Don't Be Great

  I just listened to a piece on NPR in which the speaker gave some advice he'd been given in turn: "Don't be great. Be solid."
  Interesting advice; something which I have been thinking about for a while. Why do we as humans feel the need to spend a large amount of our time thinking about what we could do if only we had the resources, why do we feel the need to write about what we might accomplish if only we had the perfect job, prime funding or the proper alignment of the cosmos? After feeling this way, hypothesizing about the finer details of what we know can be accomplished, we sit and savor the thought that it is the singular I that developed this plan, it is I that will be lauded, I that will have the success, I will be the one that the masses beat a trail to...won't I?


A Peasant's Dish (or so i'd imagine...)

Last night my friend came for dinner; I told him that we'd have red meat and that he was in charge of salad components and a bottle of wine. Composition of the main was on me; before I forget it, here goes:

3 beef shank cuts (not osso bucco; beef!)
2 hungarian sausages (of the fresh variety)
1 medium yellow onion, fine (1/4") dice
2 large white onions, medium (1/2") dice
4-8 cloves of garlic (the larger the better). peeled, cut into 1/6ths
3 carrots, peeled, fine (1/4") dice
3 carrots, peeled, medium (1/2") dice
6 medium russet potatoes, medium (1/2") dice
1 can tomatoes, petite/small diced (tomatoes only, unseasoned)
325mL Shiraz
grape seed or other mild oil for searing

Oven at 350F

In an ovenproof covered dutch oven, heat oil over medium-high heat to just below oil's smoke point. Add shanks to pot, season with salt and ground pepper and sear on all sides. Remove to plate when all sides are nicely seared. Add sausages to pot; turn often to sear all sides; remove when this is accomplished. Add fine diced onions & carrots as well as chopped garlic to pot. Stir to coat with pan juices. Set seared shank on top of vegetables in pan; immediately add wine to pot. Add scant 10oz of water to pot as well; liquid should just about cover shanks. Bring to a simmer, cover and move pot to preheated oven. Leave for 1 hour (don't peek...). Put remaining ingredients in fridge to hold; I put the potato & carrot cubes in cool water to prevent discoloration.
After the hour is over, carefully open oven door (it'll be steamy in there!), take pan out, turn the shanks over (they'll almost be falling apart at this point) and add ingredients as follows: 1. sausages; top with 2. onions; then top with 3. the carrots & potatoes(drain them if you held in water); next, open the can of tomatoes and pour over the carrots/potatoes; lastly, fill the tomato can 1/2 full with water, swirl around to get any tomatoey goodness off the can's walls and pour over the tomatoes. DO NOT STIR THE POT AFTER ADDING ALL THE ABOVE!!!! Place the lid back on the pot, and return to the oven (still at 350F) for another hour.
After the second hour is over, again, remove the pan from the oven, be careful, it'll still be steamy in there! Remove the lid from the pan (AGAIN, NO STIRRING!) and pop the pan back in the oven for 30 minutes more.
After the half hour is up, remove the pan from the oven (NO STIRRING!) and leave it to rest for 10-15 minutes, uncovered.
Just before serving, give a brief stir and serve.
If you are 2 men, this will be enough for a generous dinner and a bit for a couple of lunches the day or two after.
Rounding out the dinner--green salad with gorgonzola cheese and balsamic dressing & a couple of glasses each of Garnacha (awesome with this, you did good!) with a simple bar of dark chocolate for after.
More food soon!


The Core

  I've been pondering more and more often what I want to do in life; there are places that I want to go and things that I want to see, but I often wonder what I am willing to do to achieve these goals. I sometimes dream about packing a small bag or two and setting out for Australia or Mongolia or Uruguay for an indeterminate amount of time, imagining that I will settle in one of these places and that will be the end of the travels. I'm sure that I would have a great time, but I know myself well enough to know that sooner or later I'd start to recreate my life of old. It would start with acquiring a book or two and soon I would have an entire shelf. An ancient oak desk would follow, a collection of pots & pans and a greenhouse would soon spring from the earth like mushrooms following fall rains. It would be the old me superimposing himself on the new me.
  Discovering this, I wonder why I have the yen to forge new trails? Would it be better to cultivate those fascinations that I already have and scale back anticipated treks into the unknown? It's an oddity in life that some of us constantly push to the background those things that make us happy, only to go on to things that we think might make us even happier still; new vista around and network in employ, we dust off those small boxes of former lives that we unconsciously carry around, unwrap the china contained therein and set about recreating a semblance of what we've left. It leaves me wondering if there ever truly were any of our species that boldly charged ahead...our forefathers may have left their homelands searching for new lives, but ultimately the majority chose to recreate what they'd lost or pine for what they no long had. For those that are inclined to disbelieve this, I put this question to you: what nationality are you? If you are from the US and not the bearer of a Green Card or a recent transplant, I suspect that 95% of you just responded with the nationality of your ancestors, not that you were an American.
  Why, I wonder, do we feel the need to rebuild and replicate that which we've either lost or voluntarily set aside? Are we so unsure about going forward that we need to constantly remind ourselves of what we've left behind? Thoughts?


On Adult Playgrounds

  Recently a friend of mine asked me if I'd ever been to a bath house. I told him that I had, pausing to ask why he wondered.
  "I've always sort of been curious about them. I've never had the opportunity to go," he replied.
  "There's one in Portland," I said, "Drive up sometime, here's directions," I said, handing him my phone with the Yelp listing and Google-sourced map.
  "Would you like to go with? We could drive up together and make an afternoon of it, maybe do some shopping and head off to Steam afterwards."
  I mulled this over in my head for a moment before offering a non-committal shrug of my shoulders, "Sure. Maybe."
  It's not come up again in conversation and I am hesitant to ask if he's been, fearing that I will again be asked to go with him. Safety in numbers or some such thing I guess.
  Last weekend a different friend asked me nearly the same thing; he and I are much more intimate than the previous asker, so I was able to ask specific questions of him regarding a possible upcoming trip, namely why he wanted a partner in crime.
  "You and I always have fun together. We have similar tastes in men, we both like to watch and be watched, it would be hot."
  "So we're supposed to play together then?"
  "Hell no, but if the option arises, then I know that you'll go with the flow."
  "So we'll synchronize our watches when we get there and leave when the time comes huh?"
  "Unless we decide to stay longer."
  I asked if he'd ever been to Steam; he told me no, but that he'd been to clubs in Amsterdam and New York & San Francisco. Posing the question to me, I admitted that I'd been while in Chicago, London, Auckland & a few other places. Steam's a bit different though I told him, it's smaller than any other bath house that I've ever been in, the patrons have more attitude, there's no sauna & their list of rules is rather lengthy. Like a lot of baths there's a membership requirement and a fee associated with using the facilities; unlike a lot of baths, there's a sort of sterile upscale attitude that permeates much of the place. Common courtesy and cleanliness aside, it was the first bath house that I'd ever been to that placed placards above the bowls of condoms--"Unsafe sex practices will result in our banning YOU from premises"-Mgmt. It's also the first bath house that I've been to where lubrication is not provided, where there is no "maze" or back room-type atmosphere (no, the 13'x13' room painted black with it's tiny glory hole-bedecked "stall" does not count); it's also one of the only bath houses that I've been to where they clean incessantly--if the steam room is full of patrons, you don't open the door, yell out, "Cleaning time!," and move everyone out, we're all paying members...go clean something else and return when the area is devoid of life or post a notice outside the door listing the regular hours when cleaning will be carried out.
  A friend of a friend started sending me notes about upcoming happenings at Steam. Very unofficial meetings between members, things that would never be posted on the Calendar of Events at Steam's website. A few times a month I get a random email stating something like: Steve-O will be in the sling room next Thursday for his 38th birthday, knock once for entry, condoms optional or PDXEagle is hosting a meet and greet at Silverado next Wednesday, carpool to Steam after or Jacinto is in from Madrid, Steam, 3-10am tomorrow. These events are meant only for those that are interested and I'm sure never make their way to the slate board that guests use to post notes to one another upon entering Steam's halls. An older friend of ours tells us that these kind of notes were often posted on such boards back in the days before the Internet and email and texting. I should throw in that he also lumps this time period as the days before men were able to live with HIV. Back then unprotected sex was the norm, though I'm told that nobody really cared if you asked them to use a condom or if you didn't; bath house etiquette has pretty much always dictated that you be comfortable with what you are doing, with what you are going to do and to be respective of your partner's wishes.
  Laying etiquette aside, I find it interesting that the management of Steam feels the need legislate how its members will conduct themselves within walls that were built expressly for the purpose of catering to and fulfilling the needs of a sexual clientele. If two or more adults consent to unprotected or bareback sex, and two or more do not, I'd like to think it safe to point out that the two groups will likely leave one another alone; I'm not stating that there isn't the possibility of hurt feelings or egos, but life will go on.
  Yesterday I received another of my friend's emails; PDXBoi will be at the Hawk on Wednesday. Brief and cryptic; there was no link as there sometimes is in his emails, cluing one in to who or where. I put Google to work; twenty minutes and as many searches later, I happened upon the missing information that I needed, a new venue is born:[PDX] As to PDXBoi? I have no idea if that's his Grindr or Scruff handle, his name on A4A or some other site, maybe just his self-appointed moniker. I work Wednesdays, so unless I receive a follow-up post I guess I'll never know.



Left hanging

  I met a guy recently that told me he was interested in having a purely sexual relationship; I told him that I was okay with that, but that it was a two way street.
  "Two way street?," he asked.
  "Yes. If it's just sexual for you, it is for me as well. I don't need a text message at 3 in the afternoon telling me that you're missing me. I don't need a phone call asking me how my day was. I don't want to meet you for coffee so you can tell me what's new in your life. I know that I won't be calling or texting you for any of those reasons."
  It might have been harsh, but I felt the need to lay out the ground rules from the outset. Don't get me wrong, he's an attractive guy and all, but a fuck and three minutes of improvised conversation do not a speed date make.
  Two hours after I'd met him and we'd fooled around I got a text message. I didn't reply. The next morning I got another one. I still didn't reply. Ditto later that afternoon, later that evening and the next morning. I then got an email via a gay social site I use. I can sum the communications up thusly: I'm thinking about what a great time we had and hoping that you're having a good [insert time of day here]. 
  Four days and quite a few texts later I sent a note of reply asking what he wanted. "I thought maybe we could hang out," was his reply.
  "Hang out?" I asked.
  "You know, grab a beer, watch a movie or something."
  "You want a purely sexual relationship. And to hang out. No thanks."
  "I'm bored. Why not?"
  At this point I decided that I was not going to reiterate my original thoughts. Friends and fuck buddies do not mix; if you need assistance figuring out which you are, chances are you're neither.


Feed the Locals

  The organic & biodynamic movement is in full swing across the country; it was just gaining speed in the north of Michigan when I left. Here in Eugene it permeates much of the food and wine scene; should the pair of buzz words become a trio with the addition of the word local, so much the better.
  Local, organic & biodynamic produce abounds much of the year, save the dead of winter when they truck things up from southern California--oddly to many this still counts as local even though it is shipped overland almost 900 miles. I have long agreed with buying local foods, if they're biodynamic, so much the better; money spent stays in the community and good farming practices benefit both the earth and the people, flora & fauna who call it home. Organic though, is a bit of a pox for me: I am not generally willing to pay the additional price for an organic (and usually much smaller) Fuji apple than it's local, non-organic (and usually much more robust) counterpart. I realize it costs more to grow the organic Fuji and that the increased cost will be passed on to the consumer, but I'm often not willing to pay it; if the apples were identical in size, perhaps, but until that happens, no. I'm also not willing to buy the organic Fuji bearing a New Zealand's Best sticker, when it's non-organic twin with a Washington stamp is sitting just beside; that some company thought I'd be willing to hand over extra cash for a Fuji that was flown 13k miles just to fill a gap in organic produce is beyond me--most organic eaters that I know show great concern for the environment, I wonder how they swallow the added cost of this organic gem and the hefty carbon footprint that was produced ensuring said fruit reached their shores in perfect form?
  It's not that I won't buy organic, I certainly will when I am presented with organic heirloom tomatoes at the Saturday market, just bletted medlars offered up at the holiday fair or hazy blueberry honey from my housemate's beekeeping friend: I will readily buy these items and savor the flavor and story that accompanies them. At the supermarket though, where non-organic and organic co-mingle, I save my extra pennies, nickels and quarters for the Saturday market. It makes sense to me to put my money where I know it will do the most.
  Buying local food is certainly a start to keeping money in the community, but buying local food directly from the co-op, person or collective producing it, seems to make even better sense to me. Exercising this option I garner knowledge about the food and the process behind how and why it is grown; I am able to ask questions directly to the person that was out in the field harvesting the beets that I will enjoy later in the evening or pull suggestions and wisdom from the farmer who grows tomatoes successfully down the road even as my own refuse to flower or fruit. It's not enough to simply buy local food though, there is a smithy in my community, a plethora of craftsmen who reclaim and repurpose cast off items, vineyards and breweries galore, designers and leathersmiths and more. Buying from these individuals helps to keep money and skill in the community as well. I'm not saying that big box stores and malls are anathema, they certainly have their place as well; I am saying that it often behooves us to look around a bit before we commit to the packaging and lowest price guarantees that abound...often a comparable item can be found at a similar price just down the road, the fact that it comes from my neighbor's daughters' shop is an added bonus.


Eat More Kale

  This afternoon on NPR there was a segment highlighting Vermont artist Bo Muller-Moore; he's engaged in a legal battle with Chick-Fil-A over his use of the phrase Eat More Kale. Apparently, his simple screen-printed t-shirt slogan infringes on the company's rights to its slogan (and the subsequent trademark...); Bo is on the record noting that apparently the folks over at Chick-Fil-A can't determine the difference between kale and chicken, he even goes so far as to give some basic education during his soundbite.
  After raptly listening to Bo's segment, I fired up Google so I could find out a bit more about Chick-Fil-A (not being from the South I'd never even heard of them...), observing a few of their ads on the web. I have to admit, seeing cows trying to sell me chicken is unsettling; even now I am envisioning a counter-campaign headed by upstart bantams, wielding miniature picket signs and making use of the chicken microphone.
  Peanut gallery questions?
a) When I Google "Eat More Chicken" does Chick-Fil-A get a penny every time I execute my search?
b)  If, in conversation or writing I utter/scribe, "Eat More (insert noun here)," am I in danger of enduring legal action?
c)  Has copyright & trademark law become so broad that it now covers phrasing that is substantially different from the original? I could understand problems with Eat More Chickens or Eat More Schicken; but I'm quite sure few people can confuse kale with the aforementioned animal protein.
d)  Which came first, the chicken or the kale?