Under The Knife

28 Jul

I am taking a quick break from the norm to do an easy, all encompassing personal update here. Many, many thanks for everyone who has been asking about my current first world travail. A little back-story:

Just two weeks ago, a very close friend, watching me attack a job that needed taken care of, called me a tornado. A few years back that would have irritated the hell out me. In fact, a few years back, someone else I love called me intense and I went through the roof. It really incensed me. For a variety of reasons, the word had a very negative connotation for me. Very upset, I of course made an ass out of myself… a common occurrence… and proved the accuracy of the statement by exploding and calling another friend. “He called me intense! AM I INTENSE?”

Um, well…

idiot would be more appropros.

A bunch of us at the time decided a word I could handle was passionate. Not as negative a connotation. I guess I have matured … or inured myself to it.. as I now embrace the intense moniker, what the hell. Consequently, tornado didn’t bother me.

What’s the point? Well, as the tornado raced through the living room last week doing twelve things at once and saw the rug was bunched up under the very heavy sofa bed-couch, I reached down at a weird angle with my right arm and yanked hard on the sofa, rather than lifting it, while trying to straighten the rug with my left arm. Did I mention it’s a very heavy sofa, I was at a very odd angle and I yanked hard with one arm?

The sofa did not move. My arm, however, moved. I guess I don’t know my own strength as my elbow popped out and in and my right bicep almost entirely tore off my elbow joint.

If only I’d had a sound recorder. There was this “pop” that sounded like a very loud firecracker. Loud. It was followed by an equally loud ‘rippppppp’. I remember about a 3 second reprieve where I looked at my right arm and thought clinically, ‘Those sounds could not have been my arm….” Then my synapses started firing and a very different sound filled the room.

Pardon my french but there is only one way to say it: It hurt like Fuck.

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In the ER

Anyway, after a trip to 1) the ER 2) a very good orthopedist and 3) an MRI (did not like that!), I am having my bicep reattached fully to the joint on Friday. It’s about a 75-80 % tear. The surgery is outpatient, though I will go completely under anesthesia. This will be followed by one or two pretty gruesome weeks and then a few months recovery. But if I get the surgery, chances are I am back in full tornado form 3 months from now. If I don’t have the surgery, odds are I lose at least 30 % mobility. According to the doctor, a number of people in similar circumstances choose not to have the operation but for me, there isn’t much of a choice. Gotta have that mobility.

Life could be a lot worse, I’m thankful. And as my sister Jeanye remarked, slings are very slimming. Woo hoo!

Yet another good buddy, my friend Chad in Ohio, hearing the story remarked ‘Typical lineman.” Very, very true. I was indeed a lineman, which for me equals bull in a china shop. I’m so clumsy I don’t even pay attention anymore when I ram into things. Once a month at least I find a huge bruise on my thigh or hip or arm and think, ‘How did that happen?” Clearly something did happen but I don’t even register them! Combine bull in a china shop clumsy with tornado and, well, I am probably lucky it is just a bicep tear. I guess the Good Lord sometimes says to us, ‘Slow down.” I also guess I am not one for gentle prodding.

Again many thanks for the care and concern, you all remind me how truly blessed I am, even when banging into things.

Oh, and I introduced some of you to ‘pin’ on Facebook. Here he is again, he was cool to see when they did the xrays for this current problem.

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“pin”

‘Pin’ came into my life and my right shoulder in 1986 when I crashed learning to hang glide in the Smokey Mountains. When I crashed, I dislocated my right shoulder for the 23rd time. It was a chronic problem supposedly solved by a muscle tightening surgery 4 years prior. When I crashed and dislocated my shoulder, no one with me could pop the damn thing back in, even after about 12 yanks. I had to drive myself to the emergency clinic. The clinic was 45 miles away. I was in a stick shift car. With a dislocated right shoulder. I’ll relate that lineman story some other time, it is pretty funny. Suffice to say, however, that also hurt like F@%#.

I learned one major lesson with that experience, though: if anyone ever says to you, ‘Hey, want to try an IV of Valium?” Take me advice and say “yesssssssss”……. Oh My.

Summer Reading 2014

10 Jul

Time for another yearly post that is always popular: summer book recommendations. I’ve been tearing through a stack of novels the last few weeks and have come across some true finds. Hopefully there will be one or two you might find as enjoyable.

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some of the books I am reading this summer

MICHAEL KORTYA

I have two picks from Michael Kortya, whose two last novels, The Prophet and Those Who Wish Me Dead, are terrific. The Prophet, in fact, is one of the best books I’ve read in years.

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Michael Kortya signing copies of The Prophet

One critic described The Prophet as a cross between Friday Night Lights and In Cold Blood. I could not put it better myself so I’m stealing it here. The novel is a thriller about a killer stalking people in a small town. But the book is really about two estranged brothers, one the popular high school football coach, who warily come together in an attempt to solve the mystery. The book was very, very suspenseful and quite emotional as well. I found myself rather verklempt at the end. The guy can also write one hell of an exciting football game! This is a perfect summer read. It’s a great thriller but it’s much more than that, I found it a deep and emotionally resonant novel that goes way beyond the thriller genre. The Prophet is a great novel, period.

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Kortya’s next novel, the recently released Those Who Wish Me Dead, is an exemplary summer thriller, the kind the cliched phrase ‘Don’t start it unless you have time, you will not be able to put this down!” was made for. It starts off with a bang and never lets up. (I think that also is one of those cliched phrases.) Ignore the bad literary criticism and check this one out, I loved it. 

ORDINARY GRACE

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William Kent Krueger’s latest novel quietly blew me away. If you’ve read Peace Like A River (and if you haven’t, stop everything you are doing right now and read it, you must!) imagine Peace but with a mystery layered into the mix. “All the dying that summer began with the death of a child…” starts the novel and there is indeed a lot of death. Don’t let that deter you, Ordinary Grace is a beautifully written coming of age novel, written from the 1st person perspective of the son of the town pastor. Krueger grapples intelligently with God, faith and, yes, grace, but without a trace of sentimentality. It’s a tough novel but not tough to read, if that makes sense. The mystery keeps it driving forward and the richness of Krueger’s writing is continually surprising. To Kill A Mockingbird also kept coming to mind though here the narrator is a teen, not a child. Ordinary Grace is a wonderful novel that makes me excited for Krueger’s next. Oh and it just won the Edgar Award for Best Novel of the year. It’s that good.

REMEMBER ME LIKE THIS

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And here we have another ‘wow’. The most emotionally devastating novel of the bunch, Remember Me Like This is a gorgeously written, deeply nuanced novel about a family grappling with the disappearance of their teenage son. It’s not what you would anticipate from that pitch-line, however. One of the many twists is that the novel starts four years after the boy disappeared. Rather than watch the family implode when the boy cannot be found, we start well after the implosion: where most novels would end, this one begins as all hell once again breaks loose in a surprising way. Also a mystery of sorts, it’s an extremely involving narrative that keeps wrenching your heart with revelations and conflict. Set in Corpus Christi, Texas, I can heartily affirm the author nailed the milieu perfectly, given I myself grew up on the gulf coast of Texas. Bret Anthony Johnston’s first novel, Remember Me is the announcement of an extraordinary talent.

MR. MERCEDES

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And then there is Stephen King’s latest. I don’t know how the man does it over and over but this novel is so $#%* awesome, just like his last two novels, Sir King is getting his own entire blog post coming up next, The Grand Romances of Stephen King. That’s right, The Grand Romances of Stephen King is the title, I’ve already started it, but feel free to run get this novel as fast as you can. Mr. Mercedes is, ahem, a killer.

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Have you any books you’ve read this summer you recommend? Let us know in the comments section below. As always, thanks for reading!

Food for your 4th… ’14

29 Jun

Last year’s ‘Food for your 4th‘ was such a hit, I figured I might as well give you more choices. Hopefully posting in time to prep for your celebration, here are some favorites that cannot be beat!

DESSERT

*CAFE GRATITUDE’S RAW LEMON CHEESECAKE

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raw lemon cheesecake with berries

This year, let’s start with the sweet. Let me introduce you to a wonderful dessert everyone loves yet it is very healthy! Last year I gave you the recipe for a terrific raw peach cobbler I make and devour all the time. My good friend Theresa “Tee” Elam, who is a marvelous cook, turned me onto Cafe Gratitude‘s Raw Lemon Cheesecake about 6 weeks ago. I have been devouring it ever since. Damn, is it excellent. And, again, it’s healthy! Sometimes life is so good.

Note: I confess, I’ve only done the crust once. The crust is worth making and helps it seem like a ‘real cheesecake’ but I love the filling so much and, you know, I’m such a lazy S.O.B. that I usually just make the filling and eat it with some fruit on top, not that it even needs the fruit! Any of these ingredients can be ordered off Amazon.com if you can’t find them in your local store.

The recipe makes one regular cheesecake, though I usually make individual sizes, as seen in the photos.

Click the link for this recipe and other recipe/suggestions!

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It’s called the Game Of Thrones

15 Jun

Game Of Thrones is like standing behind a mean horse who kicks you in the head, over and over. A friend walks up and says ‘What are you doing?”

KICK.

You say, “I’m standing behind a horse who keeps kicking me in the head.”

KICK.

Your friend asks, “Doesn’t that hurt?”

KICK.

You say, “Are you kidding? It’s brutal. I’m dizzy and I can’t see straight. Watch. He’s going to do it again.”

KICK.

Your friend asks, ‘Why don’t you move???”

KICK.

You say, “Because it’s the most beautiful horse I’ve ever seen.”

That’s Game Of Thrones. It pummels you, over and over, with unrelenting harsh brutality yet it is turning out to be the best show that has ever been on TV. You can’t walk away even as it repeatedly kicks you upside the head. It’s filled with amazing beauty and is as grand a narrative as you’ve ever seen.

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NOTE: Spoilers start halfway down, you will be warned before they start. Also, this is written from the perspective of someone who has not read the books. Please, if you have read the books, no forward spoilers in the comments section.

I actually had no desire to watch Game of Thrones.  Season three was over and I still refused. It’s not my genre (snore) nor did any of it sound appealing. I’ve certainly seen enough tits and ass and gratuitous violence over the years to keep the ‘R’ rated factor from being enticing. And dragons? Eh, whatever. Been there, done that as well. I was one of those people who, when fans would go rabid on Facebook, I’d roll my eyes with great patronizing condescension. Then after much bullying one of my best friends, Adam, dared me to watch the pilot. Just one episode and if I didn’t like it, he’d never bug me again.

Honestly, in about 5 minutes I was absolutely transfixed.

ned-beautiful-death What is it about this show? Certainly there is the scope. Nothing on this scale has ever been done on television. Each one hour episode is filled more stunning visuals than just about any summer movie thundering around the cineplex. And, yes, there is the “tits-n-ass and blood-n-guts” factor. The show is incredibly ‘R’ rated, so much so it spawned one of the funniest online videos of the last couple of years:

None of this, however, explains why the show is so popular and why so many of us are saying it might be the best show ever on television. For any narrative to work, the audience has to care about what is happening and George R. R. Martin, along with the creators, writers and actors of the show, have created incredible characters we root for passionately. As another great friend, Chad, remarked tonight after the season 4 finale, ‘I feel like people I know are dying.”

To read more, click the link!

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“Chef”

25 May

Well, this was a no-brainer for On Food And Film. Just released is the best movie about food in many a year, written and directed by Jon Favreau, presently one of Hollywood’s more successful directors. My friend Teresa Lundy encouraged me to see it and I’m glad she did!

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“Chef” is a relaxed and unhurried yet enjoyable movie about a chef who beautifully self destructs after receiving a ghastly review from an important critic, only to find a better version of himself — and his food — as he rebuilds his life. The movie also becomes a heartfelt depiction of his struggle to be a good father to his son, with whom he spends very little time.

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The general story and structure is not very surprising. It’s obvious where the movie is headed from the beginning. Yet it is indeed a pleasurable ride. There are wonderful performances from many well known actors including Scarlet Johansson, Dustin Hoffman, Bobby Cannavale, John Leguizamo, Sophia Vergara and a hilarious cameo from Robert Downey, Jr. who gives the movie an amazing shot of electricity at just the right time.

Whatever your feelings about the general story, there is a wonderful reason to see the movie: The Food. Other than Big Night, I haven’t seen a movie that so gloriously depicts food: the prepping of it, the cooking of it, and the final product. Chef is total food porn, which alone is enough to recommend it.

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As one example, early in the film the chef, Carl Casper, makes a bowl of pasta for Molly, who runs the front of the house at the restaurant where he works. I would kill for this pasta, a simple, glorious dish made with thinly sliced garlic in an wondrously lived in carbon steel pan. Damn, that looked good.

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But all the food looks incredible. Favreau, overseen by Roy Choi, does his own dicing, slicing and cooking in the movie. He’s great. As is the food. If you want an enjoyable time at the movies, check out Chef. But schedule a good dinner after, you are going to want to eat some incredible food when this movie is over.

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SIDE NOTE: In Modern Family, the gorgeous Sophia Vergara is paired with Ed O’Neill. In Chef she is paired with Jon Favreau. What gives? She might want to have a serious talk with her agent…

“Never, Ever, Ever…” Vol. III

16 Apr

It’s time again for a little Southern Catholic guilt to encourage (shame) you away from the pre-made and towards something homemade, healthier… and better! It’s Volume III of ‘Never, Ever, Ever…!”

Just what you have been waiting for, I am sure.

As a reminder, Vol. I involved vinaigrette. Vol. II was broth. Today I give you Vol. III…tomato sauce!

It must be evident by now that along with my chicken obsession (here and here), I am also obsessed with tomatoes and tomato sauce. I’ve already had two posts about red sauce. The first detailed my friend David Hendren’s amazing tomato recipes, his homemade tomato sauce and his Habenero Salsa. That post was followed by “A Tale Of Two Spaghettis‘, concerning the ‘dueling sauces’ made by my mom and her dear friend Barbara Doyle.

All three sauces are terrific and I encourage you to try each! Often, however, we need to cook fast, which causes people to reach for something like this:

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Don’t reach for the jar, though! Instead, you want to reach for this:

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In the time it takes you to boil water and pasta, you can have a wonderful homemade marinara, tastier and healthier than anything from a jar. It’s a breeze, particularly if you have your pantry stocked with a few simple ingredients. The recipe also has many variations, depending on your mood.

Click here to continue and find out how! Continue reading

“Noah”

30 Mar

“I am not alone.”

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Darren Aronofsky’s depiction of the story of Noah from Genesis hit the theaters Friday and, my, has it stirred up a ruckus. Well, any time the Bible is depicted onscreen there tends to be a ruckus. Even Cecil B DeMille’s The Ten Commandments caused some drama in its day, though Christians have pretty much embraced it now. (More on that in a bit.)

Part of the grumpiness from some sectors with Noah is that this particular story in the Bible is quite brief. Unless making a 20 minute short, a filmmaker is going to have to pad out the story. Which for some people is a problem even if the padding is tame and reverent. Whatever. Even Michelangelo padded things out or depicted images and story points that are not specifically detailed in the Bible. I don’t see anything wrong with doing so, it’s an artist’s interpretation of something from the Bible, which is a worthy artistic goal. Besides, long stretches of the Bible are up for interpretation anyway and if the Bible can’t handle discussion, interpretation or challenges, it would not be worth much. The Bible, of course, can indeed withstand it which leads to this latest of biblical epics.

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For the record, for this discussion, it seems relevant for me to say that I am myself a believer in God and Jesus, have read the Bible through a number of times, I’m a John 3:16 guy, and if you don’t believe any of that, please come sit right by me and let’s have a great time. I’ll also say that while Noah certainly has some problems, I found the movie to be very engaging and at times riveting. I also found it to be shockingly reverent toward God (referred to most of the time as ‘The Creator’ in the movie) and was deeply moved by much of the movie.

I have been reading a lot of commentaries from people who are of course complaining about the movie. Frankly, I can’t imagine what they were expecting and can only believe they went into the movie loaded for bear. I want to keep this relatively short (yeah, yeah, not possible) so I won’t break the movie down scene by scene, which I would enjoy doing, but for these people who complain, I’d like to point out three of many lines that struck me and their relevance in the film.

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