Wednesday, November 07, 2012

LEGALIZED IT!!! almost

In honor of Washington State's legalization of recreational marijuana use,  I thought I'd re-run this post.

Here, for your edification, is the TRUE and ACCURATE story behind the 'Pot Brownies' myth!  

Alice B. Toklas was a woman who enjoyed a good meal and loved her saturated fats. So legendary became her table that Ms. Toklas was prevailed upon to write up a collection of recipes: The Alice B. Toklas Cook Book.

In this collection are many delicious things. One of the delicious things is a mildly narcotic party nibble she presents to us with the title
'HASCHICH FUDGE (which anyone could whip up on a rainy day)'


And in fact her 'haschich' fudge is not chocolate and has no hash in it, but instead dried fruit and crumbled cannibis sativa (she also suggests indica in areas where obtaining sativa 'may present certain difficulties'.)

Her introduction to the method is priceless:

This is the food of Paradise- of Baudelaire's Artificial Paradises: it might provide an entertaining refreshment for a Ladies' Bridge Club or a chapter meeting of the DAR. In Morrocco it is thought to be good for warding off the common cold in damp winter weather and is, indeed, more effective if taken with large quantities of hot mint tea. Euphoria and brilliant storms of laughter; ecstatic reveries and extensions of one's personality on several simultaneous planes are to be complacently expected. Almost anything Saint Theresa did, you can do better if you can bear to be ravished by 'un evanouissement reveille'.

By fudge she means 'a gooey sweet thing'. I have no doubt that grated chocolate could be added to wonderful effect, particularly if the chocolate were one of the new high-percentage, low-sugar darks. Nevertheless, I present to you the recipe as she puts it down, with my paraphrase.

1 teaspoon black peppercorns,
1 whole nutmeg,
4 cinnamon sticks,
1 tsp. coriander
1/4 oz good bud, well cleaned and very dry
Pulverize all to a fine powder (a coffee grinder would work excellently here.)

One handful each, chopped fine:
stoned dates
dried figs,
shelled almonds,
shelled peanuts

Add all the above together and toss to combine.

Melt 1/3 c butter, and dissolve into this
1 cup sugar
NOTE: do not cook this mixture...simply stir the sugar into the just-melted butter and take off the fire.

Remove from heat. Cool until mixture can be handled, empty into bowl with other ingredients and stir together.
Turn out onto a cool smooth surface and knead to combine thoroughly.
Roll into a log, from which lumps may be cut and rolled into balls about the size of a walnut and dusted with powdered sugar. Try and do your best to let these sit at least overnight so that the flavors blossom.  They will firm up but never quite solidify.

Ms. Toklas advises us that two of these are more than sufficient. Those of more robust or practiced liver may find that the suggested serving size must be adjusted upwards.

Hey, you know. I'm just sayin'. It's certainly not like I'd be making anything like this for Christmas eve or anything.
That would be wrong.

Tuesday, November 06, 2012


I am interested in psychoactive substances.  I grew up in Oregon during the '70s, after all. Plus I have some excellent fun awesome brain abnormalities, come to find out,  that left me recently looking for safe ways to cope in the interval between when one SSRI failed and the next one took effect*.  That's why I go visit frequently.  They have the scoop on that stuff.   You should go there too.  They're doing important work there and they deserve every thoughtful persons' support and encouragement.  Now, do I contribute?  HELL NO, I LIVE ON AN INTERNATIONAL BORDER FOR CRAPSAKES.  Kind of nuts: yes. Stupid: no. Black helicopters: bad.

Part of what happens on is the collection of anecdotes relating to recreational psychoactive use. This is important information, and makes for entertaining reading too.  I think it's nothing less than a new folklore genre:  the folklore of trippin' balls.

A lot of the folks on Erowid style themselves 'psychonauts'...By which most of them mean they are not to be mistaken for simple forest turds getting wasted for fun, but something far nobler: intrepid travellers though innerspace exploring different levels of consciousness for the good of all mankind. Which is charming in a 'lets go to Burning Man and get sand in our asscracks' kind of way.  You want to say 'Get over yourself, kid.  We all do drugs for fun and that's perfectly ok.' That leaves a small but significant percentage that really do believe that 'venture inward and learn cosmic truths' psychonaut stuff. 

The ability to perceive consciousness is chemical. You screw around with those chemicals, you'll experience a lot of shit that has nothing whatsoever to do with places in the conscious mind and everything to do with clogging the pool filter of your brain with used condoms. What you tend to experience using psychoactive substances, particularly in massive dosage, is 'malfunction'. Malfunction has nothing to teach you, even if you experience things during that interval as profound truths. They aren't. They're artifacts of temporary (you hope) brain damage.  And then there's this: just because you've had what you perceive as an extranormal revelatory experience doesn't mean that what was 'revealed' wasn't bullshit.

I saw a lot of people from the generation right before mine get lost on the way to enlightenment in the exact same way. All those 'LSD ascended masters' are still out there; cleverly disguised as unwashed vegetarians living in Volvos out in the parking lot behind the Food Bank.  Truth doesn't come solely from WITHIN.  It comes from the correctly perceived experience of efficient interaction with the world outside yourself. 

I'll let you in on the one true and useful thing I've learned from having this past year cave in on my like a fucking mining disaster: The chief difference between what you experience as meaning or nothingness is only a matter of the kind of chemicals that happen to be sloshing around in your head at any given moment.

There ya go.  You see what you can learn here at Paul?

I wish like hell I'd realized this years ago.  Of course nobody was talking about this stuff years ago and certainly not in mainstream America, where Jesus is in charge of that shit and your relative sanity is a moral issue, determined by the quality of  your relationship with the Lord.  Sanity, as it turns out,  doesn't spring from faith in God, it cannot be obtained by force of will or right thinking or good health or even happiness.

 I've just been on a grand tour of the malfunctioning human mind, and lemme tell you,  I have a whole new perspective on what it means to be temporarily somewhat almost insane, and judged for it.  I also got several bold lessons on how little chemical imbalance it takes to turn normal into a nightmare, and vice-versa.  The merest hint of a biochemical alteration...just .05mg of medication, made the difference between five nightmare months filled with obsessive thoughts and suicidal depression, and normal function. 

As far as exploring consciousness goes, I've come away from all this with some some terrible, amazing insights as a matter of fact.  Not because I paid 2000.00 to spend two days in a self-imposed state of schizophrenia barfing my guts out in some Vancouver loft so I could tell everyone back at the frat house that I communed with the Ayahuasca Mother, but because I was drug through hell by my eyeballs, and realizing those things came as a result of having had to claw my way toward some kind of sanity. It sucked, too. 

Each time I've gone though this it's been a result of overwhelming stress and a subsequent failure of my SSRI medication. Every time, I've come out of it with everything that was stressing me mysteriously dealt with, which means that on some level I kept on dealing despite the crawling horror ooging around in my head. 
Now here's what I wonder: what's at work there?  What keeps the story going?


*Not to mention those spaces in between insurance deductible periods.  Those are a laugh riot.

**A good part of what's happened this year came as a result of having been overdosed on ADHD drugs.  I've got to say, if you have to overdose (amphetamine, dextroamphetamine, methylphenidate), it's best to be overdosed by the medical community. You just cannot beat the quality.


Sunday, October 28, 2012

Green Fish Playing a Deadly Game

This is also the America I live in.

If you're out garage sale-ing and you're looking for old Star Trek stuff, chances are that you're going to find it in Lynden. You know Lynden, I've written about it before; it's that little slice of Dutch-themed heaven six miles west of Rancho FirstNations where the folks are white, the politics are crimson, and Jesus owns a gun. That Lynden.

That's what makes finding vintage Star Trek stuff there so weird. It's not exactly the kind of place you think of when you think of science fiction fans, it's the kind of place you think of when you think of cult Christianity and teenage pregnancy. But there you go...right there on the same table with the piles of Mommy porn paperbacks and Crossroads magazines you're likely to find stacks of Star Trek novels, every single bad, unreadably bad, embarrassingly, embarrassingly bad one of them ever printed. 

Here's my theory: Lynden is remote. It was even more remote back in the 60's and early 70's. No access to popular culture, everyone up in everyone elses' small-town shit, and little in the way of music or entertainment outside of church.  Maybe back in the day, the only way for a  rebellious kid to sneak one past the parents was to bring home a boring-looking book filled with seditious ideas (heart-stoppers like embracing diversity, the triumph of Science over Superstition and the Nobility of Man), knowing that Mom wouldn't look because she was raised to think science is icky; and Dad wouldn't look because books are for fags; he got where he is today by prayer and hard work not schooling.

I see this so often it's become expected.  Someone's putting mom and dad in the Vander Resthome and raising funds by having a garage sale... purging all the Zimmer frames and raised potty stools, and why the heck not; their teenage stash of space opera.  Wouldn't old dad just have a fit if he could see it all lying there next to his copy of 'What The Jews' Plan For America'?

So if you want Trek collectables, particularly full sets of mint Star Trek novels, awful as they are, head North on I-5 until you start to run out of America. About three miles before you hit Canada you'll see a billboard with a picture of a dead fetus lying on an American flag. That'll be Lynden.

And no, I'm not making the thing up about the billboard.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Blue Sea Monkey: Force Of Fist!!!


I know you were all waiting with breath of bait for this my review of the tomato plants I selected and how each one performed!!! Yes you were!  Yes you were.

You were.

indeterminate, saladette  "Oregon Spring"
I've grown this one before and it does not disappoint.  It hunches down and endures chilly soil and crappy spring weather, all the while pooting out blossoms like a happy bunny. Once it gets a week of sunshine on it's leaves watch out; the thing takes off.  WHAMMO it's covered in fruit.
You don't get much of a plant and it tends to get pretty ratty looking as the season progresses, but then who grows tomatoes to admire the foliage? NOBODY THAT'S WHO.
  The tomato you end up with is about 4' wide and squatty rather than globular. Inside you get a rather higher percentage of seed chambers than you get in most saladettes; it's more like a beefsteak in that regard. It is delicious and sweet, though, really tomatoey, and the flesh is the  most amazing pigeon blood shade of red! 
Oregon Springs'  drawback is that you don't get much yield compared to other varieties.  Make up for that by planting two.

indeterminate, roma type "Roma Golden Wave"
This variety is crazy vigorous and and the fruit production is huge!  It just does not quit.  Rather than pouting and curling when it gets chilly it just slows down.  You get a full day of sun and it instantly celebrates by putting on a daily 3 to seven inches of growth, which is a party in anyones' book.

Let's say you decided to grow a tomato plant just to admire the foliage. THIS would be the one you'd grow.  It's a very pretty potato-leaved variety with straight limbs. The new growth is a gorgeous glowing viridian while the older is pure emerald green, and the habit is kind of Arthur Rackham-esque, if you feel me.

 We've had cold, crappy weather for the past month, and so today was the day that everyone had to go to the guillotine.  This plant was still putting on new growth and blossoms and setting fruit! 

This is the one I'd choose to run longwise on a wire or a fence...I had branches on the thing 7 ft. long before I stopped them. 

The fruit grows in pretty trusses like a cherry tomato.  It is pure chromium yellow, and very sweet.  It doesn't have much standout character's just a tomato. But that's not a bad thing!

Weird note: of all the tomato plants I had this year, this one was always and by far covered in pollinating insects, with more waiting stacked three deep like a busy airport.  Bees of every variety, wasps, flies, hornets, even moths in the evening!

Crap that's big
indeterminate, beefsteak "Early Beefsteak"
Plan ahead and use a heavy wire cage for this plant  because you'll need it.  Get the twine ready too.  The branches head straight out from the crown anywhichway and get thick and knobby and woody like apple tree branches, only without the rest of the apple tree to support them; so they tend to split. Untrained branches will meet an obstacle and just force growth against it until they turn into a weird arthritic green knot. You have to help it, like a fat dog that can't climb up onto the sofa.
Once it begins to swell fruit it holds nothing back.  The weight of the fruit combined with the weight of the branches and the general cluelessness of the plant organism itself means that it will cheerfully grow itself to death; just twist itself apart and die without a care in the world. Once it begins to swell fruit, then, make with the twine and stakes.
The fruit is truly fucking HUGE.  Most of it is softball sized and perfectly round, although it will also give you the stereotypical ribby, squatty tomato of old seed catalogue illustrations.  It has a pretty equal meat to seed ratio, and the color is a rather alarming blood crimson.
 This is a tomato that you want to pick just as it colors off to a true tomato red, and not a moment later as it gets mushy and watery real quick.  One slice will cover a hamburger bun.  It has a great vegetable- tasting tomato flavor...not too sugary, not too acid, just strong tomato flavor.  Really nice. And really  huge.

saladette "Bush Early Girl"
Lousy plant that generally does not want to live where you've planted it. It wants to live over theeeeeere. Why can't it live over theeeeeere. It's too hot here. It's too windy. There's no air circulaaaaation. The view suuuucks. It's too wet. It's too dryyyyyy. Why can't it watch Nightmare on Elm Street. All the other tomatoes get to watch Nightmare on Elm Street. It is the only tomato it knows that hasn't seen Nightmare on Elm Street. It's not faaaaaaaaaaaaair.
The fruit, what there is of it, sets... and that's it. It sets, then it sulks for weeks, green and hard.  Then it grudgingly turns red, maybe, on one side, if it feels like it, and even if it does feel like it, what you end up with has a hide like a rhinoceros and is woody and corky and generally a waste of plant tissue. Mostly it just cranks out leaves and turns itself into a tight little wad of unhappy greenery covered in hard green tumors. Never again.

This years' volunteers were:
1. The same mutt saladette I always get
It's a nice tomato, very firm flesh, just a good serviceable saladette that holds up under slicing and chopping and can be fried by the slice without losing structural integrity.  The plant is absolutely average in every respect but very hardy. Think of this tomato as having a UPC code instead of a variety name.

2. determinate roma type  "San Marzano"
Last fall I bought a slew of these, sauced them and threw the seeds in the kitchen compost barrel outside, where they alternately festered in rot and froze solid all winter long.  Early this April I dug a hole in my newest raised bed, emptied the now- horrifying compost into it, covered it with an old tin washtub and forgot about it, until the San Marzano plants  lifted the tub off the hole and crawled out from underneath like C'thulhu emerging from seaweed-garlanded R'lyeh, only loaded with delicious fruit instead of evil.  Unfortunately, this variety is very, very late, so I only got a few before the weather turned shitty. But oh, what a few they were!

Now then: would anyone like some tomato seeds?  Because hell YES I save them.  You know where the comments lounge is.  Comment in the comment lounge. Say 'yes oh yes I would dearly love some authentic Rancho FirstNations tomato seeds saved on authentic Kirkland Brand two-ply unscented white toilet paper!' And then we'll do the thing where you give me your email address in code so the Nigerian scam 'bots don't figure it out and then we'll email and I'll get your address and then soon if I remember lovely tomato seeds will be winging their way to your locale and you'll plant them and find out they're an invasive species in your part of the world and cause a huge environmental disaster and everyone will have to live in damp malfunctioning habitat enclosures on the ocean floor because the land was taken over by tomatoes and they figured out how to operate our technology and became sentient and started playing the banjo.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Swiftly Dragon Gold Win The Prize!

TRAGEDY STRIKES THE RANCHO, I am not lying just out of shot in a pool of vomit.  This was an ACT OF NATURE, which hates me, and obviously hated my Official, Licensed Edition Star Trek Star Fleet Shot Glass. 

I had it sitting on the windowsill above my kitchen sink, where I could admire it while I did the dishes.  The window was open, and the wind - yes, THE WIND - blew it off the sill.  That, and several other things I had up there, but nothing as important or valuable as my Official, Licensed Edition Star Trek Star Fleet Shot Glass. 

Yeah, well, shit on you, Nature, is what I say. If this is how it's going to be then HA HA on you, Nature...
 I cancel Burning Man! 

BOOMYEAH!  It's done been broughten. That shit is CANCELLED. I apologize ahead of time for the crop failures and catastrophic weather but dammit a bitch gets MIFFY about her Star Fleet tchotkes.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Steve 'Booger' Bailey (this post needed a name.)

Apparently I have been blogging for six years.   I have no idea what to think of this, so I'll move along to more important issues, like, what is it when your potatoes have a metallic sheen on them?  Because that's what happened to some of mine.  They were those little blue potatoes.  I grew them in a nice raised bed, heavy clay soil amended with lagoonage, they had a nice potatoey life, then I dug them up and let them cure.  Go to scrub them and I find a metallic-looking goldish sheen in patches on the skins, which were otherwise blue. It wouldn't clean off. 
So I cooked them and ate them. 
They were good. 
I feel OK so far.  I'm not marching around stiffly with a blank expression on my face attending mysterious neighborhood meetings late at night either. You should still probably keep an eye on me though.

Here's what I 've been diggin' the mostest lately:  Mack Sennett silent comedies.  Every now and then Turner Classics will play a big slew of them and I am right there.  Those things are hilarious!  And I love imagining a whole theatre full of people, innocent of television and political correctness, all cracking up together at this stuff.  You see immediately where the gang at Warner Brothers cribbed all Bugs Bunny's best gags from. 

I love silent films.  Seeing the years gone seem to live is incredibly fascinating to me.  In the case of the Mack Sennett comedies, the vibrance and immediacy of the people is so hyperreal against the dated backdrops and the age of the medium that it's become something more than itself as time has gone on... a sui generis comedy-surrealism that happens in each moment of vision, 24 times each second. 
   I think what I love best about them is the innocence.  This is not complicated stuff.  It's just silly and sweet and fun.  A little kid and a clever dog having adventures in a farmyard.  A very strange and silly man in a very strange and silly department store.  Foreign airplane spies.  Odd waiters and submarines!    One of the most touching things I've ever seen was in a short called 'Fatty and Mabel Adrift.'  The newlyweds are going to bed for the first time in their honeymoon cabin - in separate rooms!  Fatty gets up, goes to her doorway, and draws the curtain aside to peek in at Mabel, sound asleep. Then you see his shadow on the wall over her bed...just his shadow! and it bends down, and places a sweet kiss on her head.     It was like an old Valentine card falling from between the pages of a book you've just bought.  And it will always be this way.  Every time this film runs.

Friday, September 21, 2012

Death Sauce and Derision

Let's say you wanted to make some Death Sauce:

...loaded with vitamin C, antioxidants, and Death

1/3 lb by unprocessed weight Harbanero, or Scotch Bonnet, peppers
(wash, stem and halve)
1 tsp. salt
Juice of one large lemon +some of the grated peel
1/2 cup by volume minced red onion
V-8 or plain tomato juice, 1 12oz can (you won't be using all of it so have some vodka ready)

-Run the Harbaneros through a food processor until minced, combine with onion and fry in batches in a little olive oil until slightly browned. 

-Set aside to cool.

-Dump into a blender with the lemon juice, the grated peel, the salt and half the can of V8, and blend until liquefied past all possibility of even the tiniest muon of remaining chunkness.  Why?  Because if you're one of those people who experiences afterburn you'll want to avoid Klingons.  I'm told that even the tiniest remainder can mean hours of agonized squatting over a hand mirror searching for the miscreant particle, which is a story I made up but probably happens.  Me, I wouldn't know.  I have an efficient digestive tract.  Anyway.  

-Pour through a fine strainer into a glass jar with a lid that fits tightly and refrigerate. anyway you wanted to make this delicious delicious recipe for Death Sauce.  What you should remember is that you should not fry Harbanero peppers in a closed room full of steam.  Harbanero cooking fumes are a lot like the stuff that they spray on people when they won't stop resisting arrest; and lemme tell you it took all the impulse to resist arrest right out of me. 

I have nothing but scorn for people who whine 'ew, I don't liiiiiike spicy, waa, how can you taaaaaste anything, augh' and make their nose all scrunchy like how they do.  I started eating jalapeno peppers when I was 8 years old because it absolutely scandalized the crap out of my parents for whatever goofy reason.  Anyway, I found that not only is a simple jalapeno tolerable, it's delicious.  Face it, it's a fruit.  It tastes like fruit...sweet and nice.  Yeah it has a kick, but here's the second thing I discovered the more I ate them...the more frequently you eat spicy stuff, the more the burn fades.  You get used to it.  The fire simply becomes a delicious, mouth watering sensation, and the heat opens up all the rest of the flavors and releases new ones.  THAT is why people eat spicy food.

Thanks to all the practice over the years, I now have a cool bar trick that's earned me thousands of imaginary dollars over the years - I can literally DRINK an entire bottle of Tabasco Sauce like a shooter.  Right down.  Doesn't phase me a bit.

Wanna blow job?

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Fuckin' A Argentina would you SHUT UP aw shit I hate it when you cry DAMMIT STOP

Having washed the last of the scary Ritalin badness out of my system I find myself once again at the point where this entire exercise in medication began...and it's ABSOLUTELY GREAT TO BE BACK.

I'll miss the focus.  Not that I leapt from my previous state in cape and tights or anything...  No, I used all that expensive focus (try 90.00 a scrip) for remembering why I entered any given room.  Recalling what I said five minutes previously.  Doing simple grocery store mathematics.  Seriously.  Well over 500.00 worth of ADHD medications took me a few baby steps into the reality the rest of humanity inhabits, where I looked around in bemusement for a few moments until liquefied brain matter began to run out my ears.  Figuratively.

I've learned some very interesting, heavy, paradigm-shifting things about 'present time' and 'narrative' and 'experience of continuity'; as well as gaining insight into how incredibly malleable perception is. 

I'm done as fuck with it, too.  Gimme a beer.

Sunday, September 09, 2012

Dammit Argentina I said don't cry for me.

This past week the Ritalin suddenly stopped working, turned, and went for my throat.  Adderal was right up front about wanting me to die, at least...Ritalin just watched.  And waited.

This past week and a half has not been a picnic.  I knew something was up...but seriously, when the only warning is 'Gee, I've been moody lately'...?  Yeah, gosh, I'll take that seriously; I've been moody lately. Fancy that.  I'm 52 and I'm moody.

The deciding event occurred this afternoon, when for no reason I became...let us say 'distraught' the middle of Harbor Fucking Freight. 

Nobody likes cheap Chinese hardware more than me.   Up until the very moment I wasn't, I was perfectly happy to be there, the bracing aroma of high carbon steel in my nostrils...lovely day, lovely Biker, buying hardware, looking at the extension cords, OH GOD PLEASE LET ME DIEEEEEEE.

...and  I mean just like THAT.  It turns on like a light switch. No warning. It lasts for 45 minutes max, then just as suddenly it's gone. This is exactly whats happened with the other two medications, only much, much worse.


Truthfully, if I have to live the rest of my life with untreated ADHD, at this point I'm ready to do just that. 

Monday, August 27, 2012

Beautiful Music and Lovely Herbs

As you all know I used to be in Led Zeppelin.  But now I have a new band called 'The Frankenstein Vikings' which is: Frankenstein, Kenny Rogers, plus Me!  WOW I know.  This is our hot new single  'Freebird'. (Now you have to hold up a lighter. Go find one.)

OK this is the song.

I was walking through the woods with my best gal Brenda
I had to make a move and I wanted it to send her
Maybe a bear would attack us, and then I could defend her-
But no bears showed up.  Then I found a blender.

Oh yeah! Found a blender!
Oh yeah! It was a Waring!
Oh yeah! Found a blender!
A sticker on the bottom said 'Return to Keith Haring'!

Went to Brendas' place in a green Cadillac
Stopped by the Safeway near the railroad track
Stole a pack of smokes and an Enquirer from the rack
The headline said 'Keith wants his blender back'

Oh yeah! Stole from Safeway!
Oh yeah! Down by the tracks!
Oh yeah! Stole from Safeway!
Plus I scored a canned ham and some Pringles Snacks!

I ran down the siding and I jumped a freight car
Just the clothes on my back and an old steel guitar
A blind man stole it just outside of Enumclaw
Then his monkey bit my ear off. It's name was Francois.

Oh yeah! Hit the road!
Oh yeah! No going back!
Oh yeah! Hit the road!
Too bad I lost my ear in a monkey attack!

Nobody thinks about lovage. This is stupid. You should think about lovage now.


Lovage is about the easiest thing in the world to grow besides maybe dandelions.  It even has things in common with self-seeds, you can teach it to repeat simple words, and if you eat too much you'll piss your kidneys right out of your body.  USE LOVEAGE WISELY.  Don't wake up at 5:am tomorrow morning and decide today is the day you'll eat nothing but lovage for the rest of your life, because if you're stupid enough to do that then you deserve to have your kidneys land splat on the floor and I'm not going to stop you.
You can read all kinds of stuff about lovage on the 'net, and most of it is repetitive and doesn't help much.  Do you care that "The esteemed Irish herbalist K'Eogh noted that this highly aromatic and giant-sized perennial "expels flatulence; clears the sight; removes spots, freckles and redness; provokes urination and menstruation; and aids digestion." ??  I personally do not give a flying fuck.  Although I had no idea that the Irish had such quixotic surnames, or were interested in the expulsion of flatulence.  Don't they do it like everyone else does?  Is improper expulsion of flatulence a problem for the Irish?  If you take this guys' word for it the Irish have all kinds of things they should be worrying about, plus Enya, and the proper use of loveage, which is 'as a weapon'.

A CULINARY weapon. 

  Loveage has an aroma of celery, if celery smelled even better than it does now, and lets face it that's actually pretty darn good.  But now imagine celery, only more concentrated, more perfumed, with a hint of fennel, fresh green basil, and line-dried laundry of all things.  Oh yes!  Now you're interested!  Well it does smell that good.  And it tastes that good too. It tastes amazing. Just minced lovage in an omelet is unbelievable.  Oh hell yeah. Or in a Vietnamese lettuce wrap... or in pho, in salads, with tomatoes, on burgers, IN burgers, in stocks....and good heavens, what it does for a soup, particularly if there's chicken lurking about in the wings.  Get it? Because, chickens are like theatres, and soup.  I'm glad we've cleared that up.
What I am trying to convey to your brain is that lovage is something you need to eat more of now.  Right now.  This shit is delicious.

Lovage is a real meal-type vegetable, unlike supermarket celery which is crunchy water held together with fishing line.  Nobody would eat fried celery by itself because that would be flabby and revolting.  You can fry the crap out of lovage, slap it on a plate, and people will give you money for free! And even if the thought of food with too much delicious makes you feel sinful and dirty you can still just settle for chopping up the young leaves and stems and using them exactly the way you'd use celery.  I understand you can even eat the root.  I haven't done this.  No I will not tell you why.

Lovage wants rich, neutral, average soil that stays on the wet side.  Full sun, part sun, front yard, north side of the house, it's fine.  Basically you stick lovage in the ground, you water it, stick some steer compost on it, and it sulks for a year and doesn't grow very tall.  But then the next year and forever after it grows about 6 - 7 feet high.  Now if you live in someplace that's only a state because we felt sorry for it, like Nevada, it will just die after a year so you guys are stuck with both celery and Nevada.  But if you live in Washington which is super ten thousand times of coolness, then lovage will grow and come back every Spring for what they say is twenty years or more.  I believe it; I've had it for four years now in heavy clay soil, planted in the most unprotected, dank,  floods-every-year part of my back yard and it hasn't noticed a thing.  And the shit is 6 ft. tall.  Or it would be if I hadn't cut it back because it was 6 feet tall.

Mature lovage plants end up looking a lot like several other plants, one of which can kill you:  Water Hemlock. Please don't be dead.  Buy your lovage plant from a regular nursery.  DO NOT buy lovage from some random grange fundraiser. Those little old ladies have cataracts, man. They get all drugged up and go pull shit up out of the lawn and then they stick it in a pot and throw out the first name that comes to mind. Yeah, that's a tulip. That kind has thorns. They don't care.   I NEVER buy edibles from plant sales. Don't you do it either.
Have I scared you?  'OO!  I'm too scared to buy lovage! I could die!'  PLEASE.  Be scared of something worth being scared of. You could be Irish and have gas.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Hope you like jammin' too!

A message from the Assembly of God, Sumas, WA. 
(Note the Heefalump Dumpaloon showing a coy half-moon, stage left.)
I just took the last harvest off my blueberry bushes and made jam! My kitchen smells wonderful, and because I was forced to do so many, many 'taste tests', my teeth and tongue are almost black, just like my stony wizened little heart.  Anyway, I was standing there stirring the simmering berries, sipping a Pepsi, when suddenly I had an aneurysm. 

No no! Having laugh my face, silly persons! 

I had an inspiration

What's one of the ingredients in cola?  Cinnamon. That, and various types of sugar.  Things you'd add to blueberry jam anyway.  In it went.  Out came awesome.

It's sisterfuckin' good!

-Maybe about 4 or 5 cups by volume of extremely ripe blueberries, washed and picked over
-Two 12 oz. cans of Pepsi
-extra sugar or fructose depending on how tart your blueberries run

...see, the idea here is to use the Pepsi instead of sugar water to cook the blueberries in.  Otay? Otay.

Follow these instructions exactly or the Blueberry police will tase the shit out of you and you'll wake up alone in Blueberry jail with Mr. Zucchini for a cellie :

Dump blueberries in saucepan
Dump Pepsi on blueberries
Mash blueberries.  A hand mixer works rully rully good for this. (NOT a bamix.)

Simmer for 45 minutes, stirring to prevent scorching.

Now youse place a fine wire strainer over a bowl and force this mixture through the wires, or use a mouli with a fine screen.  Save the juice, dump the squeezed-out glop down the front of your underpants.  Or discard it like a normal person.  I'm assuming my usual readership here, though.

Check the result and adjust seasonings as necessary.  Right here you could pour the juice back in the saucepan and reduce it further if you think that's necessary Picky Smith.  Actually I did, plus I added more sugar too. Um.

Dump into a clean glass jar, let it cool, then tighten down the lid and put in the 'fridge.  It will set by itself without the need to add pectin. 

I already posted up a picture of my first ripe tomato of the year, but what the hell; I'll post it up here too:

...and my!  What an attractive tattoo!
 There's only been five more since (indeterminate plants.) We made salsa, but there's just the two of us and these are big honkin' tomatoes. With the few that were left over I made this:

Use them in dressings, use them in sauces, wear them like a hat; I don't care.

 Tomatoes, washed, stemmed, cut into chunks
Olive oil

Equipment de tomateuille of submergeurine oui oui:
 Clean jar with lid
Food dehydrator, or a very sunny, hot location and a fan

Dry tomatoes until they are still pliable...'leathery going toward potato chip' rather than 'gross warm mush'. Dump them in the jar, dump the olive oil in on top of them, put the lid on and then take it out in the sunshine and photograph it in front of some flowers.

Still reading?  Oh good.  This next recipe is really complicated and requires special tools and presumes access to stuff that you probably don't have access to,  which will make you cry and cry so hard all like 'WAAAAAAAAAA'  and I'll ignore you.

Awhile back I decided to try and make some loose incense, because I have too much spare time and a food dehydrator.  Now a word needs to be said here about food dehydrators.  Yes, AGAIN:

Those cheapo dehydrators you see for sale in, say, Wal-Mart or Target, they only work for things like a handful of oregano leaves.  These ones are the ones I'm talking about:
They rely on a small light bulb in the bottom for heat generation.  When the inside heats up, cool air is drawn passively through vent holes in the bottom and circulates up through the food trays and out a hole in the top.  It takes a longass time.  If you load the thing up the way the picture shows, what you end up with is lots of humidity lingering inside and the real possibility of mold growth on the material in the outer ring before anything truly dehydrates.  But who's going to sit around and wait for three hours just to dehydrate one carrot, or a few slices of apple? Please.

This is the type of food dehydrator you need if you mean to deal with realistic amounts of stuff:
Oh fuck it I'm sick of dealing with the alignment. ANYWAY.  This type has a fan at the back that forces warm dry air through and around the food; draws cool air in through the back and blows the moisture-laden warm air out the front through gaps around the door.  It also has a temperature regulator so you can turn up the heat on really wet items like raw meat or tomatoes. Dry one carrot in 45 minutes.  Dry a whole load of carrots in 2 hours. Serious as a heart attack. THIS is the one you want. 

Anyway.  So I'm making loose incense, which is just stick incense minus glue and the stick.  
Imagine - yes, YOU - can experience the nasal ambiance of Rancho FirstNations just by following these simple instructions! 

-One standard pickle bucket of fresh, fully opened blossoms of Butterfly Bush (buddleia Davidii) ...blossoms left on central stem, excess + leaves trimmed away, UNwashed.
-Peels of 2 large lemons, just the yellow part (not the white pith or the flesh)
-Ginger root, 4 oz by volume, peeled and cut into extremely thin transparent slices (easier if you freeze it first; the peel rubs right off!)
-Powdered Sandalwood, 1/3 cup (purchase at hippie store or online)

-Organic, local honey, particularly if it is somewhat old and dark;  as much as it takes to aid dry ingredients in coming together into a meal. I'm serious about the local organic part too.  You know what one of the most adulterated, counterfeited things in the world is?  Big-brand honey.  (The other is olive oil. True facts.)

-Food dehydrator
-2 Glass or metal mixing bowls
-Small blade-style coffee grinder:
..clean it out really well afterward! 

-Dawn dishwashing liquid for washing your hands afterward; trust me
-Loose incense burner (or just use that spoon and candle rig you've got hidden behind the family Bible)
-A very clean jar with a tight fitting lid

- Stick the buddleia, the ginger and the lemon peel into the dehydrator, put the heat on medium-low, and leave it until everything inside is crackly potato chip - dry. This will have to be done in batches and the buddleia might have to be cut up a bit to fit into the dehydrator easily.  Using the recommended dehydrator, a full load with every tray covered loosely will take an hour or more depending on the humidity of the day. In my experience, a pickle bucket load of blossoms dehydrated down to about 1 1/4 cups by volume of ground material. 
-Wash your hands very thoroughly and keep your fingers out of your nose.
-Now strip all the buddleia blossoms off their stems and into one of the mixing bowls.
-Discard the stems and dead bugs NO SHIT REALLY. 
-Add the lemon peel and ginger, and crumble all the dry material with your hands
-Run it all through the coffee grinder in batches until powdered into as fine a dust as you can manage, dumping each batch into the second mixing bowl as you go. 
-Add the sandalwood powder to this.
-Mix these ingredients together using a whisk. Once mixed, put the whisk away. Now it's hands on time.
-Yes you have to wash your hands AGAIN. I saw what you did.

I saw it through your television set. You thought it was off.  And it is.

-Drizzle the honey over the whole surface in thin strands, then work it into the powder with  your fingertips as though you were rubbing butter into flour.  Keep drizzling in the honey and mixing until it all begins to feel just barely sticky and is coming together like coarse corn meal.  Your fingers will turn dark green and you'll have to scrape them off with a spoon so keep one handy.  A clean spoon. I CAN STILL SEE YOU.

Now comes the time-consuming part.
You have to work this stuff for a long time so all the different compounds release and start to mix. You'd think the coffee grinder would have done that but no.  It's heartbreaking. Now don't make that duckie face, c'mon now, it smells really really good and it isn't difficult.  Just stick your hands in there and squeeze, roll, crumble, squish, and crumble it again. When your hands give out, keep at it using a pastry cutting-in tool.  Use the spatula to scrape the bowl occasionally.  Make sure that every atom of material gets included.  It gets boring.  If I was you I'd get really wasted and sit in front of the TV with the bowl and just keep mixing it and dicking with it and squishing it until you straighten up enough to realize that you've been watching Telemundo and understanding it.

Now place the material into the jar and fasten down the lid tightly.  Store it someplace dry and dark.  No worries about spoilage!  Dehydrated materials don't rot, and honey, my honeys, has antibacterial properties, so it acts as a binder, an aromatic AND a preservative!!  The longer you store it unopened, the better it will smell.  I have no idea why this is; it just is.  But you can use it right away too and it will work fine.

You can make an incense burner!  Or you could buy a special brass burner with a grill and a bunch of those hockey puck charcoal things and a special fan to get the hockey puck things burning and special long matches to light it with and a special cloth mat to sit it all on and seriously fuck that in the ear. 

A loose incense burner can be as simple as a soup can - minus the label, snoid. Take it off now. Then:
-Cut off the top and suck out all the soup with a vacuum cleaner
-Now fill the can full of water and freeze it.
-Once frozen,  poke the sides full of artistically arranged holes.  If you don't your goats shall bear young with human faces.
-Dump out the ice, dry it off, and stick a lit votive candle underneath it.
-Wait until all the coating has burned off. This will stink. So much in life does, though.
-Wash it down, set it back over the candle, and you're ready to roll! 

The incense goes in a little tablespoon sized heap on top and stinks real purdy.

Now look at you, banishing lingering assy aromas with your for free incense and your free soup can burner that you maded yourself! You are the greenest person EVER.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Elderly fucked-up people at the edge of America

This weekend before last we went to the Mt. Baker Rhythm and Blues Festival at the Deming Logging Show grounds.

....OK fine. Yes, there is such a thing as a 'logging show' and it is popular enough that they built a special fairground area for it in Deming, a town whose only other claims to fame are the Cedarville Solid Waste Site and the striking number of bald-headed women who live there. I am not shitting you. There are some bald damn women running around in Deming. Never actually been to a logging show myself, but I hear they're pretty cool, if you like seeing things like logs, antique logging equipment in action, wood, competition blacksmithery, log rolling,  competitive tree climbing, customized chainsaws, bar stool racing, sawdust,  top fuel lawnmower racing, logs, competitive axe throwing, logs, and big sweaty mens choppin' wood.  Dead serious, kats.

The showground is a really beautiful place.  You'd think it would be skanky, but it's incredibly well maintained, has a full compliment of amenities, and is surrounded by beautiful green hills and tall cedar trees...complete with picturesque lil' forest critters (chipmunks, deer, alcoholics) wandering around in a picturesque manner.

The Blues Festival is organized by a long-time acquaintance of ours, Lloyd, who basically does this for love of the music and the opportunity to party with musicians, get drunk, and talk on a microphone. It's always a fun event. Good music, good beer, good concessions, deliberately unobservant security personnel, everything you could ask for. If you love R&B, and you love partying with nasty, dirty bikers, armed vegetarians and other fringe types, this yearly event is worth a trip out of your way to come see. THIS is the America that I live in.

I was surprised as hell at the number of young people there. Ida thought they'd all be at home listening to, but no...there they were in their checkered shirts and little funky toques, digging the cougar love, partying alongside the rest of us. Made me proud.

The 'second string' acts were pretty good. One chick was bound and determined to bring back Janis via her vocal cords. The younger crowd practically stormed the stage when she started in. We hung out in the back at the beer garden, mainly because this girl did NOT need amplification and loooooved ripping out those Joplin screams wherever she could fit one in...and she most emphatically DID have amplification. There were small craft warnings in my beer.

The Fat Tones were shit hot. Just totally shit hot. Every one of them. The guy they had on the Hammond and Clavinet was extra super top secret shit hot, in fact. But the guitarist -! Holy whackamole. 90 lbs of perpetual motion with an electric guitar! Picture this amazingly talented crack squirrel in a rayon shirt playing so fast his little paws are just a blur. Just tore it the fuck up.

This year one of the two headline acts was supposed to be Hot Tuna (you have to be really, really old to remember the Tuna.) At the last minute they cancelled. Lo and behold, Lloyd comes up with COCO MONTOYA!!

Coco Montoya is one hell of a musician. He is also a hell of a performer. And he really connects with the audience. He got everyone involved and turned it into a huge party, like he was just jamming in the backyard at a barbecue or something. Only, you know, really good. He even got the Biker nodding his head in time, which is how Germans pogo. Coco and I made a true heart connection that night. Now he won't stop calling me. All he does is breathe. Probably shy. I understand that.

The other headliner was Guitar Shorty.
Guitar Shorty!!!!*
Little short fat dude in a Nudelmans' shirt and a cowboy hat. Little stubby fingers. Jeri curl. Just kind of stands there, doesn't hack and flail. But oh my God, he puts out the most evil! filthy! raunchy! sound! This is a guy that Hendrix admired, right; and you figure out why real quick. Gave me a case of the vapors.  AND the fantods.

He played, then disappeared for awhile, and then all of a sudden he showed up out in the audience with his guitar and started in playing, and just roamed all over the whole field with people following him in a big old hippified heap dancing and smoking him up and being insane.

It's that kind of venue. Waaaaaay better than a club. And I suppose it goes without saying that the Biker and I had a blast, huh.

....YES I kept my clothes on.

*I met the guy! Yeah I did! Shook his hand and talked to him after the show! It was pretty casual too. Only hit me afterward that HOLY FUCK I JUST MET GUITAR SHORTY. Couldn't wipe the grin off my face for HOURS.

Tuesday, August 07, 2012

Warthog Getaway Weekend: Methow Stylee

The wonderful thing about America is that you can drive a little ways and visit practically every kind of environment you can imagine, bar subtropical rainforest and anything having to do with the Maldives, or Australia, except for certain parts of Australia that look kind of like Eastern Washington only Eastern Washington has more fat people in sneakers.  Us fat people like to visit Eastern Washington to get our 'high desert' on.  We call out 'Kangaroo!' whenever we see a dog and then laugh hysterically, and call all the ducks 'koala bears' and feed them 'gum leaves' and 'scream' when they 'spit acid', which clears the campsites around ours like magic.

This year we visited the Methow Valley for a few days.  We left a town where it was 60 degrees and overcast.  Once we crossed over the pass we were in blue skies.  We just looked at each other and grinned in amazement.  It was pure bliss from that moment on. 
Just past the summit. Pure bliss beginning......NOW.

Yeah, we pussed out and took the van instead of the Victory.  This was as much a scouting expedition as a vacation, and it's nicer to be able to scout with a cup of coffee in hand.  That, and we wanted to sleep a. in campgrounds b. on a comfortable bed  c.inside a metal box that was d. safely above rattlesnake level, because  e. fuck rattlesnakes.  You're either in timber rattler country or desert rattler country out in Eastern Washington, and either one of them will bite you right on the hine and not give a fuck either way about it.  Nothing ruins a vacation like a snake hanging off your ass. Thus the van proved to be an excellent choice.  We only paid ten dollars on lodging and our butts remained reptile-free, unlike other we saw trudging around with five or six chomped on the back of them.

The Methow Valley is a different slice of Eastern Washington. The high forests are colder and damper than the Wenatchee side of the mountains, and there's a wider variety of plants...pine, fir, alder, spruce I think, vine maple, something that smelled intensely like juniper and a whole shitload of other stuff (yeah I know I should of brought my field guide but the dog ate it. Seriously.  And here you were so looking forward to a botany lesson too. )

Lotsa fuckin' trees really close together that are cold and wet.

What you notice most are the Ponderosa pines.You know, the ones I didn't take a picture of to put here. They're enormously tall and straight with close cinnamon-colored bark cut by black fissures.  The older the tree the higher up the trunk the  short limbs emerge, dividing into shorter downcurled branches, dark and sooty looking, covered in long green needles and gold buds. Nothing traps the sunset light like these trees.  .* 

The foothills descend into rolling plain, and the forest ends in yellow dog hills and grassy, gravelly plains scattered with small clumps of sagebrush.  The road you travel through them is edged with stunted oatgrass and short, silver artemesia.

Picturesque log cabin that we saw with hills arroyo trees etc.  And a bigass horse barn in the background.
 This is western kingbird country.  You see them on every fenceline shimmering in the heat.  Barn swallows, swifts and buzzards rise in circles up the hillsides, and osprey survey the lakes.  Ravens drop small rocks onto the picnic tables to chase you away.
One block off Main Street, Winthrop...the hardscrabble life of a wily forest denizen.

Elk and deer everywhere, even in downtown Winthrop, holding up traffic as they eat the municipal landscaping, wandering through the parking lot of the grocery store, wading up the creek to watch the bikers getting overserved at the Schoolhouse Pub.

We were those bikers. Us, and hundreds more funky nasty tattooed fuckers ambling around half lit, as it turned out.  We even met some hometown refugees and stood around in the middle of the street talking with them while all the other elderly miscreants baked in the sunshine, broke various misdemeanor laws,

Just a reminder from the Church of Christ, Winthrop.
  bought tchotchkes made in Indonesia, ate barbecue, and played their music too loud as they enjoyed the 'Western movie set' ambiance.

Yeah, Winthrop is a 'Western' theme town, and it's campy and touristy, but it's cool.

...and no western-themed town is complete without an abandoned hippie castle
  They could have gone the edelweiss splattered half-timbered Bavarian bullshit route, but they didn't, which means Winthrop beats the living shit out of Leavenworth in my book.  When I go on vacation I don't want to run into even the slightest chance of yodelling.  At all. Anywhere.  That's like first on my list of 'things to avoid while on vacation' in fact. 'Ebola' and 'rattlesnakes hanging off my ass' come next.

They have a craft show/farmers' market in the park every Saturday, and I failed to get a picture of it as well.  Imagine lots of old people with long grey braids and faded hand-dyed t-shirts selling organic honey and incredible outrageously gorgeous handmade jewelery and little crocheted outfits for your laptop.  It's a really good craft show. In fact the Methow is home to a rich and varied crafting legacy, one handed down not only from the primordial Native Americans but also the hippie scum that dried in a paisley ring around the valley back in 1969.  That, and you get snowed in for four months out of the year when the North Cascades highway closes,

..and closes with a bang I might add, with you stuck behind these battlements.
 it's probably a case of craft or die.  Anywho, there was some really good stuff there.  We even bought some of it.

We did a lot of exploring the backroads.  Saw a lot of ancient hippie dwellings, tepees, yurts, Victorian homes, double wides, and 'vacation gothic' mansions.  Saw some rivers. Saw lots of mountains. Saw this malachite green lake with the picturesque lightning-struck tree in front of it.

Diablo Lake.  As the very patient forest ranger with the fixed grin will tell you, it's that color because of all the 'glacier flour' suspended in the water which reflects this specific shade of green for a reason that you'd better not ask the patient forest ranger to tell you because it makes a vein in his forehead swell.

Then we came home. And here I is!

*The description I give here isn't of nursery-perfect specimens but trees that have survived fire at least once in their lives.  They generally survive a flashing-over and even lightning without noticing much, and come back green the next spring.  So there.

Monday, July 30, 2012

Methow Valley, Part Un: Rolling Huts

Last weekend we hit the road.  On our trip through the Methow Valley we stopped at took a look around at the Rolling Huts,, something I've wanted to do since I read about them in Dwell Magazine a few years back.  Now you need to be a good reader and go visit the site, and at least let the slideshow on their home page reel past........OK, done?

I was really interested in seeing how the years had treated their design concept.  Yes, I know how to party while on vacation. 

In the article I read, the original plan was to tow them around in the surrounding fields.  A client could request a certain view (and there are astounding views) or even daylight exposures, and they'd trundle the entire structure about to accommodate the request.

The Rolling Huts no longer roll, unfortunately.  Each one sits on an enclosed gravel pad, wired into service.  

Here's what I think happened: 

1. A Rolling Hut as massively overbuilt  (immense steel i-beams, gargantuan metal chassis and wheels) as these are probably became a Tilting Hut or even a Sinking Hut right around snowmelt.  Not to mention what their sheer passage must have done to the fields over time...'level' probably got pretty scarce.

2. The experience they were selling at the outset was 'aesthetic-spartan-rustic'. The design is gorgeously aesthetic. Wood heat is rustic.  But living without electric light and a place to plug into the 'Net is just too damn spartan for people who can afford to spend 135.00 a night on lodging.

I asked to take a look inside one of the vacant Huts and fell in LOVE.  These are beautiful objects both outside and in.  I have nothing but compliments for the layout, the style, the efficiency, the way natural light is  handled, everything.  Being inside feels good.  I could stay here happily and never feel awkward, isolated or cramped; no small feat given the square footage and the fact that there's a wood stove in the place.

Only problem for me: you have to go outside and use a tank toilet. 

Why they didn't build a door that communicated directly from the living space I do not know. As designed, you have to go completely outside and then enter a very chilly little separate chamber near the steps which contains a porta-potty.  Which smells exactly like a porta-potty.

This is where ideals and reality collide for me.  I'd GLADLY exchange the electricity for a propane incinerating toilet .  As for the 'go outside' aspect, I'm sure that anyone staying there with small children would appreciate not having to haul them out into the snow in the middle of the night one after the other to use the thing. It was a weird decision, but I wonder, given the 'turn three corners' layout of the toilet area, if the original idea might have been to leave it doorless so you could feel all 'al fresco' and peek out at the view.  It'd work...just not in an area that experiences blizzards.  Putting a door on the area was probably a last-minute thing.

I would have used more durable materials for the interior, given that these are rental units. They used plywood for the walls and built-ins, and cork composite for the floors.  There's a lot written on the 'room rules' card about being careful and not letting wet equipment, sharp equipment or dogs ruin things, but I have to admit that so far their guests have been pretty respectful. The places are holding up just fine.  Use has only burnished things a bit, to very attractive effect I have to say. Another point Rolling Huts!

I also noticed that the clerestory glass had cracked up in the corner where the woodstove stack passes through the roof. Woulda put an s-bend in the pipe to move it a little further out from that corner, but that's the kind of thing you note in retrospect. It doesn't leak.

Rolling Huts would work PERFECTLY in an area like the Southwest. I mean PERFECTLY. You'd only have to change out the existing glass for heat blocking glass (, and add some solar panels to the roof. They'd be neat little self-contained eco wagons.  'Burners would flock to them like lemmings to a tall cliff.

A private owner could take out the the bathroom door and open the area back up to the breeze;  even do away with the tank entirely; just leave it at a seat over a hole and let the chips fall where they may, which would make the coyotes happy. Not particularly welcoming if visitors happened to arrive while you were inside, though. But rustic as all git-out.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Yelling Night the White Ox: Terror Attack!

There really isn't a better way to spend an afternoon than digging through dead peoples' belongings.

  I spent the past week doing zackly that and having a total blast, on a quest to amass the record collection I never had.

Back in 1971 I saved up my allowance and bought a shitty Wurlitzer portable turntable for twenty-eight dollars at Sears.

I owned it through Jr. High and High School,  twenty moves, one failed marriage, several cats and a baby.  But despite all that it turned out to be a virtual Volkswagen Beetle of record players...beat it, abuse it, treat it like shit; it just kept on going.

The day came when the turntable started running at random speeds, going from a quaalude draaaaaawl to Alvin and the Chipmunks;  which was funny as shit  during one of the Bikers' records but completely unacceptable during Hendrix Live at Woodstock. Upon performing an autopsy, we discovered a lot of change, cigarette butts, bottle caps, Cheerios, a needle worn down to a stub, an interior packed tight with  a giant dusty...thing of some sort, and the white cotton string (!) that ran from the motor to the turntable so caked with grunge that it  had worn down to a thread. 

I  picked out all the change, consigned the carcass to the dumpster, and that was that. Since there wasn't any money to get another and there were bills to pay, it was time to sell the records too.

I had a chunk of bucks invested in those records, but they were surprisingly easy to let go of and I didn't miss them much.  Part of the reason why was that I didn't own anything that you couldn't hear on every pop-ass radio station in America every hour of the day.  Mainly it was because that, aside from Hendrix and Led Zeppelin, I hadn't actually owned any music I loved.
'Why' hit me years later. Back when I was buying albums, the music I really wanted wasn't carried on the west side of the Willamette. It wasn't even broadcast on the west side of the Willamette until late at night, so I owe at least some of my taste to an inability to sleep and a lack of late-night management presence at radio 101.9 .

Of course as soon as I discovered the Internet I started building some shit-hot playlists.  With that on tap, you might wonder 'why bother buying vinyl?' 

  I'm not a purist. I'm not a trophy hunter. I've been a volume abuser for 52 years so my eardrums probably look like iron manhole covers...but even I can hear the difference between music recorded in the 70's played back digitally, and the same music on vinyl played on a turntable. In that case, vinyl genuinely sounds better, with that lush, plummy tonal quality that only comes from liquid dinosaur.

 Analog recording wasn't done with a tin can on a string. It was a precise science, and a vast amount of research and money went into producing very specific, highly controlled results throughout, and that included taking into account how the ALL of the equipment and materials involved effected output.  After all, that output was the product they were selling...on vinyl, that went onto a record player, and came out the speaker.  It was the quality of what came out of the speaker, after all, which either brought customers back or drove them away.  To put it another way, if it was recorded to be ON VINYL, it's only going to sound the way it was meant to sound played off vinyl. That's why I'm buying record albums. Plus sometimes you find weed.*

Per my recent experience I can tell you that, if you hurry, you can still completely rebuild your record collection, no matter what the genre, from the 70's onward out of resale stores and garage sales, and you'll pay exactly what you paid back in the 70's too, if you're willing to look past the jacket condition.  If you're vigilant and lucky and willing to drive out where the aging longhairs roam and the Greatest Generation retired after seeing the world, you can find even older stuff too. But 'cha gotta hurry, because it's all disappearing as fast as the Internet generation can gobble it up.  For every dirty old crate digger out there gloating over Ish Kabibble 78's there are three skinny hipsters trolling the shallows.  It's  charming to hear someone one-third your age mention Ida Cox in tones of reverence, until you realize that  reverence is based on the price in yen.

That aside.  In a weeks' time I've scored some nice stuff, and all of it is in damn near pristine shape. I was really surprised, but in fact very little of what I looked at was damaged at all. That we knew how to take care of our records nicely speaks well for a generation of people who thought of Doritos as a food group.

 See, I know you're now asking yourself 'fine, you have records, but who has a turntable?'  Why, I do. I has a turntable.  An excellent turntable.

When the Playboy of the Western World went to that big bathhouse in the sky, we inherited his sound system. This thing was 20 years old when it came to us and solid as a fucking rock, with components (Pioneer) and speakers (Bose**) that still perform flawlessly.  Turn it up to 'eleven'? 'Eleven' means absolutely NOTHING to this device.  '6' on the volume control is loud enough to hear across the street, and although the calibration promises '30' I've never taken it past '18' because when I do I start ovulating charcoal briquettes. 

This is what a weeks' effort turned up; not connoisseur stuff but not too sad or lame either, I think, except for maybe Right On Time which I bought because I liked their shiny outfits, and that they gave their astrological signs in the liner notes:

Winelight...Grover Washington Jr.
Ray Charles Live In Concert at the Shrine Auditorium in Los Angeles
Sweet Passion...Aretha Franklin
In the West...Jimi Hendrix
Right On Time...The Brothers Johnson   
Stompin' At The Savoy....Rufus and Chaka Khan
Headhunter...Herbie Hancock
Endless Boogie...John Lee Hooker

And chilluns, I got them for 3.00 APIECE.


**Research in the field leads me to believe that hippies were a careless bunch of folks. LP jackets were a common hiding place, though; beside skanky old vegetation I've found love notes, dollar bills, cockroaches and antique blotter acid.  Imagine your cat getting ahold of that. Although with a cat it might be hard to tell.

**Bose advertising is not bullshit. We have the home range 'sound environment' package: quad wall mounts with  floor unit dual speaker boom chamber; pretty snazzy stuff for the era in which it was made.  

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Yes I know I know I know ALL RIGHT ALREADY I haven't posted in a longass time I'M SORRY. Actually no I'm not.  It's been a very intense few months.

Awhile back I had to fill out an assessment form which was used to determine whether or not my grandson had ADD-ADHD.  Different behaviors, coping styles, things like that; rated them on a scale of severity or occurrence.  As I was going through I began to notice that not only did it describe my grandson, it described ME. 

Long story short, I gots it. Bigtime. Oh holy shit bigtime.

Now this is quite a paradigm shift.  You think of yourself as relating to the world directly, right; I mean why wouldn't you?...until suddenly you find out you've merely been coping with reality for 52 years through an intervening perceptual disorder? Yeah, you'd have your paradigm shifted too. 

Learning about ADD has been very illuminating, by which I mean 'comprehensively suck-ass.'  I haven't felt this kind of  crawling embarrassment about myself, looking back on my past actions, since I was a hormone-addled 12 - year - old.  On the other hand, there's finally being able to identify the problem and the relief of being able to change it...a relief that I've been clinging to like a tubercular steerage passenger clinging to a lifeboat surrounded by icebergs since it is the only  fucking thing that's been easy or pleasant about this.

Well fine, there's been the sudden dramatic decrease in the level of bullshit too.  I've gone from being an unwitting victim of ADD to being very proactive, relentlessly directed and able to maintain certainty.  And that last item has been key.  For me, the issue of 'certainty' has been the number one quality that made ADD so debilitating. 

When lack of certainty is hardwired into your experience of reality,  it means that every single waking moment of your life is ruled and defined by a constantly shifting ability to experience stable meaning... and the subsequent core drive to attain it.  Anything snares ones' attention, inspires repeated examination,  leads to questions which lead off into other avenues of unrelated inquiry, which leads to opening 15 different programs on your computer which is by your wallet which makes you wonder where your keys are and also reminds you of Francis Scott Key andOH LOOK A DACHSHUND.  It happens instantly.  All the time.  Just like that you're way off track, and there's a dachshund.

When I say 'a constantly shifting ability to experience stable meaning', I should point out that there are times when the range of shift is mild, and even times that it actually locks into the correct location on the scale and operates the way it's supposed to. Of course,  you can't depend on that happening either. Imagine the fun.

It's only since I've been taking Ritalin (Adderal ended in flames; made me barf all the time - Strattera turned me into an Emo, only not fun to be around or carefree and upbeat like an Emo, and 52) that I've really gotten a lock on this, and in the course of doing so I have come to two conclusions:

1.  I get a lot more things done now.

2. I am a lot happier now.

And that's a very good place to be, kats and kittens.  Better late than never.

I am the last person on earth to discover Last FM, aren't I.  Yeah, it's sad. 

My husband and I were using Rhapsody, which turned out to be a complete boondoggle as far as I'm concerned.  You subscribe, thats nice, right up until they decide that their reconnection period should be two weeks long instead of a month every so often, just for shits and giggles, and you get hit with a dead player out in the middle of East Chucklafuck.  Their library was not as inclusive or complete as I would have liked it to be either. In general it glitched constantly, loaded slow and required an inordinate amount of time dicking around with settings and controls and updates and synching and using the less than helpful 'Help' pages.  I must say, though, their customer support people were very nice. 

Last FM, though, is pretty sweet.  I've been using the hell out of it.  It's nice to simply choose music and play music, instead of calling Bill Gates on the phone every five minutes and sobbing into a handkercheif while he burns sage on your cpu and dances around in a loincloth.  Tell you what, it definitely beats GrooveShark all to hell.  It does seem a little 'Skrillex-centric', but then everything is lately *bats away  nice sprites*.

Wednesday, June 06, 2012

6 - 5 - 12

Ray Bradbury died yesterday. 

Anyone who is not appalled that this news isn't  featured on the front fucking page of every newspaper in America has no soul.

Tuesday, June 05, 2012

How To Get An Opposum Out Of Your Dryer

It is 11:01 and I have just heard a gunshot, close, followed a second later by a man yelling 'Aaa!"

I didn't see anyone outside.  Before you castigate me for being a reckless dipshit, know that where I was sitting when these events occurred there are three huge picture windows.   If I was going to be seen by anyone, I would have already been seen, if you catch my drift.  All I had to do was turn my head slightly.  Nope. Nope. Nope.

So now what do I do?  Nothing is what I do.  Absolutely nothing.  Which freaks me the fuck out.

None of this would have gone through my mind when I lived in Seattle.  I'd have heard the noises, it would have been someone getting shot, and I would have unobtrusively slipped to the floor and butt-scooched my way into another room to call the police.  Same as when I lived in Portland.  That's what you did.  It was tough on pants.

But here, since I didn't see anything, I can't do anything...except sit here and worry about spree murderers.

The thing is, people fire guns a lot out here.  Back when I lived in a city, you heard gunfire anywhere, it meant one thing, you did one thing in response, and that was that. You at least were left with the illusion of safety, depending on the police department involved.  Situation finished.  Here...? Not so simple. 

Sound could simply be travelling particularly well that day.  It could be hunters up in the foothills, it could be a nearby farmer killing a bull calf, it could be smugglers, or just kids shooting bottles off a rock. It could be a drive-by across the border in Huntingdon (thats right Canada, don't be all smug like 'Oh, there's no gun crime here, we're a civilized countrydamn old cheese-worshipping puck-humpers with your 'eh?' and your goofyass money.)  It could be someone putting down a dog.  It could be someone test-firing a bird cannon. Shit, for that matter maybe someone found a possum in their dryer.  Talking to the appliance recycler, he says this happens all the time. They come in through the outside vent (the possums, not appliance recyclers.)  You generally don't freak the fuck out about it, though; you leave the laundry room open to the outside and throw some dog food out there to bait him in the right direction. Then you slam the door behind him and buy a louvered metal vent cover. A surprising number of dryers get shot that way, though.  Imagine opening your dryer one morning and there's an ugly greasy possum in there with a mouth full of underpants;  you're going to freak the fuck out. Anyone would. 

When I first moved to the country I was played for a rube by an Australian Shepard dog, who herded me, in my car mind you, all the way down the street and into the driveway of his masters' home then ran around the house in furious circles barking.  "Aha!" I thought, veteran viewer of the old 'Lassie' series, "His master is probably in there seriously injured and unable to reach the phone!" (I've also seen one too many LifeAlert commercials.)  So I zoomed back to the police department and filed a report.  Eyes were rolled, my friends.  Then there was the time I called the cops one midnight because I thought someone was trying to break down my door, and it turned out to be another dog.  It can be said that I am known for goofy reports down at the cop shop.  It might also be said that dogs like to fuck with me.  I'll just sit here ignoring the impulse to call the police, and hope the next knock at my door isn't the worlds most polite spree murderer.  Or a possum.