The Saturday Morning Blogger – Japanese Steakhouses


The Saturday Morning Blogger – Japanese Steakhouses

James Barrington

 

 

We recently had occasion to do something special with our younger granddaughter, so we took her to Sakura Japanese Steakhouse for their dinner and “floor show” of flashing knives and flying food being prepared as the patrons sit around the grille on which dinner is being cooked. It was our granddaughter’s first experience with such a restaurant; it had been more than twenty years since our last experience with one – in Jacksonville Beach, Florida. I realize there are other Japanese Steakhouses in Amarillo and this is not intended to be a recommendation of one over any other; we chose Sakura because it was the most conveniently located for us.

We left early to get there as they opened. We were actually the first to be seated as one of their cooking tables. We were soon joined by four other people at the table that will seat eight. It is not a place to go with a light wallet, but the food is first quality and the entertainment aspect of the evening further justifies the price. The bill for the three of us, before tip, was just under $100.

Our granddaughter didn’t say much during the preparation and the meal, but her eyes were watching everything. Some of the food was not her favorite, but she was willing to sample everything that was put before her. The soup, a mushroom broth, came my way after one or two sips. She chose one of the steak entrées but could only eat about half of it. The portions were very generous. Even my wife brought home enough for another meal. It had been a long time since I ate swordfish, so I made a pig of myself and finished everything on my plate except for some of the fried rice.

The flames on the cook top surprised our granddaughter, but she took it all in stride. Afterward, as we were getting in the car to return home, I asked if she might like to go again. Her response was quick and affirmative. Our budget does is not designed to handle that type of meal on a regular basis, but as a special treat, with advance planning, it created a memorable evening with our granddaughter – hopefully one that she will remember fondly as she grows into adulthood.

My dad was a strictly a “meat and potatoes” type of eater, so I had the pleasure of introducing my mother to some “different” cuisine while I was a working adult with a healthy income. Cajun dinners and such exotic seafood as crab and swordfish were among the foods she had never eaten as a child or while she had children living at home. She seemed almost childlike in her glee as having the opportunity when we presented those to her.

Meals are often the key ingredients of family memories – whether holiday turkeys or hams or special meals out at restaurants that not off our normal “beaten path.” By being open to new experiences (such as my trip to Israel a couple of years ago), we can discover new flavors that those faint of spirit will never know.

 

Advertisements

The Saturday Morning Blogger – Moby Dick – and other classics


The Saturday Morning Blogger – Moby Dick – and other classics

James Barrington

 

One of my dad’s younger brothers taught honors English in the El Paso school district for many years. From everything I remember of him, he was one of those teachers who students loved to hate. They loved him because he challenged them and made them think. They hated him because he challenged them and made them think. Such is the life of most high school students.

My uncle Oliver’s favorite book was Moby Dick. On a number of occasions when our families were together he and my dad would get into conversations that were being led by Oliver. On more than one of those occasions the topic turned to Moby Dick.

My older brother worked through an assignment to read Moby Dick during his upper class years in high school, but by some miracle I was never given that assignment. As time passed, I came to realize that the Moby Dick comic book I had read as a child was probably severely lacking in the content available in Melville’s original book. About the time we moved from Florida to New Hampshire, I was in a bookstore in Jacksonville and discovered an unabridged copy of Moby Dick among the “bargain classics” for one U.S. dollar. Figuring I couldn’t go wrong for such a paltry sum, I invested a dollar and spent the next six months reading Moby Dick and writing my critical analysis that I knew Oliver would expect.

It turned out to be a really great “bonding experience.” I would write to him my observations and he would write back all of the thing I had missed. When his wife had died, about ten years earlier, I was the only member of his side of the family that made the trip to El Paso for the funeral. I stayed an extra day after the funeral; that was when the “bonding” really began. We talked about life, death, literature, and a lot of his memories about my dad’s childhood that I had never heard before. He told me about running away from home at 16 to join the army, only to find himself “held over” as a buck sergeant in the aftermath of Pearl Harbor. When he returned home after touring Europe in pursuit of the German army, his high school principal help “recreate” his high school transcript from the ashes of the burned school house. With his A/B average he went to Oklahoma A&M (now Oklahoma State) on the GI Bill and finished his master’s degree.

Born a couple of months before my mother, he died a couple of months after she did. He gave me his most prized collection of books, saying that they would be “pearls before swine” for his only child. The collection included such diverse titles as “Lady Chatterley’s Lover” and “The Epic of Gilgamesh.” Oliver’s life was a “classic” in its own right. Like all great classics, I think of him often and fondly.

 

The Saturday Morning Blogger – Vacations


The Saturday Morning Blogger – Vacations

James Barrington

 

Google defines “vacation” as “an extended period of recreation, especially one spent away from home or in traveling.”

When I was part of the work-a-day world, a vacation to me definitely involved leaving home and phone behind. More importantly than that, it involved a change of pace. I didn’t want to be ruled by a timepiece. It involved a change of scenery – preferably one with a completely different type of scenery than what I could see within fifty miles of home.

I grew up watching Walter Cronkite and Charles Kuralt. Charles Kuralt spent his professional life “On the road” seeing America. That lifestyle appealed to me – and still does to this day. For me, a perfect vacation involves having some place in mind that I would like to visit, but plenty of time to go there and get back without stressing over a schedule. Too many lives are ruled by schedules. My professional life was ruled by clocks and calendars, with appointments, meetings, deadlines and other generally annoying obstacles to “smelling the roses.” In my perfect vacation (which I have never had), I pull away from the house heading in the general direction of my ultimate destination, and drive. If I see something along the way that catches my eye or piques my imagination, I stop and take a closer look – probably photographing as I go. When it’s time to sleep, I’ll stop and sleep. When it’s time to eat, I’ll find food. Maybe I’ll eat in a restaurant or maybe I’ll cook a meal over a campfire. That concept drives my wife crazy. So, in order not to have to listen to “where are we spending tonight” every fifteen minutes, I’ve given in to her programmed, packaged idea of a vacation just to get her to make a trip out of the house.

In recent years, I’ve heard her grudgingly agree in such a way that I know it won’t be worth the effort to actually leave the house. I love my wife, but many of her interests and mine exist in different universes. Very seldom do we find common grounds on television shows or movies, and the Bible is about the only book we both read.

So, on those rare occasions when we leave Randall County together, we don’t drive and see the sights (my choice), we fly (her choice) and tolerate being treated like our baggage (which was lost both going and coming and left out in the rain to collect water on the return flight) on our last trip. Maybe I should write a book about that.

On the other hand, I’ll just write a blog…

 

 

The Saturday Morning Blogger – Random Thoughts


The Saturday Morning Blogger – Random Thoughts

James Barrington

 

How do computer programmers tell a random number generator to really be random? Is there a pattern to the randomness? Why don’t they repeat the same number three times in a row from time to time – just to be random?

Who decided that cutting grass with a lawnmower to make it all a uniform height was more attractive than letting it grow naturally? After we all became sheep and followed that pattern, local governments legislated that grass could not exceed a certain (arbitrary) height. Wouldn’t sheep be better lawn mowers? After all, they cut it and fertilize it all in one pass…

I’m convinced that it’s pure economics that lead fashions to change. After all, why else would someone tear out perfectly good carpet to replace it with a hardwood floor… or vise versa. Such dynamics lead men’s neckties to go from narrow to wide, bright prints to plaid or stripes, and long to short. Such dynamics lead women’s shoes to go from high heels to flats and women’s dresses from unbuttonable rows of buttons down the back to virtually nonexistent fronts that make women self-conscious about their exposed cleavage while insisting on wearing plunging necklines. Economics must be the most obtuse and ridiculous form of political correctness rooted in personal greed of the guardians of the economy…

City dwellers look at the suburbs and long for the uncrowded streets and slower pace where they can raise their children without fear of gangs and crime. Then they moved to the suburbs in droves, bringing with them their vices and the congestion and filth they lived in while a city-dweller. In the meantime, the pollute the atmosphere with exhaust fumes and drive up the price of gasoline because of their long commutes with other lemmings, just like them, who didn’t really flee the city so much as expanding its corrupting influence. Meanwhile, their kids find new friends from whom they can buy their drugs and with whom they can vandalize public and private property. Then they all wonder why nirvana wasn’t everything they expected it to be. Who knew?

Are prime numbers more random than even numbers? Is five a random number of paragraphs?

The Saturday Morning Blogger – The Child Inside


The Saturday Morning Blogger – The Child Inside

James Barrington

 

When I was a child I hated visiting aged relatives in nursing homes. The places smelled like urine and death and the people were usually lost in their memories of a time sixty years ago. They seemed to see and talk with ghosts of people who were long dead. I often wondered why they continued to live.

As the years passed, I came to understand more about the aging process. My granddaughter recently made the observation to her mom (my daughter) “Does it ever strike you as strange that I’ve never known you as anything but ‘Mom’?” In a Town Meeting in New Hampshire a decade ago, a life-long resident in his late 60s or early 70s pointed out that the history of the town did not start when I arrived. Well, that was blatantly obvious, but it was a refreshing reminder to me from which I have learned a great deal.

Human lifetimes (even those that reach or exceed the century mark) are remarkably short in the span of eternity, even of the eight or ten thousand years when humans have been keeping records – some of which is still indecipherable to us. Yet we tend to think of history as beginning with our birth. Those who outlive us may think of us and things that are happening in this world that we did not live to witness. I suspect events on this earth will be largely immaterial to us once we cross the veil to the next (and true) reality.

These days, quickly approaching 65, I spend a lot of time visiting people in hospitals, rehabilitation centers, and assisted living homes. My perspective is different than it was when I was a child. The first point is that senior assisted facilities are cleaner and fresher than they were when I was a child. They are generally brighter and try to bring cheer to the residents’ lives. Having been through almost ten years with my mother in a clean and airy assisted living home, I paid more attention and learned to see her neighbors in a different light. With my dad gone, I had much more meaningful conversations with my mother and learned things about her childhood and life before I was born that I had never known. I even learned interesting facts about her life while I was in my early school days. It was refreshing to realize that parents are people too.

Our children and grandchildren have been raised to appreciate older generations and not be afraid of people just because their skin is wrinkled, their hair is gray, and maybe their teeth are missing. Generations need each other. They are links in a chain that stretched across years and lifetimes.

 

The Saturday Morning Blogger – Lazy, Hazy, Crazy Days of Summer?


The Saturday Morning Blogger – Lazy, Hazy, Crazy Days of Summer?

James Barrington

I remember a song from my youth that said something like, “Those lazy, hazy, crazy days of summer…” I guess I should admit to having more than my share of naps this summer, but it feels more like they are due to exhaustion than laziness. Maybe that’s just my take on things.

Almost as soon as school was out for the summer, we ran away to spend a week in Maine with our older daughter and her family. I came back from that more worn out than before I left – and I was CERTAIN that I NEEDED a vacation when we boarded the airplane. The events of that trip, although enjoyable with the kids and grandkids, were exhausting.

That was just the first week of the summer of 2017! We’re already talking about band practices, football season and school again! What’ with that?!?

I remember childhood summers (through the haze and fog of memory) spent reading “Tom Swift” books on the front porch. Of course my brother and I had to mow lawns to make money for the movies, but that was generally not more than one or two lawns a day in our lazy pace. This summer, it’s not like I have a lot to do, it just seems that everything on my calendar has a deadline!

I have been reading a lot this summer, but as the calendar pages are now flying by like the second hand on my watch used to, I find myself turning reading sessions into nap sessions more often than not. A recent slip-and-fall accident has slowed my walking. The heat has reduced my appetite. I’m not really complaining, although it may sound that way. What I’m trying to do is get my mind around this thing called aging. I know I’m not “OLD” yet, because I heard the other day, “Old is 20 years older than I am.” That sounds like a good philosophy to me. Most of the folks I visit in nursing homes talk about those old folks down the hall, never pondering the face that looks back from the mirror. That’s a good thing to my way of thinking. Who wants to be old? Mature? Experienced? We have a lot of euphemisms for “old.”

Although my August calendar is already filling up – and I hate to think what the school calendar may bring – I hope to get a few days to get away to the mountains, or the seacoast, or a hotel overlooking a lake – just for a few days. A nap while breathing mountain air or the sea’s salty air would be a refreshing change. I think a touch of change is one of the things that makes for an interesting vacation. I just like for the change to be at a pace I can manage these days.

The Saturday Morning Blogger – Vacation Bible School


 

The Saturday Morning Blogger – Vacation Bible School

James Barrington

 

Some of my earliest childhood memories include attending Vacation Bible School. As a pre-school child, I loved it. The songs were geared toward my age group and the lessons were simple and yet direct in their message of the love of Jesus. “Jesus Loves Me,” and “Jesus Loves the Little Children” were among my favorites, but “I’m in the Lord’s Army” was great for marching, flying o’er the enemy, and shooting the artillery. A whole new generation of songs has come along to keep the youngsters in step with modern rhythms and tunes. Of course the hand and body motions are designed to burn off some of the excess energy so they will be calm enough to hear the lessons. And what VBS would be complete without a snack along the way? Even the snacks these days are designed to reinforce the day’s lesson.

Our children took part in VBS when they were little and became helpers as they got older. Now, our grandchildren are into the “helper” age range and still look forward to the excitement of Vacation Bible School.

The University church of Christ will be having VBS on July 10-13 this summer from 9 a.m. – noon. On Wednesday evening, we host a cookout for the parents and students and then have a Wednesday evening service to let the parents see what their children have been doing, including hearing (experiencing) the songs, and seeing the crafts that the children do to reinforce the Bible lessons they have been learning.

It seems like everyone enjoys the events, and by the end, everyone is bone tired and ready for a vacation. There is always a need for volunteers and the usual families generally always spread around the load of preparation and presentation. If your children haven’t been to a Vacation Bible School, they should take advantage of the opportunity to meet new friends, sing new songs, and learn more about how much Jesus loves us.

For more information about the University church of Christ VBS, call 655-3952.

The Saturday Morning Blogger – Travel in the 21st Century


The Saturday Morning Blogger – Travel in the 21st Century

James Barrington

Having recently traveled to Maine to visit family, I reflected on the perils of modern travel. As a young man fresh out of college, I was thrilled with the first time I flew out of town on a business trip. The experience of boarding an airplane and being where I was going in such a short time was a marvel to me. That has changed over the years.

Part of the reason for the change has been my outlook on the “cattle car” mentality of the airlines and part of the reason is my own joy at seeing the scenery and taking the time to stop for some of the sites along the way.

I recently read a book that was not particularly well-written, but it was a story with an interesting premise. A huge solar flare, aimed directly at Earth, so completely disrupted electronics that the world was knocked back 150 years in terms of usable technology. Telephones, television, even cars and airplanes were unusable because of the technology that made them run. People fled from the cities, which were overrun by street gangs operating in an environment where they could operate without fear of law enforcement keeping them at bay. People found that they had to farm the land in order to have food to eat. Families began talking to each other again instead of worshiping their PDAs.

The book questioned whether our advanced technology had actually made our society better or worse. It is certainly a question worth pondering.

After having flights cancelled on both out-bound and return legs of our trip; and having luggage lost, pilfered and destroyed by baggage handlers and/or TSA thieves, driving looks like a far better method of getting from here to there. This all happened on an airline we expected better things from. Instead we saw very little in the way of “customer service” and a lot in the way of callous disregard for the people who had paid money and put their lives into the hands of a transportation company. I am grateful to say that every time they picked us up off the ground, they did manage to put us back on the ground safely. It wasn’t always a smooth landing, but at least the airplane didn’t disintegrate into a flaming mass.

What else should we expect from public transportation? Right?

The Saturday Morning Blogger – Handwritten letters


The Saturday Morning Blogger – Handwritten letters

James Barrington

When my mother died eleven years ago, one of the treasures we found among her belongings was a box of hand-written diaries in the form of lined notebooks. She had spent undoubtedly countless hours recording commonplace events of life and personal musings on what some of them meant.

For the past several years I have been sending monthly notes to my grandsons who live 2,000 miles away. I don’t have the opportunity to interact with them on a regular basis. I don’t know if they appreciate (or can even decipher) my handwritten notes, but I am trying to leave them a legacy of their grandfather that they may find useful at some point in the future. Maybe that use will be as kindling for a campfire, but maybe they can find more productive uses.

My brother found some handwritten notes from our fraternal grandmother among his share of the papers we salvaged from our mother’s belongings. Perhaps she was the source of my sometimes opinionated ways – although I found that her opinions and mine don’t often agree. That’s OK. We loved each other, anyway. It just goes to show that people don’t have to agree on everything to be able to get along.

My older grandson in the Northeast sent a list of interview questions for an English assignment in his high school freshman class. The questions seemed simple enough until I thought about the liberal philosophy of the Northeast. Here are the questions as he sent them:

  1. Do you have a self law that you go by?
  2. What is it?
  3. Why do you go by it?
  4. Has law ever made you do something you didn’t want to do or/and Has law ever prevented you from doing something you have wanted to?
  5. What have you had to do?
  6. Is there any law that you disagree with? What is it, why do you disagree with it?

4.Do you think it is good or bad that different places have different laws? Why?

5.Do you feel the law is too strict? Why?

When I replied to him, I mentioned that I want to talk to him about this when I see him this summer. There are layers of possibilities involved in those questions – particularly in 21st Century American society.

The written word has a permanency to it that transcends generations.

The Saturday Morning Blogger – Flying like Superman


The Saturday Morning Blogger – Flying like Superman

James Barrington

Flying has always been fascinating to me. Oh, flying in an airplane was appealing, but flying (like Superman) was always so much more interesting. There are probably a million different ways that psychoanalysts would diagnose me with all kinds of social and mental abnormalities, but whatever their opinion of me, I’ve just thought the idea of defying gravity was a fun way to travel. It has been the subject of some of my short fiction daydreaming and always leads into the superhero mode.

In part, it ties back to my refusal to believe that there is an absolute physical speed limit of the speed of light. After all, for years scientists of great renown believed that the speed of sound was an absolute limit beyond which no physical object could pass. I suspect most were pretty red-faced when Chuck Yeager proved them wrong.

As a child I was thrilled with pictures of people wearing flying jet packs and predictions that average commuters would be flying to work in the far distant year of 1975. Hum… that didn’t work out, but the idea still floats around, including flying cars and other dreams of faster local transportation with less congestion. I wonder what will happen when the first flying car accidents result in crashes into home and fatalities on the ground. If we would all just fly “like Superman” we wouldn’t have to worry about those concerns.

Defying gravity, with or without wings, has long been an aspiration of humanity, but the reality of it continues to elude us. We walk and birds fly. Superman’s ability to fly seems to be destined to remain in the realm of comic books.