This week in food

When one thinks of food trucks there is a stereotype that lingers over it of bad food and a run to the bathroom later. Although I have had some bad experiences in the past my recent adventures to the food truck rally at Bronson park has been the exact opposite. Two weeks ago, I noticed a few trucks with brisket on their menu and while I am more inclined to buy a taco over anything else, I decided it was time to try something new.
My first stop was to Pig Out BBQ, a blue cart that had several people standing around. This is always a good sign of something being good. I ordered a brisket sandwich and before I was finished paying the paper tray was slid across the counter to me. The meat was cut into half inch pieces and covered in a sweet BBQ sauce. The white bun would not be enough to hold this thing together. With the first bite a good portion of the sandwich fell onto the tray and I had to scoop the leftovers onto the sandwich as I ate. The meat was sweet and tender and if I had known I would be chasing after the little morsels I would have grabbed a fork and tossed the bun aside. For $8 it was pretty good.

My last stop for lunch was Lazy Man Bar-b-que. The cart was built to look like a log cabin with a fenced off smoker attached to the back. The sandwich, going by the same name as the one from Pig Out BBQ, was $10 instead of $8 and yet I saw several people ordering this meal. I placed an order and while I stood to the side, I watched one of these sandwiches come out the window. The meat was cut into long thin strips and folded through the bun. A horseradish sauce was smothered underneath and two choices of BBQ sauce sat on a counter by the window. Those that had been here before grabbed paper towels before leaving with their food. I, being the inexperienced soul who though they knew better, opted out of the paper towels already holding a child and a sandwich in my hands. I put a treatment of sweet BBQ sauce on the sandwich and received a surprise when the horseradish hit my tongue. The meat was cooked to perfection, not too tough but not undercooked either. The layer of fat resting on the top made every bite an even match to the one before. Between the two Lazy Man had the advantage.
That night I didn’t want the usual Taco Bob’s around the corner. I needed something that was old but new, a place I had not been to in a while. The last time I went to Coney Island I was disappointed by a middle-aged couple who thought they owned the damn place and the staff didn’t help dropping everything they were doing to answer questions and correct mistakes that were not theirs. The couple left a bad taste in my mouth and I left hoping they would wander out into traffic and make the world a better place without them. This time around I was second in line and ordered my food in a few seconds after entering the door. This was already a better situation than the last visit. I wasn’t that hungry but I still ordered a New York Dog, Chicago Dog, and the Coney Dog, something one has to order at the second oldest Coney Island in the country. The Chicago Dog is made different every time I go here. The peppers are either sliced or whole. I have never understood the fascination with the Chicago dog, maybe because I’m not from Chicago and I’m not a fan of the city either. Half of the time I’m tempted to throw some ketchup on top just to piss off some passer by that I know will say something. I took my food to go this time and walked down the street passing Fuse a place that opened a few years back doing a form of… well take a guess from the name. the Coney Dog had not changed a bit over the years and the New York dog was just as good as I remembered it, topped with sautéed onions and sour kraut. The Chicago dog still remains a mystery to me.

Saturday started out like may weekends these past couple of years driving out to my father-in-law’s place to do some work on the property. Once the sun was beating down for a few hours I called it quits after I found that the water was still not running in the house. That afternoon I went to Kelsey Block brewing and ordered the burger of the month. This month it was the barnyard burger, beef patty, smoked ham, cheese, and a fried egg. It hit the spot after a long morning of being out in the sun. across the street at Lowry’s I picked up a copy of The Raw and the Cooked by Jim Harrison. I figured if I was going to be doing this food blogging thing again, I should look to the best for how it is done.
Sunday, my wife and I took a trip to Leduc blueberry farm and picked up five pounds of berries. She also bought a jar of blueberry mustard and we each continued to sneak into the kitchen to have a few dipped pretzels while I was cooking brats and burgers on the grill. My appetite got the best of me while I was out shopping and I picked up a few other things along the way; muscles, duck breasts, smoked ham, pig shoulder, and cornish hens. All of these are to be cooked in the coming weeks once recipes are found for them, although I already have some ideas for how those will go.
On the way home from the blueberry farm I picked up a six pack of a beer I had not enjoyed in years, Hacker-Pschorr Weisse. This beer was a favorite of mine ten years back but hard to find and with a higher price tag it wasn’t worth the hunt that would ensue, but there on the shelf it sat and I quickly grabbed it to be my own. I was sad to see the Octoberfest was not available but maybe that will change in a few months. For the sake of cooking Edward Lee style, I bought some Buffalo Trace and hoped to find some recipes or watch some Mind 0f A Chef again to write down the recipes.
It’s Monday and the fridge is filled with leftovers. I won’t be going out any time soon and with the freezer filled I hope to do more of my own cooking in the near future. After all, if I’m going to be doing this food writing thing, I should know what I’m talking about by learning how to cook these things on my own. Nobody likes a critic who can not do the thing he is reviewing. That is the job of the movie critic.

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Golden: part 3

Flying out of Salt Lake City reminded me of the kind of wasteland I was surrounded by. The Great Salt Lake lived up to its name and unfortunately the Dead Sea was already taken. A circular pattern extended out from the lake. I imagined it was salt collection from the sand as the sun evaporated the undrinkable water. The Cathedrals of the Mormon church appeared tiny, insignificant, from up high as the plane tilted showing me the city one last time.
The Seattle airport was a copy of O’Hare with the international signs and matching Starbucks at every corner. Chinese Hanji was added to the European phrases that littered Chicago. As I stepped off the plane, I pulled my cell phone out and turned it on. I sent Nick a Text stating that I had landed and would be waiting for pick up. Luggage pick up was next to the doors where cars pulled up and people jumped inside. I grabbed my bag; thankful it had appeared. In Salt Lake City the crew demanded that bags were checked in. I had heard the nightmares of people losing their bags and wanted to refuse. The stewardess grabbed my bag from me and not wanting to cause a scene I said good bye to it thinking I might never see it again. The plane didn’t look any smaller than the previous one but the crew was paranoid about available space. There was a family on board that made people’s heads turn and I had no idea who they were. The pilot even thanks the so and so family for flying with them and the passengers cheered. I assumed they were some reality tv stars.
As I sat on the bench waiting for my ride, I realized I had no idea what Nick looked like in person. The Skype meetings had grainy pictures and back audio leaving some mystery to who one was talking to. I didn’t know what car to look for or who would be with him. I sat on the bench and waited.
A Jaguar from the 90s pulled up, swerving over two lanes to reach the curb and causing horns to honk. Middle fingers flew and voices yelled only to be muffled by the traffic. I stood up with my one bag and laptop case. The car was a two door and I had not crawled into the back seat of a car like this since I was ten years old.
“Matt! How was your flight. Did they treat you well? Let me get that bag.” Nick took my luggage and tossed it into the trunk. From the window I could see abandoned buildings, strips of road with food chains and the usual pharmacy stores. In the distance there were skyscrapers in strange cubic designs. It reminded me of Blade Runner, without the smog and gloom, but there were Asian people running around with electronic cigarettes so it wasn’t that far off. “We are taking you out for a treat. Doing a proper welcoming party. There is this place with great food called 13 coins. You’ll love it.”
From the outside it looked like any steakhouse from the 80s in my home town, a brown box with hidden windows and a door on the side of the building. Walking inside there was the front desk where people waited for assigned seating or paid their bill. To the right there was a row of chairs with tall backs and the sides wrapped around encasing the person into their own little world. It was an ingenious idea. A couple could sit at the bar, watch their food being made and presented by the chef themselves, and have a private conversation with their chairs facing one another. We sat in a booth.
When I first saw Nick, he was wearing a back jumpsuit with white stripes running down the sides. His car, while it was a Jaguar, was bought second hand and had superglue holding together some of the paneling on the doors. I was starting to question what exactly was going on and wasn’t sure what I should order while looking at the menu.
As I sat across from Nick, I finally got a good look at him. Thick white hair covered his head with a wet shine to it, slicked back with some body left to it. His beard was struggling to keep some of its color, an older Moses appearance with a recent trim keeping any stragglers at bay. His cheeks had a Santa jolliness to them and his belly completed the costume if he chose to wear one during the holidays. The rumble of his voice told people he was a man who wanted to be heard and he never ran out of opinions.
A charcuterie board was ordered for the three of us to share. Sam sat on the end boxing me in the seat and both of us were meant to pay attention when Nick talked. The story of the show was laid out, trying to sell me on an idea that I already knew as if he was practicing his pitch. “Enough of work, we have all week to work on this and I think we will get much accomplished.”
Nick proceeded to ask me what I wanted to see while I was in Seattle and I replied “I want to see Bruce Lee’s grave.” It was the resting place of a man I looked up to most of my childhood and teenage years and for me the pilgrimage would be worth it. There wasn’t much else I knew about Seattle. The short-lived show Dark Angel took place here but I believe it was filmed in Vancouver. There was the Space Needle but I have a fear of heights. I knew little of the Pike’s Market, the Gum wall, and people kept talking about some troll under a bridge. All I wanted was to see the grave of the man himself. It was the least I could do after years of studying Tae Kwon Do, Aikido, Boxing, Judo, and Jujitsu. Those days were over for me but the lessons lived on. “Oh sure, that’s not hard. Only the one place?” I didn’t expect much and figured one drive to a spot for a picture wasn’t too much to ask.
“Do you like Asian women?” Sam asked. “we have some of the hottest Asian women. The city is loaded with them. If that’s your thing you’re going to love it here.”
“this city is loaded with money,” Nick went on. “there is money coming out the ass with Microsoft and Google. You know Bill Gates has a home here. You’ll see it when we drive to Walden.”
I wasn’t interested in money. I wasn’t interested in other people’s money. I had seen my own city become money hungry and start to exclude the working class from their own town. I heard Seattle was starting to do the same thing to their people.
We ate pieces of Salmon and cheese from the board with different styles of crackers. It wasn’t anything I couldn’t get in my own town. “The salmon is caught here. We have streams where you can watch them fishing to their spawning sites. I’m take you to the salmon hatchery so you can see it yourself it’s quite a sight.” Nick continued to sell me the city but after buying my old house I was a tough sell.
“Let’s head back to the house, we have something special waiting for you there.” We left 13 Coins and I squeezed myself into the back seat again. The drive took us over a bridge without towers or cables. It was like we were driving on the water. “the bridge was made out of pontoons. Really remarkable if you ask me. The only one of its kind. Keeps the place scenic. Over there is Bill Gates house.” Nick points to a house on the side of a hill overlooking the bay with large picture windows. I didn’t know if it was his house or not. In the distance was Mount Rainier, the peak was covered by a cloudy haze and the Pacific Ocean disappeared in the distance.
Walden was a cabin style home tucked away from the main street in the middle of town. The surrounding woods was a public park with trails that anyone could travel for a hike or walking their dog. The main floor had a kitchen immediately to the right, a bedroom directly facing the main door, and the living room was a personal gym with old weight equipment from the 1990’s. I know this because I used to own some of the same machines. The living room had picture windows overlooking the woods down toward the stream that ran through it. To one side there were empty book shelves and the other wall had a fireplace that I would later learn had never been used.
Downstairs was where my room would be for the week. A small ten foot by 15-foot room with a twin bed on one wall, a closet filled with someone else’s clothes and a desk I was told I could use. A tiny window looked out into the yard. Next door was Nick’s master bedroom complete with sliding doors to the yard and a large table facing out the windows where he would watch deer come up the house to eat. The back deck had a hot tub that I could use at any time and folding chairs for morning coffee. It was the ultimate bachelor pad.
The opposite end of the basement had a second fireplace and a pool table in the middle of the room. There was a drafting table and large leather chairs that we would sit in for our brain busting sessions. As they showed me around, I found six cans of local beers sitting on the pool table, large twenty-ounce micro brews that I had never heard of.
“I know you’re a beer guy so we decided to introduce you to the good stuff.” Nick was proud of his gift and it didn’t go to waste. I had the distinct feeling he thought it was an alcoholic. That night we talked about the show and the real work would start the next day. The hours of flying starting to hit me and I decided to go to bed and start the day off early. I was determined they would get their money’s worth.

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What NOT to do

I have seen successful start-up restaurants and I have seen the remains of those who thought they could do things in their own way. For starters I will use the Mexican taco place down the street from my house. They started simple and first sold their tacos out of a small food cart hauled around by an old Ford F150. The money they made from that stand went into renovating a building during that project their taco cart was parked in the parking lot still raising money for their project. While this seems smart and the best way to do things it also took them three years to reach their goal. It may have taken time but everything is paid for and everything they make from this point on is profit with no payment to be made to the bank. Equipment and gear were purchased second or third hand from auctions and other outlets at a fraction of the cost if it was new. Let somebody else pay those prices, you know, the poor bastards that have no idea what they are doing. Construction and labor were all DIY with flooring and walls all done by friends and family. There is no secret to how to build your own establishment, it takes hard work and time, two things people don’t want to invest in anymore, instead seeking the easy way out.
Then you have people starting a restaurant with money. The fact they have cash to burn can be the biggest obstacle they will face. There is a brewery downtown that decided years ago that they would extend their establishment and add a restaurant to their building. This place was famous for beer not food and while one could argue that its only natural for them to expand into other things, I would like to point out it is very difficult to make a profit from serving food. Making beer and serving alcohol is the best money maker one can hope for and if you are looking to make more money with that kind of establishment than maybe you should expand the types of drinks you serve.
All the classic mistakes were made with this expansion. Over 3 million dollars was spent on the kitchen alone. For some reason a person with a limitless credit card thought the whole thing should be new. This was also done backwards, installing the kitchen and design then hiring the chef who would be working it. Nobody during this process had experience running a kitchen and yet they were picking the spots to put the stove, fryer, prep station, oven and so on. The flow of the kitchen and the type of food you will be serving are key to having a functioning kitchen.
Next came the hiring of the chef. There were two options in the end. One was a guy who worked for a company who toured the country selling kitchen supplies and showing new businesses how to prepare their meals. This guy had skills that were learned over time. Next you had a guy from California who had a habit of rubbing his noise while sniffing and thought he was the greatest thing on the planet. The daughter of the brewery’s owner thought he was pretty hot herself so you can guess as to who they hired. The coke addict lasted less than a year when they finally realized he had no idea what the hell he was doing. Money started to leak from the business like the Titanic cruising along after hitting the iceberg, the only difference is that they didn’t notice they hit anything and it was self-sabotage.
After 3 million dollars spent, a coke addict was hired for the kitchen, piss poor food was decided to be served, and an inexperienced crew roamed the kitchen the final nail was put into the coffin. Hopcat, a piss poor business with bad service, but for some reason loved by all, moved in across the street. It was game over for the brewery that had everything to offer in that small section of town.
I couldn’t tell you what they were thinking. When the brewery first started it was small, functioning out of a kitchen and serving one keg at a time. The owner used one cooking pot per batch and worked on recipes over the years. He gradually expanded and slowly over time the business grew to epic proportions. This was the Mexican taco cart but with beer. He had done things right the first time but somewhere along the way from the three divorces, national distribution, car collection, or maybe the coke habit, things started to go downhill and he forgot where he had come from. I have heard this story before, hell I lived it in a past life. You start working for a company and everything is going great. They have good benefits, they pay well, treat people with respect and then over time things start to disappear. The benefits are trimmed back, raises are no longer given, vacations are no longer approved and when you say something you are told “be thankful you have a job.” There is a strange business model that everyone follows to their own destruction, expand like a virus until you are dead.
Now why would a brewery with a stunning reputation decide to expand into the less lucrative restaurant industry? Greed. Their books topped off and while they were making more money than they could spend, there was the appeal of making more. Lessons had been learned long ago on how to do these things without going bankrupt and yet if you throw in a bunch of money people think they know better than the time-tested methods of yesterday. People were fired, benefits lost and the curtesy of a “I’m sorry” never came to mind. Lives were ruined and those on high, the captains of industry that knew better, didn’t think twice about it.
I talked before about a tribe, the group of people who work together with one goal in mind. If you want a functioning kitchen you better have a good tribe in place who is willing to work together through thick and thin. Serve the best food, on time, presented the same way and do it again. If there is anyone in the kitchen who can’t follow this model get rid of them. When I kicked Opie out of the kitchen it was because he was fucking things up for the rest of us. We could pump out a thousand perfect sandwiches and that one douchebag could ruin everything for everyone. This kind of self-destruction can be unstoppable from the top. You could have the best crew, the best ingredients and then some snot nosed kid steps in and think he knows better, add in some drug addiction and shit goes down hill fast.
So, you want to start a business, one that serves food? Start small, don’t invest your retirement account into something you have never done before. You know those tamale ladies who are pedaling their food behind closed doors, start out like that. Make sure there is a market for what you want to serve. If you have to take out a loan do it with the understanding that you might have to file bankruptcy. Set a number in your head for how much debt you can accrue before calling it quits. You can lose other people’s money but it’s a double whammy to lose your business and your savings. Try to build your business with your profits and don’t quit your day job until you are making enough to pay yourself. Buy everything second hand or install furniture and equipment by yourself. Have standards of quality over quantity. Do not over expand.
There is an Italian sausage place in town that has been successful for over a decade now. The man started out making the sausage at home and then bought a food cart for local events. He has a tiny car and bought a place on the business loop where he spends his time making sausage. He has the one building, still uses the cart and is doing very well for himself. He didn’t put up several diners across the city in the hopes of making more money, he had his goal in mind, reached it and now has the security of knowing that he is the one guy in town that people go to for his style of food.
People tend to make things more complicated then they need to be. As long as civilization has been around people have made a living from serving food. People have to eat and most of the time they aren’t able to cook for themselves. This industry wouldn’t be around if it wasn’t profitable and to make more out of it than it is turns it into something that it shouldn’t be. Serve good food, be consistent, and repeat. If you get this down people will come back. Hell, even McDonald’s figure this one out.

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Adventures in Cooking: Part 6

Years after leaving Olga’s I find myself to be a bit of a perfectionist when it comes to restaurants. There are many things that I look for and some I can overlook, but what I have the most trouble getting over is the quality of the food. As a cook you had to learn how to juggle and learn it quickly. However, the quality of a meal isn’t just up to the cook, there are also those that are responsible for what the cook has to work with, the prep cooks.
Prepping food was a meditation, a mindless task that looked like anyone could do. In my own kitchen at home there are steps in preparing a meal that I watch people try to skip and usually some form of verbal back and forth takes place. Let’s start with the basics, wash the food! Nobody wants celery with dirt still on it. Bugs love to hide in lettuce. Spinach is known for E-coli poisoning. The list goes on and on, wash the damn food.
There are tools that every kitchen should have just for prepping. We had small “coring scoops” for tomatoes. These were tiny spoons with a spiked rim that would dig out the core of the tomato with the stem so that the rough material wasn’t served with the food. Don’t be a cheep skate by skipping this, nobody will love you for it.
Just about every weekend my wife and I go out to dinner and enjoy ourselves for a bit before the week with no sleep starts all over again. She has been on a health kick lately and orders the salad where ever we are. Almost 50% of the time she receives a plate or bowl with lettuce, spinach, and other leafy greens. When she digs the fork in, she will find chunks of lettuce core hidden under the roughage. This doesn’t upset me, this pisses me off. I can’t tell you how many hours I stood at the counter and slammed heads of lettuce into the steal surface to twist the core out and throw it away. It takes less than two seconds and these little shits are too lazy to offer their guests a good meal. It’s lettuce, you don’t cook it, it’s not fried, it’s up there with serving wine. You pull it out, throw it on a plate, and serve. There is literally nothing to serving a salad so to skip a step is to show what kind of lazy asshole you really are.
I will never be jealous of the poor bastard who is stuck with the job of slicing onions. In such kitchens like Olga’s this wasn’t done by knife as one would think from seeing too much television, instead it is with some kind of hand powered economic slicer. You place it on top of a plastic pan and slice away until the pan it full, then you move onto the next. There is nothing enjoyable about standing above a container filled with twenty sliced onions. Your eyes water, nose starts to run, heaven forbid that some snot drips into the pan, and before you know it you can’t see a damn thing. If there is anyone who deserves higher pay or tips at the end of the night it’s that guy but you will never see him.
We had a crew that came in early in the morning to do our prepping. They were from a local home for the developmentally challenged and worked part time doing many of the task I have just described above. They were quiet, didn’t want to be disturbed, and when their shift was over, they were huddled out of the kitchen to a full-size van that brought them. They were the mysterious A-team that kept the place going. To their credit if we ran out of stuff during the shift they couldn’t be yelled at and the insults went around the kitchen until someone took out a cutting board and sliced some tomatoes or onions for whatever we were short on.
The grill is the one place where a person should not be multitasking but it happens anyway. I recently went to a local brewery to give it a second chance after not being impressed the first time with their beer. I kept hearing that the food was amazing but the beer was still so-so. My wife and I went and I was encouraged to get a burger that was on special only that week. A large group of people sat at a table next to us and before we knew it, we were ordering another round of beers because the food was not out yet. The place was packed. I should have known things would slow down. The table behind us, who ordered after us, received their food while we looked at one another with that “what the fuck” look on our faces. A minute later our food arrived. The burger looked good but after waiting forty minutes and added another $12 to our bill what wouldn’t look good? I ate some of the fries first waiting for the burger to cool for a minute then bit in. The first bite tasted like carbon, I didn’t think much of it until I took another bite and it tasted like it had been dipped in charcoal with a little bit of ash sprinkled on top. I peeled the bun open to find the bottom of the burger was black beyond burnt. Whatever toppings I had on the burger that made it special I could not taste. The waitress disappeared and instead of tracking somebody down to complain and risking waiting another forty minutes for food, I ate the damn thing. At least I knew it was sterile.
These are the things that can go wrong at any time in a kitchen. At Olga’s we would scrape the carbon off the bottom of the burger and move on. Normally there wasn’t a complaint and other times the Motherfucker didn’t do a good job. I didn’t, I was responsible, it was my fault, words you will never hear from our generation Z people coming into the work place. I find these things happening more often as we go out to different places. When there is no accountability there is no motivation to do better and you will continue to deliver the same shitty service. That brewery had several complaints about their burgers being burnt before we went there and a few afterwards. Management did their best to help us by taking some drinks off the order but never fixed the problem. Somebody needs to go back to being the dish bitch for a few weeks until they figure out what they had done wrong.
There are a few tools you should consider having in your kitchen. If you cook a lot of meat a bacon press is essential for cooking steaks and burgers in a fast and even way. Ever notice those hand made paddies rise up into round balls over time. This is where the bacon press steps in and makes your burgers fit on the bun and appear more professional.
If you sauté vegetables for fajitas, or maybe some onion and peppers with fried liver, you may want to get a cheese melting dome. This holds the steam in cooking the onions and pepper faster. Once you become accustomed to using the dome you can cut the time down on serving and enjoy a meal without over doing the vegetables.
A good knife is the most important part of your kitchen, skip the copper pots and pans, don’t become a member of pampered chef until you have an all in one knife. I’m not talking about those monstrosities that slice tin cans in half, those are for suckers with extra cash in their wallets and poor taste in television. Those people deserve what they get. No, I’m talking about the traditional chef’s knife, that if you spend the time and learn properly, will be the only one you need to do almost any job in the kitchen. Those blocks of knives that people get as wedding presents, that’s your family saying you don’t know how to cook, never will, you suck, here you go. The sharpening rods in those sets destroy the blade and before you know it half of the knives are missing because odds are someone in the house doesn’t know how to put shit back where it belongs. Have one knife, there are many like it, but that one is yours.
Always use a cutting board. If I have to explain why then you should stay out of the kitchen. Hell, maybe you should just go back into the woods and live off the land like the filthy animal that you are. Counter tops were not meant for cutting on. The surface will be destroyed and the edge of your blade with suffer as well. Seriously, if you think you don’t need a cutting board go back to whatever primitive Neanderthal land you emerged from.
Things to stay away from include copper pans, you will burn anything you try to cook in these things. The copper heats up fast and you can not judge when to adjust the heat before it’s too late. They look nice in the kitchen but that is it. Skip copper altogether, you should only be surrounded by useful tools that won’t distract you.
Electric gadgets will grow and take up space over time. Unless there is a meal that you make often and need one of these things for the process, I say stay away from them.
Anything from Pampered Chef. Cheaply made, only serves one purpose, and over priced you are not doing yourself any favors by buying from them. I never met a professional that uses any of their products.
If you can, make sure you have a gas stove. Some people prefer electric and hey if you want to travel down that road to hell that’s your choice, go ahead and have fun. Gas is easy to measure and adjust by looking at the flame. It is the way people have cooked for tens of thousands of years, with a flame. That glowing top in the grill I don’t know what that is but its not natural and figuring out the right temperature was never easy. Its up there with using a microwave to cook and there is a special level in hell for that.
Microwaves, see the paragraph above.
To Be Continued….

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Notes from St. Patrick’s Day

I was surprised to find that St. Patrick’s Day had come early this year. My first encounter with someone celebrating the holiday was on a Wednesday, five days before the actual event. I was on my lunch break, lunting through downtown with my pipe and spotted a man with a green cowboy hat sporting flashing lights along the rim. I could have assumed that this was the man’s usual attire but it was safe to say with the drunken smirk on his face as he stepped into his car, that he was celebrating St. Patrick’s Day, in the middle of the week.
This wasn’t the last early spotting of St. Patrick’s Day debauchery. Let’s remind ourselves what St. Patrick’s Day is all about. This catholic priest comes to the island of Ireland and converts the locals after performing the miracle of running the snakes away. Years later historians would translate the use of snakes to mean prostitutes. Who knows what is true or why this person has their own day? From what I’m told the day isn’t celebrated in Ireland, and if it is, they don’t do it anyway close to how we celebrate it. I was walking to my car on Thursday night and in a completely lit alley between a shitty dive bar and the local State Theater I spotted something out of the corner of my eye. I thought for a moment that maybe a bum was being attacked or someone was hurt, but no, instead it was a couple who was in the middle of a full-blown fuck fest. The alley was lit up with LED lights and there wasn’t a dumpster or corner to hide behind. They were out in the open and from what I could tell in those few seconds they had no inhibitions of what they were doing. As I walked by and tried to ignore what was happening the young man looked over at me, he wasn’t mortified or ashamed of what was happening, instead he smiled a creepy smirk of satisfaction that said “oh ya,” and continued on as if he didn’t have a care in the world. That was Thursday night.
Friday night was the official start for St. Patrick’s Day for some local bars and clubs and it brought out the lowest of the low from all around town. Kalamazoo isn’t a large city and while we have some good things going for us, we are in no way in short supply of our own degenerates and retards. Unable to move my car earlier that night I found myself walking the same path where I spotted the couple the night before and found the streets were busy. The local brewery that I work at on the side was filled and the front of Harvey’s on the Mall was packed with local smokers enjoying their cancer sticks. The alley was being used to unload the band Tab Benoit who had just performed a show that night.
On the corner of the Blue Dolphin I noticed several people lingering outside and flashing lights protruding into the streets. The restaurant had been turned into a nightclub/ rave and the nearby parking lots were packed with cars. In the lot where I park my car, the same spot I pay for every month, I found myself surrounded by cars who failed the parking portion of their driving course and didn’t give a shit about the other people around them. Then there was the guy that was pretending to be on his cell phone. How did I know he was pretending, because he never shut up. He was having a conversation with himself and never let the other person speak, but was responding as if they had given him a full paragraph sized answer to reply to. Not to mention he was looking into the window of a car that he immediately walked away from and weaved in and out of the cars as if he was lost. He kept working his way closer to me and I waited to see if I would have to use my windshield scraper on his face as I cleaned off the inch layer of snow. More people arrived and the man moved towards the back of the lot and disappeared. I own a small car and having said that I expect to not have problems pulling out of parking spots but of course I had to do some insane defensive driving through the clusterfuck of handicapped parkers I was surrounded by. It’s not the handicapped drivers I have a problem with, it’s the people who haven’t figured out over the years what the damn lines are for.
Saturday had us visiting the local brewery and enjoying a pint or two while watching the slew of pretend Irish people stumble through the streets and almost fall on their faces as they climbed down the stairs to the restrooms. People wore beads and the only one I thought might have earned them was the girl from Wednesday night. I saw some Connor McGregor shirts, kiss me I’m Irish, green shirt referring to Irish pot leaves, Fuck me I’m Irish, I’m only Irish for the day, and Soccer jerseys with the Irish flag. Groups of people crossed streets without reading the sign causing cars to screech to a halt and almost run them over. Vomit covered the toilet in the basement with chunks of Lucky Charms stuck to the rim of the bowl. The menu special of the day was a corned beef and sour kraut pizza with thousand island dressing.
I found out three years ago that I am part Irish although the percentage is in debate. Even before I learned this, I never had an inkling to pretend to be Irish or prove how much of a badass I could be by drinking myself into a vomiting fit. St. Patrick’s Day is the one day where responsibility is thrown out the window along with the baby and the bathwater and nobody gives a fuck about anything. They might as well change the name to Irish Mardi Gras. We had our two beers and went home practically sober. My wife who is 100% German could likely drink half of these Irish wannabes under the table. As for myself I have had my share of hung-over mornings and have nothing to prove to anyone. On the way home we stopped at another brewery called Brite Eyes and ended the evening with a night cap in an empty bar. The location might have been the problem for the people who were crawling around downtown. Across the street is the main police station in full view of the windows. Not the place to become fucked up even during a holiday.
We woke up Sunday morning and while it really was St. Patrick’s Day, we had no ambition to go out and have another drink. Instead we worked on the house, make lunch for the rest for the rest of the week, did some shopping, and later I took my daughter for a walk. I walked by Brite Eyes to find the bar dead, completely empty, there wasn’t a single soul in the place except for the bartender. I heard the same thing on YouTube from Chicago. The city was dead, likely all the assholes who partied on Saturday were too hung over to have another go of it. The river was green. People would be shitting green for a week from the crappy green colored beer they ingested all day. Restaurants and bars were over staffed and people were sent home breathing a sigh of relief that they didn’t have to attend to drunk assholes who wouldn’t tip them. I have no links to my Irish roots. I don’t know who in my family was Irish or when they came here. After trying a handful of different single malt whiskeys, I have to say that while I’m not opposed to the drink and think it taste “okay” it really isn’t for me. I don’t enjoy soccer and I can’t watch Irish movies due to not understand a single person in those damn things. I have never been attracted to red heads and Connor McGregor is a great showman but not a good fighter. I don’t care who will be offended by this. The only day that the Irish are celebrated in this country is the same day that everyone acts like an asshole stereotype and make the Irish look like a bunch of degenerate fucks. Maybe if you want to celebrate your Irish roots you should sit down and read Ulysses or drink a real Irish beverage like whiskey instead of green shitty beer. Don’t want to be insulted than don’t be an ass. If your feelings are hurt than find a copy of the Crying Game and have a few shots, cut out the middle man of fake fun and drinking and move on to being depressed, isn’t that what being Irish is all about?

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The Last Rhino

I feel like I have been here before. Looking at the news and thinking we are next. The last male white rhino died earlier this week and I find myself thinking about it over and over again. What does it take for the planet to wake up to what we are doing?

I went on a walk with my daughter today. We climbed Westnedge hill and looked over the city. I thought about the flood that happened a few weeks earlier. Places like the north east and Denmark are seeing record lows as the arctic tries to figure out what to do without any ice to hold the cold polar vortex at bay. The jet stream has shifted, no longer assisting jets on their travels. This is a lot to take in.

Since i finished the Self Authoring program I have seen some changes in myself that i thought I should share. In the past 3 weeks i have had 1 beer. for those that know me that will come as a shock. also, while i have been debating on when to enjoy my pipe, I came to the conclusion that the pipe and my tobacco cellar should be retired until a moment comes my way when I can relax and enjoy the hobby again. So what the hell do I do for fun? I guess I will have to figure it out.

I pulled an old Remington portable model 1 typewriter from my basement, a project I picked up a few months back but set aside due to time restraints. The black body and well preserved case caught my eye when i first saw it. Usually i prefer the Royal desktops but I thought having the portable would encourage me to write in public again. I had to sand down some of the rubber rollers that had flattened out and was keeping the paper from working over the platen. There are several books I would like to write, adventures and characters that are becoming impatient as they run around in my head.

The more I listen to the news the harder it is to comprehend everything that is happening. I looked up climate change podcast and found myself disappointed in what i found. One in particular that was recorded in Michigan ended up being a denial show where the host spit out free market rhetoric and how renewable energy was a fraud that would hurt poor people. Having said all of that, I am seriously considering bring back my old podcast. It won’t be the same podcast exactly, but a revised version that I get to run. the last podcast I ran was on American Prepper Radio and as far as I know you can still find the show and episodes on there, but I don’t recommend it since it is outdated by a few years and the content no longer applies. I was thinking of doing a shorter show, three days a week, 15-20 minutes covering the latest in climate change, economics, and societal collapse. i don’t know when it will start but the idea is there and I already know how to start and record a podcast having do that two years ago. i can’t be the only one needing to talk about this. There has to be others out there hearing what I’m hearing and wondering what the hell is going on? The collapse experiment was a nice test run, I liked the idea, maybe it’s time to improve it now and create something worth sharing.

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Retiring my pipe

Smoking a pipe has been an on again off again hobby/ habit for the last twenty years. granted the majority of those years I didn’t smoke. there were several years in between where a pipe was lost or willingly thrown out thinking it was done with it. a little over a year ago i picked up the hobby again. The big difference this time was that i had learned about the difference between pharmacy tobacco and higher quality tobacco. I was only familiar with Captain Black until that point and wasn’t well versed in the other pharmacy tobaccos. I thought Half and Half was the next best thing the first time i tried it, then I found a whole new world through YouTube. Companies i had never heard of before were selling styles and blends i had never heard of before. there were English, orientals, aromatics, and vapor tobaccos. I searched through reviews trying to find something that sounded good and a year later i have a cellar filled with all kinds of blends I am waiting to try, and wait i will.

Pipe smoking doesn’t fit into my life these days. Having a little one at home leaves little room to enjoy a few minutes in solitude. I tried using my lunch break to enjoy a smoke only to have people asking “who was smoking a cigar?” No, that wasn’t a good blend. Weekends i want to spend as much time with my family as I can therefore getting the pipe out is usually not on the list of things to do. Instead of getting frustrated I have decided that it is a good time for the pipe to join the rest of the cellar and age gracefully until they are dug up a few years from now. Maybe when the little one starts school? There isn’t going to be a big loss in taking a break, hell half of the tobacco in the cellar isn’t being made anymore. the only thing I really want to do in the meantime is make a last order for a few blends that might not be around when i take the old pipe back out again. Wild Hare by Lane Limited has become a personal favorite. Founding Fathers is an enjoyable blend that might find itself on the chopping block with the way things are going. I know there will be a few that I haven’t tried yet that i will wish i had more of later but such is life.

The pipe will be cleaned one last time and the rest of the opened tobacco will find itself in mason jars to spent a few years aging. This appears to be a repeating trend in my life. today i noticed that in the past two and a half weeks I have had one beer, one. I was sick with the flue two weeks ago and since then i had one drink on St. Patrick’s Day. i wasn’t that excited about it either. Who knows, maybe that will be tossed to the wayside as well. Couldn’t hurt, i could lose a few pounds.

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