Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Murder and mayhem -- candy edition.

This is an atrocity for two major reasons.

1. IT IS JULY 26, or it was when I took this picture. COME ON, PEOPLE. If you can't wait until at least Labor Day for your stupid Halloween-themed chocolate, how the hell are you going to teach your children to wait until Christmas to open presents, until 21 to start drinking, until marriage to have babies? It may seem like no big deal, but these are the symptoms of our national return to infancy. Patience is a hallmark of maturity.

2. Not that this looks like it's worth waiting for, anyway. Candy-corn flavored white chocolate M&M's? I'm a seeker of sugar and a knockover for novelty, but this is just stupid. Still, Mrs. Key likes candy corn in small doses (she has unusual taste, as my presence in the home confirms). But then, she doesn't like white chocolate. I like white chocolate, but dislike candy corn. You lose on both counts, Red!

I've actually gotten into it with this supermarket chain for being first out with the Halloween crap in the past. Late July is three months! before Halloween. A quarter of the year! They apologized and continued to do it anyway. They wouldn't if we didn't buy it.

I don't know if manufacturers embargo this stuff until---oh, maybe August 1? But I was in Walmart that same day and I didn't see any Halloween stuff. Halloween is almost a hundred days from now!

The Back-To-School stuff has been out for a week or so, sure, but for some students that is less than a month away.

Well, maybe that's a backdoor way to teach children patience. Rushing to Halloween means no more summer. Happy now, kids?

Monday, July 28, 2014

God's vengeful Charley Horse.

Yesterday I expected to be awakened from slumber by the dog whining to go out, as often happens, but it didn't happen. Instead I woke up a good deal later, realized the lovely Mrs. Key was gone, peeked out the bedroom door, and found that she was up and had taken care of the dog and all. I'd been allowed to sleep in!

"Great!" I said. "Well, back to bed."

"NO WAY," said God, or I assume He did, since no sooner did my face hit the pillow when the Vengeful Charley Horse of God smited me.

Smitey smite smite!

It felt like a mighty hand (hoof?) had nailed my calf and dragged me onto the floor. It's been many years since I had one of those, and I had forgotten how crippling they are. Such pain! And even if they didn't hurt like a mother, they render the affected leg motionless as your muscle bunches up as tight as sailors' knots.

What a doggone mean trick for a muscle to play. After all I've done to let them have a life of ease.

Now, I know there were entirely mundane reasons for me to have one of these out of the blue. Not drinking enough water in my active Saturday; not getting proper electrolytes.

Still, the timing, and the way I was essentially thrown out of bed, reminded me of C. S. Lewis's admonition about praying and dishes from Mere Christianity:
Now, the moment you realise ‘Here I am, dressing up as Christ,’ it is extremely likely that you will see at once some way in which at that very moment the pretence could be made less of a pretence and more of a reality. You will find several things going on in your mind which would not be going there if you were really a son of God. Well, stop them. Or you may realise that, instead of saying your prayers, you ought to be downstairs writing a letter, or helping your wife to wash-up. Well, go and do it.
Not that I was praying, but the point is taken: Sleeping is good, but helping is gooder. And it may keep St. Charley the Horse from pounding you.

(Thanks to the blog Mere C. S. Lewis for helping me find the quote I was thinking about!)

Saturday, July 26, 2014

Condiment shaming.

Cleaning the fridge is scary. You never know exactly what you're going to find in there.

It wasn't so bad this time, even though it's been over a year since the last Kolossal Kenmore Klean. (Shh---don't tell anyone, K?) Not that there are not spot cleanings of milk carton grundge or inadvertently released au jus. But the whole pull-everything-out-and-scrub-each-part-including-lightbulbs cleaning is more rare and much more time consuming.

Some cleanings of the past have yielded mystery leftovers, expired Pizza Rolls, and a dozen crusty bottles of unloved marinades, salad dressings, mustards, and other condiments.

It's the expired condiments that bring the most shame. I think of meals that ranged from vague disappointment to massive gustatory bust. This time it wasn't so bad---just one bottle of rice vinegar that hit the wall in 2013. I can't even remember what I bought it for. I guess it wasn't that awesome.

There was a bottle of wine that seemed to have mystically turned into vinegar, and to be fair I did pitch an old honey mustard a week or so before the job. I think I'm over honey mustard. Not sure how that happened. There was a honey mustard pork loin that was less than inspired; could have been that.

I hate to waste food, but I hate vomiting and diarrhea, so expired food has to go. Usually it is only condiments, which are not really food in that you can't just eat them and call it a meal, unless you're adrift in a lifeboat and that's all you have, and being a devil-may-care type you make a big production number out of your bottle of barbecue sauce for the other survivors, hoping to distract them from measuring one another up to figure who should be eaten first.

Anyway, the fridge is clean now. And don't worry about the little green mold guy. I put him in the fridge of a bachelor pal, where he will never have to worry about it being cleaned.

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Skyyyyyyybaarrrrr Piiiilot!

My continuing effort to eat everything that is bad for me reeled in this little beauty---a Sky Bar, by Necco (the New England Confectionery Company). In this neck of the woods it's easy to find Necco wafers, Canada mints, and Sweethearts, and you might find Candy Buttons, a Clark Bar, some Mary Janes, and even a carton of Mighty Malts, but the Sky Bar is very hard to find. 

And this one is mine! Mine, you hear? 

Well, it was. 

The gimmick of the Sky Bar is that each bar has four pockets with distinct flavors---caramel, vanilla (kind of like marshmallow), peanut (not peanut butter, but a peanut-flavored cream), and fudge. The perfect candy bar for the indecisive. 

I liked it, although the individual components are not extraordinary. Necco's chocolate is no gourmet delicacy; neither are the fillings. Individually the sections could go head-to-head against other cheap confections: chocolate-covered Peeps, Reese's, Rolos, etc. But the treat of the Sky Bar is that the whole is more than the sum of its parts. It's the Fantastic Four of candy. No one would read Mr. Fantastic Comics, but you put him in with the Thing, the Human Torch, and the Invisible Woman, and he's an indispensable member of the squad. 

But the Sky Bar is but a poor version of the Seven Up Candy Bar---no relation to the soft drink---which had seven distinct flavors in one bar. Wikipedia explains: "Flavors changed with the availability and popularity of ingredients, which included, among others, brazil nutbuttercreambutterscotch, caramel, cherrycoconut, fudge, mint, nougat and orange." Sadly, the Seven Up went away in 1979. 

Thanks for the pic, Old Time Candy!

My advice: Get two Sky Bars, eat one section off one of them, and pretend you have a single (albeit repetitive) Seven Up bar remaining. 

Wednesday, July 23, 2014


A young man climbed the mountain upon which lived the Wise One. Everyone knew that the Wise One was indeed the wisest man ever known, and willing to share his wisdom, but few were willing to make the dangerous climb necessary to consult him.

Jim was one who did want to go. He did not know anything about mountaineering, and his first attempt almost ended in disaster. Jim learned a lot from his trips up the mountain, including how much pain could hurt, but finally, one bright morning, he cheered with gasping breaths as he drew himself over a ledge and found a cave, and outside the cave an old man with a shaggy beard chewing a piece of yak jerky.

“Oh, great Wise One,” said Jim, “I have come to seek your direction.”

The wise one called the Wise One nodded, swallowed, and said, “Speak your question.”

Jim flopped down and, once he caught his breath, said, “I have been assailed as a directionless fool. What should I do with my life?”

The Wise One looked at Jim, gaze meeting gaze, mind meeting mind. Then the Wise One nodded. He closed his eyes and sat motionless, so long that Jim thought the man had fallen asleep, so long that Jim began to fear he had died.

Suddenly the eyes snapped open, the head and came up, and the creaky old voice spoke: “You…must sing!” he said.

“Sing?” said Jim, astonished.

“You must,” said the Wise One. “Sing,” he added.

“Like, actually sing musical songs?” said Jim. “Because I couldn’t carry a tune in a bucket. I forget words; every song would be called ‘The One That Goes Dee Dee Dee’ if I wrote it. I know nothing of music. I don’t know which end of a trombone the music comes out of. I have the natural rhythm of a drunken earthworm. How can you tell me to sing?”

The old man simply shook his head and said, “You must…sing.”

Jim could get nothing more from the old man, so he took the treacherous journey down and went home, wondering what to do. Exhausted, he collapsed into bed, thinking. No one would believe Jim if he told them that the Wise One said singing was his destiny… and yet, that’s what had happened. Somehow, this was his purpose.

The next morning he arose, determined to follow this path.

He thought that destiny would carry him---after all, he had never tried singing publicly, and maybe some mighty force would cling to his boldness as like is pulled to like. Jim set up a box in the square and climbed on top, and began to sing every song to which he knew some of the words. He did this for a week. In that period he had more old shoes and empty cans flung at him than any five stray cats in town.

Jim realized that he’d been waiting for magic, but destiny was not magic. It was a destination.

He started taking music lessons that day. He took singing lessons. He took music theory. He took music history. He sold his little home to pay for it. He got a job selling sheet music, singing to make sales, then shutting up because it worked better. He kept learning. He went to open-mike nights. He worked harder. He sang all the time. In his phrase, Jim had singing “out the bazooty” for decades.

Then he went to see the Wise One once more.

Jim was a good deal older now, of course, but he was patient, and slowly made his way up the mountain, stopping as needed to rest and acclimate himself in the cold breeze. After all these years he'd come to wonder if he had hallucinated the old man while stumbling around in the thin mountain air. He did not think so, though, and expected to find the man's remains, and maybe some fossilized yak jerky. 

The Wise One was still at the cave where Jim had left him. He was not a frozen corpse, as Jim thought initially; just the incredibly old man, still breathing. His eyes opened slowly and regarded Jim. 

"You have returned," the Wise One croaked, his voice unused in countless months. 

"You remember me," Jim gasped.

"Of course."

"Then you know you told me I must sing."


"All right," said Jim, when he had recovered his breath, "I thought I'd tell you how it worked out. I have spent decades learning about singing. I have spent decades learning about music. I could draw the Circle of Fifths in my sleep. If you give me a note I can give you its harmonic pitches in a second. I have transcribed music and sold it. I learned to play the trumpet, harmonica, guitar, ukulele, clarinet, and seven other instruments, albeit all poorly. I can give you biographical sketches of every important musician in the last century, every important composer in the last millennium. I have eked out a living on the periphery of the music business, or barely so, spending my entire life on the outside, looking in. Because in the opinion of dozens of music teachers and vocal coaches, hundreds of professional colleagues, and thousands of listeners, I have no talent for singing. I am a failure by every measure." Jim sat back in the snow with a grunt. "I thought you should know," he said at last.

A long time passed. The sun crept lower in the cold, vacant sky. Stars began to twinkle in the east, as lights far below began to twinkle in the town. The breeze quieted. All was still.

Then the Wise One turned his head toward Jim. With an effort, he opened his ancient mouth, and spoke at last. 

"Well," he said, "it was worth a shot."