The gentle, good-natured voice on the phone identified himself as the Opinion Editor of our city newspaper.  He’d recently returned from vacation and had only now seen the letter to the editor I’d submitted two weeks earlier. The letter was re the paper’s feature article on how three of Hillsboro’s public high school four football coaches regularly meet with a religious evangelist, whom the coaches allow to meet with the football players in pregame “chapel/prayer/meditation sessions.”

(My communiqué[1] synopsis:  Proselytizing; public schools, Establishment clause, WTF?)

Gentle Opinion Editor said he liked the tone of my letter, and that I’d taken the time to thoughtfully address an issue other than which candidate for state treasurer was in fact an accountant for Satan the various and ubiquitous electioneering rants.

GOE said he wanted to publish the letter. Okey-dokey, I said…but…from one writer to another, how you intend to edit it? GOE said there would be no editing – it would be run in its entirety as a Guest Opinion column, and not a mere letter to the editor.  And since I would be a columnist for one shining guest moment, he also wanted to run a photo of me.

“A photo of the author,” hmmm-ed the notoriously camera-averse moiself. “Ah, yes, so when the I-am-so-offended readers[2] want to hurl the rotten tomatoes they’ll have some idea of which face to aim at. Good thinking.”

As per his request I emailed him a photo, which he kindly acknowledged:
Thank you for the photo and for submitting your guest opinion in the first place. As I said, it was a nice change of pace from the flood of political endorsement (or partisan attack) letters we receive at this time of year.

Later that day, as MH, Belle and I scrounged for substitutes for The Dinner I was Not Cooking, we exchanged how-was-your-day stories and I told them about my upcoming Guest Columnist gig.

“When will it be published?” asked Belle.

“The editor said it would go ‘live’ Thursday morning, online.”

“The paper’s online edition?”  MH gave me a reassuring, the-tomatoes-will-never-find-you grin. “No one but the trolls will read it.”

*   *   *

Blogging, it seems to me, is going to be a lot like having your own school newspaper column.  Which I had, when I was in high school.  The column’s name was suggested by the newspaper’s editor-in chief, who was also a friend of mine. Her nickname for me, Parnal (rhymes with carnal), was a dis-utterance of my last name, Parnell.[3]  “Parnal Knowledge” appeared on the Op-ed page of every issue of the Santa Ana High School’s “The Generator” during my senior year.

I didn’t get paid for writing that, either.[4]

*   *   *

In a radio interview this past Wednesday, Tagg Romney[5] said that during the most recent debate he wanted to rush the stage and “take a swing at” President Obama for telling the truth calling Mitt Romney a liar. “But you know you can’t do that,” said Tagg (who chortled with all the sincerity of a Stephen King-penned whackadoodle trying to reassure the authorities that he’s a-joshin’ kind of macho man and didn’t really threaten the POTUS), “…first because there’s a lot of Secret Service between you and him…”

Yeah.  Bring it on, duuuuude. Because nothing says call Special Ops—this is one tough M-F, badass daddy-defender like a like a war-supporting/military service-avoiding, 40-year-old whiny trust fund baby who hauls his man parts around in magic tighty-whities.[6].

Thus and without further ado, the Asshat of the Week[7] award goes to the eldest Romney male clone. Tagg, you’re it!

*   *   *

Let us now pause to remember this stupid day in history.

October 19, 1739: England goes to war with Spain over disputed border lines in Florida. The War is known as the War of Jenkins’ Ear because the Spanish coast guards cut off the ear of British sailor Robert Jenkins.

*   *   *

The Guest Columnist interlude provided a short but sweet distraction from the week’s pressing task at hand: proof-reading the ARC[8] copy of my middle grade novel, “The Mighty Quinn.”  I need to get the edits back to the publisher by the end of this week, and good-naturedly carped about the chore to a witty and wise attorney, blogging mentor and fellow writer friend, SCM:

Have you ever been sick, sick, sick of reading your own writing?”

SCM recently did some free-lance work for an e-publisher, copyediting some really, really, atrociously composed genre fiction. She shrewdly pointed out that, indeed, although there were times she hated reading her own writing, it is better to be  sick, sick, sick of reading your own writing than to be truly nauseated by reading someone else’s.[9]

*   *   *

The afore-mentioned Dinner I was Not Cooking

Most Americans, likely and sadly, associate the name Aleppo with news of the ongoing bloody battles between the Syrian Arab Army and armed factions of the Free Syrian Army for control of the historic Syrian city. From my privileged perch of safety, I continue to think in culinary terms when I hear “Aleppo.”  Aleppo peppers, grown in the Middle East, are named for one of the oldest continuously inhabited cities in the world.  When dried and crushed the peppers look like a slightly smaller, more burgundy-colored version of dried red chili pepper flakes, packets of which are required by law (or so it seems) to accompany pizza take-out orders. In “hotness” rankings Aleppos are milder than other dried chilis, and have a unique, fruity, cumin-raisin like flavor…with a kick. You can find Aleppo pepper in specialty groceries or spice stores. I got my stash at the Portland’s Pezney’s, a great place to wander around and wonder how you ended up at the checkout counter with 15 varieties of mustard seeds in your grocery basket.

Sole with Aleppo Pepper (serves ~ 3-4)
– 1/4 c finely chopped yellow onion
– 1t Aleppo pepper (more or less to taste)
– 3-4 garlic cloves, peeled and minced
– 1 lb Dover sole filets, cut into chunks
– 1/2 c finely diced cherry, pear or plum tomatoes
– 1/4 c + 2T crumbled feta cheese
– 1/3 c evap. skim milk (or cream, if you’ve a yeah, so? relationship with your arteries)
For finishing:  some chopped fresh Italian parsley and freshly squeezed lemon juice.

1.  Preheat oven to 400.[10]

2.  Heat the EVOO in a cast iron skillet[11] and sauté onion until it softens (~ 4-5 m).

3.  Add Aleppo and garlic; sauté 30 seconds.

4.  Add sole, tomato, evap milk; cook, stirring constantly, for 2 m, or until sauce thickens.

5. Transfer skillet to oven or, if you prefer a fancier serving dish, pour skillet contents into an oven-proof baking dish (But really, who are you trying to impress? The kids and/or your spouse won’t care, your friends don’t need impressing, and there’s no casserole dish nice enough to distract your in-laws and/or parents from thinking , Yep, she’s going to serve us yet another one of her foo-foo concoctions that smell like foreign food – organic, schmanic, why not just broil a hunk of meat and open a can of peas?)

6. Either way, bake the dish uncovered for ~6-8 m, until sauce is bubbly.  Remove pan from oven, sprinkle with the feta, return pan to the oven for another 2 m.

7.  There is no step #7

8. Sprinkle the dish with the parsley and lemon juice and serve.

*   *   *

Whaddya mean, there’s nothing special to celebrate this weekend?

October 19, 1945, is the birthday of Harris Glenn Milstead.  Better known as his stage name, “Divine,” the flamboyant transvestite starred in ten John Waters films,[12] and would have been 67 today had he not died 25 years ago from an enlarged heart.

Divine holds a special place in my normal-sized heart ever since we shared an elevator ride in our nation’s capital.  I was in town on a business trip, installing a computer system at WWDC.[13]  The groundbreaking radio station[14] was located in a high-rise office building in downtown D.C. One morning after returning from our daily get-away-from-these-crazy-radio-people fresh air break, my installation partner R and I boarded an empty elevator in the building’s lobby. The elevator stopped at the next floor, and Divine and his PR agent (or so I guessed, from what I heard of their conversation) got on.

Although he lacked his customary stage attire and fright wig, the bald, 300 lb, self-proclaimed “Drag Queen of the Century” was (for me, at least) immediately recognizable. He was in full, eyebrow-elevating makeup, and looked petty much like the above picture, despite his oddly conservative attire of a Hawaiian shirt, khaki pants and brown loafers.

R and I observed proper Elevator Etiquette and rode in silence, me using the elevator doors as a focal point as I tried  to suppress my shit-eating grin.  R stole several furtive/suspicious OMG glances at Divine, who chatted with his agent about an upcoming promo appearance.

The men exited the elevator two floors before our stop. As soon as the elevator doors closed I turned to R and gushed, “That was Divine!

R’s cheeks nearly exploded with the force of her sputtered retort: “That was disgusting!”

Turns out R had no idea who Divine was.

I explained. It didn’t help.

Hilarity ensued.

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

[1] Communiqué, for any of you keep-prayer-in-schools fans, is Communist for “letter”

[2] “THAT’S the femnazi atheist witch who wants to dropkick our Lord out of the end zone!”

[3] (pɑrˈnɛl, stress on the second syllable).

[4] See my rant in first blog (10-10-12) re how there are too many ways for writers to write sans payment.  How important must I be, that I am able to reference myself?!

[5] Tagg Romney; Track & Trip Palin– what’s with neocons’ we-be-hip spawn names?

[6] Devout Mormons believe their “temple garments” are sacred and provide protection from the world’s evils, which apparently include the ability to form distinctive personalities and choose outer garments other than those pictured in a 15-year-old JC Penny catalog.

[7] A grateful Yee-Haw! to MH for graphics/logistical support way beyond the call of duty

[8] Advanced Reader Copies, aka, “galleys,” are copies of a book distributed 3-6 months before the book is officially released, to give reviewers, libraries, etc., as promo tools and to give an idea of what the final book will look like.

[9] No footnote needed.  Move along, folks, there’s nothing here to see.

[10] Yes, as in ˚Farenheit.  What else would it possibly mean?

[11][11] You don’t have a cast iron skillet?  You’re not still using that toxic, Teflon/nonstick jive, are you?

[12] Most notably in “Pink Flamingoes,” as Babs Johnson, the film’s “Filthiest person alive,” dog-excrement eating heroine (just imagine what the film’s villains had to do).

[13] A long, long time ago in a galaxy far, far away, I worked for a company that designed computerized “traffic” systems for radio and television stations.

[14] “DC-101” was the first American radio station to play a Beatles song: “I Want to Hold Your Hand,” in December 1963.  DC-101 was where DJ Howard Stern was paired with news anchor Robin Quivers and honed his “shock jock” persona.