Tuesday, July 16, 2019

Frame and Fortune - Tuesday Morning Cooking

I wear glasses, putting them on mostly for close up work or when I'm really tired.  The glasses do tend to wander away, and it seems I'm forever cleaning all the smudges off of them.  I'm not sure how it happens, I clean them until they're pristine and 15 minutes later, they're totally smudged.

Picture a night in the kitchen while preparing dinner.

Partner in Grime:  I think I know how your glasses get so smudged.
Partner in Grime:  I just found them lens side down in the butter.

That might explain it.

So get out your glasses for a weekday morning recipe, sure to keep everyone close by.
French Toast with Bacon and Maple Bourbon Butter
There would be pictures of the bacon, but it seems to have disappeared.

Saturday, July 13, 2019

Corrosive Clean Up

Most of the time I'm lucky and can get ammo like this for my various older pieces that is non-corrosive. Unfortunately, you need to check what you buy as most surplus ammo IS corrosive. On cleaning weapons fired with corrosive ammunition, it's the salts used in the primers that is the actual culprit. It made them fairly stable and surefire but left behind a salt residue that is hygroscopic. Naturally, that attracts moisture and holds it, so 'corrosive' to steel, for when salt combines with moisture damage starts to occur to the metal surfaces. Not much different than dipping a carbon steel tool in the ocean.

Oils or petroleum-based products will not break down the corrosive salts and therefore are ineffective in cleaning or neutralizing the salt compounds. Most chemists will agree that modern bore solvents will not break down the salts. Alkaline-based solvents will break down the salts, as well as simple soap and water or just plain water. Straight Ammonia will not break down the corrosive salts and can cause damage to the bore if left in too long. It may also remove metal deposits such as copper from the bore The best 'solution', no pun intended, is water. It dissolves the salts and washes them away.

There are as many ways to clean your weapons, and with what products, as there are shooters. I'm not a professional, or a gunsmith. This is just what has worked for me.If you have some on hand -Ballistol is a water-soluble cleaner originally designed for military use with corrosive primed ammunition.

Cut 3/1 of water to Ballistol, and it makes a fine bore cleaning solution. Used straight, it's a good lube and protectant. When the water in the solution evaporates, it leaves behind a protective coating.

There's also the tried and true Hoppes #9. Hoppe's is one of the few solvents that is old enough to be designed to neutralize the corrosive salts formed by corrosive primers. But what if you don't have anything like that on hand?

Some folks have tried to make their own ammonia and water-based concoction to clean the bolt, bore, and any other affected areas, but frankly, an ammonia-based window cleaner will work as well or better.

The point behind using Windex is twofold. The surfactant in the cleaning solution helps the water maintain contact with the salts and dissolve them, and the ammonia in the cleaner attacks the copper jacket fouling and dissolves it into a mass of 'blue goo' (picture Smurf hit by phaser set on liquidate). It's also cheaper than dirt, compared to premium rifle cleaning solution. You can even get more cheap by using a generic version of Windex, or other similar "blue" cleaners that are on sale. The spray bottle makes the perfect applicator, and if you use this stuff for household cleaning you can buy a big jug to refill the more expensive spray bottle packaging, keeping one for shop and one for kitchen.

After shooting, at the range, spray enough through the chamber and down the bore that it drips and runs out. Take care not to get ammonia-based cleaners on the bluing or wood finish. It can damage them. Swab the bore clean and dry, and you are good till you can clean it normally when you are home. Some folks stop at the bore and the bolt face. You can also take it one step further and clean the disassembled bolt as well as the receiver.

Note: Cleaning with water-based solvents leaves moisture behind. Sometimes it can be difficult to get it out of the tight spots and interior surfaces. This is why black powder shooters often use boiling water... it evaporates nicely on it's own. If are are particular, you can use hair dryer to warm the bolt and the receiver enough so it's warm to the touch. This helps it dry after cleaning with water. Maybe too much for some folks, but if it's needed, it's not too hard to do.

At home, remove the bolt from the rifle, disassemble and lay them out on an old clean towel. (Do not use your spouse's good placemats or guests towels though I have "accidentally" cleaned something on that really ugly pink towel set someone that didn't know me very well gave me for Christmas).

Give the parts a nice even spray of the Windex, paying special attention to the bolt face.

Then wipe down with another clean rag (I like old shirts cut up), removing grime and excess cleaner .The rest of the bolt parts you would clean as you normally would after a day at the range, (You're soaking in it!) Now it's time to tackle the rest of your favorite bolt action.

Using a cleaning rod and cleaning jag, push the patch that's been lightly sprayed with the "Windex" through the barrel and remove at the muzzle end.

Now take one of your shorter cleaning rods that you'd use on a pistol with a cleaning patch loop attached to it. Place a patch in the loop, lightly spray it with the window cleaner and swab the inside of the bore and receiver. Take your long cleaning rod and jag and clean the rifle's barrel thoroughly as you normally would using your gun solvent. Then run a few dry patches throughout the rifles internal surfaces.

Take that short rod out with a fresh cleaning patch loop attached to it and soak with some gun cleaning solvent. Swab out the inside of the bore and receiver, then run some clean dry patches through the internal surfaces.

Finally, run an oil-soaked patch over the internal surfaces (using some clean ones for excess), assemble the bolt back together and lightly coat with oil.

I think that's it, folks, now time for a clean-up of my own.

Thursday, July 11, 2019

On Recollection

I'm out on an author interview for True Course so today a chapter from my 4th book  Gold Winner for Fiction in the Reader's Favorite International Book Award. "Small Town Roads."

The most effective way to destroy people is to deny 
and obliterate their own understanding of their history.
George Orwell

He notices them in the city, old vacant houses, bearing the form of the formerly beautiful.  He notices them in the country, old empty barns, the houses of which watched over them, also long abandoned. The barns drew him the most, some mystery there in their silent lofts, where among the beams and rough-hewn boards, life from venerable times was lived according to venerable ways, never to be seen again.

There are many reasons such places are abandoned, foreclosure, death, yet they remain vacant, remain fallow, someone's dreams perhaps tied up in probate or simply discarded, no one wishing to assume the burden of that which will take some care to make whole. He only stops to look, then drives down the road to home, an older place but kept in meticulous repair, the house warm, the walls adorned with only a few photos of the past, framed copies of the Constitution and the Bill of Rights.

A young woman walks out to the curb, where renters moving out next door left a few bags of trash.  Laying next to them were two large pieces of cast iron cookware.  She takes a closer look, both were high-end brands, neither purchased cheaply.  Both looked unused but for the thick rust covering both.  The house empty and staying that way, she picks them up and takes them home to examine and clean. Once the rust is removed, the pans oiled and properly seasoned, they look as if new,  these pieces that should last a lifetime. Someone simply did not know how to care for what they had and casually discarded them.
Out at the rural airfield, a man who still wears his youth in his eyes, arrives for a local flight. He notices, off in the distance, tires flat, grass growing up into the wheel pants, there sits an old tailwheel airplane.  The paint hasn't seen a wash or polish in years, the once bright hues that flaunted their color against the sky like a cry of challenge, now laying mute upon the grass  The engine, which once fired up with life, growing louder and louder as the entire aircraft trembled like a racehorse waiting to run, lay quiet, but for the rustle of birds who have built a nest in the intake.  He wonders what it would cost to buy it, to get it flying again.

So many things that go unnoticed until they are gone.  Some lie barren, covered in days until they no longer shine, forgotten.  Other things, capture the eye of someone, be it a house, a piece of machinery, a person, an entire manner of living, which for that one individual, possesses a life all of its own.  It is that missing piece of our history, that forbidden apple whose taste could open up the pathway to heaven, or cast one from all that is accepted.  Yet, they can not resist, like the fruit of the Tree in the Garden of Good and Evil, such things being fraught with the possibility of the undiscovered.

A man sits alone in a house that still shows the remains of the recent past amongst the modern updates,the 70's retro hunters blaze of orange touching some things like a flame, shag carpeting stamped flat there in the trails of silent children. It is quiet now, two children and two wives preceding him in death, his remaining child flying in as often as she can, calling every night before he goes to sleep.  The TV is off, the windows open, the curtains breathing in and out with the soft exhalation of the evening.  It is a night for memories or passages, those moments within us, that by our history, our remembrances, release us from the shadows, our soul freed there at that moment that makes certain silences more clear than any words that can be uttered.

In another home, that's seen a hundred years come and go, a young man in a blue button-down shirt sits in a chair, surrounded by books and antiques. Each piece was carefully picked from the flotsam and jetsam of estate sales, carefully cleaned and placed in the room alone but for muscle and sweat.  The room looks no different than if the time was a hundred years ago, but for a small flat screen TV, dusty in the corner.  The safe holds a small collection of rare and unique firearms, some dating back to the Civil War.

Some people are born out of their due place, fate casting them too soon or too late, but they only look ahead, even as they bear a yearning for a place they knew not.  On the shelf is a picture of a woman, not a young woman, except for the eyes, the blaze of her hair.  He looks at the photo, tracing the leather of the spine of his book, with hands that remember. 
A woman works in a basement, putting up boxes away from the moisture, water had crept in during recent storms.  In watching her work, you would think her a young girl.  Only in the harsh light from the window, do you know she is not. She look down at her hands and her forearms, the scar on her palm where she took a fall out of a tree, the rough-edged dimple on her arm, where bone forced its way through, her form no match for someone that outweighed her by a hundred pounds, someone who felt that since he possessed something, it was his right to break it.

There's other scars you can't see, the small bite shaped mark of a biopsy, the small shiny serrations on belly flesh, proud marks of the skin's burden as it carries another to live.  Would she erase or airbrush them away if she could?  No, she's descended from immigrants and warriors; for her, life is simply a battle fought, the scars simply marking the skirmishes won.

She is moving some boxes and hanging bags, military uniforms and gear, worn by grandfathers and beyond, men who are now only dust and courage. There is a new box to add to these, for which she must make room. She opens the box, carefully packed up just a week ago to be shipped, the uniform items carefully shrouded and laid to rest within. She touches the items, and even in their stillness, comes a moment of real and profound intimacy with the one who once wore them, unexpected and lasting, as is often our glimpse of truth. They will be carefully packed again to protect them and stored with those uniforms of generations past. She leaves space on the shelf for another future box, for there will be one more, and probably soon.

At the bottom of the package, carefully wrapped in bubble wrap, in a lone toy soldier, that had been unearthed in the garden one Spring, years after the battle for world dominion with two flame hair children and their troops had ceased. The touch of its small battered form brought back the scent of the earth in their back yard, the shade of the apple tree that sheltered them, the warmth of the sun, times when they could ask Mom and Dad most anything and they'd tell them the truth.
Was this little figurine simply a forgotten toy or was he buried in some forgotten childhood military honor?  She could not remember, but like anything long lost, he spoke to her, of why we remember things and why they are important.

With that remembrance, with the lessons of the past, we can live safer and smarter. We can make decisions based on what we learned the hard way, about the truth, about individuals, about intentions, those deceits and traps that lay like spider webs for the naive or the unwary.

So she continues to look, sometimes seeing the past in front of her, in pieces found years after they were laid there, the answers beneath her hands, under a mantle of dirt and time. She sees them sometimes late at night, out of the corner of her eye. Perhaps it's just fatigue, perhaps an awareness of more than these moments here, now but there at the edge of her vision, she senses those moving moments of lives that went before. People who valued freedom over power, truth over political correctness, people unafraid to ask "why" or "how". People just like her, full of fear and pride and arrogance, courage and love, the knowledge of suffering and foreshadowing of their own death, saying no to death, for generation after generation, knowing that can't stop it, but damned if they won't go out trying.
She sometimes look into unseeing eyes, wondering if at that moment of their passing, the questions were answered, or if perhaps more compassionately, they had forgotten the asking of them. But there is only scent and whispers, there in that cold landscape, speaking, murmuring across time, the questions they can no longer seek, but she can give voice to, with a simple but solemn, signature at the bottom of a page.

The items put away, she returns to a table of tools, a place to work and repair, form and craft, as she finds something soothing in fixing and finding answers in that which is broken, even as she restores its use.

The young man in the button-down shirt picks up an old violin, worth more than all of his other possessions combined, even as appearance alone might label it, in unknowing eyes, as yard sale material.  The notes reach out to the depths of the dwelling, penetrating the darkness, laden with the awe and enigma that can be borne on the strings of remembering men. From the shadows, a woman smiles.
These people may all be strangers or they may be bound by blood, bond or friendship.  But they do share one thing; an understanding that life bears with it the remnants of the past.  They can call it baggage or call it wisdom. They can cover it, shed it, walk away from it, forget it ever happened and forget its lessons.  But as they destroy that history, they destroy themselves.

Better they can preserve it, for what it was, those moments, those things that made them what they are. They can treat it all as something shameful, or they can speak or write of it, in a tone that would be a shout of triumph were the words on a keyboard capable of speech.  They can live their lives, old before their time, for the burden of the past, or they can live sufficient, complete, desiring as the young do, not to be bound, but only to love, to query and scrutinize uncontested, left alone with their freedoms. 

It is the future.  It is the past.  An elderly man sits in a chair, surrounded by books and antiques.  The room has not changed in the last fifty years.  On the shelf is a picture of a flame-haired woman. He slowly rises and walks towards it, joints stiff with pain, his form cleaving the space she once passed through.  He passes a shelf, a book bound with leather, an old revolver, a small vase, his glance touching what her eyes had lost. He picks up the photo and realizes that some things, even if not present, are never truly gone, fixed and held in the annealing ash that is our history.

As the night descends upon him unchecked, he stands and looks hard at everything.

Monday, July 8, 2019

Thoughts on Growing Old - From Abby Lab's Friend Simba Who Is Almost 16.

“It`s not how old you are, it`s how you are old.”  
―  Jules Renard
"Those who love deeply, never grow old.  They may die of old age, but they die young."
--Ben Franklin
"If your heart has peace, nothing can disturb you."
--Dalai Lama
"There's a treat in your pocket-- I know it."
Simba the Golden Retriever.

Saturday, July 6, 2019

Larelei Update

Just a photo of our new rescue Lab. She's six years old. She'd lived in a really bad puppy mill for six years  (small enclosures, one lightbulb in an old shed, no outside time, litter after litter of puppies). She LOVES running in the yard, but loves Abby's collection of stuffed squeaky animals, she treats them like puppies.

We miss Barkley every day but Abby (Abby Normal) and Larelei (Lara Croft) dogs have healed our hearts.

Thursday, July 4, 2019

Atomic Coffee - Holiday Memories

One thing I brought back from my childhood home before it was recently sold was the last of the piece of my Mom's favorite dishes which were from the 50's, the Franciscan Atomic Starburst Sputnik dinnerware. It's pretty beat up and I so wish I had one of the coffee mugs as every time I picture my Mom I picture there in the kitchen in the morning, drinking out of that cup  I found a reproduction online and bought it. Sitting home on a day off for Independence Day it brought back how much I missed my Mom when I first moved out on my own. So for tonight - a Chapter from my second book - Brigid
Chapter 11 – Leaving the Nest (From Saving Grace - A Story of Adoption Outskirts Press 2015)

One of the rites of passage into adulthood in my generation, outside of the coveted driver’s license was getting your first apartment. It seems most of us couldn’t wait to have our own place, even if it was bereft of any furniture not normally seen on the patio, or any other creature comfort.

For some, it might be during or after college, for some, it might be after college or the military, but there is no getting past the memory: that first taste of independence was like your first significant kiss. It seems like years ago though it’s not, yet you can still remember the taste, how you felt; like a match burning without a source of ignition, waiting for something to set alight.

When Allen was finally stationed at a submarine base on the same coast as me, I flew a small Piper airplane to see him after getting directions to his base housing. I was still working on building the required hours for my single-engine airplane commercial rating. I missed him, feeling like only half of myself when he wasn’t around.

Allen’s place was easy to pick out among the identical battleship-gray dwellings, a tale I’ve told many times, his being the only one with the For Sale by Owner sign and a herd of pink plastic flamingos around it.
That wasn’t his first place though. I remember Allen’s first apartment post-high school graduation while he was working at Montgomery Ward Auto Center. It was a two bedroom place that he shared with a couple of buddies. The carpet was this horrid shag that was less “clean and fresh” and more the chip and hamburger crumbles equivalent of a body farm. Their decor consisted of a couple of chairs and a display made of what appeared to be every imported beer they’d drunk since graduation, the bottles carefully dried and set up against the wall in some sort of artistic display of German expressionism.

Being the solitary type, my first place was a tiny apartment on the fifth floor in an old brick building. There were no elevators, but it was in a clean, safe neighborhood with lots of parking. Too bad I could no longer afford a car. But it was near the bus line, I had a bike, and my best friend had a car if I got stuck.
My furniture consisted of a beanbag chair, a couple of lawn chairs, and a bed. I’d have friends over, and the older ones would bring wine. But these weren’t the alcohol-fueled parties of my peers or even my brother’s buddies. We’d bring books and we’d discuss history and science, both fiction and non-fiction. I’d make coffee for the younger crowd, and we’d banter about Calvin and Hobbes long before they were a cartoon. Those were good evenings, as we gently sipped on a drink in a serious, almost celibate way as the conversations went late into the night. There was nothing better.

Until I got homesick.  
The first couple of months were grand, staying up as late as I wanted (well, late, given I was going to school and working thirty hours a week), leaving my books lying all over the place without the family dog using them as chew toys. I could have pizza for breakfast, bologna sandwiches for lunch, and more pizza for dinner (if an apple is in the room, that counts as your serving of fruit for the day). I could play the radio as loud as my neighbors would allow, which was generally louder than what parents would permitif you’re living in a building that’s mostly full of young people, at least on the fifth floor.

But when you trudge up five flights of stairs to come home, there’s no one there with a snack who says, “So, what have you been up to?” As kids, that was the best part of the day, coming home to a mom who gave up a great career just to be there to make sure we were fed, loved, and educated. We used to rush in from play like stampeding cattle, poured a glass of milk, and sat down to cookies or whatever she made (which during her cancer treatment was often just frosting between graham crackers, all she had the strength for, though she’d brightly tint the frosting just for us).  

We’d chatter away until the sugar buzz wore off, get a big hug, and go tend to our chores.  

As I walked into that first apartment, greeted only by mute dust bunnies, I realized I missed all that. I missed dinner as a family around the table, the saying of grace as we held hands. I even missed Dad admonishing me as I trailed in dirt when I brought in a fresh load of firewood, yet always making sure I was safely in my bed at night; a quiet closing of my door against the noise in the living room, his feet a thick whisper in the hallway as my eyes closed in safety and peace.

I missed my mom.
But there was so much to do now that I didn’t have a lot of time for reminiscing. Not only did I have a full load of college classes, there was still my job at the airport pumping gas when I wasn’t in school. The weather seemed to be one of two choices: desert hot or a dark chill that pelted my skin and hands with sleet like little daggers of ice, the wind so strong that the flame from a departing F-4 fighter jet shed away like fiery streamers as I stood and watched and yearned.

Then there was another job at the local funeral home chain where I worked weekends, which I had through high school. That job was ideal for a student. It was their rural location, without a funeral director on nights and weekends unless called, and it paid more than minimum wage.

I had few responsibilities unless a body was brought in or a family stopped by due to a sudden death. In both cases, I knew what to do, and aside from some light housekeeping and an occasional invoice to process, the rest of the twelve-hour shift was mine to do schoolwork. I learned how to dress and act like a grown-up. I learned how to make really good coffee. I learned how to say “I’m sorry for your loss,” and truly feel it. I learned what “closed casket” often really means.
For both Allen and me, having our own place without “Mom!” was an eye-opener. Laundry, I discovered, did not magically do itself; and as many times as I stood in front of the refrigerator, it never spit out a meal like a food replicator on a galaxy class starship.

And between rent, food, bus fare, tuition, and books, there was no money for much else. I applied for student loans but was always turned down with “your family income is too high.” I tried to explain my dad was not paying for my college, I was. We were raised where you either put yourself through college, as Mom and Dad did, or you joined the military. Once you were eighteen, you were on your own financially.

It sounds harsh, but my parents grew up in the first Great Depression, my mom the offspring of generations of Scandinavian seafarers. My great uncle was a captain of his own ship, the Marie Bakke; other relatives less well known yet not forgotten, even if quietly tapping their bones together at the bottom of a cold sea. 

Dad grew up dirt-poor, getting through college with ROTC and a full-time job on campus.

But like our parents and grandparents before us, we were expected to make our own way; and the last time I was turned down for a student loan, I looked at the lady who said I didn’t qualify and said, “Have you ever eaten an oatmeal sandwich?”
Being a young adult had its perks, but a high standard of living wasn’t one of them. But I learned a lot during that time. How to fix what little I owned (duct tape was a repair); how a slow cooker from the Salvation Army could make meals for the freezer for a week for less than the cost of some blue boxes of pasta; how filling bra cups up with cotton and wrapping them around your head does not make a good set of ear protection when the neighbor on the other side of the thin wall has an all-night date with that was either an overly sexed blonde or a Wolverine (hard to tell with the noise).

It taught me about working so hard that when the shift was over I’d lie down on a hard floor in a back room and sleep, unable to stand on my feet long enough to get to a bunk. It taught me about the riotous joy in the smallest of things: the taste of rich soup, the sweet wine of both freedom and communion, the tender kiss of support from the ones that see you through all of the battles.
A lifetime later my brother and I would still both lie on opposite sides of the country, in simple beds in simple houses. Mine was a hundred years old, Allen’s not much newer. He had no home computer; I had a phone the size of a boat anchor whose only app was the “ringing” one. None of our dishes matched, and there were more books than any other single type of item in either of our homes. As we both lay quietly before sleep, we listened to the wind, to the sound of the wood of the houses around us, a wood that neither bends nor moans. The wood itself was still, as are bones that quiet when the reflexes of earthly compulsions have expended themselves.

Hard times and lean times are only forever if you believe they are. If you refuse to, they are simply brief glances in which, for a moment without measure or context, will lie in your sights the portent of all that you think you cannot bear but will, there between the darkness and the light.  - LBJ

Monday, July 1, 2019

The Unsub

I remember a few years ago when Subway was involved in a class action lawsuit as their foot long sandwiches weren't all a foot long..  I can't say I've ever measured my sandwich with a ruler, but I've done worse things with tools when bored.

But the Subway issue caught my eye when it showed up in my unit in a report from a colleague,

"Reward offered for information leading to the discovery of the whereabouts of a six inch  Subway Italian Bravo Mike Tango with lettuce, tomatoes, peppers, salt, pepper and spicy mustard on a nine grain honey wheat bun. The subject was last seen at approximately 1300 hours Tuesday in the west most refrigerator in the lunch room wearing a Subway wrapper surrounded by a cellophane Subway sandwich bag."

Being the ever on alert, stalwart professional, I replied

"So we're looking for the unsub?"

I will happily eat a cold Subway sandwich if the alternative is most burger type fast food.  Actually, I'd eat a live carp if the alternative was Hardee's but that's just my preference.  My former Squirrel Partner used to hyperventilate over the original Hardee's Big Shef.  Taste is very much an individual thing.
But on those days I eat lunch out at work, (as eating coworkers food is not cool) for "sub" style sandwiches, there is no competition for me.

Bellecino's Grinders.  They are located in IN, MO, Ohio, Morris, Illinois and Michigan, Tennessee and other states.  (www.bellacinos.com)

There's all sorts of stories about the origin of the name of the Grinder, and the difference between one and a "Sub"  sandwich.  One story regards a A New London shop (Capaldos Market?) who made sandwiches and sold them from a cart at the entrance to the Electric Boat Shipyard in Groton during WWII. The sandwiches were a favorite with the welders and grinders (the guys who grind the weld down smooth), and were usually called "Grinder's Sandwiches", later shortened to Grinders.

Not that I have anything against "subs", but once you've had a hot Grinder it's hard to go back.

I'm not sure if that's the true origin of the term "grinder" but all the ones I have tried have one similarity.  They are baked.  And not "toasted" like in the Subway "toasted" which is done in this sort of combined microwave/toaster oven/linear accelerator that magically sucks out all of the freshness out of otherwise recently baked bread leaving it the consistency of a chalkboard eraser. No, I'm talking about baked in a PIZZA OVEN,  and not in 3 minutes either.  The combination of this incredible homemade bread baked slow with gooey cheese and sauces and meats with lettuce as a "garnish", is hard to beat.  You won't 'get your sandwich in 2 minutes, but that 10 to 15 minutes will be well worth the wait.

I used to regularly stop at the Bellecino's in Plainfield IN as it's not far from the Indy airport, being only a few miles West of the terminal. I try and eat before I go on a flight, to avoid the "carbon dated for freshness" airport sandwiches.  Yes, there's a Potbelly's at Midway and they are close, but not quite as good as Bellacino's.

All of their locations have really good pizza (they put huge pieces of bacon on the bacon /pepperoni pizza), salads, lasagna and other oven-baked pastas and $2 and change garlic cheese bread you'll want to order every time.
Still, what has me make that out of my way "dog leg" in my trip to the airport is the hot, cheesy Grinders.

This is Partner's sandwich one day when he went with me. This is a HALF, not a whole (the six inch Subway is hiding in a closet now).

Look at the size of those tomato slices, heck, look at the size of the sandwich.

I don't like cold tomatoes so here's my plain turkey grinder with just lettuce. It's probably not as "blog photo pretty" as some of the sandwiches with all sorts of Italian Meats and real bacon on them, but this is my favorite, "pre-flight" sandwichBut I just took these for pictures of a fun day, not intending to post  them until the whole Subway debate reminded me I should tell readers about this hidden little gem.

Again, this is  HALF of a sandwich.  The menu said this was 9 inches.  I didn't bring a ruler, but I'd say. . . based on a forensically trained eye :-) yes, that is, at least.

When you have to cut a HALF sandwich in half to handle it with two hands, that's a big sandwich.

There used to be a location right by my old work place in Indiana.  Now I have to drive an hour but if errands or book signings take me Southwest of Chicago I'm going to stop. 

The "small" club
You know, I think if I get one of these Grinders for my colleague, he'll close his missing sandwich investigation as a cold case file.

Wednesday, June 26, 2019

French Onion Soup

2 tablespoons unsalted butter, plus softened butter, for spreading
3 large onions (about 2 pounds), halved lengthwise and thinly sliced crosswise
Sea salt
2 tablespoons dry sherry
1 quart Rich Beef Stock (I make a day ahead of time or you can use bone broth)
Freshly ground pepper
Four 1/2-inch-thick slices sourdough bread, cut into 4-inch rounds
1 bouquet garni, made with 1 bay leaf, 1 thyme sprig, 2 juniper berries and 2 flat-leaf parsley sprigs, tied in cheesecloth
2 cups shredded Gruyère cheese (about 6 ounces)

 Melt the butter in a large enameled cast-iron casserole. Add the onions and a pinch of salt, cover and cook over moderate heat, stirring once or twice, until the onions soften, about 10 minutes. Uncover and cook over moderate heat, stirring frequently, until the onions are lightly browned, about 40 minutes.

Stir in the sherry. Add the stock and bouquet garni and bring to a boil. Cover and simmer over low heat until the soup has a deep flavor, about 30 minutes. Discard the bouquet garni and season the soup with salt and pepper.

Preheat the oven to 350°. Butter the bread on both sides and place on a baking sheet. Toast the bread for 15 minutes, turning the slices halfway through, until golden and crisp but not dried out. Raise the oven temperature to 425°.
Bring the soup to a simmer, ladle it into 4 deep ovenproof bowls and sprinkle with half of the cheese. Place a crouton in each bowl and sprinkle on the remaining cheese. Bake the bowls of soup on a baking sheet in the middle of the oven for 10 minutes, or until the cheese is bubbling. Serve hot.

Rich Beef Stock
1 teaspoon vegetable oil
5 pounds meaty beef shanks, cut into 2-inch pieces
2 large carrots, cut into 2-inch lengths
2 celery ribs, cut into 2-inch lengths
1 large onion, quartered
4 quarts water
Sea salt

Preheat the oven to 450°. Heat the oil in a large roasting pan set over 2 burners. Add the beef shanks and cook over moderate heat until sizzling and lightly browned on 1 side, about 5 minutes. Transfer the pan to the oven and roast for 45 minutes, or until the meat and bones are browned. Add the carrots, celery and onion and roast for about 30 minutes longer, or until the vegetables are lightly browned.

Scrape the meat, bones and vegetables into a stockpot. Set the roasting pan over high heat and add 1 cup of the water. Cook, scraping up the browned bits, until the pan is clean. Pour the pan juices into the stockpot along with the remaining 3 cups and 3 quarts of water and simmer over moderately high heat for 30 minutes, skimming occasionally. Reduce the heat to moderately low, cover partially and simmer until the stock is richly flavored and reduced to 2 quarts, about 4 hours. Season with salt.
Strain the stock through a fine sieve set over a heatproof bowl. Refrigerate until cold, scrape off the fat and discard. Before using, boil the stock until reduced to 6 cups.

Sunday, June 23, 2019

Memory Held

"It has been said that crowds are stupid, but mostly they are simply confused since as an eyewitness the average person is as reliable as a meringue lifejacket." -Terry Pratchett - Unseen Academicals

If I personally were to have a choice of witnesses to a tragedy to talk to, give me the child. Their view is simply what they have seen, normally unclouded by judgment, history, politics, and expectations. Certainly, intelligence bears into it and the developmental differences of the child. The child also needs to be of an age where they can remember and describe events, understanding the difference between the truth and a lie. But they often pick up on things that the adults miss even if, in and of itself, it might not be admissible in a legal setting. Sure the technical detail is not there and children can often mix reality with fantasy, but often the heart of what they experienced is ascertainable, containing details often lost to others.

Those that piece together such places, unfortunately, have had to use such recollections before. You can watch all the TV shows you want, but unless you are a first responder or LEO you don't really realize what it is like. Air laden with smells of fuel perhaps and smoke, stale sweat and the dense coppery smell of death close up. The frantic sounds, shouts and fluid movements of water or people, trickling down to a slow drip as the EMS vehicles move away. Sometimes in a hurry, too often not, the sound expanding away from the hollow rumbles of voices left behind to gleen the concrete fields of evidence, searching for words and actions that explain.

Sometimes there is a crowd, sometimes in that crowd is a youngster, looking around, taking it all in, while the adult's eyes are frantically forming words in their head while look for a TV camera, or swaying in shock, zombie-like, eyes closed in almost drugged immobility.

A child's recollection is simple, not so many words, but sounds, smell, movement, direction, things others might have missed. With a parents hands hovering near, those movements we all know of protection, it will be asked if the child could give their remembrance, just as was done with any adults that were present, letting them make a statement of what they remember, to define the things already known. Sometimes their statements, made with simple words and hands, are startling in their detail; details that confirm the tangibles that are known at that time. Tangibles that can become evidence. With that, the search for truth continues.

For some adults do not do so well in recollection. An event to one person is seen in a totally different way than another. Both believe they are totally accurate and it's often hard to derive the reality from their truths. I've read accounts in the newspaper of events I actively participated in, only to shake my head in wonder at how very inaccurately it was portrayed, the words written for sensation and effect, not for accountability. I've seen it in a courtroom, a place where even in the scrubbed emptiness, the smell of spent violence, lust, graft, and vengeance are discernible. Where even in the quiet you feel the reverberations of badgering and bitterness, sinners and saints, actors in a role, while we the public hope for that one legal expert that can see through all of that to do what is right based on reality, not motivation.

But getting to the heart of the matter is difficult. Look at the media, at some of the written chronicles on the Internet of recent tragedies, and the variances in discussing the same person or event, the same bit of history. Some are honestly detailed yet succinct, while others, especially when they feel they or their cause have been wronged, are so outside the realm of what happened that they do nothing but provoke incredulity.

Tragedies bear their own truth and it is usually NOT what is in much of the mainstream media.

Life is never easy, and finding out why things happen as they do remains something that haunts the edges of not just a crime scene, but our very lives. We want to know, desire it. Yet, unless we look at events with the clear eyes of a child, unmotivated by greed, political leanings or prejudice, we may find that the words we read, the blames being made, are no more sweet deceptions.

Friday, June 21, 2019

Driving Miss Abby

The photo is Miss Madeline Car, a restored Triumph that sits in my garage longing for warmer days and solitary country roads. In the city,  where traffic is heavy and the red signal light appears to be only a suggestion,  I drive a very large, full size, extended cab 4 x 4. It's helpful for visibility in this and other cities where everyone drives like they are in Nascar.  But it is really not maneuverable enough for  Chicago, the home of high-speed slalom driving thanks to potholes which are cleverly laid out in key locations to test driver's reflexes and keep them on their toes.

Still, I feel safer in it than most vehicles I've owned and since it's paid for I'll just stay on my toes.

Work-wise - over the years I've had an assortment of cars to use while on official business, all that came with strict rules as to who and how they were used.  If I'm in the work vehicle, I obey the speed limit and slow ever further down if I see a Patrol car, because nothing will make you the object of jokes more than getting a ticket while in the Squirrelmobile.
Some years back before I was with the Secret Squirrel agency, I worked for another such outfit that we will simply refer to as International Sneaky Service, different work, but like any job, with its own set of rules. As always, I was the only woman and commonly I was the team leader.  Several of us were out on a mission when, at the place we stopped on our drive, to eat lunch, the local animal shelter was having a "adopt a pet" for the locals in the parking lot next door. One of my work team wandered over to pat a pooch. He came back and said "there's a really cool Lab I want to adopt, he's older, no one wants him, I have to give him a home".

I'm in command here, he's looking at me for the OK. He's got no one, a couple years from retirement, his girl leaving him after a long tour away. I haven't seen this look on his face for far too long.

I look at the rest of the group, one of them a combat vet who got shot down, his legs burned badly, he's missing some toes, but not his heart. Another was a former Marine, as tough as they come, but whom I've seen shed tears when a dog was lost in duty. The probie with us was quiet. I nod my head.

Twenty minutes later, he has custody of one very happy, well behaved and older, male Labrador retriever. But how to get the dog home? We'll just put him in the official Sneaky Service vehicle and bring him back to headquarters where he can get transferred to his new owners truck stealthily in the parking lot out back as he was off duty when he got back.  But probie says "we can't' take anyone on official business in the Sneaky car, we'll be up on charges".

I said, "that's people, no "civilians" allowed,  contractors/ employees only, we know that but there's nothing in the rules about a dog, he can't sue our boss if we have a fender bender" So off we go, all the while, probie stewing and fretting in the back seat, treating the dog like a bomb getting ready to blow. Finally as we near our destination, he just loses it, his voice rising up an octave as he exclaims, "A dog in the Sneaky car, a DOG in the Sneaky CAR!! We might as well have a KILO of COCAINE in here!!"
The dog was obtained during our meal break, and these guys were my responsibility. If anyone was going to get chewed out for giving Fido a lift it would only be me, NOT the probie. Fortunately, we had arrived. As we covertly left the vehicle for another team to soon use, and got ready to move Fido, we discovered the reason said dog may have needed a new home. From the back seat came a cloud of doggie gas that would gag a maggot. Retreat! We quickly got him out and closed the doors, moving him to the waiting truck of his new Dad. As we went inside the building, not even noticing we were back, we couldn't help but see the new guys open the door of the car we'd just evacuated with "WT . . . *)#(@. . .What's that SMELL! OMG!!!!"

That's been quite a few years ago. His remaining short years were good ones, happy and well loved, with his adopted Dad, who apparently had no sense of smell. Hopefully, now, he is in doggie heaven, where everything smells like bacon.

Barkley Memories - Alway Up to Something

Then there are the long trips by myself. I'm not sure why I enjoy car trips. I guess the wandering spirit runs in my blood, passed on my from Air Force father to me. Seems like ever since I got a control yoke in my hand I've been wandering across miles of land . . . across rivers and towns. My Mom would have preferred I marry a hometown boy and stay in the tiny town in which I was raised, but once I tasted adventure, I was born into that gypsy life and have never really known another.

St. Expurey said, "he who would travel happily must travel light". And this adventurer did travel light, based across the US, with a short stint as a contractor overseas. I remember those early years, I remember not just the travel, the airplanes themselves, but the feel of the starched uniform shirt I wore, the smell of a crewman's aftershave (which thank heavens wasn't Brut). It seems as if all my early years were reflected in the window of those moving airplanes. I see my reflection, my past, through bug sprayed glass that tints the world bright.

The airplane, the destination and the years changed, as did the landscape of my career, but some things never changed. Days in an airplane traveling far. Miles and hours spent watching the landscape, silver grain elevators, red-winged birds, mountains formed of ice and fluid need, and rivers without borders, all blending into a bright diorama of life racing past. The world looks different from above, clouds massive and dark, looming up like a target in a gun sight, looking twice the size of an ordinary man.

I have spent half of my life it seems on the way somewhere. I have watched a hundred cumulus clouds erupt, the mass assassination of mayflies and the disappearance of a slice of cherry pie at a tiny airport diner and the journey was only beginning.

Along with me came the music, classical, jazz, and music from the Swing Era f there was a CD player in the vehicle. There are parts of the earth you can hear music of all types, there are areas where all you will find is country Western. Some of it is good, it certainly taught me a few things. .

(1) No matter where you are in the plains states, somewhere, on some station, someone is playing "Bad Bad Leroy Brown".

(2) If the singer is going on about taking you for a ride on his "big tractor", he's NOT talking about farm equipment.
3) there will be areas where all you can find is rap or Hispanic music. If that happens make up your own country songs - "If he hadn't been so good lookin I might have seen the train".
And finally, after many hours straight of broke down, done wrong, sad tears kind of songs I realized that -

4) At the gas station of love, sometimes it's self service and no fresh coffee.
Finally, though, I'm home where, fortunately, I have someone of the four-legged variety waiting eagerly for me, (with the two-legged kind arriving home soon) Life is good, worth singing about, even if my knee has gone to sleep.

Til then, I have Abby. She's good company, at home or in the truck. She's a heartbeat at my feet on those nights I'm alone in the house when my husband is on the road and a draft of lonely wind taps at my soul. Like Barkley, she's the uncomplicated creature I could be if I knew better. She challenges any threat with honor; to bark at the UPS man is the utmost of patriotism for her, and she quietly offers me an affection ignorant of my faults. She sleeps deeply yet watchfully and for her cunning seems to have no knowledge of death, and relies on me to do her worrying about that for her.

When she goes on a trip with me, she gently lets me put the driving harness on her, so she stays secure, then quietly lays down and goes to sleep until we have arrived. I will miss Barkley until the day I die.  But getting an older dog from Rescue was one of the best decisions I ever made along the way. Since the day she showed up at the door with her Foster Mom, she's been a warm, brave and loving companion that has made the continued journey worth taking.