Sunday, February 1, 2015

Dancing With The Devil, Jackson Browne and Beef Jerky...

While Jackson Browne hums bars of "The Pretender" in the background, I try explaining to my poor wife my inherent need to make Beef Jerky.

She gazes at me with that look I have come to recognize. A look comprised of one part derision and two parts sympathy.

After 22 plus years, she intuitively understands my idiosyncratic logic.

Lately my Sundays have been peppered with Eye Round, Flank Steak and London Broil.

Spicy, leathery, dried meat has come to be my Calgon.

It relaxes me.

Maybe it's the process of it all or perhaps it's just my idea of having purpose.

I find that I do better with structure.

When you make Beef Jerky, you have to commit.

There is a beginning, a middle and an end.

Just because you read the middle of Atlas Shrugged doesn't give you the right to say you finished it.

I like to finish things. It makes me feel good.

Today, Jackson Browne is my jerky muse. He speaks to me.

Hidden somewhere in the middle of the bridge and the chorus to "Lawyers in Love" lies the ancient secrets of aging beef.

Music can be a powerful inspirer of things.

For me, there is no logical way to explain why Jackson Browne moves me.

There is a perfect fusion of Mr. Browne and this batch of Beef Jerky. I can't even begin to attempt to decrypt this chemistry. It's just science and you don't fuck with science.

I'm not the first one to be affected by his music.

Daryl Hannah was spellbound by him right up until he beat the living snot out of her in a jealous rage.

Before that, his first wife committed suicide.

Apparently I'm playing with fire but I've made the commitment.

Jackson Brown has been a part of today's beginning and so he will, for better or for worse, be a part of it's middle and inevitably it's end.

The act of making beef jerky is an improbable, yet fitting metaphor for the circle life.

I just hope that the juxtaposition to that metaphor is not one of death at the hands of Jackson Browne.

So here I stand, my moral compass spinning out of control. But all things worth a damn demand sacrifice.

Today I will dance with the devil.

Either way, in the end, there will be beef jerky.




1 1⁄2 pounds flank steak

13 cup Worcestershire sauce 2 tablespoons Liquid Smoke
1⁄4 cup light soy sauce
2 tablespoons light brown sugar 2 cloves fresh garlic

1⁄4 teaspoon fresh ground black pepper

Place meat on a plate and freeze for 1 hour. This will make it easier to slice the meat into thin strips. Slice meat into 1⁄4-inch wide strips, cutting against the grain. Combine remaining ingredients. Marinate beef strips for a minimum of 30 minutes in the refrigerator. Place strips on the racks. Do not overcrowd; leave enough space so that pieces are not touching. Cover and dehydrate on medium for 8 hours, or until desired doneness, flipping strips once about halfway through. Depending on the uniformity of the strips, the racks may require rotating throughout the dehydrating process, as bottom racks will dehydrate faster than top racks. Store beef jerky in an airtight container in the refrigerator or freezer. 



Friday, January 30, 2015

The Cross Section of Bar Mitzvahs and Brothels...

Lately I've had a really hard time figuring out exactly what my role is as a father.

When my kids were really young, my job as a parent was fairly straight forward.

Don't let them die.

"Hey honey. I'm taking the girls to the park for awhile."

Don't let them die.

"Hey babe. I'm taking the girls for manicures."

Don't let them die.

"Hey sweet heart. I'm taking the girls for a slice of pizza."

Don't let them die.

You get the picture.

Now that my girls are older, things seem more complex. Particularly with my oldest. She is 12 and this is her first year of middle school.

Middle school is hard. Really hard. I know because I went through it. 

We all did.

There are more kids, which means more personalities. There is more work, which means more pressure to succeed and there are more choices to be made. 

Choices about drugs and alcohol.

Choices about sex.

Choices about good people and bad people.

It has to be scary for her because it sure as hell was scary for me.

The PTA tells us that kids in middle school are putting alcohol soaked tampons in their collective orifices to mask their inebriation.

First of all, that's genius but what happened to screwdrivers in the A&P parking lot? 

They also tell us that bathrooms at Bar and Bat-Mitvahs are like pubescent brothels.

Doesn't anybody play Pepsi Cola - 7up anymore?

And where in God's name does the PTA gather their intelligence from? 

In the end, these are choices that only she can make.

With or without my help.

In middle school, I remember trying to fit in. I remember the unbearable yearning to be liked.

To be accepted.

Am I funny enough? Is my house big enough? Shit, why don't I have cable yet?

I was terrified of girls. I was terrified of rejection. I was terrified of rejection by girls.

I often felt less than.

But kids survive. They are a resilient lot.

As a father, I'd like to think that I have given her the tools to make the right choices.

I can empathize but I can't project into the wreckage of her future.

She is not me.

I am not her.

My choices (some good and some bad) have made me the man that I am today.

Her choices will be the cement that forms the foundation on which her character will be built.

She will navigate the alcohol soaked tampons and the Bar and Bat-Mitzvah brothels and she will survive.

My baby girl is out there.

She is out there with her ball peen hammer and her needle nose pliers.

All I can do is assure her that I'll always be standing by to lend her my allen wrench when and if she needs it...

Sunday, December 28, 2014

The Digital Tomb...

I just said goodbye to my dog.

He didn't die thank God. That would have wrecked me.

He just went to hang out with his grandma for the night.

Those two are old souls. Probably making good on unfinished business from lives past.

The thought of it makes me smile.

Today I've had the day to myself which is rare.

Much needed time to reflect and decompress. Time to reverse engineer the last three hundred and sixty five twenty fours.

Life has been busy and slow and empty and full.

It's been up and down and all of the above.

It's been ad infinitum and whatever else describes the endless flow of days.

They pile up and spill out all over the floor, in a crash, like a fumbled pitcher of sweet iced tea that slipped from the hands of a little kid trying to impress a living room full of adults, gathered around the dining room table, locked in a game of charades.

I'm feeling a little bit vulnerable right now.

My emotions have been waiting patiently. Waiting for the bandages to come off. Tentative emotions. Emotions standing in front of the mirror like the newly constructed face a second before the big reveal.

Maybe it's the leftover ham or the Brandi Carlile streaming on the Sonos. Or maybe it's because I made a trip to the cemetery to visit an old friend.

It could be all of that stuff.

Or maybe it's the pictures.

I've been looking at pictures.

Thousands of pictures.

All day long.

Old pictures of stuff I haven't seen in years.

Looking at old pictures by yourself can be strange.

It's like walking through a museum in your brain and the exhibit is plethoric with art; Art both ugly and beautiful.

Art that makes you feel like Rudy being carried off the field. Art that makes you feel like the Champ won't wake up.

My daughters are growing up in real life. They say things like, "I hate you!" and "you're the worst dad ever!".

Then I look at the pictures and they say things too.

Pictures of game farms, fake sleeping on couches and blowing out birthday candles.

They say things like, "I love you!" and "you're the best dad ever!".

Then I get that stupid Rudy feeling and the Champ not waking up feeling all wrapped up in a tight wonderful knot.

Today I stumbled upon a treasure chest buried in a digital tomb. It was filled with gold and silver and diamonds and rubies.

Treasure in the form of memories.

Memories disguised as pictures.

Treasure buried and found and now buried again.

By me.

Treasure that will wait impassively for the next three hundred and sixty five twenty fours for the bandages to come off.


Friday, August 1, 2014

44...

Happy Birthday my brother.

It's funny. I haven't really thought about it until now but your birthday is one of nine birthdays I have always remembered.

Birthdays are like phone numbers.

We don't need to remember phone numbers anymore. You plug em' into your contacts and you press a button when you need it.

It's bullshit.

To this day I remember exactly seven phone numbers.

Five of them don't exist anymore and one of them is my mom's, which used to be mine. So I'm not sure that even counts.

It's kind of a shame it doesn't work that way anymore.

I think the love a person has for their friends and family can be measured in phone numbers and birthdays.

I'm not taking about Facebook reminders and speed dial.

I'm talking about knowing them by heart.

If you knew someone's phone number by heart back then, it meant you needed them.

It meant you kept them close.

It meant you talked with them.

If you knew someone's birthday by heart it meant they were important to you.

A birthday isn't just another day. No matter how much we play it off. Even if it's an odd number birthday or one that's not round.

Even if it's 44.

Without birthdays there would be no people.

Without birthdays there would be no phone numbers.

Without birthdays I wouldn't have met you.

You're gone now. Like one of those damn phone numbers that don't exist anymore and the irony is that I can't for the life of me remember the date that you died.

Maybe Facebook is rotting my brain or maybe it's the stupid speed dial.

But I promise you that just like those phone numbers, I'll always remember you.

Every day. No matter what.

I love you brother.

Happy Birthday.

August 1st, 1970












Thursday, April 3, 2014

Drawing The Parallels Between Dr. Seuss And Al Capone...

Remember the scene in the Untouchables when Al Capone (Robert De Niro) gathers together all of his hit men for a dinner party, pulls out a bat and proceeds to beat one of them to a bloody pulp?

If you haven't seen the movie, long story short, two of Capone's men were plotting to kill him, Capone got wind of it and SPLAT!!!

I don't necessarily condone violence as a way to settle disputes of any kind but in a situation like that one, it was a flat out case of kill or be killed.

Capone isn't going to cry to the police and he certainly can't let these dudes just walk into some Italian bistro and wack him while he's eating his Pasta Fazul.

Now this brings us to my favorite book of all time.

It's a lesser known book by the now deceased, legendary children's book author, Dr. Seuss.

It's called, "I Had Trouble In Getting To Solla Sollew".

The premise of the story is fairly straight forward and it's written in the classic rhythmic style that Dr. Seuss is famous for.

The protagonist, a scrawny little half cat - half muppet creature, stubs his toe. Because he's such a whiney little bitch and things aren't going his way, he decides to get the fuck outta dodge.

He eventually gets wind of a city named Solla Sollew that's supposedly the bee's knees.

Seuss so eloquently describes this city as follows...

"on the banks of the beautiful River Wah-Hoo, where they never have troubles! At least very few."

If Google Translate had a language setting for Dr. Seuss, I'm hoping it would translate the above description as, "right off the balneario beaches in the south zone of Rio, where they have hot Brazilian hookers and all of the Cachaca you can drink."

 Great. That makes perfect sense. I would go too.

So this half cat, half muppet sets off on his journey but things don't go so smoothly.

Along the way, he runs into a bunch of assholes that want to kill him for no apparent reason.

One of them looks like a mutation of an Aardvark and a Dragon Fly and it's constantly trying to suck the life out of him.

Another nemesis resembles some sort of Chicken Lizard and the fucker actually bites him on the ass.

At one point Seuss even pits this poor schmuck against what seems to be a pack of Sesame Street Mountain Lions gone bad.

And to add insult to injury he arms him with nothing but a pea shooter.

No joke.

A God damn pea shooter.

With one pea!

Holy shit.

Any way, it goes on and on and on until he finally gets to this Solla Sollew place and then realizes he needs a key to get in and he can only gain access to it via this shady man / yeti that's dressed in some weird bellhop bathrobe costume that looks like Yul Brynner's (God rest his soul) outfit from the King and I.

*Breath*

Thing is, this yeti doorman is a sadistic douchebag and he won't give cat man the key.

Just when you think the story is gonna take a hard left toward male prostitution, he actually persuades the yeti bellhop to hand him the key and inserts it into the door.

But holy mother Mary of Christ, there's a fucking door weasel that lives in the keyhole and takes the key!

ENOUGH!

So now he's faced with a dilemma.

He can't get into Brazilian Hooker land and he certainly doesn't want to go back the way he came, for fear of getting skinned alive by Chicken Lizard and Dragon Fly.

So he makes a decision.

Usually in children's books there is a moral that aims to teach kids the right thing to do.

In this case, maybe it would be to offer the door weasel something in return for the key. This would teach kids the importance of sharing.

Or maybe he could go back the way he came and reason with Chicken Lizard and the Aardvark monster. This would teach kids how to cope with bullies with words rather than violence.

But the good Dr would have none of this.

Seuss decides that rather than run away from your troubles, it's sometimes best to face them head on.

It's the same lesson we learn from Capone in the Untouchables and they approach it with uncanny similarity.

This is the text on the last page verbatim:

"Then I started back home
To the Valley of Vung.
I know I'll have troubles.
I'll maybe, get stung.
I'll always have troubles.
I'll maybe, get bit
By that Green-Headed Quail
On the place where I sit.

But I've bought a big bat.
I'm all ready, you see.
Now my troubles are going
To have troubles with me!"

SPLAT!!!

I'd like to think that somewhere up above or perhaps below, Dr. Seuss and Al Capone are sharing a mason jar full of Cachaca, off the balneario beaches in the south zone of Rio, with an abundance of Brazilian hookers, exchanging stories of bad-assery and garnering mutual respect.









Thursday, January 9, 2014

The Meaning Of Hate Is...

First of all, Happy New Year.

Moving on...

As an adult, I've been blessed with a full life. 

By full, I mean rich with experiences.

The blessing part is made up of tons of micro experiences and emotions that we get from the learning part that comes with those experiences.

Stay with me.

We humans like to call this wisdom.

Some are wiser than others. I'd like to think I'm somewhere in the middle.

This wisdom we acquire enables us to make choices. Choices that are grounded in reason.

What I'm trying to say is...

MY KIDS DON'T KNOW SHIT! 

They don't know shit about anything because they don't yet have the ability to reason, that comes from the wisdom, which stems from the learning that is acquired from the experiences that you get when you are blessed with a full life.

It's seems as though every time my kids don't get what they want, their response to me is,

"I HATE YOU!".

Now this would be perfectly acceptable to me if I thought they knew anything about hate. 

Hate doesn't boil. 

Hate simmers.

Hate needs to be cooked on low heat for a long time. 

Hate needs to be stirred. 

Then and only then will hate allow itself to be seen.

Hate runs very deep.

Hate Kills.

Arabs and Jews seem to hate each other but that hate comes from years of resentment.

Harry Osborn hates Spider man but that's because Spider Man killed his father.

Elmer Fudd hates Bugs Bunny but that's because Bugs Bunny is a button pushing, arrogant son of a bitch.

When I was in the 6th grade I was kicked in the balls by a kid named Buddy. 

Getting kicked in the balls made me very angry. 

For awhile I thought I hated Buddy for what he had done to me but that wasn't hate. It just sucks being kicked in the balls. 

Now, if Buddy had continued to kick me in the balls time and time again, over and over, every day for the remainder of the school year, then that might warrant some hate or maybe even an athletic supporter.

My point is...

Until my daughters have the extreme displeasure of being kicked in the balls repeatedly, over a long period of time, they will have to wait to learn the true meaning of hate.

Hopefully they never will.


Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Firsts, Seconds, Lasts...

Today my little meatball turned seven.

2555 sunrises.

2555 morning stretches.

2555 goodnight kisses.

2555 days traveling a dirt road off the beaten path. 

A path on which, this year, we saw the greatest puppy ever known, chocolate chip pancakes and lazy Sundays anchored by nothing but bacon and feety pajamas. 

It seems as if every year is just another year closer to further away... from me.

She walks.

She talks.

She loves.

She hurts.

She contributes.

The meatball is my youngest daughter.

A lot of firsts for her were seconds for me.

I take less pictures. I shoot less video. I spend less time worrying about things I can't control.

Now I understand that these firsts that are seconds, are lasts.

I remember longing for the day that she would wipe her own ass. Why are her arms so short? It seemed like such a burden. 

Now I understand that these are burdens that only the most blessed of people carry.

I wanted to be done with turning on the TV at 6am.

Let me sleep.

Now I wish she'd wake me up. 

Like Sam Elliot said so eloquently in Roadhouse, "I'll get all the sleep I need when I'm dead".

A truth that resonates like only a truth can.

2555 days of growth for her and for me.

2555 days in the rear view mirror.

She's taught me that love is unique.

There really are no seconds.

For me, that's a first.