Monday, April 30, 2012

We Interrupt This Travelogue...

To go to the Hermosa Animal Hospital open house.  The doctors were celebrating five years in their new building at the corner of 5th and Pacific Coast Highway, Hermosa Beach.  310-376-8819 (a number I've memorized after 30 years of being a client.)  We had missed their grand opening so we were determined to go this time.

They had a lavish spread of sandwiches - I haven't seen that much food all together since the last bar mitzvah we attended!  Free tote (hospital name and address prominent on both sides) and a type of water jug for the active were also free gifts.   

The kids present were fascinated -- by a new litter of kittens, kept in a quiet place.
Surgical Suite

The shark is going to get his teeth cleaned.

A surgical suite
The is the
practice dog - he's beem imtubated here.  They use the finger oxygen amount on the dogs by clippinging it to pink skin -- between a toe or on the belly ; it doesn't work with black skin.  They keep an eye the animal's gum color; which is an important forecaster of any dangers.

Sunday, April 29, 2012

This 'n That (A phrase you will often hear in Texas)

We went to Houston to attend the memorial of a long-time friend of Richie's.  This service was held in the National Veterans Cemetery there and consisted solely of the flag presentation to the widow, followed by insertion of the box of ashes into The Wall.  There were no songs, no sermons; only a lovely tribute to the deceased by a grandson.

The flag was spread out (to show there were no holes in it?) and the re-folded.  The box was put on a small table; the flag next to the box.

The bugler began to play "Taps."  About halfway through it, I noticed something.  The bugler's fingers were not moving on the taps and there were no muscles contracting in her face or neck.  "Taps" was taped!

We joked about it afterwards, saying it was exactly the kind of thing that would have amused the deceased tremendously.

Back to the house we all went and a good time and great food was had by all even though mid-afternoon a storm cell landed (and stayed) directly over the house.  The wind was so fierce that the rain was blowng in sidewise!  Naturally the women and children scurried into the shelter of the house.  The men, kings of all they surveyed (a blown-over garden chair) lingered on the covered patio.  I'm happy to report that they all got soaked.

Riscky BBQ, Ft. Worth Stockyards, has been there for at least 20 years.  Here are some samples from the menu to make your mouth water - barbeque bologna and cheese sandwich, $5.95; Fried Corn - the corn is shucked off, battered and deep fried. $5.95

No, we didn't order any of it; we knew we were going to Pappadeux for dinner. 

Saturday, April 28, 2012

Texas Eats

We misplaced ourselves heading from the Houston airport to the American Funeral History Museum.  Spotting a sizeable, free-standing building that promised "Carlo's Great Mexican Food," we wheeled in for some lunch. 

I ordered the #1 which came with:  guacamole salad (a melon-ball sized scoop of guacamole on chopped lettuce,) a beef taco which came in a cup-shaped taco shell - meat on the bottom, lettuce and tomato on top; a chili con queso which is a half-crispy tortilla shell, bent like an upside-down bowl and slathered with melted cheese (Velveeta would be my first guess) and -- after I'd demolished most of the above, here came a cheese enchilada!  Richie had the #2 which substituted a second cheese enchilada for the beef taco.  Both were $5.95!

We met my cousins Jean Ann and Kay and Kay's husband Jim for dinner at Goodd Co. Seafood, 10211 Katy Freeway, Houston.  Kay and Jim had what we call Mexican shrimp cocktails, but which are called "Campechana" there ($14.95)  Jean Ann had the Mesquite Shrimp Dinner ($19.95) Richie Shrimp Etouffe ($19.95) and I had "shrimp pie" which was a flaky empanada-shaped pillow filled with gravy, chopped shrimp and lots of flavor ($3.75) and a Texas Shrimp Appetizer which was four bacon-wrapped shrimp -- with drawn butter as the dipping sauce! ($9.95)  With drinks our meals averaged out to about $32 per person. 

Red and Barbara picked us up at DFW and we went directly to On The Border which is a tradition of ours.  The brisket tacos with onion strings (see above) were great.  We ate so late in the afternoon that all we wanted for dinner was a snack.

We didn't eat anything at the Ft. Worth Sidewalk Art Show, but we did have a drink at the rooftop bar/restaurant called "Reata."  Lovely view (if you like Ft. Worth).  There's a huge glass dome that's probably used for inclement weather, but I know I wouldn't want to be sitting under it in lightning.  Bar tab was $26, add $5 tip and we were outta there.

We then headed over to the Ft. Worth Stockyards to have a beer in perhaps more of a congenial setting.  Reata is kind  of "awl bidness honchos and they-uh ladies, in proper frocks."   The mass of Harley-Davidsons parked along the main drag of the Stockyards were more our sort of thing.  We shared a red plastic mesh dish of French fries, battered onion strings and battered jalapeno slices. 

For dinner, we went to Pappadeux, 2121 Airport Freeway, Bedford, TX 817-571-4696.  It is another favorite place and is part of a mid-Western chain. - take a look at their menu.

Red's Half-Chicken
Barbara's lump crab cakes

Shrimp gumbo - Richie

Friday, April 27, 2012

Day 1 - Houston

After an uneventful flight (my favorite kind) we got the rental car and headed north to the National Museum of Funeral History, 415 Barren Springs Drive, Houston   281-876-3063

We first toured this museum some 25 years ago, so naturally there were some changes.

Embalming in Early American Times was replaced by Embalming:  Egyptian Style.

There was a separate exhibit on papal funerals plus one of Pope John Paul's Pope-Mobiles.  The Pope didn't wear a seatbelt but his driver and his aide did.

Caribbean coffins still had their own exhibit and I enjoyed imagining how the bodies had to have been placed to accomodate such as being buried in an airplane -- arms flung out inside the wings?

The triple-wide casket had a story -- long, long ago, a couple's young child (boy or girl never specified) died.  So grief-stricken were the parents that they decided that the man would kill the wife and then commit suicide.  All three would then be buried in the same coffin.  So they ordered it.

Time passed, the couple changed their minds and moved away.

Nearly 20 years after their special order, the wife wrote to the funeral home, wanting delivery of this casket.  The undertaker wrote back that since they'd never paid for it, he had sold it and it was no longer available.

There is a room set aside for Presidential funeral memorabilia where previously a mock-up Abraham Lincoldn't funeral cortege stood alone.  A duplicate of Ronald Reagan's casket takes pride of place.

The twin, glass-sided carriages from the Victorian ear are made 3/4 scale and were for children.  The white one was for girls; the black one for boys. 

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Dallas for Culture, Ft. Worth For Fun

Here are some of Richie's shots from the Ft. Worth Art Show on Sunday. After we saw that, we went down to the Stockyards and watched the twice-daily herding of the Longhorns down the main drag. As it happens there was some sort of Harley convention going on down there, too.

Monday, April 23, 2012

We Flew Every Other Day for Five Days

Day 1 - LAX to Houston
Frank Da Cabbie was right on time to pick us up at 5:15 for a 6:35 a.m. flight. As we pulled away from the house, he said, "I lost a good friend yesterday - Dick Clark." (gasps on our part) "Yeah, my wife and I were caretakers for a long time at his Malibu estate." He went on to say that Clark was a very nice guy and Frank didn't think Clark had had any plastic surgery.

Day 3 - Saturday Houston to DFW
The co-pilot's name was given as "Captain Perfecto Gutierrez." I found his first name reassuring...

Day 5 - Monday DFW to LAX
The security guy really did pay attention to my Driver's License. He said, "Can you tell me your first and last names?" (Certainly an odd question) but I said, "Nina Murphy." There is a pause while he studies my paperwork and then he handed it to me and said, "Enjoy your birthday!" (Which is next Wednesday.)

On all three flights we were asked to step into a box? Container? and to put our feet on the orange feet below us, in the orange feet's position. "Clasp your hands over your head..." A bar of light moved across the white screen we each had to face and the Security Guy said, "Okay, you can come forward." It lasted all of 3 seconds and didn't bother me a bit.

Except for these bits -- at LAX the Security Lady approached me and said, "Would you mind if I examined your left knee?" "Certainly not," I said and bent it forward for her inspection. She gingerly felt around on it for maybe another 3 seconds and said, "You may go." And I said, "Actually, it's the right knee that's bad - do you want a look at it, too?" Stern-faced she declined.

At DFW this morning, same procedure except the Security Lady wanted to feel the tops of my arms, where shoulder pads would be had this sweater had them.

Now I'm wondering what the hell is wrong with my good knee...

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Leaving With a Laugh

As the cab is picking us up at 5:15 a.m. I won't have time to post this before that.

For a few good laughs, visit and click on the headline "Obama Eats Dog: The Serious Part." A friend of ours has a Beagle so I suggest "beagles with cream cheese" is for her! I also liked "Rover Over Easy."

Short Chapters

In my lexicon, "short chapters" is code for "bathroom book."

"Mortuary Confidential; Undertakers Spill the Dirt" by Kenneth McKenzie and Todd Harra Citadel Press Kensington 234 pages $15.95

This is a collection of anecdotes from funeral directors and they cover funny things as well as poignant. This is not in any way a grisly or morbid book.

Have you ever been to a funeral where a fist fight broke out, and escalated to gunfire? You might be a redneck if you brought dead Granma to the funeral home ... rolled up in a sheet in the back of your pick-up truck. "We didn't want to bother the funeral director."

Mortuaries are often now in third generation hands. Families still live above the business, literally. Someone has to be on-call every night and what could be handier than to answer the phone above the garage and then pull on clothes, run down stairs and roll out the wagon?

People who work with the dead provide a necessary service, but they have outside lives, too. Each contributor lists his hobby under his story title - they range from a guitarist to a Vet; an amateur boxer to a college football fan.

The tale "Men and Makeup" starts with this line: People assume that because I'm gay, I must naturally be good at makeup. Another director writes that if he wants to rile up his wife, he asks her if she'd like him to do her makeup.

Funeral directors are human beings (despite what many of us might have thought) and it's a very nice look at their lives and works. I recomend it as a perfect bathroom book or a take-on-the-plane book. Especially on a plane; no seatmate will want to chat with you. And that can be a very good thing...

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Not Exactly International

We're about to spend a long weekend in Texas. Two days in Houston, two in Dallas and home again, home again.

International Travel News

This is a newsprint "magazine" that we get periodically. For free! We haven't seen one in quite awhile, but yesterday the May 2012 issue arrived. Some items of possible interest...

Passengers who are 75 years old + do not have to take their shoes off for Security at these airports: Orlando, Chicago O'Hare, Denver Int'l and Portland Int'l. This is a change that TSA is considering and those are the test markets.

Good news for people whose children are less than 13 years old. The kids can keep their shoes and light jacket on, but they will get the metal scanner.

Going to be driving in France? On November 1, 2012, all cars -- including rental cars - must carry a breath-alcohol testing unit. If your car does not have one, you will be fined E17 or about $22. The single-use devices cost less than $2.50 and Hertz will give them to you gratis. Avis and Budget are still making up their minds about whether to charge a fee or not.

Japan will be experiencing power shortages this summer and there may be rolling blackouts. Be prepared for subway delays, reduced lighting and air conditioning. The nuclear shut-down took away about 30% of the power available.

China's Hubei Province had an embankment collapse in Qianjiang City which took out a section of the newly-built track for the Hanyi high-speed rail line. No rail cars nor people were harmed.

Going on a cruise? Make sure the ship doctor really is a licensed, in good standing, physician. All cruise lines hire their doctors through an agency so that each doctor is an independent contractor and not an employee of the cruise line.

The doctor recruitment agencies in the US demand a current license for the doctor, but there are no international requirements for doctors and many cruise lines carry a flag of a different nation. You're advised to ask your travel agent or the ship's line for the name of the doctor on the ship will you will be taking and his/her state/country of license.

International Travel News, 2114 28th Street, Sacramento, CA 95818

Monday, April 16, 2012

Photos - Spoiled Much?

The blonde cat is "Streak," the black cat is Minuit. Both are spayed females who will be 10 years old in July and August respectively.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Turning A Frown Upside Down!

Cringe-making, I know. The title...

Richie was hellbent to attend the Clam Chowder Cook-Off at the Redondo Beach Pier yesterday. We went last year and he loved it. I less so. I don't like clams OR chow-dah.

When we parked in the pier parking structure, I pointed to the sign that says: 20 minutes 50 cents" as a warnng not to linger.

Out on the International Boardwalk, no sign of any festivities whatsoever. Richie inquired and was told that at the last minute the chow-dah folks cancelled with no explanation of why. I was pleased because it meant we could get the car back before we paid for parking that would equal the price of the car when new.

But Richie said, "C'mon - let's get a Mexican shrimp cocktail!" nodding at El Baja Chef. We've been there before and liked it.

The shrimp cocktails came in big, heavy goblets on a plate strewn with packets of crackers. The cocktail was a thin, reddish broth with slivers of avocados, chopped sweet onion, chopped fresh tomatoes, chopped cilantro and, nestled in the bottom of the goblet, were about eight good-sized shrimp.

The broth wasn't as deeply colored as some I've seen so I asked our server how they do it. He was happy to explain. "Clamato, a dash of the salty water we cook the shrimp in -- don't let the shrimp cook too long; they'll get tough - and a dash of catsup for sweetness." It all worked well.

Going home, I got to wondering when the first shrimp cocktail was invented and when did Mexican shrimp cocktails come in? I didn't find "The Invention of the Shrimp Cocktail" but there were references to the late 19th/early 20th century. The sauce has always been spicey using variations of catsup with horseradish, Tabasco or cayenne.

A 1909 recipe: 2 T ctsup, garnished with hard-boiled, chopped eggs and lettuce leaves. Glad the chopped eggs are gone...

A 1920 recipe for the Mexican version:
1 large can V-8 juice or Clamato
2 minced avocados
2 cucumbers, peeled, seeded and minced
1 medium red onion, minced
1/2 bunch cilantro, minced
1 jalapeno, seeded and minced.

EL BAJA CHEF, 102 International Boardwalk, Redondo Beach (Pier) 310-376-0838
Their business card reads "Go to Facebook - leave a coment!" but I leave that to the non-technologically challenged.

Friday, April 13, 2012

In Which We Do Something Different

We woke up to leaden skies and rain. We went to the gym in the rain. We came home from the gym in the rain. Richie got antsy because he'd wanted to go to his beloved Hermosa Beach Farmers' Market; no dice.

Having read the Sports section, piddled around with some filing, he then said, "Well, let's watch the last two segments of "Doc Martin" (a PBS offering) because it has to go back to the library soon."

So around 2 p.m. while the thunder boomed (apparently right over our roof) we watched a television series!

This is unusual in that the TV never goes on ordinarily until 5 p.m. and the BBC News, followed by ancient re-runs of "All In The Family" or "The Yelling Family" as I call it.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

A New, Cost-Effective Type of Home Security

I thought of this years ago in another connection. Truck was brand-new and as she is a 1/2 ton Toyota pick-up, I worried that an enterprising landscaper might become unduly fascinated by her. The similar white trucks that I see around here nearly always have professional gardening equipment in the back to explain.

When she was new keys were manual, not electronic. Security systems were not nearly as prolific as they are today. And certainly, they weren't featured on a 1987 $10,000 truck.

And then the idea came. I am totally weirded out by snakes. ALL snakes. What if I put a cardboard box in the passenger seat and put warning signs on the windows that read: DANGER Herpetologist's truck . Live snakes in vehicle.

Naturally I never got around to it. But -- what about home security? So simple ... change signs to read "Herpetologist's home - DANGER - live snakes loose in this house." And put a sign in all of the street-visible windows. Depending on how often you travel and how long the signs have to be exposed to sunlight, even a professional type-setting job would save you money for a long time.

No need for security cameras, armed guards or the local Neighborhood Watch. Just slap your signs up and leave with a happy heart! If you want to take it to the limit, ask a neighbor to bring in the papers and mail and arm him with the pole and loop device that is used in snake catching and transport! Instruct that person to wave it around a lot on entering the property.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

If the Shoe Fits...Get Up and Dance

Yesterday afternoon, around 5:30, a friend and I were chatting on the phone. He was complaining that anyone can go online and pull up a picture of your house. He was against it. I argued that if you aren't doing anything wrong, why should it matter? I said that I'd seen an aerial shot of our block and if you didn't know what your own backyard looked like, it was just a photo of a bunch of roofs.

He argued that if they can take a picture of your house from space, what else can they take a picture of? And where is the photo filed? I agreed that if a satellite can upload a photo of your license plates surely they can take a picture of your face.

"I don't like it," he said, and changed the subject.

At 7:30 a.m. today I was going through my e-mails and found that two of my high school friends had both sent me the same message - "See the house where you grew up - go to VPIKE.COM and type in the address!" Knowing that that our first house has long been a freeway ramp, I tried the second. It was there and looked to be in fine shape.

On a whim, I typed in our present address and there was our house with Richie's car parked in the driveway. I was instantly furious! Anyone could enhance the license plate and find the car owner and presumably the owner of the house behind it. That's no one's business!

From 5:30 p.m. to 7:30 a.m. was all the time it took for retaliation to bite me. Yup, the shoe fits and I'm dancing as fast as I can.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

"Don't Let a Pesky Hangover Slow Your Shot Pouring!"

Now, what if I were to tell you that there is a new custom service in as Vegas that offers a silvery, shiny bus with tastefully-appointed leather couches cruising the Strip from 8 a.m to 4 p.m. every weekend (starting 4/14/12) solely to cure your hangover in a mere 45 minutes?

What if I added that this service can be provided to you in the (supposed) privacy of your room from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Monday, Tuesday or Wednesday?

What's the treatment, you ask suspiciously. An "actual doctor" will hang a bag of hydration fluid (probably Ringer's) with liquid vitamins, anti-nausea and anti inflamation drugs and 45 minutes later (presumably the length of time it takes for the bag to empty) you'll be just as right as rain and all ready to go right out and do it again!

That there are three levels of treatment:
Salvation - anti-nausea, anti-inflammation meds, vitamins and hydration. $150 per person.
Redemption: hydration only. $90 per person
In-Room VIP Treatment: Two bags of fluid, $500 for the first patient, $375 for each additional person.

You'd probably say I was nuts and based solely on the above, I would agree. There's only so much "stuff" that can be made up.

But: go to The above is all sadly true. I'm sure the casinos love it; The police? Probably not so much. I think the HeavenlyHangover people's slogan should be: "Proudly making one alcoholic at a time."

Monday, April 9, 2012

More People Outside Than In

There were more people out on the street that runs along the ocean than there were inside at the jazz club -- only 25 or 30 of us that Easter Sunday afternoon.

And, of that number, only one crazy one. But this time (ha!) he went for Richie and not me, hurray!

All of the club musicians know that they've got a good shot at performing at these events so a lot of them show up. Yesterday we had a plethora of pianists, three of them, in fact. Two of them are perfectly sane, the third is as crazy as betting a NASCAR race.

It's the same dude that approached me last month with his "drawings." You may recall "A Field of Snow" which was a blank, white space with a frame, of sorts, drawn around it. For a man of his age, probably mid-50s, one might be forgiven for thinking that the artist was perhaps not giving us his very best...

He is short, about 5 ft. 4 in. with a girth that has to be easily 5 ft. 8 in. A small man to begin with, today his feet, in faded-looking canvas slippers, look as tiny as a four year old's. He cannot button his much-washed khaki pants, so he uses a sturdy-looking leather belt to hold them up. He was wearing a grey-ish white t-shirt with a peach-colored short -sleeved dress shirt over it, unbuttoned. It trailed behind him like a sail as he moved about the room.

This time, he sidled up to Richie and began telling him the story of Moses! On Easter Sunday!

More unnervingly, he does not walk up to a person, say "Hello," or, in fact make any sort of conversational gambit (as more normal people do) as a preface to whatever he wants to talk about.

"There was this river, see, and this woman put a basket in it and stood, watching the basket drift away and ..." A few sentences later - he'd gotten to another woman pulling the basket out of the river -- the band started up with a howl of cornet and thunder of drums. He looked at the band, clearly offended at being interrupted, and drifted away in disgust, shirt tails billowing out behind him like the wake of an ocean liner. He never came back to our table and for that, I can only be profoundly grateful.

Next month's event will feature Jazz America, a group of high school students, who are learning this kind of music (Dixieland) and who perform it very well indeed. The second Sunday in May for your calendar. But I would remind you that we've already heard most of the story of Moses...

Sunday, April 8, 2012

What Adventures Await?

Today is the South Bay New Orleans Jazz Club monthly meeting. These have proved to be fruitful sources for funny stories so will see what can be gleaned today.

Meantime, this worked out well...Richie brought home a pound of good-sized shrimp, so I steamed them in water with Old Bay seasoning and a splash of vinegar and served them peel and eat style. I made a Szechuan aioli as the dipping sauce. "Szechuan aioli" is fancy for: Szechuan sauce and mayonnaise. Sounds a great deal fancier than it is which is key to eating quickly and well. No fuss, no muss.

Saturday, April 7, 2012

Germans Invent Symbolic Bunny for Easter

In 13th century pre-Christian Germany, many of the people worshipped individual gods and goddesses. The goddess of spring and fertility was "Eostra" and her symbol was a rabbit, due to their speedy reproduction abilities.

If you observe Easter or Passover, best wishes for a joyful, wonderful celebration.

Thursday, April 5, 2012

The Wal-Marts of Japan (But Better Dressed)

My friend Olga told me about a wonderful new store her daughter-in-law had found. What made it great? Almost everything in it was for sale for $1.50! That's certainly upscale from the 99 Cent Store or the 88 Cents Store I saw on the Boardwalk at Atlantic City!

Yesterday we went for a look-see ourselves. When we got there, to my joy, we found a Marukai right next door! They share a building wall they're so close.

I googled Daiso and found that it is a major chain in Japan. Daiso "wants to help customers find surprises and fun." To that end, there are 2,570 stores in Japan plus another 563 more in 4 countries. As of March, 2010, sales totaled $341.4 billion (billion.)

There's a big "Grand Opening!" sign out front and the cashier said they've been open four weeks. There's a wide variety of items -- thong sandals in plastic to what looked like chenille (but they were $3) men's shirts, ties, dishes, kitchen gadgets and more, much more. Richie bought suction cups (they always come down,) a clip-to-the-book LED reading light (useful on rainy days down in the gym garage,) a sports sunglasses case and a little miniature car -- all for $1.50 each.

Marukai has a great Website - - done in Japanese cartoon style. A lot of the site is in Japanese, but I did read they are going to have a "mini mini beauty convention" in the Gardena store soon. In a cartoon strip, a boy wants to make curry for his friend. The four panels show how to do it and it was quite cute.

I love seeing all sorts of packaged foods, labeled in Japanese only, and trying to figure out what the hell is inside the package. I did recognize one thing though and snapped a bag right up. Gyoza shrimp potstickers. Four of five of them make a very good, quick lunch and I love trying a different sauce on each one of them.

If you want to have a great Japanese shopping tour with lots of local color, don't bother with a plane to Tokyo - just drive to:

Daiso, 3842 Sepulvea, Torrance, 90505 424-237-2388
Marukai, 3832 Sepulveda, Torrance, 90505 30-375-4900

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

In the Nick of Time

Look at the left rim of the nest; you should see a beak. Then look at the top right-hand side of the nest to see the other beak.

Sunday Richie came in from the backyard all excited. "We've got a hummingbird nest!" I was comfortable, didn't feel like trudging down the back stairs and out into the yard. Yesterday I did go and sure enough -- there they were.

This morning, he came back in after changing litter boxes and said, "They're gone -- I checked around on the ground, but they weren't there." None of the neighborhood cats (or our own) got them as the nest was well hidden. At cat eye level, they could not have seen it.

Tuesday, April 3, 2012


It Really Works!

A friend sent an e that said to take your car keys to bed with you. If you hear burglar noises in the night, hit the Panic button for your car -- it will start beeping and scare the burglar away.

I was extremely dubious about this because the sound would have to go through house walls, but when I tried it, it worked! On the other hand, we'd just come from Toyota where my clicker had gotten a new battery... Test it for yourself.

Would You Want This Woman Teaching Your Child?

The World Wide Recipes book, compiled by high school Home Ec teachers, offers this punch.

1 cup Amaretto liqueur
1 cup Southern Comfort
1 cup vodka
1 cup peach schnapps
4 1/2 cups orange juice
4 1/2 cups pineapple juice

Combine all ingredients in a large punch bowl, stir and add crushed ice. I would add "And have a dentist on stand-by."

A Good Sandwich

I was hungry but too lazy to cook up some bacon. So I substituted black pepper salami on a sliced, toasted chunk of baguette with red onion and pickled jalapenos -- excellent! Brushing your teeth after dining is recommended.

Monday, April 2, 2012

And Then He Went Down the Rabbit Hole

When a Major American Airline (MAA) built the DFW airport, they needed people to staff it. MAA told her employees that if they would transfer to the DFW area, she would pay the moving expenses. DFW opened January 13, 1974, 38 years ago.

Meanwhile, back at LaGuardia airport, the bag busters were sullen after yet another long, bitter East Coast winter. Richie, Red, Mike Stolz and a bunch of other guys all decided that Texas would be better. This was a major concession on their parts because traditionally, New Yorkers and Texans each hate the other. At the newly-opened DFW, you would hear muttered asides, such as "Stupid cowboys!" or "Damn Yankees" if you listened closely.

Mike, in particular, was the most alarmed and would tell his mates, "They're gonna get us! You know they're gonna get us!" It may have been the opening salvo of what would become raging paranoia.

Richie only lasted three years at DFW; no one had bothered to tell them about the searing summer heat or the sudden Blue Northers that could drop the temperature as much as 40 degrees in an hour. He high-tailed it to LAX (and paid for the move himself. Any price to get out of Texas.)

The rest of the gang stayed where they were. They were married or getting married; they had kids or were expecting them. Mike married, had a kid, divorced. He had bought a house and had begun collecting weapons of mass warfare against "Them" -- pistols and rifles, antique and new; a bullwhip, sword canes, knives and dogs he named after gun manufacturers. I remember "Lugar" and "Beretta." The only time we visited the house, he showed me a prized possession: the head (and some of the neck) of a rattlesnake in a plastic cube. I am terrified of snakes so you can imagine my reaction.

I remember this, too, about our only visit to the house, maybe 20-24 years ago. He had told us to come in via the alley and park in the driveway at the back of the house. We dutifully did and out of the open garage door came Mike with a huge, black Doberman on a lead and his second wife, Bernice. The humans greeted each other and I bent to look into the dog's face, murmuring, "What a beautiful dog!"

Mike yanked the leash back and screamed, "Don't look in his eyes! He'll attack you!" Suitably chastised, I drew back and we all went into the house. We went through the kitchen, around to the right and into the dining room which was about one step above the living room next to it. A short, white, wrought-iron fence separated the two areas. The other end of the living room was blocked by a baby gate and the dog was put in there.

We sat around the dining room table, drinking cold ones and visiting. I was closest to the railing and all of a sudden, I felt something warm and wet on my right forearm. It was Beretta, who had gently clasped my arm in his mouth to get my attention. I immediately began to talk to him and stroke his head; he instantly let go and stretched his neck toward me in appreciation of the attention.

Bernice had freaked out and was screaming, "Let go of that! Let go! Come here! Don't make me have to get the belt!" I couldn't let that go, so I whispered to the dog, "Stay" and turned back to the table.

Seemingly casually, I remarked, "Can you believe anyone would teach their dog to come -- and then beat the dog? How confusing is that to the poor dog?" and gave a little fake society laugh. I didn't know Bernice all that well and I didn't want to be rude to either of them in their own home. Bernice got it. She even said, "That makes sense."

We never saw them again. After the third time Mike cancelled a trip to LA at the last minute by a phone call in the dead of night or at dawn the day of arrival, we distanced ourselves. He always had an excuse, but the truth was he could not bring himself to get on a plane.

We'd send the odd birthday or Christmas card, but finally even those minor contacts vanished. Most of the other MAA guys said they never heard from him or sought him out either. It was just too difficult to deal with Mike.

Red said that over the past 14 years, after his retirement from MAA thatMike had become a recluse. Friendly visits, quick lunches never happened and calls were not returned. Bernice, 27 years younger, worked for a computer company. Red told Richie that Mike's son had died (alcoholism) and Richie sent a condolence card. Mike called Richie to thank him and contact was lost again after that. More time passed.

Then at 7:30 a.m. Wednesday, March 28th, Red called, unusually early for him. I answered the phone. His voice was taut, he was abrupt. "Is Richie up yet?"
"Sure! He's on his second cup of coffee!"
"Let me talk to him and then he can tell you."

As I handed Richie the phone, I mouthed, "I bet Mike is dead." I was very wrong. Mike had gone down the rabbit hole. He killed Bernice.

If you want the full story, Google "Man Kills Wife After Dog Defecates in Home." It was a fairly gaudy story; you may have already read it; it made The Drudge Report. Additional details: she died Saturday of a gunshot wound to the abdomen. Bodies were not discovered until approximately 5 p.m. on Tuesday. Mike was at home (as far as is known) all of that time.

We've all read bizarre news stories, but it really smacks you across the face when you know one or more of the parties involved. The moral is: Even distant events can reach out and bite you. Or as Mike would no doubt say, "They're gonna get us! You know they're gonna get us!"

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Small Discoveries

A reader loved the sound of "Sambuco Cream Sauce" for the pancetta-wrapped, grilled prawns (and I loved the taste) so I Google'd and found it's basically 1/4 cup heavy cream, heated and a splash of sambuco tossed in and then stirred. Keep an eye on it and let it boil down just a bit before you serve it.

The only time Richie is a practising Catholic is meatless Fridays during Lent. This in the past put something of a strain on me because I won't eat fish (except canned tuna) and I got real tired of mac and cheese every Friday night and of sauting-salmon-in-olive-oil-with-a-squeeze-of-lime-juice-and-black-pepper.

Because his Southwestern Chicken with a balsamic taste was such a success, I got to thinking about balsamic vinegar and salmon. I came across the recipe for a glaze for salmon. The original recipe was for six filets, but I was using only one, so I cut it down. These are the amounts for one salmon filet:

pinch of minced garlic or 1/4 teas. minced garlic in a jar
1/2 teas. white wine (optional; you can substitute water)
1/2 teas. honey
1 1/2 teas. balsamic vinegar
1 teas. Dijon mustard

Mix all this togther and when the salmon is done in the pan, plate it and then de-glaze the skillet with the sauce and pour it over the salmon. Richie loved it.

The recipe says to bake the salmon and glaze with sauce as it cooks, but this is considerably faster.

Raise your hand if you don't particularly like cauliflower. Me, too. It seems the only way to eat it is steamed with a cheese sauce. Feh.

When I read that roasted cauliflower was delicious it made sense to me. Many winter vegetables are good roasted. It couldn't be simpler. Break up the cauliflower into medium pieces, toss with olive oil and black pepper and chunk it into a 450 degree oven for 10 minutes, pull out the pan and flip them and back into the oven for another 10 minutes. You want the cauliflower to brown just a bit. The taste was very reminscent of Fall -- the coziness of being inside when the weather is gray and raw...