They Think He’s Gangster Number One

Like a record, baby, right round.

My nephew Tyler is Daria’s older son. He is 12. When I plunk down on the couch at their house, Tyler plunks down next to me and tries out his comic material, continuing the family tradition of regarding anyone not actively fleeing as a captive audience. It helps if you’ve already stolen the car keys and hidden them in the guest bathroom, which trick I should probably tell him I invented and please knock it off. Anyway, Tyler is starring in his middle school’s musical this weekend. It’s a rite of passage for us. Everyone must pass through music and dance and school plays and community theater and study, study, study. So this is very exciting for the whole family. Pete and I, Anya and Corinne and three of their children have tickets for tomorrow’s show, where no one should be surprised when we do the wave. Or selections from Cole Porter.

That’s the Way It Seemed

Perhaps you’ve heard that groovy Davy Jones died. My inner seven year old is heartbreaky!

Yesterday, my mother’s father died. He was 99-1/2 years old, lived a fascinating, mysterious and sometimes tragic life often at history’s many crossroads. I will miss him for the rest of my life, of course, but about every six hours, my mother calls and makes an unexpected request. She’s lost two elderly relatives in very short order and Mom’s a trifle exhausted. This morning, I tried explaining to her renting a hearse is a pointless expense because we are NOT going all Weekend At Bernie’s: Lower Cape Boogaloo. This was an even less successful joke than it at first appears because my mother doesn’t go to the movies and detests Hawaiian shirts. This afternoon’s question was if I would write an obituary. I stuttered the truth: I would have to know more than I do to write about him, but I would try if that’s what we needed. This evening’s question: would I research Scottish funeral customs? Well, sure. That’s not tough.

Funeral procession

The funeral procession commenced at 3:00 p.m. Processions were traditionally on foot, a custom that persisted into the 20th century. The coffin was carried by eight men at a time, with all of the men of the community having the chance to help carry it. The procession was usually solemn but it could also be wild. Due to excessive drinking at the feast by the men, unexpected events occurred. Sometimes the procession would lose the coffin or even get in fights with other funeral processions which were headed toward the same churchyard.

Rest stops were at places where ‘cairns’ were built for resting the coffin. At each of these stops, for resting, switching pall bearers, or sharing whisky, the men would throw a stone at the side of the road as a tokin. Even today one sees these heaps of stones by the roadside.

Yeah, we’re not doing that. There’s this:

An old funeral rite from the Scottish Highlands is to bury the deceased with a wooden plate resting on his chest. The plate contained a small amount of earth and salt to represent the future of the deceased. The earth signified the decaying of the body to become one with the earth while the salt represented the soul, which did not decay. This rite is known as “earth laid upon a corpse”.

I’ll mention that to Mom. Cape Cod’s ecosystem is delicate and conservation is important. We’re not having Grandpa embalmed because embalming contributes toxins to groundwater that make a mess of people and critters, both of which Grandpa liked. But I guess we’re contributing Grandpa to the ecosystem, so maybe a little salt won’t hurt.

It’s really amazing what you think of when you’re trying to avoid thinking about bagpipers playing inside a confined space with good acoustics.

When the Heat Dies Down

Photo: Doug Vizthum. Used by permission.

I would like to write about food for our acquaintance again tonight, but I’m limp with exhaustion from making my own. It’s 10 p.m. and I’ve just socked away yogurt into the warming contraption and roasted brussel sprouts are cooling for tomorrow’s lunch. Yes, both of those would work within our structure. Nice of you to notice!

This sign currently adorns the front of the now-closed bar. At some point in the future, I imagine I will be able to talk about the feelings this sign inspired, but right now, I simply can’t. I’m afraid if I start, I won’t stop or I’ll remember how much anger I had or how much I miss that life or I’ll realize once I left there never was any going back. Yep, I can’t think about that now. I’ve got work to do and I’m through sleeping on the sidewalk.

Better Run Better Run

The more I cast about in the online jarring and preserving communities, the less I understand. Or the more I feel like I skipped rehearsal and the orchestra’s tuning up, you decide. I am deeply insecure! So in a fit of bubble-wrapped homework turning-in anxiety, I sent a box of jarred objets to Ninstrel Boy for sampling, critiquing and recipe-stomping, including a jar I’ve been meaning to mention.

Recent developments in food safety protocols seem to have sent recipe writers over the edge. If you can figure out what’s going on here you’re smarter than me. This includes the mysterious pronouncement:

It is acceptable to leave the seeds in the tomatoes. This is the only thing to do when you are canning the tomatoes whole. You can always remove the seeds later with a food mill when you are cooking with the tomatoes. Or, you can ignore the seeds and leave them in.

Dahhhhhlink, lay off the cooking sherry, I beg of you. No one’s getting any smarter over here. Over here, on the other hand, you can learn a lot if you don’t mind feeling like you’ve wandered into the Twin Peaks Test Kitchen. The most straightforward treatment I’ve seen so far comes from those irresistible homebodies at Well Preserved, including good photographs of their work. Then there’s this post, wherein the Well Preservers describe how some tomato canners are plumb crazy.

Oh look, an interminable musical interlude.

The eighties weren’t kind to a lot of people and hairstyles. That much seems certain. This past summer, I read everything I could find about jarring tomatoes, compared recipes, warnings and processing times and methods. Even I was bored! Then I did the simplest thing you can imagine, unless you thought I’d give up. That might have been pretty simple, you’re right. But about me, I thought the simple thoughts and did the simple things.

Heirloom tomatoes, sliced in half top to bottom. Laid out on a lined baking dish. Use foil or a Silpat or parchment, trust me.

Sprinkled lightly with olive oil and a smidge of salt.

Oven: 350 degrees until tomatoes start to soften.

Boil jars, heat lids.

Remove tomatoes from oven, put into big metal or ceramic bowl, cover for five minutes.

Slide tomatoes out of skins and into jars. Add 1 tbsp lemon juice to pint or 2 tsp to 8 oz jars.

Process for 35 minutes for pints and 25 minutes for 8 oz jars.

They taste like tomatoey sunshine. So I sent a jar of this to Minstrel Boy and, fingers crossed, he likes it and doesn’t grow a second head to argue with, though tomatoes seem to provide us with plenty to argue about.

Meaning Not Where They Come From

Last Thursday afternoon, I was tooling around in my car and slapped the radio’s on button. The signal was inexplicably tuned to WDHA, which calls itself “the Rock Of New Jersey.” I didn’t even hear the beginning of the bumper, but the DJ asked, “Have you heard the new Theory of a Deadman single? It is sooooooooooo funny.” And this is what he played.

Then I was finished with WDHA forever. Further, it is my fond hope that women everywhere avoid the prime specimens of douchetastic doodhood that are Theory of a Deadman.

Faster Than My Bullet

Sean’s been playing these two songs on Altrok Radio. I listen to Altrok all day at work and mostly pay attention to my work. Now and then, a song grows on me like a thing that – uh – grows a lot. I recognize this has happened when I stop what I’m doing to find out artists and titles. This week, I was surprised to like two songs like things I really – uh – like a lot.

The video does this dark, perky song no favors. The boys do nothing for me. The song, though, is fresh and interesting, yet recalls the underground New Wave stuff of about 1983. Also good: when I looked up the lyrics – because I have a short attention span – I knew instantly middle aged people would find themselves humming this in dentists’ office without the slightest hint of what it was about and that is ACES.

This song is more complex, for one thing: you have little more than your imagination to work with, but please do give it a try:

I looked up the lyrics because – right – no attention span. It’s about the breakup so bad you know you might die. In classical dream imagery, losing one’s teeth is dreaming one’s death; the writer knows that. Points for smarts! Where else does this song score? Points for reminding us of Joan Armatrading; points for those high, clear piano notes reminiscent of Bronski Beat’s Smalltown Boy; points for surviving long enough to record a decent pop song! The trying trying trying phrases sound like the tortured fever dream songs out of London in the early eighties, so once again: middle aged people will be humming in dentist offices without a clue. I love surprises.