30 November 2011

127th Annual Upper Class Twit of the Year

Many thanks to Main Line Sportsman and his keen memory for recalling this classic Monty Python skit. What was laughed at yesterday is tweedy fashion today. Check in next week when we'll explore Williamsburg heritage inspired by the sartorial aesthetic of Jethro Bodine.

Contestant No. 1 - Vivian Smith-Smythe-Smith, He's in the Grenadier Guards but can count up to four.

Contestant No. 2 - Simon-Zinc-Trumpet-Harris, He's an Old Etonian and married to a very attractive table lamp.

Contestant No. 3 - Nigel Incubator Jones, His best friend is a tree and in his spare time he's a stock broker.

Contestant No. 4 - Gervaise Brook-Hamster, He's in the wine trade and his father uses him as a waste paper basket.

Contestant No. 5 - Oliver St John-Mollusc, Another Old Etonian, his father was a cabinet minister and his mother won the Derby.

29 November 2011

28 November 2011

Mail Order Monday: Burton By Post

Mail order was my birthright as a kid. Sears and JC Penny? Mere amateurs. Sometime in the late '60s, just after the Whole Earth Catalog made its splash, an understated book came out called, The International Catalog of Catalogs. It was nothing more than the world's best catalogs in one book.

Segmented by product type, like cooking or camping or apparel, it might have included the UK's version of Sears, Burton By Post as seen above. The magic of international mail order was not so much in the ordering but in the dreaming. That, and it was an insight into a country. The difference in clothes, cameras, slippers and underwear. It was an amazing trip to take.

I miss that. I know I have the world at my finger tips via the Web but it isn't the same. In a catalog, there was a story. I don't care if it was intended or not. It was there and I was a part of it. I was shopping in Manchester or Rome or Mexico City.

It was a pain. International money orders at Deak-Perera, shipping charges, stamps...But something beyond magical happened when the package arrived. Foreign stamps everywhere, with sevens crossed and custom forms stuck to brown paper. I saved it all. I still save it all.

26 November 2011

Holiday Hooch: The Redline

One quart of strawberries...

Roasted on smoking hot cast iron.

Remember to turn off the fire alarm.

Puree in blender

Slowly pour over - I'm not a dollop kinda guy.

Lack of agave syrup & substitution of Prosecco - Not a good idea.

Works wonders with beer

Clean and crisp for the

-- perfect nightcap.

"Innovation that happens from the bottom up tends to be chaotic
but smart. Innovation that happens from the top down
tends to be orderly but dumb."
Curtis Carlson, CEO SRI International

The Redline cocktail was swiped from the Williams-Sonoma blog. Corporate to be sure, the blog features professional and amateur writers contributing useful content that's far from self serving and "free shipping."

The Redline itself seemed a good idea and I gave it a shot Thanksgiving night. A roasted strawberry puree added to a Spanish Cava with a suggestion of agave syrup. I didn't have any agave syrup. Instead, I substituted Prosecco thinking an Italian sparkler would make up for the sweetness I was losing from the missing agave.

Not so much. A tad bitter and boring. What the roasted puree did work well with was beer. Use something simple and clean like Budweiser or Becks. I poured the beer slowly over three fingers of puree in a pilsner glass. It works. A perfect end to Thanksgiving -- Especially since it was 60 degrees outside.

24 November 2011

Giving Thanks In The Park

Tourists shun the park when it rains. All but the most hard core runners and cyclists too. No place else am I more thankful for living in this city than here. On a rainy Autumn afternoon.

23 November 2011

The Hog Killin'

When I was 12, I lived in a rural area of North Carolina where people had dirt for floors and oil paper for windows. School friends thought my family rich because we had wall to wall carpeting. In late Fall, my friends told me about hog killings and how they usually came with a celebration. I saw only one and missed most of it, but I was in awe of how the hog was taken apart.

Stewart Voegltin of the blog, Blood & Grits, has seen a number of hog killings. We were talking about how they worked in Georgia vs NC, and I asked Stewart if he'd write a story. It runs in three consecutive parts this week. I offer this short story as something to savor when you have time this Thanksgiving. There's a unique sense of place and time that you can see and smell and hear.

'Hog Killin' Time', Monticello, GA Photographer & Date Unknown

Nothing to be Gained Here
Stewart Voegtlin

Maddox McKibbern stopped at the hilltop and stood hunched and trembling. His breath labored. He looked on the hollow below. Winter’d come to Polk County. Big Frog Mountain loomed north. Rolling broken white rock rose out of bare scarlet and white oak held briefly aflame only fortnight ago. Thin trees scattered up the mountain’s face.

Hawk lit from its perch and dropped quickly and then climbed into cold wind. Maddox watched the hawk. He listened to his breathing and his heart thudded heavy in his ears. Dirt covered Royal Crown Cola bottle jutted from his overall bib pocket and a dead garden spider spread in flattened black wheel upon its neck.

Ahead crows stood atop oaks softened by fog. Their gnarled and ancient boughs wandered in the gray and were spectral and boundless in the dawn. Caws came jagged and taunting and carried through the hollow. In the clearing smoke rolled heavy from the clapboard’s chimney blackened thickly with creosote, its bricks piled broken and crumbling from base to its mouth loosely agape.

Horace Ayle burst from the house in overalls stiff with dirt and blood. The door cracked closed behind him. Crows lit startled from trees. Sharp black wings sailed them headlong into morning breaking sunless and white and then they were gone.

Past them and through Cohutta mountains ran rivers Hiwassee, Conasauga, Ocoee. Mountain folk tricked trout from river riffle and traded their silvery sundried bodies for salt and shot shells in town. They walked mountain wood and took rutting buck and varmint from its recesses. They trickled back to homes hidden amongst trees. Farther out was electricity and invention. Men tied tracks to earth and steam locomotives no Ayle’d neither seen nor imagined thundered across an America unknown but somewhere strangely thereupon them.

Maddox knew churches half the size of the Ayle hollow. He knew creaks of their pine pews. He’d felt the sting in ways and means of salvation. The godly fire and profound chimera of their pastors. He’d known death too—least of which through host of Ayle hog killings.Maddox struggled mightily with his memory but he recalled the killings a might bit more celebratory than they’d come over time with family thinning to disease and misfortune.

He’d known Osal and Dathan’s dulcimers and Enoch’s fiddle. Leah, Rebekah, and Edna tending to brood ever-expanding, their names stolen from Sabbath sermon and never once seen in ink. Michah and Helda, Rachel and Ruth and Ram, and Zechariah and Zion and Zebedee, and Adina and Eunice and Bethany. Their laughter high and bright as Betelgeuse, hosts of cold bare feet bouncing hog’s bladder become ball by magic and breath. Those days gone—kinder times now only tales told from a patriarch unable to give them life with words that deftly escaped him.

—Here ah church an here ah steeple, Horace Ayle said. He smiled at Maddox as he wound his mottled hands together and brought them to his face and laughed. The steeple held short and crooked in awkward lambda, Horace’s forefinger taken at the knuckle a from snapping turtle summer past on Pope Hankinson’s pond.

His feet cracked from their broken leather boots and his back pumped in rhythm spun metronomic and incessant. Maddox pulled the soda pop from his bib and Horace took it and popped the top with the butt of his knife. He tipped the bottle to his mouth and drank and it ran over his jaw in sibilant and muddy foam. Horace ran to the hog pen and poured some in the trough and then brought the bottle to his lips. Maddox heard Horace’s father Owen jabbering as he led a massive hog from the pen. Owen saw Maddox and nodded.

—Mornin, Owen said and kept his eyes hidden with his hat brim and whispered nonsense to the hog as he led him. His shotgun sat clasped in the crook of an arm. Horace doted over the hog and poured soda pop over his snout and cooed at him in a tone reserved for children fresh to the world and without notion of the life they’d been brought into. Horace turned and smiled at Maddox. His grin shattered with teeth misshapen and broken.

Owen let the leash fall and shouldered the gun. It boomed and the shot slammed over the hollow. The hog collapsed into spasms and squeals and struck furiously at the frozen ground. Heavy hooves hooked the earth and broke through to the mud below and they made sucking sounds as they pounded.

The hog held sharply to the world as it deliquesced within and without him, its awareness pulled shrieking into a darkness unquantifiable and ineffable. Steam rose from its haunches and back in a vapor that wound into ghostly helix and then was gone.

Maddox lit his pipe and drew from the stem and stared at the hog’s head and at the shot pattern—a black and smoking diadem between thin marbled eyes. Owen shucked the shell from the gun and the hull hit the ground without sound.

Maddox smoked and looked beyond the pen to the wood and the piles of river rock squaring off plot and the scores of wooden cruciform fastened with deer sinew and embellished with flowers dead and dried. Sons and daughters and their own. Owen handed Maddox a heavy brown glass bottle and Maddox drank from it and it tasted wet and sweet and of crabapples and then took his breath with power.

—Flurs pop up yonder after first killin, Owen said. Ol Pope Hankinson tell us theys crocus. Purty goshdern flurs. Theys come up right outta ground where we kill em. Like theys grown out the blood an flesh itself. Bettern any flurs I ever seen.

Owen pulled a braid of tobacco from his pocket and ripped it apart and chewed furiously. Maddox handed the bottle back to Owen and he bubbled it and spat. Owen did not talk for a while. He looked at Maddox and then looked at the bottle and then drank again from it.

—Whyn’t you elsewhere?

—Cause I’m here, Maddox said. Aint want to be nowhere else.

—Whyever not?

—Aint got no expectations. Aint nothin to expect. Reckon I’m familiar with it. Put me at ease. You put me at ease.

—Aint never understood that. I’d be elsewhere if I could. I reckon most of us would. Always struck me as queer. This wantin to be somewhere other than where we is.

Two shacks pulled together from a patchwork of scrap tin and clapboard leant amongst wire fencing set down for hens. A clothesline sagged diagonally. Drawers and britches and shirts wet and stained stiffened in the cold. Chickens hunted, pecked. Pine logs cracked and roared with flame underneath a steel tub. Water rolled in a boil and sloshed and sizzled over the sides of the tub.

Maubry Ayle stood to the porch. His head held cocked, his right eye tossed asunder from skittish hinny, its empty socket flat and gray with lid that lay upon it as a centipede static and arrow straight. His mouth split wide over five teeth crooked and brown. He yelled and motioned and then laughed as a conversation unfolded between the ears of his massive head without ever hitting the air. He stood restless and rocking and spoke to no one present but himself.

Kinard and Eugene Ayle helped Owen work. They ran rope around the hog’s hooves and hoisted the beast betwixt tripod brought together from broken hoes. Dark red blood dribbled from the thick pink head as it dangled above the dirt.

—Maubry, whynt you come on done ere? Kinard said. —Diddy gone need all are help now.

Maubry turned his back and laughed and cocked his head.

Kinard and Eugene wrapped their hands in rags and pulled the tub from the fire and scalded the hog with the boiling water. Its skin flushed and Owen worked a worn knife over the hog, shaving hairs from its heavy jowls and snout. Eugene and Kinard worked from the tail up, scraping knives over the hide.

Eugene patted the hog’s white gut and smiled. His teeth were terrific and drawn out of gums dark and brown like a dog’s. He stabbed the hog deep and quick and blood rushed fast and red from the wound. Owen moved under the hog with the pail and the blood struck the bottom of the pail and rang as it hit sounding bright and clean and then dull and full as it weighed down heavy with the warm blood. Owen turned and spat a thick wad of tobacco juice into the dirt.

Eugene collared the hog with his knife and Kinard parted the flesh at its neck and chopped at the vertebrae with an axe. Owen helped Eugene pull the head slowly from the body. They each grabbed under a jowl and laid a hand over top. They pulled and their boots backed up in the dirt and the carcass lifted slightly and gave, falling, wobbly, back into line.

Crows screamed from trees. Their cackling sounded as the cold itself, indifferent and irritable in its metastasis. Owen wiped the sweat from his forehead with a blood blackened bandana and he spanked the hog’s head. Its eyes bone white, dead.

End of Part I

Interview with author-

Stewart Vogeltin of Blood & Grits

More than anything else...What do you like to drink?

Most days I’m a beer drinker. (Nothing posh. I’m a 30-pack buyer.) But when it comes down to it—there’s nothing better than two fingers of Bourbon, neat. The cheap stuff: Rebel Yell, Old Grand Dad. Won't turn down Tennessee sour mash either. I love Jack Daniel's and George Dickel.

To eat?
If we're going to do that "last meal" thing, I'd have to say venison tartare with a few shakes of Tabasco and an ice-cold Budweiser out of the can.

To wear?

Army surplus fatigues or Levis, LL Bean chamois shirts, old sneakers. That's my uniform. If I'm in the field, it's Filson double tin pants, Pendelton wool shirt, Welch suspenders, GA boots, and my old Carharrt coat. If I've got to "look nice" it's my dad's hand-me-downs: Brooks Bros. oxfords, chinos, and Bean camp mocs. I've got all my dad's ties from the 70s and 80s, too. Really gorgeous obese ones with ludicrous hunting scenes on them—my version of the GTH thing.

To read?
I go through a lot of phases, and I'm a fickle reader, but I always return to Agee, Faulkner, Melville, Homer, Aeschylus, and The Bible. This is the stuff that gets the blood going and makes me want to simultaneously write and give up writing.

Used to read a lot of contemporary fiction and avant-garde stuff. French stuff. Really fussy writing. Now I can’t stand it. Same goes for contemporary fiction, but Larry Brown is a good one though. He passed away not too long ago unfortunately. His novel, Joe, is the finest Southern fiction written since Faulkner's Light In August. Incredibly moving and realistic.

What did you like that you don't anymore?
Politics. I was this huge political junkie throughout high school and college and even up through GW Bush's first term. I read three or four different papers a day. Blogs. Watched all the bullshit pundit shows. Argued with people about it. Now I have to agree with William Gass' assessment, and I'm paraphrasing here, "Politics: for those not in love."

Part II of Nothing To Be Gained Here and author interview continues tomorrow

22 November 2011

Hog Killin' - Part II

Emanuel County, Georgia, 1940s, Photographer Unknown, Georgia Archives

Nothing to be Gained Here
Stewart Voegtlin
Part II

—Come git the head boy, Owen said. He paused and searched for his breath and rubbed slowly at his chest as if to free it. Horace cradled the hog’s head in his hands and he laughed and rocked on his feet.

—You gone take that to maw, Owen said, breathing heavily. He pushed Horace on and pointed to the house. Elsie Ayle stood at the door, hawking snuff upon the dirt. Her gray hair stood in a frightwig wiry and filthy and her breasts hung as heavy stones in a sling. She scratched at her sex and smelled her hand and wiped snuff and spittle from her lip. Behind her snakes sat piled two deep, their wire cages covered in stained quilts. Elsie could smell them and the strange musk of their skins.

—Come on boy, Elsie said, waving Horace up on the porch. She spat and took the hog’s head from him and disappeared into the dark house. A crazed lot of cats slipped from the door and stopped and marveled at Eugene and Kinard as they pulled organs from the hog.

Horace pointed and laughed and drew circles in air. He watched as a hawk floated above. Its wings teetered as it moved through ourobouros in a repetition at once banal and divine. Vultures joined the hawk and traced slow circle and dropped slowly closer to the earth and Horace pointed and laughed.

Eugene’s knife worked through connective tissue and the lungs fell and he ran the blade across the heart’s valves and plucked it from the carcass, the organ bright with blood. Kinard pulled the diaphragm with two hands and it came quick—a gore soaked cloth torn from its table. Eugene cut and pulled and spleen and liver were put into the steel tub, their shape not unlike a tortoise’s shell. The intestines rolled out and Eugene and Kinard cussed and fought with one another trying to keep them from the dirt. Owen laughed while Maddox stood and smoked his pipe, giddy and nearly drunk in the early November morning.

—Somethin, aint it, Maddox.

—What that, Owen.

—Them hogs we feed em and take after em an theys with us for years an then theys not.

—Way things work.

—Reckon so. Still aint sit right with me. How them go from bein to not bein like so.

—Aint gone there myself.

—Spose it get me right hard, Maddox. Spose it cut close on me. Soon ah gone be led out my pen and taken from bein to not.

—We all is, Owen.
—Reckon ah might could have some of what theys have. That not knowin. Somethin said for that. They aint known it comin. And then it do. When it come it jus come. It jus happen.

—Try an tell me you aint in a better place for it.

—Aint feel like it. Aint feel at all like it. Wager there aint nothin gained here.
—Here ah church an here ah steeple an open they door an seen all they peoples, Horace said, his fingers folded over and writhing in a mess of clotted blood.

Maddox bubbled the bottle.

End of Part II

Author interview continued-

Stewart Voegtlin hunting, 2008

More than anywhere else...Where do you like to be?
If it's not in a hunting blind or standing in a river fly-fishing, it's at home with my wife and 20-month-old son. He's changed my life in so many ways and made me want to be things I never thought I could be.

Where do you want to go?
To Oxford, MS to Faulkner's home, Rowan Oak. My church I've yet to attend.

Where did you come from?
The dirty south. Atlanta, Georgia. It gets a bad rap, and rightfully so. But you can drive for an hour and see nothing but mountains and water and converse with people who don't know what an i-Phone app or Kindle is. That's my idea of heaven.

Where do you wish you came from?

I used to be infatuated with New York City. But now it makes me nervous and depressed. I'm older and need quiet to think. I don't know how you stand it sometimes.

Where are you?
I'm in my den typing on a borrowed laptop while my son tears the house apart. It's time for us to go on our morning run and he's getting antsy.

Part III of 'Nothing To Be Gained Here' and author interview concludes tomorrow.

21 November 2011

Hog Killin' Part III

Photo from, Hands on History, Great Smokey Mountains N. P.

Nothing to be Gained Here
Stewart Voegtlin
Part III

Jacob’s ladder fell from the sky in columns lit white and wide and vultures held high above in perpetual circle now descended wholly and their shadows danced upon the frozen ground below.

—You gone have to put them sumbitches down diddy, Kinard said. —We still aint done butcherin the hog out.

Kinard and Eugene slid their knives down the hog’s back and pulled up hunks of thick white fat. Owen placed the water tub back on the fire and the steel belly dimpled and popped in the heat. Kinard and Eugene tossed fat into the tub and it screamed and sizzled. The shadows grew in the dirt. Horace clapped and rocked. He laughed as the vultures pulled closer to the earth and the sound of the wings beat in his ears.

Horace tugged at Maddox’ overalls and held his hand out. Maddox extended his hand and Horace set a tiny tortoise in his palm and it rose from its carapace and crept and then fell to its side and flipped, its plastron bone white and forked as a wishbone broken two.

Owen limped inside and returned with a handful of shot shells. He fed two into the action of his gun. He chambered a shell. He squinted in the sunlight and his cheek bunched against the wood of the stock. The shotgun boomed and shot sprayed into a vulture’s breast and ripped through its wings and it fell to the ground.

It shrieked and mewed and its talons contracted as it died. Black feathers shook in the air and wafted slowly to the earth. The other birds beat higher into the sky and chattered and wheeled slower circles over the house. The fat bubbled in the tub as the lard rendered and it smelled salty and rich.

—Aint ah bad shot, said Maddox.

—Could put ah goshdernd blowhole in you quicker than hell, said Owen.

Maddox laughed and looked at Owen and the shotgun he cradled. His forearm was heavy and scarred—an ampersand heralding message in blue ink. & THEYE SHALLE TAKE UP SERPENTS, it said running from wrist to elbow, stilted font jagged as mountains.

Clouds became one and the white rolled into gray and snowflakes fell and dropped to the ground without sound. Owen set his gun over his shoulder and looked at Maddox and spat a run of juice to the ground and rubbed it wide with his boot.

—This’n just like any other day, Owen said. Aint no different. Even if you says you known what to expect. Aint no nothin different. Aint a thing. Just any other day.

Maddox smiled and drank deeply from the bottle and handed it back to Owen.

—You make it good then, Maddox said.

—Show me how to bygod, Owen said and turned and walked towards the house as snow fell heavy from the sky.


Author interview continued:

Can you tell me where the story came from? That and the when and the where of it?

I tend to write a lot about people killing and dressing animals and I don't think I'll ever stop writing about it. There's a sort of quasi-religious aspect to these sorts of things that gets glossed over. Like when the kid pops his first deer and gets the blood on his face and then you grill up the heart and eat it, or when the first hog of the season is butchered out and the bladder is inflated so the kids can kick it around like a soccer ball while the adults make blood sausage or cracklins.

They're rituals, and they're difficult to sit through, but they are illuminating, and unbelievably satisfying. You kill something. You honor it. It lives on through cooking, preservation, whatever. It's simple and beautiful.

'Nothing to be Gained Here' is an excerpt from a larger work (i.e. novel) called "Shaking Through." It appears here in much different form. Characters are renamed, the setting's different, the ending's different, etc.

Long story short, in the novel, the family lives in a milltown, tenant style. The mill owner sells the property right out from under the workers to the railroad so a line can be run through town. Mill shuts down. No work, little food. The family butchers out the last of its hogs and wonders where to go from there. Actually not very different from the Ayle Family in "Nothing to Be Gained Here."

Think about all the things you get out of the hog: lard, blood, meat. Even the parts you never see at the grocery store get turned into incredible food. The head and tongue turned into headcheese. Ears boiled down and fried up crispy. Brains scrambled into eggs for breakfast. Trotters are either boiled down and pickled are stuffed with potatoes and more pork and fried up. Same for the tail.

There's the liver, heart, spleen, lights. All good. We haven't even gotten to the belly or hams or ribs... These are the things we miss out on today. I hope we somehow find a way to put down the fucking smartphone and get back to where we were a 100 years ago. But I doubt it.

20 November 2011

The Trad's S/S Collection For Women

Back to 1983 and, 'Sign of the Times' by The Belle Stars

I'm always amazed by what works around here (including me - Arh,arh,arh). Thursday's post featuring 1986 Apple Computer apparel tripled visitation while almost 800 hits occurred in a single hour; 12-1 pm. That tells me these were new visitors since my regulars are MIA during lunch but peak when people should be working.

Concurrently, I've been asked to write about women's style and my vision of the cutting edge of Trad haute couture. To that end, it is with great joy, and expectations of a reserved seat next to Anna at the next Chanel show, that I present The Trad's, S/S Collection for Women. I call it, 'Sign of the Times - 1983.' (It'll feel just like a fashion show if you listen to the video while scrolling down.)

'Sign Of The Times - 1983' The Trad's S/S Collection For Women

Jean or Gene? Clare will tell you it's not gonna matter -- They're both gonna love you in this pre-washed Chambray. Who knew a gal could get a center vent?!

These Green Bay Tackers are at home in chic Kenosha or a Supper Club in Door County. So light they won't hear you coming. At least not until after the fish boil.

Sarah-Jane always gets a little ego boost whenever she wears this polypropylene jacket to the Four Season's Grill Room. It never fails to get frolicking owner Mr Niccolini running to her aid.

Cardigan and Chino. Who says boys have all the fun. Judy likes to show a little of that GS-15 'tude when she's blowing off steam from her gig at the GAO and getting crabs at The Quarter Deck.

"Heritage isn't just for fruit," says Joyce who likes practical polyester in her skirt as much as she likes synth in her bands. Follow her to The Zebra Lounge in these tasty Heritage shoes. They're hipper than Red Wings and'll make you taller too.

Stella can tell you a thing or two about her college library and how easy it is to undress the shirtdress. Her carrel will never be the same despite her choice of university stripe.

It's hard to find nice trim nowadays but Eugenie knows where to find it. Hermes and Chanel bags have nothing on heavy white duck -- that you can't monogram, Hermes or Chanel.

A penny for your loafer. He doesn't work, can't pay the rent...whoops! Wrong loafer, but your girl friends will be Chino Tan with envy when you cross your legs at the King Cole Bar in these awesome Kicks.

Miranda loves to drink Lapsang Souchong in her Oolong walking shorts. A nice selection of cake as well is always appreciated at high tea in the Drake Hotel but best avoid the Coq d'Or. Too much wood in there.

You don't have to save the Kiltie for the golf course. And you don't have to know if this is leather or something else. A little mystery never hurt anyone.

18 November 2011

Dance Like The Go-Go's

Many thanks to Oyster Guy for mentioning this video in yesterday's comment section. Most people don't look at comments and that's a shame. If the post is the cake, then surely the comment section is the baking soda. I try and publish all comments. Even those accusing me of being gay. Which is impossible. At my age, every time I bend over the blood rushes to my head and I get so dizzy I almost fall over.

17 November 2011

Head Over Heels For The 1986 Collection

Am I the only one who thinks the '80s are making a comeback? No. Svpply thinks so too, but I may be the only one who thinks Belinda Carlisle looked better chubby. Can't stop myself.