Friday, January 30, 2009

Photo Friday


Home made by Mark, from scratch.
Blueberry Muffins.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Mark's Treasure Island

Mark has been bugging me for a year to go out to Ikea with him. It apparently is some kind of shopping nirvana that satisfies shopaholics the way free porn on the internet excites sex addicts. Ikea is a store that sells inexpensive, knocked down furniture, that you take home and put together yourself. In other words it is the worst of both worlds for me, shopping and do it yourself projects.

After a white knuckle ride on the interstate, a gleeful Mark pulled up to the huge blue and yellow Ikea building, as excited as a kid seeing Disney World for the first time. Our first stop was the Ikea food court, which is really no more than a high school cafeteria without the high school. On Marks suggestion I had the Swedish meatballs and mashed potatoes. Disgusting! How could a guy who cooks such great dinners for me, think this glop was good? After I choked down my lunch we set off into the vast clutter of the Ikea showroom. The first area was full of some cute looking sofas. When I got up close and sat on a few of them, I realized that they were not only very cheaply constructed, but that they were built for very small people. I think maybe the Swedes were given some bad information about Americans, and thought we were a nation of midgets. We are not, we are a nation of fat asses and we need much larger places to park that lard than the dainty little sofas at Ikea.

As we continued on I understood why Mark was impressed with the place. It wasn't so much the merchandise as the way it was displayed. Little apartments mocked up from all the cheap crap that they sell, put together in a very attractive way. Cheap, cheesy, cabinets, and other products, combined into cute looking kitchens, with bric-a-brac displayed all around. As interesting as that might be for Mark, I reached my window shopping limit within fifteen minutes, and started looking for the exit. This is where the Ikea marketing department showed their genius. Each sign pointing the way to the exits, was actually pointing me on to the next showroom, where I would be exposed to more of Ikea's stuff. I wouldn't be shown the actual real exit until I had been led through the whole building, exposed to the most product possible. I was a rat in a trap. When we finally found our way to the exit, Mark pulled out a brochure he had secretly been carrying. It was the official Ikea map showing the tortuous route we had taken. I know why he was hiding it, the bastard knew I'd have bolted if I had known I'd be on a shopping safari.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Grrrrreat !!

I was never a picky eater. I would eat just about anything my mom put on the table, unless it was her infamous dish called 'Shipwreck', an unpalatable collection of ground beef, tomato soup, canned peas, and half cooked, sliced potatoes in a casserole configuration. I still shudder when I think of it. that's why Mark loves to cook for me. I will eat almost anything he puts out, even if I don't particularly love it. He knows that he will get an honest opinion of his cooking from me. One thing that amazes Mark is that I will eat last nights leftover dinner for breakfast. He believes in the traditional breakfast foods, cereal, eggs, pancakes, etcetera. To me, food is food.

As a kid, I usually ate cereal for breakfast. This was in the days when pre-sweetened cereals were rare in our house because my dad believed he was saving money by not buying it. To sweeten the cereal I would take my Cheerios, and heap sugar on them until I had replicated the snow covered Alps right there in the bowl. As the sugar slowly dissolved into the milk, it would sink to the bottom, and after powering through the Cheerios, I would have a delicious half inch layer of partially dissolved sugar left that I would then suck down. After that nutritious breakfast I would run off to school, all hopped up on sugar, only to crash two hours later and fall asleep at my desk.

Another favorite cereal of mine was Quaker Puffed Rice, which was basically made up of air surrounded by a thin skin. I liked it because it would float on top of the milk, and I would pile even more sugar on to weigh it down, leaving even more of the sweet stuff on the bottom of the bowl. If my dad had only known how much sugar I piled on that cereal, I am sure he would have stocked up on the Sugar Smacks, and Frosted Flakes more often, but I probably would have put sugar on those too.

Monday, January 26, 2009

Bibbidi-Bobbidi-Boo

I was walking down the aisle at Best Buy, and I stopped and asked, "Do you have anything that plays cassette tapes?". The kid looked at me like his grandfather had just dropped in for a visit. I could have asked, "Do you have a Victrola that plays wax cylinders?", and got the same reaction. “Everything we have is on the shelf.” he said, and wandered off. On the shelf were these things that looked a little like speakers with a slot for plugging in an ipod. Once again technology has shoved me aside and sped right past.

When I was a kid the technology was simple. My sister, brother, and I, shared a little record player that was no more than a turntable with a speaker. On that record player we would spin our collection of red, and yellow, children’s records, including ‘Old MacDonald’, and my favorite, ‘Bibbidi-Bobbidi-Boo’ from Disney’s Cinderella. The only problem was that we didn’t have a proper needle for playing records so we found a small nail on my dad’s work bench and used that. The nail tended to skip so we rectified that problem by taping a nickel on top of the tone-arm. You could actually see the vinyl being shaved off of the record as it ground away under the “needle”. By the time I was about five years old, all of our records sounded like they had been recorded by Edison himself, lots of static with bibbidi-bobbidi-boo, barely audible in the background.

I guess I will have to give in to progress and eventually get myself an ipod or some other mp3 player. I’ll have to download all my music off of Amazon.com, but something about it just doesn’t feel right. I miss reading the back of the big LP’s, and the cover art. Even the cassettes and the CD’s had inserts and tiny little cover art. You just can’t replace something like the cover of The Rolling Stones, Sticky Fingers, with some downloaded picture that you printed out on your inkjet. By the way, I went to BestBuy.com, and although I couldn’t find a Victrola, they do have cassette decks for us old farts. Five to be exact, out of 227 results for my stereo inquiry.

Friday, January 23, 2009

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Dead Voters and My Breakfast

In November 1960 I was ten years old, and my friend Jimmy and I were asked by a neighbor if we wanted to help campaign for John Kennedy. Of course we did, Kennedy and I were members of the same club, the Catholic Church. So like good little soldiers we went around with red, and white flyers under our arms, knocking on doors in our mostly Republican town. The one thing I remember about that day is going home to see my newborn baby sister Lisa, just home from the hospital, with red ink staining my hands from the flyers. A couple of months later, for the first time in my life, I watched the inauguration of a president. Hooray, our guy won, albeit with the help of a few dead folks voting from the grave in Chicago.

Mark claims that he wasn't for Barack Obama at first, that he was a John Edwards fan, and right up until yesterday he continued to be a hard ass, constantly pointing out the flaws in Obama. The truth is that the election of Barack Obama has meant a lot to Mark. The reason I know this is because when Mark is happy he cooks. This morning I heard the clanging of pots and pans in the kitchen, and the unmistakable smell of food. Mark never cooks breakfast, but this morning he couldn't contain himself, and as a result I was served one of the best omelet's I have ever eaten.

Up until today, I have never seen an inauguration as anticipated as this one. The only thing I can compare it to was the inauguration of Kennedy, and still Kennedy's pales by comparison. I hope Obama does a good job, but I am not holding my breath waiting for Mark to make me breakfast all the time. Not even President Obama can make him that happy.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Hey, I'm Walkin' Over Here!

I have become a pedestrian and a passenger. After forty years of driving, and putting twenty five to thirty five thousand miles on the odometer per year, I was forced to stop driving a few years ago because of my failing eyesight. It didn't come easy, I had to run over a bicyclist, kill a poor little kitty cat, and smash into a few cars before I gave in and stopped driving. I figured it was a good idea before I came home one day and found a wheelchair or a Smart Car wedged up under the bumper.

My travel life now consists mostly of walking, begging rides, and the occasional public transportation. It's not so bad, waiting for the bus gives you a lot of time to think. Unfortunately, I have plenty of time for that since I retired, and any extra time for thinking is just redundant pondering of what I will eat for dinner tonight or what time I will have my first cocktail. I do spend a lot of time watching television and one of my favorite programs is 'Top Gear', a British show featuring three morons who test high powered cars, and stage various stunts in which they trash used cars. It really makes me yearn for the days when I could drive like a moron with the rest of the insane South Florida drivers. The only difference is that I never had the expensive high powered cars, I pretty much had to stick to the cheaper ones.

This has inspired me, and I think I have an idea for owners of automobile race tracks across America. Blind drivers day! Open up the speedway to the visually impaired who can't drive on normal public streets, one night a month. Imagine Stevie Wonder flying around the track, racing against the Governor of New York. You could have different classes based on your percent of visual impairment. For instance my sister who only has one eye, the left one, could be in a class of racers who only do left turns around the oval. I have lost fifty percent of my vision, mostly peripheral, and I think it would really be fun to enter a demolition derby. Imagine the fun of not knowing which direction the next collision was coming from, and no kitty cats would be harmed.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Goofus, Gallant, and G'Alan, Go To Palm Springs

When I was a kid, I spent plenty of time at the doctors office reading 'Goofus and Gallant' in Highlights Magazine, to know right from wrong, and good manners from bad manners. However, I am neither Goofus nor Gallant, I am somewhere in between. Let's say I am G'Alan. Where Goofus would bring his screaming, crying, unruly children onboard an airplane, without any regard to the other paying passengers, Gallant would drive the little bastards to Disney World in his own car. G'Alan, on the other hand would just duct tape their mouths shut, then use the rest of the tape to secure them in their seats for the entire flight. I hate flying on a plane with crying babies and children running up and down the aisle. I already subsidize their education through my taxes, I don't think I should also be sealed up in a large aluminum tube for five hours and subjected to all the horrors of parenthood that I have carefully avoided.

When Goofus is going through a doorway in a public space, he lets go of the door and lets it slam in the face of the little old lady behind him. Gallant, sees the old lady twenty feet away and stands there like a doorman holding it open, while she slowly moves towards the door. G'Alan walks through a door, and if you appear to be healthy, have all your limbs, and are more than five feet away, assumes you are capable of opening and closing your own doors. I now know that not all people agree with me. Last Friday in Palm Springs, I was called out for not holding the door for a perfectly healthy, younger man, who was at least five feet away. As he walked by, he "thanked" me in a sarcastic tone, "for holding the door". I probably lost out on a big tip.

In my final scenario, Goofus is drunk and stumbling around yelling at people for taking his bar stool. Gallant, politely asks all the patrons up and down the bar, if somebody is sitting in the empty bar stool before sitting down. G'Alan, sees an empty bar stool with nothing on the bar in front of it, and sits down, ignoring the drunken asshole ranting about his bar stool being stolen, and orders a vodka/soda, tall, no fruit.

Friday, January 16, 2009

Photo Friday

Saturday, January 10, 2009
Idylwild, California. I was feeling Bearish.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

California Quick Step

In the early 1900's, a woman named Mary, or Typhoid Mary as she came to be known, infected forty seven people of which three died.

In 1975, Flu Bug Alan, went on vacation to San Francisco, even though I knew I was coming down with something. For one week I went out sightseeing, and to the gay clubs, and I did all the fun things that you only could do back in the 1970's, all the while sweating out a fever and wracked with diarrhea. I infected my host, and hundreds of the good folks of San Francisco. I will not be denied my vacation.
My recent trip to Palm Springs, California started out just fine. I was met at the airport by my host Dennis, and whisked away to an evening of drinking at a local bar. I am not sure if it was the chicken salad sandwich I had before I got on the plane to California, or if it was the water, but the next day while taking the twenty minute tram ride up the side of the mountains, I got the 'urge'. As usual when I am in a place where the toilets are iffy, I clamped down hard and figured we could do our sightseeing, take the tram back down, and then unclamp when I got back to Dennis' apartment. This worked out fine, and though the seal on the clamp started to slip as I ran into the apartment, I did make it okay.

Unfortunately, for the next twenty four hours I seemed to become more familiar with toilets than I did Palm Springs. Before I was finally able to bring the whole episode under control with a heavy dose of Imodium, I had to visit toilets in restaurants, bars, and gas stations, besides the hourly visit to the one at the apartment. It did slow my itinerary down a little bit, but it did not stop me. I hope I didn't infect too many people while I was out there, but I didn't buy a plane ticket to spend my whole trip sick in bed. I will not be denied.

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Video Thursday

Abandoned Pet Rescue is a no kill shelter where I volunteer to walk dogs twice a week. They are hurting for donations right now, and by donations I don't mean more dogs.



Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Bon Voyage

In the past, when I would pull out my suitcase to pack for a trip, my dog Molly would start moping around. She would continue to pout, even after my return, until the evil thing was unpacked and stored away out of her sight. The worst was when Mark and I both were leaving, because Mark insists on packing as if he were a wealthy dowager leaving for a six month cruise to Europe on the Queen Mary. Chandler hasn't experienced us packing up and leaving him behind yet, so he won't mind if I take my time packing for my trip to Palm Springs, California, to visit Dennis.

I am mightily confused by What the TSA (Transportation Security Administration) will allow me to take with me in my carry-on bag. I have gone to the TSA web site and I am very relieved to see that meat cleavers and hand grenades are not allowed, but I can bring a seven inch long screwdriver with me into the airplane cabin. I am pretty sure that a box cutter, which isn't allowed, has only a half inch or less blade on it, yet a seven inch screwdriver, which I have clumsily stabbed myself with in the past, is just waved on through. I feel safer already.

The last time I traveled, the TSA confiscated my brand new can of shaving cream, and my Almay Gel deodorant. I understand why this is. A terrorist could easily attack the pilot, squirting shaving cream into his eyes, while simultaneously jamming a stick of deodorant down his throat. Of course the way the terrorist would get into the cockpit would be by unscrewing the hinges on the door with his seven inch screwdriver.

I should be writing my stories of the glories of California by next Wednesday. In the meantime, I have a cute video for tomorrow, and who knows, I might post a couple of photos of my trip while I'm out in California, so check back.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Oh, And Don't Play On The Railroad Tracks

In 1949 my parents bought a house in Tinley Park, Illinois. The house was a cookie cutter, cape cod style, plopped down in the middle of a former corn field, along with about a hundred others. The best part about it were the woods that abutted the subdivision. It was the best playground any kid could want, full of trees, a creek, a sledding hill, railroad tracks, and an occasional hobo, which my mother would always warn us about. That was another good thing about those times, our mother didn't put many restrictions on us despite the hobo dangers.

While exploring with my older brother one day, deep in the woods we found a small cabin built by the hobos out of old railroad timbers. To a little kid, it seemed to be the coolest thing, and for one summer we made that our hangout. Every day we would drag our lunch and camping supplies out to that cabin, and defend it from other kids who also had an eye on it. One of the funkier aspects of the cabin was the 'pee corner'. You see when my brother or I had to take a pee, we would step over to the designated corner and let it fly. Naturally over a period of time that corner got to be a bit ripe, and after a while we seemed to play outside and on top of the cabin in the fresh air, much more than inside. There was one other rule to the pee corner, and that was that girls weren't allowed to use it. They had to go outside in the bushes, and if they didn't bring any tissue paper, they had to use a suitable leaf off of the shrubbery. This resulted in my sister quickly learning what poison ivy and poison oak looked like.

Yes we had a lot of fun in those woods. I understand it has been turned into a park now, and all of the risk has been taken out of my childhood playground. Not even a few hobos to scare the crap out of the little kiddies.

Monday, January 5, 2009

My New Years Stupor (It's not from alcohol)

In 1968 NBC decided to break away from a New York Jets, Oakland Raiders football game so that they could start their made for TV movie, 'Heidi', on time. In the one minute that was left of the game that nobody saw on TV, the Raiders came from behind and beat the Jets. Now I wasn't a Jets or Raiders fan, but I knew that I hated the story of Heidi, and more specifically the original version starring Shirley Temple. There are sweet little girls, and then there is Shirley Temple, who is so sweet and cloying that your teeth will rot just watching her. Thankfully, they don't break away from football games anymore, at least not for some snotty kids movie.

I had to finally get up out of the big fluffy chair on Sunday, and do something besides watch football. Since New Years Eve, I think I have watched all, or portions of, a dozen games. I started New Years Day watching the Rose Parade on my new HD television, followed by three football games in a row. By the time I was halfway through the Rose Bowl game, my eyes had glazed over, saliva was running out of the corner of my mouth, and Mark was trying to slap me back into reality. On Sunday I was watching my third NFL playoff game, when I realized that if I didn't get up and do something besides watch football, my ass might become one with the fluffy chair and Mark would have to call 911 to come pry said ass out of it.

I think it's the new television that has got me hooked on so much football this year. Thank god I have my dog Chandler. He at least gets me out and moving when we go walkies every evening. I have got it down to a science, and when need be, I can get him out and around the block during halftime.