17 February, 2007

More than a Few Ruffled Feathers...
Serendipitous - Our friends over at Merriam-Webster have this to say about the root word "serendipity":
Main Entry: ser·en·dip·i·ty Pronunciation: -'di-p&-tE Function: noun Etymology: from its possession by the heroes of the Persian fairy tale The Three Princes of Serendip: the faculty or phenomenon of finding valuable or agreeable things not sought for.
The last few days I have been reading an posting on other BLOGS and cleaning up some overdue correspondence. Most of the writing has been involved with veterans and the current iteration of the Holy War that continues to plague the Middle East and the eastern Horn of Africa.
While sharing a specific war related poem, reflecting a conversation with a Viet Nam era vet, my close friend , Peter (http://www.nyx.net/~pforss/index.htm) shot back an e-mail asking if I had sent a copy to the vet for whom I had written the poem. DUH!!! I immediately sent him a copy of the poem, (which follows in this post) and received a warm and thoughtful response (which also follows in this post.) Meanwhile, I found link to http://gatheringofeagles.org/ , their logo graces the head of this post. I also revisited the Virtual Wall Memorial website where my closest High School friend's death is remembered here:
I am sharing all of this for one very specific reason. No matter on which side of the socio-political spectrum one sits, stands or shouts-out-loud, I do truly believe that respect for those who have fallen in defense of this country and those hallowed places which memorialize them, must not be defiled.
The folks who will gather on 17 March 2007 to protect that long black wall from any foul desecration deserve support. I urge those who can to join them, those who cannot to get the word out and those who can afford to send funds, to do so without reservation.
Here shared, my reasons why I support the upcoming "Gathering of Eagles" :
Remove Formatting from selectionKansas Eyes

I thought 'twas done. Forty years spent
Walking with ghosts, hearing the tales.
Once mute, lost voices rise in autumn light.
Over coffee I was pierced when I plumbed the depths,
His haunted, ice blue Kansas eyes.
He spoke of joy in flying over these high plains.
His ragged tooth smile, his modulated radio voice and
A heart that tends a hedgerow tall and strong.
Born in pheasant farm memories when Mithras called,
Tossed a farm boy, yet a man, into the killing fields.
French Indonesia, Vietnam, Cambodia:
Soggy, fetid dark green jungle folded rank;
Shadowy nether world, Old World, older than Christ.
Called him to unknown flesh and a festering war.
It tore a bloody, twisted screaming wound.
It ne'er was healed, that stinking wound.
It's septic, fouled puss still flows;
Infects and sickens his beloved home.
I saw it in his eyes today, haunted manhood's
Sour wine racked in long memory.
I saw it in dark rimmed hollows,
Sad and distant ice blue Kansas eyes.
Drawn close, new bloody born;
Remembered in quiet conversation
Fresh, over coffee hot and apple pie.
A cigarette glows, the traffic groans
In rhythmic haste. Now my soul eyes
These words drawn here, remembering
That cold, long black wall of names.
As once again, war's red fire set aflame.

Tom's response:

'tis not so long since floods of memory clouded my eyes, but your poem did it just that way.

I, and the 59,000 brethern would be honored to be associated with those words.

Back in '82, I ventured to Washington DC, to do battle with the business mavens of my profession at the time, and while there, I visited The Wall. It was berift of any lights, flag, grass, nor statues... it didn't even have a proper sidewalk.

As I thumbed through the dog-eared pages of the "book" on either end, and came across old friends, I made my way down hallowed tablets of numbered stone, the better to find them all. At one point, I just bloody well SAT DOWN and cried my eyes out, trying to cover my face in the worn jungle hat, I'd stuffed into my suitcase. Passers by, tried not to stare, and some understood - that's when a fellow who had been sitting under a tree in the afternoon shade, came up... placed his hand on my shoulder and said those amazing words, that nobody had ever uttered.

"Welcome Home" he said

- and that began the voyage back to pasture and pond... the halcyon days of my youth, armed with naught but fishing pole and bare feet in the warm mud of a Summer's day - chasing madly after those lost days of a peach-fuzzed young man from a wheat field.

Bless You - Tom
Yes indeed, more than just a few ruffled feathers await those who, for whatever reason, see fit to attmpt desecration of sacred ground.

15 February, 2007

The North Side
Actually, it is the North-west corner of Denver where Italian immigrants settled back in the early years of the last century. They found the floodplains of Clear Creek to be ideal land for truck farms. Once settled and worked, the land produced legendary crops. Long summer days, not too hot and mostly without rain provided ideal weather conditions for growing vegetables. The soil was deep, not too heavy with clay and rich from thousands of years of snowmelt washing soil and minerals off the Front Range mountains to the west.
The original immigrants were farmers, craftsmen...simple folk who wanted nothing more than the opportunity to make a better life. However, as the community grew in wealth and stature, it also drew notice from other Italian/Sicilian communities in Chicago and further east. The "Family" moved in and by the mid 1920's they were fully invested in local, ummmm, "politics". Railroad, commerce, ranching, mining and their attendant industries turned Denver into a wide open, if small, western city repleat with all of the attendant underworld activities: gambling, booze and prostitution.
Many of these enterprises were housed in the upstairs rooms or back offices of restaurants. Tradition!...It was the way things had always been done. These family run restaurants served up a wonderful mix of Italian food style food that was influenced by the local environment. Spanish and Mexican, German and Polish immigrants all added to the mix, along with the still plentiful wild game.
The following is one of those regional interpretation of a traditional dish that will serve 4 to6 hungry people...Enjoy:
North Side Spaghetti
- 1 to 1 1/2 lbs of Belfiore’s fresh ground, bulk, hot Italian sausage
- 1 link of “ColumbusSalame Secchi, sliced thin
- 1 medium white or yellow onion, chopped fine
- 4 to 6 cloves of fresh garlic, crushed and diced fine
- 2 stalks of local Paschal celery, chopped fine
- 1/2 green bell pepper, chopped fine
- 4 to 6 medium button mushrooms, stems removed and sliced fine
- 1lb can of local tomato sauce
- 1lb 12oz can of local diced tomatoes
- 1/4 cup of Kalamata olives, pitted and diced
- 1 to 2 tblsp of dried, sweet basil
- 1to 2 tblsp of dried, Mexican oregano
- 2lbs Barilla, fresh or dried spaghetti or linguine pasta
- A good sized wedge of Parmesano Regiano cheese
- 1/4 cup of fresh Extra Virgin Olive oil
- A jug of decent red wine, a spicy Chianti or Cabernet Savignon
- One loaf of fresh, heavily crusted, Ecchi Panis, or similar local Italian bread
Brown the Italian sausage in a well seasoned dutch oven over high heat, crumbling it as it browns. Add the onions and garlic and continue stirring until the onions begin to brown and caramelize. Add a cup or so of the red wine. Have a glass for yourself, if desired. Once the mixture comes to a boil, turn the heat down to medium high and allow the wine to reduce in water content, about half, stirring frequently.
Add the cans of diced tomatoes and tomato sauce, celery, bell pepper and olives. Crush the oregano and basil to a coarse powder in the palms of your hands and stir into the sauce. Allow it to come to a boil and simmer for 10 minutes or so.
Meanwhile, fill a medium stock pot with cold water, add about 1/4 cup of the olive oil and put the pot on over high heat. Take a fresh baked loaf of crusty, local Italian bread, sliced not quite completely through, slathered the slices with garlic butter, wrap in foil and tuck into a low (200-250 degree) oven... more wine for the cook?
Stir the sliced mushrooms and Salame Secchi into the sauce and turn down to medium low, allow the mixture to continue to simmer uncovered.
When the water comes to a rolling boil, add the pasta and stir until the pot comes back to a full boil. Continue to stir the sauce. It will thicken into quite a savory and colorful sauce.
Test the pasta after about 10 minutes. I like mine a bit "al dente". Remove it from the heat and drain off the water and cover.
Pull the bread from the oven. The garlic butter should be melting into the body. I like a bit of grated Parmesan added at this time.
We serve this dinner buffet style, allowing each individual to come to the kitchen and plate their own portion of pasta, sauce, bread and grated parmesan.
The rest of the wine jug is on the table covered with a red checked tablecloth and a couple of candles, just for atmosphere. A little blessing, a little toast and a hearty meal, spiced with good conversation and laughter is sure to follow.