That Time I Cried When a Celebrity Died

Sadly, I missed the opportunity to see Stevie Ray Vaughn perform live. Nevertheless, his indelible impression on my heart reduced me to tears  when, on this day in 1990, I heard the news of his tragic death.

At the time, I’d seen scant few snippets of performance footage, but spent hours upon hours listening to Soul to Soul and In Step at volumes that let the neighbors in on my musical preferences.  The mere idea that he could step in and tear up a stage with the likes of ZZ Top (Dallas’ Adolphus Hotel), as easily lay down tracks a la David Bowie’s  Let’s Dance, or hold his own at Carnegie Hall all the while remaining true to his rocking blues roots speaks volumes about his musical ability.

SRV guitar

To  have watched Stevie Ray Vaughn play his Fender Stratocaster guitar was to have witnessed a pure connection between talent and God.  I’ll say again that I never saw him play a live show, yet even today, watching a video of SRV performing  still raises the hair on the back of my neck as I bear witness to an ethereal wave of light that bridges Divinity, Vaughn, and his guitar.

Few are as blessed as he with such a gift and his only served to increase my faith in a higher power. Maybe that’s why I cried when this celebrity died—because his absence left a gap between me and the intangible.

May he always Rest in Peace.

 

 

Treasure in the Kitchen

 

Not long ago, I opened one of my mother’s often used Culinary Art Institute’s Encyclopedic Cookbook. In it are plenty of recipes that our family enjoyed over the years, some with hand-written modifications of measurements or ingredients that made a recipe either more palatable or economical to make. A handful of duds which failed to please anyone secured notes in the margins like “Yuk!” or “Too spicy.”

The cookbook includes a number of my favorites that I’ll have to hunt for when conjuring up ideas for meals that I’ve forgotten I liked.

The treasure exists in the meal planning section.

Weekly meal plans delineated by age group stun by today’s standards. Looking at them now brings me to hysterics.

I’m talking the sort of laughter that can be described as hearty guffaws, tears-streaming-down-the-face, side aching, belly laughing, gasping for air, wheezing and unable to breathe for fifteen minutes solid. I cannot imagine trying to tempt today’s preschool child with Thursday’s menu.

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So how did we collectively drift so far away from eating the variety of foods that help our bodies to be well-nourished? Why were we asleep at the wheel as food production morphed from fresh, locally sourced meats, legumes, and fruits into prepackaged, processed globs served up in rectangular containers?

Our quest for variety caused us to stretch globally, so much so that the local sources once well-known to us became replaced by barely identifiable, sugared, salted, genetically altered food, covered in corn syrup and poisoned with insecticides, or as Stick Chick once put it:

What the hell happened to my watermelon seeds?

Where are the vibrant red tomatoes in sizes varying from a child’s fist to a softball, dripping with juices and meaty, sweet and delicious even without refrigeration?  Why, in stores the size of football fields can one locate scant selections of high-priced organic, non-GMO foods where biodegradable package designs trump the standard?

The drift began sometime during the late 1960s and early 1970s. I think it coincided with the change and expansion of women’s roles; those who added “career in industry or business” to their list of accomplishments along with raising children, cooking, cleaning and coordinating all of the things that make a home function successfully. Some women felt their skills and intelligence were underutilized and held aspirations beyond the home. Most were disproportionately dependent on men for financial support.

I don’t see the changes as places upon which to assign blame; rather they resulted in unintended consequences and probably hastened innovation.

With television finding mainstream popularity, TV dinners allowed people to enjoy complete meals. Cooked and served in divided pewter trays, the dinners allowed a convenient way for people to take food directly from freezer to oven and to have a hot meal on the table in short order.

As it became more the norm for women to work outside the home, the food industry responded accordingly. Convenience compensated for lost meal preparation time. The introduction of the kitchen microwave dramatically reduced meal cooking time and “they” assured that microwave operation (with certain caveats) posed no danger to us.

Metals such as tin foil create a fire hazard (to wit, another story but I’ll not digress) and potential for electrical short, so the introduction of plastics provided an alternative. The average user  never questioned the use of plastic, or if they did, their inquiries were either dismissed or squelched in favor of convenience.

If the collective “we” had given it serious thought, we might have asked whether off gasses from heated plastics might create new  hazards in our homes each and every day. To shed a little light on any complex subject, I look to a simplistic description. I learned that a 1951 innovation, the creation of polypropylene and polyethylene AKA plastic, changed the world as I knew it.

According to www.reachoutmichigan.org, the route taken in the petroleum-to-plastics process goes like this:

Petroleum -> refined -> ethane and propane -> apply high temp -> ethylene and propylene -> combine with catalyst resulting in “fluff,” a powdered polymer -> additives -> extruded and melted -> cooled and made into pellets -> shipped to manufacturers -> produce plastic products using processes such as extrusion, injection molding, blow molding, etc.

There are so many variables within this process that it seems impossible and implausible to definitively declare all plastics “safe” for human use.

While I’ll shy from venturing wild guesses, it would not surprise me in the least if “we” found at least some causality in cases of autism, cancer or other physical ills. I’d be curious to know if anyone ever studied whether the increased incidences of any of these diseases in the general population coincide with microwave use specifically as it relates to plastics when compared with persons who have little or no access to them (assuming there were few enough variables to isolate them as potential causes.)

Anyway, if (and this is a BIG if) we gradually shifted to a diet of only homemade meals from menus like those included in the cookbook in order to achieve a conversion to a permanent diet of unprocessed, home-cooked meals instead of processed chicken nuggets, corn syrup laden breads, high sodium microwave meals, and iceberg lettuce salads, would we be better served?

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If you can successfully convince any 4-year-old that you know to have Tuesday’s Liver and Potato Pie, well, please accept my deepest of curtsies and hat’s off to you.

Wrecking Books and other Blasphemy

I always subscribed to the notion that books ought to be treated with near reverence.

“Careful not to bend a page my dear.”

“Do not set that cup of milk on the cover, it will make a ring my dear.”

“The jacket stays on to protect it my dear.”

Books, I believed, must be guarded from harm. A certain hierarchy existed. The Bible in any size, edition or cover held the position of literally sacred and most carefully guarded. Next in order of importance were: the dictionary, encyclopedias and other reference books along with library books and school textbooks.

Beneath them came hardcover books then paperbacks (which when using utmost caution to avoid dropping them directly into the ocean, could be brought to the beach.)

Yes, books required care or so I thought until one particular day in church when the preacher asked each member of our congregation to get out a pen.

“For this project,” he said, “the mini-golf pencils will not do.”

He instructed us to open our Bibles to a specific passage in the New Testament.

“We’re going to find a path to salvation,” he said.

Hesitant though I was, he suggested we created a trail of verses much like a treasure hunt. He read the passage and instructed everyone to write the next address (chapter and verse) in the margin. We proceeded to find that address, read the next passage, write a new address on that page and so on until we reached an end.

IMG_1225There it was—blue ink in the most revered book. The exercise changed my perspective on books and on faith.

I think I had always confused protection with abuse.

“Let’s not throw the book during an argument my dear.”

“Let’s not burn the books my dear.”

“Your books are not to be strapped to your feet and used to ski down the steps to the basement, my dear.”

Books are meant to be read, their pages marked with faint ovals from fingers turning one after the other. Dog ears, highlights or underlines should delineate words worth remembering and paths worth pursuing.

No matter the religion, faith is a journey from one chapter and verse to another.

Mind Reader

Prompt: If you had the power to read minds for one day before you went crazy from all the chatter, how would you use your mind-reading powers for good?

Days pass when the chatter of people carrying on inane conversations make me want to flip the off switch.

The 24/7 technological connectedness amplifies this condition and I imagine that reading minds would be yet a further amplification.  Except that while so-called “good” thoughts would be added to the mix, so too would the lies, the untruths and harsh realities.

I admit this would require growing an extra layer (or layers) of my already thick skin as a buffer against vitriol. However, I prefer to think I’d  take the high road as a clairvoyant and offer advice to those with negative proclivities.

photo courtesy: Huffington Post
photo courtesy: Huffington Post

People, in my experience, can often be their own worst critics. I imagine someone with plenty of talent but low on self-esteem pondering thoughts like: “I’ll never be good enough to make a living as an artist (or baker, or chauffeur, or deputy sheriff…)”

I’d inquire first as to the source of this belief. I have found that with reasonably regular frequency, when questioned on nearly any topic about why they believe what they believe, people come to realize that their basis is neither logical nor sound.  It’s as if they formed an opinion early in the thought process either because someone  told them things are a certain way, or they alone came to a quick conclusion without doing real research.

Can I be an artist? Who am I comparing myself to? Why am I comparing myself to them? Do I need formalized education to achieve my goal? What skills do I possess that can help me? What or who stands in my way? How do I want to live? Am I high maintenance? Do I live in an area where I can be successful? Does geography matter? Am I a night owl or an early bird? How does that affect my ability to become who I want to be? Who can help me?

Reading another’s mind, catching and pointing out the negative and analyzing those thoughts by asking a myriad of questions can easily clear a path to the positive.  If I could read people’s minds and help them improve upon themselves, I’d consider that as “using my powers for good.”

I know what you’re thinking…