Monday, December 26, 2016


In my various posts I've occasionally alluded to my father's influences upon me. indeed, he was a great teacher. I still remember the day that he taught me how to tie my shoes as well as his many other lessons in life. Mixing concrete, fixing a car, building a fire, and using tools were all parts of the many things he taught me.

But the best thing he ever taught me was a skill that I still carry with me to this day. He taught me how to make great mashed potatoes.

Here's how it came about:

Like most families, we often had potatoes with our dinners. The possibilities were baked, mashed or boiled. Mashed were the best, baked weren't bad and boiled were not worth eating. Now, the difference between boiled and mashed lied only in my father's willingness to mash them as my mother despised the task. Unfortunately, after a hard day's work, my father would often times rather do anything than mash potatoes.

Here's where I came into the story. When I realized that it was incumbent upon me to save my family from the misery of boiled potatoes, I begged my father to teach me how to make them like he did. To that end he gave me some basic instructions which were overheard by my overly-attentive mother. Here's how the conversation went:

Pa: "Mash them as fine as you can get them, add milk and mash them some more. Now add some pepper..."

[My mother now interrupts]

Ma: "Not too much! I hear pepper isn't good for you."

Pa: "Then you add some salt..."

[My mother interrupts again]

Ma: "Not too much! I hear salt isn't good for you."

Pa: "Then you add some butter..."

[My mother interrupts again]

Ma: "Not too much! I hear butter isn't good for you."

And so it went. I became the go-to potato masher of the family. There was one problem however. Even though I followed my parents' instructions, my result was embarrassingly terrible.

After many unsuccessful attempts to create great mashers I asked my father (while out of earshot of my mother) what his secret was.

Ensuring that no one else could hear, he whispered to me:

"Lots of salt, lots of pepper, lots of butter, don't tell your mother."

From that day she always raved about my mashed potatoes...

...and she never suspected a thing.

Readers, enjoy your day.

Sunday, December 18, 2016


Having bought another guitar yesterday, I wondered how many I have bought and sold over the years. It took me the better part of the four-mile walk to figure it out. Not that it was hard to figure; I'm kind of A.D.D. and I was distracted along the way. (You know, the usual highly distracting things - seagulls eating from a dumpster, the clock on the county building chiming, clouds overhead, etc.) Alas, I came up with a total of 22 guitars. Truth be known, the total includes 2 banjos, which are a variety of guitar played mostly by Republicans.

I thought for a long while as to why I have bought so many guitars over the years. Truthfully, there's something unique about guitars. Let's face it - how many pianists have bought 22 pianos in a lifetime? Even Liberace probably bought only a couple. Furthermore, think about other instruments - bassoons, clarinets, trombones - how many do you think that their owners have bought in a lifetime? I'll venture a bet that it's less than 22 and probably less that 3.

Then what is it about guitars?

As I approached the end of my walk, I pretty much had it figured out: guitars make me happy. There's something about the sound and feel of a guitar that brings me comfort and peace. To that end, I encourage others to learn the guitar and find the inner peace that I have found.

To help you to better understand this phenomenon, you may also want to know my playing routine. Here it is:

Around 4 p.m. I'll pour myself a beer and run through my scales as a daily refresher. Then I'll pour myself another beer and rip through some David Gilmour style leads. The next beer will find me learning a new arrangement of a Muddy Waters or B.B. King tune. Ray Charles has done a great version of the blues tune "Sinner's Prayer"; playing that tune usually requires a beer or two.

Yes, playing guitar makes me very happy.

Readers, enjoy your day.

Tuesday, July 12, 2016


Part of the fabric of the 1960's was the existence of coffee houses. If you are not familiar with these, forget Starbucks as a point of reference. As a matter of fact, I can think of nothing in this day and age that serves as an effective comparison to the coffee houses of the '60's. Imagine a small room, filled with smoke with old, tattered furniture crammed together. A small stage was at the back of the venue. Sometimes the stage was not a stage at all and just a few boards elevated slightly higher than the rest of the place. Coffee was the drink du jour in addition to hot spiced cider and a little ditty that the women liked called a "granitina". It was pomegranate juice mixed with 7-Up. (Pardon me, but isn't that the same thing as a Shirley Temple?)

The music was highly varied from offerings by Bob Dylan and Joan Baez as well as local, lesser-known artists. The tone was one of general dissatisfaction with society, politics, war, cops, education, parking tickets and virtually anything else that people could bitch about. While coffee houses were generally venues of readily forgettable peaceful protest, occasionally an artist would come along with a message that truly rattled our collective consciousness.

I will always remember one such singer.

He had just returned from a "love-in" in San Francisco. (Imagine 10,000 people smoking dope in Golden Gate Park, wearing dashikis and staring at the clouds. Groovy, baby.) He related a story to the audience that shook us to our very core, changing the way that we would think and live the rest of our lives. He told of a young woman sitting next to him at the love-in who was holding a balloon. The balloon slipped away from her and drifted off, high into the sky. As it disappeared into the heavens, she asked "is there a heaven for balloons?"

The singer then told the audience that this experience prompted him to write a song and, of course, he played and sang the song for us. I still remember the chorus lyrics:

Is there a heaven for balloons, my friend?
Is there a place to where they go?
Or do they just fly away?
I think that I shall never know.

In all of my days I have never seen such a reaction to a song from any audience. There was a 5-minute standing ovation and a collective pleading from the crowd to play it again. In all, I think the guy played it 4 times, or maybe it was 5. No matter. We all went away that evening with the memory of something special, beautiful and unforgettable.

This experience broadened my perspective in life, spurring me to think more about the great beyond, to learn more about the creation of the earth and its people, to become more involved in music, to study the sciences in college, to learn and appreciate the performing arts, to read Shakespeare, to love the simple things in life, to read The Prophet by Kahlil Gibran, and to better understand my fellow humans.

Still though, despite these changes, my life remains empty, as understanding one of life's great mysteries continues to elude me. To this day I have not answered the question:

Is there a heaven for balloons?

Although I will never stop searching for an answer, alas, I think that I shall never know.

Readers, enjoy your day.

Tuesday, May 31, 2016


My senses were awoken yesterday when I was making my twice-a-day trip to the local hardware store. I was in the most wonderful aisle in the store - the one that has all the nuts and bolts (zinc, stainless steel, galvanized and chrome). Just when I was sinking into a delightful hardware-induced coma, along came two rustlers who ended up botching my otherwise pleasant trip to the my favorite aisle in the store.

Oh, you don't know who rustlers are?

My apologies.

Let's rewind a minute to a previous sermon in which I sung the praises of our local hardware store. Key to these praises was the fact that our hardware store features free bags of fresh popcorn. Among those who partake of the free corn is the occasional rustler. These schmucks are easy to spot, much like Republicans at a rap concert.

Rather than simply consuming their free bag of corn, rustlers incessantly shake the bag around, thus creating (what I consider to be) an annoying ruckus.

Why this noise bothers me I cannot say. Perhaps buried in my subconscious is an incident from my childhood. Maybe I was taken hostage against my will by a strange cult whose only source of food was popcorn and whose only source of entertainment was enjoying the sound of popcorn being shaken about.

Yes, I'm sure that must be it.

Some time ago I told the wife about this strange aversion that I have to the sound created by rustlers. The look on her face told me that she thought that I was being overly intolerant. Then came the day when we were in a movie theater, seated directly in front of a particularly active rustler. His rustling went on well into the film. He must have ordered the jumbo trash can size bag. Thankfully, there were some empty seats in the theater, otherwise the wife would have pelted the guy with a barrage of Milk Duds.

In the days of yesteryear, rustlers (of the cattle and horse variety) were dealt with in the most severe way. Hangings were not out of the question. That is not to imply that I'm in favor of public hangings for popcorn rustlers. Rather, as always, I believe that the punishment should fit the crime.

A good pelting with Milk Duds makes much more sense.

Readers, enjoy your day.

Friday, April 15, 2016


You know the drill - you buy a Harley-Davidson and set out on the open road. A few days later you grow a beard and buy a leather jacket. Within a few weeks you have it pasted with all sorts of patches proclaiming your loyalty to your fellow bikers. You begin a quest to assess how many tattoos will fit on your body and go about filling the available space. You acquire a nickname - the badder the better. Snake, Blade, Pneumonia, Tapeworm and/or Liquid Plumber are all good choices. You hang out with other like-minded individuals at bars where many thousands of dollars of chrome and steel dominate the parking lots.*

*Note that these are not places with signs out front proclaiming "kids eat free".

A number of years ago, numerous affluent professionals became infatuated with the biker lifestyle and took to the roads in their shiny new Harleys for which they spent mega-bucks. They tried desperately to fit in with the biker establishment but failed miserably. I guess that this failure was inevitable, as biker talk centered around the advantages of carburetion vs. fuel injection while the nouveau-riders were more conversant in lattes vs. capuccinos.

It was truly (and literally) an oil and water mixture which was bound to fail.

Even Hollywood got into the act, producing a fun but readily forgettable movie entitled "Wild Hogs" starring John Travolta, Tim Allen, Martin Lawrence and William H. Macy. The plot was pretty predictable - guys buy Harleys, leave their jobs, ride to New Mexico, get the crap kicked out of them by Ray Liotta and his motorcycle gang, yadda, yadda, yadda. From my standpoint, the movie's only saving grace was my being able to ogle at Marisa Tomei for two hours.


Fast forward to the present day. Remember all of those high-end Harleys that were bought by those affluent professionals? If you've ever wondered what happened to them, just check out your local Craigslist ads. Look under "Harley" and marvel at the virtual scrap heap of castaway chrome and steel that were once dreams of the freedom of the open road.

As with anything, this freedom has a price.

While freedom is but a romanticized notion, the reality of the world of dedicated motorcyclists is one of hot pavement, the smell of oil and gasoline, the noise and bone-jarring rattle of a 45-degree V-Twin engine, lousy food and cheap beer, dodging the occasional re-treadded tire cast aside by an 18-wheeler, catching large insects on your forehead at 70 miles per hour...

...and not a cappuccino or latte in sight.

Readers, enjoy your day.

Tuesday, April 5, 2016


We just got back from a wonderful week in Mexico. If there's anything that Mexican people love it's food and music. Indeed, you cannot walk a half-block without experiencing the sounds of Mexican music or the smell of fantastic Mexican food.

The food speaks for itself but the music is an aquired taste. In Mexican music, the singers pour their hearts into the songs they are singing. (Imagine "The Voice" without the screaming or vocal gymnastics.)

One night last week we listened to an excellent Mariachi band. Every Mariachi band that I've ever seen has been of the "strolling" variety. I think that I finally solved the mystery as to why they stroll. It gives them the opportunity to play for different micro-audiences and thereby generate more opportunities for "propinas" (tips).

At the end of one of our favorite Mexican melodies ("Des Colores") I cornered the lead trumpet player and asked if he knew a popular American-Mexican song entitiled "A little bit is better than nada". For those of you who are not familiar with it, it was recorded by "The Texas Tornadoes" and was the opening song for the movie "Tin Cup" starring Kevin Costner. With credentials as strong as these I figured that any respectable Mariachi band would (at very least) be able to bluff their way through a few bars of the song, if, for nothing else, to generate a little more propina revenue.

Alas, they were not familiar with the song. In utter desperation, I sang the chorus for them (all of the band members leaning in to hear the off-tune gringo). And so it went:

A little bit is better than nada
Sometimes you want the whole enchilada
A little bit is better than nada
A little bit or nothing at all.

If the mariachis thought I was loco at the outset of this exercise, they were certainly convinced of it by now.

So, it was with great disappointment that I was not to hear my requested song played by this excellent Mariachi band. I mean, really. How hard would it have been to play a few lines of the song? It's not as if I was asking for Beethoven's Fifth symphony. All I was asking for was a token small portion of the song.

Because, as we all know, a little bit is better than nada.

Readers, enjoy your day.

Wednesday, March 23, 2016


This situation plays itself out millions of times a day. Neither the country nor the ethnicity or religion of the people involved matter. It's all the same.

Picture a get-together of a group of married couples. There is lively conversation about the usual things - families, kids, schools, churches, politics, etc. Eventually the men in the group are individually asked:

"What did you do today?"

The first man may state a number of things that he had done that day and conclude with...

"...and I cleaned the house."

Invariably, one (or more) of the women in the group will turn to her mate and say:

"Did you hear that? He cleaned the house."

After a few uncomfortable seconds another of the men will be asked about his activity that day. The concluding statement may be...

"...and I bought (name of wife) some roses."

Again, one (or more) of the women in the group will turn to her mate and say:

"Did you hear that? He bought her roses."

After another uncomfortable pause, another of the men will be asked about his activity that day. The concluding statement may be...

"...and I cooked (name of wife) dinner."

Again, one (or more) of the women in the group will turn to her mate and say:

"Did you hear that? He cooked her dinner."

I've always wondered why our wives ask if "we heard that". My guess is that they care about our hearing as much as they care about our vision, dental and other aspects of our overall health.

Guys, if this happens to you, just realize that it's a hearing check.

It couldn't be anything else.

Could it?

Readers, enjoy your day.

Monday, March 14, 2016


The wife and I enjoy playing cards very much. The game that we most enjoy is a game called "Screw Your Neighbor". For those of you who are familiar with this game, yes, I realize that it is often called another name, but, for the purposes of today's sermon, we'll go with the aforementioned name.

Truthfully, I'm bothered by the terminology used in the playing of Screw Your Neighbor. I think that it is time that we get rid of the offensive verbiage that is associated with this otherwise fun and G-rated card game.

How these offensive words come into play is beyond me. It sickens me.

Can't we just use some civil language?

To that end, I recommend that we eliminate forever the offensive word that is part and parcel of this card game.

That word is "Trump".

I have grown to deeply dislike the word and I encourage all of my readers to start a movement to rid the game of this offensive term. To that end, I have begun substituting the word "Boss" for the aforementioned vile word. Now, instead of saying "hearts are Trump" we say "hearts are BOSS".

It's a much more civilized term.

If you feel differently about this and also dislike the word "Boss", please free to substitute a word of your choosing.

I only ask one thing:

Anything but Trump.

Readers, enjoy your day.

Monday, March 7, 2016


Mr. Brian Moran
Albuquerque, NM

February 12, 2016

Hi, Brian.

About this time last year I became obsessed with hiking the Appalachian Trail. Yep, all 2,180 miserable miles of it. In case you've forgotten, see my past blog entry entitled "Bucket List".

I must have been a complete idiot to think that hiking the Appalachian Trail was a good idea. But, I've got a new idea. Let me get back to you about it tomorrow as I'm headed out to do some errands.

More later,



Mr. Brian Moran
Albuquerque, NM

February 13, 2016

Hi, Brian.

Here's a new idea. Being that doing the entire Appalachian Trail is not a good idea (for many reasons) how about doing a small section of the AT? Here's what I propose: we travel to Roanoke, Virginia in mid-May. The AT connects very conveniently just north of Roanoke and will be a great place to start. Furthermore, the Virginia section of the AT is the easiest portion of the entire trail. I'm hoping that you're on board for this. It will be a great adventure.

Let me get back to you tomorrow as I'm headed out for a haircut.

More later,



Mr. Brian Moran
Albuquerque, NM

February 14, 2016

Hi, Brian.

It's me again. O.K., to continue, we hike the AT from Roanoke north for 300 miles. I figure it will take us about a month. Conveniently, we'll finish in Harpers Ferry, West Virginia. There, we can catch Amtrak and head back west.

I hope you are as excited as I am. This will be a great trip!

Let me get back to you tomorrow as I'm headed out to walk the dog.

More later.



Mr. Brian Moran
Albuquerque, NM

February 15, 2016

Hi, Brian.

As far as expenses go, it shouldn't be too bad. I'll need to get quite a bit of gear (tent, backpack, sleeping bag, etc.) and it shouldn't "break the bank". Anyway, whatever the cost it will be worth it.

Let me get back to you tomorrow as I'm headed to REI to scope out some equipment.

More later,



Mr. Brian Moran
Albuquerque, NM

February 16, 2016

Hi, Brian.

Well, I went to REI yesterday and scoped out some gear. I got fitted for a backpack. Man, was it comfortable! The salesman was excellent and I figured that he knew what he was talking about because he was a little skinny dude who probably backpacks a lot. Once fitted with the pack, he said that I should try carrying it with a load of weight in it. I figure that we'll each have to carry about 35 pounds, with a 5-day supply of food and all the junk that we'll need to survive. So I told him to load the pack up with 20 pounds. I then proceeded to don the pack and walk around the store. I managed to make it once around the store before I had to take it off. I bitched at the salesman for playing a cruel joke on me and loading it with 50 pounds of weight. He swore it was only 20 pounds.

Let me get back to you tomorrow as I'm headed to the chiropractor.

My back's killing me.



Mr. Brian Moran
Albuquerque, NM

February 17, 2016

Hi, Brian.

The chiropractor told me no heavy lifting for a couple of months. So, unfortunately, I'll have to bag the trip. My apologies for the cancellation. It was the salesman's fault.

I still say that he loaded the pack with 50 pounds instead of 20.



Readers, enjoy your day.