Nov 27, 2012

Ain't No Use in Tryng

As in, ain't no use trying to keep this blog from falling into neglect.

Ah...okay. I'll try. Maybe tomorrow. Until then, enjoy this little ditty by Trampled by Turtles.

"Ain't No Use in Trying"
Trampled by Turtles

Well I got years of livin'
By and how I choose
Ain't never been a gambler
'Cause I's always bound to lose
My buddies, they drink liquor
Sometimes I'll go along
I got a girl who don't like that at all

Well, you know I wouldn't fight
If these guys wouldn't shove me
Now I can't go home
'Cause my baby, she don't love me
There ain't no use in tryin' anymore

Well, last week or so

I woke up in a cell
Don't know how I got there
But my head, it hurt like hell
The guard already knew my name
Before I came inside
I got a girl who don't like that at all

Well, you know I wouldn't fight
If these guys wouldn't shove me
Now I can't go home
'Cause my baby, she don't love me
There ain't no use in tryin' anymore

Well, I guess some guy downtown

Come pushin' me around
So I let one loose and left that fella'
Lyin' on the ground
I got a girl who don't like that at all.

Well, you know I wouldn't fight
If these guys wouldn't shove me
Now I can't go home
'Cause my baby, she don't love me
There ain't no use in tryin' anymore
No, there ain't no use in tryin' anymore
There ain't no use in tryin' anymore. 

Nov 21, 2012

The Campbell Apartment

Usually, I take time today to give thanks to all the blog and Twitter weirdos that I follow or who follow me. But I'm not in a list-y mood, so consider yourself thanked. Whomever you are.

I will give some specific thanks to my Gia and our friends who took me out for a raucous time in NYC this past Saturday for my birthday (which was actually this past Sunday). We had a blast!

For a change of pace, we decided to start out the day in and around Grand Central Terminal. Had drinks and oysters at the Oyster Bar (duh!), then found a joint called The Campbell Apartment which has an entrance into Grand Central on Vanderbilt.  The name is a bit of a misnomer. The spot was actually the huge office space of John W. Campbell, a mega-rich financier from back in the day. Here's a shot which shows off the high ceilings, opulence and the giant safe that Campbell kept in the fireplace (to show off his wealth):

The place was massive, and ornately decorated. And the drink menu was fantastic. I had two cocktails there. A bourbon drink with fennel and candied ginger called a Kentucky Ginger, and an odd mixture called The Port of New York. Dark rum, port wine and chilled espresso. Normally it wouldn't be close to my thing, but I was intrigued. And it was fantastic! 

Source: my phone

You can even see the dead remains of my Kentucky Ginger in the background and someone's Prohibition Punch (in the large snifter) in the background. All were tasty as all heck.

The rest of the day progressed lovingly along this booze path. I believe* I was out until the wee hours with one of the crew chasing after live music down in the Village, but it all got a bit fuzzy after dinner at our friends' apartment. Fuzzy in a good way though.

Wonderful day and evening out in the city. Who could ask for anything more? 

*Just kidding. I remember everything. Almost.

Nov 19, 2012

David Lo Pan

I'm normally against posting parody videos of already tiresome pop culture crap like Gangnam Style. But I have to make an exception for this one. Lo Pan Style. Strictly due to my love/obsession with Big Trouble in Little China. A film I just watched the other day for the umpteenth time.

It even includes a cameo by the man himself. David Lo Pan aka James Hong. Still kicking it into his 80's. For a little bit of blog serendipity, our favorite Marsh Mama included a quote from Mr. Hong's Blade Runner character, Hannibal Chew, over at her joint today. Kinda cool, eh?

For anyone who is a fan of BTiLC, you are gonna love this. Lots of fun references.

Everyone else can simply move along.


Nov 16, 2012

Asleep in the Wood

A short film by Joe York and the Southern Foodways Alliance about statesman and bourbon distiller Julian Van Winkle.

Asleep in the Wood from Southern Foodways on Vimeo.

Imagine a 23-year business plan. Amazing.

I'm sure I've mentioned it before, but the 23yr Family Reserve from Pappy Van Winkle is hands-down the best whiskey I've ever had. Gia found a bottle of it for me 2 years ago (it's not easy to find), and I took my time with enjoying it. Only two other humans were allowed to enjoy a glass of the heaven that the bottle contained within. Not because I'm averse to sharing. I'm not. Nothing makes me happier than sharing a bottle I love with a person I love almost as much. It's just that this was a gift for me. A rare gift at that.

I think I'm going to do a little whiskey hunting over the weekend. Try to find some of the younger Pappy Van Winkle bourbons. There are some people out there who believe that 23 years is far too long a time to age a bourbon. That 8-10 years is ideal. Julian Van Winkle mentions this in the video up there, joking that the only people who say that are those who've never tried to age it that long. But I am interested in tasting both the 10 and 15 year varieties.

I'll let you know how I fare.

Nov 15, 2012


A semi-true story.

At the cat ranch in the living room while flipping through the cable channels, we came across a "reality" show called Doomsday Preppers. These are folks who are convinced that a financial or environmental cataclysmic event will happen soon, so they are preparing by building bunkers, hoarding canned/jarred food and bottled water. Stuff like that. This one couple said they work 6-8 hours a day on fortifying their stronghold. And they take personal defense courses. And cooking courses. And time at the shooting range. I have no idea when they actually sleep.  That's when this conversation ensued:

Me (sheepishly): I think, ya know, if I had tons and tons of disposable cash and didn't have to work for a living...I might, ya know, do something like this.

She (incredulously): Do something like what? Build a fallout shelter? Prepare for the apocalypse? Why? Do you think it's gonna happen soon.

Me: No, not really.

She: So why would you do it?

Me: Well, if I had all that time and money on my hands I think I would be bored. I'd need a hobby. That seems like a decent one.

She: Really?

Me: Yeah, you know...just in case.

She: A hobby, eh? Why wouldn't you just go do some work for a charity or something? If you had all that time and money on your hands, I mean.

Me: Oh, man...full-tiime charity work? That's sounds exhausting.

I'm a jackass, apparently.

Nov 14, 2012

Thai Ginger Beef Stir Fry

Trying out some new things in the kitchen here at the cat ranch. This one was super easy and healthy to boot. Came out spicy and aromatic and tangy. Just the way we like it. Used mostly this recipe here, but I jazzed it a bit. As I do. Check it:

Thai Ginger Beef Stir Fry

  • 1 lb thinly sliced sirloin cut into bite-sized strips
  • 1/3 cup beef broth
  • 2 tbsp soy sauce
  • 2 tbsp fish sauce
  • Juice of 1 lime
  • 1 tbsp garlic chili sauce
  • 2 tsp corn starch
  • 1 tsp sugar
  • 2 tbsp grated fresh ginger
  • 1 cup chopped broccoli florets
  • 1 cup julienned string beans
  • 4 green onions - bias-sliced in 1 inch lengths
  • 1 tbsp cooking oil
  • Non-stick cooking spray
  • 2 cups cooked jasmine rice
 - In a bowl mix the broth, soy sauce, fish sauce, lime, garlic chili sauce, corn starch, sugar and grated ginger. Set aside.

 - Lightly coat a skillet or wok with the cooking spray and then pre-heat over medium high heat. Add the broccoli, string beans and green onions. Toss and cook for 4-5 minutes until the onions have gotten a bit crispy and the veggies are nice and tender. Remove veggies from skillet and set aside.

 - Return the skillet to the burner (medium-high heat) and add the cooking oil. Add the beef strips and stir-fry until cooked/browned. Give the liquid mixture you set aside a bit earlier a quick mix and then add to the skillet. Toss until all the beef is coated and the sauce begins to bubble and thicken.  Add the cooked veggies you had set aside and make sure everything is coated with the sauce and heat through.

 - Serve over jasmine rice.

From beginning to end, this took me about 15 minutes. Sooooo simple. Sooooo tasty. And did I mention kinda healthy?  We tend to use a bit more citrus and maybe a bit more heat in our recipes, so feel free to only use the juice of 1/2 a lime or reduce the amount of garlic chili sauce.  And we like a lot of fresh ginger, so we used quite a bit more than the original recipe stated. But a recipe is just a basic guideline. Fly your freak flag and adjust it accordingly.

Bon appetit!

Nov 12, 2012

Skyline Chili

So, apparently, there is this chain of chili take-out restaurants based in Ohio called Skyline Chili. I've never visited one nor tried their product. But there seems to be some kind of deep love bordering on obsession for those chili aficionados who feel that their chili is the best chili out there. Again...I've got no opinion on that. Having never had it.

But I had a a "copy cat" recipe (see examples here or here) for Skyline chili passed on to me over the weekend, and I decided to give it a try. It's a meat-heavy based chili. Not a lot in there in terms of vegetables, so it's very different from my own chili recipe. But it's a real interesting chili. I think that it can be used more as a sauce or a topping, but it tasted pretty damned good in the bowl itself as well. It's also a really easy recipe that is requires very little prep work, and it cooks up much faster than other chili's I've made in the past. So here goes:

Copycat Skyline Chili

  • 2 lbs lean ground beef - I used 93/7
  • 1 large yellow onion - diced
  • 2 cans (15 oz) tomato sauce - I used Hunts
  • 1 cup beef broth
  • 2 cloves garlic - crushed and diced fine
  • 3 tbsp chili powder
  • 1 pinch (about 1/2 tsp) cinnamon powder
  • 1 pinch red cayenne pepper powder
  • Salt and pepper to taste - you won't need much salt
  • 1 tbsp Worcestershire Sauce
  • 1 tbsp white vinegar
 - Add the ground beef and diced onion to a large skillet and cook over medium-high heat until the meat is browned. Drain off excess liquid and add the brown mixture to a stock pot.

 - Add the rest of the ingredients (tomato sauce, broth, garlic, chili powder, cinnamon, cayenne pepper, salt, pepper, Worcestershire and vinegar) and bring to a quick boil.  Reduce heat to low and saute uncovered for an hour and a half.

That's it. Easy peasy you know the drill.  It really couldn't be easier. We served it over some rice with some shredded sharp cheddar cheese, tortilla chips and some home-made guacamole. The cinnamon, vinegar and Worcestershire lent it a truly unique flavor. I've never tasted a chili that tasted quite like this.

I don't think it quite surpassed my own personal chili recipe, but it was damned tasty. And Gia loved it, and that's what matters the most.


Nov 7, 2012

Day 10a: The Siege is Over

The Zombie Apocalypse is over!

We have power!

And heat!

Just in time for the next storm that is hitting tonight. Keep your fingers crossed, peeps.

Day 10: Brought to you by the letter C

I came this close yesterday.

Not as in "this close to getting my power back." I have no idea when that is going to happen. I'm beginning to suspect that the crews out working are now planning on how they are going to restore power to those who are going to lose it with tonight's Nor'easter (big winter storm) rather than hooking up those of us who are still in the dark. What's a few extra days or a week, right?

No, it's "I came this close to losing it yesterday", and all over something stupid. Wanted a little warm food in me last night so I ordered some takeout from a local Greek diner that we love. Here's a little something about how the phone conversation went with the woman who took my order:

She: Greek Diner, can I help you?
Me: Yes, please. I'd like to order some takeout.
She: What do you want? 

Enough with the fucking pleasantries, eh? At this point I noted a bit of a, should I put this...cunty tone to her voice. I've been to this place dozens of time and she didn't sound familiar to me. Maybe they were just real busy. I don't know. I trudged on.

Me: OK, I'd like to start with a pint of your chicken, lemon soup.
She: Sir <long, loud sigh>, we only have one size for soups. 16 ounces. Is that what you want?
Me: Um, sure.

I have to say, I was flummoxed at this point. I know they only serve one size of soup. A pint. Or 16 oz, if you want to break it down. Did she not know that 16 oz equals a pint? Was she just being super cunty? And then the "Is that what you want?" at the end there. Yeah, that's what I want because that's what I fucking ordered before you began to give me a weights and measures lesson. My head was spinning a bit here.

OK, I know you aren't interested in the particulars of what else I ordered, so let's let's skip to the end of the call, shall we?

She: OK, what name should I put it under?
Me: Mike...

At this point, I should say that I never use my last name when placing takeout orders. Why? Because frankly it's a little odd and usually requires some clarification or explanation. So I usually just say "Mike C." leaving my first initial of my last name because Mike is a really fucking common name. But this bitch cut me off or spoke over me as I was saying that.

She: Sir <another long, loud sigh>, Mike is a very common name and we get a lot of those in there. Could you at least give me the first initial of your last name and we'll use that. Okay?

Sounds fair written out like that, but it was her exasperated tone and the fact that she spoke right over me as I was just doing just that. She could have just said "Last initial?" if she was busy and I would have taken it better. But this is the point where I almost lost it. I was literally seeing a red fog in the darkness. People have been so kind and generous throughout this period after the storm. Running into a See You Next Tuesday like this took me by surprise. And pissed me off.

Maybe a second passed before I gave her that initial. It seemed like a lot longer as I weighed my options of what particular I was going to start throwing her way. But, in the end, my better angels won out and I moved on with my life. I didn't even see her at the diner when I picked my food up. Someone else rang me up, someone who I recognized. I had a quick look around to see if I could pick her out, but I just saw the usual suspects.

But I came this close to ending the call with this:

Me: Initial? Howabout C. For CUNT!

Like I said...better angels and what not.

Nov 6, 2012

Day 9: A Cold Election Day

Took a little drive around my town last night. Seems that everyone except my block and the next block over has power back.

I'm beginning to feel a little picked on over here. I'm not sure what the problem is. There are no downed trees or power lines in the area. Yesterday I heard a guy say that he wasn't supposed to get power back for two weeks but he bought some pizzas for a crew of LIPA workers and they asked him where he lived. He had power back a few hours later.

Now I don't know that guy from Adam, but just hearing stories like that chaps my ass. I want to believe that one neighborhood isn't valued over any other when it comes to restoring heat and power. Or that the job can be "bought" by a few pizzas. Especially on a day like today when ideals are so important to so many people.

I half-hardheartedly joked that I wouldn't be voting this year. Not happy with either guy, frankly. But that was all smoke and bluster. I planned on voting all along. Simply because there is one candidate who, I believe, will say anything to get elected even when he Over and over and over and over again. Well, both guys do it. But there is a difference between a liar and BOLD-FACED FUCKING LIAR, at least in my opinion.

I'm sure there are some folk who will read that last paragraph and they will be absolutely sure which guy I'm talking about. I'm sure there are others who will be absolutely sure that it's the other guy I'm talking about. I'll leave that up to you. Along with your vote.

Me? I'd be just as happy voting for whichever dude turns my power and heat back on at this point.

Nov 5, 2012

Day 8: Hope and Despair

Lost power last Monday in the afternoon, so I consider this to be Day 8 without power and heat.

Had a fraction of Hope last night as I was coming back from picking up some Chinese food. I was waiting at a light to cross a major road near where we live when I noticed a whole fleet of power company trucks in the parking lot of the motel across the street. And sure enough, the power kicked on for that motel and then headed north all along the west side of the harbor that we live on.

So I rushed home, embracing the warmth of street lights in our neighborhood for the first time since the storm. As I turned to make my way across the bridge, my heart sank. That's where the power stopped. I live on the east side of the harbor and we are still in a black hole. Turns out it was only the barest minimum corridor of power that ran along the other side of the water. The rest of the town behind that corridor still looks like a war zone. Downed trees and lines everywhere. We actually fared much better with the trees on our side of the water. But still no power.

So I'm back here...with my good friend Despair.

Oh, I know. So many people have it worse than me. I have hot water and occasional access to the Internet (thanks to an extension cord from a neighbor and his generator). But I'm still bumming, man.

This shit needs to end.

Nov 3, 2012

Day 6: I am now a zombie

Day 6 without power. Well mostly kinda. My neighbor kindly ran an extension cord over from his generator. He runs it for 3-4 hours at a time and then off for 3-4 hours. So while he runs it, we have limited power. Right now I've got the cable modem, wireless router and laptop plugged in. Voila! Internets here at home for the first time since Monday! Hooray!

Seems that LIPA is promising that 95% of those who lost power will have it restored by Monday evening. I'm not buying it. And even if that does happen, I'll probably be one of the 5% who still must wait. We are on the butt end of the world here on the north shore and last year we were among the last to get power back after Hurricane Irene. 

But I have hot water and intermittent borrowed power. So life ain't all bad. 

Ooooh...the gas lines. I HAVE to tell you about the gas lines. They are insane. Absolutely insane. A whisper is heard about a gas station promising to open soon and lines form instantly. I've never seen anything like it. A half-mile long isn't out of the question. That's what I saw this morning.

I lucked out and found a gas station on Thursday and filled up. That was right before the crazy lines began forming. But it also leaves me not wanting to drive anywhere because I don't want to waste the gas. So it's just me here at the cat ranch with the kitties. Not sure if I mentioned it, but Gia went down to visit her family in SC and missed the storm. She was supposed to fly back a few days ago, but we changed her flight. No sense coming home to no power or heat. She is due back on Wednesday now. Hopefully we will be in better shape by then.


Thanks for all the kind words and sympathies.

Nov 1, 2012


In the wake of Hurricane Sandy, I'm mostly feeling lucky.

We escaped the storm with no damage to home or cars. The storm surge was a huge concern. It was supposed to be anywhere from 8-12 feet above normal at high tide on Monday night. And 12 feet would have meant about 2 feet of water in our living room. So that would have sucked. But he storm moved faster than anticipated and the storm surge was about half of what was feared. So the water wound up a few feet short of reaching our door, but it was touch and go there for a little while. We got lucky.

As close as I am to the water on the north shore here on Long Island, my mother is just as close on the south shore. About 10 feet above sea level, just like we are. The water from the Great South Bay reached the end of her block in one direction and the next street over right behind her was completely flooded because of the creek and marina there. Again, it was touch and go for a while. She got lucky.

Mom got power back on Wednesday afternoon. I'm still without power and internet, so I headed out to her place. Today was the first time I've seen news coverage since Monday afternoon. Lots and lots and lots of folks weren't as lucky as we were. Huge trees down all over. Power lines down. Homes and cars wrecked. Forget abut the shoreline. It will probably never be the same. I've heard tell of new inlets across Fire Island and some of the other barrier beaches here. And if you had a home on one of those islands? Not so lucky.

I hope this post finds you safe and sound if you were affected by this bitch of a storm. I hope you have power and heat and all of your loved ones around you. I hope you were one of the lucky ones.