Saturday, July 28, 2007

Looks scary, tastes great.

Water buffalo yogurt, I mean. (On sale now at Whole Foods--5 for $5.) Just had some for breakfast and oooooh is it creamy and luscious. I tried the maple. You can also get vanilla, blueberry, strawberry, chai, plain, raspberry, and a bunch of other flavors. It's kind of high in fat (8 grams per serving), but I'm thinking of it as a healthy alternative to Sheridan's custard!

People in India and other places in Southeast Asia have been eating this for centuries. It's available in the U.S. now, thanks to a Wharton MBA who bought 100 of these beasts and started the Woodstock Water Buffalo Company in Vermont.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Lost weekend...and week...and then another weekend.

As a former co-worker said one Monday morning in the 70s, "I feel like Ray Milland."

No, I haven't been on a drinking binge. No bender. No toot. No spree.

It's been a surreal, time-warping, marathon journey of doctor's offices, pharmacies, and Web M.D. browsing, one neurotic day blurring into another. (If it's Friday, this must be CT-scan.)

The good news is that my innards are fine now. Having already had several -ectomies, my medical conundrum was simplified somewhat. The really terrifying and horribly icky hypotheses were disproved on Friday.

And now, after taking a cocktail of antibiotics with a lovely menu of side effects (metallic taste, leg cramps, dizziness, nausea), I'm back among the optimistic and living.

So much so that my son's $125 speeding ticket last night barely moved the needle on my stress meter.

My free advice to everyone: Eat your fiber and drink your water.

This means you.

P.S. It really helps to have a compassionate and good-humored co-pilot at these times. Thanks, Steve.

Monday, July 23, 2007

Keeping up with the Needlemans & Spulgenines

Dammit. If they can figure out how to post video on their blogs, so can I. Nevermind if I have no relevant video to post. (Can't wait for the Simpsons's movie, though.)

Sunday, July 15, 2007

The moonies are coming!

Looks like a bumper crop of moonflowers this year. Not familiar with these incredible plants? Here's the lowdown.

To grow some moonflowers, all you have to do is throw the spiky seed pods in the garden around Mother's Day. (For the record, I'm one of those slacker gardeners who loses interest once the temperature and humidity exceeds my embarrassingly low threshhold.)

By mid-July, you'll have clumps of gorgeous greenery on silvery stems. Then a few weeks later, the buds emerge--flauta-sized cylinders holding back their surprising gift to the summertime planet.

When they're ready, one magical night in July or August, the moonflower blooms start to explode. And what blooms they are: iridescent white, saucer-sized, lemon-scented circles of velvet that could bring Georgia O'Keefe back from the dead.

Each flower lasts only about twelve hours before it wilts and fades, eventually falling off and allowing next year's seed pod to form.

One night a few years ago I was out marvelling at the dozen or so flowers as, one after another, they opened with an almost-audible pop. A small toad hopped out from under one of the plants, and then, as if on cue, a luna moth fluttered by.

Talk about a "Witchy Woman" moment.

I love these contrary flowers, defiant and luminous in the middle of a pitch-dark night.

We should all be so daring.

Friday, July 13, 2007

I'm in a Netfix. Can you help?

Not doing too well with my Netflix queue. The mediocre movies I'm picking sit unwatched on top of the TV for a week or more, and instead of investing two hours in a decent film, I wind up mindlessly watching David Hasselhoff (or worse) on TV. How much Food Channel can I take?

What's in your queue? I especially like sleeper movies that haven't been overhyped. Nothing too violent, please. And no Matt Damon or stuffed-shirt period pieces.

Wednesday, July 4, 2007

Yankee Doodle Dad

I can't get through the 4th of July without thinking a lot about my Dad.

In Robbinsdale, Minnesota, where I grew up, the 4th was the best day of the year. Our town's annual "Whiz Bang Days" festival made you feel like you'd walked onto the set of "The Music Man."

Horseshoe and archery tournaments (both of which my sister Melanie won), a pancake breakfast, a fishing contest...Whiz Bang Days had it all. Attending the traveling carnival unchaperoned was a significant rite of passage for my sister and me. We'd walk to Lakeview Terrace Park hoping that no mean kids would throw firecrackers at our feet. Then, swatting at a swarm of mosquitoes, we'd watch the coronation of Miss Robbinsdale, wistfully wondering if we'd be in the running someday.

My dad's favorite event was the Whiz Bang Days parade, especially the years my sister and I played bad clarinet in the Robbinsdale City Band. He found a folding camp stool at a garage sale one summer, and this became his "PWC" or parade-watching chair. Dad stood at attention everytime the flag went by, not only the first time in each parade, which is what local tradition dictated.

Jack Wigand loved his country and embraced every opportunity to witness and applaud some patriotic pageantry. He was an old-school, flag-waving Army veteran, a credential he encouraged us to invoke as needed. In third grade, when Tim Wilson stomped on my math book, my Dad's response was, "Tell him your old man was a chief warrant officer." As time went on, I used that line a lot, and it actually may have worked once when I was trying to get into an already-filled class in college.

Dad told his army stories as often as we'd listen. One time, in Fort Sill, Oklahoma, he and the other recruits were out on the firing range in the hundred-degree prairie heat. The drill sergeant asked if anyone had experience doing paperwork. Because my Dad had been an insurance clerk before enlisting, and because he sensed an opportunity to get out of the sun, he raised his hand. The drill sergeant stuck him in an even hotter trench behind the targets, where his job was to lick adhesive patches and repair the targets for the other guys between rounds.

Usually these stories had a sweet, nostalgic patina. Both Mom and Dad maintained that their days in the service were the happiest of their lives, with one exception. Dad was disturbed and ashamed to recall the day when he and his friends were taught to strangle an enemy soldier with a piano wire.

It was lucky for Dad that he remained stateside.

I wonder what he'd make of the current mess. He always voted the straight Republican ticket. (I think his darkest moment was the day he learned I was a delegate to a Democratic caucus. Well, that and the weekend I came home from college in bib overalls.) But still, I believe Dad would have despised Bush and his henchmen.

A patriotic guy with absolute notions of right and wrong has no time for crooks and liars. And whether they're stealing an election or lying about weapons or commuting sentences for rich fat cat buddies, that's who's running the show: crooks and liars making cynics and doubters of us all.

Anyway, Dad, if you're reading this on some heavenly blog, thanks for lighting the sparklers. And thanks for sitting inside with me when the fireworks got too loud. You were a Whiz Bang of a guy. And I love you and miss you today.

Sunday, July 1, 2007

my new favorite thing

Last night when it finally stopped raining, we meandered into town to see if we could get close to the Riverfest fireworks. After taking a few turns down dark alleys and around the back of old warehouses, we joined a small colony of firework fans parked next to some railroad tracks.

We had 45 minutes to kill, so we turned on KCUR, which was airing the Saturday night Fish Fry with Chuck Haddix.

While the slow trains ambled by, we listened to Ella, Bill Robinson, Bonnie Raitt, and even a guy singing "Kosher Gospel." One sad, beautiful song after another, deftly narrated by a knowledgeable but unobtrusive host.

Cool breeze blowing, clouds cruising by overhead, two old sweethearts holding hands and talking.


Until it got crowded, and we got "parked in" and I started wondering what was in those railroad containers. And if it was flammable, what if a stray firework trail made everything go kablooey?

We apologized our way out of the back alley and found a less threatening vista in an empty parking lot just uphill from the river. We saw half a dozen guys who'd just gotten off work leaning on parking meters and watching the show. It would have made a great painting.

There's a ton of serendipity out there on an aimless summer night. And the Fish Fry is its perfect soundtrack.