Thursday, May 8, 2014

Some Unplanned Family Reflections Thanks to the Word "Broth" Plus A Wholly Unrelated and Highly Abbreviated Good Reads Overview


I'm not even going to try to post a lot of "relevant" (or really any) pictures to accompany this entry ...

I was going to write a lengthy post but, as is often the case during the work week, I am starting it too late. It follows an OK work day and a very good full gym workout tonight including jogging, weightlifting, and swimming (although upon leaving the Anthony Bowen YMCA, I saw a sketchy threesome at the edge of the 1400 block of W Street NW, and so walked down to U Street and back to New Hampshire Avenue, my 3-1/2 minute walk becoming an 8-1/2 to 9 minute walk).

However, it's just too late to do so, and I'm rather tired. I made dinner and I'm watching my late night comfort TV. I baked/broiled two pork chops and boiled some jasmine rice (you have to cook it for a good 20 minutes) and steamed some broccoli and carrots.

I've gotten better lately at cooking dinner, in particular, mixing and matching some foods. In addition, I have discovered the joys of draining the liquid salt solution that is the "broth" of most soups you buy (esp. the chicken and vegetable sorts) and just boiling it water (the remnant broth on the soup contents create a much lighter, less awfully salty broth). I then mix in the boiled jasmine rice (which I can only find in the convenient bags in the little "Best D.C. Supermarket" located close to my apartment building) and semi-drain the mixture. It's quite good.

American soup -- such as the various Campbell's and Progresso -- are grossly steeped in salty broth. You only realize it when you stop ingesting so much salt. And when it says "Just like mom used to make," my reply is, "Yes, if mom were Lot's wife."

Off-the-charts salt/sodium, grease/fat, and sugar are the Unholy Trinity of the ridiculous American diet. Don't forget to supersize them.

As an aside, I hate the word "broth" because it reminds me of my paternal grandfather back in New Jersey in the late 1970s grossly devouring his lunch in between hacking fits with his dentures slipping and tongue go in and out. You see, my grandmother often made him this soup with a vile bouillon cube (I can't recall the brand but what a ridiculous concept) mixed into hot water in a bowl. (I recall trying to eat a cube on a few occasions but they were beyond disgusting.) She would also fix him a sardine sandwich on a plate. Anyway, I just recall the word "broth" being frequently said.

Anyway, my point is that it was just gross to watch him eat.

It was even worse in the morning with his hair all wild and hacking fits ending invariably in a sneeze with an explosion of snot blown into a cloth handkerchief (that I dare not get near (though sometimes he used tissues that were all balled up around him). And he did this even while, as ever, chain smoking, and seated there in the kitchen in our house on Kirby Avenue in Long Branch wearing only a wife-beater (we didn't call them that back then) and old silky boxers but otherwise naked, his little stick legs a weird counterpoint to his little pouchy belly. And he only shrank with age until he was about 5'2" and barely 100 pounds when he died.

Lewis and Florence Todaro, my paternal grandparents, Long Branch, N.J., circa 1985.

*******

So much screaming and fighting. If it were a morning fight, my grandmother would scream at him, "ARE YA' UP?!?"

I was, like, 8 years old and an already-neurotic brat running around the house hyperactive and screaming. And my father would sometimes tape record the fights on an old 8-track that he would hide under a sofa or chair -- and then make copies and play back and send to people. (If ONLY I could find one of those tapes -- it would be like finding a new Dead Sea Scroll.)

Florence Todaro and yours truly on my 4th birthday, November 26, 1973, in the kitchen of the house at 368 Kirby Avenue, Long Branch, N.J.

*******

Our biggest fights, though, were usually reserved for dinner, and even a few times included shoving the dinner table back and forth between the pantry and the stove. And once someone threw this bright plastic yellow container holding the Cremora fake powered coffee creamer -- my grandparents only drank crappy Taster's Choice instant coffee and mixed in Cremora. My grandma had that container for years. I recall the plastic nature of it was a bit unusual at the time. As for the coffee and Cremora, they came in a glass bottle and cardboard box, respectively. Most consumer products back then came in glass bottles or cardboard boxes.

I can still see it somersaulting through the air in what seemed like slow motion spewing its contents and leaving a white strip right down the middle of the table.

And my father, who lived with his parents at that time, was forever gallivanting "out" to this or that bar in his never-ending, never-successful quest to meet a woman. On the weekends during the school year, I typically went up to South Amboy to visit my material grandmother at her house on Henry Street. (She was the Polish side.) As for my mother, she was in Belgium with my stepfather Ray, who was in the U.S. Army and stationed at SHAPE in the period Jan. 1976 - Dec. 1979. I only saw her three times in that entire period, during which I was ages 6 to 10.

I guess we were a pretty damn low-brow Italian American family trying to live in the suburbs of 1970s central New Jersey. And we were not a little crazy.

My dad and myself with our bull mastiff dog "Borky" in our house on Kirby Ave., Long Branch, N.J., circa 1977.

I think my dad had partially broken his hand in a karate tournament. I recall he had that bandaged cast on for quite a while.

Fast forward 37 years and approx. 1,000 miles south from central New Jersey to Flagler Beach, Florida, and it's his crazy girlfriend who, half his age, assaults him.

*******

Where was I? Oh, yes ...

... I had intended to write a lot more, or rather post links to good pieces by my heroes Paul Krugman and Jonathan Chait, not to mention a great piece by John Judis in The New Republic that, while praising Thomas Piketty's seminal and critically important new book Capital in the Twenty-First Century, takes Piketty to task for saying in an interview that he hadn't even read Karl Marx. That CLEARLY is not the case -- and that's good.

(Forget the bullsh!t coming from the rightwing noise machine that seeks to shut down any discussion of the topic simply by saying "Marxism" or "Marxist.)

Oh, I also wanted to post a 2012 TNR review by Judge Richard A. Posner of the book Reading Law co-authored by Antonin "Three Fingers" Scalia on the complete "incoherence" of his belief in "textual originalism." I just came across the review the other day. (I'll bet Benji Wittes just loved that Scalia book.)

Then there's the latest #Benghazi GOP freak show about to happen that is designed to fundraise and whip up the Fox News base into mouth-foaming hysteria. I just hope House Dems boycott the hearings.

But it's too damn late to do so.

I'm just watching my late night TV -- reruns of Frasier, The Golden Girls, Sanford & Son, Too Close For Comfort, and The King of Queens, at different times and on different channels.

OK, that's all for now. I probably won't be updating the blog tomorrow as I am not planning on taking the computer home tomorrow night. I am planning on biking to work and then stopping at this or that bar after work.

--Regulus

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