Menu Close

College Hell

It’s May, and we all know what that means – college graduations. That day when your pride and joy graduates and is ready to face the world as an adult. Or so you hope.

For me, it’s Christmas, Memorial Day, and the 4th of July rolled into one because it means I’m finally rid of those damn college kids until late August. I live in the Bermuda Triangle of College Hell. I have a large university a mile up the road and two smaller ones less that 2 miles from me…and thousands of those kids. The ones who park like Stevie Wonder at the supermarket, who throw beer cans on my lawn when they are being chased by the police, the ones who have a fit when they discover there’s no Taco Bell in my township. Add the local military academy and it’s the seventh ring of Dante’s Inferno.

Yes, those damn kids.

The funny thing is the girls are the worst…they travel in packs of three or more and are oblivious to everything around them. But the supermarket drives me to distraction. The concept that aisles are two “lanes” escapes them. They park their cart in the middle of the aisle while reading the nutritional content of every single thing like it’s the Oracles. “Oh no, this has 130 calories per serving, this has 6 grams of sugar, this has 15 grams of sodium…” and the one whining about this looks like she hasn’t had a good meal since kindergarten. And she’s carrying a Louis Vuitton purse, with Uggs and Daisy Dukes. I find myself fighting the urge to smack them…instead I restrain myself and break out the laser glare and a frosty “pick a side, ladies”
Anyway, graduation is coming up…they’re staggered so my little town isn’t completely overrun with distracted parents driving like they’re on a mushroom bender with a tequila chaser. So bear with me, folks, if I’m a little cranky the next few weeks…

Eat, Cook, Pray

Preface

Take the wayback machine to… 1970 (thereabouts). I’m having lunch. It’s  1PM. Turn on the TV. There she is, the French Chef. About to switch channels… but wait! WTF?! Julia has in her hammy grips this humongous piece of… flesh – best I could tell. Like about 2×3 feet of firm, dense, flesh. She grasps one end, swings it back, and over her shoulder – SPLAATT! on the counter. I about spit my Fig Newtons and milk laughing. Julia’s just abused a cow’s stomach on Pub TV. Julia then goes on to reveal, in that soprano voice with falsetto notes, the secrets to cooking, brazing, stewing, doing something, to… TRIPE. I’m getting queasy. Julia’s trying to be funny… I hope. Can’t be convinced ‘tripe’ could make a starving man salivate. And that’s how I got hooked on cooking shows.

Eat

Galloping Gourmet, Jacques Pepin, others, finally, Martha. I watched because I cooked, and ‘ate’, a bill of fare that ranged from good appetizing meals to haute cuisine… vicariously. It was my only intimate experience with delicious and, fine dining.

I had never ‘dined’. What I was, was a chow down kinda guy. Let’s see: Tuna, ate lots ’n’ lots of canned tuna. The cat and I were livin’ big. Chili, right out of the cans – no dishes to wash. Bush’s Baked Beans, out of the can, And too, cans of Del Monte crushed tomatoes. Dump contents into large bowl, add chopped onions, season, add Italian dressing, top with parmesan cheese, add chunks of Gonnella bread to sop up the goodness… gazpacho! Kinda. That count as cooking?

Hot dog and hot tamale stands, burgers and fries at the diner, Pretzels, beer nuts at the neighborhood bar… good memories. It’s great to be young, with corresponding gastrointestinal hook-up.

Cook

I’d had episodes in cooking, even adventures. My best friend and I went exploring a rail spur that led to some industrial sites. The trains were not often, it was a good place to camp out. We’d made an expedition of it, provisioned with franks, beans, buns. Well after noon, we’d made camp and built a fire. I’d commenced my first cookout. How’d it go? it was adventure.

That was one of the adventures; herewith, an episode. I think it cannot be helped. Watch enough TV chefs and you get the notion – “I can do that”. I was getting an urge for peeling; dicing, chopping, julienning.

Love spanikopita. Used them as bread slices. Nestled within perhaps crisp bacon, or a burger, or a peculiar summer sandwich with layered paper-thin sliced onions and tomato, drizzled with dressing. This simple summer sandwich was messy but delicious… well, much to my taste buds’ liking. It was a creation of sorts and convinced me I just might have a previously unknown knack.

So spanikopita it was – because it had to be easy. Not many ingredients – check. Low level cooking (wilting spinach over heat) – check. Store bought filo dough – check. And have a few drinks during baking – a perfect project for a tyro.

The end product was not pretty, but it was acceptably tasty. But the kitchen looked like it had been the venue for a food fetish orgy of a troop of bonobos.

You know why cooking on TV looks so damn easy? Because the star has not to shop, prepare, measure out the dry ingredients into pretty porcelain ramequins, preheat the oven, and wash the kitchen spotless.

Don’t remember ever being that tired. Never did any ‘heavy duty’ cooking since.

“What’s the phone number for that restaurant that…“

It’s either that, or, marry well – some girl that LOVES to cook.

Herewith, my favorite thing to cook. Even so, it’s not a regular event. It is entirely of my own concoction but no doubt something like it has been a staple somewhere for some time.

Omelette Niçoise:

1. 3-4 eggs, beaten, seasoned lightly; pour into hot skillet, aerate by further beating eggs for about a minute for a fluffier setting. When eggs begin to set, take skillet off burner.
2. Add 2 tblspns bruschetta, WELL drained (my preference -Green and Black Olives, Tomatoes, Capers. Top with finely crumbled blue or feta cheese.
3. Final topping – chopped chives
4. Back on burner – 1 minute, fold omelette – plate

*Serve with two bakery croissants, drizzled with drained bruschetta olive oil.

**Coffee

*** Perfect for breakfast, lunch dinner, and 2:am.

Pray

Before I go… Lunch Bucket List:

1. Oysters – I’d promised myself that I would have a meal of oysters, soon – forty years later – haven’t yet. How the hell you eat them? Put ’em in your mouth and suck ’em dry? Roll them around your mouth and let ’em slide down your gullet. Chew on ’em? I’d heard they could have a metallic taste. Oh, and is there any empirical evidence they make one horny… hornier?
2. Duck – never had duck.. à l’orange any good? Please don’t anyone say it tastes like chicken.
3. Alligator – not jerky, fillet o’…

NEVER will I…Kill Me First List:

Shirako – Japan (fish sperm)… the Japanese are nuts – jeez, learn some agriculture.

Fried tarantulas – what country has so many tarantulas to make a meal of them? Can you get enough for a dinner party for 12? It’s Cambodia.

Shiokara – Japan …the Japanese are nuts – jeez, learn some agriculture.

Kiviak – Greenland Inuit – arrrggghh – I thought haggis sounded disgusting.

Gaeng Kai Mot Daeng – ant eggs soup – lots ‘n’ lots of ant eggs- Laos.

Jellied Moose Nose – Canada – Justin’s not the only disgusting delicacy in Canuckland.

Huitlacoche – Mexico – translation: “sleeping excrement” Say no more.

Uugu – Japan – puffer fish (containing tetrodotoxin -1200 times deadlier than cyanide) have I yet mentioned the Japanese are nuts?

What are you guys expert at cooking up?

Camping With Dad: Round Two: A Struggle For Survival (Part 1)

When my Father presented his plan to fly to the middle of nowhere in Canada for a fishing trip, my brother Mike and I knew that is would be a disaster: hilarious when the story would be told years from the event if we survived, but a disaster nonetheless.

Mike and I were in our late twenties, and my Father was in his fifties, already carrying a lot of weight even for his 6’1” frame, and he just recovered from his first heart attack. The experience of going through a major life changing scare like a heart attack inspired him to want to have a “Men Only “week with his two sons.

“Well, I tell you this,” said my brother as he blew the smoke from the last drag of his cigarette before flicking the butt in the yard as we stood on the back porch, discussing our misgivings about the trip we reluctantly agreed to. “If the old man dies on this trip” he said as he looked at me and grinned,” YOU’LL have to dig the hole!”

I wasn’t happy about that. By this point, Dad was tipping the scales at 327 pounds.

It was going to have to be a huge hole…

We were flying in a Buddy-Holly-Memorial-Death-Plane, travelling from the Vancouver Airport-Bar n’ Grille-Bait Shop to our destination.

I HATE flying, especially flying in a rattle trap that had been originally used for barnstorming two months after the Wright brothers flew at Kitty Hawk. I had started drinking in the bar, and I was drinking on the plane, and I planned to continue drinking until this horrible nightmare was over. We had been barely scraping over treetops, an unending canopy of green, for an hour and a half before the shaking, burping collection of flattened tin cans riveted together in the shape of the plane literally fell out of the sky in a stomach churning drop and unceremoniously bounced three times onto a makeshift runway, a piece of tarmac that I’m sure would’ve been perfect for drug traffickers, before grinding to a break burning, screeching halt.

Dad, ever the Marine, looked at me and started giving orders. “You grab the booze,” he told me before turning to my brother. “Mike, you grab the tent and the sleeping bags. I’ll grab the gear and the food.”

We unloaded everything and stood on the runway beside the plane as the pilot gave us our last instructions before taking off again.

“Okay, gentlemen! I am going to take off now, and I will be back to pick you up in five days. There is nothing around you but forest for about four hundred miles in any direction. Good luck, and good fishing!”

We stood back as the pilot managed to get the coughing, hacking wreck rolling back down the runway and, as the pile of garbage with a propeller miraculously left the ground, my father said, softly to himself but loud enough that Mike and I could hear: “Oh no.” My brother and I immediately locked eyes, knowing that everything we feared about this trip was about to begin at that moment.

“What do you mean: ‘Oh no?” I asked.

Dad looked at the pile of gear and supplies, then looked back to catch the flying rattle trap disappearing over the tree tops.

“I left the food on the plane” he said.

……………………………………..

Evening: The First Night

The tent is up. The fire is going. My brother and Dad have almost finished off the first of five cases of beer, while I am heavily into a bottle of bourbon; the first of six I insisted we bring along. Dad had a long stick, and with a military bayonet, was busy whittling the end of it into a fine point.

“What are you doing?” asked Mike.

“Making a bear stick” Dad replied.

“What in the hell is a bear stick?” asked my brother incredulously.

“There are bears all over these woods,” Dad explained. “The Indians in this area used to protect themselves from bear attacks with sticks just like these.”

Even in the slightly drunken state I was in, I knew that my brother knew that everything that my Father had just said was crap. Nevertheless, he went into the woods and got a stick, sat back down beside my Dad, and started whittling his own bear stick.

I took another swig of bourbon.

We were doomed…

Beer and A Bonfire

We were much younger, and poor as church mice; so any invite we got for free food and beer was always met with much glee and gratitude.
Some long-time good friends invited us over for a kegger and burgers. It was a starry full-mooned October night; we were hungry and had maybe five bucks between us, so burgers and beer sounded like a banquet to us.
Off we went then…

When we arrived, the party was in full swing, we were handed red Solo cups brimming with some cheap-ass beer; that at the time, tasted like manna.
We milled around with a bunch of our friends from room to room; because that’s how it was back then… a different party in every room.

For October, it was still a warmish night, but there was the obligatory huge bonfire out back. After having shared my first and only hit of blotter acid in my life with the huzbund, we adjourned to the back yard; where I sat down on a log near the fire.
I’m basking in the warmth, marveling over the full moon that was rippling 62 ways from Sunday, when WHOOOOOOSH!  A blast of hot air knocked me backward; flat on my back, and I never felt a thing. Next thing I know, people are helping me to my feet, carrying me to the bathroom; inspecting me from head to toe. I had no idea what the hell was happening, and I’m yelling at them, “I’m fine… I’m fine!”
“Um..em..er.. you don’t look fine,” they chimed in unison. That was when someone faced me toward the mirror over the sink.
I had no eyebrows, my hair was singed, and the only place on my face that wasn’t black was behind my glasses. I looked like a raccoon from the pits of Hell.

Upon further investigation by some of the more pissed off members of that particular soiree’, it was revealed some rocket scientist had tossed a full can of beer into the fire.

Trust me.. they never let me forget years later…. “Hey! Remember the night Sparky got blowed up?”

Royal Pains

(Note from Modesty: I actually had to do research for this, because I truly don’t give a rat’s arse about the Hapsburgs…er, I mean Windsors)
I don’t understand the American obsession with royals, particularly the British royal family. Didn’t we fight a war to get away from these people? Anyway, the attraction escapes me.  I sort of liked Princess Diana; she was a young woman who was far prettier than horse-faced and grim Princess Anne (do not send me comments chastising me how she’s the hardest working royal…she still looks like Trigger’s sister.) And the jewelry IS fabulous, I’ll give them that.

Kate Middleton seemed like a fun, care-free young lady and then she married Prince Will; now she is the epitome of the perfect Consort-to-Be, still lovely, but the spark that made her likable and approachable seems to have been surgically removed. She’s now the mother of 3 young children, patroness of lord knows how many charities, and now the subject of palace intrigue and scandals…did Wills and Harry have a disagreement? Is she fighting with Harry’s new wife? Does the Queen favor Meghan over Kate now? The tabloids are a-twitter over all of this.
So why do we care? Many point to Meghan Markle, the American actress who married Prince Harry (aka “The Spare”) as the latest reason. Now, I don’t care one way or another that she’s a divorcee, or bi-racial, but the relentless press is reaching ridiculous levels. Did any President’s daughter ever get this kind of coverage? Not in recent times that I can think of…I guess maybe the Bush twins and their shenanigans got coverage for their antics of acting like normal teenagers, instead of the Nixon princesses.
Regardless, it’s just a matter of days, maybe minutes, before Baby Sussex arrives and the hysteria amps up to another level. Will the baby be a boy or a girl, have a traditional name or African one, be raised by a nanny, be a Duke/Baron/Earl upon birth…you get the drift.
And you won’t be able to escape it.

Wild Man – Genesis

By: George Palczynski aka Wild Man

Prelude A (major):
My name is George Palczynski. I am an initiate to WTF?!. It is by the generous impulses of both Sparky, and Modesty, that I am here. I thank them both.

Prelude B (minor): Manual For Human Behavioral Sciences: Vol 4: Sec:21 Article 214: Dweebyness is cause for ostracization.
Ref: ” How 2B Dweeb Free For Life
#14. Never ever pick a nickname for yourself… it’s pathetic
#15. Never ever, EVER claim a rep for yourself… it’s pathetic

In The Beginning

The Proprietress had invited me to participate at WTF?!. The message began with the salutation: “Hey, wild man. Would you…”

She had me at ‘wild man’.

I’ve no doubt that Sparky knows next to nothing about me. She could not possibly even have suspected she was massaging cool a hot raw nerve. From the time, the moment, I’d given up childish things I had wanted to be a ‘wild man’… of some sort. You know, of the kind of man who’d had a long apprenticeship as ‘bad boy’ and now knew the ropes… and all the knots… and all the “spots”.

Now it’s possible that Sparky had some other allusions in mind in using “wild man”. But I can’t imagine a one. Well no, I can imagine one come to think of it – a carnival freak/geek biting the heads off cute little ducklettes. Uhh uhhh! No way – she meant what I’d heard. I’m laying 100 to 1. Until she dissuades and disillusions me, to my satisfaction… I am wild man, endowed with a new persona. It will take getting used to.

Now, there’s a backstory to this new demigod. If you know some of it you may understand better my good spirits over my new rep.

During the interminable blah, blah, blahs of school-time lectures, I would wander over to the margins of my notes and write, in my best cursive – as was the wont of boys and girls for millennia – the name of my ‘crush’. But it was not the name of a girl; AND NO, not a guy. My crush was my one and only aspiration. I’d fallen for the idea of being a… wait …Louche Scoundrel. I’d even heard tell of a School For Scoundrels. That would have been a Master’s degree worth pursuing.

Now what terrible ordeal was there behind such a strange desire? None. It’s just one of those DNA molecule clusters that found a nest to rest in what happened to be… my mind. That’s my theory.

Now understand, my life was not a hermit nerd’s. The girls all thought me good company. I was blessed/cursed with a benign popularity but there was never any heat from their direction; you know what I’m getting at – yes? What heat there was, well, it was all mine. Never had their cheeks flushed, no nervousness, no scanning for an escape route. What I wanted was to have the Count Vronsky Effect on females whereby they feared their own propensities when in precarious propinquity to me. I wanted very much to be every female’s Svengali; and have every female my Trilby. I wanted to be the guy females hate themselves for falling for. So that was what had driven me to pledge to my gray sad brain that I would become a rake for all seasons and times.

Why sad… gray sad brain? Well, up until I’d resolved myself to becoming Wild Man-Louche Scoundrel-Rake, I was – this took some effort to recall – I was… let’s start at the beginning:

“Georgy Porgy “Bubbles”.”Yogi”, “Curly”, “Sweets”, “Jerzy”, “Hoagie”, “Hootie”. “ChooChoo” “L.G.”, “C.T.”, “Big G”, “Tootsie Wootsie”, then, inexplicably, “Tootsie Whoopsie” (don’t ask – I’m not tellin’). Not all at once, of course, but serially. Each one of them being much as markings on a doorway denoting growth spurts. At his point, I believe, it would be entirely appropriate to interject – WTF?! I really hadn’t thought I’d had THAT many nicks. The last two had been hatched in the fertile minds of females (don’t ask – I’m not tellin’).
Not a hint of ‘wild man’ anywhere in all that, right? Particularly annoying was Tootsie Wootsie/Tootsie Whoopsie (don’t ask – I’m not tellin’). The one that had gams and had never vexed me at all was “Big G”. It had attached itself to me with good will and had to it a literal bonhomie spirit. It was a riff off an ad campaign for General Mills Cereals – The Big G on the box stood for goodness, they said. That was me… then. Now, now, I am wild man. Live with it – I will. This is going to be one hell of a ride from here on.

The Wind-Up

All the consternation, the wishing, praying, hoping, and… here again…WTF?! Just two words out of the mouth of a babe and voila – my aspiration was no longer beyond my reach, it was clutched in my clenched fist. Now I have only to care that I not get carried away and become insufferable.

Thank You Sparky, twice trebled!