Wednesday, January 30, 2008

You Never Know Who You Will Meet

Years ago I lived in a small West Texas city and worked a residential facility for mentally handicapped adults which was twenty-five miles out of town. I had a bad Dr. Pepper habit in those days and had to get a fix every morning the same way a lot of people have to have their coffee. In order to feed my fix, I stopped almost every morning at a convenience store about half way between my home and work.

The convenience store was in a little community and was frequented by a certain cast of characters. There was Neon Leon, the store manager and the only black person for at least twenty miles. There was a guy who bought dozens of scratch-off lotto tickets at a time and kept the table in the booth where he sat covered in silver plastic confetti. I called him the Gambler. There were a couple of guys who had invested heavily in ostriches and sat around talking about the $30,000 a pair they had spent on their birds and how much money they would make when the birds started reproducing. I called them the Birdmen of Grape Creek (the name of the town where the store was).

I never knew what would be going on in the store. One morning, I walked in to find a birthday party being held for one of the hairdressers who worked next door. I guess that they couldn't find a birthday cake because they had put a candle in a huge cheeseburger at 7:30 am.

One morning I walked in to see an old man leaning over a woman's baby and talking about how she should raise him and what kind of things she should teach him. The mom did not look too happy about the situation. The old man was wearing green jeans, an old sport coat and something on his head that at one time probably had been a fedora. It was a little too crusty and mishapen for me to be sure.

On the table at the nearest booth was an old brief case which was open to display a lot of old magazine and newspaper clippings from the 1960s and '70s. They mostly featured people like Jackie Kennedy, Jane Russell, Howard Hughes, etc.

As I paid for my drink, Neon Leon asked me to take that old guy to work with me since the consenscus was that he problably belonged there. I declined.

The next day one of the Bird Men, who also worked where I did, told me that the old guy had kept hanging around the store until Leon got fed up with him and called the law. When the deputy got there and started questioning the guy, he opened his brief case and pulled out a cashier's check for two million dollars. The deputy could not find any reason to arrest him so he didn't.

Here are the lyrics to the song I wrote about it. This is who the man claimed to be.

I saw Howard Hughes at the C&W Store
When I stopped to get my caffeine
He had a briefcase full of old magazine pictures
And he tried to tell us all just what life means
He kept hanging around there until someone called the cops
He showed them a check for two mill
They did not arrest him, they just told him to move on
I think he’s somewhere out there still
On the edge of a highway
Real close to the line
Trying not to step over
Waiting for a ride.

I’ve been reading Walt Whitman
Sitting here in the park
Waiting for the flowers that bloom in the dark
If you want to see them you have to have some light
So I’m wearing my sunshades here in the night
I’m thinking in circles
Going nowhere
Sometimes I fell like I’m standing out there
On the edge of a highway
Real close to the line
Trying not to step over
Waiting for a ride.

Back there behind me now
The sky is turning red
Sunsets never last too long
Like some old movie that’s playing in my head
It fades to black and then it’s gone
I’ve been living in limbo
It’s getting crowded in here
Sometimes I feel like I’m standing out there
On the edge of a highway
Real close to the line
Just about to step over
Waiting for a ride

I saw Howard Hughes at the C&W store.

I think this happened in 1992 or 1993. All reports of Howard Hughes' death are dated 1976. The guy was OLD, but I don't know that he was that old. The family of one of my coworkers owned an answering service and he opened an account with them. They got to know him a little bit and said that he knew a lot of things about the Hughes family that were not widely known so he had to have had some connection. (I don't recall how they knew these things.)

Play theme to the Twilight Zone here.

Monday, January 28, 2008

The Last Hours of Ancient Sunlight

I just finished reading The Last Hours of Ancient Sunlight by Thom Hartmann. Finishing it took a little effort on my part. The first third of the book details our current world situation in regard to the world oil supply, how we are running out of it and how the consumption of their entire supply of fuel and food ultimately led to the downfall of all past empires on this planet and how we as a society are following in their foot steps. It was so full of gloom and doom that I put the book down for several days. All through this section of the book, Hartmann states that he will get around to making suggestions as to how we can avoid the very ruin he seems to be predicting so I took him at his word and picked it up again. I am so glad that I did.

The tone of the book begins to shift about half way through as he chronicles the lives of indigenous people and their ancient knowledge of themselves in relation to their environments. Then he begins to talk about what worked for these peoples and how we may be able to incorporate some of their knowledge and outlooks into our lives. No, he doesn't necessarily mean going back to nature and living off the land with no modern conveniences. Instead, he talks about changing our view of our own relationships with the world around us, including our relationships with each other.

My bottom line: Get brave and read the book. Don't skip over the Afterward written by Neale Donald Walsh.

Soundtrack: Joni Mitchell's Big Yellow Taxi

cross posted at Things I Put in My Head

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

A Vegan in the Meat Market

"I'm going vegan," says the thin young man behind the butcher counter as he weighs a portion of meat. "I guess that's kinda weird since I work in the meat department."

"It's a good thing for the environment," replies the customer, a middle aged man with graying almost shoulder length hair. "Do you have a juicer?"
"No," the youngster replies.

"You really need a good juicer," states the customer. "N.....s are the best ones. I have had mine forever. It's 40 years old and I can't get it fixed any more. You really need one. Do you have one?" he asks the young mother behind me. She has a little girl by the hand and a smaller one in a sling around her neck and shoulders.

"There, that's the future," says the woman who is just ahead of me in line, nodding at the children. Their mother looks self-conscious and the little girl just looks confused.

"Those are great shoes, " I tell the little girl. Her eyes light up as she smiles. Her shoes look like they are made of gold glitter.

"Say thank you," the mother instructs her. She does. I'm trying to distract Juicer Man but no such luck. He goes on and on about the juicer. The mother asks about its price.

"You can look on the internet and get one for under a thousand dollars," says Juicer Man.

"How much are they new?" she asks again.

"Oh, about twenty-five hundred."

"For that, it would have to clean my house, walk my dog and chauffeur me around town," I say. (I'm thinking that it would also have to provide me with orgasms on demand but there are children present so I don't say it.)

Juicer Man tells Vegan Boy that he also wants some chicken and keeps on talking about the juicer and the environment, his comments apparently intended for Young Mother.

"I've stopped cooking," says the woman in front of me. I'm eating just about everything raw."
I wonder why she is buying meat but I don't say anything.

"I am almost vegetarian," she goes on. "I just eat chicken and not much of that anymore. It is a long road."

Salmonella anyone?

Young Mother and I are making eye contact and trying not to laugh.

Juicer Man tells Vegan Boy that he also wants some salmon.

Lady in Front of Me says that she has seen the head guy from the market with his girlfriend. They were making out. She does not say where or when this occurred and I don't ask. She might say she was looking in their windows and I don't want to know that.

Juicer Man gets his salmon and says that will be all for now. He moves on still talking about the environment.

Lady in Front of Me takes Vegan Boy to the far end of the counter. I guess she is getting cold cuts. That's a relief.

Vegan Boy asks who is next. I raise my hand. He comes back to my end of the counter. Remembering when I had to take four kids to the grocery store, I turn to Young Mother and ask if she would like to go next. I'm not in a hurry today.

After a discussion about why the sale price that she was expecting is no longer in effect, she gets her chicken and leaves. I wonder if she only got half as much as she intended.

Vegan Boy turns to me and I tell him that I want five pounds of chicken.

"Twenty-five?" he jokes.

"Five," I say, holding up five fingers.

"Six?" he asks.

I tell him that the vegan thing is affecting his math skills.

"Being vegan is good for you. It helps you lose weight, too. I want to have a six pack by summer," he says.

Did I mention that this boy is thin?

He weighs me out seven pounds of chicken. "Did you say five pounds or five breasts?" he asks.

"I'll just take what you have on the scales," I say. He wraps it up and thanks me for putting up with his lousy math skills.

As I push my cart into the check out line I hear the clerk at the next register over saying that yes, she has read the Four Agreements.

"It's the best book. Everybody should read it. It's good for the environment," says Juicer Man.

"She went to get her bags," says the clerk in my lane to the bagger. "She left them in her car."
Here comes Lady in Front of Me. "I just feel better when I have my own bags,' she says as she hands them to the bagger.

I'm still trying not to laugh. In fact, I am thoroughly enjoying my trip to the grocery store. I keep thinking that I am having a truly South Austin experience and I am savoring every minute of it.

Soundtrack for this post: Bagger by Michael McNevin.

More on Meyers

At this rate, I may have to rename this blog The Meyer Blog. I received a little bit of cash for Christmas and used part of of it to buy the meyer lemon tree that I had been wanting for some time. The tree has a very large fruit on it that is ripening nicely as well as several blooms and buds. I am not getting meyers at the farmers market right now but the upscale grocery store near me still has them.

I wanted to make a pie without using sweetened condensed milk so I did some research online and found a recipe that I modified. It was really, really good so I thought I'd share it.

Of course, you will need a prebaked pie crust. You can use your own recipe for it. Mine has vinegar and egg in it. I'll post it if anyone wants it.


2/3 cup sugar
1/4 cup flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup water
3/4 cup water
1/3 to 1/2 cup meyer lemon juice. (The meyers I have been getting are huge so I used the juice of one and it was at least this much.)
Zest from one lemon
3 eggs, separated

Beat the egg yolks and set them aside.

In a sauce pan, combine sugar, flour and salt, Make sure to mix them thoroughly before adding 1/4 cup water. Mix until the sugar is pretty much dissolved and make sure there are no lumps in the flour. Add the 3/4 cup of water and bring the mixture to a boil stirring constantly. Continue to cook and stir for about 5 minutes at which time the mixture will be thick and slightly brown indicating that the flour has been cooked. I used a whisk to do the stirring and kept it moving pretty fast.

Temper the eggs by adding some of the hot mixture in the pan to them. I do this by dipping out what my whisk will hold and whisking it into the eggs. Doing this twice should bring the eggs up to temp. Then, add the eggs to the hot mixture in the pan and cook it another two to three minutes.

Remove the pan from the burner and add the lemon juice and zest while continuing to whisk it vigorously until it is all combined and smooth. Let the filling cool a little before pouring it into the pie shell.

After it has completely cooled, beat the whites until stiff, add 1 or 2 tbsp sugar. Beat very well at very high speed. You can use cream of tarter if you want. Spread the egg whites onto the cooled pie being sure to bring them all the way to the edge and touch the crust all the way around. Bake at 300 degrees until the white is brown. I saved a little bit of the zest to sprinkle on top of the meringue.

The most difficult part of this process is letting the pie cool completely before you cut into it.

Sound track for this post: Peter, Paul and Mary's Lemon Tree.
(also recorded by Bobby Bare, Trini Lopez, the Brothers Four... but not Fool's Garden.)

Wednesday, January 9, 2008

Meme Time

I have been tagged by Taexalia to answer these questions:

1. What am I reading at the moment?
2. What am I listening to at the moment?
3. What am I watching at the moment?

1. I just finished Micheal Pollen's The Botany of Desire in which he traces the relationship of man to plants and, surprisingly, of plants to man. He does this by exploring four desires (sweetness, beauty, intoxication, and control) through the history and use of four plants ( apple, tulip, marijuana, and potato). Reading this book will surely alter your view of plants. I am also reading Lewis Mel-Madrona's Narrative Medicine. I am a big fan of all his books as he explores the effect of story telling, as well as other shamanic techniques, in healing.

2. I listen to a lot of music that is on the obscure side to put it mildly. David LaMotte, Chuck Brodsky, Christine Kane, Annie Gallup, a lot of Texas artists including Ray Wylie Hubbard, Townes Van Zant, all of the Lost Gonzos in their various configurations, Eliza Guilkison, Jimmy LaFave, Guy Clark. Of the non-obscure side, I've had Stephen Stills Just Roll Tape in my player for a couple of days and I am always up for and CSNY configuration. I also listen to a lot of Abraham-Hicks cds while I'm driving around.

3. Watching? Well, a lot of food TV when we have the set on. Last Sunday, we went to see The Golden Compass and liked it but I think we would have gotten a lot more out of it if we had read the books. I will warn anyone going to see it that it kinda stops in the middle of the story like Lord Of the Rings did.

So, I tag Konagod, Arlene, Angela, Littlepea, and Pam and anyone else who likes this meme.

The Original

The thermometer says it a hundred and eight
Been this way for twelve days straight
Weather man says there's no relief on the way
I don't know what I'm gonna do
I'm just sitting here sweating and feeling so blue
While heaven is only three hours away

I'm Medina day dreaming
I want to go where the water's clear and cool
All day long in the back of my mind I've been scheming
Thinking about how I can get back there with you

There's a rock in the river where the water's so cold
I could just sit there till I grow old
Every time I've been there, the company's been so good
I like sitting and talking with all of my friends
Hoping our time there will never end
I'd be there today, if only I could

and I'm Medina day dreaming
I want to go where the water's clear and cool
All day long in the back of my mind I've been scheming
Thinking about how I can get back there with you

If I have a far away look in my eye
Don't even bother to wonder why
If you ask me, I won't even open my mouth
'Cause even on winter's coldest day
I'll be thinking about getting away
Just waiting for spring when I can be heading down South

I'm Medina day dreaming
I want to go where the water's clear and cool
All day long in the back of my mind I've been scheming
Thinking about how I can get back there with you
Sometimes Medina day dreaming's the only thing that gets me through.

Sorry, I don't have an mp3 to link to. This is one of my earlist songs.

Another song about the same place is Jano's Big Rock
My oldest daughter snapped this shot with a 110 camera as we were leaving one day.

Above the rock, you can see a hole in the cliff from which the rock fell. There are other indentions in the cliff that look like doors into the rock face when viewed driving slowly by or by sitting up on a friend's porch and watching the shadows change as the sun moves across the sky. The Native Americans who inhabitied the area called the place Seven Doors. It is truly a magical place full of wonderful memories and inspiration.