Coffee heat rising

She’s B-a-a-a-a-c-k!…

And in case you wondered where she was, well…it’s been a bit of a Looney Tunes saga.

To start with the most immediate phenomenon: Funny about Money was knocked off the “air,” as it were, along with its sister sites, Plain & Simple Press and The Copyeditor’s Desk. At least, we believed that to be true…and so it may have been, for awhile.  Or maybe not.

This fiasco began when I made up my venerable mind to close my technical editing business, having tired mightily of reading academic papers in mathematics, political science, and economics. First step in this process, I figured, was to close my corporate bank account and transfer its funds into my personal checking account, thereby (I hope) simplifying next year’s tax efforts.

This process disappeared all the credit union’s data for CE Desk — some years’ worth. Fortunately I had already downloaded all the 2021 transactions. This was…wise, lucky, whatever-you-wanna-call-it. Because of course nothing can be simple…and the history of all those transactions was about to be needed.

I had been auto-paying a slew of bills out of that acccount — anything that could even remotely be construed as business- or tax-related, This included utility bills, XXS, YYY, and whatnot. I listed all of these creditors so I could call up their billing departments and arrange to have the autopays made from my now much-bloated personal account.

So I’m tooling around, more or less going on about my business, when LO!

In comes a message saying I haven’t paid the Web hosting bills for Bigscoots and they’re going to take down my three websites.

Huh?

By now, of course, the business bank account is long gone, but as far as I can tell from the year’s worth of entries I downloaded to Excel, I’ve never autopaid Bigscoots from CE Desk’s account. Repeated threats to close the three sites keep coming in.

To make a long and painful story short, eventually my Web guru, Grayson Bell, was informed of this, since it appeared we were about to lose my little Web empire altogether. He did his own thrashing around and eventually elicited a report from Bigscoots that my bills are paid in full, and there is no delinquency.

So…it appears that this was another scam like the one that came in from Amazon a few weeks ago.

The alarming thing is, these people know wayyyy too much about me. The crooks who tried to extract money from me over some supposedly unpaid bill at Amazon knew what was in my Amazon seller’s account. Or…at least they appeared to.

They certainly could have surmised some fairly accurate guesses simply by studying what I was selling (or, more accurately, not selling) at Amazon. But how would they know Funny is hosted by BigScoots?

Welllll….it develops that it’s pretty easy. You can find out where a website is hosted here… and here…and here…and here….and on and on and on. It’s public information.

Once you know a blogger’s Web host, it’s a simple matter to try to scam him or her. And that appears to be what has happened.

I don’t expect these clowns will stop harassing me, now that they’ve got me in their crosshairs. On Monday, I intend to call the FBI just to report this. The website gambit, of course, is a negligible matter. But trying to hack into my bank accounts? Not so much.

Meanwhile, the uncomfortable — sometimes outright painful — peripheral neuropathy persists. About that, the main thing I can say is that it appears our medical system leaves much to be desired. But then, we knew that…

About 18 months ago, in mid-2010, my doctor at the Mayo decided the cause of the crazy-making tingling and stinging in the hands, feet, lips, and gum were the result of a vitamin B-12 deficiency. This, she surmised, was occasioned by what she takes to be alcoholism.

Say what?

A glass of wine with dinner alcoholism does not make…at least not so as I can tell. I do not toss back half a bottle of cabernet with breakfast. I do not drink until I’m drunk. I do not drive after drinking. I do not qualify as a lush by the Mayo clinic’s criteria, or by a prominent alcohol treatment center’s self-test, or by Alcoholics Anonymous’s criteria…  Turns out the woman the Mayo has assigned to me as my primary care doctor was raised by a pair of Christian Scientists.

My mother’s family were Christian Scientists, too. They are quite extreme on the subject of booze: disapprove of letting so much as a drop touch your lips.

At any rate, six months of uninterrupted tee-totaling did nothing to improve the neuropathic symptoms. Clearly if booze was the cause, there’s no cure for the ailment. But clearly, too, booze is not the cause: six months on the wagon did exactly nothing to help the misery. Nor did a year of gulping down megadoses of vitamin B-12.

When, in December of 2020, I developed vertigo — dizziness so severe that at times it was unsafe to drive my car — I started to look around…and discovered that vertigo can be caused by OD-ing on vitamin B-12. Not only that, but the British National Health Service inveighs against taking B-12 supplements at all! Turns out the stuff is not a benign drug. Not only it cause vertigo, it also can cause or aggravate peripheral neuropathy. Yea verily, it turns out the Mayo Clinic itself says the stuff can cause dizziness.

Yeah verily.

Meanwhile, a checkup at the Mayo revealed the supposed B-12 deficiency was gone. Not surprising, since I’d been tossing back 1000 micrograms a day for months and months.

Quit scarfing the B-12, and after a few weeks, the vertigo is beginning to seem better. Telling, isn’t it, that the world started spinning about three months after I started dropping megadoses of B-12…

On the other hand, a month ago I managed to reconnect with Young Dr. Kildare. He thinks the dizziness is caused by inner-ear inflammation brought about by allergies. And it must be said, the air here has been even worse than usual — which ain’t good. We’ve had week on week on week of classic Southern California-style smog. Not surprising, since our wise City Parents have modeled development of Maricopa County directly after Los Angeles County. And during all the three years we lived in unlovely Long Beach with its air so thick you often could barely see across the high-school campus, I enjoyed head and respiratory symptoms just like the ones I’ve been enjoying over the past few weeks.

YDK suggested using one of several over-the-counter antihistamines. None of them seem to do much good except for Benadryl, which has its own untoward side effects. However, taken in extreme moderation, it seems to help some.

Also the fact that a West-Coast storm system has (finally!!!) made its way over the Coastal Range and has blown the smog out of the Valley may have something to do with it.

I can’t live with this kind of smog. If, as I suspect, it’s now a permanent Thing, I’m going to have to move out of the Valley. My son is dead set against my moving at all — even to another neighborhood (to get away from the racket on Conduit of Blight and Gangbanger’s way and away from the commercial nursing home Tony the Romanian Landlord is installing across the street). He’ll be particularly displeased if I propose to move to Prescott, Oro Valley, or Patagonia…

None of this miasma has been helped by the two years’ worth of covid isolation.

The church pretty much shut down in response to the plague. Choir stopped. And this left nothing for me to do with my time other than walk the dog around the neighborhood.

Seriously.

Choir is now slowly resuming for social-distanced services…but alas, I dare not rejoin them. I can get spectacularly sick from just an ordinary flu bug. When I was a little girl, a doctor slapped me in the ICU and told my mother I would not be alive the following morning.

Guess that was the first time I gave the lie to a doctor, eh? 😀

But the truth is, I do NOT want to get the covid bug. That really is likely to kill me. Choral singing is one of the most dangerous things you can do during time of contagion. And I ain’t ready to go yet!

Lo! A day ago, our interim choir director sent out an email announcing that six of the members have come down with covid. Surprise!

In the absence of choir, I volunteered to help staff the church office’s front desk: receptionist duty.

Appropriate: I started my life in the work world as a receptionist…and now am ending it in the same job.

Except my first gig as a receptionist — in one of the Southwest’s largest firms — was fun. We were busy all the time, and in slow times were assigned various filing and mail-room chores. In this volunteer position…well. Literally, you can sit there all afternoon and not get even one real phone call. A  phone solicitation, maybe, but that’s it. There is otherwise almost NOTHING to do. And…well…if I’m going to do nothing, I’d rather do it at home.

Meanwhile, a dear friend fell and broke her hip…within days after marrying a man she met online. Had to have surgery to fix the femur. It looks like she’s on the mend, but she’s going to have a long haul. Her doc told her the same thing the orthopedist told me: it will take about a year for the bone to heal. Arrrghhh!

Well, speaking of doing nothing, it’s almost 5 a.m. The dog has gone back to sleep, having dragged the human off the bed so as to go outside and then to mooch a doggy-treat. So I’m gonna knock this off and go back to sleep, too. I hope.

For Nothing Happening…

…an awful lot has been going on!

By and large “awful” is the operative term. As in “whatever can go wrong WILL go wrong…”

The past few days the smog here has been SO thick that it rivals the filthy air we had when I was [not] enjoying high school in California’s lovely Long Beach (known by one of my ex-boyfriends as “the armpit of the West Coast”). What a dump that place was! And by God, Phoenix works hard to outpace the place in the Department of Bad Air. By mid-day yesterday, a gaze three blocks down a neighborhood street felt like you were peering through fog. South Mountain was blurry through the haze.  North Mountain and Shaw Butte — I could walk to Shaw Butte from the Funny Farm — were greyed out.

The smog and the crime and the lower-rung cultural life were the reasons I was very glad when my mother wrangled me into the University of Arizona at the end of my high-school junior year, so that my father could retire early and they could move us  to Arizona, where at least the air was clean.

“Was” is the operative term. Nowadays, the air here is, most of the time, Southern California redux. Which is another way of saying “so filthy you can’t see through it and breathing it makes you sick.”

And this new gray-brown incarnation of Arizona’s formerly blue skies has done exactly that: made me good and sick. Again. My ears are so clogged I can barely hear. My nose is so stuffed I have to squirt toxic fluids up there to inhale and exhale. I’m gulping a pile of effin’ pills every goddamn day, just to breathe and to be able to sorta think clearly.

“Sorta” is the operative term. My brain — quite possibly because it’s pickled in toxic chemicals — has about quit functioning. I couldn’t remember my name if it weren’t written down on my driver’s license. Which of course requires me to remember where the driver’s license is, a very iffy proposition.

Yesterday, on Young Dr. Kildare’s advice (he’s b-a-a-c-k! Hooorayyy!), I bought a bottle of Flonase nose squirt, which he claims lacks the kickback effect of nose squirts that work, such as Afrin. (If you haven’t been fortunate enough to have to stick a bottle up your schnozz and squirt decongestant in there, Afrin does indeed clear your head quickly and effectively…but then it irritates the membranes so you get a fierce kickback that clogs you up as bad as or worse than you were clogged to start with. He says Flonase doesn’t do that.

He also wants me to drop a Claritin every few hours.

So I picked up a bottle of Flonase on the way from his office to the credit union (ohhh gawd! more of the tale attaches to that!), and yes! Yes indeedies, it does work. While there, I grabbed a packet of Claritin, too.

This morning I woke up with a pretty clear head, but after I’d been running around the ranch for an hour feeding and wringing out the dog, feeding myself, reading the gnus, and banging around, the sinuses needed attention again. So it was off to the bedroom to snab the Flonase off the nightstand, where…where…noooooo….I had NOT set it down there last night.

Dayum!

  • Not in the drawer.
  • Not knocked on the floor, into the trash, or under the bed.
  • Not in either bathroom.
  • Not in the medicine cabinets.
  • Not in the hall closet where an entire shelf is dedicated to hordes of pill bottles, cough medicines, prescription creams, on and freakin’ on…
  • Not in my office.
  • Not in the kitchen daily-pill cabinet.
  • Not on the kitchen counters.
  • Not on the dining-room table.
  • Not on the table next to my favorite easy chair.
  • Not under the table or the chair or the ottoman.
  • Not in the car.
  • Not in the garage.
  • Not in the storage bedroom.
  • Not in any of the trash cans.
  • Not…fukkk! I give up!!!!!

😡😡😡😡

So now at this point I figure I’ll have to schlep out and buy more Flonase, which ain’t cheap (paid 16 bucks for it at the Walgreen’s.).

😡😡😡😡

So, so happy to reconnect with the beloved Young Dr. Kildare. So, so wish he would hire competent office help.

When I showed up for our first appointment, the receptionist demanded that I pony up my Medicare card.

Huh?: That’s never happened before!

“You must want my Medigap card,” say I, forking that over beneath the plastic barrier.

“No, I need your Medicare card.”

No you don’t, I refrain from saying. “I don’t carry it around with me. In fact, the material that comes with it tells you NOT to carry it in your wallet, because if it’s lost or stolen, you’re going to have to wade through a giant pile of bureaucratic hassle and grief.”

“We have to have your Medicare card.”

Now, in the 10 years since I got this ticket to bureaucratarama, no doctor’s office has EVER asked for my Medicare card. But I can’t get past this chickadee, so I leave without seeing YDK.

When I get home, I look for it and…can’t find it.

Ohhhhhh sheeee-ut!

After tossing my office once, I give up and resign myself to the fact that now I’ll have at least one and probably two or three four-hour waits up at the Social Security office trying to see a representative and get a new card.

Eventually, I do find the Medicare card in an obscure file folder, make a new appointment, and traipse back over to YDK’s.

In more quotidian gnus, we’re told the cops pledge to clean up the crime in the corridor west of the I-17, which makes it dangerous to drive between North Central and points west, and which efficiently feeds burglars, rapists, and purse-snatchers into our neighborhood. With the big, once-amazing but now out-dated shopping mall there closed down, that entire area is shooting downhill on a skateboard.

Well,  notes one of the locals on the neighborhood Facebook page…that new policing project is nice, but…but…what about the strip to the east of the flickkin’ freeway, which feeds the ‘Hood with hordes of criminal types? What about the bums imported up here on the accursed lightrail, which anyone can ride for free because there are no turnstiles to keep freeloaders off the damned trains? The end of the accursed light-rail line is right at the north border of the ‘Hood, so all the lovelies who jump onto it for free are discharged to sight-see through the local attractions. The panhandlers and the oleander-sleepers and the molesters of thee-year-olds in their backyards ride up to the end of the line, where they’re made to get off…and from there end up infesting our neighborhood.

Speaking of the which, on the way home from YDK’s office and waypoints, I turn into the ‘Hood and what do I see but yet another cop helicopter hovering over our little corner of Paradise.

No. Make that right over my house!

Holy sh!t!

Is their perp in my yard? (AGAIN?) Or, better yet, in my house?

Holy sh!t!!!!! My little dog!

Has the jerk broken in and, in an effort to get in or get out, let her escape through the door? If he left a gate open as well, she’s headed for Timbuktu! Assuming the bastard hasn’t stolen her for dog-fighting bait or kicked her senseless or shot her….

Naturally, I don’t have a pistol in the car. WHY do I keep doing that?

Cop glides off as I pull up to the driveway. Park the car in the garage. The door into the house is still locked. Dammit, I don’t even have a functional knife in the garage.

Get into the house.

Kitchen door is closed.

Call the dog.

No dog.

Grab a kitchen knife.

Call the dog.

No dog.

Head down the hallway toward the back of the house.

Front door out to the courtyard is closed. That’s nice: either he has good manners or he neither came in nor went out that way.

Call the dog.

No dog.

Check the hall coat closet please dear God don’t let some dude be hiding in here!

God obliges.

Call the dog some more. Head toward the back bathroom, where Her Majesty’s resting chamber resides. Grip that knife tighter.

One more favor, Your Godship: could you also kindly arrange for him not to be hiding in one of the bedrooms?

“Ruby!” Whistle the elaborate dog-calling tune. “Ruby-Doo!! Come, dog!”

click click click click click…
Little dog toenails on tile

Out she emerges from her nest.

Whew!

Speaking some more of the nostrums Young Dr. Kildare foisted upon me: Claritin is spectacularly expensive. Walgreen’s wants $20 for a package of 30 pills — a package in which each pill is sealed invincibly and annoyingly into a sheet of plastic and tinfoil.

Hm. The active ingredient of Claritin is loratidine. Amazon is selling THREE HUNDRED pills of the stuff for $10, and delivering them practically instantaneously. They’re already here as we scribble, and guess what: one pill of the cheap stuff works just fine. In fact, maybe even better than the overpriced stuff. Most Amazon reviewers say the knock-off works just as well as the brand-name; a few complain that it’s not as good. For ten bucks, I’ll take a chance on it.

On the way home from Costco, which is on the eastern and southern fringe of an upper-middle-class White ghetto called Moon Valley, I happened to cruise through a neighborhood that I’d never visited. It’s right up against the Phoenix Mountain Preserve, only on the eastern side instead of the southern side, where Sunnyslope blights the landscape. I actually thought I would be going through a part of dankest Sunnyslope on this particular excursion — a workaround after I made a wrong turn on my normal route — but apparently…not.

Most of Sunnyslope is beleaguered working-class — tidy, small homes: older, cheaply built, but OK for people who have no choice but to dodge bullets every night; or biker-gang dominated slum; or dire barrio the likes of which you see in northern Sonora along the train tracks, poverty that most Americans can’t imagine. But this area was not like that at all. The houses were very much like the little castles here in the’Hood. In fact, I came across a street or two that looked like they probably were constructed by our builder. The place was well maintained. Pretty free of blight. Nice view of South Mountain way across the smoggy city, from a slightly elevated plateau just beside North Mountain. Interestingly, the neighborhood up there must be regarded as not-quite-Darkest-Sunnyslope. Just one house is for sale in the area: Construction is similar to mine but it’s only about 1,000 square feet: significantly smaller than the Funny Farm.

Housing prices here in Phoenix are hovering in the outer layers of the stratosphere. I paid $100,000 for my first house in the ‘Hood — same model as mine, but a block and a half closer to Conduit of Blight and a block closer to Gangbanger’s Way. Several years later, when SDXB and  I moved to get out of earshot of those colorful features, I paid $235,000 for my present house, a carbon-copy model; he paid much less than that for his (big time!) fixer-upper a block to the north of my place. More than one Realtor has told me that my house is now worth $550,000.

Can you imagine? For a little tract house less than a mile from a dire slum and two blocks from a bunch of crummy apartment buildings bordered by the noisy, (literally) bum-ridden light-rail train tracks!

For living on the “right” side of the tracks, you gain about $130,000: this little palace essentially clones mine — clearly the same model by the same builder, even has the same swimming pool in the same backyard surrounded by the same kind of block wall. For that thing, they want about $410,000. And apparently they haven’t been able to sell it: Zillow has dropped the price three times, to less than what they paid for it!

Interestingly, the little North Mountain neighborhood was crisply delineated from the direr parts of Sunnyslope by the southeastern flange of the mountain park. So, while the local burglars can easily access your home, at least you don’t have to look at them every day. Or drive through a dank slum to get home.

Anyhow, back to the crisis of the moment: no pills.

How can I count the ways that I don’t want to drive down to the relatively safe Walgreen’s — about five miles from here? The Walgreen’s in the Sprouts shopping center across Conduit of Blight from the ‘Hood has…well, recently they’ve done weird stuff to it. Maybe its franchise somehow changed hands? They’ve moved all the merchandise around, rearranged the shelving, and…as usual, the front door is graced with a gauntlet through which you would prefer not to run… This means I’ll have to drive further than I wish to drive after yesterday’s two hours of rubbing fenders with my Fellow Homicidal Drivers.

In comes an email from Bigscoots, the vendor that hosts Funny about Money, Plain & Simple Press, and the Copyeditor’s Desk’s business website. The auto-pay for the hosting bill failed to go through.

Yeah? Well, that would be because I closed the CE Desk’s bank account, because — HALLELUJAH BROTHERS AND SISTERS! — I’ve decided to get out of the technical editing biz.

Of course, by this time it’s too late to schlep across the city (AGAIN) to the credit union and figure out what to do about this new fiasco. It’ll have to wait until Monday. Between now and then, I’ll have to sift through the account’s statements and figure out what other auto-pays are in there. Not many, I think. I hope.

Bang around the house searching for the Flonase. Can’t find it. Drop a Claritin…and yes, it does help a bit. Whenever I finish scribbling here, I’ll…

a) Call up Amazon and order a BOTTLE. not a goddam plastic-and-cardboard packet of Claritin pills, and get its active ingredient in generic form ($9) instead of trademarked form ($36)

b) Study page on page of checking account statements and try to figure out how to move that Bigscoots auto-payment into personal checking

c) Communicate with Bigscoots to see if only one of my three blogs was autopaid or if all of them were. Figure out how to switch all three of them, if indeed all three were paid out of of the CE Desk account.

d) Pull out some more of my hair.

e) Give up and take the dog for a walk.

Got this email message? DON’T ANSWER IT

So in came an email, allegedly from Ting (mobile phone by-the-minute provider) thanking me for paying my monthly bill.

Say what? I canceled that account.

This morning I was up at the credit union wrestling with an issue having to do w/ my account, and I mentioned that I couldn’t get in to check this supposed  payment.

He said a message thanking you for paying your [XXX] account is a scam. And apparently the scammers are blasting them out by the berjillion. He flipped open his own phone and showed me an identically worded message thanking him for paying his AT&T account!

So if you get a “thank you for paying” message, do not reply to it! Yes, it is a scam.

Food Is Supposed to Taste Like…

Food.

Remember that? Stuff that had flavor without benefit of tablespoons full of salt or sugar or both. Americans lost track of that basic fact long, long ago, submerged beneath a tsunami of fast food, prepared food, and “convenience” food.

Today, virtually all prepared food and a fair amount of whole foodoids taste mostly like…yes: salt or sugar. Or both.

Lemme back up a bit and say that where I grew up — on the shore of the Persian Gulf — American households were spectacularly privileged to hire Indian, Pakistani, and Goanese workers to do housework and, bless their hearts, cooking.

Nobody on this planet can cook like a Goanese chef.

Well…at least, not like one who came up in the 1950s.

Pedro, a compact, brown, middle-aged man from the Indian continent, worked for our friends the Dakers. Occasionally he would put on a spread for his employers’ admiring friends. And holy mackerel, what a spread it was!

Pedro specialized, as it were, in preparing a kind of bastardized curry dish aimed at the tastes of Brits and Americans. It wasn’t “real” Indian food. It was what the locals discovered the English-speaking gringos loved to think of as Indian food. And my god, it was delicious!

I miss Pedro and his compatriots a lot. Good men, decent men: each and every one. And I miss the amazing curry puffs Pedro would make (he would let me lurk at his side in his kitchen as he cooked this stuff up, a pesky little girl underfoot). And surely I do miss the savory stew of richly curried beef, chicken or lamb (if we could get it) stewed all afternoon on the Dakers’ stove and served up with fluffy white rice.

So the other day I’m at AJ’s, my favorite overpriced gourmet grocery store, scavenging up foods and foodoids to eat. The past few weeks have comprised one of those annoying “whatever can go wrong WILL go wrong” periods, healthwise. I don’t feel especially well and do not expect to feel especially well for the foreseeable future. So I think…maybe I should try to find SOME sort of packaged chow that I can heat in the microwave to stave off starvation.

By and large, I don’t eat packaged foods — mostly cook only whole foods — because packaged foods taste SO awful: over-salted, over-sweetened, over-laced with chemicals. Yech. Generally their only flavor is sugar or salt.

But in a frozen food case, I spot a package of alleged curry. Thai curry. Well, I’ve had Thai curry in restaurants: not too poisonous. Why not?

Why not, indeed? Yea verily….

So it’s been sitting there since before Christmas.

Today I’m thrashing around, wrestling with laundry and worrying about an infected molar and dorking with doctors’ and dentists’ appointments and wishing my head didn’t hurt quite so much and hanging up laundry to dry and taking the dog outside around rainshowers and generally hating life, the universe, and all that, when I realize it’s well past time to eat and I’ve had nothing since dawn (and that may be why the head hurts), sooo…hey! I’ve got this package of wondrous gourmet curry!!

Yay!

Right?

On the fly, slit open the plastic wrap, toss the package in the microwave, set the thing to run 4 minutes on “high,” and continue running around the house.

Four minutes later (washer unloaded; next load stuffed in; detergent spilled over it; washer dial turned to “ON”), the micro goes b-e-e-e-e-e-p and in due time stumble into the kitchen, dump the foodoid on a dish, pour a beer, and sit down to savor something that I imagine will taste like what I remember to be curry.

Well.

No. Not to say

Eeeeewwwww!

Why the fu*k do Americans eat this sh!t????????? What IS the matter with our people?

I do remember that my mother could cook. She could turn out a delicious meal…three times a day. I remember my great-grandmother could produce wonderful dinners, day after day after day. So…when did we lose the taste for real food and the skill to prepare it??????

The stuff is at once over-salted AND over-sugared.

I can’t believe people pay good money to buy sh!t like this. And worse: apparently they actually eat it! What is the matter with us?

Hey, folks: it’s not that hard to cook real food. Some meals are ludicrously simple, especially if you have a gas barbecue, which will allow you to heat just about anything as well as grilling awesome steaks, chicken, fish, hot dogs, and whatnot.

Wanna know how to make real curry? It’s easy…

First, gather the ingredients:

  • bottle of powdered curry
  • one yellow or white onion, chopped (a half onion will do, if that suits your taste)
  • one or two cloves of garlic, chopped (you can make do with the chopped garlic that comes in bottles these days)
  • beef stew beef (or lamb, or chicken, cut in chunks)
  • large can of tomatoes (probably optional, but wtf)
  • olive oil, vegetable oil, or butter, whatever happens to be at hand
  • can of beef broth or beef consommê
  • possibly some bottled dried herbs, such as thyme or marjoram (optional, IMHO)
  • rice

Take out a nice stew pan. Cover the bottom with a thin layer of oil or melted butter. Turn the heat to medium-high. Toss in the chopped onions. Toss in the chopped garlic and the herbs (if desired). Stir. Let this mix cook, stirring occasionally, until they’re sorta translucent and just barely starting to brown.

Take a big cooking spoon and lift the sautéed onions (and garlic) out of the pan. Place on a plate and set aside. Toss the stew meat into the hot oil. Cook, stirring, until nicely browned. Then dump the onions and garlic back into the pan and stir well to mix. Add a boatload of curry powder….depending on how much meat is in the pan, probably upwards of a tablespoon. Or two. Stir well.

Pour the beef broth or consommé into the pan. Fill the can with water and pour that into the pan, too. Stir well. Bring to a simmer, then turn the heat down to keep the contents slowly simmering. Cover the pan with a lid and go away.

If you feel so inclined, add a splash of red wine. (Alcohol was illegal in lovely Arabia, so I never saw Pedro do this…but I happen to think red wine added to a beef or lamb stew improves it a great deal.) If desired, toss in a can of tomatoes (it’s not spaghetti, f’rgodsake, but you know: Americans will eat anything).

Let this cook for several hours — two or three, I’d say.

Shortly before you’re ready to serve it up, prepare a pan of white rice. I use Uncle Ben’s, because it only takes about 20 minutes to cook and it’s damn near fool-proof.

Serve the curried stew and rice with a variety of condiments and side dishes: chutney, fruits, veggies, salad, naan or other bread, and so on. Whatever makes you happy.

And what you will have is what curry is supposed to taste like.

After this, I’ll make the real stuff, dole it out in meal-size plastic containers or zip-lock bags, and stash it in the freezer!

Dear Amazon: Oversell Is Overkill…

We’re hours from a major holiday, right? A Major Gift-Giving Holiday. The streets are jammed with swarming shoppers.

So of course I take it into my turgid little head to go into the corner Walgreen’s and pick up a bottle of the eyedrops the ophtalmologist recommended for the terrifying lump that recently emerged on an eyeball. Since I could barely see to drive after yesterday’s eye-dilating exam, I put it off — actually thought “betcha i can get these on Amazon.” Then staggered in the house and crashed in bed, exhausted.

By this morning, that “Amazon!!” thought has escaped my fevered brain. I figure on the way down to the AJ’s overpriced fancy grocer for the Great Xmas Dinner Shop, I’ll drop by the Walgreen’s and grab the eyedrops.

No kidding: the line at the cash register extended three-quarters of the length of the store! A good two dozen people were lined up along the west wall, six feet between them…standing…and standing…and standing…

Thanks! See ya!

No, of COURSE AJ’s does NOT carry exotic lubricating eye drops. It’s a gourmet grocer, not a flikkin Safeway! 😀

Not that I didn’t look…

The traffic simply defies belief. Naturally, after the side trip to the Walgreen’s it was coming on to the lunch hour by the time I reached the AJ’s, which peddles gourmet take-out meals as well as fancy groceries. WHAT a mob!!

Extracted what I hope will be enough for Xmas dinner: two gorgeous prime New York steaks (one of which is enough for two meals for me), a fistful of fresh asparagus, some packaged roasted taters (with Parmesan! with garlic!!), a bottle of wine, and enough ice cream to concoct something that looks like a dessert. Not very fancy, but spectacular enough in its humble way. I think.

Drive and drive and drive and drive and finally get through the thronging hordes. Stagger into the shack. Unload the truck.

Finally, the groceries put away, I sit down to order up the stuff on Amazon.

Amazon is supposed to be easy to order from, ain’t it? And ain’t it supposed to spare you the stupid stuff from hustling marketers?

Finally locate what appears to be the product the doc wants me to use. Go to order it. A-n-n-n-d…get hustle on top of hustle on top of hustle!

Pay more and get it delivered sooner.
Buy this instead and get a discount.
Buy twice as much as you need and get a discount.
Buy…buy…buy…bye bye…

Actually, I did go back and find one Amazon vendor whose pitches were…lower-pitched. The stuff is supposed to be delivered tomorrow. Since apparently this ailment or whatever you wanna call it is pretty benign (it COULD go away on its own, we’re told), I figure a delay of 24 hours will be OK.

In theory, Amazon can and should be Our Savior for gotta-have-it emergency purchases amid the dizzying holidays. But dayUM! When will marketers learn that Silence Is Golden???

The Planless Plan…

Okay. Go ahead. Imagine you’re gonna fix a nice meal. S’ppose, for example, you toss a lovely piece of steak on the grill. While you’re at it, toss on a handful of lovely fresh asparagus drenched in fine garlicky olive oil. Maybe place upon the plate half a gorgeous ripe avocado and a couple of sweet, scrumptious Campari tomatoes.

R-i-i-g-h-h-t…

Then consider the facts that your belly is still full from the munificent breakfast you turned out…that the bottle 0f red wine on the shelf is reserved for your son, for Christmas dinner…that any day you’d rather loaf with the dog and the birds on the side deck than bang around the kitchen…that it’s two o’clock in the afternoon: too late for lunch, too early for dinner…that there’s half a bottle of white wine, already open, in the fridge…that… Okay, that you’re too damned lazy to fix a whole meal.

…Right?

Luckily, we have the fixin’s for lunch, in the form of that refrigerated white wine. Heh heh heh… And some marvelous crunchy cheese cracker things that AJ’s serves up. They can’t be good for you. But surely they can’t be THAT bad for you, either.

Right?

Hanging out with my neighbor Marge, on the way home from a protracted doggy-walk. Her lovely husband Ward passed away, picked off by the covid virus while he was being treated for a recurrence of some old meningiomas. Just awful: they are (were) the BEST couple, mellow, kindly, friendly…the kind of people you would pay to have next door.  How dare he die, dammit, and leave her here to fend for herself?

Having recovered from the extended trauma of Ward’s demise (she went back to the Midwest to be with lifelong friends, then spent some time at their cabin in the north country…now is down here updating and spiffifying the city manse), Marge has installed new cabinets in the kitchen. Very handsome! She thinks, as I do, on how to stay out of a Rabbit Warren for Old Folks.

We must plan. We must plan carefully, with foresight aplenty.

We think. We think, Marge and I do, on the circumstances of J&L’s decision (J’s, actually: L was having none of it) to move into the horrifying Beatitudes, a rabbit warren for old folks.

Marge has met Margie, the 90-something pistol who is fending off old-folks’ prison from her house up near Gangbanger’s way. She knows something about her, but nothing like as much as I do.

I relay to her the report (from the horse’s mouth) that Margie took out a home equity loan and is using it to pay underlings to come in and care for her. Basically, she’s spending as much as it would cost to move into the Prison for Old Folks, but she’s in charge. She’s in her own home, with her own stuff and her own space and her own funny little dog and her own neighbors and her own lawn dude and her own…everything else. She hires people to take care of the yard, to take care of the house, and to take care of her.

This, of course, is not cheap. Both her husband and her only offspring having predeceased her, though, she has a way to finance it: a home equity loan. She has borrowed a sh!tload of money against the vastly inflated value of her pleasant North Central-style home, and she is using it to pay for the services, in that home, that she’d get at the Beatitudes if she sold the house and forked over all the proceeds to that outfit.

I am convinced that this is possible, if you think it through NOW, before you need it and not later, as the icy fingers of Death reach out toward you.

I grow old…I grow old…
I shall wear the bottoms of my trousers rolled…

Why?

Uhm…because T.S. Eliot told me so?

Ah: no. Who the hell did he think he was, anyway?

It only stands to reason:

You own assets worth something.
Some of us own assets worth a whole lot.
You know what you need.
You know what you want.
You know what you don’t want.

With those factoids in hand, it ought to be possible to anticipate a strategy for how to accommodate your future.

I hope.