Walking Distance

When I was 9 years old I had a favorite paperback book called “Stories from the Twilight Zone”, a book of short stories based on the skin and bones for sketches produced on the TV program of the same name.
I had a favorite called “Walking Distance”, the story of a tired middle aged business man that leaves the big city one weekend and simply drives in an effort to get away from his job and the Rat Race in general.
His car breaks down and he gets towed to a local garage for repairs when he sees a road sign for the town he grew up in years ago.
He asks how far it is to the town and is told, “It’s walking distance.”
He enters the Twilight Zone and walks into his hometown of 40 years ago where his mother and father are still alive.

It’s funny that I was falling for these kinds of tender stories when I was ten.
Yeah, I was a weird kid, huh?
Much of my writing loosely falls into the same sentimental category. Go figure.
I started thinking about the last good day I had with my mother and father, sadly the memory has vanished deep into the recesses of my own scattered mind.
The ‘moment’ did happen though when I came to a realization that I could never get those moments back; accepting the idea was painfully difficult but I knew it had to be done.
It occurred to me that I began saying goodbye to the individual pieces of both of them, various facets of their personalities, phrases they often used and the stories they loved to tell.

I remember fruitlessly trying to pull my mother back into my world with my “remember when” queries that all too quickly lost their magical powers.
If I’ve learned anything at all from their tragic situation it’s that life is about seizing moments, grabbing them by whatever means possible and never ever letting them go.
I only wish I’d realized that fifteen years ago, wish I’d accepted their fates sooner, if that makes sense.
But I’m only human and I desperately wanted to believe otherwise.
If I could have several more hours with both of them it would be spent on the back deck of the Goodbye House’.
It would be a warm but comfortable summer night with nothing but a cricket soundtrack and a deep, orange creamsicle sunset off to the West.
My father would be standing by the grill wearing his signature wrinkled Bermuda shorts (or were they seersucker? God forbid), sans shirt with his pot belly exposed to the world with a can of Busch beer in his hand as he flipped burgers and hot dogs.
My mother would be flitting around the kitchen like some culinary Tasmanian devil putting the finishing touches on one of her ‘signature’ desserts.
We wouldn’t be talking about anything in particular; it would just be like it once was.
But it would be different to me because I would mentally file away and lock every smile, every laugh, and every taste and smell living inside that one bittersweet summer evening.
And I would remember all of it again, if I had one more chance.
Maybe the truth of the matter is that those memories are never very far away; in fact they’re easily accessible because wherever I am, ‘home’ is always close by.
Actually, it’s walking distance . . .

~m

One Happy Mick

Our sense of smell is acute and amazingly discerning allowing us to associate aromas and smells with our seemingly unlimited banks of memory.
How about the smell of a box of crayons?
Yeah, that’s a good one.
How many wonderful memories can you come up with there?
I thought so.

I think the holidays tend to elicit the strongest evoking power for obvious reasons.

  • Christmas = peppermint, balsam, sweet baked goods and . . .
  • Thanksgiving = roasted turkey, cranberries, cinnamon,
    clove and . . .
  • Easter = floral scent (Easter lily), marshmallow peeps (yes, they have a scent), hard-boiled eggs (alright, not so good)
  • Saint Patrick’s Day = corned beef and cabbage

When my mother was alive and well no Paddy’s Day went by without her making the Irish dish.
I’ve missed riding out to the house knowing full well my mother would have a pot full of it on the stove and delight in stuffing me silly.
Her corned beef would be cooking all day long and truth be told it must have taken weeks to get the cabbage stink out of the place.
It’s remembering days like those when I really start to miss her.

I worked the entire weekend and had no time to stink the fill the house up with those sacred aromas (you’re welcome, sweet Irish daughters ‘o mine).
It looked like I might go without this year and I must say it thoroughly depressed me.
Murphy + Saint Patrick’s Day = Irish Turkey and a freshly poured Guinness Stout
There’s a restaurant in Boston called Jacob Wirth’s and it’s said to be one of the oldest in the city. Someone mentioned that they may possibly be serving the traditional dish. (Check their link and read the menu. Yeah, huh?)
I called and sure enough, it was on the menu.
Knowing how popular this restaurant is, I had my doubts as to whether I’d actually get a seat.
I opened the old creaky doors and spied an open spot at the bar and immediately sat down.
Perfect, I thought. (And ironically it was right in front of that beautiful Guinness spigot)
The bartender promptly brought me a menu which I politely pushed away, “No need for that; Corned Beef and Cabbage, please.”
I asked for a large ice water but changed my mind when I saw him pour a Guinness with a 2″ frothy head.
He served me my dear Stout and I raised it slightly to the heavens and toasted my Madre for the many years of awesome corned beef and cabbage dinners.

My meal came minutes later and I dug in.

If you’re wondering how my lunch was, it wasn’t like my mother’s but the last place I wanted to go was back to work.
I wanted to stay at Wirth’s forever.

As they say, all good things must come to an end.

I left Jake’s with a stomach full of Irish Turkey and one heavenly Guinness under my belt.
And I was one happy Mick . . .

~m

you will know

I saw this and thought, “What a perfect Christmas post.”
Stuart Shepherd is a good looking and compassionate man but sorry ladies, he’s married.
This will probably be my last post until after Christmas so I’ll wish all of you a day of blessings, good cheer and the surroundings of family.
Christmas Eve may briefly call me back to the blog.
We’ll see . . .
Don’t forget to make the French Toast Casserole
for Christmas morning breakfast. Awesome.
If you don’t make it, you’re missing out on some very serious and delicious calories. (Yoiks!)
Merry Christmas!

paz, folks . . .

~m

Pamela’s Dirty Snowballs

I can’t say enough about these little rascals.
You just can’t stop eating them.
And I’m sure you don’t believe me.
So make a batch and let me know.
These bastards are way worse than a bag of Lay’s Potato Chips in terms of compulsive “eatability”.

1/4 pound butter (none of that “can’t believe it’s not butter” shit ~m)
1 package chopped dates
(buy decent chopped dates in plastic containers, like the ones they sell at the deli. Not sure how much is in a package or plastic container, but I usually just use one container or box. Make sure you get the chopped dates, not the whole dates, and if they have sugar on them that’s alright.)
1 egg beaten

3/4 cup sugar

1 teaspoon vanilla

2 cups Rice Krispies

1 cup chopped walnuts

2 bags coconut
(I usually double this recipe when I make themgood advice, ~m)

Put first five ingredients in a large pot on the stove (spaghetti pot), melt and bring to a low boil.
You should stay close and stir quite often so it won’t burn.
Once it is all melted and it comes to a low boil (it will take awhile, you will see the mixture start to bubble), you can turn off the heat and move the pot to a pot holder or another burner and add the Rice Krispies and nuts and stir until it is combined.
You then lay out wax paper and cover it with shredded coconut.
You want the mixture to still be warm so the coconut sticks to the ball.
(God, I love this recipe ~m)
Roll them into balls about the size of meatballs.
You can actually make them as big or small as you like.
(I usually use rubber gloves when I make them because it seems easier to me because the mixture is so sticky, but you don’t have to be.)
Roll the balls in the coconut and push the coconut onto the ball.
Sometimes this is frustrating because it seems like the coconut is not sticking so well, but you can always sprinkle the leftover coconut on top of the snowballs when you are finished making them.
You can either put them on a plate or in a container and sprinkle the remainder of the coconut on top.
Put them in Christmas tins and sprinkle the leftover coconut on top.
They are not hard to make, just very messy.
Enjoy, folks.
Merry Christmas!

~p

Recipes of the heart

It was a cold, brisk November night several weeks ago that Pamela and I went out to dinner (a rare occasion), not an expensive “date” by any means; a burger and a shared salad along with a few Shipyard Pumpkin Ales which were quite good, one or two and you’ve had your fill of this delicately spiced brew.
Maybe it was the up and coming holidays that turned on the “memory” faucet for me but for some reason I began thinking about my mother. (big surprise, huh?)
When I think about her, I really miss talking to her.
I wonder if that feeling will ever stop?
The two just go together, I guess.

It was no surprise that I found myself on Sunday afternoon making a big pot of Beef Stew, a recipe that I adopted from her.
The simple act of cooking something she used to make brings her back to me, in a quiet and introspective kind of way.
She’s almost standing next to me in the kitchen and to be honest, I love it.
Strange, huh? Not really.
After Thanksgiving dinner, I found a great seat on our “way too comfortable” living room couch and joined my daughters while they watched “Ratatouille”, the Disney flick (and a real good one at that).
I’m not giving anything away regarding the movie but now and then souls and memories intersect for reasons unknown.
This simple children’s movie spoke to me deeply.
Sheesh. It’s Dizzney.
Go figure. (one scene in particular)
Should you ever care to watch it, maybe you’ll understand where I’m coming from, maybe not.
I’ll just say that special dishes are such a beautiful and lasting thing in terms of our deepest fields of memory.
Our minds literally refuse to forget the special foods we ate and loved as children.
They bring us back.
Way back.

It was no surprise to me that the beef stew came out as good as it did.
The simple act of re-creating a recipe my mom once made me feel so good.
Maybe she had more to do with the end result of the beef stew than I did.
I like to think of it that way, anyway . . .

~m

ps.
My mom’s beef stew recipe is up for grabs for anyone that wants it.
If there’s enough interest, I’ll post it here at S&M.

Marinated ‘Shrooms

Thanksgiving is next Thursday.
If you like fungi, check out my own recipe.
3/4 cup vegetable oil
1/2 cup Cider vinegar
1 tsp salt
1 tsp sugar
basil leaves
peppercorns
crushed red pepper flake
1 clove of garlic, crushed
2-3 bay leaves
Heat all to a boil and simmer 1o mins
Add 1 lb to 1 1/2 lbs cleaned, sliced mushrooms
Simmer for 3-5 minutes.
Cool and serve.
These ‘shrooms rule.

~m

Marinated 'Shrooms

Thanksgiving is next Thursday.
If you like fungi, check out my own recipe.
3/4 cup vegetable oil
1/2 cup Cider vinegar
1 tsp salt
1 tsp sugar
basil leaves
peppercorns
crushed red pepper flake
1 clove of garlic, crushed
2-3 bay leaves
Heat all to a boil and simmer 1o mins
Add 1 lb to 1 1/2 lbs cleaned, sliced mushrooms
Simmer for 3-5 minutes.
Cool and serve.
These ‘shrooms rule.

~m

Just Evyl and me

Evyl and I have decided to offer our services to all the gentlemen types currently surfing the web looking for something interesting to read, watch or do.
We’ve started something of a manblog to be sure but it has so much more to offer than that.
At Evyl and Smoke there will be no syrupy sweet posts, no sentimentality and a no holds barred policy; a very different place than here at Smoke and Mirrors.
Oh, and absolutely ‘no bullshit’.
This is a place where I can let my hair down
(funny, so to speak, even though we’re two guys with cueball noggins)
Women, cigars, sports, beer, booze, good eats, guy gripes and chili recipes will rule the roost.
Both of us aren’t quite sure where this thing will go but it’s been a blast so far and we’ve decided to finally go public with it.
We’ll leave it up to you as far as linking to us.
We are, first and foremost, gentlemen. 😉
BTW- We decided on an anonymous system in terms of posting and commenting thinking it might offer a bit of devious fun because you’ll never really know who is who.
I’m honored beyond belief to team up with the likes of Evyl.
He pulls no punches yet you always know where you stand.
For now, I’ll just welcome you to our new abode: Evyl and Smoke
Stop by and at least say hi.
And yes, it’s most definitely a guy thing.
And that’s alright by me . . .

~m

Sherlock's Doppelganger

I was sent an email from my good writing friend Deb Woehr.
The email had some truly amazing pictures.
I sent it to many people.
If you didn’t get a copy, leave a comment and I’ll send it on to you.
What amazed me ( and my wife) was the picture above.
I swear to God, it looks exactly like my male cat, Sherlock!
Maybe it’s his identical twin; a feline doppelganger of sorts.
Too cool.
I’m off next week and plan on reading, writing, drinking some beer, smoking some good cigars, watching some movies, raking some leaves and cooking alot.
(a pot of Guinness Chili is already on my mind)
Sarah has been bugging me for Chicken Parm. (on its way, for sure)
I’m off starting Sunday but on Monday I truly start my “vacation” with a massage from my good friend and fellow blogger Yvonne.
Good God, I can’t wait. {and she knows that :0)}
Not sure what’s up for the blog but chances are I’ll be around in some capacity.
Have a great weekend, folks.
Go Sox! Go Pats! Go Celts! Go Bruins!
It’s great to be from New England these days . . .

~m