Blanketing opinions that I'll probably regret soon.

Friday, February 27, 2009

You know what still rocks? Jane's Addiction - Nothing's Shocking. That's what still rocks.

If you haven't listened to Jane's Addiction's album Nothing's Shocking in a while, do it. I forgot about some of the most rockingest songs on that album -- Pigs in Zen, Idiots Rule, Had a Dad. Man, so good. This is the kind of album that makes you want to become a bass player. And it came out way back in 1988! -- the same year that Tiffany and the Dirty Dancing soundtrack were hot new releases.

The NS album versions are the best. Here's the only one I could find free online:

Pigs in Zen: I love riffs that are so easy that I could have thought of them, if I only had the talent of Dave Navarro. He's put some kind of short delay on his guitar which sounds like it's being played in a bathroom.

This is going to get a lot of sailboat play this summer -- you better believe it.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

No Guilt. No Fear. Only Travel Itch.

CNN finally published its article on how people who travel during a recession should feel guilty about it. But this article contained "quotes" from my wife Katie which she never said:
Katie Parker, a Web designer who lives in Washington, is going to India next month to meet her husband on the last leg of his international business trip.

"Although I think my job is probably safe, you never really know," Parker said. "Part of me thinks maybe we should have waited on this trip."
She never said "part of me thinks we should have waited on this trip"! Katie told me she feels like Sarah Palin now. Ha!

As I said before, I'm not punishing myself about traveling because a bunch of people I don't know lost their jobs because a bunch of other people I don't know bought houses they couldn't afford. I got over feeling guilty about other people's misfortunes when I quit being young and sophomoric. But that doesn't stop CNN from lying about it.

Reporters have all been told to find stories on the effects of the recession. Stories about people who just became homeless are all over the news, when in fact, they might have been homeless during the best of boom times. Shit, our unemployment rate is only 7.6% -- lower than France, Germany, and a slew of others. And this reporter Pawlowski was searching for a story about people who feel guilty about taking a trip during a recession, whether she found them or not.

I knew this was going to happen.

ps: My real name is not "Lonnie Bruner" as you will see in the CNN article.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Snow Roll/Hot Tub Plunge

Spent last weekend at a mountain cabin with eight friends where we skied, drank, sat by the fire, and went in the hot tub. I really need to do the snow-roll-hot-tub-plunge every winter -- haven't done that since the 1980s. The hot water on your ice-cold skin right after a snow roll is the BEST tingly feeling -- almost as good as hitting the sauna after a cold lake dip.

Here are the rest of the trip photos.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Get a Little Morphine in the WWII Vets and the Stories Start to Flow

I got this email from my friend Jason who works at a hospital:
I love World War II history and I love the vets. Get a little morphine in them and they'll tell you stories you cannot get anywhere else. They just drift back to parts of their memory that have been untouched for decades. Add some genuine interest, sympathy, and historical knowledge on my part and you've got yourself one memorable conversation.

I've talked to a fighter ace, an infantry colonel who was in the Battle of the Bulge, and even a German soldier. Once I talked to a French Resistance woman who had a crazy story that sounded like a movie plot -- real cloak and dagger stuff.

But I learned quickly not to ask about the killing unless they go there first.

Once, I asked this infantry vet what the worst was. He seemed pretty unemotional and stoic, but just as he started to respond, he burst out into tears. Oops.

He witnessed one or two of his friends get run over by an enemy tank. The tank drivers, knowing they were over trenches containing soldiers lying flat, would have their treads go in opposite directions, spinning 360's over people. He said he tried to stop the tank with his bare hands.

After the nurse had given one of my cancer patients a healthy dose of morphine, I pulled up a chair and it might as well have been the two of us drinking around a campfire. He just kept telling me more and more about the War.

He was a turret gunner for a B-24 and was shot down after his 18th mission over Austria.

He was based in Italy and loved Italian women -- married one.

Once, while flying a mission, he was the first to see a hole in the wing -- "the size of a basketball" -- and intercommed it to the pilot. The pilot took one look at the fuel pouring out and said, "Pilot to crew: BAIL."

The plane fell out of formation but he held it level for ten minutes while all ten jumped, including the pilot. All ten survived the bailout uninjured, stayed together in the P.O.W. camp, and kept in touch after the war. He considers himself extremely lucky to have been shot down. Vets call this a "Golden Crew"; five of the ten are still alive.

He spent the last seven months of the War in a German P.O.W. camp and was liberated by a band of drunk Russian Cossacks. He said the German camp staff were all very professional but they ran out of food at the end.

The Russians that he saw were basically drunk vandals who destroyed everything, even churches. He would have rather stayed safe in prison than deal with marauding Russian cavalry and a resentful German populace.

He said he'd do it again and that it was just a job -- no different than working for a living. Had to be done.

He thought Patton was a showboating asshole, and said most in the military thought so, too.

He saw two planes collide.

He hopes this country "gets its footing back."

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Yup, USA Still World Manufacturing Leader

If you believe most of the news, or the grumblings of many Americans, you'd think that the US was a country that "doesn't make anything anymore". Complete bullshit.
The U.S. by far remains the world's leading manufacturer by value of goods produced. It hit a record $1.6 trillion in 2007, nearly double the $811 billion in 1987. For every $1 of value produced in China's factories, America generates $2.50.

The U.S. sold more than $200 billion worth of aircraft, missiles and space-related equipment in 2007. And $80 billion worth of autos and auto parts. Deere & Co., best known for its bright green and yellow tractors, sold $16.5 billion worth of farming equipment last year, much of it to the rest of the world.

Then there are energy products such as gas turbines for power plants made by General Electric, computer chips from Intel and fighter jets from Lockheed Martin. Household names such as GE, General Motors, IBM, Boeing and Hewlett-Packard are among the largest manufacturers by revenue.
James, from The Chief Brief said it best:
"There is no future in the US for manufacturing cheap goods, it is in high-tech, higher margin items. Sorry, if you want to spend the rest of your life making cheap sneakers, you will have to move to China."
The gloomy idea that the US doesn't manufacture anything anymore, I think, may originate in Detroit; they see themselves as the epicenter of US manufacturing. Sorry, guys, it's 2009 and until you can produce a truck that's marginally more fuel efficient than Ford's Model T, you're doomed to go bankrupt or be on the government dole for the foreseeable future.

My First Experience at a Black Baptist Church: GOD LOVES AWESOME

I attended a Baptist church service this morning in celebration of my recently deceased neighbor's life. At the end, the preacher gave a rousing sermon that was nearly identical to the first part of James Brown's character in the Blues Brothers, "the Reverend Cleophus James".

Until about minute 1:36 in this video, my experience this morning was the same exact type of preacher enthusiasm, shouting, audience participation, and hand waving. The only difference is the church I attended this morning had fewer people, there wasn't a choir in the back, and not as many people were jumping out of their seats:

For a moment, I really wanted to shout, "YES! YES! Jesus H. Tap-Dancing Christ, I have seen the light!" All white people should attend at least one all-black Baptist church in their lives. I can't believe it took me 35 years to do it.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Stanley C. - Rest In Peace

It took two days, but I've finally gotten choked up and a bit teary-eyed over my neighbor's death after an invitation to his funeral with his picture was slipped through my mail slot.

His picture at right shows the good-natured smile and kind eyes of the Stanley I knew, no matter how briefly. Even though a person can do some bad things in life -- and some vices remain -- it's possible to be a decent human being.

I am not a religious person, but my cousin left a quote from the Bible on my original post about Stanley that I thought was beautiful:
"Come to me, all of you who are weary and loaded down with burdens, and I will give you rest." Matt 11:28 ISV
Boy, was he ever weary and loaded down with burdens -- as far as I could tell.

My wife also left a good comment about Stanley (in response to a rather negative one) that I thought was worth putting here:
"We're all in this together. We are all flawed as humans, some of us more than others.

Addiction is a terrible problem and whether you see it as a disease or not, nobody WANTS to be an addict. Stanley fought his addiction his whole life, and he lost. But that's not the most important thing to remember about him. The important things are that he cared for his mother, was a kind neighbor, volunteered at the Whitman-Walker Clinic (when he was clean) and maybe most important is that the whole neighborhood mourns him. Last night a cop car pulled up, and it was a cop nobody recognized, and we all thought he was there to hassle us for drinking on the front porch, but it turns out he was there to pay his condolences.

Most people fuck up at some point in their life, and those of us who are fortunate enough (and maybe strong enough) to overcome our fuckups should have some sympathy for those who can't.

A few years ago I lost a very close friend to addiction, and I am so, so glad I never stopped being his friend even though he gave me many reasons to. Now when I remember him, I remember the funny, smart, angry friend who I would argue with about politics and share music and make fun of the jocks in high school, and my life would be poorer if I didn't have those memories.

- Katie"

Fried Chicken in Lard: I Can Feel My Blood Slowing Down

About every two years I deep fry chicken at home, despite the hot oil that spatters everything in the kitchen and the unhealthy aspect. So last weekend I cooked up a batch of chicken in corn oil for my wife and I. The results were not as good as I had expected. KFC and Popeye's certainly do a MUCH better job.

But today I had some leftover raw chicken in the fridge so I kicked it up a level by cooking a roiling deep-fry solution of pure lard and a stick of unsalted butter, topped with olive oil and two slices of bacon. And in went the chicken legs, dunked deep down into this heart attack-causing mixture ...

Amazingly, it wasn't much better than the chicken cooked in corn oil. What the hell am I doing wrong? Makes me think there's real genius behind that Kentucky Colonel's secret recipe. I love discovering that something you thought was simple is in fact quite difficult.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

My Next Door Neighbor Just Died

Just got a knock at the door and it was my neighbor's sister telling me that her brother Stan just passed away.

I wrote about this neighbor a few months back and now wonder if I should've used the word "junkie" to describe him. But that's honestly what he was -- a real nice guy with a huge list of problems, including long-term heroin addiction. Since that post, I got to know him and ended up genuinely liking the man, and I'm not just saying that because he is now deceased.

Stan and I are both porch-sitters and when I'd go out with my coffee in the morning, he'd sometimes be hanging out smoking menthols and drinking Steel Reserve from a brown paper bag (our porches are connected). We'd chat about all kinds of things.

Stan had also spent a good chunk of his life in prison for killing a man, although he never told me that directly (the neighbors told me he killed a rival dealer). He found religion in prison and seemed to know quite a lot about the Koran, even though he wasn't practicing.

He managed to maintain a little income through SSI payments and small time drug dealing out of his house. Most of his customers were thuggish-looking, but always nice to me.

Many of our conversations revolved around the election in November. When Obama finally won, Stan and I gave each other celebratory high fives across our porches and shared the same smiles. I asked him if he ever thought a black man would be elected president, and he hesitated, said no, and I could detect a catch in his voice and he started to get choked up. I then urged him to make sure he explained the historic election to his 92-year-old mother who has alzhiemer's. Not sure if he ever did.

Stan's veins were completely shot from years of abuse. All his arms, legs and joints were filled with painful fluid and the last I saw him, he could barely walk, even with a cane.

I never thought I'd be buddies someone who'd killed a human, spent time in prison, has AIDS, deals drugs, and is addicted to heroin, but I'm serious when I say this: I will miss those porch conversations and I sincerely believe that Stan was a good person. God bless him and his family.

Monday, February 09, 2009

Oysters, and Now Hot Wings. Next? SCOTCH.

Never thought my lady would love hot wings like I do but now she's hooked and recently said if she had a month to live, she'd eat a pint of blue cheese in one sitting. Never thought I'd see this day -- especially from an ex-vegetarian who, when she began eating meat again, said she couldn't eat anything that contained bones because it reminded her that the meat came from a living animal.

This comes only a few weeks after she realized her love of raw oysters. For years she'd had a gross-out hatred of my favorite food and now she's a convert after I shucked them in the kitchen.

So now that she's on the train of eating food that makes life worth living, I'm gonna try and get her palate trained to like the ultimate: scotch whisky. And now the question is which scotch. Single malt? Johnnie Walker? On the rocks or neat? I'm thinking of skipping the light stuff like Scapa, or cheap stuff like Teacher's, and just going straight for the peaty campfire explosion of something like Laphroaig's. Still working out my strategy though ...

Friday, February 06, 2009

I shouldn't travel just because a bunch of fools bought houses they couldn't afford?

March travel season is coming soon and I'm heading to Dubai, Thailand and India on business. My wife is gonna join me in India to see the sights.

It was funny because Katie posted on facebook that she's going to India for vacation and was approached by a reporter wanting to do a story on people who're taking vacations during the recession.

What, we're not supposed to continue our lives just because a bunch of idiots making less than $30k per year took on mortgages of $600,000 and couldn't pay them back to the idiot bankers who loaned them out? I'm supposed to feel guilty about that?

Fuck that. I ain't rich, but I'm also not waiting until I'm old and decrepit to see the world. Nor am I putting off fun plans just because there are a few people out of work.

Tuesday, February 03, 2009

For Once, Winter is Not Killing Me.

This is the first time in a long while that winter has not made me want to punch someone in the gut daily. Sure, I stand by my former statements that people who love winter are "ice-cold devils", but I think having a bigger house with more light has made me more pleasant.

No normal person can really love winter. I don't believe that.

Coolest Thing I've Touched in a While: 1960s Type 56 Assault Rifle

My friend Colin owns more guns than anyone I know. And he's got some cool shit, especially a Type 56 -- a Chinese-made copy of Russia's AK-47.

Colin's dad scored this particular Type 56 when he was fighting in the Marine Corps in Nam. What makes this the coolest thing I've touched in a while is that Colin's old man had managed to confiscate that very weapon in 1968 during the Tet Offensive from some Viet Cong who had just been using it to shoot bullets at him!

It's an odd feeling to handle a weapon that has very likely killed humans -- and in this case, American soldiers. Shit, it may have even stabbed humans (notice the bayonet on the barrel there). I got the same eerie feeling when I fired rusty old machine guns at a shooting range a few years ago in Cambodia.

The older I get, the more I want a gun -- mainly, just to have one, but also for my once-a-year skeet shooting trip. The good news is that DC loosened their gun ownership restrictions; the bad news is there's no way in hell my wife will let me get one.

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