Fools Waltz In

So how dumb/foolish am I?

I was all prepared, I thought, for the long weekend, piling up posts to keep everyone amused right through the long weekend/visitation/funeral for Janet and me. But somehow I forgot there were 31 days in May, so the post I slated for June 1 wonʼt appear until tomorrow (June 1). Duh.

I spent Friday afternoon and evening (on and off) writing and formatting those posts, all in preparation for a trip to Mt.Pleasant to see Dawn and Kevin for Memorial Day. We drove to Janetʼs folks first on Saturday to check on her mother and the plans for everything for her grandmotherʼs funeral. We got to eat at the local winery restaurant, which was good after a long time (for me anyway) away from that place. Then we zipped down to Henry County, where Dawn had a busy schedule of eating and drinking activities slated for us, including a long drive southeastwards for celebratory craft/antique/junk shows and a drive into my old (temporary) stomping grounds of Ft. Madison for lunch yesterday. And we had an excellent time (except that every restaurant in Ft. Madison appeared to have closed forever or at least just for Sunday). I did have a good time driving around Ft. M and seeing all the things that I recalled from 35 years ago. And we ate at a little Mexican restaurant, Amigos, that seemed vaguely familiar from some night out in my over-zestful youth. The food was great (and plentiful), but nothing ever measures up to the wonderful stuff Dawn devises for dinners at their house.

We took off Saturday and just returned (11:30 AM Monday). Just in time for me to realize that Memorial Day, as it must, was still in the month of May. So I have to churn out something If I am to maintain the unbroken series of daily posting. This bit of nothing will be it.

I see my friends and former students have utilized  the blog as a substitute for Facebook in my absence. Well and good. And that one or two former friends have taken an interest in the first chapter of the Sepharad story (there will be some more to come, guys, and Iʼll try to reply to the insightful comments already posted, too). I also hope everyone had a fantastic time at the Alumni and Memorial Day activities in Andrew this weekend!

This isnʼt much, but I appreciate the attention (even the opinions contrary to mine) that have been going on here while I was away. I have summerʼs arrival for tomorrow and something different starting Wednesday.

Have a great Memorial Day, all, remembering all those who gave the very most in service to leaders wise and otherwise over the history of this nation.

©2010 John Randolph Burrow, Magickal Monkey Enterprises, Ltd, S.A.

Further Tavern Talk

Having received no response to the first two portions of chapter one from my so-called “infamous Sepharad” story, Iʼll give you a little more.

The previous two pieces were here and here.

and yet more from the infamous Sepharad story

This is a famous medieval tavern (from Prague coincidentally), but it looks appropriate.

Søren was troubled by some of the dark fellowʼs flow of words but felt he understood the gist.

“Roman?” he wondered aloud.

“The folk who ruled these lands, all Christendom and Islam as well, in the ancient days of yore.”

“Long ago? One people ruled the whole world?”

“Not the whole world, Søren, never your lands, I believe, but this whole world around the Inland Sea.”

“How wonderful to learn. You must be very wise indeed, Judah.” Either the wine was working its way with his wits already, or he felt easier with this southern tongue than he had thought.

“Educated perhaps. Nearly all question my wisdom, Søren. But if any of the morsels I have filched from the banquet of learning interest you, my friend, I am glad. It is still too little repayment for my life.”

Another pitcher of wine arrived. “Still on the tab, Jew?”

“Naturally.” Judah poured for them both again. “And bring another, right away!” he called at the surly waiter’s back.

Søren was finishing his cup once again (fifth? like the number of assailants?) and asked, “What was their grievance against you, friend Judah — those five men in the alley?”

Raising a warning finger, the Jew hushed him. “Not so loud. Some things are best discussed not at all.” His dark eyes flashed all ways about, then his dark visage reconsidered. “However, as you are, oh, intimately and mortally involved, you deserve some explanation. Those men evidently wished to prevent me from completing a certain exploit I had undertaken for tonight, I feel sure. Otherwise, they just don’t like Jews,” he finished wryly.

“Exploit?” Søren hesitated over the word, not precisely familiar yet tantalizingly clear as the dark fellow used it. “Should you not be endeavoring to accomplish your project? Do you not waste time drinking with me?”

“Time drinking is never time wasted, my newfound friend,” Judah observed in mock sagacity, “as a by your accomplished guzzling you appear to understand.” They clinked cups sociably. “Besides, that unexpected obstruction you helped with may have changed my mind. I undertook this job more or less as a lark. I wasn’t expecting trouble — not that kind, not that determined.”

Søren examined his newfound companion appraisingly. “Could you use a partner in your caper?”

“If I should choose to complete it — ” Judah checked himself as Jaime delivered a third jug of wine.

“Ottocar says your tab grows uncomfortably large, Jew.”

“To be sure. But Ottocar also knows I am good for it.” The waiter huffed skeptically and stalked away. “Or I will be.” Judah considered a long moment as the Northman poured more wine in each mug. “Friend Søren, would you truly help me in my task?”

“I came to this city, Judah, with but a few coins in my purse. I spent those for meals and lodging, earned only a little more in your Dukeʼs employ before he sent me packing into these inhospitable streets.” The big man began to feel he might be exhausting his store of Aragon vocabulary, but he forged ahead. “For days and days I have searched for employment to secure food for my gut and a place to sleep indoors. I have found none. I last ate a day before I last slept.”

“You haven’t eaten since yesterday? No, the day before. Then we must dine as well as drink.” Judah rose from his seat and roared, “— Jaime! Let’s have two bowls of Ottocar’s fine stew. And bread.”

“And more wine,” Søren added. “—My thanks, indeed, Judah. Now you save my life, though I have endured days without food in my time. But again, what of your exploit?”

“My escapade was not to be, ah, exactly or even slightly within the confines of the law, Søren.” Lowering his voice and both their heads closer over the table, he added quietly, “Indeed I proposed to commit a burglary.”

“Truthfully, I surmised as much. You know your way too well through back streets and alleys. And no honest mission would have drawn a man into that vile turning where those foes had cornered you.”

“Cleverly reasoned, sir. And correct. I was en route to the scene of my robbery, when those five charged at me from the throughway where I was heading. I dodged into that space hoping to outrun them, only to find nowhere to run. Until your fortuitous arrival, I figured my greed and ambition had brought me to death.”

©2010 John Randolph Burrow, Magickal Monkey Enterprises, Ltd, S.A.

Saturday — Good and Termagant Together

Great good has come from my whining on Thursday. And I donʼt just mean so many of you hitting on the site (and/or leaving comments).

The comment from Talk to Qwest has led to some resolution to my issues (financial compensation at least — Kathee, take note). Thank you, very much, Steph! It may be just a gesture on the corporationʼs part, but I am pleased and look forward, I hope, to improved internet service, too. (I know that starting with Thursday I havenʼt noticed the broken connections quite so much — once on Thursday only.) I will be out mowing later on Friday afternoon, so as I prophesied yesterday I did miss the important phone call… even though I waited until after 4:00 p.m. before heading out into the yard.

And now the long Memorial Day weekend has begun, traditional start of summer (more on that for Monday). Janet and I have to prepare for her grandmotherʼs funeral (I told you about that yesterday), but we still have other plans for the holiday time here at hand. Enjoy life while you have it to enjoy.

I wonʼt say much today, since I am planning to have posts to cover several days all ready to go before I start my mowing (yesterday afternoon in my real time). Mondayʼs is done (I actually started with that one), and tomorrowʼs will continue my Sepharad story — with the completion of chapter one sometime later on, perhaps next weekend. Real life off the computer keyboard has too much to fill my time and attention just now.

“Death in the Afternoon” is what I call this shot of the pile of garpulousness at Gasser True Value

click to see the health-endangering dreck piles up close and personal

However, I will note that the Great Inconsideration in our backyard — Gasser True Value, a local impediment deliberately tempting my wrath with their callous behavior daily — has imported a huge quantity of cancer-causing creosote-soaked lumber, and the stench has filled our house, limiting my desire to have to work hard outdoors mowing and thus breathe deeply of the poisonous effluence. (I notice the vile stuff is featured nowhere on their website, cleverly, as itʼs illegal in many states.)

Please let blithely unconcerned local manager Dan Schmidt — who has with definition snubbed and disregarded our complaints, abetted by Maquoketaʼs city manager Brian Wagner — know how you feel about their poor neighborliness (if not outright slow killing of us in their proximity).

I am not even addressing the excessive and calculated noise they make or other mercenary and unkind behavior back in that area behind the business. Or the excessively brilliant, glaringly blinding night lighting that isnʼt shielded above, as they had agreed to do, years ago…

From their website, for your assistance:

Gasser True Value Hardware / Just Ask Rental
111 Westgate Drive
Maquoketa, IA 52060
Phone 563-652-2446
Fax 563-652-4926

Monday – Friday:     7:00 am – 8:00 pm
Saturday:               7:00 am – 6:00 pm
Sunday:                 8:00 am – 4:00 pm

And weʼll let that be the news from Casa Woebegone for today (a tiny reminder that Garrison Keillor is still on the air weekly…)

Black Termination — have they been taking lessons from/for BP?

©2010 John Randolph Burrow, Magickal Monkey Enterprises, Ltd, S.A.


It Is Yesterdayʼs Tomorrow

Yesterdayʼs post generated the most hits my poor blog has yet allured. I guess I should feel happy. However, it was a post that, as I indicated, arose only with some desperation as a mere rant when I faced repeated intermittent outages of my internet connection. I wasnʼt even attempting to be fully coherent in my writing.

I was intrigued that my rather random swipe at crude-spewing BP generated the most reaction that I have garnered here as well. Thanks, Ted, for continuing to take an interest in my floundering opinions. And I feel somewhat sapped in my writing ingenuity for today, having taken time to compose replies to several of the comments there. Perhaps I should just refer everyone to that as todayʼs post…

Most interesting to me, however, was that somehow my little blog, hidden blushing away in its tiny, darkened (and relatively unvisited) corner of the digital universe, was able to the draw the attention of personnel from Qwest Communications itself in response to the actual issue discussed in the post — my rather tentative internet connection. I do appreciate the interest and really rapid (and unexpected) response of Steph Lake, Manager, Talk To Qwest Team (shouldnʼt “Talk to Qwest” be hyphenated in that usage, by the way, as one massive adjective modifying “Team?”), for taking the time and trouble to notice my little rant and then actually respond. As I noted in my reply, I sent her the requested e-mail ASAP. As my normal action in response to the interruptions was originally a suggestion from not-very-interested Qwest support technicians, I wait breathlessly to discover how different this exchange may be. (Unfortunately, I fear the need to mow the lawn may interfere with my receipt of a phone call this afternoon.)

I am genuinely grateful that (although unpaid at this particular activity) I have found some readers (including whoever all it is that has created that large dot on the ClusterMap in Southern California that I donʼt personally understand).

Sad News

I was saddened this week to learn that a teacher of beloved memory had died this week, aged 92. Mrs. Barbara Anderson was my sophomore English teacher, a powerful influence upon me and my life, whose tender direction and inspiration helped me to decide to become a teacher myself. Mrs. Anderson taught me Julius Caesar (coincidentally quoted yesterday), the first time I had (I redden to admit) read any Shakespeare. She also got me to take charge of my writing (and I think I will post the oldest piece of writing I still possess, an essay that I composed for her class). I hope my own impact on young people was to any degree marginally sufficient compared to her encompassing intelligence, interest, care and kindness. I have been blessed with wonderful teachers at crucial junctions in my life (perhaps there is a post in that subject). She was a leader in that sainted congregation.

I thank Dave and Maureen Edwards of Mt. Pleasant, who took the necessary time to post notice of Mrs. Andersonʼs demise.

Furthermore, Janetʼs maternal grandmother passed away yesterday not long after noon. Although I had not spoken with her in a long time (too long), Virginia Kula (Grandma Kula or Granda Ginny to our generation) always made me feel welcome and at home in Janetʼs clan. As Janetʼs mother noted when she called with the news, “Sheʼs in a better place now.” And I would hope she is, reunited at long last with her beloved husband Ray (also a favorite Janet-relative of mine).

Death does make us reflect. We shouldnʼt be too callous or casual in our personal relations. After all, who knows what may be the last word or action you exchange with someone? Thanks to my father, my own motherʼs passing was well organized, even staged, while he was ripped away from us unexpectedly in an icy accident. Although, as I noted here, he and I were getting on closer terms (and he adored Janet and my first apartment together), too much was never said, never apologized (on my side), never healed or understood. Or forgiven.

My sophomore year in high school feels like it wasnʼt that long ago. But it was. My lifetime has intervened since then, and now so much is gone, lost, I hope not forgotten (yet). I have done so much reflecting on my experiences here, but all of that belonged to a young guy that isnʼt me really. I evolved out of him. We all do. Still I treasure all the moments that I retain, revealed and unspoken, sensing the kernels of myself and the treasured gleams of brightness from all those who have touched my being with their presence and their care.

©2010 John Randolph Burrow, Magickal Monkey Enterprises, Ltd, S.A.

Grumping for Thursday

I wanted to write a brilliant and witty essay for today, but by 6:00 p.m. yesterday, when I got around to sitting at the computer to compose this post, I found that Qwest Communications DSL had again gone bad somewhere upstream of my humble home network. Again.

So naturally I got mad. Again. (And also switched off my modem for a full minute and then switched it back on, to prove to the Qwest ISP and servers that I did in fact deserve/require an internet connection. Again.)

Qwest fails at providing competent service at least twice a day, making me wonder why I have to pay for “service” that canʼt regularly measure up to demand (also making me grumpy). Of course, miserable, lousy Qwest isnʼt alone among the vile corporate entities plaguing our lives for their profit and our misery.

BP has killed workers and let millions of barrels of crude explode in the Gulf of Mexico for a month now, inadequately clowning at resolutions to their problem. They blame their tawdry and vile companion companies (yeah, I mean you, Halliburton, satanic viceroy of degeneracy) instead of owning up to their own shoddy disaster-preparations, proving repeatedly that corporate turpitude is not confined to our nation alone. (Decades ago, I would never have imagined that I might imagine that Amoco — such a stupid corporate name, right along with Exxon — could seem like a business friend, until they were gone. And I have known since the feds broke up the phone company that Ma Bell did everything better than the supposedly competing lackluster little communication corporations that have sprung up like business toadstools in the fecal matter of our lives).

I am again reminded why I think that corporations should never be trusted whatsoever. Big business wants to do just one thing — make money. And making money is not a worthy endeavor for moral beings, although admittedly we all have to do it in a greed-based, capitalistic society just to exist (talk about moral conundra!). Unlike most individuals, however, corporations have no morality, just anonymous and therefore terrible corporate greed (viz. BP right now). Supposedly, a company provides something — products, services — to the public, for which we are willing to fork over cash, enhancing the companyʼs profit. In reality, companies provide just as little as possible (nothing whatsoever would be ideal — thus cell phone contracts) to make maximum profit for their stockholders (yes, indeed, money not even for not corporate employees, but outsiders whose interest in the corporation and its activities is completely limited simply and blindly to how much cash the corporate cow can put in their equally corporate pockets — viz. the Wall Street/banking fiasco of the last decade[s]*).

Anyone who believes a company has oneʼs individual good at heart, somehow, deserves the society we have created for ourselves (and should also live in padded comfort in an asylum, preferably right on the Louisiana Gulf Coast). And I hope Qwest provides such people their internet service.

“The fault, dear Brutus, is not in our stars,
But in ourselves, that we are underlings.”
Julius Caesar (I, ii, 140-141)

I admit the quote was said by an envious bad man to prod at another manʼs tragic weakness. But it fits, oh, too closely…

I am not sure this has gotten anything off my chest, but here it was anyway. Thank you for your tolerance (much tested, I admit).

*Come on, who besides naive realtors and hoodwinked home buyers thought the housing bubble was anything except a bubble (viz. the Dutch tulip-bulb bubble of which our housing market was so perfect a reflection)?

[Please click the pix for their laudable sources.]

©2010 John Randolph Burrow, Magickal Monkey Enterprises, Ltd, S.A.

Stormy Weather

In lieu of standard flowers, I sent Janet this hibiscus plant for our anniversary. Now it sits pretty wet in Tuesdayʼs rainfall.

And after the great heat came the violent thunderstorms. Okay, not so violent as just thunderous and lightning-filled. The rain (so far this afternoon) hasnʼt even been bad. (I hope I don’t need to add a “yet” to that statement.) Right now, the electrical effects are dimmed a little as real rain is falling again, fairly gently.

the view westward as the rain fell Tuesday, 05/25/2010

I am writing yesterday (Tuesday) about four in the afternoon. Rain came and dumped on us, pretty suddenly, about noon, and since then the lightningʼs been crackling all around town and the thunder rumbling almost nonstop. And could today be more of a contrast with yesterday? The pictures I shot Monday were so bright, the perfect sunshine brilliance for that poem. And now, all dark since 10:00 a.m. Darker and darker since about noon. Monday was so sticky hot we really considered installing our window air conditioner (for the bedroom, to ease our sleep) as we donʼt have central air here. Today, the heat and humidity have fallen off as the day darkened and rained; I even put on my sweatshirt to sit and type (although itʼs probably too warm, really). Excess of light, now dullness and rain.

As an adolescent I found thunderstorms magnetic (fascinating, alluring). I recall sitting in our Mt. Pleasant driveway in the old ʼ56 Ford my father bought from necessity somewhere in Missouri when the VW van had broken down on him (and it kind of/sort of became my car for a while, much like the blue VW bug nicknamed Willie Faye that I drove until it dropped in its tracks) as thunder boomed and rain dropped so hard I couldnʼt see to our front door. Everything turned gray and vague but electrically alive. Wonderful experience (and so much better to be inside rather than exposed to that breathless, crushing downpour). I believe my attraction to the dark side of rain held well into my married years, until we were settled in this house. In fact, one of the poems I have posted so far came from watching rain fall unseasonably (in early February) across the night-blackened community; the experience just got all mixed up with the fall of Rome.

…so different from yesterdayʼs photos

Then one afternoon, I was driving home from visiting Janet at her travel agency office in the downtown bank lobby, as a storm descended on Maquoketa, pitching the world into a viscous darkness. Then the deluge opened, drowning the streets and foiling all efforts of my windshield wipers. I was driving west on Platt Street. The wind seemed suddenly to crescendo noisily, pushing hard against the truckʼs westward progress. Then leaves and twigs and other larger things started flying in my direction from above and down the street. Not so bad. Big wind, a natural part of a fun thunderstorm.

The wind pulsed suddenly, loud, drowning the radio chatter. For a few seconds things seemed brighter, even as more trash and ripped-away foliage cascaded like rain, just flying all directions except mine.

Then the tree came twisting and sliding over the street right at my face (it seemed). I was so stunned I just kept driving, maybe somewhat slower, and the huge rooty, branched trunk swept a little lower toward the street and passed me by in the coincidentally eastbound lane. The thing was as big as the pickup, and I just kept going, more concerned about what might be coming next than where the huge, uprooted hazard had gone (meaning I didnʼt even follow its wake in the side or rearview mirrors). Straight home as the wind scoured everything it could grab and propel, pulling into the garage and then diving into the basement: I was sure the tornado was right upon us.

This drenched canopy over our driveway was jut a sapling when the windborne tree attacked my truck.

It wasnʼt, although it might as well have done. The official weather word in the end was that Maquoketa had suffered not a tornado but violent horizontal wind bursts, reaching 70 mph and harder. There was damage all over town. I never heard what the careening tree did further east nor what happened to it. The experience did quell my adolescent lust for rainstorms.

…Now the thunder crackles and groans again. I should check the radar to see whatʼs heading our way (if anything) and from what direction. [I do so.] Lots of red on the radar map, possibly coming our way (from the south), but the animation seems to show it breaking up somewhat and driving more easterly now.

No complaints here, just a brush of description. Our weather (so far) has been mild, avoiding the brutal tornadoes whipping through the South recently. Weʼd like it to remain so (and spread to other areas as well).

I also enjoyed stepping out into the rain for the pictures decorating this post. I wish that I could have taken a photo of the camera, raindrop-coated just from the moment of shooting the hibiscus photo (at the top). I didnʼt venture out from just in front of the garage door, having wisely (actually accidentally) fetched in the mail and the sun tea (ironic, that) before the second set of (still continuing) rain fell.

©2010 John Randolph Burrow, Magickal Monkey Enterprises, Ltd, S.A.

The Other Published Poem

All these tree pictures are from our yard, taken yesterday in the sweltering heat and sun

A while back, I posted a poem that had actually been published (although, as always, I received no remuneration in reward). In that same issue of the Iowa Journal of Social Work, edited for the nonce by friend and former professor Ron Palumbo (thus his choice to publish any poetry at all and to ask me to provide a few selections) was this second poem, one which I preferred to the self-portrait.

It was into Ronʼs married student housing that I once more-or-less gently drove my brotherʼs giant Chevy when its brakes went bad while I was heading up to Iowa City for a weekend away from Ft. Madison and my teaching self. (I needed the building to bring the big behemoth to a stop.) And it was in an apartment owned by his former wife that at an alcoholic and delirious New yearʼs party I had the honor for the one and only time in my life to draw the interest of a gay friend (he hit one me). I was so tipsy I am not sure just how baffled and disoriented this overture made me (after all, just moments before — as I recall the events — we had been discussing the Bahaʼi faith), but I had to refuse as I had my eye on some lovely female at that party (with whom I got as far as that gay friend got with me — sigh). And my sigh is not for some imaginary unreal gay alternate life I might have led — just not me, I am afraid.

This poem came from that same era, when I was fresh and flush in Ft. Madison, teaching my first year and actually making my own money. I think it concerns the break-up (again) of my first big romance, colored as always with poems of that era by The White Goddess (although I think these particular trees owe much more to James Joyce and Ulysses, episode two, Nestor, which ends, “On his wise shoulders through the checkerwork of leaves the sun flung spangles, dancing coins”).

In the poem the sunʼs bright coins cannot buy bliss for my disheartened speaker…

Leaves Taken

And so you’re gone, a poem scarcely spoken,

leaving not even echoes of your presence in the air.

You were a witch, but now the spell is broken —

you’ll master other faces, weaving others through your hair.

All the seasons will recall you, voice and eyes:

still leaves and sunlight spangle wealth from atmosphere,

but such gold coins fill no more pockets (fancied lies),

chlorophyll and photons untranslated. You are not here.

You were the Earth, Gæia, autumn crocus-kissed.

A solar music hummed about your liquid motion,

and all our days were vibrant with the oaken risk

of time and bodies. I knew that love transcends emotion.

Well be now done with me: I never noticed trees, together.

So you take the sun as well, love is like the weather.

Published in the Iowa Journal of Social Work

20 April 1976

Imaginary rewards for those who noticed itʼs a sonnet, one of my first successful ones.

I think the belovedʼs “liquid motion” owes much (or is an allusion, of course) to Theodore Roethkeʼs poem, “I Knew a Woman” (and itʼs also worthwhile to click the link and read his glorious villanelle, “The Waking” — itʼs worth reading all his verse).

My pseudo-scientific self shines through, hinting at the clarified direction into which I would head once I left Ft. Madison behind and moved to Maquoketa (and which owes as much to my love of science fiction as the influence of my science-teaching father), in the ”chlorophyll and photons untranslated” bit. I remember liking the seasonal conflation in “autumn crocus-kissed” (which sounds a bit artsy-fartsy to me now), and the phrase “of time and bodies” which sounds so portentiously (and prophetically!) like the culture of literary theory criticism just then being hatched (in French) for me to discover when I took my Modern Criticism course at St. Ambrose five years later (and under which so many have slaved these long tyrannical decades since to acquire undergraduate degrees in literature).

I am not sure I approve the punctuation in the last line any longer, but I donʼt know how to improve it any more than I did thirty-four years ago. The ending is also trite and wrongheaded — by which I mean false to truth and reality. But maybe thatʼs what I want this speaker to sound like (regardless how much he was once me). Love isnʼt like the weather (unless you emphasize the principles of physics and meteorology all combined to create the someday calculable natural forces that shape the weather on a necessary and unavoidable scientifically determined path — and so far so far beyond our human ken).

My favorite item in the poem is the bit of Greek-chorus wisdom (on which I should expand and expatiate as I did to all those Andrew English students for so long) that love is something more than a feeling or emotion. Because it is.

©2010 John Randolph Burrow, Magickal Monkey Enterprises, Ltd, S.A.

Anniversary Fun

Aha! Iʼll bet this late in the day (past 2:30 home time for me) that folks were suspecting there might be no post today. I am sorry to disappoint.

Janet and I had a lovely anniversary (thanks for the well-wishing, particularly on Facebook, but most particularly an anonymous sung message on our home phone — thanks Dawn and Kevin: see you soon). We let her shop at the mall (me, too: Barnes and Noble had some great discount books — I bought four, including the first two volumes of Bruce Cattonʼs Civil War trilogy — as well as Wilbur Smithʼs newest book, Assegai, for which the old man is back in the groove, at least based on the first forty-some pages, so unlike its predecessor, The Quest). I did have to field one phone call from my crew while at the mall, but…

In the early evening we drove to LeClaire for a lovely, wonderfully tasty, sensuous dinner at The Faithful Pilot, where we spent too much, of course, but also less than we would have if we had followed our other choices — The Red Crow Grille in Bettendorf or Perry Street Brasserie in Galena.

We shared a hugely mounded flatbread appetizer — incredible. And she had the eveningʼs feature, duck, while I went for a beef tenderloin. The chef has an amazing way with strong and complex flavors, and Saturday nightʼs repast was a rare treat (if we had only won the PowerBall, perhaps less rare — except for the beef, of course). The wine was a not-quite reasonably priced Malbec (unfortunately, everyone seems to be figuring out the joys of malbecs, so their prices arenʼt the incredible bargains they used to be) that went perfectly with my meat and also with Janetʼs duck. We got home in good time and sat in the dark drinking cheap champagne and talking until after midnight.

To kill time before our dinner reservation, for which we were early anyway, we walked along the riverfront, gazing across the water at my one-time hometown, Port Byron, through which we have traveled several times, including one memorable stop of their local dining spot, Gʼs, a few years ago. We also looked at the Twilight steamboat, on which I would really like to take a journey to Dubuque and back (making me realize I havenʼt discussed my Twain-born yen for Mississippi steamboats on this venue yet  — topics, always seeking topics, you know). And I finally got to see the exterior of the (closed) Buffalo Bill Museum (he was born in LeClaire, folks).

On Sunday Janet got her wish, and we drove to Dubuque for the Dubuque Renaissance Faire. It was small, and the talent performing needed some seasoning (and better direction/writing) almost all the way around. But we enjoyed it all. There were interesting crafts (including a pewter shop where the artisan was melting and fashioning pewter stuff for our enjoyment), and the knights at tournament actually jousted (unsafely hazardous and so avoided at more respectable venues, like Minnesota). Where usually the horsemen/women are thorough jocks barely able to mumble a line or two before riding at the rings, these guys were some of the best entertainers of the day.

I got picked on repeatedly as the audience schmuck dragged into the act, once by the Three Musketeers (who, yes, know theyʼre totally out of period; in fact they began their concluding ritual plea for cash in the hat by noting “Weʼre Baroque” — get it?) to be one of three stooges in a bid to romance a fair damsel. My musketeerʼs gimmick was not to get my name right ever (Edward, Ian, Richard…) and then make me dance wildly. Fortunately, Janet has no video capture on her cheap TracPhone (identical to my own)! Later the combative pirate storytellers made me stand for a bit but not actually come onstage (well, to be honest, on the dirt down in front of the concrete-block-supported benches for the crowd). Although the current heatwave was setting in on Sunday (Dubuqueʼs high was 88˚ with a noticeable touch of humidity), we had a pleasant several hours in the thoroughly-not-the-Renaissance. And then ate Mexican for late lunch/dinner at Los Aztecas (new westside location), which has been highly and correctly recommended to us for decades.

Obviously, as there was no post waiting electronically to appear at 5:00 a.m. this morning, I was never even online most of the weekend (or at all yesterday).

And today, the heat is hideous, the humidity oppressive. Janet had noted driving northward on Sunday how summerlike everything had suddenly burst into seeming. The gods of weather must have heard her.

Of course, today is was back to work for us both (at least she gets climate control at her office complex, and my “office” for crew meetings was comfortably less warm than outdoors). On the other hand, weʼre both looking eagerly ahead to the three-day Memorial Day weekend so near at hand…

©2010 John Randolph Burrow, Magickal Monkey Enterprises, Ltd, S.A.

On to the Tavern!

As we may be at the Dubuque Renaissance Fair today (or not Iʼll have to let you know later), and as I expected to be busily in love all day yesterday, hereʼs a little more of the first chapter from the Sepharad story.

The first piece from chapter one was here on Friday.

more from the infamous Sepharad story

The Northerner hurried after him, catquiet for all his size. They passed through twists, turns, dips, stairs — all back ways, all as dark as sin, which led in about a quarter hour to a large wooden door, iron-bound. The small one pulled open the massive portal by a huge iron ring and motioned his towering companion within.

It was a vast multiple-arched room, separated and supported by massive columns, floored on many different levels. The cellar area of the building — reserved as a tavern. The little fellow steered them both across, down, up and up to an isolated table between two outer walls and a column.

“Wine?” he asked, and the Northerner agreed. “Wine!” the little fellow shouted toward the center, where large casks lay stacked in the bottommost spot and busy workers hurried. A large fireplace — low on the far end of the place — provided heat, smoke and food cooking in two large cauldrons. The tavern was mostly empty, with only about twenty drinkers huddled at various tables closer to the fire.

“I be Søren,” the tall one offered.

“Thank you, Søren.” The black-bearded other hesitated around the foreign vowel, but pronounced it successfully. “I figured it was the last darkness for me for certain until your sword — ”

A pitcher and two ceramic mugs clattered onto the table. “Your wine, Jew,” gargled the waiter.

“Add it to my tab, Jaime,” the small one waved him away airily and began pouring the ruby liquid into the vessels.

“Your tab,” snarled the fellow sarcastically, stalking away.

“Jew?” inquired Søren.

“Not my name. My people. You may call me Judah.” He raised his tankard. “To you, Søren. My gratitude. You’re a brave man, a stout companion in a fight with a good sword. I owe you much more than this.”

“I could not allow so many to attack a single man.”

“Most in this city would have joined those bravos.”

“I am not… of this city.”

“Clearly not, my friend. The city is not so large that I could have missed one of your heroic size. Besides you speak Aragon so vilely you must be a foreigner.”

“Aye. You make strange sounds hard for my tongue in these lands .”

“I am sure we would think the same trying your native language. Whence do you come?”

“The North,” Søren answered briefly, waving his hand accurately northward, and poured himself more wine.

Judah chuckled, “All Christendom lies more or less north of Sepharad.”

“My homeland lies north of Christian lands. Though missionaries come to the courts of our kings, we worship our old gods still. One-eyed Othynn guides my way,” he then upended the mug and quaffed the wine in one long draught, “when he bothers with humans at all.”

“A pagan? Truly?” Judah poured them both more wine. “I have heard of your kind, I think, but I never thought to meet one. If you would spare the time, I would learn of your religion from you.”

“You are not a Christian?”

“Precisely. Not.”

“Christians have no interest in our beliefs — except to exterminate them. If you are interested, I guessed you could not be a Christian.”

“Rather the Christians are a kind of Jew, loath as they would admit such.”

“How is this?”

“Their Christ, their god, one of their three-in-one gods, was a Jew, though some say his illicit father was a Roman centurion.” Judah waved the empty pitcher for more drink.

©2010 John Randolph Burrow, Magickal Monkey Enterprises, Ltd, S.A.

More Food

Somehow Friday slipped past me a little too quickly, much like Thursday. I did work a lot, again, putting in another eight hours. I hope the three left to me for today are enough to gather the payroll, do my paperwork, and deliver it all. I guess only time will tell.

Predictably, I am really writing (for the first time in weeks actually dictating) this post on Friday to be ready for an early morning autopost by WordPress. As I spent the afternoon with paperwork and plans for ending our little Census operation here in and around Jackson County, dinner time approaches, so food is on my mind. Thus the title of today’s post.

One Brief Moment for Anniversary Romance…

Today’s post should actually be entitled something dramatically romantic, like “I Love You” or “Happy Anniversary, Honey” or “Twenty-eight Years of Paradise!” The reason for that, of course, is that today is our wedding anniversary, as I had suggested to you earlier. Instead we’ve got food.

And Now Back to the Good Stuff…

For supper yesterday/today, Janet and I enjoyed a casserole dish she introduced me to. So I guess it makes presenting the recipe for that dish vaguely appropriate. Vaguely appropriate, that is, if youʼre a bit off-center and desperate for something to write as I am. I don’t want to write about work (even though I’ve already mentioned it), and I don’t want to mindlessly continue presenting prose I should be polishing for sale. And I don’t have any deep and profound reflections on romance and married life just at the present moment, either (although I should). So it’s food.

I do like this dish, and Janet is the only reason that I am even aware of it, so it really is kind of appropriate for today (although she has other recipes — like her beef stroganoff or mushroom pasta or… — that are more romantic and therefore would have been wiser choices). Iʼll just have to reveal them later. Some day.

The casserole is normally called Chicken and Rice Casserole around here (only just about always without the word “Casserole”), and we like it pretty well. It is also simple and easy to prepare (and like most things I enjoy, capable of addition and improvisation — yeah, John the jazz chef). To make this casserole you need:

  • 1 cup of rice (we prefer brown)
  • 2 cans of cream soup mixed up with two cans of water (I use cream of mushroom and cream of chicken)
  • half a bag of frozen vegetables (Janet refuses to use the brands with lima beans included)
  • shreds or chunks of chicken (tearing up about 1½ to 2 chicken breasts, or less)
  • spices to your taste (I like: garlic powder, onion powder, pepper)
  • other ingredients you enjoy, such as canned or fresh mushrooms, diced onion, chopped spinach…

Preheat your oven to about 375°. In a 9 x 12 baking pan (or cake pan) — which I prepare with a light dose of non-stick cooking spray — scatter your cup of rice across the bottom, then add the frozen vegetables (you could actually use the whole bag) and the chicken bits and whatever other ingredients you wish to include. In a mixing bowl whisk the two cans of soup together with two can-fulls of water, added gradually, and your spices. Pour the soup over the ingredients in the baking pan and stir together evenly.

Place the pan in the oven and bake for almost an hour, at which time you should try to stir the still watery ingredients and then cook for another twenty minutes to half hour. (If you use white rice, it usually only takes about an hour altogether, so stir the dish about halfway through that time.) The dish is done when the rice has cooked and absorbed all the excess liquid. [Total brown rice cooking time — about ninety to a hundred minutes]

Although Janet and I can devour an entire pan of this, sad to report, these amounts should give you 4 to 6 servings.

Last night I only added spices and canned mushrooms to the basic (actual) recipe.

That’s what we ate for dinner Friday, the evening before our big anniversary, and it’s just about time for me to go and prepare it. We’ll see about a more romantic meal sometime this weekend. One thing Janet would like to do is to attend the Dubuque Renaissance Fair, which does look interesting (go on, fainthearts, click that link and see for yourselves). We’ll have to see how that fits in around the payroll delivery, grocery shopping, shopping shopping, and trying just to spend a little time together. (Which means that tomorrow may be the first day this year without a post from me. We’ll see…)

©2010 John Randolph Burrow, Magickal Monkey Enterprises, Ltd, S.A.