We should all be like this…

The Chatter Blog

I should be…home scrubbing basement walls.  The first couple of stages of remodel are done.  Now we’re getting our new floors next week.   Before that I am suppose to scrub the walls and paint them with Dry Lock paint.  I don’t even know what that is.  I’m just taking my brother’s word for it that I have to do it.  Not that I want my brothers to think they can tell me what to do.  They can’t.  They aren’t the boss of me.  So I should be doing this before our new floors get here.

But I’m not.

Since starting to work 10 hour days and having Wednesdays off I should use today to clean the house.  Because it is filthy.  If I had any desire to show you how filthy I would take pictures.  But I’m too  lazy busy.  I should be dusting, sweeping, scrubbing bathroom stuff.

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“5th Place? Pumpkin Head!”


The kindness continues to flow from Hiroshima.  As written in a prior short story, “An Atomic Spark from a 1937 Yearbook“, Ms. Kanetou was credited with locating the last copy of my dad’s 1937 high school yearbook.  It was amazing she found that copy as Dad’s cherished high school and the city itself was obliterated on August 6, 1945.

While Dad is suffering from dementia, he cheerfully recalled his high school track days in detail while looking through his yearbook…  He went so far as to say he won 1st and 2nd places at track and field events.  Needless to say, I was a bit leery given his status.

Well, dumbfounded is the best word in this case.  Ms. Kanetou – after learning of Dad’s recollections of his competitions – actually tracked down (yes, a pun) records of the track events from 1936.  Such kindness and devotion is just phenomenal. They are below; since I know you all can read Japanese, my Dad’s name is above the red arrows (金本).

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Hiroshima Track and Field results from 1936. (I did miss Dad placing 2nd in a 800 meter relay race.)
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Hiroshima Track and Field results from 1936.

Yes, he DID take 1st and 2nd places in the triple-jump, broad jump, 100 meter dash and the 800 meter relay! He did place lower in what I think are more regional competitions but its clear he was quite an athlete.

But when I showed him these reports, his comment was, “5th place?  Did I do that bad?  I don’t remember that.  Pumpkin head!”

金籐様、塚本様、二人のお蔭様で父はとてもハッピーでした。有難う御座いました。


Ahmmm… For those who prefer Park Avenue…like me.

From a Montana Front Porch

Punctuality is not my strong point. Memory is not my strong point either. That is why, two months after the fact, I am finally going to share with you my kids’ first branding experience. Hey, better late than never right?

On this ranch, they go about the business of ‘marking the cattle as their own’ a little differently than most. When you think branding you probably think fire, roping, and wrestling the little buggers to the ground. And for a small group of calves here, that’s how it goes. For the big bunch though, they have a much faster more efficient way of getting the job done. This ranch doesn’t have a huge crew working for them. It’s the two owners, father and son, and their two hired hands. That would be Jason.

They might hire another guy for a couple of days to help brand, but for the most part…

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Upside Down Apple Pie from Scratch


To help my friend’s mother celebrate her 90th birthday tomorrow, my little Brooke and I threw together a homemade Upside Down Apple Pie from scratch…  Darned if it doesn’t smell GOOOOD…  Not bad for an old mechanic and a young lady, eh?  Recipe courtesy of my good bud, Cathy Thomas (http://cathythomascooks.com/2012/06/28/july-4th-upside-down-treats-blueberries-plums-nectarines-and-apples/):

Now who knows how to keep little hands off the darn thing until tomorrow?

Chocolate Truffles by a Former Mechanic


My homemade chocolate truffles are popular with the gals.  Unfortunately, they’re pretty popular with some of my buds, too.  Oh well.

Following the well explained recipe in my cooking bible, Cook’s Illustrated, I made a batch to take to a couple of my friend’s 4th of July block parties.  Frank Sinatra would’ve been jealous with all the attention I got from the ladies.

The ganache is the secret.
Rolling the ganache into balls is the tough part.
My knife skills are non-existent. But being a former mechanic, I cheat. The “hammer when in doubt” approach always prevails.

Genes – A Decoder Key to the Past


Jeans are really made by Calvin Klein.  Tight.  Unfortunately (or fortunately if you’re lucky), they follow your body lines.   A deviation from your body lines is not possible.

Oops.  Old age.  Genes is the topic.  Duh.  Genes follow your (family) lines.  Deviation is not possible.

There’s something about genetics that is pure fascination.  People will like you because of your genes.  People will hate you because of your genes.  Regardless, you got them from somebody from up the line.

There is an orchestration in genetics which is more difficult to discern as generations pass.  But genes don’t conk out.  Genes are the only unbroken thread that weaves back and forth through all those cemeteries – or urns in my family’s case.

My grandmother Ikuyo Shibayama (on my mother’s side) was born in 1903; her parents were of samurai heritage.  Believe me, my mother drilled that into my head.  Brainwashing was very effective.

Around 1911, it was fortunate my grandmother had a portrait taken of her taken in Kanagawa, Japan.  She was about eight or nine years old and is standing on the left.

Grandmother Ikuyo at about nine years of age, circa 1911, standing on left.

Just about 100 years later, I took this snap of my littlest daughter Brooke when she was a flower girl at my second cousin’s wedding in 2010.  Brooke was eight years old.  Born in 2003.  Exactly 100 years after my Grandmother.  Genetics?  What do you think?

My daughter Brooke at eight years of age; taken in 2010.

Perhaps Calvin Klein was around a hundred years ago.

The Forgiveness of a WWII Sailor


In an earlier blog, I praised Old Man Jack for his forgiveness.  It is not possible to write about what he did or saw out on the god-forsaken islands in the Pacific during World War II.  Only he truly knew what was in his soul.

But in spite of his exposure to combat in that very personal and bitter war, Jack’s practice of forgiveness was his most important contribution to the healing of this world.  The world we enjoy today.  I truly believe that.

Old man Jack loved my kids – perhaps his warmth and the forgiveness in his heart will shine through.

Jack was in the hospital often in the last five years of his life. We went as often as we could to say hi.
When Jack was laid up in the hospital and couldn’t make the block party, my kids wrote him a special 4th of July greeting. They wrote “Big Jack” as my son was known as “Little Jack”. Yes, I named my son after old man Jack.
Old man Jack loved it when my Mustang won at car shows. Here are the “two Jacks” in my life. You can see old man Jack’s trademark grin.
We’d sit outside on our front lawn whenever we could… He’d share his sailor’s wisdom (with appropriate restraint) and my kids would smile.
My kids lead the way to one of our breakfasts. Against my wishes, he’d insist on paying for the kids’ chow as well. I could never win.
He loved it when we’d all visit with him in his home. He loved my kids. Imagine that…
My oldest son loves to work on his muscles – as did old man Jack in his youth.

Old Man Jack, Me and Mustangs


There wasn’t a mean bone in his body – provided you were on his good side.

Old Man Jack was a devoted husband.  His wife Carol was bedridden for the last several years of their life together; without fail, Jack stayed at her side

He would only leave her side to get medicines or their meal in his beloved ’68 Mustang (with a 351 Windsor engine).  And that was one love we shared – Ford Mustangs.

Painted blue

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After she passed, we would go out for weekend breakfasts.

When he wanted to, he would ride in my supercharged ’08 Grabber Orange Mustang.  He loved riding in it.  He loved listening to it.  It was so loud, Jack wouldn’t need his blessed hearing aids – which he often “forgot” to wear.  He hated them.  Trouble was at breakfast, I’d end up having to yell so he could hear me when he “forgot” to wear them.  So could everyone else.  The others must have thought, “Man, what an odd pair.”

That famous boyish grin… I sure miss him.

When I would drive, Old Man Jack –  in his trademark blue plaid shirt – would look at me from his passenger seat, flash that boyish Jack grin where the right side of his lip would be higher than his left, press his head back into the seat, then say, “OK!  Floor it!”  Man, he loved it.  My supercharger would be screaming as we rocketed down Studebaker Road.  He would say in a (much) higher than normal voice, “Whooo-ee!” after hitting 60 mph in a little over four seconds.

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Other times – even at 87 years of age – he would want to drive HIS baby to breakfast…but make me drive mine, too.  You guessed it – we’d drag.

On the way to breakfast, we’d pull up to a light early on a Sunday morning and knowing what was going to happen, I prayed with all my might there were no black and whites.

He’d look at me.  I’d look at him.  He was dead serious but I would never let him see I was grinning from ear to ear.  The light would turn green.  He’d floor it, chirp his tires and I’d let him get almost through the intersection…when I would nail it.  I wasn’t going to let him get that far ahead of me.

I’d blow by him.  As I would wait for him at the next stop, he would pull up next to me knowing he got beat (again), flash me that boyish grin one more time – but would always flash me his trademark bird.  I just missed it this time.  Darn.

After he lost yet another drag race, I just missed photographing Jack flashing his “bird” by a split second…but not his trademark smile.

By the way… I named my last boy after him…  His name is Jack.  I couldn’t think of a better name.

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Jack, I miss our breakfasts.  We should have went more often…  but I gun my motor real loud every time I stop by to see you.  I know you hate your hearing aids.

Resting Place