Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Remembering The First Thanksgiving

As we approach this 219th Official Thanksgiving Day I thought it would be appropriate to honor the very first Thanksgiving Day. Not the Thanksgiving ceremony that took place on September 8, 1565 when 600 Spanish settlers landed at what is now St. Augustine, Florida and immediately held a Mass of Thanksgiving for safe delivery to the new world and began the rush of illegal immigrants into this country. Nor will we be discussing the “day of thanksgiving” that was observed by 38 English settlers about 20 miles upstream from Jamestown, Virginia, the first being on December 4th in the year of our Lord 1619. This was years before they fought against us in the Revolutionary War and made us take this country for ourselves. I also will make no further reference to the Pilgrims at Plymouth in 1621 which date and celebration most of us associate with our modern day Thanksgiving and the rallying cry was “Can we please have some food?”. No, I’d like to go further back than that, like a few thousand years.

Back to Adam and Eve.

I feel that I can offer some insight into Adam and Eve for they had good and bad times for which we should all be thankful. Let’s reminisce shall we?

Picture Adam and Eve newly evicted from their previous home, or should I say garden? In the Garden of Eden things were right in the world. Not a care in the world and no one to care for other than each other. Simple instructions; go forth and tend the garden, multiply and replenish the earth. Eat anything that you want, just not from this one particular tree. But no, it’s from the one tree they did eat, I would have spent more time multiplying. Some say it was an apple that Eve first ate, I say banana. After all if you are going to have a great fall you have to slip on something and a banana seems obvious. I would imagine that the conversation was pretty short after Eve took that first bite, “Adam” Eve demanded, “eat this fruit or we won’t multiply anymore.” And Adam being a righteous, and strong man with convictions said, “Yes, dear”.

It can’t be easy moving from the ritzy neighborhood to the projects but that is exactly what Adam and Eve had to do. “By the sweat of his brow” Adam made his way on the earth.

Of course Adam had Eve to nag, I mean encourage him on. He faithfully tilled the soil and planted his crops. Then he went into his cave, laid down on his easy rock, stared at the wall and waited for the fruits of his labors to bloom.

“Adam?” said Eve.

“Yes Dear?” replied Adam.

“What are you staring at?” quizzed Eve.

“I’m starting at a picture that I drew on the cave wall.” said Adam. “I’m thinking that one day I can get the picture to move and then it can entertain me for hours.”

“I’m hungry Adam.” says Eve.

“What do you want me to do about it? I’m waiting for the stuff I planted to grow. You can eat then.”

“Adam”, demands Eve, “no more multiply unless you find me something to eat.”

“So,” says Adam, “do you want Mexican or Chinese?”

Eve gives Adam the look, the one most men get from their spouses. The look that proves that women are beautiful so that we’ll marry them, and dumb so that they’ll marry us. “I saw a lion the other day killing and then eating a lovely little lamb, get me a lamb and let’s see what the fuss is all about.” responds Eve.

So reluctantly he gets up from his easy rock and wanders off into the jungle.

Two days later Adam shows up all scraped and bruised. “What happened to you?” asks Eve.
“I was inventing track and field.” is Adam’s response.

Eve gives Adam the “do I have to ask you to explain look” and Adam obliges.

“I did as you said and went to get a little lamb.” He explained, “The lion didn’t appreciate me taking his meal and chased me. The chase involved running, jumping, climbing trees and throwing sticks at the lion. I’m calling it track and field. I think it will be very big when someone invents the Olympics.”

Not that everything Adam and Eve had to do was hard. Being the only people on earth solved the problem of choosing a mate. “Let’s see” thinks Adam, “I wonder who’s available tonight?” No problem, “Herrrrrrrrres Eve!” They didn’t need People magazine to tell them who the sexist man and woman alive were, it’s the only man and woman alive.

We all know that Adam invented hunting but he also invented hunting trips. Every 21 days Adam would grab his hunting stick and go off hunting for 7 days. He never killed anything on those trips but he also never missed one either.

Once Eve got the hang of fire she must have tried cooking everything within her reach. Adam of course was her tester. “Try this, just one bite, don’t like that do you, why are you doubling over, too much spice?” and “I haven’t seen the dog for awhile”, “you had him for lunch”.

Adam and Eve were the “first” in everything. The first fight, the first make up, the first birthday and anniversary, the first forgotten anniversary, inventing the first calendar so that you don’t forget the anniversary again, the first “you’ve overdrawn the checking account”, and of course the first “is that lipstick on your collar?” I have to imagine that Eve felt Adam spent too much time with his friends and not enough time with her. Since there were no other people on the earth Adam had only imaginary friends and had no idea what the issues were with his friends.

Receiving the commandment to multiply had to be both a blessing and a punishment. Adam, like most men, wanted to make sure that he kept that commandment. I acknowledge that his contribution was microscopic but it is still must have been an overwhelming responsibility. I would imagine that being the first man God man sure that all of his little swimmers were of Olympic quality. Knowing men, I’m sure that Adam was constantly in a state of “let’s multiply but not necessarily qualify.”

Eve of course contributed by inventing the headache. Somewhere between the first kid and the 50th she must have really been banging her head on some rock for eating that banana. First Planned Parenthood wasn’t around to give her “options” and since there were no kids on the earth she didn’t know what to expect. When the animals gave birth on the farm the whole idea of raising them looked easy. “Look Adam, that horse is giving birth to a new foal… it’s sooooo cute and, look, now it’s walking. Ahhh, Let’s have a baby!” Must have been a real surprise when it didn’t walk on day one.

Which lead to the invention of the diaper, also by Eve. Eve invented washing, ironing, cleaning, showers, baths and soap. She invented brooms, mops, dust pans, named dust “dust”, and started the first maid service. She was the first person to call her husband an idiot and most definitely introduced the silent treatment to mankind.

Adam invented showing up and patience.

Yes we should be thankful for our first mother and father. They did what they did without the benefit of modern conveniences such as telephones, electricity, and running water. They never ran to catch a bus, they were too busy running to catch dinner.

On this Thanksgiving Day we should take the time to honor the parents of all mankind. They had less than we did and still managed to get by happily.

Without Viagra.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

10 Times Better Than Crap Is Still Crap!

As we enter the holiday season I think that it is only appropriate that we take a moment and ponder upon one of the foods that we are expected to put into our mouth and there origin.
While having a conversation with a young man in my church the conversation turned to fruitcake. The conversation started because all of the women in our congregation were carrying around plates of cookies in the shapes of letters that spelled out the word SIMPLIFY. The cookies were part of driving, or should I say baking, the message into their heads to simplify their lives’. I was very impressed that some loving and caring woman had taken the time to bake all of these cookies for the 50 or so women in the group. It must have been a huge task baking all of those cookies. That’s over 400 cookies! A task that no man would ever undertake unless he could find something in it that would clearly benefit him. I was less impressed that I would never get the chance to have one of those cookies. No one, and I mean no one was sharing. A little un-Christ-like I think, especially as we move into the Christmas season. Not that I needed any cookies, cookies are about wanting, not needing. If I was super concerned about the nutritional value of cookies I wouldn’t be so upset. I'd like to be bombarded by cookies just once. Chocolate chip and those nice soft cookies with icing on them would be great.

We digress, well I do.

Where was I? Right, cookies. Cookies, or should I say the lack of cookies, quickly turned into a conversation with my young friend about fruitcake. He said that there is a German fruitcake that is, “like ten times better than fruitcake”.


I absolutely hate fruitcake and I would suppose that it tastes like crap although I have never tasted crap. If you do the math, ten times better than crap is still crap.

That was the end of the conversation. Still, it’s Sunday afternoon and Sunday afternoon is when I usually have lots of time to think and sort out the little grey cells. That is usually when I pull out some of my bizarre thoughts and put them onto paper or the PC equivalent. I started thinking about my experience with fruitcake and its close cousin groom’s cake.

It has been my experience that groom’s cake is fruitcake tied up in a little piece of cloth with a nice thin ribbon. It’s handed out at the wedding and is traditionally tossed at the groom as he heads off on his honeymoon. When you’re young and you receive groom’s cake for the first time it’s natural to try and eat it. Just once. Then you start finding clever ways to get rid of it. Throwing it at the groom is as clever as I’ve been with it. If it’s set out long enough it can dent a car.

Groom’s cake can incorporate chocolate as an ingredient. Not at the weddings that I’ve been to. Of course when I was younger most of the weddings that I’d been to involved my grandma who got married eight times, and only lived to be 61. If you assume that she got married at 16 (we are from the south), she had the potential to be married 45 years. Let’s assume that she waited at least a year between each marriage, and that is a very pessimistic assessment, then she could have averaged 4.75 years per marriage. But I think that 4.75 is optimistic as most of the guys divorced her rather than her divorce them. She had some marriage free years besides birth to fifteen. From the divorce papers I’ve read she had a little bit of a temper and might have been abusive. But that’s only what the first seven said. Number eight actually lasted about 11 years and always had his tennis shoes at the doorstep in case he needed to make a fast exit. If Grandma were alive today she would be 88 years old, and on her 13th husband. God rest their souls.

Right, moving on. Groom’s cake is a tradition associated with the American south. I’ll have to admit that I wasn’t surprised by that revelation all. According to Wikipedia you can use cheesecake for groom’s cake. That would have changed my position if I’d been offered cheesecake. That I would eat. With its origins in the south I’m actually surprised that it does include ingredients like squirrel, possum, and road kill.

Fruitcake is made with ingredients that shouldn’t be in cake, namely fruit. It’s not just any fruit but candied fruit and/or dried fruit, nuts and spices, optionally soaked in spirits, you know, alcohol. Then you bake it. Yummy! It sounds like the chef that came up with the recipe was soaked in spirits. You can even order it by mail and I’m sure it’s now available on the Internet. Mass produced American fruitcakes don’t have alcohol but the traditional ones are saturated, yes saturated, with liqueurs or brandy and then covered in powdered sugar, both of which prevent mold. Is your mouth watering yet? In England it is often accompanied with cheese. Who came up with the bright idea that cheese would improve the situation? Has the FDA just looked the other way because I think there is a real crisis in our food chain?

Is mad cow disease an issue because we eat more beef than we do other meats? Why don’t we hear about “loony lambs disease” or “quaky duck syndrome”? Is there a “flaky fish” epidemic that we don’t know about? Who came up with the idea of feeding cow to cow in the first place? I sense cover up. Do they have advertisements in England with the tag line: “Mad Cow, It’s What’s for Dinner”?

I guess that the idea of eating your own species isn’t good for your health either. The more you eat the more you freak. That makes cannibalism a bad choice of diet. What was the first cannibal doing and thinking when he decided to eat his friends? Was it an issue of I’m starving to death and this is my only option to survival? Do cannibals prefer white or dark meat? Do we taste like chicken? Are we better broiled or roasted, baked or fried? Is there a glaze associated with eating humans? I guess that there is even a “social stigma” against cannibalism that it is used as propaganda against the cannibals. What an observation! Let’s use girls as an example. I have never once looked at a girl and said, “I wonder what she’d taste like in a white wine sauce”. Of course there is a social stigma, you’re supposed to love your fellow man, not have him as the third course.

Let’s move on. I’ve got to stop reading Robinson Crusoe. Opens up too many thoughts and questions.

I think that the message here is that “new and improved”, “100% better”, and “ten times better” are all phrases that shouldn’t be associated with bad food. In one of my earlier blogs I talked about the things I love and hate, I talked about the foods I hate. You can’t improve your hate for something except to hate it more. Ten times better than crap is still crap.

And it when it comes to fruitcake its still crap.

Friday, November 14, 2008


I recently made two trips to Grangeville, Idaho, a small farming city about 65 miles SE of Lewiston, Idaho. My younger brother Tom has a place in Grangeville, 10 acres with barn, silo, granary, etc. He even leases some of his land to a real live cowboy named Jerry. Jerry keeps his moo cows there from time to time.

Grangeville is the boyhood home of Tom's father. His dad is one of 11 brothers that all served in the armed forces, 8 of them in WWII. There were 3 girls in the family, only one lived to be an adult. It all makes for a nice story and one day I'll tell it.

This is about something that happened on the ride to Grangeville.

In this day of mass transit, planes, fast cars and the freeway it's interesting to take an honest to goodness road trip. In this situation it means crossing over the Washington Cascades on Interstate 90, through Cle Elum to Ellensburg. At Vantage, that little place where the bridge takes you over the Columbia River you have to take a right instead of a left and hit Highway 26. It will take you to Othello, Royal City, Colfax, and Pullman, though not necessarily in that order.

I usually take the left, on to George, Moses Lake, Ritzville, and Spokane. Mostly towns that are on modernizing. Taking the right is like going back in time. Somewhere time stopped as the world passed by these small towns. It was going through one of these little towns and stopping for gas that I found a memory from my past.

The men's bathroom condom machine. And .75 cents each. Only .25 cents more than in 1975.

The names were the same, "Rough Rider", "Form Fitting", and "Lady 6". When I was an impressionable young man I remember looking at these names thinking that some girl was going to get real lucky. Just not with me.

I remember as a young man, somewhat interested in the opposite sex, seeing these dispensing machines in the local Exxon, Enco, and Union 76 station. This was in the days when a gas station was a service station. They could fix your tires, fix your car, they had those neat bells that alerted the attendant when you drove over them. They irritated the attendant when you went over them with your bikes. But we did it anyway.

The air was free for your tires, so was the water for your radiator. The guys who worked the station checked your oil, the air in your tires and washed your windows. Sometimes they checked the girls in the car. It was cool to be a motor head.

The condom dispensers were usually located above the urinal. That way they had a captive audience to advertise the merchandise to. Just .50 cents. And gas stations were open long hours. If the truth was to be told gas stations were the forerunner of the convenience store. Get a car, get a girl, get some gas, get a condom, get lucky.

And I never bought one. Ever. And it wasn't because I didn't have the car, it was partly because I never found the girl with the loose morals, gas ran about .60 cents a gallon and I could afford that, and I could afford the condom. I just had this moral commitment to saving sex for marriage. And I did so. But the condom machine was certainly tempting. As I grew older the concept of repentance became clearer and even though opportunities were there I'm proud to admit that I never gave in.

The reason that I never bought one is that I was always worried that some adult would walk in while I was buying one and give me that look. Worse, someone that I knew would walk in and give me a bad time, for the rest of my life. I'd be 50 years old and some person from my past would walk up to me and say in from of family, friends, church leaders; "remember that time you bought the condom when you were 16?" It would have happened. It's embarrassing to get change for a dollar from the attendant, "can I have 4 quarters please?". Yeah, he knows what you're going to do with those quarters. So I never did.

Some of the guys I knew that had one kept it in their wallet. It made a condom sized impression on their wallet. It never changed, I assumed that it never got used. Most of the guys that I hung around with couldn't get a girl to give them a second glance let alone talk to them. I knew they were not having sex, they couldn't, they were out with me and I wasn't.

When I graduated from High School I travelled around the United States on a Greyhound bus for 3 months visiting relatives. I could go anywhere in the US and Canada. I'd been cold before so I decided that I didn't need to go to Canada. I went to Idaho, Minnesota, Michigan, Upper Michigan, Missouri and Mississippi in addition to other states too numerous to mention. My Grandpa Bryant, my mom's father, had retired from the auto industry to Winona, Mississippi. I travelled from the Upper Peninsula of Michigan by bus, through Chicago, to get to Winona. On the bus from Chicago to Winona, I got on the bus only to find that I was the only person on the bus that needed a tan. That included the driver. I was 17, I had ID, I was pretty sure they would never find the body. "Look everyone. We got us a nice skinny white boy to entertain us."

It turned out to be a great ride. My seatmate was a huge black guy going to play football at a university in Mississippi. We had a great conversation of which I remember no details. I do remember thinking that his first words were going to be, "Hi, my name is Albert and I'll be your killer today." I had to imagine that no one was going to miss one white boy in Mississippi.

When I got off the bus in Winona my Grandfather hadn't arrived yet so I went to the bathroom at the bus stop/gas station. There was a condom machine there. I was disenchanted with religion at the time. I was on my own. The moon was in the seventh house and Jupiter aligned with Mars. Everything was perfect. I was finally going to buy a condom. I went outside to get change for a dollar.

Great timing, Grandpa was waiting. No condom.

We arrived at his house and he showed me my home for the next two weeks. It was a truck camper. His house was too small to accommodate me. Total privacy. Then he introduced me to the neighbors.

Or should I say the neighbor girls. Five dang cute blond southern girls ranging in age from 13 to 18. The oldest was named Diane. I'm seventeen. After introductions by Grandpa I was left alone with the girls. All five girls gazed at me like I was fresh meat and Diane looked at me and in a Mississippi drawl looked me over and said; "Your granddad said that you wuz a Christian boy so I guess that sex with all of us for the next two weeks is out of the question."

I really hated my grandfather right then.

God didn't want me to have that condom. And so the five girls of Mississippi tortured me for two weeks and didn't even know it.

And now, in this world of the Internet, cell phones, convenience stores and 24 hour Walgreen's you can get all of the condoms that you want when you want them. And we've gone further than that. You can get them for free from the local health departments, from the manufacturers, you can buy them in complete secrecy from the Internet.

Now we have to explain to our young kids what they are as the advertisements blast across the scene. Kids today know more about condoms that I know as an adult with years of education. Are these things in the boys restrooms in high schools, junior highs? What is in the girls bathroom that we should know about?

I miss the good old days. Gasoline for .60 cents, condoms for .50. Now that I'm having sex (with my wife) I don't need the condom. Moreover, one thing hasn't changed since the summer of 1976.

I'm still a little mad at Grandpa Bryant.