Thursday, September 29, 2016

Happy Love Card Day!

One of my readers e-mailed me recently, to ask a question concerning my availability on September 30th. I replied, "Are you insane? That's Love Card Day! Of course I'm not available, you dope!"

I know it wasn't a very nice way to talk to My Mother, especially since she still admits to my being her son even after all of the whack stuff I've written over the years, but I don't plan anything for Love Card Day. Well, except for the obligatory exchange of love cards, of course.

[blank stare]

Why are you looking at me like that? You don't mean to tell me you've never heard of Love Card Day! What planet are you from? Earth? Where's that? And, while we're at it, who stole my underwear?

[even blanker stare, if that were possible]

OK, enough "funny" introductory material. Here's the scoop on Love Card Day.

MY WIFE and I met, had a couple of dates, fell in love, and decided to get married.

(That's the abridged version. More details are available here.)

Anyway, as we progressed through the courtship stage (as it's known to ornitholigists) we found out an interesting fact concerning our fathers. Her father and my father were both born on the same day, in the same year.

Her father, Bill
My father, Tom

I don't know what the odds are against that happening - two people meeting and finding out their fathers were born on the exact same day - but I suspect it's rather high. Higher still if you limit it to people who end up marrying each other. On top of that, our fathers were both raised in the same Boston neighborhood, Forest Hills, just a few blocks from each other. Anyway, they were both born on September 30th, 1931.

(As MY WIFE and I got to know each other better, we found out that our paths had crossed many times before we met. It was spooky finding out how many times we might have gotten to know each other before we actually did. However, we both feel that we didn't actually meet at those times because we wouldn't have liked each other then. We both grew to be people we could stand and then we met. For instance, I used to do lots and lots of drugs, while MY WIFE has never done an illegal drug in her life. I was a long-haired metal-playing freak, while she was a strait-laced church-going choir member. When we met, I was balding and sober. MY WIFE was... well, pretty much as she had been. OK, I had become someone MY WIFE could stand. However, I digress.)

So, the thing is, we celebrated both of our fathers' birthdays on the same day, which was September 30th.

I'll cut to the chase. In 1994, my father died. In 1995, MY WIFE's father died. This made September 30th a somewhat sad day on the calendar. However, instead of dwelling on the deaths, MY WIFE had the idea that it would be nice to turn it into a day of celebration. I agreed. In honor of our fathers, we remade their shared birthday into Love Card Day.

Now, none of the stuff we do on Love Card Day sounds like a great way of memorializing someone. However, if you knew our fathers, you'd know that they both liked a good joke and they both really liked to eat. Those were probably their most outstanding traits. So, here's what we do, in honor of our fathers, on Love Card Day.

First, we each buy a greeting card for the other person. This is the "Love Card". We both shop for the card independent of the other person. The only qualifier is that it must be a "Love" card - one that expresses that sentiment. It doesn't have to be humorous, but usually will end up being so.

(On the first Love Card Day, when we exchanged cards, we found that we had both bought the same card. We had shopped at different times, in different stores, but out of the couple hundred or so choices available, we got the same card for each other. We have failed to replicate this extraordinary coincidence since then, but we took it as a sign that we were on the right track when it happened.)

Next, since our fathers both loved to eat, we have dinner.

That's it.

It may not sound like anything earth-shattering, but it turns what could be a very melancholy day into a day that we, instead, look forward to sharing with each other. Nothing wrong with that. It's our own personal holiday.

So, make a note: I am never available on September 30th. It's Love Card Day, you dope!

Soon, with more better stuff.

P.S. If you had a feeling of deja vu while reading this, don't be concerned. It's pretty much a repeat of what I've posted here every year around this time. I figure if I got it right the first time...

P.P.S. That's why I'm an only child. My parents got it right the first time.

P.P.P.S. See what I mean about My Mother being so nice about still claiming me as her son?

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Doug Flutie & The Presidential Debates!

Following up on my ability to link Fried Chicken, The Boston Marathon & Hillary Clinton, today I managed to drag Doug Flutie into a column mentioning the upcoming presidential debates.

Yes, Doug, I know. You're as amazed as everybody else.

Here's the link, if you want to go find out how I did it. Jim Sullivan - Boston Herald

Soon, with more better stuff.

P. S. The last sentence above is more of a hope than a guarantee, but you probably knew that already.

P. P. S. The photo came from HERE, where you can hire Doug Flutie to speak at your next function. Since I have now mentioned him both in my blog and on the pages of the Boston Herald, it's likely he'll become somewhat famous. Get in on the ground floor!

Friday, September 16, 2016

Fried Chicken, The Boston Marathon & Hillary Clinton

What do those things have in common? Just about nothing, really. However, I've found a way to squash them all into my most recent column at The Boston Herald, which you can read by clicking onto this handy link!

By the way, clicking onto the link will not only get you to the website where you can read my amazingly mystifying attempt to tie together those disparate elements, it will also earn you a big old bucket of karma points. If you need some instant karma, here's your chance!

(Well, not really. At least, maybe not. I have no idea if you'll score some sort of divine favor by reading my stuff, but it probably falls under the corporal acts of mercy in some way or another what with me being otherwise unable to earn any sort of a decent living. You'll be feeding the hungry, in a roundabout way, I suppose.)

Soon, with more better stuff, in all likelihood.

Monday, September 05, 2016

All I Really Need To Know I Learned From The Three Stooges

You may recall a wonderful book, written by Robert Fulghum, entitled All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten. If you haven’t read it yet, I highly recommend doing so. In it, Fulghum explains that the lessons taught during his first year in school were, as it turned out, all he needed in order to live his life as a decent human being. Those enduring lessons included such stuff as “Share everything”, “Play fair”, “Clean up your own mess” and “Don’t take things that aren’t yours”.
Those are useful things to remember. On the other hand, I’ve received some of the most valuable lessons of my life from an entirely different source – The Three Stooges.

[There were actually six of them]

I first started watching their very educational films at around the same time as I entered kindergarten and I discovered that Moe, Larry and Curly (and sometimes even Shemp) had many inestimably precious truths to share. For instance…

·      *   What goes around, comes around – and it usually comes around in the form of that same guy you did something nasty to in the first reel, who said, “If I ever see you three guys again, I’ll tear you limb from limb!”

·       *  No matter how bald you may think you are, you always have enough hair left for someone to rip out.

·       *  You can be doing nothing more provocative than just standing around minding your own business and you still might get hit in the kisser with a pie.

·      *   Even if you make a really good pun, somebody is likely to poke you in the eyes.

·       * You might have a recipe, but success isn’t guaranteed unless you truly understand the instructions. For example, if it says “Separate two eggs”, it doesn’t mean you should place them five feet apart from one another.

·       * If you have triple bunk beds, it’s never a good idea to put the guy who weighs the most in the top bunk.

·      *  When you’ve checked into a hospital, if you hear “Calling Dr. Howard, Dr. Fine, Dr. Howard” come over the loudspeaker, it means the likelihood of your being cured is somewhat limited.

·      *  Rome wasn’t built in a day. Neither was Syracuse.

·      *  If you reach for something without really looking at it, chances are it will be alum you put in those drinks instead of powdered sugar. As a corollary, not every woman who puckers her lips is looking for a kiss.

·     * Spinning in a circle and saying “Woob! Woob! Woob!” is a reasonable response to almost any given situation.

·      * Snoring is mighty aggravating to most people if you’re the only one doing it. If, however, you and two other guys snore in unison, it’s hilarious! Also, you can prove you don’t snore by staying up all night and listening to yourself.

·      * If there’s a fat bald guy in the room, you probably shouldn’t play that recording of Pop Goes the Weasel unless you like being punched.

·       * Discretion is sometimes the better part of valor. If you run away, the worst that’s likely to happen is you’ll be shot in the bum. Then your theme music will play.

·      * If you don’t like someone’s answer, slapping them might fix things. On the other hand, you could end up getting a crowbar over the head. It’s a toss-up.

·      * If somebody shows you their fist and says, “See this?”, under no circumstances is it advisable to slap downward at it.

·      * Doing your laundry on a golf course isn’t a good idea. Also, when someone yells “Fore!”, if you yell back “Five!”, it isn’t likely to accomplish anything useful.

·      *  B-A-Bay, B-E-Bee, B-I-Bicky-Bi, B-O-Bo, Bicky-Bi-Bo-B-U-Boo, Bicky-Bi-Bo-Boo.

·      * Even if you can run downstairs fast enough to catch a cake that fell out a window, chances are you’re going to wind up face first in the thing anyway.

·      * Never sit in a dentist’s chair if you’re not the patient. And, if you ARE the patient, and your buddy just had his tooth yanked by mistake, it’s never a good idea to be standing there holding a pair of pliers when he comes to.

·       * If you say “Niagara Falls!” to someone, you deserve whatever happens next.

·      * Whenever there’s anything sharp and pointy around, odds are someone will sit on it. The possibility increases exponentially if it’s your boss.

And, of course, the most important lesson of all…

·      * No matter how well you plan something, there is always the distinct possibility that you’ll end up being a victim of soicumstance.

     Soon, with moe better stuff.

Friday, September 02, 2016

Chinese Lime

Tonight, MY WIFE and I will have the pleasure of meeting up with our wonderful internet friend, Lime. We've had the pleasure before, a couple of times, and I have no doubt this will be another evening spent in gales of laughter and copious amounts of overeating.

Here are a couple of photos from previous meet-ups...

We scared the wits out of folks near The Pleasant Cafe. The Roslindale
 neighborhood of Boston entered an economic downturn and has never recovered.
While at The Pleasant Cafe, Lime asked for lemon with her water.
 As always, service there was prompt and over the top, resulting in this shot.

And now, since we will be indulging in Chinese food this evening, I have a wonderful opportunity to re-run a piece I wrote about that subject several years ago. Enjoy! Feel free to comment with your own thoughts about such cuisine (or about Lime, should you know her!) In this piece, I mention the Tahiti, a Chinese restaurant in Dedham. I am pleased to note this is where we will be dining tonight!

Chinese food. That generic descriptive, by itself, begins my tummy rumbling with a yearning to be filled to the brim (and perhaps beyond.) And it fairly much matters not a whit what specific dishes may come my way. As long as they have vaguely Asian names, I will eat them and be happy.

This is not to say that all Chinese food is equal. Far from it. Some is exquisite. Some is lackluster and mediocre. I have yet to encounter a Chinese restaurant from whose menu I would not eat, however, and that is why Chinese food is my favorite gustatory guilty pleasure.

It needn't be a "guilty" pleasure, of course, as there are quite a few healthy items on most Chinese menus. My taste, though, runs to the cheap end of the spectrum. I admit it. I delight in the sort of Chinese food that many self-styled gourmets prefer to label "Americanized Chinese". We're talking the MSG-laden and the deep-fried; the sueys and meins, whether chop or chow; the items with animal names actually containing not even a slight morsel of said animal (I'm looking at you, delicious lobster sauce!); and any mystery meat wrapped in crispy dough. I'm drooling on my keyboard even as I type.

My love of Chinese food was slow in developing. I recall being taken to a Chinese restaurant by my paternal grandparents. I might have been five or six at the time. They were taking care of me while my parents enjoyed an evening divested of my particular charm. Anyway, I wouldn't eat anything that was ordered, would barely acknowledge its existence. My Grandfather, reacting as only a very loving (or, perhaps, mellowly drunk) older relative might have, asked the chinaman to bring me a steak sandwich. The kitchen staff cooked up some slices of beef and threw them between two slices of white bread, and I nibbled on that. The other delights on the table sat there unappreciated by my as yet virgin tongue.

(Yes, I realize that "chinaman" is horribly offensive to some. I would never say it now, but that was how we talked back then. By "we", of course I mean white folk. It was hideous how we treated the staff in Chinese restaurants. My childhood friends thought nothing of sitting at a table in a public restaurant and pulling at the corners of their eyes to make them somewhat slanty, then saying something along the lines of, "Ching chow me mau fixy fixy chinky chow" or something equally enlightened. Those waiters must have been the most patient and kind-hearted people ever to walk the earth. I would have had to have gone into the kitchen, gotten a bucket of hot grease, and come back to the table and poured it over us. In our defense, we didn't know any better. Every Chinese person we had ever seen, on TV or in cartoons, was a caricature; subservient, ever-smiling, perhaps full of avuncular wisdom [Charlie Chan], but still somehow a source of humor and just slightly less human. What a retarded world we lived in back then.)

(Yes, I realize that "retarded" isn't spectacularly nice, either, but it's the most apt word I can think of for how we were, so let it stand.)

It wasn't until a couple of years later that my lifelong love affair with Chinese food began. My folks ordered some as take out and... well, My Father's palette was limited when it came to Chinese, and that probably helped make me more susceptible to the blandishments of said food. Once I actually tasted some of what he always ordered (Sweet & Sour Chicken, Egg Rolls, Fried Rice, Pork Strips) I realized it was inoffensive for the most part and, following his lead, I found out that the liberal application of duck sauce pretty much turned any dish into a candy substitute.

(I'm not kidding when I say those four dishes were what he always ordered. Not once, in my entire time on this planet with him, did he ever vary from that order.)

(No, I'm lying, but only slightly. One time, on a trip to London, we made the mistake of going into a Szechuan restaurant and expecting it to be the same as all of the Cantonese/Polynesian/Low Rent restaurants back home. He looked at the odd menu and tried ordering the things he thought would be closest to his favorites, but when the food came, he took about two bites of one dish, grimly considered the other three, and then decided that some Wimpy burgers would be a better dinner.)

(I found the Wimpy burgers delightful, by the way, until they decided to do an encore appearance a couple of hours later back in our hotel room. This is about Chinese food, though, and not the greasiest hamburgers ever served, so I'll skip the details of my technicolor yawn.)


It’s interesting, as a sociological experiment, to ask folks what they order when they get Chinese food. From my experience, even people who aren't My Father tend to order the same things over and over. And they sometimes get very defensive about their choices, too, saying, "It isn’t really Chinese food unless you order [fill in the blank]."

I occasionally try something new, but My Father's early influence on my tastes runs strong. I can count on the fingers of one hand the number of times I've ordered Chinese without including egg rolls in the order. It might take two hands to count the number of times I've skipped the fried rice, perhaps two hands and both feet for the pork strips. I can report with satisfaction that the sweet and sour chicken has been mostly absent from my plate for thirty years, but that's only because I can't find it as we used to get it. It seems to have devolved into a bunch of chicken fingers in a sickly sweet red sauce and nothing whatsoever "sour" to be found. If I still had teeth, they would be dissolving from just thinking about that goop. Yuck.

Until I was ten years old, I had no idea that any other types of Chinese food existed other than what My Mom and Dad ordered. Then one Saturday, after Stephen Murphy and I had attended a kiddy matinee at our local movie house (The Oriental, coincidentally enough), we found ourselves hungry and Stephen suggested we go to Cathay Village, which was just around the corner and which was also where our respective parents always bought their respective take out. On the way, we discussed what we might afford, as we each had about 75 cents. I figured that would be good enough for an egg roll, at least, but Stephen suggested we might be able to pool our money and get something called a Poo-Poo Platter. Well, of course, I laughed and laughed. Poo-Poo! There couldn’t possibly be something to eat that was named after poop! Stephen swore up and down that there was such a thing. And he was right, although I found out, from looking at the menu, that it was spelled Pu-Pu. I also found out that we couldn’t afford it, so we ended up ordering the "Businessman’s Special", which was Pork Fried Rice and an Egg Roll for 55 cents, and thus my palate was not yet truly expanded as that was basically half of what My Father always ordered. We enjoyed it immensely while making our eyes slanty and speaking in racist tongues.

(MY WIFE reminded me of a funny story concerning the ordering of the same thing every time. She worked with a fellow who always ordered from the ‘dinner specials’ section of the menu; you know, where there are plates containing three or four specific items, and you order by the number assigned to that plate? Well, anyway, without variation, this guy always ordered a number 13 from the Chinese restaurant he frequented. One day, while out of town on business, he found himself at a local Chinese restaurant with his business associates. Without looking at the menu, he ordered special number 13. When it arrived, he found himself staring at something totally unexpected and foreign to him. It seems he was under the impression that all of the numbered dishes were the same at every Chinese restaurant in the world. He had no idea what he had just been served, either. He had to ask the waiter what it was.)

It wasn’t until I started smoking dope that I tried anything different at a Chinese restaurant. On an excursion into Boston’s Chinatown with my stoned buddies, they all ordered something called Beef & Broccoli. Not wanting to look weird, I ordered it, too. And, when it arrived, I ate it with great gusto and delight. I quickly found out, on various stoned outings to local Chinese eateries, about such treats as Chicken Chow Mein, Lobster Sauce, and Egg Fu Yung (which, for some reason, my pals all laughingly referred to as ‘brains in gravy’, and that’s what I still think of every time I see it.) Ever since those days, I’ve been an avid aficionado - and defender of - the sort of foods that are scoffed at by the cognoscenti.

The toughest one to defend in the face of scorn is, of course, lobster sauce. It contains no lobster, has never been known to adorn a lobster, and there is no way to justify calling it that other than ignorant tradition.

I once ordered from a very high-end Chinese restaurant – The Golden Temple - for a get together which included my good friend, Fast Freddy Goodman. The lobster sauce from that place is easily the best I have ever tasted, ambrosia-like for the true lumpy brown sauce connoisseur, and Fred pretty much concurred with that assessment when he tried it. When I informed him that the menu stated the stuff was actually "lobster infused"”, he said – with the same lifetime of knowledge concerning lobster sauce as I have – "Yeah, right. The closest a lobster has been to this is when they held one over the pot and he pissed in it." Quick comeback, and that’s why he’s called Fast Freddy. However, he was probably close to the truth. I suspect they boil lobsters for other purposes and then use some of that water for the prep of the lobster sauce. It is fantastic, in any case.

(As an aside - which this entire piece is, really, so I have no idea why I'm putting this bit in parentheses - the second-best lobster sauce in Boston and environs can be had at Tahiti in Dedham, from which place I purloined the photo of the Pu-Pu Platter. Rich, thick, dark, delightful. I am absolutely jonesing for some at this moment.)

Lobster Sauce and Fried Rice is a partnership made by God in Heaven. Egg Rolls (which, by the way, the test of a good one is generally how much cabbage is in it, with less of that vegetable and more of some sort of meat being preferred) are wonderful because you can kid yourself into thinking they are healthy, what with being comprised of much greenery, but you should ignore the fact that if you have them left over you might have to de-grease them. Spare Ribs, Chicken Wings, and Beef Teriyaki. Chicken Chop Suey. Beef Chow Yoke. Crab Rangoon (which, to my ear, always sounds like a really grouchy Asian wrestler.) General Gau’s Chicken (which I’ve seen listed on other menus as General Zau’s Chicken and General Tsao’s Chicken, so it’s either a bogus name invented to fool Americans or, as I prefer to believe, so delicious that, during some time in ancient Chinese history, three generals actually shed blood for the honor of having the dish named after them.) Won Ton Soup. That stuff that comes with not enough pancakes for you to wrap it up in (what in hell is the name of that? I honestly can't remember.) Peking Ravioli (which, if even one of those things has ever been seen within the city limits of the place whose name they bear, I'll give up Fortune Cookies for life.) Oh My God I Am So Freeeeeeeakin' Hungry Right Now!!! I'm outta here. I'm hitting the nearest joint, no matter how much it looks like the board of health must have the chef on their ten-most-wanted list.

I'll end this by asking what YOUR ‘must-have’ items are when ordering Chinese food. Don’t feel constrained to limit yourself to Cantonese or American Chinese, if that’s not your favorite style. If your taste runs to the more exotic, I’d love to hear about it. And, if the things I’ve talked about are literally foreign to you, please expound about your particular region. I have no idea, for instance, whether some of you have even the slightest notion what I'm jabbering about when I mention Lobster Sauce. If you haven’t ever had any, you’re probably healthier than I am but you are most definitely not happier.

OK, that's it. I'm gone.

Soon, with a bigger belly.

P.S. I just remembered the Seinfeld episode wherein Kramer calls to order Chinese food and instead of asking them to fix his order without MSG, as some folks request, he asks them to add extra MSG to his order. He is my hero.