Monday, November 27, 2006

Thirty Five Years

Today is the first day of deer season in Pennsylvania and I’m not there.

Since 1971, my father and I would spend a few days every year hunting white-tailed deer at a cabin we built together near Kettle Creek, Pennsylvania. Our cabin is small, heated only by a wood stove, and it doesn’t have electricity or running water. We had lots of time for telling stories, with our easy chairs pulled up close to the wood stove.

We told the same stories every year. Tales of past hunts. The shots we made. The deer we missed. Stories about getting lost and finding our way back. Stories about friends and relatives.

We shared stories over those 35 years about living life, our shared work as engineers, stories about our shared military service. Dad was drafted into the Army right after the Korean War and I did my time in the Air Force 20 years later. The last couple of years, my son Stosh joined us to carry on our tradition.

I grew up hunting with my Dad. Our goal was not necessarily to bag a buck. Friends at work laughed when I returned home from deer hunting without a deer year after year. The last decade, as he entered his 70’s and me, my 40’s, a deer would have had to hop into the bed of my Dad’s pick-up truck and turned broadside for one of us to pull the trigger. Our trips were about so much more than hunting.

My Dad passed away suddenly this year on September 16th. Our last conversation was about getting a gun ready for Stosh to use today. When I rushed the 300 miles to his home on the night he died, I found that he had already gotten that gun ready.

This fall has been hectic, so Stosh and I couldn’t hunt this week. But next year you will find us at the little cabin near Kettle Creek, carrying on a tradition of sharing hunting stories and learning about each other. We will also pass a few, long, fall nights together close to the wood stove remembering those that came before us.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Scrapple Insult Raises Intercity Tensions

WE have a heap of trouble cooking on Laurel Ave. You see, food and culture are important to us Laurelites. We don't want anyone insulting our culture by way of insulting our favorite foods.

As much as it embarrasses me to admit it, my wife Joanne eats scrapple. She loves the stuff. She even passed on this genetic flaw to our children. It turns out that my neighbor Eric is also a connoisseur of this rendered hog offal and cornmeal, aka scrapple.

I guess it makes sense that they both would be familiar with this midatlantic pork mush. Joanne was raised by native Washingtonians. Eric grew up in the shadow of the Delaware Bay Bridge in Wilmington. I've read that scrapple is only consumed in eastern PA, MD, and DE.

I'm from northeastern Ohio and I never heard of scrapple before moving to Laurel. Honestly, the thought of eating scrapple makes me want to do something painful. Like maybe live through the 21st district election all over again wearing a campaign sign.

But can anyone seriously enjoy ground up pig parts? I mean think about it, scrapple is made from the parts of the pig that the sausage guy didn't dare use. No thanks, I'm happy with just good old fashioned bacon.

Eric and Joanne are incensed over a scrapple cooking insult that Eric experienced this past weekend during a motorcycle trip to Westminster, MD. It turns out that the Plum Crazy Diner prepares scrapple by deep frying it. Can you imagine? And to add indignity to this porcine insult, they also suggested that he drizzle on a bit of maple syrup!

Eric and Joanne are now preparing to lay siege to the Plum Crazy Diner and possibly to the entire City of Westminster for this gross breach of scrapple etiquette.

Thank goodness that Laurel's Tastee Diner knows how to properly prepare scrapple...smashed and burned. And Tastee's super waitress Patty, would never even joke about putting maple syrup on scrapple.

Remember the Rapa Brand!

Westminster, you have been warned. Don't mess with Laurel.

Feel free to share your scrapple tributes in the comments section.

Saturday, November 11, 2006

Peaceful Palette

Don’t you love the way they smell? Is it more of a musty or a dusty smell? Or is it just the memories of blue sky, crisp air and being at peace with the earth? Throwing great fistfuls of them into the air and leaping into a pile are some of life’s great joys. Even if your pushing fifty instead of five.

Short work with a rake and we had a fresh palette of harvest wheat, yellow ochre, brick red, burnt sienna, and dying green colors at our curb. I love the fall. Especially fall in Laurel.

The leaves are three quarters down in Oldtown. Only the oak trees have nearly full crowns. My neighbor Eric’s oak tree slowly drops its brown, crinkly leaves all winter. A hopeful installment plan to guarantee our next spring.

We have a sixty-five foot dawn redwood tree that is the last to drop its leaves in our yard. It's a very confused, deciduous-evergreen tree. It always drops its needles during Thanksgiving week. For nineteen years, I’ve raked mounds of needles in the morning while waiting for Joanne to finish our turkey feast. The picture on the right is how our redwood looks this afternoon.

Eleven geese just flew over the tree tops of the alley between Laurel and Montgomery Streets. It looks like they're heading for the Patuxent River. Their V pattern is almost as perfect as their honking.

I always want to live in a place that has four seasons. I hope Heaven has a fall as wonderful as Laurel’s.
UPDATE 1 - I forgot mention above that Laurel's Public Works Department will vacuum up leaves from your curb for free. Oldtown residents living west of 7th Street have their weekly pickup on Tuesdays and east of 7th Street addresses are scheduled on Thursdays. Here are Laurel City's leaf pickup schedule map and the leaf pickup instructions.
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