Posts tagged ‘cholesterol’

Road Trips, Mall Rats, Highways, and Evolution

17 May, 2012 | | 3 Comments

I’ve put 500 miles on the Blackfish this week, just going to meetings. That’ll happen when your meeting on Wednesday morning is just south of Richmond and your meeting Thursday morning is just south of Delaware. Wednesday morning I woke at 0430 and drove to Ft. Lee, VA, meeting the cohort at the predetermined rendezvous point at the appointed time with military precision. It’s the same cohort I usually travel with to Huntsville, and so by meeting at the appointed time with military precision, I mean they were half an hour late. By the predetermined rendezvous point, I mean, of course, Waffle House. There is something greasily satisfying about Waffle House that makes it the perfect road food.

Ft. Lee is just down the way from the Petersburg National Battlefield, where Gen. Ulysses S. Grant cut off Petersburg’s supply lines, leading to the fall of Richmond and Gen. Robert E. Lee’s surrender shortly thereafter. Since the Civil War has come up in about a dozen conversations in the past few months, and I was done studying earned value management and zombies, I decided early this week that I’d finally pick up The Killer Angels, Michael Shaara’s famous book about the battle of Gettysburg. It had been on my to-read shelf for more than 10 years, but I always assumed it was a somewhat dry rendition of the facts of the battle, and found something else to do.

If you haven’t read it, it’s NOT a dry recitation of facts and history. It’s a well told, well crafted story with engaging, tragic, larger than life characters and fascinating dialogues and internal monologues. Within the first 15 pages, I was hooked, and I asked SOBUMD with her amazing library-foo to see if it was an audiobook somewhere. She brought it home the next day, and I’ve been listening to it for 5 hours to and from Ft. Lee and now today 4 hours to and from Aberdeen, MD. It’s a great story – I can’t wait to see how it ends, so if you’ve read it already, don’t tell me!

This morning I awoke again at 0430 and drove, this time, to Aberdeen, MD, arriving in time to find, no, yes, wait for it – a Waffle House. I can’t get enough of their greasy lovely food, nor into my older pants. Aberdeen is prettier than I expected, and the meetings there went well.

I took I-95 to Aberdeen, but I took the smaller Rt 40 most of the way back, at least into Baltimore. The interstates are fine for getting places quickly, but that’s about the only thing they really have going for them. On the slower, older, blue highways, as William Least Heat-Moon calls them, you can see the older America. It has stoplights. Some of them are at the intersection of the Past and the Future, where a simple car repair shop has a distinct carport right next to the highway and suspiciously Greco-Roman architecture, and you realize that this was once a filling station for highway traffic, 60 years ago, before the interstate came through and left this piece of road as a Left Turn to Nowhere.

The interstate, were you to open your windows while driving it, which is not always a great thing to do at 80 miles an hour, smells of diesel fuel and stress. The 20 miles of Rt. 40 I drove this afternoon smelled predominately of honeysuckle, and I left my windows down for all of it.

On the older roads, too, you can sometimes find those places where men of industry have started businesses next to icons, the features of the landscape that stick in the imagination, natural mnemonics that ensure you’ll remember their restaurant or gas station because it’s next to the Biggest Rock In Town or something. Mind you, once you’ve made that Left Turn to Nowhere, sometimes the true entrepreneur needs to create their own mnemonic, their own unforgettable icon to ensure you come back and tell your friends.

Chicken On The Roof

Chicken On The Roof

To wit, the Chicken On The Roof Grill. Don’t have a handy natural outcropping or memorable piece of landscape? Put a 20-foot plastic chicken on your roof and name your shop after that!

I didn’t stop. It was on the other side of the road (why did the Chicken On The Roof Grill cross the road?), and I wasn’t hungry. A spot of internet searching reveals that most reviews are along the lines of “take the Beltway, the food sucks,” so perhaps it was for the best.

Arriving home, I found I was in time to pick up the younger of the three lunatic children from school, and so fitting plan to deed I did that. This is always interesting, since right after school is about the only time they’ll both talk about their day. (I think they clear cache after about 10 minutes.) It turned out, on questioning, that the Reigning Queen of Pink had a bad day. This involved food that she’s not allowed to eat being substituted with other food she’s not allowed to eat, plus boys yelling at her. Number One Son asked, “Why were they yelling?”

BUMD: “They’re probably yelling because they’re 3rd grade boys, and 3rd grade boys are stupid.”
Reigning Queen of Pink: “All boys are stupid, and you [Number One Son], meaning no offense, are no exception. No offense, you understand, but you’re one of them.”
Number One Son: “How could I be offended at a true fact?”

These are the future leaders of our country.

Speaking of the future leaders of our country, because driving 500 miles in the last 36 hours wasn’t enough, I then this evening went downtown to Pentagon City Mall for a dinner meeting with a group from my company. The dinner was excellent, but of course the best part was before going in, I took the opportunity to circumnavigate the mall and notice the people, the sounds and the sights and scents and the sense of the place.

I almost wished I hadn’t. There, then, below me, were the quivering masses of humanity, walking and falling and running around in Spring Field Trip Season. Every other person was wearing a school logo or name tee-shirt, I suspect to help identify them to the leaders. It looked like there had been a mass breakout from the Sing Sing or Rikers Island Juvenile Detention Center, and all the escaped juvies had decided to go to the mall, yo. One group stood out in “Class of ” shirts, and instead of the year, they listed the names of everyone in the graduating class – the whole class. (You can do that in a small town. My graduating class would have needed the front and back of Hagrid’s dress robes to fit us all.) Those were the shirts; the young boys were otherwise in their best brown baggies and sporting their Bieber cuts.

The food court at a large mall may be 80 percent of what’s wrong with this country. Starting with the lack of Scotch dispensers. Smoke from the indoor BBQ joint clouded the upper levels, the sweet smell of charcoal, grease, and co-pays pungent in the air. I saw a fat man pay a thin man for a massage, in an open-air massage parlor – very likely the only physical human contact he gets all day.

There are no happy endings here.

Under the roar of it all, the songs of birds, struggling to hear each other inside this glassed-in urban forest they’ve adopted as home. Darwin would be proud; in 10 short years, these sparrows have evolved into flying mall rats, perfectly suited to life under the glass bubble. I noticed that they seem to instinctively flock toward younger children – genetic selection and experience has taught them that a 3-yr-old is more likely to drop the pretzel than an 8-yr-old. Mind you, the kids probably drop the pretzel out of surprise at seeing a bird in the mall. It makes you wonder if the pretzel shop lets the birds in, to drum up business by getting overstressed parents to buy new twisted baked goods to calm irate prepubescent consumers. No happy endings.

Like the like the open-air masseuse, like the Chicken On The Roof, like Longstreet and Lee at Gettysburg, there are no happy endings here. All I can tell you is that if you’re going to put 500 miles on your car in one week, make them good miles. Look out the window. Roll it down if you can. Skip the Interstate, skip the mall. Turn left next to nowhere, and explore the small spaces. You might find something neat, you might wonder how it got there, and you might wonder how the hell you’re going to find your way back to the road, but you’ll be glad you did. Tell ‘em the Big Ugly Man Doll sent you.

Of Lunches, Dinners, and Breakfasts

21 April, 2012 | | 6 Comments

0415 is a disgusting and unholy time of the morning, but there I was, awake and getting dressed.  Yep – we’re going back to Huntsville.

SOBUMD and the three lunatic children dropped me off at my folks’ house Tuesday evening.  As I’ve gotten older, the bedtime routine with my parents has evolved – I miss the bedtime stories, but the good-night Scotch is a welcome addition.  This kids acknowledged my blandishments about behaving for SOBUMD with their usual nonchalance, left with SOBUMD, and we shortly retired to sleep.

I may have mentioned in previous posts that my father collects penguins.  I’m used to all the birds around the house, but I’ll confess the penguin mobile over my bed was freaking me out a little.  The windows were open, and the little bastards were swaying, floating gently just below the ceiling.  Penguins just shouldn’t fly, ya know?  Of course, I’ve only myself to blame – I’m pretty sure we bought it for him.

Time in the wee hours progressing in the manner of a dream, I suddenly found myself thanking FOBUMD for the stay and the ride to the airport and walking into the eerily empty, post-apocalyptic vision that is DCA before 0500.  Neither the folks from TSA not the ticket agents speak, not even to each other.  I guessed they were communicating through some godless pre-dawn telepathy, as though to break the silence would profane even further this already unholy hour of the morning.  As I make my way to the check in desk, they all stare at me like somnambulant feral zombies, with only their eyes moving, waiting for any sign of weakness.  I had the distinct and uncanny sense that, were I to stumble, even for a moment, they’d be on me like a pack of hungry dingos on a baby.

I have no memory of checking in.  I suppose it’s possible that I might have supressed such a memory to protect my sanity, such as it is.  The next thing I remember was boarding a plane, finding my seat, and getting up again to make room for my cute twin blonde seatmates.

Things were looking up.  I like this dream.  So did they, evidently – they were both asleep before we pulled away from the gate.

As I reseated myself, an even more stunning brunette stopped in front of me and asked if she could move my hat.  I took it from the overhead bin and, after watching her struggle for a moment, offered to help with getting her carry-on up into the bin.  Mind you, when I say carry on, as far as US Airways is concerned, if it has wheels, it’s a carry on.  This was proven by the fact that she was pulling a 1973 Ethen Allen hardwood dresser that was taller than the Reigning Queen of Pink.  It had rolling casters on it, though, so it’s a carry on.  For $25 per checked bag, I didn’t really blame her.

My sleeping beauties made a few kind remarks about how strong I was, how polite I was, and US Airways redefining “carry on” – and drifted back to sleep.

I have vague and uncomfortable memories of channelling OJ Simpson in the airport at Charlotte, NC, which is somewhere between “bigger than I expected” and “fucking enormous.”  Mind you, when I say I was channelling OJ Simpson, I don’t mean I was jumping over furniture and people, I mean I looked like a slow-moving white Bronco going through the interminable hallways.  Walking out to the tarmac to board the next hop, I realized that happiness is seeing US Airways loading your luggage onto the same plane you’re boarding.  Mind you, since my luggage is technically smaller than most Buicks (at least smaller than pre-1990’s Buicks), I could have saved myself the worry and just carried it on.

We landed in Huntsville, where I was reunited with my luggage, rental cars, and that smell of Alabama air that is unlike anything else.  It’s not just roast pig, it’s something else undefinable.   It was a nice day, so with the windows down I drove about until hearing from my cohort that they’d meet me for lunch.  That right – it was time for Thomas Pit.

It remains a subject of myth and legend up here in the northern climes, but it’s real, and it’s been real since 1932, when between 80% and 90% of all Huntsville voted for Franklin Delano Roosevelt and put their faith and their BBQ in the New Deal.  Since then, it’s been pulled pig the best way, in a smokehouse behind the restaurant that may have seen a layer of paint on the outside, but the inside is just the same as it’s always been.  You cook pigs for 80 years, you get damn good at it, is my guess.

But I was stymied!  The cohorts were late getting out of their meetings, and we were all due back to work (I do, actually, work sometimes, hard though that is to believe) in short order.  We settled for nearby and quick.  It was Steak-n-Shake.

I have to admit that Steak-n-Shake does not suck.  The problem lies in its reach – I can go to Steak-n-Shake without leaving my home state.  (I don’t, but I could.)  I’ll go to chains at home, but when I’m travelling, I want to eat the local fare, not homogenized Generican food you can get anywhere.   However, in this case as in so many others, omnivorousness was trumped by expedience, and we retired back to the work.

Dinner turned out to be a return to the Ol’ Heidelberg, which lives up to its name by hanging multiple pictures of the bridge over the Rhine showing the ruins of the old Heidelberg castle in the background.  The surest sign that you’re not really in Germany is the wait, though – people don’t actually wait, usually, for dinner in Germany; if the place is full, you go down the street a block to a place that isn’t.  In this case, we waited for 20 minutes outside in the fading nice day, until we realized that we could get beer and then bring it back outside to keep waiting, but with beer.  Elements of my cohort were keen on a repeat of the last trip to the Ol’ Heidelberg, which involved Spaten Optimator.  My cohort whispered, “Optimator!”  I looked at her and said, “Optimator!”  But again, we were stymied!  They had Spaten, to be sure, and they had a few other varients, but not the Optimator.

What’s that you say?  A locally brewed Porter, you say, on draft?  You can recommend it since I liked the Optimator?  Hmmm.  Well, what’s it called?

“Big Bear.”  How could we go wrong with a local brew called Big Bear?  And so, we had us some Bears.

It turns out that Big Bear Black Bear Porter is actually brewed in Florida.  Now, local can have several meanings, and Alabama does – and I keep forgetting this – border Florida, so I was willing to give the waitress a pass on that, until I realized that it’s brewed in Coral Springs, which is just shy of Ft. Lauderdale and more than 800 miles from Huntsville.  We’ll settle for “redefining local” and roll with it, since it’s really, really good beer.  The Black Forest Schnitzel, veal topped with a Marsala wine sauce with mushrooms, onions, and the all-important bacon, was amazing as well.

The next day dawned with a shot a breakfast in the hotel, which turned out to include waffles.  That’s it.  Just waffles.  There was no protein, no meat, nothing but waffles and something that had been carefully manufactured to closely resemble butter.  Physically adjacent to the hotel, however, was a Waffle House, where they serve more than just waffles.  Oh, yes they do.

Several sausage and grits and waffles and biscuits and eggs later, I resumed the work with the intrepid cohort and we carried on our way.  Today, the dawn had broken in our favor, and the Great Pig was smiling on us.  Lunch was on for Thomas Pit.

This is the best pulled pork I’ve ever had.  I’ve said it before, I’m sure I’ll say it again.  The cohort – and we dragged several new mouths to this font of pork – tended to agree with me, to the extent they spoke at all; mostly we ate.  Mouth melting piles of hot porcine goodness, with a tasty tangy vinegar sauce next to it – excellent but not needed on pig this good.

But all good things must come to an end, even lunch, and the cohort split up for planes and offices and hotels. I met the boss back for dinner at Dreamland – Ain’t Nothin’ Like ‘Em Nowhere – and we split a rack of ribs; they were fine, good perfectly adequate.  Plus they changed the channel so the boss could watch the boxing match hockey game, which was nice of them.  We broke some pig, solved the socioeconomic problems of the world, and retired to our respective hotels to prepare for the morning’s flights.

0445 is a disgusting and unholy time of the morning, but there I was, awake and getting dressed.  Despite the hour, I was actually late to check in for my flight.  The US Airways ticketing lady was nice enough to put me on a later flight without charging me anything extra, so that was OK.  For a very nice change, the HSV TSA folks didn’t find any reason to take me aside and ask me about those embarrassing pieces of cutlery in my bag, mostly since I’d taken a different bag this time and deliberately failed to put anything with an edge on it in the new bag.  Ha!  That’ll show ’em.

My luggage and I eventually found our way back home, and SOBUMD picked me up in time for some lunch before she had to rush home to get the kids from school.  We went to a great Irish place called P Brennens, and had a plate called an Irish Breakfast.  Despite the afternoon, it was the first breakfast I’d had, and it was great.

It’s good to be back in my own bed – the beds in all the hotels are lacking something, no matter where I stay.  Mostly they’re lacking SOBUMD, but that’s a different post.  Huntsville was once again marvelous in food and people, and I was glad to have gotten to introduce more of the cohort to Thomas Pit.  With any luck, a return to their primal pig lies somewhere in my summer!

Countdown to the Rapture, NGM Edition: Day 3

18 May, 2011 | | No Comment

Folks, the TV show Glee has made a few of your lists for things you’re Not Gonna Miss, and I can’t tell you how close it’s come to making mine.  It’s been a near thing.  They only have one sympathtic character, and they give her all the good lines.  (“You think that’s hard?  I’m counting down ’til the Rapture!  That’s hard!”)  I just can’t make myself suspend enough disbelief to give a damn.  I just don’t care if Finn and Shue have made up and are kissing again, or who Puck wants to bang today.  Shut up and sing already – I’ve seen better plots in porn movies.  But as much as I’m Not Gonna Miss it, it’s not bad enough to make the Top Ten list:

Number 10:  Donald Trump’s Hair.
Number 9:  People who can’t drive in bad weather.
Number 8:  Annoying Facebook status update memes.
Number 7:  Cheap Beer.
Number 6:  Natural Disasters.
Number 5:  Prophesies about the End of the World that turn out to be wrong.
Number 4:  Organized religions.
Number 3:  Dieting.

It’s been noted that diet is just “die” spelled with a T at the end, and I think there’s a reason for this.  Let’s face it, there’s a reason I’m not called the Small Ugly Man Doll – and it’s not all beer.   Most of us like a nice outing to the Fatty Snax deli at least once in a while – Mmmmm, butter, bacon, beef, it’s like a litany of deisre for my tastebuds.  Rich foods, that nice sharp chocolate, and a good Scotch – counting calories my eternally expanding ass, let’s eat!

In heaven, I won’t watch my cholesterol, my weight, my calorie intake, or my liver.  Or I’m not going.  Here on earth, I go to the Dr to hear that I should eat less and exercise more.  I’ve heard it often enough that I’m starting my own weight loss program – watch your bookshelves, because I’m going to publish shortly after the Rapture!  You know, in case anyone’s still here.

So please Lord, because I’m Not Gonna Miss watching my weight – call the Rapture on May 21st.  And have the grill fired up – let’s cook the golden Ox while we watch Glee re-runs.  Maybe there’s a plot in heaven.

Cooking With the BUMD, Day 14: In the Kitchen with Dad

10 August, 2010 | | 4 Comments

It is a little-known fact that the entire decline and fall of the Roman Empire can be traced back to the their failure to teach their kids to cook.  Instead of learning to make their own pasta, the layabout sons and daughters of the Empire just sat in their nice Roman baths, saying things like “Hey Spartacus, nice javelin” and “Yo, Farticus, this isn’t the hot tub – the sulfur baths are down the hall” and generally soaking up the minerals in the natural hot springs.  You can still see them today – the ones that soaked up too many minerals became the statues we see in Rome now.  It was the old version of the tanning bed.

But anyway, there they all were, those Romans, soaking and bubbling and having their slaves peel their grapes and feed them, and the ones who learned anything from their parents learned how to live big, bold lives in public, keeping well documented records in public places of all the stupid things they did and said to each other, so that one shining day, a man from Stratford on Avon might write about them and make them sound less mundane.   (Side note – does this mean that in 1200 years, someone will write successful plays based on the antics of Perez Hilton and ONTD?  “OMG!”) 

But they couldn’t cook, and when the Mongols hit the fan, Roman kids were left to fend for themselves (the parents being either dead, peeling grapes for the Mongols, or turned to statues), and they were unsuccessful.  No cooking, no survival skills in the real world, no more Roman Empire.

To ensure that doesn’t happen here, we’ve started turning my sous chef loose in the kitchen.  The Human Tape Recorder can leverage her natural skills in the kitchen; tell her the recipe once and she’s got it forever, just like all the stuff you said that you didn’t think she could hear when you said it.  Thus far, she’s learned to make things she likes.  This is largely because SOBUMD and I are professionals when it comes to cooking with kids.  The conversation goes like this:

HTR:  I’d like some sugar cookies.
BUMD:  Kitchen’s that way, go to it.

I think this is a perfectly reasonable way to teach her to cook.  It also taught her the value of a good oven mitt, but that’s another story.  Yesterday, she added oatmeal-walnut chocolate chip cookies to her repertoire.  And they were good.

So the question I put to you, dear friend, fond relation, or Gentle Reader, is this: What are those dishes that children must be capable of cooking on their own, before they should be let out of the nest?  When they finally pack their shit and you convert that room into your pleasure dungeon like you’ve been talking about, what does that kid need to be able to cook – and cook well – to stop the Mongol hordes? 

We’ve got cookies.  What else?

OCD is a Defense Mechanism, or, Only the Paranoid Survive

13 July, 2010 | | 1 Comment

“Did you turn the oven off?” is a cliché, one of hundreds we joke about all the time, like the person with the glasses on their head looking everywhere for them, or geniuses who can’t match their socks to save their lives.  It’s a cliché, like any other dime-a-dozen cliché…. 

Until the first time you come home and realize that you have, in fact, left the oven not merely on, but on and set for “bitumen/anthracite overkill” on the broiler.  For several hours.  The house smells of meat overcooked weeks ago, the HVAC unit is screaming for mercy under the onslaught, and the pets keep checking roll call to make sure they’re all still there in case one of them’s next. 

You’re checking your oven now, aren’t you?  Before you get up, I’m going to take a moment to admonish you to check your smoke and CO detectors, too.  You do have carbon monoxide detectors, right?  We talked about this, right?  OK, go check the stove and the alarms, I’ll wait. 

Back?  OK.  This concludes the PSA portion of today’s post.  And let’s hear it for obsessive compulsive disorder – you might not get much done, but you’re going to live through it. 

Another in the “mother was right” category; not too long ago I was compelled to call my own mother when I did, in fact, cut my damn tongue licking the knife.  I don’t even remember what I was licking off; I just remember the sharp, searing pain of embarrassment – shit, she was right.  I had to call to let her know.  Since then I’ve learned that I can use that as a compelling argument to my own children.  “Don’t do that, because when you hurt yourself you’ll have to come tell me and I’m going to laugh at you!”  (Although my friend B sums it up much more succinctly: “No sympathy for stupid.”)

Do you have a “wow, I never thought I’d really do that” story you’d like to share with the group?  We’re all friends here. 

And yes, the house still has that faint ‘eu de char’ – smells kind of good, actually.  I might be inspired to try another Julia Child recipe…