Thursday, November 13, 2008

Kodachrome.

I keep telling myself to carry a camera around with me, so at a moment's notice I can take whatever interesting or unusual (read: stupid) thing I happen to come across. Today, when I got my hair cut, it was one of those days. Where was that little Canon when I needed it, when I looked down at the black smock, and saw all of that white hair? Where the hell did that come from? There was an elderly woman in chair before me -- it must be hers, right?

Actually, I don't know why this surprised me; my hair's been getting gray for years now. Yet every time I go to the salon (yeah, I call it a salon, so?) I'm stunned. I'm also surprised every time a season ends, as in, "I can't believe it's fall already," in spite of the fact that I'm on -- what it is now? -- my 45th autumn? I really need to get over it, I realize.

Anyway, I didn't have my camera, so I can't show you the salt-and-pepper carnage the lay in clumps on my smock this afternoon. Here's the closest approximation I can offer, using the tried-and-true, hold-my-arms-out and take-my-own-pic method:


I still have a pretty good head of hair on me, so I shouldn't complain. I will though, I will complain, because I do it so well. And no, that is not a nascent bald spot -- the camera is just at a funky angle. So shut up.

Next time: Love handles!

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Now, the Man on the Stand, He Wants My Vote.

I've never felt as excited or as hopeful about my vote in a presidential election as I did when I lined up at the polling place at 6:30 this morning.  Now, as I watch the returns come in, I actually feel kind of choked up.  Something really special is happening, something we can all be proud of.  I'm so happy my children are getting to see this.


Meanwhile, I guess this guy couldn't find an "I'm a Dumbass" sign for his front yard:


And from the Department of Creepy Oddities and Misplaced Quotation Marks:


Anyway.

This feeling almost certainly won't last long, but I plan to enjoy it while it lasts.  What a great night.

Monday, October 27, 2008

I Might Owe You an Apology.

I don't like to brag but, as perhaps I have mentioned, I am prodigiously skilled in many areas. Not the least these areas is time travel. Now, leaping from decade to decade, era to era, can be a great, highly educational expericence. (Hint: you might want to put some money down on 2014 Cincinnati Reds.)

But it's not without its drawbacks. For example, there was the time I transported myself back to the Jurassic Age and, while there, I trampled a prehistoric centipede with my space boot. I returned to the present day to learn that my simple misstep was responsible for ABC's decision to leave Brothers & Sisters on the air. Sorry about that.

And now I have another confession, and let me just say, I'm sorry. Really, really sorry. What happened was, my curiosity about the upcoming election got the better of me, and I headed off to the the very near future to find out what will happen on November fourth. What I saw, I didn't like. Take a look below.

And, again: Sorry!

Sunday, October 19, 2008

All-American Boy Makes His Endorsement.

Coming soon - more posts.

For now, though, I can't seem to think of anything to say. So, meanwhile, here's an inexplicable photo.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

"Who stole me pot o' gold?!"

I'm dressing as an angry leprechaun for Halloween this year.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

I am Rifle Panzer Palin. (Aren't we all?)

What would your name be if your mother were Sarah Palin?  Get your answer right here.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

An Special Announcement from the Republican Party.

We interrupt our regularly scheduled pointless noodling to bring you this important message from the G.O.P. and the McCain campaign.

The following words and phrases, when written or uttered to, about or in the general vicinity of Gov. Sarah Palin, shall henceforth be considered sexist:

1. lipstick;
2. pig;
3. pit bull;
4. dog;
5. husky;
6. Iditarod;
7. bridge;
8. nowhere;
9. library;
10. books;
11. hockey;
12. mom;
13. hockey mom;
14. baby;
15. foreign policy;
16. evangelical;
17. church;
18. Jesus.

This list is subject to amendment without notice.

Monday, September 8, 2008

I Smell a Pulitzer.

My inner masochist requires that I watch the 10:00 news on Channel 19, which is Cincinnati's FOX affiliate. It's all there: the bad makeup; the frosted hair; the deep-voiced anchorman who likes to plug his "take no prisoners blog"; the C-list, ESPN-imitating sports guy; the wacky weatherman -- excuse me, meteorologist; the fake jocularity. You name the cliche, they have it.

At the moment, they're splitting the newscast into two hard-hitting, breaking stories. First, it's the live coverage at an airport not too far from my house, where Sen. Maverick's "Straight Talk Express" jet has just landed. The doors are opening! People are moving around inside! Is she with him? Oh my god, is she with him?!

No? Okay, next story -- cut to a live shot of a reporter standing in front of a salt pile. Will there be enough salt for the roads when we get an inch of snow in January? Well, will there? Jesus fucking christ, just tell me, will there be enough salt or will there be disaster?!

There will be? Oh, thank you, thank you! I prayed to Jesus and told him I'd vote for Sarah Palin and that old guy she's running with, if he'd just make sure we would enough precious, precious salt this winter. You can count on me, you spunky little bear cub-shooting hockey mom!

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Republican Spokesmodel Update.

Sarah Palin is creepy. From the Washington Post:

Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, the Republican vice-presidential nominee who revealed Monday that her 17-year-old daughter is pregnant, earlier this year used her line-item veto to slash funding for a state program benefiting teen mothers in need of a place to live.
Nice pick of a running-mate, there, Sen. Maverick. I'm sure the Jesus wing of your party had nothing to do with it, nothing at all.

Plus, contrary to popular reports, she's not hot. In fact, she's crazy-looking.


She's a leaky faucet of scandal. I think she'll "gracefully withdraw" her name before November. Regardless of whether she stays or goes, though, is there really a chance we'll elect these people?

Monday, September 1, 2008

Oops!

In another triumph for abstinence-only sex education, Republican vice-presidential nominee Sarah Palin announced today that her 17-year-old daughter is pregnant. Needless to say, Republicans -- the same people who are more than willing to trash Barack Obama with innuendo and unfounded rumor -- are falling over themselves to say this is a "private matter." I agree, but the hypocrisy is astounding. If this had happened in Joe Biden's family, FOX News, et al., would be tearing him limb-from-limb, around-the-clock. We wouldn't even know there'd been another hurricane in the Gulf, because cable news would be all TEEN PREGNANCY, ALL THE TIME.

I feel sorry for the girl, really, and it would be nice if the press laid off her. Obama insisted that his aides not discuss the matter, and said, "Let me be as clear as possible: I have said before and I will repeat again, I think people’s families are off limits, and people’s children are especially off limits. This shouldn’t be part of our politics.”

Oh, and as a reminder, how has John McCain shown respect for the families of his rivals? Why, by telling a cruel joke about a teenage kid, that's how: "Why is Chelsea Clinton so ugly? Because her father is Janet Reno."

He even threw in a dash of homophobia for good measure. How mavericky!

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Things that Annoy Me, part 26.

Mark at The Rambler reminded me that this exists: The "Blog" of "Unnecessary" Quotation Marks. Unnecessary quotation marks are way up there in my list of pet peeves.

Another pet peeve, you ask? Why yes, in fact, I do have another pet peeve:  the misuse of the phrase, "beg the question." Here, let this quasi-hipster T. Rex explain it.

I nurse my pet peeves and they grow stronger with time. They're superheroes and supervillains; they're my best friends and my worst enemies.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Fine Dining.

My son and I went fishing before we left Florida. I caught a repulsive catfish and some other thing that the guy who piloted (drove? captained? steered?) cut up and used for bait. I also caught five or six mangrove snappers, which are pretty, as fish go.

Good eating, too. But what to have with them . . .?

Friday, August 8, 2008

I and I

As soon as we got across the bridge from the Florida mainland, we pulled into the Sanibel visitors' center. In the parking lot, I saw this:


True, it's a van, but it's not just any van. It's a van with this bumper sticker:


Chances are this means nothing to you, and the truth is, it should mean nothing to me, either, but it's the logo of a Cincinnati band called The Modulators, who have been around so long that they played at a high school dance I attended (the condom is still in my wallet, by the way) when I was maybe 17 years old. Back then, they were among the two or three most popular groups in town, and these bumper stickers were everywhere. The Modulators are still around, with some of the original members, no less, but that "next big thing" aura they had, or that I thought they had, is long gone. They're still fun, though; they played a parish festival last summer and I actually danced along with the other doughy, middle-aged locals, and my 6-year-old son, who totally showed me up on the dance floor. The kid does an excellent Worm.

Why does this sticker excite me? Because I'm old, that's why. This fact was confirmed when I saw this:



. . . and I thought, "Well, that kind of makes sense. Marco Polo is a really loud game."

Thursday, August 7, 2008

You make the rules, you say what's fair.


A list of rules as long as my arm, and nothing prohibiting thongs and Speedos?

By the way, anyone know if we're allowed to dive here?

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Greetings from Sanibel, FL


My alarm went off at 3:45, Friday morning. I went downstairs, stumbled around and made the coffee. Back upstairs, I woke my family, and we were on the road at 4:30. By mid-afternoon on Saturday, we were on the beach in Sanibel, which is an island near Ft. Myers, off the southwest coast of Florida. I had a lot of time during that drive to mull things over, and I've set it all out below. I hope you'll find this information helpful.

  • An 1,100-mile drive is a long fucking time in the car.
  • Georgia is the bad haircut capital of the country, if not the entire world. At a Taco Bell in some shithole town between Atlanta and Macon, we saw the most glorious mullet in the history of mullets; I tell you, words can't even describe it. I wish I'd had my camera, although I don't know if having a photo would have been worth the ass-kicking I'd almost certainly have received if I'd tried to take a picture of the guy. I've scoured the series of tubes for shot that most closely approximates the Dixie stud and, although this one doesn't really do it justice, it's sort of close:

  • Scouring the internet for pictures of guys in mullets is funny at first, then it becomes sort of disturbing. After that, kind of sad. Finally, funny again, oddly enough.
  • Southerners love themselves some Jesus. You get past the middle of Kentucky, and you start seeing them: the crosses at the gas stations; the billboards with New Testament quotes; the ads for "Cool Christian Music" (an oxymoron if there ever was one); the billboards with quasi-New Testament quotes (Jesus - He's holding your atoms together or Uninspired by Jesus? Bet you've never met him!); the radio dial saturated with proselytizing shouters. Even the cute, enthusiastic manager at the Gainesville Marriott where we spent Friday night gave off a vibe that said she'd be the kind of woman who, about midway through dinner on your first date, would ask you, "Do you have a relationship with the Lord?" It's Jesus! Jesus! Jesus! until you cross that causeway from Ft Myers and then -- thankfully, as if by magic -- nothing.
  • McCain is beating Obama in Florida's bumper sticker race. I hope that's a false positive. I don't think about politics too terribly much but, honestly, I believe if McCain gets elected, we are doomed.
  • Question: What's more depressing than a McCain bumper sticker? Answer: A McCain bumper sticker placed next to a Confederate flag bumper sticker.
  • One word to describe what it's like to grow a beard in a place where the average temperature is about 97 degrees -- itchy. I've jumped back on the goatee bandwagon about 10 years too late, but that's what guys do on vacation, right? My beard can be generously described as "salt and pepper." While I'd like to think I look like this guy:

I really look more like this guy:

  • Grooming tip for the gentlemen: If the image your beard projects is "genocidal despot," then perhaps it's time to shave.
  • Lying out in the sun (or "laying out," as we call it in the grammatically challenged midwest) sucks. I enjoy swimming in the ocean, walking on the shore, looking for shells, and so on, but for the life of me I can't understand how someone can just lie there prostrate, baking. It's madness, I tell ya.
  • All right, at the risk of this becoming a "aren't my kids just the greatest" blog, I'll just say this is pretty cool:

I guess that wraps it up. We have a couple of days more here, and then we're back on that long, lonesome road. Pray for me.

Monday, July 28, 2008

I'm a Mosaic.

Stole this idea from Karen at Vexed in the City. Here's how it goes: Type your answer to each of the questions below into Flickr search, using only the first page, choose your favorite image, copy and paste each of the URLs into the mosaic maker (3 columns, 4 rows).

The questions:
1. What is your first name?
2. What is your favorite food?
3. What high school did you attend?
4. What is your favorite color?
5. Who is your celebrity crush?
6. Favorite drink?
7. Dream vacation?
8. Favorite dessert?
9. What do you want to be when you grow up?
10.What do you love most in life?
11. One word to describe you.
12. Your Flickr name.

Then, go to Big Huge Labs. Enter the URLs for all the pics you found on Flickr. Follow the instructions and off you go.

Here's my result:
What does it all mean, doctor?

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Bad Blogger

I've missed almost all of July.  Yikes.  I could dream up all kinds of reasons why I haven't posted, but I have the sneaking suspicion that I don't have that much to say.  My family and I are going to Sanibel, Florida (average daytime temperature, 134 degrees) next week, so maybe that will inspire me.


Meanwhile, wanna see some really hideous cakes?  Look here.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Shopping Fever!

On Monday, before we left New York, my son and I had lunch on the Upper West Side. Our plan was to walk from there across Central Park, get on the subway one last time, collect our bags from the hotel, and head to the airport. Seeking to delay the inevitable as long as I could, I suggested we take a spin through Zabar's, the fantastic food market and housewares store. Good sport that he is, he agreed.

Once inside, our inner conspicuous consumers emerged into the light. Here's what he wanted to buy:



And here's what I wanted to buy:


Yes, it's a $3,300 espresso maker.

Mmmm . . . $300 cup of coffee.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Postively 4th Street.

My 12-year-old son and I just got back from a greatly anticipated trip to New York. It was a bit of a whirlwind, but we managed to do a lot. We arrived at about noon on Saturday and, after checking into our hotel and grabbing a slice of pizza, we got on the subway and headed downtown. We strolled through Little Italy, which is touristy as hell but buzzing with activity, and from there we took a long walk through Chinatown. I've been there a dozen times but it still blows my mind, just like it did when I was there with my parents for the first time in 1980 (when we attended part of the Democratic Convention).

The boy and I ventured to the Lower East Side, where I'd hoped we could tour the Tenement Museum, but we arrived too late. Luckily, though, we were not too late to visit what turned out to be a highlight of the trip: Economy Candy.
It's a wonderland of sweets from my childhood; it hadn't dawned on me until I looked around in there that you never see Clark Bars anymore. Feeling the "hey, it's vacation" vibe, I let my son spend as much of his own money as he wanted. You'd be surprised how far $15 can go in this place. How much I'll eventually pay his orthodontist in another story entirely, but I'll cross that bridge when I come to it. As for Saturday, my son got his sugar fix and I ate a Clark Bar.

Mmmm . . . Clark Bar. I had a Proust-like moment when I tasted it -- I could see myself at my son's age, outside the little drugstore near my childhood home, just finishing one off, wrapper in my hand. I could also see myself as a college sophomore, dressed as a Clark Bar for Halloween. Yeah, you heard me -- I dressed as a chocolate bar.

So I guess I had two Proustesque flashes, but I digress. After Economy Candy, we wandered around the Lower East Side a bit more. Before I knew it, he was smoking. I guess that's just what happens in those parts. Looks good on him, though, don't you think?

I let my son choose the dinner locale that night. That meant only one thing: ESPN Zone. THE WORLD'S LOUDEST RESTUARANT! WHAT? SORRY, AM I YELLING? MY EARS ARE RINGING!

The next day, it was time for Reds vs. Yankees at Yankee Stadium. First though, a nice long walk through Central Park, where I tried to convince my son that we should pack up the rest of the family and move to New York. He was concerned that our dog couldn't make the transition, and rather than suggest we could just leave her in Cincinnati, I pointed out every dog being walked in the Park. I think I made my point after we passed six or seven, but I belabored it, as is my wont, until we lost count at about fifty.

Oh, and since he was smoking, I also taught him to drink coffee. Black.

Unfortunately, the Reds lost, but just getting there with my son was a great experience. Paying $9.50 for a cup of beer was a great experience, too. It was special big city beer. Plus, my purchase helped the Yankees finance their new $3 billion stadium. Note the solid gold lettering above the entrance.


There was more to this trip, but it's late now, and I've just written more than I have in the last two months combined. I'm tired and I want to save some material for another post. It was nice getting away for a couple of days with my son, and I wish we could have stayed longer. He's a good kid.

Well that's an abrupt ending, isn't it?

Saturday, May 31, 2008

Don't bury me . . .

. . . 'cause I'm not dead yet.  I swear.


This whole "job" thing is really taking it out of me.  It's all so . . . bourgeois, don't  you think?  Between that and all my kids -- I've lost count of them -- I haven't had even the chance to look at my blog in ten days, much less write one of those witty, insightful posts that so delight my readership.  I was vaguely afraid that I'd find squatters here when I checked back in this morning.

So, coming in June, I'm a re-invigorated blogger!  (Unless I'm not.)

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Dear Landlord.


My children have been freeloading for too long now. So, a few weeks ago, I gathered them around me and laid it all out. "If you want to stay under my roof, " I said, "you need to start paying the rent."

I must say, my six-year-old son embraced the idea and has worked hard to earn his keep. One day he came home on the bus from wherever it is that he works (I haven't had a chance to ask) and he had a live chicken in his arms. "I named her Goldie," he told me. "She's nice. She doesn't peck me. Can I keep her?"

"Sure, you can keep her," I answered. "Until dinner."

Sunday, May 4, 2008

Self-Editing.

So few posts lately, and I've just deleted two of them. The first was meant to be a knock on the lameness of this blog, but ended up reading as if I was suggesting that my wife looks at porn sites, which she doesn't. Not well thought-through, I guess.

Sunday, April 27, 2008

Unintentional Hiatus.

Two weeks! I know, I know -- I never write, I never call . . . I didn't mean to be gone this long. Honest.

Saturday, April 12, 2008

I Took My Potatoes Down to be Mashed.

I've been tagged by Misplaced in the Midwest -- correct in his assumption that I am badly in need of blog ideas -- to list seven random facts about myself. Let's see . . .

1. Like Misplaced, when I was a boy I had a crush on a girl named Jackie -- not the same one, though. I won't print her last name, not because I have any sort of ethical objection to doing that, but because I recently learned she doesn't remember me, and having her come across this lame blog would be the shame icing on my humiliation cake.

2. I'm an only child. As far as I can remember, as a kid I didn't spend much time wishing for sibling. Yet I did, and still do, spend a certain amount of time answering the question, "Did you ever want a brother or sister?" I suppose it's a fair question, but it's irritating, particularly when people who've asked it before ask it again, as if I lied when I answered the first time.

3. Dining outdoors only interests me if the weather is just right. A little too cold or, especially, a little too hot, and I'm inside.

4. I play a pathetic little mental game by myself: I listen to average remarks and try to make them sound dirty. For instance, if the woman narrating a commercial for dishwashing soap comments on the product's amazing cleaning powers, I think, "I'd like to cut her grease" or "She can rinse my fine china any time." Yes, I realize how lame this is and I know I'm the only person who thinks it's funny. That's why I don't say it out loud.

5. I am the only person in the world who didn't like Rent.

6. Seventeen years and four jobs into my so-called career and I've never been promoted.

7. Speaking of jobs, I've come to the conclusion that the best one I ever had was in a Chicago bookstore, right after I graduated from college.

8. Special super-bonus random fact -- I once hitchhiked naked.

Ah, that was cathartic, and yes, I'm leaving "cathartic" in this sentence even though I just looked it up and found that one of the favored definitions is "an agent for purging the bowels." To join me in this special catharsis, I tag Karyn of Vexed in the City, Michelle of Verbal and Mark of The Rambler. Try it -- it feels gooood.

Monday, April 7, 2008

Live at the River Styx Outdoor Amphitheater! Sponsored by Miller Lite

Now if they just add the Capitol Steps to warm up the crowd, Satan's entertainment hat trick will be complete.

Saturday, April 5, 2008

Teachable Moment.


Fact: This product costs about $8.00 in Paris.

Lesson: What the fuck are you doing, eating pork and beans in Paris?

Sunday, March 30, 2008

Springtime in Cincinnati.

It's back, finally, after a long, dreary break -- baseball season. As I've mentioned before, I'm one of those suckers who get a little giddy every year, right about now. Against all logic, I believe this is the year my team will contend, and we might well see some October baseball right here. Maybe it's not illogical, though . . . I mean, they now have a big-name manager with a record of success, a brand-new, proven closer, a solid offense . . .

See? There I go again.

Anyway, Opening Day is tomorrow, and I wish I were going. It used to be that the first game of the Major League Baseball season was always played here in Cincinnati. In its never-ending effort to destroy its own game, MLB has done away with that tradition, but the day is still a big event. People take the day off work, pull their kids out of school, go to the parade and then to the game. I have so much work piled on my desk right now that I don't know where to begin, so I suppose in a way it's fortunate that I don't have a ticket for tomorrow, but still . . . I wish could go.

I have tickets to ten home games this season, the first being this Friday night, against the Phillies. Could be fun, could be bitter cold, you never know. As the year progresses, I'll see a game here and there every month, including the last game of the regular season, when I fully expect to be cheering the Reds on to the post-season. In June, a road trip: my son and I are going to New York to see our team take on the bad guys at Yankee Stadium. I think that weekend is destined to be the highlight of our summer.

This year, in honor of the 50th anniversary of the Reds' Hall of Fame, the team has featured many members of the Hall on their tickets. I chose the tickets you see here not because I have any particular interest in seeing the Braves play, but because of the absurdly named player pictured on them -- Heinie Groh, as in, Hey, keep eating those hot dogs like that and you'll get yourself a real case of Heinie Groh!

Oh, the hilarity!

Play ball.

Sunday, March 23, 2008

You Know You're Getting Old When . . .

. . . at a Bruce Springsteen concert, as you watch him race from one end of the stage to the other and back again, you think, "He could break a hip, jumping around like that."

. . . later, at the same concert, you turn to a friend and on comment how lucky you are to have seats on the aisle, in case anyone needs to go to the bathroom.

. . . glancing around at the crowd, you think, "Maybe we should leave a little bit early to beat the traffic."

. . . you look at the giant monitor above the stage and think, "Hey -- nice picture on that jumbotron."

. . . the next "concert" on your list, one you're really excited about, is in reality an appearance by the host of National Public Radio show.

. . . you start writing like Larry King.

Monday, March 10, 2008

Paris Memories: The Story of St Eustache.

It's been almost a month since my wife and I returned from our trip to Paris. The post-vacation letdown has abated, but not totally. Later this week, I travel to Omaha and Des Moines, which are are sure to make me forget about the City of Lights once and for all, but for now, I'm reminiscing.

First stop, St Eustache Church in Paris' Les Halles neighborhood. It's a beautiful Renaissance building, but what's even more interesting and more moving than the architecture and decoration of the church is the story of the sanctuary's namesake. As even the most casual saint aficionado knows, St Eustache (cf., "mustache") was a hirsute Roman general named Capillus who converted to Christianity when he tired of the pagans' mocking his white man's afro. When Bob Dylan stole his line about the streets of Rome being filled with rubble, that was the final straw, and Eustache packed up his comb collection and moved Paris -- Paris, France.

Eustache was an immediate hit when he arrived in that most fashionable of all world capitals. He was not embarrassed to wear a beret, and he taught Parisians how to tie their scarves just right. He drank strong coffee and charmed local women with his George Bush imitation. Soon a movement was afoot to build him a mansion, but they called it a church to take advantage of certain tax loopholes and utilize peasant labor. His popularity reached its zenith as the building was completed, and he moved in, a happy, hairy man.

But trouble wasn't far behind. One misty night, invaders slipped past the city ramparts, and the now-infamous Brazilian sack of Paris was on. On their way through the city, the Brazilians gorged themselves on cheese and bread, which were readily available since it was 9:30 p.m. and the locals hadn't gone to dinner yet. When they arrived at Eustache's home, he was caught by surprise as he gazed deeply into Carla Bruni's dark eyes. He never stood a chance; his attackers used the wax from the thousands of candles they carried to denude his once virile body. Then, even though Eustache was now as hairless and as smooth as a newborn baby, the Brazilians added insult to injury -- they decapitated him. Now, a visitor to St Eustache Church can climb all over a gargantuan stone likeness of his cranium or leave a loving note on his middle finger.

Of course, that's the part of the story of St Eustache that everyone knows. What's far less known, however, is what led to his canonization. Why was he made a saint, you may ask, when the likes of Oprah Winfrey and Tom Brokaw haven't even been beatified? Here's why: first, he turned peanut butter into Nutella; second, and even more significantly, he convinced Europeans that Nutella is edible. Miracles are the surest way to sainthood.

It's knowing this kind of background that makes the world's great monuments all that much more meaningful.

Saturday, March 8, 2008

A Visit from the White Death.

Maybe it's my imagination, or my increasingly faulty memory, or a combination of the two, but I'm certain that when I was a kid, Cincinnati got at least four or five good, deep snows every winter. I remember waking up on a school day, looking out my window and seeing the whole neighborhood blanketed and motionless. I'd turn on the radio, praying for a snow day, and I'd listen as the DJ read the whole list of closures, dominated by the many Catholic schools in the area. I'd lie there with my fingers crossed and listen as he stumbled through all those saints' names, from Aloysius to Xavier, and I'd think, "Come on, just this once, close it. Please close it."

Then, finally, I'd hear, "And, Cincinnati Public Schools are . . . (dramatic pause to which ellipses do not do justice) . . . open!" This was usually followed by an announcement that the buses were running late, but nobody knew how late, so all students should arrive at their bus stops at the regular time -- all of which was particularly meaningful to me, since my high school was 12 or 13 miles from home. Bastards.

Now my kids attend a Catholic grade school less than a mile from our house, and the place shuts down whenever there's a prediction of possible sighting of a rain cloud. And they don't get why I'm bitter. A few months ago, I began telling them that when I was young and a student in the public schools, we didn't even get Christmas Day off. I've said it so many times now that I'm starting to believe it. Or maybe I've said it so many times because it was true, damn it.

All of which brings me to this. The snow started to fall here on Friday morning and by the time it ended early this afternoon, we had twelve inches of snow on the ground. A foot of snow! On a Saturday! I'm not sure whether a grown man should be so happy about a snowfall, but it was fantastic. The downside after-effects are already in motion; right now, for instance, I'm watching the local news and the weatherman cannot stop congratulating himself on how right his prediction was. But this morning . . . well, that was cool.

I took my kids sledding down the street, where we saw more neighbors gathered than at any other moment in the four years we've lived here. After that we came home, built a fire in the fireplace, ate lunch and they settled in for an indoor day. Usually the video games irritate me after a relatively short time, but what the hell? It's Saturday and there's a foot of snow out there.

My wife and I were supposed to have attended a formal charity event tonight. It would have been the first time in 17 years that I'd worn a tuxedo, but the event was canceled. (Probably fortunate, since I don't know how to tie a bowtie, and my frustrated, profanity-laden attempt to learn last night didn't yield much.) Thinking the event was still on, however, I decided I'd better shovel the driveway. Ordinarily, I'd just wait it out, figuring the snow would melt eventually, right? Because my boss had invited us to this thing, however, I thought I'd better do what I could to get there.

So out I went. You know what? Snow is heavy. Sure, it looks all light and fluffy like cotton candy or something, but try lifting it! I was on the front sidewalk when I felt something pop in my lower back, and I collapsed to the ground. The wind whistled by my ears as I loosed my plaintive cry, "Little help?! Little help here?!" Nobody heard.

Nobody, that is, except this brave canine. Out of nowhere, she bounded to my side, wearing one of those mini-barrels of rum on her collar. I took the rum, she popped the cork with her teeth, and I drank, deep and long. The rum was warm like a Caribbean sunset and it made me feel like a pirate. The dog looked at me, waiting for instructions, and I said, "Go, friend, and tell my family I'm hurt. Tell them to hurry! Now, go! Go!"

Off she tore into our yard and I could hear her barking at the back door. After what seemed like an hour -- I'm sure I was delirious from my injury -- the dog returned, alone. I think she shrugged her shoulders, but her valiant reaction inspired me to stagger to my feet and follow her back to my house.

I've always thought of myself as more of a cat person, but I'll tell you what, this is one smart dog. First, a daring rescue and now, she's helped me find a way to pass off this injury as a workers' comp claim. Next stop, long term disability!

Man, what a great Saturday!

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

It's Serious.

I guess I have a real case of writer's block, if in fact what I do here qualifies as writing. I have all of these great pictures from Paris, stories waiting to be told, but I can't seem to motivate myself. I wonder if I've lost my six readers. Are you out there? Ask me some questions - that seemed to help last time.

Thursday, February 28, 2008

Pleasant dreams.

I'm sitting at the Greensboro, N.C. airport, waiting to board my plane home. Right across from me sits a paunchy man, probably in his mid-50s. He's leaning back as far as he can, with his legs stretched out in front of him. His head rests at a right angle to his shoulders, as if there's a hinge in his neck. He is snoring, loudly. If we were in a smaller room, the windows would be rattling. If we were in a car, we'd both have gone deaf by now.

Last week, waiting at O'Hare for a flight back to Cincinnati, I saw the exact same thing, again directly across from me. I doubt today's Mr. Sleepy is the guy I saw in Chicago, but he easily could be, really.

I chuckled to myself at O'Hare sleeper, but I've realized that just as easily as he could my current neighbor here in North Carolina, I could be him, too, stretched out, snoring, dreaming. The only thing that keeps me from doing it is my own self-consciousness. I'm told that when a man reaches a certain point in his 50s, he no longer cares so much about appearances.

Not giving a shit -- I look forward to it.

Sunday, February 24, 2008

LDP's 115th Bob Dylan Dream.

I don't often remember the details of my dreams, but when I do, I make a point of telling everyone about them, even though I know that kind of thing can be excruciatingly dull. This one should be no exception.

In last night's dream, I was sent up on a stage to replace an AWOL Bob Dylan. The setting was a small club, the kind of place he hasn't played in 45 years. He was missing, and my friend Steve insisted that I not only replace Dylan, but pretend to be him, too. The lighting in the smoky club was dim and the air, damp.

After much cajoling, I agreed to do it, but only on the condition that Steve write all of the necessary chord changes on the neck of the guitar. I think I was vaguely amused by this even as I dreamt it, because in real life I barely even know what the phrase, "chord changes" means. He said he would, and I went backstage to prepare.


Moments later, I heard the announcement, "Ladies and gentlemen, Mr. Bob Dylan!" I swaggered out onto the stage and things looked good until I spotted my guitar. Although my friend had kept his end of the bargain -- the chords were right there on the neck, as agreed -- he'd written them on one of those very cool National Steel Guitars. The sight filled me with dread and panic.


Honestly, I woke up in a sweat. What does it mean, doctor?

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Stuck Inside of Mobile.

Back home. Great to see our kids, but other than that, I'm experiencing some serious, post-vacation letdown. (Note for my dissertation: the feeling is much more intense when you return from Paris than it is when you return from, say, Indianapolis.) We got back on Thursday evening and soon found ourselves at Noble Roman's pizza when, just 24 hours earlier, we were eating wonderful bread and cheese at a sidewalk cafe. I went to work on Friday, which was a mistake -- it was a particularly difficult day.

I suppose, having just returned from a European vacation, I shouldn't complain, but it's in my nature. I spent so much time thinking about the trip during the weeks leading up to it, and had such a good time while we were there, that real life is going to seem a bit less lustrous than usual for a while.

My wife and I came home with hundreds of photos, so I have plenty of blog fodder. Of course, three of the seven people who read this blog were in Paris and still are, so they've seen it all before. But just as we tell our kids that their soccer games aren't about winning -- they're about having fun, see -- this blog isn't about readership. It's about . . . come to think of it, what is it about anyway?

Anyway, I'll start posting pictures soon. In the meantime, I'll just mention a few things. One day we went to Sacre Couer church in the Montmartre neighborhood and, the next day, I came across a blog post by an American woman living in Paris who had just roamed the same neighborhood. She really captured the experience well, and I like her blog, Badaude, a lot. I added it to my links on the right but be warned: don't read it unless you're okay with the idea of wanting to drop everything and move to Paris.

We also went to an excellent dinner hosted by the husband-and-wife bloggers of Our Family in Paris and Paris Musings, and their lovely children. My wife was the only adult non-blogger there, and she kept the "nerd" comments under her breath. I think I heard her say something about Dungeons and Dragons, but I let it slide. Otherwise, our meal was delicious and it was a very nice evening.

Finally, our hosts for the week were great. My old friend Misplaced and his wife are busy, he writing a novel and she slaving away in grad school, but they spent a lot of time with my wife and me, which was very cool. We stayed at their apartment for a week, which couldn't have been easy for them, what with my daily, three-hour-long beauty regime and my sleepwalking, but they were quite gracious, as was their cat. Great fun.

I think I'd like to go back.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Paris Postcard.

Today was another great day in Paris.  My wife and I spent the morning at the Musee d'Orsay, home to the largest collection of Impressionist art in the world.  Today, you see works by Monet, Degas and their contemporaries reproduced or imitated on everything from toilet paper packaging to motel wallpaper, but in their day, they were real rebels.  When you enter the museum, the first galleries you visit hold the work of the Impressionists' predecessors, paintings described as "Conservative," after the Conservatory where they were exhibited at annual salons. Even the uneducated like me can see what a huge change the Impressionists represented after that.  I think the word used most frequently by the voice in the audio tour guide was "shocked," as in, "The public was shocked by Sisley's blurring of lines."  Personally, I think they may be exaggerating the level of the general public's consternation but, still, I left wanting to know more.


After the Orsay, we took a long walk through Tuileries Gardens and up the bustling Champs Elysees to the Arc de Triomphe.  I'm glad we went, because the view as you walk up the broad boulevard is right out of a Paris poster, but the high-end designer stores didn't really interest me.  Wealthy Japanese visitors seemed to dig them, though.  

I prefer the Marais, where our friends live:  narrow, winding streets, lined with boutiques, bars and restaurants.  I'm sitting now in the living room of their apartment.  The window is open and I can hear the Vespas buzzing along the roads and children laughing on the playground below.  Reality is beginning to creep into my thoughts.  Tomorrow is our last day here, and then we're on the plane and back to earth.  I miss my kids and I look forward to seeing them, but for now I'll sit and plan how I can send for them, find a little place to live and make this city our home.

Yes, I realize the plan is not well-formed.  I'm telling you though, a guy could get used to this place.

Sunday, February 10, 2008

What time is it in Paris?

The Parisian day starts later than the American day.  In Cincinnati, I'm up early to milk the cows and fetch water from the well, but here in the French capital I have no such obligations. Our hosts, Misplaced and his wife, live in a great neighborhood, the Marais.  Last night -- a Sunday night, mind you -- the vicinity was buzzing, full of energy and beautiful people.  The mornings are serene.  I was just looking out the window; the street below is deserted.  It's also immaculate.

My wife and I are getting an early start today.  We want to hop on the Metro and make it to the Louvre by the time it opens, 9:00 a.m.  She and I both fell asleep early last night, and so I've been awake for a while.  Thinking the bells for 8:00 were about to chime (and judging from my previous mornings' observations, it wouldn't be odd at all for the streets to be so quiet at that hour) I was just about to wake her when I realized it was only 5:30.  I guess my body clock, such as it is, hasn't adjusted quite as well as I'd thought.  Fortunately, I had my realization about the time before I rousted Red.  Let's just say she's not a morning person and leave it at that.

I'd go get baguettes and pastries, but I don't think the bakeries are open yet.  The problem is, I've drunk half a pot of coffee and I'm doing that leg-jiggle thing that so endears me to colleagues at work during lengthy meetings.  I'll wait for a little more light outside, then I'll go for a stroll. The streets are narrow and cobble-stoned, and there's something interesting around every corner:  restaurants, shops, and did I mention beautiful people?  I know there won't be anyone out walking now, but it could be fun to watch the bakery owners open up their stores.

In the meantime, let me recount a little bit about my day yesterday. Misplaced and I spent a good portion of it roaming around.  We stopped at a restaurant and I'm virtually certain the following actually happened:

(Misplaced and LDP take a seat at sidewalk cafe.  As the waiter delivers two coffees, Misplaced rattles off something in French.  The waiter leaves, then returns and places a sandwich in front of LDP.)

LDP: That looks like gristle.

Misplaced: It
is gristle.

LDP: Oh, well . . . I . . . huh?

Misplaced: I said, it
is gristle. It's very popular around this neighborhood. All the locals love it.

LDP: Gristle sandwiches are popular?

Misplaced: Yes. (Glancing at the waiter.) Don't hesitate like that -- everyone'll know you're a tourist. Do you want people to think of you like that?

LDP: Well . . .

Misplaced: You don't. I know you don't. Try it, you'll fit right in. I eat one almost every day.

LDP: You didn't have one today.

Misplaced: Yes, I did.

LDP: When?

Misplaced: Before.

LDP: I didn't see you.

Misplaced: Nevertheless, I did.

LDP: But we've been together all day. When did you eat one?

Misplaced: You're still jetlagged.

LDP: Well, that's true. (Taking a big bite.) Mmmm . . . . that's good gristle.


The waiter smiled broadly at me and I could tell I'd made him proud. Misplaced grinned too, knowing he'd taught me something about getting to know other cultures. I left feeling I'd done my part to mend Franco-American fences.

Live from Pont Marie



This has been a fantastic trip so far. Here we have a little trio, with a cameo by my wife, on a bridge from Ile St. Louis to the Right Bank.

How could anyone not love Paris?

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Au revoir for now.

Last night was dominated by children vomiting, and so I've just now finished packing for an overseas flight that leaves in four hours. My wife and I are nervous about leaving the kids behind, but we know, in the end, they'll be fine living at the airport for a week. Everybody loves an adorable airport urchin.

I'd planned to take my laptop and blog about how much the Parisian women dig me -- I mean live blogging, as they were actually digging me. It would have been so hot. The problem is, I never got around to copying our photos, music, work, etc. onto an external hard drive, and suddenly I'm seized with fear that I'll leave the laptop in a park somewhere. So it's staying home, but maybe I can mooch someone else's.

Time to go. There's a beret with my name on it, on the table of a corner coffee bar, or something.

Monday, February 4, 2008

Campaign Dictionary.

Unctuous:

1. characterized by excessive piousness or moralistic fervor, esp. in an affected manner; excessively smooth, suave, or smug.

2. of the nature of or characteristic of an unguent or ointment; oily; greasy.

3. having an oily or soapy feel, as certain minerals.

T minus 2

At about 7:45 tonight, all the power went off in our neighborhood. My wife and I ate dinner with the moonlight shining through our dining room windows. She then put our 6-year-old son to bed, and I helped our 9-year-old daughter do her homework by candlelight, which sounds very rustic and pioneer-esque, but ended up annoying us both. She's an excellent student and likes to get everything just right; needless to say, squinting over the books in the dim light of the candles and my Blackberry is not her preferred studying mode. She considers this half-assing it.

Now everyone's in bed. The house was pitch black for a while, and going to sleep just felt right, even though it was only about 9:30. I thought I'd come back downstairs and write a post in the darkness, just like Paul Revere. But the power came back on, and with it, every light in the house. From the street, it looked as if the place were on fire.

I should be packing my bags, but my momentum is gone. Funny, I can hardly think about anything now other than this trip to Paris -- which is just days away -- but I can't manage to open that suitcase. It'll work itself out, I'm sure. Talk about half-assing it, huh?

One thing I have done, however, is secure my in-flight wardrobe. Voila:




Stylin'. Bonjour City of Lights!

Sunday, February 3, 2008

Super Bowl XLII Prediction!

Boredom -- 56

Me -- 0


You read it here first.

Friday, February 1, 2008

It's true, I tell ya.

Whenever I tell people I'm going to Paris to visit friends, the first question they always ask is, "Wait, aren't we at war with France?" After that they start asking about who, exactly, I'm visiting, as if I couldn't possibly know anyone overseas. Once they find out who it is, though -- that's when the questions get irritating.

"Do you really know Misplaced?" they say. "Can you get me tickets to his blog? Is that his real hair?"

You can imagine how frustrating this is -- a frustration not born out of jealousy over the thousands of hits his blog gets while mine languishes in obscurity, I assure you. Whatever its cause, I will begin feeling angry and bitter about it just as soon as I finish bunking at his apartment, eating his food and drinking his coffee.

For those who doubt my honesty, I offer the following photographic evidence that he and I do, in fact, know each other.



Misplaced (right) and me during our stint with the Chippendales (Juniors Division)


I suppose we were 14 or 15 when that pic was taken. Mercifully, I forget the details of that particular junior high dance. I don't even remember who my date was, but I'll say this to her, whoever she is, where ever she is: Sorry! I'm sure the cheesy piping on my lapels and my circus clown bowtie made you think staying home that night might have not have been such a bad idea after all. Plus, Anonymous Girl of Decades Ago, I'm virtually certain I was too nervous to speak to you that night. Let me treat you to an espresso to make it up to you.

On the positive side, though, I think this picture helped me solve my "what to wear in Paris" question. Can't go wrong with black tie.

Sunday, January 27, 2008

Cincinnati Saturday Night.

Yeah, I spent my Saturday evening at a mall. What of it?

Christ, I didn't know there were so many teenagers in this town -- gaggles of girls wearing what amounts to matching outfits, being trailed by gawky, pimply boys. I vaguely remember being one of those boys, back in the dark ages of my early teens. We didn't do the mall scene, but the rest is basically the same. Isn't it always? One day last year I picked up my then 5-year-old son and his friend from pre-school. I asked them what they'd done that day, and when they began to talk about recess, they became quite animated. The girls made us chase them! Get used to it, fellas.

Back in the present day, yes, I was there navigating through the swarms of adolescents. I went because I'm in desperate need of new clothes. I know this, but the thing is, I don't know what I want. Plus, I hate to shop, particularly at malls. Can you imagine what a delight it is to go to one with me? My wife, Red, wouldn't come along, begging off with some flimsy excuse about our kindergardener not being old enough to stay home by himself.

It irritates Red to no end that almost every time I go shopping, I don't buy anything. (She has no such problem.) I just can't muster up any enthusiasm for it. Plus, the only clothes I seem to like these days are the really expensive ones. The problem is, tomorrow morning I leave town for a couple of days' worth of company "leadership meetings" in Miami. I'm going because I'm the new guy in my department and this is an opportunity for me to meet people and so on, but here's the thing: what does one wear at meetings in Miami? I scoured the mall for pastel t-shirts and white suits, but I guess they're sold out.

My dilemma was complicated by the fact that one afternoon, we have our choice of recreational activities, and I chose to go out on a catamaran. I don't know what one wears on a catamaran, but whatever it is, I'm confident I don't have one. I could feel myself panicking as my search became more frantic, but then it dawned on me, the perfect outfit. Tell me what you think of this:


Good, huh?

I have another attire issue looming -- what to wear when Red and I go to France. "I don't want to walk around Paris with some doofus," she told me. Apparently she doesn't like my Columbo-style raincoat, which I've had since we got married. I thought she loved me in that thing; I was rumpled hot with it on.

I guess I'll deal with my foreign travel wardrobe when I get back from these meetings. I think I'm going to do all right in that department, because a few weeks ago, at my high school reunion, a woman told me I looked like a French gynecologist. Needless to say, I took that as a compliment and I've been running with it ever since. Bonjour les jolies femmes!

Thursday, January 24, 2008

"Seven years of college down the drain . . . "



John Belushi would have been 59 years old today.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

My Little Pickle.

The national condiment of France is the cornichon, a miniature pickle. But you knew that. What you didn't know is that the country's cornichon farmers are up in arms about having to compete with Indian cornichon farmers. Actually, I didn't know that, either. In fact, I still don't, because all I heard was a 10-second ad for a radio show. I forgot to listen to the story itself, and when I found it on Marketplace's website, it wouldn't play. I just decided to go with it because pickles are inherently amusing.

Speaking of tiny cucumbers, did you know President Bush made 260 false statements about weapons of mass destruction in Iraq and Saddam Hussein's connection with Al Qaeda in the two years following the September 11 attacks? It's true. In all, his administration made at least 935 false statements during that time leading into the Iraq war. What I'd like to know is this: if this country elects another Republican president in 2008, just how stupid does that make us? I suspect the answer is very.

Remember when Larry King had a column in U.S.A. Today, and he'd fill space by stringing together ten or twelve non sequiturs, linking them all with ellipses? That's what this post is. Hey gang, how 'bout that Larry King, huh? I hear he's got quite a cornichon on him.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

It Takes Real Balls to be a Good Criminal.

Sometimes I imagine myself as a master thief. At 3:00 in the morning, dressed elegantly in black, I'd creep through the skylight of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, or pad silently through the immaculate corridors of a fortress-like Swiss bank. Without a sound, I'd work quickly, efficiently, but without a hint of nervousness. I'd have planned it out to the last detail, and I'd take only that which I came for, a very valuable but not immediately recognizable Matisse, say, or a safe deposit box containing rare jewels that once belonged to European royalty. I'd depart as unobtrusively as I arrived, and other than the empty space where the stolen goods used to be, there would be no trace of my presence.

Either that, or with a hankering for cigarettes and cash, I'd try to hold up a Seven Eleven and end up like this guy. You can probably guess what happened:

Surveillance tape from the store shows an armed man with a cloth sack entering the store. After yanking the female clerk by the hair, he demands money.


He slipped his gun into his waistband and pow!

The bullet pierced his right testicle, then tore into his left calf. Telling the clerk he shot himself, police say (the suspect) took the money and ran.


Yes, he ran -- to his grandma's house.

(His) grandmother, who doesn't want to be identified, is disappointed.

"I have grandchildren, but I've made it possible for them to have all kinds of things, not by taking something that belongs to somebody else," said the grandmother.

She then added, "Plus, his bloody nuts made my living room an absolute mess. What is it with young people today, anyhow?"

In any case, he obviously did not read my book, How to Rob a Convenience Store Without Castrating Yourself. Rule number one: avoid pointing your gun at your groin.

See, I know what I'm talking about. Why won't people listen to me? I mean, come on!

Monday, January 14, 2008

S-O-S


I wish I could say I’m one of those people who have kept a diary or journal all their lives, but I can’t. Instead, what I am is one of those people who have talked about keeping a diary or journal all their lives, but have found it much more convenient just to watch television. As a result, although I possess a near-encyclopedic knowledge of old episodes of Late Night with David Letterman and Homicide: Life on the Street, I have no archive of my own writing that I can mine for ideas when I’m running low. I’m not yet ready to plagiarize from someone else (although that day may come) but I’d happily steal from myself right now.

What I’d like is for you to ask me some questions. I’ll answer them in the comments and maybe I’ll find some inspiration. I realize my readership is limited – I think of this as a boutique blog – so send some of your readers over here.

Yes, I am begging for ideas.

In return, allow me to present you with a list of words and phrases that annoy me. Because I’m a man of many pet peeves, this is only a partial accounting.

  • That’s what I’m talking about! and its less confident cousin, I’m just sayin’. I think these phrases have urban roots and probably sounded pretty hip when they were fresh. Now that fat, suburban, white guys like me use them as we grill sausages on the back deck, they’re insufferably lame.
  • You go, girl! and Don’t go there! Again, stale. White, suburban mothers are saying these things to one another as they drop their kids off at school. Both phrases should be outlawed.
  • Think outside the box. For a while, I thought this silly bit of corporate-speak had faded from serious usage, and people now only used it ironically. Wrong! And it’s still stupid.
  • If you will. My observation is that people pepper their speech with this phrase when they want to sound intelligent, as if they’ve just come up with a new way of expressing a certain idea. I’ve also observed that the more a person uses it, the less likely he is to have anything to say. It’s very much like how President Bush says something incredibly simplistic, then follows up with, “In other words . . .” and proceeds to say the exact same thing all over again. I believe that’s called “putting lipstick on a pig.”
  • Access as a verb, as in, “How do I access the porn on my hard drive?” I realize the battle over this has long since been lost to the “it doesn’t matter how you say something as long as people know what you mean” forces. It’s even in the dictionary now, acceptable as a verb. Nevertheless, it irritates me immensely. What was so difficult about, “How do I get access to the porn on my hard drive”?
  • Webinar. This one just fills me with rage.
There you have it. Thanks for listening. Now start the interrogation. I’d appreciate it if you
would think outside the box.

Tuesday, January 8, 2008

Eat This Story.

My wife and I are going to France in less than a month, and I've started to do my prep work. First stop: food. I Googled our friends' Paris neighborhood and found there's a T.G.I. Friday's near their apartment. I've made reservations for a Wednesday evening at 5:30 but, unfortunately, our friends can't make it. They both have important business meetings that night, as it turns out. Strange timing, at least to an American, but hey, I guess that's France for you!

There will be plenty of other nights, though, and that's good, because I'm feeling very inspired by a story I heard about the late president of France (and alleged Nazi collaborator) Francois Mitterand, who ruled the country from 1981 until 1995. Late in his tenure, he learned he had prostate cancer, and by the December of '95, he knew his end was near. Faced with the prospect of imminent death, Mitterand did what most of us will do as the grim reaper nears -- he traveled to Egypt to commune with the pharaohs. The disease hadn't diminished his ego, and when he returned to France and was asked what wanted for his final meal, he knew he deserved something fit for a king.

Mitterand decided to have 30 friends join him for a royal feast, beginning with fois gras and oysters. The guests dined at the table and watched as the already weak pharaoh-channeling former president, stretched out on a chaise lounge, ravenously consumed the shellfish until he felt sick. Then came the ortolan.

Ortolan is a tiny, very rare songbird. So rare, in fact, that eating it is now a violation of French law. How does one prepare ortolan? Excellent question. From In the Devil's Garden - A Sinful History of Forbidden Food:

The birds must be taken alive; once captured they are either blinded or kept in a lightless box for a month to gorge on millet, grapes, and figs, a technique apparently taken from the decadent cooks of Imperial Rome who called the birds beccafico, or "fig-pecker." When they've reached four times their normal size, they're drowned in a snifter of Armagnac. Cooking l'ortolan is simplicity itself. Simply pop them in a high oven for six to eight minutes and serve.


Mitterand knew the magic of ortolan was in the eating, and he did it just as prescribed by the experts:

. . . place the entire four-ounce bird into your mouth. Only its head should dangle out from between your lips. Bite off the head and discard. L'ortolan should be served immediately; it is meant to be so hot that you must rest it on your tongue while inhaling rapidly through your mouth. This cools the bird, but its real purpose is to force you to allow its ambrosial fat to cascade freely down your throat.

When cool, begin to chew. It should take about 15 minutes to work your way through the breast and wings, the delicately crackling bones, and on to the inner organs. Devotees claim they can taste the bird's entire life as they chew in the darkness: the wheat of Morocco, the salt air of the Mediterranean, the lavender of Provence. The pea-sized lungs and heart, saturated with Armagnac from its drowning, are said to burst in a liqueur-scented flower on the diner's tongue.
Hungry yet? I am.

One other thing. Mitterand wore an ornamental napkin on his head as he chowed his endangered species. There's some dispute over why he did this. Either it was to help capture the bird's succulent aroma, or it was to hide his act from the eyes of God. Regardless, he ate his bird and never consumed another meal. I'm sure he and King Tut had a lot to discuss after Mitterand died in early 1996.

Needless to say, I'm now planning my final meal. There will be no dainty little napkin on my head, oh no. I don't want to hide from God; in fact, I'll do whatever I can to attract his attention, because I know Jesus (the official deity of the U.S.A.) will want to watch me dine on deep fried bald eagle. Look for me wearing a red, white and blue cowboy hat on that fateful day.

But that's years away. For now, it's time to plan for Paris. Maybe my friends can find a little place that serves the illicit ortolan. Mmmm . . . fig-pecker.

Sunday, January 6, 2008

I Went to the Doctor the Very Next Day.


Every time I say something like, "I never get sick," you know what happens? I get sick. I don't say it very often and, perhaps as a result, I'm usually pretty healthy. Maybe I should just keep my mouth shut. It's the kind of thing that almost makes be believe in jinxes.

This time, I have a sinus infection: aches, pains, sore throat and a headache as if my cranium is in a vise. (An opportune moment, perhaps, to mention that when I was about 5 years old, I got my head caught in the bars of the Cincinnati Zoo's alligator exhibit. Ah, those sweet, sweet, saftety-free days!) I've felt bad since Thursday; the antibiotics are beginning to kick in, I think, but I'm still sweaty and a tad delirious. I've been sitting in front of the fireplace, trying to get work done, but it hasn't been easy. I like the fire hot -- really hot, roaring, furnace-like, as if it's one of the Circles of Hell to which I'd be able to make a more graceful reference if I'd actually read Dante. So that's what's happening now in my living room, but the thing is, it's about 60 degrees outside, and as a result I have all of the windows open. My wife has gone to bed, claiming the room is "hot as hell," and although I tried to convince her that it's just me, that heat is coming from me, baby, she's off.

I say a fireplace is for fire. Otherwise, what?

And winter is for cold. I've heard about a thousand people say how great the weather is today. I'll say this: 60 degrees in January, in the Midwest, is not "great." It's freaky, and it sucks, and I certainly wouldn't complain if a gigantic snow storm blew in just about now and left me unable to get to my office tomorrow. Now that's what "great" means. It's true. Look it up.

There's something else, too. I took my kids to a place called Great Wolf Lodge on Saturday. It's a giant, indoor waterpark. Was it ill advised, going to a place like that when I was ailing and maybe maybe maybe a wee bit contagious? I suppose, but who can resist a humid, extremely loud room filled with hundreds of pale, doughy Midwesterners? I know I can't. I pondered this as lounged in the hot tub, which I affectionately refered to as the bacteria bath.

That brief foray to the hot tub reminded me of this: Eddie Murphy on SNL, in "James Brown's Celebrity Hot Tub Party." It's a skit I hadn't thought of in years, and when I finally looked it up on You Tube today, I wondered if it was really as funny as I remembered. It was. Maybe it's the fever talking, though.

Where was I? Something about work, I think? Well, I have a lot of it, and I should get back to it. Busy busy busy. Or maybe I should get to bed myself -- chug a little Nyquil and it's all good, just as long as the house doesn't burn down. Hope I don't dream of alligators again.

Tuesday, January 1, 2008

Happy New Year.

2008 has arrived, and it's time to clean up our acts, people. Personally, I'd like to stop being fat. I also have a few other New Year's resolutions:

  1. Keep writing.
  2. Grow a handlebar mustache.
  3. Knit some pretty sweaters for my dog.
  4. Donate to a Democrat's presidential campaign.
  5. Successfully maintain deep cover as an office drone.
  6. Treat myself to a bikini waxing -- because I'm worth it.
  7. Place a huge CLINTON sign in my front yard, just to annoy the neighbors.
  8. Visit Paris.
  9. Write an angry letter to NPR about how much the Capitol Steps suck.
  10. Stay in touch with a couple of people I saw at my 25-year high school reunion.
  11. No more Mr. Nice Guy.
You?