Brain dump

brain dumpThere is some guy running for governor of Virginia, Glenn Youngkin, who has the most offensive tv ads, and I quote “And the future belongs to us not them”. I’ll give you three guesses which political party he represents. Who is US and who is THEM? Are these people tone deaf? Or is the tone they’re pinging just one note, one truly offensive note? Every time I hear this ad my blood pressure surges. I am not crazy about the current governor, nor the candidate from the party opposite to Youngkin’s, so voting will be yet another choice between the lesser of two evils. Wouldn’t it be nice to vote FOR someone instead of against someone else? I haven’t voted FOR anyone in decades *sigh*

I wish to hell people would stop writing what they dub poetry. Most of it isn’t. It’s short lines; it’s prose chopped up into short lines. A mass of mixed metaphors. I can hardly tell people to stop writing, I can only stop reading but it just puts people off from reading REAL poetry. And appreciating it.

Perhaps being raised on the classics has just given me an incredibly high standard. I work very hard on my poetry, to make it cohesive, to maintain the measure and the meter – because that’s what makes it poetry. And it’s damn hard work.

That said, I have lines from Emily Dickinson running through my brain – two different poems but the same meter – she tends to rhyme ‘me’ with any other word that ends in ‘…ty’ or maybe it’s just those two poems. If I were any type of scholar I would go through her canon and look for other instances to see just how prevalent that format is – but I am not a scholar and those two verses have become an irritating ear worm, so to speak.

The most interesting part of the newspaper is the obituaries. Not only do I learn about the interesting ordinary folks but I often am introduced to famous(?) accomplished people that I’ve somehow missed out on. This Sunday there were obits on two ‘famous’ people – one, oddly enough, and it made me laugh, was a woman who was a renowned Emily Dickinson scholar – Dr. Judith Farr.

The other was Ellen McIlwaine, described as a “fiery slide guitarist and blues singer”.  She was almost exactly one year older than I and was performing when I was a heavy music listener. Yet I had had never heard of her. I spent some time on Youtube listening to her this morning and, nope. I appreciate what she accomplished, as a woman and as a musician but I can’t say I would ever be a fan.

And there’s the thing, one can appreciate a skill, a talent without actually liking the results of that skill or talent. I’m just not a slide guitar fan. Watching a video of her play is totally amazing. Listening to the ‘sounds’ she makes – incredible. Wanting to hear more? No thanks. Not for me.

A lot of people don’t seem to get the ‘appreciate but not like’ concept. How hard is it to step back from something – art, music, writing – look at the technical creativity, and acknowledge it’s value while also just not feel it.

My taste in art is rather pedestrian. I like things that look like what they are. Total lack of imagination on my part, I’m thinking. I love how artists paint light – this fascinates me. Caravaggio – oh my word, could that man paint light. Just blows me away every time.

On the other hand, once I spent time with his work, Jackson Pollock also wowed me. Hardly figurative, yet he captures my emotions. I stand in awe and get goosebumps.

I think my brain has dumped enough this morning. It’s Sunday and therefore major house cleaning day but as a reward, also pizza day! Yay pizza!

If you think about it

you probably would never eat an animal product. Or that could just be me. I do not wish to be reminded that what I’m eating used to be alive or is produced by another mammal – you know like milk, or – eggs. Think about what an egg is – eww! I can’t cook a whole chicken because even after it is de-feathered and cleaned up it still looks like a chicken.

Still –

Today I made my favorite meal for lunch (we eat our major meal at what most people would call lunch time) – boneless country pork ribs and mashed sweet potatoes.

Which brings me to the topic of BBQ. I love me some BBQ and I’m not fussy what kind, Texas BBQ, Southern BBQ, even Carolina BBQ. Without doing any Googling, and from memory and common knowledge, I can tell you: Texas BBQ is beef with a tomato based sauce, Southern BBQ is pork, also with a tomato based sauce but different spices and Carolina BBQ is usually pork with a vinegar based sauce. (OK, here’s a link to some BBQ info.) I will eat them all, no preference really, tho I tend towards pork with a tangy sauce – I don’t do sweet BBQ sauce as a general rule.

I have never cooked food outside on a portable stove ie: grill over an open flame. I don’t even like eating outside, much less cooking outside – I don’t get the attraction. I do prefer a gas stove inside but I do worry about it – fire – inside….ummm, no, scary. (Don’t even start with the cozy fireplace nonsense – why do people start fires inside their homes, isn’t that something we all try to avoid? Oh yes, there are pyromaniacs and insurance cheats, wait, I’m getting off topic here.)

So -on to my boneless country pork ribs cooked inside on a gas stove.  First you get your stainless frying pan, slick it with some olive oil, brown your ribs (having sprinkled some garlic powder on them). Add some white wine and some BBQ sauce. I like Sticky Fingers Memphis Original myself. (And yes, Memphis BBQ is top notch – top notch! Ate myself sick on it the one time I was in Memphis). Oddly enough pork is rather lean and you always need to cook it with some liquid. (Yes, you can smoke pork but that is a whole ‘nother cooking technique not available to the majority of us on a regular basis – Sheesh!) Pop that pan in a 350° oven until the internal temperature of the meat is about 150°.

Put the ribs on a plate and cover it loosely with aluminium foil. Put the frying pan with the liquid on the stove top and reduce it to a nice thick sauce – takes 4 or 5 minutes, depending on how much liquid you put in originally, also how high you have the flame – technical stuff here, if you know how to cook, you know what I’m talking about.

Now, sweet potatoes – ah! I’m a philistine – I cook mine in the microwave. Yes, they would taste even more wonderful if I baked them in the oven but that would take a lot more time than 10 minutes in the microwave – So sue me. I do the potatoes way ahead of time so they can cool off a bit before I scoop the potato out of the skin and mash it.

Fun part – I add a few pats of butter, for my husband not for myself particularly. I don’t need butter on my sweet potatoes but it does make them a little easier to mash. I add cinnamon, nutmeg and freshly ground black pepper. (Black pepper MUST be freshly ground – don’t argue with me. If you are using the already ground stuff from a can – Stop That!. You can easily find peppercorns that come in a grinder, so you don’t need to buy a special pepper grinder if you don’t want to. Me, I buy Trader Joe’s, comes in a grinder.) Then you just mash it all up with a fork or the back of a spoon. Cover the dish with some plastic wrap and set it aside.

While your sauce is cooking down, pop the dish of sweet potatoes back in the microwave for 2 or 3 minutes to warm them up and Voilà. Mashed sweet potatoes tasty like candy.

You will notice that nowhere in these descriptions is there a mention of salt. I don’t do salt. You can add some if you want but you don’t need it – not for the taste and certainly not for your health. Just sayin’

So on this most gorgeous day of perfect weather I had a most gorgeous lunch. You should all be this lucky!

One of the ‘family’ essays -My Father

This was written at the same time as the “Tessie” essay – it’s about my father and since today is Father’s Day, I thought – “Why not?”

My Father

My father died when I was 26 and I remember being upset that I wasn’t upset. My father took a long time to die maybe three years. He died because he wanted to, not because he had to. Sometimes I think my father never really lived; was never really happy; didn’t know what happiness was.

When I think back I realize my father never talked about what his life was growing up. I don’t know what kind of child he was or what his dreams were. I don’t know what his disappointments were. I didn’t know him at all. But when I remember him I remember only happy things, quirky things, funny things. My father was very funny, sometimes in a very dry sarcastic way, sometimes very slapstick, but mocking, always mocking. I wonder how my father saw the world?

My father was. He was unto himself. He was an only son with five sisters; an Italian prince. He ruled the kingdom of the Torre family. When Jerry spoke everyone listened, everyone, that is, except his daughter. At one of the family funerals (his mother’s or his sister’s, I don’t remember which) my mother fainted and I took her to the lounge. Some of my father’s cousins came down to tell me “Jerry wants your mother upstairs”. I told them to tell my father my mother wasn’t coming back upstairs until it was time to go home. They looked at me aghast. “We can’t tell him tell him that” they said. “All right, I’ll tell him myself”. And they all trailed me upstairs, wanting to see what would happen when someone told Jerry “No”. When his response was “Oh, alright”, they stood amazed. The heavens didn’t open; I was not struck by lightning. You see, I was the only person who could tell my father “No”. More than loving me (and I know my father loved me more than anyone) my father respected me. I was so much like him. I would fight for what I thought was right and what was my right. But I fought as he fought, quietly. I don’t know who dubbed me the “quiet rebel”, perhaps my father, but I am like he.

My father was a most precise man. If you were to do something, then do it right or not at all. My father was a very good cook, and when he cooked, he cooked. Sauerbraten must be marinated three days in a crockery pot in a cool, dark place and so it was. I had to remember to go to the basement several times days and turn the meat. Catsup was an abomination and rarely appeared on our table. Roast beef was only to be eaten at an exact state of rareness with au jus gravy, salt, pepper and nothing, I mean nothing, more. I didn’t know what brown gravy was until I was in my twenties.

My father owned a deli for a while. If someone ordered a roast beef sandwich, my father would offer salt, pepper, perhaps some lettuce. If anyone dared ask for mayonnaise, mustard, or God forbid, catsup, that was the end of the sale. He simply wouldn’t do it. He would carefully explain that this was the finest beef money could buy and no one would ruin his beef. They could take the sandwich the way he prepared it or they could go somewhere else. Everyone in the neighborhood knew my father and they acquiesced meekly.

Or liverwurst. Now liverwurst can not be sliced thin and when you wrap it you put it in small irregular stacks so it won’t meld back into itself. People who asked for “liverwurst, sliced thin” went home with liverwurst roll, not sliced liverwurst. My father would slice it, make one big stack, then lean on it while he wrapped it. My father was 230 pounds; do you know what that did to the liverwurst?

My father was a truck driver for a beer company. I don’t know why he chose to be a truck driver. Perhaps because as such he had no boss, no one leaning over him giving him orders. He was his own man. But I’m telling you, he was the smartest, best-educated truck driver you will ever meet. My father read and instilled in his children (at least me) a love of reading and knowledge. We could never get through one meal without the table being littered with dictionaries and encyclopedias. It drove my mother crazy. If we made a statement, we had to prove it. If we used a fancy word, we had to define it. And if we couldn’t then out came the dictionary, right then and there.

And language we were taught to use it correctly. My favorite example is when I asked my father to bring me a “cold glass of water” from one of his trips to the kitchen. When he came back no water. “Daddy, where’s my water?” He said “the glass is in the refrigerator, chilling. You did ask for a cold glass of water, didn’t you” I caught on quickly “O.K., Pop, you know what I meant. ” “Well then next time, say what you mean”. If you said you were going “over” someone’s house, he would ask if you were taking a helicopter. You go “to” some ones house. Always my father was teaching. I suppose I got away with a lot, but never bad grammar, inaccurate language, flamboyant statements or unconsidered opinions. People say I’m a perfectionist. People get angry because they say I am always right. Not so, I am simply my father’s daughter. I think before I speak and I do things the only way I know how the right way. Like my father.

It’s not to say my father didn’t have some major character flaws. He did. But they made him more unhappy that they made anyone else. He died because of them. As the years go by, I resent my father for dying. He didn’t have to. How might my life have been different if he had lived.

Somehow I believe he would have saved me from all the bad decisions I’ve made; he would have protected me from them. He wouldn’t have let all these bad things happen. I don’t know why I think that. My father never interfered in my life. My decisions were mine to be made and the price to be paid. Perhaps I need someone to blame.

I resent that my father died; that he wanted to. We hardly talked, he and I. Because we were so much alike, though different in our opinions, every conversation was an argument. But how I learned from those arguments. Time would have mellowed my youthful arrogance, but my father took that time away from me.

I was never aware of loving my father. And now, I am aware of nothing else. That big bear of a man with the twinkling eyes that mocked the world around him. I wish I knew what made him so unhappy; I wish I knew him; I wish I had the wisdom then that I have now. I wish my father hadn’t left so soon.



Hate keeps me alive
Frustrated by the silence
Invisible life

Miscellaneous Mishegoss

😸 My husband’s new jeans just got here.  I ordered them May 12, they were on backorder, not expected until Mid-August and !Hurrah! here they are today, June 16.  What’s so special about these jeans? For one thing they are made in the USA. Therefore: Both pant legs are the same length. All the seams are double stitched in a straight line and best of all, both side pockets are not only the same depth but a depth at which you can actually put things in safely. Oho!

I don’t know who your buy your jeans from but if they were made in any of the countries most clothing comes from these days then you know what I’m talking about and how thrilled I am that these jeans are perfect in every way.  The company is All American Clothing Co.. If you wear just plain ole, non-fancy, non-designer jeans check them out. Two pair of mens jeans cost me, with tax, $104.93.  I had discount codes (sign up before you buy and they will probably email you a discount code plus I get discounts via my credit card and yadda yadda yadda) so that was a great discount from the normal price of $69.95 a pair. I don’t know if their regular price is too high or pretty much average, I don’t wear jeans myself, only buy them for my husband. I also don’t know about their womens jeans, never bothered to look but they do sell women’s clothes.

😸 This afternoon, after watching my husband shovel his lunch into his mouth like a 3 year old with a backhoe, we had yet another discussion about my food prejudices. Texture is everything. I do not like/have no tolerance for (but not limited to):

✔︎ Mashed white potatoes. But for some reason mashed up sweet potatoes or yams are just fine. Maybe because they have more substance, or even because they taste terrific, don’t know. White potatoes in any form are basically a waste of my time, tasting as bland as they look, and mashed potatoes make me gag.

✔︎ Needless to say oatmeal, or anything resembling oatmeal, is never going in my mouth. Talk about gagging! Plus – folks usually put milk in/on oatmeal and I’m lactose intolerant. So gag and barf times two.

✔︎ Liquid food is not food and consuming it does not count as eating. That includes soup or something I hear people talking about – smoothies? I’m not sure what those are or their purpose. It seems you take some sort of milk product (and to me all milk-like products – cows, sheeps, goats, soy, almonds etc are a huge no-no, gag and barf) and then add other solid stuff, any sort of fruit or vegetable(?), puree that shit, and then drink it. Why, god, why?

Moving on…

I’m reading Mortality by Christopher Hitchens. I have read about him but never anything by him. This book was published after his death in 2012 so I am very late to this writer. So far what struck me most was that he talks about a writer’s voice. And that the best advice he ever got was to write the way he talked.

Reading that made me feel better about myself. Whenever I despair about my writing style it’s because I, indeed, write the way I talk. Something you may all be aware of now that I have posted vlogs and audio posts.

Okay, I’m done now. Going to pop off and finish my book.


I am angry
And in my anger

A woman, grown old
but a child still,
in shadows and silent.

I want to be loud
Shout out
Hear me, See me.

But I don’t exist
as me. Just
a place for you

To lay your life.
To have me be
a sponge, a sop

For all you are
And have been.

© Grace St. Clair 2021
~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ 


This post falls into the tl;dr category especially since the intro is rather lengthy. Anyway –  The other day I answered a (new) comment on an (old) post with “If you think Italian weddings are a hoot in hell, they got nothing on Italian funerals! ”  which made me think of my Aunt Tess and the essay I wrote about her. I searched through my ‘documents’ and couldn’t find it. I knew I had a hard copy in my files and when I pulled it out I realized it had been typed on a typewriter and not on a computer.  These essays were written back in the mid 1980’s. I’ve spent the afternoon typing Tessie’s story into my computer and I present it to you now, exactly as originally written (and typed) with no editing. Tho it is not far off from the way I write now, it could use a tune-up.

Let me  introduce you to my Aunt Tess –


My godmother’s name is Tessie. She is my father’s older sister. She is in her late 70’s and has blue hair. Actually Tess is rather regal looking. She took after the Torre side of the family – large. Not fat, mind, just large. Actually if you put the family together they look like the back line of the Rams.

Tessie was married to a mafia lawyer, who for the entire length of their marriage maintained another household with another woman.

Jim had a son with this other woman (no kids with Tessie) and Skip and I were waiting for Jim to die so we could go to his funeral and witness the scene when Jim’s son showed up. Tessie knew about the woman but not the son. Well, Jim’s funeral has come and gone and Skip and I missed it. It must have been grand. Actually all Torre funerals are grand affairs, especially with Tessie in attendance. Ah, the sobbing, the breast beating, the flinging of the grief stricken into the coffin – it’s wonderful!

Tessie has a history of funeral performance. The tale is told that when she was a little girl (when funerals were in the home) she would get all dressed up and slip out of the house and wander the neighborhood looking for doors with black wreaths on them. She would go in, tiptoe up to the coffin and begin to cry and weep and wail. Everyone would say “Oh poor child look how upset she is” then they would say “Who is she?” then she would get thrown out.

We often asked her why she went to funerals. She never really answered us, just laughed.

Tessie lives up in Westchester, actually Yonkers, which is still the Bronx, near the race track. Tessie plays the horses – and wins. She has a very scientific method – license plate numbers, birthdays, the color the jockey is wearing, really logical choices but, she wins. She opened a special bank account for her winnings so her husband wouldn’t find out. One day she hit the daily double or the triple or whatever, and won big, I’m talking big! When the tax form came in Jim opened it in error and Tessie nearly had a heart attack. She fluffed it all off and since Jim didn’t really care what Tessie did her private income was safe.

Now my Uncle Al (who is another story altogether) also had a weakness for the track. But he did it logically, condition of the track, past performance of the horse, stuff like that – and lost, all the time. He lost so often that he was in the process of being fitted for cement shoes, if you know what I mean. The only time Tessie lost was when Al went to the track with her and bet on the same horses. Needless to say Tessie did not encourage Al’s company.

After my father died Tessie felt it was her duty to visit my mother every other Saturday or so. Tess would trek down from Yonkers to Long Island and spend the afternoon dragging my mother back and forth to the OTB parlor. In between trips she would listen to the races on the radio. My mother was thrilled to pieces about the whole thing. It kind of blew my mother’s Saturdays.

My mother saw more of Tessie after my father died than in all the 35 years preceding. And of course, you understand, my mother never liked Tessie and Tessie never liked my mother. But family is family and my father was Tessie’s little brother and my mother was his widow…so.

They spent many an afternoon glaring and arguing and rehashing 35 years of insults and slights and coming up with quite a few new ones. I really think Tessie was relieved when my mother moved to Phoenix.