Tuesday, October 31, 2006


Wow! The past week has been incredibly busy, but at least I can’t complain that I’ve been deprived of US culture. Or partying!

For starters, my daughter’s fourth birthday was Sunday. But that’s a deceptive statement, since the birthday celebration actually started last August when my family—in what is becoming an annual tradition—threw Inés a way, way early birthday party while we were in Chicago.

But party train hit full steam last week.

We had a birthday party for Inés’s friends and classmates on Thursday at the local kiddieland park. You know...it’s one of those storefronts in which 700 toddlers jump into a pit filled with 700,000 plastic balls and remain merrily submerged for 7-8 hours.

The only difference between US kiddie parks and Spanish ones is that the Spanish ones all have bars serving beer to the parents. No joke.

The next day (Friday), Inés had another birthday party with exactly the same kids attending—but this time, it was *in* school. Yes, Daddy dropped Inés off at school...along with an arm-load of grocery bags filled with pastries and juice boxes.

When Daddy picked-up Inés, she was wearing a large, cardboard crown and a even larger smile.

Then on Friday night, we were invited to a “Fall Harvest Festival” at an American-run, English-language, evangelical school a couple of towns over. Here’s where the American culture bit really kicked-in.

It was like stepping into Mayberry—only with much better weather. This Festival had everything that a homesick American boy could ask for. Bobbing for apples. Tractor-pulled hay rides through the moonlit corn fields. Face painting. Country line dancing (not for me, of course!). Apple pies. Pumpkin pies. And hot dogs and s’mores roasted over a campfire.

Do you know how long it’s been since I had last seen a God-damned marshmallow?! Let alone, setting one ablaze and stuffing the entire black-encrusted ball of molten napalm into my mouth. I almost wept with joy.

After the Fall Harvest Festival, I put Inés to bed and started cooking for Sunday’s Birthday BBQ.

Actually, that’s not true. I started cooking the previous Sunday, when I dusted off The Salivator and spent twelve hours smoking 11 lbs. of pulled pork—which I then froze, because I know that the art of smoking has no respect for tight deadlines.

But, anyway...on Friday night, I made the sauces—both a vinegar-based Carolina sauce and a tomato-based Kansas City sauce.

On Saturday night (again, after Inés went to bed), I made the salads—creamy coleslaw and a macaroni salad that nearly everybody on earth seems crazy about, except me.

Sunday morning was a whirl of activity. After weeks of waiting, I was finally able to give Inés her IKEA drafting table—which she put to good use by covering every square inch of it (and much of the floor) with masking tape.

Then, the manic cooking phase began.

Thawed pulled pork moistened with apple juice went into the 220ºF oven to gently warm. Beer went into the ice-filled cooler. Green beans, pimientos de padrón and bananas were tossed with olive oil, salt and pepper (and, in the case of the bananas, sprinkled with curry powder) and tossed onto the grill. Chicken thighs (for the kids) were brined in a salt and sugar solution and also grilled. And all the while...Inés appeared in the kitchen every seven minutes wanting my help stringing plastic beads onto pipe cleaners.

The guests arrived at 2pm—which was 50 minutes before I finished cooking. But still, that’s a much better on-time performance than I’ve exhibited in past BBQ’s.

We had two families over for the birthday BBQ. A British family whose son is in Inés’s class. And an American family from Pittsburgh that lives down the street.

The Americans are not only incredibly nice people and the closest thing that I have to a family over here—but they’ve also proven to be an invaluable source of peanut butter.

And thank God for the mother...who saved me from certain exhaustion by volunteering to bake the birthday cake. Yellow cake with chocolate frosting and sprinkles.

And then, just when I thought it was safe to rest...today was Halloween.

I’ve mentioned in past blog posts that Halloween is still a fledgling holiday here in Spain. But a Spanish family down the street seems hell-bent on changing that. They threw an incredibly ambitious, well-organized Halloween party this afternoon for all of the neighborhood kids (and for quite a few adults, also). Inés went as Superman. I went as Michael Myers.

After the party, the kids went trick or treating—which, judging by the perplexed-yet-horrified looks on the faces of seven out of every ten neighborhood homeowners, has not yet gained a foothold in the collective Spanish consciousness.

At least I was prepared. I had a bushel-basket full of chocolate chip and COCONUT granola bars sitting in my foyer.

And now that birthday and Halloween season is over, it really is time to rest. Inés is with her mother for the week. Thanksgiving is still a month away. And I’ve got 2/3 a bushel-basket full of chocolate chip and COCONUT granola bars vying for my attention.

BTW...does anybody want the chocolate chips?

Sunday, October 29, 2006


And many more.


Friday, October 27, 2006


Work has been stinkin' busy lately, but I just couldn't let you enter the weekend without a COCONUT message of the day.

So here it is...just in time for Halloween.


Wednesday, October 25, 2006


In a late-blooming effort to take slightly more care with my appearance, I bought contact lenses last June.

That, in and of itself, was an interesting experience. If the US is the country of “contact lenses in an hour,” then Spain apparently is the country of “contact lenses in three and a half weeks.”

But I’m not here to complain about that. I’m here to talk about mathematics.

I bought a six month supply of monthly-wear contact lenses. They’re called “monthly-wear” because you’re supposed to wear them for thirty days, toss them into the trash and then break-open a fresh pair.

It’s now nearly November. And as I was drinking my coffee this morning, I realized something startling.

I’m still wearing the *same* pair of contact lenses that I was wearing when I first left the optometrist’s office.

That’s right...my thirty day lenses have completed 150 days of service. And you know what? They’re still as comfortable today as they were on Day 1. I can’t feel them in my eyes as I type these words.

So, the mathematics problem for today is the following.

Is 30>150, as the marketers claim? Or—as my experience has shown—is 30=150? If the latter, then it seems to me that this monthly-wear thing is a bit of a scam.

I mean...Bausch & Lomb would have you believe that the damn things turn into locusts on Day 31.

And before I forget, let me make the most important point of all: COCONUT!

Monday, October 23, 2006


The International Handbook of Bloggers' Etiquette is clear on the matter.

If one blogger publishes a post of astounding cleverness, then another blogger shall direct his readers' attention to the original post by means of a link. He shall NOT steal the clever post and re-publish it for his own selfish purposes.

This rule is especially true when the original blogger has, in fact, dedicated her astoundingly clever post to the other.


Ohhhhhhhhh, screw it!

Over the weekend, our friend Kath published an astoundingly clever video on her Blah, Blah, Blah Blog and dedicated it to me.

Indeed, it is precisely the video that I would've/could've/should've unearthed myself...were I not curled under the bedsheets wallowing in depression thanks to seven miserable days of non-stop rain here in Spain.

I am therefore pleased to re-publish it above for my own selfish purposes. Why? Because it features two of my four favorite things: Michael Palin...and COCONUT!

Lovely plummage, that COCONUT. Norwegian Blue.

Friday, October 20, 2006


The doorbell rang yesterday and there, again, was the smiling face of my DHL guy. He was holding two large boxes.

Anders?” was my first thought.

But that seemed unlikely, since my 2006 Oktoberfest care-package had already been received, devoured and the bottles recycled.

I signed for the delivery, brought the boxes upstairs and tore them open. They were, in fact, from my Irish friend, Kathleen (a.k.a., Lisa Marie).

And when I saw the contents, my head spun. My hands trembled. And my tongue? Well...let’s just say that “The Salivator” no longer applies just to my smoker.

And what, you may be wondering, were in these two boxes?

Well...one contained a plastic bag with six hundred (600!) Irish tea bags. That’s enough tea for three months!

The other box contained...COCONUT!!!

The most mind-blowing array of highly-processed, intensely-sugared vehicles for COCONUT that I had ever laid eyes on! It was absolutely stunning. This crazy Irish chick must’ve cleaned-out the entire COCONUT aisle at Tesco’s!

Here's a precise inventory of my blessed booty:

COCONUT Bars: Crispy little wafers covered with milk chocolate and shredded COCONUT!

COCONUT Tarts: Imagine big, spongy, cakey, COCONUT-infused hockey pucks dusted with powdered sugar. Definitely a no-no before jogging...but I just can't resist.

COCONUT Creams: A vanilla cookie, glued to a heaping mound of marshmallow and topped with shredded COCONUT. Kath was kind enough to buy a promotional package containing “5 Extra Biscuits Free.”

COCONUT Snowballs: Ohhhhhh, mama! Imagine an igloo of marshmallow, covered with milk chocolate and sprinkled with shredded COCONUT. No gratuitous cookie in this masterpiece. Just a mouthful of fluff, chocolate and COCONUT.

[In case you’re wondering, yes...I *am* eating each of these as I type. I’ll definitely need to vacuum my keyboard when this is over.]

COCONUT Macaroons: The Queen Mother of COCONUT cookies. Weighing approximately one kilo each...these are moist, mountainous, toasted-COCONUT cookies with a layer of dark chocolate across the bottom and stripes of dark-chocolate drizzled across the top. Kath, in her infinite foresight, sent me TWO packages of these!

COCONUT Bounty Bars (Minis): The two greatest US candy bars are Almond Joys and Mounds. But each have a flaw. Almond Joys are moist bars of COCONUT covered with milk chocolate, yet some marketing genius sabotaged the effort by tossing in an almond. Mounds, on the other hand, has no almond...but that same marketing bastard replaced milk chocolate with dark. But alas, Bounty Bars got it right—COCONUT, milk chocolate and no almond. But, Kath... “Minis?!!!” What on earth were you thinking?

COCONUT Polos: These are described as “Traditional golden COCONUT biscuits.” Mmmmm...imagine a flat, crunchy butter cookie larded with COCONUT! Undoubtedly, the preferred COCONUT cookie of Queen Elizabeth. And finally...

The Original COCONUT Quadratini: This is, quite simply, the classic multi-layered vanilla wafer and COCONUT cream cookie that we all ate (and some of us loved) as kids. You know...it’s that cookie with the cross-hatched pattern on the wafer.

Wow! Talk about the stuff of teenaged dreams. And do you know what's the best part?

It’s Friday. I have an inventory of COCONUT cookies that resembles that government warehouse in the last scene of "Raiders of the Lost Ark." And I have *six hundred* tea bags.

Yes, yes, yes...I have big plans for this weekend—and those plans don’t involve sleep.

Thursday, October 19, 2006


My unwavering love for COCONUT may be the strongest in the land; but it’s not exclusive.

COCONUT-fever is, in fact, sweeping through Europe—and signs of the epidemic have now appeared in the south of France.

The photo above is provided courtesy of our new friend and vampiress, Calamity Tat.

You can tell that she (and not I) is responsible, because this COCONUT is (a) female, and (b) flanked by a 150€/ounce bottle of Coco Chanel perfume...rather than a 10€/quart jug of Old Spice.

Impressive, indeed...and a most welcome addition to our ever-expanding COCONUT Hall of Fame. But, you may be wondering, what makes Tat a vampiress?

To the best of my knowledge and belief, she doesn’t drink human blood—although I remain suspicious as to what she uses as a thickener for Coq au Vin.

No...“vampire/vampiress” is my now-official term for any blogger who is too chicken to post a Profile photo.

And in this respect, my sidebar is full of vampires [cough, cough, cough...Trac]—although The Big Finn certainly isn’t one of them. ;-)

So...c’mon vampires! Don’t be a Coq! Grab a glass of Vin, loosen-up...and then go grab that digital camera.

You're all amongst friends. And believe me...none of us are getting any younger, thinner or better-looking.

Except for The Big Finn, of course.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006


Proving that I’m not the only nut hanging from the family tree, I received the following email from my mother a few days ago:

Hey Sal - I sent a bunch of your blogs to Nonnie & Grandma to read.  Grandma thought it was a Spanish Halloween custom to dress up COCONUTS in costumes.  Obviously your nuttiness comes from Dad's side.

Ohhhhh boy! I can just imagine the stories that Grandma has been telling the other ladies during her weekly hairdresser's appointment.

I don't who is naughtier. Me for writing them, or my mother for sending them.

Monday, October 16, 2006


If I were a COCONUT...

Would you still love me?

Saturday, October 14, 2006


Late last night (which, coincidentally, was Friday the thirteenth), our good friend Lisa left a Comment in the VTB Chat Lounge that had all the earmarks of a true-life horror movie.

She claimed that she once had a COCONUT in her kitchen, and...and...and...it exploded!

Well...my initial reaction was that this fantastic tale had nothing to do with the COCONUT next to Lisa’s kitchen stove...and everything to do with the mushrooms next to her Pink Floyd CD Box Set.

But being the investigative journalist that I am, I launched a quick Google search on the term “exploding COCONUT.”

And I’ll be damned! It has happened to others as well.

This changed the equation for me. I mean...having an exploding COCONUT do grievous harm to my body is one thing. But having one do grievous harm to my Italian-made Arrital kitchen cabinets is quite another.

So I broke-out the heavy machinery tonight and performed triple lobotomies on all four of my tasty little ticking time bombs. Three of them are roasting in the oven as I type these words.

The King, however, has NOT left the building. I’ve simply grown too fond of his sneer and mutton chops to even consider turning him into a chutney.

And besides, Trac would have my ass if I did.

So...does all this mean that my passion for COCONUT has ended?

Hell no! It’s just means that we’ll have to take [ahem!] prophylactic measures during future encounters.

Besides, nothing stimulates the passion quite like a little danger.

Thursday, October 12, 2006


Duck, and cover!

My hormones have reached the four COCONUT level!

This is uncharted territory.

So potentially volatile, in fact, that I thought it prudent to have a guest artist decorate the fourth COCONUT. As such, I let my daughter do the honors.

Her COCONUT de jour is sort of a cross between Picasso during his Cubist period and Sally Field’s “The Flying Nun.”

You may or may not be relieved to learn that the four pictured above represent my entire inventory of COCONUTS. So...where does the adventure go from here? I have no idea. But I do know one thing.

If I don't start doing some *real* writing soon, you guys will drop me quicker than a $20 bill at a Las Vegas blackjack table.

Wednesday, October 11, 2006


In tonight's installment of "Celebrity COCONUT Impersonators," I give you...Groucho!

Although...I suppose it could also be that nerdy little guy from the movie, "Bachelor Party."

And just for the helluvit, I tossed in the Pooh gang. They aren't made from COCONUT, but they do hold an esteemed place in our hearts.

Construction paper and Winnie the Pooh action figures. That's life with a four year old, for ya. A four year old who—I should mention—brought a COCONUT to school last week for "Show & Tell."

Daddy's little girl!


Do you think it's easy getting Scotch tape to stick to a COCONUT shell?!


Bill Bryson is my favorite author.

He has a new book coming out called, "The Life and Times of the Thunderbolt Kid"—a memoir about growing up in the US midwest during the 1950's and 60's.

He has just released an amusing (and typically quirky) little video clip in which he reads a chapter from his new book.

Check it out by clicking HERE.

Hey! I just wrote an entire post without once mentioning COCONUT.


Tuesday, October 10, 2006


...he might look something like this.

Is there no end to my COCONUT creativity?

The answer may scare you.

Monday, October 09, 2006


The world has been in a heightened state of anxiety since Kim Jong Il and his North Korean regime successfully tested a nuclear weapon last weekend.

And from far and wide, the good people of planet Earth are begging for just one thing.

No, no, no...not COCONUT! *I’m* the only one begging for that.

Rather, the good people of planet Earth are begging for...silly poems about North Korea!

Fortunately, I—in my official capacity as Minister of Silly Poems—published a few of them on this VTB on April 1, 2005.

So, do your frazzled nerves a favor and click HERE.

C’mon...go ahead! If you can’t laugh in the face of armageddon, then when can you laugh?

Sunday, October 08, 2006


There are two gadgets that were invented, manufactured and marketed specifically for me.

One is the electronic calculator. I simply can’t do math in my head. Not even if my life depended on it. And a boatload of college and graduate-level algebra and statistics courses have done nothing to change that.

Want an example? Here’s one that I swear is true.

I once withdrew 130€ from an ATM and received a fifty and four twenties. I counted them, and they equaled 100€. I counted them again—knowing full well that ATM’s rarely make mistakes—and they still equalled 100€. I counted them a third time (still 100€!) and then complained to the bank manager who—with a look that exhibited both bewilderment and concern—showed me very slowly, very tenderly that 50+20+20+20+20=130.

The other invention is the global positioning system (or “GPS”). And that’s what I’m going to talk about today.

To say that I was born with a poor sense of direction is inaccurate. I was, in fact, born with no sense of direction whatsoever. Over the years, I’ve devised strategies for coping with this shortcoming. The most effective strategy has been to carefully determine the direction in which my destination lies...and then go the opposite direction. That usually does the trick.

But then, while I was in Chicago during Christmas 2005, I took my father’s truck out for a spin and noticed something unusual in the dashboard. It was a GPS.

A GPS! I’d heard about these things, but had never...you know...touched one.

Or caressed one.

Or deep tissue massaged one.

And now, there I was...all alone in that truck...with a GPS.

I punched in an address. Any address.

“1313 COCONUT Grove. Yeah! That’s a good one!”

And as that beautiful little hunka silcone took me by the hand and lovingly deposited me at my destination as if we had made the drive a million times before, I fell madly in love.

The Beatles famously stated that “Money Can’t Buy Me Love.” But in this case, it could. The problem, however, was that the cost of love was 500€-700€. So I sadly observed an indefinite vow of GPS celibacy.

The vow lasted for what seemd to be an eternity. Until...I opened the newspaper a few weeks ago and saw the following announcment in the insert for a Spanish electronics store chain called Media Markt:


199€?!!! I leaped into my car and drove in the exact opposite direction of where I knew the store was located. An hour later and 200€ poorer, I was giddily licking the suction cup of my new GPS.

And yesterday morning, I took it on its first, real mission: “GPS, my dear. Take me to IKEA!”

And guess what? The GPS got me to IKEA in record time. And it got me there with neither an iota of stress nor a single U-turn. For me, that's unheard of!!!

And best of all, that little GPS freed my mind to focus on other, more important things while driving. Like...like...like...well, like COCONUT!

I walked into IKEA feeling like a man with supreme confidence. And I walked out of IKEA 200€ poorer. But that’s OK, because you know what they say.

“Steel colander for straining pasta: 8€.”

“Drafting table and chair for your daughter’s birthday: 110€.”

“A sense of direction after 39 years of fantasizing about one: Priceless!”

Saturday, October 07, 2006


A favorite game of my daughter's and mine is to grab a make-up kit and paint each other's face.

In this installment, Inés is a craggy old lady and I, apparently, am a clown with five eyes. Or is it two eyes and three COCONUTS? You be the judge.

But that's not the real reason that I'm posting this photo. The real reason is to prove to my friend "BeeP" at Culinary Fool—who frequently mocks me for never smiling for photos—that I do, in fact, have all my teeth.


With all this talk about COCONUT recently, you may have forgotten all about our friend Jasemine.

Several months have passed since Jazzy has pulled-up a barstool here at the VTB. That’s too long.

So I snatched her from the sidewalk during her walk this morning and—channeling the spirit of the now-deceased Crocodile Hunter—wrestled the mighty beast for a full ten seconds until my digicam’s self-timer snapped the above photo.

And here she is! As stubborn as ever...yet still adorable. My-oh-my...how my little girl has grown.

Thursday, October 05, 2006


I must take a moment to pay tribute to my favorite cheesehead/artist/trivia-savant, Lisa—who left the following, absolutely brilliant, Comment in the VTB Chat Lounge tonight:

Out of hiding to
Check up
None other than my
Utterly crazy,
Talking-to-coconuts friend,

Look at it, folks! Look at it closely! It may take a minute or two, but it will eventually hit you.

Thanks, Lisa. You're the apple of my Cow Pie.

Wednesday, October 04, 2006


Well...it seems that COCONUT isn't the only thing that's been cracked on this VTB lately. Last night, my hit counter cracked 50,000.

Thanks to all of you VTB Regular Irregulars for visiting so often and keeping me company during these past two+ years.

Tuesday, October 03, 2006


Sad but true...life with a COCONUT is not all fun and games.

Case in point, it's nearly impossible to have a good game of Twister with one.

Perhaps I'd fare better with a nice sprig of basil.

Sunday, October 01, 2006


There are some people whose only taste of COCONUT during their entire lives was within the context of an Almond Joy or Raspberry Zinger.

Come to think of it, that still sounds like a pretty damn good life. But a true coco-head really should try this ambrosia in its purest state.

So this afternoon, my daughter--who, BTW, loves COCONUT almost as much as I do--and I created this short tutorial. But before I begin, let me put your minds at ease. The victim in this tutorial was not Captain Coconut. It was a stunt double.

So, let's get started.

Step 1: Take a COCONUT, a hammer and a Phillips-head screwdriver. Then, reenact that famous scene from "Oedipus Rex." Yes, that's right...you must drive that screwdriver through two of the COCONUT'S eyes. No, it's not necessary that the COCONUT in question marry his mother. Drain the liquid from the COCONUT and drink it, or something.

Step 2: Roast the whole COCONUT in a 375ºF oven for twenty minutes.

Step 3: When cool, grab that hammer again and crack the COCONUT.

Step 4: Peel the dark brown skin off of the outside of the COCONUT flesh.

Step 5: Crunch away, amigos.