Monday, February 12, 2007

Feb 14th

I don’t know how or if you celebrate this silly Valentine ’s Day thing… But Angel and I have come to a decision. Heck with it. We’ve decided to have a nice at-home dinner, steamed shrimp. Steamed shrimp is how we celebrate everything else, Birthdays, anniversary, tax refund day, pretty much any excuse we think of… A simple thing really, Get a couple of pounds of shrimp at a reliable, but not extravagant place, grocery, whatever.. Boil up a big pot of water drop the steamer basket in and let the magic happen. Of course, back at the point when you started the pot boiling you also tossed a couple of taters into the oven, conventional or microwave.. and of course you’ve piled up a pretty sizable salad, the point of which is merely to pretend that the big salad will fill you enough to not eat all the shrimp or the entire potato… This has never actually worked.
As the steaming part begins, you melt butter, for dipping the shrimp. Garlic and lemon are optional. You may substitute margarine for butter, though I don’t recommend it. Yes, it’s a bit fattier, but remember, the salad will keep you from having too much.
Classier people would discuss the wine choice at this point. Our wine tastes are pretty simple; we like chardonnay in a box. But that has nothing to do with this meal. We don’t drink wine at meals, we save it for a night cap, generally around 9pm, with a light snack since according to Angel, “ . . eating something with wine doesn’t count as eating.” She’s never explained the logic or reasoning and I haven’t asked since she’s pretty smart and she does not lie.
Anyway, to really punctuate the shrimp, which will be served on a tablecloth of the day’s newspaper to catch the drips and peels, we will have beer. I don’t know which kind yet, it depends on whatever they’re giving away to those of us who have opted to park inconveniently. Perhaps a light Bud Select, or hopefully Mule Kick Stout. Mmm.
I will point out again that though I work for a beer company, I do not drink a lot of beer. I think, in fact that I’ve only had two in the last three or four weeks. At the Super Bowl party where it was, once again, free. So if I have to buy beer, I generally don’t…. If we have beer in the house I’ll have one with dinner, and that’s it.. Sorry, I’m just not a guzzler. Angel’s the same way, though it’s quite possible that she may throw back a dozen or two during the day without me knowing it. I really don’t pay much attention to that sort of thing, and if it helps ease the pain and woe that she surely slogs through each day as my spouse, well so be it.
Anyway, we chatted, I stressed, about Valentine ’s Day… She’d already declared “No chocolate” Which is her way of declaring a lack of willpower. “You don’t want chocolate, you think flowers are silly because they’re already dying once they arrive, cards are a waste of money, Jewelry a bigger waste of money that you have nowhere to wear anyhow, what’s a hopeless romantic such as myself supposed to do?” I screamed.
“How about Shrimp?”

Okay, I know you are tsk’ing out there… about how a girl says “I don’t want a gift” and the dude doesn’t get her one , and then she gets all weepy, cause she really DID want something… Nah It’s not like that.. I don’t think… Nah, no way. We’ve been together nearly twenty years. If she wanted something she would have said so. She doesn’t lie.

Monday, February 5, 2007

Updates for the group

Max is gone. His bone tumors finally made him so immobile and miserable and any surgeries could only make him a little better for a little while at best. We took him in to the vet and held him as he relaxed and died, quite peacefully. He was around twelve or thirteen, he'd been with us for eleven years. "It's not a tragedy when an old man dies."
My employer has moved some of it's people, all 800 or so of us that once called the old downtown area our place of work, out to the burbs… a generic office complex of four buildings in . The offices are newly remodeled, and the smell of fresh cubicle glue still fills the air. Though I will miss the ambience of working downtown, a short walk from the stadium, arch, nice diners, etc. I do NOT miss the drive. This relocation knocks my commute down from an hour to about forty minutes. And the quality of the forty minutes is quite improved. I do not need to hi-velocity/kamikazee-merge onto or on any of the city's many interstates or thoroughfares. It's straight up a lightly populated, never jammed, stop-less 15 miles on a wide state highway, then left for a dozen blocks… sure, more lights, and the speed limit on drops to 40mph, but it's a calmer, less volatile drive. I am a much calmer soul now for this reason, as well as …… (drum roll) . . . .
I quit smoking on Dec 23, and as of this past weekend have even given up those awful, awful, nico-patches. My sense of smell and taste are returning…. Which has caused me to notice that I don't really like the taste of cold coffee as much as I thought I did, which of course, adds to the calming of Dennis….which has been anything but a smooth transition.
Yawner alert…

The last time I quit smoking, I went on the patch… that was eight or nine years ago, I don't recall the side effects. I was smoking near two packs a day at that time, and after two weeks on the full-speed 21mg patch, I started cutting them in half… (not recommended by the manufacturer) but the 11 mg patches cost the same as the 21mg, and being the righteous cheapskate that I am….. I only recall that it worked, got me over the hump… Not so much this time…. Maybe because I was starting from a lower intake of nicotine, by half, I tried the same strategy with only one significant difference…there are now generic versions of Nicoderm CQ. Cheaper by 20%.. I can't look away from that right? First day, slap on a full one… drive all day, celebrate with the family….. get up really, really, early…ears popping, blood rushing…feel the need to walk… a lot…. Second day, pretty much the same… over-caffeinated, edgy, irritable, but that's the price eh? After all the traveling is done, I have a few days off before new years'…. The patch really, really dug in… free time, chemical stimulation and of course historically, self inhibiting, low self esteem, had me pretty much curled up in the throes of full body, head-on, four alarm panic and anxiety spells. I started cutting those things in half around day four, stripping them off early in the evening by day five, and by the time I started back to work, was trimming them down to quarters, ripping them off early and still sleeping only three or four hours a night, still anxious, still shaking, still shuddering and contemplating things that one should not contemplate much… but since I knew, (hoped) that this was all a chemical/biological anomaly, I stayed the course. This past weekend I announced to Angel that I was going to finally go commando. Don't you giggle too….I meant I was going to go without patch…. No aid whatsoever after only a mere month… I tried this once before a couple of weekends ago, that didn't go very well.. cold sweat, fear and anger by noon on Monday…not a good day… This time it took. I have been off the patch since Saturday. I feel fine, in fact I feel pretty darn good. Sure I've picked up a noticeable few pounds, thanks to the metabolism shift and no less to the four full pounds of Candy Corn my family stuffed into a bird feeder and gave me as a gag gift……. But I can take care of that later since I am walking more (will park inconveniently for beer), eating a bit better, and of course have high ambitions for yard work once the region thaws… Adam is back in Maryland… Angel drove him out there a couple of weeks back…. We gave him some checks to cover expenses, a cell phone to call us.. and promptly cleaned out his room. He is doing quite well, is happy to be back among his friends to finish high school. He calls at least once a week at my insistence and is part of this mailing list as well. The puppies we fostered before the holidays, Chip, Ernie and their sister 'Squirrel' have all been adopted. We went to the rescue shelter this past weekend and picked up a young Dobie/lab mix named Minnie, a gorgeous, tall, pointy dog with anxieties. She's too spoiled,(by that I mean allowed to continue this behavior without correction) too timid. Absolutely panic-wets herself changing rooms, crates, or going in or out a door. This is fixable. Angel's done this before with a couple of dumpster dogs… And of course George is perfect for someone like Minnie. George (the silly white dog, the frog-toter) loves everyone and everything. He assumes and seldom changes his mind, that other people, dogs, reptiles, etc, are exactly the same way. With Minnie, he does not really see that she is afraid, so he nudges at her, pushes her, shares his toys with her, and basically won't leave her alone until she finally goes along. I know, I have tried just being outside with George. That will not do. Within a few minutes he will wear you down to the point that you will be playing fetch, endlessly, he will hover and nudge until you do. Around people this is amusing, around shy, anxious dogs, this is absolutely the fastest, safest, and most effective rehab process imaginable. George is as much an employee in Angel's training business as she is. Already after only a few George sessions, Minnie is playing a little and easing up on the doorway panic. A couple of months and she'll be adoptable, and quite the prize. While heading down to that shelter, we drove around the area North of Potosi, MO across the Washington county line and came across a state park, "Washington State Park" that we had never heard of… they boasted 'petroglyphs'. Which of course is one of those words that you think you know what it means, or should be easy to figure out, but finally decide to pull over and read the park's markers. I'll make it easy for you.. rock-carvings. Like really really old ones, a thousand years or so. The park sits astride Big River, which was named by local people known primarily for completely lacking perspective and imagination a couple hundred years ago. Anyway there's some high spots above the river that are covered with large flat boulders that the indigenous people found reason to carve characters into. Thunderbirds, owls, people, arrows, that sort of thing. There's a bunch of them and the parks department has built walkways and viewing alcoves around many of them… It was kind of cool… Then we drove around the park some more and discovered that the CCC had fixed up the place in the 30's and the cabins and shelters were well kept and quite nice. There are 11 cabins available for rental, ample camping sites varying from bare earth to wired & plumbed… a swimming pool, and several multi-mile hiking trails. It was cold on Sunday so we didn't stay so long. We'll go back, it's only about 30 mile from our humble doorstep. We've also been exploring and researching our own new neck of the woods… Jefferson County.. Part of America's lead belt, and for many decades home to a plate-glass company that built not only a factory, but an entire town, gated and fenced, called "Crystal City" named back in the mid 19th century for the high quality sand found along the Mississippi river and the source for the glass production. Since Crystal City was a high and fancy, respectable town, no drinking or carousing allowed, it wasn't long before another town sprang up along the fence, originally called 'Tanglefoot' so called for the effect the local rotgut had on the Crystal City residents returning home…. Tanglefoot didn't quite sound nice enough for proper incorporation so the elders popped open the book of Acts and came across the name of a priest, or someone, by the name of 'Festus'… and went with that instead. Those two towns still exist, side by side, though the glass factory closed up thirty or more years ago. Some of the houses are very cool indeed, simple, yet comfortable, along one street all sitting diagonal to the road for efficiency of space. The factory itself is gone, though a trip around the distinct town is rife with evidence that this was a planned and organized place. Festus, on the other hand looks like a bunch of houses, businesses, built in an unordered, perhaps drunken hurry with no real rhyme or reason. Hillsboro, our closest town, is the county seat. It was designed to be the county seat. There is no river, no railroad, never had a thriving business, farm or factory…the county fathers merely wanted a centrally located county seat even though all the other towns were along the rivers or the railroad, so they created a town in the middle of the county for that purpose alone. It has never exceeded expectations. FWIW this was cool:
It's a history of the county, written back in the 1880's…pretty neat….
Anyway… Sorry I haven't written lately.. but I've been drugged…. Happy super bowl everyone!