You may have noticed: IT’S COLD!  And it’s going to get just as cold tonight as it did last night, and perhaps more.  What to do – what to do?

For me and my house we’re going to have chili.

I wasn’t going out today except to the mailbox, but in order to make my regionally famous Border Chili, ( any border will do ) I would need to go out and find the beef. I always love an excuse to go to Bow Street Market and that is where I can get the natural beef we eat when we eat beef.  It’s local and un-medicated.

Here is my formula for a dynamite bowl of red.  Go on – you know you wanted to know.

2 lbs of Pineland Farms stew meat cut into small bits of various sizes.  If you want to add a little regular ground meat you can.  Maybe some pork or squirrel.

8 cups of water to which is added two cans of beef consommé.  This really kicks up the beef flavor

Two good sized onions chopped coarsely

7 to 10 large cloves of garlic minced 

About 1/3 cup of sliced jalapeños.  

Around 8 or 9 T of chili powder.  I use Pendery’s Original and Top Hat with a little New Mexican Chimayo for flavor.  Check http://www.penderys.com  for a good source.  Obviously, you can use any chili powder you want, but I can vouch for the quality and flavor of these which I buy by 1/2 to 1 pound amounts.

Bring the liquid to a boil and add the meat stirring to break up the pieces that stick together.  There is going to be lots of foaming.  Skim off the darker parts and stir down the rest.  You are not going to eliminate it all.

When the meat has cooked – about 15 minutes of this vigorous boiling – add the onion, garlic and chili powders.  You might want to reserve a third of the chili powders to test the taste after a couple of hours and add the rest to adjust the taste. Aw, just throw the lot into the pot.  You will love it.

Turn the fire down to low and let it alone, except for the occasional stirring, for 3 or 4 hours.  Keep an eye on the liquid and add some water now and then to keep the level up but do not thin it too much.

I like a little body to my chili.  There are several ways to achieve this but my favorite is to use some masa.  It can be found where ever the corn meal and flour is found. You will find, Masa Harina, which is a corn flour used extensively in Mexican cooking.  I take about a third of a cup of masa and whisk into it about a cup or so of water or the hot liquid.  Use enough liquid to make a thin mix.  Stir this into the chili and this seems to do the trick.  Remember, you don’t have to thin it at all.

Taste as you go along.  You’ll know when it is right.  Tasting as you go you will find a not so subtile improving and blending of the flavors used in the recipe.

You will notice I didn’t mention salt and pepper.  Be careful it seems to be savory enough.  The consommé contains salt as well as some of the chili powders.

Just eating chili as it is is great.  But I like it over a little rice.  Now and then I love some grated cheddar on top.  If it is too warm for you tender lipped souls out there, have a dollop of sour cream with some chives on the side with which you can dress the occasional spoon.

It goes without saying that a little cornbread couldn’t hurt a thing.  Perhaps a glass of porter.

You will notice I didn’t mention beans.  Put them in if you want.  You might be interested in knowing that not a single Terlingua Champion has ever put a bean in his/her chili.  

You know, just talking about this has warmed me up considerably.  I hope it helps you as much.  

Stay warm.  And stay tuned.

I really wish there were some way to avoid thinking about the end of life, specially when the end is – well, not as far away as it was once perceived to be. Fifty years ago I hardly considered it. Even when lying in a hospital bed quite certain I was having a coronary event. I felt then that as soon as my buddy the doctor, with whom I was traveling down to Port Isabel to go for a sailboat ride back up to Corpus Christi, got through with his expert ministrations, I would jump up and we would continue our adventure.

Not once, that I remember, did I think, “Oh shit! This is it. I’m a goner”.

Even as I was recovering form what was determined to be acute gastritis, ( too much con queso and not enough beer – those were the days before I discovered the blessings of alcohol ) I was hungering for a burrito with lots of sour cream. Some pills and a polite nod to diet brought me around enough for us to complete our sea going adventure. Later, of course, I found that alcohol, in moderation, covered a multitude of sins, among which is the sin of sound judgment. I haven’t figured out how to do con queso in moderation. There is just something about semi-liquid cheese with hot things floating around in it.

These days, however, any twitch or rumble in the thoracic region gives me pause to remember where my phone is with the number 1 speed dial button set to 911.

You get to be an Octogenarian, you get to be cautious about life. I hold on going down stairs. I use a walking stick when hiking, specially down precipitous paths. I start the heavy breathing before it’s needed. Although I sometimes feel that I still have the reflexes of a 20 year old, I am still rational enough to know that’s a lie.

Flexibility is the know it all and tell it all. I simply do not bend as well as I used to do. You would understand all this without any further explanation if you were privileged to see me trying to put on a pair of Levis without holding on to something. What you are seeing in your mind’s eye now is exactly what inspired the famous dance, The Bunny Hop.

Think, Bunny Hop with a cane.

Anyway, what this all means for me is that I hold on when trying to get into my jeans. Luckily, I usually don’t have an audience.

I was reading a Post item yesterday morning about the introduction of driverless cars being tested by Audi, Toyota, Google, of all people, and others.  We already have pilotless drones that can pop the buttons off an Al Qaeda Chieftain’s Levis.  Why not a car that can stay between the lines and not run into the car in front?  I mean, why not?

These are already being tested under state license in Nevada.  Let me see – that’s desert, right?  So the car wipes out a few cactus plants and mows down a stack of poker chips.  Who cares?  Well, I guess if they are your chips….

Welcome ladies and gentlemen to the CyberBahn.  Sit back and relax.  Your destination has been keyed into the Mother Computer in the Cloud and if you will simply flip the red switch on your dash from Manuel to Auto, we will be off in quiet safety.  Sensors will keep you safely spaced from other vehicles.  Have a drink.  Text until your fingers fall off, take a nap…..

Wait a minute!  This is already going on, and there’s no switch to flip.  I had to take to the shoulder recently when this guy pulled into my lane while talking on his phone completely oblivious to my presence.  He probably had an adult beverage between his legs as well.  If I didn’t have my proximity sensors on to warn me, we would have had a 911 situation.  Yes, I said proximity sensors.  Eyes!  Low tech but effective.

When I think about all the crap people are doing in their cars at 80 MPH – besides driving – it makes me yearn for the driverless age. 

But, I see complications.  How does one, for example flip off an electronic device that cuts you off at the exit?  I mean, if you can’t insult the other driver, what use is it to drive?

Here’s a scenario for you.  I am driving along I – 295 and the traffic is moving along at a sedate 80 mph when I notice a state cop parked in the shadow of a bridge half a mile ahead.  Driving defensively, as I always do, I  tapped my break  to loose those ugly 15 miles per hour and the driverless Audi behind me swings out to pass me completely unconcerned about the cop car ahead.

I stare in amazement as the Robot car speeds up, thinking the way is clear and all those cars in the right lane are driving like student drivers always seem to do. She (it) passes the Statie in a blur doing at least 90 and the cop, of course, takes off in pursuit.

But wait a minute – the cop car is also a driverless drone and through some cyber DNA wireless info loop he begins to communicate with the runaway he is chasing.  He (it) says, “Hey you are really going fast, but I have to say you are nailing the centerline perfectly.  What’s your software?”

He gets a reply, of course, this being a digital fantasy.  “Who wants to know?” comes the terse, but articulate answer.

The reply comes instantly, “I am” – are you ready for this? – “Commander Cody of the Highway Patrol, and you are in danger of being archived and stored in the cloud.  Pull over immediately!”

Suddenly, as the Highway Patrol car nears the Falmouth Exit the Dunkin Donut chip that was part of the last upgrade kicks in and the drone takes the exit and gets to the Dunkin drive though with only one car ahead of him. Guess what car it is.

Stranger things have happened out on the Interstate, and one can only imagine what they might be.  As it turns out, the highway speedsterette and Commander Cody were operating with identical software and were, as it turns out, completely compatible.  No citation was issued and some very stimulating apps were wirelessly exchanged in the parking lot.

I recently purchased a new coffee maker. I know, I know: I already mentioned this. I have been using it for over a month now and I have to say that I give it – on a scale of 10, about 7.5. I don’t know why I don’t give it a 10, except that it’s maybe too tall.

The coffee is great. It comes out into a nice stainless double walled carafe that looks fantastic wherever you put it. I can’t wait for the warmer weather to get here on July 4th so I can take the carafe down to the back porch and have a leisurely breakfast in the morning sun with all the coffee I can drink. Which brings me to the point:

How much coffee can one drink?

My former pots were all 4 to 5 cup devices and that always seemed to be about right. Now and then, I would pour a little additional water into the reservoir to squeeze out another cup. So when looking for a new pot I figured that a larger pot that would permit small batches would be just the thing. Flexibility, after all, is a good thing. Not my favorite thing, but, well, that’s another story.

I have been keeping an unofficial count of the number of re-fills I get out of each batch in my new coffee maker, and It seems that the Field of Dreams principle (If you build it they will cone) holds for coffee makers as well. If you make it you will drink it.

I began making a four cup batch and found I needed just one more cup before I was done. Then on one particular morning I seemed to be on a coffee roll and actually made a second pot of 4 cups. Well, being the intuitive person I am, I figured that I might as well make, say, 6 cups and probably toss some coffee down the drain but be sure of having enough for whatever octane emergency might arise.

Guess what? I drink it all. Slowly but inexorably, the amount of coffee I made approached a full 10 cup pot. Hence the principle holds: The amount of coffee one drinks is positively related to the size of one’s pot. I am sure that if Kevin Costner has built a 5000 seat stadium on the edge of his corn field it would have filled up. In the interest of science, I have considered renting one of those church basement 30 cup coffee makers and seeing how I make out with that. Of course, I’d have 911 on my speed dial, just in case.

Well, I see the sun has finally come out. This is a good thing for those of us who suffer from seasonally affected disorders. One more cup of darkroast should just about get me into the day in high gear. Hmm, as I lift the carafe there seems to be more than one cup remaining. Maybe I’ll just write a couple of emails while it lasts.

I always resist this business of New Year’s resolutions. It’s not a bad idea, but there is little to vouch for it in terms of outcomes. I mean, did you really loose those ugly pounds you vowed to shed a year ago? Are you really a better conversationalist as you were, last year, sure to be? And, come on, did you actually put the money aside for that trip to Tuscany? Well, neither did I.

But it’s kinda fun. I mean, what makes us so blatantly human is the idea that we think we can be better. The thing is – we really can be better.

And we all know that. I mean we have total control over how much we eat, or drink, or how well we apply ourselves toward self improvement. The real issue is that we think there is always the next year in which to do all those wonderful things.

Obviously, there may not be another year. Just as obviously, there may be decades more to absorb our procrastination. Obviously, we will do what we always do and the chips will fall where they may.

Happiness in the new year is not a function of loosing weight, being a better conversationalist or even having the money for a season in the Tuscan sun. Happiness is more closely related to being thankful for life, health, friends and companionship. You got that – you got a lot.

So, I wish for each of you that kind of HAPPY NEW YEAR! However – should you get to Tuscany, and there is an extra room, give me a call. I could be happier.

For longer than I can remember, I have considered the winter solstice to be the turning point of the calendar year. In my mind the new year begins then. The darkest night, heralding the coming light – the re-borning of life, the warming of our souls – all those things having been passed down to us from our forebears in the northern European tradition, huddled around night fires to be certain they survive the long darkness. Yeah, I know that’s a bit melodramatic but you get the picture. Take away TV, computers and central heat and I – 95 we’re not so far apart.

A little drumming, a little single malt, a little holding hands in the fading light of our fire reflecting off the trees and the long night is duly acknowledged and honored. CA and I have had that little ceremony several times when schedule and weather allowed. It’s our little ceremony of the cycle of life.

The one central idea of any solstice ceremony is hope. The coming light and life that rises from the darkness and death of deepest winter. The days become longer and sunrises come earlier streaming in our windows, awakening us long before we are ready.

What is hope but the expectation of good things. Here are a couple of items on my Hope List.

I hope for health. Without it none of this other stuff matters much. What that would mean for me is to eat less, drink less, move more and clean up my mind. I’ll not bore you with messy particulars about how I am proposing to reach those goals. Actually there are none yet. That’s the hard part. I’m open to suggestions. I know you have it figured out already.

I hope for peace. There’s probably a better chance for me loosing my belly fat than peace breaking out around the world. Yet, peace could take root in my life if I tried – I think. At least some of the books of he Blessed say that. For that to happen, however, I’d have to put forgiveness to work and that has not been my favorite thing through the years. There’s nothing quite as tasty as a few long-lasting, deeply rooted and completely justifiable grudges. It’s actually a little scary to contemplate what might happen should I give them up and all that energy used to maintain and nurture those grudges is freed up. What would I do with it? What would it do with me?

There are many lesser things to hope for, but those two items could occupy me for a while. The light is surely coming. The path will be in plain sight. So be Healthy. Be Peace. Spread your special light about. Let it shine on me.

Jerry Henderson

CA called from the other room, “What are you laughing at?” “The funnies”, I answered. It’s been a while since I was a regular at the funnies. I don’t know, I just stopped reading them some time ago and for some mysterious reason, I picked up the habit again recently and haven’t missed a day since – specially the Sunday Funnies.

Remember that radio program where that guy read the funnies? You’d think, “Read the funnies on the radio? Crazy!” But it worked. I think it was Uncle Bob out of Lakeland Florida – I’m not sure. It’s been a while. Many of you are too young for such reflections. Count your blessings.

Then, remember in July 1945 – whoops! You probably don’t – when the newspaper deliverymen were on strike in New York, that Mayor Fiorello LaGuardia read Dick Tracy and Little Orphan Annie on the radio. I remember the MovieTone News at the the Istrouma Theater a block from my house, that showed the Mayor doing this. He was quite good. There were pictures of kids glued to the radio painting pictures in their minds as the Mayor described the scene in each frame.

Yeah, I know, most of you were not around in 1945. But I’ll bet you have tried to explain a comic strip to someone as you read the funnies, in effect, reading the funnies to them.

I went for years without even looking at the funnies with the exception of an occasional Doonesbury. I was drawn to it’s intellectual content, being the intellectual type myself. Then one day a friend of mine asked me if I had seen Stephan Pastis’ Pearls Before Swine that day. I said that I hardly ever read the funnies and had never read that one. He said that I should check it out. Well, to make a long story short, I did check it out and laughed out loud. It’s now one of my favorites. It’s very intellectual.

Sometimes I don’t get it, which is a good reality check for me. I always feel better when I check with some other intellectual friend of mine and he or she failed to “get” it as well. l figure Pastis is probably in therapy and can be forgiven for sailing one over our heads now and then. It does give me pause to think that there is a place where someone actually “gets” some of those weird strips. Know what I mean? Like maybe in Congress?

The Sunday funnies are a priority now. It must be that hormonal thing that happens in old men, or more likely the boredom while waiting for my next doctor’s visit, but I never miss the funnies anymore. They are printed on heavy coated stock that makes them show up better and also lends a more substantial “feel” to the experience. I have found that in my latter years, substantial has come to mean more to me than ever before. It’s that old guy hormonal thing, I’m sure.

Wait a minute: do old guys have hormones? I have to check that out  on Wikipedia.

I’ll never forget the first time a lovely, intensely desirable and patently unavailable young woman called me “Sir”. It had to happen. I had been getting older and new batches of “children” were coming of age and looking as good as a crown roast on my table.

In my middle years, and I’ll leave you to decide what that was, I found myself single and not knowing “jack” about what that meant. I found out what it meant, but not as an adult, but rather as the teenager that never was. That’s another story that we will not explore at this time.

When that young and bursting at the seams woman called me “Sir”, it gave me pause to calculate the probable differential in our ages – as though that made any difference to anyone in my particular neighborhood – and it became clear that she could have, under wildly improbable circumstances, been my daughter. So I replied, in my most circumspect manner, “Yes ma’am”. I have been handling similar situations pretty much the same since.

I can guarantee that more people of either sex say “Sir” rather than some other greeting such as “Hey Baby”, which I heard only once in a disco in the mid 70’s. It scared the hell out of me at the time.

Anyway, what I am thinking about has nothing to do with much at all except that I don’t think about this stuff unless I am home alone on a cold dreary night. So, I’m home alone on a cold dreary night.

To take the edge off the evening, I have some excellent domestic blue cheese and some fantastic herbed crackers. To wash that down I have an adequate measure of a name brand Northern Scandinavian spirit. I feel an inspiration coming on. Where is that Daniel Silva novel? It’s not nearly as bad as I, at first, thought.

Be well, Dear Ones, and stay tuned.

I’m Jerry Henderson

Another coffee pot bit the dust. OK, I really mean coffee maker. It’s just that I come from a generation when the word “pot” covered everything in he kitchen that had anything to do with making something to eat or drink. As I said, my coffee pot died.

I have been using, for ever, those discount store devices for which I have paid anywhere from $12.95 to $19.95, except for the time when I sprang for one that I just knew would last a lifetime, for which I paid the enormous sum of $24.95. It had a French sounding name, which, I felt, would be a plus. The damned thing didn’t last six months. So much for that terribly overrated French “mystique”.

While considering my next move, I glanced over at the little three cup Cajun coffee pot I have had for over 50 years and is now a “decorator” piece in my kitchen. I wondered if I should just abandon modernity and go back to pouring scoops of boiling water over the coffee until the little pot is full, then setting the pot in a pan of simmering water to keep it warm. That worked for years without ever needing to plug anything into a wall socket. I can remember standing there half awake in that peaceful pre-dawn silence, tending to that little pot with loving care, as though it were the antidote for the “evil that lurks in the hearts of men”.

I do have a large coffee maker made by Black and Decker, the people who make table saws, power drills and whisker trimmers, but it’s too big to leave on my small counter top. I only use it when there are large groups to serve. Rare.
So, considering all these factors, I made the leap and ordered a real coffee pot with a stainless insulating carafe. I can make as little as 2 cups to as much as 10 cups. I can also set it to make coffee in the morning, all by itself, in that pre-dawn quietness, just before I wake up. You can’t see it, but I am smiling.

I’m 81 today. I want to thank all of you who sent along a greeting on this once in a lifetime day.

Actually, I believe all days fit that description, do they not? And here it is on the eve of Thanksgiving as well. When Thanksgiving used to float, my birthday came on Thanksgiving Day from time to time. Of course, that wouldn’t do. Besides, there needed to be another fixed long weekend and this seemed as good a place as any to stick one in the calendar. I don’t mind.

So, on this auspicious day, I want to be thankful for a few things.

Obviously I am thankful to be here. Like the inimitable Minnie Pearl, “I’m just so proud to be here”! I never made plans to be here so long. And I appreciate everyone making room for my extended stay. I have issues, like any octogenarian, but through the ministrations of a team of physicians, Medicare, a drug plan I can afford and the ability to appreciate good gin, I seem to be doing OK at the moment – and the moment is all any of us really have.

Then I am thankful for my family in all of it’s branches. They are the foundation on which “I AM” has been built. I am specially thankful for my children who mean more to me than they can know, and who actually speak to me, and who all have iPhones with which to do it.

I am thankful for my friends who seem willing to put up with me and my vices. It has occurred to me that without a few vices, we would be a boring and completely lackluster tribe. Actually, I have been rejected by some because of my vices. They are certainly the less for it.

I am thankful for one woman who knows all my vices, even the ones I have managed to hide from most of you out there. I’m thankful for her love and patience and belief. There has to be belief in a lasting relationship. I am thankful for her family who have let me inside to feel a part of their lives, to share their joy and sadness and love.

As I said, I am thankful for the moment. Celebrate the moment with me. Don’t mourn the passing of the moment. Don’t be anxious about the next moment.

Thank you all.