Tuesday, October 11, 2011
So, when an opportunity presented itself here in Vista, California, I volunteered. Here’s my tale of adventure and woe.
I live in an apartment with my wife on the edge of an area known as the Townsite Neighborhood. Whenever the local newspaper prints a story about something happening in our neighborhood, it invariably uses the description “hardscrabble Townsite Neighborhood”.
Redevelopment in an area like this is a good thing. When the City extended its redevelopment district boundaries 3 years ago, it had to form a “Project Area Committee” to provide advice and feedback to the City Council about the area and improvement projects—known as Redevelopment Community Improvement Projects.
In late June I was looking for the dates of a particular community celebration and happened into the City’s website. While there I came across a listing for a vacancy on the Project Area Committee (PAC). It was a seat specified for a “residential tenant”. In other words, a renter. Hey that’s me! I’d love to do that.
You see, I spent over 15 years doing this type of work—community and economic development. I’ve done redevelopment planning. I’ve set up TIF districts—especially in industrial parks to create new manufacturing jobs. I have huge empathy for the people who live in my neighborhood and would like to see our local government do a better job of serving their interests. I was a natural.
So I filled out the application. And I was accepted (actually I think I was the only person who volunteered—let’s be honest here). I was invited to the committee’s July meeting (They meet every other month for an hour and a half. That should have been a red flag).
The committee meets in a meeting room in the City's 1-year old $55 million City Hall right on the edge of our "hardscrabble" neighborhood. We call it the Taj Mahal. It was financed by a local sales tax imposed by the City.
I sat through the entire meeting, listening (not my greatest skill) to the discussion and keeping my mouth shut (again not one of my greatest skills). I sat next to a man who had taken to time to go out into our neighborhood and photograph areas that have no sidewalks and streets that have crumbling asphalt. Yeah, there’s a chunk of this area that’s run-down and neglected.
And I’m thinking to myself, “Self, this could be interesting”. Then it came time to introduce me (the very last item on the agenda) and tell a little bit about myself. I told the members of the committee—property owners, renters, Chamber of Commerce members all from this neighborhood—a bit about myself and a tongue in cheek summary of some of the things I had done in the City in the 6+ years I’ve lived here.
I managed to get a stripe painted on a street (what I asked for was a street light at a dangerously dark corner). I managed to get the fences fixed at the nearby athletic fields of a junior high school so people couldn’t trespass (what I asked for was for the gates to be left open so people could continue to use the football field for pick-up soccer games). And I’ve managed to get a half dozen higher end cars towed from our street at a community festival earlier this summer and then a “no parking anytime” sign posted. When all I wanted was to get the cars ticketed for hindering traffic. Heads bobbed up and down—hmmm they’ve heard of me. In fact, one of the committee members commented, “oh, so you’re the guy…” Yep, that’s me.
They vote me onto the committee and I have to stand up and take an oath of office pledging to uphold and defend the Constitution of the United States. OK fine, it’s a bit odd but I’ll do it—yep I just renewed my social contract, this time officially.
So, I’m waiting for the next meeting. Hmmmm, there’s no follow-up generated from the previous meeting. There’s no communication from city staff. What kind of committee is this? Well, it’s a city committee. It fulfills a legal requirement. Does the City really want it to actually DO something? The notion that it meets for an hour and a half every two months should have been a hint.
Well, about a week before the next meeting—I still haven’t received minutes of the previous meeting or an agenda for the coming meeting—I got a call from the Redevelopment and Housing Director of the City. He’s calling to inform me that the required 3 year term of this committee expires at the end of the month and that the coming meeting would likely be the final meeting of the committee. What?!? I just got on the damn committee. I’m just getting going.
He told me that the City Council could, at its discretion, extend the PAC for an additional year. “OK,” I thought, “we can just get the council to do that.” But, the Director told me, staff is recommending that it not be extended in order to save money.
“And why not,” I asked.
“Cost saving in the budget,” I am told.
Rather than belaboring this further, let’s advance to the next, and final, meeting of the PAC. As they say in government, “discussion ensued”. The 2 staff members from the City re-iterated their recommendation that the PAC be allowed to “just fade away”. And they renewed their reasoning that the statutory requirement had been met and that it was a cost saving measure.
Ever the skeptic, I asked these 2 gentlemen just how much would be saved from the budget by the demise of this group. They didn’t know.
“Wait a minute,” I started up—starting to head toward righteous indignation. “You’re both professional staff members of this department (actually the top 2 guys) and you’re saying that the reason for eliminating this group is for budget savings but you don’t know how much you’ll save? It would seem to me that if you’re making this argument that you would have run at least a rudimentary time and motion analysis to be able to estimate how much it’s costing.”
The 2 guys looked at each other. Their lips got tight. They had no response. I managed to keep my mouth shut as other discussion ensued.
The long and short of it was that eventually I made a motion to recommend that the City Council extend the committee for a year. The committee delegated to me the task of communicating the committee’s position to the Council. I wrote a short, impassioned letter about volunteers volunteering for additional service.
The Council vote was unanimous. The Project Area Committee was allowed to sink into the oblivion of its 3 year term. Of course, the City’s motion thanked us for our service.
Service? What service? I was only on it for one entire meeting and the last 5 minutes of another. Crap.
Just as I was getting over it, a large flat envelope arrived in the mail from the City. The cynic in me said, “looks like a certificate”. This morning I opened it. It was a form. The form was accompanied by a letter. The letter said that the form was a Statement of Economic Interests Form 700 from the California Fair Political Practices Commission. I have to fill it out. And supposedly list all financial interests I have including stocks and 401k, etc. It is a required form when someone “leaves office”.
Office? I didn’t have an office. I was on a committee. And I served for 2 months.
Here I was, expecting a certificate of appreciation and service. What I got was a state form to make sure that I didn’t profit from my long service on the committee. Remember the scene from “A Christmas Story” when Ralphie gets his secret decoder ring along with a certificate conferring “honors and benefits”. When he discovers that the “secret message” is really a commercial for Ovaltine he says “son of a bitch”!
I had hopeful expectations about being able to, in some small way, do some good for my neighborhood and community. “Son of a bitch.”
Monday, October 3, 2011
What makes them so different from other “Dogs”? One word: bacon. Yes, bacon. Visualize a hot dog wrapped in crispy bacon, just waiting to be slathered with a host of toppings that will create a fiesta in your tastebuds. Wow! You’re going to like these.
The Tucson Citizen described Sonoran Hot Dogs as being “like a chili dog on steroids”. I disagree. I think they’re more like a Chicago Dog in afterburner.
Now, I don’t know where I came across these, but Sonoran Hot Dogs rule in Tucson and Phoenix and they’re making inroads here in San Diego and in L.A. They first appeared in the Sonoran capital of Hermosillo in the 60’s and erupted across the border in the 80’s. Now, they’re a staple of lunch-time and bar-closing time in the Southwest.
I’m doing the Cheap Bastid version of this recipe and find that I can get 90% of the taste for 60% of the cost. I’ll throw in the elements that make it pricier and more “up-scale” later.
So on Saturday Mrs. CB got a text from Miss Meggie that she wouldn’t be having dinner with us so we figured we were on our own with my newest concoction until she pulled up in the driveway and into the apartment at 6.
“So are you home for dinner?” Mrs. CB asked.
“What are you fixing?” Miss Meggie asked me (she knows who the cook is).
“Well, I doing Sonoran Hot Dogs. They’ve got salsa and beans and…” but she had quit listening, like 22 year olds do to old folks. “…and they’re hot dogs wrapped in bacon…”
Her eyes lit up at those 3 key words—hot dogs bacon. That was enough for her to become a willing participant in Cheap Bastid’s latest experiment. How about you? Here it is:
Cheap Bastid’s Sonoran Hot Dogs
• 1 package hot dogs
• 8 slices thin cut bacon
• 1 package hot dog buns
• 1 can refried beans
• 1 recipe Cheap Bastid’s Pico de Gallo
• ½ cup Mayonnaise or “salad dressing”
• Chipotle or cayenne
• Shredded cheese (your choice—jack, cheddar, mozzarella, blend, etc.)
Take out a skillet and put on the stove. Wrap the bacon around each hot dog (use shorter dogs so the slice of bacon thoroughly wraps around it). Take the mayo and add the chipotle/cayenne to it and mix thoroughly. How much chipotle or cayenne? Enough! To taste! Bear in mind, that as it sits, it’ll get hotter so start with a little, sample, add more, stir again, sample, etc. until it’s the way you want it.
Open the can of refried beans, put into a microwave dish and zap on high for 2- 2 ½ minutes until it’s hot—or put it in a sauce pan on the stove.
Get everything arranged for fixing the dogs—plates, bowls of pico de gallo, cheese, etc. so people can fix their own. Now turn the stove on to medium and put the dogs in the pan (see, do all this other stuff first because you’re going to want to pay attention to the bacon wrapped dogs as it cooks and keep giving them quarter turns so they brown and cook evenly.
When done, remove the dogs from the pan and put on a platter with a doubled over paper towel on it to absorb the bacon fat.
Imagine, biting through this concoction! The flavors and textures explode in your mouth! There’s crunch from the fresh pico de gallo, there’s softness from the cheese, there’s tang from the mayo and heat from the spices. Then there’s more crunch of bacon followed by the meat of the dog with the taste and texture of the refried beans putting the finishing touches on the bite you just took. Oh man! This is good!
Now, you’ve just had the Cheap Bastid version. There’s other versions of this as well. Some call for freshly cooked pinto beans, others for a can of rinsed pinto beans. I used my Cheap Bastid “ends and pieces” bacon—which didn’t work as well because it’s thick cut. You might want to go with thin sliced bacon. And, most recipes called for “all beef” hot dogs. My problem with that is if I’m going to spend $4-$5 a pound on beef, it’s not going to be a hot dog! That’s how much all-beef dogs cost now.
Some people add guacamole which is fine but CB just isn’t a guacamole lover. And I left out the mustard the other night and a hint of mustard on these would make a big difference—with that hint of vinegary tang to add to the dog and re-frieds. Plus you can also add a fresh-roasted or even jarred pepper to the side (just like on a Chicago dog) for extra taste and texture.
Bolillo rolls are often used for these, adding authenticity and a more upscale taste and texture. If you want to do that, slice a “pocket” in them—don’t cut end to end like a hot dog bun. This will take the Sonoran Dog up a notch. And last but not least—next time I’ll use toothpicks at each end of the dog to hold the bacon in place while it cooks and then pull them out when I finish the dogs.
The Cheap Bastid Test: So how’d I do? Let’s see, the dogs were bought on sale at $.75 a package. The Pico de Gallo cost me about $1.50 and I used half a recipe so it was $.75. The re-fried beans were on special for $.89 a can. The buns were $1 at the dollar store. And I spent $2 on a pound of bacon and used, let’s say ¾ lb so the cost was $1.50. What’s the total for 6 Sonoran Dogs that provide dinner for 3? If my arithmetic is right: $4.89 or $.81 per dog. That’s pretty cheap!
That’s the Cheap Bastid Way: Eat Good. Eat Cheap. Be Grateful!
Wednesday, September 28, 2011
What the hell has happened with our ability to spell? Have we gotten that lazy that we 1) don’t KNOW how to spell or 2) don’t bother to run spell check—even though spell check doesn’t correct every error?
It’s bad enough when you or I do it. It’s even worse when the media does it so conspicuously as was seen yesterday all over the internet, TV and print media. And when it comes to the media, whatever became of editors or even interns who double check this stuff?
So just what the hell am I ranting about? Yesterday, inspectors crawled out of a tiny “hatch” at the top of the Washington Monument in order to begin inspecting the entire structure. They are going to work their way down the monument by rappelling.
They’re two entirely different things. TV stations got it wrong. Newspapers got it wrong. Bloggers got it wrong. And, in all likelihood, the poor schmuck who wrote the press-release got it wrong and everybody else just copied him or her in their collective ignorance.
Apparently it takes an anal retentive like me to spot it and take umbrage.
Here’s what they’re doing—rappelling
Here’s what they’re not doing—repelling (as in “repel all boarders”)
No wonder most of the adults look so dufus on “Are You Smarter than a Fifth Grader?”
Monday, September 19, 2011
But geez, I’ve been thinking not just twice but three times before buying bacon. We’ve gone from cooking up a pound for BLTs or breakfast to a half pound (Wow! Talk about sacrifice!) We’ve gone from having 2 or 3 pounds in the freezer to a pound.
Crap, I don’t like that. There’s got to be a better way. Well, thanks to the meat manager at my local Stater Brothers grocery store, I came up with a solution. I was chatting with him one day and mentioned how bacon had taken a big jump. He agreed and told me what he buys—“ends and pieces”.
And I thought to myself, “Self, those are going to be little bitty 2 or 3 inch pieces of bacon and they’re just not going to be the same.” I was wrong.
Usually, the ends and pieces are mostly slices that weren’t as uniform as the other slices that went into the meat display case or they’re half slices with just a few “pieces”. Take a look:
Here’s the package:
Here’s what was in it:
And here’s the best part. This bacon is $4 a pound in the display case. The “ends and pieces” are $1.99 a pound. I can do that math. And all I have to do when I get it home is take it out of the package, separate the full slices from the half slices from the pieces and repackage it for the freezer. That takes about 5 minutes. And I’ve got 5 minutes to save half the price of the bacon.
The slices and half slices get fried up just like any other bacon and the pieces end up in something like Spaghetti Carbonara.
If your grocer has “ends and pieces” for cheap, then check it out and see if you can save some money. Give it a try.
And here’s a couple of Cheap Bastid bacon recipes you might want to check out:
That’s the Cheap Bastid Way: Eat Good. Eat Cheap. Be Grateful!
Tuesday, September 13, 2011
But I’ve got something simple and cheap today. And it all started last Thursday. It was my day off and we hit our grocery store, Stater Brothers. While there we had the bright idea of making some homemade salsa which I haven’t done in a while. It’s actually “pico de gallo” which translates from Spanish as “rooster’s beak”. So we picked up some extra tomatoes and a bunch of fresh cilantro along with a bag of chips that was discounted.
We got home and put the groceries away and I set about chopping the ingredients and letting them macerate.
Now up until now it wasn’t any big deal. It was a hot day and that was the reason for the salsa. It’s something that has some zing and zip from the tomatoes and acid and spiciness. So, along about 3:40 in the afternoon I’m sitting in the living room with some mind numbing drivel on the tube, reading a book—just kicking back on my day off. And zap! The power went off.
Now apparently not too many folks elsewhere in the country really knew that a major power outage occurred that effected the extreme southwest corner of the country for more than 12 hours last Thursday. The power blackout stretched from Tijuana through San Diego and into Orange County and from the Pacific Ocean all the way across California and into Arizona. Several million people all at one time without power. Thank goodness I was at home. I live 15 minutes from work and one guy I work with lives near me. It took him 2 ½ hours to get home.
Oh well. Like I said, it was hot and our apartment isn’t air conditioned. But in a blackout, it wouldn’t work anyway. Our cell phones weren’t working. And obviously we had had no internet because our modem wireless network are powered by electricity. There wasn’t any cable TV. We managed to find some batteries for a small radio and there was one station that was on because it has an emergency generator and does 24/7 news. At least we were able to keep track of what was or wasn’t going on.
I had planned on cooking chops on the grill anyway so dinner was grilled pork chops, grilled summer squash planks and fresh salsa and chips. Think about it…pico de gallo is made from fresh tomatoes, onion and jalapeno. That’s both tasty and actually pretty healthy. So we ate pretty good, by candlelight on a powerless Thursday night. And that’s why I call it “Lights Out” Pico de Gallo.
So, before this gets too long, here’s the simple recipe. Try making it yourself. It’s tasty and a whole lot cheaper than buying something in a jar or in the deli section of your grocery store.
Cheap Bastid’s Lights Out Pico de Gallo
• 4 Roma tomatoes
• 1 baseball size white onion (about 2/3 or so cup worth)
• 1 jalapeno
• 1 orange—navel or Valencia
• ½ cup chopped fresh cilantro
• Salt, garlic powder, chipotle or cayenne
This is really simple. Most of what you’re going to be doing is chopping and cutting so get out your cutting board and good knife along with the bowl for your salsa.
First though, take your jalapeno and roast it. You can use your grill, you can use a burner on your stove or you can put it in the oven at 450. It’s going to take 5 to 10 minutes. If you haven’t done this before, what you’re doing is putting a char on the outside of the pepper and you’re literally steaming it from the inside. When it’s done put it on a plate on top of a paper towel or napkin to cool.
Start dicing your ingredients and putting them in the bowl. You’re going to chop and juice the orange too. I love the flavor that the orange puts into the salsa along with the extra juice that’s both sweet and acidy. When you get all this into the bowl, add a healthy dose of salt—but don’t overdo it. One of the reasons for the salt is to pull the juices from the tomatoes and get the liquid mixed into your salsa.
Now, back to the jalapeno. When cooled, use the paper towel to rub the skin off the surface of the jalapeno. When it’s all peeled off, cut off the top and the cut the jalapeno lengthwise in half. Remove the membrane and seeds and toss them out (this is where the heat is, so quite frankly, you can leave them in if you want your pico de gallo hotter). Chop the jalapeno into about ¼ inch pieces and add to the bowl.
Now, taste your salsa! Add some garlic powder to taste and then add some chipotle or cayenne a little bit at a time until you get the right amount of heat. Then put it in the fridge. Serve it later with tortilla chips or do what we did—we used it as a topping for tostadas tonight.
So, what to do when you’ve got “Lights Out”, you’re hungry and you’re hot. Pull some freshly made Pico de Gallo out of the fridge (be quick going in and out of the fridge if the power’s out!), dig out some tortilla chips, scoop up the salsa and enjoy! That’s what we did. And we like it spicy!
Cheap Bastid Test: This is really inexpensive, especially this time of year. The tomatoes cost about a dollar, the onion was about a quarter, the jalapeno was about a quarter and the orange about 35 cents. Less than 2 bucks! This made the equivalent of 2 jars of salsa. Those 2 jars would cost $6-$7 at the grocery store. And this is a lot fresher and a lot tastier!
The lights were back on the next morning and it all ended up as one of those little adventures that really aren’t all that bad. Except that it really does let you know just how addicted we are to technology.
That’s the Cheap Bastid Way: Eat Good. Eat Cheap. Be Grateful!
Thursday, August 25, 2011
When I got home from work Monday night, my wife had a "special" cake waiting.
See, we have this thing which has now taken on a life of its own. We don't like to go out and buy those big number candles that a lot of people put on their cakes. We like to "make do"--one time we even cut the top off a "7" to make an extra "1". Now, Carolyn wasn't about to load up a cake with 60 candles. But she didn't have any big "6's". So, she got creative. Here's what she came up with:
(By the way, the chunk of flame between the 2nd and 3rd "5" was a "plus" sign made out of 2 regular birthday candles).
And now, back to doing research on all those places where I can get a "Senior"discount. We already know that you have to be 62 to get a Senior Discount at Kohl's. Carolyn has promised to take extra good care of me at least for the next 2 years.
Monday, August 22, 2011
If you check out recipes like I do, you’ll find a whole bunch of different recipes for Mac & Cheese. And there’s a lot of “foo-fooing” going on. Exotic cheeses, different ingredients—even truffles!
It’s always seemed to me that Mac & Cheese is a family dish. It’s supposed to be a simple dish—and it’s evolved to one which is most usually prepared out of a box. (I’ve had it many times out of a box and never thought twice about it). And, it’s associated with “soul food” which is usually home cooked, inexpensive cooking that has 2 main elements—it tastes great and it’s inexpensive.
So, Cheap Bastid set out to make Mac & Cheese that will fulfill these 2 critical “soul food” criteria. To make it taste great and to make it as inexpensively as possible. (Notice I didn’t say cheap. I quickly discovered that this isn’t necessarily a cheap dish at all). And, if I were going to do it, I vowed to use that most American of cheeses—Velveeta.
So here’s what I came up with. It’s simple, but it takes a bit of time to prep and make. It’s reasonable, but by no means “cheap”. And it’s thoroughly customizable.
Cheap Bastid’s Mac & Cheese
• 1 lb elbow macaroni
• 1 lb Velveeta Cheese
• 1 8 oz. bag shredded cheddar (or whatever shredded is on hand or that you like)
• ½ lb bacon cooked
• 2 tbsp chopped jarred jalapeno peppers
• 1/3-1/2 cup milk (skim, 1%, 2%, whole—it doesn’t matter)
• 4 slices bread (white, wheat—whatever)
First of all, notice that some of these ingredients are based on what you have on hand or what you prefer. That’s the way cooking is. Cook what you like. Substitute for what’s in the pantry—for example if you don’t have any bread, use saltines or Ritz or even hamburger or hot dog buns. This ain’t rocket science.
If you don’t want to use bacon, leave it out. If you don’t have any but want a bit of meat use spam or ham or bologna or hot dogs. Like the homegirls say: “Whatevah”.
So, let’s cook. Prep first! Get out your pasta pot, a small skillet, a casserole dish, cheese grater (don’t have a cheese grater? Just cut the cheese into small cubes), 1 gallon freezer bag, rolling pin (or meat tenderizing mallet or the bottom of a sauce pan), a big mixing bowl, a medium bowl, cutting board and a small baking sheet.
Turn the oven on to 250. Put the 4 slices of bread on the baking sheet and then put it in the oven for about ½ hour.
Put the skillet on a burner turned to medium and put the bacon in it to cook. Start grating the Velveeta into the mixing bowl.
Remember to check the bvacon while it’s cooking—don’t get too focused on grating the Velveeta. We’re multi-tasking here! When the bacon is browned, put it on a plate covered with a paper towel to cool. When cool, chop it into about ½ inch or smaller bits.
Put about a gallon of water into the pasta pot and put it on the stove turned to high. Bring to a boil, add a tablespoon of salt and add the pasta. Cook for about 8 minutes. Keep grating that Velveeta! Cook about 8 minutes—just a bit “al dente”. Pour the cooked pasta into a colander and shock with cold water to both stop the cooking and cool it down. And if you’re an anal retentive foo-foo foodie who would say that rinsing the pasta removes the starches, just go ahead an have an ice bath set up an put the drained pot full of pasta into a bowl and then into the ice bath.
When the bread has been in the oven long enough to thoroughly dry-out, take the pan from the oven and let it cool When it’s cooled you’re going to put it 2 slices at a time into the freezer bag and then use the rolling pin to turn it into crumbs—if you’ve got a bit of hostility to release, feel free to use the bottom of a sauce pan and whomp it into submission and crumbs. (When my wife does that I know without asking who she is metaphorically “whomping” if you get my drift).
Put the bread crumbs into a medium bowl and mix them up with a generous handful of shredded bagged cheddar (or other cheese) and then sprinkle about 1 ½-2 tbsp of your favorite green herb (parsley, cilantro or basil—and if you use another “medicinal” herb add an extra tbsp, but I don’t want to know about it).
OK, so now all the prep work has been done. Pasta’s cooked. Bacon’s cooked and chopped. Jalapenos are chopped. Cheese is grated. And the oven should be pre-heating to 350.
Take all the ingredients (pasta, bacon, jalapenos, rest of shredded bagged cheese and grated Velveeta) and dump them in the big mixing bowl. Add the milk. Stir everything together in the casserole dish. Smooth it out and then evenly spread the bread crumb mixture over the top.
Pop this into the oven at 350 for about a half hour. Take a peek—has the top browned up? If not, turn your broiler on for about 2 minutes (do NOT leave the room when the broiler’s on!), then take another peek and see if it’s browned. But remember, under the broiler anything in the oven can go from toasty golden to charcoal in about 14 seconds if you’re not paying attention. If it’s starting to brown at 2 minutes, turn the oven off and just leave the casserole in the oven for about another minute. Then remove. Let it cool for about 10 minutes and then dish it up and enjoy!
The Cheap Bastid Test: So how’d I do? Well, the pasta was the cheapest part. It cost me fifty cents (on special at the grocer). The bacon was about a third of a pound at $1.99 per pound for a total of $.67. The jalapeno was out of an open jar in the fridge and I used a couple of tablespoons that cost maybe a quarter. The cheese, that’s the big ticket.
I used a pound of Velveeta which cost me $4.50 and about 1/3 bag of shredded cheese (that’s all I had) which cost about $.80. So the total if my math is right is about $6.75 (I had to add a bit for the milk and 4 slices of bread). We got about 8 servings which means that they cost $.84 apiece. The bottom line is that’s not bad! Not bad at all for 2 dinners for 3 and a couple of lunches.
Next Time: We went to Fraiser’s Farms the other day and checked out the cheeses. I really want to get under $4 a pound for cheese. I can get a 2 lb block of mild cheddar for $3.29 a pound and Mozzarella for $3.99 or real American (not the crappy stuff that’s individually wrapped) for $3.79 a pound. So, next time I think it’ll be Cheddar and American mixed together.
That’s the Cheap Bastid Way: Eat Good. Eat Cheap. Be Grateful!
Sunday, August 21, 2011
Now, we’re smart enough to know that when Megan moved in with us (in our small 2-bedroom apartment) last November to leave her alone and pretty much let her come and go as she please. She works full time and she also takes classes on a part-time basis. Her work schedule will vary from day to day. Some days from 1 to 10 p.m., others from 5 a.m. to 2 p.m. It keeps her hopping.
We know that on Wednesday nights she likes to go out for hot wings with a bunch of friends—what she calls the “Wing Nuts”. That’s cool. And she’s good about e-mailing her work schedule to her mom each week. And that’s cool too.
Where things get a bit iffy is whether or not she’s going to be home for dinner—so I get a better idea of what and how much to cook. And sometimes she gets off work and goes to the gym or comes home for a bit and then goes to the gym.
So it’s not the easiest thing in the world to predict when she’ll be home, how long she’ll be home, etc. But that’s all right. Mostly.
The hard thing is…OK, so how do I put this delicately? The hard thing is, well, it’s “makin’ whoopee”.
Look, some people might consider me an old fart at 60 and some might even consider my bride “old” at 49. And most assuredly, the young woman my wife gave birth to just doesn’t want to even “go there”—you know think about her Mom “making whoopee”.
It’s scheduling. My work schedule is a bit goofy too. And trying to coordinate with Meg’s comings and goings makes it trickier.
And, well just figure that we’re of an age when going to bed at night pretty much means it’s time to go to sleep. We get tired. A 21 year old can get up at 4 to go to work and come home at 2 and then go out half the night knowing that she’s off until the next afternoon and then crash and burn a couple of days later when she’s got a day off. We can’t do that. We gotta go to sleep at night.
So, we wait until we know she’s gone. Gone all day, gone all day when I’m home from work. We put off other things waiting in anticipation. Waiting until after her lunch time to make sure she’s not going to pop in during her break.
And then…..oh yeah! And then. “Afternoon Delight”.
Tuesday, August 16, 2011
She’d had kind of a bummer of a day. She was still trying to get things done with her Mother’s house and that afternoon we took care of the 2 cars that were occupying the garage, selling them to a guy I know who owns an auto repair shop who offered to take them off our hands. And the day before, Carolyn had taken Stucco, the dog, to the ASPCA shelter. So she was a bit bummed by the finality of things—and the house which now lacked occupants or life.
So, with just a minimum of whining, I let her talk me into a treat for dinner for her. For Cheap Bastid, a treat for dinner is a trip to McDonald’s for some McDoubles. I was dispatched to get a half dozen McDoubles off the dollar menu for the 2 of us and step-daughter Meg along with fries. OK, not bad. It’s reasonably inexpensive.
I got home with them while they were still hot. OK, they were warm—what passes for hot at the “golden arches”.
We dug in. Oh man, it was a burger orgy. Now I make a pretty mean burger either in a skillet or on the grill. But every once in a while you just get a jones on for a “gut bomb”. You taste the grease—beef fat—and you taste some salt as you chomp into the brownish-grey blob of meat. As the meaty fat hits your palate you get a hit from the pickle and mustard and then a dollop of sweet from the ketchup. And you feel guilty. You know this isn’t “good food”. It would make a true foo-foo foodie barf—but they don’t know what they’re missing while they’re chomping their $30 Wagu beef burger on a fresh-made "artisan" roll.
Then after a bite or 2 you dive into the fries. They’re perfectly golden—you can never get that perfect shade of yellow-gold at home. Salty. A hint of crisp on the outside and tender ‘tater on the inside. These are heaven. It’s no wonder that McDonald’s has a reputation for making the best “fast-food” joint fries.
Oh, and by the way, why is it called “fast-food”? It took 6 minutes from the time I placed the order for 6 McDoubles and 3 large fries for them to appear in a sack in my hand. I don’t call that “fast food”. I remember as a kid ordering them at a walk-up window at McDonalds. A dime for a burger and twelve cents for a cheeseburger. The person in the window processed the order, took the money, turned around, grabbed the grub, flipped in a bag and handed it to you. All in about 15 seconds. That’s fast food, Bubba.
But what would a Cheap Bastid piece be without some sort of rant? A double-cheeseburger is still a “value” at $1. And, if I were smart, I would have opted for the $1 small fries. But no, I wanted lots of fries and ordered 3 large fries, one for each of us. They’re $2.50 apiece! Damn!
Yeah, I know, they’re good! But, I just Googled the calorie count in a large order of fries from MickeyD’s. 570. That’s a lot. Damn, they’re good. But that’s a lot. And there’s 30g of fat. And there’s 390 calories in each McDouble. That’s 1350 calories. And I wonder why I’ve been gaining weight.
But…Yeah, here comes the but…they’re good. An occasional binge on McDoubles and fries isn’t all that bad. Or is it?
But, (here’s the real but), when your wife needs a special comfort food—like McDoubles and fries—because she’s bummed from losing her mother and is having to take care of a lot of stuff from the estate, it’s worth it.
And...have you ever noticed that all the pictures in ads for McDonald's fries show the fries over-flowing the container? And when you fish your fries out of the bag they don't even get up to the front lip? Are we getting hosed? Oh yeah, a two-fifty hosing!
So, do you think we overdid it with the bowls of ice cream an hour later? Naw, me either.
And that’s the Cheap Bastid Way: Eat Good. Eat Cheap. Be Grateful.
Thursday, August 11, 2011
Unfortunately, far too many of the “hits” to this site are for people looking for pictures of Giada DeLaurentiis’ cleavage, Joy Hickey, banana hammocks, the V-22 Osprey, used car salesman cartoons and Sarah Palin as a Zombie (actually I’m kind of proud of the Sarah Palin/zombie connection). Oh yeah, and Buckwheat.
The Feds. As in Federal Government. As in Department of Justice. As in Drug Enforcement Administration.
You see, I wrote a blog post in September of 2010 featuring Buckwheat and how my wife and I like to talk in his unique language that we call “Buhweet”. Like, “Otay Buhweet”.
This particular blog post was inspired by a newspaper article I read which said that the Atlanta DEA office was looking to hire translators—in Spanish, Vietnamese, Korean, Farsi and…are you ready?...Ebonics. So that got my imagination going and I made the connection to Buckwheat. And I wrote a tongue-in-cheek blog post. Here’s a link:
So how does that bring me to the attention of the DOJ and DEA? Well, in the interest of interesting illustration, I did a Google Image search and included a DEA logo in the blog post. And, the other day (see this is where Sitemeter comes in handy) I noticed that someone had spent the better part of 6 minutes in my Blogspot blog. Hmmmmm, I wonder who? The ISP was “US Dept of Justice” and the ISP is “usdoj.gov”. The search was for "DEA Logo". To quote Ralphie from “A Christmas Story”: “Oh fuuuuuddddggggge.”
And I asked myself, “Self, do these guys have a sense of humor?” And, of course, the answer is, “Hell no.”
Anytime now I expect to hear the sound of doors slamming on several Crown Vics, the sound of multiple feet thumping up the flight of stairs right outside our door and then the crash of a sledgehammer on the door as they come after this serious miscreant. Half a dozen guys in jumpsuits and bullet proof vests and helmets wearing windbreakers that say “DEA” on the back.
The music from “Dragnet” is going through my brain. “Dum, dee dum dum. Dum, dee dum dum, dum!” “Just the facts, ma’am,” they’ll tell my wife.
And it’s all DEA’s fault for stepping on my funny bone about hiring Ebonics translators. If they hadn’t done that, I wouldn’t have had my brain-fart about Buckwheat. I wouldn’t have started writing. I wouldn’t have uploaded their damn logo into a blog post.
And if I have to go to the slammer all I have to say to my wife is, “I wubbu”.