Musings

First Concert of the 2020s

After more than two years away, I ventured into a super-spreader event.

Sorry, I meant a concert. Damn you, autocorrect!

Trust me, I’ve been to plenty of super-spreaders. Most of them included forty-five hormonal teenagers thinking their masks are supposed to go on their chin, not live music.

Oddly enough, the hormonal teenagers are STILL wearing masks around their chins, even after the mask mandate expired. I guess it’s the new version of wearing conservative clothes when you leave the house then going full goth. Their parents think they’re wearing the masks. But if that’s the case, why not put it in your pocket when you get to school?

Sorry. Concert. Right. A friend of mine texted me on a Monday night, asking if I wanted to go to a concert two days later. Seeing as the ticket said 7:00 show, I thought that sounded like a capital idea. I should be home by, what, 9:30? 10:00 at the latest.

Midnight?!?

Turns out the doors opened at 7:00. And they had this thing called a, what was it, opening band? I guess I’m out of practice.

In addition to getting my sea legs back, this was a band I didn’t know many songs from. I had heard of them, and when I checked YouTube, I recognized a few of the songs, so it’s not like I was totally flying blind. But it turns out there’s a difference between being marginally aware of a band’s songs and knowing (and singing along to) every fucking lyric, which described roughly every other human being in the place. It felt really awkward when the lead singer pointed at us to finish the chorus and all I could do was mouth some bullshit. Reminded me of the Apostle’s Creed back in my Catholic days. Did I miss the week when Catechism covered the Airborne Toxic Event?

That was the name of the band we saw, by the way. The Airborne Toxic Event. With special guest Mondo Cozmo. In case you’ve forgotten, as I clearly had, “special guest” means opening act. That band goes on at 8:00, not the 7:00 printed on the ticket, and the band you’re there to see, or that your friend is dragging you to see, won’t be on for another ninety minutes.

My friend invited me because his son, who was the original owner of the extra ticket, had dutifully cleared a night in June of 2020, not April of 2022. He might have been able to make the makeup date March of 2021, but hat didn’t happen, either. In the intervening two years, he’d dropped out of college, had a kid, and started working construction. He (perhaps wisely) didn’t want to attend a late concert then wake up for work the next day. Instead, his twenty-year-old ass makes the two pushing-fifty guys do the late night thing. What am I missing here? Isn’t that what being twenty is all about? I remember overnight trips to Reno (without a hotel) that ended with me getting home just long enough to shower and head into work with no sleep.

Then again, I didn’t have a toddler till I was forty.

Or maybe April, 2022

The concert was almost pushed off again. The week prior to our show, they had to cancel another thrice-rescheduled show in Southern California because somebody on their bus tested positive. Fortunately, he got the negative test before the Sacramento show.

Are the 2020s maybe not the best time for a band named “The Airborne Toxic Event?” If any new Covid cases are traced back to their concert, the headlines might become confusing.

The venue they were playing was one I’d always been curious to attend, which helped counteract my reluctance to miss sleep. It caters to bands that don’t cater to people my age. Bands with names like Goth After Dark or Dub Stars or Guadalupe Hidalgo. Or Gwar.

Holy shit, Gwar is playing there Memorial Day Weekend! I’m super curious about the clientele at a Gwar show. They were already an obscure joke back in 1990. So it’s got to be a slew of fifty-somethings that never really got the joke. I’m tempted to buy a ticket for crowd watching, but the bastards would probably expect me to sing along with their choruses.

The venue is tiny. And crowded. Hopefully Whitesnake never plays there, because any errant pyrotechnics and we weren’t getting out. As it stood, I couldn’t even leave my spot to grab another beer. I might not make it back. Not that I wanted any more beer, because it would be four hours before I left the confines, and who the hell goes to the bathroom during a concert? I might miss the lyrics.

Wait, are they saying, “Like gasoline”? That’s what it sounded like on maybe the fifth iteration. I guess that’s a cool lyric. I think the line referenced making out when they were seventeen. It rhymes. And, you know, gasoline is explosive. Fire equals passion. Just ask creepy elder statesman Bruce Springsteen and his “Hey little girl, is your daddy home?” Or Whitesnake.

Maybe this band isn’t too bad.

Two people in my close vicinity passed out. We’re all out of practice.

Oddly enough, the pass outs happened not during the concert while people were jumping around, but in between the opening band and the main event. The first lady to pass out was one of the only ones wearing a mask. 

Did I mention super-spreader event? 

Not too surprising. It was stuffy as hell and people were jockeying for position, despite the fact that nobody in the entire venue was more than twenty feet from the stage. And I know we’re only supposed to mock people who claim that it’s harder to breathe while wearing a mask, but I imagine that when five hundred people are jostling around you, the mask can’t be doing wonders. It was hard enough for me to catch a full breath, and my nose and mouth were wide open. Each inhalation contained about 85% body odor. Plus 15% Covid.

Her mask fluxed in and out heavily a couple times, then her eyes fluttered and she did the standard pirouette before being caught by her companion, also wearing a mask. The crowd was nice enough to part to let him pull her out. As long as you’re going away from the stage, you’re golden. Five people moved into the spot she vacated.

I suppose I should thank this particular canary for reminding me I was in a coalmine. After she went down, I remembered to bend my knees more often. Flex those calf muscles! But after four hours of standing in more or less the same spot, my feet still felt like they’d gone 25,000 steps. You know what’s nice about seeing Classic Rockers in arenas and stadiums? Assigned seating!

The second fainter fell a couple minutes before the band came on. His pass-out was the more pedestrian, self-inflicted style. No mask near his mouth, but he did have a beer, and it clearly wasn’t his first. And “near his mouth” was the closest he came. He couldn’t quite find it. When he faceplanted toward the back of the woman’s head, somebody else grabbed him and stood him back up. At first I thought they were together, but second dude might’ve just been a good Samaritan. Drunkie then sways backward, toward said Samaritan.

When security came around, Samaritan held his hand up, signalling toward the drunkard like a plane’s flying over his deserted island for the first time in a decade. Security was already looking for the drunkard, which was impressive because as far as I knew, the guy had just shown up. Maybe they’ve got us all under strict surveillance. We didn’t have to show our vaccination card because they’re already monitoring our biorhythms from the 5g DNA sequencing that Bill Gates put into our bodies!

Sir Sways-a-Lot didn’t put up a fight. I don’t even think he knew they were ushering him away, nor whether he was at a concert in the first place. Security used the “hey buddy” approach instead of “Respect my Authori-TAY!” and dude was easily led toward the back. For good measure, he took one more sip from the IPA while following along. Not so much rebellion as inertia.

Good Samaritan immediately took two steps forward to take the vacated spot.

How was the band? Not sure. You might want to check with someone who knew what they were seeing. They had a viola player. Or maybe it was a violin. Perhaps even a fiddle. When she wasn’t on the strings, she played the keyboard. But then when she was playing violin, other members of the band stopped playing guitar and went over to play the lonely keyboards. By the end of the concert, that thing had more people tickling its ivory than your mom.

The opening act was also impressive. Much like Jethro Tull, I don’t know if Mondo Cosmo was a person or the whole band. Unlike Jethro Tull, nobody named Mondo Cosmo invented a seed drill. The guitar player was great. Drummer, too. But in looking at this guy’s/band’s videos online, it’s clear that, Mondo Cosmo or not, Mondo Cosmo is the only guy who gets camera time. 

He’s pretty hard core. Every bit the Mondo. Seemed way more comfortable on the songs he was jumping around the stage than on the songs he had to sit still and play rhythm guitar. I feel like he’s either going to make it big or flame out very, very hard. I’m rooting for the former.

The drawback of the band was that they had way too much pre-recorded backing tracks. It took me a number of songs to figure out where the hell the bass was coming from. Was he behind the curtain? Was the lead guitar busting out low notes on the thick strings when he wasn’t in solo mode. Once I realized the bass was still going while he was soloing, I realized it was all a ruse. 

Then they did a cover of “Bittersweet Symphony.” I knew for a FACT there was no string section in the three-man band.

Did you know you could jump around the stage and headbang to “Bittersweet Symphony”? Although, as a general rule, you shouldn’t get more into another band’s songs than your own. 

I don’t want to give away too much, because for the first time sine 2019, I can have a year-end concert review. I’ve got tickets bought for at least one more, with potential plans for as many as three more. When it rains, it pours.

I just had to make sure I got that “your mom” joke in before I forgot it.

Maui Trip, Part 3

Wrapping up my quick jaunt to Maui. This was my third trip to the islands, but first time to Maui. I posted earlier about things like luaus and booze and Covid restrictions. Read on for more thoughts, like ziplines, pancakes, and airport bathrooms.

Businesses: Might as well make this a true TravelBlog and highlight a few businesses you should frequent if you’re there. No, you don’t get a discount. Nor do I get any kickbacks. I don’t know if it makes these more or less legitimate. Whatever. I liked them and I’d like them to still be in business should I ever make it back.

*Camp Maui Zipline: There are a few zipline companies in Maui. The one we did was at Camp Maui, just outside of the town of Haiku. Haiku, a small town. Barely even on a map. Old school Hawaii. (See what I did there?)

The zipline company is on an old World War II base, and they claim to have a “museum” of stuff unearthed while digging out the course. Don’t go out of your way for it, though, as it’s really just a couple planes and jeeps in a tent. Then again, the stupid Pearl Harbor exhibit is just a couple stupid ships that you’re not even allowed to walk on because they’re under water. Who the hell puts ships under water? I want my money back.

This is kinda cool, hanging on the walls of the museum, although clearly ripped off from the Pearl Harbor museum. Still, props to FDR for changing “world history” to “infamy.” Not even the first result on thesaurus.com. After the past two presidents, I kinda forgot we used to elect leaders who didn’t fumble through the English language.

To add to the lackluster “museum,” the ziplines are pretty much run of the mill, some barely dropping enough altitude to let gravity do its work. They had to throw Daughter like a damn fastball or else she would’ve come to rest smack dab in the middle. I guess I’m not doing a great job of selling it, but once she asked, they put enough spin on her to make it into a curveball.

That’s because the staff, at least the ones we encountered, made it fun as hell. They were consummate professionals, despite exuding full hang-loose loadie personas. In a weird way, they made the safety elements cool. When listing all the dos and don’ts, a guy who told us to call him Loki started with “Don’t trust your farts.” Then, when reviewing, he asked the most important rule. Safety first? Have fun? “I mean, those are all important,” he said, “but I think I said don’t trust your farts first.” He turns to his co-guide. “Did I forget to tell them that?”

At one point, when they had to scooch past us on a platform (because they had us all go up the ladder first, then they had to get past us to the zipline), they actually snapped their safeties onto each of us as they passed. I was already attached to the line, so if they slipped and fell as they passed me, we both would’ve gone plummeting off the platform, but we’d only go as far as my rope allowed. Guessing it would be easy to half-ass that part on a course they’ve been on thousands of times. I wouldn’t have noticed that they were unattached for the three steps it took to get past us, but I noticed (in a good way) that they clipped onto me. Daughter might’ve worried that made them look like the “only stupid instructor at the zipline.” 

But once everything was secure and on the actual zipline, they encouraged hands free, spinning, leaning back. Loki (turns out his real name was Danny, but he didn’t reveal that until the end. Even when you know, you don’t call Superman “Clark”) even did a forward flip off the platform one time, resulting in a barrel roll for the first half of the zip. I’m sure they would’ve preferred having a non-stop line of fit twenty-somethings, but they were totally at ease around a bunch of kids. I doubt either of the guys have children of their own, but their repertoire of dad jokes put this dad to shame. But then you see them working the brakes and coming halfway back up the zipline to collect the lightweight who didn’t quite make it, and they’re back to being caring professionals. 

My favorite was one of those difficult stretches where one guide threw my daughter extra hard to get her across. Right after the kid before her only made it partway and Loki had to yank himself uphill to retrieve him. Unlike the other kid, Daughter made it all the way across, but she was totally out of gas. Loki caught her, snapped one of his lines to her then “pretended” to forget about her and turn around when she wasn’t on her feet yet. All of our eyes grew wide as she started to go back up the zipline, thinking he was going to have to go out and get her anyway, when the line caught her after only a foot or two. Then he plays the “Oh, there you are!” and pulls on the line to bring her closer. 

Great time, indeed. If you find yourself there, ask for Loki.

*Surfing Goat Dairy: Another jaunt up into the hinterlands, this time to look at goats. And eat cheese. The goats were for Daughter, the cheese was for us. 

To be honest, the tour was kinda meh. You get to feed some goats. A ton of female goats plus a handful of males who, in typical dude fashion, try to muscle in with an “Are you gonna eat that?” At first I found the sex disparity odd, but then I remembered that guys don’t lactate. Best we’d get from male goats is some From’Undah Cheese. You’d think that, being a man, that bit of biology wouldn’t escape my notice so readily.

The males are only there to make the ladies pregnant to get the milk, and let me tell ya, they were gettin’ it DONE! Holy crap, the whole damn farm was pregnant. One of them looked either ready to burst, or else she was having quadruplets. The only ones not pregnant were those who recently birthed. There were six baby goats who had been born within the past week, including a baby just born that morning. Four hours old and she could already walk. I’m belatedly disappointed in Daughter for taking a year to figure it out. So much for humanity being the echelon of evolution. Then again, Daughter can now add two triple-digit numbers together while the adult goat peed on his beard to improve his sexual attractiveness. 

The cheese was decadent, so clearly Pee-Beard is doing something right. They had hard cheese and soft cheese. “Ping Pong Balls” swimming in garlic oil, a creamy Tahitian lime blend. And I don’t know which goat mixed some horseradish into her teat, but I appreciate the effort.

-Slappy Cakes: You won’t find this one advertised in your hotel lobby. No Viator busses shipping hundreds of blue-hairs to a catamaran to enjoy the local breakfast place. There was still a line out the door.

Once upon a time, on an obscure corner heading into the city of Lahaina, stood a Korean BBQ. One of those restaurants where you cook your own food on a hot plate in the center of your table, a mixture of Japanese teppanyaki and fondue. Unfortunately for that Korean place, the location isn’t overly convenient and, well, who the hell wants to cook for themselves when they go out? Your kitchen is a hell of a lot cheaper. 

Fortunately, someone took over the spot and, instead of gutting and revamping the whole thing, pondered if there was something else customers might enjoy cooking on a hot griddle. 

Sure, I can make pancakes back at home, too, but the batter doesn’t come in a snazzy squeeze bottle. And, oh yeah, I’m not at home and the hotel doesn’t have a stove top. 

So yeah, Slappy Cakes for the win. They’ve got three flavors of pancake batter, but I think one of them is gluten free, so that doesn’t really count. We ordered one tube of buttermilk and one of chocolate. I really wanted to try the red velvet batter that was on the daily special menu, but thought that would be too much pancake. At the time, I believed we’d make another sojourn to the Slappy Cakes. Unfortunately, we never made it back, so the red velvet remains a mystery.

The tubes come with a tapered spout. You have to squeeze a fair amount to get it out, not because the batter’s thick, but because the nozzle’s pretty small. This caters to a bit of an artistic flair. Even moreso when you get two flavors with different colors. Instead of a mon-colored Mickey Mouse, you can make the ears and chin in chocolate, but fill in the eyes with buttermilk. If only I had a little deep red, I don’t know, velvety color to throw in for accent.

You also get toppings. We opted for five, but probably could’ve gone with three, because they fill those dishes up. Fortunately, some of our toppings were crumbled bacon, macadamia nuts, and blueberries, so we could just eat them sans pancake. Next time, I’ll order fewer toppings and get that red velvet batter. I know it was listed as a “daily special,” but the frayed sheet of paper implied this wasn’t its first go-around. I also won’t get the shredded coconut next time, as they provide a coconut syrup free of charge, which was far more scrumptious than the shredded coconut.

They specify that the toppings are only supposed to go on AFTER the pancakes have cooked. Uh huh, sure. I know how insurance works. But bacon cooked into the pancake is a heck of a lot better than on top. You don’t get chocolate chips on top of your ice cream, do you?

The good news is Slappy Cakes doesn’t appear likely to follow the path of its Korean forebear. We got there at 6:55 am (five minutes before they open, because we went on our first morning, when our bodies were still on West Coast time), and the line was already ten deep. It was even longer when we left around 8:00. 

The price was affordable, too. Other than having to fly to Maui. Maybe they’ll franchise on the mainland some day, where West Coast time is behind everybody else, not ahead.

Signs, Signs, Everywhere There’s Signs

If you’ve followed some of my other trips, you know I can’t resist a good sign. Only a couple jumped out on this trip, but they’re doozies.

This guy’s got more problems than a minor traffic infraction. I can’t tell if he’s prisoner number 08 or if he blew a .08. I highly doubt either of those are accurate statements. Sure, Hawaii’s gotta be mostly peaceful, but I think they’ve had more than eight prisoners. Shit, before France even had forensics, they made it all they way up to 2460… ooooooooone. (How does one phonetically write out a long lead into the number 1? Wwwwwoooooon? But that’s a different word.)

As for the .08, oh hell no. The baggy eyes, the frazzled hair, the polo that hasn’t seen a laundry room in a week. That guy’s been on a weekend-long bender, at least. Maybe he’s on day 08 of ingesting all his calories through alcohol.

More importantly, why is he allowed to keep his beer with him when he goes to jail? Hey Hawaii, if you have a problem with drinking and driving, maybe you need to take away part of the incentive. Even if it’s empty, as it might be based on the fact that he’s partially crushing it, that’s still a level of dependency the public safety system shouldn’t be encouraging. He’s snuggling that empty can like my daughter with a stuffed animal at night. 

Furthermore, how long did it take them to book him? That’s got to be some flat beer. Unless it’s sugar, because on further glance, that doesn’t really look like any alcohol container I’ve ever seen. It could be a pull tab, but that means this guy’s got a time machine, and if movies have taught us anything, it’s that you don’t throw the time traveler in jail because he’s probably here to save all of humanity. And back in his day, .08 wasn’t considered “drunk,” it was considered “breakfast.”

No, I’m back to it being a sugar shaker. This guy’s got more problems than we can possibly imagine. Shame on the state of Hawaii for throwing him into the drunk tank. They’ll only have themselves to blame when he fails to prevent the forthcoming time-pocalypse.

Then we have this beaut, a bathroom, or maybe a conference room, next to the doozy of a TSA checkpoint line. I’m sure a lot of people fly out of Maui, but shouldn’t that give them more experience at ushering us through? Vegas seems to have things dialed, except maybe on a Sunday evening. We were flying out on a Friday morning, when most people should be flying into Hawaii, not out.

We’d heard horror stories about the agricultural checkpoint, but that was a well-oiled machine compared to TSA. I don’t understand their fear of taking agriculture out of the state. I’d think the worry would be bringing in foreign pests would supersede an errant pineapple boarding an airplane.

At least the long line gave me time to contemplate what’s going on inside this bathroom.

Fonzie’s office was, as we all know, inside the men’s bathroom at Arnold’s. But most of his office meetings didn’t take longer than a quick palaver about who does, and does not, deserve to “sit on it.” Nary a breakout session in sight.

Do the meetings inside this particular “conference room” provide continental breakfast or am I supposed to dine before I arrive? I’m a little worried at the placement of that coffee urn. I’ve never encountered asparagus-flavored creamer before. Anything like hazelnut?

I know the sign clearly says it’s for conference room use ONLY, but is it okay if I use it as a bathroom? Or do I have to go to a nearby room, with maybe some folding chairs and an accordion wall, to take a dump? Because I’ve got a keynote address brewing, ready to trumpet out among the attendees. I don’t even need a microphone.

But I am going to need to scan your badge.

Okay, enough with the fun and frivolity. I’m sure the sign means the bathroom is only to be used by people attending a conference in a nearby conference room. It’s not for us plebs doing the pee-pee dance as the TSA cycle through travelers with a pace even the DMV finds offensive. Hopefully the “no liquids” rule doesn’t apply to my bladder. High grade explosives, indeed.

Even the official story doesn’t make sense, however. Who has a meeting at the airport? The hotel next to the airport, sure, but the last thing I want while I’m discussing the application of the newest technology on the whatsit and the best contemporary practices of whosit, is to watch a steady stream of of grumpy erstwhile vacationers being anally probed by government bureaucrats. Most conference attendees already feel that way, they don’t need the metaphor to be acted out. 

Then again, that sunburnt guy in the TSA line might pass out if he’s touched. Let’s go to the bathroom and watch the shitshow.

Final Thoughts:

I’ve been to the Big Island twice, once as a child and once as an adult. I’ve done Oahu, but it was literally back in the Reagan Administration. The luau had a kissing line, where everybody lined up to be groped by random strangers. Can’t imagine why they stopped that sexual harassment waiting to happen.

This was my first trip to Maui. My main takeaway is that Maui is very touristy. The world of the resorts isn’t really tied to any sense of reality, much less the island. I’m sure Oahu is the same way, but at least in Oahu (from what I remember), there’s more of an urban environment. The resorts might be on the beach, but they’re still tied into the city. In Maui, the cities are separate.

The Big Island, to me, feels more like “Hawaii.” Lots of different things to see there. You can visit a macadamia nut farm or a coffee plantation, find a waterfall hike, or head into cities, from tiny to middling, each with certain personalities. Allegedly you can do similar things on the “Road to Hana,” which I didn’t do, but on the Big Island, those experiences aren’t isolated on the other damn side of the island, requiring a full day to get to. We didn’t do the Road because we have a seven-year-old and all anyone ever says about it are “Beautiful, but long.” I could never even figure out if there was anything to DO in Hana once you get there, or if you end up driving four hours in heavy traffic for the sole purpose of turning around and driving back. Like the Line Ride in that Simpsons episode.

When I went to the Big Island a few years ago, I had lots of things to say about the Hawaiian language and its lack of consonants. It’s not like people are walking around conversing in Hawaiian, but there’s a conscious attempt to keep it alive. On Maui, I never heard or saw the language much, aside from city names and an occasional “In Hawaiian, ona means drunk, and we hope you get very ona tonight.” At fifteen bucks a drink.

I’m told Maui is “not what it used to be,” that it “used to be a quaint little something or other.” I’m also told that, after shutting themselves off from the rest of the world for 18 months, Maui is now interested in diversifying their economy away from 90% tourism. Maybe they should’ve thought of that before they dug up all the pineapple plants and sugar cane, but meh. We saw a fair number of fruit trees, especially citrus, growing where the sugar cane used to be, but the trees were still tiny. By the time they’ve grown, they’ll be replacing them all with marijuana.

My father-in-law, who has been going to the same time share since he bought it in the 1980s (when it was the “only one in Kaanapali”) insists that the Big Island is now where Maui was thirty years ago. I often say the same thing about Amador County wineries vis-a-vis Napa. If that’s the case, then yuck. I guess I better enjoy the Big Island while I can, then get my ass a timeshare on Kawai before it turns into Vegas.

Maui Trip, Part 2

Welcome back. Part Two of my Maui trip is more about me and my family than the actual island, then I’ll wrap it up next week with some business reviews and final thoughts.

Alcohol

Most of my Maui tweets tweets involved the various alcohol policies at our hotel. Rules and regulations, pricing, what have you. But mainly the pricing. Take some resort lifestyle and runaway inflation, add in the fact that I’m not quite the bar hopper I once was, but damn!, those prices.

I love me some pina colada, but in ninety percent of social circumstances, I’m not likely to order one. Call it toxic masculinity, call it not wanting to be the asshole who orders a blended drink. Regardless, when I’m on a cruise ship or somewhere tropical, give me an umbrella drink, stat! But holy crap, fourteen dollars? They literally grow pineapples and coconuts right here on the damn island, or at least they used to, so it should be cheaper. I wanted to throw out the Pulp Fiction line about putting bourbon in it, but at at this point, I’d sell a testicle to get a $5 milkshake. 

Of course, they don’t use those pineapples and coconuts that should be in abundance on the island. Nor do they make a proper pina colada with coconut liquor. It’s just that Island Oasis pre-mix, that probably costs less than $14 for an entire carton of at Costco, and pour in some rum. Not that this stopped me from buying it. It just increased my bitching.

Last time I was in Hawaii, I gravitated toward those lava flow drinks, which are pina coladas with strawberry puree. At the same price, why wouldn’t I buy the one with the extra yummy? Except my hotel made a couple faux pas to lessen the lava flow desirability. 

First, they put banana in it. Blech. Banana is such a bullshit bully when it comes to smoothies. It deadens all the other flavors, making everything a banana* (with special guest star, raspberry) smoothie. I’ll never understand why Jamba Juice puts it in ninety percent of their drinks. One place we went, either Hula Grill or Cheeseburger in Paradise because those are the only places Daughter allowed meals to occur) threw in a mango instead of a banana. I probably coulda gotten on board with that. Unfortunately, wherever it was, I couldn’t just charge it to the room, so I opted for beer. 

The other Lava Flow misstep was not with the lava flow itself, but with the pina colada, which came with a floater of dark rum. I always thought of floaters as superfluous. Great if you want to light your Dr. Pepper on fire, but why not just throw an extra shot in the actual drink? Like separating the yolk from the white, even though they’re all going into the waffles anyway. This aversion is alleviated in a frozen drink, however, because the floater actually stays as a floater. And my first response when sipping from this pina colada was, damn, it doesn’t have a lot of pina colada taste to it. Tons of rum, though. The second half of the drink, after the two lifeforms had merged,  tasted more like a strong pina colada, which makes papa happy. In later incarnations, I drove the straw deep for the first suck, getting full pineapple and coconut, before heading back to the rum.

Both these drinks, mind you, cost the same fourteen dollars. So for the same price, I can either add either a banana and strawberry, or an extra shot of booze, to my pina colada. That banana bully has graduated to stealing my lunch money. If it was a nine dollar drink, it might be a tossup, but if I’m paying double digits, I’m milking every ounce of booze I can.

The beer, on the other hand, only cost seven dollars for a 12-ounce pour. That seems amazingly moderate, commensurate with what I pay on the mainland. In Sacramento, we have a minor league baseball park that charges more than ten bucks. Am I just out of the loop? Has inflation hit mixed drinks harder than beer? Is there so much microbrew competition now that you can’t charge too much? As opposed to Island Oasis, which has a monopoly.

The beer prices were so reasonable that I refused to order it during happy hour, which was two dollars off each drink. A $12 pina colada becomes marginally approachable. A $5 draft beer seems like overkill.

Said happy hour happened twice each day, both seemingly tied to the pool. The first one happened right when the bar opened, at 10:00 am. I applaud a place that encourages you to get your drink on as early as possible. As a bonus, you can model your business on people making poor decisions. How else to explain all the people spending money for those enclosures on the beach, then promptly falling asleep in them? Sure, it’s a lanai while you’re looking at Lanai, but once you’re there, you’re trapped. Play on the beach or in the water and you’re wasting your money. So instead they nap, spending a hell of a lot of money to do what the homeless people in San Diego do for free. Those people need a couple mai tais at 10 am. For twelve dollars instead of the normal fourteen.

It’s a lanai… looking out at Lanai

Ten o’clock was also the time the water slide opened. At first I thought this was to encourage people to behave badly. But after riding the water slide a couple times, I realized it wasn’t made for anyone in the 200-pound range. I damn near got stuck twice on a ten foot slide. So maybe they both start at the same time to give so we can shuffle our kids off while we go get a damn drink.

The second happy hour was the more standard one, from 4:00 to 5:00, coinciding with the closing of the water slide. It was a great breakaway for those of us who just spent hours feigning excitement over our children’s umpteenth slide down. What’s that sweetie? Did I see the slight change in your body position? Of course I did. That made all the difference, didn’t it?

The problem is that once the water slide is closed, we’re back to parenting again. Not to mention showers and dinner plans. Throw in the fact that for most of us it’s anywhere from 7:00-10:00 on the internal clock (those people in the lanai are snoring away for different reasons now), and it wasn’t surprising that the second happy hour had less partakers. Like a real happy hour.

The pool bar closed at 7:00 pm. And I mean CLOSED. I was grilling hot dogs nearby and wondered if I should get a drink (a beer, since it was not happy hour) to drink while grilling or to take back to my room with the hot dogs to consume with dinner? I chose poorly, because when I swung by the bar on the way back to my room, the bartender informed me they closed at 7:00. I checked my watch and it was, I shit you not, 7:02.

Daughter. 

Sometimes I forget that my daughter isn’t four years old anymore. Other times I have to remind myself she’s not a teenager yet. Occasionally, she loses track of these factoids, too.

Things she used to be afraid of, she’s now fine with. Things that were once of no concern now inspire existential dread. Her food palate seems to be going in all directions. In some instances, she’s more interested in new flavors, while at other times she’s regressing from loving broccoli to tolerating it. Last trip to Maui, she allegedly fell in love with fish & chips. That lasted for all of a month or so before she started hating it, so it was back to the usual mac & cheese/chicken strip restaurant fare. Nothing worse than paying ten bucks for the same box of Kraft dinner we can cook at home for ninety cents. 

This trip, she was on a cheeseburger kick, despite being iffy on them back home. For the first half of the week, she devoured those things. On our first trip to Cheeseburger in Paradise, which she was upset to discover wasn’t associated with Jimmy Buffett (yeah, I’ve got THAT kid), and she mauled that entire burger and some of her fries. Against our wishes, we returned a couple days later. She ordered the same thing, this time with avocado on top, and a side of fruit in lieu of the fries. She proceeded to eat the avocado, the bun, and the strawberries, but not the pineapple. Never touched the meat and/or cheese. All things considered, I shouldn’t criticize a kid who eats avocado and strawberry, but seriously kid, there were other things on the menu. You didn’t bother looking. And I don’t know where this new aversion to pineapple came from. She always loved it before. Perhaps she associates it with coconut, which she’s never liked. 

Then again, if she doesn’t drink pina coladas, would she associate the two? 

She loves putting the “Do Not Disturb” sign on our door, but she only wants to do it when we’re away from the room. That way, people won’t be knocking forever, wondering why we aren’t coming to the door. But while we’re in the room, then everybody’s welcome. I don’t know who she expects to come by. Probably a kidnapper. And we wouldn’t want him to waste his time. Since housekeeping during one’s stay is quickly becoming a thing of the past, it wasn’t much of an issue. Not that they’ve had the “Request Maid Service” sign for years. It kinda feels like now’s a good time to bring that one back, only to be used as necessary.

This trip was the first time I saw the beginnings of that persnickety social bullshit that is undoubtedly coming in shit-tons over the next decade. She has become aware that other people might notice and have opinions about her. Even worse, it happened at the pool and the beach, so my next Maui trip will include her lying around on a chaise like my sister used to do for her entire teenage existence. 

While we no longer fear Daughter sinking to the bottom each time she swims, she’s not exactly Michael Phelps. Even a normal jaunt into the pool requires a parent on hand. If for our sanity if not entirely for her safety. She can make it to the side of the pool on her own, but doesn’t exactly know when it’s a good idea to head in that direction. With the amount of excess energy she expends over each ounce of water, if one of us were not with her, she’d swallow half the pool by the time she made it there. Even when she’s “treading water,” (or sinking then bouncing back up) she doesn’t realize the purpose is to keep the water out of her mouth. Close your fucking mouth, kid!

So when it came to swimming in the ocean, we mandated some stricter guidelines on the off chance a current separates us or a wave changes the depth quickly. Wife wanted her to take an inflatable floatie out, but I said life preserver. While I don’t think either of us intended to combine the two, in Daughter’s mind this morphed into quite the hypothetical visual. Aside from the fact that it might be physically impossible, I can kinda see where she might have a problem with fitting the life jacket into the hole of the inflatable duck. Traipsing out amongst beachgoers with seventy-five layers of protection sounds very 1980s sitcom. Should we throw some colored zinc on her nose, too? Are glasses and headgear out of the question? 

It took me a while to come up with the word “headgear.” Don’t see those around much anymore. Technology might be destroying our planet and plotting humanity’s demise, but at least we improved the teeth straightening.

She never directly said dork or geek, I don’t think she ever even enunciated the phrase “embarassing,” but you could tell that’s where she was going. Her exact worry was not being, “the only stupid kid on the beach.” Ugh. Since when did she start noticing how other people perceive her? Are the mean girls already mean girling? Is Daughter on the sending or receiving end? And is it too late to return to distance learning?

Of course, we parents didn’t help matters by noting that none of these people knew her, to which she responded that made it even worse. First impressions, and all that. I guess it takes until middle school when you learn that strangers are a far safer commodity than people who see you every day and will remind you of said embarrassment every fucking chance they get.

Come Back for Part Three

One more batch coming up early next week. Find out my thoughts on ziplining, pancakes, and goats. Just what you’ve always hoped for!

Maui Trip, Part 1

I kept going back and forth about blogging my Maui trip. I doubted there’d be much more to add to my Poo-litzer level,  Michneresque 5- entry polemnic from when i visited the big island four years ago (turns out there are still more vowels than consonants in the Hawaiian language, not that you encounter the Hawaiian language much on Maui), plus I’d be reacting to a few things in the waning days of Covid restrictions that would be obsolete by the time I posted (even more obsolete than most of my pop culture references). 

I tried live tweeting a couple things instead. I wish I could do that more, get quicker digs, more buy-in to and from the zeitgeist. That’s me, right on the cusp of the technological frontier, contemplating the key social media conduits of 2001 and 2011. Come back in twnety years to see my TikToks.

Unfortunately, my vicious salvos of truth often need some percolatin’. Who woulda guessed this shit is actually edited? And I never wouldve assumed I’d get 5,000 words out of sipping pina coladas at the pool, but I did, so I guess I’ll break it up into parts. So, meh, here are some thoughts:

The Covid Stuff

We were in Maui the last week of mask mandates. As happened in California, the last gasp of Covid restrictions is an odd in-between times. Either they’re necessary and useful or they’re not. Nobody believes that they are necessary right now, but we can already predict the date at which they will lose their utility. Kinda like the last two weeks of school, when no teacher assigns anything meaningful, the moment you announce that masks will no longer be required on a specific date in the future, it becomes a charade. 

Worse than California, ninety percent of the places in Hawaii where masks were required are outside. Including the damn airport, which isn’t even on the verge of lifting the mandate. I know, I know. “Following the science,” right? The science that outdoors is the safest place you can be. While I’ve poo-pooed many of the Covid restrictions (particularly those more performative than purposeful), but I’m all for masking up in airports, where drastically different populations comingling increases the likelihood of mutations and variants. But what do you do with an airport that’s mostly outside? Science works best when nobody asks questions.

The restaurants in Hawaii also tend to be outdoors. Nothing seems more foolish than putting on a mask to walk past a bunch of people sitting at tables in a sand pit, just to get to your sand pit, where you can take off your mask. All in a state that says masks will no longer be worthwhile the day after tomorrow. 

The biggest victim of Covid policies was our luau. At least I think. Or we could’ve just been at a shitty luau. Hard to tell.

One of the joys of a luau is the all-you-can-eat factor. I mean, sure, they dance fancy and ooo, ahhh, fire! And long tables to converse with strangers. But unlimited mai tais? Sign me up. 

Unfortunately, that whole “let everyone scoop their own food at the buffet” is frowned upon these days. Maybe. Instead, they brought plates of all the delicacies to our table. In their defense, they brought out eight appetizers, one scoop each, four to a plate, from which we could spoon from those plates onto our own. If it was buffet style, I might’ve doubled up on the noodles and macaroni salad, skipped the kimchi. Or maybe I would’ve tried a bite of kimchi, offset by an extra macaroni salad. When it’s delivered to us without ordering, all with the same-sized scoop, that’s not an option. Meaning, to be a good dad, I had to stock up on the taro root and leave Daughter the pasta types.

The dinner followed suit. One plate came with pork and fried rice, another with chicken and veggies, while a third had fish with veggies. There was plenty to go around for the three of us. I was able to eat two fish, one chicken, and some pork and there was still enough for the rest of the family. But scooping things from one plate to another doesn’t have the same feel as “What is that new exotic dish? Only one way to find out.” 

Not to mention, when you keep sending the poor waiter back to give you more free mai tais, as opposed to grabbing another one off the free-for-all table, it feels more co-dependent than festive. There was also substantially less variety of drink. At the last luau, random new drinks came out, just as fun to sample as food. This one had mai tai or a Blue Curacao lemonade concoction. I only had two, which doesn’t factor into the price of the luau quite as nicely as six. In fact, they stop feeling like “free” mai tais.

The next morning, we went to breakfast at a different hotel and, wouldn’t you know it, they had a buffet! No restrictions. The Indian place back home requires me to put on a goddamn HazMat suit to get some goddamn butter chicken these days, in a state that ended its Covid restrictions a month ago. Meanwhile, I can hack a lung over that vat of Hawaiian scrambled eggs till my heart’s content. 

So maybe they aren’t illegal during Covid? In which case, bad luau. And bad resort for blaming Covid (or making us assume to blame Covid), when you just didn’t want to bother putting out a pina colada fountain. 

Maui Geography

While this was my first trip to Maui, Wife’s been there a good twenty times because her parents have owned a timeshare for decades. Shit, Daughter already visited once before I made it out, because we didn’t have to worry about coordinating Spring Breaks when she was four. As such, I never understood people’s descriptions of where things are on Maui. Now, I understand a bit more, but still have a general sense of “Have you ever looked at a map?”

First and foremost, up vs. down. Every other spot on Earth, up means north, down means south. We might have a reasonable discussion on the effects of white privelege, but until the world decides otherwise, it’s how maps are made. In Maui, “up” appears to be toward the airport, or maybe up one of the mountains (Haleakala), but not the other (Pu’u Kikui). Any way you define it so that the resorts in Kaanapali are “down.” The Ritz Carlton up (north) in Napili is as far “down” as you can get. Now that I’ve been there, I kinda get it. It’s one long road, seemingly straight but actually curved, to get from the airport to the resorts. The road starts out going south. Maybe that’s where it comes from? It can’t be an elevation thing, because the runway is damn near on the water. I thought there was no fucking way we were going to land before the asphalt ran out.

Our zipline was upcountry, but also on the north side of the volcano,  so as a bonus, I can say we went “up” to the zipline and be correct either way. 

The most direct route from the airport to Napili and Kaanapali appears to be around the “top” of the island. But evidently that’s a shitty one lane road, like the “Back Road to Hana,” so you’ve got to go the long way. Even though they’ll complain about the traffic on the two main roads, they won’t throw some asphalt on the alternate routes.

Speaking of which, Wife often talks about the “Other side of the island.” Based on what I’d heard, I assumed that meant Hana. But no, nobody ever goes to Hana, other than to take the Road to Hana. The “other side of the island” from Kaanapali is Kihei. Down south. Facing west. Kind of like how Los Angeles and Seattle are on… different sides of the country?

Again, I kinda get it now, in that when leaving the airport, after driving south, you take a left to go to Kihei and a right to Kaanapali. But… but… They’re still on the same sides of the island. 

Resort Land

We were staying at Kaanapali. As were probably ninety percent of the tourists. It’s a minimum of ten gargantuan resorts, stretching along what would otherwise be a desolate coast. When you’re walking along the path late at night, there’s a really good chance the property you’re turning into is the wrong one. And you can’t even ask people for directions to the Marriott property, because I think Marriott owns half of them.

My wife and daughter kept gushing about Hula Grill, where they went before when staying at the grandparents’ time share. I assumed we wouldn’t be going there, seeing as we’re staying at a completely different property. Nope. Hula Grill’s in the middle of the sprawl, so every place feeds into it. As the hour and a half wait indicated. But we still slogged through it, (on our first night, approaching 11:00 pm according to my stomach), and it was, in fact, wonderful food. We went two more times before the vacation was out. With a mask while outside. Even more comical, the waiter asked if we needed our parking validated. Doesn’t everybody walk there? Although I totally wanted to Uber back to the hotel, because it was dark and windy and I knew for a fact I was about to walk into the wrong damn Marriott.

It’s not quite as removed from the local populace as some of those Mexican or Caribbean resorts. Unlike in Montego Bay, there are no warnings about being kidnapped if you leave the property. But it still feels like a segregated party town. On the drive in from the airport, it’s nonstop beaches and small towns, then wham! Hey honey, I don’t think I need the navigation app anymore.

Alright, that’s a good enough place to leave it. Read on for odd juxtaposition about the price of alcohol and my daughter having the audacity to grow up.

But Can Zalenskyy Hit a Curveball?

Have you ever seen somebody ruin their own life?

The Hamilton lyric has been running through my head like crazy the past couple weeks. Each morning, each midday, each nighttime, as  horrifying details emerged from the far-flung locations of Kyiv and Jupiter. Two sets of men with an inability to read the room, that room being the rest of humanity. Forget the Titanic failing to swerve in time, these guys diverted their ships from safe equatorial waters in search of an iceberg to blame.

No, I’m not saying the invasion of a sovereign nation and the canceling of some baseball games are the same severity. Obviously one only affects the free time of a small contingent of the world, who really ought to find better things to do than watching grown men scratch their asses. Meanwhile, the other affects baseball!

I kid, of course. The Ukraine situation is abhorrent in every way. Baseball is a minor distraction. And yet, the slow-motion trainwrecks seemed to develop along frighteningly similar tracks before the eyes of a horrified public asking the same question over and over. “They’re not really going to do this… are they?”

To be clear, I wrote the vast majority of this before the players (or possibly the owners?) caved on Thursday afternoon. But that doesn’t really change the calculus on much.

In the weeks leading up to both announcements, the main adversaries (the West, in the case of Russia, and the sports media in the case of MLB) announced, “This is what they’re going to do, this is the bullshit excuse they’ll use, and these are the facts that prove it’s bullshit.” Then both sets of magalomaniacs went ahead and did EXACTLY what the watchers predicted and were somehow surprised by the world’s response.

The really frightening thing about both situations is that neither instigator seemed to have an exit strategy (nor, really, victory conditions) in mind. In the end, the baseball owners finally decided they like making money. I don’t know how Putin saves face at this point, and it really sucks when the nuclear option includes an actual nuclear option.

Seriously, what the fuck is a vacuum bomb? I guess I can figure it out via context clues, but how is that a real thing? Like, we developed and tested it? I kinda thought all the things the Geneva Convention banned were shit already used in war, then after the fact we looked back and said, “Yeah, maybe let’s not use the mustard gas anymore.” How bad is something for us to go, “Wow, we’ve never used that before, and let’s make sure it stays that way”? Assuming this was developed during peacetime, maybe we need to rethink the whole “permanent standing armies” thing.

Of course, the only reason I know a vacuum bomb exists is because Russia moved oneinto Ukraine, so we announced we know it’s there and that they better not use it. Their response is a shrug. What are you talking about? We’re just here on vacation. Our Airbnb said we were responsible for vacuuming.

That’s pretty much been the m.o. in Ukraine over the past month. “Stop building up troops on the border.” “What troops?” “Those ones on this satellite photo.” “Oh, they’re only there because of all the Ukrainian bombs.” “What bombs? We’ve detected no bombs.” “Ukraine, our enemy, will set off bombs in three… two… one…”

Seriously, their first objective was Chernobyl? Really?

Allegedly they were entering Ukraine to protect the “breakaway” republics in the east, so naturally they invaded from the north on a beeline straight for Kiev. Ignoring the fact that those republics were only breaking away because Russia had been sending people (and those “Ukrainian” bombs) across the border for the past decade.

The baseball lockout progressed along a similar trajectory. After spending all November signing or re-signing over two billion dollars worth of free agents, the owners announced, “Whoa, we’re damn near bankrupt! If we don’t lockout the players, they’re going to strike.” They used the fact that the players union hadn’t negotiated with them on a new CBA proposal, despite the minor technicality that the owners hadn’t made a proposal yet. 

That first proposal wasn’t sent to the players for two months. Two weeks later, the beginning of Spring Training was delayed. After another two weeks, they canceled the first week of the season. The commissioner laughed when he announced the cancellation. At least Putin has the decency to keep his poker face on when getting exactly what he wanted.

And yes, canceling part of the season is exactly what the commissioner and owners wanted. Allegedly attendance is shitty in April, especially in areas where it’s cold. The settlement tacked that canceled week onto the end of the season. I guess ticket sales are better the first week of October than the first week of April. We all hated the sixty-game season caused by Covid, but I guess the owners loved that shit. If they could have a season that starts in July (plus fans paying for hotdogs this time), they’re in heaven.

As with Russia, the baseball owners made their real intentions all too obvious. Nobody believes Putin feared the tiny country next door, just like we knew the owners were trying to break the union. In my original write-up, I wrote “I half believe that if the players agreed to everything the owners asked for, they still would’ve canceled games on general principal.” That’s pretty much what happened with the international draft bullshit at the last minute. 

Similarlyt there ain’t a damn thing Ukraine might have done to avoid the invasion. Short of, I suppose, hoisting the ol’ hammer & sickle. Or letting the Russian army march through en route to another satellite state. I’m looking at you, Belarus.

In Putin’s defense, I was kinda surprised at the world’s reaction. I expected some finger wagging and furrowed brows, maybe a half-hearted sanction of non-essential goods. That’s what we did in Chechnya. And Georgia. And the last time Russia invaded Ukraine. But holy hell, the rest of the world certainly came with some gusto this time, didn’t they? 

I didn’t even know these weapons were in our quiver. Italy seizing the oligarchs’ chateaus was my personal favorite, but up and down the line, countries are going against decades of precedent. Germany’s re-arming. Nothing bad can come from that. Sweden and Finland are lending their support to Ukraine and talking about joining NATO. 

Holy shit, even Switzerland is taking sides? You’ve got to know things aren’t going to plan when the Swiss don’t want your money.

Who would have guessed that, after over seventy years, we would finally figure out how to stand up to a nuclear power. Putin certainly didn’t. Forget seventy years, this is pretty much the first war in human history that is being waged without the intent of killing as many as possible on the other side. Unfortunately for the Ukrainians, Russia didn’t get the memo. They’re getting it now.

I also prefer the general backseat the United States has played in this, too. Let those most affected lead the way. Germany and Poland  (there’s an ahistorical pairing for you!) seem to have a good idea of what’s at stake, and how they can stand up to Russia. The United States should be the supporting role in this particular Academy Award.

I know there are a lot of people freaking out that this is the start of World War III, but I’m not so sure. That 141-5 vote at the United Nations doesn’t look like there’s a lot of allies on both sides. The entire world rallied against one nation does not a world war make. Nor does supplying weapons and troops to a country that’s fighting off an invasion. If that was the case, we’d already be up to (at least) world war six, after Korea, Vietnam, and Afghanistan (Part One).

Then again, if one of the five countries supporting Russia is China, all bets are off. I notice they abstained from the vote. That’s disconcerting. My guess is they might’ve supported Russia before the world responded. Hell, if the West had done nothing more than its normal hands-on-hips posturing, I think Taiwan would already be assimilated. China might not give a shit about their own citizens, but they want the rest of the world to like them. And keep buying shit.

One group that didn’t seem concerned about winning hearts and minds was the baseball owners. I’m not sure they care about us buying from them, either. At least not tickets. I assume hats and jerseys are still selling. Maybe they can become a new Nike and survive on marketing, only. Then again, they’re shitty at crafting a message.

Let’s see what the players gave up in order to get a cost-of-living adjustment. Earlier free agency, more money for young players, minor-league pay higher than the federal minimum wage. Instead, they agreed to expanded playoffs without extra pay and to let the owners change rules whenever the fuck they feel like it. Including in the middle of a season. Who are we facing next week? Mariano Rivera? Quick, let’s ban the cut fastball. 

The owners countered with five percent off hotdogs. 

If they could figure out a way to make the entire season playoffs, and only allow the games to be shown on tv, they’d be all for it. Fans in the stands are such a hassle because you have to hire hotdog vendors and beer men. 

Speaking of those in-stadium workers, they were set to be out of work, too. Only they hadn’t been putting all their endorsement money aside for the last five years. So the players, those greedy “millionaires” who weren’t willing to agree to a contract they were never given, set up a fund to pay those hourly stadium employees. About five hours later, the owners pulled a “that looks bad” move and set up their own fund. Granted, the owners are their bosses so they could have, I don’t know, just continued paying those workers instead of setting up a separate pile of slush money that I’m sure had all sorts of legal ramifications and hoops to jump through. As a general rule, if your employees think to pay your other employees out of their own pockets, it’s hard to paint them as greedy sonsabitches.

And at the end there, the owners took one last dick move. The players agreed to bridge the gap on the financials. They were only about $60,000 apart on the minimum salary and $30 million apart for the luxury tax (hard to believe three months of acrimony over a disagreement over $760,000 or $700,000 for rookies, huh?), so the players more or less agreed to the owners’ demands. But hold on! The commissioner wanted to see if he could get through a cancellation without snickering. He might never be able to feel real human emotions, but can we give him one more shot at pretendsies? Otherwise the A.I. will never be able to evolve. 

So after the players agreed to give up money, the owners threw in a new negotiating ploy. Now they wanted an international draft, because dangit, they have to spend money on stars like Shohei Ohtani and Juan Soto! Wouldn’t it be better if they could just “win” the rights to these players and pay them the same minimum wages they pay the American minor leaguers? Heck, do you know how far $7.25 goes in the Dominican Republic?

I don’t even know if the international draft was in the final agreement. It doesn’t really matter. The only reason it was sprung at the last minute was so they could cancel more games. They could call the players greedy one more time, because they didn’t agree to something that hadn’t been discussed prior to that day. Then when the owners uncanceled those games the next day, they look like heroes. But only in the owners’ own minds. The rest of us saw through the bullshit all the way back to December. 

Not to be outdone, Russia and Ukraine agreed to a momentary ceasefire for the sole purpose of evacuating noncombatants from a few cities in the warpath. Then, wouldn’t you know it, the Russians started firing on the civilians as soon as they were out in the open. Then they made a second agreement and shelled them again. After the third ceasefire attack, they set up new “evacuation routes” that led to Belarus instead of Poland.

I know Bond villains are supposed to act Russian. I didn’t know Russians were supposed to act like Bond villains.

His poor wife.

Snow Camping

After multiple fits and starts, years after the initial idea crept into my brain with the perseverance of syphillis, I finally headed up into the mountains and camp in the great white, frigid tundra of the Sierra Nevada, facing harrowing white-out conditions, a la Jack London lightsabering open his Tauntaun, relying on only my MacGyver wits and those innate survival skills harkening back to caveman days.

Okay, a couple slight misrepresentations there. Jack London had no lightsaber. Other than that, it’s all legit.

Plus the fact that I was in Yosemite Valley, where there are park rangers every other square foot. Not to mention grocery stores. And bars, in case I forgot to pack enough beer, the ultimate survival sin.

Oh, and the weekend in question, the temperature was only a few degrees cooler than down in the flatlands.

This was my second planned glorious freezefest marred by temperate conditions. Two years ago, my outdoor curling bonspiel, held at one of the coldest spots in the lower 48 states, resulted in a high in the mid thirties and a low in the twenties. Don’t get me wrong, that’s cold and all, but that same competition this year had highs in the single digits.

Yosemite camping, in comparison, was closer to what I assumed it would be. Yeah, that high temperature wasn’t substantially lower than back home, but the high temperature doesn’t tell the whole story. In the valley, you probably get three to four hours a day near the high. In Yosemite, if you walk into a shadow, you’re losing ten degrees. The only time I felt truly miserable was 2:00 pm, returning to campsite after hiking to the Vernal Falls bridge, only to find said campsite completely shaded, and realizing that sweat cools very quickly. The sun teased us way up on the mountains, but it was gone for good from down below. Even though the temperature dropped another twenty degrees by nighttime, we were acclimated by then.

Actually, the most miserable I felt was when 28,000 steps at elevation combined with carnitas and beer. The bus that takes you into Yosemite is called YART, for Yosemite Area Rapid Transit. Yart is also what I did inside my tent.

Speaking of which, the shuttle busses are back! After two years of destroying the environment in order to stop the sniffles, they finally decided to let our feet and exhaust pipes rest. The only weird thing about the busses was the time and date posted inside were wrong. We rode around Saturday afternoon, but the busses through it was Sunday morning. We thought maybe if we rode the busses long enough, we could find out who won the Super Boal and make a bet on it. Alas, at 5:00 pm Saturday, it was still only reading 8:00 am Sunday, and I don’t think the shuttles ran at midnight when we could listen to the game. Damn you, time travel paradoxes!

Sorry, that had nothing to do with snow camping, just a Yosemite/Covid aside. 

As for the temperature thing, it did get pretty chilly overnight. Somewhere in the mid-twenties, I’d surmise, although one of the wives saw a report of 18. Nothing that a tent, sleeping bag, and about five layers of clothes. 

Oddly enough, my feet kept getting cold around 3:00 am. I’d think my feet would be the warmest, buried deep in my sleeping bag. But I suppose they’re also closest to the edge of the tent. Plus the whole distance-from-heart thing and only one layer of socks. On night two, I threw a hand warmer down there, but it had burned out by the time I needed it. I opened a second one, but I don’t know if I didn’t shake it right or if it was a dud or whatever, but it never seemed to warm up and I was too fucking tired to reassess. 

Yes, I’m talking about those little iron oxide packets. As I said, roughing it like our forebears. 

But dammit, there WAS snow on the ground, so I’m claiming victory over snow camping.

Honestly, I was a little worried. We had huge storms in December, but the last four weeks have been dry, and I wasn’t sure what impact a month of fifty-degree days might have on tobogganing conditions. I knew there’d still be snow up on the mountains, but the valley only sits around 4,000 feet elevation. Fortunately, there was plenty of snow to go around. Considering our campsite was in full shade from 2:00 pm on, I think the snow will stay there well past the equinox.

At least it wasn’t last year. We originally booked our snow camping for last January, but Yosemite canceled it due to the first, or maybe second, Covid surge. Back before we started naming variants, because they didn’t start naming variants until after got vaccinated and weren’t living in fear of plain ol’ vanilla Covid.

While I complained about Yosemite shutting down, because it’s not like we were going to be exchanging lots of saliva with strangers while outdoors in January, perhaps it was a blessing. Our first (and only) storms of the 2020-21 winter didn’t arrive until two weeks after our reservations. Without snow, it isn’t really snow camping. It’s just cold camping, which doesn’t sound nearly as fun.

Aside from the length of time it’s near the high, want to know the other difference between forty degrees at home and forty degrees camping? The latter doesn’t have central heating.

I figured forty was no big deal. I regularly walk to my classroom in shorts when it’s sub-40 in the morning, and half the times I’m wearing shorts because it’ll be 65 by the time I walk out. Except on the way to my classroom, I’m only outside for 500 paces or so. When it’s forty degrees at a campsite, you better be sitting your ass by the fire. Then your front. Then your ass again, like a goddamn rotisserie chicken.

I’m mostly exaggerating. Weatherwise, it was more or less what I was looking for. Cold and crisp, enough to require layers and bundling, but nothing bone-biting. Not sure I would’ve wanted to run around naked at midnight, but nothing a fire in the morning and evening, and a little walking around during the day, couldn’t accommodate. 

Although we did a hell of a lot more than “a little” walking around. In addition to those 28,000 steps, my Fitbit clocked me at 130 floors on Saturday. We did Mirror Lake AND Lower Yosemite Falls AND the Vernal Falls footbridge. I’ve become so used to camping out in the middle of nowhere where the biggest exertion comes from sitting by a lake and playing cornhole, that I forgot camping can include some rather aerobic exercises.

It doesn’t matter if I’ve done Vernal Falls twenty times in my life, I still fall for that sign at the beginning every damn time. “Vernal Falls Footbridge,” it reads, “0.8 miles.” How hard can a trail be if it’s less than a mile? 

Except for the fact that it’s 0.8 miles straight the fuck up a mountain. I tried to explain this to the two Yosemite noobs with me on this trip. We’d done Mirror Lake already and it was getting close to lunchtime. I really only wanted to see if Happy Isles was open. I didn’t need to prove anything.

But it’s less than a mile, they said. There ain’t no pain in the world we can’t withstand for one measly mile. Twenty minutes up, twenty minutes down, and we’ll be right and ready for lunch. 

Then I suddenly forgot a lifetime of experience. I’m older now than I used to be, I reasoned. My legs are longer. An hour car ride used to be straight torture, and now I do it on a daily basis. Based on that logic, the NFL would be filled with fifty-year-olds. 

Holy shit, Vernal Falls is a brutal fucking hike!

There’s one stretch, only fifty yards or so, that appears to cross the surface of the sun at something like a seventy percent grade. No, I don’t care if that can’t exist. This entire stretch stands only as a reminder, after hiking ninety percent of the way under a beautiful tree canopy, that nature is an asshole. On a summer hike, you rest beforehand, drink your body weight in water directly afterward, and then become a druid so you can fuck the nearest tree. 

I thought maybe it would be a pleasant respite in the middle of winter, but nope. Because when you’re hiking in forty-five degree shade, you’ve got layers. I contemplated stripping off my flannel and sweatshirt in order to cross the threshold in my skivvies, but that would’ve taken way too much effort.

When we returned to the campsite, now with no sunlight, my friends remarked it was a deceptive 4/5 of a mile. I felt like reminding them I tried to talk them out of it. But instead I only shivered while cold wind buffeted my sweaty undergarments.

The Mirror Lake trek was more pleasant. The only drawback to that slow, paved incline was some slippery-as-shit batches of ice. Not so bad on the way up as the way down. My curling skills came in handy. Walk like a penguin, low center of gravity. My friends didn’t do quite as well. Four tumbles between the two of them. 

Speaking of ice, I was surprised the actual lake was iced over. I suppose it shouldn’t surprise me. Ice and snow don’t form the same way, and if it’s regularly dropping into the twenties and teens at night, it doesn’t matter if it’s been a month without a cloud in the sky. But still, Mirror Lake is pretty shallow. Not really a lake at all so much as a slight egress, a Thanksgiving belt unbuckling, of a fast-moving stream. In fact, the pool just beneath Mirror Lake, which I always considered more or less a part of Mirror Lake, didn’t have a speck of ice despite only a fifty foot elevation change. 

And yeah, I totally wanted to curl on that shit.

The Yosemite Falls hike was pretty much the same as it is in the middle of summer. Almost as crowded, too. For the most part, the park was serene and, from the perspective of a regular summer day, sparse, but the Lower Yosemite Falls bridge was still ass-to-elbow.

The only other place that felt crowded was, ironically enough, the campgrounds. Only one of the seven or eight valley campsites is open in the winter, and it’s only half open, all of us jammed into a hundred or so campsites. So even with decreased demand, we’re still right on top of each other, especially for guys used to camping somewhere remote enough for home run derby and throwing butter at trees. Maybe Yosemite knew what it was doing when it canceled my reservations last January. I thought there was no way we could spread Covid to strangers while outside in January. Turns out it’s about as private as a cultish orgy.

They didn’t, however, close Yosemite Falls last January. I assume that’s what caused every single surge and variant of the past twelve months.

Even the village store was a ghost town. I didn’t even know it was possible for the parking lot to only house a handful of cars. On a summer day, you’re idling for ten minutes until one of the two hundred cars leaves. In January, they don’t even bother plowing half the parking lot. 

Or maybe it was just that people bought their shit during the day, not wanting to drive over icy roads in the dark like a couple dumbass city slickers rolling into town twenty minutes before the store closes.

Which leads to the biggest issue with my snow camping adventure, the biggest switcheroo from my comfort zone of summer camping. 

Did you know that the days are shorter in February than in June? Who woulda guessed?

I knew there was no way in hell we’d make it there before the sun went down, but couldn’t fight that niggling hope at the base of my spine that I wouldn’t be blindly groping in the frozen dark like a freshman trying to unclasp Elsa’s bra. We discussed grabbing dinner on the way into the park, but didn’t want to lose time. So no stopping at the Pizza Factory or inviting brewery in Groveland. Because… well, I’m not sure why. It’s not like 8:00 would’ve been darker than 7:00. Once you hit nighttime, you’re setting up camp blind. The only difference is sloppiness caused by hunger pangs.

In the end, after fumbling around with some persnickety poles that seem to go together perfectly fine when I don’t have to worry about my fat ass blocking the lantern light, we finally boiled some water and had ramen for dinner that first night. It was almost PB & J sandwiches, but the other guy realized he threw some packs into his camping gear back in the Bush administration and that stuff can withstand a nuclear winter. Or a Yosemite winter. 

Not as good as the brewery or pizza in Groveland. Then again, had we stopped for dinner, the store might’ve been closed when we got there, meaning we could only burn the wood we brought with us. Ramen and fire beats pizza and no fire.

Who says I’m irresponsible while camping?

Next year, Polar Bear Challenge!

Recipes for Writing

I make a pretty mean gnocchi. 

By which I mean really nice gnocchi. The only thing it’s mean to is your waistline, because everyone grabs seconds. There are plenty foods I make that people say are good but then politely push the plate aside when they’re finished. What, you don’t even want some for leftovers? That’s tantamount to those idiots who stand for the entire bow line at the end of the play. They think they’re supporting all the actors, but in reality, they’re giving equal feedback to the chorus line and Jean Valjean. 

Come on, people, I’m an aspiring writer. Show, don’t tell.

Not so with the gnocchi, however. 

I’ve got three solid “outside the norm” dishes. I mean, I’m no slouch when it comes to staples like hamburgers and barbecue chicken, and with a seven-year-old in the house, I’ve perfected every mac & cheese this side of the Andromeda Galaxy. But nobody asks how I make my hamburgers. People don’t rush back to the table to split the last drumstick.

My ravioli, jambalaya, and gnocchi, however, bring ALL the milkshakes to the yard. Yet every time I make them, somewhere halfway through dishes I’ve made countless times, I think they’re fubared. 

In the writing world, they call that imposter syndrome. 

Starting with the Jan Brady of the three, I discovered my jambalaya recipe in my mid-twenties when I became obsessed with New Orleans and all things creole. I went to Mardi Gras at the age of 25 and spent the next couple years hunting down the secrets of gumbo, etouffee, and various colored beans and rices. It seemed an easier experience to transport home than random women flashing me in return for cheap plastic trinkets.

Please note, I wrote creole, not Cajun. Creole food is a wonderful fusion of textures and flavors, foods and spices, into a rib-sticking umami. Cajun, by contrast, is crappy food, like catfish, they mask by drenching in spice and charring the shit out of. All the nuance of a ball-pein hammer.

Of all those NOLA recipes I tinkered with in my twenties, the jambalaya stuck out. Other than that one time I tweaked crawfish bread into scallop bread because, even though crawfish are readily available in Sacramento, they’re a pain in the ass to get the good stuff out of. Scallops accomplish many of the same profiles with much less hassle. If anything, they’re juicier, and scallop bread was fucking divine. Even better than crawfish bread, if I dare say. But I never made it again because it was messy as hell and scallops have become friggin’ expensive.

Damn, I might need to bust out that scallop bread again.

But yeah, other than scallop bread, jambalaya’s become my jam. I’ve probably only made it ten times or so, although more often in my thirties than more forties.  Having a child lessens the likelihood I’m having drunk friends over for Mardi Gras. Add to that the fact that Wife doesn’t care for red peppers or Andouille, plus shellfish inflames my gout like a motherfucker, and it’s much easier to just throw a pork roast in the oven or something.

Jambalaya isn’t tough to make, but it’s easy to mess up. You basically make a broth and then cook rice in it. It’s sometimes confused with gumbo, which is also rice in a broth. But the gumbo retains soup form, with the cooked rice being added at the last minute, whereas with jambalaya, the rice absorbs the broth, so it’s a rice dish, not a soup. 

Unlike other rice dishes, you don’t just throw a cup of rice into two cups of water then walk away for twenty minutes, it takes a few hour, stirring regularly, to absorb at a low simmer. The first time I made it, I burnt the shit out of the rice. It’s not a dish you can adjust on the fly. One of the recipes I based mine on tells you to taste the liquid before you add the rice with the caveat, “If it doesn’t taste right, it’s too late to do anything about it. Taste it anyway.”

Cooking jambalaya runs in the same lane as the “pantsing” method of writing. For those unfamiliar, with pantsing (meaning “seat of your pants” writing), you have no particular story in mind. You think up characters, throw them into a setting, and see what happens. Maybe the writer is a step or two ahead of the characters, but not always. Sometimes you write yourself into a corner. Sometimes a plot point simmers too long without stirring, and end up with some stale char. But the good news is that you can taste of the broth from time to time and adjust as necessary. Just don’t drop the rice in until all the characters have arrived at the dead man’s mansion. 

I wrote one of my books using the pantsing method. Most of my flash fictions are written in the pantsing model, and plenty of them end up burnt to shit. Blog posts, too. I know, who woulda guessed these bits of brilliance are nothing more than, “Fucked up on the gnocchi again, this reminds me of my writing” somehow morphing into 3000 words of drivel. 

The problem with pantsing is figuring out where to go with it, when to make stuff happen. You’ve got a premise and a hook, but if you don’t know when to add the rice, you spend five hundred pages circling the drain and never coming in for a landing. Allegedly Stephen King is a huge pantser. Most of the time he pulls it off, but he has a few books where the premise is way cooler than the payoff. I’m looking at you, Under the Dome.

The staple I’ve cooked for the longest is my ravioli. This is a family recipe that the kids “assist” on as early as five or six. I was in college the first time I made them on my own. You know you’re a badass when you’re asking for grooved rolling pins for Christmas at the age of twenty. In my defense, video games were at a low ebb in the mid-1990s. 

The problem with ravioli is the prep work. If I get a good groove going, and don’t get distracted by the television or the family, I can finish in a weekend. Yes, a full weekend. Including Friday night, when I cook the twenty or so ingredients that go into the stuffing. Then I need most of it to cool before I put it together into the food processor. Then back to the fridge to ensure it’s coalesced enough to hold some sense of form when I put it in the dough the next day. 

The dough takes all day Saturday and Sunday. Make a big ol’ batch, cut off one slice at a time and then roll, roll, roll, stuff, fill and fold, roll with the other pin, then slice. Layer them with wax paper in a Pyrex dis and throw them in the freezer, because they’re still liable to stick to each other at this point. Then start on the next Pyrex and by the time it’s full, you can take the other one out of the freezer and transfer all those frozen ravs into a freezer-safe Ziplock. Repeat the process for 36 hours or so. Ugh.

And yeah, my family recipe that’s been “passed down for generations” requires food processors, Pyrex, and freezers. Not sure how it was done back in Piedmont. Imagine my disappointment when I realized that the most important ingredient in my grandma’s “timeless” pasta sauce recipe was a packet of Lawry’s seasoning. 

Don’t scoff. It’s still my secret recipe.

Note you don’t actually EAT the ravioli the weekend you make them. This is a “make in October to have at Christmas” kind of meal.

In that way, they’re similar to the “planning” writing style, the opposite of pantsing. Should be self-explanatory, but planning entails plotting the whole thing out, knowing all the nooks and crannies, the pitfalls and prat falls, long pen hits paper. Or fingers hit keyboard, since we’re living in the age of Pyrex. 

The good news with planning is, if you do it right, there’s less danger of writing yourself into that corner. Spackle the plot holes before they turn into cervices.  Some people even plot specific conversations ahead of time and, allegedly, if you do it right, the book is easier to write by the time you get around to it. Sounds boring to me. 

That’s the problem with my ravioli, too. Who the hell wants to work on food all weekend, sending their back into apoplectic quivering, and douse the entire kitchen (and living room and bedroom and shower drain) with flour, so they can just drop it in a pot of water three months later? Not me. Especially when the accolades I receive as reward are about the same, possible a skosh less, than I get for my gnocchi, which only take a few hours.

I was well into my thirties by the time I started making gnocchi. I don’t even remember gnocchi existing in my youth. Nowadays, every Italian restaurant has them on the menu, but I was close to twenty years old, on a family trip to Italy, before I discovered these scrumptious pillows. My grandma was damn lucky I let her back on the plane after she shrugged and said she used to make it a lot but didn’t anymore. 

At least that meant she had a recipe somewhere. 

I still didn’t make my first gnocchi until close to a decade later. I assumed it was difficult, and ravioli was the Official Family Recipe(tm), so why waste time on something becoming more and more ubiquitous at every Italian joint? 

Turns out they’re pretty simple. Sure, you still need to spend a few hours doing the never-ending roll, slice, shape, freeze cycle, but the first part of the process only requires a couple mashed potatoes. It’s not like I’m going to bust it out on a weeknight or anything, but I can bust out a batch on a Saturday afternoon and still have time for college football. So much nicer than sirloin steak in a food processor.

Somewhere in the middle of pantsing and planning lies “plantsing,” which seems to me to just be how 80% of normal humans write. Or really, do just about anything. How do you put up Christmas lights? Do you draw out a bunch of schematics ahead of time? Do you randomly go up the ladder, hang some lights, then go to the opposite side of the house for one inflatable? Or do you pull all the shit out, inventory the basic things that need to happen, then try to figure out the most logical course, all the while ready to adjust the plan if, say, this string of lights needs a replacement bulb or that character needs a better back story? 

There’s always a spot in my gnocchi making, and in my writing, where I think I’ve fucked the whole thing, that I don’t know what I’m doing. Even when I know it’s coming, I still convince myself that no, this time is far worse, there’s no way to return from the sticky morass I’ve gotten myself into. 

With gnocchi, it happens when I add the egg and butter to the potato and flour dough. Grandma’s recipe says to add “most of the flour” to the mashed potatoes before this step, then add the rest to dry it out after this step. When I make it, there’s not enough flour on Earth to return the flour to a dry enough texture to roll. So I add a quarter cup, then another quarter cup, then fuck it, throw the other half in. Okay, one more cup. Another? Why is it still the consistency of pudding? I can’t even get it unstuck from the cutting board,  much less able to be cut and rolled. Wife, can you go to the grocery store for another bag of flour? I can’t touch anything.

I keep telling myself that Grandma’s measurements originated before GMO crops, so the ratio of one potato and half an egg to one cup of flour is off. Modern potatoes are one pound a piece, and I highly doubt great grandma coaxing an egg out of her Genoese chicken was opting between large, extra large, and double-x. So when I’m heading past six cups of flour to counter two eggs, yet still the dough sucks it in like a x-wing into a black hole, I’m always convinced I’ve fucked up. 

The recipe says the dough should be dry before slicing and rolling. Instead, I wait until it is barely malleable before starting the next step. Then I dust both the dough and the board before rolling it out. And dip the knife in flour before cutting. And the fork before shaping.  Yet still, every time I’m convinced this is the time, this is the batch my extended family and guests finally take a few bites and say,  “Thanks I’m stuffed. Can I have some more salad?”

I’ve recently quit two novels. The first I “temporarily put aside” to attempt a serialized story on Amazon Vella. But in reality, I knew the story was going nowhere. Two characters who had basted in my mind for years fell flat, their trials and tribulations pedestrian and predictable, once placed on paper. So if I could jump to an exciting new idea with a baked-in excuse (“Kindle Vella will make me a millionaire, but only if I’m in on the initial launch!”), then it won’t be the time-old story every writer faces at 25,000 words.

But boy, howdy, if I thought a character’s growth arc felt boring and predictable in standard format, imagine writing one as a serial! Good lord, episodic stories sure are episodic. Get in and out of a hairy situation in 2,200 words, then rinse and repeat. All the while knowing that character, not plot, is what brings people back to a series. But how much can I delve into character if I have to wrap up and restore the status quo before word number 2,500? 

I guess the good news was that I gave up the serial a little earlier. Fifteen k instead of thirty. Perhaps that means I’m growing as a writer. 

Or maybe that means I’m getting lazier. 

The bad news is that I didn’t go back to the abandoned project. Much better to go rewrite the first chapter of the finished project that I’m currently querying. Or working on the second draft for my other manuscript. And I hate editing, so that tells you something if I’d rather edit than write fresh. At any given time, I’ve usually got 2-5 completed blog posts, but I still only post twice a month. Why? Cause it’s easier to write something shitty than polish my previous turds. And by the time I get around to fixing them, I have to rewrite half of it. Shit, Obama isn’t president anymore?

But at least those completed novels are going somewhere. They were solid enough characters and stories to carry 100,000 words (which need to be edited down to 70,000). They’ve got backstories and foreshadowing, a twist nobody sees coming. Despite the fact that I was absolutely bored with them at 30,000 words and was absolutely convinced I couldn’t get them where they needed to be in that one scene.

I don’t give up on my gnocchi, despite being 100% sure, each time, that my best option is to throw the gunk into the trash and starting from scratch. All the writing advisers say don’t abandon your project. The fancy “other” story will always entice you from afar, but it’s a mirage. Once you start writing that one, you’ll bog down into the mushy middle the same as where you are right now. Ignore that siren’s call. 

Then again, all those advice people say they’ve had to abandon projects before. Whether it’s a “fatal flaw” in the story or a plot hole the size of an iceberg. Crystal clear writing advice: never give up on a project. Unless, you know, it’s worth giving up on. Kinda like four potatoes equals four cups of flower. Except usually not.

Truth be told, I should’ve abandoned my last batch of gnocchi. Even after six cups of flower, it was still as moist as the Mekong Delta. It was a pain in the ass to roll out and half the time when I tried to roll one off the fork, it remained on the fork. The end results were larger than usual, and even after an hour in the freezer, they weren’t frozen enough to transfer to a Ziplock. We transported them to Grandma’s house still in the Pyrex and rolled them straight into the water from their parchment paper.

Nobody complained, though. They still went back for seconds. And honestly, even if they weren’t up to my standards, they were still fine. Now that I think of it, I didn’t need to start the batch over. What I had was fine, it just needed more flour. I was just sick and tired of adding flour after a couple hours. But I’ve plantsed my way through this recipe enough times to know that I always reach this point. This batch might have been worse than most, but it’s all variations of the same problem. The best way through is forward, not some magical new batch that will behave better.

Maybe there’s something to be said for powering through. Not giving up on a batch or a story midway through. 

Now if only I could figure out how to add a little more flour to that plot hole.

Family and other F Words

My family occasionally reminds me why I moved to the other end of the state.

That “occasion” is every damn time I have to interact with them. 

Christmas this year was no exception. Is it too soon to wish for the good old days of 2020 when we had baked-in excuses to avoid travel and gatherings? Sure, that excuse still exists. It’s just sounding more like an excuse.

The Boomers who have ruled my extended family with an iron fist since the moment they clawed their way out of war-weary wombs are dragging everyone into their self-centered black holes. They never doubted their infallibility over the last seventy years, why should they start now?

My parents generation wrested Christmas and other holiday celebrations from their own parents in the so-called Greatest Generation while in their thirties and forties. Meanwhile, I’m pushing fifty, but so far they’ve allowed ONE member of my generation to host ONE holiday. And it’s Easter, which no one gave a shit about. You can take Charlton Heston’s gun easier than we can take a Certified Family Gathering(tm).

I mean, come on, if they were the “Greatest Generation,” why would they let other generations take things from them? Don’t they know that greatness means grabbing everything and holding onto it with a death grip? Otherwise the fascists win. Not that the Greatest Generation would know jack shit about standing up to fascists. They didn’t have Facebook OR Twitter in 1941. How could one possibly stand up to fascism without changing the font on their profile picture? “Greatest.” Pfft.

For the past thirty-ish years, Christmas dinner has shifted between my mom, my aunt, and their cousins. As negotiated in the Great Treatise on Holiday Celebrations reached during the Clinton Administration, right up there with the Good Friday Agreement and Oslo Accords., my mom and aunt hold the Christmas festivities in even years, while the heathen side of the family got the odd years. 

Not that they’re heathens. With an Irish last name, you might think I’ve got a protestant/Catholic thing going on. The two sides of my family, descending from my grandpa and his sister, are quite agreeable. It’s the generation gap that gets a bit hairy. In case you hadn’t noticed.

As with everything, Covid kinda fucked up that whole arrangement. Nobody held Christmas in 2020. There was quite some consternation, and many negotiations back and forth, as to whether 2021 should go to the person who was skipped in 2020, my aunt, or the original 2021 designee, a cousin. I can only assume both sides sent pawns to a neutral location with missives and salvos before going to the mattresses.

Enter my niece, who graduated college in December. Because no story about obtuse Boomers is complete without a it’s-all-about-meeeeeee Zillennial. I’m not sure whether she was demanding a graduation party or whether my mom, her grandma, insisted. Probably a bit of each. Grandma uses any excuse to throw a party, not because she enjoys company, but so she can prove she throws better parties. But niece was the one who didn’t want to wait until spring or summer for her party. Granted, it’s taken her seven years and at least three locations to finish said college career, but now that she’s finished, dammit, gotta throw the party ASAP.

Seems a simple pickle, yeah? Just cancel Christmas and throw a graduation party instead.

I wish I was being facetious. 

Step one. Niece can’t make it to Grandma’s house for Christmas because of, I don’t know, work or friends or bong hits. So they planned her graduation for the middle of January. What’s better than one Awkward All-Family Shoutfest over the Holiday Season? That’s right, two.

And okay, not to throw everyone else under the bus without acknowledging the grenades I lobbed. Because if we’re lumping people into their generations, then how does Gen X play out?  “Yeah, I ain’t fucking doing that.”

Did I mention that my students asked if I was a Boomer? I was incensed. After I explained I was Generation X, they responded that they had never heard of that. So right on par.

In this family issue, I feel I made many concessions. In fact, I was willing to fly to Southern California for both events, Christmas and the graduation. What I refused to do was make my daughter schlep her ass across the state twice in a two-week period. Especially with one being the day after Christmas and the other being at the end of her first week back at school after two weeks off. To say nothing of the $500 I spend each round trip. 

I thought the most logical trade-off was both of us come for Christmas but then it’s just me for graduation because, honestly, why does a 7-year-old care about college? Like most 7-year-olds, she has a natural aversion to festivities where everybody’s gushing over someone else instead of her.

Naturally, nobody gave two shits if I was going to be there. If I don’t bring Daughter, then I might as well sit my ass back at home and save five benjamins.

Regardless, I set out the plans. Both of us would pack everything up the day after Christmas to come visit for a few days, then I would fly down solo in January. 

As an aside, I’ve hated with a passion, since my earliest days, the whole visiting grandma after Christmas. Even when we only lived an hour away, the trip to Grandma’s house lasted from 10:00 am on Christmas morning through at least the 27th, usually the 28th. What’s more fun than opening a bunch of gifts then leaving them behind for three days? And sure, I could bring some of the new stuff, but it’s torturous when you get the hot new video game from Santa, but Grandma doesn’t have an NES. Some years I brought the case and read the instruction booklet.

One “Yeah, I ain’t doing that shit” I carved out years ago is not flying down until the 26th. Of course, we spend most of the 25th at Wife’s family, so there’s still an element of never getting to play with your new shit, but welcome to the holidays.

Except not this year. Cause my mom told me that if we were only coming to one of the two celebrations, she’d rather it be the graduation. She talked about how everybody I’d want to see at Christmas would also be there at graduation. And they’d cook the same dinner, if that’s what I was worried about missing out on. And the baby (there’s a baby in the family) might not be there the day after Christmas but would definitely be there at graduation. 

The first thing I asked before deciding was if my aunt was okay with it. After the prolonged negotiations, this year’s Christmas was gifted to my aunt, who missed her turn last year, instead of her cousin, who was originally slated for this year. I wanted to make sure she was okay with me not showing up for Christmas. My mom thought this was an odd request, because who gives a fuck about other people’s ideas and emotions? But she acquiesced and (allegedly) got clearance from my aunt, and then we were set.

Well, not really set, because now that my mom has us all coming down for a graduation on a Saturday in January, why not stick around all day Sunday to open presents and eat quiche and drink Bailey’s, basically the full Christmas bacchanal. Then jam all those presents into an extra suitcase that we pack for a 36 hour turnaround and hope it isn’t over fifty pounds on the return flight.

And again, maybe I’m the asshole here, but I said no fucking way. If you want us there for the graduation instead of Christmas, you get us for graduation, not Christmas. You know what’s great about opening presents on the 26th or 27th? I don’t have a brand new term, with new subjects and new students the next day. So sorry, but I’m not flying down on a Saturday in order to do a full extended family party followed by a present orgy the following morning in order to fly home late on Sunday to get both Daughter and I ready for school the next day. If you want us there for Christmas, we’ll come for Christmas.

That’s an asshole hat I’ll proudly don.

Not that I went scrooge or anything, I bought everybody gift cards I could easily hand to them during the festivities so as not to take the focus away from the graduating Zillennial. I sent presents to those who wouldn’t be at the graduation.

Who wasn’t going to be present, you might ask? After all, one of the selling points was that “everybody who would be at Christmas” would also be at the graduation. Except for my aunt. 

Could you guess that was coming? Turns out my aunt wasn’t quite so thrilled at her sister telling people to skip her party for the much cooler one in January. My uncle thought my mom was trying to replace their Christmas with the graduation which, of course, “never entered” my mom’s mind, except for yeah, that’s exactly what she fucking did. So whether to placate my mom or stop hearing about it from her husband, my aunt finally canceled Christmas. 

Well, she didn’t cancel Christmas. Hallmark wouldn’t allow that. But she tapped out of the family bullshit and gave the annual celebration back to the cousin who would have been scheduled to have it during this odd-numbered year if not for 2020. So all is right with the world. And my mom was happy to note that none of this drama would happen next year, because it’s her scheduled year. And if my aunt goes six or eight years between hosting, who the hell cares, right? Seventy-year-olds regularly wait around eight years for shit to happen. Just ask Joe Biden.

So fine, I’m staying home for Christmas, Aunt is miserable, but Mom gets her precious all-hands-on-deck celebration. All is right with the world and if it’s not, at least the repercussions shouldn’t last longer than a decade anyway, right?

If only someone had asked Mom to clear it with Aunt first. Oh right, I did.

Except don’t forget, these plans are being made in the joyous 2020-2022 corridor, so you know Covid is going to rear it’s ugly head. Earlier this week, I got a text that, due to the recent Covid spike, the graduation party is canceled. Postponed until spring or summer when we can festivate outdoors. It was surprisingly thoughtful for my mom, until I inquired further and one of those “spikes in Covid” was her husband. Had it not affected her household personally, I’m sure she would’ve thrown caution to the wind.

But wait, there’s more. Don’t cancel your flight yet, Mom implores! Maybe I can still fly down and we can open Christmas presents. In mid-January. Because I skipped Christmas at her request. For a graduation that isn’t happening.

Just so long as Mom gets her “Christmas” photo of all her grandkids and her one great-grandkid. Except one of the grandkids and the great-grandkid won’t be there, because husband of said grandkid (and father of said great-grandkid) just got Covid. Oh, and the one other cousin near my daughter’s age won’t be there either. Her mother has Covid.

Far be that from convincing my mom to put a cork in her fantasy of creating a holiday celebration better than her sister’s holiday. And if we all catch Covid from each other, than maybe that old “I’m in my seventies, this might be the last…” will come true. 

So now I’m schlepping my ass t Southern California for no reason other than to open presents. And I’m not giving presents, I’m only handing people cards.  Like a typical self-centered Gen X’er.

Present at this function will be my mom, my sister, the niece who just graduated college but isn’t getting her party, and my aunt. 

Yes, my aunt. Because my mom’s husband has Covid, these festivities have been moved to my aunt’s house. 

In economics, we call that an equilibrium.

A miserable, pain-in-the-ass equilibrium. And just like the ones in economics, the only ones who it benefits are the Baby Boomers.

Piss Off, 2021!

What to say about 2021?

This time of year I’d usually reflect on the travels and travails of the previous twelve months. I used to post year-end concert reviews, but that was back when concerts were a thing. Maybe I could post about something as benign as the smiles on people’s faces, but somehow we’ve now been convinced that masks are more effective at stopping germs than vaccination is, so it’ll be another decade before I see someone’s smile again.

It’s been at least two Novembers since I’ve written about what I’m thankful for. Ironic, huh? When the world is on fire, it’s harder to focus on the things that keep us sane. Maybe we’re too afraid that by naming them, they’ll drop into fuck-up mode. I think if you say family three times out loud, then Bloody Mary’s going to come through the bathroom mirror and give us the omega variant. 

So fine, here’s the story of 2021: You only have to wear the masks until the vaccine gets here. Hah, hah, just kidding, keep wearing the masks. And that vaccine? Yeah, even though it’s working, it might not be working, so get the new one. Well, you don’t GOTTA get the new one. It’s approved, but not recommended. Or is it recommended but not required? This shit’s worse than iPhones. Steve Jobs says all the cool kids are swapping their Pfizer for a Moderna.

I’m not saying 2021 was worse than 2020. Sure, I haven’t seen a concert in two years, but at least in 2021, I was able to see a few movies. But I’m supposed to wear my mask while eating popcorn, even though the closest person is five seats away and probably vaccinated. We’ve known the virus doesn’t travel via touching the same object an infected person touched for a good eighteen months now, but we’re not acting like it. 

2020 was pure chaos. The entirety of human society was touch and go for a few months. It was a fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants, kiss-your-hand-and-slam-it-on-the-car-ceiling-through-the-yellow-light kinda year. We pulled out ALL the metaphors in 2020. 

But 2020 gets a bit of a pass. “Unprecedented,” one might say. Right before you punched them in the mouth. From six feet away.

2021, by comparison, was torture.  Without a fore-ordained excuse. One might call 2021 precedented. 

Not that you’d know it by how we acted.  

Honestly, I’ve been fully vaccinated since March (or at least what was once considered fully vaccinated), but I still have yet to travel or go to Happy Hour or allow my students to see my mouth. 2021 was supposed to be different. 

And don’t get me started on the motherfucking omicron variant. We’re all aware that omicron is, like, ten letters after delta, right? What made this carriage sexier than the last nine? It might be a little more contagious, but less deadly. Many epidemiologists are saying we need to focus on hospitalizations, not pure numbers. My scant understanding of virus biology is that “contagious but not deadly” is where we want our viruses to be for long-term stability. Flus and colds are contagious but not deadly. Viruses don’t like killing us their host.

It feels like the pearl clutching over the omicron nothing burger seems suspiciously tied to the children’s vaccine being approved. Because the last time we thought we were in the woods, and people stopped clicking on every media clickbait, they reminded us that the kids still couldn’t get vaccinated so make sure you keep coming back and seeing our advertisements. Once we got our kids vaccinated and could finally say, “Everyone who wants it is vaccinated and the rest deserve what they get, I’m going to stop following the clickbaits,” they come back with, “But wait, here’s OMICRON!”

It could also be explained by the media people wanting an excuse when they knew it would be spiking in places like California and New York after they’d been blaming it on dumb rednecks all summer long. They know it spikes when we go inside. The south is really hot in the summer, so people go inside. In New York and California, we go inside when it gets cold. But OMICRON gives us an excuse.

My favorite Herr Kommandant out of all the Herr Kommandants, Monsieur Newsom of California, recently re-implemented a mask mandate throughout the state, which was an ironic turn of events considering we never really got rid of the mask mandate in the first place. But he has to do that because, wag finger, we’ve been “spiking” since Thanksgiving. 

Also because poor Gavin’s name has been out of the news recently and he’s got to run for re-election next year. When the first omicron patient was found in San Francisco, he couldn’t roll out the press release fast enough. Slick back the hair and grab some tv cameras, baby! Like Navin Johnson when the new phone books arrive. “The new variant is here! The new variant is here! I’m finally somebody!”

But this new mandate isn’t a statewide mandate. It only affects every single inch of the state outside of San Francisco. Because, I shit you not, San Francisco been “taking the virus seriously.” So I guess the other 39 million Californians are all dumbasses. Including Marin County and Santa Clara County, which both have HIGHER vaccination rates than San Francisco, but somehow are not exempted from the mask mandate.

Any guess where Herr Kommandant was spending his holidays? Had he only declared the French Laundry a “Covid-free location,” he could have avoided the whole recall election. So glad he’s learned from his mistakes. 

BTW, I just checked the numbers. Want to guess which location is leading the state in cases per 100,000? I’ll give you a hint: they’re taking the virus very seriously. 

Sorry, this was supposed to be a post about 2021 and here I am taking about variants and mask mandates. And I’m breaking my rule, talking about case numbers instead of hospitalizations. And using the numbers to prove I’m better than people I don’t like.

But that’s what’s so frustrating! We shouldn’t still be talking about variants and mask mandates in December 2021!

Last year, we took Daughter for a picture with the Grinch instead of Santa. Seemed fitting for 2020. While there, we bought a couple of funny Grinch masks. “Six feet? I prefer sixty.” Ha ha, way to thumb our nose at 2020. But I remember saying at the time, “This is silly, because I’m only likely to wear it at Christmas time, and by next Christmas, masks won’t be a thing anymore.” I should’ve known better. I ain’t saying shit about 2022. 

The worst part of this entire story? The mall didn’t having a Grinch’s Grotto this year. Santa was the only option.

2020 was unprecedented. 2021 is just an asshole.

Fine, you want a concert review? Let’s return to New Orleans, where I was scheduled to go see Vampire Weekend in October 2020, before it was canceled. In October 2021, I tried again.

The Jazz Festival, which I’ve always wanted to go to, was postponed from May to October. That’s how 2021 rolled, or was supposed to. Instead of canceling outright, we merely postponed, as if the light at the end of the tunnel was not some decades-away illusion.

This postponement worked great for me. Normally the Jazz Fest is in May, which is a really bad time for me to take an extended weekend. AP Tests and finals and students who have slept in my class for five months magically “finding” all their “late work” to turn in. But in October, my school gets one week off in between first and second quarter. That’s why I was planning to see Vampire Weekend last October. Even without concerts, it’s a great time to travel because nobody else has it off. 

But Vampire Weekend is no Jazz Fest, and this particular Jazz Fest seemed poised to triumphantly announce, with the trumpets of Jericho (or at least Trombone Shorty) our return to the living. The lineup included Elvis Costello and Stevie Nicks and Jimmy Buffet! I even convinced Wife, who has a substantially lower impression of the Crescent City, to accompany me. I don’t understand her negativity on the subject. Who DOESN’T want to deal with their husband pissing himself after his seventh hand grenade? 

In the end, it didn’t matter. The postponed 2020/2021 Jazz Festival was canceled back in ye olden days of the Delta wave. That light at the end of the tunnel was an approaching locomotive.

The irony was that they canceled the concert, scheduled for October, because New Orleans were spiking in August. Had we not already lived through seventeen waves of this bullshit, such a decision might be understandable, but don’t we know by now that a place spiking in August will be fine by October? 

Spikes usually last about four weeks. We start changing our behaviors in week two. We cancel shit late in week three, so by the time the event would have happened, the surge has moved on to some other locale.

Sure enough, when they canceled the concert in August, the Louisiana 7-day rolling case count was hovering just under 6,000. By the time the concert was scheduled, in mid-October, it was below 700. As anyone who’s paid any attention over the past two years could have predicted.

Again, if this came to pass on 2020, I might give it a pass. 2021 has no fucking excuse. 

Unfortunately, we only like to focus on surges when they happen in locales belonging to the other political party. Then it proves that they’re doing everything wrong and we’re doing everything right. Then we like to ignore it when it hits our party’s part of the country. If the only pattern we’re looking for is red or blue, I guess we’ll never find that subtle nuance of four-week surges. It’s not like we can find them ad infinitum in the statistics.

Such is life here at the beginning of the Roaring Twenties. Make your plans, have the plans change, then after you’ve adjusted to round five of the bullshit, they just cancel it altogether. Take the vaccine but then act like the vaccine doesn’t work. Who are the real anti-vaxxers, the people who refuse to take it or the people who take it and then ask all the other vaccinated people around them to wear triple-ply masks?

So yeah, 2021, it’s time you move the fuck on. A sequel is supposed to switch things up a bit, using the same characters in different contexts, maybe try a different theme. But this Covid sequel is just marking time, retreading the same tired plot with promises that some special guest star might excite us here and there. If the writers can’t nail Empire Strikes Back, dare I ask what drivel is coming in Return of the Jedi?

Or Superman III.

Let’s at least hope this is only a trilogy. If it’s Fast and Furious, schedule my aneurysm for 2023.

Huevos de Awesome

Beer: Not just for breakfast anymore.

No wait. This post isn’t about beer. For once.

Let’s talk about eggs. The great cornerstone of all cooking, the barometer against which all kitchen staples compare themselves.

The only legitimate reason for chickens to not live long enough to provide me more buffalo wings.

The only aborted fetuses that both sides of the aisle can agree on.

Heck, you can even use them to determine if you’re taking good drugs.

Who doesn’t love going out to breakfast? We don’t go often, but once or twice a season, almost always on Saturdays, not Sundays with the plebs, mind you. But bow howdy, plant me in front of a plate dripping with sausage gravy and hollandaise sauce, complete with the same number of calories I usually ingest over a full 24 hours, including that twelve pack of beer I’m probably burning off from the night before, and I’m in for a golden day. 

At least until 10 am, when I’m headed for an hour on the shitter.

But seriously, how hard is it to make those eggs over medium? It’s the kryptonite of every line cook. Over easy comes out like snot, while over hard is a brick of chalk. Over medium is named thusly for a reason. Cooked whites, runny yolk. Instead, they overcook it before the flip, making the yolk about 70-100% hard. On a good day. The other day I had a rock-hard yolk with snotty whites. How the hell does that happen? Medium means BETWEEN hard and easy, not 50% hard and 50% easy.

I could make it myself, after all. I’m paying you because I’m hungover. Or I’m about to be.

I can’t do poaching. Or hollandaise. Although I could’ve come up with a better name than Eggs Benedict. Greatest traitor in American history gets a yummy breakfast treat named after him? Cause it’s got Canadian bacon in it, and he tried to turn West Point over to the Canucks? 

Corned beef hash is about 50/50. I could probably do it, but damn, that’s a lot of effort. Better to get it at a restaurant. 

That’s what I enjoy most about eating breakfast out. So I can get something that’s a pain in the ass to make at home. It’s not like dinner, where they’re probably using better ingredients than I’ve got at home. The eggs and bacon and potatoes, I could do at home.

Some people order scrambled eggs out at breakfast. I cannot fathom such a thing. Why the hell would you pay ten or twenty bucks for something with such minimal effort? O By the time I get in my car, drive here and twiddle my thumbs, I could’ve scrambled eggs for ten people. h, and a sausage patty on the side? You mean the thing that you throw in a pan and flip once? Done!

While I technically can make a proper over medium egg, I’ll be honest and say it’s not 100%. The yolk ruptures on the flip, or sometimes on the initial crack. Sometimes I even do the overcooking that I malign the line cooks for. Then again, I make it once a month, not five hundred times every Sunday.

But scrambling? They take five minutes and are impossible to mess up. 

Most of the time, the scrambles I make at home are better than whatever they’re offering up at Breakfast R’ Us. It’s usually called “Whatever Leftovers We Have Scramble/Omelet.” Taco beef or fajita chicken? Throw it in. Pork chops and apple slices? Absolutely! Mac and cheese? Tator tots? You’re skeptical, but it all works, so long as you have some shredded cheese. 

Such is the majesty of eggs.

I have similar issues with pancakes and waffles. Pancakes aren’t tough, so if you want me to purchase them, you better jazz it up, make it something better than I could make at home. Coconut? I’d love some. Nuts and oats and shit? Sure, sign me up. 

Although probably not shit. Not that I see it on the menu often. Probably at Denny’s.

Waffles, on the other hand, are a pain in the ass to make. Even worse, I have to dirty a different dish than usual. A cooking device that I only use for one thing, so it’s way the hell in the back of the cabinet. Pull out the slow cooker, pull out the InstaPot. Move over the popcorn maker. Then I’m probably going to have to clean it once BEFORE I even cook with it. There’s a reason no menu features a dust-layered waffle. Not even Denny’s.

Then the waffle maker’s going to sit out on my counter for five days until I get around to its second cleaning. Probably right around the time I need the counter space for the slow cooker. 

But even when I order a waffle at a restaurant, it ought to come with an egg on the side. I’ll even allow scrambled.

Eggs (non-scrambled) belong with biscuits and gravy, too. Runny yolk mixing with sausage gravy together is the closest mere mortals can come to understanding the divine. The fact I usually have to order the egg on the side is criminal. I know the biscuits and gravy have a million calories, so they don’t want to add more, but come on! 

The point is that eggs were made for breakfast and breakfast was made for eggs and never the twain shall meet. Scratch that. Always the twain should meet. As long as I have substantial bathroom time, and maybe a twenty-mile jog, blocked out the rest of the day. 

You know where eggs cease to be wonderful? Recipes.

Eggs become such bullies, such persnickety little divas as soon as you start combining them with flour, milk, and oil.

I’m sorry you’re no longer the headliner, Mr. Egg, but must I really separate your whites from your yolks? Then whisk one whilst folding the other? Who the fuck died and made you Queen Bee? Just because omelets are French doesn’t give you the right to live high and mighty like Marie Antoinette!

What’s that? She was Austrian? And was executed? Huh. Maybe not such a fun life. The parties were fun before the whole execution thing, though. But aside from THAT, Mrs. Lincoln, how did you enjoy the play?

My biggest problem with eggs in recipes, however, is how poorly divisible one egg is. We have these wonderful measurement increments that can be doubled or halved, tripled or quartered, at will. My measuring cup has notches down to one-eighth of a cup and everybody knows that one-sixteenth of a cup is a tablespoon. Super easy. 

Yeah, yeah, metric system, blah, blah. How easy is it to cut your ten deciliters into fourths. I can sort of be talked into metric when it comes to distances, but in the kitchen, give me imperial units, because it’s very rare I need to cut a recipe in tenths. 

Although I’ll be the first to admit that three teaspoons per tablespoon is stupid. It completely defeats my argument about factors of two.

It doesn’t matter, because if the recipe’s got eggs in it, you ain’t dividing that shit up by anything other than the number of eggs. Recipe makes fifty cookies but only requires one egg? Then you better call some friends over – you ain’t making less than fifty.

Like the banana in the smoothie, that egg is a bastard of a bully. 

The pancake recipe I use calls for three eggs. Halves and quarters I can get behind, even tenths if I must sully myself with the metrics, but, like with teasponns and tablespoons, thirds are an abomination. You can’t even write them as proper decimals.

My family requires two-thirds of this particular recipe. So when it calls for a 1/2 cup, I now have to stretch the limits of my math prowess, carrying various numerators and denominators. Two-thirds of one-half? That’s like mixing hockey and football. Let’s see, one half of a soccer game is 45 minutes, 2/3 of which is 30 minutes, which is 1/3 of 90 minutes. Carry the seventeen and 1/3 of a cup is easy enough to measure. 

Or, you know, they could’ve written the recipe assuming 2 or 4 eggs.

Where this recipe legitimately catches me, every fucking time, is the milk. The recipe calls for 1 1/4 cups. Want some fun figuring out two-thirds of 1.25? The best I can figure, being a history teacher instead of a math teacher, is to cross multiply 5/4 by 2/3, which gives me 10/12. Sure I can simplify that down to 5/6, but I’m still going to have to eyeball that one. Measuring cups might have a 1/3 on there, but they’re not adding smaller gradations. 

Because recipes aren’t meant to be divided by 2/3!

Perhaps I should be more skeptical of this recipe. It also calls for one tablespoon of sugar, but three teaspoons of baking powder. Why two measurements for the same amount? Would the metric version of this recipe read. 15 mL of sugar as opposed to three 5 mL of baking powder? 

It’s like a test you’re destined to fail. 

World War II ended in:
a) 1945 
b) the year after 1944

Wait, European theater or Pacific theater? And do we have to convert the year to metric?

At least this recipe doesn’t require separating the yolk and the whites. The recipe I use for waffles does, and I swear I did the math once and it required 13/12 of a cup of something. And that’s on top of unburying the waffle machine.

Go fuck yourself, egg. You ain’t all that.

Unless you’re properly poached on top of an eggs benedict. Then you can surrender my fort to the British any day of the week.