Boomer Twilight

Mostly Humorous Observations of Most Anything, with a Boomer Slant

Archive for the ‘Food’ Category

Deathball Revival

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So, you’re sitting in the bar with your friends and you start to think about ordering food. A good steak usually satisfies, but you are not that hungry. Chicken tenders and wings have become old hat, and nachos or chili go in easy and exit violently. What to order? What? Then the hot waitress or waiter you’ve been ogling and hoping may find you appealing, suggests sliders.

It’s not surprising because they’ve been appearing in scores of bars, taverns and restaurants lately, and now’s your chance to check them out. Hell, even Burger King is advertising them these days, but theirs are called “Burger Shots.” As if you stuff one in a small glass and gulp it down with a beer.

They’re nothing new, even though they seem to be all the rage. The tiny burgers (sliders) originated with White Castle restaurants in 1921; the true beginning of the fast food hamburger trade. Then in 1928 Harry Duncan relocated from Louisville, KY to Washington, DC and opened the Little Tavern at 814 E Street, NW. The onslaught of “deathballs” in the Washington – Baltimore area began, and by 1939 there were 50 locations.

Devotees of Little Tavern affectionately called it “Club LT,” and referred to the mini-burgers as “deathballs,” which was a reference to how they were cooked. The “chef” would line the grill with little balls of meat, with chopped onions and fry a bunch, then place them on the small buns along with a pickle, and store them covered by a damp towel in a drawer under the grill.

I didn’t really frequent Club LT when I was a kid. As a teenager riding around in cars and drinking beer with my friends, we usually stopped at Eddie Leonard’s for a sub when the munchies set in. It wasn’t until about 1973, while driving a cab, that my gourmet habits developed. You see, I always worked the night shift and Little Tavern was open 24 hours. The only other place open was 7-11 and at that time their food just wasn’t very tasty. They carried the Stewart sandwiches that needed to be heated in their toaster ovens (microwaves weren’t available), so my late night meals were three LT deathballs and a cup of coffee. I’m not one who usually goes for coffee with anything other than breakfast. It just sort of says, “I’m an old fart and don’t care any more.” Coffee with dinner just doesn’t seem right. But, at Club LT the coffee was delicious, served in the thick mugs that somehow made it better. Not to mention, I needed the caffeine buzz to continue working.

After relocating from the Marlow Heights territory to the Hyattsville driving zone, my favorite cab stand was the College Park Little Tavern, referred to by the cab company as “The Ritz.” Since this location was right across the street from the Rendezvous Inn, I’m sure they had many visits by drunken U of MD students when the bar closed. Like all Little Taverns, this place had a few stools (a large LT had about a dozen). The sit-down crowd was certainly welcome, but “Buy ’em by the bag” was the slogan. When Harry started the business, burgers were a nickle, so walking out with a bag full was a pretty easy task. You could feed the whole family.

In 1981 at age 82, Harry sold the chain to an attorney, Gerald Wedren, and moved to Florida. The business had dwindled to 30 locations at this point, caused primarily by the proliferation of fast food burger chains in the area. McDonald’s, Burger King, Red Barn, Wendy’s and others had been tapping into the profits of LT for quite some time, and Harry decided to let go. The imminent demise was on the horizon, as Wedren tried to “class up” the joints and extract some profit by competing with the big guys. Dress codes were implemented, and the menu was changed by adding more items. They even opened a fancy diner named appropriately, “Club LT.” But, the flavor of Little Tavern was lost and in 1988 Wedren sold the enterprise to Atlantic Restaurant Ventures, Inc., a firm that held the local Fuddruckers franchise. The writing was on the wall.

After only three years, ARV sued Wedren for fraud, accusing him of misrepresenting the value of the business. Shortly thereafter foreclosures of the various properties began and four of them hung on, being temporarily rescued by Al Wroy of Belair, who had joined the company during the Wedren reign. He tried to keep it going, but the last Little Tavern, located in Dundalk, closed on April 29, 2008.

Well, that’s the story of the deathball; gone from our area forever, but living on in its evolved form. The next time you’re at the Green Turtle, Burger King, Chili’s or any place advertising sliders, think of Harry Duncan as you bite into your order. They’re no longer a nickle, and probably not as good, but three deathballs and coffee always hit the spot.

With Love,

Bake My Fish

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Bats in Hats

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Have you seen the recent Burger King Whopper Virgins commercials testing the Whopper against the Big Mac? They use Eskimos, who prefer Seal meat, tribes people from Thailand and some fellows from Transylvania. That’s Vampire territory, right?

What strikes me as funny are the little headpieces the Transylvania guys are wearing. Is it a joke, or do they really wear those things? The Producers of the commercials swear no actors were used and nothing is fake. Frankly, I think Burger King is messing around with us because all the characters in the films are dressed in their ceremonial garb, usually worn only once or twice a year for festivals and celebrations, not day-to-day. I couldn’t find any pictures on the Internet suggesting the toppers are real, so I am wondering if guys from Transylvania are upset by the stereotype being conveyed by Burger King?

The ads make them look pretty silly, and I worry about Vampire terrorists in my future. Could these portrayals cause them to begin attacking us in our sleep? “Leave the Transylvania guys alone, Mr. Burger King Executive.” Political correctness is real, especially if the absence of it can lead to blood-sucking intruders flying into our homes or accosting us in dark alleys and draining our fluids.

During the 50s men wore hats all the time. It was a part of the business uniform. An insurance salesman coming to your home to sit at the kitchen table and sell you something, usually wore a fedora or maybe a bowler. They were stylish and tasteful. But, the guys in the Burger King commercials look kind of stupid. “Sorry, Mr. Transylvania Man if I am hurting your feelings, but you should rethink your wardrobe.” If there is something festive about the accessory, then maybe you should keep it “under your hat.” I’m afraid seeing you in public will cause me to stare or snicker. It just doesn’t seem worth the comparison of the flame-broiled, 1/4 pound beef patty, with lettuce, mayonnaise, pickles, tomatoes, onions, ketchup on a sesame seed bun to the two all-beef patties, special sauce, lettuce, cheese, pickles, onions on a sesame seed bun.

Today all the guys seem to be wearing baseball-style caps; the greasy-lined lids they slide on and off with little thought of hygiene. Most of them are used to hide baldness or the lack of shampooing. It’s easier to throw on a cap and ride to the nearest breakfast drive-thru than it is to take a shower and clean the hair. I haven’t noticed anyone in my neighborhood wearing the silly Transylvania hats displayed in the BK commercials. So, “Come on Burger King, show what they really wear.” There is no way they are donning the ridiculous lids portrayed in the advertisements. If they are, then my appreciation of differing cultures is being challenged, and I will have to laugh with the rest of the world. Those hats are comical.

What would be the function of the headdresses? They are small and barely fit the noggins of the testers, so it can’t be for warmth. They probably have some religious or celebratory purpose. There are little tassels hanging from the side with a brim, and they sit on top in some sort of hysterical display, like an Organ Grinder’s Monkey. If you watch the commercials you know what I mean. It cracks me up every time I see them, and I wonder if the “actors” feel as silly as they look. I’m sure they’re not really Vampires; most likely American Thespians with a Transylvania look, possessing dark, evil eyes.

I don’t suppose it would do any good to write Homeland Security and warn them of the danger to our society due to Burger King’s insensitivity by running a commercial making bufoons out of suspected Vampires. They would just tell me to knock it off and stop being paranoid. But, if I wake up some night and there is a bat in a hat hovering over my bed, I’m gonna dress up like Ronald McDonald, hunt down the Burger King and kick his ass.

With Love,

Bake My Fish

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Good Morning, Taiwan!

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I really enjoyed the movie Good Morning, Vietnam. Robin Williams was terrific in his role as Adrian Cronauer. He was a Disc Jockey for the American Forces Network and an English Teacher. Appealing to the differing musical tastes of soldiers from all regions of America is a task. Teaching Conversational English as a second language to the Vietnamese, although it was comical in the movie, was a challenge, as well. So that leads me into a period of time where I did basically the same thing; in Taiwan, rather than Vietnam (Pat Sajak was a Disc Jockey in Vietnam, but was given the Wheel of Fortune job over me because Vanna and I had a history).

In 1969 I owned a beautiful 1966 Aqua-colored Chevy Impala convertible with a white top, a 283 engine, and a 327 logo; a fraud perpetrated by the previous owner. After buying it from Bob Peck Chevrolet in Alexandria, I continued the lie. It looked cool and felt like a muscle car, with a nice sized trunk, making it possible to smuggle my girlfriend into the drive-in without paying.

One Saturday evening I went to Fairfax Village in Southeast DC to drink at a bar named The End Zone. At the time we only had to be eighteen to qualify for suds in Washington. My drinking partner was a friend, Ronnie Floyd, who had recently been drafted by the Army, but when he went to Ft. Holabird in Baltimore for his induction, a fellow from the U. S. Marines came in the room and chose him for their team. That’s how it was then. We had no choice.

That night it was snowing, and while preparing to leave the house, I joked with my parents about wrecking my car. Some joke. After celebrating Ronnie’s imminent tour in Vietnam for a few hours, I said goodbye to him and got in my car for the ride to Landover, where my family was living at the time. Of course I shouldn’t have been driving, but in those days no one paid much attention to that sort of thing, so while traveling NE on Alabama Avenue I began to slide in the snow, taking out a police call box. Oopsie Daisy! The upper half of the box landed in the back seat of the car, and the lower half was dragged several hundred feet under the vehicle, destroying all the hardware necessary for it to operate, as I experienced the twirling sleigh ride from hell, stopping at the corner of Alabama and Massachusetts Avenues. After looking around for Angels or pitchforks and realizing life would continue, I found the nearest pay phone (since the call box was useless) and called my parents.

It is just a bit foggy exactly how everything transpired, but I remember my parents showing up, and do not recall any police presence. My father and I pushed what was left of the call box from the middle of the road as he questioned me about my alcohol indulgence. Being a punk 19-year-old, of course I lied. “No dad, I haven’t been drinking,” but my stumbling behavior should have given me away. As a father, he was probably grateful to see me alive, and just a bit ticked about the inebriation, forgiving the lie for the survival. If given the same situation as a parent, I probably would have been as benevolent. But, the car was totalled and my life was soon to change.

The loss of transportation made it difficult to attend classes at Prince George’s Community College. It was my first semester, and hitchhiking to class was unreliable. After missing quite a few sessions, my grades were suffering, so I dropped out. In 1969, dropping out of school meant you went from a 2S draft classification to 1A immediately. Your lottery number was basically null and void. So, my induction was on the horizon.

I didn’t wait. Knowing Ronnie Floyd had been drafted and subsequently transformed into a Marine scared the heck out of me, so I went to DC and hit the Recruiter’s office. I signed up for the Air Force because it was my best chance not to be wallowing in the mud in ‘Nam. After taking their exam I qualified for several positions and agreed to enlist under the first one available, which was in the Administrative category. Whew! I avoided the draft. After Basic Training and Technical School, I was sent to Taiwan. My Radar O’Reilly career was beginning.

From July, 1969 through February, 1973 I was stationed at Tainan Air Base in Taiwan; assigned to the 2128th Communications Squadron. The United States maintained a presence in that country following the 1949 fall of China to the Communist regime (Peoples Republic of China) of Mao Tse-tung. The Kuomintang (Republic of China) led by Chiang Kai-shek escaped to Taiwan, which has never been disputed by either side as a part of China. Because of our staunch anti-Communist stand at the time and the invasion of Korea by Red China, the US elected to protect Taiwan from Mao, and 20 years later, I arrived.

The first thing I noticed after landing on the island was the smell. They had an open sewage system, which was essentially vented, masonry-covered pits along the streets. This kept people from falling in, but allowed the odor to assault all the senses possible. It reeked, but after a short time, I didn’t even notice. Other than the odor, Taiwan was beautiful. Imagine a tropical paradise, where you spend most of the day dodging bicycles, scooters, motorcycles, taxis and pedestrians, in overcrowded conditions, and you have a pretty good idea. Taiwan is bisected by the Tropic of Cancer, so the weather in Tainan is similar to Havana, Cuba (without the Castros). I was delighted to be there.

In the early morning, Tainan was serene. Less activity and street breakfast, consisting of heated soy milk and a sort of airy bread stick that was deep fried and probably unhealthy, but “Oh so good.” I’m not sure my etiquette was acceptable, but I dipped the bread stick in the soy milk and enjoyed my “Ugly American-self.” I was on a four-year vacation, and didn’t care what anyone thought.

One of my favorite activities in Taiwan was eating from street vendors (we called them Noodle Stands). As a young, naive kid, I didn’t think there was anything wrong with it and contamination was not a concern. Everything was boiled or deep-fried and just awesome, with just the right sauces and spice. From 1895 to 1945 Taiwan was occupied by the Japanese, influencing the variety of foods. Fried tofu (smelled like feet), squid, snake, various poultry parts, eel, frog, noodles; you name it, I ate it. I’m sure today, based on my recent experience with Giardia, I would be hesitant to indulge, but in those days gorging on strange cuisine was my preference.

Tainan Air base was situated next to Air America (CIA), and our job was basically to keep the Communist Chinese from overtaking the island, and providing support for activities in Vietnam. For me, it was renting a house off base for less than $40 a month and partying with my friends. In the Communications Center we manned an old switchboard, probably left over from the Korean War (thus the Radar reference). Within the “secret” area we operated a General Dynamics computer that was a combination teletype, card reader, magnetic tape reader and printer; very high tech for the time. In the building next door there was the radio station, American Forces Network Taiwan, which was the only station in southern Taiwan to broadcast in English.

After a short time in the country, the local Baptist Church sought volunteers to teach Conversational English at the Chinese Air Force Academy in Gangshan, south of Tainan. I was dating an Elementary School teacher, Tsai-Yun (eventually my first wife and mother of our two wonderful children), who thought it would be a good idea to volunteer. So I did. The Robin Williams Experience began.

The classes were really nothing more than young Air Force Cadets asking me questions about my personal life and America. “Do you have a girlfriend?” “Is everyone rich in America?” “Are all American women blond?” “What do you and your girlfriend do for fun?” “Why do you say you know so much?” It was a good time and we laughed together quite often.

After several months of teaching, they had a graduation party for me. The Chinese like to eat. Their parties consist of many dishes on the table, where everyone partakes, family style. But the officers, particularly the General in charge of the school, liked Johnny Walker Black; however, they did not sip the beverage, they swilled. Every time a drink was poured one of them would shout “Gambei!” and we would all tilt our heads back and shoot the beverage down our gullets. After several “down the hatches” the food and drink was not sitting so well. Eventually it was time to grab the bowl with both hands, on my knees, and rid myself of the evening’s offerings. In the adjacent stall of the men’s room it was obvious someone was experiencing the same ordeal. I exited my area for clean up, and guess who came out of the other stall to do the same? The General. He smiled, then laughed and patted me on the back, while slurring something in Chinese. Apparently I had made a friend. Who would have thought Johnny Walker was such a match maker?

A couple of years, a few typhoons and some earthquakes later, I was looking for something else to do beside answering the switchboard and delivering messages to those showing proper ID at the window of the Communications Center. One of the Disc Jockeys, with whom I had become friendly, came over to our building one day and asked if I was interested in auditioning for a part-time position as a weekend broadcaster. It was volunteer work, but would be a lot of fun. I jumped at the opportunity and as soon as my shift was over, stopped by to meet with the Station Manager. He gave me a script to read, I passed the test, and “poof” I was given the job. My show was Saturday morning at 6:00 AM, in between Wolf Man Jack and Bob Kinglsey (both on tape), and Sunday at 8:00, right after a religious show (yeah, they were probably politically incorrect, but no one complained). From March 1972 through February 1973 I was a small-time star.

The first song I ever played was Doctor My Eyes, by Jackson Brown, and both shows opened with A Beautiful Morning by The Rascals (initially known as the Young Rascals). During every show, a young girl would call and ask to hear Layla by Derek and the Dominoes and I always played it for her, since she was my only groupie (plus she was awake at 6 AM to call, so I awarded her diligence). At the time my personal musical taste was pretty much Hard Rock. One Sunday morning I played six songs in a row, which included Mountain, Grand Funk Railroad, Jethro Tull (Aqualung), The Stooges (which had to be smuggled into the studio because they didn’t have anything commercially acceptable), Dr. John, and Humble Pie. I was having a blast; playing air guitar and banging pencils on the console like a wannabe drummer. Then the phone rang. It was the Station Manager. “You know, Bob, we have people stationed here with varying musical tastes. We are the only English Language station in Southern Taiwan; therefore, our people might want to hear something they like, rather than just what you like. So, could you mix it up somewhat and refrain from playing just the hard stuff at 8:00 in the morning?” That’s all he said, but I got his point, and grabbed some Frank Sinatra, Johnny Cash and Stevie Wonder from the library. My morning became a little more boring for me, but the job was secure.

I really loved my time in Taiwan, but getting out of the structured military life was a little more important than being a part-time DJ. My full four years would end in May of 1973, but I was entitled to an early out in February, and took it. So, it was back to the States to begin civilian life at the end of February. A truly enjoyable experience had to end and new experiences would begin.

Good Morning, USA!

With Love,

Bake My Fish

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If Turkeys Were Pigeons and Pigeons Were Turkeys

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Suppose the Pilgrims decided to have pigeon for dinner instead of turkey; how would we be different? The common pigeon is everywhere, crapping on everything. What if it was a turkey? The load would be greater and statues would deteriorate at a much faster pace. Turkeys are beautiful, pigeons are “Eh.” But, if pigeons were celebrated like turkeys, where would we be?

Our Thanksgiving feast would be much different if pigeon was the main course. We would need more fowl carcasses to feed the family (a 13 pound turkey is equivalent to 16 average pigeons), stuffing would be limited; and what about cranberry sauce? Would the vile condiment be as good with pigeon? I hate it anyway, but those who like it might be put off. There would be more wish bones for the kids, but smaller legs for the fathers. Carving would be quicker for Dad, too.

If turkeys were pigeons and pigeons were turkeys, WWI would have been altered. Pigeons were used to relay messages in the absence of reliable communications systems. Turkeys really don’t fly very far or very well, although they could probably carry a bigger load. Turkeys make a larger target to be shot down by the enemy, so their usefulness as messengers would have been limited.

If turkeys were pigeons, we would “coo” our food rather than “gobble.” Even though a “coo” is a decidedly more pleasant sound than a “gobble,” what would Sergeant York have done during WWI? His method of enticing the Germans to raise their heads for killing was to “gobble” like a turkey. I doubt they would have reacted to the “coo.”

Imagine walking the streets of New York with unlimited turkeys flying overhead. Personally, I would rather be bombed by a few dozen pigeons than half-a-dozen turkeys. The damage from turkeys could be severe. There would be much less room on the sidewalks, and I doubt a flock of turkeys would scatter as quickly and efficiently as a bunch of pigeons. Fortunately, we treat turkeys with much more respect than pigeons due to their historical significance; therefore, turkeys are more easily tolerated. The ability of the turkeys to nest in Sky Scraper crevices would be a much more difficult task for the birds. Pigeons adjust well, due to their smaller size. And what about all the people who raise carrier pigeons on rooftops? They would need more room for turkeys, and there would be a danger of letting the birds loose from the roofs. They could very well fall upon unsuspecting passersby. Old men on fixed incomes, sitting on park benches, would have to spend more to feed turkeys.

Of course, as an American I have savored turkey quite often. Pigeon has not been a meal for me, thus far. Now, you are probably wondering what it might be like. Squab is pigeon. I was caught by surprise, too. Being on the East Coast, we really don’t eat much squab. I don’t recall seeing it on a menu recently. But, it is considered a delicacy. I would have a tough time with a squab leg being deposited on my plate with a message tied to it. Kind of like a fortune cookie. When I pass a pigeon on the street, I don’t think of food. If that pigeon was a turkey, a homeless person could eat for a week. I’m not sure they are eating pigeon, but a turkey would be hard to resist.

Thanksgiving will be here soon. We’ll gorge ourselves on turkey, without any thought of pigeon. Squab will not be on our minds. We will be busy enjoying stuffing, mashed potatoes, cranberry sauce, sweet potatoes, pumpkin pie, beer, wine and liquor. I doubt any of us will be considering pigeon. But, if the Pilgrims chose the bird we take for granted and consider more of a pest than a morsel, pigeon would be the featured dish.

Happy Thanksgiving.

With Love,

Bake My Fish

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Written by bakemyfish

November 23, 2008 at 9:44 pm

I Went to the Animal Fair; the Germs and the Microbes Were There

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Many of you reading this probably attended the Maryland State Fair, or a fair or festival of some sort this summer; especially if you have children. Ours ran from August 22 through September 1st. It’s always the same number of days ending on Labor Day. My wife and I hadn’t been for several years. This year we were given free tickets from the car dealer where she purchased her auto. Oh boy, free! Gotta go, right? It’s free!!

The Sunday morning before Labor Day we went for a walk to get a little exercise. I enjoy our walks. It gives us some time to talk without interruption, and to share each other’s company. As we strolled I was trying to avoid the subject of the fair, because I really didn’t want to go, initiating conversation about anything I could think of just to keep the chatter going and suppress the thought of the fair. Even though I had agreed to go earlier in the week, it was not an enthusiastic endorsement. Then it came up. “What time do you want to leave for the fair?” she asked. “Do we really have to go?” I whined. “It’s kind of hot now, and later on, it’ll be too hot.” “You don’t want to go?” she asked, in that sort of wife way that tells you she’s annoyed, but not angry. “We don’t do much on the weekend,” she continued. The guilt honed-in and my love of hanging out at home was challenged. As a society we spend about a third of our life sleeping. Another third working. We spend a substantial amount of our income buying a home and equipping it with entertainment and furnishings so we can enjoy our stay. Personally, I want to hang out at my abode. But, I don’t want to be a creep and sloth of a husband, so I agreed to attend the fair. Fun, fun, fun. After all, the tickets are eight dollars each, and we have two, so we’re saving $16.

We left our home about 1:30 to drive the half-hour or so from Eldersburg to Timonium. In my mind I was singing “Our State Fair is a Great State Fair, it’s the Greatest Fair in our State.” It sounds hokey, but I really was (I bet you are right now, too). I’m just glad it wasn’t out loud, because that would be just too corny. Our drive was unimpeded and we made it with ease. The bowling alley across from the Fairgrounds was offering parking for $5.00. Another bargain. We pulled in and parked, and thus far our afternoon was thrifty.

If you are young or have children, the fair can be a grand time. There are rides, treats, animals to pet, things to see, and you can act silly, unencumbered by embarrassment. When you are older, without children, it’s hot, noisy, dirty, stanky, boring, expensive, and the food really isn’t that good. But, the tickets are free, so we become two Old Coots walking around the grounds hoping for some excitement. They don’t even have bumper cars, so what the hell was I supposed to do? “I know, let’s get some bad food.” And the fair has the baddest. Deep fried Twinkies and Oreos? You mean they are not artery-clogging enough, that they have to be dipped in batter, and fried in the grease pit called a fryer? Those cookers have never contained zero-trans fat anything, and I doubt the grease has been cleaned during the entire event, and we were there the next-to-last day. No, thanks. I’ll pass on the “treats.” My mind was tuned to the thought of some lamb. Mmmmm. I like lamb.

The adult food is stationed next to the petting zoo. Nice and sanitary. That’s where you’ll find the pit beef, pork stuff, burgers, turkey legs, chicken parts, and the lamb. There are sanitation stations nearby, and there is the assumption the “chefs” are keeping their appendages clean. One would hope. The food is cooked, even though there’s no guarantee once it’s in the “keep it hot” containers the temperature is high enough to prevent illness. The servers are using utensils, and some are wearing plastic gloves, in compliance with the lenient Board of Health rules. But, the tongs and gloves are used over and over, without cleaning or changing, so we have to trust the heat is high enough to kill anything living within the grub.

My desire for lamb got the best of me. I cozied up to the stall, paid my $6.50 for a lamb wrap (a Gyro in a spinach wrap, rather than a pita, with less sauce) and devoured it standing, while my wife joined the pit beef line. She did have a bite of my wrap to taste it, but apparently missed the bad part. I inhaled my wrap, because it was falling apart and I was concerned about losing it. She brought her $6.00 pit beef sandwich, along with her $2.00 coke over to a table (she’s more sophisticated than me) and we sat down for a short time. Next to us a couple planted their lard asses, violently shaking the table, and began eating a pile of deep fried Oreos. They were both wearing fanny packs, no doubt stuffed with goodies of some type. The wife used a napkin to sop up the food-lube, and I thought, “To what food group does that belong?

We left the fair after a couple of hours playing Hop Scotch with critter feces, and seeing most of the livestock. I have to admit the babies are adorable, when there are a few. I see cows when passing a Chick-fil-A, pigs in any Walmart, chickens in the supermarket, and sheep when trying to go to sleep, so I don’t need to go to the fair. But, the tickets were free. Fun, fun, fun.

This was the beginning of a truly horrifying experience that was developing in my innards unbeknown to me. I’ve written posts about Parasitic Friends and pandemics One Flu Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, but the two guys being given birth, although not considered the source of a pandemic, definitely are not friends. They were intent on mischief and evil.

That evening everything seemed fine. No problems. The next morning (Labor Day) my wife fixed a nice breakfast, which I enjoyed with a few cups of coffee. Still going well. Then around noon I started feeling a bit queasy as the incubation was beginning. I laid down for a nap, skipped lunch and reluctantly anticipated the rib steaks we were to have for dinner. I lounged around on the couch, dozing off occasionally, while trying to watch TV. Eventually dinner was ready, I had a few bites of the steak, wrapped it up as leftovers and went to bed. This was about 7:00; very early to retire for me.

Tuesday morning appeared to be a normal beginning. I felt a little under the weather, but not enough to stay home from work, so I got ready, had some breakfast, packed a lunch and headed to the office. There were a couple of bouts in the mid-morning with bathroom visits, but not an unusual number of sittings for me. Things seemed on par with daily life. At noon I had my sandwich at my desk, all the while feeling a bit groggy, attributing it more to age than illness. Around 2:00, the “boys” took over as I rushed to the latrine, in a state of emergency. I was feeling downright funky. After returning to my office, I packed up my things and left without saying anything to anyone, because I was feeling putrid. I drove home, clenching all the way, and made it to the potty (think Jeff Daniels in Dumb and Dumber). My dog was sitting outside the door because I had not properly greeted her upon my entrance. Little did I know at the time, she was in for a lengthy stay with Daddy. I changed into my home clothes and laid on the couch for a nap, and Holly joined me.

The “boys” made it impossible to sleep for more than 20 minutes at a time without a bathroom rush. I was popping generic Imodium like mints, but no relief was given. Eventually I read the label and realized the limit is four per day. Eight had already been consumed on Tuesday. The pill popping had to stop. It wasn’t working, anyway. I was drinking G2, Powerade Zero and water in “beer bong-style” gulps, hoping not to become too dehydrated, but it seemed nothing could stop the assault on my body. The exhaustion was overwhelming and frankly I thought I was dying. It continued into Wednesday.

Wednesday morning the first thing on my mind was Gene Upshaw (not to mention the wallpaper in the bathroom), who was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer on Sunday, August 17th and died on Wednesday, August 20th. He was only five years older than me, so I was worried I might be next. The difficulty I was experiencing was worse than any other episode in the past. What little time I could muster to stay awake was used to delete files on my computer and organize my passwords for my survivors. The same routine (by now it was routine) from the previous day continued into Thursday.

Thursday morning I called my doctor’s office and they were able to fit me in at 4:00. By the time I arrived for the appointment, I was sweating profusely. The intervals were now about every hour, so I didn’t have an emergency situation in her office. While I was signing in, practically laying my head on the counter, the receptionist made sure I had my $10 co-pay. “No problem, I’ll give you my house for a cure.” After examination, “Doc” surmised it was something I ate, and she gave me a lab form to get the vials for samples. On the form she wrote the word Giardia, which at the time made no sense to me. I asked if there was anything she could give me to halt the deluge, but she said not until it is determined what was attacking me. So, I obediently went to the lab, got the necessary equipment (eight vials) and returned home to continue my suffering.

About 3:00 AM Friday morning I collected the samples, and started searching on the Internet for Giardia. It is such a common parasite, I’m surprised I had escaped its wrath until now. Based on my symptoms I self-diagnosed that my doctor’s suspicion was correct. Since she couldn’t prescribe anything, the Imodium wasn’t doing the trick, and a large cork was out of the question, I searched for natural remedies. Goldenseal Root and Garlic were mentioned in several different articles. After making my lab delivery around 10:00 AM, I mosied on over to GNC and bought a bottle of Goldenseal Root for $15.99 and Odorless Garlic for $12.99. And guess what? By Saturday morning, I started feeling better. Now, many of you may think it just ran its course. Everything I read indicates Giardiasis untreated lasts about two – three weeks. I’m convinced I “nipped it in the butt” with a natural remedy.

Here‘s the best part. My doctor called me on Wednesday — which was five days after dropping off the samples — to give me the results. “Which do you want first, the good news, or the bad news.” she joked. “I guess the bad news,” I replied. “Well, you have two things, Giardia and Clostridium difficile (C. diff).” I knew about Giardia because I had just researched it, but the other condition was puzzling. “So, what’s the good news?” I asked. “We have one pill that can get rid of them both,” she said. “If you were older the C. diff could have been an even more serious problem. And you must have gotten both from the State Fair.” C. diff is sometimes rampant in hospitals among older patients. I guess I was lucky. Now, I’m taking Metronidazole three times a day for ten days.

The next time you want to attend a fair to see cute and cuddly animals, keep in mind the possibility of illness. I probably won’t go again, but if we are fortunate enough to get free tickets, I’m going shopping for a new outfit. Since this fair cost me $42.48 net (plus time off from work), I’ll have to factor in the cost of the new clothes for the next event.

I should’ve had baked fish.

With Love,

Bake My Fish

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Written by bakemyfish

September 13, 2008 at 6:32 am

Who Left the Red Barn Door Open?

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It was 1966. I was 16 at the time and a big fan of the emerging fast food craze. McDonald’s was taking off, and we had a place named Burger Shack on Marlboro Pike, near the Hillside Drive-in Theater, selling yummy hamburgers for fifteen cents a pop. I loved Fridays, because my mother often brought home Burger Shack dinner, which included hamburgers, fries and shakes. So, I thought the best way to get a constant supply of burgers was to go to work for the new place called Red Barn that had recently opened in Coral Hills. Although the goal was to gorge myself on free eats, I had fallen upon a pretty decent job.

Red Barn was a really good chain that was started in the early 60s in Ohio, whose first Franchisee was Harry Barmeier. At its peak they had around 400 restaurants in 22 states, as well as Canada and Australia. What I liked about Red Barn that was different from McDonald’s, was they sold fried chicken. My mother grew up in Southern Virginia, so fried chicken was one of the foods I learned to love. I still do, but have to abstain because of the cholesterol problems we know about now, that we didn’t hear about then.

I was on the night shift, which went until closing. Our shift manager was a fellow named John. He was all of 19, but was still the boss. John was on his way up the Corporate ladder, yet he was very down to earth. We often messed around with him. He drove a dark blue Karmann Ghia that usually started, but sometimes did not. John had a rather weak stomach.

Our french fries were made from scratch, using a potato peeling machine and slicer. We blanched the fries and put them in the cooler for frying when needed. There was a product called Stay Fresh we used to keep them from spoiling. It probably caused health problems, but what the hell did we know in 1966? I couldn’t find anything on the Internet about it, but I would guess it was somehow related to MSG. When Stay Fresh was sprinkled in milk shake mix, it had a foul smell. One of our pranks was to take a bit of shake mix, drop a little Stay Fresh in it, and ask John to take a whiff and let us know if the mix was OK to use. The smell never failed to make him vomit. And we laughed our asses off. Sometimes John would have a drink set aside for himself, and we would add a little Stay Fresh to it when he wasn’t looking. Once he took a sip, he was a goner. It got to the point where we would just tell him it was in his drink (even though it wasn’t) and he would barf. Quite the chuckles for us punks.

My favorite task at Red Barn was to work the grill. Cooking the hamburgers, fries and chicken made me feel like a chef. It kept my Ichabod Craneish persona (picture Ric Ocasek with zits and a paper garrison cap) away from the customers, and I preferred to avoid their whiny orders, anyway. Working the counter usually ticked me off, but running the grill gave me command of the entire process.

The policy of Red Barn was to allow us to have free fried chicken only on Wednesdays and Sundays. But, we were more clever than they thought. At the end of the evening, any leftovers were fair game for our gluttonous ways. Around 10:00 PM, we would drop a load of chicken in the fryer, knowing it couldn’t be sold by the time we closed, leaving us with quite a bit of waste, that either had to be thrown away or consumed. John usually looked the other way, and we had chicken on whatever day we wanted.

Robbery of fast food restaurants was a fairly new phenomenon. During my time at Red Barn, we got hit twice. Once, a guy came in while I was cleaning the grill, hunched down near me to avoid being seen from the window, pointed a gun and yelled, “Where’s the money?” It took me a couple of seconds to realize what was happening, and I just said, “It’s in the back.” He was anxious and ran into the back of the store, while I took a moment to gather myself. Then it dawned on me what was going on. I shook for awhile and stood still, then figuring he was gone, went in the back looking for the rest of the crew. No one was around, so I worried a bit, then opened the walk-in refrigerator. Everyone inside instinctively put their hands in the air until they realized it was me, and John asked, “Is he gone?” Since no one was bleeding we figured he was. John then called the police. What the gunman didn’t realize was the cash registers had not been reconciled, so “The money was in them.” Robber Man did get away with the petty cash box, escaping with about $35.00. A big haul, and perhaps a couple of nights of drinking, or one fix of whatever drug he probably abused.

The second attempted heist was just this side of ridiculous. Often times after we closed, our activities included a drive to Guys and Dolls pool hall in Silver Hill, for an early morning round of pocket billiards, or a jaunt to Waldorf to throw our wages away in the slot machines that were legal at the time. This particular evening John was going to drive a few of us to Waldorf. We closed the store, and started piling into his Ghia, when we heard, “Give me the money!” We looked around to see where from the voice originated and saw what appeared to be a gun peeking out from the fence behind the store, with the “criminal” hiding in the bushes. The Karmann Ghia wouldn’t start, so we pushed it with John using the driver’s door as a shield, as we backed out of the parking space, snickering all the way. After popping the clutch, the car started, and we drove away from the “bad guy,” and headed to Waldorf. Our subsequent laughter was probably a combination of fear and relief that this particular robbery attempt was committed by a fool. We survived for another day of french fry blanching and terrorizing John.

My stint at Red Barn gives me fond memories. I’m not quite sure what happened with John’s career, but being the kind, gentle soul he was, I would guess he fared well (unless a Corporate audit revealed our chicken thievery). I tend to think if people are good, good things come of it. Since I don’t remember his last name, I can’t Google him to see where he might be (just entering John brought about 1,040,000,000 results). But, the last Red Barn franchising leases expired around 1986, so I can assume he has left the night shift.

I just hope wherever John is, he has a reliable car.

With Love,

Bake My Fish

Coral Hills Red Barn Today

Coral Hills Red Barn Today

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My Grandpa, the Shriner

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I always thought the hats were funny. Now, I’m not so sure. The miniature cars go well with the toppers. You have to be special to look silly.

My Grandfather was a Shriner. He appeared to enjoy it; but as a kid, I didn’t pay much attention. When my Mother and I went to the funeral in 1982, the honor of his participation showed through. The podium featured the logos of the Freemasons and Shriners, and eulogies from both groups. Wow, Henry was a Freemason. They are the world’s largest fraternity. To me that’s kind of a big deal.

Henry Sussman (Heinrich Süssmann) wasn’t a rich guy or a man with connections. His family left Germany in 1900 to settle in Pennsauken, NJ, and on October 10, 1903 Henry was born; the only one of his siblings conceived in the USA. He grew up to become a loom mechanic and shift supervisor for Belding Hemingway, who in the 30s and 40s was manufacturing silk thread. His father and he went to Lynchburg, VA to open a plant for the company, and at some point Henry moved to Bedford, VA to help open another facility. Eventually the company made a decision to switch from producing thread to the manufacture of fiberglass fibers. Occupational disease became an issue with the employees, who developed illnesses from the product, causing the demise of the Bedford location. But, Henry eked out a decent living for the time; back when “blue collar” meant you made enough to live. He raised my Mom as a single parent and things turned out grand. Knowing he was a Freemason piques my interest.

Throughout history, there have been quite a few Freemasons who were famous and influential. George Washington, Ben Franklin, Paul Revere and Colonel Sanders were Freemasons. I’m not sure Freemasonry had anything to do with the taste of Kentucky Fried Chicken, but the secrecy of the Society probably contributed to the Colonel keeping his Original Recipe® of 11 secret herbs and spices under wraps. To this day, we still don’t know how the bird is dressed. Phrases like “Level with him,” “Be square,” and “The Third Degree” all originated with Freemasons. They are very important in our history, whether or not we are aware.

Red Skelton, John Wayne, Danny Thomas and Harry Truman were Shriners. I can picture Red Skelton wearing the funny hat, but not John Wayne. Being a Freemason doesn’t necessarily lead to Shrinerism, but to join the club, you must first be a Freemason and make it all the way to Master Mason. Check out this list of famous Shriners, and you might be impressed.

Shriners always look like they’re having fun. I bet they are. Helping kids is a heart-warming thing. Then there are the meetings, parades, conventions and all sorts of activities that keep the mind abuzz. And don’t forget . . . the little cars. You never hear of them causing any problems in the hotels or towns where they are holding conventions (news of Shriners throwing televisions out of hotel windows is minimal). They seem to be well behaved, upstanding citizens.

Because of my renewed interest in my Grandfather, I recently inquired about joining the Shriners, not understanding the necessary steps. At my age, I will be dead before qualifying. They were kind in not laughing at my naivete, and directed me to the Freemasons. Then I found out you don’t just join. You have to be recommended. Since, the only person I know who was a Freemason/Shriner died in 1982, it seems a difficult task. My interest will probably dwindle soon, but if there is a Freemason out there who is interested in recruiting a new member with a connected ancestor, give me a call. Better yet, send an email to Bake My Fish.

Henry Sussman was a pretty good guy. Whenever he came to visit my family, particularly on Thanksgiving and Christmas, he always brought me liverwurst (I was the only one in my family who liked it) and Land O’ Lakes butter (Mom preferred margarine). And, my mother always cooked a pot of Spareribs and Sauerkraut, which was his favorite. He loved me, and I loved him. Now that I know Henry even better, I love him more.

“Rest im Frieden, Heinrich Süssmann. Du warst ein guter Mann.” When we meet again, I’ll bring the Spareribs and Sauerkraut. Just make sure you leave my name at the gate, because Saint Peter may not let me in without a referral.

With Love,

Bake My Fish

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Written by bakemyfish

July 20, 2008 at 12:01 am