Saturday, November 27, 2010

Not as bitter as paying Stalin alimony, but still.

One of the advantages of being here in SoFla is that citrus grows on trees, as it were.

So, all of a sudden your backyard grove sprouts forth with several tons of fruit and they must be given use. In my case, we're talking about Seville (i.e. "bitter") oranges.

For the uninitiated, these are not defective oranges, these are oranges with especially low sugar content and are not so much bitter as really, really sour. Their juice is used in marinades, etc. in Caribbean cooking. (For future reference, their quality can be approximated by mixing orange juice, lime juice and lemon juice in a 2:1:1 ratio. But I digress.)

One of the biggest differences between regular oranges and bitter oranges is the peel and the aromatic content thereof. The bitter orange peel is reallllllly aromatic. So what to do?

There are several options, but the subject of this entry is making of bitters.

Here is my recipe:

1 (750-milliliter) bottle "grain alcohol" (the 190 --!-- proof stuff, you can get away with 151 proof if that's all they have, provided it's clear. Failing that, the highest proof vodka you can find.)
½ lb. orange peel strips
1 t. fennel seed
½ t. coriander seeds
2 cardamom pods
10 drops orange flower water
15 drops gentian extract

Put these in a glass bottle or jar (make sure you don't have a lot of airspace) and shake daily for a week, minimum. 2-3 weeks is ideal for me, but if you like sharper flavors, by all means let it go longer. Strain through a paper coffee filter and decant into a bottle. I like the clear glass swingtop bottles of "French lemonade."

But you do whatever works best.

Posted by Joke at 9:21 AM 8 comments

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

No, really, I'm touched.

Dear Internet,

As long as you've known me -- coming up on 20 years dating back to the ol' Prodigy service -- you've known me to be a contrarian and something of a slothful one at that. But even I know that all those "It Gets Better" things that are humming all over the web simply canNOT be about the new TSA security measures.

I've refrained from commenting on these. I think it best to experience things first, er, hand.

As a recent flyer, I now feel sufficiently experienced to comment.

The choices presented to me were, as far as I could tell, the following:

1- Submit to surly molesters,


2- Submit to voyeurs armed with radioactivity

My choice? The surly molesters. Because someone in a now-tight polyester uniform can't give you cancer.

The alternative to the Chernobyl Foto Booth is the "enhanced pat down" or what some people have called "gate rape." Had I been 16 and the TSA patter-downer been that girl on whom I had a crush at the age of 16, I would have been pretty well delighted.

But I was not, and he was not and so I was displeased. Let's just say that, at THEIR discretion they are...uh..."free to move about the cabin."

The lesser angels of my nature were tempted to add levity to the situation.

Should I arch my back and pout?

Should I do my impression of Meg Ryan from When Harry Met Sally?

Should I quietly hum something from the "chick-a-chick-a-bow-bow" school of musical expression?

Should I warn them that "items may have shifted during takeoff?"

Should I wear bubble-wrap undergarments? Or conceal a squeaky toy about my person?

If I enjoyed it, would they let me get in line again?

In the end, I decided to "lie back and think of England" as a someone (whose qualifications seem to have been that he can lift 70lb. and has a high school diploma or equivalent) was allowed to reach what, in more innocent times, was considered "third base." (Readers whose base of experience does not cover baseball terminology shall have to get an explanation from a less decorous person than I.)

Just wait. Eventually we'll all fly naked and without any luggage.


Posted by Joke at 9:05 PM 3 comments

Saturday, November 13, 2010


I know, I know.

Posted by Joke at 11:58 PM 2 comments

Friday, November 12, 2010

There's no Wayback Machine

A while ago, around the time the world ended, I stopped rowing.

I liked rowing, but it was (and is) a schlep of impressive proportions. If you're a jogger, you put on your jogging shoes and you start jogging. You could be jogging well before you exit the house. Swimming is a bit more of a hassle. You have to have special apparel, and you have to dry yourself just to go home and rinse off either salt or chlorine. Or, you can shower amid a retinue of strangers.

Rowing is like that and between the hassle and the scramble to get back to Normal, such as I dimly remember it, put it out of my realm of activities. For, um, almost three years.

But I realized all this sloth wasn't good for me in any conceivable way. And so I opted to take up rowing again.

There's a problem with my taking up rowing again after a +/- 3 year layoof and that is that it is ME taking up rowing again. This means the following thought never crossed my mind:

"You haven't rowed in three years and in those three years you have gotten a bit out of shape AND you have aged three years. Maybe you should take it easy the first few times?"

So, never having had that thought, I threw myself at the endeavo(u)r as if I had never stopped. Which at the time felt a bit strenuous but not outrageous.

Then of course, I was driving home and felt every single tendon, ligament and muscle fiber from the eyebrows south stiffen to the maximum extent biomechanics will allow. It hurt to think about moving.

Oh, Internet, I was soooooooooooooooo sore.

It hurt to sit, stand, shift in my seat, shift in bed -- one of the very rare times I prayed my beloved did not feel inclined to avail herself of the manly bounty that is Joke -- cross my legs, stand, turn, reach for things, put things down and move my head.

I am still a bit sore in the legs and this was a WEEK AGO.

Please feel free to make book on how easy I take it this Saturday.


Posted by Joke at 11:01 AM 4 comments

Friday, November 05, 2010


It's been election season ovah heah. I have been mulling a post that may edge over into the realm of polemics, and even came thisclose to posting it this morning.

But I didn't.

I was debating the exact phrasing of certain things (so as a- not to be misunderstood, b- explain my views while not being disagreeable to others who hold opposite views and c- detail certain things I had witnessed) when a friend on Facebook informed me she was flying out to help someone clean out Someone's Grandpa's apartment, since Someone's Grandpa died rather suddenly.

This reminded me of something (no really, stay with me) lighter.

Several years ago, I was the guy helping a friend clean out his Grandpa's apartment after Grandpa died.

It's something you do out of friendship and kindness and decency. The problem with being a loyal friend, kind and decent is that it does not prepare you for certain discoveries.

Like what?

Oh, I dunno, things you weren't expecting.

Wanna narrow that down for us?

OK. But get the kids out of the room. This is pretty much Grownups Only stuff.

I'll wait.


Let's just say Grandpa had amassed a collection of "gentlemen's special interest literature." The operative word being amassed.

And not, Dear Internet, the fluffy-frilly-giggly ouvre of visionaries such as Mr. Hugh Hefner. No.
It was more, um...yeah. Like that.

Grandpa, besides being a well-respected professor of Theatre Studies, also had something of a CIAish side to him. I was tasked with going to "the back room" where Grandpa the Respected Professor kept the chattels of his profession, and throwing away papers and bring out in boxes the books and VHS tapes Grandpa wanted to donate to the University Library. I innocently began to open filing cabinets and saw neatly organized interdepartment memos, performance evaluations, etc. I opened the first of eleventy zillion such drawers and started tossing folders into a cardboard "file box" such as offices use when they want to alphabetize the stuff they discard.

Did the same with the 2nd, 3rd and 4th drawers. Then I went around the back to unplug the fax machine when I noted the depth of the filing cabinet seemed not-immaterially greater than the depth of the drawers I had just emptied.

"Hmm. That's weird." I mused, returning to the front and reopening the cabinet drawer. I pulled it out to its fullest extent, peered and saw nothing other than it was not nearly as deep (maybe 2/3) as the cabinet itself suggested. So I went to completely remove the drawer.

But it wouldn't go.

Ditto all the other drawers. I looked at the left, right, top, rails, handles, etc. and saw nothing. I went flat on my back and looked at the underside and on the TOPside of the cross-rail of the drawer I saw a small, hastily screwed-in metal tab. Sure enough, that tab "caught" the trailing edge of a drawer being opened and wouldn't allow it its full travel.

Doing what any self-respecting Boy Scout would have done, I took out an ancient and battered Swiss Army Knife, such as has kept Switzerland free all these years, and unscrewed the screw and removed the tab.

Standing up, I pulled the drawer which slid out easily and with something of a...sound. Behind a partition in the drawer were some magazines. Some were merely...journals Some were magazines of personal advertisements, with certain advertisers neatly circled or highlighted.

Other drawers had VHS tapes with intriguing titles -- puns on popular films and TV series -- which decorum prohibits my detailing.

One drawer had several Polaroid (!) photos of unnamed university-ish young ladies in various states of apparel.

All in all, an impressive volume of material.

Grandpa, as befits a man of the theatre, had eclectic tastes. Provided there were ladies involved, pretty much every permutation proved amenable to his collectioneering. A kaleidoscope of ethnic combinations (or not) a widely divergent array of scenarios, proclivities, activities...all were worthy of his inspection. One magazine which had a young lady posing with a small box (!) turtle in strangely innocuous poses. Except for the fact the young lady had neglected to array herself with if she said to herself:

"Oh! The photographer is here with his turtle! I am not yet dressed! Gosh, I hope he doesn't mind."

The problem, and I am dead certain you have spotted it, is the delicate issue of explaining to your very dear friend, whom you love like a brother, that his Grandpa -- that pillar of professorial respect -- was a man who dragged into his dotage an actively and eccentrically (did I say "actively"?) lascivious mindset.

Everywhere in this office area, Grandpa had hidden SOMETHING with ecdysiastic gamines disporting themselves with unsavory looking gentlemen, other gamines, or certain items that look as if they had extended warranties on all moving parts. Some were of very recent vintage, and some were definitely vintage.

I have no idea what he was thinking. Did he assume he would get some diagnosis like "You only have [however long you need to purge your home office of objets d'porne] to live?"

I don't know about YOU, but were I confronted with unarguable evidence my Grandfather was -- and there's simply no way around this -- a raving pervert, there wouldn't be enough psychotherapy to render me sensate again. So I thought I had best not disclose this discovery and conceal the offending material.

But that leads to a problem.

HOW do you conceal such a volume What's worse, if you don't conceal it properly then you are faced with a situation which is doubly troubling: Your friend finds out his Grandfather was the sort of man who spent many a pleasant hour exploring the nearly-limitless ways in which (on average) two people may interact AND that his best friend was smuggling the good stuff out.

That would have been bad.

So, realizing my time was not without limit, I hastily "leavened" the regular material (dept. memos, etc.) with magazines inserted "spine-down" and put the videotapes (spine IN) inside the box marked "Donate to Lib."

And then went home and got somewhat inebriated.

Now you know.


Posted by Joke at 12:27 PM 11 comments