The Day My Life Changed – Part 4: The Event

If you haven’t read about the drive to the Fairgrounds in Part 3, you really should.

We had set up a table in the volunteer break room specifically for the photo team. There were tables all around the room, prepped for the convention. We had a floor map taped to the wall so we could physically check off which artists and vendors we had taken pictures of. Snacks and drinks sprawled across two tables for the volunteers. Jennifer had already told me several times that I didn’t look right and I should sit down and take it easy, but I’d have none of that. Work through it, you know?

Several years ago, there was another con that was an absolute disaster; not our con, mind you. The attendance was pathetic and a feature they had was a “ball pit,” which consisted of a small kiddy pool with the plastic balls in it. Their few exhibitors were understandably dissatisfied, so the con offered them “complimentary time in the ball pit” as consolation. It was so funny to us that our people set up a small ball pit in our volunteer room. Ours was an inflatable unit with net walls, big enough for two adults to lay down in, or several children to play in.

This is when my memory starts to get a little spotty. A lot of the central event memories only came back to me later, for what that’s worth. It was weird to have the memories start filling out in the weeks after. But, I’m two-thousand words into this already, and I’m only just now getting to the point, so I should digress. What I’ll give you next is the complete memory as it is now, rather than feed it I perceived it flowing back to me. If that makes any sense at all.

I was in the break room at about 2:00 p.m., helping another volunteer set up the aforementioned ball pit. The fixture itself is packaged in a nylon bag like a camping tent. We spread it out on the floor, and there was an air pump to keep it inflated like a bouncy house. I remember spreading it out, and either he or I attached the air pump. Then, I remember leaning over to straighten out some of the material as it inflated, and things went black. Do you know what it feels like when you stand up too fast and you see stars or sometimes black? That’s what it felt like, but I didn’t get up from it. It felt like being sick, and then nothing.

Tomorrow, we’ll hear about how it felt to come to in Part 5.

The Day My Life Changed – Part 3: The Truck

Here’s a link to Part 2, in case you missed it.

So, I drove the stupid truck. The weather sucked. It wasn’t exactly raining so much as misting. It was like Peru rain; just enough to run the wipers and make the road slick. In a truck that I was unfamiliar with that weighs like a million pounds. With an uneven load in it. Because the guys who loaded it don’t move stuff for a living (not a slam, God love them), but are a bunch of retail employees, accountants, and bankers. And, it was really windy. In a box truck. With the aerodynamics of a sail boat. I kept sipping on my Coke, trying to stay relaxed, despite feeling the load settling, and the wind rocking the NPR like a pirate’s ship in a storm on the high seas. With Jennifer leading the way, many-a-car cut between us to mash their brakes and hit an exit ramp, as though they wanted to get squashed by tons of video games. Despite my efforts, I white-knuckled that steering wheel all the way to our destination. Pulling into the gate at the Fairgrounds felt like the greatest accomplishment in the world. But, the trip wasn’t over yet.

I had never noticed how narrow the roads are at the Fairgrounds, but then, I’d always driven there in an imported compact car or compact truck, not the freaking Technodrome. I was doing okay until I went through this one intersection. I stopped at the stop sign, turned on the signal to turn right, and pulled out. Apparently, I didn’t swing out enough. I didn’t so much hit the stop sign, as scrape it. Incidentally, that stop sign was exactly at the same height as the rivets on the truck’s box, so, they strummed that stop sign like a guitar all the way down the box. Pop, pop, pop, pop, pop, pop, pop, pop, pop, pop, pop, pop… Of course, from my perspective, it was more like, “pop *fuck* pop *fuck* pop *God, please make this stop!* pop *ooh fuck*, etc., et al. Some of our aforementioned millennials in the party were trailing, and I could hear them snickering in my mind.

By the time we got to the venue, I had to pull the seat cushion out of my butt crack and pry my fingers out of the grooves that I’d crushed into the steering wheel. Backing the freaking building on wheels into the State Fair building was no big deal as compared to dealing with traffic with it on the highway. We got the thing unloaded, and I threw the keys at someone, disavowing it for eternity. Through the morning, I found myself irritable, drowsy, nauseated, and foul. I continued to sip at my Coke until it was empty. I helped set up display cases, arcade cabinets, tables, and stuff in general. I drank some coffee. I took pictures, and some time lapse video. Someone brought in a couple bags from McDonald’s filled with sausage biscuits and cheeseburgers. I still had no appetite, but I felt like I should eat.

I picked out a cheeseburger and took a couple nibbles. It was hard to swallow. I was drinking a lot of water because I knew that dehydration was a real risk. The place looked great! There were a couple of cars that got staged in the building; a DeLorean, the actual yellow and blue Jeep pickup from the movie Twister, a Jeep done up in Jurassic Park theme. We continued to set up exhibitor tables with table cloths and everything we’d need for the weekend. Between setting up fixtures, and unloading gear, and taking pictures, I’d make my way back to that same cheeseburger and nibbled at it a little more, force it down. I’d developed a cough. I assumed that it was allergies from the dust stirred up from the tables and table cloths and storage contents. Jennifer asked the Twister truck owner if we could set a camera in the bed, and he assured us that there was no way we could hurt it. My cough kept getting worse. I’d kind of gag at the end of the cough. Nasty allergies!

Tomorrow, I’ll let you in on what this is all leading up to in Part 4.

The Day My Life Changed – Part 2: That Morning

If you missed yesterday’s post, with the backdrop to this crazy story, you can find it here.

Fast forward through the week. On Thursday, April 27, Jennifer and I intended to get to bed early, as we were planning to get up entirely earlier than we ever do, unless we intend to harvest venison. We didn’t get to bed early. I don’t even remember why. But, one way or another, shiny happened, and we stayed up later than intended. So, Friday morning, on April 28, 2017, the alarm went off at 4:30 or some God-awful time that I didn’t know they even made an “a.m.” for. We zombied our way out of bed, dressed our corpses, made coffee, and motored over to the storage unit. I’m pretty sure we got there at 5:30. Nobody else was there. So, we sat in the car with the windows down, enjoying the cool breeze, still trying to wake up, waiting for our young compatriots to join us. When 6:00 rolled around, we were still the only ones there. I started making phone calls and social media messages. I got a message back from the other RGS founding member.

“Um, the storage place doesn’t even open until 7:00. You might go grab breakfast,” his message read.

Well, crap. There was a McDonald’s about a half-mile down the street. When we got to the drive-through, Jennifer requested her regular Egg McMuffin with hash browns and coffee. I ordered a large Coke.

Jennifer asked, “you aren’t going to order food?”

“My stomach isn’t awake this early,” I answered, “I need more caffeine.”

So, Jennifer started munching on her food, and I started sipping on my drink, “my taste buds must not be awake either; this Coke tastes funny.” But, I kept drinking it.

By 7:00, other volunteers started rolling in, along with the rental truck. When I say “rental truck,” I don’t mean the half-ton you can get by the hour at Home Depot, or even the full-size box truck you can rent from Uhaul. I’m talking about a commercial Isuzu NPR. I don’t know what size engine it had, but I’m pretty sure it was the 5.2L. Big. Truck. As the sun rose, we loaded the truck with arcade cabinets, display cases, shelves, rubber balls, and miscellaneous stuff. I took some time lapse video of us loading the truck. I was starting to feel a little more awake; less numb, less tired. It actually felt good to get the door closed and latched on the truck. The first aforementioned founding RGS member approached me again.

“So,” he said, “all of us came in cars individually.”

“uhuh,” I said. I had a feeling I knew where this was going.

“So, I wondered,” he requested, “if you could drive the truck to the Fairgrounds… Because you’re the only ones who came in a car as a group…”

Crap. That’s where I thought this was going. I’d never driven anything as big as that stupid truck. For a time, I drove a one-ton diesel box truck a hundred miles, twice a day. I got cut off by Mini Coopers in that thing. They were nearly crushed like bugs. When I was a teenager, I drove a 1978 Lincoln Mark V. 6500-lbs, 18-ft long, 6.5-ft wide, 460 V8. I put SEVEN THOUSAND MILES on a Ford E350 Super Duty in TWO WEEKS. What I’m trying to say is that I’m not at all unfamiliar with large vehicles. But, that NPR was notably bigger than anything I’d been behind the wheel of. I was uncomfortable.

“I don’t really want to…” I looked at Jennifer.

She threw her hands in the air, “don’t look at me!” she said.

He said, “we really need you do do this.”

I was still sleepy enough that I couldn’t think of any good excuses, or simply say something to the effect of, “eff no.”

“You lead in the car,” I told Jennifer, “take the interstate, but stick to the right lane, and let’s not top 45mph. Please.”

Tomorrow, we’ll talk about the hilarious and harrowing trip in the giant truck in Part 3.

The Day My Life Changed – Part 1: Background

I’ve been actively taking first responder training for my whole life. I was in first-aid classes as a child. in my adult life, I’ve taken classes in CPR, AED, etc… For that matter, I know how to properly apply a tourniquet or chest seal. I’ve been taught how to respond to someone having a seizure. Jennifer and I have had opportunity to respond to other individuals seizing on two separate occasions. Thinking back, we could have responded better, but to my knowledge, both individuals made through it just fine. Any landing you can walk away from is a good one, right? So, I’ve seen seizures, but I had no idea what recovery was like.

Also, I’ve been healthy my entire life. I’m 39. I once had a baby tooth extracted, but I’ve never had surgery. I had a green stick fracture in a finger as a small child, when my finger got slammed in the back side of a door at church, but I’ve never broken a bone. I’ve had cuts and scrapes, but I’ve never had stitches. I’m not on any medications, and I have no significant allergies. Any time I’ve filled out a medical screening, it’s been “no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no….”

I’m redacting and/or changing names here, as I’ve asked no permissions, with the exception of my lovely wife, with whom I’ve been discussing this post for quite some time. Also, I won’t swear that any of this is perfectly accurate, but my memory and perception of events.

About four years ago, our teenage son asked about “vintage or retro video games, you know, the old ones…” So, Jennifer and I dug through our parents’ attics and got out our Atari 2600s, her original Nintendo NES, my original XBOX, and whatever other goodies we could find. The three of us got to playing the oldies. I went on a mission to the junk shops and garage sales, and wound up expanding the collection of stuff. It was good times. Jennifer forwarded me an email from work, in which they mentioned Super! BitCon, an upstart, local video game convention. Ticket prices were cheap, and they advertised an emphasis on older video games. We had to go. We spent entirely too much money. If memory serves me correctly, the first SNES game I ever purchased was “The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past,” in 2014. It was wonderful. After the event, I did a little social digging and we wound up involved with the Okc chapter of Retro Gamer’s Society (which is the original chapter, IIRC).

By the second year of Super! BitCon, Jennifer and I were the official leads of the Photography Team for the convention. That first (second) year, I didn’t have my own DSLR, so I borrowed my Dad’s first or second generation Canon Rebel with its kit lenses. The building was dark, and I felt totally outclassed, watching other photographers with their bleeding-edge Nikon and Canon gear. Regardless, I worked the aging gear and captured some beautiful and compelling images. There was already a spark telling me that I needed to pursue professional imagery work. This pretty well ignited the fire that pushed me down that rabbit hole.

So, for the last three years of Super! BitCon, we have been not only Photography Lead, but regular, workhorse volunteers for the convention. Fast forward to Saturday, April 22, 2017. We attended the final preparation meeting for the con. We had assembled our photography team. We were pensively ready. I was confident in the members of our team, but we were rag-tag. There were people that I wanted to get for the (fully volunteer) team that couldn’t make it, and one or two that I hadn’t initially counted on that jumped into the fray. We were good to go, though. As the other volunteers were shuffling out of the conference room to enjoy what was left of their Saturday, one of the club’s founding members caught my attention.

“What are you doing at six in the morning on Friday?” he asked me.

I laughed, “sleeping. That was my plan, anyway. Why? What do you have in mind?”

He tipped his head and said, “I wouldn’t not want you to be at the storage unit to help load the truck.”

“Hmmm…” I sighed, “I think we can probably work that out.”

Please do come back tomorrow, and I’ll tell you about how that morning played out, in Part 2.

Interesting Times. But, Let’s Not Talk Politics.

It seems that cycling has become a more popular hobby of late, in my hometown anyway, but I suspect the local is not a completely unique sample section. Sure, I have memories from childhood of the group of Sunday cyclers who would clog local roadways in their tour around town, but it seems that more and more regular people are making a more regular habit of donning their cycling uniforms and taking to the streets on their bikes. A friend of my parents, who is a local restaurant owner, regularly bikes fifty or so miles around the metro area. My brother recently purchased himself a new bicycle that he rides around the University campus from class to class. I still have my Grandpa’s old Peugeot that I’d like to restore; I just wouldn’t mind spending some time on two wheels again, as it’s been since my teens that I last really rode a bike on a regular basis.

They are fascinating devices. Today’s carbon fiber wonders with intricate gearing mechanisms make my childhood Huffy look like a dinosaur. The Oklahoma Museum of Science has a small but interesting exhibit of historical bicycles. Although it almost seems there is more lore about the origins of the bicycle than history, it is widely accepted that the first one was invented in 1817 in Germany by Charles, Baron Von Drais. Unlike the modern bicycles that we know, this early example had no drive mechanism, but did sport a padded seat and a steerable front wheel. To all you cyclists out there, did you realize that your hobby turns 200 next year?

Back when foundational garments for women included girdles, these now archaic garments were being made from rubber up until the material was in a shortage due to the efforts in World War II. In response to the rubber shortage, Dr. Joseph Shivers, PhD, working for DuPont, began research to develop a new material that could be used as a replacement for rubber in clothing. Through much effort and perseverance, and over a decade later, he and his team invented “Fiber K,” which was renamed “Lycra.” This fiber stretches up to 600% and returns to its original length, in a slimmer, lighter, and more breathable package than its rubber predecessor. Over the course of the next few decades, Lycra, or Spandex, found its way into specialized garments and textiles in applications so varied and vast that I doubt Dr. Shivers himself could have imagined the impact.

Sometime in the 1970s, purpose-made cycling clothing was made from Spandex blends for competitive cycling. Over the subsequent decades, these clingy garments have trickled from the race track to the aforementioned town cruisers. As I wrote in the original paragraph above, regular people will put on their cycling uniform to pedal the local streets. So essentially, for well over 150-years, people managed to enjoy cycling without junk-hugging Spandex. But, my how times have changed! Now we live in a world where it’s hard to go into a coffee shop without seeing some folks nonchalantly meandering about in their skin-tight bike outfits. That stuff leaves nothing to the imagination!

I kid, of course. At least these people are generally in better shape than your average Walmart shopper. As much as I like to rail on people for fashion (not pants!), I honestly don’t care what people choose to wear. Apparently, there are good reasons to go Spandex if you’re biking the long haul well beyond looks or aerodynamics. Heck, maybe I need to get Grandpa’s Peugeot up and running so I too can justify wandering into the bagel shop clad in nothing but skin-tight Spandex and a pair of Oakleys. I think Grandpa would roll over in his grave.

Local Police – But Let’s Not Talk Politics

I was really looking forward to this election cycle; not looking forward to the results, mind you, as I’m pretty sure the results will be disastrous one way or another. But, the cycle itself, campaigning and drama, it really seemed like it would be great blog fodder. But then, there was just too much material. We all knew campaigning for the general election would get juicy, but this is like trying to drink from a fire hose! I was freaking overwhelmed. So, as to politics, we now have to decide if we’re going to vote for the old, rich, corrupt narcissist, trying to put on a show for the common man, or the old, corrupt narcissist, trying to put on a show for the common man. Or, you could go third party and vote for the pothead, calling himself a libertarian, whose ideals are anything but libertarian. Except for the pot. And oddly, I don’t feel that any of the preceding is all that controversial. But, I said I wouldn’t get into politics, and so I digress…

There have been some palpable changes in our local police department over the last few years. A few years ago, they replaced all the motorcycles in my hometown with these souped up BMWs that have some kind of biometric lock that secures their short barreled ARs to the back fender. How a rifle makes any kind of tactical sense when you’re on a motorcycle is completely beyond me, but they look cool, and I haven’t heard of any hi jinx associated therewith, so I suppose it’s all good. I tried to get an in, to go take pics and blog about the new bikes, because they’re cool, but the receptionist simply took my name and number, and I never heard back from them. *Eek!* That probably means I’m on some list somewhere, of citizens who are just a little too curious about the cops and their motorcycles with mounted SBRs. In the past I’ve had contacts with the local PD that made me nervous, but those are stories for another time. More recently, in fact the last two contacts that I’ve had, however, have been nothing short of exemplary. Put that eyebrow down. One was when I rolled over grass in the median to get in the turn lane (there was no curb at the intersection) and the other was for a burned out tail light bulb. It’s not like I’ve been smoking my tires or drifting through intersections. These were two different officers, and I wish I’d gotten their names so I could publicly laud them, because they were both the shining example of how an official contact should go. They were both appropriately respectful, professional, enthusiastic, and downright understanding. The latter (for the tail light) even went so far as to say, “thank you for carrying a gun. Good people like you, carrying, only make my job easier, so please keep that up.” Yeah. It’s little things like this that make endear me to my hometown.

We don’t watch much TV; heck, we don’t even get broadcast television in our home. Pretty much all we watch is on YouTube, Netflix, or Amazon Prime Video. However, I’ll catch a news broadcast every once in a great while at the house of a family member, or in a public space. Anytime there’s a local event that calls the local media to ask for a statement from the police, it seems like two personalities show up over and over again. There’s a female officer whose name escapes me, but she stands out because of her looks and screen presence. She just has the happiest, most pleasant-looking face you could imagine. She’s got the semi-circle, anime eyes, and bright smile. She really looks like a live-action anime girl stuffed into a police uniform. And, she’s always bright and bubbly on screen. Even when they’ve called upon her to talk about something unpleasant, she manages to deliver in a pleasant manner, still paying due gravity to the situation at hand. You wouldn’t mind getting pulled over by her. When she asked for your license and insurance verification, you’d say, “d’awwww! Yes, ma’am.” I tried to ID her on a Google search, but to no avail. Suffice it to say, it’s pretty obvious why the PD throws her in front of the camera over and over when the media comes a-knockin’.

The other regular Okc TV spokesman that comes to mind is Captain Steve McCool. Don’t bother to image search him, just read his name again. Out loud. Captain Steve McCool. Captain McCool is always… well… cool. And to the point. Whenever he comes on the screen though, Jennifer and I will say in unison, “Captain Steve McCool!” with great emphasis. I can just imagine little seven-year-old Stephen (Steven?) McCool, riding down the street on his bicycle, thinking to himself, “self, with a name like yours, you’re destine for greatness! Someday, I’m going to make Captain in the police department.” I mean, seriously! With that title and name, he sounds bigger than life! Captain Steve McCool sounds like he should be the main character in a spy movie, as a cartoon cat! He sounds like he should be the captain of some great airship, blowing villains out of the sky with cannon fire. I’m just saying the guy has a cool name. I’ll bet he still got made fun of for his name when he was a kid though. If you never got made fun of for your name growing up, please tell me about it in the comments section. Kids can be such little jerks.

The first car I bought after Jennifer and I got married was a 1983 Honda Civic Wagon. That was my second ’83 Civic Wagon, after I totaled my first, which was my first car. That’s a story unto itself. I cranked, wrenched, and painted on that second Wagon until she was cherry. We loved that car. I had her just about perfect when this sixteen-year-old girl in a Ford Expedition meandered into my lane through a curve and crunched the front fender and the edge of the hood. Subsequently, a friend gave me an ’82 Civic hatchback to use for spare parts. The hatchback was a complete car, and I drove it home. It seemed like a shame to strip the hatch for parts, so I sourced sheet metal to patch up the Wagon separately, and made the hatch into a toy. At first, I stiffened up the valvetrain on the original 1.5-liter engine, opened up the intake and exhaust, and stripped the interior and air conditioning, as well as some other tweaks here and there. The engine would redline at around 7,000-RPM, and would spin the front tires from 60-mph. The real trouble was, running it that hard, I couldn’t keep it in head gaskets; as in, every 5,000 or so miles, I’d change the oil and head gasket. So, I yanked the 1.8-liter engine out of a 1979 Accord and shoehorned it in. I truncated the exhaust from there and added a Weber carburetor and a cowl induction hood scoop. I know that’s a lot of lead up to the actual story, but please try to bear with me.

I’d been tinkering on the hatchback (we called her Medusa) one day, tweaking and adjusting this and that, and I wanted to see how my efforts would pan out in real life. So, I wheeled her out to the little road behind our neighborhood. I looked carefully to make sure that there were no other cars or pedestrians. And then, I romped on it. And, I upshifted and floored the throttle again. And then, I saw the cop car behind the trees. I immediately started to decelerate, and the red and blues pulled in behind me. “Yup, he got me,” I thought to myself, as I pulled over and shut off the rowdy four-cylinder. The officer who came to the window was an older gentleman with a pleasant demeanor. It was almost like he’d just walked off the set of the Andy Griffith Show.

“Good afternoon,” he said cheerfully, “I suppose you know why I’ve pulled you over today.”

“I have an idea,” I replied, handing him my license and insurance.

“I was sitting here, watching for drivers in violation of seat belt laws, so I wasn’t watching my radar,” he politely fished for admission, “so I don’t know how fast you were going, but the way you were accelerating, I’m pretty sure you had to be speeding.”

I smiled coolly, and admitted to nothing.

“Well,” he smiled back, handing me my license and insurance, “slow it down, and please be careful.”

“Yes sir,” I said.

In today’s day and age, the police are taking a brutal and unwarranted political beating. The vast majority of the police that I see in action are doing a fantastic job, too, both local and abroad. Of the interactions I’ve had with the police, only a small fraction of them have been negative in the least, and I’ve never been in fear for my own safety. I know I’m preaching to the choir for anyone who ever comes to my website, but I just had to put this out there. These men and women are doing a job that I, frankly, wouldn’t want to. Often times, when I see our local officers around town, doing their thing, I’ll give them a smile and wave. This is my little way of participating in Robert Peel’s Principles. “Hey, you, thanks for doing what you’re doing! Keep up the good work!” I know I said I was going to keep it unpolitical, and I’ve probably skirted politics a little too much by now, but whatever. To my friends in law enforcement, for those of you who I’m pretty sure will read this, as well as those of you that probably wont, thank you. There are plenty of us out here that won’t make the news that approve and appreciate you. Because we don’t block traffic or break windows, we are the silent majority. But, we are the majority, and we very much appreciate what you do. And, at the risk of getting too mushy, I’m just going to leave it at that.

Troi

Marina Sirtis

TMH_1771

According to her IMDB page, she has quite an impressive resume as an actress, although I personally will always know her as Deanna Troi, because I grew up on Star Trek. Well, I also remember her as Demona in Gargoyles, which was weirdly like Star Trek in an alternate universe, with the mix of voice talent. And, that appears to have been a deliberate thing*. Anyway, back to Sirtis; 2016 looks like another good year for her, as it appears that she’s got several projects in the works. Apparently, she caught the acting bug when she was quite young and is still going strong, and good on her for that!

*Scroll down to #13, if you’re interested in Gargoyles/Star Trek crossovers.

The Stupid! It Hurts!

Jennifer has a morning alarm set for us on her phone. When the time comes, it speaks to us, reading us FaceBook reminders, news headlines, and weather forecast. This is useful, but also a little frustrating at times. For instance, this morning, it spouted out a headline that left me scratching my head. It seems that on Wednesday morning, Farmingdale State College in Long Island, NY went on lockdown because someone spotted a man with a rifle in the parking lot. Except it wasn’t a rifle. It was a toy light saber.

Evidently, there is no limit to human stupidity.

The grandson of one of my neighbors drops by to chat once in a while. He’s really into airsoft. Last time he dropped by, he brought along his AR clone to show it off. I was impressed. Although not an actual firearm, many of the components of his gun were straight off the real thing. Even the upper receiver looked to be a modified version of a genuine M4 upper, stuffed with the guts to launch a plastic pellet with a tank of compressed gas. Prior to close inspection, this thing looks like a gun. I would not have been shocked if an officer of the law had pulled into my driveway to investigate because another neighbor had called it in.

A Star Wars toy light saber though? I find myself struggling to try to figure out how this confusion is even possible. If it had been a Star Wars blaster mistaken for an actual pistol, I could come to some kind of understanding. If an airsoft rifle had been mistaken for the real thing, it would be easy to understand. But, a toy light saber? Really?

If I had any business to be on a college campus in New York, I would deliberately avoid having anything on my person that could be misconstrued for a gun. Don’t start nothing, won’t be nothing, right? It would never occur to me that a toy light saber could be mistaken for a gun. In the grand scheme of things, it was not all that long ago that children showed up to school with actual guns, and nothing but good intentions. They were hunting after class, or whatever. My wife tells me stories of trucks in her high school parking lot that would routinely have rifles in the gun racks mounted to the back window. Nobody called the police, because nobody was doing anything wrong. Stranger has multiple stories from when he went to school, of the children leaning their long guns in the corner of the classroom because they were going to do some hunting on their way home from school. These were actual guns, not toys that don’t even resemble guns in the slightest.

This news story came way too early this morning. I’ll post something less stupid later on.

Savory Pie – Not Quite a Recipe

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I’ve been meaning to write this up for a while now. For a few years, I’ve been making savory pies for dinner. I made up a duck pie and served it to some North Texas friends, with good reviews. LawDog got a mouth full of it and blurted out, “Oh Gawd that’s good! You made this?” Dorothy Grant asked me for the recipe. Happy to oblige, I assured her that I’d write it up. Then, I sat down to my laptop to do just that, and went blank. Recipe. *tapping fingers on desk* Right. That’s one of those things that tells people the details on how to cook something. Hrrrm.

See, I’m kind of weird. I don’t really do the whole “recipe” thing. Maybe I’ll kind of “follow” a recipe once or twice to figure out how to make something, but then I wind up tailoring it to my taste for subsequent preparations. And, although my savory pies may taste like magic, there’s really nothing magical in the making. Honestly, this whole thing started when we had a bunch of green tomatoes at the end of the season. We didn’t really know what to do with them, and so they became a green tomato pie. since then, pie has become a way to deal with leftovers. It may seem a little gauche to serve your leftovers to your friends and family, but really; I will often prepare more than the three of us can eat in a sitting so I will have materials for a subsequent pie. So, rather than spelling out a recipe here, I’m going to try to explain the science behind the pies in question.

I’ve got a few old Pyrex pie plates. These things are awesome. You can make up a pie, cover it with foil and freeze it. These will go straight from the freezer into the oven without issue. They clean up easily, and store well. When your pie is in the oven, you can see the crust to monitor how done it is. If you don’t have any, you should acquire some. Look for them in junk shops and estate sales, and expect to pay between $.50 and $2.00. If you make your own pie crusts, great. I use the pre-made store bought ones. When the local grocery puts them on sale for under a buck a pair, I usually stock up and put them in the freezer.

The basics of my pies fillings are a mix of meat and starch, in the range between 50/50 to 65/35, the balance going either way, with some kind of binding agent. I have blended the filling all together in the past, but more recently have had great results with layering the starch and meat. If you can butter your Pyrex pie plate and roll out the dough, then this is a cinch. I usually do these two at a time

1 – Prepare the pie plate. Take a stick of butter and tear the paper off one end. Holding the butter stick by the wrapped end, smear it all over the inside of the pie plate until it is thoroughly coated. This does two things. It will act as a release agent so the baked pie slices come out cleanly, and it will help crisp up the crust. Roll out the pie crust and press it into the buttered plate.

2 – Starch layer – I like to use potatoes, but about anything starchy could be used here. about 1.25-pounds of plain, red, boiled and drained potatoes, mostly smashed into the bottom of the crust works great. I usually leave them lumpy, as the texture is nice in a pie, but mash them well enough to eliminate most air space. It never hurts to throw a few pats of butter on top here. You can also blend cheese or other delights into the potato layer. Alternatively, leftover french fries or tater tots are pretty wonderful for this layer. I used to hate leftover french fries until I started doing this. Now I plan to have leftover french fries. I suppose you could use rice or some other starchy agent with similar results, but I haven’t personally strayed much from potatoes on this part.

3 – Meat. This can be just about anything. I’ve used multiple types of beef (brisket, prime rib, pot roast), chicken (fried, boiled, roasted, grilled), pork (pulled, loin), and other things, such as duck and lobster. Tender slabs that are sliced lay into this layer fine. One of my more recent pies was brisket and ham on french fries, and it was amazing. In the case of chicken or duck, I like to pre cook it until it’s largely falling off the bone, and chunk the meat. If it’s leftover fried chicken, just break it up into bite-sized pieces and spread it evenly. Whatever kind of meat you have, lay it onto the starch layer, more or less evenly. Be careful with fowl, as it’s very easy to miss a few bones and have them wind up in the pie. If you have awesome friends like mine, they won’t mind the bones anyway.

4 – Binder – A lot of the time, whatever I’m putting together is chunked in such a way that I lack confidence that the structure will hold together on its own when served. some grated cheese in the mix helps, and adds wonderful flavor to boot! Indeed, a quarter pound of freshly grated parmesan or asiago mixed into the meat adds a lovely zest, and helps the meat to physically hold together. A half pound of grated Jarlsberg makes even the blandest of boiled chicken fit for a king’s appetite. Another great binding agent is egg. With crumbly meat such as pulled pork mixed with an egg or two makes for a delightfully firm slice of pie. With the duck, I spooned the duck fat (liquid freaking gold) off the water and added it to the mix as the primary binder and never looked back.

5 – Top that pie! I top my pies in several ways, depending on my current whim. The store bought crusts come two to a package. Sometimes, I top my pies with the second crust. If you do this, make sure to cut some kind of vent in the top. My mom always cut a “~” kind of mark in her pies, but you can do anything, even “IZ PAH!” as pictured above. Also, drop a few pats of butter on that top crust. When you bake it, the butter will melt into the crust and give it a lovely golden brown, crispy, awesomeness. I’ve been known to weave a bacon mat and top a pie with it. Thick sliced bacon usually comes about twelve or thirteen slices per pound, and a six by six woven bacon mat is awesome for all kinds of culinary tricks. If you cook, but you haven’t played with this, you need to get your butt in the kitchen and do it now! Grated or sliced cheese sometimes makes a good pie topper. Keep in mind that some cheeses tend to melt an get gooey and others will crisp and brown more. It can be good either way, as long as you’re mindful of the end results. Then, there are times that I’ve simply left the pie open on top, as I did with the aforementioned duck pie. That one got topped with freshly ground pepper and Himalayan pink salt.

6 – Store and/or bake. As previously mentioned, I usually make these two at a time, because that’s convenient to how my ingredients come out, most of the time. Your mileage may vary, of course. When I’ve made two, and it’s the three of us eating, I’ll foil cover one and throw it in the freezer for later consumption. The other one goes on the middle oven rack at 350-degrees. Cooking time may vary between a half hour and a full hour. Just keep in mind that pretty much everything inside the pie is pre-cooked. So basically, when the crust is golden brown, and your bacon is done, or your cheese looks the way you want it to, whatever egg is in there is finished, and you’re done. I usually put mine in for a half hour and then monitor it after that. Remember what I said about the Pyrex pie plates? This is where seeing through the pie plate comes in handy. From frozen, take the foil off the pie and put it on the middle oven rack at 450-degrees for a half hour. Then, turn the oven down to 350-degrees and bake as needed. My frozen pies typically take a total of anywhere between one and two hours to get done.

7 – Serve. From fresh or frozen, it’s best to let the pie sit outside the oven and cool for about fifteen minutes. Depending on the size of your pie and the appetite of your crew, you can slice these in quarters, sixths, eighths, or whatever. There were seven of us miscreants, and I sliced the duck pie into eights. I don’t know who got the eighth piece, but somebody went back for seconds. LOL! Season to taste. Sriracha or Louisiana hot sauce see heavy use in my household. A very ripe avacado sliced tops a savory pie nicely too. Other times, I like to eat them without further embellishment. Whatever you don’t immediately eat will store nicely for several days in the refrigerator, and makes awesome subsequent lunches. (Meta leftovers)

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If there’s a wrong way to do this, I’m not sure I’ve discovered it yet. Growing up, leftovers were leftovers, and never became anything more interesting. Now, when they’re trying to push leftovers at family gatherings, I get all grabby. The vast majority of our leftovers go into fried rice or pies at this point, which are good enough that I don’t feel ashamed to offer them to friends and family. As I mentioned, I often cook intending to have leftovers for pie filling now. For instance, I roasted the aforementioned duckling until it was medium, cut off the breasts for dinner that night, and continued stewing the rest of it so I could bake it into a couple pies. I used to make leftover fried chicken into chicken salad sandwiches, but it makes amazing pie. Get creative with it!

So, Dorothy, I hope this helps. Kind of recipe but not a recipe, I guess. But yeah, pie is awesome, and more people should be having awesome pie for dinner. If I can help facilitate that, the world will be a happier place. Please do let me know what you come up with in the comment section, and have fun!

Rebecca Romijn

Not to be confused with ramen.

Romijn

But, it might be fun to ask her to sign a package of ramen noodles. Some celebrities have a better sense of humor than others. I’ve never met her and this picture was already autographed when I acquired it. However, as we go to cons and whatnot, I might start thinking about sillier things to ask guests to sign. She was stunning as Mystique. Then again, she’s been stunning in about everything she’s done.