Happy New Year, Y’all!

1 01 2019

Here in the South, as with anywhere, we have a number of traditions and superstitions surrounding New Years Day. One such superstition, of which I was unaware until my return home following my years in the U.S. Coast Guard, was that it is considered to be bad luck if the first man who enters your home in the new year has red hair.

I count, among my favorite next-door neighbors of all time, Pleasant and Esther Harrell. Esther passed away, I believe in 2011, but Pleasant, a fellow veteran, passed away on January 2, 2007. They were an older Christian couple who would do anything within their power to help you. I mentioned them in an earlier post, “Hey, That’s Larry!” https://billtaylorcsp.wordpress.com/2011/03/19/hey-thats-larry/

Well, it was around 7:30 or 8:00 New Year’s morning 1978 and Esther was knocking on my door. She explained this red-haired man superstition and told me that her red-headed brother (or could have been her brother-in-law) would be coming over later in the day for their annual New Year’s celebration dinner. She wanted me to come over and just walk through her door so the first man to enter her home would not be one with red hair. I was happy to do it every New Years morning after that, until we moved away anyway.

I still miss my neighbors and am reminded of Pleasant and Esther every New Year’s morning.


First Date

20 10 2018

Yesterday morning, after my wife got out of bed and stumbled zombie-like into the den, I told her happy anniversary. Fully aware we had just celebrated our wedding anniversary in August, her gaze suddenly went from “wake me when it’s time for breakfast” to “your senility is showing.” I reminded her it was fifty years ago we had our first date. She was less than overwhelmed. Maybe she just needed coffee.


Not many people, I would suppose, celebrate a first date anniversary, especially after 50 years! And, as far as I know, Hallmark hasn’t come out with a first date anniversary card. I guess most people who have been married for 47 years may not even remember their first date; but, I do. In fact, I remember the first time I laid eyes on my wife-to-be. It was the first day of our junior year of high school and I walked into Coach Perry’s Home Room doing what most of the other boys were doing-scoping out the girls who would share class with me over the next 9 months. After all, I was a sixteen-year-old walking sack of hormones. All were familiar faces with whom I had shared classes throughout my scholastic career, except for one. I saw one new face. A pretty face. She wore a navy-blue skirt with a light blue long-sleeved blouse and navy-blue shoes.


I suppose, one could argue this date of which I speak was more an outing than an actual date. You see, the local Lions Club sponsored an annual light bulb sale in which high school kids would volunteer to help by going door-to-door hawking bulbs to raise money to provide services for the blind. I asked her if she would like to go with me. Wondering to myself if I had a chance to really get to know this new girl, unbeknownst to me, she was already practicing her new signature…Mrs. Billy Taylor. Mrs. Carolyn Taylor. Carolyn M. Taylor. So, while it wasn’t a date in the truest sense, it was the night I fell in love. But what makes it significant enough to remember so vividly after half a century? Well, they say, every journey begins with the first step and that date was our first step. Without our first date there would have been no Brian, Eric or Mark, without which there would be no Rachel, Brooke or Amanda in our family and thus, no Anna, Abbie, Graecyn or Cody.


Then, it was just six says later when I asked her to go steady. “Go what?” the millennials might ask. Ahh, the lost art of courting. I guess in today’s vernacular, we were “hanging out.” But the die had been cast and the makings of a family were born.


I like to compare it to the most significant days in the history of the world-without Christmas there would be no Easter.

The History of the Brussels Sprout

14 10 2018

A recent Facebook conversation with my niece prompted me to write the following just to get the record straight.


I have never heard anyone say, “Brussels sprouts? Yeh, they’re okay.” Nope, either you love ‘em or, you hate ‘em. Put me in the hate group. I hated them as a kid and later in life, I thought perhaps I would give them another try, thinking my taste may have changed. No, no, no. I hated them even more so than I remembered. On the other hand, I have a niece who will sit bare-butt on a block of ice for as long as you feed her roasted Brussels sprouts. So, what’s the story of this repugnant crucifer?


The original Brussels sprout is native to the Mediterranean region. The Romans grew them even though they hated the putrid taste and weren’t quite sure what to do with them, or even what to call them, so they just kept them until they would begin to rot, like a little ball of kimchi. They tried everything under the Tuscan sun but never could find a way to make them palatable. But, these ball-like whatever-they-weres had potential, or so they thought. It’s like when I empty a glass pickle jar; I don’t know what I’ll use it for but am sure that one day, I’ll need a jar so, I hide it from my wife along with the other 147 empty jars I’ll need one day.


What is This Thing?

For lack of a better name, the common term “jeest” (ancient Hebrew word meaning “thing without a name”) was used to refer to Brussels sprouts. Eventually, Romans discovered if they left the Brussels sprouts out in the sun to dry, over time, and after the stench went away, they would become rock-hard. They were the perfect size to fit into the pocket of a sling such as the one David used to drop Goliath, so, they began to refer to them as stones. First Samuel 17:40 tells us that on his way to fight Goliath, David “…chose him five smooth stones out of the brook, and put them in his shepherd’s bag…” Some Bible scholars believe that when facing Goliath, David reached into his bag and accidentally pulled out a Brussels sprout, or “stone” instead of a rock that he found down by the creek.


When the not-so-well-known Greek explorer, Achilleus (meaning “lipless”), traveled north to explore Europe, he took with him a dozen tow sacks filled with these raw uncured vegetables. The Belgians, known for having a voracious appetite and, like the English, a willingness to eat anything, found them to be quite tasty, albeit, a tad bitter.


Famed Belgian botanist Dietger Jones bought all the sprouts Achilleus had and, in his Brussels lab, began a long and tedious cross-breeding process which eventually resulted in what we know today as the Brussels sprout, hence the name. The king of Belgium, King Willy, then passed an edict proclaiming the Brussels sprout as the national vegetable of Brussels demanding, under penalty of death, that all Belgians be required to eat Brussels sprouts with every meal. But not all Belgians found them to be good-they too were in the hate group-and so many opted for the gallows-a quicker and much more merciful death. It was shortly thereafter that an English-born immigrant, Dewayne Sidelinger, the original Duke of Earl, founded a new company he cleverly name Duke’s and created a concoction designed to mask the flavor of Brussels sprouts. Duke’s became the world leader in the manufacture of what would become known as A-1 Sauce, the recipe for which was stolen by food magnate Baldwin Kraft who turned it into a household name.


So, as the late Paul Harvey would say, “And now you know the rest of the story.” Also see: https://billtaylorcsp.wordpress.com/2015/05/17/internet-recipes-yech/

The Legend of Saggy Pants

8 09 2018

Saggy Pants

Sometimes things just pop into your head. Maybe it’s because of something you saw or a song you heard. Or maybe it’s because of something you saw while hearing a song. Jimmy Dean’s 1961 hit Big Bad John was playing when I saw some kid waddling down the street trying really hard not to fall over his sagging pants. This was the result. You’ll notice the similarities to Big Bad John (those of you who are old enough or listen to oldies radio). Many thanks to Jimmy Dean.


Every morning at the school, you could see him arrive

He stood 6 foot 6 and weighed 125

Kinda narrow at the shoulders And boney in the hip

And his pants would fall down If he’d let go his grip.

Saggy Pants


He’d waddle into class all cocky and brash

With a sneer on his lips and talking trash

The teacher’d say, “boy, why don’t you pull up your pants?”

But, he wouldn’t say a word, he’d just cut her a glance

Saggy pants


Then came that day In the Janitor’s Room

When a fire broke out amongst the mops and the brooms

And it grew with a rage as it spread through the school

And everyone ran except Mr. Cool.

Saggy Pants


With his belt at his knees, he tried hard to run

But he couldn’t kindle a step if you pardon the pun

Fell flat on his face and crawled toward the door

But he couldn’t get out as he cussed and he swore.

Saggy Pants


So finally, he pulled his pants to his waist

And he ran from the room as if he were chased

When he got through the door, he slowed down to a trot

And joined the rest of the crowd in the parking lot.

Saggy Pants


He tracked down his teacher and to her great surprise,

He gave her a mighty hug then with tears in his eyes,

He swore an oath that was truly heartfelt

“I’ll never again wear my butt on my belt!”

Saggy Pants


The Yankees’ Guide to Grilling

30 08 2018

Recently, I asked a Yankee friend of mine if he had plans for the Labor Day weekend. He said after he finished “mowing the lon and washing the cah,” he was planning to have family over for a “bahbecue.” If one couldn’t already tell by his Bostonian brogue, then a strong clue he was from the North was when he referred to this coming backyard bash as a barbecue. Still reeling from the barbecue misnomer, the telltale was when he said he would be putting his barbecue away for the season.  I asked him what season. “Bahbecue season,” he replied. I cringed. This was wrong in so many ways; I felt sorry for this culturally-challenged transplant and decided he needed help. If you plan to live in the South then you need to learn the lingo. As they say, “When in Rome…” So, for those above the Mason-Dixon Line and west of El Paso, who want to blend in, here is the guide to help you understand the art of the grill.


The Grill: First of all, let’s get the terminology correct. In the South, it’s called a grill, not a barbecue. And, it’s called grilling, not barbecuing. Barbecue is not a device on which you cook meat; it IS the meat after having been properly treated with your favorite sauce. The grill was invented for the purpose of cooking meat- meat which one coats with a dry rub of top-secret spices or slathers with sauce. It was not created for cooking Brussels sprouts, cream of wheat, or potato gnocchi. Meat!


The Gathering: Similarly, a barbecue is not a gathering of your closest friends for backyard drinks and ribs. Call it a party. Call it a get-together. Call it a congregation of your social network, but don’t call it a barbecue. Nothing screams Yankee louder than asking Bubba and Bubbette to come over for a barbecue Saturday night.


The Season: There is no barbecue season. There is a football season. There is hunting season. There is even grass cutting season and the farther north you live, the shorter the season. But the grill is like a calendar…it’s to be used year round regardless of where you live.


Yankees will hover for hours over a hole in the ice to catch a fish. They’ll sit all Sunday afternoon in a blowing snow with their favorite team’s logo painted on their bare chest. And yet, they can’t stand in the backyard for 20 minutes to cook a steak? I have shoveled six inches of snow out of my grill so I could cook chickens. I have stood on the deck cooking steaks when the temperature was 11 below. I have stood under an umbrella in the middle of a thunderstorm (not my brightest moment) to cook burgers, so this thing about cold and snow means nothing. “Damn the torpedoes, full speed ahead!” Man-up and light the coals.


The Fuel: Fuel of choice in the South is charcoal. It is permissible to use gas when short on time or if you run out of charcoal. But charcoal, newspaper and a chimney (or lighter fluid) make up your charcoal starting A-team. That means, you need two grills or a grill that allows you to use either gas or charcoal.


The Foil: Rookie mistake number one is to cover the grill top with aluminum foil. Sure, it makes clean-up a breeze, but, you’re blocking the smoke from getting to the meat. The meat gets its flavor when fat drips onto the hot

That’s not grilling. That’s frying!

glowing coals and the smoke that wafts through the neighborhood rises to envelop the meat. Don’t cover that grill top with aluminum foil. And don’t buy one of those grill mats, copper or otherwise. Those things are intended for suckers who don’t want to have to clean the gratings on the grill. You may as well throw those steaks in a frying pan. If you’re too lazy to clean the grill top once in a while then you should probably just sell your grill and make friends with someone who owns a grill or plan to spend a lot of time at Smokey Bones.


The Sauce: Sauce is personal. It is the one variable in grilling, other than the meat selection. You might want your ribs naked or you might prefer them to be drenched in a heavy layer of smoke-flavored sauce. Your sauce of choice might be a ketchup, mustard or vinegar-based sauce. But the thing to understand about sauce-in fact, the cardinal rule of sauce is, it cannot come from a bottle. You need to create your own signature sauce. Until you do, you can fake it by discretely pouring bottled sauce into a bowl or Mason jar so your guests will at least think it’s your own creation. Don’t forget to hide the empty bottle! Don’t have a Mason jar? No worries, any jar will do. You can use an empty mayonnaise jar (preferably Duke’s), salsa jar or peanut butter jar. For low-viscosity sauces such as a vinegar-based, a wine or liquor bottle works best. That way, you can control the amount of sauce you are dispensing by holding your thumb over the opening as you pour or sprinkle over the meat. An empty Makers Mark might be a bit pretentious but still not a bad choice. Warning: If using a wine bottle, avoid Sangria or anything from Little Black Dress or Moscato and other chick wines. Stick with something such as Gnarley Dude or Mad Dog.


You should also understand that a good steak can stand on its own; it doesn’t need to be bathed in sauce. Now, I like the flavor of A-1 as much as the next guy but save the A-1 for when you get cornered into eating something totally unpalatable such as when your host serves you scrapple with roasted Brussels sprouts. See: https://billtaylorcsp.wordpress.com/2015/05/17/internet-recipes-yech/. To mask the flavor of a good rib eye with a sauce is a sacrilege.


Following these tips will not make you a grilling expert, but at least you won’t stick out like a giraffe at a possum convention. Happy grill’n, ya’ll!

Professional Biotics

21 08 2018

I believe it was Winnie the Pooh who said, “Sometimes, I sits and thinks and sometimes, I just sits.”


Recently, I was sit’n and think’n and something occurred to me: are all biotics professionals? I was watching a movie and, for the umpteenth time during the movie, I saw a commercial about probiotics. It occurred to me to ask, where do probiotics come from? What I mean is, you never hear about amateur biotics. Why is that? Do biotics automatically turn pro when they sign up? Or, do they have a farm system, like in baseball, in which the not-ready-for-primetime players work to make it to the big leagues? Do they have a league like the NFL; or, since they independently eat their way through bad bacteria, do they belong to a group like the PGA? The PBA Tour (Professional Biotics Associatation Tour)? Do they have a union such as the Professional Biotics Players Association (PBPA)? And how does a biotic achieve professional status? Are they judged by the amount of bad bacteria they consume?  Just a few gut-wrenching questions about probiotics.


The Dog Convention

1 07 2018

Recently, my good friend, Bobby Long, posted the following poem on Facebook and I felt compelled to write a follow-up to give the story a proper ending.


The Dog Convention

There was a Great Dog Convention.

They came from near and far.

Some came on bicycles,

And some came in cars.


Y’know, before they could enter

Or even take a look,

They had to take their butts off

And hang it on a hook.


But before they even got seated,

(every mother, pup and sire),

An old dog hollered from the back,

“Run for your life. It’s a FIRE!”


The crowd of dogs began to panic

And nobody stopped to look,

They grabbed the very nearest butt

From the very nearest hook.


And this is why, even today,

A dog will drop a bone,

To sniff another dog’s butt,

To see if it’s his own.

(Author unknown)


As Paul Harvey would say, “And now for the rest of the story.”


It was the second annual dog convention

And every dog had come

The air was filled with apprehension

For each had another’s bum


For it was only in the year before

Old Rex, the cock-a-poo

Had everyone running for the door

And pulled the great switcheroo


So, all the dogs that came that day

Were hoping to acquire,

The same butt that they had last year

Before the bogus fire.


They came, they sniffed, they searched about

But not a dog could find,

The old butt that they longed to have

Their own long-lost behind


So, finally they all took a vote

And passed a proclamation

Each hoping that this edict would spread

Throughout the doggie nation.


For it seems that they could all agree

This sniffing ain’t so bad;

As, it gave each dog a chance to see

A butt they never had.


So, this is how it’s going to be

From now to kingdom come

All dogs running around with glee

To sniff each other’s bum.

(author: Bill Taylor)