Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Just in Time for Superbowl--Wings 'n Things

Many more years ago than I'd like to admit, and after I'd finished up my military commitment and returned to Buffalo, NY to finish my college degree, I got a nice little job as a bartender. Between work, the GI Bill and a small scholarship I was able to complete my degree without going into debt.

Earning that degree and avoiding debt were good things, of course, but my greatest reward was being in on the ground floor of the Buffalo Chicken Wings craze. Life doesn't get any better than that, you know? Okay, yeah, it does, but I wasn't getting much of it back then. Whatever.

Buffalo Chicken Wings were created at the Anchor Bar in Buffalo. The story goes that the owner was asked to come up with filling snack to feed a group of late arriving hungry guests. She deep fried a bunch of chicken wings--normally used to make stock--covered them with a special hot sauce and served them up with celery sticks and blue cheese dressing. The guests loved it and it soon became a staple item on their menu.

This was all well and good and the story might have ended there, but my boss stole their recipe (some say "recreated" but my money's on "stole") and the bar where I worked became the second in the city to serve Buffalo Chicken Wings.

Today, Wings are a standard bar food item all across the country. Sometimes they're good. More often they're mediocre. The problem is that people get too fancy. They bread them. Or they bake them. Or they add too many spices. People, don't do that! Wings are a simple recipe and generally the less done to them the better.

Here's my recipe for Wings 'n Things straight from the now-defunct tavern where I used to work:
  • Prepare blue cheese dressing in advance by mixing crumbled blue cheese with sour cream. I use about a cup of blue cheese to one 16 ounce container of sour cream. Add a smidgeon of salt--usually I use celery salt and/or garlic salt. This is best made at least a few hours ahead so the flavors have time to combine. A day ahead is better. Note: You may prefer to mix the blue cheese with equal portions of of mayo and sour cream. I don't. For Dawg's sake, though, don't ever, ever substitute ranch dressing for blue cheese. Ranch dressing is anathema. If you substitute ranch dressing you might as well top off your wings with cilantro, in which case you're out of the will and I will hunt you down like a dog and call you a bad name to your face before insulting yo mamma.

  • Wash and pat dry a bunch of celery stalks, then slice them up into even more celery sticks. Keep them in the refrigerator until ready to serve.

  • Disjoint a mess of wings, saving the wing tips for the stock pot. If you don't know exactly what "a mess" means, ask someone who loves wings. And if you don't know how to disjoint a chicken wing you're hopeless and should just buy your wings from Dominoes and save yourself a bunch of work.

  • Deep fry the wing sections in small batches. You don't want the wings touching. This occurs in a deep fryer. If you don't have one, you might try using a cast iron skillet with about an inch of oil heated up to about 350 degrees. If  you don't have a cast iron skillet, order your wings from Dominoes.

  • They're done when they float. Flip them over to make sure they're cooked on both sides, then remove them with tongs and drain on paper towels.

  • Once drained, place them on cookie sheet and stick them in a warm oven.

  • When all your wings are done cooking, remove them from the oven, place them into a large, lidded container (like a Tupperware container) and add equal parts softened butter and Frank's Hot Sauce--about two tablespoons worth of sauce and the same of butter for about ten to twelve wing sections. Adjust ratio until you get the flavor and heat you're looking for.

  • Shake and swirl the wings around in the container until they are coated with the hot sauce. 

  • Plate your wings and serve with celery sticks, blue cheese dressing and plenty of napkins.

  • Don't forget to take your cholesterol pills first. These things are loaded with fat and every bite takes about eleven minutes off your life.
There's another little tradition we do in Buffalo just before we gorge ourselves on wings on Super Bowl Sunday. A little background first.

You know, the Bills were the only NFL team ever to advance to four straight Super Bowl games. They are also the only NFL team ever to lose four straight Super Bowl games. They should have won the first one, but nooooooo. Someone missed a 47 yard field goal with eight seconds left. Someone named Scott Norwood. So every Super Bowl Sunday, after we say grace, but before we chow down, we all gather around in a circle and and stick voodoo pins in Scott Norwood bobble head dolls. It's childish, I know. But it's football. And a true fan never forgets the highlights and never forgives the lowlights. You doubt me? Just ask Bill Buckner.

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Tilly the Wonder Dog : finis

Tilly the Wonder Dog shuffled off this mortal coil Thursday, October third, saved from additional bone cancer induced pain by the grace of the needle. She was three and a half years old.

Born in Tennessee, she spent her early years in an abusive relationship and was dumped at a kill shelter at age two with two cracked teeth and a poorly healed busted hip. She was saved by the Rescue Waggin' and brought to Michigan where she found a home with a couple of Old Farts who didn't believe kicking dogs was good sport.

Tilly loved food, fetch, tug, the occasional unwatched garbage bag, squeaky toys and licking peanut butter out of the deep hole in her rubber faux-bone-like toy. She did not like hair dryers, coffee grinders or vacuum cleaners. Thunderstorms were sent by Satan for her personal torment. Of this she was sure. Tilly was not particularly fond of other dogs either. But she adored people. Especially kids. She was a good dog. Good girl. I miss her already.

Other dogs need a break too, so in lieu of flowers the family requests you consider making a modest donation to your local Humane Society or to the Rescue Waggin'.

If you'd like to read more about Tilly, click here and here

Friday, September 27, 2013

The Saga of the Skin Tag

So a while back I had this humungous skin tag removed from my neck.

If you're over forty, you probably know what I'm talking about when I say "skin tag." If you're under forty you likely don't have a clue. Also if you're under forty you never call your mother, and you never write her either. Get off my lawn you ungrateful brat.

Back to skin tags.

In case you don't know, a skin tag is kind of a benign epithelial tumor sort of thingy that can be tiny and almost unnoticeable or it can be a honking mushroom-shaped, multicolored behemoth that looks like the alien life form from Garvoc 2 in the Kloovian Galaxy. That's the kind I had. It wasn't your normal, run of the mill skin tag. No, sir. This puppy was a monster.

This skin tag hung off the side of my neck like a second head. It was so big I had to buy an extra ticket for it when I traveled by air. This sucker was so massive I had to put pants on it every time I went for a walk or risk being arrested by the decency police. It was so enormous that when I threw the ball for the dog to fetch, she'd bring it back to the skin tag. When I drove down the street I had to open the driver's side window and let it hang outside. The people behind me thought I was signaling for a left hand turn. This was one big-ass skin tag.

It was ugly too.

How ugly was it? It was so ugly that when I walked down the street, security cameras swiveled away from me. When I went in to shave one morning the bathroom mirror had shifted position so it  faced against the wall. This skin tag was so ugly, children who saw it ran to the nearest clown for comfort. The NSA refused to read my email because they were afraid it might be catching. You get the picture?

It had to go.

After numbing my neck up and slapping his Swiss Army knife against a sharpening steel several times, my doc got a better look at it and said, “It's got veins in it. You need to have a specialist do this.”

I had no idea they had skin tag specialists, but he convinced me he'd find one. Sure enough, the next day I got a call from his office. I was scheduled two weeks later with an ENT doc.

If you've been paying attention, you'll remember that the skin tag was on my neck. It wasn't on my ears, my nose or my throat. But he hadn't set me up with a Proctologist, so I figured, what the hey. I went to the appointment. After filling out multiple questionnaires and a cursory office visit to justify additional fees, I was escorted into a small operating room and told to sit on the operating chair. Yes, chair. Not table.

I got more injections of local anesthetic and the ENT doc got out her own Swiss Army knife. I have to say she worked quickly and caused me relatively little pain. In fairness, I have to add that she did not work alone. She kept a nurse close by her side. Why, I'm not positive, but it seemed that her only job was to catch the skin tag once it had been cut free so it didn't crash to the ground and injure the doctor's foot. But that's speculation, of course.

So that's pretty much it. The ENT doc did a good job. The wound healed. Children were once again free to roam around my neighborhood without fear. The NSA resumed monitoring my email. The only problem is that leaving the story here makes for a lousy ending. So I've been thinking. I could spice this up with some funny anecdotes about my vasectomy. You wouldn't believe some of the stuff that went on there. The prostate biopsy was a hoot too. A million laughs.

I'll think about it. I'll come up with something. Something you'll enjoy. Something that will make reading this post worthwhile. I'll get back to you as soon as I have it. Really I will. Almost certainly, probably.

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Open letter to Former Senator Jim DeMint, the new President of the Heritage Foundation

Dear Senator Jim,
Hey, thanks for the emailed survey you sent me the other day. The one that said. "for Principled Conservatives only, because I gotta tell you, Jim, you won't find any Conservative more Principled than I am. See, I was one of the original Barry's Boys way back in the early 60s. I expect you might not know about that time because I'm older than you and it probably all went down long before your balls dropped. So let me fill you in on what most of my fellow Principled Conservatives and I believed in way back in the day.
Like Barry I believed in low taxes, fiscal responsibility, strong defense, the free market system and letting people enjoy their lives without government interference. That's, of course, before the religious right took over the Republican party (something Barry warned us about) and decided that small government meant that they had the right to camp out in people's bedrooms and see who was doing what to whom and send them to jail if it wasn't okay in Leviticus. Which may have run contrary to that "make no religion" crap in the Constitution, but everyone knows the Founders didn't really mean it.
You might not remember this, Jim, but gays weren't allowed to serve in the military for the longest time. Even so, that old "Principled Conservative" Barry Goldwater said, "I don't care if they are gay or straight, as long as they can shoot straight." Being a Brigadier General in the Air Force Reserve, he kind of had an idea of what the military should be like. But you know, those nasty liberals like Johnson, Nixon, Ford, Carter, Reagan, Bush, Clinton, Bush and Obama didn't agree with that. Thank Dawg that Obama's ever changing principles finally evolved to the point that he could agree with something Barry had said fifty years earlier. And thank Dawg today's Principled Conservatives agree with that point of view too. Right, Jim?
Okay, so while we're waiting for Jim to return let's take a look at the survey he sent me.

Let’s see now. Oh, here’s a good question.

Q. How do you think conservatives in Congress should approach their job?

A. Maybe they should do it for a change. And they can share that answer with their liberal friends across the aisle too. For the record, that job is not getting re-elected, nor is it being a power broker, nor is it graft, corruption or similar activities. Their job is serving and representing their constituents. Period. Full stop.

Here’s another.

Q. Which countries pose a threat to the United States? Iran, China, Russia, North Korea or Other?

A. All the above, including “other,” which in this case I’d say was the United States itself. As far as I know, none of the other countries are overflying us with drones, nor are their tax collection units targeting groups in this country who think The Wrong Way. I doubt that any of those listed countries would bother collecting information from some stupid blog like this one, but we already know that our country’s NSA does, don't we, Jim?

Plus you left Canada off your list of evil countries. You can never be too careful where Canada's concerned.

And this one.

Q. How serious do you consider the threat of Islamic terrorism in the world today?

A. About as seriously as I consider the threat of domestic terrorism. You know what I mean, Jim? Terrorism like The Oklahoma City bombing, the Unibomber, the Atlanta Olympics bombing, The Wisconsin Sikh Temple bombing, acts of hate groups like the KKK, Aryan Nation, Black Panthers, Eco-terrorists, people who kill physicians who perform abortions for Christ's sake--shall I go on?

Don’t get me wrong, Jim. I know all too well that there are people outside our country, many of them radical Islamists, who would just as soon see you and me dead. But I also know that the vast majority of the followers of Islam don’t give a rat’s ass about either you or me. All they want to do is live their lives in relative peace. They just want to be left the hell alone. They don’t want to be targeted. Like you’re trying to do to them by the nature of that last question.

And I love this one.

Q. Are the government’s intelligence agencies and the administration doing enough to protect us against terrorism?

A. Oh, hell no. Do you think collecting information on every American’s telephone calls, email, and Internet activities is enough? Do you think the drones you already have flying over US territory spying on its citizens is enough? Gitcher self a backbone, son. It's about time for you to send NSA agents into every classroom to pistol whip the little children until they turn in their parents for subversive activities.

Q. Who (do) you think should decide about controversial social questions like same-sex marriage and abortion?

A. Where've you been, Jim? That’s already been decided.


You know what, Jim? I've been thinking. Maybe I'm not the Principled Conservative you're looking for after all. Or maybe I am, and instead you're the problem. Yeah, I think that's it. I think I haven't changed a bit. Conservatism has. And your kind of Conservatism is not something I want to associate with anymore. So excuse me, but I'm going to go hang out with the Libertarians for awhile. I think they're mostly nuts and they think I'm mostly nuts, but at least we're honest with each other.

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Chickens got bones

Today I went into town to do a little shopping (picking up my old fart drugs at the old fart store/AKA pharmacy) then used that as an excuse to head down to the local gin mill to pound a few. Two beers and four Words With Friends games later I sent Hunny a text asking her if she needed me to pick up anything for dinner.

“I’m fine,” she said. “I’ve already had a sammich. Go ahead and get something for yourself.”

I used that as an excuse to have one more beer while I thought about my dinner.

I didn’t feel like making anything, there was no bar food I wanted to take home and I never, ever get fast food. Well, hardly ever. I will admit that sometimes I have a craving for KFC. The chicken tastes okay even if it isn’t good for me, the taters are mostly edible and the biscuits are really good—especially with honey. Of course I no longer get the KFC honey because it’s not honey anymore. Rather, it’s something they call “Honey Sauce.” Honey Sauce is that packet of stuff they give you to put on your biscuits only if you ask for it. According to this guy, Honey Sauce is a full 7% honey with the rest mostly corn syrup, and you know what I think about corn syrup. I have no idea what the last few ingredients are. Maybe a secret blend of eleven herbs and spices. I dunno. But whatever’s in it, it doesn’t taste like honey, so I stopped getting it years ago. I always, always keep a stash of real honey just for these emergency occasions.

So I headed off to KFC, pleased with myself for my forethought and looking forward to a meal of legs, thighs and breasts. But when I got there I discovered that something had happened. KFC had changed their menu. They’d lost their bones.

I used to order chicken only, with a few biscuits and maybe a side of taters. But according to their new menu, I no longer had that option. What I had instead was a choice of various selections of boneless, skinless chicken—what Wendy’s Hamburgers used to call “parts is parts."

In fairness, they still offered a small selection of bone-in skin-on chicken but it was harder to find on the menu. It occurred to me that KFC might be planning on phasing out bone-in chicken. Turns out I was right:

I guess KFC is afraid the new generation of fast food addicts might accidentally discover that chickens used to be living, breathing animals. Dawg forbid that little Aiden or sweet Gabriella ever find out that animals have been slaughtered to sate their gluttony. And can you imagine precious Sloan and young Logan biting into a honking big-ass drumstick? I can hear their tiny high-pitched shrieks now.

“Skin! It’s got skin! And…and…and…booooooooooooooooooooones. MOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOMMY!”

Oh, the horror.

Well, I’m not gonna hang around to hear that, KFC. It hurts to tell you this, but chickens got bones, so you and I are through. 

No. Don’t cry. It’s my fault, not yours. I simply can’t adjust to your insane need to take food and turn it into something that isn’t. Don’t worry, you’ll find someone new. But as for me, I’ll go back to making my own chicken. It’s better than yours anyhow. And I still have my stash of real honey.

Sunday, May 5, 2013

Don’t Tase Me for Medicare Fraud, Bro

I’ve been a bad puppy. At least it seems that way. But I never meant for it to go down like it did. Still, I suppose it’s ultimately my fault, my responsibility and I’m the one who’s got to make it right.

Let me tell you what happened.

About six months ago I received a notice from my Medicare supplemental insurance provider—let’s call them “Purple Cross Purple Shield”-- that my pharmacy had not collected enough of a co pay on a prescription purchase I’d made months earlier. “This is not a bill,” they assured me. “We will deduct the money from over payments you make in the future.” Apparently they got tired of waiting for over payments, because last week I did receive a bill in the mail for the full amount of the underpayment. All 22 cents of it.

That’s 22 cents.

Cents, not dollars.


Now, I have no idea how much it cost them to send me that bill. The bill for 22 cents, that is. I have no idea how much it cost them to enclose a postage paid envelope or if it will cost them anything on their end when they receive it back, and I don’t know how much it will cost them to process that payment when they receive it. All 22 cents of it. But it didn’t make a lot of sense (that’s “sense” not “cents”) to me why an organization that had handled my health care costs promptly and efficiently up to that point would suddenly start hyperventilating over 22 cents,  Then I read a little further into the letter, and there it was. “The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services requires us to attempt to collect the balance owed.” So it’s not Purple Cross Purple Shield that decided to go into full collection mode over the 22 cents at all. It’s the government agency charged with controlling health care costs. Now I was beginning to understand.

On the plus side, the government agency never claimed that I purposely withheld the 22 cents, but they did insist on their right to a reimbursement of those funds. In a more perfect world, the agency might have gone after my pharmacy, which, after all, was the one that made the mistake about the amount of the 22 cent deductible. In a more perfect and reasonable world, the government would have written off anything under, say, $10 to $40 at a minimum, because is surely costs them more than that to try to collect it. Still, that wouldn’t have absolved me of my guilt for…for…for whatever it is I must have done wrong that ultimately put the full force of the United States government all over my ancient ass for 22 cents. Cents, not dollars. 


 Twenty two of 'em..

Don’t think I’m down on government, though. Not for a minute. Because they were there to help too. They wanted to help me so bad they made me the following offer:

“We understand that even the smallest unplanned expense can cause difficulty, and we have payment options available if you’re unable to pay the full amount due at this time.” The full amount of which was--you guessed it--22 cents.

Let me be honest here. I thought about it. I really did. After all, they are the ones who offered to set up payment arrangements for the money I owed them—all 22 cents of it. They also assured me not to worry that my coverage would stop “while we’re working this issue out.” All 22 cents of issue. But at my age I don’t have enough time left to do all the stupid that dealing with the government requires. So instead, here’s what I’m going to do. I’m going to write out a check for 22 cents. I’m going to put my account number on the check like they asked, and enclose it in the prepaid envelope along with the handy payment coupon they also mailed me. But before I drop it in the mail slot, I’m going to enclose one more thing—my request for a written receipt.

Saturday, April 27, 2013

An Urgent Business Matter

 So I lied. Get over it.

Maybe I haven't written quite as much as I said I would, but maybe I'll pick up from this point on. Or not. But in any event, this is the second post of the year, so I've doubled my output from last year. Gotta give me points for that.

You can take a few points away too, 'cause this is an older story I'm posting. But, see, there's nowhere to sell it. Besides it's short--blog sized--and I haven't posted a story here in some time. Besideser, I like this o ne. You may not, but you're probably not a a Nigerian. So there.

Here we go....


An Urgent Business Matter
Steve Barber
Lt. Colonel Smiths Magado waddled across the room and gingerly settled his overly fat ass onto a cushioned office chair. He squirmed. No good. He'd have to try something else.

Magado dragged the ottoman over and reached down with both hands, hefting his nearly two pound penis out of his boxers and resting it on the foot stool. He sat back exhausted, hyperventilating and sweating profusely. But even as wiped out as he was, Magado had to smile. If only my father could see me now, he thought, not without some pride. His late father had constantly teased him about his "shortcomings."

Magado's father, Mgbatu Magado, had been the Principal Vice Chairman of Abuja State Bank and Trust, the primary holding company for foreign investments in his country. Six months earlier, the senior Magado died in a tragic Internet accident that was still under investigation. Fortunately, before his death, he had confided in his son as to the whereabouts of certain unclaimed funds he planned to secret out of the country. His death put a hold on any such transfer. But the Colonel was working to change that.

Magado punched the “on” button on his computer, waited for it to get up to speed, then accessed his email. There it was. The response he’d been waiting for. Someone had risen to the bait. He reached for the keyboard, but the ottoman on which his penis rested kept him too far away to type. He turned sideways, and somehow managed to grab the keyboard and deposit it onto his ample lap.

Alma Grinkle of Saskatoon had accepted his offer. I'll make her a rich woman, thought the Colonel, but I'll be even richer. And I'll still have my huge penis too. 

"My dear Miss Alma," typed Magado. "It is with delightness that I receive your missive this day. Please to know funds at your bank tomorrow morning earliest. My friend, yes I say my good friend Miss Alma, most wonderful lady, I looking forward meet you seventh January when we concluding transactions."

He finished the email with additional platitudes, sent it along to Alma, then electronically transferred the funds from his father's account to Alma's bank.

The Colonel was basking in the glow of a job well done when his watch alarm reminded him it was time to change his penile patches. The directions cautioned "one patch at a time," but he'd reasoned if one was good, two must be better.

He applied both patches, and sat back to watch his penis grow again. But this time it was different. Something was wrong. It was growing way too much, way too fast. Crap. Directions. I should have followed the directions. 


The following morning, Alma Grinkle scanned through the newspaper while finishing her morning tea. A page two headline leaped out at her: "Top Nigerian Army Officer Killed by Exploding Penis."

Alma sighed and shook her head. She put on her hat and gloves, grabbed her keys and headed out the door toward her bank. How awful for him, she thought. He was such a sweet man.