Thursday, June 25, 2015

For Johnny Hof

They broke the mold when the made you, John Hofstetter.  No, that's not really true.  When they made you Johnny Hof, they didn't break the mold.  Johnny Hof, you did all by your lonesome.  I can't say why, but I do think it pleased you, and that's ok as long as you were pleased.  I can say that molds don't last.  In fact they were made to be broken.  As long as I remember you, I'll never forget that.  

And, now that you are no longer here, I'll remember that I should never forget my favorite jokes, and always try to find a few to add to my swagman's bag.   I had forgotten how important it is to tell them often, and whenever it pleases me, just as you did, whether it pleased me, the listener or not.  I'll now remember that too.  Although your jokes pleased you much more than me sometimes, BaldJoker, I could always enjoy your pleasure in the telling of one, even if I wished I had never heard it.  It was enough for me that it pleased you.  In your memory I will rekindle some of my languishing anecdotes, discover some amusing stories, hunt down fresh material, and enjoy recalling it all for others, whether asked or not.

I do recall and will never forget, Johnny Hof, that you were my first (and so far, only) anti-war protest companion.  On January 18, 2003, you and I marched in Washington to protest our country's politicians' decision to declare war on Iraq, which was a symptom of a larger malady, "The War on 'Terror'" as our then Commander-In-Chief had defined the term.  We marched with tens of thousands, or several hundred thousand, depending up whether you followed CNN or the Washington Post.  The traditional official estimators of public demonstration size, the US Park Police, had ceased this function after being threatened with a lawsuit by the Million Man March a decade ago.  They did tell the press that our permit was only for 30,000.  I like to think that those extra marchers estimated by  the Washington Post were the sons and daughters of the gate crashers at Woodstock, and those Rainbow Gypsies have since returned to Yasgur's Farm to await another event worthy of historical spontaneous attendance by the counterculture.  

John and I marched together in the bright cold sun, or maybe it was cloudy - or maybe the shade I marched in was the effect a crowd can have on a woman of diminutive stature.  We followed the people in front of us, and those behind followed us, and I had no clear horizon from which to see who or how many of us there were in the city, or in San Francisco, Lincoln, Nebraska, Moscow, Paris, Istanbul, or Cairo.  It was COLD where we were marching, and we were our own river of discontent winding  through downtown DC towards a sea surging around the world in protest of the war, and in protest of what would later itself be called, the "Surge," and still later in polite company worldwide, a FOOBAR.  We weren't buyin' the duct tape, Mister Prez'dent.  We marched to the clatter and rattle and claptrap percussion connived by the energetic among us.  I watched a few heady collegiates shout, "Occupy the Capitol," and stampede across the government's manicured lawn.  It was a small stampede and the Capitol remained in the hands of the mighty.  Mostly I watched the men and women watching us from the rooftops of public buildings, waving flags and holding banners, "Vets for Peace."  I still wonder how they got up there.  The parents of some of our fellow protestors might have spat on them thirty years ago.  

That is why I waited until Iraq to declare, "This is What Democracy Looks Like."  Spitting on draftees isn't my style.  By then, only John Hofstetter said yes, he would join me in my maiden war protest.  One does not lose one's virginity alone.  I yelled, the crowd yelled - to the banner waving vets, to the onlookers, and to ourselves.  The vets waved their support.  John ate a pear.  He did not yell.  His blood sugar needed to be dealt with.  Indeed, "This is What Democracy Looks Like," might be the democracy we could live in if enough of us yelled enough for the rest who had to eat their fruit.  To my reckoning, that democracy hasn't come, but the invasion did.  The "war" continues.  The "Terror" has not been destroyed, although the antiquities of Iraq were.  And the price of pears has skyrocketed.

I've since come to learn that the highest court in the land has ruled that money is speech.  And if their ruling is just and true, we are indeed living in a democracy.  If money is speech, then more money (even if held by a minority as tiny as 1%) IS a majority.  Despite the warnings from historians,  philosophers, and less popular "others," that even a people-based democracy (much less a capital-based one) could, in effect be merely the tyranny of the majority, to the dear hearts and gentler people who know that their views are the unexpressed and unrealized best of mainstream society, majority rule is the true, the just, and the essence of the good that is democracy.  To fight for a cause they've long ago forgotten is a noble sacrifice?  I do not know.  I didn't know at that time that our soft-spoken Vice-President was indeed representing the will of the capital majority - in the form of the many dollars to be recouped by Halliburton.  This is what democracy acts like.  The powerful and at that time unnamed majority, those silent dollars, noted us pass noisily by, uncounted.  We were reflected only in the evening newscasts, which I was too tired to watch.  The next day, as had been the case during the previous one, the paper-faced majority passed themselves under the table into to other hands.  

I do know that when the march was over, John, you and I stopped at the Museum of the American Indian Native Food Cafe because it was warm and because you again needed to eat.  And this is what democracy feels like:  I paid for your lunch because the cost of the subway ticket and gasoline you purchased to be able to exercise your democratic right of free speech had cost you all that you had in your wallet, and you were without means to buy the food to replenish your blood sugar.  I do not know what you ate for dinner.  I hoped your auto got you back to Frederick.  This is what democracy is like.

John, I remember you bringing Pete Thomas to the Halloween 2010 reunion of the Arundel Senior High School Class of 1970.  You pushed his wheelchair and made sure he got to speak with everyone he knew.  This is what kindness is like.  When Richard Wallace couldn't find Pete's photo in any yearbook for his class reunion nametag, I copied a photo of Johnny Depp as pirate Jack Sparrow, and Richard printed that.  You made sure, John, that Pete kept his name tag because it pleased him, and that I had an address to write to him.  I wrote.  I remember sending Pete some stamps and paper.  I never heard from him.  John, your kindness imbued Pete with the dignity every human being should have, no matter the hard times, no matter the past.  These were your gifts, John -  occasional sensibility, abundant sensitivity, and a warped sense of humor.  I know you preferred the BaldJoker label, despite the fact that it fit you like a suit two sizes too small.  That there was much, much more to you is all I know.

Perhaps I should engage in another protest in your honor, Johnny Hof, or tie up traffic around the Washington beltway by driving too slowly to emphasize the need to legalize marijuana in the remaining unNORMALized states (before some of them secede from the Union again), or maybe I should try more often to just be a nuisance - just for the hell of it.  As long as I enjoy the act of harmlessly but intentionally irritating someone, especially someone in a position of power or authority, I think you'd approve.  I know I do.  Maybe, Bald Joker, I should recount one of the last jokes you felt up to relating to me.  I'm pleased and embarrassed to say is one of my favorites.  I may have deleted or simply missed reading others.  I now realized I didn't read all your messages.  2013 was a tough one for me, although not as tough as it was for you.  And so:

Linda May fainted and Billy Joe called 911. The 911 operator said that she would send someone out right away. "Where do you live?" asked the operator. And Billy Joe replied, "At the end of Eucalyptus Street." The 911 operator asked, "Can you spell that for me?" There was a long pause and finally Billy Joe said, "How 'bout if I drag her over to Oak Street, and you pick her up there?"
I've bookmarked and just now added a few "keepers" to my swagman's bag. 

I remember you watched, "Manufacturing Consent:  Noam Chomsky and the Media," with me many moons ago before it passed from theory into accepted reality.  I'm not sure that even HookedOnLinux could escape NSA surveillance.  The Internet petitions you and I signed demanding the break-up of Citizens United were certainly swept up along with all our chit-chat, link-sharing of Buffalo Springfield and other musicians, and, or course, your jokes.  The declared illegality of mass surveillance programs will not stop this one, nor them in the future.   If you had not been suffering from congestive heart failure, I'm sure you would have pulled a practical joke on the NSA, and if they ever bothered to analyze the "intelligence" they've been collecting, I might never have heard from you again.  Ill-health got to you before any direct government intervention, although there is some merit to the argument that the government's lack of intervention on behalf of the poor is one factor in your lifelong health problems.    I will catch, "Bought" somewhere, sometime.  I will miss hearing from you.  I'm glad you liked the Native American Homeland Security bumper sticker, my friend.

Johnny Hof, if you're reading this or watching me now, enjoy a snicker thinking about at how you amused, befriended, and irritated so many people that I am indeed a drop in the proverbial bucket.  Rest in laughter, and the satisfaction, John, that you did indeed smash the livin' hell out of that friggin' mold.

Sunday, February 03, 2013

Kingsley Plantation

Our friend, Charles was visiting us during the Christmas season and that gave me a good reason to suggest a trip to a place that has fascinated me as a piece of Florida history: Kingsley Plantation. The plantation was not terribly large as plantations go, but it first owners, Jedidiah Kingsley and his wife, a former slave, Anna Madgigine Jai Kingsley, exemplified the complex and contradictory culture of Florida at the beginning of the 19th century. Anna's life (insofar as it can be pieced together) was documented in the book, Anna Madgigine Jai Kingsley: African Princess, Florida Slave, Plantation Slaveowner.

You can read all about the park, including the buildings which are being restored: the main house, the madame's house, the barn, and many of the slave houses at the National Park's Kingsley Plantation website. The big house was closed for the day. We spent time seeing what we could. I was especially interested in seeing the slave quarters, since I'd never explored them before. Like the stonework in the madame's house, slave houses were built of tabby with a stucco overcoat. Tabby was created by mixing shells and sand; it was incredibly study as evidenced by the slave houses still standing after two hundred years. The houses themselves were arranged in a semi-circle, much like the circular pattern of Wolof village houses in Africa, where Anna supposedly was from. When Jedidiah was away, Anna was mistress of the entire plantation and oversaw the slaves' work. She even had her own special slaves. It was not uncommon to enslave captured people back in Africa, so slavery was something Anna would certainly have been accustomed to. Here are photos we took.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Like Datils for Chocolate, Birthday Observances, and a Phenomenon Called Sandy

Yesterday, October 27, my friend Sue and I set up a table at Westminster Woods' Fall Festival. It was my first time actually selling something at an open air market, but thanks to the St. Johns County Commissioners enacting a Cottage Food Industry law and to Sue for getting a table at the market, I was able to participate in the American economy as a small (not just in stature) business owner. Under the Cottage Food Industry law I was allowed to sell confections and baked goods like bread. So I did.

My offering consisted of two varieties of bread and chocolate. To my amazement, most festival attendees had never heard of such a thing. Despite their lack of culinary breadth, quite a few were induced to buy a mini loaf of either Maiden's Blush or Passion's Flush au Pan after a sample, and perhaps a quick read of my description: Like Datils for Chocolate. Not enough to break even but a positive experience on the whole. And it launched my new website a la Lisse

My husband was kind enough to help me with setup and take down and to finish off the Like Datils for Chocolate bread over the next few days. Really impressive considering October 27 was his birthday.

Well, I didn't ignore THAT fact entirely. I baked him a butter pecan cake with coconut pecan icing and homemade butter pecan ice cream. He didn't ignore THAT fact, despite his bread intake. I got one piece of cake and took a picture the day after.

But it was not all cake and ice cream. In the meantime, Hurricane Sandy was targeting the mid-Atlantic. Sandy passed through New Jersey, then New York, Connecticut, and Delaware. Sandy was big. Her immensity more than made up for her relatively weak wind speed, and those two facts conspired to increase the destruction from flooding. Over the next few days we watched as Sandy tore up Ocean City's boardwalk, site of my adolescent summer vacations, flooded Battery Park, Sheepshead Bay, the Rockaways, and Staten Island - Johns' youthful haunts. We tracked its path across Long Island where his sister and brother's families lived and into Connecticut over our cousin's vacation condo. We didn't hear from his sister for a week.

If I was more glib, I'd say that my kitchen after Like Datils for Chocolate au Pan looked like Sandy's devastation, minus the flooding. Well, my cleanup only took two days. Weeks later, some parts of New York and New Jersey were still without power and heat (we're talking about late November). I might forget Like Datils for Chocolate and Butter Pecan Ice Cream, but I'll never forget Sandy.

Monday, January 30, 2012

Music to My Mouth

After a matinee at Jax Symphony, we decided to drive through San Marco looking for a restaurant. We found a parking spot near Taverna (it was, after all 4:45 on a Sunday) and poked our heads in the door. Well, we were 15 minutes early so we had a cuppa at Starbucks next door. By 5:15 the Taverna already had several tables filled and a few at barside.

The waitress brought us to a table on the second tier and we settled in to study the menu. I ordered the citrus-glazed beets and my husband had artichokes in olive oil. Both dishes were fresh and had an interesting combination of ingredients, including shaved fresh fennel over the artichokes. The beets hinted delicately of orange. I found the chives over them a little overpowering, but when balanced with the goat cheese, they "worked".

I chose the pork osso bucco. I know osso bucco is traditionally made with veal but I do not eat veal or lamb and welcomed the opportunity to try a lovely comfort food on a January evening. They did not disappoint. The brown sauce was rich and the meat very tender and moist. Polenta and collards were an excellent alternative to mashed potatoes. It was a generous entry and I am looking forward to sharing it for dinner tomorrow night!

My husband had the scallops and risotto. He is not a big risotto fan but he raved over this dish. The scallops were done perfectly too. No need for a doggy bag here!

The only minus was the wait for the entries. They were well worth it. The waitress did apologize, but since we had no schedule to stick to, it was no problem.

San Marco is just a few minutes from the Times Union Performing Arts Center on Water Street. I can't promise you that you'll be as lucky finding a parking spot as we were, but if you avoid Saturday nights, who knows? And if you have not been to the Jax Symphony for recently you will be pleasantly surprised. Fabio Mechette and his talented musicians have the right combination of artistry and showmanship to entertain and inspire you. Jax Symphony and Taverna were music to my mouth!

Taverna on Urbanspoon

Battle's Blog Jacksonville restaurants

Friday, October 21, 2011

Garage Sale Items for Sale

Here's a list:

ADCO Travel Trailer Cover - never used. Fits up to 20-feet travel trailers. Tyvek Top bright white. Breathable Polypropylene sides with zzippers to accommodate side door entryway.

Paid $274.39 in 2010
Asking $150.00

Also, used stationary bike trainer. Just put your road bike on it and keep yourself in shape for the winter. $25 or best offer.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

I'm Mobile

Keep me moving
Over 50
Keep me grooving
I'm just a hippie gypsy

We did it. Joined the over-50-RV set. Even joined an RV club. We'll see how THAT works out... If it does, I might write something here. Don't hold your breath though. The last time I made a blog entry was, well you can do the math.

Here's the new baby and Cap'n John.

I'm calling her "Ladybug II" after the original Ladybug, which deserved the name because of her diminutive size (less than 20 feet).

Ladybug II or Ladybug Breeze is 32.5 feet. A BIG step up but no point in pansying around if you are committed. Took me 13 years to convince John to get a tent and go camping with me. Took him a little over a year and a half to convince me that our tent should really be a Tiffin Allegro Breeze

You can take the tour at

Lyrics to Goin' Mobile :
I'm going home and when I wanna go home
I'm going mobile
Well, I'm gonna find a home and we'll see how it feels
Going mobile
Keep me moving

I can pull up by the curb
I can make it on the road
Going mobile

I can stop in any street
And talk with people that we meet
Going mobile
Keep me moving

Out in the woods or in the city
It's all the same to me when I'm driving free
The world's my home
When I'm mobile
Beep beep

Play the tape machine make the toast and tea
When I'm mobile
Well I can lay in bed with only highway ahead
When your mobile
Keep me moving

Keep me moving
Over 50
Keep me grooving
Hippie gypsy
Keep moving
Keep moving

Every place is the same to me
Any time of the night or day
You're welcome to pass me by
Or drop in sometime
If you catch me up, I'm mobile

I'm going home and when I wanna go home
I'm going mobile
I'm gonna find a home and we'll see how it feels
Going mobile
Keep me moving
Keep moving
Keep moving

I don't care about pollution
I'm an air-conditioned gypsy
That's my solution
Watch the police and the tax man miss me
I'm mobile
I'm mobile

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

The Mighty Mighty Wildcats

In our high school English classes we were given several good rules for creating a “well-constructed” composition. Rule 1: “Define a theme for your writing”.

Wonderful day for passing my way.
Knock and my door and even the score
With your eyes.

Lovely to see you again my friend.
Walk along with me to the next bend.

By John Lodge

“Lovely to See You Again,” was track 1 on the Moody Blues 1969 album, “On the Threshold of a Dream.” And in 1969 the Arundel High School classes of 1970, 1971, and 1972 certainly were on the threshold of their dreams, about to enter that scary, wonderful, awesome, terrible age called adulthood. Thirty-seven years later a cadre of those changelings returned to Landon House showing the smiles and scars of more than 3,000 collective years as “grown-ups”.

OMG, you didn’t come here to read that shit did you??? Soooory!!! But Ms. What’s-Her-Name might be proud of my efforts to produce a work of literary worthiness – or maybe not.

What AM I writing about??? Exactly! Rule 2 of composition: “State your main point early in the work.” OK-OK, so what if I have 2 main points? Does this mean my composition is not a good composition?

Teacher: Yes, my little groundhog, you get a D for composition. In fact it’s not worth the paper it’s written on.

Student: But it’s not written on paper.

Teacher: Maybe it should stay that way. What would someone think if it actually got read?

Student: But, I posted it on my blog on the Internet.

Teacher: And, what, if I might ask, is your “block” on the “interneck”?

Oh, sorry reader, my head must have accidentally fallen on the keyboard. LOL. I have two points to make here in this great upchuck of a work, and here they are.

1. Thanks to Lou Ann and Karen (and any and all helpers) who made the 1970, 1971, and 1973 Classes of Arundel Senior High Reunion possible. The ghost tour (we coulda skipped the basement), carriage rides, trivia reminiscences, food and music, and especially the people made it a night to remember.

2. Thanks to all the Arundelites who contributed $155 to Herbie Wheatley’s recovery from a house/garage fire in which he lost everything, including his car repair business, but did not lose the most important thing – his loved ones. See Herbie rock with D’Vibe and Conga sometime. Check out their website, on the Internet (or, interneck).

OK, the suspense is over. I’ve said what I wanted to say. You can stop reading now. Almost… A little more. I’ve got pictures (and more text) below.

It was fabulous to see the turnout at the beautiful Landon House in Frederick, MD on May 19, 2007. The party theme was the Sabers and Roses Ball held at the house just before the Civil War battle of Antietam, but our class reunion was a commemoration of happier times.

The next day the D’Vibe and Conga benefit concert to help Herbie Wheatley was just as terrific. Many friends showed up at Annie’s Paramount Steak House, paying the $10 cover charge (well worth it to hear some top-notch music) that would go to Herbie to help rebuilt his life after a devastating fire that consumed his house and his auto repair business. The rock and roll was non-stop from 2 until 9, with a new band every hour – each musician and all the supporting personnel donating their time and talent to make the benefit possible. At 8 Herbie’s band, D’Vibe and Conga, stormed the stage, and with the help of a cadre of musical friends, stole the show. The event raised over $2000. Herbie said he felt, “Very loved” that day. And he was totally blown away by the generosity of the Arundel High School classes’ donation on his behalf. Herbie didn’t attend Arundel, but his bass guitarist, Keith “Mac” McNamee did. Many contributors, including his Mac’s next-door-neighbor Gary Fritz, mentioned Mac when they gave me contributions to help Herbie. Others had never heard of either Mac or Herbie but sympathized with Herbie’s plight. Herbie was very grateful – that was Wildcat spirit at its best. Below is a photo of me presenting the Arundel High School contribution to Herbie. You can’t see it in the picture but I pinned Gary Fritz’s nametag on Keith’s shirt.

The second photo is of my husband, John enjoying a cold one at the reunion.

Thanks in particular to that sweet guy from the class of 1972 who encouraged me to collect the funds when I was feeling a little shy about approaching people. I’m not so good with names, but I never forget a person with a caring spirit. Bless you.

If you’re still with me, then allow me a paragraph or two (and a few photos) to celebrate the reunion.

As I said, it was a great day and a great evening for catching up with old friends and making new ones – and being reminded of our school daze. Thanks, Mr. Sharkey, for taking the time to come to the reunion and for bringing photos of the high school band. It was a mixed blessing that I wasn’t in them. Who wants to see a 5’ tall sixteen-year-old in a size 40 pseudo military marching band uniform with her teeth chattering against her clarinet reed? At least the pants were long enough to keep me from frostbite. Every time I hear a Sousa march, I still get goose bumps remembering how cold I was. And if I wasn’t in any of the photos at least I could point out where I would have been visible had the picture been taken from a completely different angle. Seriously, as much as I disliked the marching band routines, I did enjoy the concerts. It was great to hear your experiences, Mr. Sharkey, as a new music teacher, sharing an apartment with other new teachers. It’s easy to for us students to forget that you had your own ups and downs as a young man learning his new profession.

Thanks to all the Arundelites for coming out to share the memories, wistful, funny, sad and happy as they were.

Sing it out clear and strong,

We are the Wildcats, the mighty, mighty Wildcats.
Everywhere we go, people want to know, so we tell them who we are.

The mighty mighty Wildcats of Arundel Senior High School. Best wishes to all those Wildcats who did and did not make the reunion, and love and prayers to those who could not because they are no longer with us. D’Vibe and Conga, stay strong. You are indeed very much loved, Herbie.

Lovely to see you again my friend.
Walk along with me to the next bend.