Dazed and confused? Not me. I’m just Lost in the Cheese Aisle.

Sunday, June 30, 2013


The Mistress at 31

The Mistress of Sarcasm - our baby daughter! - turns thirty-one today.

She’ll celebrate the occasion with friends in her little community in upstate New York.  Since moving to that part of the world not quite two years ago, she has surrounded herself with all manner of wonderful, interesting, and creative people... one of the reasons she feels so at home there.  We miss having her close by, but we understand that the sylvan fields of the Hudson River Valley satisfy her soul in a way Atlanta never could.

Her artistic imagination continues to amaze and enthrall us.  She can take a formless, lifeless lump of wool and convert it into a charming finger puppet beastie with its own personality... a helluva way to make a living, but it seems to be working for her.  As someone with an engineering background, all I can do is sit back and gape, slack-jawed, as she works her magic.  “Making friends,” she calls it.

It hardly seems like thirty-one years have gone by since we first held her in our arms, marveling at her considerable thatch of dark hair... and yet, somehow, they have.  The Missus and I have seen our little girl negotiate the waters of infancy, toddlerhood, preschool, public school, pubescence, adolescence, college, and those first steps on the road of independence.  There are some treacherous shoals in amongst those waters, but the Mistress being a reasonably levelheaded individual, her personal Life-Boat has managed to stay afloat and in good form - keyn ayin hara.

I’ve told her many times that even if  she were not my daughter, I would still hope to have her as a friend... and I really mean it.

Happy birthday, my sweet daughter!  Enjoy the day, and may this next year bring you health, happiness, and success in your endeavors - without limit to any good thing.

Sunday, June 23, 2013


...is a leading member of the Joostice League of America, along with Batmoon, Aquamoon, and Wonder Woomoon.

Friday, June 21, 2013


...with a nice cold glass of limonana.


I mentioned limonana in a post I wrote last year after having returned from the Holy Land, where this combination of lemonade and mint is (justifiably) popular.  It is remarkably refreshing on a hot summer day, and since this is the first day of summer in the northern hemisphere I figured it was worth revisiting.

We make our limonana from Crystal Light lemonade mix, thus avoiding unnecessary calories.  To that we simply throw in a goodly handful of fresh mint leaves, muddle them up a bit, and let sit in the fridge for a few hours to infuse.  (Our friends Barry and Malka have a hyperproductive little mint garden; drinking limonana, for them, is a way to keep from getting buried alive in the rapidly growing herb. And we benefit from the surplus.)

Give it a try on the next warm afternoon - you’ll be glad you did!


There’s a new sandwich in town... and it’s kicking serious ass.   It’s PB&B.

PB&J? you ask.

No, I answer: PB&B.

Wuddat? you ask.

It’s peanut butter and blatjang.

WTF is blatjang? you ask.

Keesie could tell you. It’s South African-style chutney.

Take the bread of your choice... as long as your choice is a stout whole-grain loaf.  Your Wonder Bread won’t hold up to this mighty filling.  Lightly toast a couple of slices.  You want your toast dark?  Knock yourself out: This sandwich can take it.  Carbon, schmarbon, it says.

Trowel a thick coating of peanut butter onto one slice.  Crunchy, extra crunchy, smooth - whatever you prefer.  My choice was Smucker’s Natural, the chunky version.  It’s powerful chunky.

On the other slice, apply a layer of blatjang.  I used Mrs. H. S. Ball’s Chilli Chutney, AKA rissie blatjang. It’s powerful tasty.

Slap those two slices of bread together.  Cut ’em in squares, cut ’em in triangles, I don’t give a rat’s ass.  Hey, you can even cut the crusts off if you want, you pinky-raising wimp.  Stick the whole mess on a plate.  Or a paper towel.  Or just hold it in your hand.  It won’t be around long.

Now bite into that bad boy.  See how the savory, salty peanut butter harmonizes with the sweet-sour heat of the chutney.  Feel free to smile.

PB&B.  It’s powerful good.


Being a recap of some of the goodies SWMBO served at last Sunday’s Father’s Day brunch extravaganza.

Blueberry French Toast Casserole
Blueberry French toast casserole... served with warm maple syrup.

Zucchini and Pancetta Frittata
Egg white frittata with zucchini and pancetta.

Herring and Salmon
Pickled herring and hot-smoked salmon.

Golden Beet Purée
Purée of golden beets with Greek yogurt and goat cheese, my sole contribution to the festivities (aside from showing up.)

Israeli Salad
Israeli salad, courtesy of our friend Malka.

Last (and certainly not least): Battenberg, a traditional English sponge cake enrobed in marzipan.

“If you don’t feel like writing, post some pictures of food!” - Elisson

Wednesday, June 19, 2013


When Muslims of old would build their grandest mosques
And decorate the walls with intricate designs,
Into their calligraphies, geometries, their arabesques
Their artisans would introduce a flaw:
It was a custom strong as any law.
Perfection is dangerous, they knew,
Inviting God’s jealousy, causing Him to stew.
Better an imperfect masterpiece
Than one to flaunt its maker’s hubris.

The world’s impure, flawlessness a dream.
We reach for the ideal as we navigate Life’s stream,
But we can ne’er attain it, and that is meet and right,
For those whose excellence burns with golden light
Are soon brought low.
Perfection is dangerous, we know.

I knew a creature once, enrobed in white,
Whose presence brought such gladness to my sight
As though to break my heart.
And break my heart he did,
For he was called, untimely, ’cross the Bridge
That all must cross in time.
He was a flame that burned so bright, so hot,
That he could not burn long. Now, he is not.

His sin? It might have been perfection,
But his Creator had introduced a flaw:
It was a custom, strong as any law.
Perfection is dangerous, for what it’s worth,
And God does not permit it to linger long on Earth.

dedicated to our beloved Levon...


Farewell, Mighty Hunter
 The late, great Levon Chelm, August 19, 2012 - June 18, 2013. Barukh dayan emet

Levon passed away suddenly and unexpectedly yesterday, one day short of being ten months old.  We are still in shock: Our hearts are not merely broken; they are shattered.

His time on this planet was all too short, but he was such a delight while he was with us.  Nobody who met him could help but fall in love.

I am going to miss my little guy.  Farewell, O mighty hunter - ave atque vale!

Tuesday, June 18, 2013


In the ash
Of Popocatepetl
I saw a single
Red rose pepetl

Popocatepetl done gone and blowed itself up.

Take a look - it’s pretty frickin’ impressive:


Several years ago, when I was writing over at the Old Place, I wrote a post that referenced that most nerdly of Youthful Activities: flying model rockets.

It’s hard to get deeper into Nerd Territory unless you’re also a member of the school marching band... at least, so they say.  Whoever “they” are.

In any event, that post included several aerial photographs that a friend and I had taken with a rocket-mounted camera back in the fall of 1966.  It was primitive technology by today’s standards, but nevertheless it yielded some interesting results: photos of identifiable pieces of Local Geography.  Plus, it was cheap as borscht - five bucks bought the rocket and camera - the only other thing you needed was a supply of engines, film discs, patience, and wishful thinking.

After a few attempts from our usual launch venue - the then-undeveloped John J. Burns Park in Massapequa, New York - yielded mostly uninteresting results (aerial photos of roads and parking lots aren’t all that exciting, after all), we decided to move our base of operations to the parking lot of one of the local elementary schools.  From there, we were able to score a few shots that at least had some recognizable landmarks.  Roads!  Water!  Houses!

I’ve taken a couple of those old rocket photos and juxtaposed them against views of the same scenes available to anyone with Google Earth and an Internet connection.  Here they are:

Then and Now 3
This is the part of Bar Harbor immediately south of Birch Lane School.  Kings Walk runs L-R across the bottom, with Thornwood Road on the left and Queens Court to the right (and a glimpse of Harbor Drive on the far right).

Then and Now 4
Looking across the river at Nassau Shores, West Shore Drive winds along the left side of this photograph, with Seneca Place in the center and a bit of Seneca Street West visible on the leftmost edge.

The only difference between the photos on the left and those on the right?  Forty-seven years... and a metric buttload of technology that nobody could possibly have imagined back in 1966.

Sunday, June 16, 2013


Three Dads
Bill, Eli, and David: SWMBO’s dad, my dad, and SWMBO’s stepdad (L-R).

The week before Elder Daughter arrived, my normal glacial composure (hah!) dissolved in a paroxysm of near-panic.  Suddenly, I realized that Impending Fatherhood was bearing down upon me like a freight train in a long tunnel from which there was no escape.  What would I do?  How would I handle it?  Would I be a good father?  Would I be a failure?

Somehow, I managed to calm myself down.  I was married to the level-headed, sensible, and loving She Who Must Be Obeyed, and I had had a fine example of Dadditude set before me in the form of my own father, the redoubtable Eli.  Things would turn out all right, I told myself... and when Elder (then Only) Daughter finally made her appearance, I was ready for that transformative moment.

Transformative indeed, for when a man becomes a Daddy, he becomes a Man on a Mission.

When you’re a Daddy, your priorities change.  You’re not just in it for yourself.  You have responsibilities.  You are the provider, the protector.  These are also the responsibilities of a husband, but when worse comes to worst, the Missus is an adult who can, if necessary, fend for herself.  An infant cannot.  You are the child’s shield against all of the slings and arrows that life can offer up.

In the matter of fatherhood, I was blessed in both directions.  The Elder Generation - my father, and later, SWMBO’s father - provided a solid model and inspiration.  Were they perfect?  Hell, no - but they took their own responsibilities seriously, and that was something I took to heart.

In the other direction, I have been blessed with wonderful children - a blessing that has at least as much to do with the Missus as it does me.  I hope I have provided them a good model of what to look for in potential future daddies, as well.

The Missus, even as I write this, is laying on a Swell Feed for a bunch of our friends.  A Celebration of Daddies, as it were.  It is a brotherhood that I am proud to be a part of, an accomplishment for which I was trained by riding on the shoulders of giants. Look upon their photographs above, and be awed.

Happy Father’s Day to all you Dads out there! You’ve earned it.

Saturday, June 15, 2013


...is a challenging task when it involves a cat.  Especially this one:

Formal Levon
Levon sits for a formal portrait. Photo ©2013 Gary Feinberg Photography.

Unlike his predecessor-kitties Hakuna and Matata, Levon generally does not sit still while I try to photograph hm while he performs his numerous Kittenish Tasks.  Matata was a notorious lens-whore, while Hakuna was mostly oblivious to the camera; Levon, by contrast, will take off once he notices the baleful glare of the lens.

When our friend Gary posted this photograph of Levon on Facebook (he and JoAnn had been cat-sitting him during our recent trip to New York and Philadelphia), I wondered just how many shots he had to take to capture this Formal Portrait.  Eighty-seven?  Two hundred?

Turns out, he took exactly two shots.  Two. Shots.

I’ll give the boy credit.  He’s talented and efficient!

Friday, June 14, 2013


Asparagus with Lemon Zest and Nutmeg
Roasted asparagus with lemon zest and nutmeg. Tasty!

High West Campfire Whiskey for the boys.

Cosmopolitans (made with my home-made cranberry liqueur) for the girls.

Salad with tomatoes and nectarines.

Grilled sliced prime ribeyes.

Roasted Brussels sprouts with garlic, capers, and passionfruit balsamic.

Roasted asparagus spears with lemon zest and nutmeg.

Limonana - lemonade with mint.

Life is good.


Last night we did our usual Thursday evening thing: minyan with the Usual Suspects, followed by dinner in one of the local restaurants.

We had elected to try a new barbecue place that had recently opened in a spot that is the Elephant Burial Ground of restaurants, at the corner of Woodlawn and Lower Roswell Roads.  I don’t know whether it’s the location, the dearth of parking, or the mislaid business plans of the various owners, but no dining spot has ever managed to make a go of it there.  This place might do it if the food is good, but since there was insufficient space to accommodate our group of eight, we didn’t stick around long enough to evaluate any of it.

I did notice this prominently posted sign, the first thing you see when you walk in:

No Bones About It
“We cook your food when you order it.  We recommend calling your order in eight hours in advance if you want the beef brisket.”

It’s a worthy sentiment, but not something I expect to see in a barbecue restaurant.  Maybe they’d be better off saying, “We take your meat out of the smoker when you order it.  Then we slice it and throw it on a plate with some beans and cole slaw.”  Mainly because it takes a reeeeeally looooong time to make barbecue.

Since there was no room at the inn - except for outdoor seating, which was looking like a bad option given the ominously darkening skies - we repaired to Ritter’s, right across the parking lot. In addition to serving good food at reasonable prices, Ritter’s has the advantage of being solidly built, with a back room located well away from windows.  This would become an important consideration: the reason those skies were darkening ominously was because (to use the Bakerina’s words) a rip in the space-time continuum was headed straight for us.

Rift in the Space-Time Continuum
Scary looking shit, this.

What was unusual about this line of storms was that it was oriented perpendicular to the usual direction. Weather in these parts typically travels from west to east, and storm fronts tend to be oriented on a rough diagonal from SSW to NNE. This one ran straight east-west, a horizontal slash of red and magenta on the weather maps that gradually slid southward. Yeef!

Adding to our growing anxiety level was the sound of the local tornado warning sirens in the distance... and the National Weather Service’s tornado warning, indicating that some Bad Shit was going down.  Ensconced as we were in a well protected back room, we could do nothing but sit tight and wait for our entrées as the lights flickered.

It’s a good thing we were not outside to see this, or I might have crapped a blood clot on the spot:

Scary Tornadic Thunderstorm
“Ohhh, crap.” Looking a bit too much like the Crossroads Baker atom bomb test, an EF-1 tornado slices through East Cobb, as seen in this view from the corner of Johnson Ferry Road and Roswell Road, looking north... only 7/10 of a mile away from Chez Elisson. (Photo: East Cobb Snobs.)

The storm, when it struck, manifested itself with powerful straight-line winds and a metric buttload of rain - like a cow trying to piss on a flat rock in a wind tunnel.  All we could do was to sit there and hope our homes would be intact once we were able to return to them.  Later, we would discover that we had been directly in the path of an EF-1 tornado as it skipped and skittered along the ground for several miles.

Most of us, as it happens, dodged this particular Weather-Bullet.  There were trees downed everywhere - our neighborhood took quite a few hits, including our neighbors across the street - but our trees and house were intact.  Some water was on the kitchen floor, blown under the back door’s weatherstripping by the powerful winds; we sopped that up quickly with a couple of towels.  And our garage door openers were out of commission.  A few miles to the south, our friends Barry and Malka lost a beautiful weeping willow that had sat majestically in their back yard - but at least it fell away from, not towards, their house.

Downed Trees 6-14-13
Right across the street from Chez Elisson... thank Gawd nobody was near this bad boy when it came down.

Several adjacent neighborhoods were not quite as lucky, tornadic winds having toppled trees and smashed houses and power lines.  The good news was that an EF-1 tornado does not leave behind it the kind of total destruction seen recently in Oklahoma... but that is scant comfort when there is a massive tree in your bedroom.

An enterprising individual with a chain saw and wood chipper could have made out like a bandit today.  Welcome to springtime in the South!

Update: Garage door openers have been restored to their normal functionality - for a “mere” 250 bucks (hah!).  A power surge had blown out the electric eyes that prevent the doors from closing when there is an obstruction... obnoxious, but way better than if the opener circuitry itself had been fried. Ahhh, the joys of home ownership...

Thursday, June 13, 2013


When we were in New York last week visiting Eli (hizzownself) and The Other Elisson, She Who Must Be Obeyed and the Mistress of Sarcasm made a little side trip to Whole Paycheck Foods to forage for some Lunchly Grub.

They came back with a pleasant enough array of foodstuffs, but it’s what they left behind at Whole Foods that fascinated me.  Lookee:

Ostrich Eggs!
Ostrich eggs.  Want to make an omelette?  You’re gonna need a bigger pan.

Ostrich eggs!

Those are great big bastards, indeed, and you might assume that a brace of ’em could feed a small army.  Well, maybe... but at forty bucks apiece, is an ostrich egg a good deal?


Looking at the weight and volume of its contents, one ostrich egg is roughly equivalent to two dozen chicken eggs.  That’s enough to make a great big honkin’ omelette, but if you buy an ostrich egg at Whole Foods, you’re paying about ten times the price of the same amount of garden-variety cacklefruit.  Now, I can appreciate the novelty value of eating certain things (raw whale, anyone?), but that’s a lot of money for an egg... even if it came from a cage-free ostrich raised in an environment absent hormones or antibiotics, massaged daily with Japanese beer.  Perhaps it is a reflection of the difficulty of harvesting the eggs: taking them away from a resentful mother ostrich capable of disemboweling a man with a single kick.

Me, if I want to eat weird eggs, I’ll go for caviar.  Or a raw quail egg with my ikura nigirizushi.

Wednesday, June 12, 2013


King Friday and Queen Saturday
The long-winded, egotistical King Friday XIII and his bride, the level-headed Queen Saturday... the late Fred Rogers’s perfectly imagined proxies for Yours Truly and the Missus.

Thirty-six years ago today, in the sweaty heart of Foat Wuth, Texas, She Who Must Be Obeyed and I were wed.

“Sweaty Heart,” in our case, was more than a snarky turn of phrase that (coincidentally) sounds like a popular Term of Endearment.  Heart, the extremely popular band led by sisters Ann and Nancy Wilson, was staying at the Hilton in downtown Foat Wuth the same time we were... but their weekend visit was just another stop on the road for them.  For us, that weekend was life-changing.

Since then, we have managed to deal with six household relocations, having two children and raising them to adulthood, losing two parents (SWMBO’s father and my mother), and all of the other little exigencies of life.  We have grown older together, maturing and mellowing like fine wine rather than cheese, which becomes ever more blue-veined and stinky with the passage of time.  (At least, that’s how I see it.)

Me and the Missus
Me and the Missus.

When I look into her penetrating blue-grey eyes - she can turn one of them wonky when she’s being playful - I see that same lovely young woman I first met as the year 1975 wound down to a close... with a few differences.  For, to me, she is more beautiful with every passing year.  It’s the beauty that grows out of warmth, comfort, familiarity, lack of pretense.

Thirty-six is an especially meaningful number.  If you’re buying eggs, it’s three dozen... but if you parse it with the numerological techniques of us Red Sea Pedestrians, it’s twice eighteen, a number which, when written in Hebrew, uses the same characters as the word chai (חי) - life.  Thirty-six is double chai, and what better symbol could there be of the intertwining of two lives in love and marriage?

I’m looking forward to the next thirty-six.

Tuesday, June 11, 2013


Every once in a (long) while, a piece of Pop Culture comes along that affects me on a deep emotional level, deep enough to cause me to look at the world differently.

One Sunday night in February, 1964, I saw the Beatles make their American debut on The Ed Sullivan Show.  The landscape of music was forever changed for me that night, as it was for so many others of my generation.  A mere three years later, the Beatles once again sent seismic shocks through popular culture with their release of their landmark Sergeant Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band album.

Watching Star Wars for the first time, in the summer of 1977, I marveled at the grand adventure taking place on the big screen.  The opening shot of the Starcruiser passing overhead, filling the screen with its immensity, by itself was enough to convince me that I was seeing something extraordinary.  Movies would never be the same after that.

On a more personal note, hearing (and seeing live performances of) Philip Glass’s Akhnaten - and John Adams’s Nixon in China and Doctor Atomic - cast my interests onto a whole new trajectory.  Modern opera would become a fascination, a whole new viewpoint for me... a sea change from my prior focus on 1970’s rock.

Such moments - those that so deeply impact our cultural bedrock - are rare.  But now I am pleased to present something that may have the same kind of effect on the way we all see and experience life.

Meet the Kelly Family...

No... no need to thank me.  Just enjoy!

Monday, June 10, 2013


The Other Elisson’s bestest buddy Jerry recently posted a few amusing photos on his Farcebook timeline... a collection of Honeywagon Images.

A Honeywagon is, as most of my Esteemed Readers know, an ironically named tank truck designed to pump out the contents of cesspools and septic tanks, which contents in no way, shape, or form resemble honey.  But Honeywagon sounds so much better than Shit-Truck, am I right?

If you’re making your living in that sort of business, I suppose it helps mightily if you have a sense of humor about it.  (Also, it is best if you lack a sense of smell.)

Years ago, when She Who Must Be Obeyed and I made our home in Trumbull, Connecticut, we were amused to see a honeywagon that was labeled “The Little Yellow Stool Bus.”  Here are a few other legends and slogans that have embellished similar vehicles...
  • A Flush Beats a Full House
  • Satisfaction Guaranteed - or 110% of Your Product Back!
  • Turd Burglar
  • CAUTION - This Truck Contains Obama’s Stimulous (sic) Package
  • Thanks for flushing our business down the drain
  • Yesterday’s Meals on Wheels
  • BACK OFF - We Ain’t Haulin’ Milk
  • Got Poop?
  • Your number 2 is our number 1!
And then there’s this one, which contains more than a little grain of truth:

Another Load...

What amusingly named Shit-Trucks have you seen?

Friday, June 7, 2013


The Other Elisson in the Vineyards
The Other (younger!) Elisson enjoys an afternoon amongst the vines of the North Fork of Long Island.

June 7, 2013 is customarily rendered 6-7-13 in the United States.  And, look - 6 + 7 = 13!  Isn’t that frickin’ remarkable?

OK, OK, it’s not all that big a deal.  But it is a date of significance, for it is my brother’s very own Natal Anniversary.  Fifty-seven years ago today, The Other Elisson made his first appearance at Lakeside Hospital - now long defunct - in Copiague, New York.

All these years later, I can still remember my mother, heavy with child, on her way out the door.  At the time, I must have believed she had a choice in the boy-girl matter, for I asked that she bring me back a baby brother. Somewhat to my surprise, but certainly to my great joy, she obliged me.

Like all siblings, we’ve had our ups and downs.  As kids in our Snot-Nose Years, our nearly four-year age difference meant that we alternated between ignoring each other, annoying each other, and just being brothers.  But as an adult, I’ve seen my kid brother grow into a warm-hearted, thoughtful, conscientious man, a mensch in the real meaning of that venerable Yiddish term. I am very happy to be me, but in many ways I wish I were more like him.

Alas, I cannot be with The Other Elisson to celebrate, since we are in Philadelphia enjoying the festivities surrounding Elder Daughter’s graduation from Klown Kollege the Pig Iron School for Advanced Performance Training... another reason to celebrate on this most auspicious day.  But I will raise a glass in his honor.  Happy birthday, bro!

Tuesday, June 4, 2013




Most people know Lucille Ball as the star of “I Love Lucy,” a beloved comedienne and actress who was one of the most popular and influential stars in Hollywood.

What most people don’t know is that, had it not been for Eli (Hizzownself), her career might very well have been tragically cut short.

The time: circa 1944. The place: Hollywood. Eli, a young serviceman who would soon be off to India and China, had gone to a USO dance at the Hollywood Canteen. There, they would bring actors and actresses in to dance with the troops, serve them at the bar, and otherwise keep them entertained and occupied. Eli recalls that “it was very nice to be so close to these people,” who would also do various routines on a small stage. A ramp, lined on both sides with seats for the guests, led from the audience down to the stage; as performers walked down the ramp, they would be at or below eye level with the people seated on either side.

Eli was there, next to a starlet (possibly Dorothy Malone) that he recognized as having just appeared in her first movie. The young woman was smoking a cigarette, and (as it happens) she chose the exact moment Lucille Ball walked by on the ramp to flick the butt away. The smoldering butt landed in Miss Ball’s big, puffy hairdo, where it continued to burn, a wispy plume of smoke drifting skyward. Eli, thinking quickly, reached down and plucked the cigarette from Miss Ball’s hair, with her none the wiser.

Having his head set on fire didn’t help Michael Jackson’s career one bit and may even have contributed to his early demise. It is no stretch of the imagination to assume that things would have been at least as bad for Lucille Ball - then a B-movie actress for RKO Radio Pictures - had her hair burst into flames. If Eli had not intervened, who knows what disaster might have overtaken her and her eventual career?  “Lucille Ball o’ Fire” doesn’t have nearly the same cachet as “I Love Lucy.”

Sunday, June 2, 2013


Oh, the way Glenn Miller played
Songs that made the Hit Parade
In the dust you’ll soon be laid
No more, your days

Jean Stapleton, who played Edith to Carroll O’Connor’s Archie Bunker on the groundbreaking 1970’s hit sitcom “All in the Family,” passed away yesterday at the age of 90.  Ave atque vale!