Wednesday, May 27, 2015


We don’t seem to be able to leave things alone.

The latest national correction has to do with replacing Andrew Jackson on the $20 bill. I am loathe to change much, being old and set in my ways, but there are some out there who want this guy replaced. To tell the truth, he probably wouldn’t make it to the 2¢ stamp today. Changing times are not kind to yesterday’s heroes.

Frankly, I am not sure why we need to change anything, but bureaucrats, lobbyists and revisionists, being what they are, need something to keep them busy so why not redecorate the “20”? There is also a huge sense that too many unsung heroes need to be honored. There aren’t enough currency denominations available to honor even a faction of them. Anyway, who cares? As long as the paper works at the cash register, what does it matter?

Here’s what. It’s like the flag. It is next in line as the national symbol. When you think of he American Greenback Dollar you think George Washington, the Land of the Free and Home of the Brave. You really don’t want to mess with that. On the face of it it doesn’t mean a thing, but just a step behind the face of it is everything American. I’m speaking symbolically, of course. Being American, of course, is more about a way of life than all those national symbols.

We don’ really need Andrew Jackson. Why not replace him? Just one reason will do. The Indian Removal Act of 1830. The so-called Five Civilized Tribes were moved out of their ancestral lands in the fertile southeastern states which white people wanted, to be “resettled” in land unwanted by whites in the arid southwest. That tragic removal, known as the Trail of Tears, is one of the blackest marks on our muddled history with non-whites. Good riddance Mr. Jackson.

My nomination for the “20” would be Kermit the Frog. He is lovable, very human, never hurt anyone and would blend in with the general color scheme. I mean what else do you need? Besides he is a national figure with a huge following. Find me one person who does not love him and I’ll shovel your snow. No, wait - I’ll find someone else to shovel your snow.

Harriet Tubman is a leading contender for the slot. Her nomination would be a satisfying statement ratifying the “under history” of our nation rather than enthroning another national front page politician for the honor. It really doesn’t make any difference in the long run. It’s just money, and I never have many 20s in my pocket anyway. But somehow I find it sweet justice to know that every time some billionaire white guy gave a $20 bill to a cabbie he had to know the person on the face of the bill was an Engineer on the Underground Railroad. There’s that.

Monday, May 18, 2015


Nothing is more basic than salt. Sea water covers most of the earth and is salty. Fossilized salt is found high in the foothills of the Himalayas. Salt is harvested from the sea, found in giant deposits in the earth. Salt is everywhere. You even sweat salt.

We just spent a high energy weekend with friends and at one lull in the conversation the subject of cooking came up along with the use of salt, at which point I made the comment that I am tired of recipes calling for Kosher salt when just salt would do the job. Well, I might have well have thrown gasoline on a campfire. Our host - I’ll call her Sue - brought out samples of half dozen salts from around the world as a preamble to setting me straight on this savory culinary subject.

Meanwhile, as I am spouting off about all salt being sea salt, which is close to the truth, and adding that therefore it is all the same, which, as I was about to discover is false, Sue lays out her samples and commands me to test them and see just how uninformed I am.

Well, even with my ancient, mostly numb taste buds, I could detect some variances in flavor and strength between the Hawaiian Black Lava, the Himalayan Crystal Pink, the Persian Blue Diamond, Kosher, Morton’s, and Celtic. After such a demonstration, I felt that my usual mantra that “All salt is sea salt” and is just sodium chloride and therefore is just salt, was a bit thin for this sophisticated company. It’s the size of the crystals and the minerals, of course which differ from place to place and which do impart flavor which is unique.

As to the Kosher question, chefs seem to prefer it because of its milder taste and coarser granule. It has nothing to do with the Rabbinical salting of meats.

So I am duly chastened and set on a path toward more subtile seasoning of everything from my sunny side ups to my regionally famous shrimp etouffeé.

This discussion reminded me of that little packet of Celtic salt I had purchased months ago and forgotten. So when I got home from the weekend I found it and put it into a new salt grinder. My first grinding was into my palm for the “test”. Yep - it was salty!

Saturday, May 9, 2015


I READ THIS MOST INTERESTING PIECE THIS MORNING IN THE POST. It was about doing things alone, as in, without someone with you. I’m talking about going for a walk, or to a movie, or out to eat - alone.

There have been two periods in my life when I was actually alone. While reading this article, I recognized myself as the piece unfolded. I did all the stuff it talked about. There I was without a partner in life and uncertain about how to act in public without one. It’s embarrassing to be so damned transparent, even to people you don’t know.  Aside from that, it was an interesting read. It talked about eating out alone, bowling alone ( I’m serious ), going to the movies or museums alone, and so on.

I can remember once in my latter “alone” period when I was living in a most desirable little woodland apartment in Newburgh, Maine, that I was overcome with he idea that I needed to get out of my little Shangri-La and do something - alone. I decided to drive down to Belfast, about 15 miles, and have something to eat and do a little light shopping. I was a Sunday. Perfect timing, I thought.

About half way to my destination, driving through Brooks, Maine, I began to have a rather high level of decider’s remorse (What am I doing out here alone. It just makes me feel more alone) and pulled off the road in front of the hardware store, made a U-turn and headed home. To say I was conflicted would be he understatement of the century. As I drove back toward home, an unseen hand hauled me over to the side of he road and made me stop. Suddenly, I realized that if I didn’t get to Belfast, the whole world would know what a looser I was. I had to laugh: the world didn’t know I existed. Why can’t I do what I want to do, even though it’s what I want to do? I looked both ways, did a U-turn and made a bee-line for Belfast.

I really wasn't hungry but nevertheless, I had a bite to eat.  It was a face saving activity.  Then I did a little shopping and bought some kitchen trinket and a book of chili recipes ( I have never needed a chili recipe ) and drove home smug in the realization that I had completed a solo flight without incident with only a single brief episode of disorientation. There was a smile on my face.

It bears mentioning that the author’s sources for the article I had read were marketing people whose purpose in life is to get people like me to go out and purchase some stuff. I’m not sure they gave a flying jingle bell whether I had a good day or not as long as some money changed hands in the market place. Well, I did get out and have a good time. I did feel better. I didn’t spend enough money to put a blip on anybody’s chart.

Everybody came out winners: the author of the article I had read, the merchants in Belfast and best of all - I got out - alone! To tell the truth, I think as long as I didn’t see anyone I knew, I’d even enjoy a line or two of bowling alone. Do they let just one person take up a whole lane?

Friday, May 1, 2015


My grandfather Shug, used to say, believe nothing of what you hear and only half of what you read in the paper. I think he was quoting Will Rogers, but I don’t know for sure. Yet, I love reading a news paper. There were some years that I didn’t get a regular paper but then I realized that I missed it. I enjoy reading a real paper more than I thought I would. Then there are, of course, the comics.

Sadly, we stopped the paper. The guy who delivers it started wadding it up in a tight roll, rather than just folding it, and slipping it into a plastic bag knotting the open end with two or three tight knots requiring me to have tear the bag to get to the paper which will not lay flat due to the tight roll. Even though we had a receptacle for the paper, it would end up on the ground most of the time. I called and emailed and got the person in charge of circulation and he said our route man was the best. He said, I’ll fix it, and so on. He didn’t fix anything. The route guy seemed to get more diligent in his effort to roll the paper more tightly. Passive aggressive son of a bitch. We quit.

Here you have a fine news paper with a delivery system that is broken. And I told them so. Yeah, Baby! I’m surprised they didn’t close up shop after that salvo.

Real hard copy news papers seem to be a thing of the past. We are witnessing their funeral days now. The only thing sustaining them now are car ads, intrusive folds, stick on ads that cover real information and the list goes on. Too bad. I’d still be subscribing to the whole thing if they could get it to me without being mangled. Pity.

On most weekends I drive down to the corner and purchase a paper that is lying flat and can be read without fighting the thing itself. Either that or I’ll go over to Pineland where they also have the paper lying flat and where they have world class sweet rolls as well. You know - bad news goes down better with a sweet roll and a pot of darkroast.