Monthly Archives: March 2012

A Silly Song, But A Happy Memory

Phil Harris; actor, band leader, comedian, radio personality, singer, and silly song writer.

My Mom and Dad liked silly songs; songs that had clever and humorous rhymes. They were songs you didn’t have to think about deeper meanings or hidden emotions.

Dad used to sing a song called, The Grasshopper Sat on the Sweet Potato Vine. That was the only lyric; “The Grasshopper Sat on the Sweet Potato Vine.”  Come to find out later it was an old banjo tune that had no lyrics.

The first record, in fact the only record, I recall Dad and Mom buying was a song called The Thing. It was written by song writer and performer Phil Harris.

The song irritated me when I was a child. The hook line in the song was, “Get out of here with that boom, boom, boom and don’t come back any more.” I didn’t know what that boom, boom, boom was. I was too young to know that was the point of the song. It was left to your imagination. My imagination had not developed enough to conceive that it was supposed to be what ever I wanted it to be or nothing or maybe that in itself was the point; get out of here with nothing.

As you can see that silly little song left too many philosophical, moral, emotional, and ethical questions for a preschooler to handle.

All through the song I imagined a man coming upon an old chest and lugging it around from place to place unable to rid himself of it. Come to think of it; the song frustrated me.

Now when I think of that song it brings a smile, a tear, and my Mom and Dad enjoying a silly song.

I have not heard that song since I was five or six, but I found it.

Ready for a smile?

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If You Drink Light Beer You’re Probably Married To Your Cousin

For those who appreciate good beer there's Xingu, for those who don't, enjoy your fizzy water and quit saying you like beer.

Up until fifteen years ago I didn’t care all that much for beer. My son got a job at one of those stores that offered beers from micro breweries and imports.

He’d grab a couple and scoot on over to my place once a week and we’d drink it together. I don’t know if it was the quality of the beer or just being with my son, but it sure tasted good.

In fact, I started to like beer. Instead of drinking a six pack every other month I was up to a six pack a month.

Dark beers were my favorite. I really liked a beer from Brazil called Xingu. It was black and heavy. It is absolutely the best beer I’ve ever had. On special occasions, when I wanted to impress somebody, I’d have it at the house. Sometimes I even gave it as a gift.

My wife and I accepted an invitation to a gathering. It was a hog roast (a red neck bash) and we would be the only ones present with teeth. In addition to a covered dish we thought of bringing my special beer, Xingu, as a gift to the host.

This was a Bud Light drinking crowd, but my host was known for his fondness of beer so I thought that a good beer would be in order. There is something one must realize; we must not confuse ‘liking’ beer with quality or quantity. My host was assuredly a quantity guy and had the belly to prove it.

I presented it to him and he looked at it like it was cod liver oil. I begged him to take a drink. He tasted it and looked at the bottle like it was cod live oil.

He tried to pronounce the name, Xingu.

I gave him some help. “It almost like ‘shin’ and ‘goo,'” I said.

“Than why don’t they just spell it that way,” he said.

I still don’t think he’d be able to pronounce it if it was.

About an hour later I saw him mingling with his guests carrying and chugging on a Bud Light.

I spied a bottle of Xingu on a tree stump with one swallow missing. ‘What a waste of beer,’ I thought and was not tempted in the least to finish it.

I have come to find out that if you like Bud Light you’re not worthy nor would you understand anything else. You’re interested in quantity and not quality and that’s how you’ll live your entire life. If you drink light beer and not already a red neck you’re probably just a six pack away from being one.

Here is a link for those who think the world in divided into two classes; those who drink Light Beer and those who will rule.

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Mom Always Said, “Kal Kan Dog Food; It’s Not Just For Dogs.” (Part 1)

Kal Kan; a meal in the can the whole family can enjoy, even the dog.

There was an unusual dynamic to my teen years at home. My uncle lived with us. Mom and her brother purchased the family farm after Grandpa and Grandma died. Mom became increasingly concerned that her brother would not take care of himself. His meal of choice was bread torn into pieces, sprinkled with sugar, and milk.

Uncle Bob was different (odd – it would take too long to explain). Under normal circumstances things would have been fine, but we were a dysfunctional family before it was known and became normal.

Uncle Bob drove me crazy. He never thanked me for anything and expected me to run farm equipment without instructing. We were always at odds and at about the age of fourteen I began to snap back.

One day he told me to make him something to eat. I told him it was the servant’s day off.

He once told me to change the channel on the TV (before remotes). I got up and turned the TV off. Uncle Bob protested. I told him it was a new program called, Three Minutes After Midnight.

Of course he reported these things to Mom and she reprimanded me. It got so that when she came home rather than wait for Uncle Bob to report to her she just asked me what I did that day.

One day I was mowing the grass (two acres). Mom stopped me long enough to inform me that she fed a half a can of dog food to our dog, put the rest in a Tupperware container, and set it in the refrigerator. She asked me to peel some potatoes for supper, open a couple of cans of green beans, toss a meat loaf in the oven, and set the table before she got home from work.

At about noon I stopped mowing for lunch. I made a sandwich. Uncle Bob came in from the barn and told me to make him something to eat. I told him to make it himself and took my sandwich to the front porch. Uncle Bob mumbled something in disapproval.

The next thing I heard was him rummaging around in the refrigerator. I heard him in the silverware drawer. I heard him get into the bread. I thought ’could he be preparing a Kal-Kan dog food sandwich?’

I went back into the kitchen. Uncle Bob sat at the table munching away on a Kal-Kan dog food sandwich.

“Is it all gone?” I said. “Cause I wanted some.”

There was enough for another sandwich, but I knew that if he sensed I wanted it he would assuredly eat it.

“This is mine,” he said pulling the Tupperware container of dog food closer to him like a starving child at an orphanage.

He ate the rest without bread.

I walked far enough away from the house so Uncle Bob couldn’t see or hear me. I rolled in the grass and laughed until I was about to throw-up.

(Next week the end of the saga.)

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My First Memory Of Music

The first music I heard came from a record player like this. You talk about quality sound.

One of my earliest memories was a crank record player. It was tucked away in a closet and my sisters pulled it out now and then. The music that came from it doesn’t come to mind, but today I imagine the voices of Vaughn Monroe and Al Jolson.

My Dad worked a few blocks away at a honky tonk bar called the Wooden Shoe on South Main Street in Lima, Ohio. On occasions my sisters walked me to the bar. In those days the music of Hank Williams was prominent. Any band worth its salt had at least a half dozen Hank Williams’ songs in its repertoire.

The bands I remember always had a drummer, a guitar player, a fiddler, and a base fiddler. They wore bright western style clothing with bandanas tied loosely around their necks and slicked hair.

On hot muggy evenings in crowded bars the beer flowed, the laughter was loud, and the music played on. In those days air-conditioning was a rarity. Every window and door was opened to allow cool air in and the music out. The music drifted down the streets and alleys and beckoned the lonely and down-hearted. On small postage-stamp sized stages hillbilly bands strummed, picked, and stroked songs that filled the night.

I listened to bands like this play in bars and honky tonks.

Perspiration rolled down the cheek of the lead singer as he poured his heart into a song. A sip of beer between songs cleared his throat. A wink from a bar room Betty kept him singing.

They sung songs of lost loves, broken hearts, despair, and good times to come. It was only a few years after the worst war of recorded history, World War II. They were songs sung by men who lived through a depression only to brave a war. Their thoughts and songs reflected an inward longing of what they lived through and lost.

There were songs of optimism and fun. Hank Williams knew the ingredients to a good song; a good-looking girl, a good car, a pocket full of money, and a place to spend it.

This is one of the first songs I remember hearing.

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Fight Like A Girl Or Don’t Fight At All

The best way to avoid a bar fight is don't go to bars.

When guys, real guys, get together they talk about the fights they have been in and how they called somebody’s bluff. I’ve never had a guy talk about how he got his clock cleaned. It has to happen; right? Logic dictates that half of the guys out there are lying or keeping suspiciously quiet.

Where are all the guys who got beat-up? Do they meet at a sissy bar and sip lattes and talk about how big the dude was that decked them with one punch or how quickly they ran out of a bar.

Most fights aren’t fights. There is this telepathic male communication that says, ’if we don’t back down at the same time both of us will end up with ouies.’

I watched fights on TV from the days of Roy Rogers. The bad guy always resorted to using a chair or bottle. I’ve later found out that was the smart guys who did that. The bad guy always threw dirt in the good guys face. Once again that is something the smart guys do. The good guy uses his fists only and never uses any other object to beat his opponent to a pulp. I often wondered how many of us misdirected kids from the fifties and sixties got pummeled for following that stupid principle. Here is the best fight scene ever from the movies and explains the rules to fighting perfectly: Click this link.

Nearly every fight I’ve ever witnessed lasted one punch. Bam! It’s over. The loser walks away with a swollen cheek and black eye. The winner has a broken hand and wears a cast for six weeks.

Some fights resemble two windmills charging each other. Somebody eventually throws their shoulder out.

I’ve never seen a guy win a fight who takes a boxing stance or karate pose. That stork stance from the Karate Kid is how you look laying on the ground after being hit by a 2 X 4.

The best fight I ever saw (I can’t believe I said that) was between two girls (chick fight). They latched on the each others’ hair, scratched, slapped, punched, kicked, ripped, bit, choked, and screamed. The one left standing was the one who had the most stamina. It was like the Ali/Frazier “Thrilla in Manila” fifteen rounder condensed to two minutes.

When it comes to fighting the best advice ever given was; The sure way to keep your butt from getting beat is a fast pair of feet. If you must stand and fight; fight like a girl.

Here is my shirt to give fair warning of your intent if provoked.

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Mom, Pat Boone, And The Ouija Board.

Mom thought the wisdom of Pat Boone might help me as a teenager.

When I was fifteen Mon was looking for help with me. She didn’t understand me; I didn’t understand her; I didn’t understand myself.

She bought a hard bound book (she was really serious) written by Pat Boone (well maybe not all that serious) titled Twixt Twelve and Twenty. The book was advice to teenagers from a 50’s point of view. It was like one of those public service movies we had to watch that warned of the dangers of acne and kissing too much.

Mom insisted I read it. After I read it she started to read it.

While she read it I began reading a Jack Douglas book titled, My Brother was an Only Child. You can guess which one had the greatest effect on me.

But I probably would not have ever remembered Pat Boone’s book if not for one event.

I preferred the off-beat humor of Jack Douglas.

A basketball teammate had five tickets to an Ohio State basketball game. He invited me to go with him, another friend, his older brother and his friend. The older brother was 18 and would drive to the game about ninety miles away.

This was a big deal for me. I was going to hang-out with my buddies and two older guys who played on my  school’s varsity team.

As the time arrived for them to pick me up I looked for my ticket. It was nowhere to be found. I looked everywhere. The inevitable went through my mind; when the guys came to pick me up I was going to have to tell them to go without me. I didn’t have a ticket.

Desperation is a funny thing. You do funny, strange, and bizarre things. Acts of desperation catapult some into greatness and others into oblivion.

My frenzied and desperate state of mind caused me to give consideration to using my Mom’s Ouija board.

The Ouija Board tried to seduce me, but I stuck with Jack Douglas.

The board spelled the word “pat.” After a minute or two of trying to elicit more information my mind raced trying to  figure out what the board was telling me. Suddenly it hit me; Pat Boone, Twixt Twelve and Twenty. I rushed into the bedroom where Mom kept the book that she was reading each night before going to sleep. There was the ticket. She was using it as a bookmark.

I was grateful. I had a great day. Ohio State won.

That was the only time the Ouija board did anything. I tried it a time or two again and nothing.

The full implication of this event never had its intended result; to seduce me into allowing fate, spirits, superstition, myths, or charms to influence me. Those things have the affect of throwing common sense, reason, principles, true spirituality, and caution to the wind.

My Mom could see there was a good possibility of me being a delinquent teenager. She wanted me to have some sort of morality and character. She considered herself Lutheran, but never once cracked open the Bible to help me to see what its view was.

So why did she take time to consult Pat Boone? I think it is the same reason that religion has turned its back on the very book they claim to represent and receive  authority; the Bible. Pat Boone was an easy read. Pat Boone thought for you and gave advice from his point of view. Many don’t like reading the Bible; only reading books by people who have read the Bible; sort of like CliffsNotes for the Bible.

I don’t see the event as providential, but rather fortuitist. Both Twixt Twelve and Twenty and the Ouija Board provide the unwary an easy way out. Navigating life is a chore best not left to chance, a person with scant knowledge of the scriptures and experience in life, or to a dubious entertainment board.

A few years later I became aware of the dangers of consulting uncanny and hidden powers. They shackle people into a life driven by paranoia and suspicion. Every event becomes an omen, every dream has a meaning, every bad act is because of what you have done wrong, or a curse.

The Bible frees one from such an existence: (Ecclesiastes 9:11) . . .time and unforeseen occurrence befall them all. (John 8:32) “ . . .and YOU will know the truth, and the truth will set YOU free.”

I often wondered if Mom bought Pat Boone’s book becuase the Ouija board spelled out “pat.” Imagine that; a Ouija board obsessed with Pat Boone or it was a one tirck pony.

Mom was just trying her best.

To Mom;

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Another Variation Of Gourmet Toasted Cheese

Toasted cheese; try it with any cheese, any bread, any meant, with any jelly.

Last week I posted about gourmet grilled toasted cheese sandwiches. I really should have gone a step further. There is another possible ingredient neglected; meat. Recall the premise was any combination of one type of bread, one jelly, and cheese.

Before trying this I turned my nose up at jelly with cheese and jelly with meat. To me meat was only complemented with gravy, Worcestershire sauce, or some sort of steak sauce. I reasoned that many sauces have a lot of sugar such barbecue sauce. So it’s not really a leap to get to jelly. Likewise, fruits (such as those used in jellies) are very good with various cheeses.

A couple of weeks ago my daughter dropped by to make dinner for us. She prepared grilled toasted cheese.

It was fabulous. She used blueberry bread, red pepper jelly, and feta. But what really topped it off was that she added prosciutto.

This started me to thinking (Right, that is a problem). I wondered what meats would work best on the toasted cheese?

The first meat that came to mind was pastrami. The pastrami is much better if shaved or chipped.

Rather than just add the pastrami (or any meat) to the sandwich try heating it first on the grill. Make certain the grill or pan is good and hot before starting. You want some sizzle when the meat hits the heat. Do so until the ends have a little crispness to them. The reason for this is that it gives another dimension of flavor. It will also release some of the moisture in the meat. Too much moisture will make the sandwich soggy and not moist.

So assemble the grilled cheese just like in last week’s blog. Grill the shaved meat until there is a little crispness at the ends. Add the meat to the sandwich and toast it like you normally would.

My wife, daughter, and I had a wonderful time chatting over this delicious delight.

So use your own imagination to create something truly unique and tasty when friends drop over.

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