Monday, October 20, 2014

Dixie Belle

Dixie Belle near High Bridge, Kentucky River. Lucy's birthday cruise. 

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Grassroots Radio Conference

A wonderful trip to Ames, Iowa with these fine friends, as we rev up our new baby WLXL Lexington Community Radio. Look out Lex! Low-Power FM is coming!

Wednesday, July 09, 2014

For James Freeman, in memoriam.

Libby Lee and Freeman consider one another.
July 2013.
We called him Freeman, never actually knowing that his name was “James.” Freeman was such a perfect name for a great and jovial guy. It suited him just fine.

Freeman may be the first person that I have my daughter, Libby Lee, to thank for knowing. He sat across the street, a jovial sentinel, usually positioned in a plastic lawn chair to the right of the front door.

He was one of the first people that Libby Lee became fond of (even though she would feign shyness if we actually walked across the street to say 'hi').

She knew Freeman from his laugh and his smile. From across the street would come that rich baritone: “Libby Lee!” followed by a laugh that was part Santa Claus, but all Freeman. More melodic than Santa, completely benign and expecting nothing. When Freeman rang out with “Libby Lee!” it was an acknowledgement to our 2 year old daughter; no action was required – like passing on the street with a friendly greeting. Whenever Freeman called out “Libby Lee!” it reminded me of an Owensboro restaurateur from my childhood named Gabe Fiorella, whose legacy was greeting diners on Sunday at the door, shaking hands and saying “Hi neighbor! It’s a wonderful world!”

That was Freeman to my daughter — to my whole family. But it was my daughter who really introduced us to him, before she could even talk.

One special day, when not being shy.
July 2013
It was his gold tooth that won her over. Before she could form words, we’d sit across the street on our side porch — in a house that Freeman himself had spent many hours in during his younger days, I learned — and Libby Lee would point across the street, towards the Black’s porch, looking impishly at me, making cooing noises … and pointing at her mouth. I laughed so hard when I realized that she was telling me about Freeman’s gold front tooth.

Libby Lee was always keeping track of Freeman, began recognizing his always spotless, shiny black Chrysler 500 as a two-year old. Every day, she would look for him. She would ask with some of her earliest words: “Where Freeman?” Libby Lee’s fondness for Freeman grew OUR fondness for him, to the point where I would regularly impersonate him, on a daily basis, bellowing out my best, most friendly “Libby Lee! Ho-ho-ho-ho!” which always made her smile and giggle.

And of course we would come and visit, not often enough, I now see in retrospect. Libby Lee would ask to cross the street to see that gold-toothed man with the giant, loving smile and laugh. That man who offered “knuckles” and “fives” — usually while she clung tenaciously to my hip and buried her face in my neck (all the while on the verge of giggling). When her face would peak out, there would be a giant smile across it. 

And it was a smile for one very special guy named FreemanWe will so miss you, James. Thanks for the love you shared with our family.

In Memoriam for James Freeman
A Wake and Service is Saturday, July 12, 2014 at 10am
at New Day Community Church. Click here for more information.

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Monday, March 17, 2014

A Gallon of Scofflaw

When faced with a thirsty crowd, I've often turned to Jeffrey Morganthaler's amazing A Gallon of Margaritas by the Gallon recipe online. It's also inspired me to bust out some other gallon recipes, but I find that, every time, I have to sit with a pencil and scribble and — you know — do math.

This post is an attempt to alleviate that, at least for one of my favorite drinks: The Scofflaw.

For a single cocktail, my recipe is this:

  • 1 oz. of bourbon or rye whiskey
  • 0.5 oz. of sweet vermouth
  • 0.5 oz. of dry vermouth
  • 0.5 oz. of lemon juice
  • 0.5 oz. of homemade grenadine (again, I love Morganthaler's recipe and I'm lazy so I use POM)
  • dash of orange bitters
So what happens when you do the math? It's just basic math, but I'm tired of losing the scrap of paper that I do it on, so here it is. For a gallon of scofflaws, we have to get a basic volume for one drink, right?

128 oz = a gallon
one cocktail = 3 oz. or 4 oz.

So, wait — how much is a single cocktail? There's two ways to approach this. If you simply add up the ounces, you get 3, but really if you mix and shake a cocktail, you get an additional very important component of melted ice water. Whether or not you account for this depends on your dispensing method. If you're going to serve fancy, then include the water, and chill the fuck out of the mixed gallon, and then dole out in 4 oz. servings, in chilled cocktail glasses. Voila!

But what if you're slaking the thirst of a party crowd with plastic cups out of a gallon plastic jug? Like on a party bus? Or at a pool party? Here's my philosophy: Still add the water component but do NOT chill it, because your friendly booze hounds will be drinking it over ice in giant portions (owing simply to the size of party cups). So try to help people not get too hammered but still have them enjoy a classic cocktail by adding the discrete amount of added water, is what I do. They'll love it and may have you to thank for less of a headache the next morning.

So — We're rolling with: one cocktail = 4 oz.

So here's the math:

128 oz. / 4 = 32 drinks per gallon

Thus, the quantities for a gallon of scofflaws:
  • 32 oz. of bourbon or rye
  • 16 oz. each of sweet vermouth, dry vermouth, fresh-squeezed lemon juice, and homemade grenadine. (gotta be homemade!)
  • 32 dashes of orange bitters (use your own judgement!)
  • Top off with 32 oz. of clean filtered water (or nearly, if you're mixing in a gallon jug).
I'd do it in this order, or at least, I'd add the water last, since it may come in slightly under measurement. Mine often does, I don't now if that's a heavy hand on my part or what, but better to short the gallon of cocktails on water than on one of the flavor ingredients, right?

Then, don't refrigerate it, and let your party people glug-glug it into their Solo cups over ice and get a little less hammered than they would if you mixed the batch in the 3:1 ratio. 

And celebrate the deliciousness!

On Estrangement.

Letter to my brother, attempting to process a dream about our estranged dad, who neither of us (or any of his blood relatives) have seen or talked to for maybe 20 years.

Hi Chris:

I want you to know that I'm sorry for the delay in your request for action items and timelines on the Julie Project. It is, once again, right at the top of my priority list, behind the care of a 2 year old and the insane entanglements of that, even when others are caring for her.

I've had a rough couple of days. This morning I had very emotional dream. I was at some kind of roadside restaurant and I needed to travel far but wasn't sure how I was going to do it. Some kind of road trip. 

Dad walked in. 

He was happy and he said to me, with a smile: "I'm here with my dad!" I was going to get a lift from him, and I was walking behind him out to the parking lot, wondering aloud to him, saying "I guess I need to get to Indianapolis, to the bus station," thinking (hoping) he could drop me there. 

Then I was overcome with emotion. I hugged him from the side and sobbed "It's good to see you, Dad. I've missed you so much."

I don't have them often, but these kinds of dreams take a heavy toll on me, because while I'm not really much more than a "secular humanist," occasionally I have dreams that seem powerfully symbolic to me of Death. This was one of them. He said: "I'm here with my Dad." And that really just rocked me. 

And also — following him. I woke up and realized the security of following a parent, the reassuring automatic faith that they know where they're going — and that therefore, you know where YOU'RE going. You don't have to know; you know that THEY know. I don't know if that makes sense, but it's a feeling for me of deep unshakeable security. Even if it's imagined, which it is. 

You can just follow. 

And in the dream, I felt that, walking behind my dad, and I realized that I do miss him — or at least: I feel the loss of him, the absence of him — in a way that … I'll never really probably ever understand. I miss A dad — my dad — even though Bill has been a great one for me, and for us.

And the prospect, for me, of him dying — or receiving some kind of message (real or imagined) that he has died triggers something deep in me. I guess I still think he's alive, until I have dreams like this. I had one about maybe 10 years ago, but this one was more rattling.

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Saturday, February 15, 2014

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Remembering Oscar, The Finest of Doggies • 1999-2014

Oscar Charges Around the Yard, Dec. 2005
We lost Oscar today. There have been many tears. It's so hard to see someone you love faltering, and I confess that I chose not to see it — would make that choice again, even. Oscar was a frisky puppy for about 14 years and fragile old dog for maybe one year. I used to marvel — to the point of regular irritation — at his boundless energy, his unquenchable cheerfulness, his steadfast guardianship of our manor.

Man, did he know the sound of the mailman's truck.…

I would have battles of will with him over it. Once that truck drove down the street, Oscar would growl — grouse, really— over it. He knew I hated it. He didn't want to growl, because he knew that I was possibly going to explode out of my office and shame him into stopping. But he had his sacred mission. And that mission was to save us all from the mailman, a personage who had the gall to return to our doorstep day after day.

I can't think of anything that bothered Oscar quite so much. In fact, I can't think of anything else that bothered Oscar at all.

Half Golden Retriever, half Chow (with a black tongue to prove it), he was a lover, not a fighter. In fact, he could run backwards faster than any animal I've ever seen. That was his strategy with other doggies who came to play and took too much interest in his hindquarters — he'd stay nose-to-nose with them and run backwards, impossibly matching their speed and they struggled to get behind him.

When we lost Oscar today — when I sobbed over him at the vet's office and Lucy and I hugged him a few more times, stroked the whisps under his ears, dug our fingers into his plush neck fur — I thought: I've known Oscar for as long as I've known my beloved wife, Lucy. Because Lucy was Oscar's savior. Before we even met, she'd rescued him from a dark night, in the middle of a highway. And even though I was the one that Lucy married, I know that Lucy was Oscar's girlfriend. He cheerfully begrudged me — not just my presence, but my gradual Alpha incursion, banishing him from the bedroom, from the kitchen… he accepted these strictures like everything else: casually, with a constant smile, and perky ears. Oscar was a joy to train, he was easy to train. We've still got remnants of masking tape on the floor that we used to teach him to stay out of the kitchen (even, let me point out, when we moved the kitchen to a different room). He never begrudged these strictures, and if he maybe did some poking around in the twilight hours, well, what was the harm? Leave no trace, must have been his motto because I could never tell.

Oscar welcomes a very special new friend in Sept. 2011.
We lost Oscar today. There have been many tears. And just like losing anybody you love — man or beast — I know those tears are selfish. They're for me, because I wasn't done with our time. I wasn't ready for it to end. But he was a good boy. He was a good boy. He knew when Lucy had cancer. No fucking shit. He knew. I don't know how, but he knew. That alone puts him in the Good Boy Hall of Fame.

Putting up with me is another thing. I was never comfortable with the level of LOVE that Oscar emanated. Early in mine and Lucy's cohabitation, when I worked at home and it was me and the dog, we had to work through me being engrossed in a computer screen (or anything) and looking up to realized that Oscar was eyeball-lasering me, giant grin, perky ears. And grouchy me insisting over and over: "Go DO something! Git! You cannot sit there staring at me!" It's true: I need space. I could be embarrassed but what's the point? It's just who I am. Oscar loved me anyway. 

If you've never had a dog, you may not know this: Dogs love you anyway. No matter what particular kind of asshole you may be, they love you anyway. And that's special. It can be irritating, I'm the first to admit; but there's nothing like it. Nothing that approaches the love of a dog. A good dog.

Oscar was a good dog, a fine fellow. A lover. Ever cheerful. Eternally seeking the attention of his girlfriend. Playmate of Mr. Mustard, a cat-dog combination unnatural to many minds. Disciple of biscuits.

Oscar: you will be so missed. Thank you for being my friend, for your boundless love.

Oscar Points Dog • 1999 - 2014
Here are some photos I made of Oscar over our years together.

Sunday, February 09, 2014

snow, sledding and Shambhu



view full image

"Sledding, or claiming to, with #libbylee Photo by @jshambhu "
(taken at Shriners Hospitals for Children)

Sunday, January 12, 2014