Sunday, August 31, 2008

Marco, Madeleina and Basketball

Well, for most of you, the idea of being able to run a bit, even if you smoke cigarettes and have smoked them for 40 years as I have, is no big deal. For me it was nothing. I played New York City one-wall handball till '98 at least twice a week. I also rode my bicycle--a beauty outfitted by my great great brother Larry--to work at High Times daily--a 10 mile NYC street death defying daily run--played softball for High Times at shortstop a couple of times a week and would have traded anything to get even more time doing sports.
But the move to Texas curtailed a lot of that: No handball walls; no handball partner or NYC parks where you just run into strangers to play with. No lanes on my 60 mph two lane road with Barnett Shale water and rig trucks barreling down at 80 mph and not even one foot of shoulder. So bike riding was out. And no softball at my weekly alternative.
So I went to yardwork and gardening a 1/4 acre by hand (daily weeding and such), walking as I could, situps and pushups.
But last year set me back--the burst intestine, the peritonitis and the two subsequent surgeries to seal up my stomach and belly muscles after they herniated.
So I've basically been a basket case and now I'm trying to get back into a little shape and my body is fighting me. I'm doing situps and walking a lot, relatively speaking. I'm trying to run. But last week, on my second 50 yard hard run in more than a year I stretched out an instep muscle and thought I'd die.
So Marco, my wonderful son, Challenged me to play basketball today. I didn't have a chance. I can hardly walk, much less guard a 19-year old.
But somehow me and Madeleina beat Marco and Brooke twice. And now he's sulking and I'm sweating and thinking that maybe it's gonna work out after all. Maybe I can get back into shape. Maybe this is going to work afterall.
Sorry Marco. Never underestimate an emphasematic dad who has a will to breathe.

Saturday, August 30, 2008

The Way It Goes

Well, life is life. Italo has gone off to college on his soccer scholarship and he's happy as can be. His roommate is a cool guy, he's on his own, and he loves it. And me and Chepa, though separated, are both sad. We love our kid. And we both know he needs to be on his own, but at the same time we miss his daily funny input, his declarations of independence, and so forth.
So he came home last night and today I forced him to come to my office, the rat-ridden office--and work with my plan> My plan was that I think we've gotten the rats out of the office with poison and traps and such, but I think they're still living underneath the little out building. So I bought 4 gallons of industrial strength clorox and had Italo pour two gallons into one entrance under the building and I poured a couple of gallons into the other entrance.
I was terrified that there would be 100 rats running out but there were none. In my office there was one dead rat: I'm afraid of live rats, or startled by them or whatever (scared is more accurate) but dead rats don't bother me. On the other hand, Italo, the brave warrior, was scared shitless of the dead rat that smelled so bad.
"I'm not going in there dad. I can't handle the smell."
The smell is wonderful to me. It's a dead rat.
But not to him.
So I cleaned it out.
And no rats came out from under the little building when 4 gallons of Clorox was poured underneath it. So maybe we've lost the rats.
Meanwhile, night before last I had a couple of Jim Beams and then suddenly needed a little ice cream. I've been being good for a month and not had any but I had to have some. And so did Madeleina, who's been being very good lately trying to lose weight as well. So I got into my truck to head to the corner gas station for packaged ice cream cones. Marco's car was in the way so I asked him to move it so I could leave and he did. But I was high and when I backed out I tapped his bumper. I thought he'd go crazy. Instead he came running to me and hugged me.
"Thank you, dad. Thank you. Thank you, thank you."
I apologized a million times.
"No, you don't understand. I hit your car and I owe you $700. Now you hit my car so I don't owe you anything! Thank you dad!"
I was sort of speechless. I mean, I hit his car and you can't see where. He hit mine and I lost the entire back panel of the pickup and the gas tank and the bumper and somehow we're now even.
I probably shouldn't have been driving, but it was only 500 yards. My mistake. My fault. But he has no damage and I still have a problem. So now we're even. I won't be driving after a couple of drinks anymore.
Right now, Italo, Sarah, Marco, his girl Brooke, Chepa, Sierra, Alexa and me and Madeleina are getting ready to eat. I thought I was eating alone tonight, so started with a small piece of steak, an ear of corn and 10 asparagus. We're up to 4 pounds of steak, 8 ears of corn, two large tomatoes sliced and sauteed and sprinkled with parmesan cheese, a pound of beans, salad....gonna be a lot of good food for the pig tomorrow, I'll venture.
And that's it from the Gormans.
Live goes on. Love is crazy. Somehow we're still a family even though you wouldn't define us that way.
I love my life.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

The Pig Can Eat

Well, turns out the pig can eat. Like a pig. Every night when I cook, I use a lot of fresh vegetables. We're all trying to lose 10-20 pounds around here so our normal volume of veggies has gone up considerably. And that means that on a given day there are asparagus and bean ends, pieces of celery, carrot tops, red pepper and green pepper ends, bits of onion and garlic skin and ends, cucumber rind. And then there are extra pieces or corn and left over cantalope, which is taking the place of ice cream, and watermelon rinds.
And now I've always put all that in a bag before I put it in the garbage bag because Chepa taught me years ago that a bag in a bag will help prevent mice and rats from coming to the garbage. HAHAHAHAHA! Nonetheless, maybe there are less rodents than there would have been. Only difference in the last few days is that I'm now putting that stuff in the fridge till Madeleina gets off school or Marco is home to feed the pig.
And all that is fine. But two days ago, I went to get a banana to eat and noticed there were none. Funny, because I'd bought a bunch of maybe 6 the night previous. Then I reached for some left over stew and there was none...funny, because I'd put the left over in the fridge.
Then I went to grab a piece of watermelon, but there was none of that, either. Or cheddar cheese crackers, or ham, or hot dogs.....
"Yes, dad?"
"Just last week you threw away all the food in the fridge because you said it was old. I bought all new stuff and now that's gone too. Can you explain?"
"I have no idea what happened to it. Maybe you should ask mom. It was probably little Sierra (My wife/ex-wife's two-and-a-half year old) or Alexa (my wife/ex-wife's infant) who ate them."
"Marco, they're not three years old between them. They did not eat a whole watermelon, a gallon of beef stew, seven bananas, four apples, two boxes of cheddar cheese crackers, a couple of packs of hot dogs...."
"Oh, that stuff.....Well, all I can say is that you said you liked the pig. And I figured if you liked the pig you wanted her healthy. And if you wanted her healthy, I'd do what you weren't doing, which was feeding her. So I gave her a couple of treats to make sure she gets used to us. I was just thinking of you dad. I was thinking that you always say an animal has to be at home in the home where it lives. So I was just welcoming her. Don't you get it?"
"I get that you gave the pig all the food we have...."
"No, dad. I was just bribing her not to bite you to death when you go into her pen...If I didn't feed her she'd probably go crazy and tear you to pieces. Don't you understand that I love you and was just watching out for you? I mean, can't a son love his father?"
"Hang me for my love, dad. If that's all it means...."
"I'm gonna kill you someday, you know that don't you?"
"Sure dad. Some way to raise your children. Just threaten them like that. Then when I grow up sociopathic you'll be to blame. Can't you just love me, dad? Can't you just love the pig?"
"I do, Marco. I just wanted some food..."
"Sure. Be selfish, dad. And you always taught us not to be selfish. I don't know how you can live with yourself."

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Way Too Early, Good Morning Anyway

Good Morning everybody! It's way too early to be up and writing but I'm up and doing it anyway. Madeleina and I took off Friday at 6:30 AM for Nederland, Colorado to officiate at the wedding of two former jungle clients who are now friends. I was genuinely honored that they asked me. Madeleina wanted to go but had no idea how long an 800 mile drive in one day would actually be. So a couple of hours into it she started getting bored. I have not driven that distance in a day in some years, and man, you should have felt my gas foot and leg freeze up on me after three or four hours. Just sort of went numb, so we'd pull over every now and then and I'd have to wake the darned thing up.
But once we started to climb into the high prairie, the places where Quanah Parker rode his horses and she began to see outcroppings and an occasional butte her interest began to peak. Whenever she saw something she'd never seen before she'd scream, turn and begin punching me in the arm. "Oh dad look at that! (whack) Look at those rocks! (whack!) I can't believe I'm actually seeing them! (whack! whack!). And there is a lot she hadn't seen. By the time we hit northern Colorado and she began to get up close and personal with genuine mountains my left arm was black and blue and nearly numb. Still, you don't want to quell someone's excitement and I love seeing her so insane with excitement, so what's a little joyful pain?
The ceremony, written by my friends, was lovely. Madeleina got to hold and then pass the beautiful rings my friend had made and was just perfect.
And then we had to drive home. Now that was long. I mean it was the same as getting there but a lot of the home drive was at night and we were on a two-lane road most of the time, a two lane road filled with trucks that kept barreling down on my Ranger and Madeleina had us call it quits and take a motel when we hit Texas.
And when we did finally make it home around noon on Sunday, Marco heard us pull up and came out of the house. "Come with me, dad. I want to show you something."
"I gotta pee, Marco. I'm dying..."
"That can wait. Come with me."
He headed us out toward the chicken coop--on the way he explained that he'd clened the house and mowed most of the lawn and that was very nice. And he also said it wasn't his fault.
"What's not your fault?"
"You'll see."
We arrived at the chicken coop. Nothing.
"Marco, I really got to pee. Madeleina, turn around." She did, I did my business near the composting grass cuttings behind the coop, then I turned around again. There, in the little chicken house was what was not Marco's fault: a lovely little piglet. Pink as can be, maybe 30 pounds of future chops and bacon.
"I found it."
"You found it?"
"I was driving back from Brooke's and she was in the road. There were no houses nearby and nobody seemed to be looking for her so I thought I should stop and get her before she got run over."
Madeleina was already in the coop, trying to feed her some leaves. "She's beautiful, Marco."
"She's lovely. Sure she's a she?"
"I checked, dad..."
"Because sows are one thing; hogs another."
"Oh, yeah, like you know about pigs."
"Well, I don't know much, but I been on a farm or two and if you think butting heads with our unfixed goat was bad, wait till you see what it's like when a 400 pound hog decides to get territorial..."
"It's a girl, dad. Trust me."
"How'd you catch her?"
"That was hard. I chased her for about 20 minutes, and every time I'd grab her she'd just pull out of my arms. She's pretty strong and a lot faster than I thought."
"Not bad, kiddo. Catching a scared pig on a country road is pretty tough, I'll bet."
"The only thing is now you have to go buy her food and stuff. Unless you just want to barbeque her."
"Na. Let's keep her around a while. We haven't had a pig before. Might as well learn what that's like."
"Hooray!" screamed Madeleina, coming out of the coop to whack my arms half-a-dozen times. "We got a piglet! We got a piglet! Yes! Yes! Yes! And you are never (whack!) never (whack!) never (whack!) going to barbeque her! (whack! whack!). Do you hear me? (WHACK!)
"Nice one, Marco."
"Glad you like her, dad."

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Legions of Readers, Where the Heck are You?

Ah, from the title alone you know this piece is going to be about you, don't you. Or about "not you" as you may no longer be here. That may be my fault. I've been gone quite a bit the last few months. But I still think there have been a couple of beauties put up and I'm just not getting a feel that anybody's out there. And, since I don't have a counter, and don't have any ads and so am not making my stinking $3.21 per day, this is an act of pure love and selfishness. I know you might think those two words don't belong together, but they do if I've refused love for 57 years. Now, I'm learning, very slowly, to accept it, and that makes me selfish. So while I'm writing this darned thing for myself, I'm also writing it for whomever you might be. And in that case it's given with love, but since I'm writing it partly for me, it's written with a touch of selfishness as well. See how I turned that one around? Clever for a middle-aged, very muddled, quite nuts average white guy.
In any event, if some of you would please let me know you actually bother reading this, my ego would be assuaged a bit. And, of course, if Google AdSense is reading this, if you could give me my counter back, at least, I'd have an idea if one or two people a month are actually looking in on things. I mean, the Gorman's are quite a funny soap opera, what with rats in the office, an ex-wife whose children by her new beau I'm helping to raise and what with the dozens of guests I've taken to the Amazon who still hate me....that last is a lie: I know of 7 people who think I failed them miserably and dozens who had the trip of their lives--not necessarily because of me but because I put them in touch with something primordial within themselves that needed birthing.
And now, since I don't have a lot to say except that I caught three mice in my kitchen last night after kicking the mice out of the garbage by moving the garbage area away from the house, leaving them looking for somewhere new to live (in my kitchen, near the garbage bag) and that I'm not nearly as petrified of them as I am of the freaking rats, well, I'll leave you to your evening. I hope it's a great one.
Two of my friends are getting married Sunday and I'm still trying to work out driving 850 miles to be there, but Italo took my good, or at least decent, truck to his new school last night, leaving me with my wonderful 1994 Ranger long bed with extended (Ha!) cab, the one with 290,000 miles, and I'm not sure she's up for the job. Plus, my boss gave me an assignment that's due on Monday and I don't know that I can finish it tomorrow.
And that's it from here. If my most recent posts have been too meloncoly, and I know they've been pretty emotional to a large extent, forgive me. Or screw it. I am that kind of guy: One minute the world's funny, the next it's difficult, the next it's emotional, the next it's a story about me and Madeleina playing frisbee. So deal with it. If none of you are reading anyway, who cares. If you are, thanks.
Yours in emotional turmoil and joy,

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Same Ol'.....Ha! It's Never The Same Ol' Anything!

Hey, I might not have much to say but that doesn't mean that things have not be crackling around here and such. First off, Boots the blind wonderdog got out of prison yesterday, having served 10 days (in a boarding kennel while they looked for rabies, which he does not have) for biting a trespassing teen one night about two weeks ago. A nip really, described by the cop who came to the house shortly after the dog-teen altercation as a scratch that broke the skin. Good to have you home, Boots.
Then there's the question of the rats. I don't like rats. I jump when I see them. Can't help myself, I just go into panic overdrive. Not if I see them in the street, then I just don't like them. But in a house, my house, I don't like them. In your house they're fine by me if you guys are the kinds of pigs who like rats in your homes, but I don't. Doesn't mean I'm not a pig, I just don't want to be found out by rats.
So I went to bring a pile of new newspapers and magazines that have stories of mine in them to the little office I have near the little runoff creek across the yard and when I went in, there were two rats running along the rafters. I sort of freaked and then gently looked around and wondered at how much rat poop was all over the place. Now I'd be lying if I said I didn't have a suspicion that I had a rat for some time. Some paper had been chewed up and stuffed in a corner beside a file cabinet and I had no intention of investigating that. But I was hoping it was a squirrel. Squirrels I like. I would even like them in my house.
But two of them climbing to get out of the open space between the roof and the walls of the office was an indication that there might be 4 or 6 or 154 rats living there. So I enlisted Marco and bought some glue traps. We came back the next morning and all traps had copious amounts of hair in them but the rats were clever: They'd run or gotten through my bicycle's wheels and using the spokes to stop the clue traps, had managed to peel themselves off them and get away.
We moved on to spring-load traps. It's been two days: All traps sprung, all the peanut butter on them gone, but no rats. No rat hands or feet, no bits of tail. Nothing to show that would indicate we're winning yet. I am not happy about that. We'll do more spring loads, this time with cheese, today, baby.
The only positive is that several of the little loaves of blue rat poison are no longer where they were. I'm hoping they were taken to the rat hideout and that all I'll be dealing with in a week or so is the stink of dead animals--and I can always buy cheap cologne to cover that till it goes away. Or clothespin my nose.
But I really don't want those rats in there any more.
Then there's Italo. Italo leaves for school tomorrow, and even though he's in driving distance of the house, I'm gonna miss having him around on a daily basis. He's pretty grown up at 22 and doesn't have a lot of rules around here--as evidenced by his girl, Sarah, having lived here a couple of years now--but he's still part of the family on a day to day basis and takes most dinners with us and such. And now I'll be making dinner for one, er, make that two because I don't think Sarah will be here as often with Italo not here, less. So I'm gonna miss him like crazy.
On the other hand, Marco, who was told he was going to have to pick up the slack with Italo gone, has already started. The other day, for instance, he cleaned the living room, which wasn't dirty, just messy. And his idea of cleaning the living room was tossing anything that was on the floor--and there was lots because Chepa's babies are here so much--into a black garbage bag and throwing it out. When things came up missing he explained they were all in the trash, and it was just lucky for me that I'm a lazy guy who hadn't taken out the trash in a couple of weeks, so we retrieved the dolls, shoes, baby clothes, new pack of pampers, movie CDs that he'd tossed and put em all back where they belonged, on the living room floor.
The next day he trumped himself. I was coming home thinking I'd mow the front lawn and when I got there it looked like it just had been mowed. So I came in and he said he'd done it and I thanked him. Then he asked me how I liked the kitchen: It was fairly spotless except that that the floor hadn't been mopped. So I thanked him again, then went to start cooking. I opened the fridge to get the de rigeur garlic and onions and what a sight: The thing was shining. I mean shining. You could see the glass shelves and they were gleaming. But the bag of meat (skirt steak for a sort of fajita dish I was going to make) had been moved. Maybe the freezer? No luck. It was the darndest thing. And the peppers I'd bought to mix with them were gone too. Come to think of it so was the butter and the new gallon of milk and the cheese and a bottle of raspberry juice and the V-8....all of it, gone. No wonder you could see the shelves shining: There was almost nothing on them.
"Marco! You know what happened to the food that was in this fridge?"
He came out of his room. "Must have thrown it out when I was straightening out the fridge."
I just bought that meat this morning. I bought the milk yesterday. I don't even see the pickles...."
"I thought it was all old. You know, open and wrapped..."
"Well, that's what you do in a fridge. You use part of something, you wrap it up and put it back in the fridge till you need it again."
"That's not what we do at the store"--he works a local fancy grocery store--"It's open, it's gone. That's safety rules."
"In a supermarket, yes. Not in a house."
"I was just helping."
"That's cool. I'm just gonna go get the stuff."
And so I went out to the garbage area, found the bag: there were priceless things in there besides the items I've mentioned. There were capers and stuffed olives, some condiments from Peru, salt fish from the Amazon, jams....I looked at it all, let most of it stay, retrieved the bag of meat and the bags of veggies I needed for dinner and went to work cooking. Marco didn't want to eat it because it had been in the garbage. I tried to explain that it was in the bag it came in recently placed in a bag that contained other bags and containers containing other food that was not bad but he still didn't want to eat it. "You don't eat garbage, dad. And that's what you're serving us. Garbage."
"It's only garbage because half an hour ago you threw almost everything in the fridge into a trash bag. It's not real garbage."
"If you would do this now, dad, I wonder how many times you've gone into the garbage to get food for dinner that I didn't know about? I'm surprised I'm still alive."
I didn't say it but was tempted to toss in a "So am I, buddy."

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Ups and Downs at the Gormans

Well, it's been a couple of pretty interesting days at the Gorman's lately. Italo starts school and so moves into his dorm on Friday--he'll only be an hour and a half a way from here but he'll have 3 hours of soccer practice daily and then road games all over the state, so he's opted for me paying for his room and board rather than trying to commute. He's on a scholarship, but when it was offered he thought he's be living here so turned down the room and board. Now that he's changed his mind that scholarship has already been given to a teammate so I'm stuck with the bill. Ah, well.
On a slightly down note, I was busted letting little Sierra hold a lit cigarette on the porch swing two nights ago: Chepa almost killed me and Marco was screaming. I've got my logic though: If she insists on holding one now and then just to copy me, and I let her, I know she'll grow up not smoking. If I make it off limits, I know she's screwed like me.
Okay, I know I'm in for some heat on that one, but I stand by my logic as it worked with both Marco and Italo and not just with cigarettes. I don't think you could get them to smoke a joint or drink more than one beer. Why? Cause when they were little kids and insisted, I let them. And they choked on the beer and decided never to ask for it again, and they choked on cigarettes and decided they didn't like them either. But you shoulda been here when my form of parenting was noticed by Chepa, whom I thought was taking a nap: Hoowee! You woulda thought the house was on fire the way that girl screamed.
And then last night, after a pretty good paella, Chepa was leaving and collecting Sierra and the baby Alexa. She had Sierra, who didn't want to go, by the hand and Alexa in her arm. I was on the porch and opened the front door for her. Just as I did, Alexa puked. I don't mean baby-puked. She puked from inside the doorway and it landed all over my knees and shins, and I was on the far side of the screen door. Must have been a 3-foot rainbow of milk. And then she did it again, this time with water. Then again, this time with juice. I mean three, four 10 second water spouts like she had layers of the stuff in her stomach that hadn't even mixed. Absolutely better than the vomit scene from the Exorcist. What an amazing show. No crying, no discomfort, just spewing baby puke. Never saw anything like that in my life. It was the most beautiful and amazing thing. Took maybe 2 towels and 10 paper towels to get it all up and another couple of paper towels to get my legs cleaned.
So things are slow here in the Texas heat.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Some People I've Been Thinking About

Emotions sometimes come over us unexpectedly. The last couple of weeks, since back from Peru, mine have been very close to the surface. And I've been looking for some old friends on google and myspace and not having luck. Then, the other day, someone wrote to say they had a video of me with the owners and chef and assistants--along with me--in front of Wilson's Restaurant in 1986, when I was a co-chef there. I wrote the person back but they have not responded. I'd love to see that video of my old pals Sarah, Johnny R, Glen, Debbie and Pedro. They were all my friends and life moves on but we don't forget them. Then there was Annie--with whom I'm occasionally in touch--and Nancy W and Jan and Richie and Fast Eddie and Richard and John D and his brother Dan, and Q and Cleo 7 and a host of others I worked with for nearly 8 years at Wilson's on First Avenue and 75th Street in NYC and then at the old Lucerne Hotel on 79th and Amsterdam. And before that at the Banana Boat and Arthur's Court with Malcolm and Artie Heyman and Doc and all those guys; and then at Jimmy Day's in the Village and the Mad Hatter, and the Lodge and one of my all time favorites, Bayard's on 79th and Lex with Mickey and his partner and Oona and all the rest there.
I loved cooking and one day I'll share some plates we used to make: Linguini with lobster and garlic and shallots in a good brandy-cream; roast duck with lingenberry sauce; cold loin of beef with raspberry and whiskey sauce; chicken breast stuffed with spinach and feta; rack of lamb en crute, parsaillade, with a good burned-off cognac; beef tenderloin on a bed of sauteed spinach topped with sliced bone marrow and strawberries in a brown sauce; sliced loin of pork stuffed with apples and apricots in a port wine sauce with a brown sauce base (a good brown sauce is always at least two days work: one day to make a great beef stock; a second day to reduce 5 gallons of stock with bacon and vegetables and spices to a one-quart brown sauce). We had the greatest times, me and the guys and gals who worked with me, taught me, learned from me, laughed with me, got buried and dug our way out with me. We fought, we laughed, we got terrified when there were lines at the door, and there were nearly always lines at the door.
I miss you all. Thank you for working with me, putting up with me. Calling me El Diablo--as Fast Eddie named me--because I was always screaming. But Eddie learned the secret: Just get done what I needed done and you'd never hear anything but thanks from me. And I'd get you 10 bucks more a day than any other joint in the city was paying.
I loved having people around me, like Jonny R, Sarah the wonderful, and John D, who challenged me. Who asked me to invent a new plate or side dish every day. And some of them, like Sarah, were my bosses, even though I was billed as co-chef. I loved being challenged and I was up to it. I remember one time we had this new guy, Paul, come in. He was going to start with us at Wilson's on the East Side and he'd just finished the restaurant school at Cornell and he walked into my kitchen like he knew stuff. I'd only been trained on the street (with a few months in Europe: France, Portugal, Spain) and didn't even know half the stuff he was talking. But then he saw me working with Dover Sole, which in 1985 cost maybe $11 a filet, and he saw me bread it in crushed walnuts and then flip it in my saute pan and then squeeze fresh lemons with a bit of butter over it and he later said: "When I first entered your kitchen, I thought, this guy doesn't know anything. I just graduated from the finest cooking school in the US. And then I saw you bread that freaking world's best sole in crushed walnuts and flip it in a pan like it was a fried egg and I thought: 'well, maybe I ought to slow down and learn a little something from this crazy guy before I dismiss him altogether.' You blew my mind with that circus act. Nobody flips Dover Sole!"
And I miss you too Paul and know that I appreciated your telling me that.
And I miss my sister Pat, the great designer; and Reg, the school teacher; and Barbara and Paul and their kids; and Mike and Verni and Michelle and Vic; and Peggy and George and Jen, Chris and Alison.
Like I said, my emotions are up to here and I'm gonna ask for some space from readers wanting a funny story about my family cause that's not what I'm doing tonight. Tonight I'm celebrating some people I worked with in hot kitchens doing hands-on earthy work. Kitchens are the earthiest place I know. Much more earthy than the Amazon Jungle. Kitchens are where you kill lobsters and snails and cut up half-cows and mash your fingers into food and use your fingernails to turn steaks (never use a fork cause you will ruin a good steak that way) and so your clothes are full of blood and every time you're called to the dining room to get an ovation or whatever you have to change your coat and apron so that people won't be disgusted. But in the kitchen we loved the blood. We loved the tag the foods left on us. We were playing mud pies and were doing it at $15-$35 a plate. And we were making people happy. We were making them forget their problems. My father Tom, a Broadway actor, used to tell us kids that he opted for acting despite going to med school because as an actor he was a doctor for 1,000 people a night. He was right. And as a chef inventing new things, combining things that no one had ever put into a cookbook, I was a doctor--my team were doctors--to 100 people a night in our little restaurants.
So this is a thank you to them. To those who made my work shine. To those who shined so brightly that even now, 20 years since I quit, I'll bet there are thousands of people who still mention the dish they had and loved as our guests. You were all wonderful and I will never forget you.
I am also remembering a couple of the women I loved today. I remember Kathy O'Sullivan, my high school sweetheart. I remember Gail Burrows, and especially Clare Waugh, now Foley, and the 10-15 years we had together. I'm sorry I wasn't good at committments back then. And Gail Ruscetta, who used to do and make me do pushups before going to bed; and Albie H who gave me so much. And Sandy G. You were the women in my life. There were others-I've already married Chepa and we're still somehow crazily involved so I'm not including her here--and you all were wonderful to me. More wonderful to me than I was to you.
And all the rest of you who have lent me your strength--Phil B and Lynn C, Lar and Chuck in particular--your love, your decency. You are the guys who made me. And if you could see me now you might not be happy with what has become of me. But I will never forget any of you.
Thank you.

Thursday, August 07, 2008

Critical Errors

Well, well, well....I thought for sure, after I printed it, not before, that the last post was gonna get 10 responses from Dads and mom's concerning their children's odd behavior. Didn't happen. Now you know why I ain't famous or rich....can't judge the public response ahead of time.
That said, I committed two critical errors in the last three days, errors that could land a person in jail, get them framed, whatever. I'm embarrassed. But in the interest of open-handedness, here you go.
Three days ago a man pulled into the driveway. He approached the house and said he was with Chesapeake Gas, one of the two major players here in the Barnett Shale, the largest natural gas play in the US. My dog Boots went after him ferociously--and Boots is a pretty good judge of character--and I called him off and the man finally made it to the two step stoop.
It was hot. It was 105 at the time, and more like 110 or 115 on pavement. He told me he wanted to ask a couple of questions and I invited him into the house. He stood in the living room--my office and the front room of the house--and said he was with Chesapeake Gas and wanted to know if he could lay some sound lines across my little place. I told him Devon owned the rights to the neighborhood and had in fact drilled several wells across the street, and so what was Chesapeake looking to lay lines for? He said Chesapeake was looking to buy all of the Devon land and wanted to get a read on how much natural gas was really down there.
I told him no, he couldn't do anything to my land. Instantly he said he understood and went for the door. And in that instant I realized he probably wasn't with Chesapeake, but was maybe a cop or DEA or someone like that looking to get just 30 seconds in my house to see if there was anything to see or smell that might later be used against me.
I might be wrong of course. He might have been with the gas company. But nonetheless, letting a perfect stranger into your house, despite 105 degree heat, is a critical error. I have nothing to hide, I know that. But at the same time I've been critical of some DEA agents and a lot of Johnson County police/narcs in the press for several years. I should have known better. I did. I just let my guard down. And now, whether it was an innocent visit or not, I have to live with wondering what was up. Not as in paranoia, but heck, could have even been a Private Investigator working for Chepa getting a glimpse of my house and how I live and who knows what a judge might rule if someone told them about all the Amazon artifacts in my living room? They all look scary: there are skulls and stuffed fish and rocks and bowls and potions and feathers and bugs and jaguar teeth and blowguns and blowgun darts and what not. So that was critical error number one. Letting a stranger into the house.
Critical error number two occurred last night and I still don't know what will become of it. It was about 11:15 and I was sleeping on the couch when Italo woke me to tell me the Sheriff was outside and wanted to talk with me. I jumped up, half sleep-walking, put on shorts and a shirt and stepped out onto the porch. The sheriff's deputy, a portly man, was there on the porch and a fire truck was in the driveway. He said my dog Boots had bitten someone half-an-hour earlier and that I'd have to take Boots to a rabies quarantine for 10 days to see if he had rabies. I said okay and asked what happened. He didn't go into it but did give me a paper to sign which would acknowledge that I'd been told my dog had bitten someone. (IT turned out my dog, the great Boots the Guard Dog, had only bitten one of three teens when, after barking them off from in front of the house, they lingered and cursed at him until he charged, nicking one in the ankle. Both Italo, who was coming home, and Chepa, who was leaving with the two babies, saw the incident, as did my neighbor, who was closing up his video shop.) And completely idiotically, I signed this otherwise blank sheet of paper. Now the front of it did say: "Incident Log", but after I signed, half sleeping, I wanted desperately to grab it and tear it up. What if he chooses to write that I'm confessing to 709 murders in Texas, rather than that I've been advised that my dog is suspected of biting a taunter? I don't control what he'll write. And I've already signed the thing!!!!! What a jerk! Kids in my "Personal Protection-101" class would know better than to sign a paper for a cop that's not filled in, formality or not. Particularly if you've written ill about the cops with the paper as I've done several times in the last couple of years. They may not give a hoot about me but then they might be looking for a way to get back at me for putting their fannies to the fire and me signing a blank sheet--not blank, but not filled out--is the stupidest thing I have probably ever done. My only excuse is that I was really sort of sleep walking, nodding or shaking my head, and didn't wake up until I signed it when my sensors went off and said: "Gorman! What the heck did you just do? What are you thinking???"
In this case I don't think anything will come of either error, but you never know. For all I realize, I might be faced with confessing to the killing of JFK tomorrow and there will be my signature at the bottom of the page. And I had nothing, I swear, to do with JFK's demise.
But there you have it: Two extremely critical errors in two days. Today, the third day, I've been on my toes. But jeez Louise! Who'd have thunk I could be so dumb?
So take it as a warning to know your rights and exercise them--politely--rather than going along with the next stranger who says "It's hot out here. Mind if we step inside?"
Best answer: Wait out here. I'll bring you some lemonade and we'll talk on the porch.
Cause if that guy gets in and drops some dope here when I turn my back, I'm facing time on a set up. And there are lots of people who'd love to see that. So heat or not, sleeping or not, I'm gonna stay on my toes and try not to make any more mistakes like those.

Saturday, August 02, 2008

Slightly Startling Discovery

Whooo Whee! There are moments and there are moments. Particularly as a dad, father, father-taking-care-of someone-else's-business, and so forth. And yesterday, after this perfectly grand day with all my kids, Chepa and her two new kids and going over the skull collection with Sierra and Madeleina hugging me like mad and a fantastic dinner filled with laughter and no arguments....well, I went to do a wash after dinner and just before a movie was turned on. Lousy movie, but that's another subject. This is about wondering where the two dozen mix-matched towels were and going into Italo's room and discovering he had something like 17 wet and used towels in a pile in the corner, just sitting there, mildewing, not drying anyone. So I yelled, "Italo? Can you come and get this pile of stinking towels off the rug and put them into the washing machine?"
To which he answered, "I was waiting till it was an even two=dozen, Dad. No sweat."
And he begrudgingly moved the hundred pound load and plopped them into the washing machine, severely overloading it.
Then it was Madeleina's room. She's only just come back from vacation with Chepa and the boyfriend and so only had about 14 tee-shirts, six pair of shorts and a couple of wet bathing suits hidden under the bed. "Macaroni! What the heck is this?"
"Didn't want to freak you out, dad. Just hiding them till the appropriate moment..."
"Take these to the washing machine and don't try to stuff them into what Italo has already over stuffed, okay?"
"If you say so, dad. But most of those don't fit me so it might just be easier to leave them there under the bed till they dry and then give them to the poor people. What do you say?"
"I say we wash and fold them and then bring them to the church."
"But they'll still have to wash them before they give them away. Hate to waste all that water, you know? I mean, talk about saving the planet..."
"Take them to the laundry room or eat them. Your choice..."
"Talk about a useless dad..."
And then into Marco's room, the carpet of which is not visible for all the clothes covering it. I pick up an armful and take it to the laundry room and put it in the pile of Italo's wet towels and Madeleina's no-fit clothes on the floor and head back for a second load. And then I see it: A bottle, a gallon bottle, of Hawaiian Punch, nearly full, next to his bed. One of my peeves: Take a glass, take a thermos, or take the whole damned gallon. But if you take it, drink it. Don't just let it sit on the floor drawing mice and roaches for a couple of weeks. And for all I knew it had been sitting there since I last left for Peru on July 6 or 7. So I picked it up and walked righteously out of his room and was just putting it in the fridge when I noticed it was yellow, not pink or red. That caught my eye.
"Marco! How long has this Hawaiian Punch been in your room? Freaking thing is
"Dad! Don't drink that! It's bad."
"Well if it's bad, what the heck is it doing next to your bed?"
Italo howled with laughter. "You idiot, dad. That's not Hawaiian Punch. That's Marco's pee bottle. He's too lazy to go to the bathroom at night so he pees into that until it's full, then pours it down the sink."
Instantly I conceptualized the issue. Marco's bed is four steps from the toilet. Three steps from the sink, if he couldn't make the toilet. But he's so lazy he thinks it's okay to fill gallon bottles with urine over the course of a week or so rather than actually stand, take three steps and pee into the bathroom sink.
"I just get tired, dad. And do you really think it's better for me to have to wake up in the middle of the night rather than just peeing in a bottle?"
"Marco, you make love with your girl in this room. I know because I keep finding used condoms. Do you really want her naked and intimate in a room with a gallon of piss?"
"Hey, one time I almost let her drink a little. I told her it was a new kind of Hawaiian Punch. I stopped her but man, that was great. I had her going..."
"Marco. Not acceptable. Just walk to the bathroom....."
"Dad. You just don't understand anything, do you? It's three or four steps. I have to open my door. That's a lot of work at 2 AM."
"I understand everything. You're just lazy."
Madeleina and Italo were laughing so hard they were almost peeing themselves.
"You're just old, old man. You don't know what it's like to be tired. If you were as tired as me I bet you'ld just pee your bed..."
"Another 20 years and you're probably right. But right this instant, empty that into the toilet, wash it and put that think into the garbage can."
"Oh sure, here I am saving and recycling plastic and you're telling me to throw it in the garbage. Some environmentalist you turned out to be. Your friends would be ashamed, I tell you. Ashamed."
Ah, there are joyous moments and there are joyous moments. And Marco just brought me one. Thanks for being my insane kid, kiddo. Know that I love you not in spite but because of your insanity.
PS: Italo just read this and wants you all to know I exaggerated a little to make it a better story. "Especially about the towels," he says.

Friday, August 01, 2008

Family Together Again

It's Friday afternoon and I'm pooped. Chepa, with my Madeleina and her Sierra and Alexa, came in to Dallas-Fort Worth airport last night just after midnight. I started the drive, in Italo's borrowed Lincoln, but he insisted on taking over when the lines looked to be moving to me.
We picked up Chepa, Madeleina, Sierra and Alexa a little after 2 AM--my bedtime in the states is usually about 9:30 with a wake up at 4 AM or so--and I was nearly sleeping.
And when Chepa said the chips and soda I'd picked up for her--along with the roast chicken I'd made for them--were stupid and no good, I realized I still have a lot of anger inside. Thank goodness I kept my mouth shut. Because you know what? I know I'm still angry with her for what went wrong and how she handled it, but the other part of me still loves her and the third part is compelled to love her unconditionally. If not, there's no giving.
So while I nearly went beserk, having brought wonderful food and drink to the airport for them at an ungodly hour, while being put down for it, I didn't.
And then this morning, at about noon, when she came over, refreshed and not angry at having to leave her boyfriend and tired with having to move three kids onto and off airplanes, she was wonderful. My kids Marco and Italo were home, Madeleina found the jungle drum I'd bought her, Sierra decided to go over every skull I own one by one-- "Monkey. Monkey with big teeth. Tapir...deer....paiche. That's a fish, P, it lives in water..."
And the next thing you knew we were all laughing, and kidding and almost being a family. And that's all I ever wanted since I met Chepa. Well, that's the best thing I ever wanted... And we spend the afternoon at a garage sale, playing ball, singing into a crazy karaoke machine chep picked up at the garage sale, making good and decent food--lime chicken (boneless breasts dredged in breading and parmesan, topped with lime), a broccoli-cauliflower-red pepper-onion and garlic veggie, rice, cucumber and tomato salad with good vinegar--playing with th kids, watering plants, having a water fight...
Hell, if we weren't a broken family you might look at us and say we're a wonderful family. I know better and the kids know better, but only because they and me and we all know how much better it can be, even if it already seems great.
Still, I wouldn't trade days like today for the world. Days like today I am in heaven.