However, I sometimes have the good fortune to stumble across a gem like the following, discovered while checking a clearing-house type website for literary journals seeking material (my emphases):
The James Franco Review Call for Submission
The James Franco Review is seeking fiction, nonfiction, and poetry. (snip snip)….
We aren’t looking for work that imitates James Franco’s work or satirizes—writers need not be so cruel.…
I did not send them anything, but I did take the time to savor the metaphorical breath of fresh (and not hot) air.
* * *
Speaking of clearing the air….
Which I wasn’t. Not to get all technical, but I was writing, not speaking. I was also trying for a segue. Bear with me.
Last week BBC News Hour reported on a story about researchers in Germany and Saudi Arabia who found that “….pollution levels over several major cities in the Middle East are dropping and have concluded that it is due to economic and political unrest and war.” It seems that the chaos of war and instability leads to a lowering of economic standards in many cities, which means that less fuel is burned by cars or used in electricity production.
What a wonderful if totally unintended byproduct of madness, I thought, in that making-lemonade-from-lemons way of mine. People with respiratory diseases suffer and die due to air pollution. People with weakened immune systems and other health disorders, as well as all of us Average Citizens ® , experience diminished quality of life due to pollution. As per the EPA:
“Scientific evidence indicates that ground-level ozone not only affects people with impaired respiratory systems (such as asthmatics), but healthy adults and children as well. Exposure to ozone for 6 to 7 hours, even at relatively low concentrations, significantly reduces lung function and induces respiratory inflammation in normal, healthy people.”
And from the World Health Organization:
“Air pollution is a major environmental risk to health. By reducing air pollution levels, countries can reduce the burden of disease from stroke, heart disease, lung cancer, and both chronic and acute respiratory diseases, including asthma… Ambient (outdoor air pollution) in both cities and rural areas was estimated to cause 3.7 million premature deaths worldwide in 2012. Some 88% of those premature deaths occurred in low- and middle-income countries, and the greatest number in the WHO Western Pacific and South-East Asia regions.”
After reading the story’s provocative premise and before continuing with his report, the BBC announcer made some toss-off remark about how he hated to highlight such a “trivial” point (as reduction in pollution), given the effects of war and instability.
A reduction in pollution – read: air poison – is trivial?
I wanted to reach through my car radio and slap him.
* * *
Department of More People I Want To Slap
Late last week much of Oregon west of the Cascades Range was blanketed by smoke from fires burning in Oregon and Washington east of the Cascades.
I’ve lived here for almost twenty-five years. My brain can’t remember ever seeing (or smelling or tasting) pollution that bad, in this area, but my lungs and bronchial tubes did provide me with a sensory memory: the tightness under my sternum was a flashback to being a child of So Cal in the 60s and 70s.
I remember well (and would like to forget) the days of Smog Alerts, when PE classes and athletic practices were cancelled and/or held indoors and some parents kept their kids home from school and all citizens were advised to restrict physical activity and refrain from driving if possible.  Hospital ERS and doctors offices reported being clogged with the most vulnerable patients (the elderly, and young children) who experienced shortness of breath and headaches, and I felt a distinctive “catch” in my chest when I tried to take a deep breath.
I also remember that it got better. The air quality, that is.
Many years ago, during a daytime flight to visit my So Cal family, K and Belle expressed alarm as our airplane made its descent toward the Orange County Airport.  “What’s that?” K asked, as he pressed his nose against the airplane’s window. “Yeah,” Belle chimed in. “What’s that brown stuff we’re flying through?”
“It’s the air,” I replied. “Or, at least, what passes for it, here.”
I proceeded to inform my offspring that, believe it or not, it had been worse when I was their age.  Although there are twice the amount of people and vehicles in So Cal now then when I was living there, the air, while not clean, is cleaner, thanks to the enactment of strict emission standards.
Here’s where the slapping part comes in: ere’s where the I remembered how furious I was when certain redneck relatives of mine bragged about how they’d removed the catalytic converters from their emissions-belching vehicles, because no gummint agency (cough, rasp, hack) was gonna tell them (wheeze, pant, snort) to sissify their muscle cars.
* * *
Yet Another Way To Clear the Air
Or at least, your sinuses.
I mean of course, by consuming roasted peppers. This is the season where you may be fortunate enough to acquire Padrón peppers from your farmer’s market, your CSA or even your local grocery store.
Padrón peppers are sometimes sold alongside shishito peppers. How to tell the difference? The two varieties look almost identical. A Produce Dude ® told me that the two are often confused, even among farmers. The shishitos may seem to have a shinier surface and are a bit longer and twistier and “ridgier” than Padróns.
Both peppers are generally milder than jalapenos. No matter; they’re both tasty, with slight differences in flavor.  After discovering and then playing around with them, I don’t make ’em any other way than by using the following the skillet dry-roasting method.
Dry skillet roasting requires just three ingredients
(1) Padrón (or shishito) peppers, intact 
(2) your best/most flavorful sea salt
(3) your best olive oil
(optional – the oil’s not for cooking the peppers, but for seasoning them afterward)
and five pieces of equipment
(1) a large cast iron skillet (or comal)
(3) an oven mitt (that pan is gonna get hot)
(4) a shallow (but not callow) serving bowl
(5) okay, it requires only four pieces of equipment
Get your skillet good and hot (a drop of water should wiggle and dance on its surface and evaporate almost immediately). Add the peppers, in batches if you have a lot – don’t crowd ’em, they should be in a single layer. Sear peppers ~ 1m on all sides. They may wiggle-dance just like the water droplets, which is just too cute.
Use the tongs to turn the peppers as they roast – you want the skin to blister.  When they are roasted to your liking, tong-transfer them to the serving bowl, drizzle ’em with the oil (if using),  sprinkle with sea salt, and serve: hold by the stem and eat the rest of the pepper. You may want to take a test bite first. (Padróns vary in hotness; some folks say the larger peppers are hotter.  )
* * *
Department of That’s What He Said
MH and I usually do the NY Times Sunday crossword together during lunch. This past Sunday MH decided to get an early start. As I was cleaning up my breakfast dishes he read aloud one of the clues that, he said, was stumping him, even though the answer was only four letters long.
Clue: “When repeated, an aerobics class cry.”
I did not spew an immediate solution, and so MH wrote in what was, to him, the only logical answer:
* * *
May your personal and professional guidelines be down-to-earth,
May your air be breathable,
May your peppers be wiggly and tasty,
and may the hijinks ensue.
Thanks for stopping by. Au Vendredi!
 a set of guidelines from a literary journal or publisher that specify their requirements for material from writers, including the length, categories, format and styles of articles they seek, rights purchased and compensation rates, appropriate editors or other contact persons, how to submit work (query first or send full ms.), etc.
 Which, for a Southern Californian of that day, would only be possible if they’d lost both arms in a pesky meat grinder accident.
 Aka The John Wayne Airport. The name change in 1979 still frosts my butt. Airports should be named for their location, not for a wealthy movie star whose only connection to the airport was grousing about the airplanes flying over his Newport Beach mansion.
 And we had to walk to school with barbed wired wrapped around our feet to get through the six foot snow drifts in winter…or was that my mother’s story?
 After roasting, Padróns have a light smoky taste, while shishitos may seem slightly sweet/herbal/floral.
 Intact as in whole peppers with their stems, not intact as in, with all their boy parts still in one piece.
 the padrón’s skin, hopefully not yours, because you’re using the mitts to handle the hot pan, right?
 This is optional. They are delicious just dry-fried and tossed w/salt.
 Some folks have been known to be wrong.
 The answer was, “step.”