Super Reflections

super bowl

(Photo credit: sinosplice)

I’m old enough to say that I’ve watched and enjoyed all 47 Super Bowls, and eagerly await the next one, which hopefully will include my team, the Seahawks. Never been to a Super Bowl, but that only means I’ve missed the hoopla, not the game.

Thoroughly enjoyed Sunday’s game as the Ravens held off a 49ers comeback.  Has to rank among the best just for its down-to-the-wire finish.  Game turned on a kickoff return and clutch defense. This could’ve been one for the ages if San Francisco had completed its comeback. Now it’s just one for the ages for Baltimore fans.

I was a football player myself when the Super Bowls started in the late 1960s and felt more personally linked to the action in those days.

Sorta like naming the presidents, I can pretty much recall every Super Bowl winner, although the order might be skewed. And like the presidents, I remember the early and recent ones best.

I grew up admiring Vince Lombardi’s Green Bay Packers and read Jerry Kramer’s “Instant Replay” as gospel. Read it on the recommendation of my high school coach, who was a big Lombardi man in his own right. Recall the scene in “Instant Replay” where Kramer talks about going out for ice cream at training camp and ducking around a corner when he spotted Lombardi approaching. Not that Kramer was doing anything wrong, mind you; he just didn’t want the coach to see him enjoying himself for fear of  what he “might” say. Had a similar respect for my high school coach, who was a  tough ol’ bird to play for, but a source of pride for me years later when I’d still rather eat a cigarette than allow him to see me smoking one.

Memorable Super Bowls for me include those involving friends who also played for my old high school coach: Curt Marsh with the Raiders in 1984, coach Keith Gilbertson Jr. with the Seahawks in 2006  and coach Bret Ingalls with the Saints in 2009. Always been a Seahawks fan, so the 2006 loss to the Steelers remains particularly vivid.

Before the Seahawks, I very much liked the Vikings coached by Bud Grant and the Cowboys under Tom Landry,  in addition to Lombardi’s Packers. I also appreciated Chuck Noll’s Steelers, John Madden’s  Raiders and Marv Levy’s Bills.  Never cared much for the Raiders after the Madden days, or the John Elway-led Broncos when they were division rivals of the Seahawks. Not much of a 49ers fan now either for the same reason.

 I like offensive football as much as the next guy, but I like good defense even more, which led me to embrace Minnesota’s Purple People Eaters, Miami’s No-Names, Pittsburgh’s Steel Curtain and Dallas’ Doomsday Defense in the 1970s.

Most Memorable Super Bowls

1. Seahawks losing to the Steelers in 2006.

2. Joe Namath delivering on his victory guarantee in the Jets’ 16-7  upset of the Colts in 1969.

3.  Dolphins’ 14-7 win over the Redskins in 1973 to cap a perfect season.

4. Giants’ 17-14  win over the Patriots in 2008, spoiling New England’s perfect season.

5.  Steelers’ 27-23 win over the Cardinals in 2009.

6. Giants’ 21-17 win over the Patriots in their 2012 rematch.

7.  Ravens’ 34-31 win over the 49ers on Sunday.

8.  Colts’ 16-13 win over Dallas on Jim O’Brien’s last-minute field goal in 1971.

9. Bills’ 20-19 loss to the Giants in 1991 on Scott Norwood’s missed field goal on the final play.

10. Chiefs’ 23-7 win over Minnesota in 1970 to give the AFL it’s second SB win prior to the NFL-AFL merger.

Most Memorable Super Bowl Plays

1. Miami kicker Garo Yepremian’s botched pass after a blocked field goal, and Mike Bass’ subsequent TD interception return, in the Dolphins’ 14-7 win over the Redskins in 1973.

2. John Mackey’s tipped-ball, 75-yard  TD catch  from John Unitas in the Colts’ win over the Cowboys in 1971 in the first Super Bowl after the  NFL-AFL merger.

3. Jackie Smith’s dropped pass in the end zone in the Cowboys’  35-31 loss to the Steelers in 1979.

4.  James Harrison’s 100-yard interception return in the  Steelers’ 27-23 win over the Cardinals 2009.

5. Mike Jones stopping Kevin Dyson a yard short of the end zone on the final play in St. Louis’ 23-16 win over the Titans in 2000.

6. David Tyree’s one-handed, top-of-the-head catch from Eli Manning during the Giants’ game-winning drive against the Patriots in 2008.

7. Mario Manningham’s clutch 38-yard reception from Eli Manning in the Giants’ game-winning drive against the Patriots in 2012.

8. Jacoby Jones’ 108-yard kickoff return in Baltimore’s win over San Francisco on Sunday.

9. Willie Parker’s 75-yard TD run against the Seahawks in 2006.

10. Joe Montana’s game-winning TD pass to John Taylor in the final seconds of the 49ers’ 20-16 win over the Bengals in 1989.

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Worlds of Difference

TboltkidJust finished a pair of enjoyable reads with, let’s just say, disparate themes on adolescent coping.

The first, Bill Bryson’s memoir “The Life and Times of the Thunderbolt Kid” (Broadway Books, 2006), delivers a hilarious look at American life through juvenile eyes in the 1950s. The second, Dan Erickson’s fact-based novel “A Train Called Forgiveness” (Amazon, 2012), recounts a young man’s struggle with a mind messed up from six years of torment and abuse as a teenager in a religious-based cult in the 1970s.

Don’t know which rock I’d been under to miss Bryson’s work until now. If you have an oversized butt, reading this could very easily laugh off a size or two.

Bryson writes of a childhood where disagreeable persons are effectively zapped into inconsequence with an imaginary ray. Along the way, he enjoys the freedom of just being a kid during a time portrayed as one of the happiest and best in American history. He puts a face on Des Moines, Iowa, that looks very much like Anywhere, USA, with multiple story lines and images that should be familiar to anyone who lived during the Eisenhower administration. Sorta reminded me of “A Christmas Story” without the holiday.

Family dysfunction gets shrugged off as Bryson finds humor in the quirks of his parents, siblings, grandparents, aunts, uncles and childhood friends. Television, consumerism, anti-communism and fear of atomic destruction are all addressed from past and present views. Thought I knew all about the 1950s from my own experiences, but Bryson showed just how much I didn’t know. Or had forgotten.

traincoverDan Erickson takes a decidedly more serious look at coping through the mind of Andy Burden, a boy delivered into a Washington state religious-based cult by his parents and deeply scarred by the ordeal. Forced to work long hours on a communal farm and punished by a self-proclaimed Moses for not doing enough, he grows to resent what he considers a gross denial of adolescence.

I was drawn to this book by reports that it is a fictionalized account of the author’s real-life experiences in a cult in my hometown while I was away at college and later working in Alaska. The story unfolds through the transcribed notebooks of Burden, a schizophrenic songwriter and convenience store cashier tormented by voices from his cult days. The voices remind him of his unworthiness, threaten to come after him and promise punishment for his disloyalty.

Fortunately, Burden also hears a single comforting voice in his head for at least a morsel of courage and self-assurance, enough to stop self-medicating with drugs and alcohol and deal with his suppressed feelings in musical and lyrical composition. That takes him to Nashville on a pathway of discovery and forgiveness aided by insights gleaned from a cast of fellow dysfunctionals and social outcasts who help and befriend him.

Easy to say it’s all about forgiveness. Harder to find and apply it.

Despite his heavier theme, Erickson’s book, the first in a cult trilogy, is a quick read that, much like Bryson’s, you won’t want to put down until it’s finished.

For the record, a voice in my head made me write this review.

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The Plunge

Yes, Disneyland and Universal Studios have some wonderful rides. But for homegrown exhilaration, it was tough to beat the laundry chute at the Hollister house.

Nine-year-old Gary Hollister discovered the marvel within weeks of the family’s move into the old three-story Victorian house on the edge of town, and he kept it to himself for almost a day and half before letting his 8-year-old brother Billy in on the secret.

After that, it was easy to make new friends. Easy to make a little money, too, at 25 cents per slide.

Laundry chute photo from enonhall.com, dedicated to a family restoration project of an 18th century  home in Lancaster County, Va.

Laundry chute photo from enonhall.com, dedicated to a family restoration project of an 18th century home in Lancaster County, Va.

Unlike most laundry chutes with a simple vertical drop, the Hollisters’ chute was unique from interconnection to drop spots on all three floors. It featured a lengthy slope of about 70 degrees between the third and second floors, then a 5-foot vertical drop to a similar slope cutting back the other way to an eight-foot drop from the basement ceiling into a pile of pillows, couch cushions and dirty laundry.

Feet-first was the recommended method, although Gary and his new pal Ron pulled off memorable head-first efforts that earned them neighborhood acclaim.

There was a “no girls” policy early on. But that ended the day Ginger and Wendy heard of the fun and sweet-talked an invitation from Gary at school. And Billy caught wind of the intrusion when he came home and heard giggles coming from the third floor.

“Now, girls, once you start down, keep your body straight and your hands at your side, and you’ll go through like water in a hose,” Gary said. “Don’t lift your knees or ball up in any way, or you could get stuck. Got it?”

“I’ll show ‘em,” said Billy, who assumed a seated position on the sink counter, put his legs inside the laundry chute’s pull-down door, leaned forward and disappeared like a mole down a hole, as the word “Geronimo” echoed back.

“OK, Ginger,” Gary said. “You’re next. Feet-first, if you please!”

“Forget that!” Ginger said as she eschewed a helpful lift onto the counter and dove head-first into the chute, with Wendy on her heels in like manner.

It was the first tandem head plunge in Hollister laundry chute history, but the point was quickly forgotten when neither girl emerged into the basement pile.

Fearing they were stuck, Gary called out from every drop station in the house and received no answer. He then dropped a basketball down the chute from the third floor and it came through with no trouble.

“Holy cow,” Billy hollered up while climbing the stairs. “The girls got swallowed.”

“Only one thing to do,” Gary responded.  “Got to go in and find ‘em.”

He dove headlong into the chute but found no obstruction – just a long, dark slide of twists and turns before landing on a haystack near Ginger and Wendy in a strange new world of anime Amazons and flesh-eating monsters. No link to home except for Billy, and he soon followed, feet-first, with “Geronimo” still on his lips.

(This was written as a Writers Kickstart prompt, 500 words or less on the four-part topic Laundry, Children, Dirty and Secrets.)

Copyright, Keith L. Olson, 2013

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Lutefisk Leftovers

English: A fork next to a serving of lutefisk ...

A fork next to a serving of lutefisk at a Norwegian celebration at Christ Lutheran Church in Preston, Minnesota (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I had lutefisk for lunch the other day and invited  all my Facebook friends. No one accepted, but many sent their happy regrets.

Around here, stating publicly that you like lutefisk could haunt you later in any civil action in which your judgment is questioned.

I eat it because my heritage is Norwegian, my folks ate it every year at Christmas time, and my sister maintains tradition by serving lutefisk at our joint family Christmas dinner. My sister and her husband, another fellow with Viking blood in his veins, like the stuff well enough, but my late brother wouldn’t touch it, nor do either of our wives or any of the kids, who double-down on the meatballs and gravy.

Back in the day, my mom made Christmas lutefisk the old-fashioned way. She bought it in frozen blocks that came  in a wooden crate from somewhere in Minnesota. Classic lutefisk is codfish that is cured in lye as a preservative, and you had to the boil the fish in cheesecloth to get the lye out while maintaining at least a degree of solidity in the fish. The process left a gelatinous mound of product and a stink that could cover up a meth lab.  And I can recall the occasional poisonous zing of biting into a pea-sized bit of lye that somehow survived the boiling and made it onto my plate.

For me, biting into a bit of lye was the ultimate “nasty” associated with lutefisk.

My dad enjoyed his lutefisk spread onto potato lefse and bathed in melted butter. Others mix their fish with a forkful of mashed potatoes to get it down. Some folks also serve it with bacon and onions. Like my dad, I prefer the lefse method, and refer to it as a Norwegian taco. Wash it down with dark beer and a shot of aquavuit, and you can ski, skate or copulate like an Olympic medalist.

I’m not sure how lutefisk is processed these days, but it no longer comes in lye. My sister, who sent her uncooked leftovers home with me,  got hers from an outfit named ScanSpecial, Inc., in Poulsbo, WA, and paid $11.99 a pound, which made it more expensive than fresh salmon or beef steak.  She bought lefse, too, although homemade lefse isn’t that difficult to come by. The kids at my church make and sell lefse as a holiday fundraiser. And, you know, the commercial lefse  sold under the name Mrs. Olson’s isn’t half-bad, and, by golly,  it lasts longer than the homemade stuff by several weeks in the refrigerator.

My sister sent me home with one pack of lefse and about a pound of fresh lutefisk. The cooking directions on the bag were partially obscured, so I called the phone number for ScanSpecial, Inc. to ask whether boiling or baking was the best method, and a polite female American voice told me to do both. I boiled some salted water and simmered my lutefisk for awhile before rinsing it and baking it in a 400-degree oven till it was done. Notice that I do not provide cooking times here. As they say, cooking times vary with elevation and appliance types, and I won’t be held responsible for anyone’s undercooked, overcooked or bad-tasting lutefisk.

Old Norwegian joke: What’s the difference between good lutefisk and bad lutefisk? Church attendance.

Flavor? I would almost categorize lutefisk as essentially tasteless. But that would be heresy! How about saltines with the texture of raw oysters. Without salt. Unless you add some salt and pepper yourself, as well as melted butter, to give it some flavor.

No one came by for my lutefisk lunch. But I had three helpings, eating in the living room while watching SportsCenter. Oddly, none of my dogs came over to sniff my plate or beg for a morsel. Guess my training methods are finally working.

Since my dogs wouldn’t eat my leftovers, I deposited them in a plastic bag in my garbage can outside, and sprayed the kitchen and living room with aerosol cleaner to disperse any lingering smell. I then went out and skied a quick 10 kilometers while smoking a cigar and satisfying a sudden craving for pickled herring.

Ten Good Things About Eating Lutefisk

1. Not as bad as people say, and a little goes a long way.

2. Attests to your Scandinavian mettle.

3. Keeps cats away from your door.

4.  Leftovers will remove wallpaper.

5. Farts or body odor go undetected.

6. Codfish get their revenge.

7. Someone somewhere makes a killing, shoveling fishy stuff into a bag.

8.  Promotes hair growth (especially blond)

9. Turns women into electric blankets of lust turned up to 10.

10. Makes men horny, too, with no need of medical attention for an erection lasting longer than four hours.

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Turd in Hand

Walking my greyhounds the other day, I stumbled into one of those sublime moments that you file away and retrieve for personal merriment, or whenever someone starts up about how cute, smart or clever their pet might be.

It’s damp, chilly and nearing twilight on a late winter afternoon as we round a corner near the middle of our route near the high school, and Chatterbox pulls up and assumes the dump position just off the sidewalk.

I reach into my pocket for a plastic bag, as I’m usually quite fastidious about picking up after my own dogs in public. But not this time.

Didn’t see it before, but Chatterbox had squatted over a lost glove lying palm-side up in the grass and left her deposit directly on center. Could not have sculpted a more elegant tower myself with can of chocolate whipped topping. Held like a trophy.  Wide base uniformly tapering to a twist at the top.

It was a work of art. Call it greyhound graffiti. A turd in the hand.  Bansky outside the bag.

I left it for the world to see. Came back the next day with my camera, but it had rained and the tower had turned to oatmeal.

Didn’t scoop that time either. Hey, someone might still be looking for their glove!

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Women of Letters

Ruby and Judy sat facing each other at a table for four in the Oxnard Tavern, draining Coronas and talking smack.

“So, you’re really gonna hang it up and get married?” Ruby teased. “Sweetie, I’m surprised at you. What are you gonna do for sex?”

“Jeez, girl, I’ll have a husband,” Judy answered. “Won’t have to go looking for it any more. It’ll always be there. Whenever I want it.”

“Yeah, ‘IT’ will be there for you. And that’s what you’ll think of ‘IT’ before for too long. Same man. Same stuff. Bet you’re howlin’ like a dog within a month!”

The old juke box in the corner played a 45 record of Hank Williams’ “Your Cheatin’ Heart” as the two women continued.

alphabet letters“Hey, I love Quinn,” Judy said. “He’s tall, dark and handsome. Makes lots of money. Hasn’t been married before, so there’s no exes or step kids to worry about.”

“I know all that,” Ruby replied. “He’s a fine hunk of man, and you’re lucky to have him. But what about our oath when we turned 21. Neither of us was gonna settle down till we had our fill of men, or turned 30, and that meant sampling the whole menu before declaring a favorite. We promised we’d both go through the whole alphabet of men before we picked one.”

“I know we promised,” Judy said. “And I’m right at the edge of my alphabet. Quinn was my Q, and I only have an X left.”

“Ah-huh, and what are you gonna do after you’re married and Mr. X comes around?” Ruby chided. “Just say, ‘No thanks, I’m married?’ ”

“Well, yes, I guess that’s about the size of it,” Judy said. “The whole alphabet thing was fun while it lasted. But honest to god, how many X-men do you even meet in your life, let alone couple up with. And we’re both gonna be 30 before you know it. We’re runnin’ out of time.

“How you doin’ on your list anyway,” Judy asked. “Had an X yet”

“No,” Ruby said. “I haven’t had a Q or a U, either. And Keith Urban hasn’t answered any of my texts.  Could I borrow your Q stick sometime before the wedding?”

“It’s all pretty silly,” Judy replied. “Let’s forget it, and we can both just focus on Mr. Right instead of Mr. X.”

“Maybe so,” Ruby said, as the handsome new bartender approached their table, picking up empty glasses and taking orders.”

“Two more for you ladies?”

“Yes, definitely,” Ruby said, “and two shots of  Cuervo, too!”

The bartender returned with their drinks, then stepped outside for a quick cigarette.

“Did ya get a good look at that guy. Nice face, and cute butt, too. And did ya see his name tag?” Ruby asked. “Xavier!”

“I did notice that,” Judy said, throwing back her shot.  “Join me for a Camel?”

“One hump or two?” Ruby chirped

“Let’s make that his call,” Judy said.

(Note: This was written as a Writers Kickstart prompt, 500 words or less, on the topics Two Camels and a 45, plus Walk Me to the Edge of the Alphabet.)

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Toy Killers

The carnage is appalling. Entrails scattered all over the living room.  Severed foot here.  Detached eyeball there. Lifeless body shredded. Nearby, a heavily chewed squeaker mechanism.

Squeakers 002Yet another victim of my 3-year-old greyhound BB, the serial toy killer.

My wife has been a co-conspirator in these crimes. Or least an enabler as the supplier of cute but easily ripped squeaker toys for doggy enjoyment. The latest victim, a stuffed squirrel, had a hole in it within minutes of introduction. By the next day, it looked like road kill in the snow under a Greyhound bus.

I’ve lost count of the desqueaked and shredded bodies I’ve disposed of. Squirrels, cats, possums, monkeys, snakes, sheep. We make Sid from Toy Story look like a choir boy.  I’m reminded of the last scene in Toy Story, when Woody gets the Christmas Day report from Sarge in the flower pot: “It’s a puppy!”  Previously thought the puppy merely represented another possible alienation of affection. I now realize the potential killer seen in Woody’s eyes.

Chatterbox, our 10-year-old greyhound, occasionally amuses herself with stuffed  toys, too, but age has taught her that the squeaky things can’t run and are no real threat. She simply grows bored once the carcass is desqueaked and Squeakers 007prefers chasing the live animals that venture into our yard. Trouble is, word’s out in the critter block watch  network to steer clear of our backyard where the assassins roam. The dogs can go from zero to full speed in three strides, and they can get anywhere in the yard within four seconds. Squirrels once delighted in instigating a chase before leaping to apparent safety atop the fence while scurrying to freedom. That lasted until one of them was ripped from the top of the fence and chewed from the middle like a hairy sausage link.

I have two sacks of desqueaked dog toys in various states of mutilation from BB and previous serial toy killers that we’ve fed. The plan is to one day launder and repair them with new squeakers sewn inside, but the Frankenstein procedure has yet to happen. Rather, we continue to play Nero, offering up fresh innocents and enjoying the spectacle like mob Romans.

BB is  currently working on a canvas-skin frog. Haven’t heard a squeak out of it for more than an hour. Must be nap time.  Or send in the  litter bearers!

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