Thursday, July 27, 2017


Making your own yogurt at home sends it into an entirely new realm. First off, it's cheaper. Second, it's much better.

The process is simple.

 Start with a half gallon of milk. Whole, skim, or 2% like I'm using here. Scald it. That means you bring right to the brink of a boil. Do. Not. Boil. It will make a horrendous mess. Once you see the ring of tiny bubbles around the wall of the pot, cut the heat, and wait for it to cool. This will kill off any bacteria besides the yogurt critters we will introduce later. I usually wait about an hour, or until I can pick up and handle the pot with bare hands without burning or discomfort.
The traditional way to do it involves boiling to reduce the water content and concentrate the milk solids, but, since I am avoiding the boil over mess making, add in 3 cups of powdered milk. This will achieve the same result.

Take some yogurt to use as a starter. This will introduce the yogurt bacteria to your cooled, concentrated solids milk. Then it's into the little yogurt maker. I use a French product called "YOGOURMET," which works its magic overnight. You can also set your oven on warm and leave the door cracked just a bit. Here's the deal though. You need things warm enough to grow the bacteria culture, but not hot enough to kill it. My little maker does all that. I just put the milk culture into the water bath in the canister, plug it in, and walk away.
This morning I spooned the yogurt into a muslin bag
and it's now hanging over a bowl on the shelf. This will drain the whey, which I will drink chilled (whey is full of nutrients, ask any body builder) with a spoon of gelatin to promote good nail and hair growth.

The difference between yogurt you buy and yogurt you make yourself is as pronounced a difference as you find with ice cream and bread. It's an entirely different food. It's packed with essential nutrients like calcium and Vitamin D.

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Today's Progress

On the unpacking end was a bit on the light side. First off, I went to a morning meeting which is conveniently right up the road. Folks in recovery in Palm Springs, especially in the summer, get the meeting done before the sun really begins to hammer down.

I like daytime meetings. They tend to be filled with people who are doing life stuff. Jobs, families, and other things to accomplish. They also don't lose sight of knowing we only get ourselves a daily reprieve from the disease. I took an hour for me. It was worth it.

Then I busied myself indoors with getting some art hung on the walls. Having things to look at, things that can provoke a memory of a place, or a time, lends a calming, pleasurable feeling for me.

My mother painted this picture of Abbie after she got sick and died. Abbie was a wonderful dog. Here's a picture I took of her back when she was younger.
I have to admit. Even with her advanced age, and Parkinson's, mom had skills.

That's another one by mom. It's pastel on paper, done in the 50's of me. She did one for each of her kids. That's what is hanging in the bedroom for now. As things progress I'll get more up.

That's one from a Pow-wow I attended with one of my X's. It's not great art, but in the bathroom, nobody will really know.

Three done by my friend Angie. The one on the bottom is a pencil and pastel she did after one of our convention stays right here in Palm Springs. The mountains on the top of it are the ones I can see from the kitchen window where it hangs.
That's bad photography on my part. It's a decoupage done by my sister Kerry. In the center is her calligraphy of a section from Tennyson's "Ulysses." Here that is:

Come, my friends,
‘Tis not too late to seek a newer world.
Push off, and sitting well in order smite
The sounding furrows; for my purpose holds
To sail beyond the sunset, and the baths
Of all the western stars, until I die.
It may be that the gulfs will wash us down;
It may be we shall touch the Happy Isles,
And see the great Achilles, whom we knew.
Though much is taken, much abides; and though
We are not now that strength which in old days
Moved earth and heaven, that which we are, we are,
One equal temper of heroic hearts,
Made weak by time and fate, but strong in will
To strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield. 
Kerry died a few years ago, and just as Tennyson said so beautifully, "Though much is taken, much abides. . ."

Here, also in the kitchen, are pictures of my nephew Nick's wonderful daughters, Amira, and Kiera.

Still in the kitchen, an abstract in a shadow box, sent to me by James Zedaker.

Finally, a pen and ink with watercolor wash, by Patricia Allen. The view is from my mother's kitchen window in El Centro.

Then I had a visit from my sister Kelly, and her husband Ron. They brought me a guitar I had left at their house in Yucca Valley. They work a short distance away at Rancho Mirage High School (Go Rattlers!), so it was no big thing for them to bring the guitar and a Jeopardy! messenger bag I use to carry music stuff, spare string sets, peg winders, pliers, scissors, picks, batteries, and other stuff that always seems to fail when you're onstage, about to go onstage, or other inconvenient times. They left with a loaf of fresh bread and a quart jar of yogurt.

After all that, I went to the pool and got some good exercise in. My left leg is a mess. The knee has been rebuilt a few times, the ankle is fused. Without exercise, the muscles atrophy, and the knee becomes unstable. I have been determined to do what needs to be done to work it back up. I figure it will also increase my stamina and overall health.

I'll write up the recipe for homemade yogurt next batch. The difference between yogurt you make at home and what you buy in the store is huge. It's also not hard at all.

So that's the report of the day's progress. See y'all tomorrow.

Monday, July 24, 2017

What to do when you go shopping

and forget to buy bread when all you really want is some avocado toast for dinner?

You make you some bread, that's what you do.

Then you remember you didn't pack a toaster. . .

Sunday, July 23, 2017

Progress Made

The place is beginning to look more like a place where somebody lives and much less like a camp site. I'm still on the couch for tonight,
but I've gathered a stash of quarters to be spent in laundry tomorrow. Once washed the towels and shirts that were used as padding in the packing can be folded and put away in their various assigned places.
A second shelf unit was erected and a degree of organization achieved.
The cupboards are no longer bare
and it's beginning to look like things might just get accomplished.
Slowly it's coming together.

Tomorrow I might even sleep on the bed. Like a real person who lives here or something.

There's even a batch of yogurt cooking. It will do that slowly, overnight, then in the morning it goes into a muslin bag to drain the whey and make it a true Greek style yogurt.

Now I intend to eat the rest of my chopped liver sandwich, take a shower, and relax.

Saturday, July 22, 2017

About That Pool

That's a row of shaded chairs with the edge of the shallow end.
The pool. Very well maintained, sparkling clean.

When it's hotter than the gates of hell, it's a very welcome thing. There's also a hot tub. In Palm Springs this time of year, every tub is hot.

New Day, New Digs

Here's the view from right outside the door. I love being able to see the mountains. Being that close to them also means that our city water is coming off that huge aquifer sitting right underneath all that rock. It is wonderful. No need for bottled or imports.
As you can see, the kitchen is still a work in progress. I'm doing a box, resting, chugging water, lather, rinse, repeat. Today is about getting my energy reserves back. Help is coming tomorrow.

Ok, it's been so long since I've used the blogger platform that I have totally forgotten how to rotate a picture. That's my plastic shelf unit, partially filled with cooking tools and stuff. I'll get better organized as I continue to unpack. Getting everything out of the boxes is the first order of business.
Big, cushy, recliner. Perfect thing for aching knees and back.
TV, National Steel Body Guitar, fan on a stand (a good desert trick for keeping your power bills low is to have the thermostat on the AC set high, then make sure you have a fan to move the air. Right now I'm set for 78, the fan makes that very comfortable)
Bathroom. It's not big, but when you live alone, not big can be a very good thing.
Bed and desk setup. I haven't dealt with making the bed or anything like that yet.
The couch is serving quite nicely.

I have a picture I took of the closet area, but it's piled up with clothes and stuff like that. I used a bunch of my clothes for padding in the boxes of dishes, and I haven't stocked up on laundry supplies. Just imagine a big, chaotic mess and you have the picture.

I'm heading to the pool for a quick dip.

We did it.

We got the move accomplished. The boxes are stacked three high. The combination of the heat, the seemingly endless amount of work yet to do, and the release of anticipation that was there before the move has left me, and my sister Kelly both pretty exhausted.

She's home now, giving herself a much needed day to recover. I'm doing the same thing. A box at a time. A task at a time.

Taking it easy. Help is promised tomorrow. I can make tomorrow without busting my ass.

If I by some chance open the box or the bag that has the swimsuits in it I'll take a first dip in the pool.

I have an open document in the word processor that is a list of things I need to get. As I think of it I put it in.

There is plenty of time to get all that stuff done. I have flat busted my ass getting this far in the move. It's time to rest and recover.

Big props to the band kids from Rancho Mirage High School (where sister Kelly teaches), who helped out a great deal getting the trailer and truck unloaded in the blazing heat.

More will follow.

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

ok, it's official. i'm going to get back into the blogging game. there are a number of reasons for this, chief among them is that i want to keep a check on myself and not slide into indolence.

my pension is nice, around 2.5K a month, my health insurance and dental in completely covered with small copays, but a few extra dollars i could make from truffles takes me from being able to just get by into being pretty damn comfortable. i like comfortable.

time as a performer has given me a respect and desire to please an audience with my work. where i'm likely to let myself down, i'm not likely to let an audience down.

first things first though. i gotta get this move done. i have my trusty digital camera, i'm an idiot with the cell phone and unless i can find a handy teenager to try to explain how to do something, and then get frustrated with my lack of tech skills and inability to type with my thumbs to grab it out of my hands and just do it i go with my little olympus digital and can review the pics and do any editing or enhancements on the gimp program that i like better than photoshop.

like the great dr. hunter s. thompson said:

"Buy the ticket. Take the ride."

Sunday, November 01, 2015

I Changed My Clocks, The Dogs Didn't Notice

At 7:05 I woke up, checked the clock and smiled to myself and got ready to enjoy an extra hour of sleep before I fed the dogs.

DOGS: Oh Great! You're awake! It's that time!

ME: No. Dogs get fed at 8 a.m. just like always.

DOGS: What are these numbers you speak? We don't do numbers. It's BREAKFAST! It's FOOD! It's TIME!

ME: I'm closing my eyes now.

DOGS: (two of them place front paws on the edge of the bed, leaning in to brush cold noses on arms) BREAKFAST! OHBOY!

ME: I'm going to ignore this.

DOGS: We're AWAKE! We're CUTE! We're HUNGRY!

ME: (pretends deep sleep)


ME: (getting up, heading to the kitchen to start coffee and feed them) Dogs don't do daylight saving time. Might be time to move back to Arizona.

Friday, October 23, 2015

Reposting of a Favorite. Road Story. Epic Night At The Murph

This is one of the more epic moments of a Minstrel Boy's career. It had a little bit of everything.

I was excited about this show to begin with. I was playing with a southern rocker who has been around for a long time and written some great grits boogie stuff. His music really showcased some of the things I do best. Swooping and snotty slide guitar licks, fatback rhythm guitar. Even some times in there for me to turn it all up and soar. We were the second of three acts, our job was to get the crowd ready for the headliners. We were given free rein to go out and kill. The blowoff band didn't care, they were perfectly willing to wait until the crowd quit yelling for us and started yelling for them, no matter how long it took.

We were also playing the Murph (the football stadium in San Diego). It was very close to a hometown gig for me. I had spent heavily on making sure I had a lot of my friends in the audience, and they were throwing a full on beach party for us after the show. It was stacking up to be one of those peak performance nights. Everything was looking great.

Usually before a show I've very quiet and contained. I keep to myself saving it for the stage. This time though I was almost jumping outside my skin. It was all starting to climb up my ass. I left the green room and went around the back of the stage to take in the crowd and check out the first band.

They were doing alright. Not shining but not sucking either. I was looking out over the folks in the standing room area and I saw HER. Everything you would dream about on a California afternoon in the early summer. Blonde, no wait, that really can't explain this girl's look. Beach Blonde, California Blonde, Look at this girl and Jan and Dean songs start playing in your head blonde. Tanned, together, totally drop dead gorgeous. If this girl was carnival food she'd be babe on a stick.

Normally I don't get noticed much in situations like this. I'm nobody's poster boy anything. One of the reasons I started playing was that I took an honest assesment of myself in the mirror one day and said "Dude, if you don't learn to play an electric guitar, you're never going to get any." Most of my assignation and even first contact stuff comes after the show. After they've seen me in action.

Out of somewhere in serendipity she noticed me. She smiled and beamed. Maybe it was the backstage pass thing hanging off my neck, maybe it was that I was flanked by a couple of security guys, who knows? Something made her look at me and smile. I beckoned her to come over and talk to me. She asked if I was with a band and I told her my band was on next. I told her that I would get her up closer and that I would get her a pass for backstage if she would like one. She explained that she was with a friend and before I saw that the friend was just as beautiful I said that there would be no problem with that, told the muscle head in the tight tee shirt to rustle up two backstage passes and then I asked his running mate to please clear the two ladies a path to the lip of the stage.

Once everything was all arranged, names (now long forgotten) were exchanged, and an invitation for the beach party that was expected to go late into the night and deep into the weekend was issued I excused myself and told her I needed to get ready for my set.

Backstage I deal with my stage fright with a lot of ritual and routine. Going through the same things night after night gets me ready for the action to come. Having a familiar pattern focuses me in the ever changing world of performance. I sit by myself and go over the proposed set list, making sure I have each guitar voicing and tuning all ready to go. I go over the cues and licks of each song. This was long before I sobered up so I also got my dope ritual happening. A shitload of coke and an equal dose of heroin. Then it's time to throw up. I can't blame that on the dope, most of the time I still throw up before a show at fifteen years clean and sober. It's more a stage fright thing. I throw up, brush my teeth and feel better.

This time, I threw up, brushed my teeth and threw up again. There was plenty of time for another tooth brushing, but I figured I might have mixed a little too heavy on the coke end so I hit half a joint and down a couple valium with a double shot of irish whiskey. Things settled down a little bit and I chased it with a club soda and started feeling ready to go.

Right before I went on I did one more little booster shot. Not the monster I did a half an hour ago, just a little booster. I always felt that heroin and coke together was a perfect performing dose. I could ride the coke rush out onto the stage and then the heroin would even things out and let me play. Fuck it, it worked for me. Being the professional that I am I made sure to wipe the blood off my arm and roll down my sleeve. Appearances must be kept up don't you know. . .all about the presentation baby.

Our set was going great. Halfway through the first song I look over the front of the crowd and see the California Blonde and her buddy the Other California Blonde right there at the front of the stage, right in front of me. I smile, they smile back. I spend the rest of the song paying attention to my performance enough to keep things rolling. I also spend my spare moments working the Blondes.

We get into one of my favorite songs. I really get to do some totally rude slide guitar licks. Tonight, I'm on. Even the singer is amazed. Normally I'm a real lunch pail kind of guy. Get the job done is what I do. Tonight though I'm all over it. I'm roiling in between the phrases, growling and threatening musical violence, sounding like I'm ready to explode at any moment. When my solo comes I'm all over the first few notes like Mike Tyson on Michael Spinks, it's out there full bore from the starting gun and halfway through the first verse I'm showing no signs of letting up. By the time the chorus rolls by the singer is jumping up and down pointing at me to take another. I take another phrase and it's even better. I'm all over this, I look at the Blondes and they are beaming at me, glowing and stuff. Usually I don't get much looks, even when I'm soloing, a lot of the time I play with my back to audience or I'm focusing on the rest of the band. Not this time, I start moving over to the girls, slinging my hips and my licks all over the stage. I lean into the girls who reach for me. I lean a little closer, wailing away on the guitar the whole time, leaning closer and closer, almost touching.

Then I threw up again.

Saturday, October 17, 2015

White Bread, Using Julia Child's Recipe

Lest anyone be in doubt, I cook things that don't have chocolate or loads of sugar in them too. When you bake your own bread at home you can understand why the French have made a cult of baking and eating bread. The actions of making it are calming. The smell of fresh bread permeates the house, often out onto the street. Making bread is an all senses experience.

This recipe is from Julia Child. Don't be intimidated, her recipes often are quite simple. What Julia understood, and what she taught, is that simplicity demands perfection.

The list of ingredients is short.

2 1/2 cups water
1 tablespoon dry yeast
1 tablespoon sugar
7 cups bread flour
1 tablespoon salt
1/2 cup softened unsalted butter

Take 1/2 cup of the water, 1 tablespoon dry yeast, 1 tablespoon sugar, mix to dissolve, then wait five minutes until the yeast proves, and you have a nice, active and foamy base. That's a dough hook that's on the stand mixer. It's made special for this kind of thing.

Add in 3 cups of the flour, mix well, use a spatula or flat spoon to scrape down the sides. Add in the rest of the flour, the salt, and the softened butter. Knead for eight minutes. To knead with a stand mixer, use one of the lower two speed settings, and take off the side lock so that if the dough ball begins to stop the motor the body of the mixer will lift up and then reset once the dough starts moving again. Kneading by hand is another process, done on a lightly floured board or a floured cloth, you fold a piece of the dough over, push with the heel of your hand, and keep doing that until your arms fall off.

Generously butter a large bowl, place the dough ball into that, and turn it until the dough is completely covered with butter. Cover that closely with plastic and allow to rise for at least forty mintues, or until doubled in size. Some recipes tell you to do this in a warmer place, warmer means a faster rise, with more volume. Doing this at room temperature means a slower rise and a slightly denser, but more tender consistency. Another way to do this part is to put the covered dough into the refrigerator and let it rise all night. I'm not going to do this because I want my bread sooner than tomorrow.
When the dough has doubled in size, generously butter two loaf pans, while you have the oven getting slightly warm. The time it takes to butter the pans, wash your hands, separate the dough into two roughly equal parts, shape that into loaves, place those into the pans, should be just enough to make the oven slightly warmer than room temperature.
Cover the loaves closely with plastic, or use a slightly dampened towel, and allow for a second rise of about thirty to thirty five minutes, again, we're looking for a doubling in size.
Set them on the counter, while you reset the oven for three hundred fifty degrees. When you reach temperature, put them onto the center rack and bake forty minutes. You want a nice, golden brown color, and the loaf to give a hollow "thunk" when you rap it with a knuckle. It took another eight mintues for me to satisfied with these.
Immediately remove the bread (it's bread now! hooray!) from the pan, put it on a rack, and give it a quick rubbing with more butter. This will make the crust quite tender and perfect for sandwiches or toast. If you prefer a crunchier crust, by all means, skip this and nobody will fault you.

The house smells great. The Royals just took the lead after being behind most of the game. Like Ice Cube says "Today was a good day."

Friday, October 09, 2015

Since I Don't Have a Place On Campus

I'll tell you about the best Mexican food in the world.

It is at Camacho's Place. You hear restauranteurs talking all the time about the importance of Location. Here's the truth of that. If you have a good location you can serve shit burgers and people will come once to savor the view. If there's enough traffic you will never have to worry about steady or repeat business. If your food is exceptional, people will flock to your door.

I set out this afternoon about 12:30 to be there to pick up the order I made by calling Maria Camacho at home last night. Just making the order took about half an hour because I had to give her an update on every single one of my kids, all my sisters, promise to tell my cousin, the brilliant attorney's partner hello from Maria and her son. All that good, honest local stuff.

The first landmark on the drive is The New River, or as we locals call it, Shit Creek. This is one of the most polluted waterways in the world. One mouthfull of this water can quite literally kill you.

Coming up out of the river basin, you see Billy Hale's horse operation.

Billy has some of the most prized cutters and penning stock in the West. You can take one of his ponies into a feedlot pen looking for the mostly black one with a white splotch over its left eye and once you put that horse on the cow, that cow will be forced out of the herd, and coaxed to where ever you want it to go. All you have to do is hang the fuck on. Once one of these guys gets a bead on a cow they drop into that pea picking stance and they fucking explode at light speed in what ever direction they need to go to get the job done. Nothing like a cutting horse to show you how superfulous a rider really is on a working ranch. Billy has also been kind enough to offer a very reasonable boarding set up for my arabs come September. Stud fees from Casey are involved, I don't think Casey will mind a bit.

Next is about eight miles of this:

But don't relax too much. If you miss the turn, you'll have less than a mile before you're across the border. The border fence hasn't happened yet. Here's the thing to remember, when the pavement ends you're in Mexico. Act accordingly. Lucky for us all, there's a high voltage transmission line at the road we need to turn left on.

Before I quit drinking I managed to miss that turn a few times.

The next landmark is Farmer Ed's feedlot. This is an old fashioned farmer's co-operative venture. Hay farmers pool their resources to have a ready market for their overages. There's some damned fine beef here. The main breed is Brangus. Regular Angus cows can't take the desert heat, Bhramas taste like shit but are hardy as hell. These aren't anywhere near as tractable as the Angus beeves, but that's why Billy's horses are such top notch masters. One of Billy's Bulldog Quarter Horses will not only make that cow do what ever you want, they will humiliate the poor horned critter too.

Right across from the feed lot they are cutting a field of Timothy.

This is a great smelling crop, normally, driving past something like this I would roll down the windows and inhale deeply. Sweet, country hay. Smells great. Since there are about 3,000 cows on the other side of the road, I just keep driving.

Back down into the New River Basin to cross Shit Creek again.

Up the bluff, past Danny Phillip's Cattle yard. Another 5,000 goddamned cattle.

Then we're here. Camacho's Place, established in 1946.

The place started out as a country store, but Maria Primera, being a tender hearted soul, began making tortas and burritos for the field hands and vaqueros. Word got out and folks started showing up for cooked food. It is pure Norteño cuisine. Poor people's, working people's food. It is wonderful stuff. The parking lot is always full. People start coming in at 7 a.m. and will eat steady until 9 p.m., except on Mondays (closed) and Sundays (they open after Mass, when ever after Mass happens)

That's the original counter from the store, those are the original reefer cases too. They still work.

That's the main dining area. Those dark brown beams are the main framing of the building, and the family houses. They started out as railroad ties, but when the Southern Pacific discontinued its runs to San Diego they left all this fine timber lying around and Tapio figured "Porque no?" There are ten consecutive years of Blue Angels portraits on the wall. It's a rite of passage for new members of the Angels to come here and taste real Mexican food.

I don't know if you can make out the headline but it's about how the Skipper of the Blue Angels was surprised by his crew. They flew from Pensacola to NAF El Centro, picked up his birthday lunch and flew back. Your tax dollars at work.

Here's the three generations who have owned and operated this fine restaurant. The fourth generation (and the third Maria) are here now.

The food comes and I drive the same road back. Once at home I spread out the goodies.

Quesadilla Especiale Take an uncooked tortilla round, stuff with cotija and jack cheese, crimp and fry. Total, gooey, lucious, goodness. Also something you won't find anywhere else. This is Norteño Pocho style. Delicioso.

Arroz, Salsa Roja, y frijoles. Each one of them exquisite.

Rolled tacos. Machaca, and cotija cheese, rolled in home made tortillas and fried to a perfect crispy but not crunchy texture. The perfect mixture of crisp and chew.
There were also some flat tacos, which are exactly the same, the machaca and the cotija are flash fried together, then shredded lettuce, diced tomatos and grated jack cheese are added. I blew the picture, sorry, they're all gone now. I only got two dozen of them. Nope, I didn't blow the picture at all, just blew the order of them. Now it's right These beauties below are the tacos. Probably the smell and the anticipation drove me temporarily insane and shit.

Every thing on the menu here is homemade, from local ingredients. It's all so very good. Especially since the folks here have been family friends forever. That makes it extra nice.