Thursday, August 6, 2015

Max, Poor Minn, and the Holy Martin

Max performed at a recent jam session and did his parents prouc. Check it out on the new blog.

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Moving Time

This blog has always been a work in progress, and now it's progressing some more.

It started in 2008 as Island Time, relating the story of our family's move from Oregon to the U.S. Virgin Islands and the adventure of making our home in a Caribbean paradise. Then, when the island's economy tanked in 2012, the blog became Bayou Time, and told of us moving back to the states and making our home in New Orleans. In the meantime, I started a second blog, The Write Pirate, in which I followed my writing progress.

But things are changing again, and we (me and Tori) have decided to try to do a little more with the blog. So it's changing again – and this time it's moving.

You can find our new blog at It's even more a work in progress, the new platform has a lot more bells and whistles to learn – or learn to ignore. But I'm ready for a new challenge.

And speaking of new challenges, that's what the first post on is about. This summer we're going to self-publish my first novel, "Chrissie Warren: Pirate Hunter. So you'll want to follow that in the new blog (and order the book when the time comes! Yeah, definitely that!)

So click the link and join us at the new blog, and watch us grow.

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Odds and Ends from a Busy Week

Tori's chicken enchiladas are in the oven, and while I'm waiting impatiently for them to come out and get in my belly, I'll catch up on a busy week.

Saturday we went to Jazz Fest and had a great time. Saw Elton John and Jerry Lee Lewis. I will write a LOT more about this tomorrow. Great, great time. Good show.

Max is taking up violin. In fact, he started Monday. Wednesday he will play with the string group in the music department's end-of-year concert. He's picking it up quickly.

Been working on a couple of projects which will be ready for the light of day soon. One is a video that I think ought to be funny. Maybe very funny. Another is a lot chancier, but it's time. I'm getting ready to take a gamble on myself.

I've become obsessed with the "health" app on my phone, constantly checking the number of steps I take each day. It's harder for me because I work from home and this is NOT a large house.

My old camera is giving up the ghost and we're now looking for a new one. Anyone who knows of one that takes still and video AND has good sound, by all means let me know. I've had the old one more than ten years and it's been a good one. It'd still be a good one if there weren't a couple of shorts inside that make it difficult to charge and to get photos off of. When I got it, it was the first eight megapixel camera out there. Now my phone has a higher resolution.

Getting excited about our trip to Florida in June for the Billy Bowlegs Pirate Festival. I'll have plenty more to say about that in the weeks ahead.

That was the timer. Enchiladas are on! Anyone who has had Tori's chicken enchiladas knows why I will not dawdle, but post this and get to the table.

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

So Much Weather, All at Once

Amazing storm blew in out of Texas Monday. (Damn you Texas!) The forecast had called for rain, but when I stepped outside at around 10 a.m. it was so dark I had to turn on the porch light. Across the river, Tori was in her classroom and saw the sky turn green. The school told them there were tornado warnings, so keep the kids away from the windows. The kids, of course, immediately freaked out, and every time there was a flash of lightning and a clap of thunder they all screamed.

There was a LOT of lightning and thunder, and the wind swept in with a fury. This is how strong it was – the wind blew a train off a trestle! I'm not kidding, check out the video here. I would have bet that wasn't possible, but looking at the video, I get it. All those box cars made a big sail for the wind barreling down the river, and as they went over, they took the locomotive with them.

That's the train trestle that's part of the Huey P. Long Bridge over the Mississippi, the same bridge Tori crosses twice a day to and from work. When she headed home, the four-lane roadway was reduced to one lane because of all the emergency vehicles.

In our neighborhood, we got a lot of wind and rain, but the power stayed on, at least here. But it wasn't all sweetness and light. Right around the corner a power pole blew completely over. A swath of houses and stores a couple of blocks wide and almost a mile long were blacked out south of the downed line. This is why I'm glad I'm a northerner. We were fine. When I drove by the morning to take the kids to school, the pole was still lying across the road.

See, this is what happens when you build a housing development on what used to be a swamp. Sure, you can put in a bunch of fill, and you can put in a drainage system, but when you get that much rain that fast, some of the stuff you stuck in the ground doesn't stay.

We've been waiting for more today, but apparently it's mostly move on east. (Sorry Florida.)

But boy, it can change fast, can't it? It's not that we have different weather than we had back in Oregon. It's just that we've got so much weather. Often all at once.

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

'Suck the Heads, Eat the Tails"

Suck the head ...

We recently attended our first crawfish boil – a Louisiana tradition heartily embraced by our neighbor Eddie. This winter Eddie moved into the house next door, a house that had been vacant for two years. He's a great guy, one of those guys who is always working on a project, always has a story. And he loves holding crawfish boils. In fact, next month is his annual competition – at which a half dozen people compete for the title.

... and eat the tail.
This first one was a test run, his first crawfish boil in his new home. And it was great. Eddie has a custom-designed table, stainless steel with an opening in the middle for the trash. He boiled 70 pounds of crawfish which he poured around the table and everyone dug in.

If you've never eaten crawfish, here's how you do it, if you've never eaten crawfish. Grab the crawfish at the base of the tail and break it in half. Suck the head. That's what I said. Suck the head, because apparently that's where a lot of the flavor is. I'm not sure about that, but it's what you do. Then you peel the shell off the tail and eat the meat inside. 

It's good. No question about that. Eddie prides himself on his culinary ability, and rightly so. He cooked in two batches and the second was a lot spicier than the first. He also made jambalaya. It goes without saying that his jambalaya was WAY better than the pot I had put together a few months ago. Although I've gotta say, mine wasn't completely out of line, and eating Eddie's was educational, almost a revelation. I learned a lot, and my next will be better.

On the one hand, even the bigger crawfish are kind of small, and the whole process of eating one is a lot of effort for a small bite. In that sense they're sort of the artichokes of the seafood world. But that misses the point. They are delicious, and more importantly, it's a whole social thing. We met a lot of people, stood around talking, learned more of the culture. It was a lot of fun.
Eddie's guests gather 'round his crawfish table, where mounds
of the seafood awat. Eddie is the guy in the white T-shirt

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

A Week, a Coincidence, A Deal and a Visit

Good week, with an amazing deal and a visit and some good work. But before I get to that, file this one under karma, or at least under Interesting Coincidences.

Last week I wrote about getting more organized in my work – and I've been doing pretty well, except for the last few days, about which more later – and about how it's fine to have a dream, but you need to plan for how you're going to achieve that dream.

And then I got this in a fortune cookie.

"Acting on a good idea is better than just having a good idea."

A coincidence, sure. But still, the kind that makes you go, "Hmmmmm."

Spent a few hours Saturday at an estate sale in Old Metairie. The house belong to a guy who recently turned 100. His wife had died years ago and his family was moving him up to where they could help him out. It was a big house

Anyway, there was decades and decades of "things." The owner and his wife had obviously traveled everywhere, he appeared to have been a sailor, he had been active in several carnival groups. As a fellow reporter once said after coming back from an interview with a little old lady who had been collecting for decades, "The Knick knack shelves where chockablock with bric a brac."

We picked up some interesting items, including a small Chinese vase that might be worth exactly what we paid for it – $15 – or around $250. Doesn't matter. We got it because we liked it. Same with the Scandinavian pitcher. A couple of vases. And we got a tuxedo that almost fits Max – whole thing, jacket, ruffled shirt, cummerbund, bow tie and pants. Well, the pants will never fit him. The previous owner was a tall man. But Max will grow into the jacket soon and the shirt already fits. Ten bucks for the whole outfit.

But the big thing was a set of Noritake China. There was a big stack of dinner plates – 14 I think – small plates, saucers, a tea ... there were a LOT of pieces. The only thing missing was most of the cups. There were only three left. Cups break, ya know.

And they were asking $65.

I don't know a lot about China, but I know that's not a much for that much dinnerware. Hell, that much Melmac plastic would have cost more than that. I looked the pattern up online. It''s a discontinued design, but it's by no means worthless. Plates were going for $10 a piece. The creamer was listed at about $35. The sugar bowl was listed at $15. And on and on.

They wanted cash, so I had to run to a nearby bank ATM. When I got back Tori was wrapping it in paper and packing it into a plastic bin, with a bemused look on her face. She had approached the women running the sale and said she wanted to buy the China. One of the woman said, "Great. How about $40?" Tori said, "Sure." They even threw in the plastic bin and paper.

As a writer I don't do a lot of bargaining and haggling, but it seems that's backwards. When you're negotiating a sale, you don't lower the price after you've made the sale, do you? We were prepared to pay the listed price. Tori said we were going to buy it. I would have thought that was a done deal. I guess they just like bargaining.

Anyway, we've got several hundred dollars (at least) worth of China. Not sure what we're going to do with it. Maybe give it to one of the kids, maybe sell it online. But even if we just use it to replace the department store stuff we use now, we're way ahead of the game.

Also last week, we had a visit from Robyn, one of Tori's closest friends and of all our Oregon friends the one she's known longest. We hadn't seen her in two and a half years, when she came out to New Orleans to help us through the firstAlex birthday since she died. Before that, while we were in the V.I. she was in Australia. Then she moved to L.A., which she hated, and now she and Daniel have moved to Knoxville, Tenn. (Long story not to be repeated here.)

Robyn had loaded up their stuff and was driving across country in a Ford pickup with a 4-cylinder engine, so progress was slow. But she got here earlier than expected. We expected her late Thursday, but after a short stop at an extremely noisy motel on the Texas/Louisiana border, she decided to hit the road and arrived in our driveway at 3 a.m. Instead of knocking on the door or window, she and her cat Owen slept in the front seat. So when I got up at 6, there they were. I knocked on the driver's side window and she jumped about as far as you can jump in the cab of a pickup.

So she and Tori had a good day together, then she had a "bonus day" when she slept in until almost 11 a.m. – which she never does. The road had taken its toll and she needed the extra day. She and Tori got extra time together, and Robyn made it to Tennessee on Saturday after a grand motor tour of the deep South – Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, Georgia and Tennessee.

Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Spreading Out as a Writer

Starting to get back in the writing swing, which I have let trail off a bit the last couple of months. Between various family errands and day-job work, it's easy to let that slide. But a couple of things have popped up the last few days to give me that kick in the pants I need to keep going.

The first was this quote from a literary agent's blog. She was writing about how not to give your "power" away. This line rang true to me.

"Everyone, no matter their career or chosen field, must do the hard work of becoming good at what they do. That’s where a great deal of your power lies – in your ability to study, learn, research, practice, whatever it takes to become the best. Don’t give up this key element of control over your future." Rachel Gardner

And this one even more so. It came from The Writer magazine, in an interview with notoriously obsessive, nit-picky Broadway playwright Doug Wright.

"If the subject isn't sufficiently compelling to occupy your time and attention for the three to five year time span it takes to write and rewrite a good play, then why should an audience give you 120 minutes out of their lives?"

Three to five years. Did you see that? It's a rebuke to those who think, for some reason, that writing is or should be easy. We've all heard them say it. "Oh, when I leave this job I'm going to write." Like it's just something you decide to do. You wouldn't say, "Maybe I'll try my hand at brain surgery," or "I'll tear down my car's engine this weekend." Not if you have no experience at medicine or mechanics. But people think they can start writing, because how hard could it be?

Someone said that to me just last week. Seriously. "I'm retiring next year, and then I'm going to start writing." And maybe she will. But I always want to ask, "OK, but what are you doing RIGHT NOW to get ready for that?"

Because you don't just say, "Now I'm a writer" and money starts rolling in. Even if you're good, some savant with all this raw talent, it just doesn't work that way. From the day you decide to start writing a story, with luck and hard work, you might start to see some return three or four years down the road.

And that was where the third kick in the pants came in. Mystery writer James Scott Bell is one of a dozen mystery writers/editors who contribute to the Kill Zone blog, and he's far and away the most helpful. The blog is not specifically or only for mystery writers, although of course that's their forte, but 95 percent of it is generally applicable to writing.

In his column Sunday (which I highly recommend you read here) Bell looks at an article on the habits of wealthy people, and applies those habits to writing. I think they really are applicable to just about any endeavor, but he's a writer, I'm a writer. We're talking about writing.

What it boils down to is asking yourself, on a daily basis, "What am I doing today that will lead me to become better in my field, and improve my chances of success." What am I reading, what am I studying, what am I doing today that will help me ultimately succeed?

He also draws an important distinction between having dreams and having a plan. "I'm going to be a New York Times best-selling author" is a dream. So is, "I'm going to make enough money on my writing to buy a six-pack of beer every other week." It's nice to have dreams like that, but just having dreams doesn't get you very far.

It's your plan that gets you there. In an earlier post, Bell once wrote, "Plans are what put running shoes on your dreams." A dream is something you hope will happen. A plan is what you do to increase the odds in your favor.

And here's maybe the most important thing Bell said. (Seriously, read the column.) A plan has to be measurable. You have to be able to count the steps, you have to be able to gauge your progress. If you can't, it's just a dream, just wishful thinking.

And part of what Bell does to achieve that really opened my eyes.

"Since 2001 I have kept track of my writing on a spreadsheet. I can tell you how many words I wrote, and on what projects, day by week by month by year. I prioritize my projects and know each day which one I want to work on."

I hate spreadsheets. I can see how they're handy for accountants and people who need to count large numbers of things, but I hate when I have to use them. Still, I can see how this is a good idea.

I have a target when I sit down to write. I always aim for 1,000 words a day. If I go over, that's gravy, and I usually do (my best day I got on a roll and knocked out almost 5,000 words. It felt amazing.) But it's very easy to say, I've got to do this, that or the other thing today, and not get around to writing on my WIP (work in progress.) That's a dangerous. It's easy to get out of the swing. Which is what I did.

But now I've got a spread sheet going, and I will mark my progress every day – every day – not just for my WIP, but for all the writing I do for the Source and for this blog. It's harder to ignore. I know that if I skip a day, that blank space is going to be in my word-count log forever. Or until I die, whichever comes first. 

Friday, March 20, 2015

Why Must He Be So Reasonable?

Had my follow up visit with the doctor Thursday. It went fine, but it would probably have been more helpful if he hadn't kept being all reasonable.

We went over the results of all the tests and it was all pretty much what I'd told him six weeks ago – high cholesterol, a little too much weight. Turns out I don't have gout, just a sore toe. And my heart is fine, that's always good news.

So I'll be going back to see him in six months – and in the meantime I'll have lost some weight and lowered my cholesterol. I'll do the latter in part through a statin drug he's prescribed – which means no more grapefruit juice for me! Damn! I love grapefruit juice. There's half a bottle in the refrigerator. Ah well. The things we do simply to live longer.

As to the former, lose weight. Well, there ain't no secrets or surprises there. Eat less, and eat smarter, and exercise more. The plan is, I'll take the statin and restructure my eating and workout habits. Then at the end of the six months we'll check the cholesterol level again. If it's down enough (and by "enough" I mean roughly in half) then I'll go off the statins and see if the new, smart-eating me can keep it down.

I've already dropped six pounds since my first meeting with the doc Feb. 2, so I'm on my way but have a ways to go. It is a not inconsequential percentage of my current body mass. Biggest thing I've done is stop drinking milk. I was raised with milk, to me it doesn't feel like a meal without a glass of milk, or two. But milk, of course, is a liquid devised by mother nature to turn calves into 500 pound steers quickly and efficiently. So now my only milk comes on my morning Cheerios.

The doctor gave me – not a diet, but a sheet on how to eat more sensibly. First, do most of your own cooking. People who prepare their own meals tend to be healthier and have less weight problems than people who eat out a lot. Check. Already do that. I probably do 70 percent of the cooking in the house. Second, do the bulk of your shopping on the periphery of the supermarket – shop the outer walls first. That's where the produce, meat, seafood departments tend to be. As the doc said, "Buy food that looks like food." As much as possible, refrain from stuff in boxes or cans.

(Of course, the bakery often also is on the store's periphery, but I didn't point that out. It'll be our little secret.)  

Again - check. I already buy very little of the processed foods. I don't understand why, for instance, a person would buy a jar of spaghetti sauce loaded with sugar, dyes and preservatives, when it's so easy to make, and tastes so much better.

So as we talked about healthy choices (At dinner the contents of plate should be half plant – salad, vegetables, fruit, that kind of thing.) Starch – rice or potatoes – should be the smallest portion.

And this is where his reasonableness became a problem. I'd heave a sigh and say something like, "Goodbye red meat," and he'd say, "Oh no, a little red meat is fine, in fact ..." and he'd reel off several reasons why a little beef – grass fed, not corn fed – would be just fine. Or how I have to have a regular "cheat day" when I'm allowed to break the rules. We even had a spirited discussion about the awesomeness of bacon! How is that supposed to help me?

That's not what I need. I need a task master. I need someone to get all in my face and shout, "No more white rice! Step away from the cookies! Eat this quinoa, then drop and give me 10!"

No, I've gotta be the grownup here. Any yelling at me will have to be done by me. The grown up.

Speaking of quinoa, I have now tried it and don't plan to again. When we were at the Whole Foods a couple of weeks ago we picked some up. As the girl at the register rang us up we mentioned we didn't know how to cook it yet. She gave us some tips.

"So you eat it?"


"Is it any good?"

"Oh no," she said without hesitation. "But I eat it."

Well, good for her. We tried it. It's supposed to be very good for you, but cooking it made kind of a mess and it tasted sort of vile. In fairness maybe if we were better at cooking it, it might not have been completely vile. But I don't care.

It's no longer on our diet. I don't eat quinoa. You may quote me.

And I don't think that's being unreasonable.

Sunday, March 15, 2015

Our Biggest Challenge Yet on the Kitten Front

We have a new kitten in the house, and this one will be a challenge.

We have fostered three kittens (here and here about halfway down) for the Spaymart, kittens that have undergone some kind of trauma and had trouble learning to socialize. And in each case we've been able to help them calm down and get adopted into homes where they're now loved and loving members of the family.

Kitten in the Closet
The new one is about eight weeks, but that's a guess. She was part of a litter of four found int he wild and brought to the Spaymart. Two were adopted. This one and the third got sick and were at a vet's office that – well, let's say care for the animals seemed to be secondary to the vet's convenience. The third died. And the one with us now was pretty badly traumatized.

We were told going in that, if we can't make any headway with her, they have a feral cat colony, so no pressure. That's not a great image to start with. And she sure showed no sign of wanting to be part of a family. She's scared.

Tori opened the cat carrier and she dashed behind the couch, where she spent most of her first day. We knew she used the cat box – which was kind of a miracle since it's in the laundry room and we never had a chance to show it to her – but we never saw her. Shame too, she's a very pretty cat.

Unlike the other three kittens we've fostered, this one didn't even have a name. She does now, but she had to earn it.

The second day she ran into our bedroom, burrowed into the closet, and spent the next two days there. We'd peek in, pushing aside the hanging clothes, talking to her the whole time and never reaching for her. All we could see was her eyes staring out. She didn't hiss, didn't strike out. Just stared.

Tori has spent hours, sitting outside the closet just talking and waving cat toys at her, the kind on the long flexible rod with a bunch of stuff fluttering around. And the cat started responding, tracking the beguiling objects and batting at them.

It's just a matter of patience. Lots and lots of that. We can't force anything. We haven't even tried to touch her yet. Just keep talking to her, keep playing with her, keep letting her know we're here and aren't going to hurt her. No sudden movements.

Ellen the Explorer
She mostly stayed in our closet for two days. We never saw her leave, but she did because the cat box was being used and the food disappearing.

She finally came out yesterday. And that's how she earned her name. We call her Ellen, because she came out of the closet.

She's spending most of her time behind the furniture in the living room. Right now I see she's very tentatively slipped around the corner, alert for any movement, ready to run. She's been at the food and water bowls, which are kind of out int he open, for about ten minutes. She's aware we're here, Tori at the kitchen table, me at my work station in the living room, and she's very cautious. Now she's exploring the living room. She's keeping her distance, but she's out.

Time. It's just a matter of time, I guess.

Friday, March 13, 2015

No News Is Good News

It's been two weeks since I took my cardiac stress test, and still no word on the results.

That's gotta be a classic case of "no news is good news," right. I mean, I've been imagining a phone call that starts with, "This is the hospital. Are you still alive?" I say "Yes," and they say, "Whew. That's great. Don't move. An ambulance is coming to get you."

But that hasn't happened, so I figure whatever the news eventually turns out to be, it can't be too bad, and it might even be good. So hooray for me.

By the way, for something called a "stress test," it was pretty boring. Took all morning, and it mostly involved sitting around waiting while the various things they gave me intravenously got circulated. Then they'd take some pictures of my innards, take some EKGs, pump in something else and make me wait more. Poor Tori, who came with me, missed all the "action," because there wasn't any, and because she couldn't come in the areas where they did the actual testing. Fortunately, she brought a book.

The only really difficult part was just getting from the place in the hospital where they did the IV to the place where they took the pictures, to the place where they did the EKG. It seemed as if they intentionally placed them at the farthest points away from each other in the hospital.

Since then I haven't really given it much thought. Just waiting for the results so I can get on with the next step – whatever that turns out to be – of making me healthy, or at least healthy-ish.

Catching up

Been a while since I posted. Lot of stuff going on, lot of it work, family stuff. Stuff I should be blogging about but I'm too busy doing it to take the time out to write much.

The family is good. Max is driving – I know, scary, but he's actually getting pretty good. Doesn't have a license yet, probably not until this summer. Louisiana, which is so backward in so many way, has some really strict laws about the process for kids getting licenses and what they can do when the first get them. But he's going through the hurdles.

Sunday, February 22, 2015


Tori and John on their hotel balcony. Happy.

Pirates, penguins, porpoises and more. What a great, serendipitous road trip we had.

Tori and I were talking about going to Fort Walton Beach, Fla., this June for the Billy Bowlegs Pirate Festival. It's an easy drive from here, it's supposed to be a really good festival, and our friend Tom Mason is the featured performer.

Tori on the road.
But we don't know the town. The only time either Tori or I have been in Florida was stopovers on flights from the states to the islands. We were having trouble figuring out where would be a good place to stay so we could enjoy the festival and do as little driving as possible during the event.

Finally, Tori said, "What the hell! Let's go!" Thursday we jumped in the car with our toothbrushes and a change of underwear each and four hours later we were in Fort Walton Beach. (Whoever told us it was two hours to Pensacola lied – or drove about 130 miles an hour. But that's OK, it was a nice drive. Who knew Mobile has such a great skyline?) We felt right at home. It's a beachside town, and there's something similar about them, whether in Florida, Southern Cal or Oregon. A certain sandy funkiness that we recognized instantly.

Gulf of Mexico sundown.
Pirate and pirate
Unlike our last attempt to enjoy the shores of the Gulf of Mexico, this was a really nice place. I could stay there a while.

We found the waterfront park where the festival takes place, and found a resort approximately a hundred yards away. That would be perfect. We spent the night there, liked it, and the next morning we reserved the last room they had available for the early June festival weekend, a room big enough for us and Kate and Max.

While we were packing up to check out, the phone rang. It was my doctor, who wanted to talk over the results of my blood test. Nothing to worry about, in fact he said it was pretty much exactly what I had told him when I first walked into his office. The only thing to be concerned about is high cholesterol, which I had told him. I've got a cardiac stress test Thursday and assuming all goes well (or at least well-ish) we'll talk about how to get the cholesterol down.

That having been said, a big, greasy road trip breakfast was off the schedule. Tori insisted. For some reason, she wants to keep me around.

We asked at the desk for a good local spot for breakfast would be and they directed us to an out-of-the-way, not at all touristy restaurant called the Neighborhood Cafe. Well named, because that's what it is. It's a neighborhood place that tourists wouldn't even find, let along want to go to. But it was really good. I had an omelet made with egg whites only. It was delicious, and the best part was the hash browns. I'd swear they were cooked in bacon grease. Maybe not the best thing for my heart, but delicious!

But here's the thing –

The cafe was full up – Friday, I guess, the local clientele comes in for their chicken fried steak or biscuits and gravy. And except for the table of guys from the nearby Air Force Base and one other table, we were the youngest customers there – by far! I'm not kidding, I can't think of the last time I saw so many walkers and canes. It's not often these days that I walk into a place and lower the average age of the room.

After breakfast we stopped in at the chamber of commerce, which has a sign boasting "the Billy Bowlegs Museum," which turns out to be their conference room with a bunch of pictures on the wall. We introduced ourselves, Tori mentioned TLAPDay, and the next thing I know the chamber director is out there signing me up to do some radio spots announcing this year's festival.

Tori chats with Cranberry.
Tori and Cranberry
In the afternoon we went to the local aquarium, the Gulfarium. I'm sure during the tourist season it's a terrific place. In February, it was cold, cloudy, there was hardly anyone there, and half the exhibits were closed for the season. But it was a fun afternoon with a dolphin show, at the end of which, Tori got to feed a penguin. She and a girl, about 12 or so, were given instructions and told to sit cross legged. The little penguin, a South African penguin called Cranberry, wasn't interested in eating. Instead, she jumped right into Tori's lap!

It was, all in all, a terrific road trip, two days of just me and Tori. The weather was cold, the sky was  cloudy, and we had a great time together. And this the same week that we celebrated Mardi Gras.

      Sometimes life is too good.

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Picture This: Pirates Prowl the Streets for Mardi Gras

It's an old, old saying, but it bears repeating.

To most of the world, yesterday was Tuesday. In New Orleans, it was Mardi Gras! In most of the world, people went through their normal weekday routine. They may have work a colorful tie to the office, or had a little party after work. But they went to the office, they went to work.

Here's the whole city was one big party.

I was again a guest of the Krewe of Pirates, the New Orleans group that parades through the crowded streets of the French Quarter and the surrounding area, pushing the pirate ship over the cobble stones, firing the bead cannon into the crowd. (Although the bead cannon was a little disappointing this year, lot of misfires. I think we need cannon Viagra.)

It was a great time. I learned a couple of important lessons the last time I went with the KoP. You can read about it here, here and here.

One – I got some gel insoles for my boots. In 2013, by the time we got back my feet hurt so badly I could barely walk. The insoles made all the difference. My legs are sore, and my toes were sore, but the soles of my feet were fine.

Two – There is NO place to go to the bathroom when you're out on the streets. No place. The bars and restaurants all have "Restroom for Patrons Only" signs up and they mean it. I spied one bank of portapotties, but the line was as long as most parades. When we got back to our starting point two years ago, I was practically doubled over from the bladder pressure, and I swear, I timed it and it took a full two minutes to pee.

So this year I did not drink my usual half a pot of coffee in the morning, and I stayed away from the beer and champagne. I drank rum from my flask, and I nipped at it, no guzzling. It felt SO much better.

So I had a great time. A GREAT time. Met some terrific pirates I'm proud to call brother. Reconnected with the boys from the Whiskey Bay Rovers, a group of maritime musicians from Lafayette, La., and great guys.They were along for the ride, and sang a tune at the bar.

Tori couldn't come along this time. Max is in the EJHS band and they were marching in the Krewe of Argus parade in Metairie (you wouldn't believe how many parades they have during Mardi Gras – about 30, I think) and Tori went along as one of the parent chaperones. She walked 6.2 miles keeping the crowds away from the kids and making sure they kids got water when needed. I only walked 3.7 miles, albeit pushing a pirate ship, and I got rum! I win.

You can see a video of the fun here.

As always, thanks to Charles Duffy and all the members of the Krewe of Pirates. It was a rollicking good time and I was delighted to be asked aboard. Now for some pix.

Eric of the Whiskey Bay Rovers

Manning the bead cannon.

Irish, a captain of the Krewe of Pirates.

Yeah, that's exactly what it looks like. 

Pirates on the prowl!

Steve of the Whiskey Bay Rovers.

Ol' Chumbucket flanked by Jared and Steve of the WBR.

Irish – A big man full of love – and rum.

A pirate from Tampa – the home of Gasparilla.

Charles Duffy, master of the fleet of KoP.

Not sure what this is supposed to be.

All sorts of costumes take the streets.

The streets become on big party!

Mardi Gras is for everyone!

Dodging a cannon shot of beads.

There's quite a lot of canonical costumes.

This guy's suit could have come from my own closet.

My favorite shot of the day – love the "Praise Cheeses" sign.

Irish's buddy, Shane.

A small group of Christians rally each year in front of the cathedral,
trying to convince revelers to change their ways. Fat chance.

Gandalf the Gray finds that he cannot pass.

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Turns Out I'm OK. Not Great, but OK

I passed my blood test today. At least, they stuck a needle in my arm and blood came out. Sounds like a win in my book.

I went to the doctor Monday for the first time in eight years. I haven't had insurance, and I've been feeling fine. But now I have insurance (thank you President Obama) and Tori thought it would be a good idea to actually – you know – see the doctor.
I was fine with that. I was less comfortable with the idea of him seeing me.

I feel OK, but you know, I'm about to turn 60 and I've had a few "issues," as would anyone my age who just doesn't pay much attention to health.

Tori came with me, partly to make sure I went through the door, and partly because she thought there was a chance they'd be rushing me into surgery or calling a priest, or at least calling in the other staff at the clinic to "get a load of this!"

But no, I'm "OK." Not great, but I'm OK. I'm not gonna die today, and I probably won't tomorrow, and really, considering the way the word is, who can honestly say more?

I had an EKG and the doctor said it looked good. He actually sounded a little surprised when he said it. Today's blood test was another part of the battery. He said he's gathering data. It's like he knows there must be something wrong, and he's gonna find it.

The doctor – who seemed so painfully young that I kept wondering when the field trip would be over and he'd get on the bus to go back to school – agreed with what I had said when I first walked into his office. If I lose a little weight, most of those issues will go away. 

Sigh. So long, doughnuts (except on TLAPDay.) Goodbye red meat. Been good knowing you, ice cream. And barbecued pork ribs (again, except on the holiday.) Hello whole grains and leafy greens.

Good thing the Super Bowl was Sunday, It was hard enough watching that game. Watching it without my pulled pork sandwich and a bottle of Shiner's "Birthday Beer," (a chocolate bock that literally tastes like a piece of chocolate cake, yet is unmistakeably beer) would have been too much to ask of a Seahawk fan (It was in the bag man! There was no WAY we could lose!) Can you imagine watching that with nothing to support me but rice cakes and room temperature spring water?

Anyway, that ties into something else. I'm getting ready to move this blog  to Word Press and was thinking of categories for the different parts of my life. Family Life. Pirate Life. Now I can have another category, related to my health.

The categories will be: Family Life. Writing Life. Pirate Life. and – wait for it –

Clinging to Life.

I won't be moving right away, and I'll mention it before I do it. But it's in the works.

Sunday, February 1, 2015

Only One Thing You Can Say

Well, that was disappointing. A great game, really a classic, but Aaaaagggggghhhhh! So disappointing at the end. They had it won. THEY HAD IT WON! Second and goal on the one with 30 seconds left, two time outs and Marshawn in the backfield? We got this. That play call was an atypical panic move.

Oh well, it was a great game, with ups and downs and edge of the seat excitement. As a Cubs fan, son of a Cubs fan who was the son of a Cubs fan, I'm used to disappointment, and know that the only thing you can do is brush away the tear and say, "Wait 'til next year!"

Game Time! The Perfect Pulled Pork

 Three reasons why, in this house, my pulled pork sandwiches are required Game Day food.

– It's a simple recipe. Couldn't be easier.

– It's delicious, one of the very best things I make.

– It's the only thing I make that lets me use my meat cleaver. Seriosuly, I have this heavy, razor sharp cleaver, and I only bring it out for these sandwiches.

Here's how you do it.

Two pound pork roast. Most recipes call for pork loin. I use the pork sirloin tip roast from Costco. Throw it in the crockpot.

Add a 12-ounce can of root beer. Yes, root beer. I also add a bit of basil for sweetness and oregano for bite. Then close it up and let it cook on low for about five hours.

After five hours, take it out, pour off the liquid and shred the meat. This is the fun part. I've got a nice, heavy cleaver and go at it, hacking it into shreds. If it's halftime, and your team isn't doing well, this is also therapeutic. Two weeks ago, watching the NFC championship game, the pork was particularly finely shredded.

Then it goes back in to the Crock Pot, and pour in your favorite barbecue sauce. If you make your own, great, sometimes I go that direction. But if it's game day, you don't want to miss a thing, so an 18-ounce bottle of Sweet Baby Ray's or whatever your favorite is poured on top, mixed around. Then close it up again and let it simmer on low for another hours.

Then toss it on a roll or bun, and get back to the game!

Go 'Hawks!

Saturday, January 31, 2015

Avoiding Temptation at Dot's

Tori and I went out to breakfast this morning at a place called Dot's Diner. It's kind of a greasy spoon place, which usually means good breakfast. And we weren't disappointed. Everything we wanted in a breakfast, plus gravy.

I did NOT order this item for breakfast, though I was sorely tempted

I have a doctor's appointment Monday, and the Super Bowl is tomorrow (Go 'Hawks!) so I'll be making my legendary – at least in our house – pulled pork sandwich. So this probably wasn't a great idea for a man of my years and health.

It's a great price for a sandwich with 12 strips of bacon, but the crossed-out heart logo speaks volumes. Talk about truth in advertising.

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Bad History, Teeth, Cats, Idiots

Bad History

I watched the first two episodes of "Sons of Liberty" on the History Channel. I might watch the final episode tonight, but it's hard. It makes good TV I guess, but it's lousy history.

I don't know why I'm surprised. Despite its name, there's an awful lot of non-historical crap on the History Channel.

Through the first two hours of the show I kept throwing up my hands, and a couple of times had to leave the room. It's like that Heath Ledger movie, "A Knight's Tale," which supposedly is about jousting knights and treats them like rock stars – literally, considering some of the music was by Queen. There's a 21st century mindset or attitude that I guess is supposed to help us "get" the issues. But what it really does is hide what's real about those times and those people under a simplistic veneer.

And in the movie, they were fictional characters in a fictional setting. In "Sons of Liberty," these are real people. They really existed and really did things that created this country. And the History Channel's effort gives lip service to some of it, short cuts, truncates and oversimplifies most of it, and then just makes stuff up because it makes good TV.

I forget who said "History is a great story that just happened to have really taken place," but there's a lot to that. I just wish the History Channel had bothered to tell the story that really happened.


Went to the dentist last week. That's not particularly noteworthy, except it was the first time in six and a half years. The last time I went to the dentist it was about a couple of teeth towards the back that were breaking off, chip at a time. Necrotic (dead.) Not painful, just kind of annoying. That dentist told me how we'd take care of it over the next few months if treatment. I pointed out that I was moving to St. Croix in three days, and that was that.

So now that I'm covered on Tori's dental and optical insurance, she insisted I go to the dentist. It wasn't bad. Not painful. Yet. Now I have a treatment plan that the insurance will cover about half of. And some of it – scraping and planing and removing the roots of those two missing teeth – does not not sound painless.

But I'm a grownup, and I recognize that if I don't do something, I'll probably lose most of them. So I'll do it.

But first I've got a doctor's appointment next week. Haven't been to a doctor in eight years, since I didn't have insurance. Now I do thanks to the Affordable Care Act (thank you, President Obama.) I could have signed on to Tori's health insurance at work, but adding me would have been so expensive there'd almost be no point in her working.

I feel fine. Not great. I will turn 60 this year and there's plenty of little things. But mostly I feel fine. I've got a list of little nagging things that will make him sit up and keep him busy for a while, running tests and whatnot.

And with new glasses – that's also on the agenda – I'll soon be a new man.

I just hope I'm still funny.


We are down to zero cats – we're 3 of 3.

In November, Tori brought a kitten home from the Spaymart adoption center for us to foster. She was sick, couldn't be with the other cats. We fed Jane (Tori had named her Jane Austen) and fattened her up, took her in for her shots and neutering, played with her, shared the computer with her, cleared up her ear mites, and took her back so that someone could adopt her. She was a Christmas present for two young kids and is now a pampered and beloved member of that family. They brought photos by the Spaymart the other day.

While we were fostering Jane, Tori brought home Lucy. We were told she needed some discipline, she was unruly, attacked and bit and was unsociable. Sounded fun. She had been found on a boat. Young, probably not more than six weeks old, she was still a little feral and HATED being in the cage at Spaymart. Hissed, growled, bit. It took her a day to get comfortable in our house, but playing with Jane, she got used to us.

In fact, she quickly showed her true colors. She was a little love. She still played kind of wildly. Every morning for about an hour she'd be sort of manic, so much so that we thought maybe Lucy was short for Lucifer, but all of a sudden she'd leap – absolutely leap – into my lap while I was trying to work. She'd scrambled up my leg, up my chest (I still have a few scratches from that) and perch on or near my shoulder, purring. It's hard to type one handed. If you sat in the recliner, any time of the day or night, you were almost certain to wind up with a cat purring on your chest, vigorously rubbing the top of her head into your chin.

But every time Tori brought her back to the Spaymart she went berserk. It was all Tori could do to hold on to her, but no one else could touch her. So she'd come back here.

We tried bringing another cat home to help Lucy socialize. but she was more standoffish than Lucy ever was. Lucy actually helped her socialize, rather than the other way around.

After a couple of weeks, we took the third cat (who had been given the unfortunate name Sweetie Pie. Max temporarily renamed her Bon Quee Quee) back to Spaymart, and she was finally adopted last weekend. back to Spaymart in the hope she'd get adopted.

Which left us with Lucy, and I was getting worried that she'd never get adopted. But Tori put ads on Facebook and Craigslist, and we got a call from a couple that were looking for a cat and thought she was the one. They came by and, instead of hissing and running away like I'd expected, Lucy played with the woman. And the guy has a beard, which Tori is convinced was an important part of the cat's imprinting on me. So she's adopted and I heard today from her new family that she's settled in, happy and loved.

We got them when they were kittens, and got to help them find families. And now they're out, and we don't have to deal with cats. Mission accomplished.

Until Tori brings the next one home.


Tori has been having lots of fun with her Galaxy pad, my Christmas present to her. She just found (on Hulu) and binge watched a show that makes "America's Next Top Model" look like Shakespeare. It's called (ironically, I think/hope) "America's Most Smartest Model."

It pits models, male and female, in both modeling competition and quizzes by none other than that asshole Ben Stein. And those parts are hilarious.

My favorite was the blonde (had to be, right?) who somehow managed to last five episodes even though it was obvious she would not stand out intellectually in a vat of toothpaste. Asked the last name of Napoleon, she "thought" – if that's what you want to call it – for almost a minute and then blurted out, "Pierre?" Kudos to her for trying French (though Napoleon was Corsican, which would have blown her tiny mind.)

Even better was when asked "Who assassinated John F. Kennedy?" You could practically hear the hamsters in her head spinning the wheel as she thought and thought, and finally, desperately, said, "Brad?" I'm laughing just typing it.

There were others even stupider than her, but somehow not as flamboyantly stupid. When she finally got eliminated, her last words on camera were a whine, then "Oh no! I really AM dumb!"

And in the final salute to inanity, "America's Most Smartest Model" was won by a Russian. Go figure.

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

A Good Week: The Game, The Movie and Home Work

What a game!

We are Seahawks fans. I have been since '78, and Tori became a fan after she moved to the Northwest in the '80s. There has been little enough for fans to cheer about for decades, so their success of the last couple of years is all the sweeter. Seattle fans aren't bandwagon jumpers or fair weather friends. We've earned the right to crow a little.

And that was never more true than Sunday's game, sort of a microcosm of the whole long-term fan's experience.

Those who were watching Sunday's NFC championship game against the Packers know how it went. The game started great, with Richard Sherman intercepting a pass in the end zone. It was going to be easy.

But it wasn't. The Seahawk offense was awful that day. Awful. QB Russell Wilson couldn't hit anyone, and when he did they tipped it up and it was picked off. The running game wasn't moving. It was hard to watch. But the defense kept coming after the Packers, giving up yards but forcing field goals instead of allowing touchdowns. So we were still in it, but time was running out.

Tori was glum, and I was nervous. I literally cannot recall them ever playing that badly, not just in their recent successful years, but even back during the bad days when the owner seemed to be intentionally making the team bad so local fans wouldn't object when he moved them to Los Angeles. Tori kept asking, "Can they do it?" and I kept saying, "Yes," but I was getting a bad feeling that this wasn't going to be a happy day. But we stayed with it, rooting for the impossible.

Because that's what fans do. You root for your team no matter what. You stand by them in the darkest hours. It's your job. I know something about being a long-term fan of a hopeless team. I was born a Cubs fan, son of a Cubs fan who was the son of a Cubs fan. My grandfather, who I never met, was the last in the line of Baurs to actually see the Cubs win the World Series, back in 1908. It's been 106 years since then. One of my earliest sports memories is the '69 Cubs. Enough said.

So on Sunday we waited, and kept hoping against hope. I'm not going to do a whole play by play. If you care, you already know, if you don't – well, you don't. But it was the most magnificent, amazing, impossible and exhilarating finale I've ever seen. We were on our feet shouting. And when Kearse rolled into the end zone with the overtime touchdown pass that won the game, we literally screamed. It was the most amazing high I've ever felt.

I dare say if the team hadn't been misfiring so badly all day, if they'd battled the Packers without trying to gift wrap the game for them, if they'd just gone out and won, I'd have been very happy. But that would have been nothing compared to the giddy dancing feeling of that impossible win. If we hadn't been so downcast, hadn't been staring into the face of certain defeat, we couldn't have been thrown into the heights the way we were by the performance of 53 men – who we'll never meet – playing a game 1,500 miles or so away.

You've got to accept the possibility of heartache to get the chance for total exhilaration.

Go 'Hawks!


Tori and I saw "The Imitation Game" Friday. Really good movie and Benedict Cumberbatch was as brilliant as I'd been told to expect. It was a story I was familiar with. I'd first heard of Alan Turing and Ultra when I read "Bodyguard of Lies," Alan Cave Brown's 1975 history of Britain's secret war against the Third Reich, and had read it many more times since, most recently in "Cryptonomicon," a novel about many, many things including code breaking and Turing and Ultra and computers and Greek gods and the ultimate way to eat Cap'n Crunch cereal.

So we enjoyed a compelling movie about both the ultimate coup against the Nazis and the enigmatic genius who pulled it off and the tragedy of his life. A very layered, brilliant performance by Cumberbatch.

But as good as it was, it mostly just reminded me of how much greater "Birdman" is. We saw that on Christmas week, and my god, it's an amazing movie that works on so many different levels. Michael Keaton is phenomenal, best performance I've seen in years, certainly the best he's ever given. It's an actor's movie, an astonish tour de force for a great cast. The direction and the cinematography are incredible. It's not the kind of movie that wins a lot of awards, but I cannot remember a better, more compelling movie, ever.

Home work

Spent Thursday up to my elbows in the dryer. Of course, no one wants any appliance to go wrong, but if anything does, you want it to be the dryer.

A dryer does only two things – it blows hot air on a turning drum. That's it. For all the fancy stuff they add, the computer chips and the filters and the lights and buzzers, all it really does is blow hot air on a turning drum. And there's only four major parts to make that happen – the drum, a belt, the motor and the heating unit. So it's pretty easy to diagnose a problem. If the drum isn't turning, it's the motor, belt or drum. If the air it blows isn't hot, it's the heating element. That's it. Except ...

But this time the air was still hot, and the drum turned. But last week when the drum turned, it sounded like a cement mixer, like it was about to shake itself apart. So Thursday I started taking it apart, piece by piece.

I went slow, because I wasn't absolutely certain what I was doing. That's what made it so fun. I had the front and back off and couldn't see anything wrong. Nothing stuck in there that should have been, no loose belt (Tori, by the way, first put in that belt two and a half years ago when we moved in here) or spring hanging down that obviously should have been connected to something else.

I peered inside with a flashlight, everything looked OK, but clearly wasn't. It still rumbled away like a bulldozer every time I turned the motor over.

I paused between each step, consulting various youtube DIY videos and thinking very hard between each step. What should I do next and was I capable of doing it?

I finally pulled the drum and everything looked OK until I reached all the way back and spun the drum rollers, the two little wheels on axles bolted to the back that support the drum as it revolves. One of them was obviously broken, the hub broken out.

A quick trip to the appliance store (no, not Sears) and I was back with a replacement part. It took about another hour to pull the whole thing back together. When Tori got home, she didn't even realize the dryer was running.

The one frustrating thing – and boy was it frustrating – was that as I took the front and back off, etc., I dropped the screws in my pocket. There were twelve half-inch screws with 5/16 inch machine heads and two screws with Phillips heads. And almost every time I reached into my pocket for a machine-head screw, almost every single time, I pulled out one of the two Phillips heads. And of course, those were the last two I would need.

So yeah, I felt pretty good. It had taken me hours longer than it would have someone who knows what they're doing and does it often. But like the man said, to the man who owns a wrench and knows how to use it, it's just a puzzle. I own a wrench – a lot of them, actually, way more than I need, but that's a different story – and solving the puzzle took a lot longer.

But the dryer works. Not sure it means much, but it felt good to do, and was part of a very good week.