Cook

Cook: (v)  to prepare food by the use of heat.

Traveling on the road doing musical presentations with my family, which bounced us often from poverty to temporary riches, I discovered that our little gathering of souls required—every day—to eat.

This became an interesting situation, because we stayed in motel rooms before these establishments began offering microwaves and funny wisdom on words that begin with a C
refrigerators. Since there was no refrigerator to keep food cold and no microwave for cooking, I purchased two—count them—TWO electric skillets, for the purpose of preparing meals for our family band.

Everything had to be cooked in these two skillets, and food that was perishable needed to be purchased daily. My wife had no desire to become the chief cook, and even turned down the position of bottle washer. I didn’t blame her. She was busy being Mama to the kids and helping out to secure our arrangements for gigs.

So I took the job on myself, and began teaching my nine-year-old son, Jerrod, to be my fellow-cooker. Some people might consider this to be cruel or unusual—asking a child to figure out how to make hamburger helper, vegetables and a side, using two electric skillets, for eight people. But honest to God, this kid was great. I don’t know whether he just enjoyed working with me, or actually found it intriguing, but by the end of the summer he had taken on the entire responsibility as the chef of the motel room.

Because the front desk at these establishments did not want cooking in the room, he had to be careful that smells did not escape, and that his washing of the pans at the end of the experience wouldn’t clog up the sink. Even though I cannot tell you I would do the same thing again—either traveling across the country with my family or asking my nine-year-old son to be in charge of the galley—it turned him into a dynamic young man who grew into a fabulous human being, married with two children of his own, and still continues to cook with glee.


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Cocoa Butter

Cocoa butter: (n) a fatty substance obtained from cocoa beans used for a variety of cosmetic purposes

Long before SPF meant anything in the world around me, I was a very white, fair-skinned, blond man who wanted to get a tan.

There were those who warned of the danger of too much exposure from the sun, but it was like they were speaking their concern in a private closet adjacent to a loud dining hall.

Nobody was listening because everyone wanted to go to the beach and get brown.

There was a consensus that in order to get brown, first you had to get red. And getting red meant you had to spend some time with Papa Sun unmercifully beating down upon your pale skin.

Now, I traveled in a music group with two girls. One of these ladies was very health conscious. She rubbed her body with cocoa butter before going out into the blaze.

The other girl used a concoction of baby oil with four or five drops of iodine added, shaken up and spread all over the skin. The concept was that the baby oil would fry you up like a good fritter, while simultaneously the iodine would paint your epidermis.

I chose her potion.

I got the worst sunburn I ever had in my entire life. It was so painful I couldn’t wear pants. I went to a drug store and they gave me some spray–“Solarcaine”–but my skin was so hot and inflamed that the spray turned into little balls of cotton.

I was miserable for two-and-a-half days. But on the third day, I began to turn a little bit brown. So for the entire summer I used baby oil and iodine–as the other female comrade favored cocoa butter.

I got browner and browner. She stayed as white as the Ku Klux Klan.

In the middle of August, I noticed that my iodine–which I thought had melded into my skin–began to flake off–at first, little tiny portions, but then, bigger chunks. Soon I was a combination of white, red sunburn and iodine tan.

The girl who used the cocoa butter called me “Leopard Boy” because I had spots.

I now realize the wisdom of SPF. But for that summer, I was temporarily brown and looked damn good.

I couldn’t have done it with cocoa butter. I needed what my other traveling friend referred to as “Baby-I.”

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Coast

Coast: (n) the part of the land near the sea; the edge of the land.

It was a Thursday afternoon. (Actually it probably wasn’t a Thursday afternoon, but I needed someplace to start this essay.)

I was twenty years old, had a music group and was gradually starving my way to success. The definition of that process, by the way, is that there may be visible signs of progress in your career, but you’re also about ready to be evicted.

I had spent all of my youth and the beginnings of my adult life living in the midwest and visiting the mid-south. I had no complaints about the region–just felt deprived of the opportunity to go to the coast and see the ocean. Any coast would have been fine, although I did not favor Northern Canada and the Arctic Ocean.

No opportunity came my way to go and view the glorious blue. So finally I just decided to make an opportunity. I scheduled a little coffee-house gig for us in Sarasota, Florida. Matter of fact, I ended up being able to procure three such opportunities on our way down there. This trifecta of bookings was certainly not going to be enough to cover expenses. I didn’t care. I was going to the coast to see the ocean.

Our vehicle was in terrible shape, so on the way there we broke down–once mechanically and twice from bald tires, which finally exhaled all air.

Yet we finally arrived in Sarasota. Breathlessly, with my hand shaking on the steering wheel, I headed off to see the beauty of the ocean, the waves crashing onto the shore.

It was mind-altering, as all new experiences should be. I just sat there with the members of my group, and we stared at it for two hours. I was so excited that I went to a nearby cafe to order some lunch, which considering our budget, consisted of sharing a muffin, a hot dog and a cup of coffee among three people.

All of us were bubbling over with enthusiasm, as we shared with our waitress that we had come all the way from Ohio to Sarasota to see the ocean. Each one of us had a brief testimonial of how much the experience had impacted our life.

The waitress stood and listened patiently, and when we finally fell silent, having completed all of our praise, she quietly deadpanned, “That’s not the ocean. That’s the Gulf of Mexico.”

She walked away, confident of her geography.

I looked at my two comrades. They were just as distressed as I.

Staring out in the distance at the waves, it suddenly seemed meaningless.

Me wept.

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Baggage

Baggage: (n) personal belongings packed in suitcases for traveling; luggage.Dictionary B

For about two years, I did a lot of flying.

Since my personal wings never came in to my satisfaction, I used the airlines. This was prior to the attacks on 9/11. Things were looser then.

Since I was a musical act, I decided to travel with all my instruments and sound equipment. This created a lot of baggage. And honestly, some of it was beyond the 70-pound limit that Southwest Airlines said they would tolerate.

There were two of us traveling, and at that time we were allowed six units. So it became obvious that we were going to have a problem each and every week on our journey if we didn’t find some way to get around the weight limit and the obvious accumulation of baggage that was necessary to take our show on the road.

So I did what I considered to be an intelligent action–I became friends with the skycaps. And the best way to become friends with skycaps is to tip very well, and be nice. (But mostly tip very well.)

I overdid it. But in the process of being excessive, when the skycaps saw me arrive at the airport, they practically wrestled one another to get the privilege of serving me and putting through my numerous bags, which were obviously beyond the realms of airline acceptability.

It worked beautifully.

And I remember on one particular flight, I was thinking about the success of this system–and how it might be applicable to my everyday life.

Since I know I have a lot of baggage and some of it is over the limit, it is a good idea to make sure that I’m always nice, and I leave behind enough blessing and remuneration… to make people glad to see me when I arrive.

 

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Adjoin

Words from Dic(tionary)

dictionary with letter AAdjoin: (v.) to be next to and joined with (a building, room or piece of land). e.g. the dining room adjoins a small library.

If you are not accustomed to traveling on the road and you find yourself normally perched in a domestic nest, one of the greatest thrills in life is checking into a motel room. Now, if you want to highlight that experience even more, go with friends and get adjoining rooms.

It is a phenomenon of the hotelier industry–placing a door between certain enclosures, allowing for free flow, creating one huge space. Thus, adjoining. It transforms your simple Motel 6 into a Motel 12.

After a few hours, it does become a bit annoying, though, because:

  • If you leave the door open, sounds from the other room, including laughter, can float onto your side, and if you step over to find out what’s so funny, the moment has passed.
  • Or the television from next door is so loud that you can barely hear yours, and you find yourself trying to follow the plot of two shows–one at a distance.
  • Or you take the option of removing your pants and sitting in your underwear, and then you realize that the door is open and your neighbor could suddenly appear and view forbidden turf.
  • But if you go over and close the door, you become known as “the guy who closed the door,” creating an unnecessary mystery about what you planned to do. And understanding the imagination of human beings, that could be anything from shooting a porn video to starting a meth lab.

Matter of fact, as I think about it, adjoining rooms seem to have more problems than positives. So why do I remember them so fondly?

I think it’s the rush of the first few moments when you arrive, and realize that you are on vacation … adjoined with really good friends.

Acclimate

by J. R. Practix

dictionary with letter A

Acclimate: (n) to become accustomed to a new climate or new conditions.

When I started traveling across the country to see first-hand what CNN and Fox News only partially cover, I would arrive in a new area and finding myself stopping up in my nostrils or developing a sore throat. People explained to me that what was happening was that my body was “acclimatizing” to the climate because there was some sort of pollen, dust or air mite which I was not accustomed to, aggravating my sinus cavities.

It really sounded pussy.

Even though I am glad there is a word called “acclimate” and I sure the process does go on, still–proclaiming that we need to acclimate to anything is like announcing that “we plan on pursuing breathing today.”

I think when I finally got fed up with the notion that my nostrils were wussies and passed on the knowledge to my brain that they needed to buck up and stop being so snotty, I ceased needing to have a box of Kleenex next to me just because I landed in Albuquerque.

Yet I would have to admit that for most human beings, if you removed all dialogue, discussion and interchange about their “acclimatizing to circumstances,” most of them would appear to be deaf-mutes. It seems to be one of the more interesting topics in the human family. As we sit around and discuss things that are well beyond our control, in the purview of the natural order and usually irreversible, inserting our feelings about their existence is downright ridiculous.

For instance, I do not comprehend what a discussion about the weather achieves on any level. I am neither intrigued, frightened nor impressed with “Storm Watchers” who appear on my TV screen in some frantic mode, foretelling that rain is coming, and with that could be hail, lightning and maybe even “tornadic activity.”

Nature has been doing this for a long time, and therefore is quite professional. WE are the amateurs, and the sooner we become aware of the inevitability of rain falling on the just and the unjust, the quicker we will restore our peace of mind.

So even though I know a certain amount of acclimatizing is necessary, I would rather not discuss it.

I think the only ongoing joke in heaven is the angels and God giggling uncontrollably over human beings thinking their opinions really matter.