Posts Tagged ‘Family’

Many people don’t realize what a big state Florida is. Nine hour drive overnight from Miami to where I am right now, trying to update this blog using my parent’s old Windows 98 machine.  Sorry for the typos, but  I can only see about half of what I’m typing so this should be innaresting.

Anyway… add about 4 more hours to the drive if you were doing the full state from Key West to Pensacola.  It’s as bad as Nebraska.  (Not really…)

Came up with my son for a 4-day visit.  These visits are always a bitter-sweet thing (my mom handles the sweet and my dad covers the bitter) but they do okay for 85 and 89 (not saying much — although the old man was helping me dig a hole in the back yard so we could chainsaw some tree roots,  and he can still handle a shovel… not that the though of clobbering him with it hasn’t crossed my mind a few times.  And the chainsaw and  hole would have been a convenience.

Considering that he lives on sausage and coffee he’s in  pretty good shape.  I guess piss and vinegar keep keep it from congealing in his veins.

Hate to leave, but can’t wait to get back home.


My mother-in-law has been a resident of the HoJay Hilton since January. Her birthday (85) is tomorrow so my sister-in-law flew down for a surprise (and an escape from the Chicago weather.)

Mom and the girls were going through some old keepsakes, and she pulled out some notes that her late husband had left for her when they were newlyweds. He had a penchant for naming things.

I think the situation in those days was that she made his lunch before she went to work, and he came home for lunch. I’m paraphrasing here…

Hi Snooky,

Lunch was great today.

Can’t wait to curl up with Rosie and Josie, my two brown-nosed babies!

Papa Bear

The girls were confused. They had five girls, but no Rosies or Josies.

One look at “Snooky’s” embarrassed face and it became obvious.

Yep. Rosie and Josie were her titties.

Just got back from my “vacation.”

Spent the week up at Mexico Beach, FL, visiting my parents. (It’s a 9 hour drive from Miami — people from out of state don’t realize how big the state is. Key West to Pensacola’s about 14 hours.) I must have truck driver blood, because I enjoy the night-time drive up, especially after you leave I-10 in Tallahassee and hit the two lanes. Saw 18 deer along the way, didn’t hit a single one.

Dad’s 89 and Mom’s 85, so things are… Hell, it’s like sliding down the rabbit hole. Crazy, crazy, crazy. Mom’s deaf as a post, doesn’t move around so good. Physically, the old man’s a little better. I think he’s too damn ornery to die, neither heaven nor hell would want a goddamn thing to do with him. Mentally, he’s slipping a bit (although he’s always been nuts,) biggest problem is spending money he doesn’t have. So, we spent a lot of time going over bills and budgets. Fun stuff.

Overall, though, I was pretty pleased with how they’re doing. Knock-knock-knock on wood.

Also did some major cleaning. Mom rarely throws anything out, but when she does try to give something away, he gives her a hard time — he thinks he can sell it at a garage sale (one of his delusions.) Mrs. James and I (she deserves a Nobel peace prize for her work over the past week) helped her “liquidate” a shitload of worthless assets. You can now walk through the house without tripping. Pretty much.

Saturday was tree trimming day. They have live oaks overhanging the house, and some of the branches were getting too low. I chain sawed and dragged wood all day long and I’m sore as hell but I’m glad I did it. There’s actually some light hitting the house now.

A little bit of good writing news, I submitted a 100 word version of an earlier flash piece to Necrotic Tissue (see links) and they accepted it. Pretty cool for an impromptu thing. It’s called “Tracks” and will appear in their next issue.

Raised on Grits

Posted: June 24, 2008 in Uncategorized
Tags: , , ,

A couple of posts back, I rehashed some of my rich culinary experiences at Uncle Jarzey’s house. My explorations of the rodent and amphibian wings of the House of Meat might have gone better if I’d been less familiar with the subjects in their pre-dinner plate condition. Who knows? Maybe my massive hard-on for bacon would go soft if I had to hack it out of a hog belly.

It’s safe to say that with southern cuisine (as practiced in my family, anyway) ignorance can be a very good thing.

One thing you need to understand about HoJames is that although I came up in baby-boom central, the ‘burbs of Chicago of the 60’s and 70’s, I still had ties to the old country: Mississippi.

I was a rock-and-roll-loving suburban longhair freak, but I was raised on grits and biscuits. Every time I went out for breakfast and was forced to settle for hash browns, it reminded me that although I had ancestors in the country from the early 1700’s, I was a stranger in a strange land.

Grits, red-eye gravy, country ham, sausage patties (fried to black crunchiness), pancakes with cane syrup and Grandma’s home-made pear preserves. Them’s good eats.

There was also a dish Mom made every few weeks: Grains and Eggs. They were basically just scrambled eggs, but with what I thought was some kind of tasty cereal cooked in.

I chowed down on it for many a Sunday breakfast, until that fateful and uncharacteristically curious day when I asked, “Hey Mom, what kind of grains are these, exackly?”

She looked at me funny. “No, hon, it’s not grains. It’s brains. Pig brains.”

I think I may have turned a few different colors. “Brains? Like inside of a head? A pig’s head? Ewww!”

“But you always liked ’em before.”

That was over forty years ago and I haven’t had them since. After finding out what’s actually in that that piggy neurology, it was a wise decision.
(The circled ingredient shows 3500 mg of cholesterol, 1170% of the MDR.)

In case you’re looking to try ’em yourself, I found a similar recipe on some good old boy North Carolina Congressman’s website. I present the Honorable Howard Coble’s Favorite Breakfast “Brains N’ Eggs”. Serve with angioplasty kit.

While researching the subject, I found an article about hog butchering that gives me a delightfully grisly way to kill someone in a future story. Take one human head, apply a few hundred psi of compressed air to contents, and stand back. Guess you might cal it… cerebral.

My Uncle Jarzey (for James Harvey) had three thumbs.

His right hand bore the brunt of his affliction. It wasn’t like two separate digits that he could wiggle around. It was more like one big Siamese thumb with two thumbnails. It looked kind of like a fat, stubby wing.

You mostly noticed it when you sat to his right at the dinner table and he passed you the lima beans. That big old thumb would be plopped there on the edge of the bowl, right in your face. As far as deformed digits go, it was relatively attractive.

He was the youngest in my Mom’s family, and was the last one to make a go at farming. Growing up with that chicken leg on his hand probably brought him a lot of grief as a kid, and I think he developed his pre-emptive conversational technique has a way to avoid unwanted attention.

“You got an ass like a nigger washwoman.” This was one of the trademark witticisms he slid my way more than a few times during my sensitive pre-pube (and obviously, pre-PC) years. “Moptop,” he called me in my long-haired days. I didn’t feel singled out, though, because he always had a wise-ass attack for everyone. He was taller than anyone in the family, with an acne-scarred face, wispy black hair and a perpetual layer of agriculture under his fingernails. We shared a birthday and he had a semi-wild quality that I loved.

Surprises were the name of the game at Uncle Jarzey’s place in Southeastern Missouri, and nowhere more than at the kitchen table.

Fried squirrel, for one. He loved to hunt squirrel. We arrived for a visit once, and there were three of the arboreal rodents spread out on his cleaning table, stiff as boards. I picked one up and the blood ran all up my arm. I liked squirrels, was a huge Rocky and Bullwinkle fan at the time, and was moderately freaked out. I can still see those crispy little fried legs pointing up at me from my dinner plate. I filled up on the potato salad that night.

Rodent dinner was child’s play compared to the Great Illinois Frog expedition.

In the summer of 1969 (sounds like a song title,) I came down and spent a month on his farm. I was fifteen. It was one of the most memorable times of my life. Lot of the usual farm stuff, he worked me pretty hard. One night, I joined him and a couple of his buddies on a midnight foray across state lines to hunt frogs. This was not a lawful expedition, although I don’t remember what law exactly we were breaking. Escorting amphibians across state lines?

We were armed with flashlights, buckets, gigs — big forks on long wooden poles — and a .22 rifle. I never expressed an interest in harpooning frogs. As a kid, I was the family critter collector, a hunter of amphibians and reptiles, and although they usually died while in my care, I never had any desire to kill them outright. But my Uncle was old school: you couldn’t truly love an animal unless you’d eaten it.

We arrived at a farm and headed out to the pond. The pond was an enormous croak generator. The sound was otherworldly, and by the time we were in the cattails it was deafening.

Supposedly, if you shined the light in the frog’s eye, they wouldn’t move, so the challenge was to “fix” the frog with the light, move within gigging range, and then jab the sucker. My strategy was to stay close to whoever was shooting the .22, thinking it was the best way to not get shot in the dark.

I didn’t have much luck, and after seeing a few fat bullfrogs twitching on the end of a fork, I didn’t try very hard. I mostly just held the light for the others and watched the guy with the .22.

We must have bagged 60 or more, tossed, in every possible stage of disembowelment, into a big gunnysack. I remember lifting the heavy pulsing bag into the trunk. “Make sure to put a good knot on it, Moptop. I don’t want Marion to bitch about frog guts in the trunk when she goes to the grocery store tomorrow.”

The conspirators split up the treasure, and then the real fun began.

Even in death, frogs do not easily give up their legs.

I went with my uncle to the garage, aka frog processing plant. He brought a knife, a pair of lineman’s pliers, a pot, and a carton of Morton’s salt. I brought the bag of frogs.

We sat on the garage floor. I’d give him a frog. The process was something like this:

  1. make cut across frog’s back
  2. grab skin with pliers
  3. pull skin down like pair of pants
  4. sever spinal cord above pelvis
  5. remove feet
  6. toss legs in pot
  7. repeat

There was one complication with the technique: the frog was still alive. Or, they were dead, but not all of its parts had yet gotten the message. News travels slowly in the amphibian nervous system.

I don’t remember if I made it through the whole bag with him. It’s all a blur of blood, bulging eyeballs and the unique sshlipf-ing sound of skin removal. There was one more step in the preparation process I do remember, however.

He had laid the little leg pairs on a baking sheet, and salted them. They started to kick.

I think that ended of it for me. At dinner, I took a few bites, made the standard comment about them tasting like chicken and my digestive system shut down until breakfast. I think he had the leftovers for lunch the next day. He offered me one off his plate. “You might like ’em better without the kick.”

“No, you go ahead. You did all the work, you deserve ’em.”

Next episode: Brains and Eggs

Web Presence?

Posted: May 19, 2008 in Uncategorized
Tags: ,

Some people at the Barfin’ Nipple (my term of endearment for Barnes and Noble) told me that if I want to make it as a writer, I need a web presence.

I thought that was funny. My grammy used to have a web presence all over her trailer, and she used to make us kids climb up on the furniture and swoosh all the webs down with Daddy Bill’s old socks. We’d cough and sneeze from the snowstorm of Chesterfield-flavored dust that filled the place like a dingy snowglobe, but we’d always have fun whacking each other with those big old stinky socks.

I hope my Web Presence is half as entertaining as hers.

Since I’m not baking y’all cookies, I wouldn’t count on that.