Tuesday, May 29, 2007


One might speculate, from the dearth of new material on this VTB, that I've either lost my blogging mojo...or suffered a debilitating brain injury...or found some other, more satisfying outlet for my irrepressible creative impulses...or devoted my life to memorizing pi.

All of pi.

Well...those are all good guesses. But, in truth, the answer is 42.

Now that we've cleared the air on that one, let me tell you about my past month or so.


When we last parted ways, I had just turned 40. Many people have since asked me how it feels to be forty. Well...I can honestly say that it's a lot like being 39 and 11 months old; give or take a month.

Contrary to popular belief, age is NOT a state of mind. It's a state of body.

I'm feeling rather 17-ish from the mind down, so I greeted the arrival of middle-age last month with more amusement than panic.

My mind, however, *does* feel 40. I consider that a very good thing. Have you ever tried talking with a 20 year old?


And, so...in order to prove that a bit of fizz remains in this old can of Dr. Pepper (and also to ensure an adequate supply of grief counselors in case I ceased to believe the questionable assertions that I typed in the prior three paragraphs), I invited a bunch of friends (pictured above) over for the type of meal that has killed plenty of other people before the age of 40.

I dusted off The Salivator and made 15 lbs. of pulled pork--7.5 lbs. of which was stuffed into Zip-loc bags and carted-off to four separate homes when the party ended. As Big Mamma says, "Better to make too much, than not enough."

The party went well. The food turned out kinda great. And I had such a good time that my heart was doing hemidemisemiquavers for much of the afternoon. And that, my friends, occurred despite the fact that everything I drank that day would be properly classified as a depressant.

But alas, there was one tragic element to the party. Felix, my beloved uke, broke his A-string a few days earlier. This meant that there would be no musical accompaniment to my guests' singing of "Happy Birthday" unless I could somehow coax a replacement string from Spain's notoriously one-dimensional retail industry.

Why "one-dimensional?" Because the only product that you're 100% assured of finding at a Spanish store is cigarettes.

Needless to say, my guests sang a capella. But it wasn't a total loss. I did get to blow-out all forty cigarettes on the birthday cake.


Speaking of Felix, he has been repaired. I bought a set of replacement strings last week--IN CHICAGO!!!--and the passion between my hourglass-shaped lover and me burns brightly once again.

Hemidemisemiquavers are certainly more difficult when attempted with one's feet, but a piece of cake when compared with the earlobes.


And now for a picture of my beautiful daughter. The apple doesn't fall far from the tree.

She, by the way, is just a few short years away from having black belts in aikido, jiu-jitsu, muay thai boxing and another, as-yet undocumented martial art taught only to a select group of neckless yak herders living on a windswept mountaintop in southwest Bhutan. Bruce Lee had a pretty fast roundhouse kick, but my daughter...well, she will kick in hemidemisemiquavers.

So to any four or five year old boys out there reading this, heed my seven-year advance warning: Don't EVEN think about it! If she don't get you, I will.


My boss at Acme Low Carb Tongue-Depressors, Inc. recently forwarded me a Chicago Tribune article listing what each US presidential hopeful would like to do for a living were he/she not in politics.

Barack Obama would be an architect. John McCain, a foreign service diplomat. Mike Huckabee, a bass guitarist for a touring rock band [He gets my vote]. Tom Tancredo, president [Nice try, brown-noser...but I'm pretty sure that you'll have to settle for President of your local Moose Lodge instead.].

Hmmmm...what would I like to do for a living should this legal gig ever run dry? I was having trouble coming-up with an answer, until a friend in the midwest US sent me this photo:

An old school bus, a metal saw, and a smoker big enough to make Pulled Elephant.

I nearly wept with joy when I first laid eyes on this photo. And do you know what's the best thing about this set-up? If a customer should contract salmonella from your coleslaw, you and your smoker can be over the state line in a hemidemisemiquaver.


Acme called me over to Chicago for some meetings last week, and I didn't need them to ask twice.

It was a typically fabulous visit.

I saw friends and family. I jogged several times with my boss. I bought a stack of Nick Jr. DVDs at Borders and sun dresses at Target (Jeez...cotton products are so much cheaper in the US!!!) for my daughter. Hertz was kind enough to give me a Mustang convertible. My brother, Frankenfeet, was kind enough to deep-fry a turkey.

And best of all, I got to eat...

...Mexican food at Frontera Grill.


...Cajun food at Heaven on Seven.

Take THAT, Big Finn!!!


Catchyawl soon.

Sunday, May 13, 2007


Today's the day, and I'm it.

From this point forward, it's Ok to:
- Buy a Porsche Cayman.
- Grow a ponytail.
- Get a 22 year old Ukrainian girlfriend.
[I draw the line at Botox, however. For me, that is. The Ukrainian can use as much as she wants.]

But those are projects for next week.

What am I doing today, specifically? Oh...I'll provide details later this week.

Tuesday, May 08, 2007


Christina the Mausi set her ukulele down for a few hours, put pen to paper and proposed a layout of plants for my previously barren front yard, "Stonehenge."

After getting the requisite OKs from a select group of VIP(s), I implemented her proposal nearly verbatim.

And thar she blows.

Foreground to background, we have santolina (apparently, a relative of the citronella plant), lavender, sage, rosemary and thyme. The latter three, you can eat. The former two, you can't--but I'll try smoking them on Friday night.

So now, my garden is full of herbs. But there's one that will not--repeat, NOT--ever be found in Stonehenge...



Thanks very much to those of you who left messages of condolences in the VTB Chat Lounge. And also to those who sent them to me privately. Big Mamma and Uncle Sammy thank you, as well.

And now, let's exit the topic of death and return to living.


Monday, May 07, 2007


My grandfather (aka, "Poppie") died last week at the age of 91.

Because of the distance, location, child-care issues, etc., I wasn't able to fly over for the wake and funeral.

However, the family allowed me to write the eulogy--which Big Mamma will read at the funeral later this morning. I present the text below, on this Virtual Tribute Bar.

If you like my sense of humor, then you'd have liked Poppie's.

If you don't like mine, then you really, *really* wouldn't have liked his.

Right, Big Mamma? Uncle Sammy? ;-)

May 6, 2007

My Poppie wasn’t the sentimental type. He was a private, introspective man with a biting, sardonic--yet hilarious--wit.

I, as his oldest grandchild, know this as well as anyone. And it presents me with a bit of a dilemma.

If I were tempted to get too sentimental in writing this eulogy, then I could clearly imagine him pulling me aside. And with his left hand clutching a half-eaten chocolate-covered cherry and his right hand balled into a boney-knuckled fist, he’d probably--mockingly--say something like:

“Listen, Harry! I’m not your grandmother. If you get too sentimental on me, I’ll punch you right in the mouth.”

And so, with that threat of karmic revenge hanging over my head, let me offer a few carefully chosen words.

Today is an undeniably sad day for my family and me. But there was nothing sad about Poppie’s life.

He lived 91 years. And during those 91 years, he didn’t have a single serious illness or injury.

He was married for 65 years to the same woman. And that woman was one hell of a good cook.

He had three children, eight grandchildren and twelve great-grandchildren. They all outlived him. Considering Poppie’s Kevlar-coated genetics, that was no small feat.

He served in World War II, during which he was neither wounded nor--to my knowledge--witness to any undue horrors. His service in the US Army’s 183rd Signal Corp was a source of understated--yet so plainly obvious--pride throughout the rest of his life.

Sooner or later, the ride always comes to an end. In Poppie’s case, the ride was very long and very smooth. What more can you ask for?

Still, however, a lot of us are feeling a lot of sadness. That’s Ok. Sadness is both rational and healthy on a day like today.

With regard to the sadness, I’d like to offer an analogy. And in deference to my Nonnie , it’s a food analogy.

The human cycle of life and death is like the baking of sourdough bread. An old loaf may disappear from the countertop...but you’ll find a bit of its “sourdough starter” in each new, subsequent loaf.

And, so…for so long as there’s an Inés loaf...or a Nicholas loaf...or a Mia loaf...or a Ryan loaf...or a Kira loaf...or the two Tony loaves—that crusty old Poppie loaf hasn’t really left the kitchen.

Oh, damn! That was a bit sentimental, wasn’t it?

Sorry, Poppie. Fifty or so years from now, you can punch me right in the mouth.