Wednesday, December 13, 2017

ON THIS DAY

There's an old adage that says "The only difference between men and boys is the size of their toys".
It might very well be true.


The only problem is that big boy's toys tend to be fraught with complications. There are many times that I yearn for the simple days when I had the Jeep.


 When I was six years old I was diagnosed with leukemia by two doctors. One of them predicted that I would never live to be twelve.
To make a long story short (which has never been one of my assets), I outlived both doctors....by an enormous amount of time. 

To be brutally honest (which is one of my few assets), life would have been much more sweet if my existence had been extinguished before I was twelve. 

Anyone who says that life gets better with age - or that you're only as old as you feel - is.....

sensitive people, please hold your ears

........full of shit.

But another birthday has arrived like a runaway train and I couldn't find a way to derail it. 
As for my age - the less said about it the better. In the past, I used to lie about my age so outrageously that there were times when even I couldn't recall the genuine number.

Finally I gave up lying about my age and simply ignored it. I suppose that's the most painless ploy.

As my life tumbles towards the inevitable reward of oblivion, the years seem to pass more and more quickly - and my astonishment is replaced by frustration....and fury.

One day I'm a sweet, innocent, adorable babe in the woods - -


- - - and the next day I'm a grotesque, disgruntled, decrepit hermit in the woods - trying desperately to hang on to past bouquets, despite the growing influx of weeds.




Don't put too much analysis into this post. It's merely a jumble of fleeting thoughts.

Oh, by the way -
Happy Birthday to Susan, who shares my birthday...
....and to Geo. - who was born sometime in December...



 

Monday, December 11, 2017

SILENT NIGHT

Incredibly silent. Deceptively peaceful. A soft wind blowing through the haphazard clutter of shivering treetops. It's nearly 2:00 a.m. on a cold, sightless night. I just stepped out on the back porch. Everything is pitch black. The moon is rising - a faint translucent glimmer nestled in the forest. By dawn it will be high above the trees.

Last night was bitterly cold. The temperature dropped to 12 degrees Fahrenheit and I stayed up until way after dawn to make sure the water pipes didn't freeze (they froze and burst the first winter that I lived here, so I've been nervous about it ever since).

Tonight - thankfully - it isn't nearly as frigid, but it's still cold enough to chill my bones in this damp and drafty house. I have a pot of homemade potato soup on the stove and plan to eat some shortly.

Until then, I'll share some photos that were taken very recently. 

 Yesterday morning I stepped outside  at dawn and took these photos.


 The moon way up above the trees.

 Forest in the back yard

Scruffy on the back porch about three days ago. After being sick for awhile, she has finally gained weight and her fur looks much better. She's a sweetheart.

 I very seldom take photos of myself. I took this last Friday (the 8th) after I got home from my excursion to town. My El Cheapo camera only has a ten-second timer. I have to set the timer, then run like hell and try to assume a pleasing position before the camera snaps. It ain't easy.

I wiped the frost off my bedroom window yesterday morning and took this pic of the nearby mountain illuminated by the rising sun.

 I was on the floor in the sunshine the other day, studying some music scores, when Scratch (Kitzee) came to join me. She soon fell asleep.

Saturday, December 9, 2017

PAS DE DEUX WITH FROST



Winter has arrived early here in the Tennessee boonies. The daytime high was only in the 20s (that's Fahrenheit, for those of you in Haiti). 

Despite the frigid weather, I decided to drive to town. It will take me weeks to recover from the harrowing ordeal - but I got to wear my heavy winter coat. And I got some much-needed groceries and food for the cats. It's supposed to be very cold all next week, so at least I'm prepared. I think.

In honor of the cold weather and the approaching holidays, I'm offering a video: my piano transcription of the pas de deux from the Nutcracker ballet by Tchaikovsky. Some of you have seen this before, but just pretend like you didn't.

Actually, this isn't the entire pas de deux, it's just a brief excerpt - because I thought the whole thing was rather long.

This is from an unedited rehearsal tape that I made when I lived in Texas. I recorded it in the summer when it was about 110 degrees. I put up the candles just for a "humorous" touch (which I now regret).


Wednesday, December 6, 2017

ALARMING HOLIDAY CUISINE

The Joy of Blogging, Rule #86
"If all else fails, try visuals".

I dug into the sticky dregs of my visual archives and extracted a delectable array of holiday food to whet your appetite - and inspire your creativity.


Hot dog and raw bacon Nativity
with Chinese noodles

Roasted Weenie Christmas Tree

 Holiday Vegetable Loaf
with raw tomatoes, radishes, and broccoli

Leftover turkey in a brown Jello ring.

Cranberry Candle Salad

 Vegetable Surprise
Holiday Gelatin Mold

 You can't go wrong
with black mince pie and
charred Christmas pudding.

Canned Vegetable Medley

Olive-embellished cheese balls

.....and the piece de resistance...
Stuffed Porker!
But wait -
no holiday meal would be complete without home-baked desserts.


Holiday Cookies!



Fruit Cake!

Gingerbread Houses

And there's no better way to enrich a holiday family gathering than with a Christmas Surprise:


 If you disliked this post, you're really going to hate my other blog - which I've just "re-opened" after a long hiatus. 
Check out some vintage Christmas ads:
Cabinet of Curious Treasures 




Sunday, December 3, 2017

ROOSTER RAG






Now that December is here, I was going to torture you with some of my piano holiday music (are we still allowed to say "Christmas"?)..... but decided not to.

I hear a collective sigh of relief.

Instead,
I'm going to torture you with one of my old ragtime recordings. I was looking through my piano tapes last night and found this rarity that I'd almost forgotten about.

The Rooster Rag by Muriel Pollack (1895-1971). Published in 1917.

Pollack was a composer/lyricist who started out as a piano player for silent movies. She later studied at the New York Institute of Musical Art (which later became Julliard) and eventually had a fairly successful musical career.

Her full name was Mary Muriel Pollock Groll Donaldson (she was married twice). Born in New York, died in Hollywood, California.

This is an old rehearsal recording that I made in Los Angeles when I was in my early 20's. 

If you listen carefully, you will hear the music book fall off the piano while I was playing (right in the middle of the piece) but that didn't stop me.
The Rooster Rag is a fun piece to play. 

BTW
I don't know how to adjust the volume on this Soundcloud upload. Make sure your volume is turned down so it doesn't shatter your ears.

 

Friday, December 1, 2017

AFTERMATH

This is a followup of my previous post: 
the conversion of my phone/computer connection from old copper cables to new fiber optic cables.

The switch was supposedly not mandatory, but I was gently advised that everybody with my internet service provider would eventually be compelled to do it.

Rather than go through a future ugly ordeal with gunfire and bloodshed, I figured I'd convert early and be done with it.

The outside preparatory work was completed last Tuesday. The indoor installation would be done on Wednesday.

This post is starting to bore me - which isn't a good sign.

The two workers arrived early Wednesday afternoon. My first impression was that they looked like a couple of bewildered bookends. I attributed that to the fact that they had to scale a mountain and plow through an acre of 25-foot-high weeds to get to my front door.

The process took about an hour and a half. I didn't learn much, since the workers were about as friendly and talkative as corpses at a wake.
(one of the guys had to crawl under the house to install some wires, and he did mention that it was about 40 degrees below zero under there). 

I also learned that there's no insulation in the walls - - which I already assumed, since it's generally 150 degrees below zero in the house. Except in the summer - when it's hotter than the surface of the sun.

I breathed a sigh of relief when the workers finally left (I'm sure they did too), and then I inspected their handiwork:


They installed this contraption outside by the utility box....

....and this was installed inside - in the laundry area, right above the washing machine.

The inside contraption has a winking green light, which makes me feel like I'm under surveillance. I made sure the door was tightly shut when I went into the bathroom.

Cut to the chase, Jon. How has fiber optics changed your computer and phone experience?

My desktop computer was working fine after the conversion. However, surfing the Internet seemed only a fraction faster than usual - not much difference than before.


BUT
I couldn't get an Internet connection on my laptop - - no matter how hard I tried. So I decided to call the ISP for technical support.....
.......but my landline phone didn't work, either. I got a dial tone but wasn't able to dial numbers.

I messed around with the phone connection until I was finally able to dial numbers....
.......but then the number that I dialed wouldn't ring. All I got was an echo.

So I messed around some more and eventually got the phone to work.

To make a long story short (which at this point is a complete impossibility) I was on the phone with the computer technician for about an hour. He was polite and extremely helpful.

An aside:
at one point the technician asked for the serial number on my router. I had to run into the other room - and discovered that my cat Scruffy was sleeping on the router (Scruffy and Bosco like the router because it generates warmth). 
Anyway, I had to PRY a sleepy Scruffy off the router.

FINALLY, after an agony of trials and errors, the technician discovered that I could access the Internet with my network security key (which is the password that I used when I first signed up with my Internet service provider).
So, it's a happy ending, I suppose. My desktop computer works, the laptop works, the landline phone works.
And my cats still sleep on the router.

I honestly don't see a huge difference between the copper cable connection and the fiber optic one - - but I'm glad the ordeal is finally over. I hope.

BTW - I hardly ever use the landline phone, but I'm required to have one with my Internet service "plan". More money for them.

 

Tuesday, November 28, 2017

CONVERSION




The phone rings (last week).
I answer.
It's a lady from my Internet service provider.

"I'm pleased to announce that we can now convert you to fiber optics, free of charge!"

"No thanks. I have my own religion." 

"Well, this decision is completely up to you, but we plan to have the entire county converted very soon."

"Hallelujah!"

"Shall I schedule an appointment?"

"I'm not sure."

I'm not only stalling, I'm pathetically puzzled. Truthfully, I wouldn't know what fiber optics was if it crawled up my leg and bit me on the ass.

I ask her to explain.

Her explanation is almost as muddled as my comprehension. And my comprehension is as thick as Golden Gate Bridge fog...or pea soup.

Her enthusiasm is much more persuasive than her explanation.
"There's no charge to you, your Internet experience will be vastly improved....
and - everybody's doing it!"

After a moment of serious contemplation - which seemed like two hours but in fact was only ten seconds - I suddenly have a  Come to Jesus Moment.

Before my intuition tells me "No!", my blubbering lips blurt out:

"Yes! I'll do it! I want to be converted!"

I think the lady felt blessed and rewarded. I made her day.

As for me -
a weight was lifted from my sagging soul and all my past sins were seemingly expelled in a moment.

Actually, my multitudinous past sins would take longer to expel than downloading War and Peace with a dial-up connection - - but that's beside the point.

So I spent some time Googling information about the fiber optic computer/phone experience. I really didn't learn much except the fact that my Internet surfing will be a little faster....and installing a fiber optic connection is a helluva lot of trouble.

The workers ascended on my property this afternoon to do the outside preparation work. Everything went smoothly - except that I had to move my car to accommodate one of their trucks.

Tomorrow afternoon (Wednesday) they will do the inside work (installation of the connection contraption).

I should have a great time keeping my unsuspecting cats calm during the invasion of strangers.

Scruffy is friendly and likes strangers (to the point of being annoying) - but Scratch and Bosco hate strangers and are going to freak out Big Time.

But all the trouble will be worth the conversion. I think.

Saturday, November 25, 2017

WELCOME TO THE HOLIDAYS




Is it just me, or does the shopping term "Black Friday" sound extremely dour and depressing?

It's the beginning of the holiday season! Things are suppose to be bright, colorful, uplifting. Black Friday conjures up images of a plague, a curse, the beginning of dark pagan rituals.

Perhaps I'm on to something..... 

I've noticed that all the holiday "experts" have invaded the media and are telling us how to handle the holidays. I no longer have TV, but I get numerous news channels on live stream.

On Black Friday morning I turned on the news and there was a Christmas tree expert telling us how to maintain our Christmas tree (...or is it now technically a "holiday tree"?).

The holiday tree expert looked about eighteen and undoubtedly got her Tree Degree from Valley Girl City College in Burbank.

"Place your tree in a sunny window," she tells us. "Be sure to give it frequent drinks of water. Trim the sagging and drying branches off so it can breathe."

Hey Goldilocks - here's a flash:

The tree is dead! Chopped down by greedy white men who want to make a holiday profit. All the TLC in your Pollyanna repertoire isn't going to save it. 

As soon as Goldilocks finally left, the Gift Shopping Expert arrived - eager to tell us how to shop and what gifts to buy.
That's when I tuned out. 

When I was a kid, nobody told anybody how to do anything. Daddy dragged the snow-covered, half-dead tree inside, propped it up, and strung on the lights.
Mommy quickly wrapped up a lethal loaf of petrified fruit cake as a gift for Aunt Matilda.

These weren't my parents, of course. I just made up a fictitious pair of allegorical progenitors to make this blog post even more interesting than it already is.

So, how was my Thanksgiving?
I thought you'd never ask.

Actually, it was a fairly pleasant day - considering all of the previous disastrous days that have been plaguing me. 
I didn't bother to bake a turkey. I had a very simple meal: roasted chicken, stuffing, and yams with cinnamon and brown sugar. I would have liked cranberries, but forgot to buy them.

And pumpkin pie with Viennese coffee.

I wandered outside and took some photos of waning November. Nothing spectacular, but nice and peaceful. 

The photo at the beginning of this post is a view of the nearby mountain from my bedroom window. I can only see it in the winter when there are no leaves.

 Dawn on Thanksgiving.
The sun just emerging in the forest.

 Early morning  frost on the weeds.

Autumn foliage is still clinging to some of the trees.
 

The neighboring cow meadow. I hardly ever see the cows, they stay far beyond those bales of hay.


 Sunlight on the treetops in late afternoon.

Sunset, taken on the front porch.

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

PHONE CARD IN THE FREEZER AND OTHER STUFF



Get a place in the wilderness, Jon. It'll be fun! You'll have a simple and carefree life.

If it wasn't so physically hard to do, I'd be kicking my own ass for suggesting that to myself.  
After three long years existing in the wilderness my life is filled with more problems and complications than a '58 Edsel Corsair, and my nerves are more shredded than the lettuce on a Taco Bell veggie salad.

I couldn't sleep all night from the scratching and scraping of the wild animals trying to nest in my roof and walls. Don't be fooled by all those cutsie wildlife documentaries on PBS and the Disney Bambi crap that we were spoon-fed as kids.
If I had a submachine gun I would have used it gleefully and without regrets.

Did you ever try to sleep on a bad mattress with a bad back and two big cats? Bosco must weigh 50 lbs. and he was dead weight on my legs like a sack of scrap metal.

When I crawled out of bed at the grim and cold crack of dawn, it took me ten minutes to get on my feet and I looked like an accordion on stilts.

Yup, I chose today (Tuesday) to drive into town - despite a warning from my cousin that there was "road work" being done.

Actually, I was fortunate to even find the road - since the weeds and "brush" on my property are now 20 feet high thanks to recent rain.
I won't mention the mud.

Driving to town wouldn't have been too bad, if a pickup truck didn't appear in front of me (seemingly out of nowhere). It was going less than 15 m.p.h.
Picture that on a narrow, winding, no passing mountain road.

Thanks to that SloMo snail, it took three times longer to get to town than usual.
I was biting my fingernails to a bloody pulp.

But luck was with me -
No road repair work was being done!

.....until I got to town.

I thought my cousin meant the mountain road was being repaired.
Instead, I discovered that she meant the roads in town were being repaired.

Every major road in the entire damn place was under "reconstruction", making it less than impossible to get anywhere.

I had to stop at the courthouse, which was located in the very midst of the road construction ( a harrowing maneuver, to say the least). My reason for going there is far too long and tedious to rely here - let's just say it had to do with the registration of some property.

 Here's the courthouse and that's exactly where I parked (I didn't take this photo - I got it from the Internet).

The lady in the clerk's office was so busy, rude, and confused that I finally left in abject frustration (to say the least) without getting anything resolved or done.

Onward to Walmart, where the holiday shoppers were out en mass.
Did I ever mention that I think all holidays should be permanently banned - and those who try to participate in them should be subjected to waterboarding torture?

I desperately needed a BIG bag of Purina Cat Chow Complete, which is the favored cuisine of my three cats. Naturally they were all out of it. So I had to settle for the small (very small) bag - and a big bag of Friskies.

I had to buy a phone card for my cell phone. The  swishy male clerk in the phone department was wearing two gigantic earrings, at least six finger rings - and he was extremely friendly.

Hey, I'm not trying to suggest anything. It's merely an innocent observation. And it's very strange for rural Tennessee. 
I haven't seen a dude look like that since I was in West Hollywood.

I bought two pumpkin pies that were on the "mark down" rack (one of my favorite Walmart haunts). More about the pies later.

The long drive home was beyond the realms of a hellish nightmare:
a huge truck hauling a load of cut lumber was going about 5 m.p.h. There were fourteen cars behind him. I was the fifteenth car.

It was like a funeral procession, only slower. I eventually started gnawing my toenails and saying profanities that would have made Satan blush.

Okay - 
what about the phone card in the freezer??

When I finally got home, I wrapped one of the pumpkin pies in a plastic bag and put it in the freezer.

Eventually I noticed that the phone card I bought was missing. I frantically searched everywhere and finally figured that I must have dropped it somewhere (like in the Walmart parking lot).

Imagine my surprise when I happened to check the pumpkin pie in the freezer. My phone card was in the bag with the pie - frozen solid!

I won't apologize for this post being long, because I condensed it. It would have been a lot longer if I told everything that happened.

Just a typical day in the life of Jon.

 


Sunday, November 19, 2017

ALL ABOUT THANKSGIVING

Against my better judgement I'm offering an old rerun extracted from my dusty blog archives.

I wrote this post many years ago, when blogging was fun and people still had a sense of humor. In the past few years the blogging world has changed - tainted with too much sensitivity, seriousness, and malice.

I found that out about a year ago when I (mistakenly) offered my political opinions. I lost 60 per cent of my readers (no lie), received hate mail, and one death threat.

Then I lost more readers when I said something negative about transgenders. Two disgruntled bloggers actually wrote scathing posts about me - saying what an evil bigot I was.

Now I'm a good boy and only write about my cats and the weather (two reasonably "safe" subjects).

Am I bitter?
Naw, just cautious. 
Hell - despite censoring many of my thoughts, I'm still immensely entertaining.  (????)
And I'm still sarcastic. But you have to use a magnifying glass and read between lines.

Put on your Pilgrim hats and take a deep breath, boys and girls. Here's my take on Thanksgiving.







No matter what opinion you have about Thanksgiving, I think we can all agree that the concept of the holiday is based on varying degrees of legend and hokum.

When we were innocent and gullible kids in school (at least I was innocent and gullible), we were spoon-fed the sanitized Hallmark Card version:

The kind, generous, ultra-religious Pilgrims - - out of the goodness of their hearts - - spent days preparing a sumptuous Thanksgiving feast and invited the neighboring Indians over to share the unforgettable banquet. They dined on succulent turkey, sweet potatoes, French's original green bean casserole, dinner rolls with cranberry jam, and pumpkin pie topped with Cool Whip.

They exchanged gifts and recipes. The Indians taught them about the limitless wonders of maize. They prayed together and then joined hands and sang a rousing rendition of Kumbaya.

And they all lived happily ever after in absolute unity among purple mountain majesties and amber waves of grain.


In more recent years, the liberal historical revisionists have given us a grim and harrowing Thanksgiving tale of raw realism:

The Pilgrims - - an uncouth, bloodthirsty band of European white men and their skanky women - - arrived in America with ill-intent. They invaded the peaceful domain of Indian Territory - plundered the  villages, trampled the teepees, chopped down the trees, polluted the water, claimed the Indian's land, imprisoned the Indian braves, raped the squaws, and gave everyone syphilis and inferiority complexes.

Within a few short generations, the pitifully few remaining Indian tribes were confined to squalid Arizona reservations - - living in unairconditioned Airstream trailers and using their meager government subsidies to buy cheap whiskey and Kentucky Fried Chicken.

Take your pick. Believe whatever version you like. But while you're chowing down that delectable Thanksgiving meal this week, just remember that  without the white man's aggression and ingenuity - you'd be wearing buffalo robes and living in teepees. And eating maize, whatever the heck that is.




Hopefully I won't be scalped by irate readers. I meant no harm. Honest Injun.







Friday, November 17, 2017

UNWANTED KISSES, AUDACITY, FRUGAL BURRITOS, UNWANTED WEEDS

 
All right, let's put aside our political differences for a minute and get down to the nitty gritty:
I couldn't imagine anything more devastatingly horrifying than getting a sloppy, unwanted, probing kiss from Al Franken.
(if you haven't been watching the news lately.........you're very fortunate).
 I was trying to be funny. Shoot me.





Change of subject and depressing fact:

My blog posts with piano music are consistently my very least popular posts (see previous post)
My reason for doing them?
1. To show off.
2. To establish the fact that I once had a meaningful life, far removed from the Hillbilly Boonies.

I use Audacity to transfer my old piano tapes to computer-friendly files (Audacity isn't an attitude, it's a software program).

I've noticed that Audacity doesn't always produce a completely accurate transition of my piano recordings. The speed is often slightly faster than my original performance, and very annoying skips and jumps appear for no apparent reason. I've tried using different settings and even tried exporting to different files (like WAVE instead of mp3) but nothing works.

I made potato burritos yesterday.

Whenever I don't have the ingredients to make regular burritos, I make frugal potato burritos. The Mexicans often made them in Texas.
My recipe:
I dice some potatoes (I use four), chop up an onion, and put it in a frying pan -
season it with garlic salt, black pepper, and paprika. Then I fry it with butter until it's golden brown. Or until the house fills with smoke and stinks.

Finally I garnish it with cheese (any kind), wrap it in a large flour tortilla, and eat it with sour cream and/or salsa.
(BTW- this recipe makes more than one burrito).

Who the hell do you think you are, Jon? Martha Stewart?

Settle down, Kemosahbee. I figured if my music doesn't charm them, my cooking will.

Weeds, anyone?
I've been going out early the past few mornings to clear "weeds" from my property. They're not exactly weeds..... more like five foot monsters. 
The work is cumbersome and the results are minimal. I spent half an hour picking stickers and burrs out of my clothes and scraping mud off my boots.

Despite the fact that it's mid-November, some of the foliage is still lovely. Here are some pics taken yesterday:





The sun at noon

I saved the best for last