WELCOME - Let's Look At Life and Rant About It!!

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Today On YouTube ...

I've been a fan of Shane Mack since I first heard this song ... Lie To Me ... from a movie called Shelter. The movie starred Brad Rowe ... I'm a big fan of his, too ... but it's not really mainstream. It's got a lot of dark and complex characters dealing with family, parenting, growing up, coming home, and coming to terms with sexual orientation. Not a movie for everyone, but the characters are real and the acting is excellent.

Enjoy this clip and look for other Shane Mack tunes.

POINT OF RANT: I think I was a music/movie/TV critic in another life.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Today At My Garage Sale ...

Well, wasn't really my sale ... I boxed up a few things and added them to the "sale-zaganza" going on at my older brother's house. He lives on a finely-manicured cul-de-sac with other married-with-three-kids-and-a-dog-that-poops-everywhere families ... like Knots Landing without the evil twins, murder, extortion, political intrigue, and babynapping.

This year, all seven households in my brother's carefully planned neighborhood contributed their never-used exercise devices, too big/too small garments, outgrown baby cribs and bicycles, museum-quality VCRs, board games-with-MOST-of-the-pieces, books on every subject imaginable, and what-have-you items to the sale. And it was all part of a community-wide event that boasts about 90 such events over a two-day time frame. Traffic everywhere was a complete bitch, but you would be amazed (or maybe you wouldn't) by how many people turned out for this semi-annual event and the kinds of crap they bought.

My brother usually nets a few hundred dollars ... vacation money ... but he and I always tell stories about "the good old days" and how today's garage sales are just so thrown together with little planning ... and very little heart.

As a kid, I always took part in our family yard sales. But everyone in the family had jobs. We boxed, we sorted, we wiped down card tables, we set up display areas for different types of items (books, clothes, toys, CDs, etc.), we checked items for pieces and parts, and we tagged things to identify who received the money when all was said and done.

And we always had a gimmick. We children always sold lemonade and cookies or brownies to the hungry shoppers. On "hot" years we made a killing. One year a neighbor even loaned us his two party-sized ice cream makers (why he had two commercial grade appliances like that I'm not sure about) and we sold cones with different kinds of sprinkles.

Many members of my extended family are "crafty," so we cashed in on that over the years. One year we spent weeks gluing eyes, spare doll accessories, and felt "belongings" to stones we picked up everywhere and sold "Pet Rocks" that were nurses, soldiers, teachers, cheerleaders, baseball players, zoo animals, space aliens, and business professionals. People thought it was so funny and odd that we sold out in a couple of hours and I think we had like 70 of the little devils.

Another time, an aunt showed us how to create these small braided rugs from plastic bread wrappers. We ate sandwiches like crazy people for a few months and asked everyone we knew to save their wrappers. I think us four kids made about 15 rugs but we sold them for $15 a piece and we only had one left at the end of the sale.

I remember one year my grandmother surprised us with the fact that she had made 30 crocheted dishsoap bottle covers that were supposed to look like fashionable ladies or princesses or something. They were frightening, with tiny hands that I knew had the skills to kill me eight different ways. And she had attached these small, cruel eyes that caught the light in a strange manner as they followed you wherever yo went. My grandmother came by about four times during that Saturday yard sale to see how her "little beauties" were selling, an each time my Mom saw her car pulling up she hid a few of them. Our family ended up "buying" half of them with our profits. My Mom actually tried using them a few times, but they were so ugly that my siblings and I kept hiding them in the trash can outside until she made peace with having a naked bottle of liquid dishwashing detergent.

Probably one of our more profitable efforts was the last October sale where my mother still had her health. For months we had been collecting acorns, leaves, pussy willows, cattails, buckeyes, small twigs, and burrs of different sorts. My father used a saw and cut about 100 wooden circles ... maybe six or seven inches in diameter ... a pounded a large nail up through the center of each. My oldest brother was in charge of spray painting each circle with gold paint. Once dried, my father drew a smaller circle on each piece and then my sister and I would help my mother glue on the assorted flora in interesting and overlapping shapes. We then took each back to my brother for more paint and a quick spray of sealant. Then my brother got the honor of helping Mom affix a large crimson candle to each botanical candle holder. They sold out at $5 each and I think my Mom used the money to buy some "crazy things" for the kitchen ... we got our first ever toaster with bagel-sized slots that October. And that Christmas, we were also surprised by a larger set of the candleholders for our mantle ... decorations that we all cherished for many years. Thanks, Mom!

But as exciting and exhausting as the sale itself was on our tired kids' bodies, it was the counting of the loot at the end of the day that made it all worthwhile. It took us hours to tally tags, separate out the money used to start the day as change for customers, and to wrap the coins. We sat around like little exhilarated thieves, tired from the crime but unable to come down from the rush of our most recent bank robbery. It's what "family time" is supposed to feel like.

POINT OF RANT: Garage sales must invoke some type of urban magic ... how else are we able to sell "all" of our junk at a yard sale and then have enough accumulated stuff for another one six months later.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Today In The Losers' Circle ...

I ran out at lunch today to buy napkins and plastic utensils for a birthday party at work later in the day ... Slyvia, who has spoken to me maybe three times in seven years, is turning 50. Anyway, I was heading down an aisle with my shopping basket when my peripheral vision caught a glimpse of something so shocking ... so horrible ... that I continued on about 15 feet before my brain processed the information and stopped me cold.

Then, like a panther, I reversed course and slinked back a few feet to confirm what I "thought" I saw. Son of a bitch ... there it was ... vanilla syrup! AAAAAGGGGGHHHHHH!!!!!!!!!

I invented vanilla syrup about 10 years ago ... in my head. I was eating ice cream (big surprise)with a niece and a nephew and commented that I wish there was a vanilla version of "hot fudge" because I loved the warm and soothing taste of it. I had a bottle of real vanilla from Madagascar for baking, and several containers of powdered vanilla I found at an Amish market ... I go through that stuff like some people go through the cocaine it resembles. And I'd looked up recipes for simple vanilla syrup used in cocktails, but I wanted a thick, gooey rich vanilla syrup ... as long as it didn't look like spoiled milk or something "reproductive."

Vanilla, from the Spanish word vainilla which means "little pod," comes from a variety of orchids and it is incredible expensive and painstaking to cultivate the pods. Mexico is a great source of vanilla, but places like Madagascar, Reunion, and parts of Indonesia, the South Pacific, and South America ... thanks to the conquistador Hernan Cortes bringing the wonders of vanilla (and chocolate) to Europe from his Central American exploits ... also grow fantastic varieties.

"Why don't you invent it yourself," my niece had said with both simple innocence and strawberry ice cream all over her chin and shirt. I thought about that idea every few months, but never gave it any serious thought. Now I was beaten to the punch. Or was I?!

This stuff on the store shelf before me was called Torani Vanilla Syrup and it came in a pretty big bottle. I picked up one and was delighted to see that it sloshed and rippled in relative thinness ... it could never be the ice cream companion of my dreams. Then I also saw that it was beside margarita mixes and other "bartendery" things ... more for drinks and lattes than desserts. And it was pretty damn expensive ... not an attractive feature for thrifty Moms.
I still had a shot, but how do you shop for a test kitchen or a food technologist?
POINT OF RANT: Never discount an idea ... or an ice cream topping?

Monday, May 17, 2010

Today On The News ...

When I was a kid, we never watched the weather portion of the news unless it was summer and storming (which delayed our outdoor adventures) or we were praying to the "Snow Gods" that the cold winds outside would close our school system. To be honest, it was usually the radio that delivered the announcement on whether we'd be sledding down Sargent's Hill or checking water levels in our crayfish pool during life sciences class.

And two decades ago the weather was kinda boring, a quick few moments of meteorological data delivered by either a nervous-but-pretty young lady (meant to garner male viewers, no doubt) or an established, blazer-wearing news veteran (like Ted Baxter, the uber-news guy from the Mary Tyler Moore Show) who often reappeared at the very end of the broadcast to handle the sports coverage. Either way, the segment was brisk, with the media personality gesturing to a vague area map with red and green lines. They looked like strings of team pennants, but they represented all the elements of nature raging (or not) outside our window.

But today, I've noticed that, if there's a storm brewing in the sky, the weather becomes as front-and-center as an attempted political assassination. There are constant interrupts and scrolling marquees to alert me to the slightest changes in temperature and barometric pressure. "Doppler" this and "thermal conversion" that are reported almost as they occur. And when the regular newscast comes around, it starts with the weather, fills with the weather, and ... wait for it ... ends with the weather.

Just recently, when a spring storm system moved through my area of the state, the movers and shakers of the local network outlets commandeered major air time for coverage of the storm ... "Oprah," believe it or not, was pre-empted and re-aired later that evening. There was almost 90 minutes of non-stop weather reporting. They covered everything ... a quick snippet from a university professor on how storms form ... phone call sound bites from "weather watchers" from throughout the area ... cuts to reporters I've never seen before showing me tree branches in the middle of intersections or old pickup trucks trying to drive through four feet of water on back roads. And, of course, there were the man-on-the-street interviews with business owners fighting to crank down the awnings on their storefronts or just passersby who stopped for the camera to show us that, you too, can have fun while soaked to the skin.

And then out came the technology ... there were animations that let the viewers travel through the various layers of the storm. Maps showed and actually counted lightning strikes in and around local communities. And some type of thermal imaging science allowed us to see the different temperatures of air mixing and churning from the upper atmosphere down to very near surface level. Watching the weather is now nearly as bizarre as going to a sci-fi convention, or interrupting your usual channel surfing with a few moments of the NASA Channel ... yeah, NASA has a channel and they broadcast some pretty strange and amazing stuff!

Also, during the storms I mentioned, the announcer kept flashing a detailed time schedule ... like the electronic information board at the airport ... for when the worst of the weather would hit each suburb, town, and village. He updated it constantly like he was afraid someone from "Hooterville" would call to complain that the storm was late or something. Between time table updates the weather report would switch to a separate animation that would zoom down to a scale where we would see the storm intensity info overlayed with detailed street maps. I bet I could have ran outside and viewers would have seen me waving when the guy covered my neck of the woods.

People do seem to be fascinated by weather in general. Most cable companies offer a systems channel with constant local radar data and weather stats. And for those of us who travel a great deal (or have trouble sleeping), we have the Weather Channel at our clicker-tips. Why settle for local coverage when you can see that showers are forcing the people of Holland to use umbrellas or that the sunrise in Singapore was especially lovely yesterday.

POINT OF RANT: I have a $4.99 outdoor thermometer hanging near my front window. Between that an an annual eye exam, I have all the weather forecasting I need.

Friday, May 14, 2010

Today At A Tattoo Parlor ...

I've gone crazy ... certifiable ... done something I swore I would never, ever do. I got a tattoo.

I'm a pack rat by nature. I save newspaper clippings I might someday need ... photos of haircuts I might someday try ... and doodles of things I draw in the margins of forms and meeting notes that I one day might try to turn into paintings or other artwork. One particular doodle, a kind of graphic pattern of curling lines and geometric shapes, really caught my attention so I kept it tucked safely in a pocket of my wallet ... I had a "feeling" I would definitely turn this into something. I never dreamed it would involve a series of tiny needles propelling ink into my skin at high velocity.
For millennia (that's right, millions of years), tattoos have been part of human culture. Earliest man used inks and dyes made from natural substances to "mark" individuals for decorative purposes; religious beliefs; rites of passage such as marriage, fertility, and manhood; demonstration of tribal and familial relationships; acknowledgement of craftspeople and artisans; protection from disease, magic, and evil spirits; and to delineate people of noble bloodlines. This body art, like today, took many forms and appeared on arms, legs, necks, backs, faces, hips, knees, and shoulders.

Most notable of the ancient "inked" are Egyptian nobles, the indigenous Ainu of Japan who favored elaborate facial markings, and the Maori aborigines of New Zealand. In fact, it was Joseph Banks, a naturalist studying the Maori in 1769, who brought the idea of tattooing and body art to the attention of the Europe of his time. Soon sailors were embracing the concept and adorning their bodies with images copied from natives glimpsed on their travels. In fact, I had an uncle who was in the Navy and he had a small tropical fish tattoo on his left bicep. I was always fascinated as a kid by the way it would sometimes "peek" out of his workshirt. And when he told the story of getting it done in Fiji with a few other buddies while pretty wasted on rum and beer chasers, you could tell he was reliving a significant life event. I thought that was cool!

Well, I was never a big student of history or a total worshipper of my uncle ... my reasons were much more personal. I'd had a crisis in my life and, upon working through it, I decided to get crazy and put that little design I'd been saving to good use.

And I'm not alone. According to a 2008 survey, 14 percent of adults in the United States have a tattoo ... 25 percent in my age group. My little "gift" to myself took about 2.5 hours and cost me about $180. I just walked in and this girl looked over my sketch, enlarged it a little in a copier, traced some of the design on my skin, and then went at it. When it was over, I felt powerful and sexy and naughty and hip and decisive and adult ... about an hour later I felt incredibly sore.

I don't regret my decision ... but I don't think I'll be going under that particular type of needle any time soon. Actually, ever. Tattoos and body art are such personal and subjective choices, and more power to those who embrace the practice as a form of self expression. The "covered in tats" thing just isn't a look I can rock. But I can pull of wearing yellow, so there!

POINT OF RANT: "Personal" is a nice way of saying "none of your business."

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Today In My Sister's Backyard ...

Where I live, it's prom weekend. So that means a trip to my sister's home. It doesn't matter if one of her brood is attending the pivotal high school event or not (this year, her daughter and a close male cousin are both attendees) ... she has the best landscaped property for pictures.

Ah, prom ... fancy dresses, funky tuxedos or suits or kilts or whatever, and the scent of potential teenage hook-ups in the air. The term "prom" is short for "promenade," and some schools still honor the tradition. A co-worker of mine has a daughter in a small rural school system ... only about 300 students in grades 9-12. An hour before the dance officially begins, all student attendees, chaperons, school officials, parents, family, and friends are invited to the school's track and field area (the auditorium at the middle school is used if the weather turns nasty) where the teenage couples "promenade" along a short decorated path and pose for pictures. The local daily and weekly papers always send someone to snap a few pics, and a few parents show up with an entourage that resembles a movie film crew.

But whatever format is followed, proms are a right of passage ... from looking stylish and snagging the "appropriate" date to appearing "cool" while dancing and acting shocked when the most popular kids get named to the "Prom Court."

The prom my niece and cousin (and their respective dates) are attending is what I consider "old school." It's being held in their high school gymnasium and has a tropical theme. A DJ will spin a variety of tunes and closely-monitored punch and snacks will be provided. Consequently, the competitiveness level of this gathering will be focused on the attendees themselves ... where the couples snagged dinner before the dance, if the gown and/or tux is outrageous or scandalous, if they rented a limousine to show off, and how many parties they plan to cram into their schedule before individual curfews hit.

Now my junior prom ... that was most definitely NOT old school. My class really worked to earn money so we could sponsor a helluva event. We washed so many cars and cleaned up so many yards and garages that we should have received some type of presidential award or citation from the EPA. Anyway, we were able to have a sit-down affair at a popular lodge and supply a pretty decent band and a DJ to fill in during band breaks and the last hour of the dance. The lodge helped coordinate all the food and decorations, and the facility had all these walking paths and outdoor pavilions that worked great to keep us entertained while the prom moved from dinner mode to dancing. We even had an ingenious class vice president ... ME! ... who came up with the idea of auctioning off 25 song dedications during the night. Hey, I figured if some Mom and Dad wanted to make their daughter feel extra special or if some goofball wanted to spend his part-time job money helping "seal the deal" with his date, our class might as well benefit. We raised just over $1,100 for our Senior Gift Fund. There were a few private afterparties, but our class officers brokered a deal with a small two-theatre cinema to rent the facility for a late showing so that everyone had an additional option for post-event wind down.

But even with all the "big city" style, there wasn't the drama that I heard my relatives discuss as we moved about my sisters well-kept acreage. One of my cousin's friends wasn't currently "seeing" anyone, so a friend of a friend introduced him to a girl via Facebook. They were physically meeting for the first time tonight at the dance ... five hours minimum with someone you just met, eek!!

Another story centered around a sophomore cheerleader who, unhappy with the dress her mother purchased for the prom, stole a credit card and charged a $700 dress. The crime was just recently discovered. "Does she get to go to the dance?" I asked to no one in particular. "Well, sure ... her date's a senior," my niece answered, like I was the dumbest person on the planet for asking. Apparently a senior boy trumps things like honesty and fraud.

Then there was the semi-popular senior girl who waited and waited for the junior baseball stud to ask her to prom. She flirted and hinted and phoned and texted ... and so did her friends. It was just a formality, they all thought, until the baseball guy asked someone else. Devastated and panicked, the girl figured she'd either skip the dance or just go with some friends as a "stag" group. Sounds reasonable, I thought, until the story took a turn that would make the writers of an '80s nighttime soap like Dynasty or Dallas proud. It seems that the girl's best friend's brother ... a freshman in college who had always had a bit of a crush on his sister's cute friend ... offered to be her prom escort. Arrangements were made ... like renting a tux and finding a ride from four hours away ... and everyone was happy. Until last Tuesday ... four days ago ... when the baseball guy dropped his date and asked this girl to the prom. And, bite me in the ass, she said YES. And then she texted her best friend and asked her to thank her brother, but she'd made "other arrangements."

It was a few seconds before I realized the group of family had moved on to a corner of the lawn with a bench and arbor set up, leaving me behind sputtering like a stalled engine. Did today's teenagers really have such little regard for the personal feelings of others? Did this girl in question have parents or was she raised by extremely ill-mannered wolves? My proms, in general, had went off without a hitch. My senior year, I did ask a girl from another school that I'd met on a church club canoeing trip. We'd went out for pizza once, and a movie another time. I didn't expect any surprises ... she said she was wearing her hair up and that her dress was eggplant, what more did I need to know? Oh, I don't know, like the fact that she was impetuous and the day before the dance went and had her hair cut extremely short ... and streaked platinum blond. Or that her "eggplant" dress was sexy purple sleeveless number with a neckline that stopped just north of her navel. She was gorgeous and my peers thought I'd hired a hooker. My principal thought I'd hired a hooker. I wasn't sure I hadn't hired a hooker either, because later on, during a stroll outside the prom venue, my date knocked me down in the brush and "had her way with me." I didn't get the deposit back on my tux because of the tar and soil stains and I probably should have had a dentist look at my teeth ... I had a smile that wouldn't go away for about two weeks!!

POINT OF RANT: I wonder what my date's doing now?

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Today On The Internet ...

I just finished doing some research on my Welsh heritage. It's really exciting to learn things about your past. We have this old book about my father's German heritage that cites his family clear back to the late 1200's ... Damn!

But I think the most interesting ... and eeriest ... things about family are what they pass on to us. Earlier, I made a blog entry about my creative side and all the forms of "creativity" that could be found on the immediate branches of my family tree. That post was all about the positive, beautiful things like art and poetry, but the double helix of my genes carries a darker side. And I think, in recent years, my siblings have thrown a genetic "switch" and come into their inheritance in full.

My oldest brother is the only one of the three boys in my family to have children (as far as we know, ha, ha!). Growing up he was several years our senior and I can remember the many, many times that he told my mother that she spoiled us. He claimed he had so many more rules to follow and chores to do when he was closer to our age than me and my brother combined. And at one point in his teens, I clearly recall an instance where he called her out on her style of parenting. "Why don't you punish us yourself?" he had taunted her. "You just want Dad to always be the bad guy so you don't feel guilty about spanking us. I'll never treat my kids like that ... never!!"

In her defense, my dear mother was a product ... and a victim ... of her generation. All the mothers used the "wait 'til our father gets home" end run to quiet us heathens down. It was a universal constant, like gravity. Sometimes it smacked you like gravity, too.

Anyway, about a week ago, I was over at my brother's house and asked where his youngest, Rose, was hiding. "That's it," he declared. "She's hiding. She said I didn't care enough to look for her and that her mother wasn't good enough at finding things to ever figure out where she's at." It seems that little Rose broke a table lamp while running through the house, and brother told her to "think about what you've done ... your Mom will take care of you when she gets home from shopping." My brother looked smug ... I imagine I looked like the Cheshire cat because Mr. I'll-Never-Be-Like-You was parenting just like our mother. Come to think of it, I don't think my brother had made one hard decision in his married-with-children life. He did, however' have a ball-busting wife to pick up the slack. Good for him ... he saved some other poor dude the pain.

I don't visit my sister as often as I should. She lives about 40 minutes away ... not very far, really ... but I'm afraid of her. I'm afraid that I'm going to tell her that she's turned into our father. My Dad had a temper. Something would set him off, he'd yell and fume for about two minutes, and then apologize to everyone involved and resolve the situation. Now if you compared my father's outbursts to a solar flare, then my sister's temper is like an ongoing supernova! She screams ... she invokes our ancestors and ancient totems ... she paints her face with the blood of her victims ... okay, she actually just gets really loud and manic and verbally kicks you in the 'nads for the tinniest of indiscretions. And she hated my Dad's temper. Growing up, she constantly went to my mother and said he needed anger management classes or to consider seeing his doctor about anxiety meds. She's now living in a black, BLACK kettle.

My other brother inherited my Dad's aptitudes for numbers and spatial arrangement ... he's so good at math and logic puzzles and assembling things, it's spooky. And then there's my creativity and love of books. I'm sure me and my kidless sibling picked up a few bad "habits" but nothing that borders on a mental health issue.

POINT OF RANT: Thank God for creativity and condoms!

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Today In The Sky ...

Early this morning, and I mean 3 a.m. early, a line of thunderstorms ripped through the area. The lower half of the state is getting pounded with precipitation while the area I live in is just settling in for about 20 to 30 hours of steady "spitting."

At about 3:30 a.m., they power flickered and went out for about 25 minutes ... no big deal. But even as I sensed the subtle change in the house , I got a tingle of "crisis mode" because I realized I wasn't prepared.

I mentioned several weeks ago that I was relocating and temporarily staying with a married pair of older relatives. They happened to be away for the weekend and I knew nothing about their domestic levels of emergency preparedness. In my former abode, I was like a Boy Scout on steroids. In my kitchen, bedroom, bathroom, front entry closet, and garage, were easily-accessible drawers containing a flashlight, at least three candles, a box of wood matches, and one of those butane "grill lighters." The bedroom and garage "caches" additionally held those crank-on-the-side/don't need batteries type flashlights complete with built-in AM/FM radios, and a had an easy-to-reach box with four of those "camper light" flashlights packed right beside my Christmas lights so I would remember to get new batteries each year. I also kept a decent first-aid kit in the linen closet, as well as the trunk of my car, and a mag lite and fuse/water valve diagram taped to the side of my electrical box. And for more "personal" type of emergencies, I kept fully-stocked shaving kits ... deodorant, toothbrush and paste, soap, small cologne, sewing kit, disposable razor, hand towel, tweezers, nail clippers, condoms, dental floss, aspirin, hair gel, etc. ... as well as a basic change of clothes in my car trunk and filing cabinet at work.

But this morning, as the thunder rumbled through my new neighborhood, I was alone in a dark partially-finished basement bedroom. My candles and flashlights were labelled and packed away, waiting to safeguard my future place of residence. I was doomed ...

... for, like I said, about 20 or 25 minutes. My petite panic attack was "ridden out" in the comfort of my queen-sized bed, and my still-sleepy brain kept me from trying to find my way around in what was a very cramped, lightless space. I probably drifted a little, so it seemed like mere minutes of "oh,no ... what will I do?" distress.

I blame my Mom. As I look at my list of emergency preparations (and there are some I didn't mention), I realize that I had no childhood role models for being ready for anything. My parents, Mom especially, really let us kids be responsible for ourselves and our actions. We picked out our clothes and we, for the most part, decided our own fates about washing faces and brushing teeth. If we looked foolish and smelled bad, we were the ones who faced the ridicule. And we were kids, so we didn't really give a rat's ass about a good many things. And in regards to emergencies, my parents both had cool heads. We never hid from hailstones or cowered in the basement during a tornado warning. And if the lights went out, my Mom bumped around the kitchen lighting her favorite antique hurricane lamps and eventually locating a few loose candles ... usually the little birthday kind ... to help light up the gloom.

Thanks, Mom, for my old closet stockpiled with at least 48 rolls of toilet paper. And thanks, Dad, for my box heaping full of shaving cream and deodorant. And thank you both, up in Heaven, for seldom being on time so that now my siblings and myself are almost manic about being on time.

POINT OF RANT: A flashlight is only as good as your ability to keep fresh batteries on hand.

Saturday, May 1, 2010

Today At The Deli ...

Why won't my lunch meat last?

I'm really into being frugal these days and taking my lunch to work is so much less expensive then take out each day. But at the rate my cold cuts expire, I could sit down at a three-star bistro each day and still save some green.

I don't think it's my choice of shopping venue ... it happens no matter where or what day I grocery shop. Supermarket deli fare never lasts more than 3 days ... filmy, my ham looks like fake skin in a high school play prop room. It's revolting. Some people swear by those prepackaged brands that come in little storage containers ... kind of mini-Tupperware, but I like my lunch meat sliced thick and that type is so shaved it should be sold by the ream, not the pound.

My favorite deli ... a magical gourmet shoppe where asparagus quiche, beef salad, individual ham loaves, mac 'n' cheese casserole, five kinds of cheesecake made daily, and chicken salad with two types of grapes and almond slivers overflow ... should be able to "meat" my needs, but their cold cuts suck. They have "mesquite turkey," "garlic pastrami," and other more-exotic sandwich stuffers, but I swear it spoils before my bags reach my car. It's gotten so bad that when I do try something I buy four or six thick slices ... enough for two or three sandwiches, and I make sure I make the first one the minute I get home.

I've even stooped to buying lunch meat from a nearby gas station that has a small deli counter ... the employees are clearly on parole and the selection is dismal, but the two things I buy regularly have the staying power of Energizer lithium batteries ... bologna and Dutch loaf.

Ah, bologna and Dutch loaf ... two childhood friends. I swear my parents had stock in lunch meat futures because we always had tons of those two "slickmeats" in our crisper drawer. And bologna in our house meant white bread and two carefully-created swirls of spicy mustard, while Dutch loaf demanded a bit more refinement with an artful dollop of Miracle Whip and toasted slices of wheat. If my Dad was in a "fancy" mood, he'd share some of his sliced corn beef. It was very square, very fatty on the edges, and tasted like it must have been shipped straight from Heaven!

We ate a lot of turkey and ham sandwiches, believe me, but my Mom cooked a whole damn or turkey for an evening meal or Sunday lunch and we gnawed on the carcuss for days like starving hyenas.

Come to think about it, other foodstuffs turn on me at an unnatural rate ... milk, bananas, and lettuce. Fresh broccoli sometimes wilts when I turn my back. A loaf of rye from the freezer goes from frozen to moldy without passing "GO." And you'd think that when I buy a half-gallon of milk, the carton would have the words "Before You Actually Get Home" printed where the expiration date usually resides.

POINT OF RANT: Shut up and buy soup for lunch!