Go the dentist – now, not later!

Warning:  this will not be a sugar-coated account of my recent visits to the dentist.

I had my own teeth for 62 years and 9 months…not accounting the first years of life when they were still coming in.

Early on, I went to the dentist as a child on a regular basis (thanks, Mom & Dad).  After leaving home, those visits to the local giver of pain became less and less frequent.  As as teenager, I even had braces for a couple of years.  I had a nice, straight smile.  But over the years, neglect, based on extreme dentist fear, has led me to to be what I am now:  a wearer of dentures.

Understand that I now have a great set of choppers, albeit at this point in time, they are more for decoration than function.  It takes a while to get used to the foreign “appliances” in my mouth and to learn how to make them function properly, ie, eat, chew, talk.  Most of the drooling the first days following has subsided!

The decision to move in this direction was not a hard one.  Over the years, especially the past two years my dental situation had deteriorated quite a lot.  Between old fillings breaking up, a few extractions, and another several “falling outs”, it was time to (pardon the pun) pull the cord!  The chemotherapy seemed to expedite this.

After the initial xrays, exam, and consultation, the dentist agreed that dentures would be a judicious move for me.  The old ones would come out, and the new ones would go in.  Let me say at this point in time, “implants” were not an option, mostly do to the extravagant cost – about $1000 per tooth – times 32, you get the picture.  And that wouldn’t include the extensive exodontist surgery leading up to new teeth.  Hell, George Washington had false teeth at a much younger age, of course they were made of wood, but now things are different.  Let me say this right now before I get into the procedure.  What hasn’t changed?  The pain involved with having that many teeth extracted.  And, in my case, I opted for having them done all at once, in one sitting.

Here’s the deal.  There isn’t enough novacaine in a dentist office to offset the pain and discomfort one experiences with extractions, especially that many at one time.  Yes, I was conscious the whole time.  I am a bit surprised there aren’t straps on the side of the chair for your arms for this type of agenda.

I could have had the teeth yanked in four separate sessions, one every couple of weeks or so.  Again, I chose for all at once to, number one, get it done in a shorter amount of time, and number two, I wouldn’t have to go through four different periods of anxiety leading to the next appointments.  Ah, dentist anxiety!  That’s what got me here in the first place.  “Let’s just do it!”, I told the nice little, Asian female dentist.  “OK”, she said, “We make you nice new teeth – we make you nice dentures”.  No, I didn’t go abroad for this…it was in Modesto.  She was very comforting.  That day, I got impressions made and chose the shade and size of my new teeth.  The shade “samples” were hung on a little rack, side by side.  On one end were overly-white, toilet porcelain colored teeth.  The other end were teeth that looked liked Boston baked beans!  Who would ever choose that?  I surmised they were for people in need of “partials” and wanted a match to their 50 years of smoking teeth.  I chose a shade somewhere in the middle.  And I also had to choose a size.  I certainly didn’t want Mr. Ed choppers, but did go for a size a bit larger than the dentist recommended.  My case was off to the denture technician…and I was on the way home for a 3 week wait.

Do to my medical conditions, I had to get clearance from my doctor(s).  This led to a consultation with the dentist/manager of the office.  It went something like this…”I must tell you”, he said in a very stern tone, “that this procedure you are having will not be easy.  I just want you to know that it will be painful, and, it will remain painful for days following”.  I can’t say that I was shocked or surprised with this disclosure, I kind of expected it.  He also went on to say that he will guarantee that they will not only look good, they will function properly…eventually.  He said it is more of a concern for me (him) that they function properly than look good.  I wanted at that point to remind him of Billy Crystal’s Fernando Lama’s impression, “You know…it’s better to look good than to feel good!” – but I declined.  I just wanted to get out of there, go back home, and worry…2 weeks to go.

Surgery day…

Getting injected with copious amounts of novacaine is at times worse than the procedure itself.  In this case, it was no different…pretty much of a toss up on the discomfort scale.  I laid there in the chair for what seemed an eternity as the anesthetic took affect.  My whole face from the nose down was “gone”.  Touching my nose and lips was almost nightmarish in itself – they weren’t mine any longer.  It felt like someone else’s skin.  So be it – let’s get this show on the road!

From the time Doctor S&M got started until he said, “We’re done!”…maybe an hour and a half.  That time period seemed like the longest hour and a half I ever spent.  Without sounding like I’m describing a scene out of the movie “Hostel”, each and every extraction was a painful, crunching, cracking wrestling match.  Even though I tried to keep my eyes closed during most heinous bouts, I did catch glimpses of large, long stainless steel instruments, various forms of plier-like tools, more novacaine syringes, and teeth being dropped into small plastic cups right in front of my eyes.  “Aren’t they supposed to keep those visions out of the patient’s sight?” I kept asking myself.  The dentist kept asking me, “Are you OK?”.  I would nod my head and he would get back to work.  He did continue to tell me what a great patient I was being under these circumstances – “Some patients don’t handle this as well” he reassured me.  And then…it was over.  “We’re done”, he said, “Now a few sutures and it’s over”.

He stitched me up, reiterated what a great patient I was, and he was gone.  The original little, Asian lady dentist reappeared…with my new teeth in hand.  She removed the large amount of bloody gauze and without much of a pause popped the upper and lower plates into my bloody mouth.  Yes, a lot of blood.  She handed me a hand mirror.  I hesitated to look, but did anyway.  I couldn’t see much save for the blood on my new teeth.

At this point, she said I needed to leave them in for at least 3 days and she would make an appointment for 10 days out for a “soft reline”.  “Have a nice day!”  I was out of there lickity split.  I made my way out to the lobby and waved at Loretta to follow.  I was in no condition to talk to anyone in the crowed lobby.  “Let’s go!”  I couldn’t talk at that point anyway – the numbness and the foreign objects in my mouth prevented that.

The surgery ended about 11:30.  I spent the remainer of the afternoon in my office chair trying not to drool bloody material out of my bottom lip.  If I kept my head raised up I managed to prevent that.  Throughout the next several hours, the full face and lip numbness subsided, giving way to excruciating, deep pain in my face and jaw.  Strap in, it’s going to be a rough ride just like the manager dentist had warned, he wasn’t far off.  The vicodin prescribed wasn’t nearly as effective as I had anticipated.  In fact, it didn’t really help at all due to the magnitude of the things that were done to me earlier.  Considering all I had done to me during the previous year, I assured myself that it will all soon pass – and, it eventually did.

Now, a few weeks later, as predicted, I am still adjusting to the fit and to minor discomfort on the surface of my gums.  This also will eventually go away.  I still can’t chew much of anything tough with any success, the looseness and soreness prevents that.  It will get better, I know that.  Loretta went through a similar (upper only) process 14 years ago.

I write this somewhat gruesome blog for two reasons.  One, that anyone contemplating getting dentures know exactly what they’re in for.  Yes, perhaps some people are able to have it done with nitrous oxide (laughing gas), but I was not a candidate.  It won’t be fun and there will be a several month adjustment period to include a soft reline in a few weeks, then a hard reline in a few months when everything settles in.  Second, that anyone putting off going to the dentist should go..now.  Pay the dentist now, or pay the dentist later…just like car repairs.

I’ve told people many times that my fear level of going to the dentist is way beyond even having something like colon surgery, bipass, or chemotherapy – I’ve done them all.  “Painless” dental work?  Unless you are put totally out (as I had done with a couple of extractions in the past), there is no such thing.  It’s a conundrum to say the least.

In closing, I will tell you that I went to Western Dental in Modesto.  I wouldn’t recommend them.  Even though the dentists and technicians were very capable and professional, the front office staff is a joke!  Mindless, unfriendly, young little girls with little or no people skills, some with really shitty attitudes considering it’s a dentist office.  Geeze, you would have thought they worked at Walmart!  LOL  Wait…Walmart people are friendlier.

Dentures – just another necessary indignity of getting older(er).  But, geeze, to tell the truth, I’ve got a great smile now – almost as good as it used to be.


Get Over It

I learned a new word today.  I found it in someone’s blog.  The word is crestfallen, an adjective.

I don’t particularly consider myself some sort of “wordsmith” by any means.  In fact, I had to Google crestfallen to get some idea what the blogger was talking about.  He was referring to a person’s demeanor after being told the restaurant in which he was dining had run out of Prime Rib…“We’re All Out!”

I got a kick out of this blog post, a mild rant by a restaurant employee towards customers who just need to “get over it” when their favorite item as been “86’d”.  Needless to say, after spending 18 years in restaurant management I commiserated with this blogger.

No, crestfallen has nothing to do with food or the restaurant business by definition.  But it does suggest a reference to that quote by author William Gibson, “Before you diagnose yourself with depression or low self esteem, first make sure that you are not, in fact, just surrounding yourself with assholes”.  In other words, if you feel yourself becoming more and more crestfallen more often, perhaps this Gibson quote would lend itself to your situation.

I don’t consider myself a crestfallen person.  I may be a lot of things (grumpy, intolerant at times, less reverent than I’d like to be, a bit morose sometimes), but I am not blue, brokenhearted, cast down, sad, dejected, despondent, woebegone, woeful, or wretched…all, synonyms for crestfallen.  I just found this to be an interesting sounding word that I would never use in a sentence!  Have you even heard it used in day to day speech or even in a written context?  I think the word would look great on the cover of some pulp fiction novel – The Mystery of Crestfallen Manor…a story of decades of family depression.

So, maybe it’s time to re-word that Gibson quote, especially for the more gentile audience.  “Before you diagnose yourself with depression or low self esteem, first make sure that you are not, in fact, just surrounding yourself with crestfallenites – recommend a therapist and Unfriend (or, at the very least, Unsubscribe) them on Facebook!”

Some Real American Graffiti

I got my tired, loopy out of shape ass out of the house today and went for a walk!  Good news, bad news.  First, the Good News.  I got to walk a whole mile.  The Bad News, when I got home I knelt down to feed the dog, lost my weakened balance and did a face-plant right onto, fortunately, the carpet just missing the 5 pound Pomeranian we have and sending the bowl of dogfood flying across the living room.  I got up, collected my thoughts, “Am I OK?  I didn’t get dizzy, I just lost my balance and made a fool out of myself in front of both of our dogs”.  I’m sure even dogs would laugh at what I did if they could.  Come to think of it, they bolted out of the kitchen area and hid for at least an hour.  Shit, I didn’t even swear when it happened.  Good Ativan and Zoloft! No harm no foul.

So I did take that walk down McHenry Avenue,  a sprawling 8 lane thoroughfare with every fast food outlet known to man on one end near all the car lots and the old part of town at the other end.  My little sojourn out today put me at the far north end near the car lots and fast food places and one of the Walmarts.  Yes, there are two Walmarts in this dinkly little town.  Somehow, this makes sense in Modesto.

I wanted to take some pictures on the street during my walk.  For the most part, I centered on getting shots of graffiti, very prevalent in this town.  There is a Graffiti Taskforce that I see out and about painting over new graffiti on brick walls, giving the little shitball graffitists a fresh, brand new canvas to deface again next week.  It’s just hard to keep up with little or no budget. Regarding the graffiti itself…it’s of horrible sub-quality.  Yeah, that’s right…it’s even shitty graffiti done mostly by local neighborhood terds trying to show their girlfriend what marvelous, ballsy aritistes they are!  They should have their pea-sized nutsacks squeezed off and handed to their parents, “Did you have any idea that your worthless little Johnny was doing this?”


So,  it wasn’t a very productive day as you can see.  At this point in my career as a photographer and human being…I’m just trying to keep my head above water.  When I finally get this crap out of my system I can really assess the whole deal…me.  In the meantime I do the best I can do at this point in time.  Including getting motivated to write something here.

By the way, these few graffiti shots on McHenry are from a one block section on one side of the street.  All the good stuff is on the bridges and overpasses.

What lovely weather we are having, don’t you think?

One of my New Years resolutions is to work on a photo portfolio of Modesto, the town in which I have lived for the past 13 years now.  Actually, we lived in Salida for the first 10 years, but Salida is right next to Modesto and no one knows where Salidas is, so…there it is.

I really want to get back out and take some new shots of downtown, the new parts and the old parts.  We are probably blowing this town sometime within the next year (back to the Central Coast) so I really need to get this project done.  I feel a need to archive some photos not only from the town I’ve resided in for more than a decade, there is some history of interest here, not the least of which Modesto is George Lucas’ hometown.

There is not much in the way of George Lucas’ legacies to Modesto, unless, of course, you mention the movie American Graffiti, his homage to graduating from high school in this town.  There is some sort of plaque or statue of Lucas in the student union of  Modesto Junior College, where he attended before transferring to USC film school.  I will get a few shots of that before leaving.

In the meantime, I thought there no better place to start this photo montage of Modesto than with a few shots looking out my front door.  It’s 8:00 am, 34 degrees…and what wonderful, though very seasonal for here, weather we are having…say, what?  The weather is shitty here about half the year.  Stifling, blazing hot most days in the summer, then freezing cold with daily tule fog in the winter.  Spring brings some welcome rains, Fall brings wonderful, mild days and cool nights.  Save for Fall, the weather here stinks.

So there it is, my neighborhood.  A good place to start.

A few weeks ago I was posting lovely pictures of the Fall colors on that street right up there.  It was short-lived, the Fall weeks, and now it’s Winter in the valley.

An open letter and apology to my iBook.

Don’t worry, this blog won’t be one of those goofy letters to a thing.  But it will be a bit whiny due to the fact that I miss a thing.  And that thing is my iBook, my Mac, my Apple computer.
Well, first of all here’s a little computer history.  I got my first pc in ’94, at Gateway 2000.  I loved it, all 66 mhz of processing power and some 256 mb of hard drive.  It was great. I had an AOL account then and learned to IM in those old, sometimes very anonymously cruel chatrooms, you know, before Twitter or Facebook or IM’ing.  I basically learned how to operate a computer.  Those days, mind you, required a basic knowledge of, heaven forbid, DOS.  I shudder to think of the times I found myself trying fix some malady on that often-crashing relic of a pc by changing DOS settings in a part of the computer I should not have been messing with.  I got through those times and it served me well for a couple of years.

Let’s fast forward through two or three other pc’s over the years including that heinous version of  Windows called Windows 2000.  What a piece of crap that was.  I think it was Windows 98 that surfaced and work fairly well on these pc’s and a Compaq laptop at one point.  It was about seven years ago I “evolved” into owning a Mac, an iMac, the one whose base looks like half a basketball.  I also eventually bought an iBook laptop that I used exclusively for several years which still serves me as a sort of backup and old file storage computer since I bought an Hp touch screen desktop a few months ago.  There, I said it.  I have forsaken my beloved iBook for a pc!

Before you die hard Mac fans shake you head, roll your eyes, and chastise me for “falling from Apple grace”, here’s the deal.  My iBook was and still is very sick.  It is held together with bubble gum and paper clips if you will.  First, the battery went dead.  Hence, it was relegated to being a desktop since it had to be plugged in all the time…we couldn’t afford a new $80 battery at the time.  Here’s the kicker.  The hard drive took a big crap about a year or so ago.  So I went into my best MacGyver mode (yes, Mac pun intended) and resurrected my iBook by making a fire wire external hard drive the boot drive.  You with me still? It was fortuitous that I had recently backed up everything from the soon-to-be-fried hard drive several weeks earlier, possibly anticipating something horrendous like this happening.  Well, the worst happened but I was prepared just like a good computer boy scout.  My little Apple iBook now sits beside my desktop keyboard patiently waiting for attention that comes only once in a while when I feel the need to search for old photos or other files I don’t use very often.  The iBook…it takes a licking and keeps on ticking (sorry, Timex).

Now, let’s get back to this nearly new pc I have in front of me.  It’s a 20″ touch screen all in one, ie, everything is located behind the screen, no tower.  I really don’t have any major complaints since defecting to a pc, ie, Windows (7 now).  I’ve even gotten used to having that right click back.  The big screen is lavish and the processor is really fast…at least it was at first.  It has since slowed down a bit (that worries me) and has chosen to crash or freeze up at the strangest times.  Usually a quick hot reboot and things get back to normal.  Bit it does crash on occasion…pffft…no response, no mouse, no nothing.  And herein lies my reason for apologizing to my iBook.  I feel like that stupid State Farm commercial where Jerry calls up Jessica and blubbers about how he regrets cancelling State Farm and going with some phone solicited fly-by-night insurance company because it’s cheaper.  Yes, I apologize to my iBook…but I don’t regret buying the pc.  I’ve simply been thinking about buying a new iBook laptop sometime next year when the planets align financially, sometime in April or May I figure.  They run about $1100 at the entry level wrung of iBookdom. I did buy an Hp laptop a couple of months ago and decided to return it after a week or so (thanks to Walmart’s liberal two week return policy on electronics).  It was OK, but I just didn’t need it at that point AND I longed for the Mac.

For those never ensconced in the Apple well spring of security and coolness,  Mac’s rarely crash and Mac’s don’t get viruses.  They come with a virus protection program built in.  Why Microsoft doesn’t do this with their Windows products is not so baffling as it is just plain disgusting.  It should be part of the package instead of paying an annual fee to some outside program (ie, Norton or MacAfee) to keep your computer secure.  I have Norton on the desktop.  And although this makes me feel somewhat safe, I can’t help but cringe every time this thing freezes, crashes, or presents me a message that says “this file may not be safe, do you still want to open it?” or some such dribble.  I imagine some vile lines of worm code hiding somewhere on the hard drive, embedded in some dark corner just waiting to show me the dreaded blue screen, you know, the one that has lines of DOS on it!!!

I worry too much about everything, it’s just me.  The past few days I’ve been worrying about my next chemo treatment which starts today at 1:30.  So no surprise I worry about how safe my computer is.  So here I am whining about it and pining after a piece of electronics equipment that I could go on living without.  I want my iBook back.

In lieu of waiting until Spring and buying a new iBook, I could do this:  resurrect my old iBook with a new battery and a new hard drive.  I’m thinking a couple hundred bucks versus $1500 or so for the new iBook I would get.  I think I still have room for upgrading my RAM as well.  Sure, it wouldn’t be a new, shiny, white iBook…and sure, it wouldn’t be quite as fast as a new one.  However, if I start from scratch and upgrade to the latest Apple operating system, OS X Lion or some other jungle animal by now…voila, a (near) new laptop…and an iBook to boot (pun intended here as well).

I am a die-hard Mac fan.  A champion of Apple.  They work well and they look cool.  I even converted my daughter, Jen, to an iBook a few years ago.  Now she is a Mac fan and  is addicted to her iPhone (something I bailed on earlier this year and will make a return to my hand sometime next year).  I don’t need a Mac to communicate with Jen via email and Skype, I’d just like to have one again.  I want to bask in the knowledge that it is virus protected and doesn’t crash or freeze.  Is that too much to ask?

So with my somewhat ill but still working seven year old iBook G4 at my side, I apologize for not paying enough attention to you, that which has served me well for many years.  You will get a well-deserved renovation soon.

Feeling good, feeling right?

For some reason is seems like more than two weeks has gone by since my last visit to the chemo chair.  I go every two weeks, infusion session number six is tomorrow…that’s half way there.  Perhaps it’s because the chemo effects seemed a bit milder than from the past few.  I’ve just felt somewhat normal for at least a week, and there are good things and not so good things about feeling, well, normal.

It really is a good thing, feeling normal, compared to the crappier times post chemo.  I’m not complaining.  But feeling OK also solicits so much thought on my part about what else I should be doing during these times.  I’m off work on a leave of absence until April.  Obviously it’s a medical leave so I can better weather chemotherapy.  There are days I feel like I should be working, then there are those other days.  Those other days are when it’s a challenge to function throughout the day without laying down and resting or taking a nap.  So, I remain off of work until this is over.

With the first of the year just around the corner, I am reminded of how I’m never at a loss for making New Years resolutions.  It seems every year about this time I start thinking about my goals and even aspirations for the coming year.  This year in particular has given reason for thought about what to do with my the rest of my life, however long it may last.  I have to assume I will live to be 100 considering the medical community has seemed to pull my ass out of several predicaments the past 35 years or so.  It will be that long since my heart attack and first angioplasty.  Ah, that’s old news with this new malady I am dealing with.  The rest of my life?  Let’s deal with next year first, even next month, next week, or tomorrow.

I find myself getting more and more antsy to get out and get back to business.  I do want to get back to the business of work and the business of those other things I want to further pursue, not the least of which is photography.  Simply put, right now, I feel somewhat reluctant to book any photo shoots like portraits because of the uncertainty of my day-to-day health.  It’s just not reliable at this point.  I yearn for March to roll around and I wrap up the chemotherapy.  It will take a few weeks after the last session for my body to completely recover, hence, I go back to work in April.

Much of my future thoughts revolve around March.  I finish up chemotherapy in March.  I plan to start training on my bicycle in March.  My first social security check comes in March.  We plan to go on a vacation around March.  But that’s months away at this point.  Looking forward to and making plans for tomorrow, next week, and next month is where I need to be right now.

I’ve recently fallen into a bit of a funk about this whole thing that I am experiencing.  Maybe it’s because time is dragging me down, it seems to be going so slowly.  Maybe because I am mostly under house arrest from this thing.  Maybe it’s because of the holidays, or the drab, foggy cold weather…I’m in a bit of a funk.  And starting a new chemo session tomorrow won’t help render the situation better.  I have to remain positive.  And I will do that by counting the days until I feel normal again, probably by next weekend.  And next weekend is Christmas.

We will make the trek up the hill from Modesto to Sonora to visit my daughter’s in-laws.  Jen, Roth, and Rowan are driving down from Seattle for a few days to Sonora then to our house for a few days after Christmas.  I should be in tip top form by then (what the hell does that mean?), feeling good, feeling right, it’s Saturday night?  Hell, I’m halfway through my chemotherapy schedule and it’s all downhill from here!

I’m not ready to post New Year’s resolutions yet.  I’ll save that for another blog closer to the first of the year.  But I can tell you than one of them is to photograph Modesto as I see it and post the pictures to my blog in a series.  On the surface, there’s not much here!  Lord knows I’ve bitched and complained about living here enough. But that’s where the mind of a photographer and writer comes in…and that’s what I am.  So just do it dummy!

Note:  If you haven’t seen anything about this Modesto photo project by February, rattle my cage, would you?  Thanks.

They say it began in 1964 in Buffalo New York.

The story goes that Buffalo Wings were “invented”, or at least first served in this fashion, at the Anchor Bar in Buffalo New York.  A late night hungry crowd arrived, the bartender asked his mother to fix something special and all she had laying around was chicken wings, usually destined for the stock pot.  She deep fried the wings, tossed them with a few “secret” ingredients, served them with Bleu Cheese Dressing and celery sticks, and Buffalo Wings were born.  It was 1964.

I don’t remember first having chicken wings served like this until much later, maybe the 80’s.  Perhaps it was an East Coast thing until then.  At any rate, chicken wings prepared in the Ancho Bar style, Buffalo Wings, have been showing up on restaurant, bar and grill, and bistro menus ever since.  The evolution of the Buffalo Wing has run the gamut, ie, chicken wings are now served up in any number of different ways from sweet to blazing hot to exotic.  Chef’s everywhere have concocted wild versions of this now classic appetizer.

For me, I personally prefer the wings prepared with a bit of breading, more resembling southern fried chicken than the sloppy, red finger staining mess that is the original Buffalo Wing.  I still like a dipping sauce, probably leaning toward Ranch now than Bleu Cheese.  The celery sticks are inconsequential in any case.  If I’m still hungry after the wings are gone, I may dip a celery stick to two out of sheer boredom (waiting for the rest of my meal or another beer).  Speaking of beer, it is the quintessential beverage to be consumed with Wings of any type.

Buffalo Wings, the original style, are easy to make and the so-called secret recipe is not that big of a deal.  Basically, the wings are deep fried at 375 until crispy (make sure they are dry and have no moisture on them before dropping them in the oil).  There is no specific cooking time as that will depend on the size of your wings.  If they are akin to a full sized chicken drumstick, cooking time is much longer.   These condor sized drummettes are not preferred for chicken wings, opt for the smaller or medium sized wings.

The sauce?  I use Frank’s Louisiana Hot Sauce.  Take equal parts hot sauce and melted butter.  Mix in Lawry’s season salt to taste.  When the wings come out of the oil, drain, then dredge in the sauce.  Serve immediately or they become soggy in no time.

Over the years, I got lazy a number of times and purchased frozen versions of Buffalo Wings.  Bad mistake.  They have run the gamut from vile to somewhat passable resemblances of the original product.  I had such an experience last night.

I lost my mind the other day and purchased the TGI Fridays attempt at Buffalo Wings.  Now don’t get me wrong, I’ll bet $5.00 that their in house version of Buffalo Wings may be good.  But this frozen version left a lot to be desired…they were just plain nasty, and here is why.  Remember that scene in the (Jeff Goldblum) version of The Fly when they experiment with a steak being transmitted between the pods?  Geena Davis spits out her first and only bite of the transmitted version, “Ew…it doesn’t taste right!”  The explanation being the computer didn’t know how to duplicate the taste or some such prattle.  Well, this is exactly what came to mind when I ate the TGI Friday wings.  They looked like Buffalo Wings, smelled like Buffalo Wings, but they tasted like some sort of scientifically regurgitated laboratory facsimile of a Buffalo Wing.  I must admit that I gave them a few more tries and that phoney, chemical taste got worse.  It was a tart, citrusy, spicy attempt at an old, very recognizable flavor profile…it just didn’t cut it.  In fact, it was gross.  It tasted…fake!

I realize if one has a hankering for Buffalo Wings that this may seem like the second best choice for full filling a chicken wing desire just behind heading to, well, TGI Fridays, or Applebees, or that Buffalo Wild Wings franchise I have yet to try.  I must say there have been a few frozen versions over the years that were close to par, unfortunately, none of the brands come to mind right now.  But certainly, not the TGI Friday’s attempt.

As someone with somewhat of a chef’s attitude”, ie, fresh is best, etc, etc,…I have these suggestions.  If you’re not going out, make your own wings at home.  Yes, it’s messy but quite satisfactory compared to the above alternative.  Use fresh wings.  The bags of frozen (unseasoned, unsauced) wings are OK keeping in mind they have been brined, soaked in a sodium citrus toxic waste type mixture for flavor.  That’s not a bad thing, just keep it in mind if you’re watching your sodium or chemical toxic waste intake.  And speaking of watching one’s intake,  keep in mind one small chicken wing has about 100 calories, 57 calories from fat, mostly saturated.  If you consume an order, say 8 wings…well, you do the math…and don’t forget to add the extra 100+ calories per wing for the Blue Cheese Dressing.  I’m kinda thinking you’re pounding about 1600 calories per order of wings!  And most of that is fat.

So whichever path you take when it comes to satisfying that chicken wing desire, do it in moderation I guess would be my suggestion.  I don’t succumb very often, but when I do, I would like a chicken wing that hasn’t gone through the BrundleFly machine, coming out the other side tasting like a computer’s interpretation of what a Buffalo Wing tastes like.

And as the story goes, it all began at a little bar in Buffalo New York in 1964.  Chicken Wings good!!!

PS  Of course, it could just be my taste buds are little off of late.  Nah…they were bad!

“You Stink!”, Cosmo Kramer

Beauty is in the eye of the beholder.  The fact is, everything is in the eye of the beholder.  Perception is everything, always was, always will be.

Can a blind person feel a person’s face considered less than beautiful and ‘see’ beauty?

How do we see ourselves in the mirror compared to what others see from the outside?

How does a “good” personality make up for less than stellar physical traits?

Hell, how do some colors of skin evoke judgment?

Smells can evoke judgment, right.  Smells can bring about a negative reaction causing a judgment to be made.  “That man who just walked by stinks, dear!”, he said, “He must be a bum!”  Perhaps?   Perhaps he is a rich guy with poor hygiene habits.  Either way, you will make a judgment of some sort when smelling smelly folks in public, correct.  Either way that judgment made will be negative considering the subject matter:  stinky bodies.  I must admit, I am a ‘stinky person bigot’.  There, I said it.

So what do ‘stinky person bigots’ do about their ill feelings toward stinky people?  They choose to avoid them.  Avoiding them can mean giving a wide birth, or taking care to not walk by them too fast so the odor wafts with you evoking other people to possibly blame you for the wind of stench,   don’t hire them.  Ah ha!  Isn’t that illegal?  I’ll answer that.  No, it isn’t.  Discrimination in the workplace I believe only involves sex, nationality, gender, race, sexual preference and something else that slips my mind…it doesn’t cover poor hygiene habits, bad haircuts, facial hardware, tattoos for that matter, nor stupidty.  Ignorance in my book is a freebie for everybody for consideration that the definition of ignorance is ‘lack of knowledge’, nothing to do with IQ or common sense.  I suppose if you were ignorant of the fact you have terrible body odor and poor hygiene habits I could give you a pass, but I’m afraid I’d still have to avoid you and would never give you a job.  Some things are just too simple!

So yes, beauty is in the eye of the beholder.  Perception is everything, especially your perception of yourself.  However, judging a smelly person is not a perception, it is a majority-recognized fact.  In the words of Cosmo Kramer, “You stink!”

I highly doubt the person who elicited this diatribe from me is reading this.  But just in case, “You know that once a week, old skool Euro sponge bath in a bucket thang ain’t cutting it, mam!”

Pets and screaming children in public…shoot me now!

Here are two things I’d like to hear more from store and restaurant managers…

“Excuse me, but would you please remove your (insert any animal species here) from the store, they’re not allowed to be in here?”  and “Excuse me, but would you remove your screaming child from the restaurant until he/she calms down.  You’re upsetting the rest of my customers?”

There are so many things in this world today I don’t understand.  Wars, hijackers, gangster mentality, the government’s lack of effectiveness, facial hardware, rude people, bizarre foods, Jersey Shore (and most other reality programs), expensive vodka, cancer, and so on.  Most I simply toss off and file under “Things I will never understand”.  But this one just gets my goat mostly because I have to look at it every day.  Bringing dogs into grocery stores and allowing children to throw screaming fits anywhere in public!

Perhaps it’s not the mere fact that I see on a daily basis people with their dogs in grocery carts shopping for food.  I think what I don’t understand is why store managers don’t turn these misguided people around, show them where they came in, and politely throw their asses out!  What is the reason these obsessed pooch people are allowed to do this?

Not solely in shopping carts.  Not just “I feel like I’m rich so I have a need to carry around and be seen with an expensive little dog” sickness.  But large, scroungy dogs on leashes as well.  One of these larger canines squatted right in front of the my camera department a few months ago and took a giant crap.  The owner could do nothing but stand by with leash in hand and embarrassingly giggle at passersby watching the whole thing.  What else could she do?  Let’s face it…when a dogs gets in that position, it’s a done deal.  Well, I will tell you what she should have done.  She should have left the damn dog at home!  Gimme a break!

I place total and complete blame and responsibility for this heinous practice on the store company and the managers.  They let them do it now! And they let them do it because they are afraid of losing a customer.

I worked as a restaurant manager for many years.  And when someone would try to bring their animal into the restaurant my question to them (before they sat down) was, “May I see your Guide Dog license and permit?”  You see, licensed guide dog or companion dog trainers, licensed by the state, must be allowed to bring their well-trained, dogs into your establishment.  It’s the law.  The key word here is “licensed”.  You need a state permit to do this, not simply answering that question with, ‘Yes, it is a guide dog”.

Some people go so far as to make up their own little doggy jackets that say something like, “Companion dog”, or “Spike goes everywhere with me”, or some other contrived, nefarious line of BS to have their dog with them shopping or worse under the table at a restaurant.  How cute (?).  Not at all.

Regarding the above photo…do you want to have your bunch of bananas or cantaloupe or bag of spinach sitting in that basket after some little mutt has spent an hour dragging his ass around in it?  Bottom line: I think not.

I realize that in France patrons are allowed to bring their animals almost everywhere.  So be it.  Move to friggin’ France!  I also realize that a human baby sitting in the child’s seat has more germs than a dog.  Don’t even go there.  I know that.  I still don’t understand it all.  I still don’t get why stores allow dogs in the store and in shopping carts, especially grocery stores.  Geeze, they don’t even allow you have your dog at an outside farmers market!

There have been several news stories of late about restaurants not allowing children below a certain age in restaurants.  I raise my hand to this practice and say, “It’s about time”.  I say yes to children…no to misbehaved children who are allowed to go on and on with their fits of rage.  And, by the way, I’m not a proponent of public corporal punishment or the dispensing of lengthy behavioral lessons (usually to no avail) at the expense of other customers nearby.  Remove the child with the errant behavior outside until the situation is diffused.  Or, and better yet, train them properly at home and don’t bring them into those environs until the time is “right”.  There will always be public breakdowns with babies and children…but do the right thing right then and have some respect for others and the dignity to practice this on a regular basis.  If not for others, for the dignity, upbringing, and well being of the child!

Have I completely forgotten those times when my kids were very young and didn’t behave properly in public?  Not at all.  I removed them from the store or restaurant until they calmed down.  Have I ever taken a pet into a grocery store or restaurant (not counting PetCo or Petsmart where they welcome this).  Never.  Did I ever refuse service to someone with a “fake” companion dog, ie, no license or permit?  Absolutely.  Were these people unhappy about it.  Absolutely.  Did the majority of other customers applaud my action?  Absolutely.  Did I lose a customer? Probably.  Did I endear the other patrons to my establishment and my decision to respect their rights over the “right” of one other individual.  I would hope so.  And now (where I am not the manager and making a decision like that would cost me my job), I cannot respect the wishes of the majority.  I must simply bite my lip and cast a disparaging glance at disrespectful customers who are allowed to do whatever they wish.

What can you or I do if we don’t appreciate this practice?  We certainly have a right to say something to the offending person.  Better yet, we have an unquestionable right to complain to management.

Not too long ago, some customers in the store where I work complained to management about three young girls in the store in bikinis looking for suntan lotion.  Yes, they were asked to leave!  Mercy, where’s the equity in all this?

Where do you stand?  Dogs and screaming kids…or bikinis? Or neither.

I just don’t like these new Mac & Cheese recipes! Is that wrong?

One of my ongoing cooking challenges has been to make a “good” Mac & Cheese.  In the past year or so I think I’ve labored over this bastion of old time comfort/diner food at least a dozen times or so, not once enjoying what I would consider success.

Making any scratch Mac & Cheese involves conjuring up a flavorful cheese sauce by cooking a bechamel-like cheese concoction, mixing it with a quantity of cooked pasta, either elbows, shells, or penne, then baking it.  Bam! Simple, huh?

I came to the realization last night that my expectations of a certain result, a flavor profile that would satisfy ME, were simply off track.  It isn’t because I was making it wrong, I was just making it with the desire for a different taste or outcome than I have been getting.

Let’s face it, Macaroni and Cheese has been around for a long time.  Recipes are all over food magazines and food sites and now served in trendier places than your favorite greasy spoons.  However, these recipes, though sounding intriguing, don’t produce a “traditional”, the-way-mamma-used-to-make-it result.  These nouveau renditions have introduced a plethora of “untraditional” cheeses and ingredients like goat cheese, Asiago cheese, Fontina, Gouda, and yes, sometimes cheddar and American.  These last two cheeses is where I should start and stop in my quest for the perfect Mac & Cheese.  So you see, my “failed” versions (including the one I spent a couple hours on last night) are far from failures.  I have simply been expecting a different outcome.

Mind you, I am not yet ready to head back to the blue box of Kraft yak,  I just think I need to shift gears, realign my flavor buds, and attempt a truly old fashioned recipe.  The version I made last night probably tasted exactly like it was supposed to taste.  The short take on the recipe:  steeping the half and half with garlic and fresh thyme, rendering down pancetta and using the fat from that to make the roux, and using a combination of seven cheeses (as mentioned above).  Why would I expect it to taste like my old favorite?  It’s an entirely different animal this new kind of Mac & Cheese.  Each time I taste one of my new recipes my first inclination is to do the Skip Hansen Two-Step Shuffle towards the stainless steel receptacle!  And that is exactly what I did.  It didn’t taste bad, it just didn’t taste like I expected it to.  Imagine that…I’m still throttled by my own misguided, self-destructing expectations at this late age!  And the worse part: I stew on them (pardon the pun) and it’s only cooking!!!  I’m up and writing about it at four in the morning for gosh sakes.

I think the Mac & Cheese I made last night would satisfy any number of trendy food fans in any number of trendy little bistros.  I’m sure of that as most of the recipes from which I “borrowed” ingredients are from places that supposedly serve this stuff to elated customers looking for something new not traditional. It tasted exactly like it was supposed to taste:  though smooth, it was too tart and cheesy for my liking.  Asiago, Parmigianno-Reggiano, and Sharp English White Cheddar have those flavor profiles.  End of story (?)  Not quite.

Though it is the end of this blog entry, the story won’t end here.  I will endeavor to simplify a new recipe for Mac & Cheese (from scratch) and try again soon.  I’m thinking milder, yellow cheddar and perhaps an old staple:  Velvetta.  Did I just say Velvetta?  Yep.  I’ll save those other elegant cheeses for other culinary adventures, but not for Mac & Cheese.

It sounded good…it just didn’t taste good…not matter how many times I tried. Geeze, I’m stubborn.  It only took a dozen or so times to figure out this one!