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Funny and/or Strange meme Uncategorized

Autumn Coming: Time For Pumpkin Flavored Everything

We recently had the first crisp evening that hinted at the changes to come, that feeling in the air that native Westsylvanians recognize as “a Football Night.” In the verges, the annual flora are showing wear, the color of goldenrod lines country roads and the counts of our prolific whitetail deer seen dead along the highways, stirred to their violent ends by the hormonal surges of the rut and the the instinctive understanding that food will soon be much less abundant. In the trees, the earliest leaves are already beginning to flush, and in the bars and coffee shops, restaurants and bakeries, the taps and pitchers and shelves are suddenly and predictably weighted by food and drink flavored with “Pumpkin Spice.” If you expected me to offer consolation, I apologize. I have none to give. Indeed, the words that might help are these: be strong and resolute. Like all tribulations, this too will pass.
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Uncategorized

Weekend Report: Kennywood, Todd Snider, Football, Apples.

I worked a late day Friday, cleaning up leaves on a pleasant autumn afternoon, under bright clear skies, the hills around we alight with gold and fiery red leaves.  Fall is 50005524_20852slipping away quickly.  It always does.  Since my children were young I have counseled them to keep their heads up and their eyes open during these first two weeks of October, when the leaves catch fire and fall.  By Halloween the hills will be be gray, save for stubborn oaks which hold their leathery leaves, faded to brown, deep into the winter.

PHOTOS: Above and Below, The Indiana Gazette

Exhausted by the time I retreated indoors near dusk, my wife off on a “girls night out” dinner & wine binge with a group of friends, I shuttled my kids to the football field, having begged off myself.  I was tired, hungry, and flushed from a day spent Knoch vs. Indiana football INDY # 8 Knoch#outdoors–I returned home to have leftover spaghetti for dinner while I listened to the game on the radio.  Of course, it turned out to be one of the more exciting games in recent history: the home team triumphed at the very end of a hard-fought, back and forth battle in which numerous game, season, and career records were set by our talented quarterback and wide receiver duo.  I sure can pick the right time to be a lazy dog and stay home, can’t I?

Saturday was big event day–we herded up our friends Brian & Ann, our daughters, two of their friends, and all of their boyfriends into both the van and the Chuckwagon and drove the kids down to Kennywood, Pittsburgh’s legendary amusement park, for Kennywood’s Phatom Fright Night–an annual event in which ghouls haunt the creepy park (bringing all your Scooby Gang nightmares to bear and remember that Pittsburgh is pretty much the center of the Zombie Underground) and kids get to ride roller coasters and freeze their butts off on cold October nights.  We dumped the kids and left the Chuckwagon in the lot for them to use as emergency shelter–a smart move, as it turns out.

We old farts rolled down along the Monongahela river to Pittsburgh’s Southside, the historical working class district that’s gone and turned itself into a carnival-like nightspot.  It was predictably crowded with revelers, but we lucked into a parking space just a block from our destination, the funky old Rex Theater, where we met up with some more friends to take in a much-awaited Todd Snider concert.

We were a little disappointed at first–the show had originally been billed as having Elizabeth Cook as the opening act, and the talented and charismatic singer would have been a perfect match for Snider’s outgoing persona.  Alas, we got a guy named Jesse Aycock, who was as quiet and earnest and introspective as Snider is larger-than-life, even in the Rex’s super-intimate setting. We felt bad for Aycock, whose simple, maudlin, acoustic ballads and lack of interaction with the audience was poorly suited for a crowd that was already anxious to see the main attraction.

Snider didn’t disappoint, either.  He sauntered out on stage to the tunes of Booker T. & The MG’s “Green Onion” like he owned the place, in his stocking feet, an old sweater, sniderblue jeans and his trademark hat, and quickly announced that he’d be playing two sets and we’d hear everything we wanted to hear–all the “good stuff” he enthused, because he knew how folks hate to get to a show when the artist plays what “he” wants, and everyone is thinking, “not all that new shit, damn.”  And true to his word, he pounded through the next 2.5 hours hitting most of his most popular songs, drawing cheers and sing-a-longs, wild applause and deep satisfaction from the crowd.

The only downer was an obnoxious drunk woman who was making everyone around her miserable.  When she shouted a request in the midst of one song, Snider finally stopped, leaned forward, and said, “I’ll be glad to play whatever y’all want me to play, but it’d be great if you waited until the end of one song before yelling for the next one.”  Chastened, the woman relented for a few songs but eventually started yelling and blabbing loudly.  Snider stopped again and begged her “Please, for the love of god and all those people around you would you kindly shut up?  I mean, you’ve been talking all night what could you possibly have left to say?  I now know more about you than I know about some of my friends.”  She didn’t make it another song before, now clearly defiant, she was at it again.  The bouncers finally dragged her out, earning an enthusiastic round of applause, but Snider was clearly rattled and banged through about 8 songs without stopping, when it’s usually his style to tell hilarious stories and interact with the audience.  Not that 7 or 8 straight Todd Snider songs live in a small club is bad!  Jesse Aycock joined him for the encore–after a pair of 90 minute sets–that was as rousing as it was generous.  Aycock redeemed himself with some sweet slide guitar work as Snider’s side man, and the pair closed with a cool acoustic ballad version of “Freebird” that had the crowd laughing, at first (I always yell “Freebird!” at conerts) and holding up their lighters.  Old school.  Did I mention that this show cost $20?  Awesome, I know.

We grabbed some pizza down the s street, noting that the light rain had turned to sleet, then rolled back to Kennywood to retrieve 8 very cold, tired, and happy teenagers.  They all slept, while Brian and I kept up a steady conversation to stay awake, and made it back home around 230am.  Long day.  Good day.  (Set list at the end of the post)

On Sunday we slept in late and never did much of anything–replaced a brake light on the family van, did some grocery shopping, and picked up a peck of apples at a local orchard.  It’s been cool and bright all year, and the fresh apples are out of this world this year–perfect conditions, and the orchard expects to be open until Thanksgiving.  Lots of apple pie in my immediate future.

I spent the rest of the day nodding off, or shambling around the house in as stupor.  All in all, though, it was an outstanding weekend.

Todd Snider Live, October 18th, 2014
Pittsburgh, PA   Rex Theater

Set One:
Good Fortune
Is This Thing Working
Everything Else…Except For Nothing
Greencastle Blues
[The Frisbie Story]
Big Finish
Carla
Play A Train Song
[Skip Litz Story]
Good News Blues>
The Last Laugh> Good News Blues>
You Got To Take Sick And Die
If Tomorrow Never Comes
Ballad Of The Devil’s Backbone Tavern
Hey Hey
Mr. Bojangles
Don’t It Make You Wanna Dance

Set Two:
Statistician’s Blues
Easy Money
D.B. Cooper
[HWA Church]
Alright Guy
Stuck On The Corner
Beer Run>
Age Like Wine> Beer Run
Looking For A Job>
I’m Free
Lonely Girl
Doublewide Blues
Jaded Lover
[Mark Marchetti Story]
Somebody’s Coming
Enjoy Yourself
Can’t Complain
Better Than Ever Blues, Part 2
Free Bird

encore:
Sideshow Blues> *
Working Man’s Blues *
* w/ Jesse Aycock

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Photo I Took

Autumn: Big Rocks

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Commentary Photo I Took

Autumn Puddle, Rock & Bent Trees

I’m not going to name my favorite hike in western Pennsylvania because then maybe you’ll go there.
Puddle, Rock & Bent Trees

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Commentary Journal sheer awesomeness video

Homecoming Football Game

So, the Homecoming football game turned out well.  It rained before and after the game, but not during, and the kids did pretty well.  A news team from KDKA-2 Pittsburgh showed up–cool for the kids.  Blows my mind to watch this video, though, despite being there in person: I’ve known at lot of these kids since elementary school, some longer–and now they’re so old.  Don’t I sound like a doddering fool?  And: hats over to “unstoppable” Connor.  Nice game.

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Commentary Recipe

Autumn Photo: Hemingway’s Bloody Mary

absolut-bloody-mary(85)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
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.”

Thirteenth_Colony_Distillery_Plantation_Vodka_Vodka__89455A 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.

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Photo I Took

Autumn Photo: Yellowstone 1990

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.
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Commentary

Autumn Found Photos: This Is Going to Be Difficult

imagesfAn 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.p6  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 Couple Raking Leavesphotos 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.

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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.

Enjoy.

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Photo I Took

Autumn Photo: Step Into Fall

We’ll see if we can keep this seasonal-themed photo thing going.  This one isn’t the most vibrant, but it has a sort of subtle genius to it, don’t you think?  I’m not just saying that because I took it.  It’s just…obvious.
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My Poetry Poetry

Norris-Canyon Cut-Off Road, 9/11/90

Yw-196Brothers.
Bag of apples,
sharp cheddar,
Sixpacks and
loaves of bread:
Biblical fare.
Binoculars, and
a taped-together
roadmap.
Aspens rusting in
meadows gone to gold,
the day thick with
autumn mist, wanting wool.
Appalachian boys
loosed in the caldera,
hooting camp elk bugles
from the highway,
taking turns at the wheel
and reading out loud
from torn and trampled
paperbacks. Whitman.
Sandlin. Pound and Pope.
A great-horned owl swept
across the asphalt
at eye level, giant
and hungry and vital.
The fire-refreshed forests
a lawn of lodgepole saplings.