A New Air Fryer And Singleness

Been experimenting with the air fryer I got for Christmas from Celie (my landlady), another cooking thingy to add to my countertop kitchen. It joins my age old convection oven who I have spent so much quality time with over the years that I have come to lovingly, almost intimately refer to as convection oven, my hard boiled egg egger which is quite possibly one of the greatest little inventions since electric light, the DVR or shoes you could pump for some unknown benefit back in the early 90’s, and LAST year’s Christmas present from Celie, and my double burner coolly streamlined hot plate from a company whose name I actually recognize, which was yet another Christmas present, this one from my Sis and Bro and my Mom. Seems Christmas still does hold a little bit of magic, even just a one of please feed yourself Stephen with anything other than a microwave or that grimy convection oven that even those in the middle ages, had it somehow worked, would have thumbed their dirty middle agey noses up at … boil something … how about some soup, it can cure all ills … make some pasta for Christ’s sake … something … if for no other reason than to make us feel better knowing that we tried.

Tonight’s experimenting was only me attempting to perfect the one thing I seem to have gotten down … cheese fries. Garlic and onion powdered, Sweet Baby Ray’s hot sauced cheese fries with four different cheeses to be specific. Sounds kinda tasty cool when you detail it like that right?  Some other experiments have become nothing more than almost useful doorstops or paperweights or the thing you hope to be holding in your hand at response to a house break in but the cheese fries? I got ’em bangin’ with some salsa and sour cream.

I even picked myself up a little air fryer cookbook, the one I used to first figure fried potatoes, ie French fries ie cheese fries (I got to the cheese part all on my own). Page 59. There’s already stains on that page now which makes it seem grandma legitimate replete with admonishments of the terrible life you’re living. That page, and all the others, are filled with recipes of some of the tastiest sounding of things, Chickpea & Avocado Mash, Chicken Mushroom Casserole, Parmesan Crusted Tilapia, Prawns (my God, now that sounds like some fancy shit huh?), Special Maple-Glazed Pork Ribs, which of course are special, how could they not be, it’s in the name. But being a lazy single guy my cooking has only ever consisted of a something with a few spices and hot sauce on aluminum foil in a too well worn pan for 25 minutes with nothing on the side while I watch (or re-watch) whatever episode of M*A*S*H was on Me TV then when I first bought it, right after I had moved out of the house into a new little place on my own or now of whatever Pluto TV’s next Star Trek Next Generation episode is that I’ve seen before after Celie killed the cable star, but not without asking me first if I was Ok with that. Have Firestick will travel I told her, I’m good Celie, whatever it is that can save a couple of bucks and whatever it is to distract until I hear a “ding”.

So now I thought, I have a roadmap, a roadmap of food preparation, a cookbook. But one of the drawbacks of being that lazy single guy, whose cooking, as I said, has only ever consisted of a something with a few spices and hot sauce on aluminum foil in a too well worn pan for 25 minutes with TV distractions? I don’t have any of the ingredients it calls for other than that main something and I probably never will. That would require thought in my shopping and we can’t have that. I know where the beer and cat food and litter are with some other things grabbed quickly in step along the way.

Damned cookbooks and their details.

Cheese fry anyone? … hold on, let me grab the sour cream. Do you like salsa … yes, I do have a little bit of rhythm … I’d love to …

A Proud Uncle Gets A Text

(I think I may have to expand on this soon but for now, at least, consider it a part one)
 
Now, I don’t have any kids, well, at least no strangely familiar 20 to 30 year old’s have shown up out the blue at my cat welcome mat (just a regular one by the way – the one that meows when you step on it costs WAAY too much and sounds almost weirdly cruel) with surprise stories of moms and nights I might only slightly recall begging me ask the déjà vu question of if I have ever met them before, so I think the knowledge of my life and the marks on its doorframe’s timeline is pretty safe, though I think I’m getting shorter (my feet also seem to be getting smaller but that is another concern entirely).
 
But, I do have two nephews and a JG (the son of my ex), two of the three of which I did spend a good deal of time with in their early, post production testing the new wheels and horn stage.
 
One of them, Jake of the two nephews, which sounds like something that should have it’s own crest, the older, at 21, of my sis’s two boys, who is a uniquely funny and wonderfully smart, eclectic young guy, texted me last night, and, no, not to tell me that he had run into someone a little older than him who looked surprisingly like me, but to ask if I could take a “wild guess” at what book it was that he had just bought. Book? I know. What the hell is that thinks the youngin’s?
 
“Ummmmm, something Gene Wolfe?” I replied aware that he knows that Gene Wolfe is the absolute favorite of the sci-fi/fantasy geek that is his uncle.
 
“Nope” he replied back.
 
“Isaac Asimov, “Foundation”?” was my next guess. That one has just been in my head lately with a film coming and the thought of a reread, plus I might have mentioned such to him.
 
“One more try”
 
“Everyone Poops?”
 
“No, Douglas Adams, The Hitchhiker’s Guide To The Galaxy”
 
Oh, a kid after his uncle’s old silly heart. Bless you son.
 
“Damn!” I said, hoping it would be “Everyone Poops” as classics need be recognized “I should have known to guess Hitchhikers”
 
He then went on to tell me how he keeps dropping the “so long and thanks for all fish” at work and how it infuriates him that no one gets it. Now, I’m sure those drops are missing a bit of context but I said I could understand the frustration and added that knowing something they don’t, like this, is still pretty cool.
 
He jokingly responded back one more time with “these uncultured swine”.
 
I did a bit of a genuine spit take at that one knowing that that is exactly the type of thing I might say, but just imagining it in the dry, sardonic way that is all Jake.
 
Ahhhhh, I may not have any kids but Jake? Ya just made your uncle proud.

Amazing Grace and Chuck … A Long Lost New Review

When I was courting my ex-wife, yes, I said courting, what of it, I hoped to get myself on the ins and into the good graces with Mr and Mrs P (Danielle’s last name started with such) as any gentleman caller would when it comes to a Mom and a Dad. I thought of anything I could to ingratiate myself to them. I already knew the question would come, I knew that from the first time I saw her, yeah one of those, across a bar at Station Square in Pittsburgh where we both worked, she at a little cigar shop and me part time at a little CD store, “Jukes”. I knew right then and there as I decided on a stop for a beer and a snack and a sit down before home that that question would come eventually, maybe with a bended knee, maybe with a wild plan or maybe even with a simple over lunch and a “hey, by the way would ya like to …” I don’t really recall exactly what that moment was, I just knew that it would and did happen. I don’t know of any other time that I was as in love as I was then … suddenly.

I’d eventually be introduced to Mom and Dad and would be invited to the house doing my best to cut down any awkwardness by, well, being awkward. It went awkwardly, but I’d like to think that I’m a fairly likeable guy just with awkward moments for stuff like this that can maybe be almost endearing and soon we were all watching the X Files together with me on the floor leaning against the couch next to Fish the dog, Danielle behind me at my shoulders, her Dad in his captain’s chair and her Mom at her side and we talked between commercial breaks of the goings on of the show but also about the goings on’s of goings on’s. We would soon have dinners, I would take Fish for walks around a wonderful little suburban dream Mt Lebanon neighborhood, I’d start calling them Mr and Mrs P, I’d meet her sister and her brothers, one of which was a Pennsylvania State Cop who told great cop stories and kept me straight backed (my own choice) just in case and we slowly came to be family which was so welcome for a guy whose own family was back in NY, 500 miles away and who had been alone for quite some time.

It was around then that I discovered that Mr P was a fan of Jamie Lee Curtis, quietly, as if Mrs P didn’t really know. We all spend looks, innocently, and Jamie Lee Curtis was Mr P’s look. When I told him of the smallest of movies that had Jamie Lee in it, that he didn’t know of and made my way to a Blockbuster one night he lit up, well, as lit up as Mr P could be as he was a pretty reserved, quiet guy.

Amazing Grace and Chuck

My buddy Rick, the editor of the school paper at WVU and a guy who helped save my life with a place to stay and a friendship after the fire that had me standing in my underwear in a late 80’s December watching things burn and go away, including “Bob” my first cat, I’m so sorry Bob, dammit! who allowed me some latitude after not dismissing me at my first off the street stranger’s walk into the paper’s offices with queries of writing for him asked me not too long ago if I had a copy of a review I wrote of this movie 30 + years ago.

Now note that I am an awful movie critic as they range only from yadda yadda suck to yadda yadda cool. Movies and words about them are his purview which he has proven over the years and proven really well. But me? Not so much. I don’t know all the words that movie reviewers use, just resorting instead to that yadda yadda suck or cool. But I did write a review of this one back then, a one of those hidden gems type reviews that was actually Ok. I could probably find it for you Rick but that would require me going through the storage bins that have a lifetime’s worth of shit buried in them just becoming things that you move from place to place, giving them a tour of new stops in your small world, always promising yourself that you’ll finally explore them at the next place but eventually just become heavy things you keep moving and placing in windows for cats to survey their world on with a towel or two layed on top for the comfort.

I became “the guy” after that trip to Blockbuster as we watched this fable, this little fairy tale of a movie about nuclear weapons being put aside play out, with a final wondrous Gregory Peck and a couple of equally wondrous movie newcomers, a movie that promised what the best of ourselves could be if we would only just allow it.

What a wonderful little film, a one that would have made a Frank Capra proud, though he would have added that Capra touch that could have made it one of the greats.

It’s not one of the “greats”, it is though still damn good, but I was reminded at the watch this weekend that it is mine, it didn’t/doesn’t have to be great, it just has to be mine and hold memories … and still bring me to tears. Freakin’ thing.

That accepting of the question from Danielle so many years ago now didn’t work out as I would have liked, wished, wanted, planned but I had found a thing that her Dad and I could bond over and her Mom, seeing the connection, bonded with me as well. I miss them.

It’s not the review I wrote years ago that was kind of Ok, not just yadda yadda suck or yadda yadda cool Rick, but maybe this one is a little better and no searching through storage bin cat spots. I can continue to leave them be as they just wait for me to lug them, again, to wherever the next stop on the tour may be.

New Sheets And Not Hopeful Extra Pillows

So, I finally changed my sheets a couple of nights ago, the brown flannel ones that are the definition of comfy  and my go to’s. I didn’t want to let them go. Ok, I realize that “didn’t want to let them go” sounds almost tragic like “let them go” with music and words and tears and dropped flowers from some in veils underneath umbrella’s, but it was just that I had to “let them go” for the moment, nothing overly dramatic, to the time suck that is laundry. But this letting go opened me up, again, to a forgotten world of sheets, almost all mismatched but still whole if you’re ok with flowers marrying stripes and pillowcases seemingly from someone else’s closet in someone else’s hallway.

My hallway closet is a dresser slash mini wardrobe with neat doors that click closed above it’s dresser’s drawers in a living room that I never use other than a walking through it to the bathroom or to belly rubs for Bella on her little circle of carpet that I bought at Ocean State Job Lot for 2 bucks, her circle spot, or her bed that was re-discovered as cats will. I put the mismatched in this mini wardrobe now or whatever has had drawers in the past (though nothing as cool as this current dresser mini wardrobe) and forget them until the cool brown flannel sheets finally cry uncle.

But with the changing I actually did find a new bed lay that do match in this dresser mini wardrobe with the neat doors that click when ya close them above the drawers. I said “oh, cool” almost surprised as I always am whenever I change the bed. Then someone, somefur puked on a pillow the next day, the other one, the one I don’t use for any company I’ll never have or keep. Yeah, funny one universe. You’re a card. It’s sitting on the futon now, drying, along with the “new” pillowcase.

I was mad, for like five seconds at the puking, yelling to the air at whichever of my furry charges might be the pukey culprit, but then I just laughed. You are adorably pathetic Frankenberry in that cat guy kind of way. Hold that pillow and case for the dry on the futon for the moment and then put it back in its spot eventually next to your head for the maybe … or not.

But there was the anticipation, pre-puke, for at least one night and that something about new sheets, especially when you’ve found some that actually match as a bonus, that led to one of the better nights of sleep I’ve had in quite some time and, for how poorly I sleep never really relaxing the action that is my head? That was most welcome.

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The world has been fucked up. Not that that is any real news I know, but just fucked up and, sadly, we’ve been forced to adapt to it. Did I ever imagine years ago, as I so cavalierly went about my daily, smoking too much, drinking too much, changing sheets not often enough and not paying as much attention as I should that we would be where we got? No, of course not. Not even the best of by rote angst filled drama as happiness defeatests I knew in those days, and I knew many, myself included, could have imagined where these last four years would have brought us. But, the smoking has stopped, years now, though a vape pen still fills the void, the drinking has subsided but not without still measuring the cost of a 30 pack at the distributor vs a twelve pack at the convenience store, adding them in my head as I measure what’s necessary to deal with the fucked up and the still denialists and apologists and the make shit uppers out there. I’m not even sure anymore what is more to be concerned with, figuring the relative cost of beers on a limited paycheck too many times or wondering if I should just ignore the number and the cost completely if I’m going to be able to figure out what to do in the hell’s handbasket that some still want this world to sit in.

But this time around I HAVE payed attention, as evidenced here in the Attic with plain words or words in song with no cavalier, just a need to be informed and speak them such and maybe finally take heart after all of them there words were spoke or sung that there might just be a little light now, finally,  might just be a little bit of hope. A breath.

Yah never know, when I’m even older than I am now I could possibly get a chance to talk to the kids of my nephews or the JG, if they will allow the crazy old guy with an overgrown unkempt face his future seconds (as I’m sure that’s all that may be allowed), about the when we fell into disarray … fell hard. Talk to them about the “when” like some campfire fright story.

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I’m still listening to the Alan Parsons Project, exclusively, ten months later as I noted at the start of all this shit. Even found a way to get the Ladyhawke soundtrack again and hear Time Machine for the first time, filling things out, that/those always elusive or too costly one or two final records in your almost complete collection of whatever band is your fond obsession. Comforts are important.

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Had another Zoom call earlier with three of my bestests from the college days, or any days, who for some reason still find me interesting enough to include on such things. Probably just a phase, an almost 40 year one, yes, but still probably just a phase. If for nothing else a pandemic has allowed the eureka moment of “You mean I can actually talk to my friends and look at them like on my cartooned future Dick Tracy wrist? Holy crap, now there’s a future is now concept huh?” Three hours of our ugly mugs (minus Lori’s of course) laughing and joking and opining and just being us like that dorm room years ago or that spot at Buhl Hall with a couch and chairs people stood around if you weren’t there first or a shared house with tiny bedrooms packed close where you heard everything or that bar where you could raise an arm for another pitcher without seeming a dick, he or her serving knowing that recognition would be handsomely rewarded. No dickishness involved.

We talked. We laughed. We confirmed an almost lifetime.

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It’s cold, winter months will do that of course, kinda their gig, but not as cold as it used to be though the wind I hear rushing around my windows, even shaking them, seems to be trying to hold it’s place in history, remembering old days.

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Mom sounded good on the phone yesterday. I had called her with the need for a brain break and a step away from my little studio to outside the back of the station here, only so much five aspirin were going to do. A touch of air and a call. Sometimes ya just need a Ma no matter how much she knows of or might remember of your call these days. She had a Razzy growling lightly in dog dreams at her feet and a Ricki meowing that need another cigarette sounding meow of hers at the end of her bed. Mom mistakenly calls her Sixpence, the years ago cat that is always the reminder of cats our family all share and have taken with us. But she sounded good and was so much better than any number of aspirin.

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This past week was long, relatively speaking of course, but a long one for me and it kind of beat me down a bit, I guess maybe a subconscious reasoning behind finally changing the sheets,  even with them now not actually being the “oh, cool” find of a matching set as there is a new post puke pillowcase on that one unused extra pillow, but it’s alright. Mismatched kind of suits me anyway. Matching always seemed something of a luxury.

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Mimi the Quirky has her spot, after her halting straight legged stick legs walk to under my feet, like struck out of a kid’s bad art project they might discard for another bad arty attempt with her non-committal but please committal pick me up onto a bar towel just above my keyboard. “There ya go Memes, that’s your spot”.

Bella has her little 2 dollar circle of carpet or that newly found always there cat bed and Cricket the Blind is just being annoying, but in an I still love her kind of way, meowling into nothing non-stop while she walks her blind chasing a tail circles with a sound worthy of a grandma wailing at a funeral while she waits to curl up on the edge of my pillow and make sure she is near her Steve on an always too short a night, especially in the comfort of new sheets.

Sometimes she even grabs that never used extra pillow. Well at least it occasionally gets occupied I guess.

Staring At Walls

As I sit here blindly or knowingly staring at walls into nothing looking for a couple of words with a blank numbing dumb, I realize that gratefulness has it’s moments, that still breathing has it’s advantages, at least when it comes to trying to tell a story. Even with “It was a dark and stormy night” as a best of friend recently joked at the thought of starting her book being enough as long as these digits can still type even a time honored cliché.

2020 couldn’t have been worse, we’re all well aware of that, so much pain and loss, along with so much disarray, so much anger, so much divide, so much stupid, and a stupid that just doesn’t want to give up it’s stranglehold on our everyday it seems, a hopeful tomorrow that you wished might come just a bit easier continues to mock you everyday on your waking.

It’s a bad Groundhog’s Day as I roll over and look to that Pirates clock on my wall that says “Yeah, you’re still here numnuts, but good luck … tick, tick”.

So, I blindly or knowingly stare at walls into nothing, digits at the ready, while still continuing to breathe, wanting to find a simple, a sense of normalcy that I’m afraid will always now elude us.

So just some trivial notes of a me with a breath instead. It’s the only “normal” I got.

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It was like the arrival of Steve Martin’s phone book, the excitement I felt at another Steve, the boss at WHUD, bringing me a package upstairs to my little studio … and without a sheet or sheets of paper of new imaging stuff in his hand.  I wanted to jump up and shout to M Emmet Walsh “my new underwear is here, my new underwear is here!!”.

It’s silly but I recently posted about my underwear (I know, for like the 11 of you that follow me, you’re saying “that’s why we visit the Attic Frankenberry … underwear”) and being struck by the revelation that I got a gift card from the boss here and from a friend and even some welcome cash from another that I could now actually buy some new pairs and replace the disappointing ones I bought not too long ago at a K-Mart close out that just decided to give up the ghost on doing what underwear does, namely staying on my ass and not, instead, sliding down to my thighs underneath my sweatpants. He even gave me a second gift card as a genuine thank you for my work so I splurged and added some socks and plain solid colored T-shirts to the order … I think.

A livin’ on the edge understandable jumping excitement right?

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For the last week I fostered a cat, a kitten from downstairs. “Drumstick”. An unfortunate name stemming from an injured leg that came about from the indifference of those that just shouldn’t cat or just shouldn’t dog or just shouldn’t pet, period.

He was a cool little guy, let me pet him but only from a bend down, breaths out knee creak grunts, lay on my side on the hardwood outstretched hand underneath the dresser or the couch kinda thing. Though I did see some venturing out from the beneaths, even happily noting that he enjoyed the top of the couch on a comfy blanket on my old man trips to the bathroom only thinking I had to pee in the middle of the night he really wasn’t comfortable here, his anti-social being a thing which I understand

Celie said she would take him to her sister’s place, a one who is better at this type of thing.

To me though it was a bit of a defeat. Yes, I’m happy that he might have a better shot at acclimating with Celie’s sister but my catness took a blow, especially when I consider my stray gray Grayson, my great save, who I took so much time and care with to bring into the fold from his angry combative seemingly feral band-aid inducing lonely outside world to a warm one with friendship, comfort and soft places with Bella and I at the old apartment and who turned out to be the best of friends, even, after a nudge at my nose, sleeping on my arm under the covers on cold winter nights.

Freakin’ Yin and Yang.

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Celie got me an air fryer for Christmas this year which makes that matte black metal hang on small walls pineapple thingy I got her pale in comparison. But she likes pineapples and, as we  get each other gifts every year, things not necessary, but so welcome, I hope a small matte black pineapple might find a spot.

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Got an email that a package had been delivered to the station on New Year’s Eve, just after I had left (I actually got a chance to leave early on one of these “Eves” as is always the case with the boss and the rest of the gang but not always with me. It was nice). It even came with a picture from the delivery person of it sitting atop our station mailbox, though that’s kind of cold. I’m thinking successful delivery pics should come with a selfie and a smile. I don’t know you but for the briefest of moments I did, so maybe a share.

“My something is here, my something is here!!” I bounced happy from home to M Emmet Walsh again, a “something” because, in my glory of a couple of nice sized gift cards and new underwear splurge, I can’t quite remember what I ordered.

Well, I do like surprises.

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One of the cost cutting measures here at the beginning of the nightmare of this past year was to cut our voice folks, the ones you hear with the zips and zaps and quick effects between songs, a female and male voice bouncing back and forth, pieces I build. But those voices have to be replaced if they’re not to be paid, thus I’m the new one on the male end of one of the big stations here. I always thought how cool it would be to be that voice, to tell my Ma or my Sister or my Brother to listen, or even Dad years ago like with a cassette of one of my on air shifts as a jock as a sort of validation for my choices. “Hey Dad, that’s me!”

Has it afforded me much? Well, I guess that’s relative. If somehow continuing to pay the rent and to buy beer and cat food is relative then so be it.

I’ll take being that voice as a matter of pride for the moment though getting paid for it is in order eventually.

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Well, back to walls and a stare … damned words.  Sometimes they’re so difficult to find.

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Another email of yet another package being delivered.

Shit dude, what the hell did your flurry of gift cards bring?

Did I mention that I’m grateful and love surprises?

Still breathin’.

Haggis & Cracked Black Pepper

 
 
A good friend at work thought to try something new this holiday season, a box of different snacks from around the world to maybe share with his family for a bit of fun. Who wouldn’t want to sample snack treats from across the globe, to see (taste) what other folk’s version of chips and cookies and popcorn and other assorted indulgences were like? To maybe make a connection with unknown friends as to what were their favorite munchables were while all doing the same things we do, watching the tube, enjoying little get togethers with stuff in bowls or on plates or just mindless grabbing and popping while working at your desk or working from home?
 
He said it didn’t go quite as planned.
 
I think I might know why.
 
Nothing says “shared snack experience” like a chip that approximates, and I definition quote “a sheep’s or calf’s offal mixed with suet, oatmeal, and seasoning and boiled in a bag, traditionally one made from the animal’s stomach” … BUT with black pepper in chip, or crisp form (and you don’t even want to go further for a definition of “offal”).
 
I know black pepper could possibly be the game saver but still …
 
Maybe next year just a box of snacks from your local deli my friend and the knowing that we all snack worldwide and just leave it at that.
 
Some simple, boring Lays chips all around gang … with dip.
 
Haggis & Black Pepper Crisps