Food, glorious food, hot sausage and….

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Well, maybe not mustard. But as Oliver, Dodger and the boys sang in Oliver!, food can be the stuff of dreams…

Last night I made my second round of homemade pizza crust this month, matching it up against Trader Joe’s pre-made dough. The result? Pretty excellent. Three weeks ago, the first batch was good. The Sicilian was a little chewy on the bottom, but was just about perfect reheated the day after. The Napolitano crust was better, but not the best that I had made.

This time, I added a bit more yeast and only made the Napolitano crust. It was most excellent. I’ve got two racks of pizza stones placed close together and heated the oven to 550 degrees for about 45 minutes before hand. Cooking time is about 7-8 minutes, but I still need to play around with getting the bottom crust a little better done. I think maybe cooking directly on the stone rather than on a screen might do the trick. But the means I need a pizza peel, the giant spatula to top the pizza on and then put it in the oven. I’m thinking that if I get one, I’ll try making the pies a little smaller, which will give me more opportunity to test.

So, I forgot to take pictures in progress last night, and the really awesome ones I took of the first time around went into the ether when my phone stopped working… So, in a couple of weeks, I’ll try it again and take pictures in progress…

Buon appetito!

A New Leaf – Day 31

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409 Days Dry.

So I have successfully passed the first month dry with only a sip of beer to taste. Only one hard day in the bunch. As I reflect back, stopping drinking this time is more pre-emptive than last time. Though I probably had a drink most everyday over winter break, I did not drink to excess, but once. And considering the figurative kick in the gut the universe gave my family, that was not a surprise. But considering the sadness and darkness of my thoughts, I decided not drinking was a better way through. And I know, The only way out is through…

The other primary reason to firmly establish my own control over alcohol is perhaps unrelated. My writing, creativity and desire to be more productive. Since the previous long-dry stretch had culminated in a very productive writing period–80,000 words in 60 days–I wondered if not drinking had been a factor.

I’m already sleeping better. Two separate medical folks who saw me a month ago commented on how healthy I looked. I’m not feeling any more productive in terms of writing new words, but I am getting a lot of things done to sort of clear the deck. I’ve lost 3-5 pounds and feel like clothes are fitting me better.

Unfortunately, though I would like to get back into exercising, my bruised heel has been slowing me down. I’ve had a few good days of brisk walking, but the day after is painful. So, I am icing to see if I can get over this injury.

My house is cleaner than it’s been, I’ve been cooking from scratch more, and I have finished a few projects. More on these subjects in a later blogpost. Oh, and also some non-alcohol, non/low-caffeine drinks invented, named and/or reviewed.

A New Leaf – Day 1

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409 Days Dry

Several years ago I had developed a pretty serious drink problem. I was drinking every day and significant amounts. I think I could probably drink a whole bottle of wine by myself and when I came up on a friends big birthday, I went and bought four bottles 750 hard liquor because I was going to buy one and if you bought four you got $12 off. No brainer, right? Well, a week later when I was heading to see him with his bottle? The other three were gone. I have a Bacardi beanie hat to remind me of that. So whenever I look in the closet for gloves or a cold-weather hat for my bald head, I think of that series of choices.

So I spent 400 days dry from Thanksgiving 2011 until New Year’s Eve 2012, I think. I started out intending to write a book about it as I went along and share the cool alt-tails I created. I think I wrote something about as long as this post, added a few drink recipes and then quit. It wasn’t as important as quitting the alcohol. But the idea did not come to fruition. So for 400 hundred days I had only two or three sips of wine.

During that 400 days, I finished my third novel, the first and second times! Then I started again. A bit at a time 1-2 glasses, 1-2 times a week. I stopped buying boxes of wine. Red wine is my drink of choice, so there are some health benefits to limited use. That was fairly easy, though it quickly slipped to 2-3 times a week. Over the last two years, there have been times when my consumption became a topic of conversation with my counselor.

I also learned that there is a seriously larger incidence of alcoholism in people who drank early and binged. I had my first full beer at my cousin’s wedding in Scotland the same weekend Prince Charles and Lady Diana got married. I was 14 and probably weighed about 90 pounds. They tell me I woke up with a smile and that I turned down a second pint the night before. Which leads me to believe I had had enough and was probably still intoxicated the following morning.

My freshman year in high school I started developing my good little bad boy persona. I had been a good kid all my life. I drank beer, played party games to force myself and my friends to drink the stuff that pretty much tasted like crap. My senior year I had moved onto 151 as my drink of choice! I only needed a shot. The bottle would last quite a few parties.

My drinking slowed down once I was out of the house and raising kids. Too expensive. So I got into brewing. Slow process, but made some really good beer and mead. My first marriage ended and I finished college. I continued to brew and when I had an income I started buying alcohol again, this time legally. I hung out with actors. Drinking, or other forms of intoxication, unfortunately were common. I was almost the only actor who didn’t smoke, one substance or another. Somewhere in here my first marriage ended.

My second marriage included a fair amount of alcohol, an increase for me and a decrease for her. I took to drinking like a fish to water. Finding the most drinkable inexpensive red wines and supplementing them with homebrew and the new microbrews.

Last night, January 2nd, I noticed as I was drinking the last glass of wine I will drink for more than a year, that I wasn’t paying attention to how it tasted. Then why the heck am I drinking it? One guess. Not one I wanted to face. But I need to. I am…

Sad news with lots of love…

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2015 is closing out in the saddest way possible for me and my family. My daughter Sheridan gave birth to my third grand-child two weeks ago. She’d been battling horrendously high blood pressure and had to have an operation to remove a tumor in her adrenal gland. The operation went well, but the blood pressure didn’t stabilize.

The folks at UW Medical were amazing. They decided that the best thing for mother and baby was to deliver him early by C-section. Our family had our first grandson, Nolan Luther. Floods of positive thoughts, love, prayers and donations to help defray travel and living costs came their way. Little Nolan was transferred to Children’s Hospital a couple miles away in Seattle. Their staff was incredible, but my family was struck by a stomach flu bug.

Christmas Day we went to Children’s hoping to see the little guy. He was not doing well. I got to go see him with his retinue of doctors and nurses, respiratory therapists and more. After my daughter’s husband got there I took her back to UW Medical because we worried that she had the stomach flu while her husband Cameron stayed with Nolan.

Two days later her husband showed signs of the stomach flu, so I went down to stay with Nolan and read to him. I read to him from two of my favorite children’s books: Ferdinand and The Boy Who Could Sing Pictures. He was stable with only one nurse coming in and out. I went to get my daughter and bring her back as one of the best presents ever.

With her there, I headed back north, confident that everything was going to be fine. But yesterday morning my phone rang, my daughter’s mom. No way it was anything but bad news. Shock and pain. Nolan’s organs were not getting oxygen. They were going to pull him off the machines and let his parents hold him.

I took turns driving and crying on my way to Bellingham. I needed to figure out how to tell my youngest daughter. I called my mom and choked out enough words to let her know, at a loss for how to tell my 12 year old that the nephew she never got to meet was dying. When the moment came. I couldn’t say anything and didn’t need to. She voiced aloud all the words I was thinking as I held her and we both cried.

Now, I sit a day later trying to make sense. I can’t. There is none. Instead, at the suggestion of my partner, Elena, I’m making food for the family, home-made casseroles and soups to deliver to their empty new apartment, something to try to fill there stomach because I can’t fill the holes in all our hearts.

Please keep my daughter, her husband and their two year old daughter in your thoughts and prayers. The rest of the family can use them, too. And hug your own people. Tell them you love them. Life is fleeting…

Nolan Luther, you were here a too short time, but you touched many and will never be forgotten. You are loved.

Drive South

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When I drive I like to maximize my gas mileage and minimize my time on the road. I speed a little, never more than nine miles over and that’s in a 60-70 m.p.h. zones.  I like cruise control because it keeps the inertia going and minimizes the need for acceleration. Splitting my time between Bellingham and Mount Vernon, means that either my partner and or I have a 35 minute minimum commute. It used to be closer to 30 minutes, but an increase in traffic on I-5 and on the train tracks running alongside has made it 40-45 minutes on many days. Last week I had a fifteen minute wait for a coal train and the trip took an hour!

So, there are times that I dream of the roads being as clear as they are in my Deserted Lands universe. My biggest frustration is the inattentive drivers who cruise along, plod along in the fast lane doing a couple m.p.h. under the speed limit. Nah, that’s not true. My biggest frustration are their counterparts who drive the same way on purpose only to speed up if I pull into the slow lane to pass them. And let’s not even start [yet*] on the single person in the giant WHITE SUV with the chrome wheels talking on their cell-phone.

Sigh. Breathe.

So, I have a solution. I call it CARma points. At this point it is a philosophical game I play with myself that seems to increase my parking Karma. If someone lets me in a long line or stops to let the pedestrian cross, I give them a BING, a thumbs up gesture headed their way. Now, if the aforementioned SUV driver cuts me off because their phone conversation took a turn and they didn’t. They get a DING [or more in this case FIVE!*] signified by a tap on the dashboard or a thumbs down in their general direction.

Now what if there were an electronic tally system where these Bings and Dings helped or hindered folks’ insurance rates. Computer systems could make certain that a certain driver does not constantly DING/BING the same person over and over again. If we wanted to curb the negativity, each driver could get 3-5 DINGS and an unlimited supply of BINGS.

My counselor has suggested that I send the people who are being angrily passive aggressive or clueless little LOVE bombs of positivity for my own good health. I’m considering his advice. For the moment, being able to CARmically DING or BING folks keeps me calmer on the road. And yes, if I do something stupid, aggressive or clueless, I DING myself and I try to earn would-be BINGS from other drivers by letting them in and trying to guess in advance when I am going to be causing someone else stress so I can avoid being “that guy” in the car.

*Here is the breakdown on those FIVE DINGS

  • DING 1: Driving gigantic SUV as only a status symbol
  • DING 2: Driving said gigantic SUV alone
  • DING 3: Getting horrible gas mileage in gigantic SUV
  • DING 4: Driving gigantic SUV as only a status symbol
  • DING 5: wheels talking on their cell-phone.

Not to 50! Part One – I can see clearly now…

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I sometimes refer to myself as the Finder of Lost Things. I am most excellent at finding things, probably because I am so damn excellent at losing things. I lose coats, keys, phones, and most especially hats. But we’ll get to the many hats of Bartholomew Robbins in a later blog post.

So, it was no surprise that I would lose my glasses once I had to start wearing them to read. I’ve had glasses for several years, and they became necessary to read about the same time my grand-kids started to come along. I could no longer read the warnings on the blood pressure medication I was taking [cut some weight and alcohol intake and I’m off them for now]. So, I get my prescription updated every year and get lens every two. I drove over one of the pairs and they’re less useful now. But I have two pairs of fairly expensive glasses: reading and the new progressive lenses.

Because of my propensity for leaving glasses places, I’ve taken to buying dollar store readers. Even though I’m supposed to be wearing the progressives all the time, they are inadequate for using on the computer. The focal point for reading is so low that I end getting a hitch in my neck. So, not long after I got them, I misplaced them. They are in their case and I’m quite certain I will find them in my house or in one of the cars.

Then I went to Books by the Bay Book Festival and Authors Conference at the Bellwether in Bellingham. I lost the nice prescription pair of readers. I called their front desk and was told that they had many pairs of glasses, I should come in and see if they had mine. So, I finally managed to find the time to go check, mostly because I had lost most of my dollar store readers and I figured I could make one trip or the other in the time I had available. So I got to the Bellwether without any glasses. They brought out the box and my eyes focused (as well as I could focus) on one of the dozen plus pairs of glasses in the box. They looked like mine, except for the fact that one of the arms wasn’t bent. I figure whoever picked them up, might have straightened them, and put them on.

But I was still uncertain if they were my glasses. The desk attendant suggested that they had been there for some time and since they didn’t have a name or room number attached, they probably were mine. I thanked her and took them home. When my partner, Elena, got home I asked her if they were mine. She looked quizzically at me and said, “I don’t know.” A few days later when my daughter came over, she told me they were not my glasses. I’m still not sure. So, I’m hoping that either the owner doesn’t come back or that perhaps he took my glasses. If I do end up finding my pair, I will feel some chagrin. Maybe I’ll check in with my optometrist and see if they can tell me, but until then… I’m glad that I can see clearly now, my brain is gone…

If you want to help my buy some more glasses, please check out my books and stuff for sale at www.desertedlands.com. Thanks.

Alopecia Areata and other Heavy Metal band names…

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Several months ago at a gathering of the Whatcom Writers and Publishers I was gently approached by a woman with a question. She was producing a book about people with Alopecia. And the question she kindly asked was did I have Alopecia, hair loss caused by an auto-immune reaction. I’m pretty sure she knew the answer, but the way she approached, warm and kind, was quite wonderful. Her name is Deeann Callis Graham.

The book, Head-On, Stories of Alopecia, is a collection of 75 personal narratives. And it is finished. My story, Alopecia Areata and other Heavy Metal band names… was one of the last submitted. It is a lovely book, with touching stories about this puzzling auto-immune disease that comes in three flavors: areata, totalis and universalis. This condition can really send self-esteem for a loop. So, if you’re interested in the book, or the condition here is the website: HEAD ON.

There are also some wonderful photographs by my friend, Damian Vines.

 

Sad Days in Ferndale/Bellingham…

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[Crossposted to pretty much every social media I am involved in.]

Hey folks,

Sad days here in Bellingham/Ferndale. I lost two of my students and two others are in the hospital in critical condition–a senseless accident. Please, hug your kids, your friends, your parents. Tell them you love them.

I’m doing okay. Being able to share my grief with all my communities has helped and the outreach has been amazing. If you want to help out some people who need it, here are some links to ways to help.

If you’re local, feel free to come to the candlelight vigil on the Ferndale Riverwalk tonight at 9pm.

Vigil at Windward June 10th. AP Photo.

Vigil at Windward June 10th. AP Photo.

 

Windward High School will be open all next week for students to come hang out, play basketball/frisbee or even finish up coursework if they need to.

Thanks.

Rob

If you need something to trigger some catharsis, you might listen to our graduation song here. rehearsed in one day, Calling Our Children Home.

What comes around… Mad Max lyrics from 1982

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Crossposted to my Deserted Lands blog.

I haven’t been able to shoehorn the time into my schedule to go see the New Mad Max movie, but I am anticipating the event something fierce. So, for a bit of a flashback, here are some song lyrics I wrote in Mr. Gregory’s Geometry class at Hoquiam High School. Since my 30th reunion is coming up this summer, I’m thinking a lot about those days.

These are from the embarrassing lyrics era, but transcend that trend a little. Derivative? Hells yes, but fun. Sort of like I hear the new Mad Max movie is… And two different publications liked them enough to pay me to publish them! Rock on!

Highway Rider

The flatlands are burning in this land we’ve turned to hell
The world keeps on turnin’ inside this fragile shell
We’ve got to get away from here before we start to rot
We’ve gotta get to somewhere else, this hell is all we’ve got

Off in the distance about to top the rise
The noise of tortured metal the smoke just fills the skies
I jump into the cockpit the mighty engine roars
The tires spin, the gravel flies, my foot is to the floor

Gasoline is life, it’s the blood in my hands
It’s the only ticket out of this cruel and battered land
My tank is full I cannot waste a single precious drop
The race is run my time is done, if I can’t make him stop

The law of the land is the fittest survive
The only thing I’m working for is tryin’ to stay alive
Across the desert wasteland his fate he comes to meet
His car is getting closer burning through the blazing heat

I power brake and spin around and slow to catch my breath
The warrior is coming, running for his death
A deadly game of chicken means the fittest survive
The only thing I still can do is close my eyes and drive

Accelerate, my tires spin, my posi grips the road
The RPM’s are runnin’ up – about to overload
The nerves of steel come in play, the chaser now the chased
His fault he realizes now, his car a flaming waste

The smell of burning gasoline mixed with burning flesh
I slow my car to watch the scene and sigh a weary breath
I must escape this savage land, I cannot stand the pain
My son becoming just like me with all my work in vain

I leave the flaming hulk and drive into the setting sun
One day I’ll make it out of here, today is not the one
Some think our lives are fixed, left to the hands of fate
But I believe I shall escape, I hope it’s not too late

Appeared in the Spring 1994 issue of The Galactic Citizen.
Appeared in the February 1999 online issue of Jackhammer E-zine.

Letting My Geek Flag Fly on Photoshop

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As a writer and an artist of various sorts I try to notice details appleabout things–let myself stay open to weirdness.

This morning I saw an apple with a bad spot. I had an idea. So I took a picture of it. I stuck a piece of wire in it and took the photo against my black coat.

Then I uploaded it to my work computer which has Adobe Photoshop because I teach a media class.

Then I did the next step. I removed the apple from the background. Then I went in search of a star scape. And another image.

Then I did some Photoshop magic and came up with this…

aLongTimeAgoSo, even if you get a bad apple, don’t let it spoil the bunch. Even if you do have a bad feeling about it… Click on the images to see them full size.

Then we ate the apple for lunch. Where the rotten spot was, the goopy part came out and left an almost perfect globe-shaped space. Weird. Yeah.

This post brought to you by ‘Brain of Rob.’

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