Blackened Walleye Tacos

IMG_1088Next to, perhaps, pizza, tacos have changed the most since I was a kid.  In those days tacos were a tasty, but extremely limited, food option that inevitably consisted of a somewhat stale hard corn shell that broke into smithereens when you bit into it, ground beef browned to within an inch of its life, a dollop of refried beans, and taco sauce — along with the vegetables of your choice, if you wanted to ruin a good thing.

At some point, however, some culinary visionary realized that taco-ey goodness should not simply be a means of delivering browned ground beef to the digestive tract.  So chicken tacos were introduced, then pork, and the hard corn shells were ditched in favor of flour-based soft tacos . . . and then the food and flavor floodgates opened.

All of which leads us to the blackened walleye tacos that I had for lunch yesterday at a place called Pura Vida, just off Public Square in downtown Cleveland.  These delectable eats could trace their lineage to the tacos of my youth, I suppose, but they bore as little relation to those basic staples as modern humans bear to our pre-mammalian ancestors who crawled the earth during the Cretaceous period.  The walleye, which is one of the best eating fish you can find anywhere, was absolutely fresh, and the blackened preparation gave it a very tasty kick.  Add a light citrus avocado creme sauce, throw in some red cabbage slaw, corn, and tomato bits, and liberally douse with freshly squeezed lime juice that you supply through the grip of your own two hands and you have the perfect, flavorful light summer lunch — as opposed to the gut-busting tacos of days gone by.

Pura Vida allows you to choose a side with your taco treat, and I went for the African peanut stew.  It was a sentimental choice, because I once worked with a guy from Africa who prepared a curry peanut soup that was one of the best things I’ve ever eaten, and I’ve never seen it served anywhere else.  The Pura Vida version, which is made from sweet potato, kale, curry, and peanuts and includes a healthy spoonful of diced peanuts on top, had just the right combination of sweetness and spice and also had a nice, coarse texture.  It was an excellent pairing for the tacos.

Where with the continued evolution of the taco take us?  I can’t wait to find out.

Hotel Room Carpeting


There’s a certain skill to picking hotel room carpeting.  It must be louder than the carpeting any rational person would select for their home, so stains won’t show, yet at the same time absolutely generic and forgettable.

Do they teach a class in carpet selection for hospitality management majors?  If so, I bet the person who picked this green pattern got an A.

Dog Bites Newspaper

Today the Columbus Dispatch carried a story noting that Columbus ranked number 8 in the country in the number of dog bites of postal workers.  There were 43 dog attacks on postal workers in Columbus in 2015 — more than twice the number of dog attacks the prior year.

ambulldognnewspaperWhat’s weird is that the Dispatch considered this to be news at all.  Literally, it’s a “dog bites man” story, and therefore is the classic definition of non-news.  Dog bites happen regularly in our humdrum, everyday lives.  Postal workers get bitten by dogs so often they train postal workers to deal with it, and they even keep statistics on it.  And when Columbus isn’t even at the top of the dog-bite list, but comes in at number 8 — which is a pretty undistinguished number, too, when you think about it — and trails Cleveland in this dubious category, its clear there is absolutely nothing noteworthy about it.

From the Dispatch‘s publication of this quintessential non-story, I think we can safely assume that today was a slow news day in Columbus, Ohio.  Tomorrow we’ll probably crack open our newspapers to look for breathless front page reports that the sun rises in the east and sets in the west.

Attempting An Eclogue

For years, Kish has gotten a “word-a-day” calendar as a Christmas stocking stuffer.  The calendar gives you a word, its definition, and its pronunciation, and then uses the word in a sentence, like you’re the contestant in the national spelling bee.  It’s an interesting, relatively painless way to learn new words and build that personal vocabulary to ever more impressive heights, and occasionally — O, happy day! — the word is one you actually knew already.

afghan_shepherd_by_ironpaw1Sometimes, though, the words aren’t exactly easy to fit into everyday conversation.  On Monday, for example, the word was “eclogue.” What’s an eclogue (pronounced ek-log), you ask?  Why, it’s a poem in which shepherds converse, of course.  The sentence the calendar offers to illustrate its meaning is:  “The poet’s new volume offers modern translations of Virgil’s eclogues.”  Even at an erudite workplace like mine, it’s hard to imagine a discussion where you could smoothly use “eclogue.”

Although I can’t see ever using the word in actual conversation, and therefore am likely to promptly forget it, I thought it might be fun to try to write an eclogue, just to give ol’ Virgil a little competition.

A Brief Eclogue

Far out yonder, on grassy plain

Where sheep did graze, were shepherds twain

As they silently did walk

One shepherd felt the need to talk.

Said Shepherd One to Shepherd Two:

“It’s time for dinner.  I brought stew.

The sheep all graze o’er by the lake.

No wolf in sight.  Let’s take a break!”

Said Shepherd Two to Shepherd One:

“I’m sad to say that I’ve brought none.

I’ve got no food, but none the worse.

Let’s use our break, then, to converse.”

Said Shepherd One to Shepherd Two:

“I’d start, but I don’t have a clue

What we’d discuss, or what I’d say.

I’ve been out tending sheep all day.”

Said Shepherd Two to Shepherd One:

“There’s nothing new under the sun.

And what is new I won’t discuss.

Clinton and Trump just make me cuss!”

So shepherds two sat ‘neath a tree

And watched as sheep grazed peacefully

It wasn’t much of an eclogue

But ’twas enough to fill this blog.

Believeland

ESPN has a new one of its “30 for 30″programs out.  It’s called Believeland, and it’s about (gulp) professional sports in Cleveland.

Russell and I were talking about it the other day, and he asked if I had watched it.  And I had — at least, the very first part.  But when we got to The Drive, and I knew that The Fumble would be close behind, and then I would have to re-live the Indians’ World Series losses and Michael Jordan’s shot to beat the Cavs and the Browns leaving to go to Baltimore, I switched it off.  It was just too painful to watch all of that crap, again.  Living through it once and feeling like you have been not only utterly forsaken, but also the object of affirmative torture by the sports gods, was more than enough.

il_214x170-890063290_27m0I was kind of embarrassed to admit this to Russell, who also is a Cleveland sports fan.  But Dads who are sports fans have to be honest with their kids about it.  There’s good in being a sports fan, but there’s also a lot of pain and angst and feeling like an idiot because you care so much about a team that you can’t sleep when they lose a big game and sometimes you admit in candor that a bad loss will not only wreck your day, but also wreck your month or even your year, and that there are some bad things that happened — like those mentioned in the preceding paragraph — that will haunt you for the rest of your days until you go toes up.

Interestingly, Russell said he enjoyed the program, because he hadn’t lived through it, and he felt it gave him an understanding of Cleveland and its beleaguered fans that he just hadn’t had before.  It was educational, rather than painful.  And maybe that’s the right way to look at it.  Maybe, until that glorious day in 2137 when a Cleveland team finally wins another world championship, every Dad or Mom who indoctrinates his child into the brotherhood of Cleveland sports fanship should sit that child down in front of the TV, make them watch Believeland, and then ask the crucial question:

Are you sure you’re ready for this?

Ice Cold, But Well Told

I see by my weather app that it’s 34 degrees outside this morning.  Yes, that’s right — 34 degrees on May 16.  And by the way, it snowed in Cleveland yesterday.  So much for my heartfelt attempt to precipitate the final, certain arrival of spring by declaring that spring had sprung already.

9a6b8558e8701d3f676cb9551a465c97So today the good working stiffs of Columbus will bundle up in their winter gear and don their gloves, and when we get to the office we’ll talk about the weather.  We’ll talk about how we had to scrape ice off the windshield, and how worried we are about damage to the delicate flowers and strawberries in the garden that we planted last weekend, and how we actually had to turn the heat on last night, can you believe it, and how this is the coldest spring we can remember.  We’ll say it’s weird because it was a warmer than normal winter, so you’d expect a warmer spring, wouldn’t you?  We’ll shake our heads and declare, isn’t it just ridiculous?

We like talking about the weather because it’s one common touchstone.  We’ve all experienced it, and we can all express our dark, muttered views about it.  And when the weather sucks, as it has in Columbus all spring, it’s even better.  A pretty day or a basic summer thunderstorm might merit an offhand comment, but a spate of unusual weather, good or bad, can be sufficient to sustain a vigorous conversation among random co-workers for an entire long elevator ride.  Hey, it beats an uncomfortable, eyes forward period of total elevator silence!

One other nice thing about weather as a topic:  it’s safe.  When you candidly state that you think overnight freezing temperatures on the 16th of May is unforgivable and that Mother Nature must have gone on a bender or lost a bet with Father Time, you’re not likely to encounter any indignant opposition.  There aren’t any White Walkers out there ardently arguing that we should enjoy freezing temperatures all year long.

In fact, those of us in Columbus should be grateful for this ludicrously crappy spring.  Otherwise, we might be talking about presidential politics.

The Uncomfortable Verticality Principle

It’s kind of pathetic, really.  It’s gotten to the point that, if I want to do some reading after dinner on a week night, I have to sit in the most uncomfortable, upright, hard-on-the-behind chair in the house.

IMG_1003My search for the optimal week night reading seat is based on the principle of uncomfortable verticality.  Expressed it in the form of a mathematical equation, the amount of uncomfortable verticality in my reading posture is inversely proportionate to the likelihood that I will nod off after a few pages.  The converse also is true.  We’ve got lots of inviting chairs and plumply pillowed sofas in the house, just begging for seating, but if I plop down into one of them with a book, forget it.  After a few minutes I’ll put my feet up — hey, it is the end of a long work day, after all — and then a few moments later I’ll make a small adjustment to assume a more horizontal attitude, and the next thing I know it’s 11 p.m. and I’ve got a sore neck and Kish is gently shaking my shoulder and telling me its time to stumble upstairs.

Fortunately, we’ve inherited some furniture that is well suited to the uncomfortable verticality principle.  Our stern Midwestern forebears knew how to design fundamentally incommodious seating, let me tell you.  And don’t be deceived by the modest needlepoint padding on the seat either.  Wooden, narrow, and creaky, this chair inevitably forces you into a stiff-backed, non-fidgeting, feet-planted-firmly-on-the-ground posture that would get an approving nod from Emily Post or any other paragon of deportment.  Indeed, even a slight attempt to shift into a more natural position, or for that matter the first slumbering nod, would produce a cascade of creaks and send you tumbling to the ground.  In short, this is a chair designed to create a perpetual state of maximum reading alertness.

So, it’s my new reading chair of choice.  I’ll finish the night’s reading with a numb behind, to be sure, but at least I’ll get a few chapters done before it’s time to really hit the hay.