Tag Archives: Ransom Man

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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Who’ll Save the Princess?

Signature Princess telephone

Signature Princess telephone (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

It’s 1994 and a half-dozen AT&T executives are meeting in New York.

“Alright, people, let’s get started. You all know why we’re here,” the Chief stated. “We’ve been selling Princess phones for 35 years, and now the big boys want to discontinue production.

“So before we pull the plug, I want to ask each one of you for salvage ideas: Who’ll save the Princess?”

“Carlson, your thoughts!”

“Only one, Chief! How ‘bout we make a new base, shaped like shoe, and add a toe to the handset, so when the two are joined the toe sticks out like a misfit shoe, and everyone gets a big kick out of it, thinking Cinderella?”

“Too corny, Carlson, but nice try,” the Chief said.

“Hoglund! What’s your idea?”

“Clear plastic, Chief, so that all internal components are visible to the consumer. Sort of a glass slipper takeoff on Carlson’s idea! With even greater appeal to mechanical nerds! And women do like shoes!”

“I like the mechanical angle, Hoglund. But Jesus, everyone, enough with the Cinderella crap!

“Who’s next? Schwartzmiller?”

“Jewels, Sir. Precious stones imbedded in both the base and handset. We might not sell as many phones, but if we charge enough and target the elitist crowd, we could still make a bundle!”

“Not bad, Schwartzmiller. I like where that line of thinking is headed. But I don’t think it’s wise to price anyone out.

“Peterson, you’re a woman. What would the ladies want in a new Princess phone?”

“It vacuums, cooks and scrubs toilets!” Peterson quipped. “Just kidding, Sir,  but grab yourself and consider what I think is a bold new concept.

“The Princess is already small, streamline and marketed for bedroom use. Let’s put all our cards on the table and make the entire handset a massager/vibrator as well as a phone. In fact, scrap the ringer feature altogether and add a vibration adjuster for appropriate stimulation. And maybe,” she added with a raised eyebrow and knowing smile, “rethink the shape of the whole phone, making it longer and thicker.”

Nine seconds of deafening silence followed Peterson’s delivery before the Chief, sitting slack-jawed and owl-eyed, cleared his throat, blinked four times and said, “Jesus, Peterson, a fucking vibrator? My wife would never go for that. And I don’t think Carlson, Hoglund or Schwartzmiller’s wives would either. Would they?”

“Excuse me, Sir,” said Mr. Wu, the last of the seated executives waiting to be heard. “I think we might want to look at the new cordless technology and messaging feature we’re hearing about. And a smaller, hinged product along the lines of the communicator device on Star Trek. Maybe even think about some kind of viewing screen down the road for message reading and photo imaging or conferencing potential.”

“Crissakes, Wu,” the Chief said. “We’re looking for tangible concepts here, not Star Fleet mumbo jumbo. Let’s think plausible, shall we?

“Peterson, back to you. How long? How thick? And colors? Do we stick with pink? Talk to me, people!”

(This was written as a Writers Kickstart prompt, 500 words or less on the topic Who’ll Save the Princess.)

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Whodunnit Story

Coach Gilbertson bust by Seattle sculptor Louise McDowell.

For several months, I was bothered that I’d been unable to convince a group of otherwise sound minds that we should credit Seattle sculptor Louise McDowell on a permanent marker for her work on a  bronze bust of legendary Snohomish High School coach Keith Gilbertson Sr. that was commissioned by family and friends and installed at the school.

No artistic credit was necessary, bust committee members told me.

That  is just plain wrong. Artists of every genre need and deserve proper recognition for their work.  We’re not talking graffiti here!

I discussed this with Sarah Clark-Langager, director of the Western Gallery at my old school, Western Washington University, widely known for its many outdoor sculptures, and where every piece has some type of permanent marker that includes the name of the piece, the artist’s name and donor identification.  She considered it unthinkable to display any work without identifying the artist.

Coach Armstrong statue by Seattle sculptor Louise McDowell.

McDowell previously sculpted a statue of legendary SHS football coach Dick Armstrong, and that piece, displayed at Snohomish’s Veterans Memorial Stadium, features a plaque with short bio of Armstrong  but no mention of the sculptor. I was told that no credit was necessary on that piece, either, and that McDowell was fine with that.

Not so.  I contacted McDowell by email, and she responded that she hadn’t been back to see the Armstrong statue since it was dedicated and had no idea that her name appeared nowhere near the work.  She also expected some type of acknowledgement with the Gilbertson bust and added that she was prepared to purchase plaques of her own, if need be.

Having relayed all this information to the head of the bust committee, I’m now told McDowell will be identified as the bust sculptor on a legacy plaque to be posted alongside the bust.

Can’t say what will be done about credit for the Armstrong statue, but score one small victory for artistic integrity with the bust and one small step toward getting off the hayseed list.

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Spirit Check

Still have turkey leftovers in my fridge, but, by God, my Christmas lights are already up.

I’m no Clark Griswald, and my cottage-style home is no castle. I’m talking one string (75 feet) of red and green bulbs along the eves on two sides of my house. And one short string of 6-inch penguins and another short string of 6-inch snowmen along the flower beds on each side of my front door.

I’m getting old and my wife doesn’t want me on the roof anymore, but that’s what daughter boyfriends are for, and mine (ours?) scaled the ladder and leaned over the peak to secure the lights in the area of highest risk. The kid is a foot taller than me and has the wingspan of a condor, so let’s just say that his skills are beyond my reach.

Penguin lightNot sure one string of lights is enough, however.

Wish I could afford to hire a guy to sit on my roof in a Santa suit and “Ho, Ho, Ho” everybody on cue, just to keep pace with the guy in the next block with the inflatable Santa on his roof. Of course, the other dude also has an inflatable sleigh and blow up reindeer on his roof, but I won’t have a live show that might leave reindeer poop in my rain gutters.

Wait! Wait! I could ground everything and rent some sheep, a donkey and maybe a cow or two and some actors for a live nativity scene in my front yard. Maybe find a nice homeless family to live in a makeshift stable. I could play the innkeeper. Maybe pay a woman to actually give birth right on my lawn!

Forget the house lights. I want moving spotlights that can be seen in space. And maybe a choir in white robes with wings singing Christmas carols.

Geez, am I feeling it here, or what? I’ll bet Walmart carries stable makings.

On second thought, maybe I’m getting carried away.

The Norwegian in me now has me thinking austerity and humility. May even pull back on the penguins.

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