Thursday, September 29, 2011


I recently noticed that Denny’s and IHOP are featuring “All-You-Can-Eat Pancakes.” Now, if that’s not reaching to the bottom of the advertising barrel, I don’t know what is. 


First of all, the breakfasts at these two establishments -- and let’s face it, they are just analogs of each other -- are gargantuan. By the time one finishes with the Giant Omelet from Hell, bacon, sausage, ham, hash browns, and grits, -- who wants pancakes? The pancakes are there just to make the plate look bigger. 

Who are these people who aren’t getting enough pancakes anyway? Was there a soaring demand for unlimited discs of cheap, griddled batter? 

For one thing, I’m not a breakfast eater. Never have been. Even as a little kid, my breakfast request was usually, “Just a cup of coffee, thank you.”  (Seriously) But I have to admit that I occasionally enjoy a big Denny’s breakfast – at noon. I think, maybe, I’ve eaten half a pancake from the giant pile of discs accompanying my Grand Slam. But that’s it. 

The only people I can imagine taking advantage of the All-You-Can-Eat Pancake Special are families who might have several teen-age boys. They’re bottomless pits and filling them up can be quite challenging. Otherwise, I just can’t envision hoards of folks banging their forks on the tables for more pancakes. 

Still, I’m sure this advertisement has worked its wonders. After all, we really are an All-You-Can-Eat kind of nation -- one that certainly doesn't need to be eating all we can eat.

But Pancakes? If it was All-You-Can-Eat Bacon, I might be singing a different tune. 

Otherwise, I’ll just have a cup of coffee, thank you.

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Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Culinary Proclivities

Yesterday’s episode of Anderson Cooper’s talk show featured people with strange eating habits, including Cooper himself. For example, he eats very few food items and when he finds a meal he likes, he’ll eat that same meal, day after day, month after month. Right now, it’s roast turkey and two sides of corn from Boston Market.

The program also featured two women who’ve only eaten potatoes for over fifty years. Can you imagine that? Nothing but French fries and hash browns for 50 years.

I thought, “My gosh, these people are messed up!” That is, until I took a look at my own eating habits and even had some pointed out to me.

I don't eat breakfast or dessert. The idea of piling in food the first thing in the morning or after a meal just doesn't appeal to me.
Ever since I was a kid, I’ve always eaten one thing at a time; never taking a bite of this and a bite of that. I just don’t like mixing things up. Big deal.

But, at home, I realized that I only eat one food item for every meal. Pasta and marinara sauce is one food item. Pizza. A sandwich. Lentil curry and rice. I would never make, say, roast chicken with potatoes, a vegetable and a salad for a meal. I don’t think I’d even enjoy it. However, I could put veggies in the tomato sauce that is served over pasta.

Another proclivity of mine that Miss Healthypants pointed out to me is that I never eat the last bite of anything. “Well, yeah. That last bite is just . . . nasty,” I replied. I never really thought about it, but the last bite of anything just seems, well, nasty or contaminated. I don’t know why.

The strangest food aversion I have is that I won’t use my fingers to eat anything oily. French fries, pizza, chicken all get the knife-and-fork treatment. Popcorn is eaten with a spoon or, better yet, with latex gloves. Seeing people eat honey barbecue wings on a commercial? It sends shivers down my spine. I have to look away.

As I’m typing this, I have a little bowl of roasted peanuts with a plastic spoon beside me.

So, I can’t rail at anyone on TV about their food habits. I have them. I suppose we all do to some extent.

And if I’m ever in New York and take Anderson Cooper out for lunch, I’ll know to head for Boston Market. 

He'll appreciate that.

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Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Inclusive Language

Back in the mid-eighties, I was an organist and music director at a non-denominational church in Austin, Texas. Being somewhat progressive, the clergy at this church were really into “inclusive language.” It was the new thing. Gone were the verbal shackles of a male-dominated spirituality.

God was no longer referred to as “he”, just God. The words “lord” and “master” and “king” were verboten, for they had connotations of an oppressed society. (Referring to Jesus as “he” was questionable since Jesus was really God, you know.) The phrase, “washed me whiter than snow” was changed to “purer than snow.”

The hymn texts were edited and re-printed in each Sunday bulletin. I became pretty adept and creative at this editing process. Texts to choral music were also changed. Over time, the choral arrangements had all the ‘him’s’ and ‘kings’ crossed out with less offensive words penciled in.

Now that we’re firmly implanted in the 21st century, I think we’ve come a full circle regarding inclusive language; at least we have in the church were I currently sing. I find it all terribly interesting.

The Episcopal church where I’m a member is so progressive, so inclusive, that we’re beyond having to change the verbiage to reflect it. It’s almost as if we’re saying, “Changing ‘he’ to ‘God’ in the music? Oh, that is so retro; so twentieth century!”

We know it. At this point, we’d rather keep the integrity of the music intact and perform it as the composer wrote it. Our priorities have changed.

So, during rehearsals, whenever we come across penciled in words with the ‘he’ crossed over, our erasers come out and we expunge the vestiges of when people had to be “included.”

They’re all included now; at least they are in the Episcopal Church. We no longer have to herald it in the music.

For that reason, it’s pretty refreshing to sing “he” again.


Friday, September 23, 2011

Wild Hog Bursts Into Local Whataburger

I’m still laughing over this newspaper report from my little bitty home town in Texas (pop. 1,900)

It seems that a large, wild pig escaped from a trailer while being transported, bashed through the front glass doors at a local restaurant, frightening the staff and patrons. It finally ran behind the counter, a worker opened the back door and it ran out.

Now, you might think that livestock wreaking havoc in public places might be an isolated event in my home town, but you’d be wrong. Very wrong.

In May of 1976, my home town was conducting a Bicentennial celebration, part of which was to acknowledge the local longhorn cattle industry in the area. So, the town officials decided it would be a good idea to march about a hundred head of longhorn cows through the town square to commemorate its heritage.

Here came the longhorns into the town square, herded by real, live cowboys. The announcer heralded their arrival over the loudspeaker which, if you know anything about cows, caused instant terror among them.

Apparently, cows hate loudspeakers and they began a stampede around the town square. The cowboys and townspeople scattered everywhere, fleeing the onslaught of longhorns which had been our heritage for the past two centuries.

I was not there for some reason. I was home alone, but my mother, brother and grandmother were there and remember it well. The Stampede became an annual event in my hometown after that, only without any cows.

Here’s a photo from the local paper:

About 30 miles up the road is the small town where my dad and stepmother have lived for 40 years. That town’s heritage is turkey farming (not longhorns.) Back in the turkey heyday, the turkey farmers found that the best way to get thousands of turkeys to the market was to simply herd them down main street.

I’m not kidding! Here’s a photo of it:

So, that event became the annual Turkey Trot. I remember marching with my high school band in the Turkey Trot every year.

So, you can imagine my laughter upon hearing that a giant, wild pig burst through the front doors of a local burger joint.

That was just typical life in my neck of the woods.

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Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Size Doesn't Matter

As a society, I think we’ve become rather schizophrenic regarding the size of things. We can’t make up our minds whether bigger or smaller is better. Both seem to be de rigueur.

Take, for example, the television. Gone are the days of the simple 19-inch screen. Flat screen TVs are getting so large that man-caves are designed to accommodate 72-inch behemoths. We’re obsessed with bigger-is-better when it comes to our TV viewing.

Then you have the cell phone. Year after year, smaller and lighter seems to be the name of the game. And they can do everything, including – are you ready for this – storing and playing four hundred hours of TV viewing.

Oh, we just love the fact that we can watch TV on a cell phone the size of a Tic Tac.

We can’t make up our minds.

Another example: Women’s bosoms and automobiles.

During the seventies, 95 percent of teenage boys had the iconic poster of Farah Fawcett thumb-tacked on their bedroom walls. (The other five percent were admiring their sisters’ posters of Erik Estrada.)

And look at her little bosom.

Small, pert, and natural. The cars we drove reflected the same trend. Pintos, Gremlins, baby Hondas, all reflected our desire for economy.

And look at them nowadays. Bosoms and SUVs are the same: Puffed up, oversized, and enhanced way out of proportion. Everywhere you look, there are these ridiculous, puffy breasts and SUVs.

In three decades, there are going to be lots of women with sagging, skinny bodies but top-heavy buxom bosoms. Meanwhile, the SUVs of the early 21st century will look as ridiculous as a 1976 AMC Pacer.

Mark my words.

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Monday, September 19, 2011

Evening Scene - State Street Begger

I took this photo of this clever fellow on State Street tonight and gladly gave him five dollars. I will ALWAYS support witty humor whenever it appears.


Morning Scene - Smallville

These vehicles are props for the Superman/Smallville movie that’s currently being filmed here in downtown Chicago. While not in use, they’re squirreled away in this lower-level back alley.

During the summer months, movie scenes are often filmed here. I can honestly say that any movie that’s filmed in downtown Chicago is probably one of those “action” films and, subsequently, one that I shall never see.

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Friday, September 16, 2011

Morning Scene

Here's a really cool view of my apartment building. 

This photo also makes for a nice desktop background. 

Click here if you'd like to see some photos of various residents' apartments. Some of them are pretty amazing. (Mine was not featured. I completely missed out on the interior decorating gene and am a disgrace to My People.)

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Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Meanwhile, Down at the Vatican . . .

"See? You look positively FIERCE in black! I told you it was slimming."

Wednesday, September 07, 2011

Perry for President?

Here's Rick Perry's modus operandi:

1. Gov. Rick Perry slashed state funding to volunteer fire departments from 30 billion to 7 billion (75%) this year during a record drought.
2. Then, Perry asked everyone to pray for rain.
3. Rain doesn't come. Fires rage out of control.
4. Perry campaigns with Jesus like a parrot on his shoulders, railing against big government and federal spending, and then
5. requested disaster relief from the federal government. . . .

. . . As president, he might be the one to slash Medicare by 75 percent during a plague and then pray for everyone to get well. That's his mode of operating he's already established. Is this the "Christian" man we want for president?

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Eating Durian

Have you ever heard of the durian fruit? It's a large, spiky fruit from Southeast Asia that is, shall we say, definitely an acquired taste. It has a very distinct aroma which, some people say, smells like death; or smelly feet, or cat poop. Hotels and many other public places in Thailand forbid durian from even being brought on the premises. 

If you're familiar with Andrew Zimmern's Bizarre Foods, you'll recognize him as the foodie who goes around the world eating the strangest foods imaginable. Insects, innards of every kind, rotting foods all get gulped down on his program.

Except the durian. The poor guy just can't eat it. There have been three episodes where he's encountered it and he usually ends up spitting it out.

Here's a clip from his show where one of the crew members tries it:

So, of course, I had to try it. 

I have tried it once before in a coconut smoothie. This time, a friend of mine had the real deal. Fresh durian.

It really does smell like death. It caused other people to flee from the kitchen.

It's reminiscent of creamy, putrid, rotting onions. 

But I have to tell you, there's something captivating about it. I can't put my finger on it, but even with its odor that's just about the most foul thing one can imagine, there's something appealing about it.

This is my third big bite of it.

I want my own TV show.