Saturday, May 26, 2012

Lard Ass My Butt

Okay, here's something I'm not proud of.

Oh, then there's something I really am proud of.

Once upon a time, back when I was still gainfully employed, I had to give a Comair regional jet a delay time from "Flow Control" as they were taxiing out for their flight to CVG (the Cincinnati International airport that's not even in Cincy OR the great state of Ohio).

Me: "Comair 2831, Memphis Ground."

"Ground, this is Comair 2831, go ahead."

Me: "Comair 2831, I have good news and bad news to tell you. Which do you want to hear first?"

"Ground Control, go ahead and give us the bad news first."

Me: "Comair 2831, time now 2-2-3-0 Zulu, expect a 3-0 minute delay with a *wheels up* time of 2-3-0-0 Zulu."

"Geez, Ground, that's horrible. We'll just pull off to the right here and hold short of Taxiway Mike Nine."

Me: "Comair 2831, that's approved."

"Hey Memphis Ground, Comair 2831?"

Me: "Comair 2831, Memphis Ground. Go ahead."

"Um, yeah Ground.........what's the good news?"

Me: "The good news is I'm a very handsome man."

Female Co-pilot: "Can I get your phone number?"

Me: "I'm sorry ma'am but today's my anniversary, and my wife is going to be your Departure Controller."

Female co-pilot:: "Damn, this day just keeps getting worse."

Me: "Roger. Monitor tower on frequency 1-2-8 point 4-2."

I told you that story to tell you this one.

The bad news is that by this Winter past, I reached an all time high in pounds. I wasn't tipping the scales, I was busting them to tiny pieces.

If not for something Christine told me, I might have already stroked out.

She told me about the Weight Watchers *point system* diet. Being a complete knucklehead (pronounced "Walker"), I had to modify it immediately. Nothing says, "Don't mess success, you idiot!!!!" like getting in touch with your inner moron (pronounced "Walker"), messing with it and "Walkerfying" it.

Damned if it isn't working in spite of my best efforts. 

I basically just cut down all my portions in half.

The results?

The good news.

Damn! How did that get on this blog?

Like Otto says, "Once you see it, you can't unsee it."

My bad.

Here. Feast your eyes on this.

Size 46 shorts, that were too tight last year.

My 2x bathing suit is so baggy it darn near fell off me with just the weight of my key chain at the pool today.

Thirty pounds..........gone.

Thirty more to go.

It feels good to feel good again.

Oh.......the belt?  It's on it's last notch.

I'm not determined.

I'm pissed.

Anyone who knows me, knows "pissed" means I'm going to get my way and I'm going to do it my way.

But the credit goes to the lovely Miss Christine.

She's the best.

Until the next time, all y'all take care of yourselves.

Air Traffic Mike, ret.

Friday, May 18, 2012

Dog Daze

Let me begin by saying I'm fighting a miserable Spring head cold since Wednesday.

I actually felt it coming on Sunday night when my throat started getting that scratchy feeling. In keeping with my tradition of not wanting to go to the doctor until I'm on "Death's Doorstep" with one foot in and the other on a banana peel, I cancelled my scheduled 8:20 am appointment at my General Practitioner's office.

I can handle my own colds most of the time.

Besides, I knew by Monday morning that I'd have an "Over the Counter" medicine plan in place.

Monday went by and Tuesday came. Cousin Beth and I had made plans for lunch over at Harry's Seafood Grill in Wilmington, DE.

I figured that would be a good day to do so. I'm sure Christine had heard enough of us talking about the Walker family at the horse races on Saturday afternoon.

I'm holding off on doing a family blog until after Beth, my brother Kevin, our cousin Rick, and I get a chance to scan in some old family pictures and compare family notes.

Looks like at least a four part series at a minimum.

Suffice it to say Cousin Beth and I had a great time. We spent the better part of four hours talking family stuff and our personal histories.

More to follow on that at a later date.

Wednesday and yesterday I was down for the count. Bad sinuses, hacking cough, a touch of vertigo.....I was on a roll. Christine's sister called and wanted to know if she wanted to go to a New Jersey State Bar Association dinner being held last night. It was held at the Borgota Hotel and Casino in Atlantic City.

I was actually glad for her to go. I didn't want her catching my cold. Besides, when I'm sick I just want to be left alone.

Unfortunately, I wasn't alone.

I was here herding three Dachshunds and a "Chorkie".

They are actually pretty low maintenance as dogs go.

I'm not sure, but I don't think it is cheating if one times their dogs' "rest breaks" outside with taking one's medicine.

Today I feel a lot better. Not 100%, but not too bad. I think the sunny, 75F, and low humidity day has a lot to do with it.

To make it up to the dogs, I let them run around in the backyard for about 45 minutes.

What happened next was quite unexpected.

A Dachshund "Pose Down" war broke out.

"Butter" started it.

She fired off her tribute to Greta Garbo with her famous, "I vont to be aloooone." pose.

Butter went right to her "A" game.

Can't say as I blame her.

She knows from her days as a "Dog String Art" performer that starting off weak is a great way to finish out of the money.

"Mercedes" was not about to take that pose from "Butter" standing up.

She chimed in with her patented, "Sun Goddess" pose.

Now there was NO way "Billy" was going to let the out of town relative or the newcomer take HIS crown.

"Billy" took advantage of his exceptional good looks and came back with, "Smoldering Eyes".

I just sat down.

Nothing I could do.

It was "game on".

"Millie" asked "Butter" if she could join in the competition.

I'm not so sure it wasn't a set up, because "Butter" came right out with one of her more devastating moves.

A VERY sarcastic rendition of, "Laughing Hyena".

It was pointed out to "Millie" by "Butter" that you can not spell "Dachshund" using "Chorkie".

"Mercedes" was not happy with "Butter's" attitude towards "Millie".

"Millie" and "Mercedes" are very close in age. "Mercedes" had to stick up for her generation.

She took her revenge on "Butter" the only way she knew how.

"Dachshund Falls Off Building (See, We Really Don't Land On Our Feet)" was a show stopper.

"Butter" knew she'd just lost First Place, but her shock only intensified after "Billy" pulled off his next move.

"Billy" came back with an unexpected, "Dead Dog (Left 90 Degree)" combination Dachshund pose and "Dog String Art" move.

That's when "Butter's"  "Pose Down" world came crashing down around her.

Not only did she not win, she didn't even finish in the "Top Three".

Under the official rules of "Dachshund Pose Down":

Rule 19: Contest Awards
A). "When the field of competitors numbers two or three,  one winner shall be declared"
B). "When the field of competitors numbers four or five, one winner, one runner up, and one
        best in show shall be declared."
C). "When the field of competitors numbers six or more, one winner, one runner up, one 
        second runner up, and one best in show shall be declared.
D). "In the event of a tie, it shall be reconciled with a "Sudden Death Pose Off".
E). "All decisions of the judge(s) shall be irrevocable and final."

It was obvious that "Mercedes" had unseated "Billy" as Grand Champion.

It was obvious that "Billy's" last move had made him a very close second to "Mercedes".

What wasn't obvious to any of the three was that when I'm judging a "Dachshund Pose Down", I include all dogs present for the "Best in Show Award". That's my decision as judge and under "Rule 19E)." I am within my rights to do so. Under "Rule 19B)." that means the actual field of competitors is four for the purposes of judging.

Therefore, although I had to disqualify "Millie" from the "Pose Down" portion on the technicality that she's not a Dachshund, it did not mean I had to disqualify her for "Best In Show".

Dachshund Pose Down Official Results:

WINNER: "Mercedes"

RUNNER UP: "Billy"

BEST IN SHOW: "Splitty the Maul"

Best  In Show?  How you might ask?

Hey, any maul that can whip up a perfect, mesquite wood, smoked picnic shoulder deserves some sort of award.

I think we're going to have a good old Memphis BBQ salad for dinner tonight and just take it easy.

Until the next time, all y'all take care of yourselves.

Air Traffic Mike, ret.

Sunday, May 6, 2012

El Pollo Smoko....................

There are many good reasons why my Spanish is so poor.

Probably starting with the fact I took five years of German in high school.

Neither of those statements has anything to do with this blog, I'm just stating them for the record.

Over the last few day I've been wanting to buy a smoker. For many years (approximately 18) I owned a Kamado. Kamado is a Japanese word meaning "dragon". Far from being an actual dragon, a Kamado is a top end Japanese earthenware smoker. These days a company markets them in America as "The Big Green Egg".

I was the third owner of my Kamado. A couple in San Antonio purchased it in 1977. In 1982 they gave it to a fellow named Paul. In 1984, when I got to New Orleans International Airport as a rookie air traffic controller in training, Paul had just certified as a full performance level controller. He lived in the same apartment complex as I did. He cooked a lot of meals on the Kamado for he and his girlfriend and me and my girlfriends. By 1986 I had become quite adept at cooking on the thing. When Paul transferred to Houston in 1987, he gave me the Kamado. He had decided to buy a new one when he got back to Texas.

I kept the Kamado until 2003 when my ex-wife and I divorced. It was too large to fit on the balcony of my condo. In keeping with tradition, I gave it to a friend of mine.

He still has it and it still works beautifully.

I told you that story to tell you this one.

Yesterday, I could no longer stand it. I've been cooking on Christine's gas grill for the last two years. Gas grills are okay. They do a reasonable job on steaks and chops. They aren't bad when used in conjunction with a cast iron griddle for blackening fish or chicken. However, I prefer to slow cook meats over natural lump charcoal and hardwoods for smoking.

We had to make a vitamin run to GNC yesterday morning. Walmart is in the same complex. I ran in, picked up our order of vitamins and it was off to look at smokers.

Of course, I mean "look at" in the guy way.

That means "purchase".

Being a typical guy, I spotted and seized on the heaviest one they had.

The box weighed around 75 pounds.

It didn't fit in any shopping cart they had.

In a word.........PERFECT!

The box was so cumbersome it took both of us to load it in the back seat of Christine's Toyota Corolla.

We were lucky the back doors barely closed.

Now that we had a backseat full of heavy steel parts, there were two things left to do.

1.) Go to Lapp's Dutch Market and pick up some meat to smoke on it.

2.) Assemble the smoker.

There's a tradition in my family, started by my father, when assembling something with a million parts.

It involves huffing in frustration, then muttering under our breath, and finally outright cursing.

Every bad word I ever learned, I learned from watching Dad build one of the many bicycles we had as children.

Except for the "F*** Bomb".

I learned that when Dad stubbed his toe coming up the stairs from the recreation room.

Christine and her mother had a "Kentucky Derby Hat" event to go to yesterday afternoon. That left me time to cut the grass and then open up the smoker and get to work on it.

I figured it would take about 30 minutes to assemble.

After all, how many parts could there really be?

I skipped "huffing" and went straight into muttering.

By the way, the other 80 parts are off to the left outside of the camera view.

Fortunately, I didn't have to tackle this alone.

Splitty the Maul was standing by to help.

The first few steps were pretty easy, so I didn't need any help. Splitty was just sort of hanging out and drinking beer.

I had the base of the unit assembled. The next few steps were sort of involved so I sat down to read the directions a couple of times to make sure I had them clear in my head.

Suddenly, I heard an odd noise.

Splitty yelled out something about "being in an iron lung".

I was not in any sort of mood for buffoonery.

Splitty got out and returned to drinking beer.

The "half hour" estimate ran into about one hour and fifteen minutes.

However, I finished the project with no left over parts.

That's a "win" in anybody's book.

Splitty had to jump into the picture at the last minute.

Mauls dig getting photographed.

Who knew?

Anyway, the smoker was done and that meant only two things.

1.) A celebratory beer for me.

2.) Fire up the smoker.

The BBQ'ed chicken came out smoky and very moist.

By the way, that's mesquite chunks soaked in water over the natural charcoal in the second picture.

Later today, I'll be putting on some spare ribs and a beef brisket.

Both are marinating as we speak.

I have a marinade I developed over the years.

Here it is:

- 2/3 cup dry red wine (I use an inexpensive Chianti or Merlot)
- 1/3 cup low sodium (green cap) Kikkoman soy sauce
- 2 tsp dry thyme leaves
- 1 tsp rubbed sage
- 1 tsp ground summer savory
- 1 tsp black pepper
- 1 tsp garlic granules
- 1/2 tsp ground cayenne pepper (use 1 tsp if you want it hotter)
- 4 dashes Worcestershire sauce

Mix ingredients in a 1 gallon Ziploc Freezer bag. Add meat to bag. Close bag and shake to mix ingredients and coat the meat. Place bag in refrigerator overnight, turning occasionally.

Grill/smoke as desired.

Pretty simple, but it yields great results on smokers.

Okay, time for me to get this day started.

Until the next time, all y'all take care of yourselves.

Air Traffic Mike, ret.

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Meanwhile, Back At The Blog

Okay, no reruns today or for the following couple of weeks.

We have no plans for a change.

Christine is wrapping up a very busy month. The real estate market has kept her busy as has her framing business. She and her partner just finished framing and matting 18 pieces for a young artist. The works are on display in Center City Philadelphia.

If anybody needs the address to the exhibit let me know. I'll get it for you.

Last week we were sort of covered up. Christine with her job/business and me with herding three Dachshunds and a "Chorkie". If you go back two blogs you can read all about it.

We had one day where there was nothing scheduled. That was Sunday. However, my oldest cousin Ricky and I have been trying to get together for some time. Sunday worked out for him as well as me. Besides, as I mentioned in this blog, I had something to give to Ricky.

Sunday came, we loaded into the AirTrafficMobile and headed down to Maryland.

He and his wife Patty live right next to the little town most of us Walkers hail from.

I have a lot of friends who claim to come from "small town America". I've been to some of their hometowns. Believe me, if they ever saw Hack's Point or Long Point, Maryland they'd think they'd grown up in Manhattan.

In no way am I insulting or putting down either town. I think any child would be lucky to spend time in either. It has everything you need. It has a convenience store with an attached ice cream parlor, and a river suitable for boating, fishing, and swimming.

Anyway, it took Christine and I about an hour to drive down. The traffic on Rte. 40 sure is a lot heavier these days than it was back in the 1960's and 1970's. Rte 40 used to be mostly farmland once you got out of New Castle, Delaware. Now it's mostly apartments, housing developments, strip shopping centers, and traffic lights.

Just because someone calls it "progress" doesn't mean it's "progress" for everyone.

The traffic made us about 15 minutes late. That's not a big deal, but I don't like being late. It's a pet peeve shared by myself, my brother Kevin, and our late brother Bruce.

"Being late is a character flaw!!!!"  - - Bruce Walker

However, since we were just going to visit and not go out for lunch it worked out just fine.

I gave Ricky a slide rule that had belonged to his late father. Ricky was grateful to have it.

Ricky pulled a big cardboard box from under the pool table and opened it. Inside were hundreds, if not thousands, of Walker family pictures from the 1930's on. Of particular interest were pictures of my paternal grandparents old house in Elsmere, Delaware. I had never seen pictures of it.

One series of pictures were taken when my late father was home from boot camp at Fort Benning, Georgia. He was training to be a paratrooper in one of the earliest classes at the time. Far from being the 40 year old man he was when I was born, he was a young buck in the pictures. Not an ounce of fat on him and all muscles from the waist up. There were pictures of him and my grandparents. There were pictures of him and his younger sister, Ricky's mom Aunt Betty. There were pictures of him and his kid brother, my Uncle Bill. The picture that made me melt though was a picture of my Dad's youngest sister, Aunt Patsy, sitting on his knee with him in uniform. She was all of two years old.

It's just a great photo.

I told Ricky that we need to set aside a weekend, select a group of photos over the years, scan them, and get them out to the rest of the family for them to enjoy.

It was at that point he asked, "Did you get the email I forwarded to you from your second cousin Beth?" I told him that I had indeed and that it was my intention to get a hold of her this week.

Beth is our cousin Doug's daughter. She's working on a large genealogy project encompassing the various families she's related to. It's a daunting challenge. Fortunately she has some of the "obsessive genes" that come with being a Walker.

Also, I told her I'd be happy to assist in any way.

Now then, back to Long Point, Maryland and visiting cousin Ricky.

Everything was going fine. We were having a nice visit.

Then, it happened.

I should have known better than to leave him out by the garage.

Splitty the Maul noticed that cousin Ricky had left his keys in the golf cart.

Mauls dig golf carts.

Splitty took off for the waterfront.

I wasn't going to try and stop him. I tried that once when he took off on a front end loader. I learned my lesson.

Ricky, Patty, Christine and I walked over to the deck.

Splitty was already slung up in a chair enjoying the view.

What's the view look like you ask?

A little something like this.

Unfortunately for Splitty, there was one slight issue.

He wasn't quite tall enough to see over the rail.

Such is life when one is a maul I suppose.

Like I've always said, "I don't work on problems. I work on solutions."

I had an idea.

I had Splitty climb up on my shoulders.

Problem solved.

We were on a bit of a schedule with the four little doggies back at the house in South Jersey. We headed back to Ricky and Patty's where Ricky grilled us all up some of the best cheeseburgers I've had in years. Honestly, we'd have liked to stay longer.

Maybe next time.

In the meantime, the rest of the week has been mostly quiet. Christine hit the ground running on Monday and hasn't stopped since. Her oldest daughter came down Monday and took "Butter" and "Millie" back to Philly. That makes my day a lot quieter.

Tonight, peace and quiet.

Tomorrow, looks I might break out the heavy cookware and cook BIG food.

I'm overdue to do so.

Until the next time, all y'all take care of yourselves.

Air Traffic Mike, ret.