Tuesday, August 23, 2011

The Old Man and The Puck

I can't remember the exact date that this happened,  but I do know that it was during the mid-season of the recent American Idol.  The weather was decent enough for me to take a little trip over the hill and visit one of my favorite spots...Santa Cruz. 

I decided to take the local bus downtown to the San Jose Diridon station,  and then hook up with the Highway 17 Express bus,  which would take me all the way to the Metro Station in downtown Santa Cruz.

The trip over the hill wasn't too bad--if you don't mind dealing with abnormally loud headphone music and obscene chatter, coming from people who were raised on Jerry Springer and Def Jam Comedy hour.  The trip wasn't that bad at all.  Thankfully I had a newspaper with me...or else I'd be ready to punch somebody.

After arriving there,  I took my usual route on foot to the beach and boardwalk.  It's just something I enjoy doing,  since I don't get much exercise here--sitting in front of my computer.  A whole mile and a half really does wonders for the body. ( Not counting the exercise I'd be getting from walking to the end of the pier and back. )

Spending time at the end of the pier does my mind good,  since I can just sit on one of the 'non-crapped on' benches--that had seemed to avoid the wrath of the local seagulls--and just stare out at the ocean.  Allowing my thoughts to just flutter freely within my skull.  It was a serene moment,  indeed.

I gathered myself,  said a few choice words to the barking sea lions below,  and then wandered off.  To the boardwalk arcade.  My new church.  Do you know why?  Because they have a drum simulator called the MTV Drumscape,  and...it's...awesome!!

Beating on them drums,  even without knowing what the hell I was doing,  just released so much built aggression.  I could handle anything after that.

If you're wondering where the Old Man and The Puck comes in,  don't worry... It's coming.

I wasted some more time in the Metro area,  consuming a milk shake and listening to homeless people ask me for spare change,  and then it was time for me to go.  I had spent a little more time than I had wanted to,  beating on the drums,  and it was getting a little late in the afternoon. 

I just managed to catch the 4:30 pm bus heading back to San Jose,  just barely though.  Lucky for me,  it was running a little late.  The line was kinda long,  which meant that we were gonna be stuffed in there pretty good--not always a good thing.  But,  I had to get home somehow,  so there was no use in complaining.

Traffic didn't help either,  which put us further behind on the time schedule.  We finally arrived,  yet the last local bus going my way home had already left.  I was going to have to find an alternate way home.

After 3 miles of walking,  riding 20 minutes or so on the light rail,  and waiting almost 20 minutes for an alternate bus that dropped me off at a cross street 2 1/2 miles from my house...my loooong day,  was almost over.  I crossed at the light,  and started my trek.  My trek back home.

It was getting dark,  so I had to hurry if I didn't want to miss too much of the beginning of American Idol.  My feet moved swiftly down the sidewalk.  Passing side streets and barking dogs in the front yard.  I was on a mission.  I couldn't miss American Idol.

Almost halfway there,  I came upon a house lined with tall shrubs.  The house sat right at the corner of an approaching side street--one that I could see coming,  just up ahead.  I don't like corners that are obstructed,  especially by large shrubs.  I seen 'Halloween' and the thought of Michael Myers or some nut,  jumping out from one of those bushes...just sent shivers up my spine.  But I had to put it out of my mind and continue on.

Just as I neared the corner,  a faint whirring sound began to break the night air.  It was almost mechanical--like gears grinding or something.  I grew closer to the corner,  and was just upon it when all of a sudden...

AN OLD MAN,  in a blue electric 'scooter',  with a yellow plastic HOCKEY PUCK in his mouth,  comes barelling around the corner.  His scooter almost tipping over--balancing on two wheels.  A maniacal expression pasted his sweaty face.

I dove into a small flowerbed that lined the streetside,  avoiding this crazy madman as he sped by--laughing fiendishly the whole way.  I watched him disappear around the corner of the previous side street just as...

TWO TEENAGERS, dressed in 'hockey gear' came tearing around the corner as well.  Obviously chasing the old man who had just stole their hockey puck.  They ran by as I lay in the flowerbed.  Amazed at what I had just witnessed,  and had narrowly avoided.  A third kid,  dressed in 'goalie gear',  completed the trio--as he brought up the rear.  All three of them,  racing down the sidewalk--disappearing around the corner.

I picked myself up off of the ground,  brushed myself off,  and just stood there for at least a minute.  What the hell just happened?!!

Shaking my head in disbelief,  I remembered abut American Idol...and got my feet moving again.  And the whole time I was double-timing it home,  I could only think of one thing... What would James Durbin have done?!!

Thursday, August 18, 2011

'Monster House' was my idea. Well, sort of...

Did you ever come up with an idea for a movie,  only to see somebody else come up with a similar idea and release it as a summer blockbuster,  that ended up making tons of money,  and left you shaking your head in disgust.  Muttering to yourself... "That was MY idea!"

Well,  did you?  It did to me.  Well,  sort of...  

I say sort of,  because this is a 'sort of' kind of story.  Let me try and explain.

About 12 or 13 years ago,  I was feeling pretty lost.  I knew that I wanted to write movies,  but I lacked the drive and the ambition to take that extra step.  Still do,  but things are looking up... sort of.  I was at the library at the time,  since I didn't own a computer,  and I was doing a search on 'movies' in general,  and I happen to stumble across a website called 'The Motion-Picture Industry: Behind-The-Scenes' .

This website boasted a 'simulator' that you could use,  to assemble your own little movie...using the 'already filmed' available scenes,  in order to produce a box-office hit.  You would choose the writer,  the actor, etc.  You would give it your own title.  And then,  you would choose which shots were the best shots to use,  in order to produce your 'hit'.  

They even had a mock box-office chart,  showing how well your movie did upon release; ranking among the hundreds of others who had dreams of making it big.  It was all too perfect.

I did the simulator ( a few dozen times ),  and I started to think... 'Hey,  I could do this!'.  I noticed an advertisement on the website,  announcing a 'short screenplay contest'.  The winner would have his/her screenplay produced into a short movie to go onto the website,  and the runners-up would have their short screenplays 'looked at',  by top studio executives in the Hollywood business.  Wow!  All for a short screenplay?  Where do I sign up?

Reading the rules and whatnot,  I dove right in.  The short screenplay had to be between 1 to 3 pages long.  That was pretty much it.  The website provided it's own template in order to write the screenplay,  so there was no emailing it in.  No problem.  I sat for a minute or two,  and then I came up with a simple idea that I felt could easily be written,  without too much plot structure or anything.  

( This was a 1 to 3 page screenplay.  I mean,  how much plot can you have jam into 1 to 3 pages?  Rhetorical question,  don't answer. )

After a minute or so of brainstorming,  I started to write.  First,  the title... "The House".  I liked the title.  It suited the story.  The story being about a 'spooky, almost monstrous looking HOUSE' near the end of a cul de sac,  in a residential neighborhood.

I won't go into the details of the screenplay,  but it was a fairly decent effort on my part,  and I felt pretty good about my chances.  Actually,  I was full of wishful thinking,  but hey... one could dream,  right.  I finished the short screenplay,  did the necessary clicking here and there in order to send it through,  and that was that.  The deadline hadn't reached it's end yet,  so I had some waiting to do.  No problem.  I had a job,  a so-called life...I was good.


Ok,  maybe it wasn't like that,  but I was definitely curious about the outcome of the contest.  I was smelling the sweet, sweet smell of success and it was just around the corner.  I knew it was.  But I had to be patient.  Good things come to those who wait,  or at least that's what I've heard over the years.  That saying probably came from somebody who had waited a long,  long time.  Still,  I had to be patient.

Finally,  after almost giving up on it,  I received an email from an affiliate or member of the website,  informing me that my 'short screenplay' was 1 of 3 runners-up in the contest.  Needless to say,  I was a bit overjoyed.  And yet,  I was wondering...'Runner up?  You mean,  I didn't win?!'  Hey,  beggars can't be choosers, right?  Or something like that.

Even though I didn't win the contest,  I was happy and elated that my little masterpiece was chosen as 1 of 3 runners-up.  Ok,  so now what? 

Well,  the affiliate or member of the website also informed me,  that the winning screenplay would be produced into a short film,  and that the 'runners-up' would now have each of their screenplays showcased,  as part of a new 'interactive simulator' section of the website.  For all to interact with, etc.  It all sounded really cool to me.  I was definitely on board.

A member of the website was assigned to me,  and he kept me updated with the progress of the whole thing.  It was a very interesting couple of weeks that followed,  which included emails of project updates,  and news that a few of the studios had really shown an interest in the 3 runner up screenplays.  An interest how?  What sort of interested had they shown?  All I knew was that one of the studios was Twentieth Century Fox.  Wow! 

I was now beginning to feel a little overwhelmed.  I mean,  this was out of my radius.

The emails continued as did the updates,  and things started to click along.  But then,  it hit a snag.  Something happened,  I don't know what exactly.  The website decided to scrap the idea of the new 'interactive simulator' project,  and just go ahead and produce each screenplay into a short film for the website.  Why?  I don't know.  But,  it sounded good to me.  My screenplay was actually going to be produced into a short film,  rather than have it diced apart in some new 'interactive simulator'.  Let's do this!

New emails started to come,  and I was assigned a guy who was handling 'my' screenplay.  He was a cool guy,  and he was very enthusiastic about the project.  His idea was to produce the short film as a claymation.  Like those old 'Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer' and 'Santa Claus Is Coming To Town' animation shorts.  Awesome!!  "Let's do it!",  I said.  He was on it.

Next couple of weeks,  he sent me emails with pics of the model of the house,  and the claymation characters that he was working on.  All fascinating stuff,  really.  The excitement was beginning to build.  I told all of my family members ( and what friends I had ),  that I was having one of my screenplays produced into a movie.  I was on cloud nine.

The progress continued,  and the emails kept coming.  The pics showed that this thing was really gonna happen.  The house looked cool,  and the claydough-looking kids were really starting to become real to me.  Creepy,  but real.  It was all coming together.

And then...

I stopped receiving emails from the guy.  I emailed him,  concerned as to why I hadn't heard from him in amost a week or so,  but no response.  Finally,  he emailed me back and told me that he was having trouble with working a job and also doing this project.  It was beginning to be a lot more work for him,  and that he would try and do as much as he can,  when he could.  

Stuff like that.  Hmmm... He had to work a 'real' job?  You mean,  this wasn't his job?  The website wasn't paying him to do this?  All relevant questions.

So,  I told him to do what he could and hopefully everything would work out.  Well, eventually the emails became fewer and farther in between,  and the whole 'project' just sort of went away.  Just like that.  It just dissipated.  I tried contacting the guy in charge,  but I got no response.  I tried contacting the website,  but got no response.  Then,  I received an email from one of the other 'runners-up'.  She was also disappointed that her project just went away,  and she was left in the dark.

Now,  I'm not holding some sort of 12 or 13 year grudge or anything,  since stuff like that happens all the time,  I'm sure.  But it would've been nice to have had some sort of explanation.

A few years passed,  and I saw a trailer for an animated film called 'Monster House',  that was soon to be released.  And I instantly remembered the screenplay contest that never was.  I didn't see the movie 'Monster House',  but it sure showed a slight resemblance to MY short screenplay.  

Recently,  as I was thinking of writing this blog,  I researched 'Monster House' a little and found out that a story by Stephen King,  in one of his 'gunslinger' novels I think,  had a Monster-type house or something like that in it.  I didn't look into it any further,  because I didn't need to.

'Monster House' probably didn't take my idea.  I'm sure it probably took Stephen King's idea,  who  knows.  Great minds think alike,  I guess.

I just would have liked to  have seen 'my idea' as a movie,  like promised.  Those claymation little kids deserved that much!

Here's the website that used to be The Motion-Picture Industry: Behind-The-Scenes.


Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Writing and Making Movies: A Child's Dream

I've always wanted to make movies ever since I was a little boy.  Ever since my dad took me and my siblings to see 'The Exorcist' at the drive-in,  I've always had a fascination with movies.  And even though I spent most of that night at the drive-in,  cowering in the floorboard of Dad's Mercury,  I will always think of that night as the night that got it all started.  

As a child,  I was exposed to lots of movies.  On a Friday or Saturday night,  my Dad would always take us kids to the drive-in. ( Mom didn't like movies much. )  

Back then,  we had two drive-ins that we would choose from,  depending on what was showing or just for a change of scenery.  Pretty much,  both drive-ins showed the same movies.  I remember seeing a lot of classic late-seventies movies,  like 'Day of the Animals' and 'The Car'.  Just a really fun time.  Cherished memories.  

But then,  for reasons I can't remember,  we started to progress to the 'walk-in' theater.  I was still a preteen,  but that didn't stop me from seeing 'Halloween',  a classic that really cemented my desire to become a film-maker.  I was hooked.  

Throughout the 80's,  along with my dad and my brother,  I witnessed a slew of some of the best and some of the worst movies ever made.  The genre didn't matter,  but I did lean more toward the horror genre. 

The movies had that style that came with the 80's.  A style that some have tried to duplicate,  but have failed.  That style is even appreciated now,  by the children of those who actually 'experienced' that decade.  It was pure magic.

We had a favorite walk-in theater of ours,  that we would frequent the most,  and that theater acted as my church.  Almost every Sunday,  my dad would take my brother and I to our 'favorite' theater,  and we would show up early--before the first showing--just to look at the posters outside.  Admiring the quality of artwork that went into them,  we would try and decide which one to see first and which one to see second.  It was something to look forward to in a time of adolescence and peer pressure at school.  I always felt good about myself at the movies.

As I got older,  and entered into high school,  I really began to gravitate toward the writing aspect of my English classes.  I found it to be a way of expressing myself and entertaining others.  I continued to frequent the movies on a weekly basis and would always be creating stories in my head.  Movie ideas, etc.  I realized,  after a few sloppy stories,  that I might actually have a knack for creating interesting characters and putting them in fantastic locations, etc.  

My love of movies was stronger than ever at that point in my life,  and the fact that I showed an interest in writing,  and a talent to go with it,  it just made it all the more clearer to me that I should really consider pursuing a career in film-making.  Writing movies,  making movies.  Entertaining people.  Being 'acknowledged' for something that I created. 

I decided that was something that I wanted to do with my life.

Well,  a child can dream but it doesn't always end like a fairy tale.  As I got older and progressed through high school,  my personal issues with stuff like anxiety and a problem with stuttering really began to get in my way of reaching my goal.  Of making my dreams come true.  I know this sounds like a cop-out,  but I'm stating facts.  It's part of the story and it's true.

I ended up wasting valuable years of my life,  by allowing my fears & anxieties and whatever else could be thrown into the mix,  bring me down and keep me from reaching my full potential.  And for the longest time,  I resented that.  And I let it keep me down.

Maybe 10 or so years ago,  I visited my favorite English teacher as he was teaching his class.  He was surprised to see me and showed much joy and enthusiasm.  I,  of course,  quietly took a spot in the far corner and waited until the class was over.  We had a lot to talk about.  And he wasn't pulling any punches.

He said that he was disappointed that I hadn't 'done anything' with my writing.  He was always encouraging me in class,  while I was a student,  and he felt that I had it in me to do great things with the writing talent that I had displayed.  Of course,  I shamefully nodded my head in agreement,  and carefully changed the subject.  

I told him that I was currently working on a movie idea and I shared that idea with him.  He seemed to perk up.  He liked my idea,  and I felt that it was original enough,  so we both had good feelings about it.  And most importantly,  I felt better about myself.

I left that visit with a hop in my step.  I went home and started working.  Unfortunately,  I didn't get too far.  I lost interest,  for reasons I wish not to mention,  and I fell right back into the same rut.  I continued working the '9 to 5' gig,  and just let life do it's thing.  Time went by,  and I made my efforts to write a screenplay and try to get into that whole mindset,  and for the most part I made strides but nothing major really transpired.  It just wasn't happening.

Then I came across a horror movie that went straight to DVD,  with almost the exact same concept of the story that I had previously shared with my English teacher,  and I just felt like I had been slapped upside the head.  A voice inside of my head said "Hey,  that sounds like your movie!" 

Part of me said "At least you know that you are on the right track."  And then another part of me said "What's the point!"  And then the thoughts started to get more and more frequent.

Thoughts of "maybe I'm just not good enough" or "maybe I'm just not cut out for this" or even "maybe I don't want it bad enough" began to corrupt my thinking.  Maybe I was not cut out for this.  Maybe I don't have the work ethic required to see something like this through.  I mean,  writing is hard work.  Anybody who writes novels or screenplays will tell you this.  It takes time and discipline, etc.  Talent only goes so far.

I put my dream aside for a little while,  and continued working away at temp jobs that just provided a paycheck and zero satisfaction.  A few more years went by and I started to really think hard about writing a screenplay.  Anything to get me out of the daily grind,  because it was really getting to me.  I only thought about movies,  about making movies.  I knew that I was wasting my life away.

I decided to try to write my first screenplay.  Just pretty much dive in.  I had a basic concept,  and I didn't want to waste time with the treatment or outline or anything like that.  I just wanted to write the screenplay.  So I did.  Every night,  after work,  after dinner...I wrote.  It took me a couple of weeks,  but I did it.  I completed the screenplay.

Of course,  I was excited.  This was it.  This was my ticket to the big time.  I sent it in to get it copyrighted,  and then I assembled a list of agencies, production companies and whatnot,  and then I bought a bunch of envelopes.  I wrote a query letter,  describing my movie and how great it was,  and I made copies.  I mailed those copies of my query letter to the names and addresses on the list,  and then I waited.  And waited.

Out of maybe 40 query letters mailed out,  I received 1 response.  One production company had written that Alicia Silverstone,  I'm guessing that it was her company,  was interested in reading a copy of my screenplay.  They sent a release form for me to sign,  and I did. Wow!!  I was planning the trip to Hollywood already,  and I hadn't even sent the script out yet.

So after calming down,  and sending a copy of my screenplay out to Alicia Silverstone's production company,  I began to wait again.  I quit my crappy job and waited.  And waited. I waited for almost a month before receiving a letter from Alicia Silverstone's production company,  stating that it wasn't something they would be interested in.

Ok.  Now what?  I didn't want to go back to work,  but I had to.  And so I did.  Later on,  I looked at my screenplay and read it all the way through.  It wasn't very good.  The format wasn't correct.  I learned a lot more about screenwriting after that.  Screenwriting is a hard gig.  You have to keep at it or else you'll lose it.  A writer writes,  always.

In my case,  I strongly believe that I have the talent and the creative juices to write movies.  I've always felt so.  I never had a good work ethic instilled in me as a child,  but I can't let that be an excuse for not trying.  Whatever issues I have personally or emotionally,  I need to get over them.  Climb over them,  as they are hurdles.  Hurdles in my way of reaching my dream of making movies.  It's been a childhood dream,  and it continues to be...

I need to just write.  This is one reason for starting a blog.  To try and instill a work ethic that will push me to write,  and to keep writing.  The kinks will work itself out the longer you keep at it.  I just need to keep at it.  I already feel like I'm a better writer.

I have the stories.  I just need to get them out there.  You might have stories too.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Sausage Gravy Made Simple

Over the weekend I made a household favorite for dinner -- Sausage Gravy.  I capitalized it because that is how proud I am of my Sausage Gravy.  

I know what many of you are thinking... 'sausage gravy for dinner?'  Yes,  Sausage Gravy for dinner.  Biscuits and Sausage Gravy.  Mmm,  mmm,   good!  I make it simple,  and it turns out fantastic every time.  

Of course,  it didn't always turn out fantastic.  Not in the beginning,  anyway.  But over time,  and about a half dozen or so trials later,  it has turned out to be an 'all-time favorite' around here.

So,  without a lot of babble...  Here's my way of making Sausage Gravy.  I have borrowed from various recipes either posted on the internet or from You Tube videos,  and I have made it my own.  So here it goes...

When I fix biscuits and gravy here,  I always make sure that I have my ingredients available before I even fire up the stove.  Being consistent is key here...at least,  it is for me.  I get what I need from the grocery store first before I begin.

Biscuits.  I don't make them homemade.  Too much trouble.  I balance the whole thing by using store-bought biscuits.  Less work,  more time to enjoy the plate of joy afterwards.   

Brand-name is good,  but you don't have to spend that much if you can't afford to.  If you find some Pillsbury Grand biscuits though -- get em.  The bigger the better.  

Now,  I may buy the biscuits,  but I make the gravy from scratch.  None of that packaged stuff.

To start the whole thing off,  I usually get the biscuits on a baking sheet -- ready to go into the oven.  Then I pull out a medium-sized to large-sized,  non-stick frying pan.  If you want to use a cast iron,  then that's your choice.  Depends on  how many people you are going to be feeding.  My 'recipe' is good for 3 people.

Turning on one of the stove burners,  I set the temp at medium heat or medium high,  depending on the stove.  I then lay 4 to 6 slices of bacon in the pan (doesn't matter what brand,  although i prefer the more fatty kind),  and I let it fry for about 3 to 4 minutes.  If you like your bacon crispy,  then fry it a little longer.

I then start to chop a medium-sized onion,  while the bacon is starting to fry.  I only use half of the onion,  but I make sure that it is chopped up nice.  Doesn't have to be diced perfectly or anything like that,  just chopped up nice.

By the time you're finished chopping up the onion,  the bacon is ready to be turned.  Turn it.  Then preheat the oven to whatever temperature it says on the side of the biscuit tube.  Takes a few minutes for the oven to get preheated.

While this is going on,  you can make sure that you have your milk and your flour (all purpose white) ready,  and a plate with a paper towel to transfer the bacon to.  (Just little things to do if you haven't already done it.)  Also make sure you have a bowl lined with a paper towel,  to transfer the crumbled sausage and chopped onion to.

Sounds like a lot,  but it really is simple.

Ok,  by now your bacon should be ready to transfer to a plate,  so do that.  After that,  add a half of a roll of that sausage that you got from the store.  Doesn't have to be name brand if you can't afford it (I prefer the cheaper kind),  it just produces more grease and you need the grease to make the roux -- and you need the roux to make the gravy.

Plop the half roll of breakfast sausage into the pan of bacon drippings,  and with a large wooden spoon or whatever,  start breaking it apart.  Mash it,  cut into it,  do what you have to do to crumble it up into nice-size chunks.  Let those chunks start to simmer in the bacon drippings.  It doesn't take too long,  maybe a few minutes,  until you're ready to add the chopped onion.  Add the onion and let it simmer -- softening the onion and making them tender.

By this time,  the oven should be preheated and your biscuits should be ready to go in.  Depending on the biscuits you buy,  it should probably take between 10 and 15 minutes for them to bake.  No problem.

Stir the sausage/onion around the bacon drippings real good.  You want the sausage browned nicely and the onion tender.  Shouldn't take too long.  5 to 10 minutes.  So they should be close to being ready to transfer to that bowl with the paper towel lining.  Do that with a slotted spoon if you can,  so you can let as much grease drain from the sausage/onion as you can -- back into the pan.  The paper towel in the bowl will absorb any remaining grease,  so don't spend too much time shaking the grease out.

After the sausage and onion has been transferred to the bowl,  you can add the flour to the grease.  I use a large spoon for this.  Not a shovel,  but a large spoon.  If you want to use a tablespoon for this,  that's fine.  Get a decent spoon full of flour and sprinkle it into the greasy pan.  Use your wooden spoon,  and stir the flour around.  This will create your roux,  which will create the gravy.  You will find that you might need another decent spoon full of flour,  and that's fine.  Get another decent spoon full,  but not too heaping.  Add the flour to the roux and stir it around,  making sure that the grease absorbs it.

The roux needs to have a consistency of something that is not exactly thin,  and not exactly thick.  I'd say the consistency of a clam chowder maybe.  (Best example I could think of at the moment.)

Sprinkle a little pepper into the roux and give it a minute.  Let the pepper cook into the roux,  but don't burn the roux.  You want it to be a little brown but not too brown.  Now you're ready for the milk.  Preferably whole milk.  (It just produces better results.)

I like to keep the jug close by.  I don't measure the milk,  but if I had to guess -- I'd say to add about a half cup of milk at a time -- to start out with.  Then use that wooden spoon,  and start stirring.  Not too fast -- you don't want  to cause any waves and end up making a mess.

Stir the roux and the milk,  and use that spoon to press down on the chunks of roux that will start to float around within that milk.  Press it against the side of the pan,  and keep slowly stirring it.  Won't take long for it to start to thicken up.  

Let it thicken up a little until it starts to resemble a thick paste,  and then add another half cup or so of milk -- to thin it out.  Repeat the stirring process.  This might require a total of 2 cups or so of milk,  depending on the size of the pan and the amount of roux you have created.  You be the judge.

After about the third pouring of milk,  the gravy should be starting to come together.  The consistency should be a little thin,  since you have added enough milk to it,  but the roux will be mostly broken up.  The paste-like consistency will be almost gone,  and that's what you want.  

Stir it a little more and make sure that the sides of the pan are scraped free of any dried gravy,  then leave it alone.  Maybe a few minutes.  Stir it a little here and there if you wish,  but you want the heat to create a bubbling effect.  This is how your gravy is going to thicken up.  The heat will cause this bubbling effect as it cooks the gravy.

As your gravy cooks for a minute or so,  you can start adding the crumbled sausage/onion to the mix.  Careful not to make a mess -- you don't want any gravy getting onto the burner.  I'm sure by now,  your biscuits are probably close to being ready to come out of the oven.  If they are ready to come out,  then pull em out and let them cool.

The gravy should be starting to bubble pretty good by now and when it does,  you should start to stir it pretty well with your wooden spoon.  Slowly stir,  all around.  Scraping the dried gravy from the sides of the pan,  and just pressing any of that remaining roux against the bottom or sides -- to make sure that as much of it is being turned into that delicious gravy.

(The process shouldn't take too long,  after the bubbling starts.  Maybe a few minutes.  Just keep stirring slowly until the consistency thickens up a little,  and then turn off the stove and move the pan to a different burner.)

As the gravy begins to cool,  it'll thicken up more.  Use garlic salt,  or garlic pepper salt or sea salt -- whatever seasoning you prefer.  Add a little at first,  and then taste test it.  Add more seasoning if needed.

That's it.

Biscuits should still be warm.  The bacon is already cooked.  Stir the seasonings into the gravy really good and let it sit for a minute or so.  You should be good to go!!

That  is how I make my Sausage Gravy with biscuits.  It's simple and it's delicious.  Hope you enjoy!! 

Friday, August 12, 2011

Al Davis flipped me off

First off,  let me state for the record that I am a San Francisco 49er fan,  and have been since Joe Montana made me cry.  Yes,  Joe Montana made me cry,  but that's not the point of the story.  I'll get to Joe later.  But for now,  this story is about AL DAVIS.  Owner of the Oakland Raiders,  who were previously located in Los Angeles,  and before that... located originally in Oakland,  but then due to some dispute that I have no real knowledge of (nor do I care about),  moved to Los Angeles and then back to Oakland,  and are currently (or so I heard) contemplating moving back to Los Angeles.  Or so I heard.  Don't quote me on that.


I have no dislike toward the RAIDERS.  I actually do watch them play,  when there is no blackout,  but since that doesn't happen very often...I can only rely on the newspaper or ESPN to follow their progress.  I'm a bay area sports fan (other than the A's),  and I do enjoy seeing teams other than my Niners and Giants (not the A's) do well in their respective fields of play.

But this story is about AL DAVIS,  not the Raiders organization.  Even though Al Davis is the owner,  and his actions may reflect the team as a whole,  this isn't about bashing the Oakland Raiders.  And,  if you stumbled across this blog,  you're probably waiting impatiently for me to get to the point.  To the meat of the matter.  So that's what I'll do.

It was probably back in '95 or '96 when this particular event occurred.  I can't remember for sure,  but I was working for a small Italian restaurant chain as a delivery driver.  The restaurant that I worked out of was located in San Jose,  but had several chains scattered around the Bay Area,  including the Milpitas location.  And it was at this particular location where I had my minor confrontation with Mr. Al Davis.  Ok,  let me be clear about something.  For legal reasons,  I can say now that I am not,  nor was I ever 100% certain,  that the person I came into contact with,  was in fact  AL DAVIS.  It could have been Mr. Davis,  as some might call him,  or it could have been somebody who looked like Mr. Davis,  as some people might refer to him...as being.  So,  with that out of the way...

I was working at the San Jose location when they received a phone call from the Milpitas location,  requesting a delivery driver for the evening shift.  One of their regular drivers had called in sick,  and they were a little understaffed.  So,  of course with me being one of the newer guys...I got volunteered.  Which meant that I had to drive the 680 to Milpitas,  which was a pain in the ass because it was just beginning to be rush hour and, well... traffic was going to be a bitch to deal with.  The 680 is also,  if I am not mistaken,  the route of choice by most when heading to Oakland.  I don't travel that way much these days,  but I am pretty sure that the 680 is the one.

So,  after a quick inspection of the vehicle ( safety checklist),  I was on my way.  It didn't take long before I realized just how bad the rush hour was going to be that day.  But,  it was a job and it went with the territory.  After I fought my way through the 280,  I merged into/onto the 680 and traffic seemed to lighten up.  A slight flow began to develop and I,  like the other drivers,  began to jockey for position.  This meant some lane-changing and weaving.  Amateur maneuvering at best,  but it was the norm.  Pretty much second nature to anybody who happened to be more than just a 'Sunday' driver.

As I spotted my chance to grab the open spot to my left,  I noticed a shiny,  freshly washed/waxed Corvette in my rear-view mirror.  The windows seemed to be tinted,  but that's not what I noticed.  Not at first.  What I did notice was that the Corvette was indecisive in it's motion.  It appeared to want to change lanes but then hesitated for some reason.  Well,  as a driver in the flow of rushing traffic,  you have to be on the offense as well as defensive.  You have to take action when you see an opening,  and I did just that.  In a split second,  I changed lanes in an attempt to pass the car in front of me,  which happened to not be moving fast enough.  I had to get around it. 

Unfortunately,  for the 'person' behind me,  I decided to change lanes just at the precise moment when he finally decided to make his move,  and though I did not mean to do it...I CUT HIM OFF.  I cut off the driver behind  me.  Just as he started to make his move,  I forced him to make a second lane change to avoid my bumper from bumping the corner of the front of his shiny,  freshly washed/waxed Corvette.  And let me tell you something...he...WAS...PISSED!!

The Corvette whip around me,  and into the lane to the left of me...which happened to be the fast lane.  He then proceeded to speed up,  to get even with my vehicle,  yet didn't proceed ahead of me.  He just maintained the same speed as I was doing.  Neck and neck with my delivery truck,  for a good two seconds or so.  After realizing that this person wasn't going to let this go,  I finally glanced over--out of curiosity.  And in a brief moment,  the passenger side window rolled down (via battery electric power),  and I could swear I saw a shadowy figure,  who resembled Al Davis,  extending his middle finger toward my direction.  He had the glasses...he had a simliar-looking windbreaker,  and he looked like Al Davis.  Al Davis flipped me off!! 

And as fast as it happened,  the window rolled back up...and the shiny, freshly washed/waxed Corvette was gone.  And the last thing that I could remember seeing,  other than that middle finger,  was an Oakland Raider license plate...darting around and vanishing up ahead.  That's when I put two and two together,  and I got one.  One finger telling me where to go,  because I doubt it was telling me that the Raiders were #1.  That was a different finger.

Now,  I was not positive that it was,  in fact,  Al Davis...but he sure as hell looked like him!!

And,  as far as Joe Montana goes...  He made me cry when he beat my Dallas Cowboys in the NFC Championship game in order to get to their first Superbowl.  Shame on you Joe Montana,  and thank you!!  Thank you for not flipping me off!!

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Surviving a Squirrel Attack

I was driving around the neighborhood the other day,  and I happened to cruise past one of the parks in the area,  on my way to my favorite Chinese restaurant.  Like always--out of habit mostly--I shot a glance over to the large soccer field,  where our local mexican friends traditionally take up their two favorite weekend past-times... soccer and soccer.  And maybe a little drinking and grilling.  It was only Wednesday,  yet my mind still began to wander... and my senses began to imagine the delicious aroma of carne asada drifting along,  like a soothing breeze.  Through the open passenger window,  and straight up my nose.  My mouth started to water.  

And then it happened.  It came out of nowhere--appearing from between two parked,  boxy-looking cars--and freezing for a split second.  My eyes bulged,  my mouth dried up instantly,  and I barely managed to swerve to the left...just before that little piece of sh*t scurried back between the two parked,  boxey-looking cars.  And as fast as it developed--it was all over.  

With my heart  still beating a million times per second,  I continued down the street,  narrowly avoiding what could have been a minor disaster.  Hitting a squirrel would have definitely brought bad karma to my day.  Good thing that didn't happen.  My life was, once again...manageable.  Or was it?  Did I really avoid that little bastard?  Or did I clip his butt just enough to send him flying into the bumper of one of those two,  boxey-looking cars?  Maybe it was a 'she'.  Maybe 'she' was pregnant with little baby squirrels before I put her face first into a "I (heart) Huckabee!" bumper sticker.

Ok,  I may not be the most caring and understandable person out there,  but I'll be damned if I'm gonna let a cute, furry little rodent haunt my dreams for the rest of the week.  So,  I decided to make a U-turn.  Yes,  I was returning to the scene of...well... I don't know.  No real crime was committed.  I didn't have to make that U-turn.  But something,  I don't know what (maybe it was the carne asada still floating around in my subconscience),  told me to go back and make sure that everything was ok.  Squirrel bodies on the road are not a pretty sight;  especially for moms with little tykes in tow.  I had to be sure.

So,  after making the morally correct 'U-turn',  I slowed to an almost 15 miles per hour--cruising past the dreaded spot.  And you know what?  There was no body.  No dead squirrel body.  No deep red puddle of furriness.  I was in the clear.  As I prepared to make a left turn,  down the narrow street that would eventually lead me around the entire park,  and onward to my favorite Chinese restaurant,  I glanced back for a final look.  And,  what caught my eye--and drove the imagined aroma of that damn carne asada away for good--was the sight of...SQUIRRELS.  Many...many...squirrels.  They were flocking from everywhere.  I tried to get my head around,  but it was impossible.  My neck was too thick (not like a chicken neck).  I had to continue down the street--circle around--then come back up on the other side.  So I did.

As I approached the stop sign on the corner,  I casually--not to bring too much attention to myself--pulled to the side of the curb.  Slid it into park, and shut off the engine.  I waited for a moment--to gather myself--before opening the car door.  But before I could do all of that,  my peripheral vision tapped me on the shoulder and said 'Hey,  you reaaaaaaaaaally need to take a look at this!'  

So I did.  Reluctantly.  And there...lined up along the edge of the grass and the sidewalk...were SQUIRRELS.  Many...many...many...squirrels.  Enough to feed a small army (of hillbillies).

I stopped my stare, and swallowed hard.  They were WATCHING me.  Observing me.  For reasons,  I have no idea.  Oh wait...I think I know why.  Maybe I left an empty peanut bag in the back seat,  and the scent of the peanut residue attracted the mass...of...squirrels... No.  That was wishful thinking.  I knew the reason.  They were pissed.  I almost killed one of their own,  and they were not having any part of that.  One of the larger ones,  from the left side,  started to shake his furry tail around...as if to signal to the rest of the group.  Were they planning to attack?  Or,  were they just going to stare me down until the guilt that I thought I felt inside,  became too much to bear.  I was frozen.  I didn't know what was going to happen.  But I knew that I had to get out there...and fast.

I reached for the key,  which still happened to be in the ignition (thank god),  and I started to twist it.  But,  before my hand could make that simple gesture,  I heard a voice.  The voice said... "You can go now."  I stopped,  listened quietly.  Was it god?  Were the squirrels telepathically telling me that it was ok for me to leave?  I turned toward the army of furry little squirrels,  their tails all now shaking and jumping around,  and I opened my mouth...as if to apologize for almost making mince meat out of one of their buddies.  But again,  before I could perform this action,  I heard the voice again... "You can go now!"  Only this time,  it was less angelic and more sinister.  And, it seemed to be coming from the passenger side of the street.  So I turned,  and was instantly shocked back into reality.  Because there,  sitting on the porch of the house directly in my line of sight,  was an old man...in a rocker...with a giant bag of...PEANUTS.  His tree trunk of a walking cane,  leaning comfortable against the paint-peeled porch post.  

He didn't look too happy.  And I could finally see why.  He waved me off with a grunt;  chewing on his toothpick.  "You can leave now!!"  And with that,  I came to a sudden realization.  The squirrel army that prepared to do battle,  was in fact,  not preparing to do battle at all.  There was no revenge in their beating little hearts,  only hunger in their tiny little bellies.  And I was blocking them from the object that they were desiring most.  The big bag of peanuts.  I WAS KEEPING THEM FROM THEIR PEANUTS.

It didn't take long before the old man squawked at me again,  and that was quite alright with me.  I wanted no part of the ensuing feeding frenzy.  I chuckled to myself,  took a deep breath and wiped the sweat beads from my forehead.  Then,  with one last glance at the waiting chorus line of hungry squirrels...I fired up the engine,  pulled slowly from the curb and continued on my way...to my favorite Chinese restaurant.  Hoping,  that squirrels...do NOT like Chinese food!

Monday, August 8, 2011

Alamo Drafthouse is my hero...

Ok, here's the deal.  I happen to be one of the few living, breathing human beings in this world today without a texting gadget.  Raspberry or whatever you call it...I don't own one.  I doubt that I ever will own one, but then again who knew that I would be writing a blog.  "Resistance is futile"--someone once said--so we'll just wait and see.

In the meantime, whenever I find myself zoning out or drifting off, I try and handle it the old fashioned way... WITHOUT TEXTING!!  This is why I am starting to love the Alamo Drafthouse Theater more and more,  but we'll get to that soon enough...
Seems like everywhere I go--public restrooms included--I am reminded of just how many addicts there are out there.  And I'm not talking about the substance-abusers, although that is a serious issue as well,  but I'm talking about the lack of discipline amongst the ADD/ADHD crowd.  Yes, I said it.

Not a minute goes by, it seems, without one of these bozos (ok, maybe not all of them are bozos) jumping on their tiny keyboard...punching away with all fingers and thumbs a blazing.  And did I see some tongue protruding out of the corner of some of those mouths?  It's out of control.  I see it at the grocery stores, the libraries, which of course has pretty much dropped it's 'no talking' policy in order to appease the majority.  Let me say it again...majority.  I am part of the minority.  It makes me shudder.

As I shake my head to this reality, I try and think back when people didn't have texting 'thingies'.  What did they/we do for entertainment?  We/They listened to music, had their/our friends over so they/we could...listen to music or watch a movie.  Or better yet, we/they called our/their friends on the 'telephone' and asked them/us if they/we wanted to go to a movie and hang out, have some fun.  That's how they/we did it.  Wow... We/They are tired of typing/reading they/we aren't we/they?

Nowadays?  It's completely different.  Those same 'friends' are already in the theater lobby, texting their other friends...telling them to come down to the movies, to hang out and possibly have some fun.  Seems harmless enough, right?  They are in the lobby,  they aren't bothering anybody.

Again, this is why I love The Alamo Drafthouse Theater.  The Alamo Drafthouse Theater is a movie theater located in Texas.  Which of course is too far for me to actually visit, but that doesn't erase my new-found love for them.  

Simply put, they (Alamo Drafthouse Theater) have strict rules regarding talking during the movie.  Strict rules.  And this means no cellphone talking, especially.  Violate it and you will be gone.

They started this policy a while back, most likely due to the growing complaints from other patrons about the excessive talking and other annoying distractions, and have reminded patrons of this policy with creative and entertaining PSA's (public service announcements), in which they run before each and every movie.  Famous actors, directors, and even janitors...could be seen in these PSA's.  Reminding people to 'not talk' during the movie, or else.

Simple enough, right?  People complained, these guys listened...and responded.  If you talk during the movie, and are annoying others, you will be kicked out.  Not politely asked to leave, but kicked out.  On your butt, out in the street, in a puddle of sticky soda or slushie...crying your eyes out, threatening to sue the sh*t out of The Alamo Drafthouse.  This is why I love these guys!

They have recently added texting to the list, and quite frankly...it's about damn time.  I don't wanna be distracted by these glowing screens down in the 3rd row or 6th row or even down the aisle from my own precious space.  Turn it off.  Don't leave it on, yet quietly turn it over so it appears to be off.  I can still see the glow!  My eyes are sensitive like that...TURN IT OFF.  You'd be surprised at how many others feel the same way.  At least these guys (The Alamo Drafthouse) are doing something about it.

So, yeah... You could say that I have found a new love, because I just love The Alamo Drafthouse.

Oh, and you can eat food and drink beer there too!!

Sunday, August 7, 2011

A blog is a blog is a blog...

Ok, here it goes...  For the longest time,  I have been resisting this whole thing they call 'blogging'.  I don't care to have a Facebook account,  and only recently have I tried the 'twitter' thing,  but that was for special reasons that I choose not to discuss.

Blogging.  Writing your thoughts down,  like in a Journal or something,  and having mostly strangers read it.  

I asked myself, 'Do I really want to spend my free time telling the world--or at least those who happen to find my little shred of nonsense on the web--my thoughts, be it insightful or just flat-out random at best?'  I asked myself that.  It's true,  I did.  

Do you know what the answer was?  The answer was 'HELL NO!!'

You see,  when I first asked myself that question,  it was quite some time ago.  During a time when I was resisting anything and everything that was even slightly attached to this modern technology surge,  that had taken the world by storm only just a few years ago.  Oh sure,  there were cellphones and whatnot more than a few years ago,  but the push to make it 'better and faster and smaller and whatever'...that didn't happen until a few years back.  Blackberry,  Android,  WhateverBerry,  it was just too much for me to handle.  

People wandering around places like the mall,  the park,  or just walking down the street for pete's sake... Everybody,  it seemed,  was 'wired in'  and the future looked bleak.

Wired in.  Sounds funny,  doesn't it?  Sounds as if we have become something other than human.  Something out of a science-fiction movie.  A zombified android or something,  created to do nothing but receive information and follow protocol.  To obeyTo consume.  Nothing more, nothing less. 

Or at least,  that's what some people think.  I,  for that matter,  believe that everybody has a right to believe.  Just don't irritate the hell out of me while you're believing in whatever it is that you believe,  because I believe what I believe and I don't want you to push your beliefs onto me without my permission.

Why should I write a blog?  Why would anybody else want to hear what I have to say?  Everybody,  it seems,  has a blog.  Everybody wants you to hear what they have to say,  because they have an opinion too.  Or maybe they just want to sharpen their typing skills,  who knows.  I ask again,  Why should I write a blog? 

Because I'll tell you this... A blog is a blog is a blog...period.  It's all about italics,  it's all about bold statements,  it's about what I know or what I am checking out or what I did,  it's all about me, me, me... 'Yes oh mighty Facebook,  tell  me how many 'friends' I currently have,  and tell them to check out my pics of all my friends down at the frozen yogurt shop that I currently work at.'  Or something like that.  

Why would I want to get wrapped up in something like that?  It's so addictive that,  if you aren't careful,  you might end up being lost for good;  swirling around in that black hole,  never to be seen or heard from again.  Disconnected permanently.

Now granted,  I do enjoy the youtube thing,  because I--like most people--enjoy seeing my creation on a viewing screen--be it small or large.  I do enjoy entertaining,  I do enjoy being entertained,  and I do enjoy entertaining myself while entertaining others.  Ok,  that last part is a little strange, but that's fine.  Because,  I am strange.  I am like everybody else out there, meaning... I believe that I am special in my own right.  I have a voice.  And,  I have nobody to talk to.  Ok,  I'm kidding on that last part,  but you get the point.

My point--and yes I actually do have one--is that, like everybody else out there who has a voice... I WOULD LIKE TO BE HEARD!

A blog is a blog is a blog...

It took me a long time to finally admit it to myself,  that in fact,  I might enjoy telling the world (or at least those who choose to listen),  just how much I have to say.  Even if it is one of many,  many blogs out there (just waiting to be ignored by the many,  many...other bloggers out there,  who also have something to say),  I too have something to say.  And rather than waste my time telling it to family members who might not care if I enjoy mixing peanut butter and  jelly with my oatmeal in the morning,  I might as well tell it to the thousands,  if not hundreds of thousands,  that I do enjoy a nice 45 minute nap in the middle of the afternoon while the rest of the world might be working--if they are one of the lucky few to still have a job.  Long story short,  I might as well have a blog.

And to all of you hundreds or thousands,  or even just a handful of people out there who might have stumbled across this blog while searching to see if your newly uploaded high school reunion pics have become public yet,  I say to you...  A blog is a blog is a blog... so why not read mine?  You might get a laugh or two.  You might even leave a comment,  telling me how insightful it was and how much you enjoyed it... Just before asking me to read your blog...and to leave a comment.