Coming Out Party

February 16, 2013

I used to write blogs almost daily. This was way before everyone and his dog had one. I loved the creative outlet and the occasional interaction with the few people who had actually read it. I just looked at my WordPress account and realized I have not posted a thing since March of last year. Lots has happened since then, most of it level to good. By that I mean there was nothing particularly good happening, but nothing particularly evil either. Just level….Level to me is OK for awhile, but it tends to get boring. Eventually, I end up at the same place. I get this overwhelming need to “Shuffle the deck” as I call it. I hate being stagnant. At my core, I try to be the best husband and father that I can be, but at the end of the day I simply need more than that. I need to be who I am outside of the assigned roles.

For those of you who have been following my Facebook posts, you may have noticed that I have been making increasingly broad hints at a project I’ve been researching. More specifically, you may have noticed that it involves my passion for cooking.

It’s time to bring it to light.

My hesitation to make this public is twofold; The first is the  fact is that three of my FB friends are co-workers in my current job. There is always a risk that the information that I am planning to change careers could fall into the wrong hands prematurely would obviously be a problem, coupled with the fact that I need financing for my plan and I have a long way to go to get to that point, but I am working on it almost daily.

The answer to the first concern is, the few people from work that I have chosen to add to my friends list are people I have grown to trust, and if you really know me, you know that I do not trust people lightly, and second, well…I’m working on it.

I am planning to start a food truck and hoping to launch by the summer of 2013,  The concept is  based on  Italian cuisine, I am calling it Anything’s Pastable.

Why am I telling you this now? Good question. Main reason is I need to strengthen my resolve and making this public is a good way to do that. That way, I will have you asking me about my progress and I will be compelled to have solid answers. I want this. I want this probably more than I have even wanted anything in my life.  I see this idea as the confluence of all my particular skills. The sum review of my life has always come back to cooking as the common denominator. It is what I was meant to do, and I have to now before I get too old to do it.

I have taken several forward steps to achieving this dream, but I am finding myself kind of stalled. I have taken the required course to get my official Food Handler certificate required by the state,   I have calculated all my costs versus potential income in my target market and on paper, I have a winner! Of course things always look better on paper. Now I need to approach people who can actually back this and make my dream a reality. At the risk of repeating myself, I want this. I have had a long, hard life full of frustrations and disappointments. This is now my focus and my goal, besides my family, nothing else matters. If I fall on my ass so be it, but I have to try. Wish me luck.

The Specs Make the Man

March 20, 2012

I am about 3 weeks into having glasses. I’ve mentally tried to accept the fact that despite my almost child-like curiosity and attitude at times, I’m getting old(er). It took me about 3 days and being exposed to several different environments before I was able to wear them without feeling like I was going to yodel groceries due to the depth perception issues with the bi-focals. They are inconvenient with all the adjusting, cleaning, and being aware of where they are at all times.

And I couldn’t be happier with them.

Just to put it in perspective, when the Doc asked me to read the lowest line I could naked, I read line 3 with a little effort. When he hit the right combo of lenses, I read line 8! But that’s not what’s making me really enjoy this. It’s the prop value. True or false, I’ve always seen myself as something of an intellectual. They help perpetuate that image. I’ve found myself busting out the vocabulary that I normally reserve for the select few that doesn’t give me a blank stare. They also seem to have a calming effect. I’ll get a catastrophic e-mail or phone call and I find myself pausing for a moment, adjusting the glasses and formulating my response. Groucho Marx and George Burns both agreed that the cigar was the perfect prop to use to give them time to think in between laughs to come up with their next line. So far, they have served me well in this regard.

So my review of the whole thing is I truly think it has advanced my life and I am in good company for having received them.

Cracking the Shell

December 3, 2011

I used to write these things almost daily, now it seems like if it’s every two months it’s a lot. Some of that is due my perceived lack of audience, but then as with everything else one must feel content to do things for your own benefit. If others can somehow benefit as an extension of that, so much the better. The other reason is the past few months has been a period of almost constant change, evaluation, re-evaluation, and self-discovery.

Without getting into too many specifics, I’ve been forced to take a good hard look at my life which I think everyone should now and then. As you know, one of my biggest “causes” is putting forth the idea that one should not remain static and robotically move through life as if there were no deeper meaning to it. The result of that process (if there ever can be one end result), is that I was decidedly not happy with some dynamics and took steps to change that. Besides the confines of my home, I had been content to basically shut down and shut out a lot of things and especially people. Scenarios had presented themselves that made me realize how deeply lonely I was in that mode, yet still fighting the “Introverted extrovert” personality I seem to have. Basically, I enjoy people but I enjoy them in short bursts.

I’ve recently made it a point to be a bit more social and joined a local organization for men to get together once a month and do “manly things” such as Bar-B-Que,  drink beer and talk about things such as Bar-B-Queing and drinking beer…It’s fun, met some nice people and it occurs just enough to keep me wanting to come back for more. I never really got the hang of having a big circle of friends that I would be busy doing this or that with every weekend so this suits me just fine.

Another thing I’ve been focusing on lately is philosophy. Steve Martin had a routine years ago about how going to college to study math and science fills your head with a lot of largely useless facts, while religion is a bit arbitrary. But philosophy will teach you just enough to screw you up for the rest of your life…While I wouldn’t go that far, I will say that I’ve been finding it fulfilling to find an outlet for new ideas as well as fine tuning some that I’ve had for a long time without really knowing how to classify them. I’ve been trying to work on that perennial problem of balancing work, home, and personal satisfaction and while I have a long way to go, I can say that progress has definately been made.

 

Testing…testing…is this thing on?

September 23, 2011

It’s been awhile since I’ve posted anything of note here. Largely because I get the feeling I’ve been talking to myself most of the time. I’m pretty sure that’s not entirely true, but it does make me wonder why I’m so compelled to express myself in any way other than the need to have some sort of intellectual outlet and interplay now and then. I posted a clip on my wall not too long ago from My Dinner with Andre which I will repeat here;

Keep asking the questions

I don’t know about you other “Lifers” out there, but I find that scene incredibly profound. I don’t see it as negative, or threatening, I see it as a wake up call. We all have our roles to play. Our obligations, our responsibilities in our daily lives, but what exactly are we doing these things for? Is it to better our lives and the lives of those we love, or is it to be Joe or Jane average and just exist by rote and conform?

This modern forum gives everyone an instant outlet to express themselves in any way they please. It doesn’t have to go through a professional editing process (thank God), and it doesn’t have to be accepted or rejected. It just is. I’m getting up in years relative to accomplishments and fulfillment that some have achieved by now, and I don’t want a life that just is. I want a life that does. That gives what you put into it, a dynamic world full of knowledge and wonder that the vast majority skip over and lose in the constant static of their lives. I fully believe it’s possible to do that and still play a good role. I can be the husband and father I am (and strive for better in those areas), yet also be me. Never stop learning. Never stop growing. And never stop being…

Anyway, that’s either the fever-induced ramblings of a manic or I’m on to something. I’m not insecure enough with myself to plead for re-posting if you agree, it’s just something to put out there, because it’s the way I plan to live.

They Don’t Make Tortured Souls Like They Used to

September 5, 2011

I came across this fragment of a poem during my recent researches of ancient Rome:

Hard-it is hard of a sudden to break with a love

years-long cherished.

Yes, it is hard, but you must. This way or that, end it now.

Here only is your salvation. This fight you must win–

here be victor.

This you shall do. If you can or if you cannot.

You must.

O Gods, if you ever pity, if ever you bring to the stricken,

help in the anquish of death, in life’s extremity,

look on my misery, save him who vows he has lived free from evil.

Purge his plauge from my blood, make me clean

of this taint,

creeping like slow corruption within me, body, bone, sinew.

Not in all my heart space where joy may come.

No more now I pray she might love me again as I love her,

not for what cannot be, that she should wish to be true.

I would be healed, rise up from this torment of sickness

that fouls me.

O Gods, give only this–this to your worshipper.

                                                                                       –Catullus (ca 84B.C-ca 54B.C.)

The Dumbing Down of America

May 8, 2011

I can fondly remember the days, not that long ago really, that I could turn on the History Channel and watch a documentary about some point in history. They would even show the occasional movie and have an august panel of historians discussing the accuracy and importance of the project. Now, you can’t go a half-hour without seeing an episode of Ax Men, UFO Hunters, or Ice Road Truckers. If you haven’t seen Ax Men , it’s pretty much Deadliest Catch with trees. History ? Well, it was filmed several months earlier…

Don’t get me wrong, I would be lying if I said that all I watch are documentaries and programs of some kind of substance. Trust me, you’d be hard pressed to find someone who watches more unadulterated crap than I, but a lot of the time, I think it’s for lack of a better option. Even on my beloved Food Network, they have largely replaced shows that, I don’t know, teach you how to cook things, and replaced them with some muffin or another driving around town eating stuff and giggling…Or, you can watch soccer moms who suddenly think they are gualified to work in a 4-star restaurant. Or think they can dance, sing, etc. These kinds of shows imply that you can replace hard work with a fast track to the top if you have just a smidge of talent and look good on camera.  

It seems more and more people rely on others to spells things out for them, which to me is the equivalent of drawing a picture in crayon. They are not given the space to think for themselves. The media will tell you what to think, don’t sweat it. To make another comparison, CNN used to actually have journalists on it who just reported the news. Now these cranky old men are going to tell you what you should think about the news. That’s when some overly made up woman isn’t looking at you wide-eyed or with reverence (depending on the story), and standing in front of a camera instead of sitting quietly behind a desk so you can be sure to see every inch of her Versace dress as she reads the teleprompter .

It’s a shame. At some point, people just stopped trying if TV is any indication . It is engineered to appeal to the masses, which really doesn’t say a whole lot for the masses now does it ?

Danced around a dream

October 3, 2010

We just finished a fantastic and long overdue vacation to points west. We had visiting my brother-in-law and his family as a focal point, but most everything else was improvised which is how we like to travel. No master plan, no strict timelines. That was mostly how we went on vacation growing up and I hated it. Other than saying, “We’re heading to Fort Collins, Colorado for a few days”, we took everything else as it came. I posted a sort of travelogue using modern technology primarily for us to be able to look back on our trip. As it turns out, people enjoyed following us along on our escapades and commented along the way, so that added to the fun.

Each night we estimated how far we wanted to drive before we thought we’d reach a good stopping point. In some cases, we called ahead, in others we just walked into a likely looking place.

This brought us to a town called Macon, Missouri and one of the highlights of my trip.

By the time we reached Macon, we had already seen and discounted a couple of motels in the only other decent sized town to the west so we were tired and hungry. As it was our last night on the road, we wanted to have a sit down dinner where someone would serve us as opposed to another Subway (We hit several along the way for lunch). We drove around town a bit and found there were a lot of fast food joints and a couple of corner cafes which were packed. We almost drove out-of-town when we came upon the Northern Star restaurant. It was on the late end of dusk so the fact that the lights weren’t on out front just yet didn’t register with us. The door was unlocked so we went in. We found a place with stone floors, simple but tasteful decor, and a large buffet. There was only one large group of people in the place and no hostess in sight so we waited until an older gentleman wearing a John Deere cap and T-shirt came out from the kitchen and seated us. Didn’t think too much of it at the time, but then he came back to our table and took our order. When I said I wanted the buffet, he said, “I’ll go put on some fresh catfish for you.”

Long story short, he was the owner and was down two people. Not even a dishwasher on duty. The man was running the restaurant by himself.

Once the large group found this out, and once they saw other people coming into the place (the lights were off on purpose as it turned out to discourage patrons), two of the ladies at the table jumped up. One grabbed a pad and started taking orders, one served drinks. By this time, we were almost finished with our meals and I did what any guest in a small town would do; grabbed our plates and took them to the back. There was the owner/cook/hostess/waitress/dishwasher huddling over a grill with a couple of other locals. I said, “Excuse me, just heard what’s going on, I’m going to put these over here…And, I do some cooking, I can drop my family at the hotel and come back and give you a hand if you want.” He gave it some serious thought, but looked out at the dining room and said, “Naw, things are clearing out. I’m going to shut down soon. I think we can handle it. However, I am looking to sell the place…” And that so far is as close as I came to cooking at a restaurant.

Turns out, the guy built this place himself about 3 years ago. His wife, left him about 2 years ago. Reading between the lines, I surmised she did most of the front of the house work so he was out of his element. I felt really sorry for him. He put his heart and soul into the place, not only did he build the restaurant from the ground up, he built a residence above it, so it is his whole life. No sense speculating what happened to the wife, but I could not help but ask, “So. What are you looking to get for it?” Thinking a small town place nowhere near a highway could not be anything like what the places go for around here. “Oh, I need to at least get back what I’ve put into it; 800-850…” That’s thousand. The man needed at least $800,000 to recoup the million he originally put into it minus what he made on the place in the course of 3 years. In small town Missouri.

So to wrap this thing up, I came very close to working at a restaurant for an evening, and got a serious offer to buy the place lock, stock, and barrel. At the end of the day, and as usual, nothing came of it.

Bumpersticker Logic Meets Historical Fact

August 28, 2010

Here is a classic example of why Liberals wear me out. Briefly, there was one of those fan pages on Facebook entitled:  Illegal immigration is not a new problem, Native Americans used to call it ‘White People’. You will see why I say briefly when you click on it. Ignoring that for a minute, I’m sure most clear thinking people will see the obvious flaw; there were no laws stopping us from coming in at the time. We took over this land by conquest and indeed through lots of  subterfuge and broken promises. Not my place (or concern) to say if it was right or wrong. I just chalk it up to survival of the fittest. If the Mexicans want to try to organize en masse and try to regain the region of the country we took from them years ago, they are welcome to do so. They will be defeated as well, but it is their right to try. It’s not their right to come into a country without following the established procedures and laws and to cut in line in front of millions of others, including their own countrymen, who want to benefit from what the United States has to offer since their own country cannot adequately provide for them.

Getting back to our friends the Native Americans,  a large amount, some historians say as many as 80%-90%, succumbed to diseases brought here by the Europeans (since I feel the need to have to spell this out, that was not intentional. They just did not have the natural immunity to fight previously unknown strains). These diseases were caught via casual and benevolent contact with the Europeans through trade and other non-violent activities. Since I’m sure I will get “Yes, but white men wrote the history books. Of course you would say that,” Let me pass on some wisdom from the people who lived in this period:

“I am a red man. If the Great Spirit had desired me to be a white man he would have made me so in the first place. He put in your heart certain wishes and plans, in my heart he put other and different desires. Each man is good in his sight. It is not necessary for Eagles to be Crows. We are poor..but we are free. No white man controls our footsteps. If we must die…we die defending our rights.”  - Sitting Bull, 

 And they certainly tried. Granted when the white man won a battle, we called it victory, when we lost we called it a “massacre”, but win we did. The entire make up of planet Earth is constantly changing through this method. It is just the natural order of things and trite comments will never change it. It is our turn as the current “native Americans” to defend our rights to preserve the laws of our nation and to preserve the melting pot culture established now for over two hundred years.

Oh, and getting back to why that link was only up briefly, it was taken down by Facebook as the majority marked it as offensive. Maybe there is hope after all…

Shameless

May 22, 2010

This is likely to make a few people mad. Good. Maybe it will get people fired up and as outraged as I was this morning…

We were on line at the grocery store on a fairly busy day. Grabbed what looked like a short line and waited. A man and his little girl (I’m bad with ages, 4, 5?), were in front of us with a dozen or so items; milk, cereal, rice, and juice mainly. Everything got scanned in and I figured we were on our way.

Then, out came the WIC checks…

For those of you unfamiliar, that stands for Women, Infants, and Children. Basically it is a government-run program which grants families in need money to buy certain items. It’s been around for years. I used to have to deal with them when I worked in the grocery business in Virginia. Always argued with people with what was and was not covered under this program. (Beer for example, is not…) What commenced this morning was a full 1/2 hour of back and forth over this man’s 12 items or less as to what qualified and what did not. I’m sure I could go to a website and get a detailed list of what the Powers-That-Be has deemed “health foods” , but I’ve already wasted enough time getting this far. White rice? No sir, not covered. Has to be whole grain, not enriched. Generic Fruit Loop-like cereal? Sorry. Same issue. This is sugar-coated. This juice is a blend, no blends allowed on this program…

Now at this point you may think you know where I’m going with this. You may be thinking, “The poor man. It’s too bad he has to go through the indignity of having to get his purchases scrutinized in front of everyone so he can provide some meager offerings for his family.”

And you could not be more wrong.

This was a young, able-bodied man. An immigrant as it happens, in this case from India or Pakistan. As I saw the items get removed from the screen, it totalled about $7. I was five minutes away from doing one of two things; pay for the damn purchases myself, or pull my $100 worth of groceries off the counter, throw them back into the cart, and walk out. The man did not have $2.69 to subsidize his purchase of a box of generic Fruit-Loops? No, I don’t know his story. Maybe this is a case where he is a brilliant engineer or computer programmer who was laid off with thousands of other Americans. Maybe he has sick wife at home with 5 more mouths to feed.

Here’s the thing; you find yourself down on your luck, you work your ass off to make it right or at least to improve your position as best you can. You don’t come to this country expecting everything will be fine and if it’s not, expecting the government to take care of you. Trust me, I would be working 3 jobs and sell half the contents of this house before I would cheapen myself enough to ask for any handouts from anyone let alone the government! I have worked, and paid and paid and paid and I’ll be damned if I am going to subsidize laziness. This is the country we live in now. It’s encouraged by your president and his minions and I am sick of it.

The end game of this is he caused so much of a stink and delay to the other customers, that the manager came and overrode the system. He got everything for free.

Here’s an idea fella; next time, instead of arguing with the staff of the store and tying up my morning, go to the front counter and ask for a job application.

Everyone Into the Jury Pool

February 25, 2010

I got called for jury duty for the first time in about 4 years. I live in a different county luckily, so instead of having to travel from the western suburbs into downtown Chicago (while passing the county courthouse might I add), I was able to go to the relatively small town of Woodstock, IL since the county I currently live in is largely rural. I am all for doing my civic duty, proud to do so actually, but it could not have come at a worse time. Not that there is ever a convenient time for this, but during the months of February and March, I am spearheading a project involving the exporting of hundreds of ocean containers containing multi-million dollars of commodity grade copper. Lots of logistics and documentation involved in such a project so having already had my hands more than full, this decidedly did not help.

Anyway, as soon as I got my summons I started speculating on what kind of case it would be. I more or less assumed it would be “Bubba done shot out the tires of my truck!” Turns out, I was not that far off…

To sum up: A trucker was loading some grain at a granary about 20 miles north of where I live. As he was pulling away, his truck swiped a side chute from one of the silos. Instead of stopping as soon as he felt the impact, he proceeded forward towards the back of the facility. Another trucker (AKA, the defendant), took it upon himself to drive forward in his truck, overtake the offending trucker, and block his path so he could make him account for the damage he caused to the chute and the truck. He came out of his truck waving his arms and yelling at the driver to stop. Once he did, he allegedly approached the driver and started yelling and cursing profusely at his carelessness. By all accounts the offending driver was nothing but apologetic at his error. A third employee of the facility pulled up in a pick up truck and asked what was going on. Now. His version is he tried to defuse a confrontation between driver A and driver B and in so doing, further pissed off driver B (the defendant). To make a 3-day long story short, in the process of trying to break up a potential fight between driver A and B, the third person was punched in the nose which subsequently broke thereupon (to use legal parlance). So. The case before us consisted of was the battery on the third party by driver B justified since the third party ended up grabbing the guy by the lapels and pushed him against a truck supposedly to try to separate the two drivers and prevent a fight and he was just trying to defend himself, or was his response excessive and not considered a reaction to “Impending physical threat” thereby being battery according to the law.

After three votes with 1 holdout for conviction (guess who?), they decided on the former and it’s back to work for me on Thursday. I guess it’s worth mentioning, nay, tooting my own horn, to say that a lessor employee would have been persona non grata for 3 days and their co-workers would have had to sort it out for themselves. What I did was report to work at 7:30 every morning and stay until the last possible minute until I had to head to court, and check in via my I-Phone to my work e-mail whenever I could and sort out things as best I was able to in the limited time I had.

So. To copy an old TV spot they used to run on the weekends, read the above case and; You Make the Call!


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