Cards on the Floor
I know, I know, I know - it’s been like forever since I’ve posted anything to the blog but rumors of the demise of either me or the blog are definitely exaggerated. No good excuses other than with spring of 2021 came that almost unreal sense of actually getting out from under the scourge of this damn Covid stuff - well, we had our chance at least. So while there are many “started” entries - nothing ever made it all the way to actually posting - with cooler fall weather perhaps that will change (although there really isn’t a strong connection - I’m just grasping at straws to justify my laziness).
Back in the dark ages when I attended college - there were no personal computers or tablets or cell phones and certainly not the internet with the library of the world just a Google search away. We actually had to go to the library to research something, and if you wanted a decent grade you actually had to go to class, pay attention, and take notes (took me a while to figure that one out). I spent a fair amount of time in the library - I actually quite liked it.
There was a certain majesty to the building - both the old original parts and the “modern” 1950s additions. One of the best things I did early in my extended tour of duty at Western Washington University was to take a little one or two credit Library Science class just to fill some general requirement. I still vividly remember the professor - Dr. Howard McGaw. He was always immaculately dressed in a three-piece suit with a tailored vest and always the perfect handkerchief to complement the shirt and tie. He was a soft-spoken southern gentleman who greatly resembled a thinner and taller version of Colonel Sanders. And, he was a complete and utter library nerd - he understood what was there - knowledge base that never ended. Stuff that you could hold in your own hands as you made a withdrawal. I’m guessing he was never much impressed with the computer age (if he lived that long), I’m talking about an era where reels of microfilm were about as high tech as it got. The class basically consisted of showing up and getting a list of specific things to seek out in the library, a weekly scavenger hunt if you will. You had to physically find the stuff so you could answer the worksheet questions. What he was really doing was getting us to learn the Library of Congress classification system and more importantly showing us how to maneuver through Wilson Library and find virtually anything you were looking for.
Throughout my college years I used a surplus military shoulder bag of some sort - maybe an ammo bag or a radio bag - hell I don’t know, I think I paid a buck and a half for it at Smith and Edwards, a legendary surplus place just north of Ogden, Utah. Inside of that bag I always had a stack of both 3”x5” and 5”x7” index cards - they were my research tools of choice. Whenever I was working on a research paper or whatever I would transcribe quotes, references, or just interesting stuff onto those cards. When I sat down to finally write the paper, the general content of which had been swirling through my head for a few days, I had my stack of cards to assist me. The cards that were not helping me in whatever it was that I was trying to pontificate on would get tossed on the floor around my chair. They were not being thrown away mind you - I knew there was some good stuff in there - it was just not needed at the moment. When the paper was done I would gather up the unused cards and place them in a bundle inside of my shoulder bag - thinking that surely one day I would need whatever it was that had intrigued me in the first place.
I’ve often wondered what ever happened to that shoulder bag with my index cards - I surely wouldn’t have thrown it away - my best guess is that it ended up in the garage of my folks place along with such cherished possessions as my favorite bong and my little electronic Tiki dancer. I still fantasize that the box that contains all these treasures exists somewhere in my mothers garage - but alas - problem with that theory is that my mother moved twice after my final swan song from college - I fear my bag of memories and wisdom shall continue to elude me - along with that bong! But I digress - this entry is really somewhat like those cards scattered around my chair - thoughts that I’ve had - blog entries that I’ve started but never got back to - so there is really no continuity here, no real sense or purpose, just a bunch of cards from the floor.
The pandemic - oh how I hate thee and oh how I am so sad that it looks like we could well blow all the progress that we initially made. It just makes me sad that what should be a public health issue has become a partisan political issue with no shortage of conspiratorial bullshit to accompany it. I was so hopeful there for a while - it looked like we were absolutely making progress and now the indicators are reversing and I fear we’re in for at least one more round of lockdowns. We did this to ourselves. Just as we get the government that we deserve I guess we get the pandemic response that we deserve. At this point in time anyone who wanted a vaccine in the US has gotten one - but not enough of us have done so. Nothing I say will change anyone’s mind - so suffice it to say I hope we’ll get our shit together and do what we need to do to stop this virus and its variants. Stop listening to politicians and talk show hosts - listen to your doctor and follow the science - real science - not what you find on Facebook or You Tube. The Delta variant is bad - the next one will be worse - remember that a virus has one single job and that is to mutate in order to perpetuate itself - unvaccinated people are the prime vector for this process.
Pandemic eats - I’ve always been fairly fearless as far as cooking goes - I’m willing to try almost anything at least once, and I have always quite liked cooking. Like lots of people I spent a whole lot more time in the kitchen during the lockdown than I would have otherwise. While we did do take-out or delivery fairly often just to support local restaurants, for the most part we have cooked at home. We have mastered both home delivery and store pick up of groceries - and to tell the truth I’m not sure we’ll ever give up on the pick up service. It’s free for orders over $35, which seems like not much more than a loaf of bread and a half-gallon of milk. I was very leery at first - especially when it came to produce and/or meat. We are lucky to have a real life butcher shop in town where we buy probably 95% of our meat so really it was produce that worried me. Damned if they don’t seem to be just as picky as I would be - so far we’ve been very happy.
Most of my “discoveries” seem to be in the condiment/spice part of the pantry - when one is closer to 70 than they are to 60 it’s probably no big surprise that there aren’t wholesale shifts in what you eat - maybe just some shifts in how you prepare it and how you season it.
Lao Gan Ma Spicy Chili Crisp - Oh man - this stuff is the crack of condiments - I can’t get enough of it. It is not particularly hot - actually not hot at all - but it is so good. I use it on all sorts of things - eggs, cottage cheese, sandwiches, cheese quesadillas, soups of all kinds, you name it and it is worth a try - yes - even on vanilla ice cream. Our stores here don’t carry it but I am guessing it is much easier to find on the coast where there is a much better selection of asian foods. Just try it - you can thank me later.
Bachan’s Japanese Barbecue Sauce - oh boy - talk about a shot of pure umami to add to your cooking - wonderful almost anywhere that you would use teriyaki sauce or soy sauce. Kind of pricey - but I am guessing that now that it is beginning to show up in markets that the price will drop a bit. I could take a bath in this stuff.
My biggest surprise is discovering that I really do like tofu - it must be extra firm, flavored just right, and fried very crispy - but it is amazing. It was nothing but the butt of jokes for me forever and I must apologize to some of my plant-based eating friends. I’ll never be sitting down to a platter of Tofurkey on Thanksgiving - but crispy fried tofu has become a staple around in the old Hendo kitchen.
Lastly I’ll publicly thank my sister-in-law for her Christmas gift of an online subscription to the New York Times food section - what a treat. The photography alone - pure food porn at its best - is worth the price of admission - it is a delight. I can barely wait every morning to view the recipe of the day.
Wild Places - I’ve had this thought stream circulating for a while now - about just how lucky I am to have grown up when I did (we’re talking chronological here - not socially), followed by a lifetime of living in or near wild landscapes with all they offer to soothe the human spirit. I will get back to it, but I keep stumbling on all the indicators that we may be the last generation to have enjoyed some of these magnificent places and the belief that we are most certainly the last generation to have the ability to mitigate some of the worst potential changes. I am so sick of the arguments over climate change and the attitudes that seem to propose that we can just ignore all of it and somehow prevail - that it’s all just a weather blip and that humankind’s activities contribute nothing to it. Big sigh - I believe differently - and I am not proposing that we must all move back into caves nor give up any use of internal combustion engines - and yes - there have always been huge swings in climate, that we know for certain. We also know that virtually every one of them was also accompanied with mass species extinction.
Politics - Just shoot me now - I cannot stand where we find ourselves as a nation - paralyzed by partisan political bullshit and it matters not what side you may be on. It all makes me sick. Hey - I grew up in a fractured family. My mother was a staunch Roosevelt Democrat and my dad an Eisenhower Republican. They taught me that you can come from opposite directions on an issue, still be completely civil about it, and at the end of the day you had to compromise and seek the best solution for everyone- not for a political party. I really am starting to doubt that we’ll ever see a return to compromise and cooperation - and yes - you just go ahead and blame whomever you want to for that, just know that you are not helping find a solution. We have boxed ourselves in with unlimited dark money (thanks Citizen’s United) and bullshit gerrymandering to the point that we have ceded “control” to political parties - I challenge anyone to show me the part of the Constitution that proposes or condones rule by partisan political parties.
I still see a few cards languishing (for now) on the floor - but I guess I should close this off and see if I can remember how to post something in the blog - so I will leave you with a bit of good news. Just this week Bear #480 Otis has been proclaimed the 2021 Fat Bear Week winner at Katmai National Park. What? You don’t follow Fat Bear Week? Oh but you should - it’s the annual fest of brown bears gorging on salmon and Otis claimed an unprecedented fourth title - the first time he has held the title since 2017. Otis is an old man - upwards of 25 now and he was late arriving at the river this year - many assumed that he had not survived the winter and spring. When he came dragging in late he was skinny and bedraggled, looked like his glory days were far behind him. Hah - a month or so of salmon had him looking fine and this past week he was crowned the 2021 Champion - life is good - even for Otis!
peace be with you - Hendo