Tuesday, December 25, 2012
So, it’s Christmas morning and now that I have put the big one down for a nap, I am completing the pantry cleanse by taking everything that is fattening or sugar-filled and creating desserts to share with co-workers tomorrow. It’s for our own good. The Dad is diabetic and I am determined to remain “not fat”, so yay for the hospital staff; they’ll think I am selfless and thinking of others. ‘Tis the season, y’all.
My absolute favorite holiday candy is haystacks. I use my mother’s recipe and use potato sticks instead of chow mein noodles. They are buttery goodness and taste ridiculously yummy. Of course, the specific ingredients list necessitated a trip to Little Guatemala as no other store had even heard of potato sticks. I like the fact that Wal-Mart does not change their inventory dependent upon geography with the notable exception of TJ Blackburn syrup and Snapple. It has been my experience that you can’t find Blackburn Syrup, the only decent pancake syrup on the market, outside of the South and you cannot find Snapple inside of the South.
When I was spooning the haystacks onto the tin foil (because I’m Southern, he said in response to the query of the reason he said tin instead of aluminum), I thought about who named these and other candies and how important it is, apparently, that a cook not only be creative in the kitchen but in the naming of said desserts. Haystacks look persactly like little haystacks. It’s a perfect name. Now, I’m not sure if they were named that by the creator (little c – I’ve not speaking of Jesus at this particular junction) or if there was a clever family member that said, “Ooh, those look like little haystacks” and the name was born.
I have to think that those sorts of things cannot be left up to chance; names are important. If it was left up to many cooks, we’d have an entire section of the cookbook called “tiny nom-noms or hunks of gooey goodness”. And while I don’t necessarily think that the first First Lady actually invented her namesake treat, I like the regal nature of a Martha Washington. And divinity fudge calls to mind religious intercession as the sugar content is enough to cause Type II diabetes from simply walking slowly past the decorative candy dish on the dessert table at your Grandmother’s house. In fact, one of my back teeth just turned black from typing that sentence.
And speaking of names, mi padre asked me, just this morning, if I thought Terryll was a typical Southern name. For those who just read that sentence, Terryll is pronounced like Errol. As in Errol Flynn, for those over 50. For those under 40, go on IMDB and educate yourselves. My response was, “Number one, I don’t think there is such a thing as a typical southern name and, number two, if there is, it is most assuredly not Terryll.”
And what is a typical southern name? My best friend from high school (Hey, Paige!) sometimes sends me our hometown newspaper so I can see the interesting names of the populace of the bustling metropolis of Tylertown, MS. Tykevius, Jakevius, Idaya, Todrick, Antisha, Catavious, Zaman, Traquarius, Latavius, Dartavian, Amari, Arkale and Kendrioun; and those are all boys. It sounds like roll call in the Roman Senate.
And you don’t even have to leave my family for some of those people with resoundingly Southern labels. We have the men: Hubert, Searcy, Sherman, Thurman, Thornton, the aforementioned Terryll, Odis, Lynch and the James-doubles (James Allen, James Oscar, James Melvin). There are also quite a few with names that are initials which don’t stand for anything like RC, AV and JD. On the women’s side we have those with individual monikers Waynette, Perrilyn, Arilla and Ercel and the doubly good Myrna Rae, Jimmie Sue, Lucy Jane, Rhoda Lee and Billie Evelyn. And that’s not counting nicknames. There are Uncles (Doup, Fats, T, Jun) and Aunts (Lise, Cel, Waynie, Rilla) as well as friends and acquaintances Catfish, Cooter, Johnny Boy, Tater, Dirty Red and Squeaky. I also know both a male and a female JoJo, but we are not related; a fate which saddens me a little bit, although more color in my family tree I do not need, n’est ce pas?
If you’ve read my book (A Gone Pecan, available through AuthorHouse.com or Amazon) you are familiar with interestingly named people such as Marcetta, Deltrenda, Crespo and Billie Shannon. Now that you know more about my background, it’s easier to see that these names are that big of a stretch.
Would a name have to be doubled like Bobby Merle or Willie Nell to be considered Southern? Mind you, those sound like supporting players on Andy Griffith. Thelma Lou, anyone? At least Southerners aren't as bad as some celebrities with children named Pilot, Apple, Moses, Moon, Inspektor and Kal-el. Of course, it depends on your point of view whether those are preferable to Hilma Fay, Spur or Shadynasty (pronounced Sha-dynasty). At least little Apple will have a big bank account.
I feel sure that most children in the next generation will be named Bella or Jacob (Lord help us all), but don’t some of the newest names sounds like they are from specific TV channels like Soap Network (Fallon, Channing) or Nat Geo (Savannah, Dakota). There are an alarming number of female Kendalls and Kinleys these days and more than a handful of Dylans and Brandons. I blame 90210 for those last two. There are also those amongst us that have delved into the categories of special characters and random capitalizations like De’Quan, She’Angelique, RaShad and LaMiracle. If your child requires assistance to spell their name upon entering fifth grade, you might have gone too far out of your way to be unique.
So, you tell me, what is the typical Southern name? I would continue our discussion but I am, in the words of my dear sainted mother, “…too ashamed to look at you because I have done nothing but lay around and eat the live long day” and I am tired, y’all. And with that I’ll bid you a Merry Christmas. I’d offer to send you some haystacks but somebody ate them all. Daddy doesn’t like them, so I don’t know who the culprit might be. Maybe Lulu got opposable thumbs for Christmas. Yes, that sounds reasonable.
And that is all I'm saying.
Saturday, December 22, 2012
Recently I assisted a friend who is a teacher (Hi, Alisa!) by helping her chaperone a middle school Winter Formal at a private school in San Jose. I haven’t spent much time around kids in this age bracket (5th -8th grades) since I was a junior high boys’ Sunday School teacher before I fled Mississippi for Alaska in 2002. However, I looked forward to this experience as I am always curious about whether kids these days are much different than those in my day, due to the many differences in society and technology that currently exist. I am so glad I am not a teenager in this decade, which I have been told is referred to as the Aughts. There is far too much access to nasty, trashy stuff of which I was unaware in the veritable Mayberry where I grew up. You can accidentally come upon something nekkid in any number of places these days, including TV shows. Not in junior high, but toward the end of high school, we knew where the nekkid wa (behind the counter at the truck stop) but we were unable to access it. And for that I am thankful.I arrived early as has been my routine since the infamous band picture debacle of 1986. I was late to the group photo and because they had already arranged the trumpets on the first row, as trumpets are the coolest people in band besides the drummers, I, a trumpet player, had to go on the back row with the flutes and other instruments no one can hear during the performance. All apologies to Stacy and the other flautists I’ve known, but a flute in a marching band is almost pointless unless there is some random Revolutionary War theme and there usually isn't.
As I was early, I was able to watch most of the kids arrive in their dress clothes, if that is really the term to use. It was an odd assortment of jeans with un-tucked dress shirts and clip-on ties for the boys and party dresses with Chuck Taylor sneakers for the girls. Is that a thing now? At least some of the sneakers were sequined. Since the clothes had changed I wondered if the social hierarchies were in place in California in 2012 as have been in place for decades in other locales like Mississippi and cable TV. I paid specific attention to those who seemed to be armed with posses, or whatever the plural of posse might be.
There was one pony-tailed young lady who seemed to have declared herself head decorator as she held very strong opinions about balloon placement and voiced promised repercussions for improper balloon handling etiquette. Balloon Girl, as I named her, seemed to be the Queen Bee until the arrival of another girl, who I named Sparkly Skirt. She was wearing what I can only assume were her mother’s clothes and shoes. Otherwise, she’s not being raised right, y’all.
Balloon Girl and Sparkly Skirt eyed each other from across the room. Apparently it was ‘ON’. Color me intrigued; it was like a reality show, except not skanky or stupid. Sparkly Skirt started the dancing once Johnny Moustache (he of the overly-styled, barely visible (count them) 7 upper lip hair follicles) broke out his laptop. After one too many renditions of the weirdly popular Korean dance song ‘Gangnam Style’ (which everyone including some of the more aggressive teacher spouses seem to know the apparent required choreography), Johnny Moustache was replaced by Aggressive Girl in High Tops with her trusty iPod. I am not ashamed to admit, she and I shared a number of dance favorites. Okay, I’m a little ashamed. But the music was only the background for the drama unfolding. Feeling the power had shifted upon Sparkly Skirt’s entrance, Balloon Girl started dancing while playing slow motion volleyball with the balloons. Never has power shifted this quickly outside of a South American country as all the children followed suit.As far as I was concerned, it was going along pretty well and I was introduced to the teachers, not realizing my appearance as the ‘friend’ of the single teacher was the juiciest thing that had happened there in quite some time. Feeling as if all eyes were on me, I texted my sister, also a teacher, who confirmed that I was not being paranoid and that at that very moment each and every one of the whispered conversations were in fact about me; specifically the level of my relationship with the single teacher that would have enticed me to accompany her to such an event.
The announcement of the voting for the Winter Formal Court caused a ruckus that refocused everyone’s attention to Sister Boogie Shoes and Mr. Bow Tie, the Art and Science teachers respectively. Never in my life have I felt relief not to be the center of attention. And speaking of me, I found my tiny doppelganger. Wearing the same gap-approved uniform as his classmates, he seemed to be the only boy with any semblance of rhythm. He would dance with abandon as if no one was watching; however, he was most definitely aware of everyone’s placement as he halted his moves if no one was looking and traveled nearest whichever Queen Bee the crowd was surrounding and start dancing again, to ensure the largest audience. Oh sit down, Dusty, Jr., I laughed to myself.While we waited for the votes to be counted, we were again distracted by a drama that unfolded just outside the entrance when Johnny Moustache was apprehended trying to sneak off with his girlfriend who, only after I caught sight of her, was summarily nicknamed Invisi-Justice as she had somehow escaped my notice while wearing a hot pink and black floral dress from the tween clothier I loathe. How do I know? Well, let's just say they've been selling that very dress for about quite some time since I bought it for my niece Payton in 2006 or so. Mr. Moustache, when he was denied entree to whatever nefarious activity he had planned, was furious and refused to re-enter the gym, believing to the very depths of his almost-teenage soul that we did not have his best interests at heart.
This brings me to another male with whom I have recently come into contact, who does not believe that I have his best interests at heart. He feels that I purposefully keep some of his wishes unfulfilled. Regular readers and rabid followers are familiar with my father’s work. Over the past few weeks he has asked me to find what he calls his favorite “lunch meat”. I have tried to explain to him that they don’t have that type of meat product anywhere outside of a 6 ft. radius of Bethany, Louisiana (population 1,100 if you count individual cans of beer at the quickie mart), but he will not take no for an answer, even when said with considerable disdain. I have actually looked for what he described but I feel as if he is accidentally combining the traits of several of his favorite foods, vile though they may be. The description was something akin to a thinly sliced potted meat/Spam hybrid. As my friend Dawn from Memphis would say, “ooh to the wee”.I had attempted to provide him actual deli ham, thinking I was splurging on something he would prefer to this luncheon loaf. I was wrong. He told me that he would, “eat it, I reckon, but I don’t like it that much.” Assuming that he would just give up and find another item over which to hyper-focus, I was surprised to see that he apparently ventured out of the yard for a solo jaunt, for the first time in about 5 months. Never underestimate a redneck on a mission. I returned from my recent trip to DC to find that he had braved imminent death to cross the street to the Super Mercado y Tacqueria to ensure that no stone had been left unturned in the search for the favored protein of the proletariat, as it were. I found his butcher-papered bounty was labeled ‘Jamon’. When I asked what he was eating, he haughtily replied, “I found my lunch meat at the messican groshry store. And you said they didn’t have it.”
I smiled and said, “You realize that jamon is Spanish for ham, right?” I believe the correct spelling of his reaction is, “Hmpf!” followed by the dismissive smacking of lips and judgmental clicking of false teeth.And I don’t really know what else to say about that.
Wednesday, December 5, 2012
This past week I had the opportunity to visit Stanford University’s campus for a lecture series. As they are located about 2 miles from my office, it is a convenient way to learn new things without signing up for an actual class, which I will only do if Condoleeza Rice is the instructor. This particular speaker was going to discuss Emotional Intelligence and I am all about self-betterment through knowledge.
So I head there straight from work and I have surmised, based on the number of people who knew the location of the School of Education that the next great generation of teachers is matriculating elsewhere.
Before I took my seat, I had to take a rest, so I found a room specifically designed for such activities. When I finished my business and was washing my hands I noticed the gentleman at the next sink was cleansing his hands with the dedication of a surgeon about to operate. Having worked in healthcare for the last 15 years, I practice proper hand hygiene and was drying my hands with a towel and kept it for use as a protector when I opened the door to exit. This gentleman, instead, grabbed the door handle with his bare hands and held it open for me. Then he smiled this maniacally happy smile and I thought, “Good Lord, I hope that’s not the speaker” and chuckled to myself.
Not surprisingly, I entered the auditorium and there sits Mr. Nasty Hands in a lotus position in a chair with his shoes and socks removed grinning like some deranged cell phone salesperson waiting to fill our minds with glitter hugs dipped in rainbows, I imagine. But, as I am not one to judge, I decided to see what he had to say. After all he is an executive with an internationally known and respected company. I won’t say which one, but it rhymes with Google.
He starts to talk and mentions he is a Buddhist, which was unexpected as he spent the first 10 minutes or so talking about how awesome he is and based on my limited information about Buddhism didn’t think arrogance was one of the basic tenets. Although based on the activities of the Dalai Lama, celebrity stalking might be. However, he made a statement that got my attention. He shared that he was listening to a Buddhist Nun and in the instant that she said a particular phrase, he became a Buddhist. This must be some phrase, I thought. It was ‘the answers are all inside you’. Yes, you read that correctly. Glitter hugs indeed.
But it was what he said next that sealed my exit from his presence. He said, “In that moment, I understood EVERYthing.” And he wasn’t kidding. Well, that was more than I could take, so I quietly left the auditorium and headed to Starbucks to get my Venti Black Iced Tea with 3 Splenda and no water and ponder this preening donkey’s statement. He knew everything, huh? Well, you don’t know proper hand hygiene. Of this I am certain. You don’t know the proper footwear for public speaking. You don’t know how goofy you sound. And that’s just off the top of my head.
But that got me thinking. Would I even want to know everything? Cate Blanchett, at the end of Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, learned everything from that big ol’ alien whatever and all it got her was an exploded head. No thanks.
Now I know lots of things, most of which don’t matter to anyone, which is why I am so good at trivia. However, I do know lots of things that I wish I didn't so I decided to compile a list and I will share it forthwith.
I wish I didn’t know:
1. How an old man’s popcorn-greased hand feels on your head when they are on the row above you in the movie theatre and use you to catch themselves at the end of ‘Silver Linings Playbook’ when they lose their balance trying to talk to their wife and fish the cigarettes out of their jean jacket.
2. What a coke tastes like with cigarette ashes in it. Thanks Daddy in 1978.
3. What it feels like to haul hay.
4. How a pickled pig lip tastes.
5. That there is a 24 hour nightclub in Birmingham, AL.
6. Acid-washed jeans don’t always support, and sometimes reveal, your buttocks.
7. What shrimp salad from a vending machine will do to your digestive tract.
8. That drinking water in San Diego has the same outcome as #7.
9. What it feels like to ride a bike from Fisherman’s Wharf to Sausalito (see August 5th blog).
10. How to involuntarily cliff dive on a trip to Canada. Full disclosure: involuntarily means they pushed me. I am still ticked and it was in 1993.
11. What it feels like to, even at age 42, avoid walking past storm drains at night because the movie ‘It’ messed me up, y’all.
12. What it feels like to be forced to watch overweight middle-aged hippies make out to progressive art rock songs that last 25 minutes each while waiting for Yes to play their one hit song…and then they don’t.
13. That liver somehow gets bigger when you chew it.
14. What it feels like to be bucked off a horse you didn’t want to be on in the first place.
15. What it feels like to get kicked in the stomach by that same horse just because it’s evil and had nothing to with the fact that you were in the pen trying to kill it with your mind.
16. What it feels like when your calf is the only competitor in its category at the county fair and it still comes in third place.
17. What it feels like to know Dick Cheney continues to go unpunished.
18. What it feels like to go tubing for 8 hours with no sunscreen and end up with burns so bad you miss all but 1 of your senior parties.
19. What it feels like to watch the third Twilight movie.
20. What it feels like to play football against your will in junior high (see YouTube video “Dustin Thompson VA”).
21. What it feels like to get a haircut so bad that you have to be physically restrained from harming the stylist and causes you to forever hate the word ‘Bubble’.
22. What it feels like to be judged for your musical tastes when your friends think you’ve switched iPods with a 16 year-old girl.
23. That the dimmer switch on a '77 Volare is on the floor by your left foot.
24. What it feels like to have to hitchike, after you hit a dear on New Year's Eve, and catch a ride with a man in a Ford Pinto station wagon with the passenger door roped shut through a hole in the roof who ends up being the uncle of your cousin's boyfriend.
25. What it feels like to not know how to end a blog post.