Your Own Back Yard – Michael Gillan Maxwell

Visual Art – Creative Writing – Social Commentary


May 2012

Cloud Over Land and Sky

Cloud Over Land and Sky



Going Postal


Par Avion

I mailed something to Spain recently. The surreal encounter in the Post Office did little to enhance my faith all things postal. I think Charles Bukowski put in something like 20 years as a postal clerk, if that tells you anything. But then again, John Prine was a Chicago postal carrier, so maybe there is hope after all.

I stood in line for eternity while a blue haired, frail old lady inquired about shipping her pet tropical macaw. The next person mailed Christmas cards. That would be fine except that it’s May. Then I stepped up to the counter and came face to face with someone who could only be described as the guardian at one of the gates of Hell.

“Mailing to Spain you say? Are there any explosives or flammable liquids?” “Um … it’s a flat envelope containing a letter.” (I wanted to say: “I’m mailing Spanish boots of Spanish leather. What does this look like you idiot? It’s a letter envelope!”) But I knew that would only prolong the agony and most likely end with her subjecting me to a thorough and vigorous body cavity search in full view of all the other customers.

Spanish Boots of Spanish Leather

“Well, if it’s anything other than paperwork, such as a document, you’ll need to fill out this customs form and sign here, here, here and here. Just remember this may be inspected and you will be subject to prosecution if you falsify this report or enter any inaccurate information.”

“I’ll bet the weather is rather pleasant in Guantanamo this time of year. A black hood will actually go nicely with virtually anything in my wardrobe,” I thought as I turned away from the counter. By this time the line behind me had grown to at least a half dozen impatient customers who eyed me with suspicion. I filled out the form in triplicate, put a checkmark in the “contents” box that signifies “document”, dutifully described the document as a “NY State Drivers License”, and trudged back to the end of the line, whistling “Alice’s Restaurant”.

8 Cent Stamp

After another eternity, I slid the form and envelope across the counter. She inspected the form, arched her  eyebrow and asked why I would be sending a New York Driver’s License to someone in Spain. I wanted to say “You caught me! I’m a sleeper operative in an al-Qaeda cell, supplying fake IDs to my comrades in arms in Spain!” Once again, I prudently bit my tongue and explained that it was for my next door neighbor here in the states who has been living there with his family, but will be returning soon.


After some deliberation, she began ruthlessly stamping the form and pulling apart the duplicates to be distributed to various places, including one for me, with all the information that would be needed to track me to the ends of the earth. I started to wonder if my black hood would be itchy.

“Do you want this to go Overnight for $45, Express for $23 or First Class for a dollar nineteen?” I chose a dollar nineteen, and hoped that the license would reach my friend before it was time to renew it again in 10 years. I decided to skip the rest of my errands and head straight to the liquor store.

Rock and RollBot

Healed from Chronic Lyme’s Disease: My Journey [Kindle Edition] Stephen Leslie (Author)

Stephen Leslie’s book “Healed from Chronic Lyme’s Disease: My Journey” depicts the author’s personal journey, in which he battles and eventually overcomes, this insidious tick borne illness. The author is thorough, and while he takes an analytic approach that is well founded on science, research and fact, his message is conveyed in an easy-flowing, conversational writing style that is highly accessible and easy to understand.  I especially value Stephen’s exploration of time honored “alternative” healing practices, the human energy field and the relationship between body, mind and spirit. The author does not dismiss modern science or western medicine, but rather, takes steps to integrate it with a holistic and homeopathic approach to healing and over all health and well being. It is an important book for anyone who wants to take control of their own well being and offers pragmatic, applicable tools based on experience. It is a must-read for anyone who is interested in ways of overcoming, not only Chronic Lyme disease, but any “dis-ease”. I highly recommend it. It is available on

Book Cover

Lunch Lady Cookbook ~ Lunch Lady Tuna Casserole

Lunch Lady Tuna Casserole


Hey there boys and girls. This is the Lunch Laddy, Michael Gillan Maxwell, bringing you another recipe from The Lunch Lady Cookbook. Today we have a dish that ranks right up there with the All-Time-All-Stars of Comfort Food – a time honored go-to – the venerable Tuna Casserole. I’ve been in many a school cafeteria where the Lunch Ladies were slingin’ Tuna Casserole and this actually is the first legitimate Lunch Lady staple to grace the pages of the Lunch Lady Cookbook. 

Lunch Lady Action Figure

This does come with a caveat  ~ a little tuna casserole goes a long way. Too much of a good thing could even lead to the disintegration of a relationship as depicted in article in the New York Times (April 7, 2012) that examined various reasons for divorce in England, which unlike every state in America does not have a no-fault divorce law. In one case “a man declared that his wife had maliciously and repeatedly served him his least favorite dish, tuna casserole.” A conservative approach relative to the frequency with which tuna casserole graces your dinner table will go a long way towards maintaining a peaceable kingdom. 


No question about it, tuna casserole is a prosaic working man’s special, to be sure. But this is no reason to throw in the towel and go totally lumpen proletariat. All it really takes to class up this dish a little is a little imagination with your spices and garnishes and your beverage and music pairings.  This Lunch Lady workhorse of a dish could be juiced up and spiced up in any number of ways, and this particular spin on Lunch Lady Tuna Casserole does incorporate one or two ingredients that might not be used in a typical Middle School cafeteria. So without further adieu, I present to you



1 12 oz can of White Albacore Tuna in Water

1 Can Campbell’s Golden Mushroom Soup

1 5.5 oz. Can V-8 Juice ~ (Psst! Secret ingredient. Good and good for you)

1 Package Frozen Sweet Peas

1 Small Spanish Onion ~ sliced & diced

1 Small Tomato ~ sliced & diced

1 Celery stalk ~ sliced and diced

1/2 Cup Shredded Sharp Cheddar Cheese

12 oz. Wide Egg Noodles Bistro Style

Whole Wheat Bread Crumbs

Worcester Sauce



Garlic Powder

Red Pepper Flakes



Slice and dice fresh veggies.

Assemble your arsenal of spices, sauces and garnishes.

Boil the noodles ~ don’t over do this ~ better to prepare them “al dente” ~ they will cook more with the casserole.

Drain tuna. Feed tuna juice to your dogs and cats. They will love you with a white, hot passion for this.

Combine all ingredients in a 2 Qt. casserole dish, adding spices and a bit of the cheddar cheese intermittently as you gently stir together. Hold half of the tomato in reserve for topping.

Top with bread crumbs & rest of the cheese & tomato.

Bake covered on center rack of oven at 350 for 1 hour. Uncover for last 15 minutes if you like the topping a little crusty. 

Lunch Lady Tuna Casserole

Music Pairing

I dialed in a potpourri of songs from artists including Guy Clark, Old Crow Medicine Show, Steve Earle, Gillian Welch, Jerry Garcia & David Grisman, John Prine, June Carter Cash & others. Songs about working blokes, hopeless romantics, broken hearts, mercenaries,  moonshiners, orphans, vagabonds, drifters & dreamers, hard luck cases & whimsical goofballs. There’s even a gender bending sea chanty in there. These songs all have a familiar feeling. Even if you don’t know them, they somehow sound like songs you grew up listening to, songs that were the background of your lives. This became the foundation for a collection of tunes I burned to a CD and called 3 Chords & A Cloud Of Dust Collection Volume I. But I digress ……

3 Chords & A Cloud Of Dust Collection Volume I

Wagon Wheel Old Crow Medicine Show

Mystery Train Part II   Steve Earle

Dublin Blues               Guy Clark

Galway Girl               Steve Earle

Those Memories of You   Parton, Harris & Ronstadt

Souvenirs               John Prine

Shady Grove               Garcia, Grisman

Ring of Fire               June Carter Cash

Poor Man                         Old Crow Medicine Show

Orphan Girl               Gillian Welch

Paradise                          John Prine

L. A. Freeway                  Guy Clark

Mohammed’s Radio Warren Zevon

Old Shoes Tom Waits

That’s the Way the World Goes… John Prine

Handsome Cabin Boy Jerry Garcia, David Grisman

When I Paint My Masterpiece Bob Dylan

Fish and Whistle John Prine

Mercenary Song Steve Earle

I Was In The House … Warren Zevon

Tear My Still House Down Gillian Welch

Steel Guitar




Ithaca Nut Brown Ale

Until next time ……

Bon appétit !

Visual Art ~ Recent Work ~ May 2012

Self Portrait (Clay)


Red Dory


Along the Quayside

Visual Art ~ Recent Work III ~ April 2012

Evolution I
Evolution II

Visual Art ~ Recent Work II ~ April 2012

On the Silk Road


We Are All The Children


Follow the Great Herds

Visual Art ~ Recent Work I ~ April 2012

Post Card I


Post Card II


Midnite Conspiracy


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