About Steve

A fulltime writer; author of two cookbooks and three novels. Live and write on a ranch east of Sacramento, California.

THE PINKS AND THE BLUES

REFLECTIONS (updated every Wednesday)

by Steve Liddick

When I was growing up, all efforts were made to keep the boys separate from the girls. At my elementary school there were even separate entrances for each. The girls couldn’t play with the boys on the segregated playground’s pickup softball teams. They might skin a knee or something awful like that.

It went on like that until high school. By that time separateness was pretty well established.

Adolescent boys had buddies, pals, homies; comrades described in various macho ways. Bruises were common. Spitting was encouraged. Belching was a competitive sport.

Adolescent girls had girlfriends and phoned each other each evening to ask what the other was going to wear the next day. They had circled their wagons into cliques dedicated to delicate activities in which they would not skin their knees or something awful like that.

The upshot is that by the time we hit our teens we didn’t really know much about the opposite sex. How could we? The boys were always over here wearing blue; the girls were always over there wearing pink.

So, there I was at 17 with some mysterious force at work drawing me to this group of total strangers. What’s a poor hormone-saturated teenager to do? Woe is me.

To make a long story a little longer, we worked it out. Clumsily, I admit. Lots of kicking the dirt and blushing and finally getting around to asking one of those alien beings on a date.

It became a little less clumsy as time went by. We learned the rules: don’t honk your horn at the curb when you pick up your date; say nice things about her mother and, when discussing what time she is to be home, never tell her father you’ll have her in bed by ten.

Sure, we got better at sorting out the gender differences, but the truth is, a lot of the mystery never did go away.

The years went by. We got married, continued to work at figuring out the other half, failed monumentally, divorced and went our separate ways.

When I got suddenly single at 37, it wasn’t much different from when I was 17. Again there was an entire world of strangers out there.

I’m married again. Got a good one this time. Maybe I became better. Hard to say.

I don’t kid myself that I have entirely figured out the pink half of the species. But I learned a couple of tricks to avoid trouble. Saying “I’m sorry” goes a long way toward domestic tranquility.

Saying “yes dear,” usually takes care of the rest.

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GOING TO THE MOVIES WITH GRANDMA

REFLECTIONS (updated every Wednesday)

By Steve Liddick

Saturdays were special in the 1940s. There was no school and it was the day I got my allowance. My 50-cents and I would get on a bus to the city to see a movie. The bus ride cost a dime. The movie ticket was a budget-busting 15-cents and a box of candy was a nickel. That left ten-cents for the bus ride home and one lonely dime for two comic books.

I would usually stop off at my grandmother’s apartment in the city on the way to the show to say hello, maybe get a snack, and ogle the pretty nurses from Grandma’s kitchen window as they went by on their way to the hospital next door.

Grandma was a pretty hip old lady who understood kids. She knew the young would always have oddball fashions and terminology all their own. She understood the need of the young to be the same as their peers in fashion and different from grownups in their language.

“Where are you going, boy?” she would say.

“To the movies, Grandma,” I’d say.

“Wait, I’ll get my purse and go with you,” she’d say.

“Uh . . . ”

Now, when I said I was going to the movies, I meant I was going to the theater Grandma would not have been caught dead in. The grungy Rio Theater showed a western and mystery double feature, 24 color cartoons, a Three Stooges short subject, a Superman or Rocketman serial and a live talent show on stage. We all got to holler and cheer and boo at what was on the screen, sit with our feet up on the orchestra pit railing, and be obnoxious where our parents couldn’t see us.

But, what my grandma meant by “wait I’ll get my purse and go with you” was, “we’ll go to Loews Regent Theater.”  Instead of watching Lash Larue whip the bad guys into line or Red Ryder and Little Beaver thunder across the silver screen, we would be watching Howard Keel sing to Jane Powell. Or maybe it would be Fred Astaire dancing alternately with Ginger Rogers, Vera Ellen, Cyd Charisse, Ann Miller or Mitzi Gaynor. And you couldn’t holler and cheer or boo at what was on a classy screen like the one at Loews Regent Theater with its plush carpets and gilded decor. Certainly not with your grandma sitting right next to you. They didn’t even have an orchestra pit railing and even if they had it would probably be covered with velvet and you wouldn’t have been allowed to put your feet up on it.

But grandma paid for the tickets and the candy and I got to spend the time with her.

Many years later, long after Grandma had passed away, MGM came out with a video compilation of clips from their movies of the 40s and 50s.

Those Saturday mornings all came back to me in a warm wave as Howard and Mitzi and Cyd and Fred and all the rest sang and danced in glorious Technicolor.

But the best part of watching those videos was that for a couple of hours I got a chance to sit beside my grandmother one more time.

STOP ME BEFORE I HURT MYSELF

REFLECTIONS – updated every Wednesday

by Steve Liddick

I gathered together all the materials I thought it would take to create a small workshop–even though I had no previous experience at building anything bigger than a ham sandwich.

How hard could it be, right? It would be like Legos for grownups.

Never one to be discouraged just because I have two left thumbs, I jumped headfirst into the project. My wife stood by in case I needed a second pair of hands–or an ambulance. The inept can use all the help they can get.

It was going to be a simple work area. I had bought a standing work bench at a yard sale. It was eight feet tall, four feet wide and two feet deep. It had upper and lower cabinets and drawers as well as a flat work counter. I built a redwood foundation to set it on a few paces from my back porch. Redwood resists rot. In fact, archeologists have dug up redwood logs buried deep in the ground for centuries that were still in pretty good shape.

But I realized that if I expected to use it in rainy weather, my work space needed to be covered. So I built a roof that ran from the workbench to two posts I put in the ground.

But even that didn’t seem like much of a workshop and was certainly too small to store anything in. So I added a 10’ x 10’ foundation next to it with a plywood floor and built a small frame structure on it. It was walled in and even had a little window for extra light.

Still not satisfied, I added a 10’ x 10’ side rooflet to store my lawn tractor and shovels and rakes and other gardening items that I avoid using as much as possible.

Now I had, in effect, a shotgun shed where I kept adding as my needs and my compulsions dictated.

In the years since then I have learned that a proper roof needs an overhang so rain can drain away from it without getting the wood siding wet. I didn’t know that then, so the roof is without an overhang and the shed looks like something a gang of kids would build out of scrap lumber to use as their clubhouse. In fact, I put a sign on it, “No Gurls Aloud.”

If I stand back and look at it, I wonder what I must have been thinking. But when I see that everything inside is dry, secure and well preserved, I can’t really complain. If I had it to do over again I would do a lot of things differently, of course. I’ve built other things since then and can now claim some basic competence, if not expertise, in that department.

So there it sits, all ugly and efficient. I’ve stopped apologizing for my earlier lack of knowledge. My little shed does just what I need it to do.

It just goes to show you, if you don’t know you can’t do something, you can sometimes do it.

CONSIDERING A VEGETARIAN DIET

REFLECTIONS

by Steve Liddick

For a long time my wife, Sherry, and I have been considering adopting the vegetarian lifestyle. In part because it is probably healthier. But even more than that it is because we love animals and feel that we should not be eating them.

We have concluded that we are guilty of murder by proxy. That is, we have hired someone to do what we don’t have the courage to do ourselves.

A nice young couple that travels around the country full time in their RV are examples of the value of avoiding meat. Olivia (vegan) and Kyle (99% vegetarian) Brady have a YouTube site at “drivin’ and vibin’.” They are living, rosy-cheeked proof of the health benefits.

My Facebook Friend Beth Chamberlain, herself a vegetarian, shared a YouTube video of a man who adopted a turkey to keep the bird from ending up on someone’s dinner table. The turkey apparently realized that his life had been saved and now gives his adoptive human regular hugs.

I think that was the final (turkey in the) straw that has pushed us over the edge toward vegetarianism. At least enough to give it a try.

It would be impossible for me to go entirely vegan and give up eggs, butter, and cheese. I think I would also reserve some seafood some of the time. I’m not sure what you would call that category. “Hypocrite” might describe it. After all, those are lives, too.

I know I would miss my bacon. We have a refrigerator and freezer full of meat right now, so Sherry and I have decided on a test run. We will stop buying all meat products immediately and each Wednesday and Saturday we will eliminate meat from our diet on those days. The goal would be to see whether we could sustain that diet over the long term–at the same time exhausting our meat stock.

Critics of vegetarianism argue that the human body needs meat or else some vital nutrients will be lacking from the diet. Vitamin supplements are needed for a meatless diet.

Practitioners of the non-meat lifestyle argue that horses and cattle are on a strict vegan diet and seem to do very well.

Whatever your position on the concept, lives are undeniably at stake and I believe all lives have value.

Thanksgiving and Christmas would be a whole lot different around here.

Maybe the next time I see a turkey I’ll get a hug.

AT WAR WITH MY WARDROBE

REFLECTIONS

by Steve Liddick

It’s funny how perspective changes over a lifetime. When I was ten-years-old I thought nothing of walking two miles to Tommy’s Ice Cream Parlor in Marysville for a cherry milkshake. Today I give careful thought to whether or not I’ll even get up off my easy chair and walk to the kitchen for a diet Coke.

It’s that way with whatever I’m wearing, too. There was a time when I would practically fling clothes on myself without any thought and race out of the house. Today, what should be the simple act of putting on a pair of socks could easily be compared to calisthenics.

I know my feet are down there somewhere beyond the flab and the aching joints. I’m just having trouble coordinating mind and body, which is further complicated by the addition of the socks. Joints don’t really bend in the direction you need them to in order to twist one’s body around to get a sock over five toes that are dead set against receiving it.

A pair of pants offers a similar challenge; two legs on the human, two legs on the pants. Tab A, Slot A. Repeat with Tab B. Simple, right? Well, I don’t know how it is with you young whippersnappers, but this old geezer has to hold onto something to get the job done. Even then, it is a struggle to coordinate the extremities with the target while hopping around the room, tugging, bouncing, straining and trying to avoid falling down.

I find that swearing is no help at all, but that never stops me.

And here’s another thing (“Oh, no, not another thing.”). There was a time when the space between the ringing of the alarm clock and my walking out the door was almost too short a span to measure. Fast forward to present day and I am here to tell you that if I still had to go to a 9 to 5 job I would have to start my preparation at 4 a.m.

In addition to the standard morning routine—which is difficult enough in and of itself—there is the pills and eyedrops regime, plus all the appliances one must locate and install: glasses—which I often have a hard time finding without my glasses—hearing aids, et cetera, et cetera, et cetera. .

Thank God I don’t have a wooden leg or I’d never get out of here.

 

 

FIGHTING THE DREADED EAR WORM

REFLECTIONS

by Steve Liddick

Have you ever gotten a song stuck in your head that just won’t go away? You hear a song and then it stays with you for days—sometimes weeks. Those are known as “ear worms.”

In a semi-related subject, I’ve had tinnitus for more than 40 years. It is ringing in the ears that can come from a number of sources, including damage from loud noises and, according to hearing specialists, having taken too much aspirin.

The constant ringing drowns out a lot of sounds. That can be really inconvenient at times. Without hearing aids I can’t hear my own footsteps as I walk. I have dropped things and not been aware of it. I recently lost a set of keys and that has been an ongoing frustration.

I understand from psychologists that they often have patients come to them because the ringing in their ears is driving them crazy. It doesn’t bother me to that extent. I have adjusted to the condition. Besides, I was already crazy before the ear worms.

I mention the tinnitus because I have a theory about its relationship to ear worms.

My theory goes thus: I believe a song that repeats itself endlessly is nature’s way of placing another sound over the offending one, drowning out the ringing—giving the tinnitus sufferer a psychological break.

In my own case, when one song fades, A default tune often takes its place. It’s a bouncy tune, but one whose title I can’t identify—as opposed to the fading worm tune which is always a familiar one.

A line in an old TV commercial went: “It’s not nice to fool Mother Nature.” Well, I have a trick I play on her. When I get really tired of that maddening loop, I purposely find a recording of a different song and play it repeatedly until it replaces the tiresome one.

I’ve become my own deejay.

 

FLASHBACK

REFLECTIONS

by Steve Liddick

REFLECTIONS

by Steve Liddick

It was around Halloween,1976 when my pal Bridget Sienna and I went to a dinner party in Hollywood. Bridget is an actress (“Rain Man,” “Seinfeld,” “The Groundlings”).

My friend, actor Virgil Frye (“Easy Rider”) and his wife Sondra, were the hosts of the get-together. Sondra is a caterer who provides meals on movie locations. The apartment was filled with the aroma of the ducks Sondra was roasting.

Guests included actress Piper Laurie, whose horror movie, “Carrie,” was still playing. Several other show biz people were scattered around the living room; familiar faces whose names may be on the tip of your tongue, but you can’t quite remember. Mike Pataki was one. He was in “Rocky V” and a lot of other films. Billy Green Bush was another. He played Vernon Presley, Elvis’s dad, in the TV movie, “Elvis and Me.”

Dinner was running late because Virgil kept opening the oven to see if the duck was done yet. That delayed the meal further because the heat kept escaping. Marijuana messes up a person’s sense of time. In his weed fog, Virgil apparently figured 20 minutes should be enough.

While we were waiting, Virgil said, “do you want to see the baby?” So we went into the bedroom to have a look at their two-month-old girl who somehow managed to sleep through all the clatter in the next room.

The little one was only about a foot long and looked like every two-month-old baby you have ever seen—all pink and wrinkly. Fingers about the diameter of a spaghetti noodle. I hadn’t had much experience with babies. None of my other friends had children of any size so this was a novelty for me. On those rare occasions when I do encounter one that tiny it always blows me away that we could possibly have all started out like that.

I felt very old this week when I read in the newspaper’s celebrity birthday list that it was that little baby’s 42nd birthday.

I hadn’t seen her again until 1984 when Soleil Moon Frye played Punky Brewster on TV.

 

RECURRING DREAMS

REFLECTIONS

by Steve Liddick

Do you have a dream that keeps coming back? I think psychiatrists have a term for that: Whacko.

No, seriously.

For many years I worked in radio stations, first as a deejay, later as a news reporter. My recurring dream always takes place in a radio studio. It is either nearly news time as a newscaster and I don’t have any news copy written–or I’m a disc jockey and my record is running out without another one set up to run. In either case, I am not ready—and I am panicked because I am on the verge of facing the dreaded “dead air.”

I can’t pinpoint the exact source of this trauma, although that has actually happened several times. Nobody died, was injured, or got fired on any of those real occasions. Still, the image continues to visit me.

This has been going on for years. I have become almost comfortable with it. Having retired more than a dozen years ago it’s kind of interesting to get inside a radio station now and then, even if it is a dream.

My friend Jerry is a psychologist. I have never sought his advice on how to deal with my recurring dream, but I once gave him some advice on how to handle one of his patients who was stuck in a troubling mindset. I suggested that he grab them by the collar, lift them off the floor, and scream into their face, “GET OVER IT!”

He said he appreciated my suggestion, but felt it would probably not be very effective.

 

Books by Steve Liddick: https://www.amazon.com/s/ref=nb_sb_noss_2?url=search-alias%3Daps&field-keywords=steve+liddick

Steve LiddickAuthor of “All That Time,” “Old Heroes,” “Prime Time Crime,” “Sky Warriors,” “But First This Message: A Quirky Journey in Broadcasting,” “A Family Restaurant is No Place for Children,” “Campsite Gourmet: Fine Dining on the Trail and on the Road,” and “Eat Cheap: A Cookbook and Guide To Stretching Your Food Budget Dollars.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

CHICKEN CORN SOUP

REFLECTIONS

by Steve Liddick

Every year, when the corn was at the eating stage, church women in my Perry County Pennsylvania home area would make chicken corn soup as a fundraiser. I don’t know if they still do. If so, a bowl of it probably wouldn’t cost a quarter anymore.

Whatever the price, it’s worth it because it was heaven in a paper bowl with a plastic spoon.

My personal recipe, which is a long-standing Perry County tradition, is very simple:

First you steal a chicken

Defeatherize and clean it, boil it down, debone it, toss the skin and bones. Cut the meat into smaller pieces. Save the water you boiled the chicken in.

Then you walk out to a farmer’s field and pick some corn. My dad always said to “Leave the money on the fence.” I would say, “What if there’s no fence,” and he’d say, “Now you have the idea, son.”

Okay, moving on:

You cut a lot of corn from the cob and add it to the chicken and broth.

Now here’s the good part:

In a bowl, you mix an egg and a pinch of water or melted butter in some flour and mix it around until you have a dry dough with tiny eggy-floury chunklets and you drop those—a few at a time—into the boiling soup. Those are called rivels (RIH-vuhls) and they add to the magic.

After it has boiled awhile, salt and pepper it to taste.

There you have it.

But I have to admit, the homemade version is nowhere near as good as those church ladies made.

Maybe it’s because everything tastes better when someone else does the cooking.

 

GETTING IT OFF MY CHEST

REFLECTIONS

by Steve Liddick

You know how people say, “I don’t like to complain, but . . .?” Well, I don’t like to complain, Not just because it doesn’t do a bit of good to moan about this and that. No, I try to avoid complaining around other people because they don’t want to hear it. They have their own problems and don’t need to take on mine.

You want to kill a conversation, just start complaining about something—anything—and watch as people drift away from you. The more often a discouraging word is heard, the more cloudy the skies are all day.

Complaining takes many forms. Say you’re at a four-way stop intersection and some clodhopper pulls out in front you when it’s not his turn. You lay on your horn, make all kinds of specialty hand gestures, and scream nasty bits about the offender’s maternal parentage.

Who do the other two drivers at the intersection get upset with? Not the aforementioned clodhopper who cut you off. They stare white-hot daggers at the guy making the fuss. Nobody likes a complainer?

When people greet you with “Hi, how you doin’?” you are expected to say, “Great, how’re you?” Start unloading woes on them and watch as their eyes glaze over and they remember meetings they’re late for.

I am here to tell you that, while nobody wants to hear your beefs, it is injurious to one’s health to keep it all bottled up. Something has got to give. An outlet must be found for the steam that is building, threatening to explode your head.

Mental health professionals are of no use at all. In fact, when they say, “and how do you feel about that?” you know they’re not really listening and that just ticks me off that much more.

I can’t even get it out of my system by yelling at my wife. She knows where the frying pans are and I have to sleep sometime.