April 1995

These are miscellaneous ramblings. Elgar wrote the Enigma Variations to give portraits of his friends. These are similar.

Well, can that. This is the age of litigation. Several people have informed me that if I describe them in any way, they will sue me. Guess they will have my Classic II and the cat if I transgress in this way. I don't think they can sell my son? Guess I am worth more dead then alive right now. Maybe the offended parties can get me executed and collect my life insurance.

You will find many references to public transportation here. I am a pedestrian and also ride the bus a lot. Great way to meet people.

On the streets

What about paying people to ride the bus or walk? How many drivers are stopped and asked for directions to find an address? It is the pedestrian or a rider at the bus stop or a bicyclist. Drivers don't have time to give directions! We are doing the city a service just by being available on the street.

Ever notice that it is just too much torture for a driver to sit in their heated or air conditioned car to wait for a pedestrian to cross the street in the crosswalk? It is much more humane to have the pedestrian wait on the curb in the rain or snow where they can be splashed by the passing car. Everyone knows that pedestrians have lots of time to kill or they would drive.

April 14, 1995

It is another great day. The sunshine reflected a thousand points of light from the glass shards in the street that I tiptoed around on the way in to work. Squill, snowdrops, and crocus are visible between the brightly colored bits of trash revealed after the snow melted.

The air is redolent of the rotted orange peel smell of the reformulated gas. Usually our inner city air has the pungence of raw gasoline and exhaust. As we had a sleet storm a few days ago, the new gas leaves a hint of the tropics that is very welcome.

April 21, 1995

It is still grey, cold, and wet here. Kind of weather you need some good, hot soup to keep you going. Did that yesterday. How to get the full experience? Start off with some split peas. Wash the dry peas -- put them in a strainer and run water over them or better yet dunk them in a big pan of water. Try to touch each and every one of them. That is part of connecting with your food.

After the water stops running off milky, drain them and put them in a huge pot and cover them with water so that they are at least two inches deep. It is important to put them in a big pan because they often boil over and they swell as they cook. Put them on the back burner on low heat and let them boil for a couple of hours. Stir them now and again with a big wooden spoon if you have one. By the time they are cooked to mush, it will probably be time to go to work, so cover the pan and set it off the stove for the next round.

If you can get going right away, great, if not, be sure to put them in the refrigerator to keep down fermentation. The next time you get to work at it, put the pot on the stove again and while it gets hot, start cutting up some vegetables. The split peas provide protein, carbos, and fiber, but you need some vitamins too. Carrots, celery, and onion work well. On a gray day be sure to slice the carrots into disks and the celery into crescents evocative of the sun and moon. It is good to have some celestial references on an overcast day and with something as earthy as split pea soup.

Some people like to add potatoes, look to see what you have in the house and make do. Seasoning comes from these pungent vegetables, but thyme is nice and I have been adding ground fenugeek lately. Salt is added to taste. If you are restricting salt, add more herbs and spices. Split the batch into smaller ones to experiment with seasoning. At my place you eat what you cook.

After this cooks, it is good to have some bread to eat with it. Bread can be many things to many people. Our neighborhood bakery is Sciortino's on Humboldt and Brady. Today they had a line 5 deep at 7:00 am when they opened. It isn't that we have a food shortage in Milwaukee, their bread is just very good and some of us don't want to start the day without it. I got a loaf that was braided and covered with sesame seeds. It has a crisp crust and the inside is soft without being squishy. When the door opens you come in and give your order to the people behind the counter. They put the bread in white paper bags -- no plastic to spoil the taste. They don't ring it up then, the counter folk write the prices down on slips of paper that look like recycled bags and you take the slip to the cash register.

The wrapper modestly proclaims the ingredients are flour, salt, shortening and yeast, but there has got to be tons of experience, knowledge, and care in it as well. Some breads are to eat by themselves. This bread is a good companion for other foods too.

Now for the finish. Ladle some of the steaming hot soup into a large serving bowl. Sprinkle something good on top -- freshly grated pepper corns, chopped parsley, or some sharp cheese. Cut or tear the bread and spread with good butter. Eat the soup as you see fit -- dunk in the good, fresh bread too!

April Fool

April Fool's Day was on a Saturday this year. I rode the 30 bus downtown, then took the 27 bus to Southgate Mall. Everything was very sober and business-like. You don't want to get too familiar on the city bus. It was one of those grey days too. That is, until on the way back we pulled up to a stop on Wisconsin Avenue.

The woman at the stop looked like she was over 70 and very neatly dressed. She was standing right at the curb looking expectantly at the bus. We pulled up to the curb and the driver opened the door. She smiled brightly and said "Hello!" and stepped back.

The Smoker

Of course smoking isn't addictive, but the quintessential smoker lights up at the bus stop and drags on that cigarette until the bus comes. They wait until everyone else has boarded to get that one last puff. When it is their turn to board, they take a huge, final drag on the cigarette, stub it out on the door, and enter the bus. At this point you can tell the truly thrifty smoker. The treasured smouldering stub is cradled in their hand for the remainder of the ride instead of tossing it into the gutter or on the floor. About half way back the aisle, they exhale to share the pleasure of the smoke.


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