Butter!

Good day lesser beings!

While I wish I could legitimately say ‘bask in the genius that is (pause for effect) me’ regarding my fabulous BUTTER recipe, I can’t. Alas, this particular creation is not born of my vast intellectual prowess.

However, I can pass along the recipe.

I made BUTTER today and it was so… so… (I wish I knew more words) fabulous! So do you want to know what I had for dinner tonight? Toast with BUTTER! Don’t tell my nutritionist Lisa because she’ll give me the stink eye if she finds out that’s all I had for dinner tonight. On the flip side, it is raw butter.

It looks like BUTTER, it tastes like BUTTER and it acts like BUTTER. I made a big batch today and what I couldn’t scrape out of the food processor I used on my toast and I thought I’d died and gone to BUTTER heaven.

You see, one of the many challenges about becoming a vegan is learning to do without the things I was so accustomed to as a carnivore. Amongst them, BUTTER.

Butter plays an interesting role in most people’s diets and we don’t even realize what a staple it is until it becomes unavailable. From baking to basting, to sautéing to spreads, butter is an essential ingredient in cooking.

Rye toast made from homemade or freshly purchased bread slathered in butter is a wonderful treat, as is a baked potato with butter or popcorn with lots of butter. It’s so useful I didn’t realize how much I’d miss it until I could no longer use it.

But thanks to the interweb and its vast stores of knowledge, I need not suffer any longer.

Part of the reason why this recipe is so good is because it acts just like real butter, both when baking and cooking, and most importantly when used on toast. For baking especially, having a substitute that acts like butter can mean the different between great or ruined dish.

The only time this recipe could pose a problem is if one let’s the butter sit at room temperature. Coconut butter (oil) tends to become a liquid sooner than regular butter at room temperature so if you live in a warmer climate and don’t air condition your house to sub-zero temperatures, the butter is liable to separate and turn back into a liquid. For some dishes this isn’t a big problem. For other dishes or for presentation purposes it could be a big deal.

Besides that, the flavor from this recipe is superb – better than every single vegan butter I’ve tried. So in this way there’s no wrong or bad. The downside to this recipe is that refined, organic coconut butter is rather expensive. Some people don’t mind using unrefined, organic coconut butter but me, I do. In fact, to me this is a cardinal sin. Butter should taste like butter and not butter flavored with coconut. While I love all things coconut, I’m a purist when it comes to butter and I’m not compromising now that I’m a vegan.

If you were to serve this to others or non-vegans, they’d know it’s not real butter but they would like it nonetheless. No one I know that has tried this has disliked it and some didn’t even notice it wasn’t real butter.  Most ate it without comment.

After having made this recipe I will say that I highly recommend using liquid soy lecithin rather than the granules. I had to mail order the liquid lecithin but it was not expensive and came in a few days. And because so little is required for the recipe, you could probably make 103 batches of butter and still not run out.

Me, I am thankful beyond description I can enjoy my rye toast again for breakfast, with BUTTER!

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I’m a Vegan Now

For health reasons, on October 26, 2012, I decided to become a vegan. I went cold turkey and made the decision in a matter of hours, and haven’t looked back since.

What does it mean to become a vegan? Wikipedia defines veganism in part as:

Veganism (/ˈviːgənɪzəm/) is the practice of abstaining from the use of animal products, particularly in diet, as well as following an associated philosophy that rejects the commodity status of sentient animals.

While there are many forms of veganism, I consider myself to be a dietary vegan which means:

…refrain from consuming animal products, not only meat but, in contrast to ovo-lacto vegetarians, also eggs, dairy products and other animal-derived substances

When I made this decision I really didn’t have a choice. It was either suffer severely 24×7 or not suffer at all. It was quite simple really. Suffice to say that by the time October 26, 2012 rolled around, it was a very easy decision to make.

Prior to this I was a life long carnivore and had no problems eating any kind of meat or seafood, although in recent years I was already choosing to eat less meat and dairy anyway. To this day I have no problems with animals being killed for food. If the animals were raised by humans, I would only eat the meat if the animals were treated very well, raised without drugs, and killed humanely. While some might argue whether anything can be killed ‘humanely’, I believe that there is such a thing. I always went out of my way to ensure the meat I ate was raised well (usually locally), were given the nearly the same diet as the animal would have eaten if they were in the wild, and killed without suffering needlessly.

That said, almost a year later I’m still a vegan, mostly. I have to admit that I have cheated from time to time but I am working very hard on making the switch to being a full-time, non-cheating vegan. Obviously I’m still struggling but I’m making progress.

The results were amazing almost right away. If someone had told me how different I’d feel and how many things would change for the better I’d have laughed at them and shook my head in disbelief. But after having gone through this, here’s what I noticed:

  1. I lost over 50 pounds just by changing my diet, without exercising
  2. All of my compulsive behaviors centering around or involving food stopped
  3. I have an incredible amount of energy
  4. My depression seemed to just go away
  5. I slept better
  6. I felt better
  7. The health reasons that drove me to becoming a vegan have nearly disappeared
  8. My whole system of bodily functions works better than ever
  9. I ‘feel’ healthy. This is difficult to quantify and I can only say I feel so much better than before.
  10. Vegetables are what I crave now more than starches
  11. I don’t ever need to take a nap after a meal
  12. When I want sugar my first thoughts are to grab some fruit (though I don’t always do this)
  13. It’s very easy to resist the foods I used to eat, even when others around me are indulging
  14. Those few times when I ate non-vegan food, I really didn’t feel too well afterwards
  15. Those few times when I ate non-vegan food, I noticed my compulsions and cravings resumed almost immediately

At the same time I became a vegan, I also decided to eat organic foods as often as possible. Since purchasing organic food is more expensive than buying time on the first civilian joy ride to the moon, I started growing and preparing most of my own food. Additionally, since I sometimes question whether produce or products are truly organic or just labeled as such, it’s much easier to grow my own food from heirloom or hybrid seeds or reputable plant sellers.

To further my health and well-being I decided that I would no longer take any pharmaceuticals. While I have not taken any kind pharmaceuticals for a number of years, I realized that for every person I know (including myself) who had or were currently taking meds, the pharmaceuticals proved only to be a band-aid, and a very poor one at that. No one I knew had ever been cured or fixed by taking medications, with the exception perhaps of aspirin or ibuprofen from time to time. Pharmaceuticals certainly didn’t help me for the years I suffered terribly, so I just swore them off. In fact, I truly believe they may have hurt me more than the illnesses they were supposed to help. And just like having become a vegan, I haven’t looked back.

I will say that there may come a time when I will choose to take them again, but I am no longer a believer that anything good can come from being medicated every single day. I have come to learn through many years of researching and via my own personal experience, that there is a good chance is there is hardly any ailment that cannot be fixed by taking care of one’s self properly and consistently, which includes eating well, exercise and a positive and productive mindset. I’m not talking about a broken bone or a cut that requires stitches as these clearly require medical attention and pharmaceuticals. I’m talking about other kinds of ailments.

For the three major changes above (vegan, organic, no pharmaceuticals) I did seek the advice of a local nutritionist whom I have the utmost respect for. Should anyone decide to consider making these kinds of decisions I highly recommend they seek out professionals who are trained in nutrition and holistic medicines.

Now that I have experienced good health for the first time in almost 10 years, I can say with certainty I will never, ever consider “traditional” medicine or conventional food ever again. I have witnessed in myself and others too much improvement for me to believe otherwise.

So, a vegan I am and a vegan I will remain.

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Homemade Indian Food

Today I had the great privilege and honor of being invited to my friend Suneeta’s home for my very first lesson in preparing and cooking authentic, homemade Indian food. And what an incredible day we had.

Suneeta and I became acquainted through a mutual friend at the office via a sampling of one of her homemade Indian food dishes brought in for a potluck. Even before I took my first bite of the dish the aroma was so pleasant, so wonderful, that I knew the food was going to be at least as good as it smelled. And I wasn’t the least bit disappointed. Her dish was wonderful. The aromatic, complex flavors, the texture and visual appeal of her dish rivaled that of any Indian restaurant I’d been to.

After inhaling the sampling of food and raving incessantly about it, in jest I said that Suneeta could count me in amongst her students if she ever decided to offer cooking classes. Later that day my friend pitched the idea to Suneeta of giving some of us cooking lessons and she graciously agreed to have a few of us over so that we could learn to make homemade Indian food.

Wow – can you believe? What a wonderful thing for her to do for us.

How many times have you found yourself in an ethnic restaurant with food so fabulous you said to yourself that you’d gladly work in a place like that for free if only the owners would impart their generational knowledge, experience and techniques to you, and teach you the secrets of making truly great and authentic food? I’ve said that numerous times over the years and always wished I had an opportunity to learn to cook something other than the usual American and American-esq fare.

And now, Suneeta has kindly offered to bring us into her home and show a few of us how to prepare Indian food. So today, with cauliflower, tomatoes, potatoes, onions, green beans and cabbage in hand, I showed up to Suneeta’s and her family’s home and got straight to work.

Today’s menu includes sauteed cabbage, cauliflower korma, basmati rice, and learning how to prepare a few staple Indian spices.

Suneeta’s friend Sujatha joined us for today’s cooking lesson as well. And she too was very accommodating and helpful when we asked what I suspect were elementary questions about preparing today’s dishes.

First, I learned that there are some staple sauces and spices that Suneeta and Sujatha use in most of the dishes they make, as they had all of these on hand in great quantity. These are garlic-ginger paste, onion paste and green chili paste. They explained that these can be purchased in most any ethnic store but that they both prefer to make these from scratch as the flavor cannot be rivaled by buying the pre-made equivalents.

I learned too that tumeric is often added to recipes as a preservative and because many believe that is has numerous health benefits.

Garlic-Ginger Paste
1 cup ginger, grated or finely chopped
1 cup garlic, grated or finely chopped
A pinch of tumeric
½ tsp salt

In a food processor grind all ingredients into a paste. The ginger-garlic paste should last for a week or more in the refrigerator.

Green Chili Paste
Indian green chilies
Salt to taste

IndianGreenChilis

Remove the stems from the chilies and in a food processor grind the peppers and salt into a medium to fine paste (a few small chunks are acceptable). The green chili paste should last for a week or more in the refrigerator.

Onion Paste
Extra onions can be added to the korma, cauliflower or rice dishes and removed after they’re medium to dark brown and used to make the onion paste. This can be done at the same time the main dishes are being made.

1 cup onions, sautéed until medium to dark brown and cooled
1/8 cup almonds
1/8 cup cashews
1 tsp ground coconut

In a food processor combine the almonds and cashews and grind into a fine paste. Then add the coconut and grind some more, then the cooled sautéed onions and grind until all the ingredients are combined.

With the sauces made we were ready to begin cooking.

Our first dish was sautéed cabbage. Up until today I would have told anyone that I don’t like cabbage. In fact, I’d have said that I hate it.

My disdain for this vegetable could stem from the roommate I used to have who used to cook cabbage all too often. On cabbage days, the overwhelming stench assaulted my olfactory receptors and permeated the entire living area well into the next day. I was tempted one day to ask how he prepared his signature dish but I was afraid the offer to try some might have followed my query, so I nixed that idea almost as soon as I thought of it.

Or it could be from the many times I felt pressured to eat cole slaw made with a ratio of 15 parts mayonnaise to 1 part cabbage, sitting in a puddle of liquid of unknown origin. To this day cole slaw remains wholly unappetizing to me. Over the years I’ve tasted it from time to time hoping maybe it would seem better to me but that hasn’t happened yet.

It’s quite possible too that the problems started well before adulthood, when I was forced as a helpless babe to eat boiled cabbage with no discernible spices or flavoring of any kind. Regardless, I was certain that I hated cabbage and that was the end of that.

Until that is, Suneeta and Sujatha showed us how they prepare it.

Sautéed Cabbage
1 cup olive oil
1 medium russet potato, chopped into medium size chunks
1 head cabbage with the outer leaves removed, finely chopped
1 small onion, chopped
1 cup peas
1 tsp. cumin seeds
3 Tbls. (or to taste) green chili paste
½ tsp. turmeric
1 tsp. salt

On medium high, heat the oil and then add onions and cook until they are medium to dark brown. Add the green chili paste and stir, cooking for about 5 minutes. Add the cabbage and potatoes and cook for about 10 minutes, stirring to mix well.

SauteedCabbage

Add the turmeric and salt, mix well, cover and cook until the potatoes are almost done, about 20 minutes. Then add the peas, stir and cook until done.

I knew as we were cooking this that it was going to be quite good, even with my lingering cruciferous vegetable trepidation. It wasn’t until today that I realized that cabbage could actually taste good! This dish had a nice, mild flavor and the green chili paste gave it a pleasant but not an overwhelming spicy bite. The texture of the potatoes contrasted well with the cabbage, and I found that it was a light but very satisfying meal. I will definitely be making this dish again.

Up next was the cauliflower dish. Korma roughly translates to stew, and most kormas I’ve had tended to be on the thicker side, which I prefer.

Cauliflower Korma
1 cup olive oil
2 onions, chopped
1/8-1/4 cup onion paste
2 Tbls. ginger garlic paste
2 cups green beans, cut into 1” lengths
1 small potato, cubed
1 tsp. turmeric
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. chili powder
2 tomatoes, chopped
1 head cauliflower, chopped
2 tsp. garam masala
2 tsp. coriander powder

On medium high, heat the oil and then add onions and cook until they are medium to dark brown. Add onion paste and ginger-garlic paste to sautéed onions and stir well and cook for about 5 minutes. Add green beans, potatoes, turmeric, salt, chili powder and stir. Add tomatoes (and more water if necessary) and stir.

CauliflowerKorma

Cover and cook for 10 minutes. Add the cauliflower and cook for another 10 minutes, stirring frequently. Add the garam masala, coriander powder, salt, and stir. Cook until the potatoes are done.

CauliflowerKorma1

Basmati Rice
1 cup olive oil
1 small onion, chopped
2 tsp. ginger-garlic paste
1 cup peas
1 cup chopped carrots
6 cups basmati rice
2 tsp. Biryani Masala
Water for rice (1 cup water for each 1.5 cups rice)

On medium high, heat the oil and then add onions and cook until they are medium to dark brown. Add the Biryani masala and the ginger-garlic paste, stir and cook for about 5 minutes. Add the peas and carrots and stir until blended. Add the rice and water to a rice cooker, then and add the sautéed mixture and stir to combine all the ingredients. Cook the rice until done.

BasmatiRice

The cauliflower korma with its spicy sauce went especially well with the Basmati rice. Suneeta and Sujatha explained to me that raita is added on top of the rice just before the meal is done. The reason is that the raita helps cools the palette after the spicy korma and cabbage dishes. Besides the functionality of the raita, it’s just really, really good on rice.

Raita
1 onion, chopped
1/8 cup carrots, chopped
2 cups yogurt
1/8 cup cucumbers (optional)
Salt

Mix all the ingredients well and serve on top of the basmati rice, towards the end of the meal.

I had a delightful afternoon with my new friends cooking, talking, learning, asking questions, snapping photos, and most especially eating! It’s a rare thing these days to be invited into someone’s home and feel so comfortable, to be around people who have the most genuine and gentlest of souls, with smiles that exude happiness, love and peace, and spend time together doing the simplest of things – cooking.

Sujatha_and_Suneeta

Sujatha and Suneeta, I thank you for a wonderful afternoon.

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The End Of The World

As tomorrow is the end of the world and all, I just wanted to make sure I got a chance to say good bye to everyone formally. Everyone, it’s been my greatest pleasure knowing you.

As I usually do on days when I don’t have to work, I will be at THE BEACH well before sunrise. Tomorrow though I’ll go extra early so I can celebrate the winter solstice there. I mean, on the off chance aliens are hovering over the Atlantic at 6:12 am, they’ll easily recognize my superior intellect and beam me up so as to avoid the cataclysms that will surely plague the Earth and all it’s lesser beings.

Since I am unsure as to the exact nature of tomorrow’s demise – if it’s not aliens, I will bring my boogie board to the beach with me just in case tomorrow’s end is met with a tsunami. It’ll be the best surf JAX Beach will ever see and I’d be a fool not to bring it. If the swell is decent I’m thinking I might be able to catch waves on Beach Boulevard and ride them all the way over the Acosta bridge. Getting back home may be a bit of hike though.

If the end is via an earthquake I’ve got that covered too. I just bought me a pair of those Skyrunner bounce shoes. All I can say to an earthquake along the New Madrid, Ramapo or the East Coast fault line is BRING IT! Ever see those old Looney Tunes cartoons with Wile E. Coyote and his ACME products? Yeah. That’ll be me only without the epic fails.

If tomorrow’s end of the world is via a comet, asteroid or other celestial object, I’m good. I purchased a military, hybrid, nano technology fire blanket with build in fire resistant gel, easy-seal enclosure and a sentry viewing window. It even comes with a complimentary liter of water and a compass, so surely I won’t perish.

On the off change the Earth an all its usual inhabitants are still here come January 1st, anyone who is mentally retarded is welcome to join me in this years Polar Plunge in Jacksonville Beach (9:00 am, south side of the pier). You have to put your head under water else it doesn’t count. For those of you crazy enough to join me let me know ahead of time and I’ll make a big pot of hot tea for when we get out of the water.

I figure I’m as prepared as I can be for tomorrow’s apocalypse including not having paid any of my December bills. But with tomorrow’s imminent destruction at hand I find myself looking back at my life and smiling at all the things I haven’t thought about in years. Or decades, even.

Neil, I’m sorry my dog ate all your expensive golf balls. I never did reimburse you for those.

Sue, I’m sorry I accidentally told you some years ago who won America Idol via text message prior to the show’s airing when in my excitement and surprise I accidentally forgot you were on one coast and I on the other.

Mike, the garage door thing – that was pretty funny. I didn’t laugh about it then because it didn’t seem appropriate at the time. It’s really funny now though.

PW, the “you don’t know me” incident is still one of the funniest memories I have from back then. That and the racquet ball thing.

Bruno, it’s hilarious when I think about the “I’m a varsity oarsman!” incident on the beach in Santa Barbara. I think those frat guys really took themselves seriously – LOL. It’s funny that we didn’t.

Lisa, I will always smile when I think about that time we almost ended up on the ten o’clock news when you, Terry and I almost got lost hiking in the Gorge in the winter.

Ken, my falling on my back side while hunting for abalone hurt like a mother. Thanks for picking pieces of shells out of my palms.

Daryl, remember that martial arts seminar we went to? As a black belt I’d expect you to always protect certain body parts. Had I known you weren’t I would never have kicked that hard. I’m sorry, man.

James, it was not funny when I about drowned kayaking. Well, not at the time anyhow. It would have been easier for me if you weren’t laughing your back side off while saving me. I haven’t gone kayaking since then, thank you very much.

Mark, I had no idea a water balloon that didn’t break would leave such a welt. At least there was no scarring.

Bob, thanks for reading my “work” emails with a smile and not telling anyone how I really feel.

Matthew, I really miss us going out for margaritas at lunch.

Happy end of the world everyone!

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Dearest Netflix

I believe I have gotten one of my dearest friends very interested in my new favorite TV show.

Once Upon a Time.

I can’t miss this show!  Now mind you, the tele is off approximately 95% of the time or more, and I don’t have cable or satellite.  I just have an old school antenna mounted under the eaves.  Really, I can’t stand network television.  Especially the commercials.  How anyone can sit and watch the tele for hours on end is beyond me.  But every now and again I get to watch a good movie or get into a really good new show, and indulge for an hour or two a week.

My friend wasn’t aware of this new show and she decided to watch it for the first time last week when the network broadcast last year’s pilot episode just before the beginning of season two.

I cannot describe how elated I was to find that she too was quite taken with it.  Now I have another person with whom I can talk and discuss how much I love hating Regina (who ever cast her for the role of the Evil Queen needs a significant raise), how much I like Jiminy Cricket, and how I’m not the least bit happy that Graham was killed.

But my friend has a whole season to catch up on as the new season starts in two weeks or so.  She said she ordered some Once Upon a Time discs from Netflix but they haven’t arrived yet, which as you know is highly unacceptable.  So I took the liberty of sending an email to the CEO of Netflix on my friend’s behalf so she can catch up on season one before season two starts.

Dearest Mr. Hastings,

While I am sure you are busy with your CEO duties, I must make you aware of an urgent situation that merits your attention and warrants immediate action.

As you are most certainly aware, the new season of Once Upon a Time starts on September 30th, 2012.  Though I am late to the game it is essential that I catch up on season one before season two starts.

Apparently, the queue system developed by Netflix does not take this urgency into account as I have not yet received discs one and two.  A review of your algorithms are clearly in order and I will overlook this logistical inconsistency as long as I at least get disc one by Tuesday, Sept. 18th.

Given the split fees debacle you ushered in some months ago causing Netflix subscriptions to plummet and existing users to drop subscriptions faster than the Mars rover Curiosity’ decent, coupled with the fact that your stock prices fell further than James Cameron’s voyage to the Challenger Deep trough, I feel that it is in your and your company’s best interest to – at the very least, express mail me the first two discs of season one of Once Upon a Time.

I want to remain a loyal customer but as you know, there must be a beneficial two way relationship and for this to occur.  I do not believe I am asking much.  I have not asked for anything extraordinary until now and given the upcoming premier of season two, time is of the essence.

Should I not receive the first two discs of OUaT by Tuesday, you can expect another dropped subscription.  With that let me wish you well in your next employment endeavor.

Respectfully.

Given the seriousness of the matter, I think that email was appropriate.  Not too harsh, but forceful.  Not too condescending, but factual.

As of today, not only has my friend not received the first two discs of season one but Mr. Hastings apparently has better things to do than focus on customer service or answer customer’s emails.  I find this shocking as do you I’m sure but nonetheless, the situation remains dire.

I do hope that the discs will be delivered tomorrow.  While it’s unlikely, I am the optimistic type.

 

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Vitamins

After feeling a bit run down for a while I took the advice of one of my friends and decided to embark upon the vitamins journey.  I did this because I know that my diet is not well-balanced, I don’t eat enough veggies and I still eat too much frankenfood.  So after having a long discussion with my friend and doing a bit of research I decided to start off by taking some vitamins, daily.

After having done that for a few weeks, here are my thoughts on the matter.

Apparently, the people who make vitamins have never actually studied human anatomy.  Or they have and they’re just a bunch of sadists.  And I’m certain the makers of vitamins don’t actually take vitamins because if they did they wouldn’t make pills the size of avocados.  Do they have to be that large?   Really?  What – you can’t make smaller vitamins and have us take a few more?

And what’s with that smell?!  How can something that’s supposed to be good for you smell so bad?

Do the people who make vitamins, are they the same people who make sulfur?  Ammonia?  Skunk spray?  Limburger cheese?  Do these folks work with the military to create non-lethal olfactory weapons?  Are you telling me that it never occurred to anyone to add some essential oils or other aromatic substance to the vitamins to curb that malodorous smell just a tad?  I really don’t think that’s asking a whole lot.  I’d pay a few bucks more for vitamins without that noxious odor.

I’ve even tried holding the bottle with my arms fully extended and then removing the cap but alas, the stench is still too great.  So much so that they’re almost not worth taking. But I’ve found a solution to avoid that fetid vitamin smell and so far it’s working pretty well.

I bought a pro series, high performance 42” belt driven, two-speed, 1/2 HP industrial fan with a spin rate of about 450 rpm.  Just before it’s time to take my vitamins I turn the fan on high and stand with either my left or right side directly in front of it.  Then I open the bottle, grab a few vitamins, and quickly pop them in my mouth followed by a big gulp of coconut – pineapple juice and swallow.  Voila!  No more smell.  My electric bill has increased ever so slightly due to the fan but it’s a small price that I am very willing to pay.

Regardless of the mortal danger I am in trying to swallow Jurassic vitamins I have to say that for me these seemed to have helped me feel a bit better. It’s not like I’m a whole new me as I had hoped but I am tad less tired.

So as long as the fan runs well, viva la vitamins!

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The Beach – Part 7

Kawabunga, y’all!

It’s spring time finally, and the Siberia like, arctic, colder than outer space temperatures – in the 50’s, are long behind us here on the First Coast. We’ve been enjoying balmy highs in the 70’s and low 80’s for the last few weeks. Which is a really great thing because just you try to find a stocking cap and gloves in Florida. It ain’t happening.

So I’m driving home the other day and I hear the ice cream truck nearby. They haven’t changed a bit since I was a kid, except for prices. This one had music that sounded like it was recorded on a cassette tape 37 years ago, played through an old school drive-in like speaker, with the sound quality of a 1930’s gramaphone. I couldn’t tell you the song I first heard, but what caught my ear was all of a sudden the song switched to Henry Mancini’s Pink Panther theme. The driver has excellent taste in music! I’m sitting at a stop light now looking for this ice cream truck because I’m dying to see the person driving, the one whose taste in music was really interesting given his day job and albeit strange for an ice cream truck. As the light turns green I inch forward only to spot the ice cream truck coming out of a side street about half a block a way.

You’re not going to believe this. You’ll think I’m making this up but I’m not.

As I drive past the ice cream truck I swear the driver was Ed! Obsessive compulsive Ed from the pizza joint. I couldn’t believe it. I did a double take as I drove past him and I could swear that it was him. I recognized the hair first, his posture next and of course the unusually clean arms. Oh, I laughed so hard. I figured he’d go back to Atlanta after being banished from Cabo Island Pizza, but looks like he stayed here.

And that reminds me. I have bad, bad new for y’all. Me – I’m devastated. I can’t believe this is happening. I found out on Tuesday night when I was at trivia. Cabo Island Pizza and Surf Museum is closing this Saturday. THE HORROR!

That’s my favorite place in South JAX Beach! They show surfing movies 24×7. They’re walking distance from where I live!! I’ll go there one last time, watch surfing videos and hope the next folks to buy the place re-open it as a surf museum. I’m sorry most of my friends didn’t get down here in time to visit that place. It’s an iconic pizza joint here at the beach. Gosh. I don’t want to believe they’re closing. I have no idea what I’ll do now that my hang out is no more. They’ve even been known to get people home who are too hammered to walk or drive even. I’m not saying that happened to me or anything. I’m just saying.

RIP Cabo’s.

A few weeks ago I went to the JAX Beach Seafood Festival. I was really excited. This was the first seafood festival I attended on the East coast and it was really fun. As expected, I walked along the beach to get to the Pavillion where all the fun stuff was happening. And because it was such a nice day there were all kinds of people out there.

I saw a man who looked to be about 93, with a beer belly that’d make Budweiser proud – or embarrassed I’m not sure, a pure white full beard and mustache down to about his belly button, beach combing with his metal detector and a HUGE drink on his waist holder drink thingie, wearing a red Speedo. You know I wouldn’t lie about such things. I tried to look away but I couldn’t. I just couldn’t. oh, how I wish I had my camera!

Then I saw a guy with dreadlocks that were so long they dragged on the ground behind him. He wasn’t the least bit offended when I said I wasn’t interested in hearing about God just then. Maybe later, but not right now. He walked along with the biggest, most genuine smile, and talked to or said hello to everyone he passed.

And of course, there are the kids trying to learn how to use a skin board for the first time. I swear, parents do this on purpose just to be entertained or to submit the videos to AFV. For those of you who don’t know what a skin board is, it’s a flat piece of wood you throw ahead of you on about one inch of water, give or take. As the board is moving away from you, you run and jump on it and you can ride on the skin board about 20 feet or so if you land on it right. If you don’t land on it the correctly you either break your pelvis landing or you face plant really, really hard.

Well, there were kids-a-plenty on the beach that day and near everyone one of them had a skin board. You know it’s bad when you’re five feet away or so and you can feel the thud when the child lands after having fallen off the skin board. The good news is that they’re small, lower to the ground and lighter than adults. But still. Those were some tough kids. Brush them off, and off they go again.

And you know what else is way cool about going to the beach? The kids. Children playing in the water or in the sand is never a dull moment. Not ever. It’s fun to watch a group of them. One screams, then they all scream. One runs, then they all run. Then they scream some more, then back into the water they wade and play. And boy, do they take pride in their sand creations! Kids are absolutely adorable at the beach.

When I finally got to the Seafood Festival there was a band already playing, and there were hundreds of people milling about. And this is only about noon-ish. The usual vendors were there, people selling incense (I bought some patchouli), Rasta stuff, candles, and hemp clothing. I just loved walking around the festival! The seafood part – that was actually a little disappointing. After carefully considering my options I ultimately decided for the coconut shrimp. When the vendor handed me four shrimp on a stick I about had an aneurysm when the guy said, “Ten dollars please”. I don’t know what I was expecting exactly, but I wasn’t prepared for that. Ten bucks for four shrimp?

Did I just turn into my parents right then…?

I suppose if the food was good I wouldn’t have minded so much but it tasted like it came straight from the freezer. There were several vendors whose signs read, “Fresh Mayport Shrimp” but I can say with certainty, “fresh” shrimp do not have the same texture as the kind of shrimp you have to chip the ice off of after taking it out of the freezer. Sure. All seafood is “fresh” at some point, but this stuff wasn’t fresh from the ocean today. Or yesterday. So rather than get any more food I decided to hit up the beer tent instead. Though I’m not much of a Budweiser fan (that was all they had) it was nice and cold. I continued to walk around some more enjoying the sights and sounds and later meandered home via the beach.

I actually went swimming earlier that day too, for just a short while. While 62 degree water temperature doesn’t sound too cold, I can assure you it really, truly is. Especially if I’m not moving constantly. I haven’t been back in since autumn of last year but it’s up to 64 degrees now and holding, so I’m guessing I’ll give it a try this weekend. I cannot wait to get back in the water regularly!

As with the crazy party crowds I’ve mentioned, I thought that after these last few weeks I’d keep a running total of interesting things I find in or around my yard. I found a pipe, a dead fish, Waffle House left overs, a brake light cover, and an armadillo. The armadillo was alive and well and scared the heck out of me at five something in the morning. I didn’t even know we had armadillos here. I have a frog that lives in my garden and he’s there regularly. I named it Erebos since I only see him in the dark. There was also a four foot plus snake, which I believe was not poisonous.

I learned the hard way the other day to never do yard work in flip flops. Apparently, we have a rather large snake population, which I discovered firsthand while trimming a hedge the pampas grass. Fortunately we only have about three kinds that are poisonous and I doubt the snakes living in my pampas grass were poisonous. But the size of some of the snakes were a bit startling. It’s a good thing I don’t mind snakes else I’d have been on the five o’clock news.

JAX Beach has a lot of fun stuff coming up! The Jazz Festival is this weekend, all weekend, as well as a surfing contest both Saturday and Sunday. Guess where I’ll be? We have a beach volleyball tournament on the weekend of the 9th, a sand castle contest on the weekend of the 16th, another surf tournament on May 7th with a “fish rodeo” on the same day (I’m not sure how that works exactly), followed by another beach volleyball tournament on May 15th, and starting May 20th, the Moonlight Movie series starts!!! Those are free movies they play outdoors at the Pavilion on the beach.

As soon as I start swimming I’m sure I’ll have some way more interesting things to tell y’all.

Posted in Humor, Local, The Beach | Comments Off on The Beach – Part 7