Sunday, July 12, 2009

Coffin Nails

I used to smoke. A pack and a half a day habit. I knew it was not a good thing to do, but a habit is hard to break, as I had stopped temporarily 3 or 4 times. I had not quit, despite stopping for a good 6 months once. My uncle-in-law told me he quit for four years then started again. I simply said, 'You didn't quit, you just stopped temporarily'. When you quit, it is for good. I haven't smoked a cigarette in 20 years. Unless I start again before I die, chances are that I have quit; otherwise, I would have just stopped temporarily. Yes, everyone used to say it looks cool, especially when you're a young teenager or even a young adult, but the fact of the matter, it looks pretty stupid. ('Stupid is as stupid does' doesn't apply here.) The 'looking cool' doesn't cut it any more. The 'It calms my nerves' excuse is bullshit. I know people who have all kinds of weird ailments, and will flat out deny that any of it has to do with cigarette smoking. I'm no doctor, but common sense should tell you that you probably wouldn't have those kind of ailments if you weren't a smoker. Smokers are like people who have bad body odor. We walk away from them. (Yes, there is good body odor, but we rarely use the word 'odor' to describe them. They just smell good.)

I believe I helped my brother quit his 20-year smoking habit, although he may not admit to it. I told him that someone I worked with died of a heart attack, a smoker who I thought was 10 years older than me because he looked it, but who was actually 4 years younger than me. Other co-workers vowed to quit after this one's death. I decided to evoke his intelligence. I told him that those co-workers were not going to quit, because they were losers and wouldn't be able to. I know my brother, and told him 'You're not a loser. You have more will power than I ever had'. Anyway, a month later he told me he quit cold turkey, and to my knowledge has not smoked since some 8 years later. I was right. His will power is much stronger than mine. He could even be around smokers without wanting to light up himself. His wife still smokes. I didn't quit cold the first time I stopped. About the fifth time, I did, but I had to self-hypnotize myself. I actually stopped myself from thinking about cigarettes. If one popped into my head, I erased it immediately. Eventually, I had no desire for one. I guess I hypnotized myself to disassociate cigarettes from my life. Don't underestimate the power of suggestion.

Perception is what smoking is all about; perception of yourself and how you want others to see you. What most smokers usually fail to see is others' actual perception of you. I just look at smokers, and say to myself, 'How smart can that person really be?' Not meaning cognitive intelligence, but emotional intelligence. There are no physical or psychological positives associated with smoking, and you can't convince me otherwise. There is nothing to "miss".

Ok, I'm off of my soap box ... do whatever you want. It's your life. Who the hell am I anyway? I have no right to say anything. I'll shut up now. Don't get me started, Missie!

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Changing One's Life

I'm remembering back to 1988 when I made the biggest change in my life, next to getting divorced ten years earlier. I was unattached and lived by myself with my cat, Miss Kitty. I had adopted her when she was 1 year old around 1985. She made all of the subsequent moves (I counted six times) with me until 2004 when she went to kitty heaven. I digress. In 1988, I had co-worker friends, tennis friends and my dating scene had run its course. I rarely frequented bars, as it was no fun going to them by myself. I was no pickup artist. After I stopped doing that, I found myself killing time by driving around the streets of Little Rock until I got really bored and went back home. That was probably the darkest hours of my single-mindedness. I wanted to be a single playboy type without a care and I was. But after the fun had run its course, I realized my dating partners were just temporary escorts that I spent money on. No love there, so what was the point. I was single but I was just freakin' lonely. I knew the time was right, and I had dreamed of moving to sunny Florida, as I had visited there once during the winter with my ex-wife. The climate was great, as I remember mild warm days in the middle of December, something I had never experienced before. So I looked at a map of Florida, and after having disqualified Miami, Tallahassee and Jacksonville, I set my eyes on Gainesville, because there was potential work there from the sister company of my last employer. Then I saw this "cutout" about halfway down the west coast, which turned out to be Tampa Bay. I said, "hmm" to myself, and decided to check it out. I think I flew in a couple of times, rented a car and traveled around just to see if I could get lost. I found it easy to get around, so when I returned to Little Rock, I then began to search for leads on contracts. I got a lead, then decided to go ahead and move. All my friends said I had "big balls" to just get up and move without knowing anyone there. There was nothing left for me in Little Rock. I put my house up for sale, and two weeks prior to my scheduled move date, I put it up for rent, as I had no offers. My good friend Murray helped me pack and move. We crammed a 12 foot u-haul up to the ceiling with my crap. The rest I gave away to friends. During my loading up, all of the folks I had been friends with (I like to think of them as the ones that actually cared about me) showed up at different times to wish me well and to send me off. I was definitely ready to hit the road. Murray and I drove from Little Rock to Tampa swapping off between driving the u-haul truck and my '85 Biarritz (that was my pimp mobile, nice ride). It took about 22 hours. My closest blood relative is 18-20 hours away in north Mississippi, just south of Memphis. Distance from relatives was not a deciding factor for me. It was primarily the climate and the chance to get away from snowy and icy winters. My skin couldn't take the dry humidity during the winter anymore. Plus, I was ready to embark on another phase of my life, one that I was creating, not just letting happen. Little Rock was my home for 12 years, the longest I had lived anywhere except my home town where I grew up. Now the Tampa Bay area is my home. I moved a total of six times to where Deb and I are now in Wesley Chapel, just north of Tampa. I will have been here 21 years the end of this month. Geez! Time flies. Now my closest family (Deb's blood relatives) is only 30 minutes away. Most of her family was here, but most have moved to Texas. It is alway great to have family close by regardless. To my niece, do your due diligence as you contemplate your next move (as I'm sure you will). Independence and the freedom to move wherever you want is a wonderful thing.

Monday, July 6, 2009

Cooking In my spare time

I've been doing a lot of cooking lately, while I'm semi-retired. I remember when I was in college, I thought I could cook spaghetti sauce, but I realize I had no idea what I was doing and it sucked. (Those that tried it then, were just being nice.) Since I've grown a bit wiser and can at least tell if food is good or not (to my taste), I thought I'd throw out a recipe for meat sauce that I think is pretty tasty, even if I do say so myself. Easy prep and not that long to finish on simmer. It makes a good medium thick sauce; enough for three or four meals for two people, depending on how hungry you are. If you like tomato'er sauce, use more tomatoes and less puree. Also, if there are veggies in here you don't care for, like celery and bell peppers, don't add it. It will taste just fine without it. Don't ask me why the canned tomato stuff comes in such odd sizes, as I have no idea.

Meat Sauce Recipe for Spaghetti or other pasta dishes
By Sam

(Adapted from Donatelli’s)


· 1 pound of lean ground beef (ground round is good)
· 1 tablespoon minced garlic
· Salt and pepper to taste
· 1/8 cup of olive oil or canola oil (4 tablespoons)
· ½ cup of diced onions (white or yellow)
· 1 tablespoon of beef base or 1 cup beef stock
· 1 tablespoon of chicken base or 1 cup chicken stock
· ½ cup grated Parmesan cheese
· 1 teaspoon granulated garlic
· 1 teaspoon fresh ground pepper
· 1 tablespoon Worchester sauce
· ½ cup of red wine
· ½ cup of chopped celery hearts
· ½ cup of chopped bell pepper (any color)

· 1 teaspoon dried or fresh basil, 1 teaspoon dried oregano
· 2 teaspoons Italian seasoning

· 1 - 6 ounce can of tomato paste
* 2 - 10 ounce cans of tomato puree
· 1 – 15 ounce can of crushed tomatoes or diced tomatoes (no salt added preferred)
· 1 – 29 ounce can of crushed tomatoes in puree
· 1 - 10 ounce can of tomato puree
* 1 - 6 ounce can of tomato paste

· ¼ cup of chopped black olives
· ½ cup of sliced or rough chopped mushrooms (baby Bella or white)


· Brown ground beef with minced garlic. Salt and pepper to tasted. Drain and set aside.
· Place oil and onions in saucepan and sauté on medium high heat until onions start to be come translucent, about 5 minutes.
· Add chopped celery and bell pepper, stir and sauté for additional 5 – 8 minutes.
· Add all tomato products.
· Dissolve beef and chicken base in 6-8 ounces of water, if using base. Stir this into sauce.
· Add remaining ingredients: Worchester sauce, ground pepper, granulated garlic, wine, Parmesan cheese, Italian spices
· Allow to heat for 10 minutes over medium-high heat.
· Stir in drained ground beef.
· Cover and simmer on medium-low heat for 1 to 1-1/2 hours.
· If desired, add chopped mushrooms and black olives after ½ - ¾ hour (or just throw them in when you added the ground beef)
· Stir sauce occasionally while simmering. If heat is too high, the sauce will boil excessively and splatter everywhere.

Serve over favorite pasta.

Cooking Pasta

· Add 3 quarts of water to pot.
· Add a tablespoon of olive or canola oil and teaspoon of salt.
· Bring water to slow to medium boil in pot.
· Add pasta to boiling water. Stir occasionally while pasta cooks no longer than 12 minutes for al dente.