Blue Flower

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the cosmoThere was nothing finer than to be in Carolina in the morning, according to the old tune. In my case, as I drove my ’63 Continental out of the mountains towards Charlotte, there was nothing finer than to be in Carolina in the afternoon. It was almost happy hour and my trusty ride was taking me towards Sterling, a great spot to sip a drink and eat a morsel. Rems, the bartender made it a memorable visit every time. I pulled up along the eatery in the downtown financial district. Snagging a spot in front of the joint was a small miracle because it was hopping with the after work crowd. I walked in the steel and glass doors and sat at the bar.

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Tchicken parm merlothrowing a dinner party for my Uncle Abe was an annual event that I was proud to host every year. He was 86 and not a blood uncle but a family friend whom I had known as long as my parents. He was of Italian descent and insisted I cook up something that celebrated his ancestry. Most of the guests at dinner were similar in age and served in various branches of the military in the Korean War.

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manhattan drinksI usually avoided places like Reno and Las Vegas because I didn’t gamble and there was an excess of stupid drunks in both cities. People went there when they celebrated or planned a weekend of debauchery. Despite my feelings, I ended up in Reno NV to wrap up some business. I headed away from the strip and ended up at The Last Stand. The sign in the window shouted that they were under new ownership. Which meant that they had problems in the past and were better than before. As I walked in, I passed a couple who would have been better off if they got a room and they were drinking something brown. I sat at the bar.

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Jambalaya 11I was visiting my friends Lauren and Caleb Sommer in Baton Rouge, LA. They were two parts of a jazz quartet that played all over the state. They were celebrating the signing of a new contract with a small record label. I was happy to cook dinner for a small group of their friends. The only problem was that they didn’t have an exact headcount so I chose a dish in which it didn’t matter. I was making Jambalaya and pairing the meal with a Zinfandel. One-dish meals were necessary to have in everyone’s repertoire.

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diesel 667If a car had emotions then my ’63 Lincoln Continental was overjoyed, as I drove past the Motor City because it was a homecoming. The assembly line that my car was born on was likely a pile of rusted parts in an abandoned factory. There were no puffs of smoke pouring out of the chimneys because somewhere in SE Asia a robot was making most automobiles. The sentimental journey made me thirsty so when I saw a sign pointing towards Melvindale MI, I thought it was a good place to stop. I chose Piston, a brick building with all of the usual neon signs given to the purveyor free of charge for the chance to advertise their brew. I was hoping to drink something other than just a lager but it looked like a beer joint so I would adjust. I pulled open the door that appeared to have been banged in a time or two. I’d seen more dents on a car in a junkyard.

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TapasMy neighbor Josie organized a progressive dinner, which had been going on for years. She assigned each house a course (apps, salad, entrée and dessert) and gave a theme to annual shindig. I was honored with serving an appetizer course and the theme was Spain. I didn’t know my neighbors well but they were nice enough.

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hurricaneI rolled into The Big Easy on an August afternoon, dripping in sweat and in need of refreshment and A/C. My ’63 Lincoln Continental did not agree with the sweltering heat nor did I. I had been to Mardi Gras on several occasions, meaning to come back when it was more sedate. August was laid back but unbearably humid. I had just come off a work related road trip of the Deep South and made a mental note that it was not a part of the country that I should visit in the heat of summer. I parked in front of Abner’s before I even checked into my hotel. The plaque read, Est. 1915, Re-Est. 2006, which I knew meant Hurricane Katrina, had come calling but Abner’s bounced back from the destruction.

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indian foodA call came from my friend Jason, who was stationed in India with his tech firm for a year and now he was back. He had no time and needed to throw together a quick dinner. They were not co-workers from India but Americans who expected he could whip up a good curry. My palms sweat when I thought of Indian cuisine as I had one bad experience with it and done a good job avoiding it. I couldn’t believe my response as the words flowed from my mouth.

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mudslideI was off the beaten path as I hugged the shore of Lake Superior towards Duluth. I had about 100 miles to my destination but I had been on the road for six hours and I needed a break. I needed a drink and when I saw a quaint inn next to a café, I knew I had found a place to stay overnight.

“I need a room for tonight only and I don’t have a reservation.”

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spring and roseI’ve entered my third decade so when my college aged niece asked if I would help with a sorority picnic I jumped at the chance. They were a fun group of young women who had many challenges and opportunities ahead of them. I would enjoy being the wise voice of caution and inspiration. It was a warm time of year in South Bend Indiana and my niece Natalie chose an idyllic spot for the function.

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rib eye and cabI lost a silly bet with my friend Rosemary and I had to serve steak dinner for six guests of her choosing. I would have had a free weekend at her beach house had I won. I would get to use her cottage anyways and the dinner was fun for me to as we had many of the same friends. My only worry was that she would invite two couples, her husband and a single gentleman for me. I had survived Rosemary’s set ups in the past and this time, I was sure to live.