Alligators 'n Roadkill

Alligators 'n Roadkill
On The Road


Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Ramblings on turning 65

NOTE:  (I began writing this on June 25th, my birthday).

“Now some of you may encounter the Devil's Bargain, if you get that far.  Any old soul is worth saving, at least to a priest, but not every soul is worth buying.  So you can take the offer as a compliment. He tries the easy ones first.  You know like money, all the money there is.  But who wants to be the richest guy in some cemetary?  Money won't buy.  Not much left to spend it on, eh gramps?  Getting too old to cut the mustard. Well time hits the hardest blows.  Especially below the belt.  How's a young body grab you?  Like three card monte, like pea under the shell, Now you see it, now you don't.  Haven't you forgotten something, gramps?  In order to feel something, you've got to be there.  You have to be eighteen.  You're not eighteen.  You are [65] seventy-eight.  Old fool sold his soul for a strap-on.  Well they always try the easiest ones first.  How about an honorable bargain?  You always wanted to be a doctor, well now's your chance.  Why don't you become a great healer and benefit humanity?  What's wrong with that?  Just about everything.  Just about everything.  There are no honorable bargains involving exchange of qualitative merchandise like souls for quantitative merchandise like time and money.  So piss off Satan and don't take me for dumber than I look”.  - - - -  Wm. S. Burroughs

Well, today’s the day. I am now 65 years old. There were times when I did not expect to reach this point. There were times when I thought I’d be truly decrepit when I reached this point. There were fewer times when I naively thought today would be just like any other day. But, now it’s here, and I hardly know what to make of it.

On the one hand, I do not feel all that well. But, part of that (I hope) must have to do with the fact that the doctor put me on anti-hypertensive medication for the first time just one week ago, and I think I am still adjusting to what the medicine does to me. At any rate, I feel very sleepy most of the day. Hopefully, this will ease over time.

Meanwhile, today is very muggy, we’ve already had a pretty good rainfall, and I’ve been sweating, as I worked to prepare some ribs. That’s right. Honest to Gawd, an entire rack of Pork Spareribs. - - - And, of course, right there, we have a side issue. I paid ₡3,500.00 per Kilo for said ribs. That’s like $7.00/Kilo, or $3.50 per lb. I brought back some newspaper grocery ads from our recent trip to Texas, and HEB (one of the best supermarket chains in the world) featured Pork Spareribs at $1.57 lb. - - At any rate, I did a brine soak overnight, and then made up a rub, with those ingredients that I had on hand, which I applied just before I lit the fire.

Now, I know that many will argue as to the best way to get good ribs, but this is what I know: Using local charcoal, which is not very good, but adequate, I made a very hot fire (shop vac helped here). I seared the ribs to black, on both sides. Then, just like always, I banked the coals, all around the sides of the grill, and placed the rack in the middle, closed all vents and the lid, and walked away. I returned to the fire after two hours, and turned the ribs over, and left them again, for two more hours. They were good! Really, really good. We had friends over, plus sent a couple of plates up to another neighbor, who was feeling under the weather, and all that was left at the end of the day, were a couple of small pieces. - -

Where was I? Ah, yes, reflections…………

We are blessed this summer to have three of our grandchildren staying with us. Yes, we brought Tristen (13), Aislynn (9), and Bryan (18, and a brand new High School Graduate) back down with us from our trip to Texas. We did get to see most everybody while we were there, and Blanca and I got to experience some of those good things to eat that we never can find down here (Long John Silver’s Fish & Fries, Der Weinerschitzel’s Chili Dogs, Rudy’s BBQ, a couple of decent burgers, and, of course (and just for me), DQ.

We came back to find that the oven has not fixed itself, and we really have no clue where to find someone who might be able to get it working again. We ask everybody we encounter, but no one knows who can really work on a gas stove. I suppose we could call the people that came to look at it when it was under warranty, but I was not really impressed with what that guy did when he came. Plus, I shudder to think what they might cost for a house call that I have to pay for.

I did find a choke cable repair kit at an auto parts in Arlington, and brought that back with me. Bryan, our grandson, helped me to put that in, and then, I bought a new battery for the Torito, so it is back on the road, after months of not being able to use it.

Electrical consumption was minimal during our absence, but now, with three more bodies in the house, I know it is going to jump way up there. Even though I know we did pay for a lot more than we ever used in the past, I know that with the exorbitant rates ICE charges, our bill will soar again, and the difference this time is that it will be due, at least in part, to some actual use.

As to being older, inside me is that same skinny young kid who was drafted way back in 1965, but now, he finds it hard to push his way out, past all the accumulated poundage, not to mention the years of experience and the scars that the years have laid on this old body.

I wish I could say that I am wiser for it all, but I think the only outward appearance of wisdom is that sometimes (rarely) I do know enough to stay silent when an opinion is asked for by some family members. That would be situations where I know one or the other of my kids or grandkids is not going to listen to me anyway, or more likely, those situations where I know my wife is going to ignore me altogether.

This thing started out to be titled as ‘reflections,’ but I have wisely (I believe) decided to call it ‘ramblings,’ since there is no one topic, and little of what I have written so far really applies to achieving this new age. I certainly do not feel wiser. My wife will happily tell you that that is for sure.

Life does, apparently, go on. I am just trying to take it one day at a time. We have been working our way through some TV mini-series, and movie series, with the grandkids. We have watched things like “Band of Brothers,” “The Pacific,” the “Back To The Future” movies, “The Lord Of The Rings” trilogy, and are now most of the way through Harry Potter. Yes, we know that we cannot yet see the final Harry Potter movie, nor can we see the latest “Pirates of the Caribbean” yet. But, we struggle on.

We did get the oven fixed, and I am still mystified as to what was wrong with it in the first place. At the cost of about $110.00, a technician came to the house late Tuesday afternoon, with his wife and child in the car. He didn’t spend ten minutes here, and all he had to do was make an adjustment to a valve at the very bottom of the oven. He claimed that it likely gets clogged with grease (I can personally vouch for the fact that there is no grease anywhere near the oven itself), and that is why it needs to be adjusted. I haven’t a clue as to what it is, exactly, that he adjusted. I did get down there myself, but only saw the one main orifice, and the air vent that may be adjusted. So, now, I guess I need to find another valve (the tech said that there is a brass screw down there somewhere that can be adjusted), so that I can save the bucks next time around. The problem that I am having here is that we have had mostly gas ranges for all of our married life, and never, ever did we have any problems with one until we came here, and, bought this stove!

Here’s some food for thought. We have, as I said before, had the pleasure of our grandkids visiting this summer. I know that I have long groused about the poor quality of public school education in the U. S. But, I have been very pleasantly surprised to learn that our 18 year old grandson, the one who just graduated from high school, has a surprisingly large store of information packed away inside that late-teen-age head. He needs to work on his vocabulary and English language skills (too much texting?), but he is able to converse intelligently on a wide range of topics. So, maybe there is hope for the future, after all.

Our granddaughters, meanwhile, are as delightful as always, being very sweet young ladies, with inquiring minds. We now count less than a month until they all depart. Bryan will return to Texas for a sort of farewell tour, with plans to go to Austin and spend time with some of his uncles before he heads back to El Paso to report for active duty with the Army in early October. The girls, of course, are very anxious to get back to Arlington, where they will first meet their new baby brother, Julius, and then get ready for the start of another school year.

Grandma will stay in Arlington until at least November, to help out with that new baby, while I will stay here to hold the fort down. Meanwhile, our property is for sale, if you’re interested…….oh, and, uh………I have reduced the asking price.

Quick update:  as of today, Nov. 30, 2011, I am in Texas myself, along with Blanca and the grandkids.  I seem to have an eye problem which was being improperly treated by those stalwart Tico docs of the Caja, and am hoping to get it fixed while here.  We are set to return to Costa Rica on Jan. 9, and I feel time pressing in on me, since I got here on Nov. 8, and have had nearly three weeks wasted by a doctor here in Arlington.  I am to see another eye surgeon on Friday, the 2nd, and hopefully, he can get me on the right path.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

GMO food, Organic Food, Ethically killed food, and the human condition….

"The surprising thing about young fools is how many survive to become old fools." -- Doug Larson

This thought recently occurred to me: Does it make any sense at all for any person who wants to sell me something to knowingly offer me something that, in the long or short run, is going to cause me serious harm? I mean, if I was in the business of producing anything that I wanted people to buy, wouldn’t I run out of customers if I deliberately killed them all? So, where do these ideas of Monsanto as an evil-empire-set-on-killing-us-all-with-their-genetically-modified-foods originate? The same applies to the ideas of a cattle or chicken rancher administering various antibiotics to animals raised for food, or other medications/chemicals designed to ensure their health and fast growth. If that is so harmful to the humans who consume these animals, wouldn’t he, the rancher, soon run out of customers?
Maybe it’s just me, but it seems like I keep running into very vocal people who insist that they will only eat “organic” food, and that the meat they eat must have been dealt with “ethically,” whatever that means. I mean, obviously, it is OK with these people that somebody else killed the chicken or the pig or the cow that they eat, but the killing must have been done ‘humanely.’ Give me a break. I can accept the idea of religious philosophies directing how food is raised, killed, or prepared, because believe it or not, many of those ideas have some ancient basis in reason. As a for instance, pork is indeed very deadly, if not raised carefully, and cooked thoroughly, so it makes sense for a religious leader to just say, “Hey! Don’t eat that pig. It’ll kill you!”
But, to try to tell me that the chicken that laid my morning egg has to be maintained in such and such a fashion, or that the meat on my plate had to come from a contented cow, raised only eating specific foods, not given certain types of medicine or supplements (all the while, relying on all kinds of phony supplements oneself) is just a bit too hypocritical for me.
I especially am put off by people who say such stupid things as “I want to eat the same things that my grandparents ate.” They really don’t seem to grasp a few basic facts of life, or of history, for that matter. Our grandparents did indeed seem to eat a lot more than we do, and everyone has seen Hollywood versions, and maybe even read written versions of stories that depict the family sitting down to a breakfast where there are platters heaped with fried eggs, huge, thick slices of fried ham, huge hot biscuits dripping with real butter (not to mention ham gravy), and all kinds of side dishes.
What we tend to overlook, however, are two very important differences between those folks, and us folks. One, they tended to live a shorter life than we do/will, and they went out and worked their butts off after consuming that huge meal. They did not go sit at a desk all day, peering at a computer screen. No, they went out and pitched hay, mended or built fences, tended to livestock of every stripe, built barns, planted crops, weeded crops, dug irrigations ditches by hand, and cut down monster trees with hand saws, and so on.
So, unless you’re prepared to go out and work off a huge meal, don’t try to emulate your grandparents by eating such meals. But, to get back to the idea that it is wrong to ‘genetically modify’ our food, or to infer that Monsanto and others are out to poison us is just plain absurd. For one thing, nobody complains when they see the development of hybrids (see Burpee seeds), or the result of years of selective breeding. What do you suppose those are if not genetic modification, of a simpler variety?
While I do think it is kind of crappy for Monsanto, or whoever, to have developed so many varieties of plants that cannot be reproduced (thus forcing the grower to go back to them for next year’s crop), at the same time, I have to admire the fact that they did develop such a thing. That’s truly ingenious. And, hey, isn’t that really the result of the demands from consumers for things like seedless watermelon, or seedless grapes? And, let’s not totally overlook the fact that those seeds generally have built in – as the result of years of research on the part of Monsanto, or whoever – a better resistance to certain outside influences that might threaten a crop.
All the farmer has to do is seek another source for his seed corn, or whatever. At the same time he can go back to what his ancestors did, and simply hold out a portion of this year’s crop as seed for next year’s crop. All of that having been said, we, as consumers, need to keep in mind that we are at least partly responsible for these developments. We all want more and more quantity of wheat, corn, veggies, or whatever foodstuffs are grown, for less and less effort or money. We demand it. Because of these demands, the family farmer is long gone. What we have now is the corporate farm, which has grown out of our ever increasing demands. What we have now are much larger crops coming from larger fields and farms, and using anything that will grow faster, healthier, and cheaper.
If the end result is a minority of people who turn their noses up at the produce of the American farm, then maybe we should advise them to follow Marie Antoinette’s directive, and just let them eat cake.
Now, I will freely admit that there does appear to be a very small minority of people who – for whatever reasons – cannot tolerate some of the additives found in either the hybrids, or genetically modified seeds, or even some of the things given to food animals during their raising. Those people, in another time, another place, likely would not have survived early infancy, or childhood because they would have succumbed to any one of a multitude of things that used to kill kids. But, thanks in large part to the same science that has given us genetically modified foods, and hybrids, they now do survive infancy only to then fall very ill with conditions like celiac disease and other food sensitivities. There are a number of options for those thus affected, most of which do involve the avoidance of foods that the majority of people can and do eat.
But, ultimately, since those with these problems are such a tiny minority, it is not logical, reasonable, or at all realistic for the majority of people to have to give up anything in order to handle these problems. So, when folks start crying about the food producers are evil because they have modified our food, they need to remember another thing about cake…………they say that you cannot have your cake and eat it, too.