It just wouldn’t be the holidays without a food disaster

This year it was the sweet potatoes. After baking them, mom turned the broiler on to brown the obligatory marshmallow topping. Then she got distracted with something else until she smelled smoke. She opened the oven door and the sweet potatoes were literally in flames!

Sadly, I didn’t get a photo of the conflagration (I was too busy staring stupidly and being of absolutely no assistance). I did, however, get a photo of the aftermath. Thank goodness my mother has a sense of humor about things (as evidenced by the fact that she didn’t smother me with a pillow when I was a child).


I think the sweet potatoes are done

It’s the small things

Back in the middle of March my mother was in town for the weekend of my birthday. While we were driving around one day I spotted (and heard) a Red-winged Blackbird, the first one I’d seen this year. I related to her how hearing them always reminds me of my Grandmother (her mother).

Every summer when I was a kid she (my Grandmother) would rent a cottage for the two of us on Lake LBJ. The cattails at the water’s edge were always full of Red-winged Blackbirds, singing that most-distinctive song of theirs. Anyway, to this day whenever I hear one, it takes me right back there. To simpler, happier times; fishing with Lala.

Well a couple of weeks after that (once it warmed up enough to start keeping the windows open), I was surprized to hear a Red-winged Blackbird right outside my apartment. I’ve lived here roughly 6 years and this is the first time we’ve had any RWBB’s. Apparently they’ve decided to nest here for some reason. There are at least 3-4 males and a few females and every morning bright and early and then again at dusk the air is filled with their unmistakable calls.

Happy Saint Patrick’s Day

You know how now they’ve got those musical greeting cards that actually sound “musical”? Well, my mother, always one to embrace our Irish heritage (she hoped I would be born on St. Pat’s day; my middle name would have been Patrick) sent me a St. Patrick’s card that plays music. Imagine my surprize when I realized that it was playing a Dropkick Murphys song.

More specifically, this one:

There’s also a really good live performance here, it’s a Live on Letterman Web Exclusive!

The Problem With Building Your Mother A Computer…

…is that you then become, by default, tech-support. My hair stands on end when she calls on the phone and says, “I’m having trouble with my computer”.

Recently she made that very call. Her computer was making a noise (which she couldn’t describe) and, more troublingly the motherboard’s protection software had popped up a warning “something about heat” just before it shut down. Let me just pause here to say, my mother is an amazing, extraordinarily intelligent woman. She doesn’t, however, know nor does she have any interest in knowing what makes her computer work.

Analyzing the facts at hand, I determined that the most likely culprit was the fan on the CPU heatsink. I pulled up the emailed invoice, checked the Intel website, and determine that it is still under warranty (two years old, 3 year warranty!)

I call Intel, hopeful that with the info from the invoice I can get a new heatsink on its way. No such luck, they need specific info from the fan and from the processor itself. Ok, this isn’t a huge problem, and I at least have jumped the first few hurdles with Intel and have a case number. When I handed the computer over to mom, I had nested all of the component’s boxes into the larger boxes and had her save them, so it shouldn’t take long to locate the CPU box and get the serial number and such… in theory. In reality, a few phone calls later, it’s obvious Mom isn’t going to find the box.

In a scene reminiscent of a 70’s disaster film, wherein the control tower talks the sweating passenger through the landing of a jumbo-jet, I (looking at photos and diagrams online) manage to talk my mother through removing the heatsink from her CPU. Jubilant with her success, she gets off the phone with me to call Intel.

Far too soon, my phone rings, they’re closed for the night.

The next evening, she calls Intel, everything goes swimmingly, and Diego (whom she was quite impressed with) assured her that the heatsink should be there in 2 – 5 days. She gives my email address to send the confirmation and tracking info to, as her computer is (obviously) down.

The tracking info comes shortly after midnight and it says that it was shipped next-day air. The next day I check the tracking status and discover that it was delivered at 9:30 AM! Just over 13 hours after she’d gotten off the phone with them!

So, I call Mom that evening and tell her to look on her porch for the package, then we repeat the control-tower, nervous non-pilot, reinstallation process.

I’d give anything for a picture of my mother’s face when she got it back together and it worked without a hitch. Just the joy in her voice was reward enough. She was (understandably) proud of herself, and I was proud of her. Graciously, she complimented me for doing such a good job talking her through it.

My lovely, amazing mother and Intel’s customer service both earn a resounding:

Crazy Greg's Seal of Approval

Vacation!

As of Monday, September 10th at 9AM; yours truly is on vacation.
Right now it’s “Vacation Stage I“:
Cooking yummy food, riding the bike(s), and eating yummy food.
Omelettes, rice pudding, and various pasta and Mexican dishes typically dominate the menu during this stage.

Friday afternoon kicks off “Vacation Stage II“:
Old Fashioned Days.
Live music, dangerous-looking carnival rides, arts and crafts, pedalboat rides, and surprizingly good fair food — representing many different cultures. You can have your funnel cakes and corn dogs, personally I’m a sucker for the Cajun booth;

  • Red Beans and Rice
  • Beignets
  • Jambalaya
  • Shrimp & Andouille Gumbo
  • Crawfish etouffee
  • Who knows, I might even snack on some gator on a stick!

Ayeee! That’s some fine eating! And the whole thing takes place literally a stones throw from my luxurious domicile.

Saturday night brings the Balloon Glow which really is the highlight of the event (not to diminish the fun of watching the constant stream of illegally parked cars being towed away just below my kitchen windows.) Ahhh…. Schadenfreude!

Sunday things wind down early but the delicious smells linger into the evening.

Monday will be a big ride day. I never get to ride on Monday!

Then Tuesday kicks off Vacation Stage III – The drive to Indianapolis to shower Mom, Aunt Donna, and my step-father with their extravagant and opulent birthday gifts. Then Wednesday we’ll have the big Adkins-approved meat feast and while everyone is recovering/relaxing and enjoying their new treasures, I’ll sneak in a bike ride.

Then it’s back home for Vacation Stage IV,
bracing myself for the return to work and apologising to Caldonia for leaving her alone for 2 whole days.

The Cigarette Case Full of Irony

First some back story. My maternal grandfather died in 1982, when I was 16. He hadn’t made any attempt to contact my mother or myself since roughly 1970. Anyway, after he died, the son (TS from here on, for the sake of brevity, clarity, and anonymity) of the woman (TW) he’d been living with (but never married) contacted my mother, seeking permission for TW to stay in the house they’d shared. My mother said yes and basically didn’t think of it again. That is, until recently.

Come to find out, TW died a few years ago, but no one bothered to tell my mother. Since then the house has been sitting vacant and now the state is looking for someone to pay the back taxes. Here’s where this portion of the story gets weird.

My mother has an older half-brother, Hank (same father), who was raised by their fraternal grandparents. Mom was always told growing up that they had taken him in when my grandparents married rather than burden my grandmother. What she’s only now discovering is that they actually adopted him. So my mother’s brother is also her uncle, and his father is actually his brother (on paper)!

What all of this means is that the state of Texas is coming after my mother for the back taxes, since she is, as we all just learned, the only next of kin. As my mother was finding all of this out, and trying to decide upon a course of action, she talked to Hank for the first time in ~15 years and he tells her that he’s sending a box of their father’s things that he got from TS.

The box comes and it’s apparent that it’s basically just the things that no one else wanted, which is fine, she really didn’t want the stuff anyway. So, she brings the stuff to see if I want it. “Sure”, I say, “I’ll take it.”

Ok, so that’s the back story. Which leads us to the real story.

The Cigarette Case.

One of the items is a silver (in color) “ejector cigarette case” which I discovered didn’t really work.

The foot that does the cigarette ejecting was only moving about 1/8″ when the button was pressed but the slot that it travels in is nearly 1 inch long.

Closer inspection revealed that it appeared as though the whole thing was held together without any fasteners and could be opened up and disassembled.

I got it apart and found that a piece that’s supposed to serve as a pivot point for the mechanism had slipped out of place.

I won’t bore you with the fiddly details of reassembly, but I was thrilled to get it back together and working as it was intended.

The funny thing is this: At the instant I realized I had fixed it, my memory flashed to the person who taught me, when I was about 9 years old, that sometimes you can fix things just by taking them apart and putting them back together. Admittedly there was more to this than just that, but anyway…

That person? my uncle Hank, as I was “helping” him fix my grandmother’s Mr. Coffee coffee maker.

I needed that

I’ve been feeling under the weather since about January 9th. Came down with a nasty sinus infection with a side order of (chest aching, burns like a furnace) bronchitis. Went to the doc, took the medicine and felt better, but I’m still not “well”.

Consequently, I haven’t ridden the bike, which has left me feeling even worse.

This afternoon I got a letter in the mail. It was a note from my nephew (he’s 10) thanking me for the remote control helicopter I got him for Christmas. He wrote:

Dear Greg,
Thank you so much for the remote control helicopter. I have had a lot of fun with it. In fact, I got it stuck on the roof. Don’t worry, we got it down. I had a crash and had to make a few repairs, but it’s ok. You are a really cool guy.

    Love,
    Zac

That absolutely made my day! I am a really cool guy!

Feliz cumpleaños. Un presente de tamales.

Those of you who have been keeping score at home know that I love tamales. Specifically, tamales from Bernard’s in Midland, Texas.

Those of you who are, like myself, conversationally illiterate in español probably have a pretty good idea what I got for my birthday.

Anyway… my wonderful, sainted step-mother, Terri (no, I’m not trying to butter anyone up!) called the other day to let me know to be expecting a belated birthday gift; a parcel of tamales, as per an earlier conversation. Then she dropped the bomb… she sent ten (10!) dozen!

I had to laugh when she was telling me how she was a bit grossed out by the ingredients listed on the case (yes, I’m now one step closer to mastery of the dark art of tamale making). Along with all of the expected players, they contain pork snouts.

    “Snouts?” I thought to myself,
    “They’d have to be made from brains and anuses before I’d be too grossed out to eat them.” Actually, I’m not entirely sure that would keep me from eating them, but it probably would squelch my desire to cook them.

Anyway… I was a little nervous about them arriving still semi-frozen, or at least somewhat cool, but assuaged my fears by reminding myself that tamales were originally created (at least in part) as a means of preserving meat in the days prior to refrigeration.

The package arrived, right on schedule; a case of 120 tamales packed with blue-ice packets, inside a larger box. Tearing into the box, I found that they were, indeed, still cold. Digging deeper I discovered that those in the center of the case were actually still frozen.

I decided that the first thing I needed to do was to divvy them up into freezer bags and get the reserves into the freezer. Immediately I realized the folly of this course of action and grabbed a pot, put some hot water in it, dropped in the steamer basket and loaded it up with precisely as many tamales as would fit and still allow the lid to go on. Then I busied myself with getting the rest packed up and stored safely away.

By the time I finished with this, my kitchen was filling with that most heavenly aroma and it was tamale time (it’s like Hammer Time only greasier and with less dancing). After inhaling 2 or 3, I had to call to share my elation with Terri. I got the machine, left an effusive, barely coherent message of thanks, then turned my attention back to my tamales. Before they knew what’d hit them I had devoured that steamer load and plopped down, satiated, to contemplate my bounty.

Life is good. Happy birthday to me!

I’m wearing my Dad’s slippers…

…but I know I’ll never fill his shoes.

If I could be even half the man; half the person that he was, that would be more than enough for me. I’m content simply doing my little part to keep his memory and his brilliant spirit alive, striving to to the best of my abilities to emulate some of the qualities that made him so great.
I miss you, Dad!

Hair Musing

Why is it that the gray hairs seem to grow so much faster than the rest? What are they, showing off?

Oh well… as the saying goes;

They can turn whatever color they want, just so long as they don’t turn loose.

My Dad had a lovely full head of gray hair, so I’m hopeful.

1958 Impala Chevrolet

Shortly after returning back to Ohio after Dad’s funeral I had an email exchange with my best friend, Sheldon (The Mighty Polecat), back in Tennessee. I mentioned that he’d have to get me to tell him the story of the “1958 Impala Chevrolet”. Some time passed and he prodded me to tell him the story, so of course I did. After reading it, he was adamant that I should archive it with all my other writings, so… here is that email, minus salutations, complementary closings and such (months after the fact).

When my parents met, Dad drove a “1958 Impala Chevrolet”, I don’t know why, but that’s the way he’s always said it. This was a pretty cool ride for a young dude in 1965-66. He also inexplicably said “Big Red Sodee Pop” the only context in which I ever heard him use the word “sodee”… it was a secret carp catching recipe… dough balls formed from Wonder Bread and “Big Red Sodee Pop” are apparently irresistable to Carp.

Anyway, back to the car…
As this was the first year for the Impala, they are quite sought-after (and thus, expensive) now.

Dad and Roger (his then best friend; later my step-father) both had ’58 Impalas. Dad had a 283, Roger had the 348. Dad says his would run right with Roger’s until they hit top end. Dad’s was light blue, Roger’s was (I think) white.

The Impala had 6 round, bullet shaped tail-lights, 2 red ones on each side flanking the clear back up light. Dad and Roger both had 6 red tail-lights, having purloined the spares from some unfortunate Bel Air drivers (after all, nobody cool drove a Bel Air). A funny aside… for years Dad denied the whole 6 red tail-lights thing, it wasn’t until his later years that he owned up to it (with a twinkle in his eye).

Anyway, for years Dad had dreamed of owning one again, but alas, none of us could afford one (we were all looking, too!)

When I went to visit in February, Mom sent along a 1958 Chevrolet Impala model kit. We got all the correct colors, and Dad and I (mostly me, he mainly gave input on color and options and the like; and supervised) spent DAYS working on that thing, getting everything just so, doing all the really fine detail work.

He loved that model, he would sit in his recliner holding it, looking it over with a far-away look in his eyes just about every day. The model even came with 6 red tail-lights! We were so afraid we’d have to liberate some off of some unsuspecting Bel Air model.

Anyway, the last time Dad ‘played’ with it, one of the wheels had fallen off, easy enough to fix.

At the funeral home they had (one of) Dad’s rod and reels, his tackle box, Walter (Walter’s a mounted bass), and the model. Much to my surprise it survived being carted about and riding home in the trunk of a limo none the worse for wear.

Then later, either that day or the next, Leslie was moving the aforementioned fishing rod which was leaning against the mantle. The car was also sitting on the mantle. The car came crashing down onto the brick hearth, and I thought Les was going to cry. I was a bit sick over it myself, but I managed to affect Dad’s cool and assured her it would be fine, that I’d fixed it before (several times) and I could do it again.

The amazing/ironic thing is that it wasn’t a wild kid, an errant ball, or any of the things I expected to do it. It was a fishing pole!

I brought the car home, it’s fixable; I just can’t handle it emotionally right now.

I also brought back a couple of fishing reels (one’s a FINE Abu Garcia I gave him about 18 years ago) and I have rods coming (wouldn’t fit/couldn’t be trusted in baggage). I’ll just have to keep the rods away from that 1958 Impala Chevrolet!

Damnit Polecat! You made me cry!

So, there it is. As a post-script, the car is now repaired, my brother-in-law sent the rods, and I’ve made darned sure to keep them away from Dad’s car!