Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Sometimes, I guess there just aren't enough jet videos.

Image result for sometimes there's just not enough rocks

My apologies to Forrest Gump, er- Winston Groom actually, for borrowing most of his quote from the movie.

I remember the quote, and the movie of course, very well.  It was the first film my wife and I saw after we moved to Japan.  We had been quite the movie-goers when we lived in San Diego after we were first married, but that slowed considerably after the trip across the pond to Atsugi Naval Air Facility. That wasn't due to a lack of theaters, but because of the frequent underway periods CVW-5 had aboard USS INDEPENDENCE (CV-62). Besides the one on base, there were two other theaters within train or driving distance, one at Camp Zama, and the other at the Sagamihara Housing Area, which we visited as often as my schedule would allow.  I don't remember necessarily being bored by life in Japan, we were still newlyweds after all, but other than watching AFRTS programming, visiting the O-Club, or playing American tourist, taking in a flick was the height of entertainment for us.

Forrest Gump was no exception.  It had already been a big hit back at home by the time it made its way to the overseas bases, and every showing in the theater was packed.  It was so popular in fact, that it was held over for a number of weeks, alternating each night between the three local theaters.  Many people saw it more than once, my wife and me included.

Forrest Gump is one of those films in our house, that when it comes on TV, is watched through to the end.  It's over 20 years old now so I can't even begin to guess how many times I've watched it.  One of my favorite scenes is when Forrest is carrying Bubba out of the jungle and F-4 Phantoms drop napalm behind him.  I admit I was a little disappointed when I found out years later that the jets weren't real- just computer generated.

There's a bunch of other great quotes in Forrest Gump which I repeat fairly regularly when given the opportunity.  My impression of Forrest's "I must have had about 17 Dr. Peppers" is usually good for a laugh when somebody at work says they have to use the restroom. The Shawshank Redemption is another oft-quoted, oft-watched film I love.  "Get busy living, or get busy dying.  That's damned right" is probably my favorite quote.

While it doesn't really compare to Gump and Shawshank, at least as far as critical acclaim goes, another film I've watched, and quoted, more times than I can remember is Top Gun (two words, not all caps, ha!).  It's not the greatest movie ever made, the dialogue is cheesy as hell, and the technical errors in it are laughable, but I still like it.  It came out just as I was beginning my Naval service- (NROTC).  Anytime you've got a movie or a clip with high powered jets in it, it'll get more than a passing interest from me.  Firefox, Flight of the Intruder, The Final Countdown, etc., all meet my admittedly low threshold for highly watchable jet flicks.   YouTube videos are no exception.

While Jenny in Forrest Gump coudn't find a way for her to change what had happened to her in childhood, not enough rocks, I can make my day a bit brighter just by watching a cool clip- and I really can't get enough of them.  Yes, I'm easily amused.

Some folks on here don't like the soundtracks attached to cruise videos, but this one is pretty decent.  The original track- Van Halen's Dreams, was stripped out, but the footage is excellent.  I guess I like these type of videos for several reasons.  The first is obviously because they have jets in them!  Jets are just cool, and I like them for some of the same reasons I like fast cars, skiing and all kinds of racing sports- they get my adrenalin pumping, even if I'm just watching them.  The second is that I was one of the guys who helped put together our Foc'sul Follies videos way back when, and I like to see the cinematography and creativity that others have put into theirs.  Lastly, it reminds me of what I used to do, and with that I remember the excitement and freedom that flying offered.

And a little bit of freedom, even if it's achieved vicariously through a YouTube clip, never hurt anybody.

Ok, that's all I have for you today.  I'm on vacation so Sarge owes me some extra kibble for putting together today's post.  

Monday, March 30, 2015

Life on the Edge (of the Country)

(I’m not a Lawyer nor have I played one on TV or even stayed at a Holiday Inn Express lately.  The opinions expressed in this, my one annual authorized rant, are my own and cannot be attributable to anyone else.)

Murphy over at Lagniappe’s Lair had an interesting take on an attempt to gain fame through YouTube.  I’ll not publish the YouTube link as I’m not into giving that person any more publicity than he’s already garnering.  

As I looked at the still on Murph’s site, my BS detector started the slow chirp of approaching Bovine Excrement.  I elected not to start by watching the clip, and read Murphy’s description first.  After reading that and remembering that Murphy tends to be somewhat to the right of Attila the Hun, so could possibly err on the side of the law (which is generally the better side to err on), I watched the video.  As usual, Murphy summed it up more eloquently than I would have.
That’s not the first time I've watched one of those videos and after every one I've said the same thing.  Just say “yes”.  I don't believe confirming you’re an American Citizen or even a card carrying immigrant, is an infringement on your Constitutional Rights.  If you say “yes” and he says “Outta the car”, then we've got grounds for discussion on abuse of your rights. 

As Murphy describes in his post, on his trip out to the Southwest recently, he had a few interactions with the Border Patrol checkpoints.  Of course he did.  He was turista-ing very close to the border and frequently traveling North away from the border.  Which would be the direction any immigrant smuggling would travel.
Fixed Checkpoints

Other than my time in the USAF, I've lived mostly in Texas.  Growing up as a kid, there were Border Patrol checkpoints on the main highways in the Southwest sections of the state.  They weren't always in operation, but when they were, everybody stopped.

Everybody that I knew was aware of the “Cooperate and Graduate” flow pattern.  Be polite, answer the question, and drive on.  

Post-9/11, IMHO that hasn't changed much.  The Checkpoints seem to be open 24/7 now, but other than that, “Cooperate and Graduate” still seems to be the order of the day.  I’m sure I’ll be dragged through the coals about “throwing away the Bill of Rights”, but I don’t see it that way.
Ajo AZ checkpoint
Source: www.desertmountaineer.com
One of my favorite drives is US-90 from San Antonio to Marathon TX and then down into Big Bend.  Lot’s of “See ‘um comin” vistas there and it’s not unusual to drive for long periods without seeing any other vehicles.  If you do, they’re usually painted like this.  

Lots of these on the road.
Source: commons.wikimedia.com

A simple wave as you pass, and life is good.  Break down, and seeing one of them is a good thing.  BTDT.

But, on that drive, you’ll go through several checkpoints, both permanent and ad hoc.  Regardless, I've only had a couple that were out of the ordinary.  Stopped at one outside Presidio,  the Border Patrol Agent asked the question which was answered, “Yes”.  Then he asked where I was headed, I told him Home and he asked which county the town was in.  I told him.  Was he abusing my rights?  Or had he just had someone come through saying he was an American and wasn't?  Don’t know.  Didn't really bother me.

I live in a small town,  The Law Enforcement Center, (used to be called The Jail) houses the city police, the Sheriff’s Department, Highway Patrol and a small contingent of Border Patrol.  It’s a small town, I know most of these folks personally and the rest, I recognize and will give them a “howdy” in the supermarket. (Well, except for that one who’s got a penchant for racing through active school zones sirens blazing to pull me over for a ticket for an week old expired inspection sticker.  IMHO, he’s a tax collector, not a police officer, but I digress.)

However, there was a time when old age, long days and traffic almost got me in trouble with the Law.

So, There I was……*

C’mon, you knew I’d do that, didn't ya?

My sister had fallen on some hard times and needed a new start.  She and I decided she should move to my town where there are quite a few of these things called “jobs” available.  “Jobs” were few and far between in the People’s Democratic Republic of New Mexico in general and her particular locale specifically.

The plan is I’ll drive my truck to her town, we’ll rent a U-Haul with a vehicle tow trailer (Her Jeep wasn’t in good enough shape to make the return trip).  Load up her stuff and drive back to Rancho Juvat.  Two days total.  Distance to target about 650 miles.  Now, you’ve got to love I-10 from Kerrville to El Paso.  Posted speed limit is 80.  Most people drive about 85.  You can burn through those miles fairly quickly, as opposed to the days of the Double Nickle.  Sorry, I digress.

4 Miles every 3 minutes
Source: en.wikipedia.com

Well, I call the U-Haul folks and arrange a truck, I need at least a 17’ one.  None in the target area.  Closest is in El Paso about 150 miles away.  Ok, I negotiate for that extra 300 miles to be included as they couldn’t provide one where it needed to be.  I asked them if my truck would fit on the vehicle trailer.  “No problemo”.  Travel day arrives and I have a very pleasant drive to El Paso.  Find the U-Haul office that’s supposed to have my reservation.  Closed up tighter than a drum, 2PM on a Thursday.  

Ruh Roh!

Call the toll free number and get directed to a different U-Haul office.  Start to drive back across town, and decide to call them as I’m going.  Get the manager on the phone and ask him if he’s got my reserved 17’ U-Haul truck and vehicle trailer ready.  “Yes, Sir, I’m looking right at it.”  Ok, I’ll be there in about a half hour.  

Arrive there, go into the office, give him my name and he hands me the papers to fill out.  As I’m doing that, he goes to get the key from the locker.  And can’t find it.  He’s starting to panic and I ask him what’s wrong.  He tells me he can’t find the keys.  Calls in his other worker who tells him that he rented it out to a walk in about 10 minutes ago.

OK, do you have any other 17’ trucks available?  No Sir, just 14 footers.  Call my sister to find out how many cubic feet of stuff she had.  She tells me and it should fit in the 14 footer.  Famous last words.
Who knew 3' makes a difference? Well, I did for one.

Get the vehicle trailer hitched up and drive my truck on to it.  Well mostly.  The rear wheels are still on the ramp.  I go back in to the office and ask them for help.  My friend comes out and says, that model Pickup won’t fit.  Perfect!  Why did the booking agent say it would?  “Yo no se’”.

Do you lock your parking lot? Yes.  Can I leave my truck in it overnight? Yes.

Saying good bye to my truck for what quite likely will be the last time, I’m back out on the highway.  Complete the rest of the drive to my sister’s locale without any further ado.  Check in with her, have a quick dinner and hit the rack.

Up early the following morning and over to my sister’s place, She's hired some local youth’s to help load. We’re waiting for them to show up.  They’re a little late, so we start loading.  Did I mention that my sister is in need of double hip replacement?  I, of course, am full of vim and vigor (full of something anyhow). We’d like to get on the road by about 11 so we've got to get started.  

Somewhere around 10:45, we've got the truck as full as it can possibly be.  Which is not the same as all her stuff is loaded.  And then the Ute’s show up.  She tells them their services are no longer required and they start to negotiate with her for some of the agreed upon fee.  That ceased when a sweat soaked, creaking, PO’d fighter pilot walked up behind them and said they did nothing and that was what they’d be paid.  They could take it up with the cops if they liked.  They left.  Shortly thereafter so did we, leaving a very nice bedroom set in the garage for the landlord.

We are piled in to the cab of this U-haul, me, my sister and her two large yellow labs.  Visual lookout responsibilities have to be coordinated as the yellow labs have blocked my view of the right hand mirror.  Which isn’t as big a problem as it would seem, since the vehicle is fully loaded, and we’re pulling a trailer with a fully loaded jeep on it.  There were tumble weeds passing us on the highway.

We get to El Paso, and pull into my good friend’s U-Haul establishment, and well wonder of wonders, my truck is still there good as new (well good as I left it).  

I offload my sister and the dogs into it.  They're happy as the AC in the U-Haul isn’t really working.  We’re off and soon back on I-10 where I LONG for the days of 55MPH.  You’ve got to understand, we’ve got to cross the Guadalupe Mountains (yes, they’re not the Himalaya’s, but I am well above max gross weight).  I am not going anywhere fast.  To my fellow travelers that may have been on the road that day, at no time did I leave the right lane.

I’ve been travelling like this for about 6 hours when we are just east of Van Horn and its Border Patrol Checkpoint (you wondered how this saga fit into this topic, didn’t ya?).

There’s a long line of cars waiting to be asked the question.  We’re inching along, it’s August in the desert, the AC isn’t working, I’ve been sweating all day long.  I’ve gone through about half a case of bottled water and haven’t needed to visit the facilities.
Almost There!
Source: flickr.com

I’m not a picture of cool, calm and collected, if you get my drift.  Finally, I’m second in line.

Well.  Evidently, the person in front of me gets asked the question and either pitches a fit or doesn't answer it correctly or something, because things get a bit tenser right outside my windshield.  There’s a lot of words being spoken and additional bodies arriving in the vicinity but ain't nobody moving, much less me and the quarter million vehicles behind me.

Finally, after quite a bit of time, the vehicle in front of me gets moved “over there”, and I get motioned forward.  As I shift in the seat to begin driving, I get a charley horse in my right leg, and before I can get it off the gas, the truck jumps a bit.

The young female Border Patrol Agent, looks at me wide eyed for an instant, then the eyes get very serious as she puts up her hand for me to stop.

I do.

She comes up and asks me "Is there’s a problem?”

“No, Ma’am.”

“Then what was that?”

“That, Ma’am, was a 60 year old man who drove 650 miles yesterday to pick up his sister, who’s now in the vehicle behind him, personally loaded all her stuff into this vehicle and is now driving 650 miles back home in an un-airconditioned vehicle and who was sitting waiting for the guy ahead of him to get his act together and while so doing, developed a charley horse in his right leg which caused him to goose the gas pedal much harder than he wanted and for which he is very sorry for any anxiety caused.”

She said “American Military, Right?”

“Yes, Ma’am”

“Have a safe trip.”

Sunday, March 29, 2015

Palm Sunday

Christ’s Entrance Into Jerusalem
(Bernhard Plockhorst)
As they approached Jerusalem and came to Bethphage on the Mount of Olives, Jesus sent two disciples, saying to them, “Go to the village ahead of you, and at once you will find a donkey tied there, with her colt by her. Untie them and bring them to me. If anyone says anything to you, say that the Lord needs them, and he will send them right away.”

This took place to fulfill what was spoken through the prophet:

“Say to Daughter Zion,
    ‘See, your king comes to you,
gentle and riding on a donkey,
    and on a colt, the foal of a donkey.’”

The disciples went and did as Jesus had instructed them. They brought the donkey and the colt and placed their cloaks on them for Jesus to sit on. A very large crowd spread their cloaks on the road, while others cut branches from the trees and spread them on the road. The crowds that went ahead of him and those that followed shouted,

“Hosanna to the Son of David!”

“Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!”

“Hosanna in the highest heaven!”

When Jesus entered Jerusalem, the whole city was stirred and asked, “Who is this?”

The crowds answered, “This is Jesus, the prophet from Nazareth in Galilee.”

Matthew 21, NIV


The Motor Pool
All day Saturday we had light snow, very wet, not sticking to anything. The weather-guessers' call for 1 to 3 inches seemed a bit of an over-guesstimate.

Before retiring for the evening, I took a look outside...

Hhmm, maybe they weren't so far off...

...for a change.

Back yard

Ah well, most of the snow which fell in January, February and the beginning of March is gone from my yard. It's still piled up in the yards of the houses across the street, which face north. But I can see that the piles are getting smaller and smaller.

I saw a video that an old comrade had posted on Facebook...

He went sledding on Saturday. With his new GoPro camera and his dog.

The dog appeared to be having a great time.

There's still a lot of snow up there in "The Kingdom" where my friend lives.

A lot of snow.


A lot of mud with a bit of snow on top.

Spring can be such a messy month.

The Northeast Kingdom is the northeast corner of the U.S. state of Vermont, comprising Essex, Orleans and Caledonia counties and having a population at the 2010 census of 64,764. In Vermont, the written term "NEK" is often used. The term "Northeast Kingdom" is attributed to George D. Aiken, former Governor of Vermont and a U.S. senator, who first used the term in a 1949 speech. The area is often referred to by Vermonters simply as "The Kingdom". W
Of course I call it "The Kingdom."

I was born a Vermonter, doesn't matter that I don't live there anymore, in my heart I'm a Vermonter still.

It's probably why I get a little depressed when the last of the snow is gone.

I'll be all better once the daffodils are up.

Four seasons.

It's why I live in New England.

Saturday, March 28, 2015

On The Nightstand

One thing I have always enjoyed is reading. Especially at night, when I don't have to get up in the morning.

If there's a gentle rain outside, all the better.

Lee Child's series of Jack Reacher novels is a favorite. I tell you what, the man can write.

You've heard, no doubt, "this is a book you can't put down." With Lee Child, it's true.

Last week I read the predecessor to this book, A Wanted Man. Let's just say, I didn't get a lot of sleep last week.

Mr. Child pulls you in practically from the first sentence. I find myself wanting to read "just a few more pages" and realize that I'm pushing midnight. Six o'clock is not far away. But even then, the temptation is to keep reading.

I want to know what happens next.

You may recall that there is a recent film, starring Tom Cruise, entitled Jack Reacher. Same character, in fact Lee Child has a cameo in the film. I didn't know that and when I watched it on BluRay, I had to pause it.

"Damn, that guy looked familiar."

Rewind and yup, Lee Child. I thought that was pretty cool. YMMV.

At first I was pretty excited about this movie and planned to actually lay out the cash and the time to go to the theater and see it. Then I found out that Tom Cruise was going to play Jack Reacher.

Hhmm, gave me pause that did.

For the character Jack Reacher is a very large guy. He stands 6'5" tall and is all muscle. So I decided not go see this one at all. I mean come on, I like Tom Cruise, but geez, he's like what, all of 5'7" tall?

Then I read this: Lee Child was quoted as saying, "Reacher's size in the books is a metaphor for an unstoppable force, which Cruise portrays in his own way."

So I thought, what the heck, it's on Netflix now, which I've already paid for. So I can spare a couple hours for the movie.

I'm glad I did, now I wish I'd gone to the theater. Would have been good on that big screen.

Tom did a fine job portraying Jack Reacher, it surprised the heck out of me. He was very believable as Reacher.

Oddly enough though, you know how when you watch a movie based on a book, the next time you read that book (or another if it's part of a series) you "see" the characters as the ones from the film? (For instance, Sean Connery's face pops into my mind every time I read Hunt for Red October. Uh, Sarge... How many times have you read that book? Uh, like 12 times, or so. Seen the movie 5 times.) That didn't happen with the Reacher character.

In my mind's eye, he's this average looking guy who just happens to be big and resourceful.

Jack Reacher is a good man to have on your side. He's also not someone you want coming after you.

If you want a good read, you can't go wrong with Lee Child.

You can read more about him, here.

As for Jack Reacher, former Major and military policeman in the U.S. Army? You can read about him, here.

The Sarge rates these books...

Five Phantoms!
(Out of Five)

In the on deck circle...

Another favorite author of mine, Jeff Shaara. His dad, Michael (who sadly passed away in 1988 at the age of 60) wrote The Killer Angels. The son is every bit as good as the father.

Oh yeah, got the books on sale at Barnes & Noble just last week. As a fellow of (mostly) Scots descent, I'm always on the lookout for a bargain.

I'm fiscally responsible, not cheap, nay, not even parsimonious!

Report to follow...

Friday, March 27, 2015

Because It's An Anniversary (Well, Was...)

"Ian Anderson OJT 1200" by Sdo216 at en.wikipedia CC
I thought a spot of music was in order...

Found this tune out there, great song, great band.

This one takes me way, way back.

Me and my roomie, the Tier, were living out in the wilds of Vermont, at Buckingham Palace (we've covered that once before, briefly). It was a great place, calm, peaceful.

There are days I wonder why I left.

Oh yeah, life. It called.

I was kinda lonely back then, going through an introverted, long-haired sorta "poetic" phase.

Once, whilst feeling sorry for myself, a lovely lady of my acquaintance told me something...

"You will have a great life, you're not going to be famous, or rich, or good-looking. But you will be happy, you will be loved."

Girl had vision.

Enjoy your evening...

Hasta mañana.


Apparently the Chant hit its third anniversary last Sunday.

I missed it.

I am such a typical guy, missing an anniversary like that.

Now the blog isn't speaking to me.

I guess I'll buy it flowers and take it to dinner tonight.


At any rate, we're now at the start of our FOURTH year at this blogging thing.

Wanna see how it all started? Go here.

I'm having fun.

Juvat's having fun.

Tuna's having fun.

Howzabout you?

Medieval Land Fun-Time World

It's raining as I write this, a Thursday night.

Raining hard...

I think one of the neighbors is building an ark.

Yup, raining pretty hard.


I was going to write about the books I'm reading right now. No, the one in the lead in picture is not one of them. I read that one, oh I dunno, five years ago?

I've read up through the fifth book in that series, watched all the seasons on either BluRay or on HBO.

Yeah, I'm a fan.

But while doing the research which is behind all of the fine posts here at Chant du Départ...

No, really. We do research and everything, we're like really, really thorough and accurate and...

Okay, Juvat and Tuna are that way. I'm the one who will occasionally get lazy and be like your favorite gym teacher in high school who has to fill in for the social studies guy from time to time. (Easy ladies, they were both guys in my school. The ladies all kind of gravitated towards math, or physics. Seriously. My senior year physics teacher had all those odorless, colorless, monatomic gases with very low chemical reactivity in the periodic table named after her.)

So, where was I? Oh yes, research.

While doing research for a post (which turned out not to be this post, but maybe Saturday's post, I don't know yet) I came across some of those Bad Lip Reading NFL videos on the Tube o' You. I was going to inflict those on share those with you but then found the one you do get to see today. It's Game of Thrones related. One scene reminded me of Blazing Saddles.

I'll let you guess which one.


When it's over, report to your home rooms.

Or something.

Why yes, I have no shame. Why do you ask?

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Long, Long Ago

The Beatles wave to fans after arriving at Kennedy Airport. (UPI Photo, Photographer Unknown)
I reckon I was asleep at the wheel last year in February.

Perhaps I just wasn't in much of a reminiscing mood.

Perhaps (I have noticed this a lot lately) it's just the standard "it seems that time all runs together when one gets to a certain age." I dunno.


I was fooling around on the computer, wondering just what to post for Thursday and, as is my wont, I put on a little music in the background. Just to keep the aural circuits amused.

Quite often I turn to the lads from Liverpool for my entertainment.

I remember those days fairly well.

Dad was convinced that it was the end of civilization.

Some of my friends insisted that The Rolling Stones were, ahem, "better." I did not agree. Oh dear no, my disagreement was vociferous as times.

I guess we were rather passionate back in those days.

Well one fine day, Mom brought home the Beatles first single to hit American shores...

"03 iwantoholdyourhand" by Source. Licensed under Fair use via Wikipedia CC

The Olde Vermonter and I were ecstatic, The Musician was only three (or so) at the time and immersed in his own toddler world. I don't recall him expressing an opinion.

Dad grumbled about his "hard warned pay" being "blown" upon such fripperies as those "long haired ba$tards" from England. (As he put it in his colorful way. Dad was a man of strong opinions, God rest his soul.)

At any rate we listened to that record over and over.

Now that bit of vinyl, which came out in January of 1964 (I think) preceded another Earth-shattering event which took place on the 9th of February, 1964.

Now in those days we gathered as a family in the living room to watch a certain TV program on one of those big, black-and-white console TV sets.

The Ed Sullivan Show.

As it was a family ritual, Dad couldn't really turn the set off on the 9th of February, as much as he probably would have liked to.

For The Beatles were to be on the show.

I recall the excitement, my brother and I couldn't wait. Dad even kept his grumbling to a dull background mumble.

We didn't notice.

Those were "interesting" times.

The year before saw the assassination of President Kennedy, the Cuban Missile Crisis had been the year before that. Lord knows we needed something to lighten the mood (so to speak).

So while I was remembering all that, and trying to formulate it into a post perhaps worth perusing, I stumbled across something that still has (what's left of) my hair standing on end.

A recording of that night on The Ed Sullivan Show. Talk about entering the Wayback Machine! Right here. (Emphasis mine, heh.)

Watching that recording was weird in a way. John Lennon was the oldest member of the band, he was only 23 at the time the show was recorded. George Harrison, the youngest, would hit 21 later that same month.

Now John and George are gone. Paul McCartney (Sir James Paul McCartney to us commoners) and Ringo Starr (Richard Starkey Jr. as his mum named him) are all that remain.

Damn, that was 51 years ago.

Perhaps you need to be of a certain age to remember those days but it was pretty exciting. We listened to The Beatles for most of my childhood really.

From grade school up through high school, until their last album in 1970, it was all Beatles all the time, musically. (Okay, there were others. Hendrix, Cream, The Byrds etc, etc. But the main focus was the lads from Liverpool.)

Still listen to the lads, a lot some weeks.

Those were pretty good times.

Pretty good indeed.

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

The Great Mashed Potato Fiasco

Le cuisinier et le chat
Théodule Ribot
At one time I fancied that I could cook.

I had a cookbook (well, it was the property of The Missus Herself but, rather bemused by the whole thing, she allowed me to use it), I had the tools and I had a kitchen.

With all that, what could possibly go wrong? Just follow the instructions.

It was during my non-traditional undergraduate college days. Non-traditional because when I started my sophomore year in 1983, it had been 11 years since my freshman year.

Along the way I had picked up a wife, two kids and a career in the Air Force.

With that being said...*

It was our first Thanksgiving in our new apartment, in our new location. We had yet to do a traditional American Thanksgiving dinner. The Missus Herself was still a neophyte at American cuisine and was nervous about tackling that meal. So, based on what I told you above, I endeavored to prepare the meal myself.

First things first, I had seen the following at my local grocery store (behind which, once removed, was our apartment building).

Pre-cooked, no bones, no carcass, no muss, no fuss. Just reheat, slice and serve.

So that would cover the turkey, the most difficult part of the feast. What to do for the rest?

Stuffing, gotta have stuffing. While at the store I checked out the Stove Top stuffing mixes. Read the box, looks easy-peasy. So I bought two boxes.

Hhmm, ah yes! Cranberry sauce! That comes in cans, I can open a can without causing serious injury to myself or others. I can do this!

But there has to be more...

Mashed potatoes. How hard can those be? I can so do this.

The first year, it came off without a hitch. The Naviguesser and The Nuke were both impressed. (Which means neither of them got sick or exhibited any ill effects from the meal.) The Missus Herself grudgingly accepted that I could, in a pinch, follow a recipe and not kill anybody produce an edible and somewhat tasty repast. (Note here that The WSO was not even a gleam in my eye as of that time.)

The next year, with the new wee thing one day to be known as The WSO now gracing the premises, but far too young to eat solid food, I did Thanksgiving again. Only this time, I got adventurous. Can you say "pumpkin bread"?

I knew you could.

Betty Crocker provided the instructions, the children provided morale support ("Mom, does Dad know what he's doing?") and with the local King Soopers providing all of the key ingredients, I actually made pumpkin bread.

Not from a mix.

Not from scratch (not having grown my own wheat and not having ground same).

But from flour and butter and sugar and nuts and raisins and, and...

It was very exciting for me. I decided there and then, that someday I would become a famous pastry chef!

I know, I know, pumpkin bread is not a pastry. More of a cake, I guess. Even though it's called "bread," it's more of a cake-like substance. Humor me, who (other than Peter Falk in Castle Keep) wants to be a baker someday?

Okay, lots of people I would guess. People like bread. Especially home made bread. Bakers know how to do that. One thing I miss about Germany is the local bakery, sure we have them around here, usually Portuguese, and Portuguese sweet bread is to die for but...

Pão doce WuCamera Photo CC

Sorry, digression, I know. But our neighbor brought us some of that on Monday. Oh my word, that stuff is AWESOME. (Sorry, I have to wipe some drool off my keyboard.)


The pumpkin bread came out really well. Most delicious and it has become a family tradition since 1984 (or 1985, I forget, it was a looooonnnnngggg time ago).

The meal was excellent. I was really full of myself and...

What's that? What other days of the year did I cook? Me?

Just Thanksgiving though I did branch out and do Christmas as well. I was a specialist. Though to be honest I did, from time to time, whip up cookies or brownies as the mood struck me. (Always from a mix mind you. Cookies and brownies are way too important to be left to the likes of my not-so-tender ministrations in the kitchen. I just know I would screw them up!)

So, it's my senior year, and I'm feeling pretty cocky going into the Thanksgiving season. It's almost like I'm on this winning streak, nothing can stop me now. I'm a kitchen master. No recipe too complex, no culinary delight beyond my capabilities.

Can you see what was about to happen?

Yup, I got over-confident. Way too cocky and (dare I say?) arrogant.

The preparation started out as it always did but that year, there was a difference.

You see, The WSO was now three. She had developed a personality which all found cute and endearing. But, she also was a bit of an attention hog (sorry honey, but there it is).

So rather than attend to my duties in the kitchen, I may have been paying far too much attention to the youngest of our clan. There may have been a burning odor coming from the stove. My carefully orchestrated and meticulously planned repast was about to be undone.

Mashed potatoes are pretty easy to make.

Peel the 'taters, wash 'em up, throw 'em in a pot o' water and bring to a medium boil. When they're tender, you drain 'em.

Then I like to mix it a bit o' milk then one smashes the hell out of mashes them. (It's easy to get carried away.)

I prefer an Irish potato masher, as opposed to a German potato masher. The cognoscenti will know why.


German Potato Masher (Public Domain)

Now I had just checked the 'taters, they were tender and ready to be mashed. So I added the milk and began to mash them, keeping them over a low heat by the way. Like I had always done.

Now somewhere in this process The WSO (of course, she will deny all knowledge of this and her siblings support her for the comedic effect of harassing Your Humble Scribe) began to make a fuss, demand something, make lots of noise or some other three-year old type behavior. I forget the exact circumstances. The trauma of that day haunts me still...

So I turned to the littlest one of the tribe to scream-at-her-to-please-be-bloody-quiet-can't-you-see-I'm-busy-in-the-freaking-kitchen-making-Thanksgiving-bloody-dinner ascertain what was troubling her, incorrigible-little-monster sweet darling thing that she was (and is).

Whilst in the midst of performing my parental duties (The Missus Herself being unavailable, she might have been doing laundry) I neglected to check the mashed potatoes.

Given enough time, even over a low heat, the moisture in those potatoes was bound to boil off, leaving nothing between the heat source and those lovely mashed potatoes but a thin skin of metal actually designed to transfer heat evenly to the contents of the pot.

Yes, Dear Reader, the 'taters were burned. Not badly mind you, just a bit of crispiness and brownish coloring to the lowest layer of the potatoes. It would have been alright had not the love of my life come into the room, smelled something amiss and immediately proclaimed...

"The mashed potatoes are burned. You burned them. How could you?
Thanksgiving is ruined. Ruined I tell you!"

There was much gnashing of teeth, wailing and rending of garments that day, I can tell you. Well, except for The Nuke, she found (and still finds) the entire incident to be très amusant.

To this day, when all could have possibly been forgotten or overlooked by now, the traditional greeting in our household, and the homes of our children, has been and (I believe) will always be...

"Hey, remember that Thanksgiving when Dad burned the mashed potatoes? Hahahahaha!"

Much to my chagrin.

Truth be told, I haven't cooked since that day.

Not one potato.

Not one breast of turkey.

Not one box of Stove Top.

The entire thing left me a broken man.

Broken I tell you.

Now my contribution to the holiday meals is limited to opening the cans of Ocean Spray and cleaning the dishes afterwards.

Damn, I could have been Emeril Lagasse.

Emeril Lagasse book signing, Ft Lewis
(US Army Photo - Spc. Leah R. Burton)