Postcards from Egypt

ISIS HOTEL

Thumbing the ancient elevator button

my driver summons the deity of ascension

who rumbles us up to the 14th floor lobby,

a world of massive brocade chairs and wobbly

wooden tables, populated by joking men

who take my measure in Arabic, take my

payment in Egyptian pounds, and offer me a room

filled with plastic flowers and the scent of ginger.


PHILAE TEMPLE

Scarred by time and new religion

the temple turns to show biz,

beguiling tourists with cash in hand

giving voices to the night’s deep shadows

as boats without running lights

glide by on a cloud  of diesel exhaust


MCDONALD’S IN LUXOR

For the price of a McSlurry, we find

simple pleasure in the familiarity of

clean rest rooms, free internet, and

the taste of something that kindles a

memory of chocolate, but the laughing

red and yellow clown makes me think

I’ve been had.


EGYPTIAN HORSES

Beasts of burden, small and precious,

did they descend from the fierce steeds

of Pharaoh’s chariot? Or simply the models

for the instant antiques, being sculpted

from ancient Egyptian dust

on every sidewalk in Cairo.


MEMPHIS, EGYPT

Careening through Memphis,

I feel like I’m in a movie mash-up:

part Bubba Hotep, part Toad’s Wild Ride.

As my driver hits the gas, and we fly by,

my camera finds a lone white donkey

who seems to give me a sidelong glance.


BUYING A CAMERA IN ASWAN

I never had to work so hard

to buy something

in a land where haggling is the rule

in a shop where the price was set,

the paradox obscured by the sight

of three black-burka’d Nubian women

wresting a washing machine

out the front door.


STALKING TOURISTS

Their photos show them in a jaunty stance

a pyramid in the base of their hand

finger pinching the nose of the Sphinx.

Mine show them posing, just a bit off kilter,

striking a pose made sensible

only by geography

 

TWO PHOTOS I DIDN’T TAKE

Two burkha’a women, one crossing a busy

Cairo street with a Hello Kitty balloon held

a lot; the other walking down the stairs of

Amenhotep’s temple, video camera held up

to her barely visible eyes.


WAYS TO GET SICK ON VACATION

Drinking the water, disguised as Tang;

Drinking the beer, long out of date;

Eating the food;

Breathing the air;

Forgetting your meds;

Riding in a car, a van, a train, a boat.

Standing quietly, doing nothing at all.


MUSLIM LINGERIE SHOP

Drawn in by a window of orange gowns,

we soon make friends with the Lebanese clerk

who shows us her glamour shot, her life unveiled,

then leads us downstairs where the good stuff is:

red lace body stockings, laced with a strategy

of slits and opening, peek-a-boo nighties,

unimaginable ways to unimagined skin.

 

MONUMENTAL GRAFFITI

Early Christians were among to first to discover how

easily ancient temples along the Nile could be converted

with chisel and knife. Images obliterated, names changed.

Napoleon’s legions overlaid their greetings in French

followed by any number of European names and dates.

Victorian Americans joined in as well, carving their home

ports into the feet of colossi. And I, knowing I trod where

ancestors had visited 100 years earlier, I was just relieved

not to see my family name visible among all the rest.

 

CLEOPATRA

“You look like Cleopatra,”

the street-hawkers called out again and again

to our Suzanne, lusting for

her eyes, her skin, and her hair.

Later, in the museum, we hear the myth

that Cleo herself was never a looker,

but we don’t believe it:

We’ve seen Cleopatra in the eyes of the hawkers.

We’ve seen our Suzanne.


DESERT RUN

Expatriates outside of Cairo, we gather in the desert

ready to walk or run the ridges, invoking odd rituals,

baptisms with beer, sunglasses, and broad-brimmed hats;

everyone sharing a massive multi-lingual joke.

 

TRAVEL BY CAMEL

The camels in Giza were high style,

tricked out. I’d ride one of those

any day of the week, feel like a

queen, the ride never too long or wild enough.

The camels at the Nubian Village

far south up the Nile, now those were beasts

of a different canter, ungainly, fly-ridden,

exhausted, and humble.

Riding with reins clenched, we ascended

the hillside too close to each other,

a managed slow stampede, held in check

by cheeky boys who walked up to the top

and then galloped back down with a yelp.

 

FELUCCA AT NIGHT

No wind, no breeze, just heat

and the slightest sound of water

lapping the edge of the boat’s weathered hull

floating out in the River Nile, our conversation

wrapped in a gentle scarf of city’s night music,

a group of travelers, far from home.

 

NIGHT TRAIN

By the time we boarded and found our tourist compartments

Alexandria was already a fading memory

a vague one for me,

already on my second full day of living in a body

focused entirely on pleasing a belly set on displeasure.

The rocking of the train lulled me to sleep,

a treasure of dreaming. In my medicated haze,

we might well have been on the Orient Express.


CAIRO ROOF TOPS

On a roof top in Cairo, my host

tortures garbage, coercing its essence

through sun-hardened tubing, until it escapes for

no more than a second before the strike of

a match sends it back to the sky as blue flame.

Gazing down at this magic, urban goats chew

without interest, working on a simpler

conversion, their own.


TRAFFIC

On the highways along the Nile, traffic

lights are only a suggestion, rarely followed,

horns signaling nothing more than intent

to take join the flow of endless traffic,

as if there were a choice.

 

MY EGYPTIAN DRIVER

At the Step Pyramid, my driver

again makes his only English joke:

“Good-bye. See you tomorrow.”

and then does not actually leave

but goes back to work on another

suduko, or maybe a nap in which

he dreams of a day riding

in another Town Car, drowsing

happily, stretched out in the back.

 

BAKEESH

Bakeesh! Bakeesh! Bakeesh!

The first word I learn in Arabic

is the last word I hear at the Cairo airport

as I struggle with luggage, struggle with language,

opening a door, finishing a meal,

I see the open hand, seeking a tip.

Bakeesh! Bakeesh! Bakeesh!

 

RED PYRAMID

I descent 65 meters into the empty

silent tomb: No crowds, no jostling, no words

until I hear a cheery Aussie accent,

see a welcoming smile, and find a

seeker who had found her soul

deep in Dashur, under tons of rock.

We chat, I leave. She wraps

solitude around her,

perhaps already knowing

a bus load of tourists

is about to arrive.

 

SAKKARA TOMBS

My ticket to the tombs includes a

one-man show, a guide with an audience

of only me, and the skill to leave his script

for another day. Instead we walk

like old friends, heads together,

examining the past, answering

and asking all the right

questions, one at a time.

 

BBC

Coldest winter in 30 years, I bundle up

on Emma’s couch and watch the BBC

on her telly, feeding my imagination with

well-told tales of Egypts past, parlayed

in a British accent, assured that what I

arrive at last, it will be a very classy place.

 

LUXOR ATM

In Luxor, as I wait at the ATM —

another ritual of a Nile-side tour,

a familiar and simple aspect of home —

an Amazon woman with a  spy-movie accent

wrenches me from my  drifting thoughts,

claiming my spot by prior psychic right.

The trace of madness in her eyes

reminds me that I most assuredly must

already have all the cash that I need.

 

EGYPTIAN MUSEUM

Perhaps it should be in a museum of museums.

Oh! this is what museums used to look like with

hand-written cards and thumb tacks

pushed into the stories of trickery and deceit.

And I never did find Nefertiti’s bust, perhaps

too covered with dust.

 

MY FELUCCA

“I want to drive the boat,” I joke,

having envied the light stand of the helmsman

balancing on the tiller, a ballet of navigation.

The captain hesitates, then smiles,

gives me the thumbs us, and I –

for a moment – become one of the few

who can say, “I sailed on the Nile.”

My heart still soars.


TOURIST

The problem with being a tourist in Egypt

is simple: You are a tourist in Egypt,  a mark

You might as well be wearing a flashing light.

In a souk, though, I meet two English gentlewomen,

who laugh at my sandals and scum-splattered feet,

and — telling the shopkeep that they live in Cairo —

they turn and offer to sell him to me.

 

DONKEYS

So many think of camels in Egypt

but for me the donkeys are the ones who remain

still trotting in my homebound dreams,

too small for their riders,

feet clipping in an impossible blur.

I  know their secret, yes, I think I do:

I  saw one in line at a Giza gas station.


EGYPTIAN RAIN

Four times a year it rains, they said.

Okay, well maybe twelve.

No matter.

When it rains in Cairo,

everything stops,

knee-deep in mystery,

blinded by the skies,

downright biblical. And still,

only a taste of what life was like

when the banks of the Nile

ruled the known world.


PRAYER

Our tour boat settled into its berth for the night

just as the call to prayer began along the Nile

one tower and then another

no two ever the same in word or tone or sound

but always just enough of an echo to make it clear

that the fabric of the prayer would never end.

 

VERY LARGE TAXI

Outside the Cairo Tower, the

tea-sipping driver is not easily put off

by seven lost tourists seeking a van.

“Very large taxi,” he assures us with pride

then sardines us into what can only have been

your mother’s Vista Cruiser, covered in

tapestry and beads, incense, and memories.

Muffins

Sue Ten has been talking about adding muffins to the pie shop menu lately, but I do think she is mistaken. Surely she means adding muffins to the Swing Barn menu for those few fools who think breakfast should be full of fluff and sweetness. Wait a minute, that would be me.  Yes, I want brepakfast to have bacon, toast, eggs, grits, and some sort of garnish, maybe an  nice twist of Florida orange, but not a muffin.

A muffin is more of an afternoon food, or perhaps really an accoutrement to the entre.  Should be a bit grainy, and small.

I don’t know where this breakfast muffin came from.  I think it’s a little crazy and I don’t believe that what people are calling muffins today are muffins at all but are instead some sort of glorified cupcake. I’m with Frank Zappa here, on the muffin question.

Now somepeople they like cupcakes . . . .

And why not? Especially the Hostess variety, chocolately with those white squiggles on top.  Yum. I ate those for years, until the adventt of ding dongs and ring dings. Oh, my teeth hurt just thinking about it.

And then there were the birthday cupcakes that we had one year for the Twins – little cakes piled high with frosting beyond belief. For some reason, blue ws the color of the day and the frosting was spread from child to sugarfied child quick as a wink or a wiggle. Each cupcake had a little blue clown head with pointed cap; each child wore a pointed blue clown cap. All in all, a fairly eerie site. Good thing the whole crew was outside and we were just able to hose them down later on. What do parents of winter-birthday children do? I shudder to think.

Muffins, though, should be nourishing and life giving. I remember one particular camping trip in Maine, when my fellow partiers, i mean drinkers, no I mean campers, chided me for bringing  along a dozen blueberry muffins from the jordan marsh bakery.  Ah, but in the morning, when we opened our blearing eyes and spied that pale pink bakery box, my stock rose as fast as the  sun. Yes, nourishing and life giving.

Corn meal muffins are the perfect accompaniment to fish chowder, and bran muffins are, well, medicinal at best.  Banana nut muffins reek of tea time.  Let’s see, then there are all manner of poppy seed ones, lemon grass, and who knows what else.

Muffins are a step up from biscuits, and a stair case up from the nasty burned things that my mother called “bride’s biscuit” decades after she was a bride.

So how did they become the trashy breakfast dessert things they are today? The monsters with umbrella-mushroom tops handing over the edge? I don’t know.

I’ve also noticed that in some parts of the country people refer to donuts as “rolls” and I think calling near-cupcakes “muffins” is the same faux-healthiness. Oh, how can I eat something big and sweet and pretend that it’s really good forr me?  I know. I’ll call it a muffin.  All 2,000 calories of it.

So, no to Sue Ten. The Slice of Heaven 24-Hour Pie Shop and driving range will not be adding muffins to the menu, but I will  give you my recipe for corn muffins and you can serve them on Saturday nights along with the endless franks-and-beans buffet. Outside of that, steer clear.

We are a pie shop. And a driving range.  Life is good.

Pie Poems for the Poetry Pie

Oh trouble trouble trouble. What shall I bake for the Martha Stewart pie show? I had such grandiose ideas of different ways to create a poetry pie, but let’s face it, we’re flying 1,500 miles to get there, and it’s going to be tough enough to get my pie with its silver doilies through TSA, although I did check the website and they claim there really is no problem at all. I’ll just send it through the X-ray machine and be on my way, flying to NYC with a pie on my lap, my Mohawk friend Hannah next to me all the way.

Believe me, we are some excited.

I’ve decided: The pie, my dears, will be a decadent brownie pie with a ginger snap crust. Gooey and spicy. Pretty I hope. I make the practice pie tonight, I think.

But first the poems, it needs to be crammed with poetry, just like McCabe (in the Altman film McCabe and Mrs. Miller). And the poetry needs to be of the postcard variety, only about pies and baking, not trains this time.

As it is, I’m pretty far behind on my postcard poems, so maybe this will give me a chance to catch up.

Okay, six poems about pie:

 

Pat’s Apple Raisin Pie

Kayaking in Florida’s 10,000 islands,

expeditioning with Outward Bound,

I finally shed one more food phobia

and ate a meal that included raisins–

didn’t even try to pick them out.

But still, you know, even so, I don’t regret

passing up Pat’s Apple Pie with Rum-Soaked Raisins

in the filling. It just did not seem right

there on the table with our stoic New England fare.

 

Yogurt Dream Pie

Yogurt! I loved it! Made it myself in funny

little cups, plugged into a yellow warming tray that

I bought from some catalog. I put it in

everything, even Dream Whip pie with lemon

Jello-O and who knows what else. “I like it,”

said Dad, pointing with his fork. “What’s in it?”

“Yogurt,” I beamed, then watched in astonishment

as he pushed it way, slid back his chair, and

left the kitchen for the comfort and security

of his old, familiar recliner.

 

Steak and Mushroom Pie

We bought the first one in a tin in some tiny

gourmet shop in Portland, Maine, so cool we were

as college students, English majors, worldly

in our willingness to try something new, something

that I could replicate in our galley kitchen where I had

Already failed so stupendously to create coq au vin

and had come up with pink chicken. But, my dear,

let me tell you, that steak and mushroom pie, the

one that I made myself, still sizzles on my tongue, leaving

its savory essence in memory ever better, every year.

 

Mincemeat Pie

“Mincemeat pie,” I said to John, “was invented by Paul Bunyan

after Babe the Blue Ox finished off the last of the

real minces, a single-ox extermination unit, that one. So

Paul had to create a dish every bit as sweet and delicious.

I don’t know whether he poured brandy into the first

one, or if that was someone else’s idea, so in either case,

what you have here is actually mock mince.

Not mince.”

“Can’t say that I care,” he said, and sliced his way

through my crust of cookie cuttered stars, ate his way

into yet another Great American Myth.

 

 

Another Thanksgiving, Another Pie

Somehow, my son and I developed our

own tradition over the years, never quite getting

the pumpkin pie right, always managing to forget

one ingredient, never two, always finagling our

way through the shopping list, then opening the

oven door to find something unexpected in

shape or texture, but always finding something

for sure that we could pass off as pie.

 

Boston Cream in Boston

When Nanny turned 72, we all hauled down to

Boston for a night at The Pops, preceded by a

dinner at Jakie Wirth, me a satellite to Nanny’s family

who gossiped and sipped, drank beer,

drank wine. And for dessert the crisp waiters trouped

out with the most fabulous Boston Cream Pie

I have seen in my life, decadent as only custard

and chocolate can be. She cut us each an

ample slice, and surveyed her congenial tribe with

a nod and a knowing grin, a bit of custard on her lip.

Sue Ten and the City

I may have told you some of the story, but there is always more, and now a few weeks or months after our visit to The City, I find it interesting to see what parts are risen to the top of the milk, and what lies submerged.

Now, seriously, I am not a city person by any stretch of imagination. I get rattled in crowds that are not headed to or from a ballgame. I hear too many heart beats around me, and I don’t know how to shut them out. I’m too busy gawking to watch where I am going, and I feel like I am constantly trying to break through the surface to find a more familiar horizon.

So why go to New York with Sue? Ah, well. Pretty easy answer. She asked me, and she also said, “Do you like to plan your trips?” Oh, my. Magic words. In no time at all I had a website set up, an interactive calendar in place, and a spreadsheet of what when and where all worked out.

“Oh,” she said. But of course, she already knew all that about me. After all, geekiness is something hard to hide for long, although it is more and more commonly accepted today as “normal” especially by people who don’t know the origin of the term.  Geek, my dear, is really a type of carney folk who specialize in odd things link biting heads off lizards,  and other acts of dismemberment and displaced body parts. Geeks will fry frogs alive and pop them in their mouths. Geeks will follow up the frog trick by popping our their own eyeballs, and eating them, too.  There’s really no limit to geekdom, and I do promise you, I try to keep that kind of geek out of the pie shop kitchen, although they do pretty well on the driving range since what they lack in skill they make up with creativity.

And so it goes.

Yes, we made our plan, and i do love a good plan, and we followed it through and through. I think Sue’s favorite part, at least in the re-telling, was  when the neophyte taxi driver tried to kidnap us, or so  it seemed. I, of course, was a total innocent, just going along for the drive, confident that public transportation would be every bit as reliable as it is at home when whoever is the designated driver for the day sets out with his or her precious cargo.

Boy oh boy, was I mistaken. This guy had no apparent idea where he was going but he was determined to take us there.  We knew we were in trouble when, soon after we got in the town car, Sue’s phone rang and it was the dispatcher saying “He’ll be right there.” Right where? We’re in the car. “Are you in a black car?” No, we’re in a gray car.

Okay, that was bad, but optimism reigned. One cab, two cabs, how different could they be? And then he took the wrong exit, and Sue started to quiz him. Or interrogate him. Or get into his face, which was difficult from the back seat since she did not want to take her seatbelt off.

Then she starts yelling at me to call 9-1-1, which made no sense to me at all since I knew my phone would call the local Everglades dispatch and what good would that do me in New York City.  Sue later told me I’d just have to tell them where we were. “But I didn’t know where we were!” Even now, she is incredulous remembering my face as I handed her the phone.

Oh, good lord. What would I have done without her? Would I have been sold into white slavery? Or was that Japanese businessman who took a liking to me in China behind the whole escapade? I don’t know.

Somehow Sue gained command of the episode, and  he convinced the driver to follow her instructions to the letter, and we did – sure enough – end up at LaGuardia airport in plenty of time for our flight to SoFLA.

And now, can you believe it, I’m about to go to New York again, and it hasn’t even been six months, not to mention 30 years. This time I’m on a mission with the American Pie Council to attend the Martha Stewart Pie Special.  I’m totally cracked up about the whole thing, and am still working on my pie design. Some sort of poetry pie, I think. Maybe a brownie pie with a ginger snap crust, the poems tucked into foil doilies between the slices. I am psyched.

And I have no intention of getting into a New York cab with Sue Ten.

String Theory Pie

Cooler weather, so

pie shop thoughts turn to squash

and spices

from all eleven dimensions

coexisting on the same

plane of faceted pyrex.

Will one fork ever be enough?

Will a fork be needed at all?

Spaghetti squash seems the

best choice for a filling that

never ends, especially if

you try to eat it

one yellow strand

at a time.

Advanced Breathing Lessons

I’m coming up for air after a long grueling project that has kept me away from all of you for far too long, and how I have missed you, each and every one.

Already this morning, I’ve been walking around my beloved turquoise conch cottage, admiring the treasures I’ve acquired from all you all over the years: Sue Ten’s shadow-boxed pop-up postcard of the Coney Island Cyclone; my growing collection of pink ball caps; the pillow shams the Yoga Guy brought back from India; my sister Mel’s over-decorated plush moose that traveled with the twins and me when we packed up our Ford Escort and found our way out of the Great State of Maine.

My real treasure, though, is seeing you, sipping your plain ol’ cups of coffee and finishing off each other’s crossword puzzles left on the counter until they are done. I’m happy to be home, damn near ecstatic to be back in the pie shop, catching up with all that’s gone on while I’ve been just plain gone.

What I missed the most, I’ll say, has been breathing. One of my favorite lines from John Lennon is this: “As breathing is my life, to stop I dare not dare.” I’ve often felt that my life at the Slice of Heaven 24-Hour Pie Shop and Driving Range has been an ongoing series of breathing lessons; but still, when I’m away, I tend to forget how to do it right. I find myself gasping for air, both physically and metaphorically.

Sitting here now with you, watching your hands flutter as you fill me in on your second cousin Darnell’s latest romance – and I do wish you had left out the part that involved my car – I am pleasantly aware of the effortless flow of pie-scented air through my nostrils and lungs. I am breathing again, fully, passionately, and smooth as a slice of French silk pie.

Breathing well and often is perhaps one of those taken-for-granted actions that we don’t fully miss until it’s been lost and restored. Certainly, I never stopped taking in air while I was gone, but it didn’t taste like you. It wasn’t the flavor of the driving range after a lightning strike, or the aroma of popcorn on movie night at the Swing Barn. It didn’t restore me like the deep grab of breath when I am swimming one more lap, or occupy my lizard brain like the Yoga Guy’s deliberate instructions.

No, my breathing while away was laced with stress and chemicals and even sorrow. Too much of the world, it seems, has too many distractions and roadblocks between the air and the breath.  With pie and golf, though, there’s always a fairly good chance that we will actually  achieve perfection, even if it’s only for one dead-on hit out of 100 balls, or a micro-second of seeing the known universe between the layers of an exquisitely layered crust.

Some day, perhaps, I’ll learn how to breathe well and easily when I’m outside this diving bell that we call home. If you know how to do it, come on by and tell me how. I’m willing to learn. I certainly am. Just not right now while I can hear the Morning Guy restocking the soda machine and shooing away the Chocoloskee chickens. Right now, I want to do nothing more than to breathe in early morning at the Slice of Heaven 24-Hour Pie Shop and Driving Range. Hope to see you soon.

It Takes a Train to Cry

My birthday is about to roll around again, and that means it’s been a full year since Little Peach and I made our memorable trip to the island south of Key West. This year, she will be my birthday chaperone once again, for the third year in a row actually, and I’m sure it will be just as memorable, although the memories will be of a different kind.

I can thank my ex-husband Pretty Boy Boyd, for my friendship with Little Peach, at least in part. If my life with Pretty Boy hadn’t been so, well, toxic, I might not have felt the need to flee my home on the edge of the ‘glades and drive five hours straight north to feel safe and nurtured.  Fortunately, thanks to all you all, I now feel safe and nurtured almost all the time. (Let’s face it. There are some poisons that even you cannot prevent.)

I’m looking forward to Peach’s visit. I always feel that she brings out the best of the poetry in me. I’m a little late in sharing this with you, but August was Postcard Poetry month, and I decided to dedicate my efforts to Peach and her family. I may have mentioned this before: They are all train buffs, and size doesn’t matter. From tiny model trains to the biggest engine we can find, they are all over it. So, when I came across a stash of railroad postcards, I knew my poetry for August would have a theme.

Now I want to share them with you, too.

AUGUST POSTCARD POEMS ABOUT TRAINS

Tucson Station

Waiting for Phoenix,
my sister grabbed her guitar,
tossed her hair, and outside
the station, melted into
a herd
of marching band students
their talents encased in
boxes all sizes, not a simple
shape among them.
She hauled her fading
marriage onboard, and
set out, her face reflecting
the same determination as that
of the boy, loading up
an obvious tuba.
Halloween

One Halloween in Miami Beach
we sat on a bench and watched
the costumed world ride by
on city buses and in cabs.
Another year, I rode the train
to Kansas City, my hair slicked
back, my clothes a boy’s,
wing-tipped shoes,
a wonderful joke.
I arrived at the station.
You were not there.
Surprise.

Meditation

Listen to a far away sound
the meditation begins
Listen to the silence behind
the sound
We sit on folding metal chairs
on the second floor of the AA club,
the energy of addiction muffles
the silence.
If we’re lucky, a train will roar by
rattle the building
shake our bones
and take us with it,
leaving only a departing light
in our eyes.

Worst-Case Scenario

You may not know this, but
if your car is stalled on
the track, do not run
away from approaching
disaster. No, get your
feet down on the ground
to the side of the rails
and run forward
forward forward,
as far from the point
of impact as you can possibly be.
Good advice in all sorts of situations,
I believe.

Therapy

My heart poured out, I paused,
tasting metallic emotion,
wanting some tea leaves to
spell out a better story,
wanting the story to
divine a better me.
“I see,” said my therapist,
“love for you is a train wreck.”
My breath flew south,
down the tracks of my life.
“Yes.”

Performance

For some event in junior high, my
high strung teacher had us all perform
a poem for voices, names of trains,
Erie, Lackawana, Susquehannah,
Ohio, and Santa Fe.
Twenty-five sweating pre-teens
and all we had to do was say a word
or phrase in the proper sequence and
oh my god it sounded like a train.
All we had to do was get it right.
If only Steve had not played hookie.
It might have been great.

Crossing

Pick-up truck speeding through
cornfields too late at night
for the driver to care
about anything much as he
tosses out another empty
though the fragrant window
almost to the track
he does not stop but
hits the gas
and we cross over with
seconds to spare.
Even now, I wake up some nights
and see the light of that train
full bright in my face.

Memory Loss

I can’t remember: It goes like
this: “Something something something,
Cry like a train.”
Howl like a river,
Cry like a train?
Laugh like a joker,
Cry like a train?
Scream like a banshee,
Cry like a train?
Tell me you love me,
Cry like a train?

Echo

Florida East Coast F – E – C
a few block to the west
rumbles as freight trains do.
Doppler effect
rocks me to sleep.
Open windows.
Poison jasmine
stabs the night.
Sleepless, I step outside.
Another train calls from the east –
an illusion
bouncing off the
flat canals of my mind

The Box Car Children

Sitting in my third-grade class,
desks still with inkwells then,
I read of runaway industrious
children living in a boxcar,
abandoned, like them,
motionless, steady.
“That’s where I want to be,”
I thought.
“Safe, secure:
I want to live there.”
But now I need motion.
Now I need flow.
I’d live on a boat.

For Robertson Davies

Somewhere in Alberta,
Via Rail paused in its
pursuit of glaciers and hair-pin
curves, gliding to a full stop
by a picture postcard railway station.
In minutes, my feet found
their way to the door
of a tiny bookshop,
full of Canada.

The Visit

First you need to know we
had never been friends, just sisters,
thrown together by biology. Not
much in common except family
history, something from which I’d fled.
But on that weekend, we found
something else, a ghost in a barroom,
a poem on a napkin, the sound of
of giggles in the alley, our heels on the
pavement at two a.m. Drunkenly
silly, she lay down on the tracks,
and I rescued her from absolutely
nothing as no train went by.
That’s all it took.

Copper

High chaparral, high desert,
a land not known to many,
the Phelps Dodge train laden
with ingots would chug down
from the smelter, beside that
patina green river,
echoing endlessly between
the canyon walls, as bits of copper
broke free and left a trail
of treasure
for children to find
along the track.

Chicago

It’s boring, she said, that
trip to Chicago. I had to
disagree, but maybe she
did not take the train on a day
when a deep, dark purple storm
covered the plains and cast
the landscape into a scene
from a 1950s science fiction
novel. We spent the whole trip
looking for spaceships
and little green men.

Tracks

Fingers of weeds between the rails
where once there was speed.
Metal stripes glinting
through summer asphalt
where once there were rails.
Grandfather’s stories of
bitter cold chores
before catching the train
to sit in a classroom
learning Latin and Greek.

Little Sister

A birthday trip from Maine to Boston,
my wish to go by train,
and so we are in Sunday best,
our matching outfits nicely
pointing out our differences in
ages, size, and shape.
I’m lost in daydreams while she
runs the aisles. Exuberant,
offends the crisp conductor with
these simple words,
“We’re coming back on the bus!”

Zhivago

Too much snow inside and out.
Too many people, yet never enough.
Box cars and desolation
keep the passion moving from
Moscow to Siberia
and back again,
Pasternak stoking the fire
with scarred hearts, fatal choices,
love, anger, and desire.

Sammie

We take the three kids to ride
on small trains, perfectly scaled to
work for us giants, perching
gingerly to sit on boxcars
each child embraced in a
seat belt of grown-up arms.
Sammy squirms as I hold
her, blond hair tickling my
chin, we ride together in hot
pursuit of grandparents
and other locomotives of memories.

Hairpin Curve

Somewhere near Banff, we climb
the stairs to the scenic vista
car to watch both fore and aft
as our Via Rail cars wrap
snug to the mountain
twist impossibly to
the edge of the
cliff and noisily vanish
into the blackness of
the tunnel ahead

Rock Island Line

Shut down by greed
more than anything,
the line lives on in
abandonment and cobwebbed
stations, crumbling in small
towns that once knew the
sound of commerce as a
piecing whistle and a
plume of steam.

Fog

Seattle to Mount Vernon,
an easy ride.
I snap photos from
the window and shoot
them out through the
airwaves, nothing
but gray, nothing but
gray. Everyone knows
instantly right
where I am. No
caption required.

Gladys

Arizona dust brightened
the sky and dimmed
our breath,
the silver train from L.A.
running late toward
the Superstition Mountains.
She smiled stepping down
to the platform, gray green
knapsack and khaki slacks.
“The babies cried in Spanish,”
she said. “Aye eee aye eee aye eee.”

Daylight Savings Time

Rushing south in my little tan
truck, you remember the one?
Whenever we went through
a water-filled dip in the road,
the stick-shift became a fountain?
Arrived, we thought, in time for the
Tucson train, with plenty of time
to spare, Arizona time,
but Lordsburg, New Mexico, had
sprung forward, clock hands
waving good-bye down the tracks.

Henry Flagler’s Railway Car

Having spent some time in a cow pasture,
they said, the private car
with its yacht-like interior
at last was recognized,
identified, and restored to its previous
state of robber-baron grandeur. I’ve toured
it twice, but what I still want to know
is how did it get to the pasture
in the first place? And I like to think of
the cows having tea from the silver
service on the mahogany buffet.

Paul Theroux

One of the tricks, he said, in writing
about travel is to be not too well known,
not too easily recognized, and yet
accessible, so people will talk
and share their stories
as they share the compartment
especially on incredibly
long journeys,
across Siberia,
from Boston to Tiera del Fuego,
along the rails of the Orient Express.
I want his job.

Anna Karenina

I love this story.
Do you think it’s true?
Apparently, they say, Tolstoi
once said he was as surprised as anyone
when Anna Karenina threw herself
under the wheels
of that train.

Midnight Special

Working through a stack of
dear Macy’s books,
I’m taken aback
to find the words on
bright cardboard pages
bringing music to my mind:
“Mary Mack, dressed in black,
silver buttons up and down her back.”
I close the book and start to sing.
“No, Grandma” she says.
“There is no midnight special here.”

Well, no, that does not add up to 31 Postcard Poems for August. I only had 27 railroad-themed cards, but I could certainly have written four more train stories. I was surprised by how many different train images, stories, and poems even now fill my mind. A lot of them are about you. Hope you’ll write soon.
P.S. The other four poems are about a boat.

The Winds of Insomnia

For the third time in as many days, I’ve awakened too early, vibrating with exhaustion. I thought when I exorcised my ex-husband Pretty Boy Boyd from my life, I would be facing a stress-free future, but nature hates a void, and the stress has rolled back in.

In this case, the stress is the result of that peculiar promise, “No good deed goes unpunished,” and my punishment seems far more severe than my good deeds. Ah, well.

In many ways the stress has been almost nostalgic, familiar. In other ways, it has been the enemy, sneaking in through the back screen door, having taken special care to oil the hinges and drug the cat.

So, this morning, as I walked up the lane from my turquoise conch cottage to hit golf balls at 3:00 a.m., I was glad to hear Crosby, Stills, Nash, and Young drifting down from the jukebox. Since The Morning Guy was playing CSN&Y, I knew he must be in a good mood, the soda machine must be fully restocked, and Prentice the Pie Apprentice must have done well on her algebra exam.

I saw them both, sitting at opposite ends of the counter, bathed in the yellow glow of our faux gaslights, and I immediately relaxed, thinking some honeydew-yogurt dream pie would taste good, wishing I still drank coffee, and kissing stress good-bye at the door.

Friends, that is the magic of the Slice of Heaven 24-Hour Pie Shop and Driving Range, and how I’ve missed spending more time with you there. That, my dears, is the greatest antidote to stress that I know.

I was not the only one with her hair blown back by the winds of insomnia this morning either. Nurse Crotchett was already on the putting green, working her way out to longer and longer putts. Soon she’ll be at three feet, and then who knows what new challenges she will attempt.

I would love to have more customers like Crotchett.  She pays her $10 for all the balls she can hit, but makes each effort such a study in preparation, she sometimes does not hit more than 10 in the same time that it takes me to hit 90. She certainly saves us a lot of wear and tear on the balls.

The sun is up now, and soon it will be time to read the headlines to your second-cousin Darnell. No, he’s not illiterate, but he did take the “What kind of learner are you?” quiz on Facebook, and now refuses to read since he’s audio-oriented and reading would be a waste of his precious time. (I, on the other hand, just refuse to take quizzes on Facebook.)

Perhaps tonight I will sleep. Perhaps I’ll dream of you and see your wonderful smile. For now though, I’ll just enjoy the pale light brightening around me, here at the little pie shop on the edge of the ’glades.

Hubble Ultra Deep Field

When Sue Ten told me she was going to show Hubble on the side of the Swing Barn this week, I thought she meant Robert Redford in The Way We Were. [Cue music.] I was wrong. It turns out she’s gotten access to some images from the Hubble telescope, and not just any images. Now, she’s showing the Hubble Ultra Deep Field in 3D images, and I am delighted on at least two separate planes of reality.

I love to look up at a starry sky, even with my soft vision, the kind that comes with a few extra streaks and blurs. If the night is dark enough, I know the stars will be there to greet me.  I also know, as Annie Dillard points out, “You do not have to sit outside in the dark. If, however, you want to look at the stars, you will find that darkness is necessary. But the stars neither require nor demand it.”

I guess I should really not complain about the lack of darkness here outside the Slice of Heaven 24-Hour Pie Shop and Driving Range. After all, I’ll the one who had the lights installed so I would hit golf balls all night long. Still, there are times when I wish it were darker here, just as it is after a hurricane knocks all the power out in the whole state, hospitals and jails excluded. Then we got some sky!

I remember attending a public art symposium some time ago, and I thought the best possible artwork we could create for SoFLA would be a way to really see the stars. Well, hot damn, I think Sue Ten has done it, and I just can’t wait to get settled in my lawn chair with a bag of popcorn to while the night away.

Then again, this new info from The Hubble does bring Olber’s Paradox to mind, so I’ve posted the Ferlinghetti version below the video link. Take it all in, and let me know what you think.

I’ve missed you so much!

YouTube vid of Hubbell https://youtu.be/oAVjF_7ensg

OLBERS’ PARADOX

And I heard the learned astronomer

whose name was Heinrich Olbers

speaking to us across the centuries

about how he observed with naked eye

how in the sky there were

some few stars close up

and the further away he looked

the more of them there were

with infinite numbers of clusters of stars

in myriad Milky Ways & myriad nebulae

So that from this we can deduce

that in the infinite distances

there must be a place

there must be a place

where all is light

and that the light from that high place

Where all is light

simply hasn’t got here yet

which is why we still have night

But when at last that light arrives

when at last it does get here

the part of day we now call Night

will have a white sky

little black dots in it

little black holes

where once were stars

And then in that symbolic

so poetic place

which will be ours

we’ll be our own true shadows

and our own illumination

on a sunset earth

-Lawrence Ferlinghetti

The Line

I just had an excellent night out on the range with Nurse Crotchett. She’s made an outstanding discovery that we both play so much better than normal if we use orange tees. Apparently, it also helps if we wear similar, although not matching, outfits. Pink and white, preferably.

“Golf is so complicated!” she says. “No wonder more people don’t play it.” Crotchett is learning to play primarily through observation, especially when we have a certain species of athletic male on site. I’ve known her to pull up a chair under the awning and spend several hours just soaking up skill sets as she sips onn her iced coffee and slowly, deliberately finishes off another slice of mango crumb pie.

For myself, I’ve discovered that I can do my morning walk/run better if I sing Benny & the Jets – at least the small bit that I know – during the running part. I tend to go non-verbal during the walking part. Yes, we are all about accommodations here, learning what we can do to become more physically fit without letting our brains know what we are plotting.

While some people may preach a mind/body wholeness integrated spirituality and physical health system, we go more for a one-thing-a-time program. That’s why Su Ten never, ever has a buffet at The Swing Barn. She just doesn’t like the looks of all that slippage on a dinner plate.

There are, of course, limits. For example, apple pie and cheese is fine. Maybe even apple pie, cheese, and vanilla ice cream. But something goes awry with a fourth incredient, and the whole thing needs to be marked FAIL with a fifth.

I’ll agree that pizza, soups, and stews work out all right with multiple ingredients, but so many other dishes do not, and my question for you today is “Why?”

Yes, I know, that is usually my question. Perhaps I am a newly verbal toddler at heart. So let’s make it a bit more refined. Where’s the line?

If Crotchett and I look great in our coordinated outfits, and play better golf, wouldn’t we play even more expertly if we looked completely alike, similar perhaps to thee fembots who visited us last Halloween? Apparently not. We’ve tried it.

At what point does pie go from perfect to fail?

When does too much of a good thing go from being just right to not enough?

Where’s the line?

Some people, like the Morning Guy, seem to have excellent radar for The Line, no matter what they are doing in life. I usually don’t know it’s there until I’ve tripped over it. And your second-cousin Darnell is pretty much always on the other side of it completely.

I guess I will just add “line vision” to the list of super powers I wish I had. First, if you recall, I wish I had the power to always ask the right question. Let’s face it. Usually I don’t ask any questions, I just plunge into the depths and deal with regrets later on.

Today, though, I want to be able to see The Line. What willl that do for me? I don’t know. Still, if I ever ask you, “Do you see that, too?” I hope you’ll know what I mean.

Moon Landing

As you know, we are big fans of Big Science here at The Slice of Heaven 24-Hour Pie Shop and Driving Range, and what could be bigger, scientifically speaking, than putting a man or two on the moon?

After all, if Neal Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin, and Cmdr Collins had not made that initial trip 40 years ago, our favorite astronaut Alan Shepard might never have been the first man to play golf on the lunar surface.

For our Moon Landing celebration, we had plenty of Alan Shepard Pie, we listened to NASA’s re-broadcast of the whole event, and we held a contest to solve the content-relevant puzzles in the New York times.

We had a lot of moon songs on the juke box – Blue Moon, Moon Dance, and Moon Shadow, to name a few – and Sue Ten showed Moonstruck on the side of the Swing Barn our usual lawn chair and popcorn crowd.  Our newest regular, Loretta Beauregard, the salsa-dance therapist, was on hand to give us all some lessons and some listening, and we thoroughly enjoyed ourselves.

I read recently that the computers used by mission control and on Apollo were perhaps as powerful as our cell phones, probably not as powerful as your own GPS golf-tracking systems, certainly not as sophisticated at the system that Sue Ten has set up at the Swing Barn to mash-up Karaoke renditions with key variables such as harmonic success, type of liquor sold during each song, and amount of money in her tip jar.

I’ve just got to wonder, though, if computers have become so much more clever, why isn’t the space program growing at a faster rate. Where’s my hover car? Shouldn’t we all have a space-station vacation home by now? Shouldn’t I be eating pie in zero-G and working on my short game on the lunar surface. I must say, I’m a tad disapointed.

Your second-cousin Darnell blames the robots, although he was a bit more colorful in his description of exactly what he calls a robot. He seems to think that the robots took all the good jobs, and let him with few options beyond becoming a greeter at Wal-Mart or a bag-boy at Publix.

I’m not so sure. I don’t know that I have ever actually met a robot, but I would like to. I do know that a lot of great technology – and I’m not just talking about Tang here – has come from the space program. Think of the medical advances alone. So, as we sat around with our slices of Alan Shepard pie and our glasses of Tang (I had some stored in the fall-out shelter), we talked about how we might personally benefit from more spin offs.

As you know by now, I plan to live to 120 for starters, so I want to believe that technology will help me out. I have no problem at all with cybernetic knees. I’m sure they are a good thing. Elbows, too. Maybe hips. Maybe more. And, in another 60 years, I might need even more parts. What about you? Where’s the line for your own descent into robotology? I’d really like to know.

Then again, there is always a concern that one might go too far, and end up and unfeeling brain in a metal container. No, I don’t think that’s likely, but it could be worse. I keep asking the Pie Shoppers if they remember this video, but apparently it was not as popular with them as it was with me and the twins, and as always, I’m happy to share.

The City

When Sue Ten asked if I wanted to spend a couple of days with her in the city, naturally I assumed she meant Miami and said “Sure!” As it turns out, she meant New York City, a place I had not visited, nor missed, for 30 years.

I have never made any secret of my bumpkinism. In Missouri, when I’d walk down the sidewalks of Kansas City with my ex-husband Pretty Boy Boyd, he would consistently and persistently tell me to stop smiling at people, saying “You’re in the city now.”

But, really, I couldn’t help it, and for the most part, I never really believed that the city was much more than an illusion. Surely the buildings and traffic were just a temporary aberration, a mirage perhaps, and none of the trappings were meant to be a “lifestyle.”

I simply couldn’t recognize it as anything real, any more than the Arawak indians could see the boats of Columbus. They knew there was something wrong with the water, of course, but caravels with sails? Not possible. (Then again, Columbus had his own vision problem and could not see the Arawak as human beings, either.)

To Sue Ten, though, the city is home, and it calls to her every bit as loudly as the bull gators call to me, out here on the edge of the ’glades. No matter. I love to travel, and this city of hers turned out to be every bit as fascinatingly foreign to me as San Jose in Costa Rica or Hong Kong. The sounds alone were a treat: We heard languages galore, and I made a recording of the subway so I can compare that sound file to the one I made of the BART in San Francisco.

We visited museums, met goddesses, saw the Gay Pride parade, toured historic landmarks, walked for miles, crossed bridges, listened to opera singers, paid $10 for four tiny meatballs, cheered on circus performers, declined to pay $10 for cotton candy, had a slice and a grape at Coney Island, viewed Frank Lloyd Wright’s un-constructed masterpieces, and waited in line at the drug store, right behind a bearded lady.

My favorite part was sitting in green plastic lawn chairs in Times Square. The chairs were remarkably similar

Times Square June 2009

Times Square June 2009

to the ones we set out for movie night at the Swing Barn, although I swear ours are in better condition, the plastic not yet fully shredded. The Morning Guy would never put up for that, not while there is still duct tape to be had somewhere on the planet.

Not unlike The Slice of Heaven 24-Hour Pie Shop and Driving Range, Times Square – at least at ground level – is now an oasis, surrounded by traffic and humanity. I’m pretty sure you can get pie there some where, but golf is probably frowned upon. I do think they could put in a putting green, though. Of course, the traffic and humanity surrounding The Slice of Heaven has the good sense to keep a respectful distance.

I’m looking forward to going back to the city in another 30 years. By then, perhaps, Times Square will be a garden spot with fabulous water features and gigantic blossoming trees. As usual, I can’t wait to see what will happen next.

Pretty Boy, by the way, is summering in the land of his own native asphalt, which gives all of the regulars at the Swing Barn a little chance to carry on their own conversations without having him skillfully change all their stories into less interesting ones about him. Just before he left, our new neighbor and local salsa-dance therapist, Loretta Beauregard, analyzed Boy’s salsa moves as ones that are only possible (or conceivable) for a full-blown narcissist.

Sue Ten told her that diagnosis didn’t even require a degree from a school that advertises on match book covers.

“What else do you call a man who likes to sit next to the Wurlitzer, not for the music but for the reflection?” she asked. “You ought to try analyzing someone a bit less obvious, like my husband Logan or my Internet boyfriend Hector.”

I’m never sure how much what’s-left-of-Logan can hear from the back room, lit by the glow of CNN, so I changed the subject and asked Loretta how her salsa-therapy classes at Pancho Villas Over-55 Retirement Community and Golf Club was going.

“So far, it’s just as you predicted,” she said. “No one remembers anything from one week to the next, so we’ll be on Lesson One for a long, long time.”

“Perfect,” I said. “Life is just as easy as you let it be.”

Lemon Mirage Pie

I’ve been doing a little time traveling lately, and I am reporting back to say the trip was highly successful. I visited the Southwestern part of the great U.S. of A., circa 1976, and was surprised to discover that my high school sweetheart was living but a few miles away from me. Of course, in real time, I had no way of knowing that since I had not seen or heard from him since the Summer of 1965.

“Why time travel?” you might well ask. “Don’t you have enough to do at the Pie Shop and Driving Range without gallivanting around the time-space continuum? Aren’t you worried that you might accidentally change history and miss out on all the friends and loved ones you have now?”

Well, no. I don’t worry about that much at all. For one thing, I suspect that you are not that easy to lose. For another, I enjoy the fantasy that we are happily coexisting in different configurations in alternate realities all the time anyway. I’m just especially attached to this particular reality where there are so many lessons yet for me to learn.

But back to the Southwest in the late 1970s: One of my favorite places there was the great dry lake, or playa, near Willcox, Arizona. If you walk out on the cracked and dry land toward the center of the lake, you will at some point realize that you are surrounded by a 360-degree mirage. There, you can convince some fairly gullible people that you are now invisible and can do whatever you like. Warning: You might want to try a few gullibility tests outside the mirage before attempting anything too elaborate.

I loved the idea of living inside a mirage, a conceit which is itself a mirage, and so I wrote this poem, way back then:

Notes on living inside a mirage . . .  .

They’ll have to admit

I’ve gotten harder to find.

The illusion I’m here is proof enough.

I no longer need guards posted outside

to gain belief in  my frail disguise.

(A mad dog or two is enough.)

I hold my mirage skin before me

like a face held up only by bones.

And those who love me,

those I must trust

prevent the world from consuming my life

by keeping in touch with my wavering light.

Passing by, they falter and halt,

taking the chance of talking to air.

They shout at the blur to reach me,

but I’m wrapped like an island

in that watery haze

that cushions the landfall

from the storm dreaming sea.

In silence,

I gauge their uncertain eyes,

their every response

whenever they think they’ve found my soul.

And just as they leave me,

they’ll tell me one more time

if this shimmering skin

is just around me,

or if it’s wrapped around everything else.

That was the desert. Now back-flip me to Maine and my life at 16. It’s a place and time I rarely visit, but now that I have made contact with my former true love, I’ve feel safe to unfurl those memories which I’ve left rolled up so tightly like scrolls for years. Or maybe more like one of those noise makers that you have to blow into to give dimension and sound.

I’ve enjoyed seeing myself as a optimistic girl again, and learning that she was intelligent, artsy, and quirky, all in a good way, mohair sweaters, white lipstick, and all. I’m still flicking the dust off some of those souvenir boxes, marveling always about how much was packed into such a small space of time.

Now, it seems, weeks go by with hardly a single significant event, and I remain the same. I grow a little more skilled at golf and pie-baking. I love you more all the time. I learn a new song for Karaoke night. I am happy, and yet dissatisfied.

I’ve returned from time-traveling thinking I’m on the brink of something new, and maybe I am. Or maybe I just need to spend more time exploring mirages.

As the pie shop takes on an increasingly Victorian ambiance, perhaps we’ll draw in a few steampunk deep-thinkers who will take multi-dimensional travel seriously, as they sit around and sip tea from bone china cups and savor my lemon mirage pie.

Who knows? Maybe they’ll be able to convince me that the road not taken does, in fact, go somewhere else. So far, I’m not so sure. After all, what road did you take to bring you here? Not the one that I took, but I’m always happy to see you walk in the door, still in your safari togs.

Yes, I’ve lived in the desert. I know what it’s like to see it dry out until it cracks. I’ve lived in the mirage and dreamt of water night after night. We have no mirages in the swamp, but we do have golf and pie, and maybe that’s enough.

Space Monkeys

Looking at these pictures, I want to apologize for every time I have called any one of you a space monkey. I understand now that I was really insulting the monkeys.

http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2009/05/photogalleries/space-monkeys-fifty-years/index.html

SPACE MONKEY PICTURES:

50-Year Anniversary

SPACE MONKEY PICTURES: 50-Year Anniversary
SPACE MONKEY PICTURES: 50-Year Anniversary
SPACE MONKEY PICTURES: 50-Year Anniversary
SPACE MONKEY PICTURES: 50-Year Anniversary
SPACE MONKEY PICTURES: 50-Year Anniversary
SPACE MONKEY PICTURES: 50-Year Anniversary
SPACE MONKEY PICTURES: 50-Year Anniversary
SPACE MONKEY PICTURES: 50-Year Anniversary
SPACE MONKEY PICTURES: 50-Year Anniversary
SPACE MONKEY PICTURES: 50-Year Anniversary

May 29, 2009–A squirrel monkey named Baker peers out from a 1950s NASA biocapsule as she’s readied for her first space mission. Baker and a rhesus monkey named Able launched aboard a Jupiter AM-18 rocket on May 28, 1959—50 years ago this week.

The pair returned to Earth alive after a 15-minute flight, becoming the first primates to survive a trip into space. Miss Baker, as she came to be known, spent the latter part of her life at the U.S. Space and Rocket Center in Huntsville, Alabama. She died of kidney failure in 1984 at the ripe old age of 27.

Ten years earlier a rhesus monkey named Albert II had become the first living monkey in space, but he died on impact when he returned to Earth.

—Photograph courtesy NASA

Why I Live at the Sand Trap

With apologies to Eudora Welty

You may call it a bunker.

I call it a beach.

An ironic oasis in a desert of green,

Its mission is clear,

its intent gives me pause:

a time for reflection,

a change of horizon.

My sand wedge in hand,

I fear not the descent.

I hit the sand,

propel the ball,

and I am out too soon

with hardly a chance

to fully imagine

a lifetime of sand

with striped umbrellas

and cool lemonade,

perhaps something stronger for you.

I wouldn’t mind

a whole game played

from bunker to bunker

from dune to dune

from beach to beach,

transistor radio crackling out

those songs of summers past.

I know there’s a river of cool

below the surface, and

I’m tempted to lurk

like the troll ‘neath that bridge

waiting to see who’ll pay for safe passage,

who’ll pay the toll:

beach blankets, umbrellas, toy trucks,

buckets, and scoops.

From sand box to sand trap,

it all feels like home.

Yes, I’ll move on for now,

but I’m sure I’ll be back.

In Hot Pursuit of Happiness

One of the many joys here at the Slice of Heaven 24-Hour Pie Shop and Driving Range is the weekly meeting of Swamp Talk, a discussion group whose members for the most part have not fully adapted themselves to life behind the gate house at Pancho Villas, our nearby “Over 55” community. Every Friday morning, we push a few tables together, set out a couple of pots of coffee, and leave them pretty much alone.

I join them whenever I can, and I am really looking forward to this week’s topic: “How can we redesign the way we live?”

I’m curious to see what varieties of utopia arise from this discussion, and of course I am working on my own, reviewing some old ideas that I’ve stored somewhere in the cobwebby back room of my mind, remembering past workshops and novel-writing attempts.

For Swamp Talk, this topic arose from a discussion on energy sources, specifically natural gas. (Is it really clean? Or is it just another scam? I’m a little skeptical since most of the information I could find came from the natural gas companies and their thinly veiled lobbyists.) Now that I’ve had a little time to mull it over, though, I am looking at the challenge from another perspective.

What design for the way we live would generate the most happiness? Last year I read The Geography of Bliss, which was, simply put, great fun. Imagine a curmudgeon setting out to explore the countries said to be the tops in happiness. Take it from there.

My mother always told me, “Happiness isn’t everything,” and I have been pondering that for years. I think she meant to say “personal happiness” or “your own damn happiness” but she went for the full sweep. Maybe God felt that way, too, when he smote Sodom and Gomorrah. Were those people truly evil, or were they just having too much fun? The pictures in my Sunday School comics were difficult to interpret. If there were both evil-doers and victims, shouldn’t God have saved the victims?

Anyway, Sodom and Gomorrah are not my model for a perfect world since I don’t stay up late at night, and I don’t drink, except on vacation and during hurricanes.

My question for all you all today is: “What if we redesigned the way we live making our top criteria the highest possible happiness for the largest number of people?”

What would we get? Is that ever the top of the list for urban planners? I don’t know, but I suspect they go for more mundane goals such as ease of transportation, optimal land use, access to health care, lifelong education, and art in the parks.

I think I’ll have all that in my redesigned world, too, but as means to an end, and the end will be . . . happiness.

Already, I’m looking at you, my dear friends, here at the Slice of Heaven 24-Hour Pie Shop and Driving Range, and I’ve got to say, for the most part you seem to be a fairly happy crew, except of course for Pretty Boy Boyd, but he would not be happy anywhere except possibly floating face down in a vat of Guinness.

The question is, how do we export our level of satisfaction out to the rest of the world? What do we have right here that makes us happy?

My first observation is that we have community. The layout is a little quirky. We no central command center unless you count the bar over at the Swing Barn. We live in a variety of dwellings and situations, ranging from my modest turquoise conch cottage to Su Ten’s top-of-the-line double wide to the villas at Pancho Villas and, of course, the Clown Castle, and The Morning Guy’s current abode at Stepford South. I’m not really sure where your second-cousin Darnell is living these days, but I sure hope he’s moved out of my car. I may need to drive to the Village one day this week.

So, yes! Community. We have it. We care for each other, and we look out for each other. We think of ourselves as “us” and the rest of the world is “them.” We are right, and they are wrong. Yes! Say it out loud. It feels good, doesn’t it?

I’m not sure if that’s an essential part of happiness, but the sense of rightness does help.

What else do we have here?  Meaningful employment, whether it’s baking pies, restocking the soda machine, tracking the iguanas, being the first one to pick up the microphone on Karaoke night.

We have universal health care, at least for minor emergencies. Nurse Crotchett made sure we all had our flu shots, we get plenty of exercise hitting golf balls and walking over to the Swing Barn or out to the phone booth by the highway. If any one is feeling a little sluggish, Sue Ten will offer to give him or her a little power boost from a potato clock, just for fun.

We are in harmony with nature, and a maybe just a little bit scared of it when we hear the bull gators call out. We understand that the home we have chosen tends to descend into chaos during hurricane season, and we do what we can to discourage further development of the swamp. We especially enjoy it when visiting engineers and government consultants come by for some pie and coffee.

As much as we love our traditions, we also love to try out something new whenever possible. Even now, Joe Sparkle Junior is hatching a scheme for faster pie delivery to the Swing Barn. So far, it involves a lot of cable and pulleys, and I’m not sure he’s fully thought it out, but I admire his initiative.

We don’t worry too much about law-enforcement since we all keep a pretty good watch on each other. The Morning Guy has drawn up plans for some solar panels, mainly to keep the lights on so we can still use the driving range at night when the storms knock out the power lines. We don’t really need much in the way of transportation since there are so few places we’d rather be.

Maybe the key to Utopia isn’t designing to produce happiness after all. Maybe it’s designing to bring out the best in the people who already live there.

Let me know what you think. What would my world look like if YOU ruled it?

You Got to Have Friends

The other night, Sue Ten reached deep into her rusack of old movies and came out with Sheila Levine is Dead and Living in New York City to show on the side of The Swing Barn, while those of us who were so inclined relaxed in our portable lounge chairs, sipping our beverages of choice.  I brought over a cooler full of “Key Lime Pie on a Stick,” or at least full of Prentiss’s latest attempt to perfect that treat. She is getting close, but we see no need to tell her that.

The best thing about the movie Sheila Levine is the soundtrack, specifically Bette Midler singing “Friends.”  Even before movie night, I’ve had that song in my head, and you know how I love to share that sort of idiosincrasy with you.

That song came out when I was younger than my kids are now, so young that I didn’t even know I had insomnia because I was up all night anyway. It seems to me that friendship comes easier in youth than it does in those middle years when focus for so many of us, especially women, narrows down. Now though, I feel the scope widening again, and as I saw you chatting and enjoying the movie, I couldn’t help but count my blessings.

We try to make sure that the Slice of Heaven 24-Hour Pie Shop and Driving Range is a place where all you all can leave your troubles behind. By that, I don’t mean leave them here. We can’t use them. We are not saying “pack up your sorrows and give them all to me” because that’s just plain crazy. We’re saying this is a place where you should be able to walk in the door and instantly forget all about that horrible dream you had last night that erupted into as a full-body spasm.

We are not always successful at creating that level of therapeutic ambiance, but that’s our goal. While I’m happy to dispense hugs, both free ones and the premium two-dollar kind, to the ones I love, I’m also on the lookout for toxic people so I can ward them off.  Who knows? They may be the first wave of the coming zombie apocalypse, and we can’t encourage that. Zombies are messy golfers, and I am not ever going to put brain-pie on the menu. They simply don’t belong here. They are the ultimate in toxic people.

I recently read a nice test for judging toxicity in people. This is a tool that I am happy to pass on, although people less dysfunctional than I probably do this instinctively. This is from well-known graphic designer Milton Glaser: “There is a test to determine whether someone is toxic or nourishing in your relationship with them. Here is the test: You have spent some time with this person, either you have a drink or go for dinner or you go to a ball game. It doesn’t matter very much but at the end of that time you observe whether you are more energized or less energized. Whether you are tired or whether you are exhilarated. If you are more tired, then you have been poisoned. If you have more energy you have been nourished.”

So simple! Now imagine an afternoon with a zombie, or with my ex-husband Pretty Boy Boyd. Pretty exhausting, right? Especially the time with Boyd. I’ve also come across a quotation from Mark Twain which pretty much sums up Boyd’s half of any given conversation. Ready? “I have been through some terrible things in my life, some of which actually happened.”

Of course, there are also those people who give you a lot of energy, but it’s the kind of energy you get after eating more than your share of Sue Ten’s special double-fudge bourbon-pecan brownies with mocha frosting. In both cases, the ascent is rapid and thrilling, but some time long after the arc of the evening reaches its zenith, you’re likely to wake up alone in a ravine.

I’m not saying that we expect you to be all smiles when you are here. Lord, no. We have the Morning Guy’s Stepford Girlfriend here for that, and she has done a wonderful job of giving happiness a bad name. She’s in the next room now with her feather duster, singing the entire soundtrack from Mary Poppins. Personally, I find her a wee bit tiring, but she passes the not-toxic test for him, and that’s what matters. Maybe when his current bout of exhilaration wears off, I can get him to fix the screen door on my cottage.

If you have your own test for toxicity–or for true friendship–let me know.

Better yet, tell me how you deal with it. One of the regulars at the driving range always says her older sister’s name before she hits the ball. “Margaret! Margaret! Margaret!” If no one else is around, she’ll yell it right out loud. Perhaps at the Slice of Heaven 24-Hour Pie Shop and Driving Range, we should set aside an hour from time to time and encourage more yelling like that. I think it might be an important community service.

For dessert, I’ll serve some Anadama Pie, and I guarantee you’ll want to come back for more.

International Scurvy Awareness Day: May 2

No Scurvy

What with the Star Wars Prom and all that to attend to, we missed International Scurvy Awareness Day on May 2, but maybe next year you can make your cat wear a piece of citrus on its to help build awareness of this important cause.

Check out the beauties on http://www.limestrong.com/pets.htm.

(Why a cat, you say? Because cats are scurvy free. When’s the last time someone called you a scurvy cat? No, it’s always scurvy dog.)

Meanwhile, if you really care about preventing scurvy, and I know you do, you can do your part by coming on down to the Slice of Heaven 24-Hour Pie Shop and Driving Range to fill up on Key Lime Pie.

Nurse Crotchett and I had a wonderful time at the National Pie Festival, and I am a believer now in Key Lime Pie on a stick. Yes, I know, I usually want my K.L. to be pure, but on a hot day, there’s nothing quite as refreshing as Key Lime Pie, covered in chocolate, on a stick.

Once Prentiss my pie apprentice has recovered from The Prom, I’ll put her to work in developing our own recipe. The Morning Guy has already volunteered to do the blind taste test, and oh yes, I do love a man with a sense of adventure. Apparently he’s forgotten about our last taste test, but that’s another story.

Still thinking ahead to next year’s International Scurvy Awareness Day, maybe green golf balls will be in order, too.  Oh, so much to do in the next year. I can’t wait to get started.

Ethan Coen’s Poem

The other night, driving home from The Village and listening to NPR, I heard a wonderful interview with Ethan Coen, closed out by William Macy reading one of the poems. You can read it, too, by clicking here.

“The drunken driver has the right of way,” is the title of the poem, and toward the end of it, Coen notes, “When facing an oncoming fool / The practiced and sagacious say / Watch out / one side / look sharp / gang way.”

That line stopped me short with its uncanny familiarity. After all, I’ve seen an oncoming fool or two in my time, and I’m sad to say it never dawned on me to step aside. For all of my study of the Worst Case Scenario Handbook, I still can’t say that I have the sense to roll off a speeding sled before it hits a tree, a wall, a door.

Faced with an oncoming fool, I’m still likely to stand there like your typical deer in the headlights. After all, what is more likely to shake up my life than pure foolishness? I know I have welcomed foolishness more often than not with open arms, leaving no one to blame but myself when the smoke finally clears and suddenly it is time to sift through the saw dust on the floor to identify the bullet casings.

In many ways, Coen’s poem reminds me of both of my ex-husbands, Patrick the Liar and Pretty Boy Boyd. They were and are still, I’m sure, masters at getting their way, often by creating a massive presence so wildly unstable that sharper souls than I can easily recognize its foolishness by the undulations alone, and stand clear.

Til now, at least, I’ve lacked the energy to remain vigilant, especially when I was never really sure whether that careening vehicle headed down my lane was evidence of an alert driver dodging raccoons — or a drunk driver navigating entirely by the sound of the gravel road against his tires.

I get tired just thinking about those days, yet think about them I do, preferably from the haven of the front porch of my turquoise conch cottage here on the edge of the ‘glades, just out of sight of the Slice of Heaven 24-Hour Pie Shop and Driving Range.  Sue Ten and my other friends here are great anti-fool detectors, and I know I am safe with them nearby.

Even now, I can hear “Walk Like an Egyptian” playing on the distant jukebox, so I know The Morning Guy has flung open the pie-shop windows, and soon he’ll be punching in the numbers to play some Crosby, Stills, Nash, and Young.

Prentiss, my pie apprentice, has already served up her latest confection and  gotten rave reviews. Joe Sparkle Junior is fussing around the new putting green, replacing the divots that the Clown and her pals kicked up during the night. It’s an excellent day, just getting started with no drunken drivers in sight.

Untensed, I return to Coen’s poem, and my reverie, thinking how some time ago, I read an English-to-Chinese-to-English translation of a quotation attributed to Mother Theresa.  It was finally rendered as “The opposite of love is not hate. It is carelessness.”

I’ve thought about that for a long time, and have never been able to shake the odd truth of it.  Perhaps “apathy” was the word that the writer — or translator — sought, but “carelessness” makes more sense to me. The drunken driver is careless, from the moment he or she says, “Set ’em up, Joe.” I prefer a life that is careful, or at least full of caring.

Let us not be careless, my dear friends. And now, I must warn you, I feel a country song coming on, a song about being careless. I don’t know the tune, but here are the words:

You threw the white silk nightie of my love
into soapy hot water
with your red-flannel heart
and ruined them both.

You took my long-playing records
and left them to melt
on the radiator of your disregard.

You said you had no secrets
and left a trail of credit-card carbons
all the way to the motel door.

You left me waiting at the butcher shop
while you had bratwust at the bar.

You were careless with my car
and careless with my love
but there’s no no-fault insurance
for what you have done.

Obviously this song still needs a little work, so perhaps I’ll get back to that and polish it up before Sue Ten says it’s time for another meeting of the Tone Deaf Choir next door at the Swing Barn. I think she’ll like it when I am done, and maybe you will, too. Drop by soon. We’ve missed you.

National Pie Championships (Part Two)

I am excited beyond belief to be accepted as a judge at the National Pie Championships this month, even though it does mean leaving my beloved SoFLA once again for the Northern Realm somewhere near Orland. (Golf friends, please take note that this event is the equivalent of The Masters, or The U.S. Open.  Yes, it’s The Big Time.)

I’m hoping that Nurse Crotchett, Little Peach, or one of the other regulars can join me for the event, but I’m sure I’ll be fine on my own, happy in my work and fully enjoying the Never Ending Pie Buffet.

When I told Little Peach that I was going to be a judge at the National Pie Chamionships, she laughed for a very long time, and then she said, “Have you told the kids?”  I said I had emailed them, and she said, “They are probably laughing too hard to reply.”

Now why would she react that way?

I certainly would be happy for her if she had been selected to judge an Orchid Championship or a Model Train Championship.  Sometimes I think she does not fully appreciate my dedication to pastry, or my dedication to golf for that matter.

A couple of days later, though, she called and left a fairly lengthy message on my answering machine. Here is a reasonably accurate transcription of what she had to say, having had some time to reflect upon the fullness of my accomplishment:

“Okay,” she said, “I’m thinking I’m on this long drive back from Dade City, and I’m thinking to myself okay you have to be judging pie, hopefully key lime pie, and my big question is: What does one wear as a judge in a pie-judging contest? Do you have to have a special apron?  Do they give you a wooden spoon? Do you do have to wear something with Betty Crocker written across it? I mean, did you have to whip up a little something up? I dont know. I was kinda wondering.  Is there a special judge bow that you have to wear? I dont know. What does one wear to judge pies? So anyway, then I thought, “Heels!” What about your gold heels? Those would be perfect, with a nice little apron and a fresh green wooden spoon, with a green gingham bow tied on the end of the spoon? What do you think? I’m getting a picture here. Oh! What about a tiara? Something with BC for Betty Crocker or J for Judge. Maybe you could push a button and it could light up? I dont know, but now I’ve got all these visuals. Talk to you later. Bye.”

Just right off hand, she might be right about my gold heels, but I still don’t think she is taking this very seriously.

I am, though, and I’ve got just a few days to do my homework and really learn the criterialof pie judging.  Just as a tease, though, I’ll tell you two traits that I will be reviewing: One is “mouthfeel” and the other is “memorableness.”

Oh, yes. It’s the Big Time for me, now.

Linton and Swinton and Michigan

In just a few days, Sue Ten will be home from her tour of the unknown universe, so I am scrambling to remember whatever it was that I promised to do in her absence. I did check in on her semi-comatose husband Logan every day, making sure that he was receiving just enough electrical charge from the room full of potato-clock batteries to keep a heartbeat going, and a social security check coming. I upgraded a few of the spuds that seemed to be going a little black and shady. I wonder if yams would work as well, or if they would just turn his dreams to orange? I don’t know.

By the way, right before Sue left on her trip, she’d been cast in a leading role of our local Little Theatre’s production of “Linton and Swinton and Michigan” an inspiring story of taking a wilderness and somehow turning it into a Village by the Sea. I just can’t seem to get the soundtrack out of my mind, can you? Maybe the reason I can’t get it out of my mind is because the Little Theatre has been rehearsing almost non-stop over at The Swing Barn, and it’s been that kind of SoFLA perfect weather where we do actually throw open our windows and doors.

I love this story of the hearty pioneers from Michigan heading to the Atlantic coastline to tame the swamp and rusticate on the miles of beach.

Just to the north of us, Mr. Flagler led the way, and he set the bar high. I love going to Palm Beach and visiting the mansion he built for his third wife, soon after coming to the realization that Wife Number Two was doubtless insane and would be much better off in an asylum. Yes, he must have been a rare and compassionate man to understand mental health so well. Wife Number Two was spared the stress of her husband’s private-train-car lifestyle, and The Mistress got a nice promotion. Everyone won.

But back to our musical. Let me tell you, the stage decor is quite impressive, and I think Sue will be ready to step right into her role as Vivienne Venitianne, the pineapple heiress who wins the heart of the Villagers with her mighty wit and repartee. And they, in turn, are there for her after the pineapple blight and the vagaries of the market force her to give up the high life and find true contentment as a Red-Cross certified lifeguard.

Now you may wonder how a musical comedy can be in production without its star, but that’s not really so hard to understand. The character Vivienne suffers from a peculiar inability to sing. She just plain freezes up, but not until she gets in a truly painful line or two, much to the general merriment of all, advancing the plot scene by scene as she does.

Perhaps coincidence, but Sue Ten won’t have to act out that part. She’s long been active in her work to celebrate the tone-deaf and the non-musical, and those of us who sing for joy, not for pleasure, are ever grateful for her openness to our afflictions.  This could be why we never get much of a crowd at The Swing Barn on Karaoke night, but shouldn’t every one have a chance? I for one have also ascribed to the motif: “Introverts with Microphones (A Dangerous Combination)”. But that’s another story.

My big surprise for Sue Ten is this: While she has been away, I’ve arranged through Prentiss to hire a crew of budding young filmmakers to film a documentary about the making of “Linton and Swinton and Michigan.”  They will be at the Tri-Rail Station on Thursday night, waiting to greet her with kleig lights shining. Granted, she will have been traveling for about 27 hours non-stop by then, but we want her to know we are on the scene, and we want her to know we care.

I may even make a pie.

National Pie Championships

Road trip anyone? The National Pie Championships are just a month away. Might be fun to go check out the competition.

Actually, I think I’ll send in the application to be a judge. Who knows? This could be my dream come true, traveling the country with my crew of pie cronies, rambling from contest to contest, stopping here and there to chat with golfers, clowns, and people waiting at payphones.

It could be a fine life.

2009 APC Crisco®
National Pie Championships

Ramada Orlando Celebration Resort and Convention Center, Kissimmee, FL
April 24–26, 2009

Here’s one of last year’s winning recipes. Wish they had included a picture.

Key lime with raspberries? Not sure how I feel about that. What do you think?

Key Lime with Raspberries Pie

Key Lime with Raspberries Pie

Swing Thoughts Poem

I’ve been reading a lot lately about “swing thoughts” and how to get your mind right each time you lift a club to send a ball to a predetermined target.

Usually I just think about you.

Swing No Thought

So much advice, so little time.
“Keep your head down.”
“Straighten that elbow.”
“Open your hips, but not too early.”
“Let the club do the work.”
“Breathe!”
“Keep your eye on the ball.”
“Let your legs do the work.”
“Consider the target, not the ball.”

The list of thoughts
will wear you out. How
to stand
to swing
to breathe
to feel
to think
to move
to count
to watch
to see
to imagine
to play.

If only one thought could get you there
from tee to target,
how delicious that would be
like a slice of cold apple crisp
with your first cup of coffee,
like a sliver of pastry
promising more.

If only one thought could cover it all:
trajectory
velocity
momentum
distance
the past
the present
the future
the sound of the wind
the gossip
the grass.

Did you choose the right club?
Did you lock the car?
Was tonight someone’s birthday?
Did that guy flip me off?

If only one thought could open your mind
show you success,
just seconds away,
a beckoning future
in which you’ve controlled
trajectory
velocity
momentum
distance
the past
the present
the future
the sound of the wind
the gossip
the grass.

Unlikely, I think
so maybe instead
simply revel
in rhythm and tempo.

Maybe instead
marvel to see
the ball in fierce flight —
or skipping,
like a stone,
in search of a river.

Laugh.

Things happen for a reason.
Things happen for no reason at all.
Enjoy the possibilities.

Lift the club,
Breathe in and smile.
You’re good to go.
You’ll either be right or wrong.
In either case,
You’ll learn something new.

Don’t think of the outcome.
Don’t think at all.
And when you are done,
Let me know how that works.

Yes,
Quiet your mind.
Step up to the future, and
look for me there.

On the Other Side of the Edge of the ‘Glades

Sea Kayaking in the Mangroves

Sea Kayaking in the Mangroves

I’ve been back from my trip to the other side of the ‘glades for more than a month, and I’m still waking up wondering where everyone is. I’ve had some remarkable dreams since returning to my own king-sized pillow-top bed, too, dreams in which my team-mates and I were Navy seals, or old-time sailors, or just obsessed campers, traveling in our pod of sea kayaks through the tangled green mangrove islands in and out of sunsets and star-filled skies.

Even now, though, I am surprised by how tired I am. This goes beyond my normal insomniac want-to-take-a-nap mode. This is bone tired. I focused on this trip for months, using it as my reason for pushing up my exercise limits, not just at the driving range, but in yoga class and biking, and out and about with Sue Ten and our rag-tag walking group. I even made a point of getting to the pool in the village for swim training with a triathalon coach. Now all I can to do is sit quietly and read Wind in the Willows on my iPod Touch, which as you know I have ensconced in a hollowed-out purple-leatherbound book.

Driving back from the trip, I remember thinking how happy I was that I would be home by 2:00 or 3:00 with plenty of time to go to the pool for a swim. I was convinced that I could knock at least five stokes off my swim, I felt so buff; and, of course, I’d be able to add unknown yardage at the driving range.  Then I hit Alligator Alley heading east, and the warm sun began to lull me. It wasn’t long before I pulled into a rest area and closed my eyes, waking up 20 minutes later in a whole new frame of mind.

By the time I made it to my turquoise conch cottage, all I wanted to do was sleep. I nodded to Hercules, our resident feral green iguana who was busily eating the hibiscus bush near my porch, walked in the door, and that was that. I woke up again around 3:00 a.m. to the sound of golf balls out on the all-night range, and I smiled to be home again.

Flash of Green About to Happen

Flash of Green About to Happen

During the next day or two, I enjoyed sharing stories of the trip with some of the folks at the pie shop. I told them about scorpion-eating women, travelling by starlight, visiting graves of long-ago settlers, gliding through the water. I told them, too, that my favorite part was the “solo,” the day and night when I camped alone, as did the entire team.  I made a sundial out of stones and shells and wrote a poem for Little Peach. I counted my blessings, which was easy. I took a lot of photos. I ate an apple and an orange and some trail mix. And, I watch the sun go down and saw the flash of green, to my everlasting delight.

On solo, I fell asleep in my little shelter, made with a tarp and an old sheet that Little Peach left at my house for a drop cloth. It had always seemed too bad to get paint on the cute little koala bears all over it, so I’d stuffed it into the back of my closet, and pulled it out for the trip. I loved looking up at those little koalas; they made me feel connected to my “real” world, the one that seemed so distant from the mangroves and the sea kayaks.

I carried most of you with me during the trip, imagined you stirring up the pot of beans for supper, or plotting out our course. I thought about what you might have added to our conversations, and how sweet it would have been to have breakfast together on one of those isolated beaches. I discovered that my yoga practice really paid off when it came to getting dressed standing on one leg, outside in primitive conditions: Balance, my dear Grasshopper, balance.

The Gulf of Mexico

The Gulf of Mexico

Did I change? Did I grow? Did I discover any new zen thoughts? Did I improve my golf swing? Did I find any new recipes? Yes, absolutely. I came home in a state of harmony and oneness, content. I had accepted a challenge and felt that I met it. I felt strong and healthy and on course in my life, the life I share with all of you at the Slice of Heaven 24-Hour Pie Shop and Driving Range.

I doubt that I could have made the trip, or enjoyed it, without you in my heart and mind. In the past year or so, since I got myself single, I’ve learned what it is to have friends like you in my life; people who do not hesitate to shake me up when I need it, or call my bluffs (of which there are many), or tell me when I am drifting dangerously near the plummeting falls. I loved seeing you in what my new team-mates saw in me.

And once again, I discovered that my life in SoFLA has been a series of breathing lessons. And, in the words of John Lennon, “As breathing is my life, to stop I dare not dare.”

Altered Books

Right now, I have more books in my little turquoise cottage than I have ever had before. I will be moving many of them to the Pie Shop book shelves soon, unless I find a way to send them to my doppelgänger Marilyn who is in China and has a severe book shortage, or at least a shortage of books in English.

I started holding on to books for her, but they are taking over my space. Plus, they interfere with my deep-seated belief that private ownerships of books is counter-revolutionary, and these tomes will need to be set free very soon.

Then again, I also like the idea of altering books and making them into something else entirely, and these altered books by Brian Dettmer have me captivated.

Called “book autopsies,” there’s a nice collection of them for your viewing pleasure below that I borrowed from:

http://centripetalnotion.com/2007/09/13/13:26:26/



Brian Dettmer carves into books revealing the artwork inside, creating complex layered three-dimensional sculptures.

Spring Training

Despite the absence of Sue Ten, I did manage to slip away on Saturday and go to a Red Sox spring training game, against the Baltimore Orioles.

My standing-room-only ticket provided me with a nice spot right at the fence, and I had the good fortune to have excellent fans on either side of me.  To my right, there was a seven-year-old girl, dressed all in pink, including pink Red Sox hat, the accessory of my dreams. I do wish I would just go buy one for myself, but then what would you get me for my birthday?  She also had a pink camera, and was busy snapping shots through the fence. Her dad told me they had been to Fenway last fall, and she got to run the bases. What a treat.

To my left, a couple from Miami stood enjoying their hot dogs. We soon got into a conversation about Cuba, and found out that all three of us had been there at different times.  By the end of the afternoon, we had bonded over tales of growing up in New England — the husband and I lived about 10 miles apart, but went to different schools in different states, and never knew each other despite graduating from high school the same year — and during the conversation, the question came up, “Were you always a baseball fan?”

For me, the answer was no. In my neighborhood, as I may have mentioned before, girls played outfield for both teams, way outfield, and I am talking about a real field. Some times we were so far out field we could not even see who was at bat.

My folks did not watch sports, not that I can remember, but my grandmother was an avid Red Sox fan, and we kids were not allowed to talk to her when a game was on.  She had some kind of jury-rigged gadget that would let her turn the sound off during commercials, so we could talk then. Commercial over, sound on, talk over.

Still, I did always like the idea of baseball, the mathematics of it mostly I think.  The sound, the look, the smell. I’m still not a huge fan of baseball on television, but I will be listening in on MLB radio once the real season progresses.

After I met Pretty Boy, baseball came back into my life. I had managed to ignore most sports during previous relationships, but the reality that I was dating a New York Yankees fan had an odd impact on me. Some sort of primordial energy bubbled up inside me, and I understood that I had to arm myself against the Spawn of Satan. My Red-Sox imprinted genetic code won out, and now I know what it means to take a stand.

Perhaps that is a small thing to you, but to a crowd-pleaser like me, that’s a major step in personal empowerment and self-definition. I discovered that I really enjoy the emotion of baseball. I get a huge kick out of tee-shirts that say, “I root for two teams: The Red Sox and whoever beats the Yankees.”

Had I but world enough and time, I’d go to a stadium ball game every day, just to revel in the pleasure of being there, worries set aside, high-fat food in hand, sun in my eyes, and lucky socks on my feet.  I rarely remember any of the plays or the players, except the same few that you already know, so the live games are also an “in the now” experience for me.

Spring training games are usually fairly free of broadcast press-box chatter, and I like that, too. There are always other fans to tell me what’s going on, and to share their stories. Sun Ten and I even went to see the Italian team play the Marlins. That game, in an almost empty stadium, was as much a thrill as any game I’ve ever attended. Sue cheered and chortled. We saw Elvis selling popcorn, and we saw a guy wearing a marlin hat. No, not a “Marlins” hat. A fish, on his head. Then we laughed all the way home.

I’m sure she doesn’t mind that I left the Pie Shop and the Swing Barn in the hands of the the Pie Apprentice, your second-cousin Darnell, and The Morning Guy, for the afternoon.  After all, it’s March in SoFLA, and what could be better than that?

By the way, if you’ve never been to Roger Dean Stadium, here’s a great panoramic shot from the New York Times.

Roger Dean Statium, Jupiter, Florida

Roger Dean Stadium, Jupiter, Florida

Click on it anywhere, and try not to get too dizzy looking around. It’s an odd photo, I think.

The pitcher is winding up, but he must be throwing to a ghost. I see no batter, no catcher.

Perhaps they’ve stepped out for some of that good ballpark food?

An Urgency of Pay Phones

A few days ago, I was driving south on U.S. 1 in SoFLA when I spotted a run-down convenience store, windows obscured with hand-lettered signs in Spanish, and the sight triggered a memory of a day when I had stopped at that very place to call my ex-husband Pretty Boy Boyd to draw a bead on his level of sobriety before continuing home.

I don’t remember the conversation, but I’m pretty sure it was an emotional one, as so many of our pay-phone calls tended to be. In fact, I now believe that the correct term for a group of pay phones should be “urgency.” Yes, an urgency of pay phones. When dormant and unused, as they typically are today, they seem so benign, but did you ever really need to find one? Did you ever scramble for change on the floor of the pick-up truck and focus all your homing instincts on a pay phone?

The first one would be out of order, and the second one would be unavailable, its attention fully given over to that enormous woman you always saw at Wal-Mart, wearing a flower-strewn sundress on the first day of spring. Finally, you pull up to one, run to the phone with the truck engine still growling, and make the call. Yes, urgency.

At the same time, you might talk in a low voice, barely above a whisper, at least at an outside phone. Now, the cell-phone generation shares everything with the immediate neighborhood, but those conversations are simply not that interesting to me: “Guess where I am?” or “What kind of milk did you want?” or “What do you mean it’s my turn to drive the carpool?” Mundane, at best.

Overheard pay phone conversations tend to be better stories, and I love a good story. (Otherwise, I probably never would have gotten married, but I wanted to continue to follow the narrative thread.)

For example, early one morning, walking by the Walgreen’s in South Beach before dawn, I saw a tall, dark-haired, mini-skirted woman leaning desperately into the pay phone: “You don’t understand,” she was saying, “they made the buildings too tall in Miami. You really don’t understand. All the buildings are sinking! Listen to me!”

I’ve always wished I had loitered there longer to hear more, but I could feel the story calling to me. What if I had stayed and offered my help? Where would I be now?

Yes, an urgency, compounded by knowing that once she hung up, the contact would be lost. She had to know she had one chance to make her point. If she called again, the person on the other end might not answer, and there are no call-backs on pay phones today.

There was a time, though, when pay phones were more aggressive than they are now. They would ring out at random intervals, beckoning passers-by to answer. “Sylvia?” the voice would say. “Sylvia? Are you there?” She wasn’t. Or maybe you would be the one hunkered down nearby, waiting for the call, growling at anyone else, saying, “Hey! Don’t be long! I’m expecting a call.” Bloody fist fights have broken out over less.

Picture a cell phone on a table. Doesn’t do much for you emotionally, does it? Now picture a pay phone, the receiver dangling, a soft voice calling out, “Hello? Hello? Dave?” Imagine a reporter calling in a story on a cell phone. Nope. Doesn’t happen. Blog it in on the smart phone. Now drop back to the guy in the fedora sitting in the wood and glass booth: “Hello, city desk? Give me rewrite!” (I always wanted to do that.)

Where would Superman and Dr. Who be without phone booths?

Then again, from the other end of the line, snuggled up comfortably at home, you might have to struggle to make out the spoken words against the backdrop of jukebox and bar noise: “I need you to come get me right now” or “Don’t hold supper for me” or “Jimmy says ger flog and we mast up to la overture.” No, I don’t miss receiving those calls at all, but I will confess to having made maybe one or two. I probably still owe your second-cousin Darnell an apology for that night I called from a truck stop in Kansas and woke him up at 2:00 a.m. for reasons that now escape us both.

So why do I want a pay phone at the pie shop? Perhaps this is part of my move toward the steampunk lifestyle, or maybe I’m just nosey and want to overhear better stories.

I’m thinking maybe an old style black one, with a rotary dial, inside by the front door, within easy earshot of the cash register. I promise I’ll always give you change if you need it, and I’ll even keep a pencil on a string and a pad of paper near by. From time-to-time, I’ll leave a some dimes & nickels in the coin return for the kids to claim.

Out by the road, though, I want a real phone booth, under the solitary street lamp.

When we are basking in the warm glow of the pie-shop lights, inhaling the warm scent of apples and cinnamon, we can look out there and remember all the pay phone calls of our old solitary lives, and remind ourselves how lucky we are to have each other, face-to-face, right here, right now.

And maybe on the jukebox, we’ll listen to The Coast is Clear, or perhaps Joan Baez singing Diamonds and Rust: “Where are you calling from? A booth in the midwest.”

That line still tugs at my heart. What about you? What’s your pay-phone story? Have a seat at the counter, and tell me all about it.

Remember, at the Slice of Heaven Pie Shop and Driving Range, we’re here for you, 24 hours a day.

Happy Square Root Day

Hello my dears. I hope you had a wonderful Square Root Day. Remember, there won’t be another one until 4/4/16, but that will be here before you know it, at the rate things are going.

Last night at the Swing Barn, your second-cousin Darnell tried to act responsibly in Sue Ten’s absence and showed Murder by the Numbers as this week’s movie on the wall. He did better with the “root” part of the celebration, and made a really fantastic stew of potatoes, turnips, and parsnips, the sort of meal that only someone from a northern clime could really appreciate. Fortunately, a lot of our regulars are refugees from the land of ice and snow, so they dug right in.

At the pie shop, Prentiss and I were a bit more snobby. After all, anyone can figure out square roots. We deal with pi. Get it? Still, Prentiss ran a little high-stakes bingo game, allowing people to pay extra for cards with 1, 4, 9, 16, and 25 pre-stamped. Can’t wait to see what she will do for Pi Day.

I gave out free golf balls to anyone who agreed to play with only their 9 clubs. In other words, “Welcome to my world.” I know those other clubs are perfectly fine, but I only wax poetic about my nines, especialy my new nine wood which still gleams under the lights when my insomnia pushes me out the door to hit a few balls around 3:00 a.m.

I don’t really know why anyone would want to buy a whole set of clubs all at one time. For me, that would be sensory overload. One at a time, I say. Get to know the very tool that will later on break your heart. At least, the putter will. Then, after the break up, go though an appropriate period of mourning, and start again with a whole new relationship. Forget the past! It’s time to move on.

Yes, it’s true. I have once again fallen in love with a new golf club, and I’d like to say “It’s only a hobby,” but it isn’t. I think you know what I mean.

All in all, this latest Square Root Day was a good one. I don’t really remember too much of note for the one that fell on 2/2/4, do you?

Meanwhile, you might as well start getting ready for 4/4/16. Here’s some help from the www.mentalfloss.com website. See you then!

The holiday is the brainchild of Sequoia High (Redwood City, California) driver education teacher Ron Gordon, who enjoys calendar quirks. He’s tried to get schools to celebrate Square Root Day since 1981. Gordon also inspired a celebration of Odd Day on March 5, 2007 (3-5-7). He is giving away a prize of $339 to the person who has the best Square Root Day celebratory event. What can you do to celebrate Square Root Day? Math teachers expect students to calculate square roots. We should do something fun in addition.

445spongebobsquareroot.png

Robert X. Cringely at Infoworld has a plan for celebrating Square Root Day.

I don’t know about you, but I’m planning to celebrate by watching a “SpongeBob SquarePants” marathon while playing with my slide rule.

That’s only the beginning of the many ways you can celebrate Square Root Day. 445_potatoes1.jpg

The established custom is to cut root vegetables (carrots, turnips, radishes) into squares. Actually eating them may be asking too much. But potatoes are roots, aren’t they? Square (or cubic) potatoes can mean only one thing –home fries.

445_CarrotCake.jpg

For dessert you need to make a carrot cake. Square, of course. There are plenty of different recipes, all you have to do is find one that fits the ingredients you have. Enjoy it with some root beer. Oh yes, I’ll have a slice, thank you very much!

445puzzle.png

Buy yourself a square root puzzle. You won’t receive it in time to play today, but you’ll be ready for the next holiday in 2016.

444squarerootgame.png

You can play Square Root Clock online. There are plenty of online games that challenge your math skills using square roots, but this is the most photogenic.


445_Square_Dance_Group.jpg

After all the food and math, grab seven of your friends and have a square dance. Some basic instructions are at Square Dancing 101. Allemande left, 2 by 2! Image by Wikimedia user Deirdre.

445_squareroottree.jpg

If you are so inclined, you might go looking for a real square root in the world around you. They are kind of rare. Image by Flickr user arsheffield.

445_pi-pie.jpg

And if that’s not enough fun for you, we’re only a couple of weeks away from Pi Day! But celebrate Square Root Day wisely. The next such holiday will be on April 4, 2016.




While You’re Waiting for the LHC to Come Back Online

Do not give up hope, my dears. The wonderful folks at BoingBoing.net have posted links to some new “big science porn” to entertain us, and it’s fun!

Once you are in the site, you can just click all over the place and get a nice little taste of virtual reality photography at its finest.

Enjoy!

Large, Luscious QTVR Panoramas of Compact Muon Solenoid

Still from QTVR of Large Hadron Collider, photog: Pete McCready

Posted by Xeni Jardin, February 27, 2009 9:58 AM : I’ve featured interactive QuickTime VR panoramas from photographer Peter McCready previously on Boing Boing, and it looks like he has some lovely new work up. QTVRs aren’t good for everything, but they’re great for “big science” sites like the ones at CERN, featured here — places best appreciated with all directions visible. Pete sends these links and says,

Whilst we ‘Big Science Porn’ (thank you for the term!) aficionados eagerly await the relaunch of the Large Hadron Collider this September, thought I’d share a few new Compact Muon Solenoid (CMS) Experiment VR panoramas with you that were taken days before ‘first beam’ last year from numerous locations within Underground Experimental Cavern UXC55.

Here are the panoramas: (one, two, three, four, five, six) and there’s another up from the CMS Centre (where data quality monitoring, detector calibration, data analysis and computing operations take place).

Previously on BB:
Excellent new CERN Hadron collider QTVR
CERN photos in Nat’l. Geo: The God Particle

Get a Grip

We have a wonderful collection of left-behind golf clubs here at the Slice of Heaven 24-hour Pie Shop and Driving Range. Seriously, they are all sizes, shapes, lengths, and shafts. Sometimes they are bent beyond recognition, but more often they are just abandoned. Actually, that only seems fair, once you take into consideration how often clubs – especially putters – desert their owners.putter

Even my hero, Camilo “Spiderman” Villegas, was recently abandoned by his putter, as the picture here depicts. Very clearly, the putter has taken off in search of its own fortune, with no thought at all about the outcome for poor  Camilo. Meanwhile, 19-year-old Geoff Ogilvy had a hot putter that stayed with him, right to the astounding end.

Putters, more than any other clubs, tend to operate independently of their owners, and as soon as we are able to open our putting green, I imagine our “lost and found” bin will be overflowing with runaway putters.

Until then, we’ll work with what we have. The Morning Guy has recently added re-gripping to his list of useful talents. Now that football season is over, he has a little more time on his hands, and I think he kind of likes the smell of the adhesive. Of course, his Stepford Girlfriend will say she likes it, just as long as she thinks he really does like it.

Re-gripping is quiet work, which The Morning Guy enjoys, and I absolutely love seeing the old clubs come sparkling to life once again. So much of golf is truly organic and tactile, it truly isn’t very hard at all to believe that putters can, in fact, fly away, and no one really knows where they go, or why.

We’ll make a deal with you, too: If you think your putter is about to go on the lam, snatch it up and bring it on in here. We’ll be happy to make a trade with you, and we’ll throw in a free piece of Key Lime Pie, too. This week, by the way, we’re trying out the variation with meringue and a pastry crust. I think you’ll like it.

Come on by and let me know.

Steampunk Cafe

Sue Ten will be going on vacation soon, and that means I will be responsible for keeping the potato batteries in her bedroom running so her husband Logan’s semi-comatose brain will get just the right dose to keep his heart beating and his mind tracking The Weather Channel and CNN.

Outside of that, Logan is pretty much an “easy keeper,” which is what my ex-husband Patrick-the-Liar used to call me, endearingly, of course, and I wasn’t even in a semi-coma, although after a few years with Patrick, it was increasingly hard to tell. I suspect that I sleepwalked through much of that part of my life without even knowing it.

Now, I just go with the flow of rampant insomnia, and don’t worry about it. It’s easy enough to leave my turquoise conch cottage and head up the lane to the pie shop where I can hit a few golf balls, have a plate of pie, check the post-it notes covering my computer, read a little poetry, and try not to let it all mesh together too much.

Now, I suppose I could ask your second-cousin Darnell to help out with Logan, but I need him at the Pie Shop to help me with some re-decorating. After looking more and more at that fabulous golf periscope, I’ve been thinking that maybe the Pie Shop needs more of a steampunk flair.

If you don’t know what steampunk is, just let your thoughts drift to an illustrated copy of any Jules Verne book, or just picture Captain Nemo at home in the salon of the Nautilus. It’s the future, visiting us from the past, with all the elegance it can muster.

Take, for example, this picture of a steampunk computer. I want it:

Computer

Computer from Steampunkworkshop.com

Now imagine a steampunk jukebox, coffee maker, kitchen, cash register, radio, golf-ball washer, neon lights, soda machine, dishwasher, lawn mower, golf cart, and more.

I’ve never thought of myself as a luddite, but maybe that tendency has always been lurking there. I remember watching TV with the twins when they were in junior high, and we’d often see a public service announcement aimed at kids and asking, “What can you do to change the world?”

Chandler and Rose would say in unison, “We’d go to central control and smash all the machines!” Yes, that would certainly change the world, but where would they get such an idea?

No, I’m not really against technology. In fact, after a week of living out on the other side of the edge of the ’Glades, I have new appreciation for all magic in the air that keeps me in constant touch with you, and really, I don’t know what I would do without you right over there, telling me what I need to do to keep on keeping on. I appreciate it, and I thank you in my heart every day.

Then again, I do think technology could be ever so much more elegant than it is most of the time, so I am pledging to do what I can to re-create The Slice of Heaven 24-Hour Pie Shop and Driving Range as a steampunk Mecca.

At least, that’s my idea today, but if I ever get a good night’s sleep in, who knows what I may think up next? Maybe a steampunk potato battery? I’m sure Logan won’t mind if I do a little experimenting on his power supply while Sue is on the road, at least not as long as his Social Security checks keep rolling in.

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Breaking News from the Past

I am trying, but seriously, I just cannot find anything wrong with this idea.

If we had a periscope like this at the Pie Shop, maybe it would keep people from climbing up on the roof all the time to convince themselves that that they’d hit better, farther, or longer than they really did.

I’d like a sideways one, too, so we could keep better track of what’s going on over there in the Swing Barn parking lot, without having to leave the comfort of our non-stop game of Liar’s Scrabble. 

I suppose a Swing-Barn Cam would work just as well, but my clientele does reek a bit of ludditism and steampunkery.

Tall Periscope Aids Golfers (Dec, 1933)
Source: Modern Mechanix
Issue: Dec, 1933

Tall Periscope Aids Golfers

A NOVEL “skyscraper” periscope shows golfers the blind fairway at the third hole at the Aberoovey golf course in Wales.

The unusual periscope is 30 feet tall. At the third hole of the course the fairway rises so abruptly from the driving tee that golfers can not see the green even though the hole is only 165 yards long.

By peering through the periscope, waiting golfers can see in what direction to drive and also note when the putting green is clear.

The periscope is a hollow wood tube fastened to a pole. The top of the instrument is covered with a gabled roof to protect it from rain.

The Nano Song

Oh, my dears, I did so much miss all of you while I was out there on the other side of the ‘Glades. I also missed my computer, my laptop, my netbook, and my iPod — all of which keep me up to date with the wonderful world of science and technology. Today, though, my heart sings like a lark as I listen to The Nano Song and grow ever hopeful that a true space elevator is in our future because that will truly make it so much easier for me to be the first person to take an apple pie to the moon. Yes!

 

A Sundial for Little Peach

A Sundial for Little Peach

In a house full of clocks
she lives on sundial time.
I know that well, and so,
alone on a beach with
sunlight to spare, I gather shells
and make for Peach a
sundial clock that she
will never see but always
understand as the passage
of the sun through the
beach’s decay reminds us
daily that shells are not stone
and even the most
vibrant coral fades from living
being to silent debris
just as we move in our own orbits
a degree at a time.

The Gimme

I was born knowing how to make pie, but golf is always brand new to me. Learning to bake pie is a sweet succession of improvements: lighter, flakier, zingier; but golf still surprises me. Both are nice ways to spend time; one is a steady and comfortable satisfaction, while the other is an unexpected burst of delight.

The latest burst has been my discovery of the golfing term “gimme.” I tell you, it just cracks me up. I first read about it in my copy of Harvey Penick’s Little Red Book, in which he advises parents against giving their golfing children gimmes. “Hole every putt,” said Penick, “no gimmes.” Tough love or real world? Maybe both.

I like it. Keep playing until you see that ball drop into the hole. Make no assumptions about what that little sucker is going to do on its own.

I read some time ago about a championship bowler who was asked in an interview: “What was bowling like for you as a kid? How did it feel back then when you missed the pins?” The golfer replied, “I never missed the pins. I don’t know what that feels like.”

Now, come on. All kids miss the pins. Gutter balls are a sad but true part of kiddie golf. As the interview went on, though, the bowler explained that his father owned the bowling alley, back in the days of pin boys. The pin boys were instructed to set up the pins just a few feet from the foul line. As the boy grew older and played better, the pin boys set the pins farther and farther down the alley–but not unless they knew he could hit them.

In some ways that’s a gimme, too, but I see it more like making sure the ball always goes in the hole. I wish I had learned to bowl that way, under the guidance of someone who truly wanted me to know success.

Of course, the next question is, if I had had that experience, “Would I still be me?”

Sometimes people ask me for pie recipes. Then, after they read the recipe, they follow-up with suggestions and recommendations for changing the recipe. I usually say, “That’s fine. Do what you want, but don’t call it my recipe anymore.”

In truth, I feel the same way about making changes in me. I can change. Sure, I know I can. Probably. I might even learn to be more like the Stepford Girlfriend, become more of a perky chameleon, but I have to wonder what I might lose along the way. Would I still be me?

Then again, who else would I be? I suppose I’m committed to the concept of holing every putt, but damn I do like that gimme idea. Life could be so easy, if I could just change my definition of me.

You may wonder why I’m so philosophical right now. Don’t worry. It will pass. I’m going offline for a week or so while I explore the world on the other side of my edge of the Everglades. No phones, no Fry-O-Laters. I’m leaving Prentiss the Pie Apprentice in charge, and I’ll took forward to talking to you when I get back.

Go Cry on Somebody Else’s Shoulder

The warmer weather here in SoFLA and the full moon have certainly combined to bring out the people. Just a week ago, the silence was fairly staggering, but tonight we’ve had a full house most of the night, and not much sign of a slow-down yet. I’m sitting outside the pie shop, just watching the balls arc up into the air, and listening to the washer spit out bucket after bucket after bucket. Life is good.

For some reason, while I was practicing my swing earlier, I kept hearing Frank Zappa’s song, Go Cry on Somebody Else’s Shoulder. I don’t know why. Perhaps it’s just a Zappa carryover from a conversation with a friend who shared the news that he wished he’d been named Moon Unit. Knowing his father, though, I’m a little surprised that he wasn’t named Moon Unit.

After that song faded away, it was replaced by Bonnie Raitt’s You gotta know how, which is always a good soundtrack for homemade video greeting cards. At least I think so. I’ll have to add both of those to the pie shop juke box. We haven’t had any new tunes for a while, and we are over due.

Funny, but with such a crowd out tonight, I found that I talked less, concentrated more, and let quite a few thoughts roll around my head. Sue Ten has been away for a while, but called in on video to let me know she’s alive and well. She always asks what great Zen thoughts I’m having, and I often think I should be writing them down on my hand so I don’t forget when she asks. Yes, I do have great thoughts, but then I get hungry, and a large chocolate shake usually chases them away.

Tonight, though, I made a serious effort to try to hold on to a few, and I was doing pretty well until your second-cousin Darnell came by and distracted me completely with the news that he had just finished reading A Beautiful Mind, the biography of mathematician John Nash.

“It was much more interesting then the movie,” he said. “In the movie, I got the idea that John Nash was a pretty smart guy, and he saw things that weren’t there, but who doesn’t do that?” I waited for more. “In the book though, I really couldn’t understand what he was doing most of the time, so I figure he has to be a whole lot smarter than anyone I know, even you.” Again I waited.

Darnell went on. “Another thing that I didn’t get from the movie was how sad it was for him not to be crazy any more, how sad it must have been for him to give up all the magical stuff that was going on when he was nuts. I don’t know. I just think it must have been sad, just like the way Boyd acts when he’s sober.”

Darnell, of course, was referring to my ex-husband Pretty Boy Boyd, and I’ll say Darnell made a good point there. I, personally, got so I couldn’t stand Pretty Boy’s alcoholic flights of fancy, but he certainly was never alone when he was drunk. He always had his selfs (himselfs?) to talk to, and he was certainly a legend in his own mind.

With John Nash, and Pretty Boyd, too, the difference between perceived reality and “normal” reality seems fairly clear to observers, but who are we kidding? Most of us are on the inside looking out, deciding how we want to present ourselves to the world, but a few of us have that decision already made for us in advance.

Me, I live in a world of pie and insomnia where clowns drop by to play golf, your second-cousin Darnell lives with a goat, and my best friend keeps her semi-comatose husband alive by hooking him up to potato-powered batteries. I’m certainly not in any position to argue about reality with anyone.

Sometimes, too, I think maybe there’s an alternative universe in which The Morning Guy has come to his senses and is not vacationing in Key West with his Stepford Girlfriend. Yes, I’m sure there’s a place where he and I are living happily ever after. But if that’s true, there’s probably also an alternate universe in which he’s carried off by a pack of Fem-Bots, and I never see him again.

That makes me sad, too, and what can I do but . . . go cry on somebody else’s shoulder?


Mixtape from http://favtape.com/search/zappa shoulder

I Dream of Nikola Tesla

“I do not think there is any thrill that can go through the human heart like that felt by the inventor as he sees some creation of the brain unfolding to success. …” (Nikola Tesla, 1856 – 1943)

This is big news, folks! Nikola Tesla’s concept of broadcast power is upon us. An MIT assistant professor, Marin Soljacic (pronounced SOLE-ya-cheech) who is also a 2008 MacArthur genius-grant winner, is already powering up electronic devices by sending electrons through the air. W00t! I am some happy about this. I first heard about Tesla and broadcast power 40 years ago. Yes, I’ve been a Tesla fan for almost as long as I’ve been a Brian Wilson fan, and — hey! — I only had to wait 35 years to hear Brian play “Smile” in concert. And now, here comes Marin Soljacic from Croatia, my dream country, to make Tesla’s dream come true.

So it’s cause for celebration. Let’s imagine a world without power cords. A life with free-range computers. Coke machines that work even out in the middle of a field. Cell phones that don’t need to be recharged. Electric coffee pots out on the beach for that early morning buzz. Need some electricity? Scoop it up from the air.

I love it, I do. Possibilities are endless. And, no, I don’t want to hear the down side. Let me glow on this one for a bit, please.

Wireless Electricity Is Here (Seriously)

By: Paul HochmanWed Jan 14, 2009 at 1:45 PM

Wireless ElectricityPhotograph by Phillip Toledano


EnlargeRyan TsengRyan Tseng, CEO of WiPower, says his system is cheaper and better than rival eCoupled’s. | Photograph by Phillip Toledano
EnlargeWireless ElectricityRyan Tseng holds his wirelessly lit lightbulb 3 inches above its power source. | Photograph by Phillip Toledano

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I’m standing next to a Croatian-born American genius in a half-empty office in Watertown, Massachusetts, and I’m about to be fried to a crisp. Or I’m about to witness the greatest advance in electrical science in a hundred years. Maybe both.

Either way, all I can think of is my electrician, Billy Sullivan. Sullivan has 11 tattoos and a voice marinated in Jack Daniels. During my recent home renovation, he roared at me when I got too close to his open electrical panel: “I’m the Juice Man!” he shouted. “Stay the hell away from my juice!”

He was right. Only gods mess with electrons. Only a fool would shoot them into the air. And yet, I’m in a conference room with a scientist who is going to let 120 volts fly out of the wall, on purpose.

“Don’t worry,” says the MIT assistant professor and a 2008 MacArthur genius-grant winner, Marin Soljacic (pronounced SOLE-ya-cheech), who designed the box he’s about to turn on. “You will be okay.”

We both shift our gaze to an unplugged Toshiba television set sitting 5 feet away on a folding table. He’s got to be kidding: There is no power cord attached to it. It’s off. Dark. Silent. “You ready?” he asks.

If Soljacic is correct — if his free-range electrons can power up this untethered TV from across a room — he will have performed a feat of physics so subtle and so profound it could change the world. It could also make him a billionaire. I hold my breath and cover my crotch. Soljacic flips the switch.

Soljacic isn’t the first man to try to power distant electronic devices by sending electrons through the air. He isn’t even the first man from the Balkans to try. Most agree that Serbian inventor Nikola Tesla, who went on to father many of the inventions that define the modern electronic era, was the first to let electrons off their leash, in 1890.

Tesla based his wireless electricity idea on a concept known as electromagnetic induction, which was discovered by Michael Faraday in 1831 and holds that electric current flowing through one wire can induce current to flow in another wire, nearby. To illustrate that principle, Tesla built two huge “World Power” towers that would broadcast current into the American air, to be received remotely by electrical devices around the globe.

Few believed it could work. And to be fair to the doubters, it didn’t, exactly. When Tesla first switched on his 200-foot-tall, 1,000,000-volt Colorado Springs tower, 130-foot-long bolts of electricity shot out of it, sparks leaped up at the toes of passersby, and the grass around the lab glowed blue. It was too much, too soon.

But strap on your rubber boots; Tesla’s dream has come true. After more than 100 years of dashed hopes, several companies are coming to market with technologies that can safely transmit power through the air — a breakthrough that portends the literal and figurative untethering of our electronic age. Until this development, after all, the phrase “mobile electronics” has been a lie: How portable is your laptop if it has to feed every four hours, like an embryo, through a cord? How mobile is your phone if it shuts down after too long away from a plug? And how flexible is your business if your production area can’t shift because you can’t move the ceiling lights?

The world is about to be cured of its attachment disorder.

When Clowns Play Golf

I always enjoy myself when my friend The Clown stops by to hit a few balls. For one thing, she doesn’t speak, at least not in words, and that’s refreshing after a day of pie shop chatter. For another thing, she is cheerful, but not unbearably cheerful, like The Morning Guy’s Stepford Girlfriend. No, The Clown has a confident glow about her, a delight in every little thing she encounters, whether it’s an imaginary dog or a bucket of confetti.

The other night, The Clown came by with a golf cart full of her friends. I’ve known for some time that one of her primary interests in golf has been to drive the cart, but I don’t for the life of me know where she got one, or how she was able to fit so many other clowns into it. Apparently, clowns do believe in safety in numbers.

I could hear them coming down the road, from the direction of Pancho Villas, the radio tuned into the all-clown station: “Kathy’s Clown,” “Bozo Theme Song,” “Send in the Clowns,” “Bandy the Rodeo Clown,” and other big-top hits.

I’ve got to say, once the clowns arrived at the driving range, pretty much every one else suddenly looked very well dressed, no matter what bizarre get up they might have been wearing. Knickers, berets, argyle sweaters and matching socks? All those items seemed so conservative compared to polka-dot pantaloons and gigantic bow ties.

And by the same token, some of the super-sized drivers that I’ve see out here seemed tiny when placed next to the clubs that the clowns trotted out.

I noticed, too, that the clowns seemed to have more trouble with lost balls than most golfers do. I found this especially strange here at the Slice of Heaven 24-Hour Pie Shop and Driving Range, where it doesn’t really matter where any one ball goes. Joe Sparkle Jr. will find it eventually when he makes his painfully slow sweep of the range with the E-Z cart picker.

The clowns also tended to scrutinize each ball very closely — sometime with magnifying glasses or randomly assembled jurors — before they’d place it on the tee, with great exaggerated gestures. Sometimes they just juggled the balls and never hit any at all. Sometimes they hit joke balls that performed odd tricks such as boomeranging back toward the pie shop. I was not especially fond of that one.

I read recently about “Divot the Clown” who performs at golf events. I’m sure my clowns would never do that. I could tell that they hated to mix business and pleasure. They worked hard at being clowns, and for them, golf was sheer pleasure, especially since they could play just outside of a pie shop. Think about it. Clowns and pie? Yes, I do keep a lot of whipped cream on hand, just for them.

You, on the other hand, may want to come by some other night if you see the clown-car golf cart parked out front.

Intergalactic Sports

Intergalactic Golf

Sorry to be so tardy in getting this news to you, but the possibility of more of us playing golf in space may be a reality before we know it. Former NFL linebacker Ken Harvey is already hard at work training future space tourists to get in shape to have serious fun in zero gravity.

By the way, it’s not too late to contribute to my own zero-gravity fund so I can be the first person to eat pie in space. I’m still only about $5,000 short of what I need for my practice run.

Harvey, though, may be on to something by taking his “space sportilization” program to Abu Dhabi where people may well have a tad more disposable income than they do right now in SoFLA.

What’s really amazing to me, though, is that Harvey manages to make this concept seem downright boring:

I’m pretty sure that almost any two people at The Slice of Heaven 24-Hour Pie Shop and Driving Range could show more enthusiam for playing any sport in space than those two guys.

Ah, well. And we wonder why American kids are falling short in science?

Looking for Golf in All the Wrong Places

I’m headed home from a long trip to the Northwest, and I really just can’t wait to get home to SoFLA and find out what all you all at the Slice of Heaven 24-Hour Pie Shop and Driving Range have been up to in my absence. My apprentice Prentiss at least sent me a message today, just a few hours ago, in fact to tell me she misses me. I suspect she just now noticed that I’ve been gone for a week.

Sue Ten also called to say she’ll be heading out of town shortly after I get back, so the changing of the guard will be quick and efficient. Neither Prentiss nor Sue Ten had much to report. I take this to mean that all is well, or they just really don’t want me to worry about anything in advance. I haven’t heard about any zombie attacks on SoFLA, so I will just hope for the best, and expect the worst, as usual.

In my week in Seattle and points north, I saw very little evidence of golf. There was that one woman on the Bainbridge Ferry, though. Then, in the SeaTac airport this morning, I saw the odd little sculpture below.

Metal Golf Guy, as seen in the SeaTac Airport

Metal Golf Guy, as seen in the SeaTac Airport

I sent a copy of the photo to the Morning Guy, and he did not seem to find it as amusing as I did. I can tell he’s already thinking ahead to long-term maintenance and is worried about me cluttering up the dooryard with such junk. If it were a little smaller, though, it might make a great hood ornament for the E-Z cart, or maybe it could ride on the roof. I’ll have to take that up with Joe Sparkle Junior.

I’ve been passing some of my flight time paging through the “Sky Mall” book, which is my son Chandler’s favorite magazine. His twin sister Rose prefers the parody version, “Sky Maul,” and I have trouble telling the two books apart.

I’d hoped to find some nice golf gadgets in Sky Mall, but I am sadly disappointed. The one true golf item that I can find is a collection of 14 “club links” which are little monogrammed discs to be affixed to one’s clubs. They are available in goldtone, silvertone, or black aluminum; no pink, no Palm Beach green. The message seems to be that these are for people in the habit of losing their clubs. I don’t think I’ll be encouraging this trend: If we help people identify their lost clubs, then we are only cutting down on our supply of rental and “try this” clubs.

I will, however, tell Sue Ten about the Sky Mall’s “Giant 8-in Cupcake” which is supposedly easy to make, and fun to serve. You know as well as I do that she is always looking for something fun to serve, and yes she is still ready to serve. I’m hoping she’ll be joining the FOAS (food on a stick) movement, soon, too. FOAS is not only fun to serve, but can be fun to eat, too, especially FFOAS (fried food on a stick) and DFFOAS (deep-fried food on a stick). Yes, Sue Ten is ready to serve, just like Sarah Palin – remember her? — and I am ready to eat.

Too many days in the Northwest seem to have turned my head to thoughts of warmer clothing, even as I am mere hours from my flip-flops and shorts, so I’ve got to say I am fascinated by the Sky Mall’s “Carbon Fiber Heated Vest.” I’m not quite sure how this works, but I’m all for new technology and I’ve got to tell you that the phrase “laminated microfleece fabric” has the same distracting effect on me as seeing something shiny out of the corner of my eye. Yes, I want it, and I don’t know why. I’m pretty sure it will improve my golf game on nights when the temps in SoFLA dip dangerously below 70. I need to be prepared.

Another tempting item in the catalog is the Kodak EasyShare Wireless Digital Frame, which promises, “The Power of the Internet, Now in Your Picture Frame.” If I can have the Power of the Internet in a picture frame, why not in my golf bag, my pinkie ring, or even my rose tattoo? I’m intrigued.

And, yes, Sky Mall does sell the “Swami Golf GPS” but I think they should combine GPS unit’s “Insta-Lok” technology with their “Electronic Feng Shui Compass,” and if they do that, I’ll be happy to become the exclusive SoFLA distributer. Really, what could be better than GPS Feng Shui – for golfers? Find out how far away the dragon is, align your shot accordingly, live well, and prosper.

Supposedly, the Feng Shui compass operates “with the same compass technology used in aerospace guidance systems,” and that’s not all! It also locates and calculates energy fields to help you align your physical surroundings. I can’t wait to get one of those for the driving range. We may have to move a few palm trees around, and reroute our feral green iguana Hercules on his daily stroll, but I’m sure this will all pay off in better golf for all of us, with or without the Swami GPS Golf option.

All right, my dears. We are just about to land, and you know I’ll soon be out on the range under the lights, so come on by. I’ve got hours to go before I sleep, but if I don’t see you tonight, I hope to visit with you soon at the pie shop. Remember, Prentiss and I are a long way from finding the perfect slice of Key lime, so send in your pictures and recipes, or drop in and sample our latest possibilities.

A Couple More Slices of Key Lime Pie

At least this time I remembered the camera.

All right, my dears, I did find Key lime in the Northwest, despite our initial stumbling block of the possibility that it might truly turn out to be a “seasonal” dish. Seriously: They’ve got a point. January is not a good time for the Washington State citrus crop.

Here’s a shot of the pie served at Flyers in Oak Harbor, Washington.

Flyers Pie

Flyers Pie

Flyers was a fun place to meet and eat. I did enjoy the aeronautical theme, and general exuberance of the place. Or maybe that was just the exuberance of my dining companions? For dinner, I had a “prime rib dip” which I’d known in a former life as a “French dip,” but I guess I should just be happy that they didn’t call it a “Freedom dip.”

I should never order this sandwich because I know it will never be as good as the one I had at the Limelight Cafe in Denver in 1972, but I am – as well you know by now – an optimist. Golf, after all, is a game for optimists, and so is the search for the perfect slice of Key lime pie.

Needless to say, the pie at Flyers met our expectations, which were low. We gave them points for presentation, and for adding nuts to the crumb crust, but the overall impression was that the whole concoction had only recently come out of the deep freeze. “Fresh” was not a word that sprang to mind, or to tongue.

The next day, we ventured by ferry to Port Townsend, and enjoyed some time out in the water. Granted, we were inside the ferry with our toes close to the heater, but we were there. I have a vague memory or two of being in Port Townsend before. Maybe you were there with me? I’m pretty sure Little Peach was my chaperone on at least one trip to that part of the world, and I did miss her this time around. She has such a wonderful knack for asking all the right questions, and that’s a gift that I envy. Traveling without her is always difficult, and when I get home, I know I will hardly be able to answer half of her well-placed questions, just because I didn’t ask. Ah, well.

In Port Townsend, this time, I did have a marvelous piece of salmon for lunch, perfect in every way. I left a gold star on the menu on my way out the door. We did give this particular slice of pie high marks for the chocolate crust, yes indeed. I like a little experimentation, when the results pay off.

Port Townsend Pie

Port Townsend Pie

The filling, though, was exceedingly tart. We weren’t surprised, though, since we had already leafed through the restaurant’s cookbook, in fact we bought a copy, so we knew this particular offering was full of lime juice, no mention of fresh limes. At least they did not spoil the pretty presentation with a garnish of Persian lime, and I liked how the whipped cream was a decorative option.

I copied the recipe, which was pretty basic. Just speak up if you want a copy so you can try it out yourself, and let me know what you think. It might be just the ticket to make you think of sunny SoFLA when you, too, are far from home.

National Pie Day Eve

Here it is, the Eve of National Pie Day, and I find myself far from home, wondering how I ever managed to schedule this trip to the Northwest without factoring in the holiday. Ah, well. Prentiss has something planned, I’m sure. I just don’t know what.

To add to my general disappointment in missing the annual festivities at the Slice of Heaven 24-Hour Pie Shop and Driving Range, I also discovered that people in the Northwest consider Key lime pie to be a “seasonal” dessert. Excuse me? It’s not like they grow Key limes here and don’t have any fresh ones right now. What can possibly be seasonal about Key lime pie? I am perplexed.

Of course, I ran into a similar situation years ago in Missouri when I went to the local Piggly Wiggly store to buy some salt pork for fish chowder, and was told that salt pork was “seasonal” and therefore unavailable. In that case, though, maybe salt pork is only harvested at certain times of year. Grim thought, and I shall not dwell on it.

Meanwhile, I am pretty sure that golf here is definitely seasonal, and not well played in the fog and/or ice, although I was pleased to see a woman on the ferry travelling with a driver and a putter. If she only had a wedge, she would be carrying all three of the most important clubs, as identified by both Harvey Penick and Ben Hogan.

I am fully enjoying Harvey Penick’s Little Red Book, especially his comments on putting, which give me hope. For example, “Nothing is more important psychologically than knocking putts into the hole. Sinking putts makes your confidence soar, and it devastates your opponent.”

I find I am enjoying putting more and more, and I’m looking forward to the day very soon when Joe Sparkle Junior and The Morning Guy finish the work on our new putting green. It’s going a little slower than I would like since The Morning Guy has been distracted, both by football season and his Stepford Girlfriend.

Steppie, meanwhile, has been spending even more time here than usual as she has tried to find the right balance between cooing over her man, and giving him the space he needs to enjoy his football games and his pickled-eggs habit. She’s putting her spare time to good use, though, working on her long game. It’s been a treat to see her carefully lay out her golf balls and practice her swing. I believe she’s been getting advice from the fem-bots, but I can’t be positive on that. I do know she hasn’t worn the same color-coordinated outfit twice in the past week.

I hope you all have a wonderful National Pie Day. I miss you like crazy, and can’t wait to find out what all you all have been up to while I’ve been away. I hope the SoFLA weather will be warm again soon, too. I understand it’s been so cold there recently, that iguanas are falling out of trees. If our resident feral green iguana Hercules lands on someone, preferably my ex-husband Pretty Boy Boyd, the damage could be massive. We can only hope for the best.

Key Lime Pie Test (Rusty Pelican, Biscayne Bay, FL)

I can’t believe that I didn’t take a picture of the pie before I ate it. I guess I’m just not fully committed to pie testing yet, but fortunately we are in the early days of the search and have barely begun to establish our testing parameters and matrices yet. I will, therefore, need to return to The Rusty Pelican in Biscayne Bay in the very near future and sample another piece, preferably with with Prentice the Pie Apprentice in tow.

The Rusty Pelican is perhaps my favorite restaurant in the Greater Miami Area, one that Little Peach and I have visited several times, always with good results and always with a song in our hearts, the song being “Mustang Sally,” but that’s another story.

At any rate, I was happy to go there with a couple of friends who were only going to be in SoFLA overnight, and who were willing to brave the bitter cold to go out for the evening. I had imagined up sitting outside, looking across the bay at the city skyline twinkling in the night, but the 50-degree drizzle forced us inside, which which still a delightful experience.

I had had Key lime pie at the Rusty Pelican before, but years ago, before the search for the perfect slice began, so I had eaten it without the scrutiny it deserved. This time was different.

I thought the presentation was lovely, with the pale yellow filling garnished with a tart green glaze but a floret of whipped cream. Sadly, the slice of lime twisted on top of the whipped cream was of the Persian variety. Ah, well.

The graham cracker crust was innocuous as best, doing nothing to enhance or detract from the firm filling, which was thicker than many, and had a nice tang to it. The best feature of this pie was the super-tart glaze. The whipped cream was bland, but worked well with the glaze.

Over all score: B-plus

Whole Earth Everything, now on the Pie Shop Shelves

I’m excited to discover that the Whole Earth Catalog, including the CoEvolution Quarterly, is now available online. I can only hope that Mad Magazine will soon follow suit and provide me will full access to every single Alfred E. Issue.

In truth, though, I would really rather have hard copy in my hands, and — in the case of Mad — a flashlight, too, so I can read it under the bedcovers after lights out.

While Mad helped grow the the love of lyric poetry that Sue Ten and I still share, CoEvolution helped feed my lust for science, especially science that involves space exploration and the concept of other worlds, yet to be explored. Okay, I’ll admit that Star Trek did that, too, but CoEvolution made it seem legit.

I was living in the high desert of Arizona, far from my beloved ‘Glades, when I was a truly avid reader of CoEvolution, and I often succumbed to the temptation to follow direct mail links, much as I now back link through blog posts. Of course, it was different in a small southwestern town, where the post mistress pretty much knew everything about me from reading my incoming postcards, not the mention the occasional incoming coconut.

So, I’m sure she was not at all surprised when my subscription to CoEvolution let to a membership in the L-5 society, which in turn led to stranger and stranger letters of solicitation from people needing money to build their own space ships. I wonder how they made out.  I would have donated more to the cause myself, but I really had enough trouble at the post office already.

I did just now do a quick search through the Whole Earth website index, and was disappointed not to find more positive reference to golf, or pie. I was sure they would at least mention the zen value of The Inner Game of Golf, and I was absolutely stunned not to find some whole-grain inedible pie recipes. Still, it was fun to revisit the space colony pages and imagine a future where we can all be together in a world of our own, where our priorities center around golf, pie, science, and poetry.

Oh, wait. We already have that, right here at the Slice of Heaven 24-Hour Pie Shop and Driving Range. All we need now is you.

You Are Here!
You Are Here!

Key Lime Pie: The Search Begins

I was a little startled lately to read that “key limes are the pink flamingos of Florida food, and they are a celebrated part of local color.” I don’t know what startled me more, the confusion of the color of the limes with pink or the realization that I have, apparently, missed the local key lime festival again this year.

I presume that the author was referring to the rarity of both flamingos and key limes, at least in Florida. There are flamingos in other parts of the world, and the same is true for “key limes” which are actually from Malaysia. How interesting, I think, that two items that say “Florida” to so many people are, in fact, phantoms from a not too distance past before plume hunters, hurricanes, and civilization tore through SoFLA.

Meanwhile, Prentiss and I are starting our search for the perfect Key lime pie. The challenge begins with some basic questions: Graham-cracker or pastry crust? Meringue or whipped cream? Cooked or uncooked filling? Fresh limes or lime juice? And, of course, can a Key lime pie be made with regular, old, every day, produce department limes?

We’ll let you know how our studies progress. I’m all for trying out a gingersnap crust, and I’m totally opposed to making the pie with any time of lime but a true “key,” but on the other hand, I’d rather use bottled juice from real Key limes than use fresh limes that aren’t Key at all.

Prentiss and I do agree, however, with the no green food coloring rule, and we’ll immediately rule out any recipe that even hints at artificial color.

I’ve been studying up a little on the history of the Key lime, and I’m not surprised to learn that no one knows who made the first Key lime pie. After all, who made the first apple pie, chocolate silk pie, or Alan Shepard pie. Oh, wait, that last one would be me.

It is possible, however, that the first Key lime pie of not was made by one “Aunt Sally,” the cook for one William Curry, who laid the foundation of his fortune as a “ship salvager” in the mid-1800s. Today, the staff at the Curry Mansion Inn in Key West still crank out the pies. Perhaps a field trip is in order to investigate the current incarnation of Aunt Sally’s pie.

There is, supposedly, no record of a written Key lime pie recipe written down before the 1930s. The supposition that “everyone just knew how to make the pie” puzzles me, because now I want to know how “everyone” forgot to make the pie. Was there a plague of amnesia, as there was in Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s masterpiece One Hundred Years of Solitude? Was there perhaps a cataclysm or sorts, wiping out the knowing bakers? Or did the Key lime pie bakers decide en masse to take their knowledge with them to the grave? Or elsewhere?

Here’s another aspect of Key lime pie history. A crucial ingredient in Key lime pie is sweetened condensed milk, which was invented by Gail Borden in 1856. No sweetened condensed milk, no Key lime pie. At least nothing that resembled our current dessert. As for the limes, they probably started growing as soon as the Spanish explorers arrived in the 1500s, bringing yellow-green golf-ball size limes from Malaysia. And they continued to grow until the hurricane of 1926 which wiped them out. Most limes in Florida now are Persian, not Key.

The lime trees that remain are said to be “ferocious” in nature, and I’m not really sure what that means at all. Prentiss and I will try our hand at growing a few around the edge of the driving range, maybe start a little grove down the lane by my turquoise conch cottage.

Floridians are quite passionate about their Key limes, and their Key lime pie.  In 1965, Florida State Representative Bernie Papy, Jr., introduced a bill that would have levied a $100 fine against anyone who advertised a Key lime pie not made with Key limes. Alas, the bill did not pass.  But, in 1994, the legislature did decree Key lime pie as the OFFICIAL Florida state pie.

Florida State Pie:

photo of key lime pie

Prentiss and I will be more than pleased to hear from you. Seriously, if you have a treasured Key lime pie recipe, we’ll be glad to try it out, and we’ll let know how all of us at the Slice of Heaven 24-Hour Pie Shop and Driving Range rate it. And you are always welcome to drop by and rate our Key lime pies, too.

A New Year

The weather here for New Year’s Eve in SoFLA was close to perfect, with clear skies and a waxing crescent moon. Sue Ten decided it was a good time to show another movie on the side of The Swing Barn and advertised Casino Royale accordingly.

A lot of us were happy to see that since we wanted to be prepared for the new James Bond flick Quantum of Solace which picks up exactly where the previous Daniel-Craig-as-James-Bond movie left off, but Sue surprised us by showing the Peter Sellers / Woody Allen version of Casino Royale, and that one ends in a wild night of cowboys on horseback, Indians with flaming arrows, Navy seals in scuba gear, and US Marines, not unlike many regular nights at The Swing Barn.

The festivities at the Slice of Heaven 24-Hour Pie Shop and Driving Range were a little more restrained, and aimed at the non-drinking crowd. Prentiss, my pie-shop apprentice, did come up with a fabulous new corn-dog pie with an onion-ring crust, and she also served one of the possibilities in our search for “The Best Key Lime Pie Ever”. Sadly, she garnished it with a slice of lime that was definitely not of the key-lime variety, but more on that later.

Out on the driving range, we offered free balls from nine to midnight, and that always brings in a crowd. One new player was a guy with long gray hair and a handlebar moustache, who told me, “I was a caddy 50 years ago, and just now I am starting to play myself.”I told him that it’s a game for optimists, since you can always believe that the next hit will be better. He said, “I was an optimist when I got here tonight, but I think I am a pessimist now.”  I hope he cames back. His accent smacked of New England, and I’m always a sucker for that.

As the evening progressed, I noticed several people from my physical therapist’s office, but I think they were just trolling for business. Also, there were any number of fem-bots in short black dresses and high-high heels, trolling for business of another sort entirely. Granted, there aren’t too many night spots out on the edge of the ‘Glades where we live, and with the economy slumping as it is, we aren’t in a position to turn anyone away.

Your second-cousin Darnell, by the way, did a great job of keeping the kids busy by having them create an “art car” which they covered with spray paint.  I’m fairly sure my ex-husband Pretty Boy Boyd will like the new look of his formerly orange Toyota Celica. He’ll let us know when he gets back from New Orleans, if that is, in fact, where he really is. I hope so. He used to tell me that he had been a river boat gambler in a former life, and died in Louisiana. Perhaps history will repeat itself, not that I wish him ill. Of course not.

Nurse Crotchett brought along a truck load of fireworks, which she set about firing from the driving range, setting them off wherever she found an open slot.  I tell you, it made for a great visual impact: golf balls flying into the air, fireworks lighting up the sky, the movie on the side of the Swing Barn, and the waxing crescent moon overhead.

I worried a little about some of the folks stumbling out of The Swing Barn into harm’s way, but your second-cousin Darnell had the good sense to tether his goat Jonathan on a long line near the edge of the driving range, and for once, Jonathan earned his keep, and we resisted the urge to turn him into goat pie for yet another day.

I headed down to my turquoise conch cottage around 3:00 a.m., which was a nice change from my usual insomniac stroll TO the pie shop at about that time, and fell into a few hours of troubling dreams.

One of the dreams, that I can still see pretty clearly, involved a wild car ride down a mountain road with Nurse Crotchett at my side and distressingly ineffective brakes.  I probably don’t need much help analyzing that one. I also dreamt that I had found an Asian baby, and gotten quite attached to it. The child grew to toddler size and was able to speak quite eloquently in no time, which is when she said, “I think I’m ready to go home now.”

The final dream was that my orange hair color had gone strangely spotty, and was showing peculiar patches of mousy brown and gray. I can’t understand that one at all. Tonight, the girls & I are dressing up to go to the ballet, leaving Darnell; Joe Sparkle, Junior; and The Morning Guy in charge. I’m sure they will do just fine, don’t you agree?

Bookshelves du jour

Once again, it’s too bad that I already bought bookshelves for the pie shop. Still, I’m drawn to these since they look so much like the way I store my own book in the turquoise conch cottage down the lane. Maybe it’s a reaction to all those years that I spent in libraries doing one thing or another, but now I tend to stack books in odd ways, in seemingly random groups. Of course, I do know what’s where, and maybe that comes from working at one time in such a small library that we really didn’t need a card catalog. We could just say, “You’re looking for the blue one, over there.”

I think most small-small-town librarians would spend their time better taking memory classes rather than cataloging classes. I’ve also voiced my feeling that fledgling librarians need better mind-reading skills, rather than training in the hideous “reference interview.”  Or maybe that’s all past us now, with so many people searching for the information they want via Google and other online tools. I hope that trend has helped to free up librarians to answer their own questions.  I know I always had plenty of those, and I still do. Truth be told, I don’t really care what other people want to know. I’d rather have them answer MY questions.

And maybe that’s why I do so much better behind the counter of the pie shop than I ever did behind the reference desk. Ha!

Recently, a friend tried to tell me “Once a librarian, always a librarian,” and I asserted that I am happy to be an ex-librarian. I am free, I tell you, free free free.

Bring on the pie, turn up the jukebox, and add those books to the pile. What are you reading these days, anyway?

Graffititek

by hellokarl

Graffititek is the latest piece by young French designer Charles Kalpakian.  Based on Parisian Graffiti art, the bookcase aims to offer new perspective on the craft by reinterpreting it in a three-dimensional way.

Trading as hellokarl, Kalpakian has built his career working within the areas of interior and product design from his studio in Paris.

When asked about his work, Kalpakian summerises, ‘i like to think of my work as dreams that inspire briefly but allow us to endure on’.

www.hellokarl.com

graffititek by Hello Karl 2008
graffititek by Hello Karl 2008
graffititek by Hello Karl 2008
graffititek by Hello Karl 2008

Armadillo Pie Cozy

Yes, yes, yes. I know that the ad copy says it is a breadbin, but
what a waste. All this technology for bread? And wouldn’t it be cool if
it were made of clear, ultra-thin, polysomething so we could see the
lovely pie inside it? Coming soon in a larger pie-sized version to the
Slice of Heaven 24-Hour Pie Shop and Driving Range, for your
sitting-at-the-counter pleasure.

armadillo-breadbin.jpg

Armadillo Breadbin
looks unusual to say the least. Made of brushed aluminium, wood and
plastic, the Armadillo looks sharp, sleek and stylish. Rarely, a bread
bin can demand so much attention, but the Armadillo will certainly be
the center piece of a kitchen. The price for this breadbin is £65 and
it is worth every penny.

Zombie Golf

Can zombies play golf? Or should they?

I just finished reading World War Z, which is am impressive “oral history” of the zombie apocalypse. I say impressive because Max Brooks has done such a meticulous job of imagining and describing what aspects of life and civilization would be affected, and how, should the entire globe ever be infected by a zombie ‘virus.’

I especially liked the concept that zombies are too dumb to open door or crawl through windows, so a human bitten by a zombie in his or her car will most likely end up spending eternity in that very car, or at least until the car or the new zombie turns to dust.

Note to vampire fans: Read some of Jemiah Jefferson‘s stuff if you really want a taste of the downside of immortality.

So, I’ve got to wonder, would a golfer bitten by a zombie live forever more on the links? If a being is not smart enough to open a door, can that creature still hit a ball? Or will it just follow its bloodlust over to the Swing Barn and wait for a drunk to roll out? What about a zombie bitten in a golf cart?

My world is pretty small these days, so I tend to take any little thing — like the zombie apocalypse — and try to apply it to my own life. I can pretty easily imagine Joe Sparkle Junior unrunning the zombie horde on the E-Z cart, but I’d worry about The Clown. She does tend to shuffle and she also does try to please, perhaps too much, and so does the Stepford Girlfriend. Yes, I’m afraid they’d be among the first to go. I’ll miss The Clown, but Steppie really gets on my nerves.

I’m not really clear, either, on how long it takes for a new zombie to go from dead to re-animated. What if The Morning Guy were bitten while putting up Christmas decorations? Would he crash to the ground, wrapped in tinsel, and become the most festive zombie on earth? That’s something to consider, too.

I was never a big zombie-fiction fan before reading this book, but now I find that there’s a real void in the Pie Shop bookshelves. So remember us if you received some horrific story as a gift under your tree. We’ll be glad to take it off your hands.

Meanwhile, I keep reminding myself that the undead can’t open doors, but damn our doors are open much of the time. Twenty-four hours a day.

When Good Cakes Go Bad

Or why I prefer pie.

This entry borrowed in its entirety from www.cakewrecks.com:

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Santa Gets the Shaft

We’ve already seen some flagrant Santa-abuse this year, but here’s a Christmas count-down of some more ways the big guy gets no respect.We start off with your no-frills decapitation (under dome), courtesy of Giovanna B.:

This isn’t horrendously wrecky, but it looks exactly like the bleach-bottle Santa crafts my grandmother used to make, so I had to post it. Here, I found a picture of one over on Thrifty Fun for reference:


Next there’s the beret-wearing, chin-melting, something-seriously-wrong-with-the-whiskers incarnation:

Huh – I’ve never seen a handlebar mustache grow all the way around the nose like that, Shelby B. You think it’s a French thing?

And speaking of disturbing facial hair, it looks like Mrs. Claus needs to get her hormones checked:
Maybe she’s born with it, Darla D. (Maybe it’s Maybelline.)

Apparently Deon M.’s local decorator didn’t get that new CCC Puzzle pan from Santa this year, and decided to lash out the only way s/he knew how:

Poor Santa. You’ll thank him later, dear wreckerator; he’s only saving you from yourself in the long run.

Suzanne G., this next little holiday vignette makes me feel a song coming on:

Here goes – y’all feel free to join in, now:

“Santa got run over by a snow plow,
Walking home from our house Christmas Eve,

You may say there’s no such thing as Santa,

But once you see this stain you may believe.”


“No respect! I get no respect around here! That’s a lump of coal for you, Jen! And why the *%&! do I never get a proper nose, anyway? Is it so hard to give me a frickin‘ little nose?!? Huh? I just – I’m so – I can’t even talk to you anymore! Geez. Somebody get me a hot cocoa.”

I’d fetch that right away, Alden M.

Last-Minute Shopping

If you haven’t decided what to get me for Christmas yet, I’d be happy with almost anything from the Tovolo website. I’m thinking of re-doing the Pie Shop kitchen with only Tovolo tools and accessories. If I had a kitchen in my turquoise conch cottage, I might put some in there, too.


Cooking Utensils

Slide/Tear Towel Holders

Perfect Cube Ice Trays
Colanders
Colanders
Dual Layer Freezert Pop Molds- Blue Star Style With Stand that holds three
Freezer Pop Molds
Sweet Treats
Sweet Treats

Mixing Bowls
In Cup Tea Infuser By Tovolo
Tea Service Tools
Tovolo Logo
Outdoor Entertaining Link
Outdoor Entertaining

Elbow Room

I’ve been spending most of my time in Pie Shop lately, not out on the range, due to a curious wankiness in my right elbow. Nurse Crotchett took a look at it and sent me off to physical therapy, which has meant driving into the village in real SoFLA traffic.  It’s definitely “the season” now, and I would be happier driving the E-Z Cart and picking up golf balls all day long.

Still, I’m of an age where I need to take care of these aches and pains, especially if I am to make it another 30 years to The Singularity and then live forever. I’ve already ordered Ray Kurzweil’s new book on the topic for the Pie Shop bookshelves, and a number of us frequently like to discuss the ongoing ramifications of immortality, at least when we are not examining each other for rampant immorality, which we also enjoy discussing.

I’m surprised by how many people say they would not want to live forever, but Crotchett and I agree that we both have a lot to do and see, and 20 years may not be enough, even if we are wicked buff and trim, which we are not.

When my yoga guy, smoking outside the screen door while sipping a large cup of coffee, hears us take this tack, he yells in, “That’s your ego speaking! There is nothing more. This is it. Be here now.”  We ignore him, so he takes another drag on his cigarette and walks over to the side of the building to supervise the Morning Guy’s weekly ritual of detailing his BMW R 75/5s motorcycle.

In the greater scheme of things, I understand that my sore elbow is a mere bagatelle, a glimpse into sports medicine that I’ve found to be interesting, but nothing that I want to pursue through additional injuries, neither chronic not episodic. I do like the attention that I get during physical therapy, and I hope, in my own Pollyanna fashion, that this will ultimately improve my swing. I just have to convince my mind and body to accept new instructions about alignment and rotation. Yes, I am upbeat on this topic.

I am perpetually fascinated by the possibilities presented by the human body, both in space and on earth. Some days, I just can’t wait to see what will happen next. For example, doctors have now performed the first successful full-face transplant. I thought that had been done long ago, but then I realized I was thinking of the John Travolta movie Face/Off.

I probably would not be going down this road at all, except for the fact that your second-cousin Darnell borrowed my car the other day to go over to the Pancho Villas gated community, and was too lazy to change the radio station. Consequently, he ended up listening to a lengthy discussion on bio-ethics, which left him feeling a little bit dazed and confused.

For most of us in the Pie Shop, though, the real face-transplant question was “Who would you like to look like, and why?” For me, the answer is easy: Julie Christie in Doctor Zhivago. Or maybe Elizabeth Taylor in Cleopatra.

For Darnell, though, the idea of his body perhaps sloughing off a new face was too much too consider, and even Crotchett seemed to think that the ethics of wearing someone else’s face bears additional discussion. She’s in the right Pie Shop then.

I’d love to hear what you think about this. If money were no object, would you go for a new face? How about a new heart? New elbow? Let me know.

Coffee–and more–in Space

I love the idea of coffee: hot, black, creamy, dreamy, precious. I only drink it about once a year, which makes me one of the few people in the known universe who understands the fantastic drug-like properties of the brew.

Seriously, my dear, if you drink it all the time, your resistance to its charms is so strong that you don’t even notice them, not unlike any other long, and yet comfortable marriage. Stay off the stuff for a year, and take a sip, and it’s honeymoon time all over again.

Of course, most of the Slice of Heaven 24-Hour Pie Shop and Driving Range are coffee fiends, so we do what we can to keep them happy, or at least in check. While my apprentice Prentiss and I continue our search for the perfect key lime pie recipe, we are also seeking out the perfect coffee chaser.

This lovely espresso pot might just be part of the puzzle:

otto-stove-top-espresso-maker.jpgIsn’t it gorgeous? I found this in a www.boingboing.net, |

Gorgeous Otto espresso maker is like time capsule from the future, full of joe

It is 9:48am and I am drinking instant coffee out of a gigantic mug shaped like the hollowed out brain pan of an anthropomorphic cow. I love the ease and comfort of instant coffee. Simultaneously, I am admiring the OTTO espresso maker, with its bright, world-flipping mirror polish, as metallurgically liquid and mercury-like as some sort of device sent back in time by advanced creatures from the last moments of the universe to record our lives. The discordancy of it all is enough to make a hungover Berliner sneeze brain out of sheer incredulity.

OTTO espresso maker – stove top espresso maker [Appliancist]

Of course, by the time Prentiss and I come up with the perfect pie-coffee combo, we may all be drinking our coffee in space:

Space travel, by the way, seems to be getting more interesting all the time. This teaser from The History Channel even makes me wish I had a TV:

Sweet Potato-Clock Pie!

Sue Ten never ceases to amaze me. Just tonight she brought me a plate of piping hot waffle fries, fresh from The Swing Barn’s own organic Fry-O-Lighter.

She assures me that these delicious crispy potatoes are full of vitamin C, and she hardly even winced when I sprinkled malt vinegar over the plate and dug in. As it turns out, confectioner’s sugar would have been just as good.

I tell you, the woman has a gift for potatoes. Granted, I do have an ongoing dispute with her about potatoes masquerading as pie crust, but I will never turn down her potato-sausage-cabbage casserole, her potato-brocolli-cheese soup, or her potato-bacon frittata. They are all perfect beyond question.

Just now, though, I’ve found out a little more about her love affair with The Spud. When her kids were in school, they all five, one after another, took on the daunting assignment of building a potato clock. I’m sure I remember seeing a kit for such a thing in the back of my brother’s copy of Boy’s Life, or Grit, or some such magazine, but I never attempted to assemble one of the things and had pretty much forgotten about the potato-as-battery concept.

Sue Ten never forgot, however, not after helping what must have seemed like a neverending parade of frustrated middle-schoolers year after year re-create this particular piece of magic. Never one to waste hard-gained knowledge though, Sue Ten continued to tinker with the damn things long after all five of the little Tens had long since grown up and moved away, leaving Sue and her husband Logan with time on their hands and several empty rooms.

Let me take a minute now and fill you in on potato-clock technology, Just in case you are one of those rare individuals who doesn’t know what a potato clock is. Yes, you might be, although that would be surprising. Even your second-cousin Darnell knows what one is, and Joe Sparkle Junior has been running one in the E-Z Cart so he knows what time it is when he’s out on the driving range picking up golf balls. I now have two in my turquoise conch cottage down at the end of the lane.

Regardless, I found this description on the Hooting Yard website, and I thought it might help you out:

Potatoes, as we know, have power.

”Which of us . . . has not, at one time or another, taken two common galvanized nails, three alligator clip/wire units (that is, alligator clips connected to one another with wire), two short pieces of heavy copper wire, a simple low-voltage LED clock unit, and two potatoes, and obtained a simple LED clock unit that functions from the power of a 1- to 2-volt, button-type battery, opened the battery compartment to remove the battery, noted that there is a positive (+) and a negative (-) terminal point where the battery was installed , identified the potatoes as number one and number two, inserted one nail in each potato, inserted one short piece of heavy copper wire in each potato, placing it as far from the nail as possible, used one alligator clip/wire to connect the copper wire inserted in potato number one to the positive terminal in the clock unit, then used one alligator clip/wire to link the nail in potato number two to the negative terminal in the clock unit, used the final alligator clip/wire to link the nail in potato number one to the copper wire in potato number two, and finally, with no little sense of triumph, set the clock a-ticking?

“Which of us has not harnessed the power of the potato to control time?

Indeed. Heady stuff, I think controlling time with potatoes. There’s more to this particular story, though. I mentioned Sue’s husband, Logan Ten, an affable guy with gifts of his own, a man who would go into any town and find a free buffet or a public reception in a matter of hours. He was a man who had mastered the art of the two-for-one, and usually came out with three.

Once Logan retired, though, he seemed content to collect his pension, and he began a peculiarly sedentary life of watching CNN 24-hours a day.

During that time, though, Sue developed what can only be described as an obsession with potato-clock technology. Her timepieces became ever more efficient, and her potato batteries reached impossible levels of duration. This, I understand now, accounts for the great variety of potato dishes coming out of The Swing Barn kitchen.

As Sue experimented with different strains of potatoes, she would buy spuds in quantity, and then cook up the leftovers after determining key factors such as longevity and quality of the best electrical charge.

While all that was going on, my mother and her sisters were running the pie shop, the driving range was but a fantasy, and I was on an extended walkabout, looking for an honest man, but settling for Pretty Boy Boyd instead. By the time I returned to South Florida, no one had seen Logan for quite some time, but Sue Ten was behind the bar at The Swing Barn, smiling and chatting as usual.

I was happy to see her, and we soon moved from small talk to more serious issues. “It must be hard on you,” I said, “without Logan here now.”

She looked puzzled. “What do you mean?”

“I’m sorry, Sue,” I said. “I thought you and Logan had split up. No one has been him for so long.”

“Oh, no,” she said. “He’s still here. He just doesn’t go out anymore. You know how he always loved to watch CNN? Now he just does it 24 hours a day, but that’s fine. His pension check is on automatic deposit, and he’s fine.”

That night, as I walked down to my turquoise cottage, I looked back at the Tens’ doublewide behind The Swing Barn, and I noticed a warm glow coming from one of the bedroom windows. I knew Sue was still at the Swing Barn cleaning up, so I let my path diverge and headed north to see what was up.

Standing on my toes, I could peek into the window, and there I saw Logan, propped up in bed, smiling just as I remembered him, eyes closed though, and beathing softly. The glow was coming from the television set broadcasting CNN, as well as from an array of aromatherapy candles.

There was just enough light for me to notice that Logan had been outfitted with what appeared to be a couple of electrodes affixed to this temples. The main wires for the electrodes came from opening just above the bed’s elaborate headboard featuring a reproduction of some of the murals in the “happy house” in the ancient city of Pompeii. A container of blue bills was nearby on the nightstand.

I moved silently to the next window and was stunned yet delighted to see shelf after shelf after shelf of potato batteries, some with clocks, some without, but all feeding into the network that was, apparently, keeping our dear Logan in his perpetually restful state.

“Yes,” I thought, “Logan his beloved news show on 24/7, the pension checks are being deposited, and Sue will never really be alone. No need to tell anyone about this at all.”

I don’t know what brought Sue and Logan to this junction, but I do know she does seem as happy now as she ever was. As for Logan, he may even look a little bit more relaxed than before. Yes, I think he is doing fine.

Hanging with the Clown

I was never one of those kids who was afraid of clowns. Apparently, that’s one of those genes that skips a generation. If anything, some of my earliest, happiest memories are of being at the circus, watching clowns frolic around. I’m sure some of them were miming golf swings, and I’m pretty sure I’ve seen some of them in plainclothes here at the Slice of Heaven 24-Hour Pie Shop and Driving Range.

Yes, I’ve always liked clowns, even though my true circus love was the human canonball, and I suppose I am still looking for someone like him. But can you imagine it? What would we talk about? Science, I guess. Alan Shepard. Lunar landers. Parabolas and projectiles. The distinct steak-like aroma of space. Heaven.

Ah, well. Perhaps that will happen some day. Meanwhile, I will be content to enjoy my growing friendship with The Clown whom I met at the Hollywood Halloween Party, along with Nurse Crotchett and The Morning Guy’s delightful, but somewhat dull, Stepford Girlfriend. They are, all three, pretty good golfers, but The Clown is the best. After all, she has to play with giant crazy clubs that waffle around, and her spiked shoes are enormous. Surely her feet cannot be that big.

Some of the other players tend to go home early when The Clown is on the range. They get distracted by her honking and little dances, but I just love them. I noticed that lately she has added a little Izod logo to her lovely striped outfit, and she has a very nice new tam o’ shanter on her head. Her golf bag matches her outfit, as it should, and best of all, there’s always room for everyone in her golf cart.

What could be better than that?

And did I mention, that when she does hit one of her over-sized golf balls, it really does fly?

Granted, we’ve had a lot of clowns come here to play golf before, but she’s the best. I just wish she weren’t quite so fond of whipped cream pies.

Cosmo Quiz

Yesterday, to my surprise, there was no Post-It note from The Morning Guy on my computer screen. Instead, his Stepford Girlfriend was bustling around tidying-up my stacks of file folders, catalogs, and return-reply envelopes.

Once I pointed out that all that clutter was solely my concern, and a very small concern at that, she smiled sweetly, grabbed a piece of raspberry cream pie, and settled down to read her copy of the Cosmo Compendium of 812,683 Ways To Please Your Man.

I resisted the urge to point out that the book was actually a spoof, put out by The Onion, but I figured, “It’s working for her. Why mess with it?”

In fact, after thinking it over, I decided to order my own copy for the pie shop bookshelves. It might be a nice read, and I’m sure my new apprentice Prentiss will get a kick out of it.

Prentiss, by the way, had already given me the link to this Onion video on the same topic:


‘Cosmopolitan’ Institute Completes Decades-Long Study On How To Please Your Man

If there’s any one thing I’ve learned from The Morning Guy, I’d have to say that it is that “I have been doing it wrong” in general. And yet, I always hoped that meant that he had plenty of new stuff to teach me. Apparently wrong. He’s way too happy with a woman who not only anticipates his every need, such as sleeping in late this very morning, and she even has the ability to create — and satisfy — needs he never knew he had.

Me, I would just have keep right on making him pie and asking for more golf tips. At least he still shows up to stock the soda machine. Sometimes.

So this brings to mind the Cosmo Quiz. I know you’ve taken at least one of them. We all have.  How did you score? Did it help your relationship? Tell all.

By the way, what do YOU think I’ve been doing wrong?

As you know, the more often I fill out a personality profile, the more likely I am to be stunned by the results, so I’m not gonna do that no more. You can always tell me how I’m driving, how I’m baking, and how well you do or don’t like my talent for karaoke.

After all, what are friends for?

Blackbird Pie Cupcake

I think I like this pie, but it confuses me due to its cupcakeness:

Four and twenty blackbirds …..

Four and twenty blackbirds ..... by abbietabbie.

For more nursery-rhyme cupcakes, click here.  And when you see the original fo this one, move your mouse over the screen for “notes” of interest.

Books To Eat: The challenge

I think I will have to put my new apprentice Prentiss to work on this one, since I will just barely be done with International Pie Day before I’d need to get ready for the festival. I hope you will send us your recommendations for book-related pies. I’ll give you bonus points for ideas for golf-book related pies:

The International Edible Book Festival is held annually around April 1st. To date, the following countries have held this festival: Australia, Brazil, Canada, England, France, Germany, India, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Luxembourg, Mexico, Morocco, Netherlands, New Zealand, United States of America, Russia. Hong Kong has just announced its participation in 2007.

April 1st is the birthday of French gastronome Jean-Anthelme Brillat-Savarin (1755-1826), famous for his book Physiologie du goût, a witty meditation on food. April Fools’ Day is also the perfect day to eat your words and play with them as the “books” are consumed on the day of the event. This ephemeral global banquet, in which anyone can participate, is shared by all on the internet and allows everyone to preserve and discover unique bookish nourishments. This festival is a celebration of the ingestion of culture and a way to concretely share a book; it is also a deeper reflexion on our attachment to food and our cultural differences.

The International Edible Book Festival is a creation of Judith A. Hoffberg and Béatrice Coron. Judith got the idea over a Thanksgiving turkey with book artists in 1999, and Béatrice created Books2Eat website where despite the distances everybody can enjoy worldwide’s creations. They contacted friends and colleagues; their first event happened in 2000. Since then the festival continues as an annual sensation. The current Web Site Manager for the festival is Adage (www.diffusionadage.com).

Everyone is invited, individually and collectively, to this world banquet where delicious, surprising bookish foods will be consumed.

Participation rules are as follows:

1 The event must be held on April 1st (or close to that date)

2 All edible books must be “bookish” through the integration of text, literary inspiration or, quite simply, the form.

3 Organizations or individual participants must register with the festival’s organization (go to Registration) and see to it that the event is immortalized on the international festival website (www.books2eat.com).

I Am Not My Brother’s Driver

Last night, I fell just a little bit in love with a couple of guys who came in late and stayed later. It was about 2:00 a.m., and my new apprentice Prentiss seemed to have everything in the pie shop under control. She’s already mastered the fine art of making a light flaky vodka pie crust, and I’m sure her key lime filling with be the tops after a few more practice sessions. At any rate, I’m glad to have her here, especially now that The Morning Guy is spending so much time with his Stepford Girlfriend. She doesn’t have them wearing matching outfits, yet, but I’m sure it’s just a matter of time.

I’ve been away, visiting the twins and touring museums, getting a lot of great new ideas for our own pie museum, which we’ll start working on as soon as Sparkle Junior makes a bit more progress with the putting green. At some point, he will need to stop studying the blue prints and get to work with the bobcat. We are all looking forward to that.

I enjoyed my travels immensely, but missed having the time and opportunity to practice my swing, so I was happy to be outside under the lights, greeting the range iguanas and raccoons once again. As usual, it took me about 20 swings to have any sense of timing or balance at all, but then I hit a few good ones, and felt some semblance of confidence in my stoke.

I hadn’t noticed the new guys on the range, but then I started hearing a soft voice behind me, giving a running commentary, and punctuated with the occasional “whoo hoo” and “that’ll play!”

I looked to see who was there, and saw that my new companion was a 6’5″ African American man with a big smile, a diamond earring, and a 46-inch titanium driver.

“What do you think?” he said, pointing at an equally tall but considerably more slender guy a few spots down to my right. “This is my brother’s club.”

I told him it looked like a pretty good club to me.

“Oh it is,” he said. “He spends a lot of money on his golf clubs, and this is certainly a fine one, but you know what. It’s not my club.” He nodded and went back to hitting balls, and talking to himself.

For the next hour, I felt privileged to be included in the banter between the two brothers, tuned in to the sound of their swings, and I enjoyed watching their golf balls fly to the far boundary of the range. Most of all, I liked the sheer joy that i felt around them, their openness with each other, and with anyone else who wanted to chat for a while.

“I came to golf late, but my son plays now,” he said with pride, “and this game will put him through school just like football did for me.”

My friend The Caddy came by to offer me his usual litany of tips, and the brothers just told him I was doing fine. “Are you trying to teach her to play?” marveled the brother on my left. “You should know better than that.”

I liked that observation, just as I liked the guy’s understanding that his brother might have “better” clubs, but the best ones for him were his own. They say that true wealth comes from having “enough,” and it was a treat to meet someone who made that real for me.

I hope you, too, will always have enough, but be sure to save some room for dessert.

Mad Scientist Pies

Can we ever have enough mad scientists? I don’t think so, especially not the good kind, and let’s face it, mad scientists have been getting a bad rap for years.

Surely one or two have done something wildly good, like inventing the giant-head titanium drivers that so many of my midnight golfers seem to favor. I’ll give the mad sci guys bonus points for astroturf, slinky critters, and the whole space program, too.

As you can imagine, I was glad to see that the folks at xylocopa.com are doing what they can to foster more mad science by adding a set of “Young Mad Scientist First Alphabet Blocks” to their catalog.

Young Mad Scientist First Alphabet Blocks

Young Mad Scientist First Alphabet Blocks

As I look at the blocks, all I can think is how great these designs would look on pie crust, and it doesn’t really matter what the filling is. I’m hoping some existing mad scientist — maybe you — will volunteer to help me fire up the laser etcher in the Slice of Heaven 24-Hour Pie Shop and Driving Range so I can get going with this project.

Here are the 26 images on the Xylocopa blocks:

A – Appendages
B – Bioengineering
C – Caffeine
D – Dirigible
E – Experiment
F – Freeze ray
G – Goggles
H – Henchmen
I – Invention
J – Jargon
K – Potassium
L – Laser
M – Maniacal
N – Nanotechnology
O – Organs
P – Peasants (with Pitchforks)
Q – Quantum physics
R – Robot
S – Self-experimentation
T – Tentacles
U – Underground Lair
V – Virus
W – Wrench
X – X-Ray
Y – You, the Mad Scientist of Tomorrow
Z – Zombies

That’s a lot of pies, and I’m excited to be on to something new. Let me know what you think, and put in your order soon. I want to have all 26 under my Christmas tree, don’t you?

Not Really Turkey

My vegetarian children are about to arrive for our usual non-traditional ethnic celebration of Thanksgiving which will, in the words of Gov. William Bradford include “no small comforte and rejoicing.” There are a few guys out on the driving range, either banished from the kitchen or avoiding clean-up detail, and Sue Ten is gearing up for the football crowd over at the Swing Barn.

I made holiday pies most of the night, selling them out the back door to those few folks who had the good sense to bring me their heirloom pie pans in advance so Aunt Martha can be happy to see the old filigreed BakeLite back in action for one more season. I don’t mind helping to spread the cheer.

Since both twins have pretty much stopped eating any kind of flesh or food that has a face or had a mother, we’ll be creative with our feast. I’ll still have a turkey breast with gravy, stuffing, and cranberry sauce. Cranberries are a vegetable, yes? Just to be on the safe side, I’ll have a large glass of Bloody Mary mix. You might call it a Virgin Mary. I call it a Bloody Shame.

And for dessert, maybe something sprung from a Quiggle mold. (Quiggle also makes some wonderful molds of body parts and alien babies, but you may not be in the mood for that.)

According to the Quiggle catalog: “The Turkey mold is perfect for Thanksgiving. The Turkey mold is the size of a Rock Cornish game hen-because it was cast from an actual game hen. This mold makes gelatin turkey molds that show every bump, line and fold of the actual bird.”

Seems to me, if the mold is based on a Rock Cornish Game Hen, what we got here is a Rock Cornish Game Hen mold, not a turkey mold, but who am I to quibble with quiggle.

I do encourage you to see what can be done with a Quiggle ‘turkey’ mold, though, by checking out this website which showcases the winners of the prestigious Turkey-shaped Jell-O® Mold: 2008 Competition.

My personal favorite is the Turkey Twinkie Pumpkin Pie. The description says, “In this unerring portrait of the recent financial crisis, the Turkey Twinkie Pumpkin Pie enacts the specter of unregulated appetite.” This may well be dessert for the twins and me, once we’ve had our fill of dinner and had a chance to relax in the rockers on the porch of my turquoise conch cottage, down at the end of the lane.

Third Place Winner [by popular election] for “Best Overall Turkey”
By Rachel E.

And, I’ve got to say, I really like the S’Morkey a lot, too:

S’Morkey
Kumbaya, my turkey, kumbaya
Kumbaya, my turkey, kumbaya
Kumbaya, my turkey, kumbaya
O turkey, kumbaya

Winner, Campiest Turkey
By Jeremiah & Heather

But on to other turkeys that aren’t really turkeys, how about this paper one?

Make your own turkey - out of paper.

Make your own turkey - out of paper.

Again, I am sad to report that is is actually a chicken — not a turkey — but I’m not going to take our friends at Make Magazine’s blog to task on that issue. Enough of their commenters have already done that — which is the only reason that **I** know it’s not a turkey.

If you want to build your own, instructions are right here. Just print out the pattern, and have at it. And be sure to let me know how that works out for you.

So, if you, too, are having a tofu sort of holiday, but still like the idea of having a bird on the table, I hope you’ll take some cheer from Quiggle and Make. There are plenty of ways to meet that goal.

Pie Hats

For those of you living in cooler climes, these pie hats may be just the thing to keep your lovely heads warm out on the driving range in the early morning. I would wear one here in SoFLA just for fun, and I think Su Ten might like one, too. Hint, hint.

Posted in the Monster Crochet blog

Monday, November 24, 2008

Holiday Pie-rets

I have been infused with some serious crochet mojo combined with a touch of holiday spirit for the past few weeks. Now, you all know what that means…Oh yes, that definitely portends a bit of twist in my yarn!

Introducing Holiday Pie-rets!

These crocheted versions of round flaky goodness are just in time for Turkey Day! And yes, you can be sure I will be wearing pie to my family’s Thanksgiving feast. So, let’s take a look at my crusty choices shall we?

There is the always popular seasonal delight, Pumpkin Pie-ret…

Topped with a dollop of cream…

Thanks to Ellen for modeling!

OR how about a touch of dark and rich Pecan Pie-ret…

Bridget is modeling this lovely headgear!

And my personal fave, the Cranberry Orange Pie-ret with lattice crust!

Modeled by my girl, Jenna!

It’s a tough choice to be sure.

Onto the crochet stats…

The Pecan and Cranberry Pie-rets were crocheted with an F hook and some of my Cascade 220 stash. An F hook combined with this light worsted yarn creates a very tight fabric. This is exactly the effect I was attempting to achieve as I was aiming for structure, not drape. My challenge during the design process for both of these Pie-rets was creating a perfectly shaped circle while using a popcorn stitch pattern. Needless to say, frogging ensued before I came up the correct increase to stitch ratio. I am happy with the results.

The Pumpkin Pie-ret was also crocheted with an F hook. However, I chose to use Lamb’s Pride worsted for this one. Don’t think I would choose this yarn again for this type of project. The FO ended up being too heavy for my taste. I will use Cascade 220 going forward should I ever decide to crochet another dessert-themed hat!

Needless to say, one of these hats combined with Turkeyzilla the Tote Bag accessorizing my holiday outfit will surely embarrass my daughter to the core. It just doesn’t get much better than that! Muhahahaha!

Copyright 2008 Regina Rioux Gonzalez. All rights reserved.

Cinderella’s Pumpkin Pie

Consistently friendly and untempermental,
Cinderella never asked for much.

She told me her life too often was filled
with flavorless spice
and not that honest pumpkin flavor
that only princes recognize.

So, she learned how to sweeten the pie
without masking the taste
of fields full of orange
and fall festivals held on old village greens.

The secret she told me is in the milk,
sweetened, condensed,
ready to go
into a filling
both intense and sweet —
yet never high in fat.

Two whole eggs, two yolks,
the least grainy filling,
silky smooth,
served best in a glass slipper.

“But, my dear,” I asked,
“with the pumpkin pureed for your pie,
how will you get to the ball?”

“I’d rather stay honest,” she said,
“and be who I am.

“Besides,” she continued,
“the pumpkin aroma will be quite enough,
to bring him my way,
and then I will serve up
ambrosia for him,
a dessert plate for me,
and always a slice left for you.”

Matchless

A lot has happened since we last spoke. The big news is that both Sue Ten and your second-cousin Darnell tell me that they have seen The Morning Guy out on what appears to be a date. I find this news to be both appalling and beguiling at the same time.

As you may recall, one of the guests at our Hollywood Halloween party was dressed as a Stepford Wife, and she caught our hero’s eye when none of the rest of us even knew he was there. Surprisingly, we now learn, her costume and demeanor were no ruse at all since she is a throw-back to the Mirabel Morgan Total Woman days, and she has had years (some might say decades) in which to practice her craft. Her real costume was the addition of a Stepford Husband, whom we now know was actually her cousin Henry from Ann Arbor.

I still don’t have all the details of this new development, but apparently The Morning Guy was so smitten that he actually spoke to her, obtained her name and phone number, and within days had called her for a date. This information, too, may explain why he was so upset the night he lost his cell phone since he had trusted that wily technology to keep the two of them in touch while he was out of town on his vacation.

According to Sue Ten, the happy couple has now had several meals together at The Swing Barn, and Sue observes that Steppie always orders her pastrami sandwich and fries with extra coleslaw. Then she eats half the sandwich and the coleslaw, leaving the rest of the sandwich and the fries for The Morning Guy. He smiles. She smiles. He talks. She listens. We are all quite anxious to see how this romance will progress.

Last seen, Steppie was dressed as a cheerleader for The Morning Guy’s favorite college football team, and they were tossing back Yinglings and pickled eggs with no concern about gastric after affects, but she never lost track of the score, and she apparently has an encyclopedic knowledge of the game.

Meanwhile, I have been thinking a lot lately about the whole concept of matchmaking and matches in general. I do love my life here at the Slice of Heaven 24-Hour Pie Shop and Driving Range, especially my freedom to be as frivolous or as serious as I want to be, but from time to time, I do think it might be nice to go dancing with a willing partner on a Friday night.

When Nurse Crotchett was on site for our Flu Shot Clinic, she encouraged me to try out an Internet dating service, eHarmony. “It’s free this weekend,” she said.

“Free?”

“Oh, yes,” she said, so I gave it a try, passing a few hours of insomnia answering pages and pages about myself, my attitudes, my preferences, and so on. On each page, I read the disclaimer that there were no wrong answers.

“Of course not,” I thought. “Besides, I certainly feel that I am giving out the right answers.”

Finally, I got to the end, and told the machine to begin searching for my match.

“Geographical area?” it asked.

“Why limit it,” I thought, and went for this option: “Anywhere in the World!”

An additional question asked me “How important is this geographical area,” and I said, “Very.” I may be open minded but I’m not sure I’m ready to date extra-terrestrials, at least not just yet.

The screen assured me that the eHarmony system was searching, searching, searching its 85,000-member database. Finally I received my results: “Our matching system was not able to find any matches for you.”

Hello? No matches anywhere in the world?

Sue Ten, on hearing this news, just shook her head. “I can only imagine what foolishness you put down on that form. Next time, you should let me fill it out for you.”

Both my kids assured me that eHarmoney was funded by the religious right and was no place for a good Unitarian-Univesalist Taoist Pagan such as myself to be looking for a date for the New Years Eve festivities at The Swing Barn.

Perhaps I am just matchless. Or maybe it takes someone very special, like you, to appreciate me and my little quirks. Perhaps Sue Ten is right, and I should not list Fight Club as my favorite movie, or Hedwig and the Angry Inch as my favorite musical.

But that would not be authentic.

I do love Hedwig. My life is so easy compared to hers, and The Origin of Love moves me, so would I really want to spend New Years Eve with someone who cared not for her, or for Tyler Durden, for that matter? Get real.

Or watch it yourself, here, and tell me what you think.

Perhaps also I should not mention insomnia, pie, or how many golf balls I hit in the course of any single week or single night. And perhaps I should have mentioned that I do love to wear high heels and lingerie, but I didn’t really see any place where I would include that detail. Ah, well.

The language of love is never easy to learn. Take, for example, this note that I found in a copy of “Leslie Nielsen’s Stupid Little Golf Book,” which I bought at Goodwill for 99 cents the other day:

Note from Buddy to Lillian

Note from Buddy to Lillian

I wonder what became of Buddy and Lillian, especially considering that the book — and the note — ended up in the local Goodwill. I have the impression that he is faking his interest in golf. He did show his interest in her, but that’s often not enough or else it leads to something akin to stalking, and that’s no good either.

As for the book, I’ll add it to the Pie Shop bookshelves, and maybe I’ll leave the note tucked in as a bookmark, too. I hate to break up a set.

Stupid Little Golf Book

Stupid Little Golf Book

Too Bad I Just Bought New Book Shelves

Besides, this figure-eight set would take up the whole pie shop, but I do love the idea as well as the concept that books, and shelving, can be infinite. As a former librarian, I can also tell you that shelving books is also infinite, but pie is a fleeting pleasure, and you should get some while you can. Remember, at the Slice of Heaven Pie Shop and Driving Range, we are open 24-hours a day.

NOTE: The following is excerpted from the Book Patrol blog, and was posted by Michael Lieberman:

Dutch conceptual artist Job Koelewijn‘s new work Sanctuary includes this life-size gas station made entirely from the covers of books.

Is it a telling omen that in the future both gas stations and books will be extinct? A homage to the divergent sacredness of books and gasoline. Books and gasoline, two essential elements of Western Civilization, joined to form a sort of surreal 22nd century filling station where one can go and pump the world’s creative output into their vehicle of choice, whether it be a computer, e-reader, i-pod or quite possibly by then directly into our own bodies!

In 2005 Koelewijn produced another major book work. He created a bookshelf in the form of a lemniscate, or figure 8, symbolizing the infinite nature of knowledge and the infinite power of books.

Untitled (lemniscaat)

2005
Wood, books
125 x 780 x 240 cm.

From the introduction to the 2006 exhibition Continuing Performances at Galerie Fons Welters.

“In the beginning was the word, the written word is unto eternity. A bookcase in the form of a lemniscate (the mathematical sign for infinity), full of books, words, shows the cycle of art. The way in which artworks endure, sometimes concealed, sometimes at eye level, close enough to touch, then forgotten for years, pushed away behind other books. The eternal performance of art. The public constantly changes in age and era. The words remain the same, and yet what is read changes from one age to the next.”

New Beer Dispenser at the Swing Barn

I know Sue Ten and many of her bar-stool jockeys will be excited about this new gizmo:

Scotsman turns the beverage world upside down

Published date: 14 November 2008 |

Scotsman Trufill soft drinks

Pure theatre. Pure innovation. Self-filling dispense – from the bottom up. Scotsmans’ Trufill turns the beverage world on its head.

Putting a whole new twist on the traditional “bottoms up” toast, Scotsman Beverage Systems literally turned the beverage world upside down at the Brau Beviale exhibition in Nuremberg this November.

Bill Bruce reports…

Targeting the event and stadium beverage dispensing market where the challenge is to maximise yield in a short time frame, Scotsman’s truly innovative Trufill concept can serve 10 pints of beer in 10 seconds with less manpower than traditional methods and no spillage. The system incredibly fills cups from the bottom. Yes, I am not joking. You have to see it to believe it.

The soft drinks beverage dispenser adds ice from the top but fills from the bottom. Pure theatre. Pure innovation.

“The challenge at events and in stadiums has always been to pour faster to sell more. This has always been expensive in terms of labour and refrigeration,” commented Scotsman Beverage Systems’ Simon Miller. “This self filling process enables a single operator to deliver 10 drinks in 10 seconds. We estimate labour saving of between 75 and 80%.”

True innovation

Bill Bruce comments: “While the beer dispenser might be destined for high consumption event and stadium outlets and is jaw-droppingly attention grabbing, while at the same time practical, the ‘magic’ of the soft drinks unit could transform a brand or deliver a truly unique theatrical aspect to energy drinks in the on-trade.

“Self serve, self fill . . . this takes the old fashioned world of dispense into the vending arena with a mix of Star Trek meets Harry Potter. I tour most of the major trade shows and it’s rare to see true innovation. ‘Bottoms up Scotsman’, you’ve made my Brau. We can’t wait to follow this story as it unfolds.”

To see movies of the system in action and to follow the development of this revolution in dispense technology, as well as an interview with Simon Miller, revisit www.foodbev.com next week – and tell your colleagues.

Mississippi

I haven’t had any particular song stuck in my head for a while, but tonight I found myself repeating lyrics from Bob Dylan’s Mississippi out on the driving range. I can’t say that it helped or hurt me, but when I got back inside I did stop to listen to a few different versions.  The lines that kept rolling around tonight were:

I was raised in the country, I been workin’ in the town
I been in trouble ever since I set my suitcase down

I don’t really know why those surfaced, except that this past week, I do feel like I’ve been in a bit of trouble, and haven’t really understood why. As far as I know, all I did was to set my suitcase down. Well, sometimes that happens to us all. I’m saddened by the folks who have gone on the defensive around me. I suspect this is the sad effect of that waning gibbous moon that I keep warning you about.

Anyway, here’s a video of Bob Dylan. If you stop in at the Pie Shop, you’ll see we have the Dixie Chicks version on the jukebox, but this is the one I’m hearing tonight. I’d forgotten about another line, “I’m going to look at you until my eyes goes blind.” Ah, yes. Once I felt that way about my ex-husband Pretty Boy Boyd, but that was a long time ago.

As I look at the lyrics to this song, I’ve got to say, I love them all: “Stick with me baby, stick with me anyhow. Things should start to get interesting right about now.”

http://www.bobdylan.com/#/songs/mississippi

Mississippi

Every step of the way we walk the line
Your days are numbered, so are mine
Time is pilin’ up, we struggle and we scrape
We’re all boxed in, nowhere to escape

City’s just a jungle, more games to play
Trapped in the heart of it, trying to get away
I was raised in the country, I been workin’ in the town
I been in trouble ever since I set my suitcase down

Got nothing for you, I had nothing before
Don’t even have anything for myself anymore
Sky full of fire, pain pourin’ down
Nothing you can sell me, I’ll see you around

All my powers of expression and thoughts so sublime
Could never do you justice in reason or rhyme
Only one thing I did wrong
Stayed in Mississippi a day too long

Well, the devil’s in the alley, mule’s in the stall
Say anything you wanna, I have heard it all
I was thinkin’ about the things that Rosie said
I was dreaming I was sleeping in Rosie’s bed

Walking through the leaves, falling from the trees
Feeling like a stranger nobody sees
So many things that we never will undo
I know you’re sorry, I’m sorry too

Some people will offer you their hand and some won’t
Last night I knew you, tonight I don’t
I need somethin’ strong to distract my mind
I’m gonna look at you ’til my eyes go blind

Well I got here following the southern star
I crossed that river just to be where you are
Only one thing I did wrong
Stayed in Mississippi a day too long

Well my ship’s been split to splinters and it’s sinking fast
I’m drownin’ in the poison, got no future, got no past
But my heart is not weary, it’s light and it’s free
I’ve got nothin’ but affection for all those who’ve sailed with me

Everybody movin’ if they ain’t already there
Everybody got to move somewhere
Stick with me baby, stick with me anyhow
Things should start to get interesting right about now

My clothes are wet, tight on my skin
Not as tight as the corner that I painted myself in
I know that fortune is waitin’ to be kind
So give me your hand and say you’ll be mine

Well, the emptiness is endless, cold as the clay
You can always come back, but you can’t come back all the way
Only one thing I did wrong
Stayed in Mississippi a day too long

Copyright ©1997 Special Rider Music

Night Golf Flu Shot Clinic

I think sometimes more people would understand the mystical nature of golf if the game were less accessible. I mean really, drive down any given road in SoFLA, and before you know it, you’ll find yourself passing a golf course, or two, or three. Some are behind high hedges, but for the most part they are right there, waiting to lure you in.

At least here at the Slice of Heaven 24-Hour Pie Shop and Driving Range, we are so far off the beaten path that when you come to us, you bring along a sense of deliberation and destination, and I like that about our visitors. Except, of course, for my ex-husband Pretty Boy Boyd, they tend not to do much by accident.

It always bothered me when Boyd would arrive home lit up like one of those impossible-to-blow-out candles that are so funny to everyone except for the birthday boy or girl. Boyd liked to say, by way of apology for whatever distress he was about to bestow on me, “I didn’t mean to get so drunk.” What did he think was going to happen once he started pouring pints of Guinness down his throat? It was hardly worth discussing. Boyd, as far as I can tell, just likes to go through life in a state of chronic surprise.

Even now, I can see the look of mystification on his face as he finds himself parked outside The Swing Barn in my old Toyota. Pretty soon, though, he’ll remember his recent encounter with our resident feral green iguana, and he’ll leave again. That iguana has proven to be much more effective than a more traditional restraining order.

Most people, like you, come here by choice or obligation, rarely by chance, and that holds true for Nurse Crotchett, too. I hadn’t seen her since the Hollywood Halloween party, and tonight I was surprised to discover that she really is a nurse. For the party, she’d worn a snug white uniform complete with cap, white stockings, and shoes, but now she is in lavender scrubs with matching eye shadow, and she is carrying a clipboard as well as a medical bag.

“Where do you want me to set up?” she asks.

Quick as ever, all I can say is, “What?”

“For your flu-shot clinic,” she says, handing me a typed memo, on my letterhead, recommending that we participate in the county’s “Alternate Hours” flu-shot program.

“Oh, yes,” I say, noting The Morning Guy’s name on the bottom of the memo,  vaguely remembering seeing a green Post-it note that said “Flu Shots Tuesday Night” stuck to my computer monitor.

Crotchett efficiently commandeered one of the pie shop tables, and I took her some coffee and a piece of blackberry-raisen pie. Within minutes, your second-cousin Darnell was there, filling out paperwork, handing over eight dollars, and rolling up his sleeve for his shot.

I saw more cars pulling up, and called Joe Sparkle Junior in from the driving range to help with the influx of customers, considerably more than we normally have rolling in at 11:00 p.m.

During one of the lulls, Crotchett told me that all-night flu-shot clinics were definitely unusual in this part of the world, but a recent New York Times article had given The Morning Guy the idea to run one here, and her boss at the county public health office wanted to be seen as an innovator, so we were the test case.

I will say, it was actually quite pleasant to have so many people around, and most of them did stay on well after the pinch of the Crotchett’s needle had passed. We went through more than a dozen servings of blackberry-raisen, 20 of banana cream, 7 of midnight chocolate, and two of pumpkin-cheesecake.

Because we were so busy inside the pie shop, I didn’t notice that the driving range lights were acting up again. Someone finally came in and said, “Just turn them off. The strobing is giving Darnell flashbacks.” I pulled the switch and came back inside, leaving a note for The Morning Guy to check on the problem, and thinking the range would empty out.

I was wrong. There were still a dozen golfers out there in the dim glow of the pie shop lights, hitting balls as well as usual, if not better. In fact, freed from seeing the arc or the final distance, all they could do was concentrate on the swing, and that seemed to be to their advantage.

I joined them, closing my eyes since there was really nothing to see except the distant glow of the porch light down at my little turqoise conch cottage. Like the rest of the line, I hit the ball anyway, telling by the sound whether the hit was good or not. All in all, I found it to be a most satisfying experience.

Throughout the rest of the night, people continued to make the deliberate drive out to the edge of the ‘glades for flu shots, pie, and mystical golf in the dark.

Finally, I saw the light in the east, and I went inside to say good-night to Crotchett, but she was already gone. I glanced out the front door and saw The Morning Guy just pulling in on his motorcycle, counting the cars, as he strolled around to the side door to begin his day, as I ended my night.

I picked up a piece of quiche, nodded to Sparkle, and headed down the lane to my cottage, satisfied, happy, and pleased that I would not have to go into town for my flu shot this year.

Full Moon Ramble

Some of us went to the beach for a full moon picnic last night, and I’ve got to say, it was an exceptionally pleasant time, away from the bright lights of the driving range, the muted noise of the dancers and drinkers at The Swing Barn, and the endless to-do list at the Slice of Heaven Pie Shop.

Looking up at that wonderful bright moon, I thought of the nights that I’ve watched it come up over the driving range, rising above the trees. One night in particular, it was fascinating because as the moon came up, the raccoons came out, and a number of the guys had a little fun in shooting their golf balls at the furry moving targets, who responded by moving just a little bit faster.

I’ve never been a big fan of raccoons, so I did enjoy watching the target practice.  The twins probably still remember when our kitchen in Maine was taken over by raccoons, who seemed quite angry that we were up in the night trying to make them move out.  Eventually, they lumbered up the stairs and out a third-floor window, but for a while, it was really touch and go.

Then, in Missouri, in our little house by the big lake, we watched a whole family of raccoons, plus their realtor, check out a big old dead tree within sight of our porch, but once they saw us, they decided the neighborhood did not meet their standards, and they moved along. Snubbed by raccoons! Oh, man, that hurt.

Of course, the full moon does provide another excuse for me to talk about golf, pie, and the universe. As you recall, NASA once did have a plan to put the first apple pie on the moon, and Alan Shepard was the first man to play golf on the moon, so by now it must all be coming together for you.  Add to this, a lovely sentiment expressed by Carl Sagan, “‘If you want to make an apple pie from scratch, you must first create the universe.”

Now, you could take that to mean that only God can create a pie, but I’ll interpret it in broader terms to remind myself that golf, pie, the moon, and Alan Shepard are all part of the same grand plan. My question of late has been what type of apples to use in my Alan Shepard Pie, so I checked out the harvest list for an orchard near Shepard’s old home town of Derry, New Hampshire.

I was delighted to see so many choices: Jerseymac, Tydeman, Paulared, Burgundy, Gingergold, Jonamac, McIntosh, Gala, Cortland, Empire, Honeycrisp, Macoun, Re Delicious, Jonagold, Golden Delicious, and Mutsu. I tell you, the sky’s the limit. Just reading the list of apples sounds like poetry to me, and more and more, I suspect that poetry will be the form that Alan Shepard Pie takes, once I finally create it as something to be consumed under the full moon on the golf course of your choosing.

One likely place may be McInnis Park, just 20 minutes from the Golden Gate Bridge. Two nights ago the Golf Center there hosted night golf with special guest Michael Murphy, author of the Shivas Irons books, which are my particular favorites. I came across this news while browsing through the Shivas Irons Society website, which I recommend to you because Shivas Irons fans do so completely understand the metaphor of golf.

I was especially taken by this essay called “Detachment,” written by Dave Korba:

It was a clear November day, warmer than normal. The sun was bright, casting harsh shadows. My face was warm in the sun and my hands cool in the mild breeze. As I walked the course alone, I was drawn to the sight of a red flag shouting in the breeze.   The course was empty as I walked in a sea of green along the rolling contours and slopes of the changing landscape. The leaves were gone from the trees and the mountainside was a backdrop of dappled gray. There was something about that red flag…

I like to play golf as a way to escape from the daily grind. When played with a different perspective, golf can also teach us valuable lessons about how to live life more fully.

I was unknowingly about to receive such a lesson on this day. I met Art as I made the turn onto the inward nine. I didn’t know him but could tell he played the game with a different perspective. His demeanor was calm and relaxed and a sense of inner confidence underscored his walk and swing. His personality was warm and the conversation was easy. We talked about the inner game as we walked the back nine.

The conversation turned to philosophy and the concept of non-attachment and how it applies to golf. We spoke of Golf In The Kingdom and how Shivas Irons assures Murphy, in his Scottish brogue, “Dona’ worry about the score so much. It’s not the important thing.”   We discussed our own efforts in detaching from the score and how we viewed the results of our shots while remaining in the witness mode. We offered mutual support as we executed shots, gauging and measuring our own level of attachment to the results with each effort.

We got to the sixteenth hole, a downhill par three, 157 yards over the water. The harsh sun was now nearing the horizon. The shadows were long and the breeze was getting cooler. Art was nonchalant as he teed up his ball and said “I’ve noticed that when I let go of my attachment to the outcome, I feel more freedom in my swing.”

He spoke as he set up to the ball, “It’s not an easy thing to do, especially for most golfers.”

He talked right through his set up and started his swing upon uttering his final word. As soon as the ball took flight he leaned over and pulled his tee from the ground and continued, “Most golfers I know are so attached to the result of every shot and to their score, that their game is filled with nothing but frustration.”

The shot was a high, floating seven-iron with a mild draw, right at the pin. After he picked up his tee he turned his back to the hole and faced me, talking, as I stood watching the ball in flight.

He continued, “Once I learned to let go of, or at least minimize my attachment to the result, my game changed dramatically. Not only did I have more fun, I also improved my level of play.”

The ball hung in the air an incredibly long time. I stood and watched as it arced toward the hole; oblivious to the words he was speaking. I was totally attached to his shot and the impending result. He stood calmly looking at me as I leaned my body English to the left to get the ball over to the hole. With a muffled sound the ball struck the unfurled flag and then the pin and dropped to within two feet of the cup. He finally turned, saw the result, then looked back at me and grinned a large grin.

As we walked to the green he continued to explain how he felt that golf is a great teacher of life’s lessons.   “This game gives me opportunities to learn about myself. It’s a journey of self-reflection. It brings me face to face with frustrations, fears and the demons within. I experience some fleeting happiness, but more often it’s self-criticism, harsh self-judgment and judgment of others. Not only is it similar to life, in that regard, it actually helps facilitate the learning I’m here to accomplish. For me, golf is a game within a game. I don’t take it too seriously, but I use it as a mirror to reflect back to me the inner thoughts, emotions and feelings that come up as learning opportunities.”

Art made his birdie and celebrated with upraised hands and a huge smile. As we walked off the green, the red flag snapped in the wind as if acknowledging the shot. We continued on and finished an enjoyable round. It is one that I will reflect upon and remember for a long time.

That’s all for now, my dear.I hope we can talk again soon. Don’t forget to send me your golf tips, and I’ll keep a pie on the windowsill just for you.

Farewell Transmission from Mars

Please join with me in saying farewell to the Phoenix Mars Lander, and all the brave little robots who have gone on before. Are there pie shops or driving ranges on Mars? Now we may never know.

This post, written by the Phoenix Mars Lander, appeared first on www.gizmodo.com:

This is My Farewell Transmission From Mars

If you are reading this, then my mission is probably over.

This final entry is one that I asked be posted after my mission team announces they’ve lost contact with me. Today is that day and I must say good-bye, but I do it in triumph and not in grief.

As I’ve said before, there’s no other place I’d rather be than here. My mission lasted five months instead of three, and I’m content knowing that I worked hard and accomplished great things during that time. My work here is done, but I leave behind a legacy of images and data.

In that sense, you haven’t heard the end of me. Scientists will be releasing findings based on my data for months, possibly years, to come and today’s children will read of my discoveries in their textbooks. Engineers will use my experience during landing and surface operations to aid in designing future robotic missions.

But for now, it’s time for me to hunker down and brave what will be a long and cold autumn and winter. Temperatures should reach -199F (-128C) and a polar cap of carbon dioxide ice will envelop me in an icy tomb.

Seasons on Mars last about twice as long as seasons on Earth, so if you’re wondering when the next Martian spring in the northern hemisphere begins, it’s one Earth-year away—October 27, 2009. The next Martian summer solstice, when maximum sunlight would hit my solar arrays, falls on May 13, 2010.

That’s a long time away. And it’s one of the reasons there isn’t much hope that I’ll ever contact home again.

For my mission teams on Earth, I bid a special farewell and thank you. For the thousands of you who joined me on this journey with your correspondence, I will miss you dearly. I hope you’ll look to my kindred robotic explorers as they seek to further humankind’s quest to learn and understand our place in the universe. The rovers, Spirit and Opportunity (@MarsRovers), are still operating in their sun belt locations closer to the Martian equator; Cassini (@CassiniSaturn) is sailing around Saturn and its rings; and the Mars Science Laboratory (@MarsScienceLab)—the biggest rover ever built for launch to another planet—is being carefully pieced together for launch next year.

My mission team has promised to update my Twitter feed as more of my science discoveries are announced. If I’m lucky, perhaps one of the orbiters will snap a photo of me when spring comes around.

So long Earth. I’ll be here to greet the next explorers to arrive, be they robot or human.

It’s been a great pleasure to have Mars Phoenix guest blogging for us, reminiscing back on a successful mission via its personality conjurer, the great Veronica McGregor at JPL—maintainer of Phoenix’s famous Twitter feed. Just as Doug McCuistion from NASA said on the news conference today, it’s certainly more of an Irish wake than a funeral today. We’re drinking to you tonight, little buddy. You can see all of Phoenix’s previous entries and the official press release announcing the end of Phoenix’s mission.

Past entries:
Phoenix Mars Lander Looks Back on its Re-Birth
This is What Landing On Mars Feels Like
Martian Ice Is Why I’m Alive and Why I’m Dying

Creeping Bentgrass L-93: A poem

Creeping Bentgrass L-93: For golf greens in Zone 4

L-93 will regulate the thatch

And maximize the growth you seek today

Enhancing speed across the green to flag

Providing more consistent roll of balls

and dropping strokes from every card you play.

Your creeping bentgrass needs less care than you

might think: a mowing once or twice a day

and routine use of inhibition meant

to stop the flow of gibberellic blood

or acid, put in less poetic terms.

In just two years your newly seeded green

will keep its pledge, but you must do the same

and never lapse in taking care of thatch

and never fail in mowing, grooming, or

remembering the nitrogen, not once.

Your creeping bentgrass needs the best in fert-

ilizer, wetting agents, moistest soil.

Do not ignore hydrophobicity

when caring for your bentgrass putting green,

and it will care for you for years to come.

100 Percent Belgian

I don’t know that I’ve ever seen this phrase “100 percent Belgian” used as a selling point before, except for chocolate, but that’s a big part of the pitch for these interesting table-chairs from swiTCh. I think they might work out really well for the porch of the Slice of Heaven 24-Hour Pie Shop and driving range, especially if I can order the balls to be white and dimpled.
Switch Table Chair
Here’s a little bit more from the brochure, too:
Time stands still for no man. Time is ever changing and, in turn, it demands we change. It is time to find the space you need, the growth you desire, the harmony you deserve. It is time to swiTCh.”

The conceptSwiTCh is a new concept in design. It is a chair and a table, a relaxing seat and a small working place in one. It switches instantly and effortlessly.

User instructions SwiTCh is multifunctional and easily adapts from a comfortable chair to a small working place.

Details Each SwiTCh is handmade and has a unique number on the backside.

Information SwiTCh, a 100% Belgian design, is made out of massive oak and fine leather with a filled ball.

Projects Do not hesitate to contact us if you want a business project to be realized. We are sure we will find a solution to match the opportunity to place the swiTCh Table-Chair at his best.

Another small step toward Alan Shepard Pie

Artwork excerpted from James Stevenson’s “Pastry in Motion: A rich history, revealed through art and archaeology,” published in the New Yorker (Sept. 4, 1971).

Looks to me like Alan Shepard Pie needs to be apple, not lamb and mashed potato after all. This is good to know.

For more info, check out our post on Lunar Golf.

NASA plans to put a pie in space.

NASA plans to put a pie in space.

Could this be Alan Shepard pie at last?

Could this be Alan Shepard pie at last?

Chocolate-Laced Lemon Chiffon Pie

First, prepare a chocolate cookie pie crust, and set it aside

Assemble your ingredients:
1/4 oz unflavored gelatin
1 1/2 C sugar
6T water
6 eggs
dash salt
3/4 C fresh lemon juice
1 1/2 t grated lemon peel
2 oz semi-sweet chocolate
1 1/2 T butter
1 1/2 C whipping cream

Dissolve the gelatin and 3/4 C sugar in hot water in the top of a double boiler or in a microwave-safe bowl.

When ingredients are fully dissolved, wait for mixture to cool before continuing.

Separate the eggs and beat the yolks into the cooled gelatin mixture.

Add salt and lemon juice.

Simmer for five minutes, stirring repeatedly, until mixture becomes thick.

Add lemon peel, then chill. Take your time. No hurry, no worry.

Meanwhile, whip up the egg whites, adding 3/4C sugar, until the whites form peaks.

Whip the cream, too.

Fold the egg whites, the cream, and the gelatin mixture in together, and go back to chilling until it all reaches a nice level of firmness.

Melt the butter and semi-sweet chocolate.

Bring out the pie crust and start scooping the filling into it, alternating the filling with drizzled chocolate. Do this three times, ending with a lacy drizzled pattern over the top. If you run out of chocolate drizzle, just make some more.

Have fun.

Will Work for Pie

I’m sorry to say that I have not been able to keep up with Pie Shop chores as well as I expected with The Morning Guy gone on his vacation, although vacation might not be the right word for it. Let’s just say “during his absence.” So, I was understandably relieved then when I saw a guy out the the I-95 access ramp, holding a sign that said, “Will work for pie.”

Now, some may say it’s risky business to bring a stranger in to one’s place of business, but I say, “Damn, man. He’s willing to work for pie.” Even The Morning Guy wants pie, ice cream, coffee, and free golf. This new guy is a bargain. I will, however, take your warnings under consideration, but first let’s see how much pie he can eat.

My son Chandler and I have both had odd experiences with panhandlers in the past. I still remember being asked for money for food by a young denizen of the streets in Denver.

I was hesitant to talk to him since I could see my bus approaching, but I decided to open my heart and I reached into my capacious bag and pulled out my lunch to share, remembering how one of my undergrad profs had done that for me on more than one occasion.

I handed over my tuna fish sandwich, but to my surprise, the scruffy young man did not thank me. No, he held the skimpy lightweight baggie up to the light, as if expecting to see something revelatory on the bread, perhaps the image of Lord Vader. I don’t know.

“What’s in this?” he asked.

“Tuna, mayo, a little relish.”

“Relish?”

“Yes. Relish. Are you hungry or not? If you don’t want the sandwich, I’ll take it back.”

He thought it over and kept the sandwich, by which time I had missed my bus. I watched him scuffle off, still sniffing the baggie, and poking his finger into the pristine white bread.

I waited to climb on the next bus. Starting to feel a little hungry myself, I got on, sat down, and discovered that someone had left his or her lunch on the seat. Sure enough, it was a tuna fish sandwich, plus a second baggie with six Oreo cookies in it. Score! I came out ahead on that one.

My son Chandler, one of the twins, told me once that he had been in process of moving and had a lot of cupboard-cleanout stuff in his car, and decided to hand those groceries over to a guy who regularly camped out by the side of the road. This camper was not an especially good beggar, but a persistent one, and probably by the end of the day, he would have collected enough coinage and low-end swag to get him through the night.

When Chandler arrived at his new digs, however, he discovered that he still had the bag of groceries in his car, so what had he given the panhandler? An extensive collection of cookie cutters and pastry tools. He drove back to the highway, somewhat relieved that our man was still there, and made a swap, not without being soundly scolded for improper gifting. Apparently, cookie cutters, not matter how festive or celebratory, are not what most panhandlers are seeking.

We are both now a little more cautious and careful now about what we hand out to strangers on the road, or on the sidewalk. Still, I have a weakness for someone who will work for pie, and when my new friend and I reached the pie shop, I got out my to do list while he had some quiche lorraine and coffee for breakfast.

Sparkle told me that Sue Ten was on the phone, so I stopped to speak to her for a few minutes, during which the new guy moved on to a plate of deep-dish apple pie with cheese. I told Sue Ten I would talk to her later, and said, “I’m getting the cabinet doors fixed,” to which she replied “It’s about time.”

She had an unfortunate experience in my conch cottage one day. I was in my rocker out on the porch and heard her yelp of surprise when one of my cabinet doors came off right in her hand, because the screws in the hinges were missing.

“Oh,” I said. “That one. I never use that one. The screws in the hinges are missing. What were you looking for?”

She said she was looking for cake plates — like I have those! — and ended up just bringing her whole cake, delicious as usual, out to the porch with two forks, a quart of milk, and a Mason jars.

“You should get that cabinet fixed. It’s just a couple of screws.”

“I know.”

“You need to call a plumber about the faucet in your bathroom, too.”

“I know.”

“The broken mini-blinds in your bedroom are atrocious.”

“I know.”

“How do you like the cake?”

“It’s wonderful.”

And it was: Lemon cake with chocolate fudge frosting, my birthday dish of choice for many years. Remember that combination of flavors, I started flipping through my recipe file looking for a lemon chiffon recipe with chocolate-cookie crumb crust, when I noticed that the new guy’s plate was empty. I wasn’t really ready to tackle the cabinets yet, so I slid over a piece of chocolate-pecan-bourbon pie, and looked at my list again.

Maybe this guy could help me bring some more books up from the cottage and put them on the new pie-shop shelves. Joe Sparkle Junior had already restocked the soda machine and was  out on the E-Z Cart slowly, meticulously scooping up golf balls. While I was reviewing the list, I noticed that someone had left an unfinished crossword puzzle on the counter, so I started to ink in a few entries.

The new guy finished off another cup of coffee, and smiled. I gave him a piece of banana cream pie with extra whipped cream and he went right to work on that, while I finished the puzzle and looked over my latest crop of Post-It notes, realizing that each one was a project in the making, not something to be tampered with by rank amateurs, such as the new guy and me.

He finished his pie, and I said, “I think we’re good. One for the road?”

He nodded, and I wrapped up a slice of blueberry cheesecake for him, then we headed out to the highway again. I dropped him off where I found him, and gave him $20 for his time.

When I got back, I parked at the Pie Shop and walked down the lane to my cottage, where I noticed that Sue Ten’s bike was on my porch and the light was on in the kitchen. I approached quietly to peek in the window, but she wouldn’t have heard me anyway over the whirring sound of the cordless screwdriver as she patiently replaced the missing screws.

I walked back up the lane, and started fixing some steak and mushroom pie for her supper. I don’t know what I would do without her: Not that many people are willing to work for pie.

The Caddy

Most of the guys who hang out at the Slice of Heaven 24-Hour Pie Shop and Driving Range know that I don’t take direction well, and they are happy to let me take my golf lessons from Sandra, safely off the premises, and to let me wrestle my golf tips out of The Morning Guy, when he feels like sharing.

Anyone new on the scene also usually can tell within minutes that I am better left alone, determined student of the swing that I am.

Last night, we were surprisingly low on customers, but the weather was slightly cool and damp, and perhaps a few people were still out celebrating the results of the recent presidential election. I know that Sandra was, and Sue Ten was still cranking out red-white-and-blue cupcakes for customers over at The Swing Barn.

I didn’t mind having the extra space to myself, and I nodded to people as they came through the pie shop door to sit at the picnic tables with their pumpkin pie and hot coffee before loading up their buckets and starting to play.

I was doing pretty well, and was fairly pleased, so I didn’t fully notice that someone was teeing up in the space just behind me. Suddenly, the tide changed, and my next shot went completely backward, just a few inches off the ground, and abruptly knocked the other player’s ball right off the tee.

He jumped away in surprise, and soon commenced to announce that he had never seen such a shot in his life, not after teaching golf for two and a half decades, not after playing in innumerable tournaments, not after a lifetime in which golf was pretty much the primary focus.

“My god!” he said. “You couldn’t do that again in a million years.” I begged to differ. My shots have a fiercely wild variety, but he was convinced that he had already seen me in a nice rhythm, hitting balls with no trouble.

“Yes,” he said. “I came out and wondered where I should play. I looked around and saw you were doing your thing, and I thought, ‘That’s fine. That lady is hitting some nice shots, so she won’t need any advice and I can just get in my practice with no problem.'”

After that pronouncement, he proceeded to watch me, which made both of us and a couple of other people nervous as well. Finally, neither he nor the next guy in the line could stand to see me send one more ball scuttling down the grass, and they both commenced to give me more tips in 10 minutes than The Morning Guy had given me all year, only their tips were not written down in perfect block lettering on post-it notes for me to refer to later.

By then, they could see that I was taking on that deer-in-the-headlights look, and they backed off, but not for long. Try this! Try that! It made me think of Thing One and Thing Two in the Cat in the Hat books. Sparkle was so fascinated by the scene that he came out on the pretense of picking up buckets so he would smirk at close range. Knowing I was distracted, he told several people to go ahead and re-shoot any balls were lying close by. Why not?

I’ll have to admit, that ploy did soon disperse the crowd although I don’t know why. They can shoot all the balls they want, anyway, but I guess there seemed to be some bargain-basement mentality at work there.

Soon I was left with only one critic, and he was a bit of a bulldog about the whole thing. He picked up the wood that I usually lay on the ground just to help me keep some sense of alignment and said, “This club is getting all dirty, this is no good. Why don’t you like this club? It’s a nice one.”

I said it was too big, and besides that I like my nine iron and don’t really need another club right now. For some reason, this concept always reminds me of my mother teaching herself to knit using Christmas string. I don’t fully know why.

He shook his head. “Go ahead,” he said. “Try this one,” and he handed me the wood.

I tried, I failed, and he proceeded to offer corrections, including the usual Keep Your Head Down, which I thought I had been doing. Apparently not. I may never lift my head again after last night, though.

Then I hit a few more, and did all right, but still hit too high up on the ball. This has never been a concern for me since I have never been in any rush to learn the game. After all, I live here. The meter is not running, and I have an endless bucket of balls.

For the next hour, this guy — who turns out to be a professional caddy — continued to advise, tweak, talk, demonstrate, cajole, and advise again, taking the occasional breath to comment that he just couldn’t seem to stop himself since I was so close to hitting a really fine shot. Then the Caddy also told me to stop doing some girlie stuff. Excuse me?

Next The Caddy starting pulling clubs out of his bag to see if I could do better with one of them, until he completely lost all sense of judgment and turned his shiny blue featherweight driver over to me. I swear, I felt like Christopher, one of the the mini-Tiger-Woods kids who runs around here with a club bigger than he is, but I loved it. I backed away, I swung, and I heard that satisfying metallic clink, and I did not look up . . . at least not until the ball was well on its way.

I did look at The Caddy and said, “Thanks. I do believe I owe you a piece of pie,” and I headed inside.

Oddly enough, The Caddy, this guy who had talked non-stop by then for almost two hours, became strangely quiet without a golf club in his hands. And that was fine, too. We both needed a break.

I just can’t wait now for my next official lesson with Sandra so I can find out if I retained any new skills, or if I just went into sensory overload.

I should probably take her some pie, too.

Michel Ten

Your second-cousin Darnell has been talking about starting a horse-and-buggy tour of the neighborhood as a way to “support the community,” he says. Or a way to boondoogle the few tourists that we get out here so close the the ‘glades, I say.

“Just what will you cover on this tour?” I want to know. “Once you’ve gone by the Pie Shop, The Driving Range, The Swing Park, and Pancho Villas, what’s left? The bonsai forest?”

Darnell seemed a little puzzled by my lack of enthusiasm, which was tempered by the knowledge that he did not have a horse nor a buggy, and he sauntered off to The Swing Barn to see if he might have better luck with Sue Ten. I suspect that she probably gave him comments very similar to mine, with perhaps a bit less diplomacy and tact, two qualities which I am seriously trying to develop.

I do actually like the idea of the buggy ride, but I think there has to be an audience for it first, not unlike the Village Players recent production of The Mikado, in which Sue Ten had a staring role. Sadly, most of the people who were interested in hearing Gilbert and Sullivan were already in the cast, so that left but few of us to fill the seats. Still, we all had a good time, especially during Sue Ten’s encore, during which she sang the song Frank Mills, from Hair. The fact that she was still in her geisha costume made it all the more endearing, since her outfit gave the song more of a Teeny-Bopper Butterfly flavor.

Speaking of horse-and-buggy rides, Sue and I have been trying to figure out if Michel Ten, whom I met in Havana, could possibly be a relative, but we weren’t able to find a family line from here to there, so chances are that the similarity in names was either a coincidence or a misunderstanding.

Little Peach and I met Michel on our second day in Havana as we strolled past the horse-cabs. We were besieged by the drivers, a fairly raucous and noisy crew of men in crisp pastel-plaid cotton shirts and jeans. They are all cheery and optimistic that we would take them up on their tour offers, but we had already signed up for our bus tour, so we continued our stroll down the Prado.

Michel, bless his heart, proceeded to stroll with us, spewing his spiel, still, about how great his buggy tour would be. Little Peach took him aside for a moment and explained that we were in Havana without luggage or a change of clothing, and what we really wanted to know was where we could pick up a little dress or two, cheap. We also wanted such niceties as deodorant and shampoo.

None of that really stumped him, but we learned from him that most if not all the retail shops in Cuba were closed for Liberation Day, so with or without him, we would not be able to do too much shopping. We continued our walk, without Michel Ten, and admired the buildings along the Prado, and the young skateboarders operating mainly with lengths of wood and old roller-skate wheels.

Before we parted company, though, Michel Ten did warn us, “Those bus tours aren’t any good. You should come with me. If you change your mind, just ask for Michel Ten. That’s me.”

We asked his price, shook our heads, and said good-bye. When we returned to our hotel a few hours later, Michel was still out in the square, working his work, as charming as ever. That afternoon, we did go on the bus tour, where we met the Philosopher Detective and did have a pleasant afternoon and evening, but we both had to admit we could not always understand our tour guide, and Little Peach did not have an opportunity to ask the detailed questions for which she is so well known, and perhaps a little feared by tour guides everywhere.

The next morning, I told her, “I think we should go talk to Michel Ten and see if we can get him to come down on his price.”

We had a wonderful full breakfast in the elegant old dining room of the Hotel Inglaterra, admiring the tile work from days gone by and the contemporary painting of Cuba today. We chatted with the staff, sipped our juices and coffees, and smiled at the thought of where we really were, with luggage or without. Then, we went out to find Michel Ten.

Of course, he was not there, and several other horse-cab drivers claimed to be him. We said, “No, no, no.” Then they started to call from one to the other, “Michel! Michel Ten!” until suddenly he appeared, a great smile on his face. We proceeded to make our offer for a cheaper ride, but he looked said and said it could not be done.

“You see that man over there? That is my boss. I must give him the price.”

Little Peach and I suggested a shorter ride. He said no. And, great negotiators that we are, we said, “Okay, let’s go.”

I had forgotten that at some point I had tried to teach one of the other drivers how to sing “Una Paloma Blanca,” and as we began to pull away in our cab drawn by Michel Ten’s little horse Mulatta, that driver jumped up on the side of the cab and sang for us, getting the first line out perfectly, and then faking it after that, just as I had earlier. Michel shooed him away, and we took off on our slow, relaxing tour, with Little Peach asking every question that came into her mind, and Michel Ten doing his best to answer them in his almost-perfect English.

One word that he did have trouble with, though, was “horse,” which he pronounced as “whore.” We ignored that at first, until he got into an explanation of memorial statues of soldiers on horseback, and what it means if “the whore has all four feet on the ground” as opposed to “the whore has two feet on the ground.”

“I think you mean to say ‘horse’ said Little Peach, emphasizing the “s” at the end.

“Oh!” said Michel. “So what does ‘whore’ mean?”

I said “puta” and Little Peach said “prostitute” and then we all laughed, and continued our journey past Morro Castle, the open-air market, the booksellers, the museums, the Spanish Embassy, and more until we reached the bar where Michel promised us the best mojitos in Cuba. We each had one, at 11:00 a.m., and then with cups in hand, continued our tour, which ended up lasting at least 90 minutes of main attractions, side streets, and vignettes of daily life in Havana.

And was it better than the bus tour? Absolutely.

Was drinking mojitos before noon a good idea? Perhaps not, especially since we continued to drink Bucanero at lunch and through the afternoon, until the time that we decided to ride on the top of the double-decker hop-on-hop-off bus, our cans of beer neatly tucked into the drink holders. As the bus sped past the horse-cab area, we stood up and yelled, “Michel! Michel Ten!” but I do not know if he heard us.

If you ever go to Havana, please look up Michel 10. I have his phone number, and I’m sure he’d love to hear from you. Tell him that Una Paloma Blanca sent you.

Mark Your Calendar

National Pie Day is January 23, 2009

  • Created by the American Pie Council®, National Pie Day is dedicated to the celebration of pie. As part of our American heritage, this day is a perfect opportunity to pass on the love and enjoyment of pie eating and pie making to future generations.
  • Each year the American Pie Council® sponsors the National Pie Championships® where some of the best pie makers in the United States and Canada enter their pies to compete for the “American Pie Council’s® Best Pie in America” award. For more information on who has the best pies in America, Click here.
  • To celebrate National Pie Day share the warmth of the ultimate “comfort food” by giving the gift of pie to a friend or neighbor. Your generosity will be long remembered.
  • If pie making is not in your schedule, stop by your favorite pie shop or grocery store and bring home a gift of love and enjoyment for the whole family. The coldest of January days will be warmed by a special pie dessert.
  • Watch for winning recipes on our web site or first hand in our newsletter, Pie Times by joining the American Pie Council®.
  • To get tips on getting media coverage for your company on NPD, Click here. (Downloadable PDF).

Four and Twenty Blackbirds

Life has been pretty hectic this week at the Slice of Heaven 24-Hour Pie Shop and Driving Range. I am still catching up after taking some time off to go to a yoga retreat in Costa Rica. Ideally, the balance skills and core strength that I am learning in my yoga practice will ultimately pay off for me in a better golf game, or at least in balance and core strength. Period.

Now I’m having to fill in for The Morning Guy while he is on vacation, and that means actually getting up in the morning. I’ll admit that I’ve been very spoiled in that regard, but I’ll be fine. I have some excellent notes here about how to restock the soda machine, notes which I will immediately pass on to Sparkle Junior and your second-cousin Darnell.

Personally, I’ll be busy working on plans for the Pie Museum, and I know you are looking forward to the day when that opens, although you might well wish we’d get to work on the putting green first.

Perhaps we will.

I already hit a snag in trying to find out about that “Four and Twenty Blackbirds Baked in a Pie” nursery rhyme. It seems that there are a number of stories about what the words really mean, if anything at all. As I read through the possibilities, I definitely found myself leaning toward the Blackbeard the Pirate version, because it is entertaining if nothing else.

Sadly, the idea that “Four and Twenty Blackbirds” was some kind of pirate code was actually concocted by the folks at Snopes.com as an example of “False Authority Syndrome,” in which they pretty nicely prove that we are all fairly gullible folk.

I was disappointed, because I like pretty much any combination of pirates and pie (or golf and pie), and I had hoped the story was true. In fact, I’d already pictured one helluva nice display for the museum, including a signed copy of Tim Powers’ fantastic book On Stranger Tides, which should definitely be on the pie shop bookshelves by now.  If you haven’t read it yet, I’ll consider lending one of my copies to you, but plan on paying a hefty deposit before you take the book out of my sight.

I did, though, find some other references to the four-and-twenty which were interesting, although a bit of a downturn after the pirate possibility, but how do you like this? A 1549 Italian cookbook does, in fact, contains a recipe “to make pies so that birds may be alive in them and flie out when it is cut up.”

Or am I just falling victim to False Authority Syndrome again?

If you know any more about this particular historical pie, do let me know. Check your copy of The Annotated Mother Goose and let me know what you learn.

While you do that, here’s a nice Tom Waits song that recycles some of the nursery rhyme — the “sing a song of six pence” part — in a whole nuther way.


Mixtape from http://favtape.com/search/tom waits midnight lullaby

Eating Humble Pie

Ever since I took up golf, people have been telling me what a “humbling” sport it is, but I find most of life to be humbling, in one way or another.

Just when I think I’m doing a good deed, and flying rapturously into your imaginary embrace of gratitude, I discover that I am totally off-course, perhaps even in free fall, and I remember that no good deed goes unpunished.

Take, for example, the sad case of the lost-and-found cellphone.

In my not unusual insomniac state the other night, I gave up on sleep, pulled on some clothes, left my turquoise conch cottage around 2:00 a.m., and wandered up the lane to the driving range. A couple of my fellow night-golfers were already there, as usual, and we nodded as we do. No need to talk, just hit a few balls and give sleep another try.

This, as you may understand, is one of the reasons why I am so very glad I have The Morning Guy around, since morning is pretty much foreign territory to me. Ah, but from 2:00 to 4:00 a.m., I know each shadow on the wall by name.

To my delight, I was soon in the zone, hitting with ease and grace, thinking that maybe one of these days I’ll try out something besides a nine iron, but no rush. I was doing so well, in fact, that I made an error in judgment and sent a gloating text message to The Morning Guy, knowing full well that his phone would be safely turned off, wherever he might be enjoying his vacation.

To my surprise, just a few minutes later a response came in from his phone. That alone was enough to rattle me, but the kicker was that the message — judging by spelling, length, and content — was from a person or persons unknown.

Having lost my place in the zone, I immersed myself into the problem at hand, and deduced that The Morning Guy’s phone had been lost and found, and I quickly cast myself into the fantasy that I was now the heroine who could save the day, and the cell phone, by pulling the strings needed to reunite man and machinery.

Oh, yes. I was giddy with anticipation, delighted to think how happy The Morning Guy would be with me; so happy, in fact, that he might even give me that long-promised up-close-and-personal golf lesson.

Unfortunately, by the time I did make contact with him, I was not only wildly tired, but also a bit light-headed from living so comfortably in the future, and I’d totally discounted how upset he might possibly be about the lost phone.

In the real world, all I had to do was say, “Someone found your phone. Here’s the number to call,” and I would have been good to go. But I was so damn busy giving myself a really nice, shiny medal for tracking him down out of town and far away — which was certainly far from easy — that when it came time to deliver the news, my words were sadly both sarcastic and silly, thereby canceling out both my effort and my intent.

His somber response was to inform me that my fun at his expense was not fun to him.

Ay yi yi!

I fell to earth in a heap, and I have been banging my head against the pie-shop wall ever since.

All I can do now is to eat the mandatory slice of humble pie, the traditional meal of those who must learn through experience how to act submissively and apologetically, especially when admitting to an error.

I don’t mind the metaphor of humble pie, and it seems fine and appropriate, but I’m not too wild about the real origin of the phrase.

In England in the 1500s, the name used for deer entails, liver, and heart was numbles, or possibly noumbles, nomblys, or even noubles; a hundred years later the term had morphed to a more uniform “umbles,” which were in fact a common pie ingredient. Even Samuel Pepys, a notorious blogger, was known to enjoy a bit of umble pie, as stated in his blog on July 5, 1662: “I having some venison given me a day or two ago, and so I had a shoulder roasted, another baked, and the umbles baked in a pie, and all very well done.”

At the same time, the word humble came into play, meaning “of lowly rank” or “having a low estimate of oneself,” and before long the two terms merged, giving us the current concept of behind the phrase “eating humble pie.”

Interestingly, if you are a fan of pie history as am I, humble pie has followed the path of mince pie and turned itself from a simple meat dish into a tasty and sweet fruit dish. Now, if I were one to stretch metaphors even more than I do already, you might already be seeing a happy ending to this story, and I hope you are.

Time will tell if I have survived this particular meal, but meanwhile, here’s a recipe to put us both on the right path:

Humble Pie

Prepare an unbaked pie shell

Prepare a filling made from:

3 large sweet apples, peeled and cut into small pieces
1 1/2 C of fresh cranberries
1 C light brown sugar

Place filling into pie shell.

Mix up following ingredients and sprinkle on top of the apple-cranberry filling.

3/4 C finely chopped walnuts
1/4 C light brown sugar
1/4 C flour
3 T softened butter
Cinnamon, nutmeg & ginger to taste
Pinch of salt

Bake in a 425-degree oven for 20 minutes.

Cover pie with foil and turn oven down to 350 degrees and bake another 30 minutes.

Serve with excessive humility, apologizing as much as necessary to make yourself feel better. I’ll tell you when you can stop.

Design by Lord Vader

You probably already know I am a big fan of Lord Vader’s domestic design work, especially of those large kitchen appliances in black or dark-gray that were so popular in the late 1980s.

Nothing screams 1988 as well as a black refrigerator with matching dishwasher and range.

Last summer, by the way, I saw Lord Vader’s yacht in transit in the Mediterranean, and it looked absolutely gorgeous, set against the blue sea of Cannes.

Who wouldn’t feel perfectly safe and joyous traveling aboard such a lovely vessel?

Big gray boat

Big gray boat

Now I’m very pleased to see that Lord Vader has branched out into more readily accessible products, such as the toaster below.

I already have a scan toaster on order for the Slice of Heaven 24-Hour Pie Shop and Driving Range, but I don’t think it would hurt at all to have this one as a back-up.

Darth Vader, Dark Lord of the Burnt Toast

dv-toaster.jpgAmongst a certain subset of religious attention seekers (not to mention GoldenPalace.com), this Star Wars toaster should be all the pareidolic proof required to conclude, once and for all, that Darth Vader is not only the Dark Lord of the Sith, but out Dark Messiah as well.

To order your own Lord Vader toaster, click here:Star Wars Toaster

And if you didn’t have time to look up the meaning of pareidolic, here’s some help:

pareidolia (payr.eye.DOH.lee.uh)

n. The erroneous or fanciful perception of a pattern or meaning in something that is actually ambiguous or random.
pareidolic adj.

Your Second-Cousin Darnell and the Goat

The other day, I saw this photo of a scapegoat, and it reminded me of your second-cousin Darnell and his pet goat Jonathan.

It’s not surprising that Darnell would have a goat as a pet, although I think at first it was more of a business proposition.

Darnell seemed to think that the goat would be a zero-energy lawnmowing system for him, but he forgot about the residue that the goat would leave behind, not to mention the plain orneriness of goats in general. You can dress them up with big sunglasses, Hawaiian shirts, and hats, but down deep they are still goats.

We all got a good laugh out of it the first time that Darnell brought the goat by the Slice of Heaven 24-Hour Pie Shop and Driving Range, thinking I might want to pay for the Jonathan’s lawn-chewing services, but I did not want the goat anywhere near my turf.

Sue Ten felt much the same way, although she did fall prey to the unfortunate idea that Jonathan could work as a bouncer for payday parties. Unfortunately, the goat did not have a lot of discretion about who to bounce and who to retain, so that idea was short-lived but memorable.

Jonathan pretty much stays home these days, in his little shed under the big ficus by Darnell’s doublewide off Highway 441. I know Darnell would like to move to Pancho Villas closer to us, but they have a pretty well enforced no-goats rule, made all the stronger by the property manager who was one of the fools who picked up Darnell and Jonathan when they were hitchhiking to work at The Swing Barn.

Most reasonable people would not stop to pick up a man and a goat walking by the side of the road unless they were driving a pick-up truck or maybe an animal-control van. At least, I hope they would not stop, especially once they saw that the man in question was indeed your second-cousin Darnell.

I think you were away when this happened, so you may not know why so many people now will not pick up Darnell under any circumstances.

Typically, the scenario went like this. A friend of Darnell’s would see him and Jonathan strolling down the side of the road, and would roll to a stop to shout out “Hey.” Darnell would lean over to chat through the open window, being just as charming and pleasant as ever, talking about everything and anything except where he was going or why he had a goat with him.

Eventually, the driver would make the standard error in judgment and ask where they were headed. “Oh, just down to The Swing Barn,” Darnell would say. “Oh, look at the time. We’re a little late and Sue Ten will be really ticked off. Jonathan’s her new bouncer.”

The driver would take the bait, no matter that Sue Ten had already told Darnell in no uncertain terms that Jonathan was goat-non-grata, and Darnell would open the back door to let Jonathan clamber in.

“Now that goat’s not going to do anything, is he?” asked the driver.

“Oh, no,” said Darnell.

The merry crew would take off, and within a matter of seconds, Jonathan would put his horns up and back through the headliner, take a bite out of the driver’s padded neck rest, and/or discharge an impressive supply of pungent pellets and more on the back seat.

Come with me now as we listen for the sound of squealing brakes as the driver evicts his passengers and then flees the scene.

Of course, Darnell by then is all the closer to his destination, and it’s a rare driver who will file a claim for goat damage when he has to admit he was the fool who let the goat into the car in the first place.

My favorite story about Darnell and Jonathan though took place when Darnell was partying in the old Parker place, an abandoned two-story house that had long since lost its paint, windows, and doors, replacing all with moss and spiderwebs.

One rainy day, Darnell had decided that it was too wet outside for Jonathan, so he took the goat upstairs and tied his lead to an old bedstead, the kind that the Mummy might have used for afternoon naps, and Darnell headed over here for a pie of strawberry-rhubarb pie and a vanilla milkshake. Before long, he got into a gin rummy game, and then decided to hit a few balls, and he was coasting along pretty well before someone asked about Jonathan, the way most people might say, “How’s the wife and kids?”

Darnell jumped up and headed back down the road to the house. He told me later that he could hear Jonathan bleating long before he could see the goat, hanging out of the second-story window, “holding on by his tippy-toes,” as Darnell put it.

I do wish someone had been there with a camera. I know none of us have ever seen Darnell move as fast as he did that day, swooping up the stairs to Jonathan’s rescue. I don’t know about you, but I do not want to even think about their joyous reunion.

Needless to say, Jonathan is now a first-floor only sort of goat, his hitchhiking days are over, and he does not even have a job. But does Darnell still love him? You bet. Loyalty is one of your second-cousin Darnell’s strong points, as much as it scares us all, just a little bit.

Hollywood Halloween

I still need to scrape the glitter off my face after last night’s Hollywood Halloween. Yes, I know that yesterday was really All Soul’s Day, but we’re talking Hollywood, and we had to take into account the writers’ strike and other details that might conceivably caused a slight delay in our participation in festivities here at the Slice of Heaven 24-Hour Pie Shop and Driving Range. I’m pretty sure, too, that we weren’t the only ones running a day late, or even a dollar short.

I’d thought that everyone would have been pretty much costumed out, especially after Sue Ten’s usual high-tone event over at The Swing Barn on Friday night, but you know how it is once people get into too much sugar and dressing-up. They just want more, more, more.

We had the first arrivals walk in to The Pie Shop around 8:00 p.m., and we served up some of that nice Pumpkin Pie Cheesecake that the India Night girls are always craving. Just for fun, I wore a pink and white waitress costume, modeled on the one in the movie Waitress. I had also pulled on my blonde French-twist wig and applied the blue eye-shadow and glitter liberally. I wanted to chew gum, too, but I’m one of those people without the gum-chewing gene and it prevents me from doing anything else very well.

Joe Sparkle Junior dressed as The Morning Guy, which I thought was especially funny, and Sue Ten came in for a while in full geisha girl regalia. She didn’t stay for long, since it turned out she was really on her way to a dress rehearsal for a local production of The Mikado. She did drop off one of her wonderful pumpkin and potato casseroles seasoned with ginger and allspice, though. Delicious.

As always, we offered our “all the golf balls you can hit” rate of $10, but gave free balls to everyone who brought in some reasonably edible food to share, and before long, we had quite a line-up out on the range, under the lights which were unmercifully bright as we watched the sliver of a moon come up in the sky. People wandered in and out, balancing their paper plates full of chocolate brains, spicy guacamole dip, buffalo wings, organic celery, and watermelon jell-o shots.

One of the girls came in a clown costume that was quite cheery and sweet at the beginning of the night, but grew increasingly frightening until by midnight the melting make-up made her look more and more like the Joker in the last Batman movie. Plus, after three or four margaritas that she’d smuggled over from The Swing Barn, she had developed the disconcerting habit of going up to people, just after they’d set up their shots, and she would leer at them and say, “Why so serious?” Then she’d launch into a chilling and maniacal laugh.

I had to ask her husband, Bob “He No Dead” Marley, to steer The Clown over the the picnic tables so people could work their drivers without a look of terror creeping over their faces. We soon discovered that feeding her chocolate-cinnamon mousse pie did nothing to calm her down, but deep-dish apple was a fairly reasonable antidote.

Earlier in the evening though, when The Clown was still pretty docile, I noticed that one of The Stepford Wives was blissfully welcoming her to the neighborhood and suggesting that she might want to join some of the other wives in their exercise and make-up classes.

“Really, my dear,” said The Wife to The Clown, “you certainly do have a way with make-up and color, but you are in Stepford now, and you might want to tone down that look just a teeny little notch or two, and of course I am telling you this as a friend because I know we are going to be very, very good friends now, aren’t we?”

The Clown continued to smile and nod, and The Wife continued to preach the virtues of living in Stepford, all the while smiling up at her handsome Stepford Husband as she repeatedly replaced the drink in his hand, the ball on his tee, and the cigarette in his mouth. Several of the regulars stood by and watched in amazement at this particular duo in their award-winning performance, which probably ended the minute they got into their SUV to drive home.

Another interesting couple was Joan Crawford and a Philadelphia Flyers hockey player. Joan was scolding him about using wire hangers, but he didn’t seem to mind, and changed to topic to Philadelphia baseball, little knowing that Joan was a die-hard Red Sox fan.

“Once the Red Sox are out, who cares?” said Mommie Dearest.

“You’re a Red Sox fan?” he asked suspiciously.

“Oh, yes,” she said.

“I’m from New York,” he said. “We are enemies.”

Then he pivoted on his skates and stomped away. Thank god he was still in the pie shop and not out ruining my turf. Mommie Dearest just muttered “Spawn of Satan” and went on to wave her wire hanger at someone else.

Nearby, Wednesday from The Addams Family was giving some excellent golf tips to Nurse Mildred Rached from One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, but then Rached was called away to administer medication to a tottering Amy Winehouse. Neither Amy nor Rached got in a single golf shot, but at least Amy didn’t hurt anyone too badly when she fell down, again and again and again.

By the end of her visit to the driving range, though, Nurse Rached had transformed into Nurse Crotchett, and her performance had become increasingly X-rated. We all stopped to smoke a cigarette once she passed out beside Amy and lay quietly in the grass for the next hour or so.

Meanwhile, Mommie Dearest pointed out to me that the comatose Amy’s bra strap had slipped own over her tattoo, and the strap was decidedly orange, not unlike the color of my formerly favorite bra, the one that did not return from the BahamasAir luggage system.

This prompted Wednesday Addams to give us a sweet little soliloquy about her days working at Victoria’s Secret, and told us she had always been “the nice one” and never interrupted couples who were having sex in the changing rooms. Note to self: Always look for the most innocent clerk in sight when planning assignations at V.S., even in my mind.

I also noticed a number of James Bond lookalikes passing though, covering five decades of spy movies; one Terminator; two Incredible Hulks; numerous U.S. Presidents and presidential candidates; a dozen or so golfers ranging from The Shark to Spiderman to Happy Gilmore; Jason Varitek; several of The Baldwin Brothers, although they did not seem to know each other; and Joe the Plumber, who confessed that he was not even registered to vote.

Back in The Pie Shop, the cast of Grease took over the sound system and began singing “You’re the one that I want ooh ooh ooh” until I pulled the plug on them and sent them over to The Swing Barn where the acoustics are better, or so I told them. Sue Ten will probably be calling me about that later on. We did keep Sonny and Cher to ourselves, though, and set them up at a table where they could sign autographs and feed each other excessively gooey lemon-meringue pie. They were so cute, back in the early days. I’m sure you remember.

Around 10:00, we had a lull until a crew of Fem-Bot Pirates arrived stark, raving sober, and in search of Georgia Peach Pie and coffee ice cream. When they’d had their fill of pie-booty and black coffee, they went out to the range and offered an astounding exhibition of synchronized golfing. Perhaps they were German pirates, I’m not sure. They were certainly efficient, and knew how to take the minimum amount of fabric to create the maximum amount of costume. Their ability to hit golf balls while wearing high-heeled boots was quite stunning, too.

This morning, as I said, we have a fair amount of clean-up to do, starting with my face. I may even break my no-caffeine rule and have a cup of Joe, the plain-Jane variety that I know you like so well. Remember, we do not serve lattes or mochachinos or frappacoffee or half-fat or low-fat or any other variation other than black or regular. You can put in your own sugar or Sweet N Low, and I really don’t care how much or how little you use, as long as you remember to leave Sparkle a tip. He works hard at not spilling, and that should be rewarded. It’s not as easy as it looks.

We hope you had a good weekend, too. Remember the time change, if you are somewhere where that happens. I’d forgotten, myself, but the clock in the kitchen has shifted, so I know The Morning Guy must have slipped in at some point in the night to make the fix. Now that I think of it, one of those James Bond boys did look strangely familiar.

Halloween Music

I’m feeling just a little bad that I was out of town and missed Halloween at The Swing Barn last night. I had a call from Sue Ten this morning, but she was somewhat vague about exactly what had taken place over there. I’m guessing movies on the side of the wall, orange beer, and a lot of fake blood for Sparkle Junior to clean up yet. Possibly some real blood, too.

The Morning Guy left me a note to say he’ll be gone on vacation for a couple of days, too, so I won’t be able to get much information out of him, but what else is new?  A few of the regulars — including yours truly — had a pool going, betting on whether or not he’d hang in here for the whole week.

I won, but just barely. I said he’d make it until 6:30 on Friday night, and I drove in at 6:35, just in time to see the taillight of his motorcycle as he headed home. I didn’t even have the chance to tell him that I’d found a replacement for my orange bra that disappeared from my luggage, somewhere between Florida and Havana.

All that aside, I do have one nice piece of fun to share with you. Take a look at www.favtape.com some time when you’re on the search for an elusive tune or performer, and try your luck.

I just typed in “halloween” and came up with this whole list, good to go and ready to play: A few tunes for Halloween.

Enjoy!

The Philosopher Detective

Little Peach stopped in at the Pie Shop the other day to show me some of the photos she took on our trip to Havana, and to reminisce a bit, especially about our dinner with The Philosopher Detective.  I wish we had a good shot of the him to show you. I know you probably think we made him up, but really he was our companion for an afternoon and evening, and quite a remarkable one at that.

We met him on our bi-lingual bus tour, the one during which I gave away my pink hat, as you may recall. By the way, I did look at a possible pink-hat replacement when I was in Costa Rica, but it still was not the same; nor was the one that I found today at the local thrift shop with “Vail’ embroidered on it. Perhaps next spring I’ll buy a Red Sox one after all.

To continue, as we all toured the Morro Castle, the Philosopher Detective and I began to chat, and then we compared our purchases back on the bus. He’d bought rum and cigars for friends, and I’d bought a single dark-rum nip for myself. Until that point, he may well have been one of the people who thought I was a Cuban. (In my memory now, as you can imagine, most people did.) I told him I’d only bought the nip to drink on the bus since I couldn’t take any of the lovely stuff home. “I’m an American,” I said, and he replied “I suppose someone has to be. Might as well be you.” He won me over immediately.

By the time we reached the walking tour part of our program, Little Peach knew much of his life history, including his long relationship with the marvelous Maggie, who was off on her own holiday with friends from way back when. By the time we all three decided to drop the tour and go off by ourselves for dinner, we were fast friends, at least for the one evening.

First, though, our tour guide did what tour guides tend to do: He led us into an establishment undoubtedly run by friends of his. We caught on to that when we noticed that the bartender already had an icy mojito waiting for our guide the minute that we walked in the door.  The place — a faux Irish pub complete with regulation mariachi band — was touted as yet another Hemingway waterhole. I think it’s safe to say that there was no drinking establishment in Havana where Hemingway did not knock back a pop or two.

We settled in upstairs, where we were pretty much a captive audience, for “a break” and shelled out a bit of cash for mojitos and beer, applauding on cue for the band. I could see that both the Philosopher Detective and Little Peach were getting a little antsy, but I wasn’t sure why until we were out on the pavement again, and TPD burst out saying, “It was all I could do to keep from leaping over the table to free that poor bird from its cage.”

Yes, a man of passion, and that’s when he won Little Peach, too. Allow me to insert a little background note here: If you were to arrive at Little Peach’s house with your car windshield smashed and cracked beyond belief, and perhaps even a shard or two of glass wedged into your forehead, she would help you mop up the blood, but she would first want you to go back and check on the health of the bird that you’d hit. (Yes, that’s one of the many reason we love her, isn’t it?)

TPD was cut of the same cloth, and we were delighted to discover that he knew of a charming rooftop restaurant where we would continue our conversation at leisure. The lower level of the place was a jazz bar, and the music was dead on perfect. We passed by the mahogany bar and beckoning chairs and entered the tiny grill-worked elevator that took us to the roof, where we were treated to a view of Morro Castle, the harbor, and the sea at dusk.

To our surprise, our waiter was reluctant to offer recommendations for dinner, but he explained that it was his first day on the job and he could not yet personally vouch for the quality of the food. I thought that was an interesting perspective, rather than telling us  “It’s all good.”

Once we had ordered at our own risk, TPD told us about his career in London, conducting investigations and interrogations, and we learned that the most valuable weapon in his considerable arsenal was silence. “Yes,” he said, “more often than not, you’ll find out what you want to know if you can just out wait the poor fool you’re questioning.”

I’ve understood that myself, by intuition, but I’ve never been able to put it into practice. I always crack first and spit out another question. What about you? Let’s try it sometime.

We also talked about humor and writing and learning to live a new life. I’ve done that as you know, as so has TPD, when his career as a working detective suddenly ended as his body collapsed and he found himself in a hospital bed, rather than at the scene of the next crime.

His dark world, in which he well knew the difference between the living, the just-dead, and the long-dead, rapidly shifted into one in which he knew he had to find a new better way to live and to cope and to communicate.

An introspective man, he shared his regrets and joys, with an self-questioning aspect that we enjoyed tremendously, as he played both the interrogator and subject in his own story. Part of the tale included a period in which he gained so much weight that he had become whale-like in proportion, but then took extreme measures to drop back down to “normal” size.

“What a pleasure it is,” he said, “just to go into a shop and buy clothes ready made. What a joy, just to walk down the street next to my Maggie, not lagging behind so people would not know I was with her.”

“I wondered about that,” I surprised myself by saying, “because you walk like a fat man, but you really are not fat at all.”

Yes, he did have that slow deliberate step, as if the ground might crumble beneath him, and he knew it.  I know what it is like to lose 35 pounds, but he’d lost 140!

As the evening danced on, we listened to the rooftop band play traditional Cuban music, heard the canon at the Castle fire, watched the sunlight fade, and saw the full moon rise among the dark tumbling clouds.

We talked of families, lovers, friends, travel, books, The Wind in the Willows, and everything else that touched our hearts at that particular moment in time, and we topped it off with some ice cream that the waiter could not identify.

“It’s tiramisu,” I told him, after a taste or two or three. TPD and Little Peach nodded in agreement. Yes. Tiramisu ice cream for dessert, on a rooftop in Havana.

Before we pushed back our chairs and headed to the elevator, I asked TPD how many people he thought were sitting behind him.  The terrace restaurant had been pretty much empty when we arrived.

“Six,” he guessed.

“Turn around,” I said. There were 18 people seated at one long table, just getting up to fill their plates at a buffet.

When I see people come into the Pie Shop and become so engrossed in conversation that they don’t even see the other people in the room, I’m always a bit jealous. Tthen again, I feel that pleasant isolation so often myself when you and I have the chance to talk the way that we do, connecting on so many levels. Let’s do it again real soon.

Make Your Own Universe Kit

I know you are not surprised to see this heading here, after all, isn’t making your own universe what life is all about, especially here at the Slice of Heaven 24-hour Pie Shop and Driving Range?

My own universe, as you may have noticed, seems to focus primarily on pie and golf, but maybe you have other ideas for your personal copyrighted piece of reality. I certainly hope so, and I’d love for you to tell me all about it, perhaps in private, at a later date over a nice piece of virtual-reality pie.

Anyway, I love the idea of a “make your own universe kit” and I hope you will remember this item as the holidays approach, now that my birthday is finally over, and National Novel Writing Month is starting to kick in.

Some of you, though, will immediately recognize this entry as just another foil that I am using to let Schrodinger’s Cat of of the box, dead and alive. Get over it.

By the way, I included the comments section to this purloined New Science blog entry because they just cracked me up, which is not that hard, as you know. For even more examples of the fine art of commenting, take a look at the responses that poured in when Boing Boing ran its own blog entry on this item, too.

Heading - Short Sharp Science

A science news blog from  Heading - NewScientist Blogs

October 31, 2008 2:01 PM

Multiverse machine.jpgThinking about the perfect Christmas present for your egocentric friends? What about a make-your-own-universe kit which will allow them to play God and create an unlimited number of new worlds. The kit goes on sale next month for $20.
The kit, created by Jonathon Keats – a conceptual artist from San Francisco – relies on the multiverse theory of the universe that arises from quantum mechanics.

If two events are possible, quantum theory assumes that both occur simultaneously – until an observer determines the outcome. For example, in Schrödinger’s famous thought experiment, in which his cat may have been killed with a 50 per cent probability, the cat is both alive and dead until someone checks. When the observation is made, the universe splits into two, one for each possible outcome. For example, Schrödinger’s cat would be alive in one universe and dead in the other universe.

According to the theory, any kind of measurement causes the universe to split and this is the basis of Keats’ new device. His universe creator uses a piece of uranium-doped glass to create a steam of alpha particles, which are then detected using a thin sliver of scintillating crystal. Each detection causes the creation of a new universe.

Given the rate at which Uranium decays, Keats’ claims this should allow users to create literally trillions of universes. The device will go on sale at the Modernism Gallery in San Francisco on 20 November.

David Robson
New Scientist intern

Categories: Physics & Maths

Tags:

4 Comments:
All comments should respect the New Scientist House Rules. If you think a particular comment breaks these rules then please let us know, quoting the comment in question.

The outer glass blocks alphas. UR DOIN
IT WRONG.

Look up spinthariscope, this is 100+ years
old.

The scintillator will catch gammas occasionally
though.

i’m in ur universe, pwning yur species

could you not just put a cat in a box and leave it there a while to achieve the same results?

Ah. More badly worded, misleading tripe. Shouldn’t anyone writing for New Scientist really, you know, know a bit about science?

By Andy Baker on November 1, 2008 11:02 AM
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Pumpkin Cheesecake Pie

A few weeks ago, some of the girls and I got together for what I thought was to be an “Evening in India,” but what turned out to be a continuation of my month-long birthday celebration. What a treat! We had a lovely time sitting by the pool over at Pancho Villas, the new gated community down by the beach, and then we had quite a bit of Indian food for dinner, punctuated with photo ops, and followed by a screening of the Bollywood movie Water.

The only thing missing, we decided, was pumpkin cheesecake.  I should mention here that we did have pumpkin pie, and we did have cheesecake, too, and while alternating bites was certainly delicious, the combo would have been even better, so I promised to add a pumpkin-cheesecake pie recipe to the Slice of Heaven menu, and here it is.

For the crust:

Make a graham-cracker crust. Surely you know how to do that by now.  Cinnamon grahams are the best for this spicy sort of concoction.

For the filling
1 1/2 C canned pumpkin
3 eggs, the larger the better
1 1/2 t cinnamon, 1/2 t nutmeg, 1 t ginger, 1/2 t salt
1/2 C dark brown sugar – pack it in there
24 oz softened cream cheese
1/2 C sugar
2 T whipping cream
1T cornstarch
1 t pure vanilla
Dash of bourbon

For the topping
2 C sour cream
2T sugar
Another dash of bourbon, maybe a little more generous this time

Preparation

Make the crust and chill. Don’t skimp on the “chill” part.

Whisk together the pumpkin, eggs, spices, salt, and brown sugar.

Cream the cream cheese and sugar, then whip in the cream, cornstarch, vanilla, and booze. Add the pumpkin mix, and keep at it until it’s all smooth and mellow.

Get out your chilled crust and fill it up with this lovely mixture.

Bake in the middle of the oven at  350°F for 50 to 55 minutes. Test for doneness with a toothpick. When it comes out clean, put the pie on a rack to cool for at least five minutes

Meanwhile, whisk together the sour cream, sugar, and bourbon..

Spread the topping over the pie and bake it for another five minutes, and you are good to go.

Yoga Retreat Golf Meditation

“Focus,” he says, “on a faraway sound.”

Instructed well, I still listen instead
for the silence just beyond the sounds
of the Costa Rican rain forest:
the stream, the wind, the birds, the dogs.

I listen as always
for the perfect click
of the well-placed stroke
lofting a ball
somewhere yet
behind the silence that hovers
between the birds and the monkeys
and the rain forest sky.

Not far from here,
in the deep dark serenity
a billboard blocks out the pasture
strewn with perfectly lean
cattle — and shade.

I’m listening for silence
but seeing the billboard
promising beaches, promising golf.
Or promising sand traps and pain,
I’m not quite sure which,
and I have quite enough pain
already
in shoulders and spine and in knees.

I’m listening for silence
but drifting myself
into a turqouise-striped beach chair
striped canvas above me
an umbrella in my drink
that maybe is rum in a wild carved-out pineapple
or maybe straight rum in a souvenir glass.

You, of course, are there with me,
contented,
relaxed.

I’m listening for silence
but I’m swinging my club
seeing perfection
simplicity
ease.

I hope I remember
what my body can do
when I come out of the rain forest
and back to the lights
where I can listen for silence
behind the sounds
of the driving range at night.

Then maybe I’ll hear
the song that you’re humming
behind the silence that hovers
between the birds and the lizards
and the Florida sky.

Museums: Pie and Revolution

I’ve been wondering about adding a Pie Museum to the Slice of Heaven 24-Hour Pie Shop and Driving Range. It seems to me that it might draw in a few more people in the off season, and besides that I like the idea. There’s certainly no shortage of golf museums and gol halls of fame, but pie appears to have been short shrifted.

I’m sure that there are some glorious pie paintings, prints, and drawings that I could instal there. I already know of several sculptures, or at least ceramics. Several movies have certainly featured pie: whipped cream pie, shaving cream pie, warm apple pie, and other varieties. I always liked the John Travolta movie Michael, in which he played an angel, supposedly the very one who invented pie, and it includes a lovely scene of Andie McDowell singing about pie. Then there’s the more recent movie Waitress, and on network television, there’s Pushing Daisies about a piemaker with the touch of life, or death.

Perhaps I can also include some history of pie, science of pie, and the future of pie. There’s a lot of pie memorabilia, not to mention equipment, costuming, and cookery. For example, there’s that four-and-twenty blackbirds story. Perhaps you’d like to know more about that. Let me know. The museum is just in the planning stages, and we have plenty of time to get it right. Perhaps we can come up with something as appealing as Cranberry World in Plymouth, Massachusetts, or even the World’s Largest Teflon Frying Pan.

I like all kinds of museums, ranging from the tiny one that used to be — and maybe still is — in Silver Plume, Colorado back in the days when local residents freely grew pot plants in the window-boxes of their homes, to the utterly fantastic Provincial Museum in British Columbia.

My favorite fictional museum is the Barnum Museum in the book by the same name, written by Stephen Millhauser who also wrote the short story that became the movie The Illusionist.

In Havana, though, my favorite place in the city was the Museum of the Revolution.

When I sent my dear friend Ms. Jay my collage from Cuba, she wrote back that she was very glad that I had been to the Museum of the Revolution, and said, “I could picture you looking at the wax sculptures of Che and Camilo coming out of the jungle.”

Yes, and I could see her there, too. For me, the Musee was the high point of the trip, my primary reason for being there on the island South of Key West. The building itself was once the dictator Batista’s palace, and the ornate architecture said a lot about that time and place when there was such a huge gap between the haves and the havenots. Revolution, indeed. Our tour guide Michel Ten told us a story about a group of students who tried to storm the palace in Batista’s days, but Batista easily escaped through one of the many secret tunnels. The students? They did not survive their act of revolution.

What drives a people to revolution? Extremities, and that was very clear just in seeing the contrast of the building, and imagining it as it once had been, with the simple displays, and open windows, and peeling paint on the interior walls.

I’m sure the displays in the Museum of the Revolution did not meet the standards of even the most basic interpretation in the Smithsonian, and yet I don’t remember ever being so moved by a museum, so touched. I once read an essay in which a young boy visiting the British Museum once and reported back that that the thing he loved best was Nelson’s shirt, “with his own blood on it”

Everything in the Museum of the Revolution, it seemed, had someone’s own blood on it. And, yes, that’s what I like best, too. Nothing really cleaned up or laundered. Nothing polished or restored. But room after room, in what had once been a fabulous palace, I read and saw the tale of an island and its people, their struggles, and their blood.

The lack of artifacts was what spoke to me the loudest: A placard related the story of a hero, and then in the case, a piece of cutlery with a note: “Here is a spoon he once used.” For another, a pair of cuff-links. Letters from Fidel, written in perfect Palmer method penmanship. Photographs of friends and comrades, in good times and bad.

I read recently, that people who grew up in the time of balck and white television are more prone to dream in black and white, rather than in color. I dream in color. And I don’t know where that quite fits in here, except to remind me to tell you that nearly all the photos in this museum were black and white, and as we went through the rooms, we eventuallyl came to one with a black and white television, and old black and white television, playing a continuous loop showing a plane landing, and then two soldiers solemnly coming down the stairs, with the box containing Che’s remains hoisted on their sholdiers.

Not a coffin. A box. No pretense that all of Ernesto Che Guevara’s remains were there, so much gone already into the earth or scattered. I sat in my gray-metal folding chair in the unbearable brightness of the room and watched the loop again and again, until I felt I could finally move on to the next section where, indeed, I did see the wax figures of Che and Camilo running out of the jungle.

A crowd of school children had come into the museum earlier, surging around me as I squatted to read the inscriptions next to weapons and cufflinks. By then, I’d been asked a couple of times by adults, if I were Cuban, ut the kids had no doubt that I was a foreigner in their midst. They looked at me with curiosity, but also with comradeship, explained things to me in slow careful Spanish, which I did not understand as well as I felt the effort they were taking to talk to me, and then they ran ahead to point at their next favorite item or display.

By the time I caught up with them again, two of the boys, maybe nine or ten years old, were posing in front of the wax figures of Che and Camilo, running out of the jungle; two young boys, eerily wearing the same solemn faces as the soldiers who had carried the remains down the stairs from the plane. No joking, no fooling around.

Even now, my mind is full of those images of artifacts in tattered cases, and unsmiling school boys who have learned well the message of work, learn, and fight.

But then, all I could do was to wipe my eyes, find Little Peach at the edge of the crowd, and walk down the sweeping Scarlett O’Hara staircase to the floor below.

We next went into the ballroom, filled with gilt-edged mirrors which, I’m sure, only hinted at how opulent the building had really once been. Our eyes were drawn up to the grandios mural on the ceiling, and I lay down on the floor to see the whole thing. As I did, coins clattered out of my white-pants pockets all around me, echoing hollowly through the room. I gathered them up and lay down again, Little Peach guiding me to the best spot to see the host of angels and also the fire that they were dousing. A crystal chandelier hung down from the center of that ferocious heaven, and I lay below, thinking of Che and Camilo running out of the jungle, and the unsmiling boys.

No one told me not to lay on the floor. Then again, no one else joined me there.

I felt colorless and pale as we left the building and headed back up the street toward the Museum of Contemporary art, a modern structure built around an open courtyard and sculpture garden. We started at the top and began to work our way down, but I did not find much there that appealed to me, so I left Little Peach on her careful and thoughtful stroll and went down to the courtyard to reflect on what I’d seen — perfect, temperature-controlled and well-lighted painting and sculpture– and I wondered at the sadness that pervaded everything for me.

Perhaps the sorrow was left over from the Museum of the Revolution, or maybe it was a sense of art that was never alowed to fully blossom, kept in check somehow. The impressionist paintings there all reminded me of the French masters, but they seemed to be copies, not originals. And the more recent images seemed to be pervaded with death, disease, famine, and pestilence.

I wanted more originality, more spirit. I wanted the Cuban art of the murals and the streets to find its way into the fine galleries of the world, too. The art museum left me feeling unsettled and unhappy. Drowsy, I rested on a bench and watched a busload of teenagers in red tee-shirts milling around outside the museum doors.

In time, Little Peach joined me, lifting my spirits, and we sauntered companionably back up the street to our hotel, at an easy pace, not at all like Che and Camilo running out of the jungle.

The Things That They Took

The bookshelves in the pie shop are still looking a little sparse, so I’m adding a few volumes to them today, starting with anything written by Martin Cruz Smith. Everywhere in Cuba, especially when we were near the Malecon, I saw scenes out of Havana Bay with Russian Investigator Arkady Renko continuing his tortured comprehension of good and evil. Arkady would never be one to say, “It’s all good.” I always liked that about him.

I’m also going to donate my copy of Slim and None by Dan Jenkins, mostly for his character Grady Don whose flatstick had health problems, starting with diabetes-meningitis: “‘Flat stick.’ The putter. Putters can catch other things, as Grady Don saw it. Heart trouble, flu, ulcers, constipation. He claimed he once owned a mallet-head putter that actually spoke to him one day after it rimmed out a one-foot putt. I was aware that the putter is the most independent club in the bag. At times you can hardly talk to it in a civil tone. The best thing you can do with a putter that betrays you is kill the sumbitch. But you have to make sure it’s dead. Drowning may not do it. Grady Don insists that putters can swim, and some can grow into sharks and work their way into the oceans where they cruise close to beaches and wait to bite the leg off a vacationing golfer when he goes in for a dip.”

The description goes on from there, with Grady Don concluding that “nobody could manufacture a putter that wouldn’t catch syphilis eventually.”

I stand forewarned.

My golf instructor Sandy recently gave me a putter, and I bought another one at Goodwill. In either case, I need to have one or the other re-gripped, which is not a problem since my sister Melbie gave me a gift certificate at the “Putter Around” golf shop for just such a project. The question I have now is, “Why bother? It’s just going to betray me or die an untimely death anyway.”

Another book that I am adding to the Pie Shop shelves is The Things That They Carried by Tim O’Brien. What I’ve always loved about that book is the chapter listing quite precisely what they — a platoon of soldier in Vietnam — carried in their packs. O’Brien created a litany from what might have been a mundane list, and now college freshmen everywhere are challenged to figure out how he did it.

Having finally retrieved my errant luggage from BahamasAir, I find myself creating my own catalog of things, no where as poignant as O’Brien’s, but a tribute nonetheless as I mull over “the things that they took.” I can’t claim to know who “they” might be in this case, and I’ve already written about tossing my pink hat into the stream of commerce in Havana. That was choice. Inventorying the items missing from my luggage has been another exercise altogether, a last chance to remember some articles that I will never see again, and never replace.

So, what were the things that they took?

They took all the jewelry out of a ziplock bag, one I’d tossed into my so-called carry-on as an after thought. They left they bag but took the necklaces, four that I can recall: a hand carved dolphin that my former boss Chris gave me before I left Maine for my ill-fated move to Missouri, a silver square cross from Argentina, a blue glass pendant from last summer’s trip to Burano, and a bit of Roman glass that I bought on our cruise. They took my fake gold Chinese Rolex, one of three that I brought back from Zhuhai. Can you believe it still worked?

They took two sterling rings, each depicting a dragon of sorts, one Celtic, one more abstract. My dragon rings served to remind me of the protective dragons that had started to visit me in meditations during a bad time, years ago. I still have those dragons, I don’t really need the rings anymore.

I’ll miss the bracelets they took, one made of Venetian glass beads and one that was a cheap “wishing bracelet,” a twin of one I’d given Little Peach when taking a cruise in Europe was on our minds but not yet in our reality. Now it’s a memory.

They took a copy of World War Z, a birthday gift from a surprising colleague. A year ago, he gave me a gift for the the first time, a copy of William Gibson’s Pattern Recognition, saying “I hope you haven’t read this.” I had read it, in tandem with The Tipping Point, and I thoroughly enjoyed reading it a second time, following up with two more Gibson books during the next few months. I didn’t even get to browse World War Z, but I’ll buy a new copy and read it soon. It won’t be the same.

They took the birthday card that was with the book. They left the envelope.

They took my new prescription sunglasses. I suspect they’ll have to knock out the lenses for them to be of any use, my eyesight is so peculiar. They also took a pair of red-framed computer glasses, the ones that I am wearing in my Beast Empress portrait by James Harvey as part of his “100 Pirates in 100 Days Project.” They left the oversized glasses case, and inside I found a fortune that I’d gotten from a cookie a few weeks ago: “A big fortune will descend upon you this year.” I just can’t remember where I got the cookie.

They took a black bra, the first one I bought after losing weight and discovering I’d been wearing the wrong size, too big in girth, too small in mass. They took my orange bra, an impulse buy at Victoria’s Secret, expensive and satisfying, one I’d worn on every trip, short or long, since May. And they took the straps to a beige convertible bra, but left the bra itself, which shall now be forever strapless.

They took a folder of papers, bills and other documents that I fully intended to address on vacation. At least, I think that’s what became of them.

They took my New Zealand hat, the one that inspired the gift of the pink hat.

And lastly, they took my little six-dollar alarm clock from Walgreen’s. I suspect that they were after the batteries. Now when I wake up in the night, I have to look at the phone to see what time it is. I can’t tell you how wrong that is. I liked that clock since it didn’t glow or warble or tick. It just was. And now it is. Somewhere else.

Perhaps, I shall have to call on the allegiance of the Beast Empress’s legions and go get it all back. Perhaps not.

The Beast Empress

The Beast Empress

Karaoke Golf

It’s Friday night, and my sister Melbie wants to sing karaoke at the Swing Barn with some of the other girls. Normally, I don’t care that much for karaoke, but Sue Ten’s big screen really is big enough for me to see the words, so I’m thinking I should join Mel when I am done with my practice.

For some reason, there are more little girls on the the range than I have ever seen before. I am making a mental note to myself to have The Morning Guy check into ordering some of those wicked cute little pink golf sets so we can capitalize on this trend.

At the same time, I’m a little disheartened to see nine-year olds in pink shorts and wild, curly, uncombable hair driving balls almost twice as far as I can. Yet.  As I listen and watch, I understand what The Morning Guy meant when he told me that some golf tips, notably Tip Number 2 and Tip Number 3, must be demonstrated. I hope some day he will get around to doing that for me.

I watch a dad with one of the little girls as he demonstrates again and again the rhythm that he wants her to mimic. She listens, she hits, and her drive is good. Then the dad says, “Now do that again three more times,” and she bursts into tears. Granted, this is after almost an hour of relentless coaching, but it breaks my heart. Her two younger sisters ignore the entire scene, and soon I see all three the little girls following Sparkle Junior around as he picks up empty ball buckets and takes them back to the shop.

The dad meanwhile hits a dozen or so balls before collecting his cool and gathering up his girls to go inside for some peppermint ice cream pie with an oreo-cookie crust. He wins me over once again.

My own practice seems odd since I am watching the clock, and that’s not something I normally do anymore. Typically, I take all the time I want to hit 100 or more balls: No one is waiting on me, no one is looking for me, no one is calling my name, and I love that freedom.

I find it odd to be rushing to meet Melbie, but I am compulsive about being on time, and the rushing, in fact, does not seem to have any great affect on my results. What I’m missing, I think, is not so much improvement in my game, but the leisure to enjoy the details.

I’ll also tell you that I’m looking forward to hearing Melbie sing. I know she’ll outshine everyone there, and will totally surprise the folks who don’t already know her. Sue Ten and I will warm them up with Benny and the Jets, but Melbie will knock them out with Desperado.

I’m remembering riding through Havana on the bus top with Little Peach, who wanted me to sing some blues for her. I had offered jug-band, but she said no no no. She grew up with jug-band music and could not longer abide it. I started to sing I Can’t Make You Love Me and she stops me on that, too. “I want blues, but not sad,” she says. And I am stumped.

As I finish up my last few hits, I know the song I should have sung, and I hope it’s on Sue Ten’s karaoke machine: Double-Bogey Blues. It’s a good night, and I am ready to sing. I hope you are, too, but remember what I always say: “Introverts with microphones: A dangerous combination.”

Fried Steak in Space

I remember the first argument that I ever had with my ex-husband Pretty Boy Boyd. When I told the twins about it, Chandler said, “You mean you finally told him that you don’t really like Irish music?”

“No,” I replied. “I told him that I fry steak.”

Pretty Boy had almost walked out of my life right then and there, but sadly, he changed his mind, and spent the next several years trying to convince me that the hours it takes to perfectly BBQ a steak Kansas-City style somehow produce a finer meal than the five minutes it takes to drop a fine piece of beef into a super-hot salted skillet and cook it cowboy style.

This past week, a British fragrance firm — Omega Ingredients — reported that it had been contracted by NASA to identify the aroma of space. The results are in, my dear friends, and sure enough space smells like fried steak. (Note: I am not entirely convinced that this news is not a spoof.)

I immediately went to the NASA website to investigate further, but when I typed “fried steak” into the search box, all that came up was the week’s NASA Exchange Cafeteria menu, which sure enough did include a $5.00 Fried Steak Dinner for the week of October 20 to 24.

I know I cannot offer that value for your dollar at Slice of Heaven 24-Hour Pie Shop and Driving Range, but maybe I can offer you a slice of fried-steak pie for supper tonight, but only if you put your order in early. I don’t want to miss the Red Sox on the big screen at The Swing Barn tonight.

But I digress.

As I tried to find the official NASA word on steak in space, I came across a reference to an interesting short-story and video, both titled “They’re Made Out of Meat.” While some say the odor of space is “a high energy vibration in the molecule,” others says this story and video both more fully explain the space-steak aroma phenomenon.

Let me recommend both of these items to you, and I hope you will give me your thoughts on all of this.

Here’s the link to the Terry Bisson story: http://www.electricstory.com/stories/story.aspx?title=meat/meat, and the video is posted below. Enjoy.

Just as a P.S., the number for this post is 666!

Hollow Coins

I still don’t think that The Morning Guy is now or ever was a secret agent, but just yesterday morning Sparkle Junior mentioned that one of the quarters he’d borrowed from The Morning Guy had jammed the soda machine.

Perhaps it was one of these:


















Although small in capacity, these hollow
quarter dollars blend right in with your pocket
change without raising an eyebrow.

PRICED AT $21.00

http://spy-coins.com/products.html

My Map of Havana

Not easily read
the compass rose pointing
to directions unknown
where I want to travel
with or without caffeine and chocolate
with or without your side-snaking dance steps
with or without your purple sedan

I already know
the taste of mojito
on my tongue before morning
I already know
how to sing in a language
that that does not need words
I already know
the alleyway music
that goes on without me
and maps a new route
that plays through my hands.

I wish you had been there.

I wish you had seen
the architects’ angels
that cast shadows
around me
and drew their own maps
on my brow and my soul.

As I look at my map now
the street music swelters
and fades into the fumes
and Ladas and Fiats
while tourists and families
ride on the bus tops
drive homemade bike rickshaws
line up at the bakeries
and dive from the rocks
into the water
that protects and divides them,
gives shape to the map.

Chocolate Cuban-Rum Pie

Ingredients:

* 3/4 cup Caribbean sugar
* pinch salt
* 1 C milk
* 1 envelope unflavored gelatin
* 2 eggs, separated
* 6 oz dark, rich chocolate
* 1/3 C Santiago rum – don’t waste your time with Havana Club or Bacardi. (Some travel and willingness to smuggle home the good stuff may be required.)
* 1 C whipping cream
* 1 t vanilla extract
* 1 shortbread-crumb pie shell, ready to go

Directions:

1. Combine 1/2 C of the sugar, salt, and milk (reserving 2 T for later).

2. In a small bowl, mix the remaining milk with the unflavored gelatin.

3. In yet another small bowl, beat the egg yolks until fluffy beyond your wildest dreams.

4. Heat and stir the milk and sugar until the sugar is dissolved. Let this cool to room temperature, and then blend in the eggs. (If the milk is too hot, you’ll poach the eggs. Take care.)

5. Stir and stir and stir. Heat the mixture until it thickens, and quickly — and with style and grace — add the gelatin and the wonderful dark pieces of chocolate.

6. Now for the best part: Chill. You know what I mean.

7. When the mixture is just starting to set, add the rum.

8. Chill for a bit longer. Stir and chill.  Chill and stir.  Don’t let time be a factor. Go by your sense of taste and texture.

9. Beat the egg whites until the form soft peaks then add the rest of the sugar.

10. Fold the egg whites into the rum-laced chocolate.

11. Whip up the cream and add the vanilla.

12. Whisper a blessing into your pie shell and patiently layer the chocolate and the cream, one after another.

13. Give it all one decisive swirl with your favorite spatula.

14. Think of me dancing in the Havana night, and enjoy your pie.

But You Look So Cuban

As you might imagine, I’m still trying to hold on to my memories of Cuba before they flit away, but it’s been difficult finding the time to write to all you all, what with so much to do just now at the Pie Shop and Driving Range.

I didn’t sleep well last night, but you already know how that waning gibbous moon affects me, and I’ve had some strange dreams lately about The Morning Guy. In one of these dreams, he and I are in some kind of Main Street U.S.A. Theme Park in a huge crowd, which is always trouble for me.  I had no information about what was going on, but he was carrying something the size of the menu at Denny’s or IHOP, and kept asking me if I wanted to sign up for any of the special activities, and he had already marked the ones that he thought I should do.

I don’t remember the other dream half as well, but again there was a crowd, and confusion beyond anything that I ever see anywhere near my turquoise conch cottage.  And again The Morning Guy was with me, close enough to touch, guiding me to wherever it was we needed to go.  How he knew the route, I cannot say. After all, it was a dream.

Still, Sparkle Junior is pretty well convinced now that The Morning Guy was, at sometime in his past, a secret agent.  Personally, I still think he’s Canadian.  There’s so much we don’t know about him, but he does know how to hit a golf ball, and he does savor a nice piece of pie, and that’s all we need to know right now. I wish I could have brought him back a cigar or two.

He’s a blessing to us, especially now that the snow birds are arriving. So many of them require an extra bit of attention, both in the shop and out on the range, and I deal with them so much better when I have my post-its and emails from The Morning Guy to keep me on task.

A few years ago, I wrote a series of essays that I called “Unwelcome Blessings” and perhaps you remember some of those stories. If not, let me know, and I’ll send you a copy. In Cuba, I welcomed blessings, and received many. I’ve already written about paying a peso to be blessed by the Santeria woman, but there were others. For one, it was a blessing to spend so much time with Little Peach, that goes without saying. I also found a blessing in wandering out by myself, into a circle of people on Marti square. As it turns out, they were young Christians, close to rapture, and I was glad to let them surround me with their prayers.

And I was just as glad to walk away and open another can of Bucanero beer as soon as I was out of sight. Of course, the moment that I did that, their pastor appeared next to me, and gave me a smile. I’m sure that was a blessing, too, since we’d already had a lovely chat about Jesus and the miracle of the wine.

I also found a blessing in the words, “But you look so Cuban.”  I heard that in three different situations, and on each occasion I felt a glow in my heart, as well as a bit of mystification in my mind, especially the last time when the speaker was so obviously European and was hoping I had some local knowledge to impart. I did not. My understanding of Havana is fragile and untested. I suspect it will not last for long.

So, today I’m sorting out my memories and trying to recall the rest of my dream about The Morning Guy. As I do this, I’m remembering that these activities call on different parts of my mind.

I used to give my writing students a three-part assignment: Describe someone from memory, from observation, and from imagination. What I didn’t understand then is what would happen to my written observations, my notes. Those seemingly hard facts have blended now into fantasy, and maybe I have already waited too long to tell you my story. But maybe alchemy will take over and turn my thoughts into a metal that you can cast.

Lunar Golf

Seriously, haven’t we all wondered about this? After reading this article, I don’t know about you, but I’m thinking “Alan Shepard Pie” should be coming right up.

Lunar Golf

A version of this New York Times article appeared in print on October 14, 2008, on page D2 of the New York edition.

Published: October 13, 2008
Q. What happened to the golf ball the astronaut hit on the Moon? Why did he hit it?

Victoria Roberts

A. Alan Shepard actually hit two balls on the Apollo 14 mission of 1971, and they are still on the Moon, he said in a 1991 interview on the Academy of Achievement Web site for students.

He was looking for a way to demonstrate what the Moon’s lack of atmosphere and much smaller gravitational force would mean for a familiar Earthbound activity, he said. Previous astronauts had dropped a small lead ball and a feather, which slowly fell at the same rate to the surface, but he wanted something more striking.

“Being a golfer,” he said, “I thought if I could just get a club up there, and get it going through the ball at the same speed, that it would go six times as far as it would have gone here on Earth.”

So with NASA’s permission, he designed a club head to fit on the handle of the device the astronauts used to scoop up dust samples. (The collapsible club was brought back to Earth and became the property of the United States Golf Association.)

Before the flight, he practiced using it in a space suit and made a deal that if the mission went well, “then the last thing I was going to do, before climbing up the ladder to come home, was to whack these two golf balls.”

“It was a one-handed 6 iron because it was very clumsy with our suits,” he said in an interview in 1994. “The first one I shanked. The ball came off the handle and it rolled into a crater 40 yards away. The next one I hit pretty flush. Here it would have gone 30 yards, but because there’s no atmosphere there, it went about 200 yards.”

Readers may submit questions by mail to Question, Science Times, The New York Times, 620 Eighth Avenue, New York, N.Y. 10018, or by e-mail to question@nytimes.com.

The Best Photos are the Ones I Never Took

I had an interesting talk with Little Peach about this concept, and how I feel that some pictures cannot be captured by a camera, but are better left in one’s mind. She disagreed, and said she felt she could have and would have taken the shots. I don’t know. I think the camera can be too much of a wall, and I’d rather have the closeness of your magic rubbing up against mine, no molecules in between.

Here are three that I did not take:

(1) Just a glimpse into an apartment as we walk from the Malacon back to Marti Square. The lighting is dim, like in one of Paul Strand’s WPA photos of Appalachia or the Dust Bowl. The living room is illuminated only by an old television, and an even older man sits in dark pants and bright white tee-shirt, watching some show in Spanish with a little boy on his lap, ignoring the press of people walking by.

(2) Stopping by the corner of a church, I want to be blessed by a huge black woman, all in white lace, smoking a monstrous cigar. I have no time for a full reading of her cards so I just give her my coin and ask to be blessed. She does as I ask and laughs, slipping that cigar back into her pink toothless mouth. I can still see the red backs of the cards laid out among all that white. I can still smell the spritz of lavender on my hair and hands.

(3) Little Peach and I are riding on the top of the “hop on, hop off bus,” sipping our beers. She is letting her hair fly back as we cruise the roadway across from the Morro Castle. She’s singing a little “Soul sister, go sister,” but she doesn’t know the words. I sing them for her: “Voulez-vous couchez avec moi, cette soir,” and she confesses she does not know what they mean, which makes me laugh with delight.  “Hey, Joe, you want to give it a go?” And then we both sing, raising our bottles of Bucanero beer on our way down the Malacon at night.


Mixtape from http://favtape.com/search/Christina Aguilera vs Lady Marmalade

Here are the lyrics from the Christine Aguilera version:

Lil’ kim:
Where’s all mah soul sistas
Lemme hear ya’ll flow sistas

Mya:
Hey sista, go sista, soul sista, flow sista
Hey sista, go sista, soul sista, go sista

Mya:
He met Marmalade down IN old Moulin Rouge
Struttin’ her stuff on the street
She said, “Hello, hey Jo, you wanna give it a go?” Oh! uh huh

Chorus:
Giuchie, Giuchie, ya ya dada (Hey hey hey)
Giuchie, Giuchie, ya ya here (here)
Mocha Chocalata ya ya (oh yea)
Creole lady Marmalade

Lil’ Kim:
What What, What what
Mya:
ooh oh

Voulez vous coucher avec moi ce soir
Voulez vous coucher avec moi

Lil’ Kim: yea yea yea yea

Pink: He sat in her boudoir while she freshened up
Boy drank all that Magnolia wine
All her black satin sheets, suede’s, dark greens
yeah

Chorus:
Giuchie, Giuchie, ya ya dada (da-da-da)
Giuchie, Giuchie, ya ya here (here ohooh yea yeah)
Mocha Choca lata ya ya (yea)
Creole lady Marmalade

Voulez vous coucher avec moi ce soir (ce soir, what what what)
Voulez vous coucher avec moi

Lil’ Kim:
yea yea uh
He come through with the money and the garter bags
I let him know we bout that cake straight up the gate uh
We independent women, some mistake us for whores
I’m sayin‘, why spend mine when I can spend yours
Disagree? Well that’s you and I’m sorry
Imma keep playing these cats out like Atari
Wear ideal shoes get love from the dudes
4 bad ass chicks from the Moulin Rouge
hey sistas, soul sistas, betta get that dough sistas
We drink wine with diamonds in the glass
bottle case the meaning of expensive taste
if you wanna Giuchie, Giuchie, ya ya
Mocha Chocalate-a what?
Real Lady Marmalade
One more time C’mon now

Marmalade… Lady Marmalade… Marmalade…

Christina:
hey Hey Hey!
Touch of her skin feeling silky smooth
color of cafe au lait alright
Made the savage beast inside roar until he cried,
More-more-more

Pink:
Now he’s back home doin’ 9 to 5

Mya:
Sleepin’ the grey flannel life
Christina:
But when he turns off to sleep memories creep,
More-more-more

Chorus:
Giuchie, Giuchie, ya ya dada (da daeaea yea)
Giuchie, Giuchie, ya ya here (ooh)
Mocha Choca lata ya ya (yea)
Creole lady Marmalade

Voulez vous coucher avec moi ce soir (ce soir)
Voulez vous coucher avec moi (all my sistas yea)
Voulez vous coucher avec moi ce soir (ce soir)
Voulez vous coucher avec moi (C‘Mon! uh)

Missy:
Christina…(oh Leaeaa Oh)
Pink… (Lady Marmalade)
Lil’ Kim…(hey Hey! uh uh uh uh…)
Mya…(Oh Oh oooo)
Rot wailer baby…(baby)
Moulin Rouge… (0h)
Misdemeanor here…

Creole Lady Marmalade Yes-ah……

Full Moon, Clouds, and Wind (Part Two)

We had a bit of a problem with the lights last night. They strobed for a bit, then went out completely just as the full moon (now waning gibbous) rose above the clouds. At about the same time, the wind came up not gusting but steady, and I will admit the combination was sheer energy.

We brought out a few emergency lamps for those who wanted them.  For the rest of us, it was an excellent exercise in ninja hurricane full-moon golf, looking not at the ball but just to the left and path it would take if only we could see that far.

Sparkle Junior brought out the E-Z Cart and turned on the headlights to give us a little more illumination, but after a few shots, we all said turn the damn thing off.  We listened to the whacks and the misses, muttered our mantras, and continued with the dance for a good half hour in the moonlight before artificial power kicked in and took over once again.

I’m thinking today about vision and motion, and how hard it is not to look at the ball, even when I know I’ll have a better hit if I find a drizdi point to hold my vision. My body still hasn’t learned to trust the swing, but it will get there.

The last night in Havana, Little Peach crashed early, and I went out into the Cuban night on my own, ended up dancing with strangers for hours, and my body remembered the dance steps just like I knew it would. It was a couple of days later when it dawned on me that only one of my new friends actually spoke English, and yet the conversation was eloquent in so many ways.

Sometimes, it seems, words are my enemy. Or at least not my best friend.  Sometimes, it seems, I learn so much more by dancing all night or by hitting golf balls into the dark, into the wind.

The point here is this: I can trust my body to remember dance steps and yoga poses; therefore, it is only a matter of time before the elusive consistent swing becomes part of the package, and I do look forward to that.

Today’s golf tip: Believe.

Most of these items have no place in my kitchen

Seriously. What would I do with this stuff?  The Pie Shop is pretty specialized, and the turquoise conch cottage kitchen . . . well, I have told you about the spider-web problem, haven’t I? The only way to deal with it right now is to ensure that all cupboards are empty at all times so I can get to the spiders with the dust-buster as easily as possible. (Some might say as easy as pie, but not me. I know pie is not easy. It’s a gift.)

Still, some of you, especially those of you who are good enough to drop by with the occasional covered dish, might get a kick out of this list.  I don’t know why the authors are so down on toasters, though.  I keep my scan toaster right out here on the porch, and can’t imagine life without it. Or without you. Keep in touch.

http://www.latimes.com/features/food/la-fo-worthitornot8-2008oct08,0,4672867.htmlstory

Kitchen essentials, and items you can pass by

Where should your kitchen dough go? Two expert — and opinionated — cooks weigh in
By Russ Parsons and Amy Scattergood, Times Staff Writers
Ricardo DeAratanha / Los Angeles Times
CREPE PAN: Worth it? Or not?.

Value is a relative concept. Just ask the folks at Lehman Brothers. But when it comes to ingredients and kitchen tools that beckon to the enthusiastic home cook, it’s important to the bottom line — in this case, a great meal — to take a look at what’s really worth your hard-earned cash — and what isn’t.

We scrutinized our kitchens and the merchandise. Our thumbs-up, thumbs-down verdicts on a couple of dozen popular or hyped cooking items follow. No apologies — we’re opinionated. Some gadgets and goodies are grossly overvalued, others just don’t get their due. We considered cost, efficacy and practicality — as well as the happiness factor. Because for a true chocoholic, a 3.5-ounce bar of Michel Cluizel Noir de Cacao 72% cacao really is worth $6.

Obviously, a lot of this is open for discussion, even heated debate. Is a 1-ounce tin of Spanish saffron really worth $199? How about a $60 Rachael Ray fondue pot?

With apologies to Socrates: The unexamined kitchen cabinet is not worth opening. And it’s certainly not worth filling up with even more stuff.

Worth it? Or not?

Mortar and pestle

When it comes to kitchen tools, I’m a big fan of the simpler the better. And you can’t get much simpler than a mortar and pestle. Basically nothing more than two rocks that you use to grind food, it hasn’t really been improved since the Stone Age. But when something is perfect, why mess with it? You can spend $100 on a French marble one from an antique store, or you can pick up one made of granite at a Thai grocery store for less than $25. While you’re shopping, pick up a wooden pestle as well — those granite ones get really heavy when you’re stirring in oil a drop at a time for aioli.–R.P.

Good corkscrew

Don’t laugh. I can’t tell you how frustrating it is to take a good bottle of wine to someone’s house and find that the only corkscrew they’ve got is one of those $1.99 drugstore ones with solid screws that are good only for splitting corks. Come on, spend an extra couple of bucks and get one with a hollow auger (it will look like a corkscrew rather than a sheet metal screw). You can find them for around $10 and you won’t believe the difference.–R.P.

Instant-read thermometer

I have worked with chefs who have been cooking so long that they can tell within 5 degrees the temperature of a roast just by giving it a good squeeze. For the rest of us, there’s no excuse not to have an instant-read thermometer. A perfectly good one costs less than $15 and you’ll never serve bloody chicken again.–R.P.

Good dried pasta

Cheaping out on spaghetti, rigatoni and penne is false economy when you can find terrific brands such as Latini, Rustichella d’Abruzzo and Maestri selling for only a couple of bucks a box more than the industrial stuff. The differences between brands may be hard to appreciate when you’re tasting the noodles by themselves, but taste them with a sauce and you’ll be blown away by how much clearer and more defined the flavor is. –R.P.

Small kitchen scale

In a perfect world, we would measure all of our ingredients by weight. That’s obvious for baking, where the way you scoop flour into a measuring cup can make as much as a 20% difference in quantity. But it’s also true for other kinds of cooking. Measuring by weight opens up the hidden ratios of cooking in a way that volume measuring can’t (in fact, my friend Michael Ruhlman is writing a book on that subject). For example, a classic mirepoix has equal weights of chopped carrots and celery and twice as much onion. That ratio doesn’t show up in cup measurements. You can find a really good digital electronic kitchen scale for less than $30. The two things to look for are a capacity of at least 10 pounds and a “tare” feature that helps those of us who are not mathematically inclined to allow for the weight of bowls, etc. –R.P.

Heavy-duty roasting pan

Especially with the holidays staring us in the face, this is one of the best investments you can make. And it is a bit of an investment — a good roaster will probably cost in the neighborhood of $150. But if you’re going to splurge on a good pan, this is one of the places to do it. Look for pans with low sides that allow air circulation. Avoid lighter pans, which may be cheaper, but won’t brown the meat well, and nonstick pans, which may seem convenient, but don’t caramelize the pan juices.–R.P.

Expensive red wine vinegar

One of the great puzzles in food marketing is why no company has stepped up to make a great-tasting red wine vinegar. It’s not like it’s cloning wild mushrooms or something. In fact, just about any idiot can make it at home quite easily. I’m a prime example. I have kept a big jug going on my counter for more than 15 years. A couple of occasional bottles of sturdy $5.99 red wine and dregs from dinner parties are all that is required to keep me in clean, fruity, complex vinegar whenever I want it.–R.P.

Mini food processor

What’s the point? Anything small enough to fit in the feed bowl of one of these can be just as easily and quickly chopped by hand. Find it in the cupboard, put it together, find a plug, pulse twice, take it apart, clean it up, put it away. Give me a chef’s knife and a cutting board any day.–R.P.

Expensive nonstick skillet

If you’re spending more than $30 on a nonstick skillet, you’re crazy. I know, because I have done it repeatedly. And two months later they’ve got the same set of nicks and dings as the cheapo pan I bought at the restaurant supply store. Of course, it goes without saying that nonstick anything else — saucepans, roasting pans, etc. — is a complete waste of money, unless you truly are a serial scorcher.–R.P.

Expensive knives

My wife is going to howl with laughter when she reads this because I’ve got two knife blocks jammed full, and more in a drawer. But 98% of all the cutting I do is with a chef’s knife or a paring knife. The rest of it, I confess, is nothing more than a cutting-edge indulgence. So let’s agree never again to mention that 12-inch antique French carbon steel ham slicer, OK?–R.P.

Big red wines

How many grilled black-pepper-coated steaks are you going to eat in a year? That’s about the only possible dish these high-alcohol, high-extract wines can pair with. I’m looking at you, Paso Robles Zin! Who are you kidding with 15.5% alcohol? And these days there are even some Pinots that get that high. If I want Port, I’ll buy Port.–R.P.

White truffles

There is no one who loves white truffles more than I do. But I can count on one hand the number of times I’ve had white truffles in this country that approach the quality of the ones you get in Italy. There, you can smell the truffles being sliced from across the room. Here, most of the time you practically have to bury your nose in a dish before you get any of their perfume. Luxury ingredients are wonderful when there is a payoff; otherwise they’re the culinary equivalent of gold-plating bathroom fixtures.–R.P.

High-quality coffee

Skimping on coffee is one of those things — like buying cheap shoes — that never ends up working out. Sure, a pound of fair trade, organic, artisan-roasted Ethiopian Yrgacheffe is going to set you back more than a can of Folgers (about three times as much), but you’ll get a far better cup of joe, therefore increasing the caffeine happiness factor and probably decreasing the amount of coffee you’ll need to drink in the first place. Quality over quantity, anyone?–A.S.

Dutch oven

A few years ago I bought a 4-quart Staub enameled cast iron Dutch oven on sale at a cooking store, and I think I’ve used it more than all the rest of the pots and pans in my kitchen — combined — since then. I don’t even put it away; it lives on my stove. These lidded pots usually cost $100 to $200 (the price varies a lot, depending on the size and manufacturer), but you can use them on the stove top and in the oven, for soups, braises, casseroles, boiling pasta and making sauces. I even use mine to make cobblers. They conduct heat amazingly well, are pretty enough to serve in, and they’re so durable that they’ll survive us all. Bargain cast-iron Dutch ovens from the hardware store may not be as pretty, but at a fraction of the price, they’ll work almost as well.–A.S.

Whole vanilla beans

Imitation vanilla extract should come with a government warning label: You have no idea what you’re missing. Even extract made from real vanilla has nothing on the beans themselves. Scrape the seeds into sauces and doughs, steep the husks in vats of crème anglaise for ice cream. You can reuse the beans too. After they’re dried, bury them in your sugar bowl for homemade vanilla sugar. Yeah, they’re expensive ($1 to $2 for a single Madagascar bean), but when you want the flavor to shine through, they’re worth it.–A.S.

Saffron

Tagged as the world’s most expensive spice — you can buy a 2 1/2 -pound case of saffron on amazon.com for $4,410 — saffron is the key ingredient in many regional dishes, such as paella and bouillabaisse as well as certain pilafs and tagines. They depend on its unique grassy flavor and startling yellow color. Authenticity has its price, of course, but it’s not so bad when you consider how little you need of the stuff. It’s also another one of those wacky ingredients that make you think, wow, who comes up with this stuff? Dried crocus stigmas. What demented gardener thought of putting that in the stew?–A.S.

Microplane

Yeah, you may think that a box grater is all you’ll ever need — until you use one of these gizmos for the first time. The fine metal graters are inexpensive (around 10 bucks, less if you shop at hardware stores) and seriously useful. Grate cheese, nutmeg, a chunk of 70% cacoa chocolate; zest citrus without worrying about grating the bitter pith. And never a scraped knuckle! I keep mine right next to my stove — and I have no idea where my box grater is anymore.–A.S.

“Larousse Gastronomique”

The updated 2001 edition of this classic food encyclopedia may weigh 8 pounds and cost $85, but it’s worth every ounce and every penny. With listings from abaisse (a sheet of rolled-out pastry) to zuppa inglese (a 19th century “English” dessert invented by Neapolitan pastry cooks), loads of recipes and definitions, and compiled with the help of luminaries such as Joël Robuchon and Pierre Hermé, it’s as fun as it is useful. And if you get tired of reading entries on chicken galantine, it makes a great panini press (wrap the book tightly in plastic first).–A.S.

Toaster

The toaster is another one of those kitchen appliances that just takes up too much space for no reason. Bagels get stuck in them, crumbs burn up in the trays on the bottom, you have to remember to clean the trays on the bottom. They don’t have to be dear, but they sure can be: $30 for a Black & Decker 2-slice; $320 for a Dualit 4-slice. But who eats toast any more anyway? I like grilled bread much better, made outside on the grill or inside in a cast iron skillet. Can’t they put something else on bridal registries? If I ever get married again, I want a Pacojet.–A.S.

Flavored salts

Pricey little tins of “gourmet” salts flavored with kaffir lime-coconut, ancho chile-ginger, Madagascar vanilla, green Thai curry, whatever. Oh, please. If you want “gourmet” salts, just grate some lime or sprinkle some toasted spices into a bowl of sea salt and be done with it. And really, any product that has to label itself “gourmet” to justify the hefty markup ($10 to $20 for tins averaging 4 ounces) is just asking to be scorned.–A.S.

Crème brûlée torch

These dainty, prissy little tools, sold in kitchen supply stores for upward of $50, take all the fun out of burning sugar in the first place. You want a good caramelized top on your crème brûlée? Use a blow torch. They cost about a quarter of the price, work a lot better — and you can solder pipes with them too.–A.S.

Filet Mignon

If you have to wrap bacon around a piece of beef to give it flavor, then you’re better off spending your money on a cut that actually tastes like something. Filet mignon goes for around $30 a pound these days; a nice New York steak costs two-thirds that, sometimes less, and it has twice the flavor. No bacon necessary.–A.S.

Crêpe pan

Crêpe pans are very cute, and not even that pricey (maybe $40) unless you want a copper one (then try $200). But what’s the point when you can make terrific crêpes on any nonstick pan or cast-iron skillet? If you must get one, buy that obscenely expensive and beautiful copper version. Because the only thing you’ll ever use it for is as a prop in a setup for painting watercolor still lifes (a bowl of fruit, a baguette, a crêpe pan).–A.S.

Fondue and the pots that go with it

A fondue pot (the contraptions run from $50 to $150) is almost as silly as fondue itself, a questionable ’70s-era dinner party fad. If you absolutely must have a fondue party, spend your money on a DVD of Ang Lee’s “The Ice Storm,” and melt your cheese or chocolate in a double boiler or a Dutch oven instead. Fondue forks? Use skewers — or break out your real forks.–A.S.

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Full Moon, Clouds, and Wind

Looks like it could be a great night out, or maybe a wretched one if the clouds and wind are to be believed. Hard to tell until I am actually out there, looking down at the ball.  Still, as long as the rain stays away, and Sparkle Junior hasn’t taken the last Hoodsie out of the deep freeze, I will be fine.

I still have a lot of catching up to do with you all, and I promise to get to it shortly. Don’t forget, I like to hear from you, too. What have you been doing? Stay in touch.

Meanwhile, here’s a little collage that I made from some of my birthday-travel souvenirs, and I’ve been told that my luggage may make it to SoFLA one of these days, too.

October 2008

October 2008

Spider Pie: Work in Progress

I do believe that there must be a great way to combine the general concept of Carmilo Villegas  (a.k.a. Spiderman) with the general concept of these fabulous Spider Cakes and come up with a most excellent Spider Camilo Villegas pie.

What do you think?

http://www.notmartha.org/archives/2007/10/26/spider-cakes/

spider cakes

Last year I had a lot of fun making the creepy crawly cakes so I decided to try a few again this year. This time I pulled out my Betty Crocker mini bake and fill pans and bought a box of chocolate cake mix and some Pocky. I made whipped cream (vanilla pudding would work too) and raspberry coulis (I left the seeds in) for spider guts. I also made some cupcakes to fill, tested one using a bakery bought cupcake and did a frosting variation, the Pocky legs can take an awfully long time. Pocky leg instruction can be found mid-page here.

the dome cakes:

I found the filling stayed in fine without any icing glue, but I do think this would have looked great with a chocolate glaze poured over it.

I love love love the many sugar eyes.

the filled cupcakes:

the bakery cupcakes:

This is a Triple Chocolate from Trophy Cupcakes here in Seattle. If you don’t have time to bake but think Pocky legs are doable, I think this turned out fantastic.

the non-pocky dome cake:

I used a milk chocolate fudge icing from a can – I figured the fudge icing would be a little stiffer. I like this effect a lot. Again I would have loved to have glazed these with chocolate, a shiny spider body would be so dramatic here.

Last year I tried pretty hard to make molten chocolate spider cakes but didn’t figure out quite how to pull it off. So, if you can imagine cutting through the side of this one and having the warm center come oozing out, that would be my ideal chocolate spider cake dessert.

the non-pocky cupcake:

I did this will a full sized cupcake and one I cut in half doing the Seinfeld muffin top thing. I like the way the short cupcake looks but it would make for a rather skimpy dessert. I would use a smaller dome pan or egg-shaped pan next time.

I linked to this last year but it’s worth a second time – Hannah made a giant spider cake using the large Bake and Fill pan and Peppridge Farm Pirouette cookies to make the legs. I totally adore it.

p.s. Oh lookit! My crawly cakes from last year were featured on DrRuth.com yesterday.categories: food, halloween

Tale of a Pink Hat

The first pink hat was actually a pair, from a time long ago, when the kids were 11, and we were doing the grand tour of our nation’s capitol, staying at a friend’s house in Annapolis, and riding in on the train. Somewhere along the line, I had acquired two bright pink hats with the Pink Panther on them. I think they came free with insulation, and at that time in life, we were very well insulated. Now remember, this was in the days before cell phones and just slightly after the days in which we all felt pretty safe letting our kids run around with minimal supervision.

We did great with the hats, and I could spot the twins tearing around from a pretty good distance.  We did great, that is, until we arrive at the National Zoo shortly before a busload of school kids arrived, all wearing, you know it, hot pink hats. Hundreds of them. Fortunately, my two skinny children and I did still find each other at the appointed spot and the appointed time, but since that trip, a pink hat reminds me of a special time in my life when “family” was the three of us with our over-sized glasses and over-sized vocabularies, and we were quite happy to explore just about anything together..

The next pink hat is one that I never actually owned, an opportunity lost when The Morning Guy one day went off to a ball game & left me a note saying to call if I wanted him to pick up anything. I couldn’t think of a thing. “Like what?” I scrawled on the note. Imagine my surprise when I later saw his immaculate tiny printing that said, “I thought you might have liked one of those pink hats.”

I was stunned. I hadn’t worn any kind of ball cap for years, just wide-brimmed girlie hats like Rene Russo in the movie Tin Cup, but had come to like the idea of a pink hat, free of team color and all that, but still definitely a treasure. I especially loved seeing more and more pink hats showing up at Spring Training, no matter what teams might be on the field.  I did, in fact, want one of those hats.

Of course, you and I both know that was a one-time only offer. He will not make a similar suggestion again. He will, likely, make some other offer, and I will probably be obtuse enough to miss that one, too.  In my mind, the pink ball cap would fit me perfectly, covering my ears just so, but there’s still the nagging doubt that it might have had the wrong team logo on it.  I’ve been tempted, as you can imagine, to buy my own pink hat, possibly a Red Sox one, but even that will not fill the void of the gift not accepted. I can easily obtain the hat. It’s the gifting that I want.

Now, I could ramble on here about gifting for quite a long time, but I know you have other things to do, so let’s just move up to the present day, and even more hats.

I like to go to Miami once a year and meet up with some of my former colleagues to find out how they are doing. This year, I was delighted when some of the folks from New Zealand brought along some ball caps with their company logo on them. I was even more delighted when my Dutch friends said they could do better than that, and quickly produced a pink hat. Perfect, or almost perfect. A gift. Pink. I could add the Red Sox logo to it later.

This was all shortly before Little Peach and I headed south, lost our luggage, and began to tour The Island for four days in the same clothes. I wore white slacks, which grew less and less white, a yellow sleeveless golf shirt (which I eventually supplemented with a Cuban tee-shirt), walking shoes, and my pink hat.

As I’ve mentioned before, I wished I had know what to take to give away or trade with people, and now I really know: chiclets, fishnet hose, pads of paper, and pink hats.  I would outfit the entire population of Havana with pink hats.  But I would have to do it in a roundabout way. The gnarly old man who first took a liking to my hat was not, as it turned out, all that interested in the hat, but what he might get for it.

Is this how capitalism takes over?  I don’t know.  I had already given him more than enough in coin for the newspaper, but the hat was what drew him. I understood.  I took it off and handed it over.  He smiled.  He kissed the hat. He walked away with it, and Little Peach and I watched him go.  In fact, we continued to watch him from the tour bus, and we saw the next exchange take place, the pink hat moving right along for a few coins.

And then we watched as the vendor who bought it examined it, checked it all out, and examined it again. As he did that, a new customer came appeared and made an offer.  It must have been a good one, since before we knew it, the hat was being slipped into a bag and the transaction was done.

I’m curious about the bag, though. That means whoever bought it did not plan to wear it. Perhaps a gift, perhaps one that was absolutely perfect.

What do you do?

One of the great pleasures of my recent trip with Little Peach to the land south of Key West was meeting The Philosopher Detective, traveling on his own while his dear partner Maggie was off for a reunion with some long-time chums. We went through the usual tour-bus chat, which was laced with those wonderfully dry remarks that some people, perhaps, just don’t get. For example, when I said I was an American, he said, “Someone has to be. Might as well be you.” Yes, a philosopher.

Little Peach and I hit it off with him quite well, and the conversation flowed, in part — I think — because I no longer have to explain the incomprehensible nature of my former employment anymore.  I did have brief visit down that road, but The Philosopher Detective quickly pointed out my mistake by saying, “Quite a conversation stopper, that one.” Yes, indeed.  It is such a delight these days to be able to say to people, who care to ask ‘What do you do?” that I own a pie shop. And a driving range.  I tell you, there are damn few people who don’t like one or the other.

Now, see how these Cuban boys reacted after I told them that I own a pie shop:

Nassau Airport Day Four

Just a fantasy, really. What if Little Peach and I never did get out of the Nassau Airport?  And it did look like that for a while, but we are now safely ensconced in the Hotel Inglaterra on another island even further south.  We did have a small glitch checking in at the airport and that turned into a bigger glitch when our luggage did not arrive.

We had a difficult time telling Customs where we were planning to stay. They didn’t buy our “Holiday Inn” answer, but we came up with another story. We are now probably well within the folklore of the airport: The woman who is celebrating her birthday with no luggage, but who gets on the next plane anyway.

Still in Nassau, though, we noticed a lot of pirate hoo-hah in the News Stand and immediately started thinking in terms of pie pirates, and even paw paw pirate pie. We think that pirates might like a salty crust, ho ho.

I learned that Little Peach, when young, had recurring dreams about monkeys.  No monkey pie for her.

We also wondered about what might go into an Island Time Pie.  We believe it might be the type of pie that is hard to started on.  It might be the kind of pie you eat when your know you want dessert, but maybe just not yet.

We also discussed the “While You Wait Pie” — some of you may remember my previous scheme for creating and selling While You Wait kits for stranded travelers (Little Peach & I could have used one yesterday) — and decided that might be the pie you make while you are waiting for the Island Time Pie to bake.

Su Ten, dear, forgot to tell you that the Gay Whores for Christ Anonymous called to reserve the Swing Barn for their annual meeting on the 15th.  I hope that’s not the same night as the USCG Academy reunion. I know you can handle any possible conflict.

In other news, I wondered what we should have brought along with us for giveaways. I’m reminded of going on board the Russian trawler Riga some years ago, and wishing I had brought along a supply of ping pong balls to replace the ones they had lost as sea.  Here, I wish I had brought chiclets, bananas (lost to the Island during the recent cyclone), and fishnet stockings, which are very popular among the female customs agents.

Outside of that, all I can say is that I do love a city where you can get beer out of vending machines. And if I were a drinking person, I might consider installing one in the Slice of Heaven 24-Hour Pie Shop and Driving Range.

We really did not spend four days in the Nassau Airport, it just felt that way. I also wished I’d brought along my clubs and some pink plastic practice balls. Oh yes. Those long empty halls just called for a little extra excitement.

Today’s song: Una Paloma Blanca.  If you can find a link, please post it.  The little band at the roof top restaurant last night, tried to play it for me, but they didn’t actually know it so they played Happy Birthday, some wonderful Beatles song which the mojitos have erased, and some other paloma song.

I was worried about not  being able to go to sleep without reading — not to mention the far-from-normal consumption of caffeine & sugar of late — but I was able to swipe an English paperback from another fancier hotel’s “library,” plus watched The Motorcycle Diaries in Spanish, which was just ideal.

Today we head out on a double-decker bus and pray for luggage. We miss you all.

The Heart of Saturday Night

I’ve been thinking about Darnell a lot lately. He’s always seemed like family to me, even though he’s your second cousin, not mine. I’m so glad that he moved back to SoFLA and got out of New York City, although it was always fun to hear the women on the Montel Williams Show talk about him, even though they never really had too much that was too good to say about him.

I guess what brings him to mind is that I keep hearing that Tom Waits song, “Looking for the Heart of Saturday Night,” in my mind, and I love that one line, “Telephone’s ringin’; it’s your second cousin.”

Yes, that would certainly be the heart of Saturday night here, or any other night for that matter. Darnell does a good job of looking out for all you all, especially now that he’s found that elusive place called home.

Since Slice of Heaven is open 24-hours-a-day, I don’t really have the sense of Saturday night that I once did, if I ever did. For me, it’s always Friday night when I want to be out and about, and that’s some of what drew me to the driving range part of my life. Fish and chips and an endless bucket of balls? What could be better than that?

I know I will look forward to spending some time out there this evening after the sun goes down. I hope I’ll do better than I did on Monday, when almost every single shot was low and stupid. I mean, so low that some of them just jumped right back and bit my ankles.

I know I’ve been a little distracted lately, maybe overdue for a break from the usual routine, so you’ll be glad to hear that my dear friend Little Peach and I are going to take ourselves on a little adventure in about a week, when we head to Havana to celebrate my 60th birthday. We’ve packed up our guidebooks and our comfy walking shoes, and we’re ready to hear some new tunes. I don’t know that I’ll get to enjoy any golf there, but we are determined to come back with at least one new pie recipe, and I’ll tell you all about it when we get home.

In the meantime, though, I have a busy week to survive taking care of business in the city. I’ll be leaving the Slice of Heaven in the capable hands of Sue Ten, The Morning Guy, and Sparkle Junior. I’d love to know if you are a Saturday night person, or a Friday night one like me. In either case, though, I hope you find the heart of it and it’s just what you always wanted.

Wireless Service Bell Button is Not Needed at Slice of Heaven

Sad, I tell you. At the Slice of Heaven 24-Hour Pie Shop and Driving Range, we usually know what you want before you do. Of course, that’s often because your second-cousin Darnell has already called ahead and told us that you were on a toot and nothing but some banana-cream pie and a tall latte would bring you back to earth.

But seriously, isn’t that why we are here? Just to make your life a little bit nicer?  If we were in it for the money, we’d change the driving-range fees to 10-cents a ball and end our “all you can hit for $10” policy right now. No, no, no. We just want you to relax and know that we are here for you.

By the way, we do not support the Boing-Boing reviewer’s promise to vote for Sarah Palin if she will get behind the concept of the Wireless Service Bell Button. We are, for the most part, yellow-dog Democrats here; at least Sue Ten, Sparkle Junior, and I are. The Morning Guy? We suspect him of being Canadian.

Restaurant features “wireless service bell button” to summon waiters at your command

waiter-button.jpg

Mark Frauenfelder: “Yesterday, David and I enjoyed fine lunch at a Chinese restaurant in Urbana, Illinois. The experience was made even more pleasant because of this “wireless service bell button” at our table. Note its four buttons: Waiter, Drink, Money (bill), and Chopsticks (food). Each button produced a different tone, which emanated from a speaker in the kitchen. When I pressed the drink button, the waiter appeared in seconds holding a pitcher of ice water. When I pressed the Money button, he came right out with the check.

If Sarah Palin can promise in tonight’s debate that — if elected — she’ll sign legislation requiring all restaurants in the country to install tabletop wireless service bell button systems, she gets my vote.”

Reducing the Carbon Footprint at the Pie Shop

Well, yes, we do sometimes need to serve just a little bit of ice cream with our pie, so this new cooler seems the right way to go. I’m sure all the folks who drive out here in their SUVs will agree with me on this one.

Greenpeace and Ben & Jerry’s Make Climate-Friendly Ice Cream Cooler : TreeHugger.

by Daniel Kessler on 09.30.08

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Photo credit: Ben & Jerry’s

It is now possible to reduce your carbon footprint (but not your actual footprint) by choosing ice cream from a climate-friendly cooler thanks to new “Greenfreeze” technology created by Greenpeace, Ben & Jerry’s, and Unilever.

(Mostly) Guilt Free Ice Cream
Today, the first-of-its-kind ice cream freezer, which does not rely on potent greenhouse gases known as hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs) as a refrigerant, was unveiled at a Georgetown scoop shop in Washington, D.C. The occasion was marked by a celebration at the shop attended by Greenpeace Executive Director John Passacantando and Ben & Jerry’s founders, Ben Cohen and Jerry Greenfield.

Greenpeace researchers in Germany first developed the precursor to the climate-friendly freezer in the early 1990s when it became clear that HFCs, which the chemical industry had marketed as a safe alternative to ozone depleting clouroflourocarbons (CFCs), were accelerating global warming.

The technology showed, contrary to industry claims, it was possible to use effective refrigerants that protected the ozone layer and the climate. In fact, the cooling units turned out to be more efficient than those using HFCs.

Greenpeace made the technology available to industry free of charge, and it is now used by leading manufacturers such as Haier, Whirlpool, LG, Bosch, Panasonic and Samsung and can be found in over 300 million refrigerators worldwide.

However, the HFC-free refrigerators weren’t allowed in the United States until this year when the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency allowed Ben & Jerry’s to run a test trial of 2,000 Greenfreeze-equipped freezer units at shops across the country.

“We’ve been working on getting better refrigeration technology into our distribution networks in the U.S since 2001, and more specifically on hydrocarbon freezing for the past year,” said Pete Gosselin, Ben & Jerry’s engineer. “It’s one small step for our business, and a giant leap for opening the door to prove that a more environmentally benign refrigeration technology could work in the U.S. market.”

Dangerous Greenhouse Gas
While carbon dioxide has been singled out as Enemy Number One in the effort to stop global warming, HFCs or “F-gases” (after the heat-trapping element flourine common to them all) are up to 20,000 times more potent than CO2 and constitute 17 percent of the global warming pollution in the atmosphere today. The gases are found in most refrigeration and cooling units, including household and automobile air conditioners.

Greenpeace has been working to eliminate the use of HFCs since their broad introduction in the market in 1992.

Already, Greenfreeze technology has transformed the residential refrigerator industry in Europe and Asia and prompted interest in natural refrigeration worldwide. Greenpeace is also working with Coca-Cola and McDonald’s to encourage the elimination of F-gases from all refrigeration and cooling units within five years

In addition to this market work, Greenpeace was a major force behind the decision to have HFCs included in international climate change protocols (Montreal and Kyoto) as well as in numerous government environmental ministries or regulatory bodies.

Groundskeepers Display Artistry on the Diamond – NYTimes.com

Sparkle Junior already takes so long to mow the driving range, I’m not sure that I want him to read this article about mowing baseball diamonds in Major League Parks. (Well, seriously, mostly in the Fenway.)

Groundskeepers Display Artistry on the Diamond – NYTimes.com.

And yet, I can’t help but thinking: Wouldn’t it be lovely to look out over the driving range and see the image of a cooling slice of pie in the grass? Of course, you probably wouldn’t be able to see it, except from the roof of the pie shop, but we do keep thinking that it would not be all bad to built a little faux-martini deck up there. Here at the Slice of Heaven 24-Hour Pie Shop and Driving Range, we work hard at the work of leisure, so you can just kick back and relax.

Spiderman: Camilo Vallegas

I know I’m not alone in saying, “I love this guy!”

September 28, 2008
Atlanta, GA (Sports Network) – Camilo “Spiderman” Villegas rallied from a five-shot deficit on Sunday and capped the comeback with a two-putt par on the first playoff hole to defeat Sergio Garcia and win the Tour Championship. Villegas closed with a four-under 66, that included eight birdies, to post seven-under-par 273. Garcia, playing one group behind Villegas, shot one-over 71 to join Villegas in the playoff.

Meet Spiderman:

Rain and Reading

We’re having a regular summer deluge here in SoFLA. Sue Ten reports that the IntraCoastal Waterway has overflowed, but the fisherfolk are still in place, with their aluminum folding chairs and bare feet just ever so slightly under water, and the snapper still biting.

The pie shop is having busy morning. The lightning is keeping people off the range, so they come in to eat pie, instead, and they do admire our new step-stool bookshelves. I’m still stocking the shelves, carrying books down from the crawlspace where some of them have been stored for years.

When I was in the library trade, we had some basic rules for accepting book donations: If they’ve been stored in a basesment or garage, forget it. If they’ve been in an attic, maybe. If they’ve been on “living shelves,” go for it. Books do better when they have a lot of human contact, and that’s a big part of why I want to bring mine out and set them free.

I believe, very sincerely, that private ownership of books is counter-revolutionary, and books lose value when they are locked up. I always cringe a little when people show me their hordes of bookish treasure. I don’t like it. I don’t like it at all. Books die if they aren’t handled and loved, and the best way to keep them healthy is to keep them moving.

Accordingly, this little collection in the Slice of Heaven 24-Hour Pie Shop and Driving Range will change pretty steadily as people find just the right thing to read, and as they take my books, they’ll bring me the ones they’ve been keeping under grow lights in their own back rooms. I’ve never worked in a library — or pie shop — where I didn’t come out ahead on this kind of proposal.

I’m starting, of course, with some of my favorite golf stories — The Legend of Bagger Vance, Golf in the Kingdom, and even Slim and None, as soon as I’m done reading it. Slim and None is a Dan Jenkins’ story, and although it’s not as much fun as Jenkins’ Baja Oklahoma, or as pithy as Semi-Tough, it does shine with that good old boy brand of humor. Taking that into consideration, I’ve got to wonder why I like it so much, but I do.

I rate Jenkins high as an entertaining writer, and I feel the same way about Peter Gent (North Dallas 40), and William Kinsella (whose Shoeless Joe later became Field of Dreams).

Personally, I find men to be the great mystery of life, and, although I do like chick-lit stories like Bridget Jones and the Shopaholic series, I have never especially enjoyed reading vaunted feminist writers. You see, I know how women think. That’s easy. But how men think? Now that is fascinating to me, and it’s certainly easier to read about them than to have to go through the painful process of trying to get them to explain in their own words how and why they’ve chosen a particular path or made a specific decision.

My research on this subject has gone on for years, as I have sought clues in spy novels and crime novels and fiction by James Lee Burke, Michael Connelly, and John Grisham. I like trashy books about men, and I like well-written books about men. I’m not ashamed to admit it at all. Sea stories? Pirate tales? Bring them on. Maybe I’ll learn something new. Maybe I’ll solve the puzzle and find eternal happiness. I am, if nothing else, an optimist.

All that aside, I’m sure our bookshelves will have no shortage of golf titles, or cook books. Those, I’m sure, will show up on their own. Myself, I’m bringing in a lot of paperback copies of William Faulkner, too, since I consider him and Henry James to be our greatest American writers. I know a lot of the guys still think Ernie Hemingway is the best of the best, but really? Are they talking about his writing or his lifestyle? No, not for me. It’s the Deep South of Faulkner that talks to me, and carries me into the kitchen to bake sweet-potato pie.

I’ve always liked to read about the South, and not just for the food. And not just Faulkner, but Flannery O’Connor, Eudora Welty, Walker Percy, and so many others. They offer a combination of lushness and decay, not unlike the vegetation that once encroached the pie shop’s back door. You know, I think building the driving range was one of the best things I ever did, just to clear the vines and god damn night-blooming jasmine away from the back porch. I think it probably saved my life, or at least set me free, just the way that I like to set books free so they can breathe again.

Yes, the natural world is lovely, and all that, but these days I find the most intense beauty in the arc of the golf balls at night. As as soon as it stops raining, I’ll grab a book or two, and a big glass of lemonade, and head out to the back porch. Sparkle Junior is behind the counter serving pie, and if anyone wants to come out and practice, they can just hand me ten bucks for all the balls that they can hit.

No problem, no problem at all. I hope you’ll join me soon.

Obama’s Favorite Pie!

Here’s an excellent news item that I picked up from the Yahoo Shine Channel. I like the attitude of this writer: If you want it, you should have it — at least when it comes to pie. We follow that precept at the Slice of Heaven 24-Hour Pie Shop and Driving Range, too. You bet we do.

Obama’s Favorite Pie! – Food on Shine.

YUM!
http://yum.tv

Obamapie

Obamapie

obama pie

USA–

The Wall Street Journal reports that in one of the small, rural towns where Barack Obama was campaigning this year, he asked an aide for a slice of pecan pie to go with his usual dinner of salmon, broccoli and brown rice. But there was none on the menu, and the aide was loath to disappoint him.

Mr. Obama’s even-keeled senior adviser and longtime friend told the aide to forget the pie. Then, she told the senator from Illinois “be careful what you ask for.”

SAYS YUM: “Well, Mr. Obama we have a pecan pie you can eat as often as you like! Sweetened with all natural agave, but not too sweet – and incredibly YUMMY!”

Difficulty: E-Z
Prep/Cook Time: 1 hour
Yield: 8

INGREDIENTS

2 eggs, slightly beaten
1 cup agave syrup
1/4 cup brown sugar
2 Tbsp melted butter
2 Tbsp flour
1/4 teaspoon sea salt
1 teaspoon bourbon vanilla
1 1/4 cups pecans, coarsely chopped

1 9-inch pie shell, chilled for an hour if freshly made, defrosted for 10 minutes if frozen.

TIP

Because nuts stale quickly, use only the freshest of pecans.

MAKE

  1. Preheat oven to 375°F. Spread pecans along the bottom of the pie shell.
  2. Mix the remaining ingredients and pour over pecans. The pecans will rise to the surface of the pie.
  3. Bake at 375°F for 45-50 minutes until the filling has set.
  4. About 20 minutes into the cooking you may want to use a pie crust protector, or tent the edges of the pie crust with aluminum foil to prevent the pie crust edges from burning.
  5. Remove from oven and let cool completely.

YUM!
http://yum.tv

Metal plates send messages to airport x-ray screeners

I think I’ll have some of these made up with the Slice of Heaven 24-Hour Pie Shop and Driving Range logo on them, and then just give them to my few customers who actually do have the good sense to get out of town once in a while. Then again, using these plates may cause them not to return, and we can’t have that, now, can we?

MAKE: Blog: Metal plates send messages to airport x-ray screeners.

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Diagram 900Px
“One of my favorite artists, Evan Roth, is working on a project that will be released soon – the pictures say it all, it’s a “carry on” communication system. These metal places contain messages which will appear when they are X-Rayed. The project isn’t quite done yet, Evan needs access to an X-Ray machine to take some photos and document. If you have access to an X-Ray machine he’s willing to give you a set of the plates for helping out (email fi5e [at] ni9e.com].”

Void your warranty, violate a user agreement, fry a circuit, blow a fuse, poke an eye out… Welcome to the Make Blog!

Lemon Yogurt Dream Pie

INGREDIENTS
2 envelopes Dream Whip whipped topping mix
1 C lemon yogurt
1 3/4 C milk
2 packages Jell-O lemon instant-pudding mix
1 baked 9-in cinnamon-graham cracker or ginger-snap crust
  • Prepare Dream Whip as directed on package, with 1 C milk. Blend in remaining 3/4 C milk, 1 C yogurt, and pudding mix.
  • Beat at high speed 2 minutes, scrape bowl as necessary.
  • Spoon into pie shell.
  • And you know what comes next: Chill.

The Short-Short Game

Sparkle Junior and I are starting to consider the possibility of adding a putting green to the Slice of Heaven 24-Hour Pie Shop and Driving Range.  When I say “starting to consider,” I mean I talk and Spark nods. This is all fine and good, but I know, too, that every so often, he will do exactly what I suggest, so I have to be careful to use my powers for good, not for evil, at least when I am around him.

This afternoon, we are eating a real simple lemon-yogurt dream pie with a graham cracker crust. I once made this pie for my dad, and he absolutely loved it, right up until the exact second when I told him it had yogurt in it, and that was that. He put his hand on the edge of the pretty little china dessert plate and pushed it away delicately while at the same time pushing his chair back, and then he went outside for a smoke to get the taste out of his mouth.

Spark, though, has no problem with yogurt, or anything else that might spill on the floor and make an unusually sticky mess. I’ve wondered at times if he were not switched at birth with some very tidy baby at the hospital where he was born.  I’ve been to his family home a couple of times, and it never looked fully lived in.  Or maybe his mom just had emptied out a can of that new-house air freshener. I don’t know. Spark’s room, though, always looked a lot like Spark: slightly disheveled and optimistic, decorated with memories of rock ‘n’ roll parties that never really happened.

I wonder sometimes what he thinks about when he’s out on the tractor, and other times I really don’t want to know.

I’m sending him off now to go find a copy of a Putting Green Construction Manual, and that should keep him busy for a while, and I will clean up before the after-work crowd starts to arrive.

I had my first short-game lesson yesterday, and I found it fascinating, especially since Sandra told me how putting greens are built, at a cost of $40,000 to $60,000 per green. (You can buy a lot of Royal Palms for that money, seven or eight, at least.) Of course, my drives are so short that my regular game is a short game, so putting must be my short-short game.

I would love to bring The Morning Guy in on my new construction project, but I really want him to focus more on my game, and tell me how I can improve my performance. Sadly, he seems a bit distracted lately, and I suspect he’s been watching football again, and backing a losing team. That surely must wear a man down after a while. Still, I know he’ll come around and the tips will start to flow, if not from him, then from one of you. (Don’t hold back now.)

It has occurred to me that you may wonder how I ended up owning a driving range without knowing anything about golf, so perhaps I should fill you in. (Pie pun intended.) The pie shop has been in my family for years, and the building is one of those great low-slung Old Florida places, caught in a tangle of overgrown greenery, and the acreage around it was pretty much a mad scramble of vegetation, too.

One Sunday last spring, I was sipping on an O’Doul’s over at The Swing Barn and talking to Sue Ten as we watched Tiger Woods up on her large-screen TV, and I realized I had been watching golf from a far for more than 30 years. I had fallen in love with The Inner Game of Golf in 1977, but I had only played twice, both times on a ramshackle course in rural Arizona where everything was brown, including the greens.

“I think I will take up golf,” I said.

Sue replied silently by drying a couple more glasses and opening another O’Doul’s for me. By the time I finished off that one, the sugar high was starting to kick in.

Sue looked at me warily, and said, “That would be good. You need to do something to get your mind off your divorce and all that crap.”

Crap, indeed. My ex-husband Pretty Boy Boyd had managed to deplete my savings account completely and run up my credit cards just as thoroughly, and all I got out of it was more than I wanted to know about everything and anything having to do with Kansas City barbecue, and an all too personal knowledge of the local legal system. I tend to fall for men who are talkers, so you can probably understand why I now like to associate with men like Spark and The Morning Guy, neither of whom shows much interest in talking to me at all. Ever.

That night, I went to a driving range for the first time with my sister Mel, who was visiting from Maine, and I became a believer. Melbie and I had no idea what we were doing, but we did laugh a lot, and we were outside in the early evening enjoying life. The big news for me was how quiet it was. At last, a way to have men in my life without having to listen to them, not that I actually listened that much anyway. I think you know what I mean, and I do apologize if you are one of the men to whom I did not listen. I’m much better now, but I still really prefer that you just send me a note, or leave a message on my answering machine. I’ll get back to you as soon as I can.

What I did not like about that particular driving range was the hours. I am plagued with insomnia, and when I am plagued, my dear, you can expect to be plagued as well. As the saying goes, When Mama Ain’t Happy, Ain’t Nobody Happy.

What I wanted was a late-late-night establishment, a place where I could go and put my dreamless state of mind on hold. The pie shop was already open 24-hours a day, but I did not want to work all night, and I already knew that The Morning Guy had a passion for golf, or as much as he has a passion for anything besides maintaining his own comfort zone. We passed a few notes, we struck a deal, and you know the rest.

That was just a few short months ago, and now I am enjoying some smooth sailing on my own. More people eating pie, and more people hitting balls, 24-hours-a-day. And often, as I fall asleep just before dawn in my little turquoise conch cottage down the far end of the lane, I hear The Morning Guy’s motorcycle as he arrives to stock the soda machine and drink coffee with the other morning guys — and sometimes I dream. I do. I dream.

Dreams Can Come True . . . .

I love this story, and I am totally inspired by this adventure.  If this guy — Swiss no less — can fly over the English Channel, then surely I can make a sweet success out of the Slice of Heaven 24-Hour Pie Shop and Driving Range. And who knows what you might be able to do, what with your winning combination of brains, beauty, and talent?  Go for it, people! Go for it! What are you waiting for, anyway?

Swiss man flies over Channel on jet wing

Friday, September 26, 2008


(09-26) 12:59 PDT DOVER, England (AP) —

He had nothing above him but four tanks of kerosene and nothing below him but the cold waters of the English Channel. But Yves Rossy leapt from a plane and into the record books on Friday, crossing the channel on a homemade jet-propelled wing.

Rossy jumped from the plane about 8,200 feet over Calais, France, blasting across the narrow body of water and deploying his parachute over the South Foreland lighthouse, delighting onlookers who dotted Dover’s famous white cliffs, cheering and waving as Rossy came into view.

Backed by a gentle breeze, Rossy crossed the Channel in 13 minutes, averaging 125 miles per hour. In a final flourish, he did a figure eight as he came over England, although the wind blew him away from his planned landing spot next to the lighthouse.

“It was perfect. Blue sky, sunny, no clouds, perfect conditions,” the Swiss pilot said after touching down in an adjacent field. He said he wanted to show, “it is possible to fly, a little bit, like a bird.”

Onlookers scooped up their children, picnics and dogs to race to the landing site as Rossy posed for photographs. His ground crew doused him with champagne, and the pilot swigged greedily from the bottle as he waved to the band of onlookers gathered to cheer him and take pictures with cell phone cameras.

A small airplane zipped across the sky with a banner that read: “Well done Jet Man.”

Rossy said he had watched passenger ferries cutting a path between the Britain and France as he tore through the air.

“I was happy to be faster than them,” he said. The 49 year old said the Channel crossing was the realization of a dream. “That’s the most gratifying thing you can do,” he said.

Rossy’s trip — twice delayed due to bad weather — was meant to trace the route of French aviator Louis Bleriot, the first person to cross the narrow body of water in an airplane 99 years ago.

The South Foreland Lighthouse was the site of Guglielmo Marconi’s experiments with radio telegraphy in 1898. Bleriot used the white building as a target during his pioneering flight, the building’s manager, Simon Ovenden, said.

The Channel has attracted a range of adventurers and stuntmen over the years, most drawn to the 21-mile wide neck of water between Dover and Calais.

Frenchman Jean-Pierre Blanchard and American doctor John Jeffries were the first to fly from Britain to mainland Europe in a hot air balloon in 1785.

Capt. Matthew Webb braved stinging jellyfish and strong currents to be the first to swim across the Channel in 1875. Other stunts followed: The first hovercraft crossing in 1959, the first human-powered air crossing in 1979.

Geoff Clark, a 54-year-old onlooker from Chatham, in southern England, called Rossy’s flight “a remarkable achievement.”

“We saw the climax of his attempt as he came down to earth with his parachute. It’s been an exciting afternoon,” Clark said.

Rossy’s wing was made from carbon composite. It weighs about 121 pounds when loaded with fuel and carried four kerosene-burning jet turbines. The contraption has no steering devices. Rossy, a commercial airline pilot by training, wiggled his body back and forth to control the wing’s movements.

He wore a heat-resistant suit similar to that worn by firefighters and racing drivers to protect him from the heat of the turbines. The cooling effect of the wind and high altitude also prevented him from getting too warm.

Mark Dale, the senior technical officer for the British Hang Gliding and Paragliding Association, described Rossy’s flight as a “fabulous stunt.”

Rossy, who spent months preparing for the cross-Channel flight, has said he wants to fly across the Grand Canyon in Arizona next.

As for the 13 lonely minutes he spent aloft between England and France, he assured reporters he felt no fear.

“I was under tension. But fear? The day I fear, I don’t go,” Rossy said.

Perfect Timing

I’ve never been someone known for her timing, or at least not for her good timing. Pretty Boy Boyd, my ex-husband, used to tell me at least once a week, “Your timing stinks.” Of course, that retort would usually come right after my weekly suggestion that he find a new place to live. And yet, tonight, my timing is so good that I go through 97 golf balls before the rain starts. And hitting those last three in rain is a pleasure.

After all, I’ve already had more than solid hour of practice, and during most of that time, my new employee Joe Sparkle, Jr., is out on the tractor, scooping up balls. I’ve got to say, I’ve never seen anyone operate a tractor quite so slowly or carefully, and it surprises me, since Sparkle Jr. is usually pretty wound up on sugar and caffeine. I suspect that The Morning Guy may have had a word with him at some point about safety, responsibility, and keeping his job.

So, Sparkle Jr. is making his transit, carefully and endlessly, and the late night crowd is, as usual, entrancing me with their high and long arcs. I definitely prefer to practice at night under the lights so I can watch the balls, and tonight we’ve got some good hits going on, even without the metallic clang of new age drivers.

Behind me there is an Asian guy, who is so obsessed with perfection that he continues to stand and work on his swing, long after his bucket is empty. I go over and speak to him for a second, just to make sure he understands that we do now have an “All You Can Hit” policy at the Slice of Heaven 24-Hour Pie Shop and Driving Range. For some reason, he looks at me as if I am crazy and goes right on swinging at air. Apparently, he feels he’s already gotten his money’s worth. Myself, I would keep going until I can’t go no more, but the rain ends that little revery.

Speaking of our “All You Can Hit” policy, I had earlier imagined a sort of conveyor belt bringing the balls out to the range, but the engineering concept lost out to the K.I.S.S. method, and I decided that people can just keep refilling their buckets. Too bad, though, I was looking forward to seeing what The Morning Guy would come up with to deliver the balls to the customers. Ah, well.

Tonight I’m getting in some nice swings, myself, but I’m uncomfortably aware that I am wearing the wrong bra. Something about this black underwire just isn’t doing the trick for me. Then I think maybe I can use the aggravation to my advantage, like Tim Robbins wearing a garter belt in Bull Durham. Or maybe not. I find myself longing for my favorite Body by Victoria orange bra, and make a mental note to look for more of the same type next time I’m at the mall, which is at best a twice a year event. Perhaps “the perfect golf bra” will offer The Morning Guy an even better engineering challenge, one that I am sure he can solve given the right data, parameters, and hypothetical situation.

I’m tempted to leave him a post-it note, and maybe a catalog or two, but I resist, although, I do think he might secretly enjoy adding a lingerie subsection to his “proper attire” hints for golfers. Actually, I did conduct a quick internet search, and it appears that I may be the only one interested in finding the perfect golf bra anyway. Apparently, a number of people are looking for the perfect Volkswagon Golf bra, but that’s not the same thing at all, now is it?

As I practice, I am again wondering about other kinds of equipment, too. I am still messing around with the same old nine-iron, and will do so until Sandra tells me to try something else. “Your job is just to swing the club,” she says, and I do. I look out at the target, then down at the ball, find my focus to the left, do some yogic hocus pocus, let my right hand pull up the club, and watch it drop down like a pendulum through my proposed path. If the ball is sitting in the right place to be hit, so much the better. And all that time, the voice in my head is singing, “Don’t mean a thing if you ain’t got that swing, do wop do wop do wop do wah.”

I’d write more, but I do have to get back to the pie shop. Sue Ten came by earlier to leave off something that she calls pie, but that I still say is a casserole. Back in Maine, there’s an expression: “Just because a cat has kittens in the oven, that don’t make ’em biscuits.” And I feel the same way about pie: “Just because you throw some food into a round tin, that don’t make it a pie.”

Of course, this will probably just encourage her to bring over more possibilities.  I sure hope so.

By the way, if you aren’t doing anything on Friday night, you should stop by The Swing Barn. Sue was planning to show the McCain-Obama debate on her big-screen television, but now it looks like the debate won’t be on, so she is going to show Soylent Green outside on the wall.  Bring your own lawn chair and bug spray, but if you want a real pie, come see me.

And look, Sparkle Jr. is finally bringing in the tractor. Perfect timing.


Mixtape from http://favtape.com/search/if you ain’t got that swing

I Shall Be Released

Here’s a great idea: Promise that you will vote in the upcoming election, and you can have an MP3 copy of the “I Shall Be Released” cover by Wilco and Fleet Foxes.  All of us at Slice of Heaven 24-Hour Pie Shop and Driving Range follow the old dictum “Vote Early and Vote Often” so you know we’ll be playing this song on our jukebox more than most.  Click on http://wilcoworld.net/vote/ for more details.

If you want more Wilco, go to http://favtape.com/search/wilco.

After the Fall Pie

“Don’t forget, it’s the first day of fall,” my sister Melbie tells me on the phone. As I hear her voice, I am sure she is wearing at least one sweater and knows where her boots are. After all, that’s basic survival behavior in the Great State of Maine.

I, too, know that it’s fall, even here in SoFLA: The traffic on I-95 is starting to pick up, the sidewalk cafes in the village are bustling again, and the boutiques are showing pink sweaters with fur trim. And out at the Slice of Heaven 24-Hour Pie Shop and Driving Range, we are on the look out for migrating birds and we’re starting to get orders for apple pie, pumpkin pie, and squash pie. One more month, and the mince-pie people will be showing up.

There are other signs of Fall, too: The ubiquitous football games on every flat screen in every bar, the faux fall leaves in the shop windows, and the Halloween decorations already up in the Winn-Dixie.

As I talk to Melbie, the idea for an “After the Fall” pie pops into my mind: It should have both apples and pomegranates to signify the mixed myths of Adam and Eve, and Persephone. No doubt at all:  Pomegranate is a powerful fruit, a particular favorite of the lords of the underworld, which would of course include Satan. I think it’s too bad for the lovely, innocuous apple to take the rap for The Fall of Humankind. Mythologists feel it was much more likely caused by Eve’s consumption of pomegranates — and possibly a whole lot of wine.

Persephone also had a pomegranate problem. If she’d never been tricked into eating those seeds, we’d have summer all year round.

Oh, wait a minute. I live in SoFLA. We do have summer all year round.

I’m still thinking about my After the Fall pie, not sure where to go with it. I take a break and listen to the Pogues singing “If I Should Fall From Grace With God,” and it is so jarring that I can’t listen to the whole song.  I’m also thinking about the movie After the Fall, in which Brad Pitt inexplicably never ages, although the rest of the cast appears to be quite gnarly by the end.

After that, I come up with the idea that Eve didn’t just eat an apple. Or a pomegranate. I don’t think it was wine either. No, I’m pretty sure she got into the applejack. Now, if you’ve never sampled applejack, this may not be the time to start. My oh my. Consumed with the right amount of gusto on a crisp fall night, possibly over on the other side of The Swing Barn where Sue Ten has those cute little hard-resin chairs with cup holders, applejack will remove the top of your head and fill your brain with autumn leaves.

So, I’ll just give you a little taste.

After the Fall Pie

First, buy a large bottle of applejack brandy, and prepare your favorite type of unbaked crust with fluted edges.  A 9″ pie plate should be just about right.

For the filling:

Peel & slice six tart apples

Soak apple slices in a cup of applejack brandy overnight, and maybe take a sip or two yourself, just to make sure it’s all right.

In the morning, cream 4oz of butter with 8oz of sugar

When the mixture is light and fluffy, strain the apples and fold them in.

A little lemon zest wouldn’t hurt.

How’s that brandy, anyway?

Cover with foil and bake at 400 degrees for 30 minutes.

Feel free to have another drink while you wait, or go ahead and make the topping.

For the topping:

Cover the hot apple mixture with a layer of thin pomegranate slices

Whip a cup of heavy cream, then blend in 3 to 4 T of sugar and 3 egg yoks

Cover the pomegranate slices with the whipped topping and return to the oven for 10 minutes, or until topping is golden brown.

Garnish with pomegranate seeds.

Drizzle any remaining applejack over all.

Chances are, the applejack will have disappeared by the time you get to this step.

And just like Adam & Eve, you should probably go put some clothes on, too.

Birthday cake is good, but birthday pie might be even better

NOTE: This post has been written by Guest Pie Maker Emily Alden Foster.

When my sister turned 8 or 9 or one of those pre-teen ages, she decided she wanted a pie for her birthday. I was disappointed because she wanted cherry pie and I hate cherries. It turned out that my sister was also disappointed with her birthday pie. When it came out of the oven, in went the candles. And by “in” I mean into the pie, because they melted. Ooops.

Fast-forward to my 20ishth birthday, and my dear friend and birth-week-sharer Lauralee’s somethingth birthday, and there’s birthday pie again. In fact, we were so excited about pie at this point that we decided to have a pie party. We each made a pie or two and many of the guests also came bearing pies. It was a horrible, horrible party. Of course it was fun, but there’s something horrible about being surrounded by twelve pies and being too full (or too afraid of a diabetic coma) to eat more than the tiniest sliver of each. Everyone was very thankful when a late-arriving guest brought a savory pie: pizza. The cheese soaked up enough of the sugar that we were able to move and talk to each other again instead of curling in the fetal position moaning and waiting for our digestive systems to cope with the full pound of sugar that each of us had just consumed. For the next week my roommates and I had pie at every meal. I didn’t make a pie again for a long time.

This year I once again turned to the pie for my birthday celebration. (Also for Channing’s birthday celebration, but that’s already been posted here.) This time it was sugar-free, because I’m trying really hard not to eat sugar. I love sugar, but my body doesn’t. The best method I’ve found for making sugar free desserts involves fruit juice concentrate (although technically fruit has sugar, it’s the added processed sugar nonsense that I’m worried about) and in my experience is more delicious with pies than cakes. I take birthdays pretty seriously, and didn’t want to take a chance on having a gross cake, so I went with the peach-raspberry pie. Delicious! We went out for pizza while the pie was cooling. It’s about a half-hour walk to the pizza place, most of which I spent singing a song I made up about pie and how I was going to eat two of them. It was a good birthday. Not at all horrible or disappointing, and with plenty of pie.

Spawn of Satan Pie Recipe

Spawn of Satan Pie Recipe

Created in Honor of NY Yankee Derek Jeter’s Birthday

Ingredients:

3/4 cup ricotta cheese
1/3 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1 1/2 cup cut-up cooked chicken
1 1/4 cup shredded Mozzarella cheese
1 clove garlic, minced
2 t fresh chopped oregano
2 t fresh basil
6-oz tomato paste
1 cup heavy cream
2 large eggs
2/3 cup Bisquick
Salt and pepper to taste

Directions:

Pre-heat oven to 400 degrees F.

Grease a 10-inch by 1-1/2-inch pie plate with butter.

Alternate layers of Ricotta cheese and Parmesan cheese.

Mix chicken, 1/2 C Mozzarella, garlic powder, oregano, basil, and tomato paste.

Pour over Parmesan cheese layer.

Whisk together cream, eggs, Bisquick, salt & pepper

Pour into pie plate.

Bake 30 minutes.

Top with remaining Mozzarella, then bake an addition five to 10 minutes, or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean.

Spawn of Satan Pie

I’m out on the driving range before noon today, but I can’t concentrate.

Today, I will blame the New York Yankees since their fans are coming out of the woodwork to mourn the passing of their blessed temple in the Bronx. All my hits are off kilter, low, and lethargic, obviously affected by all that negative energy. In time, I give up and go back into the pie shop to get out of the heat, as much as anything.

I take out my notepad and start working on a recipe for “Spawn of Satan Pie” with a special Derek Jeter Crust.  Jeter’s favorite food is chicken parmesan, so this is a no brainer, and I know I’ll be getting calls from Sue Ten over at the Swing Barn once the pre-game show starts at six.

It’s one of those hot, humid SoFLA days that keeps people indoors, so I’m not expecting much excitement today. I gave The Usual Idiot the day off, and I’m thinking this might be a good time to varnish the new combination step-ladder book selves out in the back room, with the exhaust fan going full blast. The Morning Guy copied the design that I found last week, and he’s already built the prototype, finished the sanding, and vacuumed up every stray bit of sawdust. He’ll be leaving me snitty notes if I don’t get moving on this project soon.

I like varnishing, especially roll-and-tip with warm varnish.  It goes on fast, the tipping with a foam brush breaks down the bubbles, and then I can just pull up a chair and watch it dry. In truth, it’s more fun to watch it dry if someone else did the application work, but I know I’ll see plenty: curtains, holidays, bugs in their death throes, visions of alternate universes, dreams of another time and place. It’s all entertainment to the receptive mind. Varnish, sand, repeat. Shampoo, rinse, repeat. Signs of infinity in the known universe.

I’m sure, too, that the sound of the fan will drown out the noise from the over-emotional Yankee fans at the swing barn. If not, I have a set of Ruger firing-range ear muffs that should do the job.

Before I can put them on, though, the phone rings.  It’s Sue Ten. “Boyd’s here.”

“I wondered why Hercules was heading that way.”

Hercules is our resident feral green iguana, a gargantuan beast by all accounts, and for some reason, he has an attraction for my second ex-husband Pretty Boy Boyd. Hercules’ affection, however, is not returned. Boyd has a deep abiding dislike of all things reptilian, including his own lizard brain.

I look out the window and see my old car in the far side of the parking lot. A lime green Toyota Celica, it was a parting gift, or bribe. Call it what you like. It was the WD-40 that lubricated the exit door to get Boyd out of my life.

“What’s he up to?” I ask Sue.

“He’s pretty quiet so far,” says Sue. “Not annoying anyone too much.  Just the usual ranting about The Royals and how many players started out in Kansas City. Apparently, he no longer has a television at home.”

“And what’s he calling home these days?”

“Hard to tell,” says Sue. “A couple more drinks, and I’m sure I’ll have his full life story. Again.”

“Sorry, honey, but he’s your customer,” I say. “The restraining order has expired. Give him some waffle fries on the house. If he’s busy eating, he won’t be able to talk as much.”

I’m rattled, but I go back to varnishing anyway. Roll. Tip. Roll. Tip. One. Two. Lift. Swing. Lift. Swing. I’m reviewing this morning’s practice, more convinced than ever that negative Yankees energy was my enemy, and Boyd was all too often a fan of The Best Team That Money Can Buy.

I had not watched baseball for years when I met him, but he awoke something deep and significant in me: A Red Sox fan’s utter hatred of the New York Yankees, and it felt good for me to know an emotion that deep and pure. Yes! It’s the opposite end of the mood-spectrum from that mystifying ability that some people have that allows them to say, in any situation, “It’s all good.” Anti-Yankeeism consists of a certaintude and clarity of vision found primarily in extreme religious sects, and it’s a wonderfully cleansing experience. I do recommend it.

Boyd was never much of a golf fan, though. So, now I can picture him at the bar, telling his usual two golf jokes. “Oh, yes,” he says, “I agree with Mark Twain that golf is a good walk spoilt.” Not that he’d know what a good walk is either.

And when someone asks him if he plays, he say, “I do. I love golf, but I always have trouble getting the ball through the windmill and into the clown’s mouth.”

By now he is telling Sue his one remaining joke. “You know why a bartender is like a priest?”

I can see the beatific look of unbearable patience on her face now, her chin cocked to the side, her hand smoothly reaching for the taser under the counter.

She doesn’t answer, just raises her eyebrows a bit in a questioning glance.

“They both serve wine and take confessions,” says Boyd, laughing too loud, and then raising his own eyebrows — in surprise.

The bar goes silent, except for Madeleine Peyroux on the jukebox singing “I’m All Right.” Maybe even singing my favorite line, “Wherever you are, you’re still driving my car.”

Hercules has planted himself directly behind Boyd’s bar stool. Boyd’s already pale skin goes white, and then he yelps. As I hear it later, Hercules has nudged off one of Boyd’s baby-blue flip-flops and has chomped into Boyd’s big left toe.

Everyone else in the room backs off, except for Sue, safely behind the bar.

There’s that beatific smile again.  “I believe you are supposed to remain calm,” she says. “Can you do that, Boyd?”

He nods.

“Now, my understanding is that we need to turn this sucker upside down to get him to release you. Are you ready?”

She motions to a couple of the regulars, one in a Yankees tee-shirt and the other in a faded-orange Oriole shirt. They pick up Hercules and twist him, and Boyd’s toe in the process, with no positive results.

“What about the alcohol trick?” Sue asks.

“Okay,” says the Oriole’s fan. He picks up Boyd’s schooner of Guinness and pours it over Boyd’s foot and Hercules’ face. The well-fed iguana still does not budge.

“Only one more thing to do,” says Sue. “Load them both up and get them to the emergency room.” She points to the door.

“I can’t do that,” says Boyd.

“Oh yes you can,” Sue. “It’s either that, lose your toe, or spend the rest of your life with an iguana attached to your foot.”

She gives the two good Samaritans a quick hand signal and twenty dollars, and they load up Boyd and Hercules, droppng them both in the back of a blue Chevy pick-up truck.

I look out the window just in time to see the truck take off down the hot and dusty road. Boyd’s white ponytail has come undone, and I know by the time they reach the hospital, he will have a serious case of uncombable hair syndrome, as well as the more obvious foot-in-iguana-mouth condition.

Sue is already on the phone giving me the delicious details, but I notice, as we talk, that there’s a little activity going on by the back door of The Swing Barn. Usually, Sue keeps that door shut tight to minimize uninvited guests, such as large feral green iguanas.

I’m about to tell her I’m surprised to see the back door open, and then I see The Morning Guy, laughing to himself, closing the door and walking away. No need to mention that to anyone.

And it’s time for me to bake some chicken-parmesan pie before the game gets underway.

Thru and Thru

I’ve had this song kicking through my mind for a few days, but really only the “Open 24 hours” part. I’m glad to be able to identify it, and to hear the whole thing once again. I’ll save my usual diatribe about The Rolling Stones for another time.

Thru and Thru
(M. Jagger/K. Richards)

You know that we do take away
We deliver too
Open 24 hours babe
Just waiting on a call from you
Waiting on a call from you

Well I’m in the yellow pages
You just take a look
Look me up under services
You know it’s just an open book
Babe it’s just an open book
It’s just an open book
Well baby

Any minute, any hour
I’m waiting on a call from you
And you know this heart is constant
I’m your lover, baby
Thru and thru
Lover, baby, thru and thru

I only found out yesterday
I heard it on the news
What I heard really pissed me off
Cause now I got those fucking blues
I got those awesome blues
Babe I got those nothing blues

Any minute, any hour
I’m waiting on a call from you
And you know this heart is constant
I’m your lover, baby
Thru and thru
Lover, baby, thru and thru

You know that we do take-away
That we deliver, too
We’re open 24 hours, baby
We’re waiting on a call from you
But any minute, baby, any hour
I’m waiting on a call from you
You know that this heart is constant
I’m your lover, baby
Thru and thru
Lover, baby, thru and thru
Lover, baby, thru and thru
Lover, baby, thru and thru


Mixtape from http://favtape.com/search/rolling stones thru and thru

Problems with the Large Hadron Collider

You know this is breaking my heart. I want it online now and forever. “Why?” asks my former Cub Scout Hiland. “It can’t kill us all with a localized black hole if it’s offline.”

And I can only remind him that it also can’t kill off the forces of evil on the other side of the black hole either. And you know they are out there. Waiting. Building their own LHC. Firing it up. Going offline. Worrying. Asking Why?

The Associated Press: Q&A about problems with Large Hadron Collider.

Sometimes you can get enough . . . of Barry White

Last night, out on the driving range, well after dark, I go through 100 balls in only an hour, which I know is much too fast. I’m not spending enough time in the silent space between the swings, and I’m going too fast when I am swinging, so I know I need to adjust my sense of time and timing and slow it all right down.

As usual, I need to find a source for the defect, and so today I am passing the blame on to Wendy’s Chocolate-Chip Cookie Dough Frosty, a 480-calorie treat, and 25% of those calories are from fat. W00t! The “healthy alternatives” website suggests that I would have been wiser to go for the Mandarin Chicken Salad instead, but it’s just not the same kick, and standing around with a Mandarin Chicken Salad would not endear me to the local golf teens as much as the Chocolate-Chip Cookie Dough Frosty does.

“Wow,” says one bright-eyed local boy. “I just had one of those two hours ago, and I am still buzzing.”

My point exactly. If I’d gotten mine with chocolate ice cream in stead of vanilla, I would probably still be out there.  Then again, I didn’t sleep well and I am out there again at 7:00 a.m., hitting balls and musing about the events of the past 9 or so hours.

Picture me on driving too fast on I-95, high on way too much sugar but happily reviewing the evening’s progress, remembering the voices of the two men next to me, softly sharing advice and stories, whistling low in appreciation as one or the other hits a truly spectacular shot.

I am happy. I cruising on the super-highway that can be seen from space, and I am listening to jazz and thinking about The Morning Guy who is out somewhere for his evening run, staying fit, keeping the boxes in his mind all nicely organized and never letting them touch each other, and then it happens: The radio inexplicably switches from jazz to Barry White, and I hear Barry moaning about how he cannot get enough of my love.

Suddenly, my mood goes from crest-of-the-wave to serious paper cut, and I feel like I just plunged my hand into a vat of organic lemon juice.

I want to swerve into the nearest bar and knock back some Jack Daniels Black to ward off the unexpected and unwelcome stab of loneliness.  For just a split second, I even find myself missing my two ex-husbands Pretty Boy Boyd and Patrick-the-Liar, but that impulse blinks out of existence just as quickly as a firefly being eaten by a bat.

The next song, though, is equally devastating, and I am plotting the shortest route to Pepe’s Hideaway, when my cell phone jangles, and it is Sue Ten, stranded at a Starbucks with a folding bike and no interest in pedaling any further.

“I was just reaching out for a human connection,” she says.

Relieved to have a diversion, I say I understand fully, and continue south, well past my exit, slowing down to navigate a major speed trap, with at least a dozen blue lights flashing, and I pick her up in a matter of minutes.

On the way to her house, we debate the Pie Shop menu. I am not at all convinced that her version of Eggs Benedict Pie, with sliced potatoes instead of a crust, works for me. She argues for more variety in the menu. I’m holding my ground. I’m running a 24-Hour Pie Shop and Driving Range, not a cafe. And I like purity of definition. What’s she’s offering is a casserole. I will only serve pie, and metaphors.

So this message is for all of you who want more than what I have to offer: Get in your pick-up truck and just go next door to The Swing Barn. You can talk to Sue Ten, in Italian no less, and you can eat whatever you like. You can even have waffle fries covered with cheese-in-a-can. You can swing dance. You can weep in your beer. Remember, though, The Swing Barn is not open 24-hours a day, there’s no free internet, and there aren’t even any good books to read. Although some of the grafitti in the rest rooms — which, by the way, have signs saying “Them” and “Us” on the doors — is pretty interesting.

Now, if you want a pie for dessert, give us a call, and I’ll send someone over in a golf cart to deliver it to you. Please have exact change.

Life can be so easy.


Mixtape from http://favtape.com/search/barry white can’t get enough

Peeled Onion Dream Pie

“Just peel the onion,” they say.
“Peel back the layers
and see what you find.”

I say “Nothing,” but I am wrong.

Nothing is just what I found
at the time,
but now I know it’s full of space,
and space of course is full of stars.

So we talk about observation,
seeing time move, and
wondering when
and how
simple viewing
moved its way
through the amygdala
to turn itself into critical thinking.

To make this pie,
I suggest you start with
just one large,
unfathomably sweet
Vidalia onion.

Peel it back
until you all you can see is
stars, motion,
and mathematics.

Opine to your heart’s desire.

Percolate.
Steep overnight.
Reflect, and finally
inject with just enough emotion
to give it that special zip.

Spread over a thick skin
of bread dough and minced onion.

Bake in a wood-fired adobe oven
in the dark heart of night
just north of Nogales
while you sing with coyotes
and breathe in the same stars
that you formerly
could not see inside the onion.

Serve in a paper bag.

Try to think your way out of it.

Leave the Pieces When You Go

I haven’t slept well this week, which I can only blame on the gibbous waning moon, and just being out of whack in general.

Perhaps you already know the three concepts that I hold so dear, especially here at the Slice of Heaven 24-Hour Pie Shop & Driving Range: Whack, Couth, and Shift. If I’m getting out of whack, it may be that there is a shift in the works and that I must maintain my couth.

Or I could just be over tired.

At any rate, here’s The Wreckers song playing in my head right now:

And it's alright, yeah, I'll be fine
Don't worry about this heart of mine
Just take your love and hit the road
There's nothing you can do or say
You're gonna break my heart anyway
So, just leave the pieces when you go


Mixtape from http://favtape.com/search/the wreckers leave the pieces branch album

Evolution or Creation?: The Story of Eggs Benedict Pie

In 1894, the story goes, Lemmy Benedict, bored and hungover, told the chef at the Waldorf Astoria that we wanted something different for breakfast. What he ordered doesn’t seem all that different: poached eggs, bacon, and buttered toast. But he also asked for a pitcher of hollandaise sauce, and proceeded to build his own treat. The chef, Oscar Tschirky, later made his own variation, and put it on the menu with English muffins and sauteed ham, but Lemmy never approved of Oscar’s version. No, the real deal was the way Lemmy made it and that was that.

The history of Eggs Benedict is now more than 100 years old, and if you do want to read more about it, here’s a fine article:
http://www.nytimes.com/2007/04/08/nyregion/thecity/08eggs.html?pagewanted=1

What you’ll find out though is that a lot of people have taken a whack at creating the E. B., but like so many things in life, all they can do is build on the original idea, the one where Lemmy Benedict ordered up that pitcher of sauce.

Toast or muffins? Toast or artichoke hearts? Salmon instead of ham? I’d be willing to try any of them, especially if I were at the Waldorf Astoria with a hangover.

Here, at the Slice of Heaven 24-hour Pie Shop and Driving Range, we have our own delectable version of Lemmy’s dish: Eggs Benedict Pie. We make it in an individual serving dish with a breadcrumb crust, baked with brushed butter, topped with piping hot Canadian bacon, two poached eggs, and as much hollandaise sauce as you can stand, garnished with one of those cute little sprigs of parsley, just for a touch of color, and and sprinkling of paprika.

If we served liquor, we’d give you a Bloody Mary, too, but we don’t, so you’ll have to settle for our trademarked Bloody Shame. But if you slip in a bit of something from your own hip flask, we won’t try to stop you.

Want to go the vegetarian route? We are willing to negotiate. Just remember. At the Slice of Heaven 24-hour Pie Shop and Driving Range, we use only real ingredients.

Golf Tip Number 4

A couple of days ago, The Morning Guy gave me another tip. It took him three post-its to write it all out. Fortunately, he has very precise and legible handwriting.

“You are ready for golf tip Number 4,” he writes. “The ball should be aligned the same place in relation to your left heel every time. The driver’s ball should be aligned inside the left heel. The wedge’s ball should be aligned equidistant between the two heels.  Never go to the right of that spot.  All other clubs should be aligned on a line from the driver to the wedge depending on the club length.”

I do not have a clue about what he is telling me, and I scribble a note, wanting to know what happened to Tip Number 2 and Tip Number 3.

Then when I got into to work this morning, I found his answer on a napkin taped to my inbox: “They are grip tips and are better taught by showing not by words.”

Obviously, I will need someone else to teach me grip tips since The Morning Guy has successfully avoided having to deal with me in person for months, and he is unlikely to change any time soon. And yet, we do stay in touch. It’s a reliable relationship, not a satisfying one.

I know I am not ready for golf tip Number 4. It has way too many variations, so I will just stick with the changes that Sandra gave me at my last lesson.

And I will practice, practice, practice.

Last night, I will admit, I did get sucked into that color thing. Yes, I saved the shiny yellow ones until the last, and I swear it made a difference. Better balls? Is that what it’s all about?  Better sticks? Finer tools. What about sheer skill and determination? Maybe I should stick to swimming, but no. I love the color, sounds, and smell of the whole thing too much. I’ll just work on style for now, and worry about new equipment later on.

I will note, though, that I’m temped to post a new rule out on the range: “No Married Couples Allowed.” A little harsh? Maybe. But I just don’t enjoy being that close to non-communicating people. If I wanted to hear bickering, I would still be living at Lake of the Ozarks watching men trying to direct their wives in backing their trailer-boats down the ramp.

On the other hand, I did love seeing a dad & a pre-teen daughter hanging out together.  They can come back and play for free. Anytime. We’re open 24-hours a day.

Book Shelves for the Pie Shop

Yes, of course we need book shelves. And we’ll be filling them bit by bit. Right now, my favorite library consists of the bookshelves in the lobby of The Colony Hotel in Delray Beach.  I’m guessing it’s okay to take the books they’ve got stashed there.  No one has ever tried to stop me.  And I do usually take back more than I borrow. I especially like it that there are no overdue fines and no problems with inventory. Either they have what I want or they don’t. Life can be simple.

But before we bring in the books, we’ll need the shelves.  How do you like this set up? (From www.dannykuo.com)

Danny Kuo on his .StairCASE: “This is one of my favourite projects, which realised in 8 weeks, from assigned theme to an almost finished and working prototype.

“The initial keywords: space, storage, future.

“In the future space becomes more desireable because big apartment buildings are taking over normal 1, 2 or 3 level houses. Building vertically is more efficient because less ground square meters are needed to house people. Therefore focus for will be on height rather than width in the future. However current storage furniture is designed for humans with a length of 1.7 or 1.8 meters also our furniture needs to grow in height in in order to be more efficient. This StairCASE is an answer to this need. It reaches the ceiling and the topshelves are still easy to reach without getting into awkward positions or getting help from another furniture piece.”

Lemonade Pie

Didn’t get what I wanted, and you know what they said? Honey, when life hands you a lemon, make lemonade. I always said, when life hands you a lemon, look for tequila and salt.

How to make Lemonade Pie:

Take all your disappointments, sorrows, and, grievances

Soak in tequila overnight

Wake up wanting something sweet and crunchy

Find it

Mash it up for the crust with real butter

And extra cinnamon

Distill the liquid ingredients

Until you have something you can use

Fold in some whole organic eggs and heat ever so slowly

In time it will thicken

In time it will jell

Pour into the crust

And then, baby,

All you need to do is

Chill

Poetry and Coffee (sorry, no pie)

The Morning Guy claims not to listen to NPR, but he does seem to read Garrison Keillor’s website “The Writer’s Almanac” which astounds and confuses me. I do listen to NPR, but built up a sensitivity to Keillor’s voice over the years, until it has become a sound akin to fingernails on a blackboard. But that’s another story.

At any rate, I was surprised to find this poem in my in-box this morning, before I even went in to work. “Everyone must read poetry with their coffee,” he’d written on the attached sea-blue Post-It note. I’m not sure if that is meant to be a new rule — The Morning Guy has many of those — or just an observation.

Sadly for me, like the narrator of the poem, I no longer drink coffee. Or smoke. Or drink. Damn, sometimes life is hard. No wonder I look forward to those stormy days when Hurricane Rules Apply.  I used to love a shot of 100-proof Hot Damn followed by a beer chaser.  Oddly enough, I just don’t get the same kick from a cinnamon Altoid and an O’Doul’s.

And I do miss drinking coffee with my poetry. At least I’ll always have pie.

http://writersalmanac.publicradio.org/

Literature in the 21st Century
by Ronald Wallace

Sometimes I wish I drank coffee
or smoked Marlboros, or maybe cigars—
yes, a hand-rolled Havana cigar
in its thick, manly wrapping,
the flash of the match between
worn matchbook and stained forefinger,
the cup of the palm at the tip,
the intake of air, and the slow and
luxuriant, potent and pleasurable
exhale. Shall we say also a glass
of claret? Or some sherry with its
dark star, the smoke blown into the bowl
of the glass, like fog on portentous
morning, the rich man-smell of gabardine
and wool, of money it its gold clip?

Sometimes I wish I had habits
a man wouldn’t kick, faults a good man could
be proud of. I’d be an expatriate from
myself, all ink-pen and paper in a Paris café
where the waiters were elegant and surly,
the women relaxed and extravagant
with their bobbed hair and bonbons, their
perfumed Galoises, their oysters and canapés,
and I’d be writing about war and old losses—
man things-and not where I am, in this
pristine and sensitive vessel, all
fizzy water, reticence, and care, all reduced
fat and purified air, behind my deprived
computer, where I can’t manage even
a decaf cap, a mild Tiparillo, a glass of
great-taste-less-filling light beer.

“Literature in the 21st Century” by Ronald Wallace from Long for This World: New and Selected Poems. © University of Pittsburgh Press, 2003. Reprinted with permission.

Golf Lesson Sept. 16, 2008

I love how almost everything I am learning about golf is a life lesson. Consequently, I am in no hurry ever to get beyond the driving range and on to the course.

This morning, Sandra and I spent an hour pretty much just on alignment and relaxing. “You want to feel like you have a buzz on.” Oh, yes. There’s a goal I can appreciate.

Slow down, slow down, slow down.

Then finally I hit one and don’t feel it at all. The ball just flies away, not far, but straight. We smile. We nod. “Excellent,” she says, and I hit five in a row. I am psyched and happy.

She changes my grip into one that seems awkward at first, but works so well that I am sold in a matter of minutes.

The alignment lesson may have been easier for many people, but I already know from yoga with Daragh that I have little sense of alignment, and I need to trust someone else’s judgment on that. What feels lined up to me apparently does not meet the classic definition, but I can learn the steps to the dance. And I shall.

On the way home, I listen to Monte Montgomery singing “I know you by heart,” but couldn’t find it on FavTape, so here are a couple other songs of his that I like, too.


Mixtape from http://favtape.com/search/monte montgomery

September Full Moon

I went out to the driving range earlier than I had planned because I was a little worried about the usual weather prediction of thunder storms, but then I live in SoFLA so what do I expect? Still I did not want to get shut out, so I had my 100 balls ready to go long before the full moon came up at 7:30.

After no practice for more than a week, I didn’t feel much flow, and that’s probably much of what I will feel in tomorrow’s Ashtanga yoga class, too.

The lighting tonight was exquisite. I wished I had taken my camera, thinking that the sky I was seeing would be just perfect on the ceiling of the pie shop, oh hell, puffy clouds turning all pink and gold against an impossibly blue background. Just the sort of thing I would have drawn in third grade and been told, as I was, that it was unrealistic.

The sky to the west, though, was steel gray, and foreboding. No matter. It was all bluff, no action.

At first there was a lot of chatter, lessons taking place, tips being offered, ah, but not for me. I settled in for an evening of way too many swings and misses, marveling at how many little things go into a righteous hit, worrying about the recent misses elsewhere in my life, trying not to get too spaced out on metaphors.

Yes, yes, yes, I want to believe that golf is all Zen, but then I’m noting, too, my check list of motions and notions. I hear the guy behind me advising his friend to separate the bright yellow balls from the old ones and see what difference that makes. Oh, no! I am not ready for that level of refinement.

What I want first is consistency. I want to see that I can repeat the few good strong hits that please me so much. It seems that I am setting up the same every time, but apparently not. Some piece is missing. I try putting different thoughts in my head. I get engrossed in my imagination and my body goes ahead with the swing.

Meanwhile I have my right toes, all of them, are cramping up and that does a lot to help with focus now, doesn’t it? I sing a little to myself. The guy next to me swears, not about the singing. At least I don’t think so. Then, when I see that I am running low on balls, I start to feel sad because I will be done.

No great breakthrough or giant step ahead tonight, but a satisfying practice. I know from swimming and yoga that the tiny improvements will continue to add up, and it will all come down to learning to breathe, and that has been the story of my life for the past five years.

Or, as John Lennon once said, “As breathing is my life, to stop I dare not dare.”

A Perfect Cup of Coffee

Oh, yes. I remember coffee. Did you know that there is not even a support group for people who, for reasons both sad and true, are better off without caffeine? My name is Barbara Jean, and I am in coffee recovery.

What am I missing? Only a major connection with most of the people I know. Ah, to be one of you and savor that early morning, or late evening, cuppa cuppa cuppa. 

I long for it. 

What’s my perfect cup of coffee these days? A glass of ice water.  What’s my perfect cocktails? A glass of ice water. And on and on and on. It’s tap water, too. But we have excellent tap water here at the Slice of Heaven 24-Hour Pie Shop and Driving Range, so don’t go getting all hoity toity on me. I’m thinking of bottling some of it with our own house brand special “Quality of Mercy” label.

You just wait and see.

Meanwhile, if you do want to talk about coffee, here’s a great starting point. But pull up a chair and get comfy. I can guarantee that’s it’s more than you want to know.  Have I listened to it?  No, so I’m hoping you do and give me the abbreviated de-caffeinated version.

Free University – How to Make The Perfect Cup Of Coffee

September 14th, 2008 

Dr Mark Miodownik – How to Make The Perfect Cup Of Coffee

Mark Miodownik: How to make the perfect cup of coffee.

What elements are involved in the making of a simple beverage. The
Director of the Materials Library and Head of the Materials Research
Group at King’s College London provides an audibly practical
demonstration of the answer.

Duration: 43:10.

icon for podpress  Free University – How to Make The Perfect Cup Of Coffee [43:10m]: Play Now | Play in Popup | Download

Visit http://www.materialslibrary.org.uk

Full Moon Golf Music

So, yes, I know it’s September and not July, but this song does have a great lyric in it: My arms are empty and the moon is full.

It’s a sad, sad song,  and don’t you agree that they ought to put warning labels on those sad country songs? I was thinking I might find an antidote in some Magic Mushroom Chocolate Pie, but apparently the key ingredients are just a tad difficult to find.

And I know I will feel better once I’ve had an hour or two out on the driving range watching the full moon come up.


Mixtape from http://favtape.com/search/dixie chicks cold day in july

Or then again, I might be more in the mood for Bat for Lashes . . .


Mixtape from http://favtape.com/search/i’m on fire bat for lashes cover

Large Hadron Collider Webcam

From Boing Boing Gadgets:

Watch protons dry with Large Hadron Collider official webcams

webcamlhc.jpgThey’re just warming up the dipole magnets, and the first major experiment (bunching thousands of protons and making them headbutt) is about to begin: be sure to watch it at the LHC’s official webcams.Chances are it’s just going to be like any other webcam, of course, and you’ll just stare at it for 20 seconds, then get bored and go somewhere else.
Click here — Webcams — to view.

Yes, the Pie Shop Will Have a Scan Toaster

Some people like to read a stack of newspapers in the morning. Some people watch The Weather Channel. Some do both.

Me, I like to read Lifehacker and BoingBoing. Both readings give me a never-ending supply of tips for making the Slice of Heaven 24-Hour Pie Shop and Driving Range a finer experience for all you all.

 Scan-Toaster

Scan Toaster: Bread Printing Protocol needed immediately

Posted by Rob Beschizza, September 12, 2008 5:35 AM | permalink

Of all the companies that make toasters, I’m pretty sure Electrolux has the biggest R&D budget. It always pops up sponsoring fancy design competitions and the like. Here’s its “Scan Toaster,” a concept by Sung Bae Chang, whose mode of operation is refreshingly obvious.

You plug it into your computer, put a slice of bread in it, and then print. But come now – toasting on bus power? I think not.

Scan Toaster [Electrolux Design Lab via Gizmodo]

Golf Lesson Number One

The morning guy gave me a golf lesson — by email — a couple of weeks ago. I was hoping for something more personal, like the snuggly stuff they always show in the movies, but I will take what I can get. As it turns out, I am doing most of this stuff anyway, but maybe I am not doing it right. (Or, as they say so often in LOLcats: “U R Doin It Rong.”)

Here goes: “Golf lesson number one: At the range, take time in between every hit. After the hit, step away from the next ball. Think of how you just hit the ball. Think of the feeling of hitting. Regrip the club correctly. Step up to the ball correctly. And hit the next ball. Repeat.”

You see, it’s all Zen. I love this game.

What’s on the jukebox?

As I have mentioned, the morning guy says “no” to Dixie Chicks, but I do like the girls, and sometimes I find that I have bits of “A Home” stuck in my head, especially the line, “Not a night goes by that I don’t go wandering in the house that might have been a home.”

Then again, just as often I might want a little bit of Tom Waits’ singing about The Heart of Saturday Night.

What would you like to hear? Does the time of day matter? The flavor of the pies?

Click on the comments link to chime in.

Morning at the Slice of Heaven 24-Hour Pie Shop and Driving Range

It’s a little before noon so I am just coming in to work. The morning guy has already been there to chat with the late shift postal workers and firefighters. He’s stocked the soda machine and, once again, removed the Dixie Chicks from the jukebox. I will put them back in after you & I have had a chance to catch up. I do love the smell of coffee even though I can’t drink it any more.So, what’s going on with you? How about a piece of pie?

Ten Hours of Chatter

“Ten hours of chatter,” said Marilyn, when she saw my post in Facebook late in the day, but early for her in China. It was productive chatter, though, I think — and something I needed to help me move ahead, or at least sideways.

Thanks to all who chimed in and push me out of my dense daydreaming and inertia.

I still have a lot of questions about friendships, connections, time, memory, and communication. Click on the “comments” link to continue the conversation.

And, no, you do not need to use your real name. This is all a fantasy, maybe even a dream.

Making Pie Crust

You must not work the dough too much.
Fine flaky crust
requires a light touch.
I cut the shortening into the flour,
rocking the cutter as I go.
There was a time, though,
when I would grasp two knives
and cleave the ingredients,
both pressing them together
and slicing them apart.
When young, I did not remove my rings.
I don’t even wear them now.
Back then,
I liked the look of gemstones
dappled with bits of dough.
Grandmother would not have approved, though,
and even now,
I know she is watching me.
Not that grandmother taught me how to bake.
Oh, no.
If anything, she showed me that I
could be a real woman
and never cook a god damn thing.
But that’s another story.
She did, however, make a pie crust
that was so flaky
I could peel it apart
with my silver dessert fork,
and find a new horizon
in every translucent layer.
My grandfather was talented with pie, too.
No matter how many people
sat at his table,
he could cut a pie
so that everyone there
had a slice of equal size,
and he always had two.
Somewhere along the line
I learned to lay down waxed paper
instead of a pastry cloth.
I think that is a Nebraska trait.
And when I make my pie crust now,
I travel back there for a moment or two.
I visit the women at my welcoming church
who invited me, the young mother, to join them
in cookie packing one holiday weekend.
One after another, the women came in,
brushing the snow from their sensible boots,
dropping down bags of store-bought cookies,
and saying, “I really don’t have time to bake.”
I knew I was in the right place.
Long ago, for a rolling pin, I chose a wine bottle
that drew me in with its rich green glass.
Now I wield the wooden pin
that I have carried with me for years.
I wonder when the handles broke off?
I wonder why?
It hints of violence in the kitchen, doesn’t it?
I don’t recall any—at least not involving pie,
although …
I did once throw
a fairly hefty farm-grown watermelon
at my fairly hefty farm-grown husband.
But that’s another story.
Now for the best part:
The crust is elegantly thin,
and ready to be transferred to its vessel.
Sometimes I choose the glass pie plates that I bought
when my favorite bar went out of business
and sold off all its cookware.
I don’t believe I ever ate a pie there,
though I would, sometimes, sit at the bar and drink
Glenlivet scotch, and toast the memory
of my late great father-in-law.
My war with him was never open,
but I still think I won.
I’m here now, am I not?
We can only speculate on his whereabouts.
So, where were we?
Ah, the pie crust,
submissive in its pan.
My mother would have me
prick it with a fork,
but I say no.
I go another route,
more seductive, more sublime.
I pull out my crimper
and begin the ritual
of pressing the dough,
embossing the crust
with rosettes and with stars.
It’s a gentle motion of marking territory:
This
pie
crust
belongs
to
me.
Many times,
if I am making a single-crust pie,
this effort remains hidden,
like wearing your best undies
when you go out to play.
But sometimes…
sometimes
I’ll do a two-crust pie,
and then I get the pay-off:
The aahs.
The oohs.
The how-did-you-do-its?
My crimper is a sacred object.
I rank it high in holiness.
Perhaps it is as holy as –
please don’t laugh –
my bean pot.
Both were gifts from Hazel,
wonderful, funny, austere, searching Hazel,
a city girl
who had learned to navigate country life
but never lost her style or poise.
I was barely in my twenties, and she was …
well she was just a little older than I am now.
I was in training to marry her long-haired poet son,
but I never did.
I’ve always felt
that he would have married me
for my incestuous pie crust alone.
It looked like his mother’s.
It tasted like his mother’s.
But in the end,
pastry was not enough.
I triumphed in pie crust, but I did not win in love.
I excelled in pastry, but I failed in common virtue.
And now I know,
pastry is never enough.
And yet, there are days …
there are days
when nothing will console me,
nothing will hold me,
nothing will soothe my fretful soul
quite like making a pie.
And as for the boy I did not marry,
Well, that really is another story.

Copyright 2000, Barbara Jean Walsh

Vodka in the Pie Crust

Somehow, a chat with Becca, Paul, and Macy this morning went very quickly from ghosts to silly putty to play dough to eating play dough to eating library past to making — of course — pie dough. “The new secret ingredient is vodka” said Paul. So I’ll have something new to try out when I get home. Of course, this means I will have to break into my hurricane supplies to get the vodka, which will make this crust a Category One provisions. (I’m saving The Glenlivet for Category 4, and tequila shots for Category 5. Bourbon for 3 and possibly mojitos for 2. Keep in mind, that I usually do not drink at all, but at different times in life, Hurricane Rules Apply.)

So, here is the Vodka Pie Crust recipe .  .  .  .

Cook’s Illustrated’s Foolproof Pie Dough

When we talked to Cook’s Illustrated publisher Chris Kimball about the November 2007 issue of the magazine, we asked what recipes really stood out in it this year. This pie crust is one of them, he said. “It’s a brilliant recipe,” Kimball said. “The secret ingredient in it? Vodka.”

Foolproof Pie Dough

– makes one 9-inch double-crust pie –

The trick to this pie crust is the inclusion of vodka. Eighty-proof vodka, which is 60 percent water and 40 percent alcohol, adds moistness to the dough without aiding in gluten formation since gluten doesn’t form in ethanol. Although the recipe includes 8 tablespoons of liquid, the alcohol vaporizes during baking, resulting in a tender crust that only contains 6 1/2 tablespoons of water. Because of the extra liquid, the dough will be moister than most standard pie doughs and will require up to 1/4 cup more flour.

Ingredients

2 1/2 cups (12 1/2 ounces) unbleached all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon table salt
2 tablespoons sugar
12 tablespoons (1 1/2 sticks) cold unsalted butter, cut into 1/4-inch slices
1/2 cup cold vegetable shortening, cut into 4 pieces
1/4 cup cold vodka
1/4 cup cold water

Procedure

1. Process 1 1/2 cups flour, salt, and sugar in food processor until combined, about 2 one-second pulses. Add butter and shortening and process until homogeneous dough just starts to collect in uneven clumps, about 15 seconds (dough will resemble cottage cheese curds and there should be no uncoated flour). Scrape bowl with rubber spatula and redistribute dough evenly around processor blade. Add remaining cup flour and pulse until mixture is evenly distributed around bowl and mass of dough has been broken up, 4 to 6 quick pulses. Empty mixture into medium bowl.

2. Sprinkle vodka and water over mixture. With rubber spatula, use folding motion to mix, pressing down on dough until dough is slightly tacky and sticks together. Divide dough into two even balls and flatten each into 4-inch disk. Wrap each in plastic wrap and refrigerate at least 45 minutes or up to 2 days.

A Night Out at the Hu Ke Lau

What can it be like to be a member of the Show at a Polynesian restaurant in Chicopee, Mass.? I can only wonder what the six dancers, four musicians, and the MC do the rest of the time.

You may remember that this is the place where we all went out to eat on Fathers Day in 2006, the day after Becca and Paul’s wedding. I seem to remember that Paul work a construction-paper tie, but that could be wrong. No, I’m sure that’s right. And we had a group photo taken against a mural of some island scene.

So, I did know what to expect, and I was somewhat disappointed when Macy told me that there was no longer a stuffed alligator in the lobby. We got there in time for the warm up act, before the dancers came out, and my main observation for that is that the keyboard player exhibited a wan appearance that most moviemakers would key into for a serial-killer suspect. Of course, the real serial killer would be more of a surprise. During the fire dances, the smell of lighter fluid permeated the air.

You can tell I am still very much a small-town girl by the fact that I was fascinated by the glowing plastic ice cubes in the drinks on most of the tables, including ours in time. I will definitely want to order some of those for the pie shop, especially for that late night sip of cold water with your lemon meringue.

Back to the dancers: Our MC took us on a journey through several islands where all the dances involved a great deal of hip movement and fire. I liked it, but probably not as much as the wedding-rehearsal group at the edge of the stage did. They got a lot of special attention, and rightly so.

I also did not previously know that “Tiny Bubbles” was the Hawaiian National Anthem, and I enjoyed singing along in my usual combination of ignorance and enthusiasm.  One of the closing songs was “I’m proud to be an American” which I remembered from living in Ozarks, but in the Ozarks when they got to the line about “stand up” everyone did actually stand up.

It was all over by 9:00, and the cast member were free to take off their makeup and leis, and do what? I had to wonder if they thought it had been a great night, or just anohter job. They reminded me very much of our own Elvis impersonator in Delray, well known about town, and easy to spot even in his police uniform, because he was still sort of Elvis all the time. So maybe the dancers are the same way, local celebrities, smiling across the footlights, even when they are just shopping at the five and dime.

Why Pie & Golf?

Why not? To my mind, it’s a fairly perfect real-world mash up.

Click on the “comments” link to discuss golf, pie, and life with me, your hostess at the Slice of Heaven 24-Hour Pie Shop and Driving Range.

I’m here for you.