Archive for the ‘Holidays’ Category

Mardi Gras on the rocks

February 16, 2021

Save your beads, boys. Ain’t nobody pulling off their tops today.

February almost always looks better somewhere else.

In February 2014 I fled Bibleburg for Albuquerque. In 2016, I traded Albuquerque for Fountain Hills.

And this year?

Well, shit. I appear to be sheltering in place, like everybody else.

Well, maybe not everybody else.

At stupid-thirty I looked outside and noted that our neighbor to the west had laid down some tire tracks in the snow that fell overnight. It kept falling, and after sunrise, the neighbor to the east laid down a matching set on the other side of the cul-de-sac.

They both have jobs and munchkins to manage. Me, not so much. I don’t have to be anywhere, and so I’m not going there.

• Lone Star Update: In Texas Monthly Mimi Swartz feels her hurricane reflexes kick in as the power grid is pushed to the limit.

What’s he building?

December 27, 2020

And we wrap up our Christmas 2020 bloggery with Tom Waits, who seems to have had the Music City Bomber on his musical radar back in 1999.

‘Better Call Santa,’ or ‘Breaking Bethlehem’

December 26, 2020

No snow in them thar hills for Christmas.

Father Christmas has done his usual drive-by on us. A few donuts around the cul-de-sac and off he shot into the frosty Duke City suburbs. Couldn’t ID the plate on that rig, but it was probably stolen, so why bother?

Anyway, all the John Laws on this side of town were tied up with some act of misbehavior down on Copper (and no, the irony did not escape us). We saw their Mickey Mouse ears all aglow to the west like some SWAT-team Star of Bethlehem as we turned off Copper onto Tramway, homeward bound following a visit to Herself the Elder’s assisted-living residence.

Earlier, Herself distributed freshly baked molasses cookies to the neighbors in a brazen act of socialism as I contemplated the verities.

Father Christmas,
give us some money.

We walked off our breakfast pancakes with a brisk hike through the foothills — “Merry Christmas!” shouted a happy family from their backyard hot tub, and no, I am not making that up — after which we motored off for the aforementioned holiday chat through HtE’s bedroom window, like family members visiting a jailed relative.

“I know, I know, you didn’t do nothing, habeas corpus and all that, but they still won’t set bail, and that abogado pendejo Saul Goodman won’t return our calls — ‘Better Call Saul’ my ass — so you’re just gonna have to wait a while longer, OK? Next time we’ll bring cigarettes and commissary money, I promise.”

Back at the shack we rang up my sister and her husband in Fort Fun, after which it was my turn in the kitchen barrel. The main dish was a largish Alaskan salmon filet (h/t Matt Wiebe) drizzled with olive oil, sprinkled generously with salt and pepper, and baked at 425° for 10-12 minutes, after which it got a squeeze of fresh lemon. Sides were white asparagus, arroz verde, and a green salad. Fake beer for me, a nice Provençal rosé for Herself.

As we ate we finished our binge-watching of “Breaking Bad,” because nothing says Christmas like an apocalyptic settling of old scores among meth kingpins.

Speaking of holiday entertainment, at some point during the day I gave ear to “Desert Oracle Radio,” a podcast recommended by Adventure Journal magazine. I’ve only listened to two episodes so far, but I’m gonna give it a tentative thumbs-up based on the Christmas show alone, which touches on our beloved Land of Entrapment and a few of its holiday oddities.

Herself thinks Ken Layne sounds like the Motel 6 guy. (“We’ll leave the light on for you.”) I think he sounds like the Motel 6 guy (with a smack habit). Take him for a quick spin around the Mojave and tell us what you think he sounds like.

The Claus that refreshes

December 25, 2020

Off the back as usual, you grumpy old elf.

While Santa was nestled snug in his bed, with visions of sugarplums and various other acid flashbacks dancing through his head, Ms. Claus was up and taking care of bidness as per usual.

Herself the Elder enjoys an early holiday chat with Ms. Claus through her bedroom window.

In point of fact, she was out in the frosty air, delivering a big box of Dunkin deliciosity to the residents and staff at Herself the Elder’s assisted-living house.

The coffee was made in the kitchen with care, for she knew that eventually, against all odds, that grumpy old elf St. Grinch would haul his fleabitten carcass out of the sack and stumble blindly around the joint screeching for stimulants to jump-start the undersized and frequently offline Freon pump in his rib cage that he claims is a heart.

Now she’s home and banging around in the kitchen making pancakes and eggs over easy, with more coffee, still more! Molasses cookies are likewise on the program. Your basic Joyeux Noël, n’est-ce pas? Feliz Navidad? Nollaig shona dhuit?

Whatever you call it, have some on us. Her. Whatevs. I’ll have more coffee, please.

Spare (me the) change

December 24, 2020

Funny-looking reindeer around here.

When I was a greedy and impatient young pup my parents granted the opening of one present each on Christmas Eve.

Now I’m a grizzled old mutt and there is just one present under the tree, period. And it’s for the both of us, Your Humble Narrator and Herself.

Opening it this evening seems silly, especially since we already know what’s inside: an Apple TV HD. It is to replace our Apple TV (3rd generation), which no longer pulls down HBO Now, Now having been rechristened Max, as in Mad, which I am.

We generally enjoy an hour of TV with our dinner. But should there be anything worth watching on HBO Max, which lately seems as unlikely as finding a sense of honor and duty in government, we have to bypass our old Apple TV — though, oddly, it seems to work just fine with everything save HBO Max (happy holidays, AT&T, you miserable pricks).

Dig that crazy midget Xmas tree, daddy-o. And the cool wrapping on the lone gift.

The workaround involves booting up the even older Mac Mini, lighting a candle to the shade of Steve Jobs, chanting our Video Mantra (“TV Input, HDMI-1, Receiver Input, AV-1”), switching inputs on both TV and receiver, launching a browser (Which one? I never remember), and finally shrieking, “Goddamnit all to hell anyway!” and running right back to the loving tentacles of Netflix, sister of Cthulhu.

Tomorrow we will have the new Apple TV, so, yay, etc. Herself’s gift will be watching it. Mine will be setting it up.

This is less enthralling than it might have been long ago, in the Before Time. After 30 years of providing my own tech support for personal and professional gadgetry I’m having trouble working up any enthusiasm for wrangling a new comosellama just in case HBO, against all odds, comes up with another “The Sopranos,” “High Maintenance,” or “The Wire.”

I’m for sure not holding my breath while waiting for a new George Carlin special. Neither is George.

Who might ask: Is newer always better?

When it comes to bicycles I’m much more interested in friction shifting, rim brakes, and the nine-speed drivetrain than I am in the latest shiny object making the registers ring, when customers and product can be found in the same place at the same time.

I have an Apple Pencil for my iPad Pro, but when I sat down yesterday to draw a holiday card for the neighbors, I used my old analog A.W. Faber 3H pencil, a fistful of Sakura Pigma Micron pens, and a sheet of Strathmore 300 Series Bristol paper. And yes, the card was in good old black and white. (I thought of making a quick trip to the art-supply store for colored pencils, and then I thought again.)

Speaking of iPads, there’s a metric shit-ton of e-books on mine, but I notice I’m mostly reading real books lately. The kind you don’t have to plug into the wall.

This is just the yelping of an old dog who’s tired of learning new tricks, pining for a day when he not only didn’t have to keep stuff running, he didn’t even have to buy the stuff. It just sorta, like, grew there, under the tree.

But time passes and things change.

“Nothing endures but change,” as Heraclitus observed.

Izzat so? Well, spare me the change, you one-scroll wonder. And gimme some George, goddamnit. I already got too much stuff.

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.

Boo-zo the Clown

October 31, 2020

The Thing on the Doorstep.
On the way out, we may hope.

This is the scariest Halloween I can remember.

Thank Cthulhu so many people voted early. Only the Great Old Ones know what the sluggards are likely to do come Tuesday, as they crash hard from Saturday’s sugar frenzy followed by Sunday’s end to daylight saving time. Probably cast write-in votes for Mars-Wrigley, the Dread Lord of Type-2 Diabetes, or worse, Darth Cheney.

One thing seems pretty certain, though. If we don’t punt the Not-So-Great Pumpkin off the national porch next week, Halloween 2021 will be even scarier. Boogity-boogity-boogity.

He’s not just a Good Old One. He’s a Great Old One.

Fire, works

July 5, 2020

Looking back toward ’Burque from just beyond last month’s 5-acre blaze.

Yesterday Herself and I hiked up to the site of last month’s smallish foothills fire and pressed on a bit further for a peek at some of the as-yet-unburnt open space beyond.

It’s pretty up there. Great spot for young miscreants to engage in unsupervised experimentation with this, that, and the other. That’s what we would’ve used it for when I was a teenager possessed by various devils, anyway.

The Voodoo Nakisi parked along one of the zillions of trails in Bibleburg’s Palmer Park, circa 2013.

Our spot was Palmer Park, in Bibleburg. We called it “The Bluffs,” and it was where we went to act the fool, on foot, aboard bicycles, and finally in cars.

Never set the place ablaze, though. Not that I recall, anyway.

There’s a ton of short hikes like Sunset Canyon here in the foothills, and don’t I wish I had explored a few of them before FUBARing my right ankle, because there is generally a bit of scrambling involved.

The idea of finding myself sprawled in some rock garden with a freshly rebroken ankle, awaiting a visit from some carnivore that is decidedly not an EMT, is not my idea of a good time.

Back at El Rancho Pendejo we lunched on some leftover chicken chili with some blue corn ships and some grated Irish cheddar on a bed of rice.

Dinner was also a rerun, a second round of faux pizza I cobbled together using two Vicolo corn-meal crusts topped with some leftover pasta sauce (kind of a New Mexican arrabbiata), grated mozzarella and Parmigiano Reggiano, and chopped Applegate sweet Italian chicken sausage.

We’ve been trying to watch “Dark,” which is engrossing in a “Stranger Things” meets “Lost” kind of way, but it’s just too .. well, too dark for us at the moment.

Getting lit for the Fourth.

So instead we had a go at “The Florida Project,” a quirky little slice-of-odd-life kind of film that will feel familiar to anyone who’s ever stayed the night in a sketchy tourist-town motel and caught a glimpse of the regulars who are definitely not there for the fun of it.

As H.I. observes in “Raising Arizona,” it ain’t “Ozzie and Harriet.”

The evening’s entertainment concluded with the annual fireworks extravaganza put on by our neighbors to the west, who’ve been bringing the boom for their kids and everyone else’s for a couple decades now.

It was a socially distant version of their usual Fourth of July celebration. Also not exactly “Ozzie and Harriet,” but nevertheless a welcome reminder that life, quirky as it is, goes on.

Ooooooh … ahhhhhhhhh. …

Go Man Van Gogh

July 3, 2020

Get thee behind me.

The Fourth of July holiday weekend is upon us, we are urged to park our bad selves at home, and here comes The New York Times to torment us with an article headlined “The #Vanlife Business Is Booming.”

Because of course it is. If you have a few hundred thou’ burning a hole in your skinny jeans, that is.

The hoi polloi may find the Mercedes Metris conversion more their style (or the lack thereof, ho ho ho). You can get one of those for under a hundred large.

Or you can just knucklehead it on the cheap. Throw a surplus pup tent, a Coleman bag, and an Igloo full of PBR and weenies into the Wagoneer, break down a gate at some national forest, and shoot the ol’ AK until you can’t hear the voices in your head anymore.

Anyone tells you to knock it off, or asks where your face mask’s at, tell the sumbitch he’s gonna wish he was wearing a catcher’s mask and give ’im the butt in the beezer.

Murka, baybee! USA! USA! USA! Land of the Free*!

* Some restrictions may apply.

Happy Juneteenth

June 19, 2020

What a brilliantly simple illustration for an essay on whether the “b” in “black” should be capitalized. I appropriated it from The Atlantic.

I made Juneteenth very famous, as you know.

No, I didn’t. And neither did that other peckerwood.

I’m not big on holidays. They were nothing to look forward to in the newspaper biz. Whether it’s Arbor Day or Zoo Lovers Day, the paper must appear. And no matter what capitalist fantasies motivate the business decisions at Gannett and Alden Global Capital, a newspaper won’t publish itself. Yet.

Once you’ve eaten a few dozen “holiday” meals at your desk while decoding a school-board story written by a functional alcoholic the term “holiday” loses all meaning.

Most holidays are dubious, anyway. Christmas? Sorry, not one of mine. Thanksgiving? Is that the one where George Washington threw his wooden teeth across the Potomac and killed a turkey perched in a cherry tree? Fourth of July? That’s the “Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness” one, right? Except for, you know, those people.

Then there’s Juneteenth. LIke Independence Day, it commemorates a beginning, a first step on a long march to a battle that seems to have no ending.

Though the celebration has its roots in Texas, I don’t recall hearing about it when I was in school down there. Too busy teaching us about how John Wayne fought Communism at the Alamo, I guess.

We never heard anything about the 1921 Tulsa Massacre, either.

And so I suffered from ignorance, a condition with which I continue to struggle. It, too, is a long march. The trick is to keep putting one foot ahead of the other while keeping your eyes, ears, and mind open.

Here’s something I stumbled across along the path. It drew my attention because I’m an old newshound, a retired copy editor, and I love watching the language as it tries to evolve to meet the times. It’s an article in The Atlantic by Kwame Anthony Appiah, a professor of philosophy and law at New York University, and it’s titled “The Case for Capitalizing the ‘B’ in ‘Black.'”