Alaska! Hello! (A Prompt Challenge)

Karen Craven over at Table for One issued a prompt challenge for me and Dale of A Dalectable Life. The whole thing was based on snippets of an overheard conversation, because writers are pacifistic spies at heart and we ain’t afraid to admit it. Karen’s prompt post can be found here. I tucked this snippet turned prompt into the block quote that begins with Thank you Andrew. 

I’m just thankful prompts are graded on a lenient curve, because man did I veer. Imma blame it on Larry King and a tee-totaling weekend.

Vegas odds could not have talked me into this shit. Me, ending up in a musty old bunker in Battle Creek, Michigan at the end of the world. The writer in me must admit the locale is Napoleon fucking Bonaparte perfect, I mean . . as far as irony goes. As far as yours truly is concerned? This bunker is a cosmic middle finger to every Goddamn day I’ve been on this earth, all 19,072 of ’em. That’s a lot of middle fingers, and I would trade every single one of them for a single thumb so’s I could hitchhike to any other planet in the universe right about now.

The first nukes hit the major cities: New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, Houston, Philadelphia. Everything in and around those places went Edvard Munch, and the rest of time came calling on all the other places in between with loud, shaking fists. In two days, I made it as far as here. Along the way I bogarted a bottle of Woodford Reserve, a Ziploc bag of Xanax, a ’78 El Camino and then a late model Jeep Liberty whose good graces saved me from Cleveland.

When the Jeep ran out of gas, I schlepped for miles until I came upon a residential hive of American made dreams that seem as useful as nursery rhymes now. I found a rancher with NRA stickers in the windows and guessed right on the fallout shelter. The occupants were long gone, probably due North with dreams of building a kingdom in some middle of nowhere place that had zero appeal back when things were running smoothly and borders were meant to keep people out.

From the looks of it, this shelter was constructed during the rolling thunder of Cold War implications otherwise known as the eighties. Updated several times and in fine shape for just this sort of nightmarish scenario. But really, what are the chances this glorified soup can is gonna save my ass from gamma time? The truth is, Jesus ain’t walking through that door, and this clusterfuck is way above Superman’s pay grade.

On a positive note, the pantry was stocked and the generator worked. The bonus round was the TV and VCR. When a VCR feels like Christmas morning, that gives you a pretty good idea of how things are going.

The ham radio stopped working this morning. But not before I learned the nitty gritty about how the country had come apart at the seams with little chance of being sewn back together again. Death toll estimates run the gamut- anywhere from eight million to half the nation’s population. All I know is that I’ve seen a lot of ghost towns along the way. This morning’s transmission between Buck from East Lansing and Andrew from Cincinnati was akin to being on the deck of the Titanic after they ran out of lifeboats.

“Thank you Andrew. I’m not quite sure what you are hearing, but the real answer is, there is not a definitive answer yet. Alaska is working it and they are trying to salvage it.”

According to Buck- a National Guardsman whose intel seemed solid enough- the refuge in Anchorage had been overrun with people fleeing the left coast. Mass rioting ensued after which the ferries were lost and chaos turned Anchorage into a paradise lost.

I pop a Xanax, take a swig of my well worn bourbon and fire up the VCR. The former occupant owned the largest collection of Larry King videos in the world, I have to think. I pop in a tape that reads “Larry King: Alaska”, because why in the blessed fuck would I deny myself a macabre chuckle at this point?

“Alaska, Hello!”

“Hi Larry, this is Joel Fleischman from Cicely and I’m a big fan of your show . .”

It takes me a hot second to put it together. Joel Fleischman was a fictional doctor on a show called Northern Exposure.

Wait a minute! This guy was a prank caller? 

“What’s your question?” Larry barks with enough gravel in his voice to sell it wholesale to a construction company.

“Well it seems our local disc jockey here is planning to build a trebuchet in the hopes of tossing a cow . . .”

Fucking A right this is a prank call! If that ain’t top of the world with a Julie Newmar cherry velvet kiss on top of the last stand righteous! 

BOOM! 

The generator takes a shit and I light up some candles now. It looks like the world is fresh out of def-cons, which means it’s time to double down on my bottles of happy and get to stepping inside a galaxy far, far away. Here’s hoping whatever comes next has a welcome mat and fresh linens. A starched Martini and a Cohiba would be supreme, but I don’t want to be greedy.

I just wish the upstairs neighbors would’ve let Joel Fleischman from Cicely get to the piano punchline. But hey . . I got to spend my last night on earth in the home of a Robert Zemeckis character whose pursuits included prank calling the great Larry king and collecting every last artifact from the eighties.

I pop another Xanax and take a Vegas helping of bourbon and I hope like hell the bastard who called this place home made it somewhere better as I plug his Walkman into a Three Dog Night drip. But instead of chill, my bones are restless to the curiosities above.

“Fuck this shit!” I say as I grab my necessaries before breaking the seal on my tomb and climbing up into the early winter. It’s late July and a thick snowfall coats the ground as spearmint colored snowflakes float across a sunless sky. I walk down to a lake and loose a boat from its moorings while talking the outboard into going my way. When I make it to the middle, I kill the engine and sit back to ponder life’s great mysteries. Like, how did the fates allow Boston to win the last World Series ever played? And would Shakespeare have dated a Kardashian? And why was I so infatuated with my Fitbit? All I know for certain is I hope to hell I left the stove on this time.

I pop a couple more Xanax and finish the bourbon and then I settle into what’s left of not much at all. Just me and my thoughts and a rumbling sound from some place not so far away and getting closer. There’s nothing left to pray for and yanno, I’m glad. Because I got a peach song cooking, just for the occasion.

Timing really is everything.

Top Five Heroes Of The Week

Reading up on the news is like receiving a personalized greeting card from Nietzsche in that there’s a one hundred percent chance you are gonna be exposed to some truly depressing shit.

Unlike with old Friedrich, most of the news ain’t worth the time spent teasing the abyss of our very souls. Like, I’m trying to be sympathetic to the ‘worst year’ of Ariana Grande’s life . . but she’s like twelve . . so there’ll be better years ahead, okay? And when Trump Jr. says the socialists are gonna have us eating dogs, I feel as if the boy needs to go back to Finishing school. Then there’s the recent survey which reports that seventy seven percent of millennials would give up booze and forty four percent would give up sex for an entire year. In favor of Amazon. Which means that if Ian Dury had been a millennial, he would’ve penned one of the all time most forgettable songs of a generation.

So when the news gives you lemons, tell the news to go fuck itself. Which is what I did this morning when I culled five good feels stories from the dumpster fire of breaking bad news that predominates our frequencies. I am calling it my Top Five Heroes Of The Week. The order I have followed here is for the purpose of dramatic crescendo only, because all of these stories rocked my casba equally so.

That’s the problem with good news, it ain’t need headlines.

5- A Tyler Perry “Lay” Up: Lord knows I have panned this dude countless times for that whole unfunny Madea series of movies. But this thing he did recently, where he paid off more than four hundred and thirty thousand dollars in Christmas layaways? Is the reason for the season. Righteous!

4- The “Advent”ures of The Notorious Q: Her real name is Dale, and her blog, A Dalectable Life, is like a supper table where everyone is invited and the stories are always entertaining. She’s doing a series of Advent posts this month in which she ‘calls out’ a different blogger every day. Yule love it!

3- A Champion Off The Court Too: I figured the only person Steph Curry of the Golden State Warriors had to listen to these days is his accountant. Turns out the two time MVP and three time NBA champion also listened to 9 year old Riley Morrison when she wrote to tell him that girls sizes in sneakers do matter. This is a sneaky great story from a really cool cat.

2- Home Is Where His Heart Is: What if you don’t have a big Under Armour deal like Curry? What if you have nothing at all, and you find $17,000 dollars? Kevin Booth answered that question when he found a bag full of cash that was just begging for the homeless thirty two year old to take it. Instead, he handed it over to a volunteer at the food bank he visited. I can’t pun this one, I got nothing.

1- A Lesson In Civility: I wouldn’t have blamed the Bush family for playing keep away with President Trump this week. The passing of their family patriarch, George H.W. Bush, was a time for family and friends; of which Trump is neither. Yes, he’s a sitting President, but he’s also a purveyor of pissed off rants, many of which have been directed at the Bush family.

No matter. Because sometimes, doing the right thing matters more than doing what is understandable and justified. The Bush family provided a much needed lesson in civility to a boss who doesn’t behave like a leader. And while it’s certain the lesson won’t stick with him, it sure does with me. Because sometimes, the best revenge is not wanting revenge at all.

Go in peace, look for the heroes.

Sorryless Sunday Morning

I am proclaiming this Sunday to be the intermezzo of my Woodstock series of posts. So in lieu of flower power, Imma post the first in a brand new series that will show up on the regular once I’m finished spilling on my three days of peace and music in the Catskills with the lovely Q.

I used to do a “Sunday Morning Coffee Love” post on my old blog. I don’t want to steal that title, so I came up with Sorryless Sunday Morning because it had a Lionel Richie groove to it. I may change up that title in future posts, but the vibe will remain the same.

Sorryless Sunday Morning posts will feature blog shout outs, quick hits on whatever is dancing in ‘me noggin and a music video that brings the requisite chill to my Sunday morning. I hope you enjoy.

  • My son’s first week of teaching is in the books and it frazzled him. He’s in that new teacher zone where he’s gonna have to learn his rhythm. As with anything else an individual does that is worth doing, he’ll figure it out. A shout out to Frank at A Frank Angle for dishing up some pieces he wrote on teaching for me to give to my son. Frank is a scholar and a gentleman, and I’m blessed to call him my blog neighbor.
  • Speaking of blessed, the lovely Q wrote a beautiful piece at A Dalectable Life about love and friendship- and how it endures. Later on, we had a rather involved discussion about writing and published works, to which I’ve been stewing on ever since. I feel sometimes that I am hopeless in my take on the matter, so her nudging means more than she will ever know.
  • As for published authors, John Howell at Fiction Favorites is back in the lineup after his surgery a couple weeks ago. He’s the Mike Trout of the blogosphere in that he comes to play (write) every single day, and he brings it. Whether he’s writing his weekly mystery series, a prompt challenge or his haiku . . he engages you with his wit and his clever wordplay. Blog life is always sweet when he’s in the room.
  • As far as good tunes go, tune into Tara’s sizzle over at Daisy Smiley Face if you’re looking to vibe on some musical goodness. Tara operates on the same wavelength as yours truly as far as her musical tastes go, but every once in a while she’ll introduce a singer or group I’ve not heard of. And it’s always a slam dunk.
  • And to round out my top five blog shout outs for this week, Imma mention a chica who tells terrific tales about tails. Monika at Tails Around the Ranch also speaks gardening and Colorado and hockey, fluently. And she just started up a new online business called Sam’s K9 Kreations, so make sure to check it out!

As for my quick hit thoughts? I gots a few . . . .

  • I’m cutting ties with Walking Dead after this coming season. Like the old Carole King song goes, the feeling has died (for me) and I just can’t hide, and I won’t fake it.
  • Urban Meyer has been exposed for the phony he is, but winning will prove to be the deodorant of his odorous tenure. So here’s hoping he gets a clue before someone else becomes a victim.
  • One of my favorite Clint Eastwood lines, in an endless sea of ’em . . .
  • Jacob DeGrom of the Mets probably ain’t winning the Cy Young, but I happen to think he’s the best pitcher going this season. And if I’m a Mets fan, I’m pissed that ownership is wasting his immense talent.
  • In response to the peeps who call him overpaid, Raiders coach Jon Gruden threw shade at Tom Cruise; basically saying that no one complains about how much Cruise makes in a movie. Well . .having just seen the latest installment of Mission Impossible, I can tell you that Cruise is the only thing that drew me to the franchise. And if I’m laying down money, Imma go with Cruise over Gruden . . every day, and yes, twice on Sunday.
  • Going to see Crazy Rich Asians with the girl. Yes, the rumors are true. I am all about the rom-com.
  • Going to see The Nun when it comes out in a couple weeks. And no, the rumors are not true. I will not be wearing diapers. I also won’t drink any beverages beforehand . . .
  • I don’t think peeps understand that impeachment does not mean the removal of the President.
  • Braciole, like my lechon, is a dish best served in variations. The stand alone opening night dish is pure gumba-licious. The next day sammy is slamming. And every day thereafter . . it’s the dish that keeps on giving.

Well, that’s a wrap for this Sunday. Be sure to tune in next week for my next installment in the Woodstock series. Have a wonderful Sunday, and an even better week.

Peace, love and music

Running the “Philly Special” in our Search for the perfect Cuban sandwich

 

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With apologies to W.C. Fields, it had to be Philadelphia.

Over the last several months, our search for the perfect Cubano saw me and Linds B make our way through a solidly righteous collection of foodie towns from Harrisburg and Reading to Lancaster and Elizabethtown. But when we decided it was high time to get back to it and finish this search, it had to be the biggest town in the commonwealth . . where football and food reign supreme.

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If you’re not from the state, you just don’t understand how unfair it is that Philly has been subject to typecasting more often than Will Smith (Shout out to West Philadelphia on that one . .). The real deal truth is that cheesesteaks are nothing more than a starting point. Because this town can hold its own with any city under the flag it made famous when it comes to offering up a wide array of culinary choices.

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Our first stop was Reading Terminal Market, where we ran into Joe Nicolosi, the head chef at DiNic’s Roast Pork. This city institution got some much deserved national cred when it was featured on an episode of Man vs. Food with Adam Richman, and shortly after that appearance it won the honor of “Best Sandwich in America”. (If you ain’t seen the MVF clip, you can find it here.) And so we had to go a few rounds with this heavyweight champion sammy: the roast pork with sharp provolone and broccoli rabe. After which I cursed the handsome devil who runs the kitchen for creating such a diabolically delicious piece of love that hurt so good and left us feeling as if maybe . . just maybe, our food run had peaked before the main event.

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After a quick Google search, we set our coordinates for Cuba Libre Restaurant and Rum Bar. It was a twenty minute walk to Old Town, during which time Linds and me talked about everything but sports. We strolled past Independence Hall, drank in the city sounds and made small talk with a cute little pixie by the name of Iris who dealt up some serious 411 on the ASPCA.

Cuba Libre

Finally . . we found ourselves in the clutches of sweet Libertad, and when we walked inside the place, it felt as if we’d navigated ninety miles worth of ocean trespass and had landed in the heart of old Habana. We were seated next to a staircase whose ascent might have leaned into stars of a long lost time when an island nation was the resort of choice for many Americans. The interior was an argumentative cascade of modern and classical architecture dressed in vibrant island colors.

And then it struck me as to what this little mission of ours had stood for from the get. Our search had been a humbly romantic nod to a time when patience and roots held sway and songs bred revolutions and islands swam on earnest tides. And so we kept to the charter by ordering up a couple of classic mojitos and El Cubano.

The open air setting worked backup to the pulsing beat of Latin classics that bounded off the walls while wicker fans provided a wonderfully percussive remedy for a couple of B-side travelers with the finish line in their sights. And then our server broke it all down with a plateful of artful prowess. Peels of crunchy plantain done up as if by Dali, with our perfect Cuban sammy selection doing the straight up salsa right in our faces.

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The Cuba Libre blueprint is an homage to where the Cubano first laid down roots in Ybor City, Florida: Sour orange marinated pork loin, Genoa salami, ham, provolone and Swiss with a yellow mustard-pickle relish. This rich and glorious past was brought to the present and pressed between a couple pieces of locally baked bread in such a way that the late, great Celia Cruz would’ve most certainly approved.

The Verdict

For the record? I’m pretty sad that our search has come to its conclusion because man . . . it was a time. Soooo, Imma take a moment before I give you the mostly predictable results.

Promised “Moment” . . .

Thank you for reading these installments. Really and truly . . thank you! We’ve made some great memories, had some great food and most of all we have enjoyed the feedback we have received on this via Facebook and WordPress, as well as our families and friends. And not to put one of those peeps on the spot, but Dale over at A Dalectable Life is gonna keep this tasty train going. You can check out her first installment here

I guess the only intrigue that remains is whether or not we gave Cuba Libre’s sammy a perfect score so here it is boys and girls . . .

The pork was succulent with tangy notes of decadence thrown in for good measure. The salami was a welcomed bit of spicy throwback to the original standard. The ham was sweet and savory, and the Swiss was a pelt of luscious melt with provolone rocking it in the new old fashioned way.  Even the yellow mustard-relish worked surprisingly well, helping to bring everything together. And when you press all these savory selections into a small boat of bread baked fresh in Philadelphia proper? It would seem a slam dunk certainty that we went all Bo Derek on this puppy.

Alas, we are notoriously tough graders and so we had to deduct for the provolone and the relish since they are newcomers, and thus . . . not original ingredients. But 9.5 out of 10 is nothing to sneeze at. In fact, it makes the Cuba Libre version our Search winner.

And it really did have to be Philadelphia. Because there’s a dignity that runs in stride with the brawny scrum of this town that gives it its unique flavor. From the moment you crash its gates, you understand the complicated history that goes into making anything that’s worth it.

So here’s to life, liberty and delicious pursuits.

There’s Something About Mary- A Prompt Challenge

Welcome to Sunday, and a brand spanking new prompt challenge entry we like to call “Word UP!”, on account of the fact this ain’t no ordinary prompt challenge.

Back in the day (a couple weeks ago) we used to host prompt challenges that involved a single word. And then the Irish Mafia (Karen Craven of Table For One) made the decision to expand the business. She joined forces with the Queen of the North (Dale Rogerson of A Dalectable Life) and the prompt challenge would never be the same.

Me? I’m just the intrepid reporter who was recruited by these lovely word bosses, and Imma do my damndest to keep up. Same goes for Frank of A Frank Angle, who shattered the last prompt challenge by delivering up all the words in half the count!

This particular prompt came about out of an email exchange I was having with Karen about water and Twinkies.There are eleven words involved; one for each commandment and a bonus power-ball word. They are as follows . . .

Jesus, holy water, drive-thru, twinkies, wine, dinosaurs, passion, busybody, clubhouse, cross, absolution

Posting this on Sunday just might make me a heathen, but I don’t think God is going to be scoring me based on a silly old post. Not when he has the likes of Pat Robertson and Joel Osteen to deal with. Those peeps best live it up on God’s dollar while they can, because if there is a judgement day to be had . . well, it ain’t gonna be pretty for ’em. Anyways . . here’s my story.

                                       There’s Something About Mary

Joe wanted absolution. Having his good name stapled to a cross ever since Conception-Gate, he figured it was time. Being the ‘earthly’ father to Jesus Christ came with more pitfalls than disputing the existence of dinosaurs at the Smithsonian.

The kid from Nazareth knew a thing or two about turning water into wine, having transformed his passion for carpentry into an online goliath. His marriage to the Virgin Mary- her rapper name- was holy water to the unwashed masses who loved their busybody news served up in drive-thru fashion, and they made news right out of the clubhouse.

Post-divorce, Joe lost the spotlight while Mary partied with Joan Osborne in the Hollywood Hills and Jesus sat court side at the Garden. Now, Joe was writing a tell-all pilot for Pontius Studios.

Joe always said life was like a box of Twinkies. The stories are tasty and the guilt immaculate.

Buttoned Up Man

If it’s Tuesday, it must be time for a prompt inspired post. Well . . it should have been posted last night but that’s neither here nor there, soooo . . . Tuesday morning it is homies!

The prompt for today’s post is “Buttoned Up”.  That trouble making lovely from Montreal way, Dale of A Dalectable Life and the Irish Mafia wild child from Chi town, Karen Craven, of Table For One were culprits in this here mayhem, so go blame them. But I warn you, stepping foot in their digs is habit forming. 

And now, as Ed Sullivan used to say . . let’s get on with this mofo! 

When you do a job, it’s quite straightforward.

You are presented with a biography, and you are asked to still its advent. There is no emotional presentation to be culled from the transaction of personal information, only the rubric of habits and patterns . . as well as any current fascinations which might prove either problematic or expeditious to the task at hand.

It’s like closing a real estate deal; you are transferring the deed from one realm to the next. It’s not your business to think about the next realm since it’s just a job; you simply refer to the calculations . . mathematical . . cold and straightforward with no mystery or intrigue attached to the equation.

So here I am, studying a person’s life out of a manila folder. Fifty eight years, seven months and thirteen days . . . presented in quadrants, which makes me think of that Godfather song about birth, school, work and death. Every parcel of information is important so I read it thoroughly. And then I peruse it again as I sit in my apartment and crank up some Verdi and open a bottle of Merlot in order to catch a buzz. I like to prosper the information from various states of mental acuity. Dulling the senses is simply a matter of slowing down the thought processes. The byproduct of such a strategy is to introduce another vantage point. I call it recon sourcing.

The wine is doing its unpretentious best to dismiss all serious thought, which is why I chose Verdi for my musical carpet ride. Depressing compositions allow me to remain linear when my brain is ready to salsa dance.

I call them numbers. He will be Number 28. A semi-retired contractor who is busy living the American dream. He owns three homes, a couple of successful businesses, a trophy wife almost half his age and a creamy side dish he keeps hidden in a posh condo in town.

The sonofabitch has no idea it’s all coming to an end.

It’s ten minutes to midnight, and in a little more than nine hours I’ll be waiting for him in the parking lot of the Silver Leaf Construction Company. He’ll make the scene a couple minutes before nine because he is never, ever late . . even when he should be. On Thursday mornings, he usually sleeps at the office- which happens to be located downtown, in that posh condo with the creamy side dish. So he’ll bring his candy crush- a cardinal red metallic Mercedes-Benz SL roadster. It percolates on a twin-turbo V12 whose drip is 621 horses. He opened this bad ass up on the Autobahn before having it shipped to the states. On this side of the pond, it opens up everything else so to his way of thinking it’s worth the price of admission.

So he’ll swing into the parking space two spots to the left of the double doors. There’s no nameplate on the parking space, but it’s understood who parks there, simple as that. And that’s when I’ll remove myself from a nondescript late model and make my way to the double doors, meeting him somewhere in between.

I practice my preach in front of the mirror, bringing my best Clint Eastwood out to play. The words I know by heart, it’s the tone I want to cleave into something sinister sounding. Because we’ll only share the space of a moment together before I end things, so I want to fetch the best possible reaction. It’s the little things.

Isn’t it amazing how three little words can change your life for the best and the worst? I chuckle at the thought as the clock strikes midnight before delivering the words that will end the life he knew.

“You’ve been served . . .”