Sunday, September 21, 2014

Red Bounty

Such a generous grapevine.  The Roger’s Red is the first harbinger of spring, its soft green buds promising the end of winter.  And all summer long, its massed  leaves – perfectly formed, stereotypical-looking “grape leaf” leaves – form a cascade of greenery that simply  shouts “summer day.”

Grapevine, front porch, sun through 002

Then in fall, that perfect green waterfall of leaves turns into a glorious wall of fire – their last blazing gift before winter dark.

Over the years, as they grew and matured, I would notice little dried up sprigs of grapes here and there and thought, since they’re supposed to be a native, their fruiting was sparse and inedible. So I paid them no mind.

Then this year, while poking  around , head under the tumbling leaves and vines doing a little pruning, I was shocked to see this, lots and lots of this:


 So it was grab a bucket time, call a friend and together we harvested 4-6 of these:


And since the grapes are quite small and mostly skin and seed, utilizing all that surprise bounty meant this:


Some washing, some prep time snipping and sorting and out came this:

Intense.  Very, very intense.  And tart.  Very tart. Even cut with water, well, it was a rich-on-the-tongue vintage year indeed.  To your good health.  L’chaim!

Thank you Mr. Red. 

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Adventures in Modern Dentistry!

One of the benefits of being a certain age is you can really appreciate changes you've seen in the long span of your own life.  Take dentistry, for example.  People of a certain age are likely to have been so traumatized as children by their often hideous experiences in the dentist's chair -- in my case, drills that ran on wheels and a pulley that felt like it was being powered by hamsters -- that even the mention of the word "dentist" would send them diving under the bed in terror. Even a relatively short  time ago, getting a crown was a messy, multi-visit piece of awfulness involving drool and spit and bone-rattling drilling.  

Well, no more. A few days ago, I had to go get two crowns and a root canal to save my poor 50+ year-old wisdom tooth. I was dreading the day because throughout my life every time anyone used the word "root canal," the response was a ghastly scream and a shudder.  But  I was delightedly dumbfounded to learn how far dentistry has come in just a few years.  My local Los Osos dentist, Dr. Duffy DeGraw, took over from my (retired) dentist and he's a young whippersnapper out of school with all the latest up-to-date learning, technical know-how and a sincere commitment to keep the patient pain-free and comfortable, right down to asking you what kind of music you want to listen to during the procedure. (They weren't offering a small glass of fine wine, but I suspect that'll be next. ) 

So, I'm laying there midway through all the high-speed whizz-banging and I feel them sticking some kind of something into my mouth and hear a rapid tick-tick-tick-tick.  Puzzled, I ask what's going on and sit up to see  Dr. Duffy working on an odd-looking machine with a flat screen on top, and on the screen was a 3-D topographical map of my jaw and teeth in all their weird computer-generated glory.  (Creepy, too, because my disembodied jaw on the screen resembled some sort of prehistoric Megalosaur's choppers.)  

The tick-tick-tick was the laser "reading" the topography of my teeth and jaw, which it then  generated into the 3-D teeth image (which could be turned every way but loose on the screen.)  Dr. Duffy then proceeded to make various marks on the screen, outlining the perimeters he wanted, then, basically, hit the "print" button.

He asked if I wanted to go see what happens next, so I scampered into the lab room.  There, a machine was set to go.  Between two very small drills was a block of porcelain.  The drills started spinning, zeeeet-zeeeet-zeeet,  amidst cooling water jets, drilling out and forming a perfectly carved out porcelain "crown." First one was cut free and fell with a plop into the catch-bin.  Then it was ready for a new cube for a new crown. .

With a bit of trying on, the crowns were then heat-annealed to full hardness, then dropped down on my teeth, glued in place, and out the door I went. 2 1/2 hours start to finish. 

And the only pain involved was to my bank account. 


Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Zuri's Wish for Green Beans Comes True

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Thursday, September 11, 2014

That Day. This Day

Calhoun's Cannons For Sept 11, 2014

It is difficult at times to repress the thought that history is about as instructive as an abattoir.
                                      Seamus Heaney

This day, the airwaves are flooded with September 11th remembrances -- all those endless tape loops of planes and buildings and dust and chaos.  And death.  So much death.

I don't plan on watching any of the specials.  Nothing new there.  Just heartache and sadness, the old wounds. On  the TV news, the twin towers will fall again and again, each rerun more awful than the other.  The Falling Man, that horrifying signature photograph of a man who jumped from the burning heights, will still remain halfway between sky and earth  -- Schrodinger's cat in a business suit, permanently existing and not existing.  There is no saving him.  The script cannot be rewritten, the film unspooled. He will fall forever.

A day after that day, while the TV news was still filled with scenes of unbearable ugliness, without really being conscious of what I was doing, I went out and bought a wine-barrel planter and some flowers.  It was rather silly, this thought that the horror in New York and Pennsylvania and Washington DC, could be countered in any way by some petunias.  But there it was.  The need to put something of beauty, something living, into the ground.

Locally, Mr. Tutt must have felt a similar urge because within hours of the onslaught his huge crane appeared on the corner of Los Osos Valley Road and South Bay Blvd, a giant American flag waving  on the top of the crane's arm.  And on the truck itself, as if by magic, local citizens, driven as I was to somehow reclaim something living, something renewing, had started putting vases of flowers on the truck-bed of this touching, home-grown memorial shrine. 

But no amount of flowers could begin to counter the darkness that was unleashed on that bright blue day.  The stain of an unnecessary war upon a region already cracking apart from barely contained sectarian violence, state-sanctioned torture, murder, destruction, death;  the absolute worst human nature has to offer.  Osama had opened the box and the insanity was unleashed. Celebrated.  Reveled in.  A world gone mad. 

And so it remains today. Lessons unlearned.  Hard to disagree with Seamus: The world as an abattoir. Countless dead, all that pain and loss, and for what?  A new skyscraper pierces the heavens where the ghost of the Twin Towers stands: Business as usual.  Osama bin Laden is gone, his cerebral dreams of a pristine, purified caliphate degenerated into a sadistic British thug done up as a badass rapping Ninja Warrior holding a bloody knife in one hand, a reporter's head in the other.   You-Tube Jihad.   

Muhammad himself would weep in shame.

So on this day, no re-runs for me, thank you.  The past is irredeemable.  And, anyway, we have far sadder things to focus on.  As I sit typing this, the radio news has announced the latest U.N. report that the world's CO2 numbers are now well past the no-return, tipping-point numbers. 

Which means on this day, the dire consequences of global warming are now unstoppable.  Locked, and loaded, they have targeted all of us.  Ignoring science and dismissing our future, we have flown our own planes into our own Twin Towers.

It is a supreme irony.  Now, like The Falling Man, we are all Schrodinger's Cat.  And no amount of petunias in wine-barrel planters or crane trucks with flags and flowers will save us and our children from what's coming.