Going to Heck in a Handbasket

Le Porc est degoutant!

My Parents belonged to a strange religion. Some people might argue that all religions are strange in one way or another, but I can only speak for myself. The Russian Group of Believers was called “The Molokans” which translates to “milk drinkers”. I have only  had a superficial relationship with these people, but my Sister, if she becomes brave enough one day to write her own blog, had along with her husband, more than enough contact with “The Molokans” to fill many books, only later to be filed in the “Crazy” section of the library.

They, The Molokans that is, followed a lot of the Old Testament (read Bible), including the strict enforcement of the food laws. No Pork, or fish without fins and other normal, crazy kind of a thing rules and regulations applying to all Molokans.

Our neighbors, who also were Molokans were once caught in an unpleasant situation. They were eating canned beans for dinner, when they suddenly read the label. The beans were processed with, or contained Lard, which is also known as Pig-fat. They proceeded to wash our their mouths many times, and then having to brush their teeth until the deed was done. Think of it, ending up in Heck, just because you ate the wrong type of beans!

My Parents adhered to these food laws, even though others  outside of the Molokan Community might think them to be rather strange. It wouldn’t be so, if they had been of the Jewish Faith, as they too were involved with that Old Testament kind of thinking. My Father in later years wrestled with some renegade tendencies, announcing that Bacon was all right to eat. He liked to eat Bacon you see, but he still feared that he would end up Going to Heck in a Handbasket. There are products that call themselves “Bacon” but are not to be confused with the Real Thing- handbasket-wise. Turkey Bacon can be found, but if you really want your cholesterol numbers to soar, then it’s best that you hold onto the real thing!

I once attended a church camp one summer in California. We were driven up to a place called Hume Lake, where we could be humiliated by our friends, feel like dying was the only way out of being at Church Camp, and accepting Jesus as our personal savior, which is a real package deal, let me tell you. The Molokans were fed “special” food which meant that it was without those bad, bad things related to “heck in a handbasket”. It ended up that we ate a lot of Oatmeal and Corn Flakes while the other tormenting, bullying children were guffing down Bacon and Eggs for breakfast. I, of course, wanted to do the right thing, by my Parents and God, which meant that I followed the advice of the Church Elders and half-starved with the rest of my buddies.

Back home and a few years later, my Parents did the right thing by each other getting a divorce. I still don’t remember if my Mother, breaking the bonds of “That ol’ religion” and beginning to eat Pork, but the release from our old Church was evident. My Father on the other hand, was still fighting his devils by not eating those forbidden products, only perhaps still secretly eating Bacon then hitting his head against the bedpost, or the wall, just like Dobby the House Elf did so often in the Harry Potter books.

I had a hard time going over to the other side, which meant that a lot of those early memories still haunt me today. My sisters, on the other hand, never once looked back to the old ways, meaning that they had chosen the path of so many other Americans, dooming themselves to separation from Big-G until the end of time.

I had a good friend who in a surfer-like way told me: Hey Dude, That’s sooo Old Testament-like, When Little-J came along, he abolished that old stuff. Dude! He had also told me that religion was man’s way, and Big-G and Little-J were the real way to be. I have refrained from mentioning their real names, in case that this blog becomes to offensive to all otherwise non-believing, agnostic type of readers!

I wish I had been learning French back then, as being able to use language in real situations really helps to make those funny terms stick in your mind.

Le Porc est degoutant!

The Pork is disgusting!

Which would have warmed the cockles of my Russian Grandmother’s heart, if she had heard me denouncing the Devil’s food in that way! It could be that she could speak Russian and English, but not French as I recall.

The point is that we have come full circle with this blog, beginning and ending with Pork.

I guess in all fairness and with respect to my Father, I should dedicate the last lines in this blog to him. They might sound something like the following, remembering for you to use Google Translate, if the final message is in any way unclear:

Le Bacon est délicieux!

Jigsaw Puzzles – filling in the holes in our memories

My sister and I love to make jigsaw puzzles. It doesn’t matter to us, how many pieces there are, 500, 1000 …we aren’t picky. The picture is also not that important. If it were ‘subjunctive’ my wife, she would start by finding and fitting all of the edge pieces. My kids, on the other hand, would ask what they could start with, “I’d choose some colors, or patterns, but stay away from the sky pieces, or if there is a lot of buildings or the like.” They aren’t convinced, and give up after a while.

My sister and I start by turning over all the pieces, then choose where we would start. My brother in-law soon grew bored with watching us, and went to bed. We start to talk about this and that. It could be our current lives, or our shared past, which we’ve had together in many different ways.

We started in the same house, in the same city in the same State, California. When she got married and moved into her own house, I’d come to visit her. I did yard work and other odd jobs, she watered her tropical plants, and talked about moving to a small town. At night we’d work the puzzles once again. I’m not sure, but it seems like those puzzles kept us together, even though we were apart in time and space.

When she moved to that small town, I came to visit her. Now we worked puzzles again, in each others company, just in a new house, in a new town, but still in California.

When  I finally moved farther away then we could drive to each other, the puzzle making stopped, at least for a while. She eventually came to Denmark to visit me and my wife. We still found time to work a few pieces into their slots, even though her visits were short-lived. I was also in the States, a long time ago, and we did puzzles at that time too.

It’s funny how after so many years and a whole Continent, an Ocean – The Atlantic and a part Continent- the European, all the way to Denmark, lie between us now.

5242 miles /8437 kilometers, as the crow flies, that is. That’s how far it is between our puzzle adventures.

distance ds to aalb70

I still think about her when I see my jigsaw puzzle boxes, sitting all alone on the shelf.

I think about how it is late at night, rather early in the morning,  1-2 am, and we’re still sitting there, opposite each other, turning those pieces around until they fit/seem to fit. There was always a piece or, three that fell down on the floor. We were unable to find those guys, no matter how much we looked, not that is until the puzzle was almost finished, then they turned up miraculously, as if they had been there all along!

The puzzle pieces were sort of like our memories of the past, I had some of them and my sister did too. We tried turning them around in our minds trying to fit the holes in our memories. We would come to some sort of conclusion, albeit it was some sort of unspoken agreement on the details of which we had forgotten. I’m not sure if my other sisters would have agreed on our conclusions? A lot of our conversations had them as the topic, which made them unsuitable in adding to the truth of the moment.

A low rumbling noise emanated from the bedroom. “The bear is restless”, commented my sister. I reply, “You could just work the puzzle with me, until we finish it off”. “No, I have to go in there sooner, or later”, she says,  thus wishing me  a Good Night.

Now I am alone with my memories and an unfinished jigsaw puzzle. The house has gone silent with just the occasional sound of sleeping bears.

I’d like to finish the puzzle, but it won’t let me do so.

– Now, just where are those missing pieces?

Back then, when we thought we would live forever..

When I was young, about a lifetime ago, our family lived in a suburb of Los Angeles. Our house was next to a large field which my older sister said, used to be a farm of sorts with Avocado trees and the like. I only remember it as being a large square of dirt, which was covered with weeds in the Summer months. It does no good including a photo from Google Maps as that dirt “lot” was turned into an Intermediate School some years later with a tall fence separating our house and the parking lot. In looking at all that asphalt and noisy cars today, I would much rather have preferred the old “lot” with its weeds and rocks.

When I was really lucky, back then when I was only concentrated on myself, I was allowed to accompany my older sister on a “Rock Hunting Trip”. We took our red wagon and some burlap sacks, also called gunny sacks (from Sanskrit)  out to the field in search of rocks.

I felt really important that my sister would want me to come along with her. It might have been to “lug” those heavy things over uneven terrain, but then it didn’t matter to me. She had a special hammer with a blue handle grip. I found this picture on Google, but I can’t say with certainty that it looked like that, as I’ve seen hammers like that since then, and would tend to mix them up in my memory.

hammer

She would then concentrate on her rocks, looking for a particular type, which I didn’t ever seem to understand. I used to dig out the rocks and bring them to her only to have “some” of them rejected as being the “wrong types”. I never remember asking her, how she knew about those rocks, or why it was important to her to find them. I must have done so, otherwise making such a trip wouldn’t have fit into my non-plans.

I also had two other sisters, one older and one younger, but they were never along on these trips. I never remember just how many trips we were on, but then it didn’t matter back then, because our memories were not as long as they are today.

After some hours we returned home with our “treasure”. We would “dump” the rocks out on the ground in the backyard, where she would begin cracking them open with her hammer. Sometimes she would crack open a rock and exclaim, “It’s orange inside” or, perhaps it was orange on the outside of the rocks when we had dug them up, I am a bit foggy on the details now. The important thing was the “orange” color meant that she wasn’t going to get lucky that time.

She continued “cracking open” those rocks until there wasn’t anymore left to crack. She was looking for fossils of sea animals who lived back in time about 16 million years ago, back when Southern California was covered by the sea. Once in a while she showed me what she was looking for: small whitish looking shells, or something like that in the rocks. Over the years we must have had quite a collection of those rocks. I don’t remember what happened to them, after she had found what she had been looking for, but that is a question that only she can answer.

Finding them seemed to make her happy, but not as happy as I was being allowed to assist my older sister on this great expedition, way back when in my past, when summers were hot and long, and we thought we would live forever.

Feeling Rather Young-ish Today

How comes nobody ever says that when they wake up in the morning? I don’t, but then there’s a reason for that.

Another thing bothers me of late. You Blogger-Guys and Blogger-Gals. A lot of you display rather young-ish photos of yourself. Are you buying model photos on the ‘Net, or are you really that young? I start to wonder just why I’m among you young-ish type of people?

At work I started to worry that I was the oldest one there. I asked around and – Whew! I found a really old guy in another department. That made me feel better. Not very much young-er, but better all the same. I think a good thing at my job was to employ old-er people. You know, people just over my age, thus making me feel young-ish, and young-er all the time.

In my family we are 4 siblings. My older sister and my younger sister and I am left. My older sister was always older than me. Always more wise. Always a jump ahead on living life. Now the sandal is on the other foot, as the saying goes. Now I bet she wishes that she were ‘subjunctive’ me. Her Young-er brother.

I don*t need to say anything else about my young-er sister, otherwise I might lose the point of this blog entirely.

When I married my wife, she too was rather young-ish. I wasn’t robbing the cradle, not with her anyway, but it doesn’t matter as we all are old-er today. My wife is still young-er than me, but that can be a good thing. At least one of us will be able to realize when the other one needs to be put out to pasture!

I’d like to think that it’ll happen in Greenland, you know that pasture-business. I’ve never been to Greenland, but it is a part of Denmark and appears rather often in the news. We could be there, enjoying the Midnight Sun when one of us gets an idea. You know like putting the old-er person on an iceberg and waving a silken scarf in silent fare-thee-well! The problem is those melting icebergs. There might not be anymore icebergs to sail away on, when I/she/we finally need to be off on the final journey!

Now I’m really confused. Should we start planning that trip before all of the icebergs melt away? Or, should we wait until we are old-er enough to consider doing it.

Icebergs or not, I am feeling young-ish today!

 

 

Proper Knife and Fork Etiquette in Europe – Part 1

Now we’ve gotten down to serious stuff. This is a blog concerning one of the cornerstones of European Culture. This blog can and will teach you the proper way of using Utensils throughout Europe and Scandinavia.

This blog may just change your life on this planet.

With that said, let’s continue with Blog number 1 in this special series:

I’ve learned that using utensils in Europe isn’t the same as in the good old US of A. I must again give the blame to my Mother and Father, as in the case of not knowing how to be a CarGuy as shown in a previous blog. It was they, who had the responsibility of raising me, which included teaching me the ways of the Cultured and Civilized World.

My Mother was trying to figure out how to leave my Father because of his excessive Gambling and Drinking had reached the point of no return. She couldn’t make contact with him, as he had barricaded himself in his office hiding under a mountain of Beer Bottles. Even his true friend, the Postman couldn’t get through to him, but tried all the same. He fed him pleasant letters, disguised as having money inside, through the letter box, one at a time in the hopes of luring him outside. My Mother stood just out of sight with a club and a net in the hope of capturing him out in the open, but a cornered animal doesn’t give up that easily. This made my Mother all the more frustrated, especially after having to suffer long years of being married to that “Animal”.

I’m sure that it was on that occasion that my Mother had planned on teaching me about the proper use of Utensils, but sadly so, my education was  never completed in that area.

I want you to consider the following 2 pictures, and try to reason out just what is what?

plate-1 plate-2

I’ll give you a bit of time to figure it out……………………………………………………

…………………………………………………………………………………………………………

Ready?

The photo on the left is incorrect! The knife should be placed on the right side of the plate, as it is the main Utensil to be used.

The photo on the right is also incorrect. The knife and the fork should be on opposite sides of the plate, with the knife still on the right hand side. They could also be more accurately placed using a measuring tape, a carpenter’s square and a right triangle, if available.

Many of you would have thought that the knife was to be on the left side of the plate. It is always on the right side of the plate with these stated conditions:

  • When being right handed, also known as Højre, Rechts, og Droit
  • When being left handed, also known as South Paw, Kejthåndethed, Links, and Gauche

The 3rd photo is here:

plate-3

This is the basis form for Proper Knife and Fork Etiquette in Europe.

Memorize it well, as you never know just when you’ll be invited to a dinner at the French, German or Danish Ambassador’s Mansion (or all 3 of them for that matter) with a store Faux Pas in store for you and your wife/husband.

I have never had such an honor, but forewarned is forearmed if you know what I mean?

That expression doesn’t have anything to do with having a gun rack in the back of your pick-up truck in case your tuck won’t start. In this example you might think that you have but one possibility to remedy the situation. The American Way could be by placing an armor piercing bullet in your rifle, and shooting it through the number one cylinder head.

I wouldn’t advise that either in the good old US of A  or in Europe, as most Police Officers don’t consider that a prudent form of action, and might just arrest you, throwing you in the local hoosegow..

Be sure to watch out for Part 2: More common mistakes made at the Dinner Table.

Guys Know Everything about Carssss

I am in denial about cars. My parents must have raised me wrong. Who else can I blame?

When I was young, we had a Rambler Station wagon. I don’t have much to tell about it, that being so long ago. Family Cars are just that, boring. I feel good remembering about that car, that is from photographs. I couldn’t tell you anything else about it.

When I got older we got a new Family Car. This one was a Pontiac Tempest. It had a V-8 Engine. Someone told me that. That was an important piece of information, if you were into cars, which I was not.

Then a funny thing happened in the United States. It was called the Energy Crisis. Our Family Car with the V-important sounding-8 Engine got a new name. Now we called it Gas Guzzler. It sounded interesting and important, but alas it was not.

Our V-Gas Guzzler, formerly important sounding – 8 Pontiac Tempest was dark green in color and had 4-doors. For a Family Car it was good with 4-doors, but it was not Groovy, or some other important teenager sounding name, maybe Boss, which it also was not.

My Parents got divorced. My Mother got the Tempest. She promised me the V-not sexy, 4-door, dent in the side where the ladder from the garage fell onto the car and dented it, still Gas Guzzling, Family Car with no redeeming features for a teenager – 8 would soon be mine.

My friend made me a drawing of my soon to be mine car. It showed fancy rims and a flag with the name, Estes, which was a model rocket company from Penrose Colorado, which was important to me at that time, flying from the antenna.

My friends, who were not my friends at that time knew all about cars. They spoke of carburetors with hemi-something-or-other  with 250 cc’s, which was still not interesting to me. They spoke about exhaust pipes like they were the bees knees, or whatever we said back then with our bell-bottom jeans, which I thought were in, but my Mother didn’t buy for me until they weren’t in anymore, then I was embarrassed and pimples and everything teenagers had, but didn’t want anyways.

I finally got the V-8 Pontiac Tempest, with the dent in the side and a pain in my heart from my girlfriend. She had a Ford Mustang, that was yellow and she named it Trenton, or Trent for short, who was to be the name of our first child, and then we would have a girl named Diane. She was smiling and I was in Love and all that stuff, but I now owned the Family Car which could have impressed my friends, who had other even more fancy cars like Camaro, and others which still didn’t mean a whole lot to me.

My Father was not a car person as well. He had many cars, but didn’t take care of them, not even changing the oil on them which didn’t make them last very long, but he had money and bought a new car rather often. He never bragged about his cars until he bought a Toyota Land Cruiser with locking hubs and 4-wheel drive. He drove it to Death Valley and to Colorado and all over the Western United States. I even was allowed to drive it, even though it did not have a V-8 Engine or was made in the United States. I had less and less friends which was a good thing, at least in the way of knowing about cars, which I didn’t.

I wanted my own car and not the Family Car with the imaginary flag with the name of the Rocket Company located in Penrose Colorado. I had my own money and decided to buy a Pickup Truck called Datsun. Now they are called Nissan, which could have made my Datsun all the more important, if I was into things like that, which I still am not. I traded in the former Family Car the Pontiac Tempest with the V-8 Engine, which in the whole time that I owned the car, that fact alone seemed to impress people, which I did not understand or even want to. I knew it was a V-8 from 1968 with a dent in the side, but no longer having a pain in my heart as we had broken up long before that.

I needed to take a test drive in that Datsun, but the man at the Car Dealer only had his own car, with rims and flags, and the worry that I would crash his fancy pickup, but worried if he said No, then I would take my money, which was burning a hole in my pocket, just like my old girlfriend burned a hole in my heart. He finally said Yes and my Father and I drove off into the night. It had a stick shift with 4-5 gears, and that alone would have sounded important to all other guys at that time, but it was just a car after all. The most impressive thing about my Datsun Pickup with the Puke-green color, which my now brother in-law called it. He was a real guy who knew about cars with the hemi-business and the cc-business, anyways I thought so. Once before I called him my Brother In-Law, because he and my sister were not married yet. I was allowed to wash his fancy car, when He was visiting my Sister at our home before my Parents got divorced, when my Father gambled too much, and couldn’t buy more and more cars which didn’t mean anything to him, just like they didn’t mean anything to me. My before Brother In-Law said that he could have gotten a better wash job from a Mexican, which made me sad and I wanted to be as good as a Mexican Car Washer, but I didn’t know how.

My Puke-Green Datsun was giving me troubles as it was In The Shop, which to any guy who knew about cars, would have given his right arm to know about. Real Guys would love to get their arms and faces dirty with grease, and throwing around wrenches and the like and telling their Girlfriends how much they loved them and that their eyes reminded them of a hemi-something or other with 250 cc’s which was just small talk for getting into their pants. Guys talked like that, and still do today – I think. I didn’t talk like that because I never dared to talk like that. I didn’t know about cars and sports and those other Guy-things, which left me alone and sad for many years.

Luckily my Mother entered the picture again with the offer of new, used Mom Car, which was a Dodge Dart Sport. My imaginary friends would have laughed at me owning a New Old Mom Car with no discernible characteristics. It was yellow and it was not bad on gas mileage, but it did not have a V-8 Engine which by the way I memorized in case I needed to throw around some Guy Talk with Real Guys, which of course I never did.

Now I met my future wife from Denmark. She ended up driving my Mom Car which suited her just fine. She said that in Denmark you either owned a Car and had no money, or didn’t have a car with money, or you had neither with a girl-boyfriend, which meant that you didn’t have money anyway. My Mom Car had My Wife, which meant that I needede a New Old Car, which by the way came from my Father, who had 2 Old, Old Cars. I then became the dubious proud owner of a Dodge once again. It was kind of blue-colored but the Gas Tank Needle didn’t work. My Father told me how to add and subtract and multiply and divide every time I filled up the tank. I thought it easier to have the gauge fixed, which I did, but he didn’t understand why I didn’t use his system. My Old Old Dad Car lasted me until I left the United States driving in my Old Mom Car.

Now I’m living in Denmark. I have had a Used Volkswagen Jette, then an Used Volkswagen Golf which were quite impressive Guy Cars, but by that time I was too old to care about Guy Things. When the Front Part of the Golf cracked or something and the Vehicle Inspection placed a rather largish Sticker on the windshield forbidding me from driving it anymore, I decided it was time for a new concept. A New Family Car. So I bought a Suzuki WagonR with a 4-something cylinder Engine. My Danish Brother In-Law who was a Danish Real Guy knew all about cars with their 250 cc hemi driven something or the other, which by the way wasn’t in my car. He knew how to buy and sell cars and owned many different Guy+Family+Type Cars, Danish style. You might want to call them Foreign Cars, but then all cars in Denmark are Foreign.

I’d like to end this story by impressing all of you Real Guys out there, Danish or not, but in all that time that I have owned Mom and Dad and Pickup Cars, and Cars with DoNotDrive stickers on them and 4-cylinder V-8 250 cc hemi something or other hopped up exhaust fans, with strawberry flavored spark plugs, I still haven’t the foggiest idea about what Cars are all about.

I did, however, when I owned my Pontiac Tempest with the V-8 Engine, learn how to make it last a long, long time. Here is the final proof that I did know some Guy Stuff back then, when my hair was brown and I was in love and all that stuff and didn’t know anything about life, but then as a teenager, I thought I did.

I knew how to change the oil, and here is photographic proof of my very first and perhaps very last Real Guy Car V-8 Time….

74oilchange_wp

Note the dent, made by the ladder, that fell down in the garage located in the picture, under the yellow oil filter in my hand. And you thought I was making all that GuyCarV-8Stuff up, didn’t you?

Living in East L.A. – It won’t get any tougher than that…

My sister was tough. Tougher than nails. She would take on 5 at a time, and whip them all.

The rest of my family came from Montebello, a city of 70,000, about 11 miles (18 km) from the center of Los Angeles.

Not my sister. She was too tough to be from Montebello. She came from East LA.

She was a Vata, which is “home girl” in Spanish. She was not to be messed with. I would have feared for my life, if I wasn’t assured of our strong family ties.

She taught me everything I know. She taught me how to eat Mexican Food, using the hottest of Chili Sauce, but it was never hot enough for her.

…..It was hot, but she was hotter…..

Now I’m living in Denmark, longing and searching for a chili sauce equal to none. Hot and Strong. Super Strong are some of the titles of chili sauce, but it is not true.

What would she have said, if I told her of “Strong Chili” in Denmark. She would have laughed in my face. “Here” she said, grabbing a Habenero, one of the strongest types of Chili to be found, popping in in her mouth like it were candy.

Laughing as the flames danced around the corners of her mouth, “Here, taste this if you want hot, are you a man or…”

No one was tougher than my Vata from East L.A.

No one