Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Dance a Little Faster...

Well, I'm in a bit of a pickle, and while I love pickles, I'm not sure if sinking in the brine is what I love. I had an incredible month last month, taking in about $6,500 with sapo, social security, pay, book sales. But then I needed $500 plus for Madeleina's car; $500 plus for my car; $400 legal fees to help Chepa my wife/ex-wife out of a bind; $400 to Chepa for general sustenance for the kids because she had a little op and couldn't go to work for a week. Then a total of about $500 on fixing cats, getting Boots, the wonder dog's shots and a haircut and flea medicine; then $687 or so for my quarterly home insurance. Then tires for two cars, then $1500 for 15 sapo sticks, then, then, then. So I'm now down to $1200. Not bad, except I owe $1400 for bills this month, darnit. And then I leave in 12 days to Peru. I have a cover story due on Friday--I promised it a week early so we could edit before I leave--and of the 22 phone calls I've made I have had two returned. Of the 9 emails sent I have had 1 returned. And these have been repeatedly made. So I'm a bit skimpy on specifics for that. I did manage to write most of my 100th Skunk Magazine Drug War Follies Column today, but I won't know if it's good till I look at it tomorrow. I had 8 people for my June trip but 5 copped out. I have 11 for July, but only deposits so far--and I have spent nearly $10,000 more than their deposits already on the trip, so I hope they are all coming. So dang, this is getting scary out here on the ledge. Wind is howling and my sneakers have no traction. HAHAHAHA! It will all work out, sometimes for better sometimes for worse. But the cover story will either get turned in or I am no longer a viable journalist. The column will be great or I no longer have that income stream. The two new books in the hands of editors will either sell or I'm screwed. I'll get on the plane a week from Sunday and have two great trips, even if the first one is going to cost me $4000 because of the quitters. Ain't life grand? Just dance a little faster I guess, and then I will think I'm on key.

Sunday, May 28, 2017

Animal Parts, veggies, fruits...

Animal Parts, Veggies, Beans, Fruit...What to eat, considering all of it is going to hate me for eating it...
It's Sunday afternoon. It's been storming here in Joshua, TX for hours, so no lawnwork today. I already advanced a couple of stories I'm working on and finished compiling my Drug War Follies columns--the best of them--to be able to get out to my first editor, who can tell me which 20 percent do not belong in the book.
I showered, cleaned the kitchen, vacuumed my office, and went to the store early. Having my first glass of wine, a Noble Vines cabernet named simply 337. It's good.
I am not hungry, but it is still time to think about dinner after spending hours thinking about the drug war and the state of the world for most of the day. There are lots of choices. Should I just make a couple of Ballpark Beef Franks on toasted Ballpark buns with crispy saurkraut and good mustard? Sounds good to me.
But I have a nice piece of salmon that I could saute with garlic and a bit of olive oil, then add capers and ginger and scallions and when it's near done a little teriyaki and sesame oil to candy-that skin.
Or should i throw in the 1/2 pork butt I just bought: Brown it on all sides, baste with plenty of garlic and black pepper, lay it on a bed of onions, celery, with sliced anjou pears for sweetness, and let that baby sit for 3 hours?
Then again, I have a few left over chicken thighs which might go very well in burritos. I've got good beans, cheese, avocado, sour cream, and can make a nice pico de gallo. Not a bad idea.
Thinking of the avocado, what about if i chopped the chicken thigh meat and added sauted onion and garlic, diced celery, and mayonaise to make a good chicken salad, then stuffed it into avocado halves to make Royal Stuffed Avocados?
Then there is the fresh corn, the red potatoes, a beautiful sweet potato i could boil up and slice with fresh boiled beets. And there is spinach, of course, and broccoli, and salad I could make and top with my special dressing. Or I could steam asparagus, then saute them up with a bit of garlic and olive oil with jowel bacon bits and balsamic vinegar and top with a little finely grated good blue cheese.
I'm full just thinking about all this. I guess i don't really need to make anything since I just gained 5 pounds writing this.
I hope everyone, everywhere, gets to make these kinds of decisions one day. That I get to choose among several possible meals of fresh food--none of which is very expensive--while millions are starving to death, and millions are going to bed hungry right here in the US is a crime. If I ever get some money, I will have several food trucks outfitted and scouring the poorest neighborhoods here in Fort Worth and surrounding areas and we will give away fantastic food to anyone who wants it. That's a dream I've had since I started working in kitchens in New York restaurants and realized we were throwing away enough food nightly--at the small places I ran--to feed 100 hungry people. I really am not a fan of the unequal hands people have been dealt. Dammit. Now I really don't feel like eating.

Saturday, May 27, 2017


.On 21st Ave in Whitestone, Queens, in 1959, when I was 8, we had Mics, Spics, Pollacks, Guineas, Jews, Gypsies, a couple of Greeks, a Ruskie family, and gumbas from Sicily (very different from Guineas from northern Italy). That's how we called each other and that;s how we identified and it was all very cool. Then a black family moved in and we called them Afrikaners, and nobody got upset. I was proud to be called a Mic. And I think everybody else was proud to be called shorthand from where their families came from. We had great sports, everybody ate at everybody else's house, and it was wonderful growing up in that soup. I know it's not PC right now, but nearly 60 years ago, it worked and nobody got mad. Ah, idyllic youth.....

Thursday, May 18, 2017

Madeleina learning about cars....

Madeleina learning about cars...
So my daughter Madeleina got a used Mustang last summer. She was warned it had a small oil leak. Well, the oil leak blew up the engine when the engine went dry and the "check engine" light didn't come on. So my son Italo bought a new--used--engine, then bought a new block and put the car back together, but there seems to be an unrelated problem with the transmission. Well, I paid about $2 grand for the car with everything, put near another $2 grand into the engine and block, and that about tapped me out. So Italo gave Madeleina his wife's old Neon to drive and will probably make the trade final once Madeleina's 2003 Mustang is running smoothly again.
Two weeks ago Madeleina was supposed to get a new inspection. She didn't because she was at school most days, and so got stopped three days ago for the inspection being out by two weeks. The officer was going to give her a warning on that but then noticed she wasn't wearing her glasses--it's on the license--so he gave her a ticket for that.
She came home sobbing, acting like the universe was against her. "I was going to get the inspection, dad! I didn't need a ticket to remind me!"
As for glasses, she doesn't need them. No eye doc can figure out anything wrong with her eyes, and she wore plain clear plastic glasses to pass the eye test at the driver's place after she failed without them.
So I told her to buy $10 plain glasses from a local store and leave them in the car. Then we went for the inspection. She failed because of a bald back tire. So I took her to our local tire place and asked the guy to put two good used tires on the rear. Madeleina suggested she needed brake pads as well because her brakes were squealing. So I asked him to put on brake pads.
Now the failed inspection was only $27. The two tires and brake pads were $175. The ticket turned out to be $174.50. When she passed inspection, we got an oil change for $59, with a new air filter. But in Texas you bring the notice of passing inspection to the local tax office and pay your annual registration at the same time. That was $82.25.
I think we're done. But boy, that was a quick $500+ gone in a hot flash!
On the positive: Madeleina now knows how to get an oil change, how to get an inspection, how to get tires and a whole lot of car stuff she didn't know three days ago. So there you go.

Sunday, May 14, 2017

Happy Mothers' Day!

I just want to say a thank you to mother earth, my mom, my grandma's, Momma Lydia, my sisters, my sister-in-law, my nieces, my brother's daughter-in-law, the mother of my kids, your moms and grandmas and all the women who have born the children that have been the people of the earth. And I would like to add that not one of those women ever wanted her kid to grow up poor, sick, afraid, stuck in a war they didn't make, hungry, or hurt in any fashion. Not one of them. And yet, that's is what we allow, and sometimes encourage, to happen. Can we pause for a minute and fix that? Could we really give the moms of the world a great present and start treating their children the way you want your kids treated, and the way your mom wanted you treated? That would be a grand present indeed. Here's looking at you, Moms of the World!

Thursday, May 11, 2017

Respect in small things

With all the problems we have in this world, from starving kids, to people stuck in wars they have nothing to do with, to loneliness, to joblessness, to physical illness and relentless pain, my issue of the moment is so trivial that it's meaningless. Still, it got my blood boiling.
I use att for phone, internet, television. Couple of months ago my bill for all three started climbing from $155 monthly until it hit $223 a couple of months ago. I called and told them I quit. They quickly made a deal: Would I be willing to pay $109 a month for everything? Yes, I would. First bill came in April and it was pro-rated and very inexpensive. Today's bill came in at $171. I called and was told that four premium channels had been added to the account. I asked by whom, and when? That info was not available. Took nearly 40 minutes to get them to take off the channels I had never ordered, which will bring my monthly bills down to the promised $109. Or should, until att decides to add something else to my bill.
I recognize that this is not very important. It is dwarfed by real problems. But if it has any importance beyond my wallet, it has to do with dignity, with not allowing people to run roughshod over me/over us. We deserve respect in all things great and small.

Thursday, May 04, 2017

Hungry Tonight!


Sometimes it's so simple, but scary good. Have no idea, but after making chicken parmesan for my family last night with a good hearts of romaine salad, asparagus and a nice shallotl-balsamic vinegar dressing, tonight I was going crazy for franks and beans. But sometimes it's so good you go crazy. Fresh garlic, two heads, with two diced slices of salt pork, a diced onion, four diced plum tomatoes, a pound of sliced BallPark beef franks--if you are from New York it can be Nathans or BallPark, or Hebrew National, but everything else is fake--then two cans of good Bush's original baked beans, cracked black pepper, good sea salt, three or four ounces of a biting bar-be-que sauce, a couple of ounces of good mustard, and then, after an hour, a full portion of cilantro. If it gets tight, add vegetable stock, preferably organic, and then finish with diced sharp cheddar. Now that is franks and beans. And even people from Boston, including Agurkis, are going to agree that it smells and tastes like heaven on a fork.

Tuesday, May 02, 2017


Don't mean to get all touchy-feely, sorry-for-myself here, but I am having one of those days. I go from real highs to kind-of-lows. Last week, I knew I had six or eight people coming in for a medicine weekend and I cleaned the house wildly. I rented the rug shampooers, put clorox on the cement front porch, killed bugs, cleaned windows, toilets, floors. They came and it was fantastic. But on Sunday, the first couple left. Then on Monday two more left. Tuesday, two more, Wednesday one and Sunday past, the last. I was teaching, I was learning. I was focused. I made good food, I watched myself to be cool, I took care of people and they took care of me.
Yesterday, Madeleina and her boyfriend Adrian left. That left me alone. I cleaned and worked my ass off to get a 1500 word story ready for the Fort Worth Weekly, the fantastic alternative press here that pays my salary. I finished it this morning, getting up at 5 AM after going to bed, without dinner, at 10 PM.
My son Marco came by at 7 AM to say hello. He has been the only human contact I have had today, other than saying hello to the check-out person at HEB where I bought groceries and wine. I called my friend Larry and we spoke for a while--he's my brother so speaking with him is really easy--and then I spoke to one of my wife's new kids, Sierra, who said she thought I should be happy they were not here making a mess. I told her I would rather she and Alexa and Taylor Rain, my grandbaby, were making a mess than than I was alone with a clean house.
I've used my time well. I have several people to call on a list I made in the last few hours for another story. I made another list of things to do tomorrow. But I grew up in a house with a brother and four sisters. So I am used to having people around. And when there is sudden silence--well, in Manhattan that was okay because of the white noise on the street--here in Texas, it is really silence. So while I bought several prime rib steaks in hopes Chepa, Madeleina, Italo, Sarah, Taylor Rain, Sierra, and Alexa were coming over, the prospect of cooking one or one half of one for me, with garlic, onions and mushrooms, with sides of spinach, cucumber with lime and sliced tomatoes cooked in steak grease with parmesan just does not sound as good when I am alone as it did when I imagined all, or some, coming over.
So I don't mean to be maudlin, but I hate this. I will probably go to sleep in an hour, without food for the 4th time this week. Darnit!