As trade schools go, Stripper School is a lot more difficult than many trade schools. And for the record, they like to be called “exotic dancers.” It’s classier.
This post originally appeared in Old Road Apples’ very first week of existence. No one noticed it. No one even read it. So, I’m giving it a chance at new life, as I will be doing with other, carefully selected posts in the coming weeks.
Among the students voted “best…” and “most likely to…” for the Senior Class Personalities in my kids’ yearbooks, I noted what has to be the most flattering and impressive designation, “Talks the least. Says the Most.” I can’t think of a higher salute from one’s peers.
Now I’m thinking about the writer Ernest Hemingway.
Hemingway was one of those “gateway writers” who collectively inspired me to study literature and read obsessively. An early selection of my adolescence-generated prose stinks of derivation, but as I stumbled into my pretentious twenties I mocked him along with other, equally unsubtle critics. He ate a sandwich. It was a good, moist sandwich with meat and cheese. The cheese was yellow and good. He had eaten kind of sandwich Nick ate in Italy. I fell in love with bombast, magical realism, what I jokingly called “maximumism.” That passed, too, and I’ve come full circle to recognize the subtle genius behind the man who writes the least and says, or at least edits, the most.
My favorite story about Hemingway involves him sitting around a table, possibly at The Algonquin, with his friends, a few of whom were towering talents in their own right, and betting the house that he could write an entire story with just a few words. His eager companions bade him put his money where he mouth (and pen) was. Hemingway replied with a 6-word novel, hastily scribbled onto a napkin It read:
“For sale: baby shoes. Never worn.”
His companions read the words, probably grumbled a little, and paid the man.
Excuse me a moment while I alienate all the southerners reading this blog….
This is General William Tecumseh Sherman on scenic horse ride through Georgia–I got in a bit of a kerfluffle with a southern stranger on Pinterest last year after I pinned the image to the right on the photo saving site, along with a favorite Sherman quote, one I find continually compelling, particularly in light of the penchant for many passionate southerners to look back on the history of the time through the rose tinted glasses of “northern aggression” and all that revisionist bullshit. If nothing else Sherman reminds us that the South started the war.
“You cannot qualify war in harsher terms than I will. War is cruelty, and you cannot refine it; and those who brought war into our country deserve all the curses and maledictions a people can pour out. I know I had no hand in making this war, and I know I will make more sacrifices to-day than any of you to secure peace.”
I have no love of the man, whose reasoned barbarism in the civil war was surpassed by his cruelty in the “Indian Wars” that followed–but I found the woman attacking me to be intolerable.
I started this blog at a snail’s pace–a lot of the initial posts had 2 or 3 or maybe 5 views on a very good day and some were completely ignored. It took me a while to figure out the give and take of community building, and now that I have a nice network of associations, acquaintances, and interactions that I enjoy and look forward to, I’m thinking I’d like to throw that stuff back out at the world. What’s the protocol here? Is this something, like my Uncle George used to do before reaching across someone’s plate for the cranberry sauce at Thanksgiving Dinner, “that isn’t done in the best of families?” For argument’s sake, rest assured I’m going to do it if you don’t stop me–so please advise.
I’m nothing if not a sucker for a theme:
Ernest Hemingway didn’t invent Autumn’s most iconic cocktail–that distinction is rumored to belong to Ferdinand “Pete” Petiot, a Parisian bartender looking for ways to dress up vodka for Russian immigrants and American expatriots on the lam from Prohibtion–but the iconic American author, and legendary drinker, has been inextricably tied to the Bloody Mary thanks to a recipe he concocted and included in a letter to a friend in 1947.
Autumn is, in my mind, incomplete without spending at least one brisk, sunny weekend morning outdoors, on the patio or perhaps tailgating before a game, with a tall tumbler of this most delicious elixir in one’s hand. It’s an excellent complement to hearty slab of good, crusty bread and a chunk of assertive cheese. Do not, under any circumstances, pour this drink over crushed ice. Any Bloody Mary is better than none, but the Hemingway recipe is definitive.
Hemingway Bloody Mary Recipe
To a large pitcher (anything smaller is “worthless”) add:
1 chunk of ice (the biggest that will fit)
1 pint of vodka
1 pint chilled tomato juice
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
1 jigger fresh lime juice
Pinch celery salt
Pinch cayenne pepper
Pinch black pepper
Several drops of Tabasco
“Keep on stirring and taste it to see how it is doing. If you gets it too powerful weaken with more tomato juice. If it lacks authority add more vodka.”
A word about Vodka: there is very little correlation between taste and price with Vodka. That said, a Bloody Mary is certainly not the place to dump your expensive bottles, or your throat-burning cheapies that scorch a path down your gullet like a can of flaming Sterno. I recommend Plantation, or Luksusowa–both nice balances of price and smoothness.
Some notes: 1.)You’ve undoubtedly seen Bloody Marys served with celery slices, which is fine but not necessary if you add the celery salt. Unless you like celery a lot, which I do, although I’m still ambivalent. A spring of crushed celery leaf would add better flavor. I’m of the opinion the celery just gets in the way. 2.) The addition of extraneous ingredients–like gin, sherry, vermouth or, gods help us, bacon or clam juice* is a sacrilege. 3.)Large pieces of ice are preferable because they melt more slowly (less surface area) and take longer to water down your drink. It is rumored that Hemingway used a tennis ball can to make ice cubes for his pitchers. 4) In a pinch, lemon juice can replace lime juice. 5) Using V-8 instead of Tomato Juice is an interesting variation.
*Adding clam juice, or substituting Clamato juice makes a different drink, the Bloody Caesar.
Wandering around Yellowstone with some friends way back in 1990, mid-afternoon on the road between Mammoth and Tower, we spotted a colorful grove of aspen trees. We waded out into the dry autumn grass, plopped down, and stared up and through the golden leaves at the perfect blue sky above. We dozed off and had what was, for me, about the most perfect afternoon nap I’ve ever had.
Perhaps it was because my beloved Steelers looked terrible over the first two weeks of the season, especially getting hammered by the hated Ravens in week 2–but I don’t so.
It’s been a real up and down season for my favorite teams. The local high school has been masterful and dominant at home, with the players I knew personally having very good performances, but both of their away games have been resounding defeats. It’s good that they’re winning at home in front of family and friends, but those losses have to be just as difficult as the wins are gratifying.
My university alma mater, IUP, has been similarly up and down, losing an ugly one last week after an initial blowout win, then winning yesterday–albeit barely–over a feeble Lock Haven team. It’s difficult to get excited about that, but until this weekend Pitt was chugging along behind an old school running back, James Conner, and a quarterback, Chad Voytik, with a heart of Everest proportions. It is difficult not to cheer for a high character kid like Voytik, and his very young and inexperienced Pitt was 3-0 and looking like they’ll be competitive as the season moves. Still, they blew it Saturday against Iowa. They just let it slip through their fingers Pitt has been mediocre since–since forever, it seems–and just good enough to raise our hopes before dashing them with a late season collapse. I hope that’s not what we’re in for this season.
I realized Sunday that it is all the controversy over domestic violence and child-beating that has let the air out of my NFL fandom. Jonathan Dwyer, the latest player to be accused, played for the Steelers until last year. He allegedly gave a head-butt to his girlfriend when she turned him down for sex, then threw a shoe at their 18-month old for good measure. Not the best seduction tactic, eh? As numbskulls go, he’s worse than the spreadsheet guy. The idiot.
But seriously: you make a million bucks to play a child’s game, and you head butt a woman? As I said: idiot.
He had a lot of promise, and a few good games, but never managed to stand out. Still, I cheered for the guy. I hate that most of all because I feel like I got played for a sucker. I hoped he’d get things going and succeed. Now, I hope to hear that he’s flipping burgers after a nice vacation in a very small room.
I was talking to a fellow today who was trying to make the point that lots of guys hit women and kids, not just football players, but the media goes after athletes because they’re famous–and because most of them are black. While I wouldn’t rule out a racial factor in terms of enforcement, the argument that “lots of people do it” doesn’t carry a lot of water, and I told him so.
He said, “it’s that German word: Shay-don-froid.”
“Yeh, that one.”
And I suppose it’s true. Charles Barkley famously said that he was not a role model, and not coincidentally he has been one of Adrian Peterson’s more vocal supporters, taking the “its a southern black thing” route. It makes me wonder how those folks feel, having Charles Barkley calling out the entire group as child abusers–but more importantly, Barkley is wrong about being a role model. It’s not something he gets to choose, or dismiss. Part of cashing that check and living in those rarefied heights–all for playing a child’s game–is the public stage. For all an athlete would like to say that he gets paid to perform, not to be a celebrity, there’s a compact he’s making, an agreement to be our hero, to thrill us and disappoint us. It should be no surprise, when they fail us so completely, not as athletes but as human beings, that we are compelled to cast upon them our amplified, collective scorn and disappointment.
Adrian Peterson has earned several hundred million dollars between his salary and his corporate sponsorships, all because people enjoy watching him run up and down a green carpet 16 weekends a year. It’s a pretty good gig.
The Steelers played the late game, at 8:30 pm. I wouldn’t have watched if it had been regular mid-afternoon game. I had better things to do, like mulch the flower beds, and as it was I didn’t bother to raise my “Steel Nation” flag on the porch, but I did watch the game, though without my usual rapt attention. There’s something about my fandom that died when Rice cold-cocked his fiancee, and I’m not sure that it’s going to grow back. The Steelers won convincingly last night, with both LeVeon Bell and LaGarrette Blount running for over 100 yards–a rare feat, and just the sort of football I love: hard-nosed rushing. At the end, I was pleased by not exhilarted, as I’ve been after some games. I couldn’t help thinking of perspective: in the pre-season, the young, bone-headed Steelers running backs got busted for posession after firing up a joint in traffic, in broad daylight, in a fancy black camaro convertible–because nobody in Pittsburgh, a city that is not only still working out it’s racial issues, but as invested in it’s football team as any city in the nation, is going to notice a pair of handsome, young, muscular African American dudes in an enviable car firing up a big joint at a red light. Duh. A lot of folks probably recognized these guys on sight. There were calls for their suspensions after their arrest, not so much for the drugs but for missing the team flight. Now, compared to the alleged crimes of their NFL brethern, those charges are mentioned only as an afterthought, which actually is a good thing (but that’s another post).
An initial foray into the world of autumn posts revealed a whole lot of gifs, clip art, graphics, cute photos of other people’s children raking leaves or going on hay rides, and creepy-ish images that remind me of stuff cut-and-pasted from an LL Bean catalog. Or Sears Roebuck, even. There’s also a lot of clearly professional, for profit stuff I don’t feel comfortable pilfering. I have to admit that I’m a little worried–I feel committed to this whole seasonal photos thing. If I can’t manage autumn, it sort of makes all the work finding cool summer photos a vain pursuit, don’t you think? And I’m compelled to make it through because I already have dozens of absolutely outstanding images set aside for next summer. It’s interesting to think about, though. Summer photos encompass a wide variety of activities and one general component I find almost inexhaustible: the beach. Autumn photos seem centered around a relatively small number of holidays and things: Halloween and Thanksgiving, and leaves and pumpkins. Fall foliage is resplendent and all that, but it’s best to limit the dosages.
It seems I’ll be required to be creative. Fortunately, Fall is the shortest season in these parts. At least for the purposes of my reckoning. The dates work out sort of like this:
Summer: Labor Day to Fall Equinox (about 120 days)
Autumn/Fall: Equinox To Black Friday (about 67 days)
Winter: Black Friday to April 1 (about 118 days)
Spring: April 1-Labor Day Weekend (about 60 days)
Now there are years where all of November feels like winter, and Fall feels like it landed with the County Fair and the advent of football season at the end of August, and years when Spring hits in March–or hides until May–but these dates reflect my seasonal moods and interpretation of environmental factors. Like the borders of small European nations prior to World War 2, the boundaries between the seasons are highly flexible–it was 72 at midnight on Dec 22 last year, during our Christmas Party, although we’d already had several meaningful snowfalls. Not surprisingly, we had a frost in June and a number of strangely cold days this past summer. With the changing global climate, all preconceptions are off the table.
Something else I learned is that there are literally thousands of Fall Festivals in the USA and Canada, all of them running pretty much simultaneously during the first two weeks of October. Cider and antique automobiles are prominently featured in most, along with hay bales and piles of pumpkins. I did, however, in keeping with the O.R.A. standards, find one Autumn Festival that wasn’t mired in gauzy images and mundane pumpkin costumes. What they do have, apparently, is pole dancing. Go figure.