Freddie, the French Bulldog

Freddie, the French Bulldog
Lazing on a sunny afternoon

Ellie Mae

Ellie Mae
Beautiful Ellie Mae

Ollie Mac helps Papi

Ollie and Annie

Ollie and Annie
Azorean grandmother

Love is a many-splendored thing

Love is a many-splendored thing
Denise and Ollie Mac

Taco Tuesday

Papa and Ollie Mac

Papa and Ollie Mac
Priorities, Baby

blue heron

blue heron
water colors

hollyhocks get a visitor

Mahlon Masling Blue

Mahlon Masling Blue
My friend and brother.

Mark's E-mail address

bellspringsmark@gmail.com

Saturday, July 17, 2021

Culinary Arts, 101: Cooking Kohlrabi

 I feel introductions are in order: Everyone, I would like you to meet kohlrabi (ko-ROB-bee). Kohlrabi, everyone. Not grown underground like turnips or potatoes, kohlrabi is a member of the Brassica family, like cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower, kale, Brussels sprouts, collard greens and Savoy cabbage.

Though it can be eaten raw, I have been preparing it on top of the stove, in a multitude of different dishes. The reason I am writing about kohlrabi is because after cooking it occasionally over the past several summers, and feeling as though I were missing out, I have finally unlocked the secret to cooking kohlrabi successfully. It is out of this world.


Space alien or tasty veggie?
I had the right idea in the past, but after dicing it up into half-inch cubes and never really being all that impressed, I have changed the way I prep kohlrabi. Also known as the German turnip, kohlrabi has a double layered skin which must be peeled, and a tough core at its base which must be sliced off. 

I then cut it in half as though it were an orange and cut each of the halves into four equal pieces. I now slice those sections into thin slices, slightly bigger than an eighth inch. Even as thin as I slice them, I still must saute them for a good twenty minutes at low-to-medium heat on top of the stove before they soften up.


The flavor is everything that I find in a turnip or other root crop, and the versatility is welcome. Typically I start with some uncured diced bacon and add an onion, either diced or in rings. I want the bacon mostly cooked before I add the kohlrabi, and then I let it cook for a spell before I add baby turnips, or carrots/celery. I then continue to let them cook to taste before I add zucchini. I have found that you can't overcook kohlrabi, as you can zucchini, so I always put the zucchini in last. When the zucchini is done on the outside and still a tad crunchy on the inside,I call everything done.


Cooked greens such as kale, chard, beet tops, turnip tops, kohlrabi tops, arugula, cabbage, et al, also work superbly in conjunction with kohlrabi and the rest. Balsamic vinegar is a must along with any combination of fresh rosemary, sage and thyme. I will also occasionally splash in some honey or maple syrup for a honey-glazed approach. I also add cooked kohlrabi to my stews and soups; unlike potatoes which turn mushy if cooked too long, kohlrabi holds up.

So for those of you receiving kohlrabi in your CSA packets, or for those of you looking to expand your horizons, get ye to kohlrabi!







Tuesday, June 29, 2021

Po Po

What chronicle of high school dayz would be complete without at least one zany story of teenage hijinks, which resulted in facing the Long Arm of The Law? We didn’t call cops po-po back in 1970; no, it was The Man, as in, “The Man! The MAN! THE MAN!”

My first car, a '64 Chevy Nova
There were five of us in my red Chevy Nova as I pulled away from the party raging at Molly's home, just in time to be lit up like the 4th of July. Though that couldn’t have been right since it was now mid-July, the brilliant red light spun dizzily in my rear view mirror anyway. There were party-goers scattering, sprinting in every direction and man, was that flashing light blinding me. 

We had returned form our odyssey up north a few weeks before and life had resumed as normal. Three of us had jobs that required we look clean-cut, and the other two just looked clean-cut also, in spite of efforts to the contrary. It was easy to spot us as Amat students from a block away. I mention that because there was no reason from a legal point of view for us to be on the wrong side of a policeman’s spotlight.


“What do you think I should do?” I inquired of no one in particular.


Sammy’s voice came from the back seat, the calm voice of reason, “You should pull over.” Sammy had been at work when we picked him up earlier, so he was still sporting a yellow dress shirt, tie and dress slacks. He was also the only one of us wearing shoes.


Pulling over and presenting my license and registration was not the problem. That would be the plastic bag with some of Mexico’s finest stems and seeds sitting in plain sight on the front seat, between me and the guy riding shotgun. That was probably Paul, but it could have been Ron or Ben. It made no difference. The reefer was mine.


I did as Sammy suggested and pulled over, opening up the Chilton’s Manual that was on the front seat, and stashing the little plastic bag inside the front cover. The hard cover bulged up a bit, so I flipped the manual over and it looked better. It had taken me all of three seconds to take care of business, before I was bailing out of the car. There were two policemen; one was in my face and the other was around by the side of the passenger door. 

The nice policeman was bellowing at us, his face beet red.

“Get out of the car! Get out of the car-NOW! I’ll look at your license in a minute but right now, you all line up against that vehicle over there,” directing us to the nearest car, about twenty feet from my Nova.


“While I check your licenses, my partner is going to search your car.” He was so matter-of-fact about it.


“You can’t do that!” I practically shouted, the words of the indomitable Mrs. Felps flashing on the neon marquee in my mind from senior civics class. 


“Don’t give me any bull-stuff about not being able to search your car. I can do anything I want,” he snapped at me, and I shut my trap. I was not intimidated by the uniform, but I was  terrified of this man in front of me. I was expecting the worst and decided discretion was the better part of valor. Besides, a minute later the other nice police ossifer was back and some unspoken message passed between them.


The first nice policeman turned to me, and handed me back my license. “The reason I pulled you over is because that man is dirty; he was making furtive movements in the back seat of your car.” To my shock the dude was pointing at Sammy.


I was so stunned I spit out, “What the heck were you doing back there, Sam?” only I started cracking up and so did everyone else. Point the finger at me, or point it at any of the others, but Sammy?


It was ludicrous but so was the fact that I should have been sitting in the back of the squad car, relinquishing the keys to Ron. And I clearly was not. The searching policeman either did not find my paltry stash, or else he found it and decided it wasn’t worth all of the paperwork. I always thought the latter because I don’t see how he could have missed it.

We decided the only thing to do was go immediately to Bob’s Big Boy and celebrate my good fortune. I ordered a combo of cheeseburger and fries with a BLTA thrown in. 


Poor Sammy. Furtive movements? We got more mileage out of poking fun at Sammy than we ever did out of that little bag of Mexican dirt. And it didn’t cost us ten bucks, either. 


Friday, June 25, 2021

The Red Fox


 This is the third of three parts, chronicling the three-week odyssey that five of us graduates took, leaving the night we strutted across the stage at Bishop Amat.

I never referred to Debbie as The Red Fox but I raised no objection when the others did. We were only ten days shy of walking across the stage at Bishop Amat, when I met her at one of the parties that took place in those waning days of high school. There was one every night it seemed, and though it was a tough job we did the best we could to maintain the high standards of those who had graduated before us. 


I just made sure I had a ride with John or Glen, and that I checked in with headquarters, to make sure Mama was not bummed out about me going out after work. The operative word was work. Even Mama found it challenging to criticize me after I had just put in six hours at Sunrize Market, so my checking in was mostly a formality.


Mama did not like surprises.


A benevolent cosmos had steered me to Debbie, or was it the other way around? Within the narrow confines of my insulated world, nothing like this had ever happened to me. Debbie was beautiful, she was vivacious, she was outgoing and best of all, she liked me.


What was the catch? When did the lever get pulled, with the trapdoor beneath me suddenly opening up? I knew it would be a long drop, but I was willing to take the fall. I was in love with Debbie.


That she had a boyfriend was a given. Debbie was too hot not to, but there was a glimmer of hope for me. There was something up with the boyfriend, so Debbie was taking a break from him for the moment.



I was no snake-in-the-grass,
I was pinch-hitting for the boyfriend, but I was not trying to get a hit. Mama may have been a thorn in my foot, but she didn’t raise no dummies. I recognized that this was my only chance, and the last thing I would-or could-have done, was to try and get on base with Debbie, if you catch my drift.


The seven girls had concocted the plan to meet the five-well, four-of us, up north at Plaskett Creek, without our knowledge (Bill had hitch-hiked south to San Luis Obispo, and on home). Yes, a weekend with girls violated the agreement we made with our parents, but I justified matters inside my noggin three ways:


First, we had no control over what young women did as post-graduate adults, especially when their parents had given permission for their weekend visit. Second, if I were planning to slither off in the sticks with a pup tent and only Debbie, then that would have been a violation of my agreement. I did not perceive seven female adults sleeping in a six-person tent, along with four male adults, as any violation of trust.


For it to have been a violation of trust, there would have to have been two of us willing to fool around in the midst of all the others. Speaking for myself I was in uncharted waters and got little sleep, so I can say definitively that nothing happened.


Furthermore, I matured far more that weekend as a person than I ever would have, had Debbie and I actually done what our parents evidently feared we had. Already knowing what Debbie was facing with her own boyfriend, could I ever have been that clueless, myself? Debbie and I spent the nights in close proximity but only for warmth. 


Nothing has more swagger than a self-righteous man, and that led me to the fateful showdown at home, on Fellowship Street, when Debbie dropped me off on Monday. I was never going to try and fool my mom because it was not possible.


On social media the other day, my sister JT described Mama as livid when I got home. I guess she was-who could tell? Standing alongside our upright piano, which had been moved into the center of the living room, Mama fixed her gaze on me for just the briefest of instants, before shifting it to Debbie and her friend, and then back to me. She did not utter one word. In our house we did not move the piano away from the wall to clean, so something major was going on.


Did I mention that Mama did not like surprises?


It was looking like sunset for me.
“Hi, Mama! I’m home! I’d like to introduce you to Debbie and her friend, Whosie. They gave me a ride home from Plaskett Creek.”


Mama did not say a word. This was not going well and Debbie knew it.


“Well, Markie, it’s been fun but we have to go,” Debbie said. Since I had left all my stuff in Glen’s van, there was nothing for Debbie to unload, and she was no dummy. She could see the storm brewing in Mama’s face, even if there were no clouds. 


Storm? Try hurricane season. The most staggering thing of all is that Mama believed me when I said nothing happened. I know she believed me because I was still alive. What she was freaked out about was not even my reputation, but hers.


“You don’t care about my reputation, but I am the laughing stock of my circle,” she lamented, primly.


“Why? Because I came home and didn’t try to hide anything?” I was still miffed that I got no credit for being upfront about the weekend. Is nothing sacred?


“Exactly. You broke your word and then threw it back in my face,” she went on. 


“No, Mama. Throwing it in your face would be accurate if there was anything to throw in your face in the first place. We didn’t do anything wrong, and if you can’t accept that then that’s your bag, not mine. If you don’t get off my case, I am going to split this scene.”


"See my beard-ain't it weird?"
And who'd have guessed? Mama forgot about Big Sur right away. OK, it's possible that she didn’t forget; I just gave her something else to have a cow about. I had returned from camping with three weeks of brilliant red whiskers flaming on, all over my face. When I clocked in at work with sideburns down to Baja, my boss had a twonky attack and promoted Jimmy Richardson to head box-boy on the spot. 


I spazzed out and quit, figuring I could find a job anywhere, but I was wrong. When I confessed what I had done to Mama, she went ape-shit, wrapping up her sermon with, “Just wait until your father finds out about this. He’s going to flip his wig.”


In the end I went crawling back to Sunrize on my belly, and begged my boss for my job back. 


"Don't be skeered-it's just a beard."
George Carlin
“No more camping trips? No more sideburns? No more bull-stuff?” he inquired, sarcastically. He knew Mama had clipped my wings already; he was just rubbing it in. “Go on and grab your apron and the mop. Yo can start by giving the entire store a thorough mopping.”


I was good with that-happy even. I had my job back, and though I once again had white walls, at least Mama was no longer mad at me about Bg Sur.


As for Debbie, well, you know how that all panned out. I did not see a lot of her that summer, and when that lever finally got pulled and the floor opened up beneath my feet, I was ready. I had a parachute strapped on my back for that inevitability.


If I remember correctly, her name was Wendy.




Sunday, June 20, 2021

"Goin' Mobile"

This is the second of three parts, chronicling the three-week odyssey five of us took, leaving late the same night we swaggered across the stage at Bishop Amat.


“I’m going home

And when I want to go home, I’m going mobile

Well I’m gonna find a home on wheels, see how it feels,

Goin’ mobile

Keep me moving” The Who


At my request Glen Wass popped Who’s Next? into the eight-track, as we set off for Sequoia National Forest in his ’64 Econoline van. With John Hartnett, Bill McCluney and Steve Haskell, we were celebrating freedom from Bishop Amat High School, earlier that day, together with freedom from parental control. 

Who am I kidding? We could remove ourselves from our parents but we could not remove our parents from us. So attending Mass on Sundays was a given. This and other edicts were passed down to the five of us at a meeting at the Hartnett residence, each of us present with at least one parent.


“One final thing we want to discuss is alcohol and girls,” intoned Mrs. Hartnett. 


I thought to myself, that’s two things but math is not the subject here, Mass is.


Bill chimed in. “We’re always happy to talk about alcohol and girls,” and then his eyes opened wide as someone kicked him under the dining room table. “But that’s all we do is talk,” he finished lamely.


And yet I was the one with the gag order…

We were nodding in five-part harmony with Mrs. Hartnett, as John assured her that we were not going to be trying to pick up any girls.


“Humph. I should certainly hope not. You boys-no, you young men-are going to have to live up to the ideals we have instilled in you.”


John squirmed uncomfortably in his hard-backed chair. “Mom,” he began, but she turned to him.


“Now John. You know very well that I believe you are good boys, but I also know that good boys have the same temptations as bad boys, and I want to have your word that there will be no shenanigans on this trip.”


“Of course not, Mom. What do you think? That we’re planning a big party up north somewhere, and that we are inviting every girl we know to be part of it?” 


Let’s not exaggerate John-we know more than seven girls…


“Well, I wouldn’t put it past you to try and pull the wool over our eyes.”

 

“Mom.......”


“We haven’t discussed Church. How do we know that you will go to Mass each Sunday?”


Ripping the duct tape from my mouth-metaphorically speaking-I blurted out, “We’ll have all day Saturday to find a church to attend on Sunday.” The words sounded lame, even to me. As though we were going to spend all day Saturday looking for a church. Right.  


Can I help it that the duct tape came off so easily? 


Our chariot home...
Surprisingly, Mrs H. was pacified. “Fine. If you can follow the rules that we have set down, then I feel you have earned our trust.” And here she leaned forward. “But if you break your word, my, my, my,” and she let it go at that. 


Mama didn't say anything because she didn't have to. She knew me well enough to know that all she had to do when I got home was give me the look and I would spill my guts. As it turned out I would need no words to explain what had occurred. After all, Debbie was standing right beside me, mute testimony that I was smart enough not to try and get away with anything. 


Come to me now (Come to me now)

And rest your head for just five minutes

Everything is done

Such a cozy room

The windows are illuminated

By the evening sunshine through them

Fiery gems for you, only for you  Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young


Just as Goin’ Mobile was my go-to, music-wise, CSN&Y’s second album Deja Vu was everyone's favorite. It was ironic that the letter the girls sent announcing their plan to join us at Plaskett Creek was addressed to Bill, and yet by the time the girls actually arrived, Bill had already set off for SoCal on his own. He hitchhiked down to San Luis Obispo and then took a bus back to SoCal, because he was missing home and more specifically his girl, Nancy McIlvenna.


But I have leaped ahead of the story. Upon leaving Sequoia we headed 250 miles up to Yuba City, the home of my mom’s brother Walter, his wife Ellen and more kids than even the nine in my family. John, of course, wanted to go fishing with them, having read that catfish were plentiful in the Feather River.


As to the fact that the first eight kids born to Walt and Ellen were girls, I am shocked that any of you reading this would think of that as a possible motivator for our trip to Yuba City. 


That the five of us were welcomed and invited to stay, speaks volumes for the hospitality extended. I will confess to having vague and unsettling memories of one of the girls being unceremoniously dumped into the swimming pool, horror of horrors. Nevertheless, we ate dinner with the entire family, spread our sleeping bags out on the living room floor when that time came, and enjoyed breakfast in the morning before once again setting off on our journey. 


I can pull up by the curb,

I can make it on the road,

Goin’ mobile

I can stop in any street

And talk with people that we meet

Goin’ mobile

Keep me moving


We made our way north and up into Oregon. Heading counter-clockwise we traveled east and then north, and eventually back to the coast. We ended up at the home of another set of first cousins, these on my father's side of the family. It being toasty outside, we visited a local swimming hole, a large reservoir that had life guards and a horde of swimmers.


One of those lifeguards had a megaphone to go along with with his bark, and he spent the afternoon bellowing, “Off Those Ropes!” to swimmers who instinctively reached out to grab ropes that extended across the swimming area towards the middle of pool. We never fully grasped the reasoning behind the edict, figuring the rope to be a safe haven, but Steve adopted this phrase as his mantra. At any point in time, either in response to a question or right out of the blue, he would bellow out, “Off Those Ropes,” and everyone would nod in agreement.


Our house is a very, very fine house

With two cats in the yard

Life used to be so hard

Now everything is easy ‘cause of you


We had such a blast in Yuba City on the way north, that we cut across from Highway 101 and returned for an encore. We kept this visit to a late morning/afternoon stint and then headed back over to the coast and down to Big Sur. 


Two things stand out during this time period, prior to the girls arriving: First, we went up to the Trappist Monks Monastery, being treated with respect and being welcomed to attend Sunday Mass with the monks in their chapel. This was one mass that required no parental proclamation to induce attendance. The facility was exquisite in it simplicity and beauty, and a calm presided over everything.  


Out in the woods 

Or in the city

It’s all the same to me

When I’m driving free

The world’s my home

When I’m mobile


Secondly, John was chopping kindling with the hatchet, when he brought the blade down on the index finger of his left hand, splitting the nail and a good portion of his finger wide open. We drove back to Carmel to have it seen and attended to. 


In forty years of living off the grid up here on this twenty-acre parcel of land, I have had to split wood with a hatchet countless times. I learned from John’s mishap to keep my fingers on the side of the piece of wood being split, so that I could never bring the blade down on any of my fingers. I benefited from the lesson John paid for so dearly.


Taken upon my return from our epic
journey, complete with three-week
growth of beard.
When the time finally came and the girls arrived, there was much whooping and hollering, before we headed across the highway and down to the water. There were seven girls and the four of us guys who remained. Having consulted John, Glen, Bill, Peggy, Debbie and my own fuzzy recollection, I have compiled the following names as the posse of girls who journeyed up to Big Sur to meet us: Peggy Callan, Debbie Bienville, Alice Frausto, Charlotte Neal, Theresa Briones, Janet Brown and one other, whose name remains in the mist. 


It was mid-June, the weather was ideal and there were no clouds in sight to foreshadow the storm that was about to be unleashed.





Sunday, June 13, 2021

Make-A-Wish

This is the first of three parts, chronicling the three-week odyssey five of us took, leaving late the same night we swaggered across the stage. 

As life events go, striding across Bishop Amat’s stage at graduation was enormous, providing memories these fifty-one years. As liberating as the moment was, another life event also commenced for me on May 31st, 1970, one that was to provide far more memories-and freedom-than leaving Amat. I embarked on a three-week journey of discovery with four fellow graduates, bound for the Northland. 

John Hartnett, Glen Wass and I planned the voyage from as early as mid-winter, essentially treating it as a fantasy. Since when were the parents likely to buy this pipe dream? Chatting it up and pondering the logistics of a post-graduation odyssey, we framed our ideas into a plan of action. In doing so we found ourselves joined by Steve Haskell and Bill McCluney, who were intrigued by our idea of a graduation-day getaway. Our mode of transportation was Glen’s white, ’64 Ford Econoline van, with no side windows and a solid rack up-top to transport our gear. 


Camping is what we had planned on, but our overnight sleeping accommodations included a variety of unorthodox venues. We spent one night in the vestry of a church, one in the heated bathroom of a brand new, as-of-yet-unopened resort in the mountains of Eastern Oregon, and one night in the parking lot of a K-Mart, just because it was there.


The top o' the morning to you!
Three of us had awakened inside the van that morning, in the deserted parking lot, and were contemplating the universe in general, while Bill and Steve remained dead to the world in their sleeping bags on the ground right outside the van.  With speakers in each door, when fully opened, those speakers were aimed right at the two sleeping beauties. What better song to greet the new morning with (at full volume) than the Beatles’ “Good Morning, Good Morning?” Up and at ‘em, lads!




Now Steve’s dad owned a grocery store, so hey, that was his ticket to ride; we could buy supplies at cost. And high on Bill’s list of qualifications were his mad skills as a driver. We would end up traveling more than 3,000 miles, so Bill was welcomed aboard.

I did not have a license and because I was so small, I sat most of those 3,000 miles on the engine cover between the driver’s and passenger seats. In those pre-seat belt years, it seemed so natural. Now? Not so much. 


We made lists, gathered supplies, organized our camping gear, met with the parents and had the Marquess of Queensbury rules dictated to us. These included but were not restricted to a) absolutely no consorting with females; b) attending mass on Sunday mornings and c) no alcoholic beverages whatsoever. Make no mistake: The greatest of these was A. There were to be no chicks, no foxes, no babes, no chicas, no tatas, no chickadees, no hoochies, no floozies, no arm candy and no home girls. 


For the record we did attend mass on Sundays.


Tall Oly's:
Who knew why?
The general consensus was that 16-ounce Olympia Beers were not really alcohol, right? Not like Ezra Brooks Real Sippin’ Whiskey, but that’s a tale for another time. As for consorting with the female species, all we could do was wish. We had no control over that.

Honestly.


How were we to know that our seven home-girls would take it upon themselves to read our minds, and then journey up from SoCal to Plaskett Creek Campground, in the neighborhood of Big Sur? To meet up with us? For a whole weekend? We hadn’t even included this component in our wildest fantasies while planning our adventure. 


OK, that last bit is obviously a lie.


We did get a postcard somewhere along the line informing us of the plan, but what were we supposed to do? How could we have prevented this rendezvous at Plaskett Creek with these seven girls, even if we actually wanted to? It never occurred to us to try and stop them. This was beyond a dream come true-sorry parents-but there was nothing we could really do. 


Where was email when we really needed it? Oh, yeah. And no texting or messaging, either. And yes we could have phoned-everyone knew that after eight the rates dropped-and talked to one of the girls. We could have tried to convince the girls it was a bad idea to come up for three days of sun, fun and celebration of freedom from Amat. 


Yes, we most certainly could have and probably should have, I guess. I mean, maybe. Wouldn’t that have been the right thing to do? According to our parents? We just didn’t know. Not for sure. And besides, we justified matters by simply decreeing that it was out of our hands. I mean it really was. Wasn’t it?


Next: "Goin' Mobile"