Thursday, December 3, 2009
Wednesday, December 2, 2009
When your birthday comes around, friends think about what you really love in life, and then proceed to find gifts that reflect your passions and interests.
Mine was last week and these gifts were thus bestowed upon me by a small collection of astute close ones.
In the left corner, from Spain— standing sedately is a short but confident bottle of Pedro Ximenez sherry. This one could be stowed safely in your sock, attached to your leg with a little duct tape and taken on a brisk winter walk down by the tracks.
Next up, a muscular California Zinfandel which would fit nicely in the glove compartment of my pickup, as a precautionary measure in case of a breakdown, either nervous or God forbid, mechanical. It would pair well, according to my sources, with a plate of cold Kentucky Fried Chicken.
Center stage sits proudly a soon to be sampled Pommard from Burgundy, equally at home with a good book by an open fire or a freshly strangled goose from the Platte river.
Tucked between the elegant Burgundian and the brash American lies the Italian job— with the ribbon around its neck— filled with innocence, excitement and the vigor of youth; just off the boat from Piedmont and waiting for its fruit to be ravished with a fleshy lasagna tonight.
And on the far right an unusually rustique Mendicino County Carignane. This one is ready to be passed around and enjoyed straight out of the bottle or for formality's sake, a glass, I suppose, would be acceptable.
In the foreground, a book that you would think was written by paranoid mormons bent on hoarding and preserving for survival in the Obama age. So far I have found no religious agenda in its pages. It's all about hanging hams and stringing up salamis for months at a time in the privacy of your basement.
Posted by A wandering vein at 3:00 PM
Tuesday, November 10, 2009
It's mid November and this one's still in the ground. He was raised humanly. No hormones or stimulants. A most hardy chap. Italian variety. Who would of thought? This one just made it through a mighty mid fall snow storm. He lay there buried night and day in what appeared to be a foot of snow.
He's sat through three frosts. He's fed aphids, given comfort to lady bugs and allowed worms to ramble around below. A generous spirit indeed.
We shall take him Friday. I'll steal out after work with a flash light, a pair of boots and a knife. Take him quick by the roots in the dark. He'll never know what hit him. Put him in the ragout. Let him settle in there and we'll open up a bottle or two.
Posted by A wandering vein at 8:12 PM
Monday, November 9, 2009
When I was a kid, Halloween was a time for us to do our own thing. Parents were exempted from the celebration and were relegated to staying at home for the evening. We had this night to ourselves.
As darkness fell in the late afternoon, we would travel to the outer, unknown neighborhoods, and rove in our small costumed gang of five or maybe six, knocking on doors, looking menacing and threatening as possible.
We would dress like the stinking dead: a hangman with a blood soaked noose around his neck, an executioner with a hurley stick for an axe, a murdered school teacher with a ruler stuck in his back, stumbling and dripping in ketchup.
We intended to shock and to scare and to extract our toll or they would face the horrible consequences of the night: ketchup smeared over the front door, a stink bomb down the letter box, a shower of pebbles hurled at the windows, or if we were really riled up, a slew of illegal fireworks thrown at the door.
We would race away and hide; filled with glee and excitement and feeling powerful for that one night of the year. If some unfortunate mother had neglected to stock up on candy, we would demand money. What choice did she have? Helpless among us, she would fumble in her purse and empty all her change, and sometimes, if we were luckly, even a stray pound note into our insistent hands. We were the owners of the night.
Nowadays, in America of course, things have changed. Parents are afraid to let their kids out of the house unless it's for a soccer game or some other organized activity with adult supervision.
They cite the dangers: Child molesters. Rapists. Kidnappers. Food poisoners. Perverts and the like. The streets, are no longer safe, they say.
I say the dark streets of Dublin were just as dangerous back then, but we knew how to take care of ourselves and our parents knew it too. Why, if a child molester or kidnapper dared approach any one of us, we could assault him with ketchup in the eyes, break a stink bomb in his hair, stuff pebbles in his mouth, let a firework off down his trousers and beat him to a pulp with the hurley stick. We never felt afraid. They, the perverts and the kidnappers were more afraid of us.
I guess it's a different world now.
Posted by A wandering vein at 9:12 PM
Sunday, October 18, 2009
Summer is dying and there is nothing can be done.
The leaves on the vine turn dry and crinkle.
Days shrink an inch and tighten with the light.
Nights are longer, and at the blackest hour, they grip like a fist and call in the ghostly chill and its factor.
Sunflowers dull and droop with no fight left.
Holyhocks wither and keel like once revered statues of the grand.
Tomatoes, lush and erect in scarlet lose their fleeting voluptuousness and lie damp and limp in the blink of one night's chill.
And there you have it.
But there is cabbage still firm in the ground and kale from Tuscany, we're told, waiting to spit in the face of frost, and there's Stilton with pear on Saturday and roast duck with grapes on Sunday,
and lost leaves get blown away.
Posted by A wandering vein at 7:59 PM
Wednesday, October 14, 2009
I haven't checked out twitter much but I gather it's a place where you make quick and somewhat trivial comments about your day and so forth that the whole earth can see and respond back if they so desire. So, I had liver and onions last night. Does anyone really care? Does it matter?
It was a young lamb's liver. I bought the whole lamb. I asked for the livers and I got six packs of them. Not one six pack but six individual packs. And I wonder why. Is this twitter worthy? It seems like nobody cares about liver these days.
Posted by A wandering vein at 8:57 PM
Tuesday, October 6, 2009
Last Sunday, I took a final stab at slowly passing time and other things paddling the upper Colorado River. I wanted to camp out of my canoe one more time in the company of the wizened sage. The forecast was an irritation I chose to ignore: wind, rain, and possible snow in the high country all day.
I arrived at nine in the morning under cloudy skies at the little outpost of Rancho del Rio; a place where seemingly, anything goes. There's an outdoor bar where middle aged guys hang out in chest waders— they exchange trout stories, while being entertained by a bartender with a wilting flower in her graying red hair.
Over in the camping area, a tribe of dreadlocked kayakers chow down on roots reggae, burritos and fragrant herb. Reggae has traveled far from its roots in the shanty towns of Kingstown to the headwaters of the Colorado river.
I packed my boat, put into the river and set off. I enjoyed an hour of paddling in peace and prosperity before the wind whipped up.
Without warning, it burrowed and barreled its way upriver. It was an effort to keep the canoe pointed downstream. If it broadsided, I could be blown over and spilt into the drink.
The heavens blackened, but the threatened downpour turned out to be nothing more than old fashioned saber rattling and knashing of teeth. It reminded me of the old shock and awe routine of Secretary Rumsfeld when we went into Iraq. Only that happened. This didn't. Funny, the things you think about on the river. And, as I rounded a curve, I was thankful to catch a glimpse of blue skies again.
The rain tapered, but the wind persisted tirelessly for two more hours.
It breaks you slowly: It makes your choices sloppy. It depresses your brain. It wrinkles your thoughts. Decisions become like twisted squalls that scitter across the water without logic.
It stopped abruptly as it began; without warning or notice. Suddenly, there was silence, shortly followed by bird song, and a light shivering of cottonwoods. I had a feeling of being somehow, forgiven. Let off the hook.
It's not easy to fish with a fly rod from a canoe on this section of the river. It twists and turns and narrows and bends and there are lively riffles and rapids along the way. Your fly can get caught in the willows: you have to back paddle upstream and nuzzle your way into the bank in order to release it from the offending willow. You have to constantly watch for rocks sitting like ducks on the river's surface.
I threw hoppers and stimulators at the banks. I tried blue winged olives. I tied on a big bushy caddis fly. No response to neither. I finally struck gold with a tan San Juan worm and a little bead head prince nymph.
I saw a great blue heron without a care in the world lazily crossing the river. I saw a young deer shyly stooping its head to drink at the bank. I saw sly checkered magpies and bending backwards swallow. I saw dancing damson flies dainty on the water and swift hawk plotting bad thoughts from high above.
In my camp for the night, I ate salami and cheese. I made a paella with canned mussels, saffron and Spanish rice. I drank a bottle of Belguim beer, a half bottle of Greek wine and a dreamy nightcap of Grappa, distilled just a little down river, in Palisades.
In fine fettle now, I listened to the wind: a reckless rustle shifting through the western trees. I watched moving clouds. Dark chocolate melted in my mouth. I washed my pot and plate in the river. I licked my fork clean.
I listened to the rain as it drummed and rolled down on my tent through the night. I felt it was washing me to sleep. My feet cracked. My shoulder pained. My bones ached. I slept like a cottonwood log. I awoke in the night to Coyotes screaming.
Posted by A wandering vein at 9:27 PM