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Your Own Back Yard – Michael Gillan Maxwell

Visual Art – Creative Writing – Social Commentary

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Fantastic Voyage

Fantastic Voyage ~ A Twisted Piece Of Creative NonFiction

Fantastic Voyage

I had a colonoscopy last week. It’s a basic rite of passage into middle age and while this wasn’t my first rodeo, that didn’t make it any easier. The prep is worse than the procedure. The entire week preceding the procedure I had to abstain from seeds, nuts, popcorn, and corn; which made the local squirrel population rejoice, because it just meant more for them. Also on the no fly list were ANY and ALL raw fruits and vegetables. Oh by the way, no anti inflammatory medications either. So if you have any aches and pains that you’d normally knock out with ibuprofen, forget it Buster. It’s like: “Here, chew on this old piece of saddle leather and tough it out. “

At noon on the day before the procedure, I began my vision quest in earnest by guzzling a 16 ounce witch’s brew of vile tasting laxative salts, then pounding down 32 ounces of water. Just so you know, this is not your Father’s Nectar of the Gods. It’s actually more repugnant than the worm at the bottom of a bottle of cheap mescal on spring break in Tijuana. Only you don’t wake up with a new tattoo. And don’t venture too far from the bathroom after chug-a-lugging this stuff either, because it’s fire in the hole baby! Almost immediately, my lower GI tract started rumbling like Mt. Vesuvius. I sprinted to the bathroom so fast I would have crushed the 40 yard dash at the NFL Combine. Anyway, the end result was not so much a bowel movement as it was the storm surge from Hurricane Sandy and the gushing torrent from a hundred fire hoses at a 4 alarm house fire. This inelegant display occurred multiple times throughout the afternoon. Just as things seemed to be settling down I repeated the entire sequence at 6 PM. The only nourishment allowed is clear liquids, although the final insult is being denied alcohol. What possible harm could come from downing a vodka tonic? That’s’ a clear liquid. I just hope this all serves as penance for my sins.

The next morning the temperature was a sphincter-clenching 9 degrees below zero. Not exactly conducive to mentally preparing for someone going all up in there with camera attached to a tube. I reported to the hospital at 7:45 AM and ran the gauntlet through admissions, which was more like a series of interviews in which they repeated the same questions.

“Have you recently undergone any medical procedures in North Korea?”

“Have you or any members of your family ever knowingly worn spandex bicycle shorts, tube socks and a mullet in public?

“Do you have any foreign objects lodged in your rectum, including, but not limited to, fruits, vegetables, small mammals or action figures?”

Of course one of the high points of the entire experience is rocking the skimpy, floral print gown that’s open in the back. I could have just worn assless chaps to the party.

put_the_assless_chaps_on_dog_tshirt

After all that, the actual procedure only takes about 15 minutes. There was one final round of interview questions by my physician as I was being sedated. I remember saying that I might need more drugs because I wasn’t really feeling anything, then BAM! I was out like a drunken sailor on shore leave. The next thing I remember was waking up feeling like I’d been roofied in The Hangover. Only I wasn’t lying face down in my own drool and there was no tiger. I hardly recall anything that was said about the procedure other than they discovered the lost continent of Atlantis in my colon. I’m working on a six figure deal with National Geographic right now.

Lunch Lady Cookbook Moroccan Chicken

Lunch Laddy at the Dirt Track Races
Lunch Laddy at the Dirt Track Races

Lunch Lady Cookbook Moroccan Chicken

 Hey Boys and Girls! This is the Lunch Laddy comin’ at ya with a brand, spankin’ new edition of the Lunch Lady Cookbook. Where has summer gone? It feels like I blinked and BAM! It’s Back To School! I guess Wienies and S’Mores around the campfire are already a memory!

Time to sharpen your pencils, put on your best Back To School duds and get to it. At least there’s one thing you can count on. You won’t go hungry with Lunch Laddy in your corner!

What self respecting Lunch Lady wouldn’t open the new school year with her ace-in-the- hole-most-kick-ass-SIGNATURE DISH? I’m talkin’ exotic Boys and Girls! I’m talkin’ romantic! I know what you’re thinkin’. Lunch lady? Exotic? Romantic? Eeeewwww!”

I know, I know. TMI  Boys and Girls, but I’m talkin’ chicken. I’m talkin’ Moroccan Chicken. I can’t imagine a Middle School cafeteria where the kids wouldn’t be clamoring for Moroccan Chicken on Openiing Day. Can you? Yeah. I thought so. Especially if you’re in Morocco.

And so, without further adieu, I present to you Lunch Lady Cookbook Moroccan Chicken. Shall we?

 INGREDIENTS

Veggies

Fresh Veggies

 

  1. 4 Chicken Thighs (with bone and skin)
  2. 4 Chicken Drumsticks
  3. 1 Cup Brown Rice
  4. 1 Red Pepper
  5. 2 Broccoli Crowns
  6. 1 Spanish Onion
  7. Garlic
  8. Olive Oil
  9. 12 Dried Apricots
  10. Apricot Preserves
  11. Honey
  12. Seasonings (Freshly Ground) Coarse(of course) Sea Salt, Black Pepper, Red Pepper Flakes, Garlic Powder. Turmeric, Cinnamon, Basil, Smoked Paprika, Celery Flakes ~ mix together in bowl, cover plate with mixture

Spiced Chicken

Spiced Chicken

 

HOW WE DO IT

 

  1. Heat oil in large frying pan
  2. Dip chicken in seasoning mixture
  3. Heat in oiled pan, turning frequently to brown skin on both sides, cover, continue cooking on low heat and turning frequently. Pour off fat at least once. You want to brown the skin, not clog every artery in your body. Cover chicken with layer of honey. Continue cooking.
  4. Cook rice in separate pan.
  5. While all this is happening, chop garlic and vegetables, heat oil in a large wok, add vegetables and sauté lightly, cover wok and let it steam away for a couple minutes. Remove from heat while veggies are still a little crisp.
  6. As rice nears completion, remove from heat and pour into wok with vegetables. Gently turn with rubber spatula to mix everything together. It’s beginning to look like Christmas because the dish is a wonderful mixture of red, green and white.
  7. Remove chicken and heat up remaining juice in pan to reduce to a glaze. At this point it’s been at least 30 minutes, so chicken should be done.
  8. Arrange chicken over top of mixture. Cover chicken with apricot preserves and drizzle glaze from pan over mixture.
  9. Cover and continue cooking over very low heat for about 10 minutes while dancing around the kitchen singing “You’re never gonna do it without the Fez on” While you’re at it look up the meaning of that phrase! I gotta tell ya boys and girls, the Lunch Laddy was plenty surprised! Who knew? http://www.songfacts.com/detail.php?id=7472 If you’re too lazy to do your own research, let’s just say that “fez” is a euphemism for something you’re probably gonna have to steal from your old man’s sock drawer, cuz they don’t got it in the school health office. 😉
  10. Hit that dinner bell and call in the hungry masses for lunch.

Veggies in Wok

Veggies in Wok

Chicken In Pan

Glazed Chicken

 BEVERAGE PAIRING

 Nothing washes a mouthful of Moroccan Chicken down the old gullet like an ice cold bottle of Shiner Bock Beer from Texas. ( Also, I had exactly one bottle of beer in the fridge, and that was it.)

Shiner Bock

Texas’s Finest

 

PLAYLIST

 The Fez by Steely Dan https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qa_zNn-TE2Q

As Time Goes By Theme from Casablanca https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=d22CiKMPpaY

(Play it Sam!)

So there ya have it Boys and Girls! Until next time, this is the Lunch Laddy signing off.

Come with me to the Casbah!

cartoon fez

 

 

 

New Piece Published in The Writers Roundup Zine

My piece “E Mail From The Road” is published in the May edition of the The Writers Roundup Zine. Thanks to editor Edmund Jessup for including my work in his publication!

http://www.roundupzine.com/

cover_v_1_3RS

My Short Story “Bowling For Jesus” is published by Connotation Press

My Short Story “Bowling For Jesus” is published by Connotation Press in the April 15th edition.

http://www.connotationpress.com/fiction/2279-michael-gillan-maxwell-fiction

From Meg Tuite, Fiction Editor: “The mid-April issue of Connotation Press is up and exceptional! Michelle Messina Reale is our featured fiction writer with three brilliant poetic prose pieces from her upcoming collection. Find out more in our interview. Also we have outstanding work by Michael Gillan Maxwell, Cort Bledsoe, Mike Joyce and Grant Faulkner! Thank you for sending CP some of your beauties!”

I am honored to be in such good company! Thank you Meg Tuite!

Michael Gillan Maxwell
Michael Gillan Maxwell

Love Is Never Having To Change Your Password

Love Is Never Having To Change Your Password

Bleeding Heart

“You’ve got an invalid haircut / And it hurts when you smile / You’d better get out of town / Before your nickname expires” Warren Zevon ~ Life’ll Kill Ya

I’ve been hearing a lot recently about the “Heartbleed” bug, an insidious super cyber thief that invades websites, steals personal security information, passwords, credit card numbers, and other sensitive data. I’ve never changed some of my passwords, ever, since the dawn of time, or at least since my last three computers passed away.

This morning I opened an e mail from a company whose name I did not even recognize informing me that, although they had no reason to believe their security had been breached, they were advising everyone on their client list to change their passwords. I’m on THEIR client list? Who the Hell are these people? This really got my attention since I don’t even recognize their name or remember doing business with them. I have no record of my user name or password with them. However, they remember me, and if THEY have my e mail and other information, I can only assume the situation is far more serious than I even want to know. My cozy little veil of denial dropped away as I realized, that while my slovenly ways in never organizing my sock drawer may never result in any kind of serious consequence, outside of occasionally mismatched socks, THIS could cause some serious grief if left unattended. With a deep sigh of resignation, I decided to go all in and change my user name and passwords for over 32 websites. TODAY. Right now. No more screwing around.

After much pulling of hair, gnashing of teeth and rending and tearing of garments, I completed this odious task. My brain was fried and I was a gibbering idiot, reverting to one finger keyboard pecking and using a cheat sheet. But maybe this is the kind of rigorous mental activity that helps stave off Altzheimers, or causes a complete mental breakdown. Now, If only I could remember my own name….

Many sites have a “password helper” that rates the quality of your password on a spectrum of “strong” to “this really sucks. Why don’t you just advertise it on Facebook?” If you follow their recommendations you’ll create passwords like the rare Enigma machine used by the Nazis to send coded messages. My usernames and passwords are combinations of irrational numbers and Pleadian star language, closely modeled after the nuclear launch codes, and the secret combination that protects the vaults at Fort Knox. The problem is, I’ll never be able to remember any of them. They’re all so counterintuitive that it takes two or three tries for someone blessed with sausage fingers like mine. I feel like I’m already trying to hack myself. This is not good, since many sites freeze your access for at least 24 hours after three bungled attempts.

I’ve already had this error message more than once: “Hey numb nuts! You entered an old password. You changed your password 4 hours ago.”

Old dogs learn new tricks slowly…..

Rock and RollBot
Rock and RollBot

Book Review Before Whose Glory by Lawrence Kessenich 2013 FutureCycle Press

Book Review Before Whose Glory by Lawrence Kessenich  2013 FutureCycle Press

Cover

Lawrence Kessenich’s Before Whose Glory is his first full length collection of poems, published in 2013 by FutureCycle Press. Kessenich writes about time and space, people and places, unfathomable mysteries and the beauty of nature, the human condition and the experience of being alive. Before Whose Glory is a collection of beautifully crafted poems, each one a story, each one its own self contained universe.

To say that Kessenich’s poems are accessible is not to say that they are without depth. The poems in this collection are deceptively complex, intricately layered and subtly nuanced. Each poem offers a clear path through the piece without obfuscation, needlessly difficult arcane references or unintelligible abstractions that might otherwise leave me bewildered and wondering if I’ve missed the point. These pieces are compelling and evocative. They insinuate their way into my subconscious and run through my head like my favorite songs. They are poems I find myself going back to and noticing something new with each reading.

Kessenich’s poetry is narrative and reflective and the artist’s sensibilities are pervasive throughout the collection. His understated, gently ironic humor and sense of the absurd comes through in the pieces based on true stories ripped from the news that are stranger than fiction. Other poems are poignant and compassionate reflections on relationships and family life written from the perspective of being the Devil himself, a kid with a paper route, a son, a lover, a husband, a father, or a citizen of planet Earth.

With this collection of symmetrically crafted poems, Kessenich demonstrates a dazzling ability for juxtaposing the mundane with the sublime. Some pieces begin in a very ordinary setting and end in reverent contemplation of the spiritual and metaphysical and sometimes it’s the other way around. Either way, the poems in Before Whose Glory give me cause to pause; stop what I’m doing, question, reflect, appreciate and remind me to be grateful for life and all its blessings.

Holiday Newsletter

Lunch Laddy at the Dirt Track Races
Happy Holidaze

HAPPY HOLIDAYS from our family to yours!

I know I’ve bitched and moaned about good old fashioned Christmas cards being replaced by tedious newsletters with sappy photo bombs of everybody and the family dog wearing goofy reindeer antlers and ugly Christmas sweaters while the kids all flash big toothless smiles. I used to tape the old school cards to the wall, but who the Hell wants to look at those friggin’ mugshots for the entire Holiday season? And then the newsletters! Oy Vey!

BUT who says a man can’t change? If ya can’t lick ‘em, join ‘em, right? (Although I can think of one or two people I wouldn’t mind licking, but I’m drifting off point.) Anyway, I decided to try doing it their way and see how it goes.

First of all, I apologize for this stick figure rendering instead of including an actual family photo. We haven’t actually been on speaking terms for most of the past year and really can’t stand to be in the same room together. In fact, I’m writing this in a Motel 6 while watching a show about making Viking swords, so this little pen and ink drawing will just have to do. It’s a strange and wondrous life!

It’s been a busy year for us. Of course, my release from prison and sex change operation were pretty much the high points of the year for me. There was that alien abduction thing last spring, but I don’t really consider that a high point, since I was missing two months when I woke up. So, as far as I’m concerned, it’s only been a 10 month year for me, but you work with what you’ve got.

Henrietta found Jesus and started a monitor lizard rescue shelter in our living room. Somehow we ended up with a Komodo Dragon named Ralph. It’s one thing to harbor an internationally protected endangered species in our living room, but that fucker is almost 10 feet long and over 150 pounds. I can’t even describe the unbearable stench. And how do you even keep a thing like that fed? Just read an article that places humans somewhere between pigs and anchovies on the global food chain, so that makes me a little nervous. All I can say is that I think we had too many cats anyway.

Almost forgot to mention waking up to find our yard mysteriously filled with garden gnomes. There must be 10,000 of them. I’m sure it’s some kind of close encounter, but I really haven’t quite figured out what to make of it.

After me and Henrietta get back on an even keel, we’re gonna buy an RV, leave all this behind and take our act out on the road. Of course we’re bringing Ralph. We may just show up on your doorstep! Life moves pretty fast and creeps up on ya like a pair of cheap undies!

Anyway, Happy Holidays!

Love,

Me & Henrietta & Ralph

The Lunch Lady Cookbook Pull No Punches Lasagna

Lunch Lady Cookbook Pull No Punches Lasagna

Cooking
Cooking

Hey there boys and girls! This is The Lunch Laddy, Michael Gillan Maxwell comin’ at ya with a new installment of The Lunch Lady Cookbook. Today we tackle the hearty, time honored fave, lasagna, with a Lunch Lady twist.

There’s nothing like this lasagna that gives school kids the kind of energy they need to tear through the afternoon and make life living Hell for the teachers. It’s brimming with oodles of complex carbohydrates and protein. One of Lunch Laddy’s friends is eating it right now to get ready for the New York City Marathon.

The switchboard is already lighting up with callers asking the question: Why is it named ‘Pull No Punches Lasagna’?  It’s because this dish pulls no punches. This dish gots it all baby; Italian hot sausage, hot peppers, hot spices and a comprehensive tour of the “Cheeses of Italia.” While this dish is not for the faint of heart or the lactose intolerant, if you recently passed your EKG and stress test before indulging in our Achin’ For Bacon Mac & Cheese, you should be good to go. If you’re training for the lead role in the life story of the boxer Two Ton Tony Golento or the remake of Martin Scorcese’s Raging Bull, then this is the dish for you!

This makes one hellava mess in la cucina, and the Lunch Laddy’s kitchen looked like the aftermath of a drone strike, so it’s best to block off a couple hours just for the cleanup.

Pots and pans

 Mess

More mess

and More Mess

But don’t let that scare you off, because it’s worth it. So let’s get started right away. The Lunch Lady Cookbook is proud to present Lunch Lady Cookbook Pull No Punches Lasagna.

What you need:

  •  Lasagna noodles (1 package)
  • 4 Italian hot sausages
  • Red pepper
  • Sweet onion
  • Portabella mushrooms
  • Tomato sauce
  • Pasta sauce
  • Ricotta cheese (8 oz)
  • Mozzarella and provolone cheese (2 Cups)
  • Four Cheese Shred asiago, Fontina, Parmesan, Provolone (5 oz package)
  • Garlic Powder
  • Sweet basil flakes
  • Red pepper flakes
  • Smoked paprika

How we do it peeples!

  •  Slice, dice, bend, spindle and mutilate hot sausage, sweet onion, red pepper and mushrooms
  • Brown hot sausage over low heat, then add onions, red pepper and mushrooms, stirring frequently
  • Boil pasta for approximately 10 minutes. Drain and rinse in cold water. It should be el dente
  • Cover the bottom of baking dish with tomato sauce
  • Add layer of lasagna pasta
  • Spread layer of ricotta cheese
  • Add layer of other cheeses
  • Cover with pasta sauce
  • Repeat
  • Top with final layer of pasta, cheeses and sauce
  • Garnish with spices
  • Cover and bake in 350 degree oven for 30 minutes
  • Turn off oven and let stand, covered, in warm oven for at least 60 minutes

LasagnaNow THAT’S Yummy for the Tummy Y’all!

Dessert:

Why not top it off with a bowl of your favorite leftovers from Halloween? There’s nothing quite like a handful of miniature candy bars to keep you buzzing for hours.

Dessert

 Wanna Stay Up All Night? Eat Some Of These!

Beverage pairing:

Valpolicella Amarone

An insouciant wine that doesn’t bite back. It floods the palate with imaginary explosions of velvety flavors and undercurrents and aftertastes of the Venice canals at low tide.

Music pairing:

The Be Good Tanyas station on Pandora. You’ll hear good stuff from them, Bon Iver, Natalie Merchant, Gillian Welch and others.

Until next time  ~ the is the Lunch Lady Cookbook signing off with mangia, mangia, tutti frutti and arrividerci!

Ciao!

Lunch Lady Cookbook Mumbo Jumbo Chicken Gumbo

Lunch Lady Cookbook Mumbo Jumbo Chicken Gumbo

Cooking
Cooking

Hey there boys and girls! This is The Lunch Laddie, Michael Gillan Maxwell comin’ at ya with a new installment of The Lunch Lady Cookbook. As the waning days of October bring crisp temperatures and frost on the pumpkin, it’s time we turn our attention to heartier fare while exploring a rich, multi-cultural tradition. The Lunch Lady Cookbook is proud to present Lunch Lady Cookbook Mumbo Jumbo Chicken Gumbo.

Folklore has it that gumbo originated in southern Louisiana in the 18th century. 18th century Louisiana was the ultimate cultural melting pot, so it seems fitting that this dish would be a melting pot in its own right. Gumbo is like a greatest hits album of ingredients and culinary practices of several cultures, including West African, French, Spanish, German, Choctaw and Public School Cafeterias. Gumbo shares much in common with other one-dish meals like stew, goulash, paella and bouillabaisse. The beauty of it is that there is no single “right” way of making it, you can’t mess it up and you can toss in just about any ingredient you want and call it gumbo. This helps make it a go-to dish for festive gatherings like Cajun fiddle contests, barn raisings and 7th grade lunch periods.

Ingredients

3 Chicken Breasts (boneless, skinless)

1 Green Pepper (large)

Green beans (from last nights dinner)

1 Onion (Large, sweet)

2 Scallions Baby carrots (Maybe a dozen or so ~ they’re little ~ after all, they’re only babies)

Red baby potatoes (Same as above)

Mushrooms (Ginormous handful)

Diced tomatoes (Fresh is good, but I used 2 8 oz cans)

Cream of Mushroom soup ( all purpose secret sauce)

Garlic ( 2 or 3 cloves ~ diced)

Worcester sauce (dash or 2)

Red wine (1/2 cup. Actually pour 2 cups, add 1/2 cup to the gumbo and chug the rest)

Sour cream

Romano cheese

Spices

Salt (freshly ground sea salt)

Pepper (freshly ground)

Red Pepper flakes

Garlic Powder (freshly ground)

Basil Flakes

Tumeric

Rosemary (just a pinch ~ this stuff can take over a dish)

Bay leaf (if ya got it)

How we do it:

Combine tomatoes, mushroom soup and about 2 cups of water in stock pot. Heat slowly.

Slice, dice, bend, spindle, mutilate and chop garlic, onion, green pepper, scallions and mushrooms.

Sauté lightly in olive oil (extra virgin please) over medium heat for about 2 minutes. Ease up on this part. You just want to give these veggies a jump start. Add to stock pot.

Slice, dice, bend, spindle, mutilate and chop potatoes and carrots and add to stock pot.

Slice, dice, bend, spindle, mutilate and chop chicken breasts.

Sauté lightly in olive oil (extra virgin please), garlic and Worcester sauce until brown.

Add spices at this point, turning chicken frequently until brown.

Add to stock pot. Cover and let simmer for up to four hours, stirring frequently while reciting voodoo incantations. (Although singing along to a good playlist is acceptable)

This dish is also an ideal candidate for slow cooking in the crock pot. Gumbo on Stove

 Hey genius! It fogs the lens when you hold the camera directly over a steaming vat of gumbo!

This dish can be ready eat sooner than that, but a long, slow simmer really gets the juices flowing and unlocks the flavor of the ingredients. Since watched pots never boil, this is a good time to throw in a load of laundry, split a pile of firewood and print out that manuscript you’ve been working on for the final proof read.

But for God’s sake, before you do any of these things, clean up that Godawful mess you’ve just made in the kitchen before Mom comes home!

Garnish with Romano cheese and sour cream and serve by itself or over rice. Crusty French bread is great for dipping and mopping the gumbo off your chin.

Musical Accompaniment:

Cajun music, of course. (Frankly, I’m surprised you had to ask) Anything by Clifton Chenier, Preston Frank, Walter Mouton and the original “Alligator man” Doug Kershaw will move this along in a lively manner. If you’re really ambitious, this is a great time to start to learn to play the Cajun accordion, or Cajun box as it is known. Just don’t drop it in the gumbo. Cajun Box Suggested Wine Pairing: This dish owes a lot to French Acadian and Cajun roots, so the Lunch Laddie’s preference is a robust and smooth French Rhone. A good friend of mine with a nose for wine once told me that a “good Rhone should taste like dirt!” In my opinion, this is the perfect wine for an earthy dish like gumbo. Gumbo and wine

For God’s sake man. Pour it in a glass. We’re not savages here!

So without further adieu, I must bid you au revoir. Until next time, this is The Lunch Laddie, Michael Gillan Maxwell signing off for The Lunch Lady Cookbook. Happy slurping!

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