Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Tuesdays With Morrie? How 'bout Months With Menopause?

Every time I hear one of my friends from the north say they moved down here because they were tired of the harsh winters, I want to ask, "Have you ever been in South Carolina in August??" It's like Hell sends its left over heat here. As a matter of fact, wet T-shirt contests didn't originate in bars, they were just a natural progression from sweating through three sets of clothes in a day. I, therefore, love air conditioning.

For years, I kept the thermostat somewhere between 65 and 68 degrees in the summer. Walk in my house from the hot, humid, oven-baked air outside and your glasses would immediately fog over. Walk out of my house into the heat and condensation would form on your body like a mini weather system in the tropics.

But now that we're enduring "the change," my thermostatic antics seem like child's play. My temps now seem sauna like compared to those my lovely bride needs to battle hot flashes. I'm pretty sure they store corpses in a morgue at a higher temperature than we keep in our house. The kids walk around in sweats in July. I feel like I need a thermal suit and snowshoes just to reach the bed at night, and I've told Myra on several occasions that when the St. Bernard with the whiskey barrel around his neck comes looking for survivors, please point him to my side of the bed.

Is there any wonder why I get whacked in the shoulder on a regular basis?

Okay, here's today's recipe:

Crab Dip (Easy peasy, but it looks gourmet; sure to impress your friends--especially the ladies!)

1 block Creme Cheese (not the tub. Has to be the block)
1 jar of seafood cocktail sauce
1 small can of crab

Take a fancy smancy glass plate and place the opened block of creme cheese in the middle.
Cover the block with the cocktail sauce
Spread the crab over the top of the sauce

Serve with famcy smancy crackers and just wait for the compliments.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

The F Word (Which May Turn Out to Mean Food! Mind Outta the Gutter...Tsk, tsk)

I'm a fan of the Pioneer Woman, so today we're going to talk about her, young adult books, and food. First, the Pioneer Woman, a lady named Ree Drummond, was raised in Oklahoma, moved to L.A., had dreams of becoming a ballerina, and so on her way to relocating to Chicago (I think), she stopped in her hometown. While in a bar, she saw a handsome hunk of a cowboy and before she new it, she was married, gave up her grand jete' for a truck named Chevrolet, and moved out to the ranch. She began a blog and about eight months into it, she started including recipes. Now she has a NY Times bestselling cook book. So I decided to steal her idea and I'll do the same at the end of the blog. No, not fall in love with a cowboy. This ain't Brokeback Mountain. I mean include a recipe (which I see Michelle and Jessica have done, too. Pioneer Women, perhaps?)

Young adult books...I'm in the midst of writing book two in the Austin Files series (Betrayed was book one). I'm struggling with the authenticity of the dialogue and with some of the situations my characters find themselves in. A person in my writers group is also writing a young adult book. She's a very strong writer and has decided on total realism, including having her characters use profanity--including the dreaded "F" word (gasp!) She realizes with that in there, she'll never get into school libraries, but she's wondering if it's worth the risk. Opinions anyone? Fellow authors? Parents?

Finally the recipe. I'll include one with every blog now and include (if I remember) the person's name who originally gave it to me). Of course anyone can make these, but I intend them for men such as myself who are the chief cooks and bottle washers in their homes. As Myra told me on day two of our marriage, "If you wanna eat, you better learn how to cook."

The Best Fruit Dip Ever
From my friend Bill Mellin

1 tub small tub of soft creme cheese
1 cup powdered sugar
Kahlua to taste

In a bowl, mix the creme cheese and sugar. When thoroughly mixed, add about a teaspoon of Kahlua and taste the mixture. Don't let the alcohol overpower the sweetness of the other ingredients. Stir until it has the consistency of cake frosting.

Put the mixture in a small serving bowl, set it in the middle of a tray, and surround it with hard fruits like apples and pears. You can dip strawberries or spoon some of the mixture over softer fruits.


Tuesday, November 16, 2010

The G Spot

Two days ago, Alexey (my son) and I saw a commercial for T-Mobile's new 4G phone. With it, you can watch movies, television shows from the Web, send texts, check email, and have a video chat with someone who also has a 4G phone and thus video chatting capabilities (not to mention being able to annoy the crap out of everybody else in the restaurant, coffee shop, airport, bus, or train with you, your phone, and your loud mouth)

Alexey proudly announced he was quite satisfied with his 3G iPhone.

In response, I had some questions and one apparently boring soliloquy:

#1- What does the "G" stand for? Does it mean gigabyte or generation? I've never been quite clear on the concept.

#2- (and here is where I think I lost Alexey)--what's with this video chat thing? I mean, Alexander Graham Bell invented the telephone so we didn't have to be standing next to each other to talk. But with his invention we did have to stand next to the telephone waiting--sometimes endlessly--in order to to talk to the person to whom we did not want stand next to. When we could no longer stand sitting by the telephone waiting to talk to the person we no longer had to stand next to, somebody invented a cell phone. And now the cell pones have video chatting so we can "virtually' stand next to the guy we don't physically have to stand next to in order to talk to him.

So my question is, if we've come to this, why not save the radiation exposure and just go find the guy and talk to him?? It's like the phones that do the voice-to-text thing where you can dictate a TEXT message. If you're going to all that trouble, just use the damn phone to CALL the person!

When I was 12 and out playing at Clay Neal's house, as it got dark, my mother would step out on to the screened porch, cup her hands over her mouth and yell my name across the half acre of woods that separated our houses until I answered. Today, my son sends me a text message when he's ready for me to pick him up from where ever he is.

For all this introspection and history, I got from Alexey a blank stare, a "Whatever," and a "Like I said...3G does everything I need."

So much for parenting.

Friday, November 12, 2010

A New Way to Blog (For me anyway!)

My last post was three months ago at the end of August. It's tough to keep a blog audience when you're that unreliable. My apologies. I'm going to try to be more consistent, and I'm going to do that by trying a new way to blog.

A friend of mine has had great success and picked up a number of followers by sticking to three topics, so I thought I might travel down that road. I like politics (or rather making fun of politicians). I like writing about my kids. And I suppose I should do some stuff on writing and books since that's the impetus for having a blog in the first place. I promise to try to be funny (What did the girl from West Virginia say on her honeymoon? "Not so hard Daddy or you'll crush my Malboros!")--my friend, Shalee, says that's a sick joke, and she's not even from West Virginia--or at least poignant.

So let's try politics first:

"No nation ever taxed itself into prosperity." Ronald Reagan

"We've demonized taxes. We've created almost the idea that they're a metaphysical evil. It's rank demagoguery. To stand before the public and rub raw this anti-tax sentiment, the Republican Party, as much as it pains me to say this, should be ashamed of themselves." Former Reagan budget director David Stockman.

I used to say that if I could keep the Democrats out of my wallet and the Republicans out of my bedroom, I'd be a happy man. When Bill met Monica, Newt Gingrich dumped his cancer stricken wife while she was in the hospital, and Sanford trekked the Appalachian Trail all the way to Argentina, the "party of values" tag line died for both groups. So that leaves us to talk about taxes.

The Republican mantra has been to limit government and to leave money in the taxpayers' pockets so they can decide how to best spend it. In South Carolina, we tried that with Act 388 that slashed property taxes for school funding and replaced it with a penny sales tax. The result? A massive loss of school dollars, teacher furloughs, staff layoffs, larger class sizes, and a moratorium on building depserately needed new schools.

Mark Sanford limited our government all right, and his limits threw hundreds, if not thousands, of mentally ill people out of residential treatment and onto the streets. And it's only the legislature that has kept him from destroying public and higher education.

We could easily cut all our taxes, but you might want to rethink that as your fat-cat ass is having a heart attack and no ambulance comes to take you to the ER because nobody funded emergency services--those damn evil taxes!

Want some tax cuts? Here are a few suggestions: Let's not give a football coach a taxpayer-funded $100,000 bonus for doing what should be his job every season--winning the SEC East--while at the same time you're laying off adjunct faculty.

When you're looking for a way to fund public transportation in the city, let's not pay a consulting firm $100,000 taxpayer dollars for suggestions any of your riders could have given you for free.

When you're laying off city workers, increasing their insurance premiums, and stealing away their vacation, perhaps you could eliminate the job that has a person riding around in neighborhoods leveling fines for simply leaving trash roll carts out past 7:30 pm on the day of service. (We have an actual city ordinance prohibiting it).

Tourism is the number one industry in this state, but the City of Columbia, in an effort to get tourist dollars, has a poor history of pouring bucket loads of taxpayer money into losing ventures and putting citizens in the position of making up the difference so that the entrepreneurs who should be taking the risks don't lose money. Do the Three Rivers Music Festival (never made a profit), Air South (bankrupt), MayFest (tanked),  or the city-financed hotel (illegal) ring a bell?

And what about the $30 million in taxpayer funds S.C. State University got to build the Clyburn Transportation Center, which was supposed to be completed TWELVE years ago. The missing money is now under a state police investigation. Lovely.

Now please, my dear elected officials, tell me again how so very hard it is to find places to cut your budgets.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Having a Right vs. Doing Right

The Mosque--or rather, Muslim Activity Center--at Ground Zero. I've decided to join in on the side of tolerance. This is the United States, after all, by God. All of us have First Amendment rights, so if Ms. Khan wants to build a mosque within a block of the worst terrorist attack in the history of this country, so be it.

In fact, I have taken inspiration from Ms. Khan, Imam What's-his-name, and Mayor Bloomberg and would like to proudly announce my plans for a Ku Klux Klan Activity Center on some property I own adjacent to the Lorraine Motel in Memphis where Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King was gunned down.

It will be a place of inclusion where all of our interactive demonstrations will be taught in a purely historical rather than social context. I mean, who wouldn't benefit from learning how to properly tie a noose--strictly for demonstration purposes, of course.

Come on by for a burger and fries at our historically segregated lunch counter where you can pay with cash printed by Jews who control all the banks. In the fall, we'll have S'mores melted by the fire of a burning cross!

So  my snide comments aside, here's what confuses me. If a young girl is continually molested by a man and she grows distrustful of men, perhaps even unable to have an intimate relationship, people GET that. There are volumes upon volumes of literature in psychiatry journals that explain why she'll NEVER trust men.

But if I distrust Ms. Khan and the Imam because I can't get out of my head the horrific image of those planes flying into the World Trade Center buildings--an attack done in the name of radical Islam, I might add--or the buildings themselves literally melting into dust, then I am being insensitive. Me? Right?

I read some whiny letter the other day that said, "It's like distrusting all Christians because of what Timothy McVeigh did. YOU wouldn't do THAT, would you? Wah, wah, wah..."

The hell I wouldn't. I distrust anybody who uses religion to justify something that otherwise CAN'T BE JUSTIFIED!

But I guess we're back at square one...we'll just have to agree to disagree. Nah...I'm with you. I'm tolerant now. Say, if the KKK thing takes off, my next project is a Museum of American Bomb Making on a lot I just bought in Hiroshima...

Whether it's right or not, it's my right.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Just Sayin'

I looked through my SPAM folder the other day...over 100 messages. The thought occurred to me that we could cut our spam in half if someone would come up with an organization that could offer me a HUGE PENIS and a degree in medical coding at the same time. Just sayin'...

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Patriots and Demigods

I am a writer. I interview people. I write down what they say, throw in some twenty-five-dollar adjectives, and a magazine prints it. It can be a yeoman-like way to make a dollar, I admit, but every once in a while it provides a benefit beyond measure—I get to be in the presence of heroes.

There have been three times in my life that I have been around people when it dawned on me during the conversation that I had no right to be in the same room or breathe the same air.

The first time was when I interviewed Charles Murray, a WWII veteran and recipient of the United States of America’s highest award, the Medal of Honor. The second was when I spoke with Dr. Everett Dargan, an African-American cardiologist. Dr. Dargan is smarter than half the people in all of South Carolina, yet when he finished his medical training in the 60s, he couldn’t even walk in the back door of the “white hospital.” But he persevered, and despite an oppressive environment and monumental sacrifices, he established one of the finest cardiology practices in the state and has become a sought out mentor and medical school professor.

The third time occurred this past Saturday evening.

I attended the Palmetto Patriots Ball sponsored by the Midlands Chapter of the Blue Star Mothers; patriotic, upstanding, forthright women who also bear the unfathomable burden of having children in the military deployed on foreign soil. These soldiers, sailors, airmen, Marines, and Coast Guardsmen are the bravest South Carolina has to offer. Surrounded by their mothers who are rightfully proud of their children, but who, at the same time tread upon a precipice of fear for their safety, I quickly surmised where these men and women in uniform inherited their bravery. I’m a mama’s boy of the first magnitude. I can sense these things.

At the dinner I was flanked by Gold Star Mothers as well. These are members of the Blue Star group whose children have died in the service of our country, who, as Abraham Lincoln put it, gave “their last full measure of devotion” to make you and me free. The emcee, the gracious and classy local news anchor Hannah Horne, recognized the families and read aloud the names of their fallen loved ones. A staff sergeant at my table and a Marine captain at the table next to me, both in full, formal dress uniforms, broke down in tears. So did I.

I did not deserve to be in the company of these distinguished men and women—these heroes.

I’m often told that, because I have taken on the mantle of a writer of “young adult” fiction, my blog should reflect topics that address and capture issues meaningful to them. Not so much on the flip side of that coin, but perhaps on the periphery is a piece of advice my good friend and fellow author Shannon Greenland gave me once when I asked her about writing for young adults: Never underestimate the intelligence or sophistication of your audience.

I have taken Shannon’s advice, and each time I speak to a group of young people, I try my best to respect that advice and talk to them like fellow adults. So here it goes boys and girls, some hard lessons—my glass slipper—that I took from my night at the ball…my night among patriots and demigods.

• These fighting men and women don’t endure 105 degree heat so that we can drop out of school, lie around on our butts and let our parents or the government take care of us. They fight so we have economic justice, an opportunity to succeed.

• These men and women don’t live in the sand so that we can trade or use drugs, get high and not give a damn about ourselves or the lives we impact by stupid behavior. They volunteer to be away from home so that we have the freedom to pursue our American dreams. The average time of deployment, by the way, for WWII fighters was eight months out of four years of enlistment. For Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan, it’s 45 months out of 48.

• These Gold Star Mothers didn’t sacrifice a child they raised from infancy so that we could feel free to engage in politically polarized infighting, to smear our opponents, to accuse another of being unpatriotic simply because we disagree with their ideology. Their children died in the desperate hope that their deaths would mean something, that we would come together as one nation...one nation of people with disparate beliefs and customs and cultures, but one nation whose people are, again quoting Lincoln, “dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.” As I recall, someone once summed the concept up as “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.”

• With so many in the world who despise the freedom of expression and economic opportunity that Western culture represents, our military service men and women have taken the fight to our enemies rather than having our enemies visit us here. In return, don’t you believe we should quit spilling each others’ blood in gang fights and drug wars, or because our egos won’t let us walk away from a meaningless fight?

• Our service members didn’t leave home in hopes that we would honor them. They left to fulfill a duty, to answer a higher calling, to defend our liberties. Saying thank you is not enough recompense, but I realize that there is no way in the world to repay the debt we owe these courageous men and women…and above all the mothers who unselfishly lent them to our service so that we might be free. Perhaps the best way to try to repay them is to live our lives in a way that honors, rather than defies, their sacrifice.

Beside my plate at the banquet table lay a medallion that read, “If you can’t stand behind our troops, feel free to stand in front of them.”

I stand behind them not only out of gratitude, but because to stand in front of them would require their kind of courage, a brand I’m not sure I have; and especially not the brand their mothers, who have given the best of themselves, possess.

So to my Citadel family Russ Mease, Allen Blume, Dave Eubanks, Marc Gould, Ken and Alison Sigmon, Ken Riddle, Dean Costas, Mike Sammons, Verne Prosser; to Stuart Epting and Andy Nesbit; to my brother Mike Morton; to all of you who have put on a uniform and served so valiantly so that I can live my life in peace…thank you. And especially to your mothers, thank you. God bless you. I do not deserve to breathe the same air.