Sunday, February 28, 2010


Inspired by the final day of the Olympics I’ve been inspired to see my gilded future in sequins and spandex.  I’ve noticed commentators in the field of sports aren’t necessarily the youngest kids on the block. I guess the guy thing allowing wise and sage to trump youth and beauty still reins where sports are concerned even though a pretty skirt somehow manages to show up in the locker rooms at the end of the Super Bowl. Having found an arena where age may not be a disqualifier a ray of light began to light a path to what I think could be a brilliant idea.
Now try to imagine this: just prior to the qualifying runs for the 2014 men’s short course speed skating competition in a studio somewhere on the Olympic grounds seated in a pair of Ralph Luaren leather chairs in front of a blazing fire in a stone fireplace sit Apollo Ohno and someone who could be me, one an expert in speed skating and the other a razor-tongued critic of style and panache. Cut to Ross “the intern” Mathews standing outside the Olympic rink, microphone in hand screeching out the names of several camera hungry Canadian and Danish media savvy contestants. Ross beckons the boys to his little square of red carpet chomping for an exclusive interview before they hit the ice. Throngs of fans and paparazzi push and shove, cameras in hand, from behind the stanchioned ropes.
“Jimmy, oh Jimmy can you come over here?” Ross’ high-pitched voice causes the ice inside the rink to crack in a million crazed fissures as his free hand rotates in furious circles of come hither.
“Jimmy, who are you wearing? Those lightening bolts are lighting my fire!”
“Oh, can I touch those biceps, those quads, those…”
And the banter continues as Apollo and I debate the sport, he from the viewpoint of the necessary technique and I from the aesthetics of costuming and body image. If they’re going to wear spandex then I think they’re fair game for package evaluation and comparative anatomy.
I don’t think there’s a sport out here that couldn’t be ogled and critiqued for its uniforms and adored for its presentation of the human form in near and far states of total perfection. The obvious targets of figure skating and swimming are no-brainers but give me football or a guy with an epee, not to mention gymnasts doing an iron cross and you’ve got a solid hour of great repartee. The commentary would be balanced between our sports expert’s knowledge of the sport, there’s going to be a need to educate those with too weak wrists and a long learning curve, and then the critical eyes of the rip-to-shreds vision of our fashionistas. Try to imagine guest critics like Joan Rivers, Issac Misrahi or Heidi Klum on one side and Troy Polamalu, David Beckham, Roger Federer and Nacho Figueras on the other. If you don’t recognize the names then google them and drool.
As the show gains in popularity the red carpet would grow. Fashion designers would begin lending out their couture designs in exchange for mention on the show, celebrities would be lining up to guest critique, a whole new audience would become couch potatoes glued to the world of sports they previously knew nothing about, and I would become Simon Cowell rich…filthy rich.
Well it’s just an idea.

Friday, February 26, 2010


When my mom did her tumbling act to the roar of an empty crowd the resulting breakage of her brittle bones began our back-and-forth dialogue with a host of doctors, insurance agents, social workers, therapists and nursing home marketers. Some of these worked with compassion and an altruistic desire to help while others saw themselves as cogs in a system doing their job of crossing all their “t’s”, dotting all their “i’s”, and racking up as many dollar signs as possible.
Our job was to follow through on our goal – to keep our mom as happy, comfortable and safe as possible for as long as possible. Our plan – to keep her from assisted living for as long as feasible, returning her to her own home, and supervising her as best we could without having to contract outside assistance. This seemed reasonable and it was the prevailing consensus of all five of us siblings. What it wasn’t was the consensus of the doctors, insurance agents, social workers, therapists and nursing home marketers and as we were to find out they were the ones holding all the strings.
As far as insurance agencies go my mom’s was no worse than most and better than some. They, along with her Medicare, took care of all her expenses from the opening ambulance ride to the hospital, through surgery, her stay at St. Mary’s Hospital, and then her subsequent recuperation and therapy at Oak Park. What wasn’t clear until our last meeting was that coverage was finite and not really connected to her recovery.  Under her policy and Medicare’s regulations she was entitled to a finite number of days of occupational and physical therapy and when that was completed they would re-evaluate her progress and recommend an additional number of sessions of physical therapy if they thought it was relavent. My mom’s a trooper but with one arm in a cast up past her elbow she still can’t pull down her pants when nature calls and pulling them up once she’s done has yet to be accomplished. She’s barely able to walk, shuffling along with her undies wrapped around her ankles. Although as amusing as this picture might be, it borders on dangerous for the time being. The problem is the insurers don’t really care about her condition. Their concern is time and when the time is up so is the care. They turned the hourglass of care over the minute she fell and when the last grain of care floated to the bottom of the glass the funding stopped even if my mom hadn’t yet recovered her dignity while still needing a nurse to wipe her hinny.
My sisters and I sat in various states of perplexity as the social worker delivered the news of my mom’s eminent release. Our eyes darted between us as we each evaluated which of us was now going to assume the duty of butt wiper when the social worker piped in.
“It is our recommendation that Florence either remain here or be placed with twenty-four hour care. We see you were planning on returning her to her home. You’ll need to hire a fulltime caregiver for her safety. We have a number of agencies we can recommend.”
The nursing home marketer’s gaze did a quick scan of our faces as he assessed our determination to actually tackle the job of full body care of mom. The social worker continued, “I’m sorry to have to tell you that should you choose to remove Florence from Oak Park or decide not to hire permanent fulltime help it would be against our recommendation and would disqualify her from further coverage.” Well it appeared as if they had us.
A couple of years ago my mom had been involved in a car accident where she needed similar care. My sisters had done their research and found an agency providing in-home caregivers. The feisty aspects of Florence’s personality were brought to the fore when after a six week stay at the same Oak Park facility she returned home and was introduced to Maria, a Spanish speaking spit of a woman dressed in the sherbet colored synthetic uniforms now popular on most hospital and nursing home floors. Even on crutches Florence was able to get to the kitchen, find her broom and chase poor little Maria around the dining room table whacking her several times with the straw end of her weapon in hand. Maria quit in 3.2 hours, a record for the agency. After this past attempt at in-home care the thought of going this route again was not very appealing.
The other option, leaving Florence at the nursing home, was something we had considered. We had even gone on a tour of their new memory care facility across the street from the rehab and assisted living facility mom was now quarantined in. The new facility’s tiny clean rooms were lovingly praised by our marketing tour guide. All of the amenities were presented for our viewing pleasure but the element of cost was kept secret until the last possible minute. When the costs were finally revealed we all released a collective gasp of horror.
“Your father served in the army during WWII didn’t he? This would qualify Florence for up to $1900 per month, coupled with her social security and if you turned over all of her assets we could make Florence very comfortable for the next couple of years.” Nursing homes like Oak Park are all private pay facilities, no insurance accepted. The funds have to come out of your own pocket and none of us had anything but a few pennies at the bottoms of our tattered clothes. The other flaw in the marketer’s spiel was the concern around the words, “the next couple of years”. Even if mom’s mind was floating down Alice’s rabbit hole her body and all of its internal organs were still holding up better than most people half her age. We had to couple this with the fact that longevity was possibly in her genes. My great-aunt Clara hung around long enough for Willard Scott to wish her a happy one hundred and seventh. We clearly weren’t ready or capable of buying into the assisted living complex.
Tomorrow mom goes to have her cast looked at. If they remove it and replace it with a shorter wrist cast there is a good possibility they will extend her stay because then they will have reason to give her new therapy to help her adjust to her new arm movement. If they decide to leave her existing full arm cast on for another week or two, mom loses. They can’t teach that old dog any new tricks even though the cast is what is prohibiting her from doing any independent walking. So they may have to release her, unable to walk on her own or pull up her pants reclaiming her dignity. The system sucks.

Friday, February 19, 2010


We had booked our return flight for Tuesdeay, the sixteenth. New York had us from one Tuesday to the next and just as we had squeaked in before a snowstorm that would close down the city our return flight was headed for the same iffy situation only in reverse. Squeaking in was great. Squeaking out was not what the city had in mind for us. Monday’s forecasters for the following day talked snow, but not in the way the weatherman had threatened on our in-coming adventure. We had spent Monday evening packing bags in between glimpese of lugers and skiers at the Olympics. Snow seemed to be a problem in both places, we had too much and they had too little. We were scheduled for our direct flight back to Madison at 11:43am and arriving in Madison at 1:22 in the afternoon. The snow was scheduled to begin falling around midnight on Monday and to have petered out by noon just as we were scheduled to depart. I went to sleep packed and ready with the voice of Bob Costas sitting in a ski lounge in front of a blazing fire promoting the upcoming Olympic events. When I woke I could see the snow falling in big flakes outside the window, the big wet ones that stick to your clothes and form piles of slush on the sidewalks. It didn’t look too devastating but now the weatherman on the morning news program was hinting at a little more snow than they had been talking about the night before. Then the phone rang. Rick had just gotten a call from Delta. They flat out cancelled our flight, no delay, just gone. We called the airlines and asked what we should do. It was now getting close to the time we should have been leaving for La Guardia. The agent on the other end of the phone found us a flight going through Minneapolis, the only problem: it was scheduled to leave an hour and forty-five minutes ahead of our original flight; not going to work, Rick hadn’t finished packing nor had a chance to get in the shower. We calld back.
“Oh, I’m so sorry we don’t have any more flights out of La Guardia but let me see if I can find something else. Can you fly out of any other airport?”
“Sure, why not.” The why not was a little riskier. Our client still hadn’t gotten us our check ( the one we were supposed to be using to finance our trip) and we were now traveling on our good looks alone. We both knew that wasn’t going to get us very far. We knew we had the cab fare to LaGuardia plus the extra $25 to check our bag, one of those new extra charges the airlines kept adding to keep their fares down and my pocket empty.
“I’ve got you on a flight leaving Kennedy at 11:30 with a transfer in Detroit.”
We said okay, hung-up, and Rick got on the computer to do a final check on his bank account to make sure we had enough money in the account to cover the added fare to Kennedy. There it was, right on the screen, overdrawn. How could this be. We were itemizing everything. Then we saw it. We had to borrow money from my mom’s account to cover the snafu with the check from our client. We had given my sister a check to cover the money we had borrowed but told her not to deposit it until we were sure our client’s check had cleared which we thought wouldn’t be any later than Thursday. She heard don’t deposit it until Thursday. It was Monday. She had deposited the check. Now we were really penniless. I had taken all the money out of my account to purchase some fabric we needed for another client. Now the meter on both our accounts read zero, Then the phone rang again. The automated voice of Delta came on to let us know our 11:30 had been cancelled and we were now on a 2:30 flight. We dicide not to rush into packing, the odds of us leaving were starting to stack up against us. We didn’t want to leave anyway. Then phone rang again, 2:30 was gone and rescheduled as a 4:06 and just as quickly the 4:06 went down and was replaced by a 6:55. The afterenoon was ours. I put on my heavy coat and walked out into the wet snow for one more trip into the city and a walk around midtown as I mulled over how to deal with the money thing. Somewhere around 30 Rock I called my sister to warn her about the check and to guilt her into helping me out.
“Boni, can you put a hundred dollars in my account and don’t write any checks for mom against that money we borrowed until I tell you we have received our check and it’s cleared.”
It worked. She ran out and stuck a hundred dollars in my account.
A sigh of relief seeped out of me as I continued down Fifth Avenue smiling at all the mannequins in the department store windows. The phone made its last attempt at keeping us in New York for one more day. Our 6:55 to Detroit had been postponed to 7:50 making our connection to our Madison flight impossible. They offered to put us up in Detroit for the night. We demured. New York had won and we got the prize, another full day in New York. I went back to Queens satisfied. The R train Steinway exit put me right at a Walgreens Drug Store. I decided a container of mint chocolate chip ice cream was a justifiable reward. I grabbed a container of Edy’s from the freezer and took my place in line. I got out my wallet ready to swipe my card with the newly deposited hundred dollars…metro card, driver’s license, outdated borders rewards card, free bag of dog food with ten purchases punch card…SHIT! No debit card. Then it all dawned on me. Rushing to get the money for the fabric that had emptied out my account, I had gone to a bank with one of those ATMs that swallow your card until your transaction is complete. I had been so glad I had enough money to cover the purchase I just grabbed the paper cash and ran totally forgeting the damn card and stabbing a stake into my financial fortune. There I stood, no card, no money and a dripping quart of mint chocolate chip. With my tail between my legs I slunked out of line, put the ice cream back and dragged myself back up the three flights of stairs to try and figure out what I should do next.
After empting all the crumpled receipts out of my bag I found the one I’d used at the bank with the card eating ATMs. My plan: rise at 6:00, shower, scrap together subway fare to the fashion district and back to Queens, be at the bank at eight, retrieve my card (unless someone else took it), and be back to Queens in time to get a car service to the airport.
6:30 – up with the sun, shower – only tepid water, dressed – day old clothes (I’d only packed for seven days), $4.50 – just enough to get there and get back, the bank – the door unlocked promptly at eight (just like a bank), and I was in. I ran up to customer service, my receipt and identification in hand. The bank service agent scrutinized my evidence and asked me to wait while he went to see if my card was there. He came back carrying a binder with a three ring pouch inside. Back at the customer service desk he opened the binder and then unzipped the pouch. Fifty plus cards tumbled out and there on top was mine.
“I guess I’m not alone.” He smiled as he shuffled the remaining cards back into the pouch.
New York had decided to temporariy release its grip on us. A part of me wished it wouldn’t.

Sunday, February 14, 2010


Valentine’s Day, 2010: remembering that first kiss. The knees still shake when I slip back into adolescence and remember that first kiss. I was old by most standards, fourteen going on fifteen, a ninth grader in junior high school. Puberty had begun its ravaging course and I was a jangle of sexual confusion. My curiosity was demanding resolve so I began formulating a plan. Months of preparation went into selecting my conquest and putting the plan into effect. The time was different. Parents weren’t as worried about safety. I had been going to the downtown community center dances where groups of ninth graders from local schools hung out acting tough on Saturday nights, boys in pointy shoes with their hair greased high in James Dean pompadours, girls in tight sweater sets their newly formed breasts trussed into perfect bullet formations. The dances started in early evening and were over by ten, the witching hour for me. I’d start out just after supper walking the mile and a half to the nearest bus stop at Fair Oaks Avenue, the outer most stop of the municipal bus. Then it was a twenty-minute ride depending on the number of stops the bus would make until I reached my stop just short of the Capital Square. Back in the sixties the buses didn’t run that frequently so if I missed my bus it was a long wait for the next one to arrive. In February when the temperature could drop to below zero the wait could seem like a frozen eternity.
I planned my kiss for May, warm enough for the outdoor privacy I’d need to pull this off without the taunts of the testosterone possessed posse of young manhood that hung around at these events. I set my sights on a girl outside my own school. I didn’t want the story to get passed around to my friends especially if I wasn’t successful or worse, if I wasn’t very good.
Her name was Betty White and if anyone thinks she was to become one of the Golden Girls then think again. I wasn’t into dating my mother or any of her friends. Betty was blond and a perfect thirty-six, thirty-six, thirty-six. I didn’t want to set my sights too high; I’ve never been good with rejection.
On the day I had ex’ed on the calendar I spent the morning getting my hair into just the right swoop by applying enough pomade to keep the Empire State building from toppling over. I had prearranged meeting Betty at a department store on the Capital Square. The center of Madison is the capitol. A replica of the one in Washington, it stands by law taller than any building in the surrounding downtown area, a huge breast-like dome dominating the city skyline. I had saved enough money to take Betty for an ice cream treat at the Badger Candy Kitchen before the dance got under way, and I bought a little stuffed animal as a “you-owe-me-if-you-accept-this” gift. The stage was set.
I don’t remember much about the lead up. I suppose we went for the ice cream and at some point I pulled out the stuffed animal and pushed it across the Formica counter to her. I do remember she did accept. She carried it around clutched in her chubby fist for the entire night. We went to the dance and stayed until the sun had completely faded and the sky had turned navy. I coaxed her out of the community center and through the groups of boys smoking their parent’s cigarettes in the doorways of retail stores closed for the night. We walked up to the capitol. The grounds meticulously kept and lit with incandescent bulbs in vintage lampposts giving off a warm amber light. The moment had arrived. We stopped in a secluded alcove next to a stone balustrade. The slight breeze coupled with the scent of May flowers left little room for error. I moved in and pressed my mouth on her painted pink iridescent lips. That was it. I doubt I ever saw Betty White again. 

Saturday, February 13, 2010


Sometimes luck comes into play. We decided on leaving in the middle of the week. We could have gone for Wednesday, dead center in the week, but for no real reason we booked our tickets for Tuesday. Watching every penny we booked weeks in advance well before any weather forecast could have indicated a preference for one day over another. With luck, our plane barely escaped the ten inches of a beautiful Wisconsin snowfall and landed at La Guardia only hours before the city shut down in anticipation of a major Northeastern blizzard. New York was beckoning us back with open arms and squeezed us in through an opening the size of a needles eye.

Madison – 10 inches of snow – and the wheels keep turning. Emmy’s hopes of another snow day are dashed. The scrolling type at the bottom of the early morning news reports all schools open. The morning runners are out in their spandex leggings and winter windbreakers, their rosy cheeks visibly pinching their frozen smiles.
New York – 10 inches of snow – and the beginning of 24-hour coverage by every local weatherman preaching the dangers of leaving your comfy seat in front of the TV and abandoning their mandatory snow alerts as they hold us hostage and increase their corporate revenues. The city shuts down as the streets turn to slush and unprepared pedestrians are forced to jump over clogged curbs in their Manolo Blahniks.

The realization I will always be a New Yorker. My fears of feeling like an outsider never materialized. I walked the streets, rode the subways, and bought my morning Starbucks as if I had only been gone on a long vacation.

For some unknown reason I left Madison with the car keys still in my front pocket. From the minute I arrived my right side seemed unduly weighted down by those keys ripping at the bottom of my pants pocket. Exchanging those keys for a seven-day metro card liberated my pocket taking my feet off the gas pedal and placing them firmly on the cobblestone streets of the city I so love. The exercise has reduced the binding sensation of a waistband that had grown a little too tight driving instead of walking in an area where tractor butt is a reality.

Two-dimensional cardboard facades of false happiness are in place for so many of us hiding our true selves and the fears lying behind the cardboard figures. But with friends the cardboard can come down exposing stories of hidden illnesses, sleepless nights, and the same fears I harbor of what tomorrow will bring. Being able to see old friends brought to light how flimsy the cardboard image can be and how strong the truth of friendship can help us each support the other.

Sixth Avenue around noon, halfway between West Elm and Restoration Hardware. I could see the rotating red lights of the fire trucks as I turned the corner from West 17th Street onto Sixth Avenue. The police had cut off traffic between 21st and 18th. I could see the smoke billowing up from the Westside of the street drawing me up the avenue like so many others curious to see what was happening. In about a block I realized it was the building I had worked in as a designer for Jack Morton Productions. Another old occupation gone up in smoke burning bridges to careers now open only to the young.

It was like stepping back into myself; meetings at the Javits, running from vendor to vendor looking for the perfect end table, and walking back into the designer only buildings searching high-end products for clients who could afford them. After competing and losing $10 per hour jobs hawking inferior furniture in a very small market, New York breathed a renewed sense of self-worth into a shaken sense of self-confidence.

It was on my way to the Red Hook ferry, the one I was taking to get to IKEA. The day seemed warm but the closer I got to the water the more the wind became a factor. On the Manhattan side you picked up your ticket at Pier 11. In the middle of the day the number of passengers was minimal. I got my five-dollar ticket redeemable for any purchase at IKEA and then went out on the dock waiting by Slip C for the ferry to come. With the wind blowing I had pulled my woolen scarf up around my ears hunching my shoulders against the cold.
“Lee?” the voice was unmistakable, the hint of Farsi still detectable in a small three-letter word.
 There behind me stood Gordy-june, the june an Iranian endearment I added to the end of her name every time I saw her. Her diminutive body wrapped in a magenta wool coat and her head capped in a vibrant purple hat stood beaming a welcoming smile. Like a mother hen she reached up and wrapped her arms around my neck nuzzling her warm cheek against mine. New York is such a small plot of land it’s inevitable you will eventually run into someone you know. I was lucky enough to run into someone I adore and who so lovingly returns the adoration whenever we unexpectedly see each other. We rode the ferry together laughing all the way over to Red Hook about the little things in life; our kids, our lives, the little gossip about the people we had worked with back in our days at that same burnt building on Sixth Avenue where I was designer and she a project coordinator. Neither one of us felt the cold on that trip across the river. The warmth of a rekindled friendship warmed us both.

Monday, February 8, 2010


Rick ran me up one side and down the other about this blog. He feels it’s too one sided…and it is. He says it paints our lives like June and Ward Cleaver, stumbling through life with no greater problem than keeping Eddie Haskell from getting Wally and the Beav into hot water. The truth is our lives are far from the placid 1950’s image of the Cleaver’s suburban utopia. We don’t have a sitcom existence, trouble free and destined for happy endings. Our reality show, the unedited version, is filled with trauma and unresolved conflict. When I write I choose not to include all of our dirty laundry. My objective has been to find a way out of the pain and the only way I know how to do this is by focusing on what anesthetizes the ache. I wake up most mornings knowing that bills haven’t been paid, taxes are looming with the possibility of dire consequences, and as hard as I try I can’t find a way to help alleviate the burden this puts on those closest to me.  Our path of communication has become so narrow we sometimes go through weeks of not talking. I worry constantly about how this will effect Emmy’s grown personality. What kind of example for a productive life are we setting for her? Does she close herself off in her room because she’s a teenager exercising her young wings looking for her privacy or is it because she wants to avoid our searing silence? There isn’t a day goes by I don’t contemplate walking down to the garage and going to sleep to the toxic fumes of the running motor, my escape from the constant mental anguish only a turn of the ignition away. I feel doomed to parade my failure in front of my family. I fear the day I end up bussing tables for former high school classmates who made fun of me when I was an aspiring “artsy”, the ones I tried to escape from, leaving their taunts and snickers of “queer” a far off echo. The battle in my head runs even in my sleep as I struggle with my failure as a provider for the ones I love most. At times it’s so lonely I find the only friend I have is this blog.
So that’s why I try to write with humor. If I can edit out the pain and focus on the moments of joy that make life a little more bearable, then the blog is doing its job and I can hold on. I can feel a sense of accomplishment even if my reward is only the words I’ll leave behind. It’s my therapy. It’s my gift to myself. It’s what lets me sleep for more than a couple of hours a night. It’s what restores my dignity and allows me to smile at myself. It’s what gets me to another day. It’s what gives me hope.
So enough of this self-indulgent crybaby tirade, the pity party is over. Reality has been duly noted. I get to choose what I put in here and how I choose to open the curtain on the play of my life. A good play needs conflict and dimension. I’ve now put that in act II. It’s time for act III and the play’s resolve. I am choosing to put on my rose colored glasses for the final act.

There's truth in letting a smile be your umbrella

Friday, February 5, 2010


Some guys gear up for the game, some for the commercials. I’m putting my money on the food, the manly kind you only serve when eating rises to a contact sport. “L-B’s” be damned, the whole point is how much, how hot, and how compelling the taste.  Here’s what we do to pump up our guts to stretch pants proportions:

Let’s start with the chili. It’s best if you cook this slowly for several hours the day before and then reheat it before the couch potatoes arrive.
Here are the ingredients:
3 cups (more or less) of diced yellow or white onions, a mix of yellow and white is fine
1 teaspoon of sea salt and 3 cloves of garlic for a paste
2 tablespoons of curry powder
1/4 cup of olive oil
About 2 –3 tablespoons of chili powder (this should be done to taste)
2 lbs ground beef
1 lb ground pork
1 lb chorizos or sausages sliced
4 large cans (the 28 to 35 ounce size) of tomatoes, whole or diced
2 large cans of red kidney beans drained and rinsed
I large can of black beans also drained and rinsed

A handful of cilantro
1 bunch of chopped scallions
A bowl of shredded cheddar and Monterey jack cheese
1 diced red bell pepper
1 pint of sour cream

Start out by making a paste out of the sea salt and garlic cloves. You should do this in a mortar and pestle but if you don’t have one you can use a ceramic bowl and a smooth rock wrapped in gauze to form a handle or grip. Once the paste has been pummeled into perfection, put it aside.
Now heat up your frying pan and add the olive oil. Sautee your diced onions with the curry powder until they become limp. Add the garlic paste, mix, sauté a few minutes more and then remove the seasoned onions from the pan. Now don’t clean the pan but start to add your meat while the pan is hot and brown the beef, pork and sausages of choice. You should have already sliced the sausages, don’t put them in whole. This should be done in batches or the meat won’t brown it will just steam.. When the meat is browned add the seasoned onions back into the pan. Salt and pepper to taste.
Dump in the tomatoes and beans. I always forget to do the draining and rinsing before hand so I’m always running backwards getting this done when I should have thought to do it before I got to this step. If you forgot, like me, then go back and drain and rinse. It won’t throw the timing off; it’s just a nuisance. Mix the meat, onion, beans and tomatoes together. You can add cilantro if you like the flavor. Some do, some don’t. Cook on a low heat for two to three hours stirring occasionally. If the consistency becomes too thick you can add some beef broth, a little red wine or just dump in a bottle of Leinenkugel (beer). Let the chili rest before serving. It’s always better when served the following day but I usually can’t wait. Serve in big oversized bowls with shredded cheese, sour cream, chopped scallions and some diced bell pepper.

On a scale of one to ten this is a ten fart chili

Now for the cornbread and parsley lime butter.
Without these our chili is like a quarterback without a backfield and this cornbread is a real superstar.

Cornbread ingredients:
2 1/2 cups of yellow, stone ground, whole germ cornmeal
1 level tablespoon of baking powder
1 teaspoon of salt
Ground black pepper, 12 to 15 turns
1/2 teaspoon of baking soda
1/2 cup of chopped scallion
1/2 cup of diced red bell pepper
Heaping handful of mozzarella
Heaping handful of mixed cheddar and Monterey jack cheeses,
3 beaten eggs
Enough buttermilk to give the mix the consistency of a dry cake batter
2 tablespoons of olive oil
1/4 cup of corn oil

Parsley lime butter ingredients:
Handful of chopped parsley
1 stick of softened butter
1/2 lime
Sea salt to taste if butter is unsalted
1/4 cup softened cream cheese

We’ll start with the cornbread. The one thing that’ll really make your cornbread score a touchdown is the skillet. A well seasoned, 12” black cast-iron skillet is the best. We’ve worked over twenty years on our skillet and it is now seasoned to perfection. The longer you work on this the better flavor it imparts to your food and the easier the cornbread will slip out when it is done. But don’t be discouraged if you don’t have the twenty year-old skillet, use your less seasoned one or go to your local kitchen supply store and start seasoning, everyone has to start somewhere. The next step should be to turn your oven up to 400 degrees. Let the oven heat while you mix your ingredients in a large bowl. Add the cornmeal, baking powder, salt, pepper and baking soda together and stir. Then add the scallions, bell pepper and stir again before adding the cheeses. After you have mixed this together, add the beaten eggs, and then start adding the buttermilk until the whole mixture comes to the consistency of a dry cake batter. When you have achieved the perfect consistency start to get your skillet ready. Add the oils to the skillet and heat until the skillet starts to smoke. Add the batter and let it fry for a few seconds then pop the whole thing into the oven and bake for 20 to 30 minutes, until the top has turned a golden brown. Pull the skillet out of the oven and let it rest for a few minutes then take a plate that has a larger diameter than your skillet. Place the dish on top of the skillet and flip the whole thing over. This can take practice and the benefits of a well-seasoned skillet. If it doesn’t come out and you end up with pieces, don’t worry. It’s finger food and tastes the same in man sized hunks as it does in perfect slices.

In a small bowl mix together your softened butter, parsley, salt and cream cheese. Then squeeze in the juice of half a lime and mix again. Place this next to your cornbread and back off. The meal is done and the mess has only just begun, but be prepared to do a repeat on the cornbread. One 12” cornbread at our table always ends with cries for another as the crowd roars and you start doing an end zone dance.