Friday, September 12, 2008

Nutty people

Up until recently, my cousin-by-adoption M. Antony was the most gorgeous man I'd ever laid eyes on. How this happened was a miracle of random genetics because everyone else on his side of the family was butt ugly; all bones and knuckles and pocked with the most heinous shotgun collection of acne scars I have ever seen. M. Antony, in sharp contrast, was glorious....when I was younger I simply could not look at the guy because I'd blush so hard my hands would tingle. Think of a young Peter Frampton, only darker, somewhat more butch and really, really stoned looking and you have M. Antony.

Of course he married a raving nutcase.

At first, Kathee was a lot of fun. I really liked her and we were friends. She was from Florida and came from money; her accent was so thick you could spread it like marmalade. She was a pretty girl. She joked and gave her husband a hard time, and I was (extremely jealous) happy for him. The times we went out and partied together she was just as salty as the guys and could drink us all under the table.

And then she met JuHEEEEzuz.

Not Jesus, mind you. I'm pretty sure the guy she met was a thought emanation shed by Charles Manson, dressed in a bathrobe. It sure wasn't Mary's little boy. This guy was MEAN.

Overnight-literally- Kathee went from being a cheerful, fun, joking person to being a strangely rigid, completely literal tool of righteousness. I never saw her smile again. Not once. Suddenly her internal monologue simply disappeared. Totally gone. If she thought it she said it, and what she said was often thoughtless, cruel and horribly inappropriate...with absolutely no human malice powering it whatsoever.

Her kids became haunted looking little wraiths who never spoke and never looked an adult in the eye. She took to switching them or smacking them on the leg whenever they came within arms reach; ostensibly to 'beat the devil out of them', like a dose of preventative medicine. My cousin M. Antony, in the course of less than a year, went from being a handsome, healthy young man to a pot bellied, slouch shouldered furtive old man who mumbled and shuffled and pretended to fall asleep so nobody could hold him accountable for his wifes' behavior.

Kathee became wide and stumpy and took to wearing gingham dresses. She would help herself to whatever was at hand; go through cabinets, look in drawers, wander into the bathroom while you were busy and use the mirror (I've done a post mentioning one episode here:, casually ask to borrow a tampon while everyone was seated eating dinner, things like that. Now that last is tacky enough given an average social situation; imagine it happening during Thanksgiving dinner seated at a table full of Kelly green Catholics in full-on denial that people even had parts, let alone parts that needed tampons, and there you have the makings of a truly memorable holiday get-together.

Weirdly enough, my mom, Jesus' little sunbeam, hated the woman. Absolutely HATED her.

Years later I found out the reason. Kathee'd matter of factly informed my mom that the Pope was the Antichrist and that she was going to hell for acknowledging him as Jesus' appointed successor. "And here she's still a stinkin' Baptist married to a Catholic boy," my mom sniffed. "You oughta see the churches they got, talk about swanky." Church swankiness was a sore issue with my mom, as were wives who did not submit to their husbands (she kept hers well pickled in Canadian Mist; it did make him a lot easier to submit to.)

Still, the fact that everyone overlooked for whatever reason was that Kathee was STARK RAVING BATSHIT NUTS. Heaven only knows what she's like now; let alone her poor children. Let alone my poor cousin, if he's still alive; because if someone could run a person into an early grave it was that broad. Imagine riding in a car with this woman listening to the news on the radio and suddenly she pipes up with something like 'well you know they're going to hell for eternity because Mormons are pagans who worship a gold idol' or 'sodomites are all dying of the AIDS plague and I for one see it as the coming of the end of days; it's Gods' judgment on them for their sin and on us for allowing that sin' and other well-informed, thoughtful pronouncements like that and you can well imagine the wacky fun that even a quick trip to the supermarket could be. Again, there was no hostility in these remarks, not even that nasty little superior smirky thing that too many convicted religious do; it was just some strange joyless, blank thing that came echoing up from someplace. Kathee was gone.

I have spent my entire life living next door to nutty people. Or with them. From the time I was 18 on I went through a succession of apartments and directly adjacent to every one lived someone with rabid weasels scrambling around in between their ears and a bald cat up their ass tuned to Radio Free Mars.

Always a screamer.

No matter what their particular flavor of brain drip, they always took to screaming at some point in the proceedings. Ordinary people can cut loose a racket when properly provoked; you lose a limb suddenly, a meteorite falls down the front of your pants, your average person will protest loudly. Nutty people simply haul back and let fly from the pancreas, apropos of Jack Shit. I never even knew human people could make noises like the noises I heard come out of some of these folks. And the provocation in their case was imaginary! Whatever lives in the human subconscious, whatever drives these folks to scream, is something so Lovecraftian that I'm really GLAD they have shit like Thorazine. If I was nutty I'd be chucking that shit down like peanuts at the circus. Screw these emo morons who romanticise insanity. There's nothing romantic about screaming gibberish at the moon and clawing bloody gouges down your face until you have to be hauled off in leather restraints so you don't blind yourself. I lived next door to that person; and that person was taken off; I stood out on the corner on 9Th and Pine and I could hear them screaming from inside the ambulance all the way to the river, huge suffering superhuman roars that echoed off the buildings.

Another variety of screamer is the ranter. Now a ranter will start off talking. Not always coherently, but there will be words. But at some point in the proceedings the diatribe will turn into rhythmic, singsong, increasingly loud proclamations until suddenly one word comes tearing up out of their throat like a top fuel dragster, right into the wall, flying apart, trailing flames. It seems like a sheer need to be heard, almost. The volume is astounding, and yet it's just wind and muscle driving it, over and over again like a maniac siren. I've lived near a lot of these people. We lived next door to one when my daughter was growing up. I live next door to one now, in fact.

Years ago I was living in downtown Portland and since I was on the third floor of a building I didn't always feel like calling the elevator and dicking around with that, so instead of night walking a lot of the time I just opened a window and sat out on the sill. I had a wonderful view straight down 5Th avenue, and although I was too close to street level to really get the whole effect of the lights and cityscape thing, still, it was nice. One night I was perched there out my front room window, having a bottle of beer and a smoke, when I heard someone yelling far off downtown. Nothing unusual in that at all; shit, it was Portland. Even though it was Sunday night, crazy knows no sabbath, right?

As I sat there and smoked I could heart the voice come closer; someone was walking slowly up from Burnside, someone calling at the top of their lungs in a long, drawn out singsong, 'Heeeeeeeeeeelp........heeeeeeeeelp me......." like that. Like a lost soul. Not crying, not in pain, not drunk or slurring, just...' Heeeeeeeeeeeelp meeeeeeeee....helllllllllllllllllp meeeeeeeeeee' over and over again. "Oh God...God heeeeeeeeeeeeelp meeeeeeee....'
I will never forget that. Sunday night, the whole town is silent, not a car in sight, not a bus going by, the only headlights moving across the river on I-5 and very few of them at that hour, and this lone voice chanting 'help me' in the night. I must have sat there for a couple of hours, lighting one cigarette off the ember of the next and listening to this person slowly walk up the hill and then pass some blocks up from my street until their voice finally disappeared into the distance as they crossed South Slope.

I feel strange to this day remembering that I even had a reaction to it. It was someone elses' private drama and I didn't have anything to do with it; but there I was awake, and there this person was, chasing something through town. It was like overhearing odd unexpected music from a passing car. It was like being all alone in a church and then gradually becoming aware of someone saying their rosary fervidly someplace far behind you. It was like the first time I ever came around a bend in the road up alone in the hills and found a bobcat staring at me.

About a year later I was out walking one night in the lower numbers down on the East side of the river, in around the old Victorian residences and the remains of Mission bungalow neighborhoods all surrounded by autobody shops and warehouses. The sidewalk was broken and you had to watch your step; it was grown up in rank tufts of Johnson grass, and overgrown rhododendron reached out from the yards you passed. I came around the bow of one and found myself standing in front of an old, long, low Mission house with a deep porch and concrete steps leading up from the sidewalk. I stopped and lit a smoke to have something to do while I admired the place and wished that I lived there, and as I stood there I became aware of a person standing up on the porch. I almost apologized but I kept my mouth shut because something didn't feel just right, so I stood there and looked around for awhile, not quite knowing what to do all of a sudden, not wanting to look suspicious and probably looking suspicious as hell.

Meanwhile the person simply stood, somewhat back from the porch railing, near a window through which you could see a black and white television playing, and it was the light from this that revealed him there. An old, old man, older than Ramses III, thin to the point of starvation, standing very, very still. Intensity radiated off this man like heat. His face was like an oxyacetylene flame. He stood there in absolute silence, absolutely motionless, ramrod straight. Looking out into the distance, out toward the horizon, through where the huge rhododendron grew and obscured the view completely.

I started walking away. He never glanced in my direction. As I walked off I turned around several times to check but no, he was real, he was alive, and he was still there. Rigid as stone. Looking intently off into the distance, looking into the complete darkness of the leaves and shadows, just standing there in the dark. I can still see that so plain.

Maroon Elephant:: Seven Hours Fatal Bean Legume

A while back I was having a conversation with my girl Andrea, and we started in reminiscing about the hideous food we used to have to eat when we were kids. Odd thing was, the same recipes came up, her and me. Now granted, there was a perceived 'poverty' mentality going on in both cases...I think everyone who had kids back in the 50's and 60's was required by law to assume they were one step away from some horrible rat infested Dickensian poorhouse situation-and being poor means you have to eat shitty food that tastes bad. At least it did then. Now apparently it means you suck warm lard out of the bucket and chase it with bacon. But back then if you didn't serve your family institutional grade ground beef at least three nights a week you were just DOING IT WRONG.

1. Swiss Steak.
What the hell was this shit and what was so goddamn Swiss about it? Seriously. To this day nothing about this dish says 'Switzerland' to me. It doesn't look like the Matterhorn. It isn't made of chocolate. It IS made of cow, of course, and they do have a lot of cows in Switzerland, but they have a lot of cows here too so it could have just as easily been Sumas Steak, except then it would have bacon and lard in it.

1 huge round steak (you never see these any more. They used to be the size of a fricken manhole cover and they wept nearly 1/3 their total mass in cooking as water. Aquatic beef? Sliced dugong? What? )
1 can of tomato paste
1 can of tomato sauce
1 yellow onion
1 can of canned tomatoes
1 cup flour
a mallet with poky things on one side
1 cup water or 2% milk
diced tomatoes

-slap the steak out on the counter and dump one half of the flour on it. spread it all around with the side of your hand.
-Take the mallet and, using the poky side, beat the living shit out of the steak, making sure that flour flies all over hells half acre and forms a weird pink doughy scabby thing in the neddles of the mallet. Pick this off and attempt to wham it into the surface of the steak, which should by now be thin enough to read a newspaper through. Fail to make scabby thing adhere. Pick off surface of mallet and eat. Wasting food is a sin.
-Slap steak into frying pan into which several scoops of vegetable shortening or used bacon fat are smoking. The steak should immediately being shrinking. When it has shrunk up until it fits into the pan, boil in the resulting cast water for 1 hour.
-place in a 9 inch baking pan tomato sauce, tomato paste and canned tomatoes. Do not combine. IN fact the more they resemble the container they left the better.
-slap boiled steak into pan.
-dump onion and diced tomatoes into hot frying pan, making sure that everything sticks uniformly. When smoke appears, chip off the bottom of the pan onto the top of the steak.
-Season with pepper and add water. Sprinkle remaining flour over top.
-Bake for three hours, or until substance in pan no longer resembles anything found in nature. Serve with....

2. Wooden beans
Once again the motto 'It's a sin to waste food' should be your watchword here.
-Three double handfuls of late beans. Beans so late they resemble the gnarled, swollen, knobby fingers of arthritic people. Beans so late they cannot be snapped-not even over the edge of a table. Beans so late that the strings really are made of string; a string so tough and durable that it is used by third world countries in making radial tires.
-The fat end off a slab of bacon, cut into giant greasy wads about the size of a shooter marble. At least one of these should have a black hair stuck to it.
-1 yellow onion, coarsely chopped
-water to cover
methode: dump all ingredients into a pot and bring to a boil. Boil for three hours. Beans are done when they are khaki green.

3. Tuna Casserole with frozen peas
because tuna is cheap, mayonnaise makes it stick together, and peas make it pretty!
-1 can tuna, drained
-1 yellow boiler onion, chopped coarsely
-1 package macaroni noodles
-1 cup mayonnaise
-1 tube saltine crackers, broken
-1 stalk celery, chopped coarsely
-1 package frozen peas
-optional: barbecue potato chips, fried onions, Corn Chex cereal, corn flakes cereal, croutons (assume an 'or' in between each item in the preceding...or not. Its a free country. I'm not your boss.)
methode: thaw peas. Do NOT drain. Cook macaroni noodles until swollen three times their original size, drain. Combine all ingredients and pour into a 9 inch baking dish, top with optional ingredients. Bake in a 350 degree oven for three hours. Top should be blackened and sides should be at least one inch away from the wall of the pan. Saw into slices and serve.

4. Macaroni and cheese with hot dogs
Better living through chemistry! Mmmmm! Kids love hot dogs....and kids love macaroni and cheese! Please those picky eaters with this double whammy of deliciousness! Dont' forget the Benadryl chaser to treat those pesky allergic hives! We all know the little bastards just fake anaphylaxis for the attention anyway.
-1 package instant mac and cheese, preferably Kraft as you'll be using their 'cheese' in this also and we want things to stay matchy matchy.
-1 package Oscar Meier hot dogs. Because they have the cute ad with the kids singing about how they want to all grow up to be weiners. I just think thats the cutest thing...and they're all marching along having a little parade? It's so cute! I know the whole song too!
-1/2 cup Velveeta cheese, cut into small squares (at least one of these should have a black hair stuck to it)
-optional: 1 can of chopped pimientos. You can't taste them; its just to be fancy. They just make it look pretty. Seriously, they just taste like salt water or something.

-open package of hot dogs and put into boiling water. When burst, remove from water and cut into bite sized pieces. Let dry on counter until dark red and somewhat pliable.
-make the mac and cheese according to the directions on the box. When finished, pour into a 9 inch baking pan.
- stir in hot dog pieces and optional ingredients
-bake in a 350 degree oven for three hours.

Italian Spaghetti
a taste of the old country for todays busy modern cooks
ingredients: SAUCE
1/3 cup tomato catsup
1 can tomato paste
1 can tomato sauce
1 can diced tomatoes
1 yellow boiler onion, diced
celery salt
garlic salt
1 lb hamburger, boiled in its own juices until grey, drained

methode: combine all ingredients and boil for three hours. Serve over spaghetti noodles. Cooked, preferably.


...Ever wondered why everyone in our generation is diabetic? Wonder no more.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Paisley Chicken Revolution Under Way!

And the winner of the "too much free time" award is....


.....thanks to all our strangely compelling contestants! *Distributes Rice-A-Roni*

Y'all cracked me up! I managed to log on down in Oregon and I got laughing so hard I made the baby cry! Of course that's something that happens frequently in my presence but this one time I can definitely attribute to extreme guffaws on my part.

Part UN of the vacation is complete, and now part DEAUX continues with the day trips and home improvement thing going on. I am home again home again jiggity jig, back from the Wild damn West and the sage brushes and the truck drivers and the sheeps and the wheat and whatnot, and the large vastness of the hugeness extending out in every direction all covered in not a whole fuck of a lot of anything with all buzzards circling high overhead.

Actually that is a lie; only about 1/3 of the entire trip consisted of picturesque bleak; the other 2/3 was picturesque agricultural vignettes, charming towns, winding lanes, quaint derelict barns and smokin' hot rurales with they ain't got they shirts on bucking bales and driving they tractors and shit be all standing up in the John Deere they got them sooWEEEET ass in the Levis read the date on a dime situation going on, honey pick that turkey laig up for gramma I dropped it on purpose you sick thang you.

Hell yeah.

The weather was PERFECT. All the little details were perfect too. We did the 'buy local' thing every time we stopped and never had a bad meal or a crappy nights' lodging. Even got to see part of a Jackie Chan action movie dubbed over in this very butch, deep Spanish voice, which cracked me up so bad I nearly swallowed my husbands dentures. (The fact that he does not wear dentures notwithstanding.) We shared driving and stopped to 'get lost' in interesting places and saw a lot of cool things. Coolest of all, the extraordinarily wet summer we've had here kept everything nearly June-green while the chilly nights caused the trees to turn color and cast leaves high up in the hills. That was new, and it took me days to figure out 'whats wrong with this picture.'

One of the weirdest things about southeastern Washington is that for some reason they have really aggressive food there. In Northeast, you'll pass a fruit stand or a farm produce outlet, or a small diner, and there'll be the usual average advertising sign out next to the road "Prey's Produce" or "Del's Diner" or what have you.

In Southeast, you come up over a rise and see words literally three storeys tall:



None of these places were open for business. In fact most of them looked to have lain derelict for some time, siding flapping in the breeze, glass broken out of the windows, tumbleweeds piled against the loading bays. It was interesting. We went past innumerable collections of the same... odd little Joad settlements with one house, several travel trailers in use as additions, some pens full of chicken huts and lots of old fucked up logging equipment surrounding one large, long building with empty vegetable displays with the words YAKIMA CHERRIES looming over it all. Or EAT NOW standing over a charred place in the dirt where some lone kid's riding around on a dirt bike kicking up soot.

The town of Yakima itself was oddly bleak and deserted. We'd pl
anned to stay the night there and explore, never having been that far southeast on our travels. We spent the afternoon and drove all around. What we found was one small, gentrified shopping district about 5 blocks long, surrounded by a large zone of anonymous metal buildings housing various types of machine shops and dealerships....surrounded by an even larger zone of unrelieved Tijuana-SoCal ghettoass fucking slum. In all three cases a good ONE HALF of the real estate was abandoned. Empty. High up on the surrounding hills a few tacky mansions overlooked all this scenic wonder, right; but down in town it was just block after block after block of sleaze. Garbage blowing around. That in itself is just not....'Northwest', I guess you'd have to say; we're perfectly capable of being degraded, but we generally keep the damn streets picked up...except in Yakima, apparently. First time I've ever seen so many private residences tagged, too. That's another thing you don't see a lot of in the Northwest...they'll tag everydamnthing else on your property, but very seldom the house itself. Here, nearly everyfrickenplace we passed had been nailed. Cars, utility enclosures, light posts, garages, outbuilding. And the streets. And the sidewalks. Jesus Christ on a red bicycle, folks. We get it; you're here.

I still find all this bizarre. It's not like the land there is infertile or poorly watered; shit, we were passing marshes! In the high desert! It's not like it was super remote; Yakima is the interchange hub of all the major highways in the area. Power, check. Military base nearby (which ought to have provided for at least some skeeze-variety prosperity) check. Power, check...enormous wind farms, hydro crossing overhead....I simply have no explanation. Maybe a bank defaulted bigtime out that way?

Anyway, something told us that perhaps we would be better off moving along down the ol' highway. Lo and behold, about 35 miles on, over a low ridge of hills, the vista opens out over BEULAH LAND. Milk and honey. The most beautiful, smiling valley full of green farms and windrowed hay and wheat and grapes and orchards and livestock. Welcome to Ellensburg.

Up to this point all we had was a very, very bad memory of Ellensburg. The one time we'd visited in the past had been at 2am one dark morning, helping friends of ours move house. We all stopped in a cafe someplace ("Oh hey, a truck stop!" our friend assured us. "Truckers always know the best places!") and got food poisoning. In my case, the most heinous case of food poisoning I've ever had. Let the words 'Old Faithful' be your guiding image here. Not 20 minutes out from the parking lot, man, WHAMMO. It was NOT BEAUTIFUL.

Our original itinerary, then, drew a long detour around Ellensburg.

That would have been such a mistake. What a beautiful, beautiful little town this place is. And the whole valley there is carpeted in the most fat, prosperous, verdant collection of farms. Just gorgeous. It smells like apples and sage, cut hay and water as you drive through in the evening; Mexican food and barbecue and diesel and dust. We only stayed one day and one night, but we're going back next year and we are going to do it RIGHT.

Did I get pictures? Did I fuck, my darlings. What do I have pictures of?


The Arborist took us all to a Tractor pull-Monster Truck show out in Sublimity, a little farming community a few miles away from his place. I thought at first "I'll be a nice old broad and give Girl Getty and Spreidel an excuse to stay home. They'l probably be grateful for the excuse to avoid the crowds and the 'grandma's tired' card. Monster trucks: riiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiight.

Boy did I have my head up my ass. I had a total fucking blast!

This wasn't the usual arena, giant crowd - screaming clusterfuck you see on televised events; this was a small, well-ordered show in an outdoor venue, gorgeous weather, gorgeous small fairgrounds, nice friendly people running around chewing tobacco (one beautiful young girl had a can riding atop each tit and a quid in!) and drinking bottled water. Later in the evening the beer concession got popular and there were a few rowdy fuckers, but not obnoxious rowdy, fun rowdy. I even got hit by a couple of high school boys while I was taking my granddaughter (the Princess) to the Port-o-let. Lots of old couples holding hands, lots of clean, polite children running around laughing, lotta farmboys and logger dudes, lotta good ol' girls smoking Camel cigarettes and saying 'shitfire, bitch!" The fireworks show at the end exploded to the tune of that CW song 'God Bless the USA' and Ray Charles singing 'America The Beautiful'.

A tractor pull, for those of you too hifalutin to indulge in canaille things like rural sport, is not necessarily about actual farm type tractors. It's about the pulling, mainly (with a minor in 'blowing up drivelines'.) The tow vehicles were everything from old Studebaker pickup trucks to brand new Expeditions to an actual Allis-Chalmers tractor- albeit an Allis with THREE GODDAMN ENGINES. What they pull is a special sled with a movable weight on a ramp atop it. The faster and further the pulling vehicle goes, the further up the ramp the weight moves and the more difficult the whole sled gets to pull. The object is for the vehicle to pull this sled down a straight, measured dirt course within a certain time limit, staying inside a designated lane. Fastest and furthest wins. Sounds fairly straightforward, but it ain't. This is all about torque: knowing what you brung and not letting your foot get too heavy. If you stomp down on the throttle right off the line you bury the vehicle and sometimes shit bursts and flies off the undercarriage or comes blasting out sideways from the engine compartment, which is not necessarily a drawback the way I see it, but it seems to piss off the drivers. The poor guy driving the sled eats a lot of dirt and exhaust, pieces of track fly up, dust roostertails everywhere and engines scream up past the point that you'd think something would explode, and then get LOUDER. At the end a timer announces the score and a tractor speeds around towing a frame that grooms the dirt for the next run and everyone claps.

The monster truck exhibition kicked ass. You didn't see the kind of wild air and rollover stunts you see on television, but that was more than made up for by being THERE. They towed five wrecks out into the middle of the track and then the entries all stunted over them and did wheelies and travels and who knows what all kinda shit, kicking up a lot of dirt and making some damn NOISE. You really get no idea of the size of these things until one's going right past you and you have to look up to see the tiny, tiny little driver riding atop this column of machinery. And the sons of bitches are quick, too. Really quick. For some reason I'd thought of them as being fairly lumbering sorts of vehicles but I wuz rong. They took wild bounces and nearly turned over, stabilizers bent, tires ruptured, the differentials geysered sparks, steam shot out from random places and engines threw rods, blueass nitrous flames all been shooting out the top of the block; sheeeeit. It was cooler than fuck!

We sat three rows from the front. Little Spreidel watched most of it, then slept through the rest. Passed out.

And then the next day, we went to a roadster show. I mean please. Please. It's going to be a couple of months before I get all the homegirl flushed out of my system here. Even putting aside the fact that it was in a botanical garden in full incredible bloom aside, it was so, so fun. We go to a lot of these anyway, the Biker and I, but its great to see so many new vehicles-at least, new to us- and in such a great venue. There were also a lot more later model muscle cars than you usually run into up here in Washington, which I like to see. Model T's...meh. Fine. Wow. Dime a dozen. But you get into the late 60's stuff and now you're talking! That's what I remember wanting when I was a kid....remember that GTO that came stock with hood tiedowns? The Mercury Cougar with the hidden headlights? Oh my yes. And all the while I managed not to gank one single cutting or seedhead. This is the second time this has happened in this spot. I don't know whether or not to be proud or not. They have some good shit.

Then we all went home and fell asleep in a big pile on the couch.

And that's what I did on my summer vacation! (So far.)

More pix: (lovingly ganked from my daughter in law, because I take shitty pictures as a general rule.)

SPREIDEL...holding that thin blue line in Marion County

TEH PRINCESS...she will whap you with her whappy princess bonking thing, yo

JIMMY THE GREEK...double or nothing top draw; you cut

THE proof that green M&M's work

GIRL GETTY...prevailing cooler head in a rockin' hat