Rock

Welcome to the personal blog of writer SG Young. My blog has three features:

ROCK posts deal with things I’m doing. Real life. Things that happen.

PAPER posts are the things I’m thinking about, like fitness or kryptonite.

BONFIRE is the imagination.

Rock. Paper. Bonfire. Every day is different.

Featured post

What is Bar-B-Q?

Bar-B-Cue means different things to different people.

In one of my personal favorite old movies the wandering Alan Squier (Leslie Howard) shows up at a southwestern roadhouse and bumps into waitress Gabby (Bette Davis). Turns out, he’s a failed literati looking for a lost cause, and she’s the cause he’s looking for.

Alan (eyeing the menu): “What is . . . “Bar” . . . “Be”. . .”Cue?”

Gabby (brightening): “Well, here it’s a grilled hamburger and vegetables.”

First, he has the soup course. Alan sees everything in Gabrielle’s eyes (he refuses to call her Gabby), but eventually destiny intervenes in the shape of killer Duke Mantee (Humphrey Bogart) and Alan has to decide if he wants to give up his life for a girl he just met.

https://www.imdb.com/title/tt0028096/mediaviewer/rm2354446336

Bar-B-Q really shouldn’t be that serious. It should be more of a thing you enjoy, something to look forward to. I like sampling barbecue while traveling because it can be so regional. And everywhere in the world has some form of barbecue, because it’s one of the original ways to eat cooked food, i.e. throw it on a fire. That, and soup, i.e. throw it in boiling water.

If you want to find decent barbecue in the western suburbs I recommend Russell’s Barbecue on Thatcher Ave. in Elmwood Park. It’s right around the corner from Oak Park, the Chicago suburb where Hemingway grew up and went to school. In fact Russell’s is two miles from Hemingway’s birthplace and boyhood home. Those are two different houses a few blocks apart, the boyhood one on Kenilworth and the other on Oak Park Ave.

What is barbecue at Russell’s on Thatcher? We had ribs, slow-cooked pork, and a nice half-chicken which you can get with or without sauce. Most everything comes with fries and coleslaw. (Theirs is the vinegar style not the cream style slaw, good not great.) But the pork sandwich is always delicious and comes without sauce which you add yourself. I like to think Hemingway ate at Russell’s. It opened in 1930. So maybe he made it back to Oak Park and tried it.

Hemingway has a bit of a connection to the Leslie Howard movie, because Howard’s character Alan is a failed member of the Lost Generation, the Paris ex-pats hanging in Paris and elsewhere after the end of WWI, i.e. during the 1920s. Hemingway meanwhile was a successful member of the Lost Generation, if you consider that someone who sells a lot of books, catches a lot of deep-sea fish, wins a Nobel Prize, and kills himself with his own shotgun successful. He was 61.

I don’t want to give away the ending of the story of Alan and Gabby, but I will add one of the nicest parts about it.

https://www.imdb.com/title/tt0028096/mediaviewer/rm488754944

Bogart honored Leslie Howard for the rest of his life (Howard died a hero, June 1, 1943), even naming his daughter Leslie after him. This was because Howard was key to making Bogart a film star, revitalizing his career in California. When The Petrified Forest was in the planning stages Howard was in Britain and got word that the film producers were thinking of dropping Bogart from the cast. They’d done the play together in New York, Bogart had rave reviews as the killer and Howard sent the Hollywood guys a four-word telegram, “NO BOGART NO HOWARD.” Bogart’s film role as Duke Mantee got him a lot of Hollywood attention. It wasn’t until his casting in HIGH SIERRA (1941), twenty-nine movies later that Bogart headlined a film, but he was always in the mix after doing The Petrified Forest. In 1941 he headlined THE MALTESE FALCON and then CASABLANCA (1942), and the rest is history. All because of barbecue. Sort of.

Chase & Sadie Smith married on . . . To be continued

Poetry Meeting

I’d found a poem in a recipe.

Earlier this year, before the pandemic, I went to a poetry meeting. Almost everyone else were women of a certain age, all poetry fans and some– good poets. (There were two other guys though one was the husband of a member and had just decided to stay rather than drive home and then back again.) I’d brought the recipe poem, typed up and printed on paper, to pass to the group. Everyone had their own poem to share.

There was also a young woman from the bookstore who glued the group together by being sweet and by saying things that brought the group back. Most of the members had known each other a longish time and could wander.This was in Florida.

I sat with my poem copies and I jotted down names around the circle, so I might remember them. It was decided to start with the lady on my right and then move around the circle in that direction, effectively making me last. This made me nervous. The poems had to be about “Housework.” This was a startling topic for me when I’d decided to try the poetry group. Why housework? Well, they had brainstormed possible topics two years ago and this month got around to that one. I had just happened to pick the Housework meeting. That’s why I brought in the recipe. It was what I could come up with.

All the poems selected were read aloud in turn and briefly discussed. Most were quite good, one was a Nikki Giovanni, the one where she wants her lover to cook for her. That was the only other one that had to do specifically with cooking.

When it came to my turn I read first William Carlos Williams’s short poem about eating the plums. This was an example of a found poem, because I know that not everyone interested in writing knows what a found poem means, basically something that you didn’t write yourself but discovered or created out of someone else’s writing. I like finding them in prose or anywhere. I read aloud the William Carlos Williams, and they all knew what I was getting at. Then I read aloud Syrup of Violets (an actual recipe from the 1600s).

SYRUP OF VIOLETS

Take the deepest and best coloured Violets,

And make some Spring water boyling hot,

And put the flowers into a silver Tankard

Or into a new Pipkin with a cover,

Then put in the water upon the flowers,

Till it be as thick as you can well stir it about,

And then set it upon hot Embers,

To keep it hot six hours,

But be sure it do not boyl,

And set it by until It is cold,

And then squeeze out the Flowers

And to every pint of this Liquor

Put two pound and a half right Brazil Sugar

And set it upon the Fire,

And when it is scalding hot,

And when the scum does rise,

Take it off and scum it and set it by.

 

And when cold,

Bottle it and stop it close,

And keep it for your use.

 

 

 

 

 

 

the feeling of unity

We’re all in this together.

I’m appreciating the inspiring video from George W, Bush about our country getting through the coronavirus crises by pulling together in a spirit of national service, each person doing what we can to help family, friends, neighbors, and community. It was released on May 2. He particularly warns against, “An outbreak of fear and loneliness.”

Bush mentions a few groups especially vulnerable: the unemployed, the elderly, the ill.

Starting from that I’m suggesting two more subgroups of society in order to round out the list and create a mnomiac- a monomaniac- a menomineec- one of those lists that are easy to remember:

A = ANXIOUS (pre-existing conditions, hard-hit zip codes, meat-plant workers, etc.)

E = ELDERLY (anyone older than me is technically “elderly”)

I = ILL (anyone testing positive or already compromised by illness)

O = ON THE FRONT LINES ( health-care workers, first responders, essential workers)

U = UNEMPLOYED (laid off or bankrupted or furloughed)

Here is a youtube link to the 3-min. clip:

 

Seriously, on a roll

One thing I’ve learned

One thing I’ve learned-

When we were younger and the kids were small

We had zero money, but saved a bit,

Bought a piece of furniture-

An entertainment center in cherry-

With bright burnished finish

Quite nice.

And it was damaged

“Must have been one of the kids”

Just a small nick appeared marring the newness,

No problem really, but we’d accused the wrong child

And everyone felt quite bad-

No one came forward.

 

It was forgotten

But not really

Then years later we found out

It was the youngest-

Who’d never been accused but had been worried to speak up,

So kept quiet-

But years later it came out, talking, so

We laughed at how seriously we’d all taken it.

 

Now

We’re all older, many years,

It’s the one thing about that furniture I recall,

The only thing that has any real meaning,

A shallow nick about the height of a small child.

Now it’s the one thing special about an old piece of furniture.

 

It’s one of the things I’ve learned-

About life.

It may be the only thing I’ve learned.

She Arrived Unspoken

SHE ARRIVED UNSPOKEN

     by SG Young

         

She arrived unspoken.

She came first to the gone part of town

To that part that wasn’t really there anymore

The part that perhaps had never been there

The part where bombardments had hit hard

And often.

 

Where shops had been blown

Charges set

Things thrown

That should not have been thrown.

She arrived unspoken

The little girl.

 

Yet within hours

Somehow it was known.

Somehow it came to be known.

The little girl is that baby

The little girl is our Anushka.

Sonya’s Anushka.

Alfonso’s Anushka.

That little girl.

Yes that little girl there Who is walking

Through the blown part of town with someone.

 

And every street had someone who knew

Who knew Everything

Who told Everything

Who said Give this to her for me.

I shall not see her.

Please give this for me

Please take her these

From me.

 

For:             Potlatch by Claudia Selene

Potlatch is a portrait done in oil paint on wood. Claudia Selene is from Ypsilanti, Michigan. Her painting won the Bowles Award for Portrait Excellence at the 2020 National Art Exhibition sponsored by the Visual Arts Center, Punta Gorda, Florida.    http://www.visualartcenter.org

Navigate to p.14 to view Potlatch: https://cdn.shopify.com/s/files/1/1797/9015/files/2020_NAE_Awards_Program_2.13.20_FINAL.pdf?718

 

 

Darya Applebaum

E97979EB-02D9-4186-B7D2-76B4BCEF78B9(Note: A  short story written for a contest, limited to 1500 words)

DARYA APPLEBAUM

By SG Young                                                      1454 words

 

Darya looked up through her bangs. “Mom . . .”

Her mother stood at the induction cook top, stirring with one hand while scrolling her phone with the other. She breathed heavily.

“Mom, . . . mom . . .”

Dr. Applebaum’s eyes glanced. “Darya?” She said it as if she were calling on an astrophysics student.

“Mom. Finally. Are you making fudge?”

“No, honeydew, I’m making supper. I’m making pasta. With your favorite sauce.”

“Fudge is my favorite sauce.”

“Fudge doesn’t go with pasta.”

“Fudge goes with EVERYTHING.”

“You go with everything. Give me a big hug.” Dr. Applebaum picked up her four-year-old daughter and sat her on the kitchen barstool. Then she hugged her tight in her arms, maybe even a little too tight, and brushed ashen hair from her daughter’s eyes. “I should cut these bangs.”

“I like my bangs. I like peeking.” Darya pulled her head away just enough so that she could see her mother’s smile through the bangs, but not the worry lines that wrinkled her forehead.

“Mom, did you used to be pretty?”

“Thank you very much! That’s a nice compliment to hear at the end of a long day.”

“But did you?”

“Yes, honeydew. If I’m being brutally honest, yes, I used to be pretty.”

“What’s brutally?”

“Brutally . . .” Dr. Applebaum breathed heavily again. “Brutally is when something is true, but you really wish it wasn’t.”

“So, no fudge. That’s brutally?”

“Yes, I suppose it is. Can you hop down and wash your hands, please? With soap.”

“Scoot me?”

“To the sink?”

“Please . . .”

“Okay, hang on. Tight.”

Darya smiled a huge smile, gripped her hands hard to the edge of the barstool so she wouldn’t lose her balance, and waited for her mother to make the flight announcement.

“Darya for clearance to the sink . . . Darya for clearance to the sink . . . ready for acceleration phase . . . “ Darya started giggling. “Okay, you have clearance.” Dr. Applebaum gripped one hand onto the rim of the barstool and pulled it in a wide arcing semicircle to bring her daughter toward the sink. She announced, “Deceleration phase,” and the barstool came to a halt just close enough for Darya to reach her hand to the faucet handle.

Darya washed her hands using actual soap. “What is soap?”

“Soap is what makes your hands clean.”

“I know what it does. I want to know what it is.”

“Ooh, you little physicist.”

“That’s good, right?”

“Yes, honeydew, that’s good. That’s so good.”

Dr. Applebaum spooned tomato sauce onto her daughter’s pasta, and warned, “It’s hot. You can blow on it.”

“Hard or soft?”

“Just soft, dear. We aren’t blowing houses down.”

“Do you think wolves could really blow houses down? I don’t think so.”

“I don’t think so,” her mother agreed.

“I don’t think so either.” Darya smiled at her mother until Dr. Applebaum smiled back.

After Darya was safe in bed, and had heard her favorite stories, Dr. Applebaum stood at her mirror staring at the lines on her forehead. She could practically name the projects that had given rise to each one. The Close-Approach Project, nearest her eyebrows. Then the Orbital Project. And the Contact Project, etched nearer her hairline. Each project’s timeline apogee-linked to the orbital period of the Lunar Lump. When the Lump had originally broken off of the moon she’d been a grad student herself, and now almost twenty years later she felt as if the Lunar Lump had taken over her life.

That eerie green image, the one that went viral with those hands on the glass, had been the end result of going against her advice. The President. He’d wanted a manned mission.

Dr. Applebaum’s pregnancy had coincided with so many others that the entire batch of babies had been nicknamed Lunar Boomers. No one knew how much time the earth had left. Why NOT get pregnant? She’d picked an attractive and brilliant former student. And hadn’t even told him.

Dr. Appelbaum fell asleep remembering Aurelio, the smell of him. He used a lot of turmeric. Sleep was blissful.

“Mom, mom, is this the day the earth gets destroyed?”

Dr. Applebaum blinked her eyes open and glanced at her clock. 6:05. “Why are you asking me that?”

“You said you’d make the fudge on the last day. We could just eat it and eat it. Fudge all day. Is today the fudge?”

“No, honeydew, today is not the fudge. It’s just a day. And it’s early.”

“That’s brutally.” Darya climbed onto her mother’s covers. “On the last day can I do whatever I want?”

“Yes, I suppose. It’ll be the biggest snow day in the history of creation. Nobody has to do anything for tomorrow, for tomorrow never comes.”

“What are you going to do, Mom?”

“I suppose I’ll hug you like crazy. And drink margaritas. And think about turmeric.”

“Can I drink margaritas?”

“Well, I suppose you could, now that I think of it. But I don’t think you’d like them.”

“I’d like them if they had fudge.”

“Fudge margaritas? Actually, might be worth a try.” She looked at her daughter’s bangs and said, “These really need cutting. Today. But today is a school day for you. You need your school outfit. Can you put that on?”

“Okay.” Darya popped off of the bed and ran back to her closet hooks. There were two school outfits and she liked both of them, so she usually just picked the one that she hadn’t worn last time. She liked to be fair to both of them.

At the lab that afternoon Dr. Applebaum knew she had her conference call that would include the President and both of his chief science consultants. They all knew that she had the most accurate projections of the Lunar Lump’s trajectory changes. She was going to tell them today that all of the indications were such that Destruction Day would be the closest of the several scenarios. There was less than a week left.

Then they would have to decide what to tell the public. The truth? Probably not. The truth was going to be that earth would never survive, and that the deepest shelters, even the salt caves, were not going to be of any help. If they asked her advice she planned to tell them that they shouldn’t make any announcement at all. There had already been vague declarations that this year would be an ideal time to catch up on any religious obligations. What else could the population actually prepare for?

But she knew that the President might favor being brutally honest. That everyone ought to know the date and time to the nearest accuracy possible.

Dr. Applebaum thought about going philosophical on him. Just saying, “Now.” That the event would happen, Now.

“Why now?” The President would surely ask.

“Because everything happens now. It’s the only time that really exists, the only time that anything can ever happen is . . . now!”

The reality would be that any kind of realistic announcement would be met with the same predictable reactions. Some would accuse the President of grandstanding for political reasons. Many would continue life as normal. Maybe—saying a few more prayers? And some would go absolute bat-dung crazy and start killing and destroying. The biggest looting spree in the history of the world.

Why risk that?

Dr. Applebaum suddenly decided that she would lie.

She would say that there’s been a tiny error. The projections were a slight bit off. They had another year. Maybe even another two years. No more than that. After the President’s term was up anyway.

Somebody else’s problem.

She had the conference call. She lied. They all believed her. At heart they wanted to believe her. They trusted her, because they knew she wouldn’t risk her science reputation by being anything less than accurate. So she must be telling the truth.

Dr. Applebaum felt a rush of enormous relief, and left the lab after the call was completed. It was a bit on the early side. But she wanted to stop on the way home. She wanted plenty of fresh limes and this certain tequila she’d been waiting to try. A certain reposado. She’d been waiting for a special event.

And then she stopped for Belgian chocolate. She liked Belgian even better than the Swiss. She messaged her neighbor who watched Darya after school.

Darya met her at the door. She peeked into the bags right away. “Is this for making fudge?”

Dr. Applebaum nodded and smiled. “Yes, honeydew.”

“Yayyy!” Darya screamed it through the house, climbed onto her barstool, and said, “I better wash my hands.”

(Note: Darya won $75.00 in the story contest, and she plans to spend it entirely on fudge.)

 

Dogs Working

Our destination was Tin Cup.

Just three people live in Tin Cup. It’s a sort of ghost town making a comeback up in the mountains near Gunnison, Colorado. In summer temporary residents show up for the glorious mountain scenery and remote trails through Gunnison National Forest. But the three permanent residents mean that in winter the county plows the road just enough so they can get in and out on snowmobiles or four-wheel drives. If it snows.

It’s snowed. Snowed enough for our transportation to be happy about it. To be, in fact, ecstatic about it. Of course, snowmobiles and four-wheel drives don’t get ecstatic about much of anything, but our transportation would be a runnered sled and a team made of equal parts enthusiasm and fur coats.

Our transportation would be led by Pilgrim, running loose up the road, ranging side to side, exploring and okaying everything ahead, checking out the woods from time to time, and the whole time running. Running like only a happy dog runs, a dog doing everything possible to make the trip a success. Pilgrim is eleven years old.

One other dog ran loose as well, Lily, who functioned as a sort of dignitary. Lily’s job was mostly self-defined, but it seemed to consist of checking in with the passengers from time to time. She would run for long stretches until occasionally bumping alongside the passenger area, hopping aboard right on top of everything else, and checking things out. Five to six minutes allowed her to catch her breath, and then she’d jump off and run again.

The other eight dogs made up the team. The team is harnessed in pairs, two in lead up front, two in wheel nearest the sled, and two more matched pairs as in-betweeners. The strongest pair pulled just behind lead. They were the younger dogs, just over a year old, their speed and endurance a given.

The two passengers, seated on the sled tucked into what amounted to a tent zipped open to the breeze had a down sleeping bag for additional warmth, on top of winter coats, snow-pants, wool socks, boots, oversized mittens, scarves, you-name-it. It was breezy for the passengers, but not frigid.

Behind the passengers our driver, Becky, stood on thin rails gripping the driver’s bow in her experienced, seriously-mittened hands. Becky is owner-operator of Lucky Cat Dog Farm out of Gunnison, her operation centered around training and running sled dogs. Becky doesn’t race the dogs, and she doesn’t breed the dogs. She selects them through adoption or purchase and makes sure they have what they need to work for a living. In the morning they get dry dog food, a technical mix assuring 28% protein and 35% fat, the fat being the essential. Their evening meal is either meat or bone served in their individual living quarters which are outdoor doghouses lined with fresh straw.

All the meat and bone are processed by Becky herself. A bandsaw and cutting table create individual portion-controlled hunks of deer and elk. It’s served raw, the meat thawed, the bone frozen. The meat and bone portions are all processed during fall hunting seasons, the castoffs and extras after dressing out the game. Becky processes enough for all the dogs for the entire year, packages it all in five-gallon buckets, and freezes it. She recently had to purchase a walk-in freezer, though until last year’s warmer-than-ever winter she could keep everything preserved merely by freezing it hard in winter and housing it carefully in a shaded shed. She keeps fifteen dogs, but sometimes boards a couple for other owners.

Becky brought ten dogs for our outing, so she kidded that the others left behind would be jealous this afternoon when everybody else got back home. And the five left back would have scrounged through all the doghouses and scattered last night’s elk bones all around their enclosure, but they would all find one again. Tonight would be meat night.

For us the trip wasn’t very much work. We first bundled into the sled interior for the trip out to Tin Cup, but later spouse and I both got a chance to “drive.” I went first, standing up in the sled while it was still in motion, turning around to grab one hand onto the driver’s bow and then maneuvering one boot onto the nearest runner. Becky moved a foot and my second boot came around as we shared duties in back. There really wasn’t anything to actually do, as the dogs see the route clearly and were following Pilgrim racing along ahead. We didn’t even have to shout, “Mush.”

At one point Becky mentioned that she had spotted a lost GPS from a previous trip laying along the roadside and wanted to retrieve it on the way back before it disappeared under fresh snow. Carol volunteered to jump out of the sled and grab it while Becky and I both stood on the snow brake. The plan sounded like it might turn into some kind of desperate maneuver, but in the end the team were agreeable enough to wait a few seconds. Just a few though. Once they saw her turn back to the sled they started pulling even against both of us on the brake, and Carol had to trot and jump into the moving vehicle. She had fun, and the GPS looked OK though the batteries were out. Carol eventually tried her hand at driving, just before the dogs returned us to our vehicles parked roadside where we’d left them two hours previous.

We got a chance to meet all the dogs and help remove their pulling harnesses. They like the entire process, because it includes petting. Rico & Isaac had wheel. Smokey & Shiva pull just ahead of them. Granger & Salmon (Sammy) are brother and sister pulling second. Sisters Xotil & Dulce pull lead. Shiva back farther is their third sister. They had just run 14 miles pulling a sled that weighed, loaded, over 600 pounds. Even divided eight ways it’s a substantial task.

After a short break and some water each dog was helped into their individual riding cubbies mounted atop their pickup. Except for Rico– he takes a running start and just jumps up and in all by himself. Last we assisted in getting the big sled itself up to the top of the roofmount. When everything was stowed we said our good-byes and thank yous.

If you’ve never had an opportunity to try dog-sledding I highly recommend the experience. Even to a rookie it was obvious how wonderfully happy these dogs are just to pull. Their rambunctious enthusiasm to get started included loud barking and a lot of jumping in place.

Just dress as warm as you can, because the main idea is that you’re traveling over snow. Pulled by eight small engines in warm coats.

 

 

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