Friday, October 1, 2010

True story - Redux

First posted 06/08

The little boy in this picture is my Dad. The man is my Grandfather. The animal he's playing with is..........a bear. A few years ago I wrote a story about this family saga. Here is a portion of that story.

My Grandfather found an orphan bear cub in Canada while on a fishing trip with his two buddies. My father must have told us this story a hundred times. His Dad was due home from a fishing trip and .........

After dinner on the 4th day just as dusk was turning into dark, I heard the sound of crunching gravel and knew the Buick was coming down the road. I ran down the steps of the apartment, smacked my hands on the screen door and jumped onto the front stoop. I was just in time to see all three men untangle themselves from the front seat of the car. Mother wiped her hands on her apron as she walked from across the street and Ruthie, my sister, exploded out of the door behind her when she heard the men arriving.
I could tell something was different as I walked towards the car and saw all three men climbing out of the front seat. The car had a back seat and a rumble seat where they stored their bags and coolers of fish. Why hadn't one of them been in the back seat?
Smiling, I ran towards Dad, because I had missed him badly and I was hoping I could carry a pickerel or two into the kitchen. Uncharacteristically he held out his hand and told me to stop.
"Billy,” he said firmly, "Stand back, we have a bear in the rumble seat."
It was as if an invisible wall erected itself around the car. Mother, Ruthie and I stopped dead in our tracks, shock frozen on our faces, each of our brains trying to decide what it was we just heard Dad say.
Mother finally broke the silence. "Ray Marshall,” she said deliberately, “if you have a bear in that rumble seat you can just turn this car around and drive back to Canada.” I heard Mother's words but when I looked at her, I saw that her mouth was barely moving. She was talking slowly and precisely through her firmly clenched jaw.
My mother was a big woman and when she was mad, she would gather herself upright so that her full height and weight became massive. She was that way now and as I looked down at her side, I saw that, as she was slowly talking, she was pushing Ruthie under her arm and behind her back. Why hadn't she bothered to push me behind her back, I wondered?
It was a fleeting thought. My attention was quickly drawn back to Dad and his two friends. Dad was not about to be told what to do in front of them. It was one thing to nod in agreement at the dinner table but quite another to acquiesce in front of the men. Danny and Paul were looking at their feet nervously kicking stones while the silence and locked eyes between Mother and Dad seemed to last forever and probably would have had not a muffled adolescent growl penetrated the night. The moment was shattered and all eyes turned to the rumble seat. Dad, Danny, and Paul gathered around the handle of the hatch and with slow deliberate movements, Dad lifted it.....

My Dad would go on to tell us that his Dad kept the bear in the basement for almost one year, bringing it out once a day for a walk and fresh air. They fed it scraps from the table each night and hauled buckets of waste out each day.
My Grandfather owned one of the first gas stations west of the Mississippi River and on Sundays he'd put on a leather football helmet and he'd put a leash and a muzzle on the bear. Then, in the parking lot of the gas station he'd have a boxing match with the bear. It was quite a show and my Grandmother would sell pop and beer from the little convenience store they also owned across the street.
Finally, when it got too big they gave it to a little traveling circus. The bear died shortly after that.

The Allegory of the Cookie - Redux

First posted 04/08

In Plato's Allegory of the Cave, Plato likens people untutored in the Theory of Forms to prisoners chained in a cave, unable to turn their heads. All they can see is the wall of the cave. Behind them burns a fire. Between the fire and the prisoners there is a parapet, along which puppeteers can walk. The puppeteers, who are behind the prisoners, hold up puppets that cast shadows on the wall of the cave. The prisoners are unable to see these puppets, the real objects, that pass behind them. What the prisoners see and hear are shadows and echoes cast by objects that they do not see. Such prisoners would mistake appearance for reality.
Got that?
In Allegory of the Cookie, what appeared to be a good chocolate chip cookie all these years was really you mistaking appearance for reality. The reality is, this recipe I'm about to demonstrate for you is the best chocolate chip cookie ever.
It's true.
Whenever I make these people say, "This is the best chocolate chip cookie ever".
They do.
They say that.

So let's get this party started...

First, the usual suspects.

Now, the first secret ingredient.

Then the butter, sugar, eggs, vanilla, baking soda and flour.

Next, Nestle's Toll House Semi-Sweet Chocolate Chips and......

The second secret ingredient, Nestle's White Chocolate Chips!

Then the baking......

And finally, the eating. mmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm

Try these and your reality will never be the same.

Best Chocolate Chip Cookie Recipe Ever

4 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking soda
2 cups butter, softened
1 1/2 cups packed brown sugar
1/2 cup white sugar
2 (3.4 ounce) packages instant vanilla pudding mix
4 eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
*4 cups semisweet chocolate chips
*4 cups white chocolate chips
2 cups chopped walnuts (optional)
This recipe makes about 6 dozen cookies.

*I always put equal amounts of chocolate and white chocolate chips in the recipe.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Sift together the flour and baking soda, set aside.
In a large bowl, cream together the butter, brown sugar, and white sugar. Beat in the instant pudding mix until blended. Stir in the eggs and vanilla. Blend in the flour mixture. Finally, stir in the chocolate chips and nuts. Drop cookies by rounded spoonfuls onto ungreased cookie sheets.
Bake for 10 to 12 minutes in the preheated oven. Edges should be golden brown.

The Garden Chair - Redux

First posted 05/07

I made this garden chair last month. With the help of a friend we actually made three. They are simple to make and I'll tell you how we made ours. We kicked out the seats of the old chairs we found in my friend's garage. We cleaned them and very haphazardly spray painted them white. We sanded some of the white off here and there because...actually I don't know why we sanded. I guess we were making them look older and more worn. This is why it was so fun, there are no rules for making a garden chair.

Anyway, then we made a well with screen material from the hardware store fastening it with a staple gun. We put some Spanish moss around the edges to hide all the staple gun mistakes and we put some hot glue around to seat to hold the Spanish moss in place. Then we lined the well with sphagnum moss, filled it with potting soil and then planted our favorite summer flowers.
Viola, a garden chair!

We had a ball making three and we took one to another friend's house and put it in her garden. She wasn't home. She was at her father's funeral and we thought the chair would be a nice remembrance of him for her.

When I finished my chair and placed it in my garden something happened. It looked beautiful sitting quietly on the edge of my garden and as I stepped back from it to get a different perspective it immediately became Patti's chair.

Patti, a dear sweet cousin, died at age 50 of Ovarian cancer on February 8, 2007. She was beautiful, quietly graceful, extremely bright and a joy to be around.