Take a hike

November 25, 2020

Looks dire, but it wasn’t. Lots better than being indoors.

Yesterday I noticed a neighbor marching around her back yard, doing laps NASCAR-style.

A fine COVID-safe practice, this. And a great way to stay out of the wind. Still, dull as daytime TV.

My dusty Merrell Moab 2 Mid Ventilators were just the ticket for a stove-up old stove wrangler.

Herself bundled up and went for a run. I was still enjoying the consequences of a four-mile run on Friday (the ankle said I overdid it).

And knowing that I’d be spending a lot of time on my feet preparing Thanksgiving dinner, because I am an eejit who will cook elaborately for two people to no particular purpose, I decided to take a short hike instead. Wearing boots, not running shoes.

The menu kept revising itself as I walked. My initial impulse — turkey burritos smothered in the Santa Fe School of Cooking’s green chile with a side of Tejal Rao’s arroz verde — felt a tad minimalist upon reflection.

What about turkey enchiladas smothered in red chile with sides of green chile stew and Martha Rose Shulman’s stir-fried succotash? If I made the enchilada filling the day before Thanksgiving, I thought, I could use a bit of it for tacos Wednesday night, which would give me an excuse to whip up a nice pico de gallo and the green rice.

I could also do the stew in advance, because it gets even better the next day. The red sauce, too.

Shoot, Turkey Day is starting to look like a walk in the park. Today, however, may be more like a four-mile run on a bum ankle.

On autopilot

November 24, 2020

Meet the Blog-O-Mat 9000. Same great (lack of) taste, less filling.

“Meet GPT-3. It has learned to code (and blog and argue).”

Cool. I guess I can take the rest of the day off.

Rocket Grrrls

November 23, 2020

Check the speed on the Cateye. I wasn’t that slow all day long,
but I was pretty damn close.

The weather has taken a seasonal turn. Yesterday I waited overlong to get out for a ride and the wind bullied me, getting all up in my grill no matter which direction I was headed.

The nice thing about riding a cyclocross bike on a day like this is that it gives you more options for dodging the breeze. So I swapped pavement for trail and trail for pavement as necessary for a little over an hour, jinking this way or that if the wind or some maskless eejit loomed large dead ahead.

When I got tired of playing meteorological and virological hide-and-seek I headed for home through High Desert. I had glimpsed what I thought was a pair of roadies behind me as I ground along in too big a gear past the Bear Canyon Trailhead, and figured they’d hang a right on Spain, but nope.

It was two women from the Rocket Grrrls squad on either ’cross bikes or gravel bikes, and they passed me on the short climb to Wilderness Estates, where a short connector trail leads to the Embudito Trailhead and the pavement that takes me back to El Rancho Pendejo.

They were on fire, too. Rocket Grrrls indeed. I didn’t bother to get off to check for flats or rubbing brake pads. I’ve ridden with Karen Hornbostel, Mari Holden, Dede Demet, Alison Dunlap, and Katie Compton, if only briefly and without distinction, and I know when I’ve been chicked.

Unplugged

November 22, 2020

Rockin’ out with the Art & Lutherie Roadhouse,
bought from Guitar Center Albuquerque.

Though guitar sales are rocking out, Guitar Center is not.

The nation’s largest retailer of musical instruments has filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection, according to The New York Times.

It’s a sad tune. Bain Capital got its Mitthooks into the company back in 2007, and surprise surprise! The company wound up larded with debt. Throw in a late entry into e-commerce, some tough online competition, and a bout of The Bug®, and what you wind up with is “The Last Waltz” scored for private equity and hedge fund.

My Seagull Entourage Mini Jumbo, bought used from Guitar Center Albuquerque.

The company hopes to emerge from bankruptcy by year’s end, according to The Times. But for anyone who has enjoyed working there, or shopping there, a press release contains a caveat:

While Guitar Center is pleased with its overall store footprint, the Company has engaged A&G Realty Partners to explore opportunities to optimize its real estate portfolio and other agreements to focus on investments that best position the Company to return to its growth trajectory prior to COVID-19.

Speaking of caveats, the lyrics to “Forward Looking Statements,” one of the press release’s greatest hits, will sound familiar to any lawyers in the audience:

This press release includes “forward looking statements” within the meaning of Section 27A of the Securities Act and Section 21E of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934, as amended. Forward looking statements express our current expectations, opinion, belief or forecasts of future events and performance. A statement identified by the use of forward-looking words including “may,” “expects,” “projects,” “anticipates,” “plans,” “believes,” “estimate,” “will,” “should,” and certain of the other foregoing statements may be deemed forward-looking statements. Although the Company believes that the expectations reflected in such forward-looking statements are reasonable, these statements involve risks and uncertainties that may cause actual future activities and results to be materially different from those suggested or described in this press release. By issuing forward looking statements based on current expectations, opinions, views or beliefs, the Company has no obligation and, except as required by law, is not undertaking any obligation, to update or revise these statements or provide any other information relating to such statements.

Wall Street should give that an 85. It’s got a good beat, and a Suit can dance to it.

Turkey lurking

November 20, 2020

From Thanksgiving 2015: Emeril’s chicken cacciatore and a side of Martha Rose Shulman’s stir-fried succotash with edamame.

A week until Thanksgiving. Two months until Inauguration Day.

Guess which one I’m looking forward to?

When I was still marginally employed in the newspaper bidness I didn’t pay a lot of attention to holidays, other than in a professional sense, which meant grinding out the usual heart-warmers and eye-rollers, plugging the holes around the ads until stupid-thirty, when I could return to my true occupation, which was drinking.

Thanksgiving was just another day in the workweek for a single fella whose family was as far away as he could keep them. The O’Gradys’ holiday gatherings were not the sort that gets written up in the newspaper; not outside of the police blotter, anyway.

Think George Carlin in “40 Years of Comedy” discussing “family style” dining:

“You know what that means? It means there’s an argument going on at every table, two people are crying, and the eldest male is punching the women.”

This may be why you will rarely find me cooking turkey for Thanksgiving. Call it shell shock. One whiff of giblet gravy and I hit the deck with my eyes out on stalks and a knife in my hand.

“Micks in the wire!”

I’ve made all manner of off-brand meals for Thanksgiving, from northern New Mexican combo platters to Emeril’s take on chicken cacciatore. Martha Rose Shulman’s stir-fried succotash often plays a supporting role. But we haven’t done the actual turkey thing since 2012.

This year … frankly, I have no earthly idea. I did a speed run through the grocery early yesterday to beat the rush and hope not to go back anytime soon, so I’m limited to whatever’s already on hand.

The lead-up to the actual holiday may beat the holiday itself, feastwise. I have chicken thighs for posole, turkey thighs for tacos, the makings of a decent pizza sauce and/or a spicy pasta sauce, flour tortillas, bread flour and yeast, plus salmon filets and a couple pounds of ground turkey in the freezer. So “turkey day” may center on turkey burritos smothered in green with a side of arroz verde.

Maybe I’ll cook an actual turkey with all the trimmings when we finally run that overstuffed poltroon out of the White House. This bird’s for you, Adolf.

The Clampdown, v2.1

November 19, 2020

The gub’nah had to both tighten and clarify The Clampdown 2.0 just days after it debuted because (a) people are stupid, and (2) see (a).

This is going to be one of our biggest problems as we endure Bug Breath, In The Year of the Plague: Democracy and dummies don’t mix.

Lord, am I ever glad I managed to surf the free-range-rumormongery wave smack dab onto Social Security Beach. People just don’t read anymore, probably because too many of them can’t, and thus my services are mostly no longer required.

If the educational system and the Fourth Estate were spared the machinations of the political-industrial complex, we might not be where we are at the moment, which is crouched in the valley under our tiny parasols, awaiting the shit monsoon, while our betters in the mountaintop trophy homes trade us like junk bonds.

Still, you don’t need to be a pro copy jock to take a casual glance at the gub’nah’s public health order and see that, hmm, yes, you can still buy a jug of Skeeter’s Sidewalk Softener in person from The Beernut’s Booze ’n’ Bullets Boutique, but no, sorry, you’re gonna have to depend upon the Christian charity of the Internets and the Brown Truck Dude to acquire that plastic Jeebus for your dashboard.

Now, I know, retail represents a big chunk of the economy, both in terms of GDP and total employment. And it’s nice to get out of the house for an hour, wander the aisles of FreeDumb Hardware & Nail Salon, touching this and that with an ooh and an ahh, maybe buy a Chinese belt sander to tackle those irksome calluses on our tootsies.

But for the sake of public health, maybe it’s time we started thinking about what we want versus what we need.

Do we need a Starbucks, a Mickey D’s, a Shell station, and a Walgreens holding down every corner of every intersection? I don’t see that one in the Constitution. I checked. Because I can read.

‘Beer’ me

November 16, 2020

The only fake beer worth drinking.

When the gub’nah announced The Clampdown v2.0 on Friday I didn’t think much about it.

Seemed obvious it was coming, the grownup equivalent of your mom delivering a dope-slap to the back of your head for acting the fool. I can see one of those coming a mile away and my mom’s been dead since 1995.

Since I’ve actually been minding my manners during The Plague, following Michelle’s Big Book of Rules and whatnot, I figured to just keep on keepin’ on. No dope-slap for me, thanks all the same. Lookit me, all like being a good boy, an’ shit.

I’d done my chores, gotten outdoors for a bit of essential aerobic exercise, and endured the gub’nah’s weekly video tongue-lashing. It was definitely beer-thirty. But I was out of my preferred fake ale, and so, with some spicy tacos and taters on the dinner menu, I figured I’d toddle down to Total Wine and fetch me some more.

Total Wine is your basic one-stop shop. They have my Clausthaler Dry Hopped and Herself’s La Vieille Ferme rosé. Zip in and out like a great big road runner. Meep meep!

Assuming you’re popping round at some oddball time and day, that is — not at 3:30 on a Friday just as the gub’nah is announcing that come Monday, the retail drawbridge will be pulled up and the moat restocked with alligators, piranha fish, and electric eels.

Holy hell. The parking lot looked like Shea Stadium during that 1965 Beatles concert, and inside was worse. Plus they were completely out of my near-beer.

I managed to escape with my Subaru intact and motored on over to Kelly’s Liquors in the Mountain Run Shopping Center, the second of just three options for Clausthaler Dry Hopped in the Duke City, Wholeazon Amafoods being the third.

That parking lot was a hair less batshit, but only thanks to greater capacity; it serves an entire shopping center, with a Smith’s, a Walgreens, and all manner of other retail opportunities. But there was a big ol’ boy standing at Kelly’s door directing traffic in and out of the shop, of which there was plenty.

I took a deep masked breath, shot to the cooler for a case of hoppiness, paid, and beat feet. On the way to the Subaru I heard the big fella respond to a question about what might happen come Monday with, “Naw, we’re an essential service.”

Boy howdy. I’ll drink to that. As long as the gub’nah will let me, that is.

Seeing red

November 15, 2020

Turkey enchiladas in red chile after somebody’s been at ’em.

Even though we’ve mostly been steering clear of restaurants since March because, well, y’know, PLAGUE, an’ stuff, we eat quite a bit of Mexican food.

It’s not pro Mexican food, mind you. Category 3 at best. I missed my start time and will never catch the likes of Lucy Martinez, the enchilada-slinging mother of my old hermanos Larry and Jim.

Lucy could whip up a few platillos de comida mexicana in less time than it takes me to remember where I left my spatula. And while holding up her end of a rambling chat with a kitchen full of stuporous pendejos fresh from an long night of questionable behavior, too.

I may be slow, but I do get there, eventually. My green chile sauce is serviceable (as far as Irish green goes, anyway), but my red sauce is still hit and miss. The recipe I’ve been most successful with is this one, from the Santa Fe School of Cooking.

Last night I had a bunch of filling that didn’t get used in the previous evening’s turkey tacos, but I didn’t feel like a second round of tacos. So, boom, enchiladas it was.

I started with a 50-50 mix of Hatch chile powders (hot and mild), and recalling that I undersimmered my last batch of sauce, leaving it a little thin, I oversimmered it this time and had to add a little water to loosen it up a tad. Live and learn, they say. Riiiiiiight.

After the foil-covered Pyrex spent 20 minutes in the oven at 350° I topped the enchiladas with grated Kellygold Skellig, and gave ’em a few minutes under the broiler. Yum, yum, gimme some. Sides included potatoes roasted in red chile (another Santa Fe School of Cooking recipe) and a green salad.

The best part? Leftovers.

Bang-up job, New Mexico

November 14, 2020

Sunrises and sunsets will be exempt from restrictions
during The Clampdown.

Welp, the gub’nah made it official on Friday the 13th: New Mexico is shit out of luck.

Starting Monday we’re back to where we were in April, more or less: non-essential businesses and nonprofits must cease “in-person activities;” essential businesses (including bicycle repair shops) may operate with restrictions and a reduced workforce; and all New Mexicans “are instructed to shelter in place” save for “the most essential trips for health, safety, and welfare.”

I’d like to give a shoutout to all the fuckwits who have been insisting on strutting around with their faces hanging out, throwing parties, hootenannies, and jamborees, and otherwise acting the fool.

A second shoutout goes to all the poor sods at USPS, UPS, and FedEx who are going to get hernias, sciatica, and flat feet delivering Internet purchases throughout the Land of Enchantment as local retailers suck the bleachy end of a wet mop for the next couple of weeks.

Finally, lo siento mucho to everyone who has to try to enforce this edict, badged or unbadged. I anticipate a few tense moments along the way and a fella can’t find ammo anywhere at any price.

Look for a strong uptick in the online sale of items that do not require a background check or waiting period, such as baseball bats, ax handles, and tire irons.

Just farting around

November 13, 2020

The Big Fella must be letting Baby Jeebus fingerpaint again.

One thing about cycling in the desert — it’s tough to reacclimate to the chilly weather that even residents of the fabulous Duke City must endure from time to time.

Checking the training log yesterday I noticed that I’d been on foot a lot lately, either hiking or jogging (yes, I’ve started that back up again, in an extremely cautious, limited, and sissified fashion).

I seem to have a lot of bikes around here for some reason, so I thought I’d grab one and go for a spin as a change of pace. But what to wear?

All my kit is about a thousand years old, but at least there’s plenty of it, so sorting through the pile burns a bit of daylight, if there is any.

Old favorites included a long-sleeved Descente jersey that dates to the Nineties, some lightweight Pearl Izumi tights that are nearly as old, and a pair of threadbare Smartwool socks. Items from this millennium included bib shorts and a short-sleeved jersey, both from Voler; long-fingered Pearl Izumi gloves; a Sugoi tuque; and my Shimano SHXM700-S G Gore-Tex clodhoppers.

It was an imperfect ensemble, as per usual. In addition to looking as though I had just rolled out of a time machine I was underdressed for downhills and overdressed for climbs.

Still, it beat the mortal nuts out of hanging around the office awaiting dispatches like the one Herself just delivered, about how the White House staff has taken to burning incense in quantity to mask the nostril-searing stench of Il Douche’s fast-food-and-fear farts.