Saturday, December 29, 2007

Another one bites the dust.....

Our dearly beloved President gave us all a lecture today about fiscal responsibility......he is vetoing some spending bill because it has some nickels and dimes somewhere for projects that actual Americans want.......while spending $200 million dollars a week pissing down the well in Iraq.

My license plate has said for six years now: "Bush and Cheney will make my next license plate". It used to be it is a cry for help. The presence of this plate on my Jaguar at the Beach Club in Pebble Beach in 2003 got my entire car keyed and the Jaguar ripped off the hood.

Don't grumble too much at the Republicans' lack of humor, though. Some poor bastard in Iowa is being frog-marched before a justice of the peace for a hate crime for wearing a T-shirt that says: "Dammit, why didn't Hillary marry OJ?"

Dark times require dark humor. Bill himself scored major points with me back in the day when he was asked about Paula Jones' charges about her affair with him: "People, this is the kind of thing you get when you drag a hundred dollar bill through a trailer park......"

You ought to know, Bill........but............. still funny.

Speaking of dark we got the news that Rod Kenyon died last night. Dead of an internal staph infection.

Rod had been feeling peaked for the last couple of weeks.....and did not look good. Rod cut wood for a living, and built fences. Rod....Fred Nason......Duncan.....and Brendan....are the last four people left alive in Monterey County that can still build a fence where the wire can sing when you snap it.

Friday night we got word that the Rancho Sin Frenos cows had escaped into Rancho Chupinos through a broken fence. Brendan had to go in early Saturday to chase them down, bring them back and fix the fence.

Despite running the Cachagua Playboys acoustic concert on Friday Night and us having that party on Saturday.

Then we started thinking about it.....Wait a minute, Rod lives at Rancho Chupinos....why is the fence bad, and why does anyone need to go fetch the cows. Where is Rod? What the fuck?

Rod was in the ICU.

He had been feeling poorly for a couple of weeks.....but dealt with it in the manly tradition of all cowboys and retired ski-patrolmen. He had no health insurance, and a visit to even friendly Doc Tocchet would be a full day's wage....So, he took some aspirin, borrowed a couple of Norco, and drank an extra six-pack before bedtime in the bunkhouse.

Finally, his arm really hurt, and he was feeling bad, and he looked like shit, everyone he took himself in to the ER.....and they immediately stuck him in ICU and started dialysis because the infection was already killing his kidneys just with the waste products that sloughed off of the battle his body was fighting with the bug.

He had never yet missed an hour of work. Even until his last day.

Some years back we had an evangelical illegal Mexican woman working for us.....and her family eventually tagged along. We liked her, and wanted to keep her and integrate we offered her health insurance. My cost was a couple of hundred bucks a month, and the policy was the Blue Cross Prudent Provider deal with a $1000 yearly deductible, with an 80/20 donut up to $30k and then everything free.

I explained everything to Josefina, and she looked at me like I had ten heads.

"You mean I would have to PAY for doctors? Why would I do that? Right now I just go to the emergency room, and everything is free.......Why would I want insurance?"

Rod Kenyon: mountain man, ski-instructor, actual cowboy......Aboriginal Man of the dead because his inborn pride would not let him accept something that he could not pay for with his own labor......even though it meant his life. It never occurred to him that the system might be wrong.

Rod never asked for help.....beyond a jump if his battery died in his truck......Rod knew how to nurture any amount of game and farm animals.....and it never occurred to him that part of his natural birthright for being a hardworking American might be that he would have access to health care equal to that of the animals he worked with.

The cost of insurance for Rod would have been about $2500 a year, in our fucked up system.....allowing for multi-billion dollar bonuses for the CEO's of the insuring company. This comes out to about a buck an hour....somewhere between ten and six percent of his wages.

One dollar an hour? One dollar an hour trade for Rod? Are you fucking kidding me? I know fifty guys would pay that dollar for Rod.....but none of them have health insurance, either.

We are the only industrialized country in the world that does not care for its workers.

The loss to all of us is way out of proportion to the costs. If Rod had been born Renaldo, or Renard, or Reiner he would still be working today.....and the wealth of knowledge he accumulated, his library of kindness and concern, and his sweet, self-deprecating smile would still be available to all of us for another couple of decades.

It seems like a small thing.....but there are a lot of fences in our local world. Those of us who have done the work, and know.....look around and judge and appreciate. When I am in Spain, I check out their fences. Rod Kenyon was a master of minutae, and a sweet and kind man, and Rod's fences could sing if you plucked them. Robert Frost said......Good fences make good neighbors......Rod made some great neighbors.

And he is needlessly dead.

When I look into the face of my supposed President......I see a despicable, wretched, egotistical, lying sack of shit......who could have....with the smallest effort......made it possible for the Rod Kenyons of the world to have an actual place at the table of the great feast that is supposed to be America.

George Bush is a pretend yuppie fuck from Andover. He hails from Connecticut and Maine...where fences stopped being built two hundred years ago. His faux-Texas accent steals the worth of kind, hard-working people like Rod that understood pride of work, the value of labor, and the reluctance to ask for more than they thought they had earned. George Bush has earned nothing in his life but our contempt. I put Rod Kenyon's death on George Bush's soul, and I curse him for it.

The fact that Rod Kenyon died in a hospital because he would not allow his sense of values to ask for help from a society of which he was a valuable and integral part is a huge tragedy. It is a war crime. It is a disaster.

John Donne has that oft quoted sermon that talks about how if a tiny piece of the continent falls and is washed into the sea, the continent is so much the lesser. It ends with the now trite line...

"Ask not for whom the bell tolls for thee."

Rod Kenyon died....but it could have been Ian......or Alex....or Brendan.....or Athena......or Amanda.....or Liz......or Fred Nason......or Micah.......or Gilda......

(No wait....Brendan has health insurance. $75 every month).

Or almost any of the working people you know or see everyday in your life and whose labor makes your life comfortable and possible.

This is fucked up......

Rod, I am really sorry and ashamed that I did not do more to try to fix this shambles we call health care.

And, I am more sorry and ashamed that you did not think that you could call me and tell me that you were hurting and ask me to help.


Friday, December 28, 2007

The Front Lines of Weirdness......

The front lines of weirdness is where we like to be....

Weird is challenging. At one point in our careers we were just trying to get the people to stop talking and put down their cigarette long enough to notice what was on the plate in front of them. God forbid they should THINK about what they were seeing and tasting.......

Jeez, I am old. Does anyone else remember when people used to smoke in the middle of fancy dinner parties? I didn't think so.

Back in the day, raspberry mousse with white chocolate anything was weird: "I thought mousse was chocolate? What is wrong with chocolate mousse? And how can it be chocolate if it is white? You guys are weird. Can I get an ashtray?"

Still, we have always resisted weirdness for its own sake. There was a time (which is now returning, sadly) when hip restaurants' menus looked like they had been prepared by throwing magnet words at a refrigerator: Rack of Yak with Pomegranate Aioli, served on a bed of Chizo and Chipotle Cream.

Brendan and his friends are pursuing the molecular gastronomy trail left by Heston Blumenthal, Wylie duFresne and Feran Adria. And Quique Dacosta and Andoni Aduriz....and old fogeys like Pedro Subijiana and Juan Mari Arzak and Michel Bras. If you don't recognize any of those names.....stay off Jeopardy for a while....Michel Bras is old school, and his new cookbook is in enough demand that it runs $350.....if you can find it.

The New Crew has harnessed a bit of the lab, helped out by scientists like Harold McGee and Herve This. Juan Mari takes it one step further and has a gifted art loonie in the lab as well: Xabier Gutierrez. Xabi wanders around the city..... and the forest.... gathering visual concepts that he brings back to the lab. Juan Mari bangs all their heads together.....Xabi, chefs and science geeks....and out come strange and wonderful dishes that float and crunch and explode and sing. And taste wonderful. Feran and his boys, and Quique, and Andoni do the same.....with the possible addition of psychedelics and South American stimulants.....and they all are missing some important neuro-transmitters.

Still, the New Crew's dishes are not just weird for weirdness' sake.

Melon caviar.....made from melons and moves the melon flavor out of the melon texture and lets it sit conveniently and visually strikingly next to a jamon iberico cracker thing that looks like Frank Gehry designed it..... and nestles next to a frozen lime oil shard of glass. Melon and prociutto....but more Famke Janssen then Bette Davis.

Or paper thin hibiscus brittle that catches the light like mother of pearl versions of the previously mentioned South American stimulants.....and shatters at a touch to fall on the pigeon breast......where its tangy bright crunch perfectly cuts the richness of the bird. Canard Montmorency, but more Robert Mapplethorpe than Yusef Karsh.

Or, how about a salad that is designed like a musical composition.....built to be eaten from the outside in to the center, with the flavors and textures changing ever so as the diner enters the piece. And the waiter pays attention to whether the diner is right-handed or left-handed and sets it down so the poor schmuck has a fighting chance at eating it properly.

Anyway, in America.....and especially in California....we are way downstream from these springs of creativity and study. Only David Kinch at Manresa wades in these waters. French Laundry? Exactly named. Rewashed, albeit perfectly presented, dishes from a hundred years ago. Plenty of bleach and starch, thank you very much.

Right now everyone is working on trying to make hot ice cream. Calcium alginate helps make a room temperature dish hold its form. Brendan has been making mango caviar and mango vermicelli to go with his ceviche lately using alginate.....and a Meyer lemon/dill/yuzu caviar for the smoked salmon....and a mignonette caviar for the oysters......but the mango ice cream won't stabilize when warmed. Yet.

Interestingly enough.....calcium alginate, which comes from local the main ingredient in K-Y jelly. That neatly ties in that whole Robert Mapplethorpe allusion, don't it!


Even us mondo/modern/weird guys can be taken aback. Witness: the genetic scientists have finally mapped out the entire genome of the Pinot Noir grape. (Well, the work was done in Italy so really it is the Pinot Nero that has been fully sequenced).

It develops....(for those of you who care......GEEKS!) that the two sets of chromosomes that make up the parent varieties of pinot noir are radically different from each other.....11.2%. This is far more variation then there is between apes and humans, for instance. I knew I liked Pinot with an element of viniferous bestiality involved....very sexy.

Anyway, there is guy in Florida....Dr. Dennis Gray....who is all aflutter. Florida has no wine grapes (well, ,one tenth of one percent of US grapes), and can barely grow muscatine table grapes. Dr. Gray is all set to change that. You see, now he can manipulate the genetic structure of Pinot Noir and introduce other components. Something to fight mildew, something to fight fungus, something to fight bacteria....Something to fight real estate developers, perhaps. Maybe slip a little gooseberry gene in there to raise the acidity....or a chocolate gene to generate that "chocolate box" aroma that Ben Edwards is so kooky about and spends all his money looking for in Burgundies.

Dr. Gray says the tree huggers have nothing to worry about. All the genetic manipulation will take place in the seeds, stems, roots and leaves.....the wine will be just fine for you. No, really.

My old friend Dr. Konstantin Frank is spinning in his grave right now.

Dr. Frank was the first guy to get vitis vinifera....European wine grow in the Eastern US. Native Amerian grapes are vitis labrusca, and are nice to eat but taste like crap in wine. Think Concord or Catawba. Mmmmm. The industry term for the off flavors is "foxy" in the Aesop fable "The Fox and the Grapes."

Doc Frank had a vineyard.....his son still runs Upstate New York. He had a living library of varietals from all over the world planted out back, and made wonderful Rieslings back in the 70's. We Piglets from L'Auberge would drive over and help out with the harvest, cutting, bottling....and especially.....drinking the wine.

Doc Frank was a character......a refugee from Hitler AND Stalin from somewhere Slavic. His wife was straight out of the fields of Byelorussia or some such....a true, wrinkled, hunched babushka complete with apron and scarf. He built a small farmhouse outside Watkins Glen, and gradually grew vineyards.

Doc taught us Piglets many lessons. To "Doc Frank" your glass at a wine tasting is to finish the previous wine and pour a tiny splash of the next one and swirl it around to clean the glass. Of course, there was no spitting: "Why should I make a wine for you to spit in a bucket?"

Doc Frank loved America. His standard monologue after a few bottles ran like this:

"Who lives.... in America.... in most BEAUTIFUL of houses?"


"Who has in.... America.... the most BEAUTIFUL of wifes?"


"Who can eat TURKEY every day of the week in America.....if he wants to?"


At the time, the wine geneticists were creating hybrids of European and American grape varieties....stuff like Baco Noir. The Doc thought this was horrifying. He was convinced that hybrids caused cancer....and these hybrids were not genetically engineered, just bred conventionally in nurseries...... not labs.

I once made the mistake of dropping by and asking if he knew where I could buy some Baco Noir grapes for my home wine project. The Doc became quickly enraged and literally grabbed me by the ear and dragged me out into the vineyard.

"Now you are in France! This is Chardonnay! This is Pinot Noir! This is no shit hybrid. This no cause cancer!"

Doc dragged me further into the vineyard.

"Now you are in Italy! This is Sangiovese! This is Pinot Grigio! This is no shit hybrid. Pinot Grigio no cause cancer!"

We continued on through Germany, Greece, the Ukraine, Switzerland,Portugal, Spain, Hungary......and on to countries I never considered to be wine countries.....all the while Doc kept the GI Joe Kung Fu grip on my ear and dragged me like a sack of flour, shouting all the while.

Doc had helped us make a batch of wine which was still in a big 500 gallon tank......Doc dragged me into the winery and, still shouting about hybrids and cancer.....opened the cock on the bottom of the tank and jumped back as all our wine poured out onto the winery floor. He stomped through the gathering lake of wine and actually kicked me in the ass and threw me off the property. My ear was swollen for a week.

Meanwhile, this week in news the Editors of The Economist.....being Europeans, and not overly focussed on Jamie Spears pregnancy.....have as its lead editorial the ramifications of the Pinot Noir genome sequencing: "Unleash The War on Terroir"......

I will not explain the joke.

The editors suggest that Dr. Gray and his crew in Florida not stop at disease resistant gene splicing for Pinot. Put Ben's chocolate gene in there, and the cassis.....and that hint of melon for the Viognier.......

(For the opposite genetic view, check Harold McGee's recent visit to Cornell's apple research vineyard......)

The editors then have a brilliant further inspiration......slip in a little willow bark gene for the acetylsaliccylic acid (aspirin) to get a jump on the hangover.....and take care of that heart prevention the doctor is always whining about at the same time. Caffeine could go in to keep the party going....and why not a little sildenafil (Viagra) to give it and the drinker a little body, and "prevent the ultimate wine-induced humiliation......."

The mere thought of it all makes my ear throb.......

I love you, Doc!

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

The Tamborrada......


Here is the ultimate in old people grappling with new technology. I have a film-maker son Conall in Prague....and I am here in Cachagua screwing around with Windows Movie Maker.

This is as if Conall were posting recipes on-line......

I apologize to one and all in advance for my well meaning incompetence in the whole video world.....

I promise to do better. Conall: : Help!

Amanda and I love the town of San Sebastian in Spain.....consisting of somewhat less than 200,000 folks on the northwest corner of the country.....kind of like the Seattle of there.

Every year we go in the winter.....because there is nothing else to do in winter in Cachagua......and also because as social-phobics and tourist-haters we love to see a town with just the locals.

Hey, we live in Cachagua! We do not GET tourists!

Anyway, every January 20th, San Sebastian celebrates....through an amazing depth of irony and bitterness....the fact of their having been conquered by Napoleon in 1808.

They have another option...the day that they were rescued by the British in 1813.....but they do not celebrate that one.

You see, they actually got along with Napoleon.....and the Brits, in the throes of joy of having liberated San Sebastian....burned down the town, raped all the women, and killed all the men. These were the Liberators......

Typical Brit behavior.....

The occupiers were much better received.

See....Napoleon invaded with a bunch of incompetent yahoos who loved to march around in fancy uniforms. They had great cooks, and a great supply line back to France....and life in San Sabby changed very little.

The locals had been trained to hate the French as incompetent fishing usurpers for a thousand years.....or perhaps 100,000 years (the Basques go back to the Cro Magnons, you see....) and went on about their business. When the Frogs would march down in formation from their Fortress on the mountain to get water, the locals would line up behind them and march along behind mocking them.

At this time, Napoleon was so feared and his armies were so awesome that they had evolved a technique that basically eliminated the need for actual fighting on the battlefield.

France had an all conscription army, and therefore masses of dumbfuck troops. In battle after battle, Napoleon would simply mass together battalions of dumbfucks and slowly march towards the enemy. The troops were driven on by masses of drummers......huge tympanies and little drummer boys as well....all beating the "Pas de Charge".

France at this time was the world....well, the non Arab of mathematics. Napoleon and his math guys.....Think Ree-shard Cheney and Paul Wolfowitz of then.......... had figured out that a certain number of dumbfucks marching directly into massed musket fire of the enemy would eventually overwhelm the ability of the opposing musket guys to kill the assembled dumbfucks fast enough to stop them......and Napoleon would win.

Every time.

And since Social Security in France had been privatised....and since no one gave a shit about the wounded and scarred dumbfucks lost in battle...or their widows or their orphans.....all was good!

Remind you of anything?


Just like with Cesar Millan.....Europe became trained to the point that if a bunch of nicely uniformed and nicely fed dumbfucks showed up marching to the beat of the "Pas de Charge"......everyone would beat feet and yield the field of battle with nary a shot of the old musket having to be fired.

Until the French met the Basques.

The Basques were not really impressed with the Pas de Charge. Rather than defend against mass attacks by dumbfucks, they adopted small, individual attacks that would annoy and harrass the Napoleonic infrastructure and gain PR points with the locals.

The small attacks, the small and personal war it implied.........they called guerilla warfare.

The small war.

The French could not deal with anything but massive warfare. Shock and Awe of the 1800's.

In San Sebastian, meanwhile....... there was business to be done. No one really gave a shit who was in charge, just so the boats could sail, and the sheep could be sheared, and the cows milked and all that.

When the French marched each morning to get the water at the San Telmo well, they went in formation with all their nice tailoring and the Pas de Charge to indimidate the locals.

The locals thought the tailoring was hysterical, and music lame. So, they got flour barrels for drums and random uniforms and marched along behind the Frogs, mocking their every move.

The technique, and the irony....have been preserved as a local custom......and every Jan 20th, the locals dress up in all the various costumes to relive the irony of the indigenous local culture mocking and eventually destroying the occupying power of the day.

That which does not kill us makes us stronger. is my video of that festival day last year: Tamborrada Donosti 2007

I promise to to better in 2008

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Hesky Vanoce!

Still struggling to find that Christmas spirit......

Checking out Conall's YouTube account (search for "jackabdiel").....I find his Christmas card:

Hesky Vanoce!

Gunfire, music and inspiring kind of spiritualism!

Cachagua and Czech.....not so far apart.


Thursday, December 20, 2007

It's beginning to feel a bit like.......

No, not Christmas.

We are trying to extend our short Spanish vacation of next month by entering the Euro-zone now.

As soon as the temperature drops, I set the car thermometer to Celsius.....The whole time we are in Europe the temperature runs between -5 and 10 degrees Celsius. If it is 5 in Cachagua.....which it has been since early November......I must be in Spain. Close your eyes and pretend. Breathe.

I also read Diario Vasco every day, and practice my Spanish with my old-school Palm TX thingie. I check the webcams on La Concha beach in San Sebastian.

The things I learn! The Basque police, the Ertzaintza, stopped every car on a major road one weekend not long ago and made everyone spit in names were taken.

Twenty-five percent were stoned. As in marijuana. Or, I guess...hashish. Who knows?

Today the Erzaintza released figures that reveal that traffic fatalaties in Basque Country were down 20% from last year.

I am sure there is no correlation there.

To give you an idea, Basques die at a rate of about 5.0 per 100,000 of population per month....compared to 5.5 in Monterey County, and about 7 in LA. This is despite the Basques driving cars so light and fuel efficient that the emergency services don't bother with body bags if there is a crash...they have special lightweight coffins they scoop the scattered remains into and save the coroner the needless work. There is not a Hummer, and very few giant SUV's in the province.

But hey: 60 miles per gallon in a handy little five speed, five door! I can't wait.

It is cheaper to drive in Spain....even with gas at $9 per gallon...than it is in America. And last week there was talk that El Presidente Boosh might veto the energy bill because it required US carmakers to reach 35mpg ...... THIRTEEN YEARS FROM NOW! America has now become the pathetic little place where you buy dumb stuff that breaks for your nephews. Like Hong Kong in 1966.

There was a police riot today in San Sebastian at the University because the students (free tuition, free medical care, free housing, free transportation) are protesting the "Bologna Process." Jamie Lynn Spears was not mentioned. What the fuck is the Bologna Process......and should I be rioting?


Another part of my Euro-training is walking the damn dogs on the mountain every morning, rain or the 5 degree weather. In Spain, I walk a lot. See, our pensione is a half mile from the bars and that it an automatic four miles a day, plus. In the freezing cold, rain and snow.

Our mountains are not unlike theirs. In the early morning it is always gorgeous in Carmel Valley. It remains a daily fact that we live in Golden California: the light, the grasses, the layers of hills stacked up in the mist.....almost to the point that I wonder why I am bothering to travel 9,000 km to Spain to look at essentially the same mountains. Well, OK....theirs ARE cooler....well, more spiky anyway.

And, in Spain I am pretty sure you don't encounter bobcat poop.....and giant paw tracks of mountain lions.......and the frantic tracks of the deer the cougar was probably chasing. Or....the place where the eagle poop has built up under the phone wire that crosses the road.

Amanda always asks: "How was your walk?"

Shitty. Spain....the mountains are civilized. There are villages on the mountains and tucked into the valleys.....everywhere. The land is beautiful, but it is being used. Sheep, ducks, mushrooms, saffron crocus, pigeons, blackfoot pigs, hydro-power......It is comfortable with its people.

In Carmel Valley, the land is mostly empty. No hilltop villages. No streamside towns tucked into the crease of the mountain. A few giant tracts owned by a few absentee, idle landlords....or the State.

Amanda finally took a shift of dog walking yesterday in the rain. After her walk up the mountain she felt the hills disdain for humans: "It is like a teenage boy mountain range.....not wanting to be kept, built upon or even walked upon by human feet......."

Edward Abbey once told me that one day the earth would shuck itself of humanity the way a dog scratches off its fleas.....and be better off for it. Looking out from Rolling Ridge Ranch in either direction it is not hard to think that the process has already begun.....

I am a tree-hugger from away back, but there is something more sensible about the Basque arrangement than ours. A few kilometers out from San Sabby you can be driving on a tiny, winding coast road in the middle of nowhere for an hour, and suddenly appears a tiny, bustling, functioning fishing port. Then, back to the wilderness.

In their gorgeous mountains, there are always cows, sheep, ducks and pigs and grapes. There is always cheese, and wine.....and people still connected to an intact culture.

I think that is the main draw for me........

In California, despite my wonderful friends and co-workers....we work most of the year in a vacuum. Brendan and I scour the markets for ingredients....and given the social and commercial pressures....try to bend everything back towards art....or at least craft. We have almost no one to talk to on a regular basis about food.

OK, Kirk and Brendan at Stokes.....Gabe Georis.....Mary and Charyn from the Pine Cone....and the Rana Creek kids.....and Jamie and Katy from Serendipity.......and the occasional email or phone call to David Kinch or Brett from In Praise of Sardines...or an email to Merle.

In preparation for the trip, I called up my people in Spain: Rafa, Joserra and Conchita from Alona Berri, Pedro from Akelarre, Juan Mari from Arzak, the wine kid from Zortziko, the Zubie brothers, the boys at Cuchara San Telmo, the nice lady at Garro, Luis at the cooking school.....and especially Txema at Bar Inopia.....are all actually excited to see us. I don't get that here.

Here, I am a lunatic.

Going to Spain for me is like walking into the warm bath of The Plunge at Tassajara.....It is relaxing into a world where the farmers, the cheese guys, the fish guys, the wine guys, the chefs and the bean counters are all part of one world.....where everyone does his best to pull for the other guy....and the create something of true value and true craftsmanship. Skill and dedication for its own worth. A place where you still do a job well because that is what you are supposed to do, and that is what everyone does. Duh.

Hats off to Charyn from the Pine Cone last week....I think she is the first food writer within memory....and within missile range..... of here to state the obvious: the food and the food craftsmanship in Monterey SUCKS. And not just Monterey. Five minutes of watching Top Chef or Iron Chef will curl your hair. Watching these guys royale oranges would cause Merle to reach for grandpere's lamb splitter and start swinging.....Like Randy Newman sang: Bettah Off Dead.

How can it be that with five hundred plus restaurants in the Monterey Peninsula there are exactly TWO chefs that ever go to the Farmer's Market? Me...and Ted from Passionfish. And we are both OLD. In Spain, Ted and I would be to cuisine like McEnroe and Jimmy Connors are to tennis.

I learned a lot of things from Etienne Merle in my apprenticeship in Ithaca and New York. Probably the most enduring value was this: "In a good house, if everyone does good, everyone does well, and everyone makes money. The politics are irrelevant."

I fear that in America we have decided that the money thing is the most important thing. No one gives a shit about the doing good thing or the doing well thing. The politics take over....and by modus ponens....... for you Latin logic freaks.....the house is no longer good.

Right now it is 2 degrees Centigrade......

A deep breath....some woodsmoke....some moss. I can hear the cows bellowing from Rancho Sin Frenos across the way.......

Bienvenidos en Pais Vascos......

Saturday, December 08, 2007

Weed It and Reap

I was trying to write about the Farm Bill that is coming up this week before the Senate.....but who writes better about food than Michael Pollan?

From the New York Times Magazine, Nov 4, 2007


Published: November 4, 2007

Berkeley, Calif.

FOR Americans who have been looking to Congress to reform the food system, these past few weeks have been, well, the best of times and the worst of times. A new politics has sprouted up around the farm bill, traditionally a parochial piece of legislation thrashed out in private between the various agricultural interests (wheat growers versus corn growers; meatpackers versus ranchers) without a whole lot of input or attention from mere eaters.

Not this year. The eaters have spoken, much to the consternation of farm-state legislators who have fought hard — and at least so far with success — to preserve the status quo.

Americans have begun to ask why the farm bill is subsidizing high-fructose corn syrup and hydrogenated oils at a time when rates of diabetes and obesity among children are soaring, or why the farm bill is underwriting factory farming (with subsidized grain) when feedlot wastes are polluting the countryside and, all too often, the meat supply. For the first time, the public health community has raised its voice in support of overturning farm policies that subsidize precisely the wrong kind of calories (added fat and added sugar), helping to make Twinkies cheaper than carrots and Coca-Cola competitive with water. Also for the first time, the international development community has weighed in on the debate, arguing that subsidized American exports are hobbling cotton farmers in Nigeria and corn farmers in Mexico.

On Capitol Hill, hearings on the farm bill have been packed, and newspapers like The San Francisco Chronicle are covering the legislation as closely as The Des Moines Register, bringing an unprecedented level of attention to what has long been one of the most obscure and least sexy pieces of legislation in Congress. Sensing the winds of reform at his back, Senator Tom Harkin of Iowa, chairman of the Senate Agriculture Committee, told a reporter in July: “This is not just a farm bill. It’s a food bill, and Americans who eat want a stake in it.”

Right now, that stake is looking more like a toothpick. Americans who eat have little to celebrate in the bill that Mr. Harkin is expected to bring to the floor this week. Like the House bill passed in July, the Senate product is very much a farm bill in the traditional let-them-eat-high-fructose-corn-syrup mold.

For starters, the Old Guard on both agriculture committees has managed to preserve the entire hoary contraption of direct payments, countercyclical payments and loan deficiency payments that subsidize the five big commodity crops — corn, wheat, rice, soybeans and cotton — to the tune of $42 billion over five years.

The Old Guard has also managed to add a $5 billion “permanent disaster” program (excuse me, but isn’t a permanent disaster a contradiction in terms?) to help farmers in the High Plains struggling to grow crops in a drought-prone region that, as the chronic need for disaster aid suggests, might not be the best place to grow crops.

When you consider that farm income is at record levels (thanks to the ethanol boom, itself fueled by another set of federal subsidies); that the World Trade Organization has ruled that several of these subsidies are illegal; that the federal government is broke and the president is threatening a veto, bringing forth a $288 billion farm bill that guarantees billions in payments to commodity farmers seems impressively defiant.

How could this have happened? For starters, farm bill critics did a far better job demonizing subsidies, and depicting commodity farmers as welfare queens, than they did proposing alternative — and politically appealing — forms of farm support. And then the farm lobby did what it has always done: bought off its critics with “programs.” For that reason “Americans who eat” can expect some nutritious crumbs from the farm bill, just enough to ensure that reform-minded legislators will hold their noses and support it.

It’s an old story: the “hunger lobby” gets its food stamps so long as the farm lobby can have its subsidies. Similar, if less lavish, terms are now being offered to the public health and environmental “interests” to get them on board. That’s why there’s more money in this farm bill for nutrition programs and, for the first time, about $2 billion to support “specialty crops” — farm-bill-speak for the kind of food people actually eat. (Since California grows most of the nation’s specialty crops, this was the price for the state delegation’s support. Cheap indeed!)

There’s also money for the environment: an additional $4 billion in the Senate bill to protect wetlands and grasslands and reward farmers for environmental stewardship, and billions in the House bill for environmental cleanup. There’s an important provision in both bills that will make it easier for schools to buy food from local farmers. And there’s money to promote farmers’ markets and otherwise support the local food movement.

But as important as these programs are, they are just programs — mere fleas on the elephant in the room. The name of that elephant is the commodity title, the all-important subsidy section of the bill. It dictates the rules of the entire food system. As long as the commodity title remains untouched, the way we eat will remain unchanged.

The explanation for this is straightforward. We would not need all these nutrition programs if the commodity title didn’t do such a good job making junk food and fast food so ubiquitous and cheap. Food stamps are crucial, surely, but they will be spent on processed rather than real food as long as the commodity title makes calories of fat and sugar the best deal in the supermarket. We would not need all these conservation programs if the commodity title, by paying farmers by the bushel, didn’t encourage them to maximize production with agrochemicals and plant their farms with just one crop fence row to fence row.

And the government would not need to pay feedlots to clean up the water or upgrade their manure pits if subsidized grain didn’t make rearing animals on feedlots more economical than keeping them on farms. Why does the farm bill pay feedlots to install waste treatment systems rather than simply pay ranchers to keep their animals on grass, where the soil would be only too happy to treat their waste at no cost?

However many worthwhile programs get tacked onto the farm bill to buy off its critics, they won’t bring meaningful reform to the American food system until the subsidies are addressed — until the underlying rules of the food game are rewritten. This is a conversation that the Old Guard on the agriculture committees simply does not want to have, at least not with us.

But its defiance on the subsidy question may actually be a sign of weakness, for one detects a note of defensiveness creeping into the rhetoric. “I know people on the outside can sit and complain about this,” Representative Collin Peterson of Minnesota, chairman of the House Agriculture Committee, told The San Francisco Chronicle last summer. “But frankly most of those people have no clue what they’re talking about. Most people in the city have no concept of what’s going on here.”

It seems more likely that, this time around, people in the city and all across the country know exactly what’s going on — they just don’t like it.

Mr. Peterson’s farm bill passed the House by the smallest margin in years, and might have been picked apart on the floor if Representative Nancy Pelosi, the speaker of the House, hadn’t leapt to its defense.

(She claimed to be helping freshmen Democrats from rural districts.)

But Senate rules are different, and Mr. Harkin’s bill will be challenged on the floor and very possibly improved. One sensible amendment that Senator Byron Dorgan, Democrat of North Dakota, and Senator Chuck Grassley, Republican of Iowa, are expected to introduce would put a $250,000 cap on the payments any one farmer can receive in a year. This would free roughly $1 billion for other purposes (like food stamps and conservation) and slow the consolidation of farms in the Midwest.

A more radical alternative proposed by Senator Richard Lugar, Republican of Indiana, and Senator Frank Lautenberg, Democrat of New Jersey, would scrap the current subsidy system and replace it with a form of free government revenue insurance for all American farmers and ranchers, including the ones who grow actual food. Commodity farmers would receive a payment only when their income dropped more than 15 percent as the result of bad weather or price collapse. The $20 billion saved under this plan, called the Fresh Act, would go to conservation and nutrition programs, as well as to deficit reduction.

What finally emerges from Congress depends on exactly who is paying closest attention next week on the Senate floor and then later in the conference committee. We know the American Farm Bureau will be on the case, defending the commodity title on behalf of those who benefit from it most: the biggest commodity farmers, the corporations who sell them chemicals and equipment and, most of all, the buyers of cheap agricultural commodities — companies like Archer Daniels Midland, Cargill, Coca-Cola and McDonald’s.

In the past that alliance could have passed a farm bill like this one without breaking a sweat. But the politics of food have changed, and probably for good. If the eaters and all the other “people on the outside” make themselves heard, we just might end up with something that looks less like a farm bill and more like the food bill a poorly fed America so badly needs.

Michael Pollan, a contributing writer at The Times Magazine and a professor of journalism at the University of California at Berkeley, is the author of “The Omnivore’s Dilemma” and the forthcoming “In Defense of Food: An Eater’s Manifesto.”

So.....if you feel so inclined to try to do something about your Senator, or sign the Care2 petition.

How depressing is it that once again our Democratic leadership is grovelingly, gropingly, disgustingly on the side of the old corrupt status quo?

Friday, December 07, 2007

PETA vs. Barry Bonds

Every morning as I try to struggle out of bed, I turn on the cable news and hope for inspiration. Sadly, it is mostly Lindsey, Britney, etc. Today was no different, except that this morning was all Barry Bonds.

At one point CNN showed a clip of Barry arriving at the San Francisco federal courthouse....the big news, you see......and Barry himself was completely invisible beneath a swarm of paparazzi with cameras held aloft. The irony of a major network covering other reporters covering.....something..... was lost on the anchor.

Someone on Fox News actually said that Barry is San Francisco's OJ.


Last time I checked, Barry had not yet slit anyone's throat.....though if I were a news geek with a Sony X-1 I wouldn't get too close.

And, of course......OJ is San Francisco's OJ. Isn't OJ from Colma?

I still don't get the fuss....but then again I am incapable of watching baseball unless it is the World Series and it is on the kitchen TV at the Behrens' house and I am being paid to cook dinner. I could give a shit if Barry ever took drugs, and remain unconvinced that steroids have anything to do with home runs. Barry hit 760 some odd home runs. Note the operative word: hit. I have not yet seen the literature that tells how steroids improve hand-eye coordination.

Fads in physical fitness come and go, and despite our vaunted scientific modern approach, are mostly bullshit. Forty years ago professional boxing trainers would never consider letting their fighters near a weight room for fear they would become muscle-bound and slow to react. They fed them on steak and eggs, and thought vegetables weakened their boys.

I also always think of the Six Day Bicycle Races in New York city back in the day. These were big deals in the French ghetto where my people are all from. Riders from around the world would gather at the old Madison Square Garden and race for six days. There was an overall winner, but the main action was on side races.....and was all about the gambling. Different Damon Runyan type guys would put together syndicates and set up a side race within the main race for a specified time or distance.....and put down big dough on the outcome.

The way the riders prepared for this? give themselves every possible professional advantage without the scrutiny of the law? Orange slices packed in sugar.....and half bottles of champagne. Off we go! I couldn't agree more. Throw in a half a Vicodin and find me a bicycle!

Booze also played a role in baseball. Babe Ruth would often go to a bar across the street from the Stadium in the middle of a game. The Babe was so protective of his eyesight that he never went to a cinema, and tried to avoid reading anything beyond billboards.....but a couple of pops in the sixth inning kept him tuned up.

My favorite guy was a guy I think was called John Krok....something close. He pitched for the Phillies a decade ago. Once, after a tough game, he was being interviewed for TV at his locker. He was pulling on a cigarette while drinking a Rolling Rock. The interviewer was aghast: "Aren't you afraid of giving a bad impression of professional athletes?"

"Athletes? I am not an athlete. I play baseball!"

So what does this have to do with food?

Ask Pam Anderson and PETA.

They were picketing Barry Bonds' appearance in federal court this morning........because??? it is: "To protest the continuing drugging of farm animals for food."

Once again, the irony of the possibly silicone enhanced bulk of Pamela Anderson protesting the possibly testosterone enhanced bulk of Barry Bonds seems to have escaped everyone. Personally, I want this for my Xmas card.....

Anway, as we all know, the food industry uses massive amounts of chemicals.....especially enhance growth of chickens, cows and pigs. Seventy percent of the antibiotics used in the US...some 24 million pounds of drugs....go into our food supply. a report out of Europe (of course....Europe still has a functioning press) and as outlined in The Economist last week there are problems that develop when you combine filthy surroundings and a population routinely fed anitbiotics. Problems like superbugs immune to ALL antibiotics.......the so-called MRSA bugs (Methicillin Resistant Staphylococcus Aureus).

No big deal, right? MRSA might get a few farmers, but not you. Well, in 2005 MRSA killed NINETEEN THOUAND Americans, and the numbers are growing as the bugs outgrow susceptibility to our existing arsenal of antibiotics.

If that were not bad enough....there is a newer even more super super bug called Non-typical MRSA or NT-MRSA. NT-MRSA is completely resistant to the tetracyclines that are used as growth stimulators in the poultry and pork industries. NT-MRSA was first discovered in 2002, and is now responsible for 20% of all human infections. In a study in Holland this year, NT-MRSA was found at 81% of all pig farms and in 39% of all Dutch pigs. And Dutch pig farms look like Holiday Inns compared to American farms.

Because of the nature of the meat industry, pigs and chickens get exported. Canada now has NT-MRSA in 25% of its pigs and in 20% of its pig farmers. So enjoy that Canadian bacon on your Eggs Benny this Sunday!

Oh, and what is our stalwart FDA doing to stem the tide of superbugs? Well, to help out both the meat and pharmaceutical industries it is approving the use of new antibiotics for animals while the drugs are still in human clinical trials. The ultimately insane result of this policy is that one drug (Quinupristin-dalfopristin) was approved for use in chickens and turkeys before it was approved for humans.......and the bugs developed resistance to it before it could ever even be used to protect humans! Is Chevy Chase in charge of our government? Think about it....have you SEEN him lately?

This ultimate silliness is compounded by the fact that at crappy little places like Johns Hopkins studies show that using antibiotics COSTS producers money with no visible benefit. They even calculated the losses down to the thousandth of a penny if anyone at Perdue would care to look.

If you thought the whole "Global Warming is Not Proven to be Caused by Humans" spew coming from our government officials was an abberation, think again. Our meat industry is counting on studies from the 1950's that seemed to indicate that feeding low levels of antibiotics caused weight gain in farm animals. Unfortunately, the studies back then failed to account for the changes in the quality and quantity of feed, the improved living conditions, the improved breeding etc that had come about since WWII....and were probably bullshit to begin with.

Let's recap: our government and some major corporations are pursuing a failed policy that has no basis in objective reality and is costing thousands of American lives.

At least they are consistent.

Stephen Colbert thinks he is being funny and ironic when he says that facts are annoying, he knows what he feels is right. No wonder they won't let him run for President......we already HAVE that guy.

And I am crazy to spend an extra 20% or more for organic pork and chicken because........???

As a good Irish Catholic I am lighting my third menorah candle tonight....and praying for a miracle.

Happy Holidays.

Enjoy that Christmas ham.

Sunday, December 02, 2007

Cachagua...Community.....Dogs......Love.....all that shit.

Crisis puts all kinds of stresses on people....emotional, ethical, spiritual, physical....all that.

My buddy Ciney had his dog get sick....probably parvo........two days before he had to fly to Brazil to deal with his mom, brother and a bunch of other family stuff. The vet was negative....his significant other is.......difficult.

Ciney put his buddy down rather than deal with the bullshit. And cried all the way to Brazil.

Cachagua is often me as well as outsiders.... for being a nest of crack-heads, loonies, thieves, misfits and fuckheads. People cut up my garden hoses to siphon gas from my work trucks. They steal my electricity to charge their mobile homes. They steal our water to fill waterbeds in the back of their trucks to water their crops on the mountain.

In the middle of the Xabi crisis we got a tip from The Richest Man in the World......$1200. This is the guy that has Clint Eastwood drive his friends to the airport for him, and a guy who had already tipped everyone hundreds of dollars in cash in person.

The first day's bill for Xabi was $1200, and we were so thankful that we had the money to fund his rescue.

That was Wednesday. Then there was Thursday and Friday.

When we went in to pull him out on Friday afternoon, the poor beleaguered receptitionist....who has to get the money from all the friggin' being the cashier at a Moscow whorehouse......said "No charge. The bill has been paid."

"What the fuck?"

"No.....a man came in, and said he loved Xabi....and wanted to pay his bill. There is no charge."


I did some forensic bank is their bank.

Xabi's angel is a guy who sold his property in Cachagua and lives in his van now.....a technically homeless guy. He is studying Spanish and might try to drive to Costa Rica. He likes my soup.

A homeless guy from Cachagua paid the huge rescue bill for my dog because........he loves Xabi.

Maybe there is hope for humanity after all.....

Xabi got Parvo........

There I was in the middle of reminiscing about Vienna.....Winter coming on......Conall in Vienna with the new old Vienna buddy getting imprisoned for multiple counts of fraud, tax evasion, contempt of federal court, money laundering........

Monday night was slow enough at the Store that I actually got to talk to customers, the staff laughed and joked, and we were home by 11pm....instead of 1:30.

Tuesday morning I took Xabi for a walk and got to thrill to the way he rips through the woods like a ghost. I watched him scale a 20 foot vertical cliff and then glide back down like it was nothing. I talked to his breeder about our plans to get together Sunday at a big field trial in Marysville that Xabi's mom and sister were competing in.....

Then Puppy got sick.

Really sick.

Enough so that I bundled him up at 1:00 am and rushed to Monterey to the emergency vet hospital. We stayed for hours; they gave him fluids.....and could not tell what the problem was. At 7:30 am we were waiting at our regular vet's office, worried sick.

Hours later came the verdict.


For none-dog people.....this is like hearing: "AIDS."

Or "Bird Flu".

Or "Stage 4 brain cancer".

Or "Ebola", more aptly.

Parvo is a virus that kills half the dogs it infects in a horrible week of puking and shitting blood. It destroys the villae in the intestines that absorb nutrients, rots them and sloughs them off in sheets and fires them out the ass. The bleeding and damage causes infections that can jump to the heart and brain.

Parvo is prevented by vaccine....which is 90 percent effective.

Ten percent is a small number...... until it applies to you. And, of course Cachagua has its own virulent strain we have developed from the joyous mix of foxes and dogs in the woods.

There is no cure for parvo, and no treatment beyond "Give them fluids and hope they don't die."

On top of the physical effects....the victims get depressed, and lose the will to live, and just die anyway like chickens.

The disease lasts a week. If they are strong enough to make it....they live. If not......

The way these things go, the Carmel Dog Calendar just came out with Xabi as Mr. August. We bought dozens to hand out to our dogged all week we had pictures of Xabi and the other cute local dogs laying around to amplify our misery, and remind us of what we were losing.

Our vet, Jimmy Holt, pulled out all the stops. We have known Jimmy for 32 years....since he first started out, I think. He hails back to the Wild West of vet work in Carmel Valley. His original boss at the Carmel Valley Veterinary Hospital eventually went down hard on federal weapons charges....called down on him by a disgruntled ex-wife or ex-employee....or maybe she was both. No...absolutely she was both. And she was very hot in her time......

The vets were magic healers and great doctors...but this was the 70's: doggie downers and puppy uppers were the order of the day. Patients, the gorgeous staff, pet owners....we were all in that bag. My ex-brother in law worked for us for a time and claimed a magic ability to walk into a new kitchen in Pebble Beach and go unerringly to the cabinet that contained the veterinary pharmaceuticals and the cabinet that contained the Nestle's chocolate chips. A true catering professional.

The Carmel Valley vets where Jimmy trained were exceptional. They did house calls. Jimmy's original boss would come to your house to help you put down your beloved pet. He would help you dig the grave, do the sad work, and then cry with you over a glass of good whiskey before going back down the hill to work. He would give you that awful long cardiac needle and the green goo to do the job yourself.....and there never seemed to be a bill for these final services.

One time my beloved original dog, Lucia the Giant Fat Irish Setter actually got torsion like a horse (the entire insides flip around inside the body cavity). It requires a stem-to-stern slashing and vast, gore-soaked emergency surgery for hours and hours if the creature is to be saved at all. Mostly they just write them off nowadays. Not in Carmel Valley, though. The boys took Lucia in and started to work long after hours. I hung out just outside the OR, crying and praying.

At one point the doc came out.....probably around midnight.

"Is there anything I can do to help? Can I get some food .....or drinks....or anything?"

"No...this is gonna be a bitch. We are gonna be here all night if we can save her. Why don't you get us an 8 ball?"

No fucking problem. The porch light was on at Gordon's on Holman Road, and I was back in a flash.

Lucia lived another eight years.....and they helped me dig her grave at the house when she finally passed.

I love the Carmel Valley Veterinary Hospital. Real healers who love animals....and don't care about the bullshit.

Meanwhile....the poor veterinarians and their staff. There were some studies that came out last month about job satisfaction, and depression vs. job statistics. Cooks and bartenders came out on top of every study. The existence of this blog....or at least the usual vicious tone of it..... is testimony to the fact that we in the business have to get our joy from our own craft......very rarely from our customers. The work is done under intense pressure and is judged subjectively by people who bring their deepest psychological weirdness along in their Coach bags to my table.

We always joke that restaurant guys are just like hookers: people's strangest perversions are devoted to food and sex. I mean......has anyone interviewed Senator Larry Craig's chef? How about Larry Craig's SHEEP out there in Idaho.

Talk about "wide stance".......

Restaurant work is nothing compared to veterinarian world. Nothing.

I spent an hour or so each day last week at Jimmy Holt's place....mostly dealing with the staff and the other customers. The other customers were mostly people too weird and too fucked up to ever cross the threshold of a restaurant.

There was the lady in the BMW convertible with the little fluff ball. Divorced, widowed, whatever.....way too much failed plastic surgery, and clearly alone in the giant house with the fluff ball with the unfortunate humping problem. She was put out that I wedged her out at 7:30 am with my dying dog.

Then there was the lady with the fat, sleek old bug-eyed Chihuahua.....sitting next to the poor receptionist.....NEXT to the receptionist, as in sharing space at her computer. The lady wielded a giant plastic doggie iron-lung device. It turns out that she thinks the dog has trouble breathing, and is there every morning for a new kind of inhaler, or a new device to get the drugs into the dog's lungs.

After the first hour of listening to her rant, I suggested talking to a teenaged skater....or one of the kids that hang around the Ace Hardware.

"No....they just squirt the stuff into a plastic bag and put the bag over their nose.....or they stick their head in the bag....or something. Lady, you gotta talk to a teenager....not a vet."

She was there every morning......and every night when I came to pick up Xabi. In Cachagua she would have lasted 14 seconds and she would have been on the street with plastic bag and a can of computer cleaner. At the CV Vet Hospital, everyone was nice as pie, and dealt with her shit.

Clearly all her misplaced dreams and hope....and her moral, social, physical, spiritual and political frustrations had been poured into the poor dog....No bartender in the world would deal with this without whiskey. For him and for her.

Well, maybe Jimmy should bring back the doggie-downer, puppy-upper thing.......

Anyway....Jimmy gave Xabi the requisite fluids, and ulcer medication, and anti-nausea pills, and antibiotics in case the virus triggered secondary stuff. Jimmy also badgered a human ER doc friend for his stash of Tamiflu. (Tamiflu is one of the few drugs that attack viruses, and all the local rich folk and the local docs have a stash against that imminent threat of bird flu, right next to the Cipro for the anthrax attack. I think Tamiflu is good against global warming, too).

Xabi had stopped eating on Monday night. He stopped drinking as well. We kept him with Jimmy all day every day, and brought him home every night. We stayed up all night, keeping the woodstove going for warmth and giving him meds and little squirts of Ensure. The subcutaneous injections of fluids was fun as well. The fat and muscle stripped off the dog until he was literally all skin and bones and could not get up or wag his tail.

Ensure is what they give old folks and cancer people who have given up eating. It is fat and sugar. We could get it into the puppy 3ml at a time. By Friday morning we had managed about 60ml......60 calories in three days of no sleep......we were exhausted and Puppy was no better.

Along with the Tamiflu Hail Mary pass....I did the real Hail Mary pass. I lit up every candle at the Church up the street.

I traded Puppy for Gruet!

BossBuddhaJesusYahwehLRonHubbardDudeEarthMamaBlessedOliverPlunkett.....I will never touch another drop of champagne if you give me my dog back. Hey!! You listening?

Pamela Anderson could tell you about the difference between people people and animal people.....bird people. Whenever you give your heart to a human or to an animal, you risk disappointment, heartbreak....and ridicule and embarrassment. Ask Ellen DeGeneres.

Xabi brought out in all his friends a sense of humor, a sense of appreciation for his pure energy.....he got us off our asses to climb around the mountains and beaches and appreciate this beautiful environment we move about in and usually ignore.

Xabi raised our T-cell count and made us laugh.

Xabi reminded us how simple love really is.

Appreciate something. Love it. It loves you back. Get over it.

Brendan and I went off to do a party on Friday night and said our goodbyes to Xabi before we left. We were wrecked. When Brendan went into Whole Foods to buy our stuff for the party, I sneaked to the Bird Store and bought a stuffed quail with a squeaker.

The people at the party were awful....beyond awful. Aggressively Stupid Fuckheads who need to be drowned in a washtub for the safety of the Nation. We finally escaped late and came home to who knew what.

Xabi was still alive and lying on his bed in front of the fire when we got back. I gave him his stuffed quail and squeaked it for him. He tried to sit up, and nibbled at the little could see him struggling to remember.....Squeak. Bird. Must bite.......

He bit down on the bird and it squeaked. Xabi's ears shot up, and he struggled to stand up. He staggered over to his bowl. I got some roast chicken out of the fridge and started hand feeding him little scraps.

He ate a whole chicken, one gram at a time.

Thank you, BossBuddhaJesusYahwehLRonHubbardDudeEarthMamaBlessedOliverPlunkett.

Saturday, we had parties all day. We decided to leave the weakened little puppy inside by the fire with a selection of foods. He was not happy.

When we returned six hours later we found our house destroyed. The trash everywhere. The dog food bags ripped open. All the bamboo window coverings on the French doors ripped down and ripped to pieces.

Like we didn't need to redecorate anyway......

Xabi lived.

Xabi beat Parvo.

I didn't really like Champagne anyway.........