Saturday, January 31, 2009
That's what Wisconsin's been. Even before my stepdad passed away last week I was ready to declare 2K9 "The Year of Being Pulled Back In." For someone who is insistent on having open lines of communication, I'm not good at keeping in touch with my family. This week has shown that I'm gonna have to make it a real effort, especially because it's now more necessary.
Mom handled everything better than anyone expected. I think a major weight was lifted once she made the decision to not resuscitate. My sister is coming along slowly. As "Daddy's Little Girl," Tammy was the one who took this the hardest. I was shocked -and saddened - to see how big her kids are growing. Caleb turns ten in June and the last time I recalled seeing him, he was a butterball. Now he's lanky and a ball of energy, albeit with his rat tail ever present. I may have to cut that off when his parents aren't looking.
Brianna is a beautiful six and her hugging me at the funeral home was the closest I came to losing it; she has the inside track on being my favorite (yeah, I'm gonna play that). And little Matthew is reaching his terrible twos and seemed hellbent on making his mom and dad gray before they should be.
I was reminded by more than one person on more than one occasion at the funeral that I threatened to beat my brother-in-law's ass on his wedding day. In my defense, I spent the drive to their wedding thinking, "What kind of guy knocks up, and then marries, my teenage sister?" Then I met Nathan and I guess he must've known I was fairly pissed. But he and Tammy have managed to make a wonderful family. In ten years of marriage I haven't had to make good on that threat.
I even managed to make it to New Glarus and load the rental car with enough beer to make a bootlegger blush!
1 . Put your iTunes or iPod or whatever type of digital music player you have on shuffle.
2 . For each question, press the 'next' button to get your answer.
3 . YOU MUST WRITE THAT SONG NAME DOWN NO MATTER HOW SILLY IT SOUNDS!
4 . Spread the word and tag your friends.
- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
SONG - BAND - ALBUM
- IF SOMEONE SAYS "IS THIS OKAY" YOU SAY?
"Esto Es Lo Que Hay" — Los Amigos Invisibles — Venezuela Zinga Son (also reminds me I should practice my Spanish more.)
- WHAT WOULD BEST DESCRIBE YOUR PERSONALITY?
"70's Blues" — Betty Davis — They Say I'm Different
- WHAT DO YOU LIKE IN A GUY/GIRL?
"Martin Eden" — The Twilight Singers — Blackberry Belle (well, that's depressing)
- HOW DO YOU FEEL TODAY?
"Let Me Remember (Things I Can't Forget)" — Jim Reeves — Mexican Joe - 24 Great Early Recordings
- WHAT IS YOUR LIFE'S PURPOSE?
"Home Hotel" — Willie Nelson — Teatro (I'm sensing a pattern here.)
- WHAT IS YOUR MOTTO?
"I'm Leaving You Baby" — Junior Kimbrough — You Better Run: The Essential Junior Kimbrough
- WHAT DO YOUR FRIENDS THINK OF YOU?
"Humdinger" — Old Crow Medicine Show — Tennessee Pusher (Now we're talking!)
- WHAT DO YOU THINK ABOUT VERY OFTEN?
"Prism Break" — Orgone — The Killion Floor
- WHAT IS 2+2?
"Have You Ever Been Mellow" — Ivan "Boogaloo" Joe Jones — Sweetback
- WHAT DO YOU THINK OF YOUR BEST FRIEND?
"Nuclear War (On The Dance Floor)" — Electric Six — Fire
- WHAT DO YOU THINK OF THE PERSON YOU LIKE?
"Rock Your Ass" — Supersuckers — Motherfuckers Be Trippin'
- WHAT IS YOUR LIFE STORY?
"El Principo Del Final" — Sara Valenzuela — Lado Este
- WHAT DO YOU WANT TO BE WHEN YOU GROW UP?
"Florida" — Patty Griffin — Impossible Dream
- WHAT DO YOU THINK WHEN YOU SEE THE PERSON YOU LIKE?
"Sound Check Jam" — Thin Lizzy — UK Tour '75
- WHAT DO YOUR PARENTS THINK OF YOU?
"My Own Peculiar Way" — Willie Nelson — Teatro
- WHAT DID YOU DANCE TO AT YOUR WEDDING?
"Rainbows" — Madvillain — Madvillainy
- WHAT WILL THEY PLAY AT YOUR FUNERAL?
"Turn to Me" — Merle Haggard — If I Could Only Fly
- WHAT IS YOUR HOBBY/INTEREST?
"Train to Tampa" — Sam Dees — The Birmingham Sound: The Sound of Neal Hemphill, Vol. 1
- WHAT IS YOUR BIGGEST SECRET?
"Shake, Rattle and Roll" — Sam Cooke — Night Beat
- WHAT DO YOU THINK OF YOUR FRIENDS?
"Heed the Call" — Kenny Rogers & The First Edition — Anthology
- WHAT'S THE WORST THING THAT COULD HAPPEN TO YOU?
"Break My Body" — The Pixies — Surfer Rosa
- HOW WILL YOU DIE?
"So Long!" — Long John Hunter — Ooh Wee Pretty Baby!
- WHAT IS THE ONE THING YOU REGRET?
"Melody From the Drums" — Charles Mingus — Mysterious Blues
- WHAT MAKES YOU LAUGH?
"Sit This One Out" — Solomon Burke — Don't Give Up On Me
- WHAT MAKES YOU CRY?
"If I Die Tomorrow (I've Lived Tonight)" — Swamp Dogg — Total Destruction To your Mind
- WILL YOU EVER GET MARRIED?
"Insane Instrumental" — Elmo Williams & Hezekiah Early — Takes One To Know One
- WHAT SCARES YOU THE MOST?
"Jolene" — Cake — Motorcade of Generosity
- DOES ANYONE LIKE YOU?
"Ain't No Grave" — Crooked Still — Shaken By A Low Sound
- IF YOU COULD GO BACK IN TIME, WHAT WOULD YOU CHANGE?
"Dog Eat Dog" — George Coleman — Bongo Joe
- WHAT HURTS RIGHT NOW?
"Dish Rag" — King Coleman — It's Dance Time!
- WHAT WILL YOU POST THIS AS?
"Highway Man" — Howlin' Wolf — Sun Recordings
Monday, January 26, 2009
The photo shows my sister, nervous in her wedding dress, holding a small bridal bouquet, her eyes focused on something to her right outside the view of the lens. Standing next to her is my stepfather, natty in all black. He looks just as uncomfortable as Tammy. He always was uncomfortable in a crowd, as hard and unforgiving as the red Tennessee Valley clay he called home. When we were kids, the old man would drink himself blind, figuring that since he already had a hard time fitting in, he might as well not remember it. I thought he was on his best behavior that day, as well. In fact, the opposite was true, as he was embarking on an uncertain future of his own: one of sobriety and honorable living.
One of the reasons we kids all left home at 16 was because of the old man's drinking and his actions when he was drunk. Jerry could be a violent drunk whose favored cocktails were cheap beer and Seven-and-7. When the whisky ran through his system and he got riled up - which wasn't hard - he had both a devastating right cross and could catch you with a belt buckle, vacuum cleaner cord or a switch cut from a tree on parts of the body in which those were not meant to make contact. I started to grow and fight back, until Mom asked my Uncle Stu to take me in. If Stu hadn't done that, I'm not sure how my life would have turned out. In that regard I was lucky; I at least had some positive role model to look up to. Chris and Tammy had to grow up on the fly.
I digress. Even when he was a drunk, the old man kept up his appearances. Regardless of the family's financial situation, he'd be damned if he left the house with a hair out of place, dirty clothes and having not bathed. He favored musky colognes that reeked of sandalwood and leather, the kind of scents that blended favorably with cigarette smoke and a couple rounds of 7 Crown. He had a sly, dangerous gleam in his eyes that drew women to him when he was younger. If there was a stereotype for manly, overtly macho behavior, he was the poster child. I could see why Mom was attracted to him, even if I never agreed with her choice in men.
But he did rehabilitate himself. He was as doting a grandparent as he was as bad a parent. The final half of his and Mom's marriage was one filled with him never taking her for granted. Faced with the consequences of his actions when drinking, he took responsibility and vowed never to do them again. Even he and I made some peace with each other, and the respect was mutual and hard-earned.
When he was diagnosed with lung cancer a few years back and had half a lung removed, things slowed down considerably for him. The old man was used to keeping busy, working on something to keep from having idle hands. He never came to terms with his diminished lung capacity and the accompanying lethargy. But he did as Mom asked, went in for his checkups, and tried to adjust. Four months ago, a routine checkup found spots on his good lung. Rather than go in for a biopsy, he cut his losses and opted to live what days he had left with no compromise. Mom raised her objections to him, but I think she realized that he'd rather die on his own terms. A man's man to the end.
What none of us expected was the massive heart attack he had Wednesday. Mom gave the DNR request the next day; when I spoke with her she seemed at peace with what had come. At 8:10 p.m. last night, he finally passed on. Tammy is angry at him for leaving her, Mom for being comfortable with the decision, and Chris and myself for not being there as much as we should. She's had the biggest burden of all of us kids, and as the strongest constitution. I fear this might be too much.
I went up to Wisconsin Saturday to make sure Mom was alright and to pay final respects. I'm not religious by any stretch, but after Mom and Tammy left, I stayed behind in the room with him for another hour. I just wanted to let him know one more time that bygones were bygones, and that if he had some notion that he couldn't move on without hearing from me, he needn't have worried.
Monday, January 12, 2009
Sunday, January 11, 2009
When the weather started to turn I had committed to biking in the inclement weather. The combination of the weather's unpredictability and the city Streets and Sanitation department has placed a major kibosh on that. First there was the skimping on the salting and clearing because Chicago is in a serious financial bind (although if the Mayor wanted to dip into that serious tax increment financing slush fund he has at his fingertips to balance the budget and not have it earmarked for the 2016 Summer Olympics, he could do so).
Now Mayor Daley - always an astute student of history - realized he was treading in Michael Bilandic territory and said "damn the costs: the streets are getting plowed." That hasn't included the bike lanes.
Eager to keep the weight that I dropped in summer off me during the winter, I've stepped up my yoga sessions to accommodate and started eating less. The latter is always a risible proposition in winter. I've also been cooking more on Sundays, preparing my breakfasts, lunches and dinners for the week in monster six-to-eight hour kitchen sessions. As I was dicing onions last week I was kind of shocked as to how my knife skills have evolved over the years. I'm still not fast with a knife, but I have smooth motions and block my cuts very well.
I had no idea when I built my own butcher block table five years ago the usage I'd make of it. What has turned into a fifty dollar investment of materials and a week of work sanding and seasoning the wood (with annual touchups) has paid off immeasurably.
Thursday, January 01, 2009
Originally uploaded by bridgeportseasoning.
Yes, that's a tumbleweed. In Bridgeport. On New Year's Eve.
So I'm finishing up making hoppin' john and chili for the game. Heading to a NYD party thrown by Adam Seger of Nacional 27. He calls it the "she killed it, he cooked it NYD party." Adam is a gifted cook and mixologist. I'm bringing reinforcements today because I could barely hang on last year.
Someone posted a recap of that party (emphasis added):
Adam Seger of *NACIONAL 27 * and Let Us Entertain you threw the craziest new year's day party ever last night (a few balthazar's of pinot noirs got opened and 4 cases of Veuve, 2 heritage Turkeys, 1 GIANT leg of lamb, 1 baby pig, 13 part pheasant gumbo, Duck fries, and homemade ice cream with Bourbon soaked cherries were served)
"100 ppl showed up and a 14 foot Christmas tree was picked up (and 5 gallons of water spilled on the Oriental carpet) then thrown out the 3rd story window by 5 hot guys and the police showed up to see why a tree fell on the sidewalk... around 12am.
"This is very inspiring b/c well.. debauchery is awesome and Chicago still has a chance to be cool."
I remember things kicking into overdrive when Adam pulled out a cane sugar knife and started sabering the tops off these magnums of Veuve. At that point I just retired to the kitchen, where I found a 21-year-old bottle of Buffalo Trace Rye.