’s much more difficult than it appears.  Then we walked back to the fire and sat around talking until dusk, when I had to pack up my car and drive home, after hugs all around.

Today I’m devoting to cleaning up my kitchen from all the cooking, and getting the living room back to normal now that life is back to normal.  By ‘normal’, I mean a gig tonight, meeting two more friends in the next couple of days, and then three gigs in a row next week, followed by at least one more beach trip (but it’s more likely to be two) before things start to settle down in the following week.  At the end of that week, I’ve been invited to play in Whitefish, Montana with a nationally known songwriter who just so happens to live here in Portland.  He also just so happens to be the significant other of someone with whom I played for almost three years, so I’ve had the opportunity to play with him many times before in that context, but it will be really great to play with him in this new context.  He’s an amazing banjo player and guitarist.

By way of an ending to all of this miscellany, I’m going to tell you that I’m listening to “El Choclo” by Astor Piazzolla, and I like to share examples of these obscure songs when I can find them.  I scrounged up a video to this one, which has a bunch of misogynistic hilarious pictures that accompany this beautiful and romantic tango music.  If you can read the captions, please feel free to comment and translate them, because it’s all Greek to me.