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I had a friend ask if I was gong to blog about Newtown, Connecticut. Honestly, I don’t know, even as I’m writing this.

What is there to say that won’t sound trite or allow too much of myself to bubble into the blogosphere?

I have two boys, both under four, who I love more than anything. And essentially I have no control over whether I see them at the end of the day or not.

It has always been that way. It will always be that way. We are just able to delude ourselves that we have more control than we do. At least until these things happen and show us how small and powerless we really are, that every moment is a gift.

Isn’t that enough?

Well, crockpot season has hit and I couldn’t be happier. I love my crockpot. But I admit to being in a crockpot rut. Don’t get me wrong, I love my roasts and chilies, but I’m pretty sure that the wife has gotten enough of them.

Well, this season I am breaking out, baby! I’m planning on a new crockpot a week. Each Sunday I will embrace and prepare a new and hopefully funky recipe.

My first foray into the funky footwork was a doozy. It is so good, I have dreamed about it after eating it. I’m serious. I hope you try it.

This is my variation on a recipe from Better Homes & Gardens. They use couscous, but I used a wild rice blend.

Crock Pot Moroccan Short Ribs

Ingredients

THE RUB
1 tablespoon dried thyme, crushed
1 tablespoon dried cumin
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1 teaspoon ground black pepper
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

3 1/2 pounds beef short ribs, bones in
olive oil

2 cups beef broth (plus one to deglaze)
1 16-ounce can garbanzo beans (chickpeas), rinsed and drained
1 large onion, cut into thin wedges
1 medium fennel bulb, trimmed and cut into thin wedges
2 medium carrots diced
1 medium sweet potato diced
5 cloves garlic, minced
1 cup dried, washed lentils (or better 1 pkg of Trader Joe’s Steamed Lentils)

Directions

Mix all your dry rub ingredients together and rub all over the short ribs. Keep your short ribs in the slabs, or cut the slab in half to help the browning or the crockpot accommodate them.

Get an iron on skillet medium. Put enough oil in to just coat the bottom and put your short ribs in flesh side down. Let this brown for about five minutes. Turn it over to the bone side and brown for three to four minutes.

While the ribs are browning, put everything else (except one cup of the broth) in the crockpot and give it a good stir. Go ahead and turn your pot on high.

When the ribs are fully browned lay into the crockpot and deglaze the skillet with the last cup of broth. Pour the tasty deglazed brown-bits over the ribs and put on the lid.

If you’re home, I would let it go high for two hours then turn it low for four. Otherwise, you can leave it low for eight to ten hours.

You can tell it’s done when you pull a bone and it the meat pulls away.

When it’s done take out the meat, remove the bone and chop the meat.

Serve the veggies over rice or couscous with the meat on top.

This is a delicious recipe!

 

Well, we had Banana Grandma’s funeral. It wasn’t as Banana Grandma-ish as I had hoped, but there were moments.

First, let me tell you that I send the previous post, “Yes, We Have No Bananas,” to my grandmother’s pastor, a tall Southern Baptist from Baylor in Texas. He wanted family to send stuff, so I did.

Before the service I heard him ask my father if he could read a letter that was confusing him. I had assumed that he wouldn’t read my letter anyway, so I thought nothing of it.

A little bit later, while my wife and I were in the toddler room getting my mother-in-law situated with the kids the minister came down and said to me, “I finally found out what your grandmother’s last name was.”

I said, “Which one?” knowing that she has had several last names.

He leaned into me and said, “Dildo.” Then he turned and walked down the hall. That was pretty good, and he won me over with that. He read my letter in full.

My father eulogized her with about a thirty-minute eulogy. It was really good and hit all the right emotional notes.

They played a recording of my niece singing the Carpenters’ “Top of the Word,” which caused the requisite sideways glances from non-family mourners. My niece sang the second song live, and it was written by my ex-sister-in-law, specifically for this funeral. She couldn’t finish it, which was also a beautiful moment.

The final Banana-Grandmaesque moment of the funeral proper actually came as her own words. A young lady, the youth pastor from the church, had spent a considerable time with my grandmother over the last two years. She spoke quite lovingly of my grandmother, finishing her testimonial with a line my grandmother used to like to say her: “Go out and spread the Word, you little virgin.”

That was my grandmother. She was like a Confederate General, able to mix the oddly profane with the sacred. And no matter how much she layered on the bullshit, the nasty jibes, and histrionics, there was always a depth of sentimental nostalgia and fondness that seemed to blunt the corners and round the edges of her often acerbic spirit.

I will miss her.

 

Hey, gang, sorry for the lapse. Got slammed last week. Been a bit down this week and getting domestic, so I took a week off. I will be back on Tuesday.

Thanks. Jason

Sorry. I’m slammed with work right now. Hope to get back on Thursday.

 

Jason

Banana Grandma died last Thursday night. If you know why she has that moniker, then you have a very brief, but quite clear understanding of my family, our foibles, and the deep running offbeat, sometimes disturbing humor that is chemically bonded to our DNA. She is really the font of that humor, though most people wouldn’t know it. Most people would be surprised to discover that she was the most complicated person I knew.

Her last words were “I feel funny.” While I know that she meant something was physically wrong, that she was literally moments from sliding off her seat, slipping into the unknowable oblivion or grace of death, I take that phrase for its dual meaning. Perhaps in that moment of ultimate clarity she realized that she was our humor’s source, the comedic alpha to the now three living generations that she begat.

Because, I can tell you, most of the tears that we will shed for her will not be tears of sadness or loss, though of course there will be those. Most of our tears will be shed during the entertaining stories of her vibrant living, her stunning statements and proclamations, the retellings of her adventurous mishaps and eccentricities. They will be the tears that accompany joyful nostalgia.

My father suggested playing the Kenny Rogers’ song, “Ruby,” at the funeral. When I laughed, he asked why, noting it was her favorite song.

“I love it,” I said. “I love living in a family where we can seriously suggest a country song about a woman cheating on a disabled American veteran as a possible song for my grandmother’s funeral” And I meant it. Not many people would have understood it. Some may have even been offended. But grandmother would have laughed her flaming Irish ass off.

I then suggested, only half-jokingly, that the family leave the ceremony singing “So Long, Farewell” from the Sound of Music. Again, she would have loved it. Our family would have loved it. But that’s our strange, some might say disturbing sense of humor. And it comes straight from her.

So, if you think you knew her, you were possibly only half right, probably only a quarter right. She was one of the most complicated people I knew. And the funniest without knowing it.

So…

There’s a sad sort of clanging from the clock in the hall
And the bells in the steeple too
And up in the nursery an absurd little bird
Is popping out to say, “Cuckoo”
Regretfully they tell us but firmly they compel us
To say goodbye
To you

Periodically I post pieces written for SPT’s The Writers’ Room Series that ended up on the cutting room floor. They are pieces that I like, but, for sundry reasons, didn’t end up in the show for which they were written.

Famous Moments in Couples Counseling:
Biscuits and Gravy

BISCUITS (male) and GRAVY (female) are sitting in couple’s therapy. They both have Southern accents.

Therapist
Well, since this is our first meeting, why don’t you tell me a little about each other. Biscuits, why not tell me a little about Gravy.

Biscuit
Well, she’s a saucy little southern girl. A little spicy, warm, comforting. She’s my perfect compliment.

Gravy
Oh, stop it, Bis. You’re just flouering me up.

Biscuit
No, it’s true. I can’t imagine life without you.

Therapist
Gravy.

Gravy
Well, Bis is a little crusty, but once he opens up to you he’s warm and tender. A little flaky, but that’s what I love about him.

Biscuit.
Pshaw.

Therapist
Well, tell me why you’re here today.

They look at each other sheepishly.

Biscuit
Well…

Gravy
Well…

Biscuit
Well, we’ve been together a long time.

Gravy
A long time.

Biscuit
Centuries, actually.

Gravy
We came over from the old country together, you know.

Biscuit
And, while we love each other dearly…

Gravy
So dearly.

Biscuit
We…um…we’re looking to spice things up a bit.

Therapist
Okay.

Gravy
See, he always wants me on top.

Buscuit
She likes things a little…messier that I usually care for.

Gravy
I like it messy, sloppy.

Therapist
I get it. So what you’re looking for is what? A change in the bedroom, or a change of partners?

They look at each other sheepishly.

Together
Bedroom. Partners. Both.

Therapist
I see.

Gravy
Is that bad?

Therapist
Well, it takes a strong relationship to handle that kind of thing. Jealousy can creep in and become a strong and dangerous influence.

Gravy
We’ve talked that through and I think we’re pretty secure in our devotion to each other. We’re really just looking for… for…

Biscuit
Sex.

Therapist
Well, have you thought about possible part—

Gravy
Chuck Fried Steak. I’ve had my eye on him for a while. He’s strong, tough, grissled. I bet he likes it rough and messy.

Biscuit
Frieda Egg.

Gravy
Really? She’s so young.

Biscuit
And bacon.

Gravy
A threesome?

Biscuit
Go big or go home.

Therapist
Okay, then.

I have entered the Twitterverse.

I have eschewed it so far. It smacks of ego to me, and I try very hard to separate myself from that sort of thing.

Tangent! My wife has never smoked. Anything. She has dreams of smoking and has had those dreams for a long time. She knows that if she ever took a drag that she would be hooked.

That’s how I feel about ego-trips. I’m afraid that if I allowed myself to buy into hype and kudos that I would be one midnight bonfire dance away from Mr. Kurtz. So I’m pretty good at keeping things in check. My wife and kids help me with that too.

I do a couple of things pretty well, but it’s in an industry that openly promotes recognition. So, if people like you or what you do you hear about it, sometimes a lot. And I’ve seen people with both great and mediocre talent buy into that hype and appreciation. They end up being difficult to work with.

Anyway Twitter has always just seemed like another way to buy into your own hype. But then I started sending out query letters for my first novel. I began researching agents and general info about the industry. I learned about the author’s platform. Ahhhhh, the platform. Welcome to the digital age.

Apparently, there are those —some agents and industry others— that look for new authors with an already vibrant platform. This means that an author already has a digital presence. That means, web site, blog, Facebook page, and Twitter presence.

Look, I want this thing. I want my book published. I want the next two published. I want people talking about the world I have created for them. I want publishers fighting to print my name on their covers —how’s that for ego? So I am going to do what I can.

So I set up my account, and guess what? “JasonAlberty” is taken. That’s right. My name is already taken. He’s my name doppelganger from Omaha. There is another Jason Alberty in Detroit, I think. Anyway, the Omaha Jason Alberty, a Facebook friend of mine, beat me to the Twitterverse. So I originally decided on “Galadahnian” because of my novel.

My wife suggested that I could have picked something harder to spell and a bit more difficult to understand. I told her “BootyHunk” was already taken —which, sadly, is not true, it’s available.

Nonetheless, I have changed my Twitter name to AlbertyBlahBlah. Hopefully that will make it easier for the three people who are interested in my daily blathering, including the very popular “3 year old acid trip” quotes.

Viva L’Ego!

Yup, you read the title of this post correctly. I just read in The Guardian online that the unfortunate next “new thing” is called, I shit you not, “body fragrancing functional candy.” It’s exactly what you fear it might be. And I have added links to prove it.

You can now eat candy that, through your very pores, excretes the smell of potpourri. Apparently discovered by the Japanese —who else— this candy uses the idea of geraniol, “a naturally occurring compound found in plants such as roses, lavender and vanilla.” It works like garlic, apparently. And asparagus. And most of us know how well asparagus works.

The Japanese created a chewing gum a couple of years ago called Otoko Kaoru, which means “man scent.” Unfortunately the man scent they chose was rose, and, for some reason, few men decided to use it and it folded.

Well, now it’s being sold in Europe and is poised to unleash itself on the American market as a product called Deo Perfume Candy. Deo. As in deodorant. And the packaging, if what they show on ConfectioneryNews.com is correct, makes it look like it should come flavored with vinegar and honey in an easy to use squirt bottle, if you know what I mean. Not the best packaging choice for me.

The best line on ConfectioneryNews.com is as follows:

… “a move to enable penetration into the market sooner.”

These dudes aren’t playing around.

And the effects are supposed to last for hours. And through multiple orifices.

Yes, we will all finally be able to say, “My shit don’t stink.”

I have been married twice. My first was to a high school sweetheart. She could have been a model. I could have been a troll. She loved me because I saved her from her family and I loved her because she saved me from myself.

The marriage was a done-deal, predestined, expected by everyone and everything. So we gave into the expectations of others. To the seeming weight of fate. It was serious business. But we never danced.

I mean we danced. We held each other standing up and swayed to music, but we never really danced. We couldn’t. We were too guarded against what we knew was the inevitable. We had steeled ourselves by keeping the dancer hidden in the dark, way in the back of the big empty room.We had saved each other, but we spent ourselves, broke each other open, then went our separate ways.

I wouldn’t change that history, but that history sits with me much like Byzantine history. Or the history of the Punic wars. Something far away over some misty-minded horizon that I just can’t quite see in full color.

But it led me here.

And now I dance. And I don’t mean standing up and swaying to the music dance. My wife and I don’t do much of that. We don’t need to. Because when we talk we dance. Sometimes it’s swing when we’re laughing. Sometimes we waltz, sitting on the sofa watching a movie holding hands. Sometimes when the tempers flare we’re a mosh pit of two flinging ourselves against each other recklessly, wildly. And, honestly, there’s a lot of chicken dance.

But the fact is that we dance, even when we’re sitting still reading the morning paper, because I’ve allowed her to see my monster in the back corner, and she has allowed me to see hers. We’ve shared our secrets, the important ones at least. And, for the first time really, it doesn’t matter to me what others think. I could have said that when I was younger, but you never really mean it. It’s more of a threat when you’re younger, a gauntlet.

She doesn’t mind that I walk from one end of the house to the other turning lights off stark naked, and I don’t mind her twenty year-old ratty Supergirl underwear. She takes my freak-outs in stride, and I nod knowingly at her rare and surprising bursts of cattitude. She allows me my football insanity even though it brings her home to a halt. And I don’t mind that she goes to see her parents every weekend she can, even though it means my home goes with her.

Maybe it’s age or wisdom or insanity. Or maybe it’s some bizarre chemical reaction between two people who’s universal dust parted eons ago and has spun through the vastness only to miraculously coalesce at the right time, in the right place to assemble again in the bodies of two people who happen to meet in some dimly lit hallway on the only inhabited planet “of a hum-drum star lost in a galaxy tucked away in some forgotten corner of the universe.” Could it be that cosmically romantic? Probably not. Luck, fate chemistry…it doesn’t matter. Because we dance.

 

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