Tuesday, November 12, 2002

Yesterday cold and gray, but Esther skipped work and we hiked on the Ice Age Trail in Walworth County after I did an interview in Beloit. Good hike. I'm still sore. We went from Rice Lake to Hwy. 12, round trip a little over 6 miles. Leaden sky. No way to tell time. Hilly terrain. That's why there's a trail. Glacial topography. This landscape serves no agricultural purpose and would be difficult to build a house on.

I did not sleep well Sunday night. My cold and coughing and hacking up yellow-green phlegm and all that. And Esther feels superior because when she had the cold it only lasted a day. Sure, she's all, oh, poor you and caring, but I know she's gloating inside. Such is her competitive nature. So what if my white cells aren't as efficient as hers. I'm new to this working around kids business. Gotta build up a tolerance.

After hike came home and watched a movie, "That Thing You Do," written and directed by Tom Hanks, who also has a role. Lite fair. It doesn't suck, but the ending is too pat. The band breaks up just after appearing on television? Give me a break. The bass player disappears at Disney World with a couple Marines? And the romance between the main character and Liv Tyler was so foreshadowed, when it finally happens at the end it's like, duh? Not a bad job by Hanks. He's a great actor and comedian. It shows with some funny one-liners. But he's no script-writer or director. His inexperience there shows too.

One thing that happened Friday I did not report is we got a phone message from Esther's father, Paul, saying that her grandmother broke her leg and, in his words, "it might be a terminal event." Those words, "terminal event," sound so clinical and detached, and this man is talking about his mother. That's very Scandinavian northern Minnesota Garrison Keillor of my father-in-law. He is such an anxious, worrisome soul bear the whole world on his shoulders control freak that he hardly ever goes away from the confines of the family farm. He cannot handle crowds or large gatherings, even of family. The weekend in 2001 when he had his heart attack, during the wedding reception for his niece he hid away in a corner somewhere.

And that emotional reticence showed through in his message about his mother. "Terminal event." Come one, come all. One time only. Dad Larson wrote grandma off prematurely. She's in recovery and is expected to survive. He's quick to write her off because she has severe alzheimer's disease and is already mentally dead to the world except for brief moments of lucidity. One of the most horrifying moments was when Esther and I visited her and she scowled at Esther, said I don't know you. I don't like you. Get away from me. Get away! Poor Esther was driven to tears seeing her in that condition.

I am once again cooking beer can chicken. Last time it was great, tasted all smoky and barbecuey, but this time should be better. I'm using more coals and have mesquite wood soaked in water for 40 minutes added to give more flavor. I also marinated the whole bird in Famous Dave's BBQ sauce, real maple syrup and ketchup for a couple hours. Now the bird has to cook for about 1 1/2 hours under indirect heat. Yum.

I've learned the art of slow cooking. The slower you cook something, the more tender the meat.

Subbing again this week at Kishwaukee Elementary School. If I work another week I will qualify for long-term sub status and make $20 more a day. That would be very cool. So I am hoping and praying the nameless, faceless Mr. Pirrello remains too ill or emotionally wrought or whatever to come back. To wish ill fortune upon someone is ill fortune upon yourself. I hope he gets better, but wishes to milk the system and take time off to re-discover himself. Yeah, that'll work. Good karma all around and I get paid more.

No open stage this week, but I am working on a couple more original tunes. Still working on the short story about the woman offered an alternate reality of fame and stardom. Still plan to write some query letters this week, specifically to Wisconsin Trails and a Minnesota outdoor publication. Also preparing and cramming notes for my presentation Thursday about the Superior Hiking Trail.

BEER ALERT: The beer I am using for beer can chicken is Hamm's Special Light ($3.99 a 12-pack). No flavor and it tears through you if you drink a lot of it. I opted for value over quality. Next time a nice porter or stout. Had to prove I wasn't a beer snob.

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