Yesterday, as I was searching for recipes of various kinds, I stumbled upon a website,, that intrigues me. The proprietor, who lives in the mountains of British Columbia, enjoys cooking as much as I do, perhaps more. And he shares recipes and cooking experiences that fascinate me. I learned quite a lot by reading through several of his posts. Among other things, reading his website convinced me (not that I needed much convincing) that I really need to get a good meat grinder and sausage stuffer. I realize, of course, I ought not to eat sausage with any frequency if I want my cholesterol to remain in check, but I reckon I can control my intake of sausage just as soon as I develop more discipline. I’ll do that right after I complete my exploration of wanton gluttony. But my gluttony and his website are not the reason I’m writing this morning. No, the reason I’m writing is that I have to write or I’ll wither.

Writing is, some days, more important than breathing. I’m afraid I’ll lose what little ability I have it I don’t use it. Perhaps I’m afraid I’ll forget how to type. Or spell. Or that I’ll lose my ability to build sentences, as a result of squandering my limited facility with grammar. I refer to writing here not as creatively crafting fiction or essays or poetry. I am thinking of writing in the sense of stringing words together with the help of my fingers and a keyboard.

Cooking and writing keep me company. They allow me to sidestep slipping into madness, to the extent that I am able to avoid it. I should include reading in that list; reading helps a lot. I’ve considered what I might do if I were left entirely to my own devices. If I were single and had no obligations, what might I do? I’ve asked myself that question. My answers are never satisfactory. I fantasize about disappearing into the mountains of Mexico. I daydream about slipping into Canada and making my way north to places I could dissolve into the forest. I contemplate living the life of a recluse in New Mexico, far away from the glamour of Santa Fe or Albuquerque. And I envision myself scraping by in New York City or Seattle, living in a one-room apartment with barely enough to pay my rent and eat twice a week. I think, sometimes, I deserve those fantasies. I deserve to be alone and destitute and struggling to make ends meet in unforgiving places that treat strangers with scorn and distrust.

Let’s change the subject. I am relatively certain I could be an assassin if I had no family to worry about. I think I could pull the trigger with absolutely no guilt, no sense of shame, no doubt as to the decency of my act. I would be an ethical assassin, though. I wouldn’t kill just anybody. The object of my endeavor  would have to merit the means of their dispatch. A bullet, clean and quick, would be suitable for some, the ones whose behaviors do not merit premortem punishment. Others might warrant scythes or axe handles across the chest, giving them the opportunity to experience pain equivalent to that they visited upon their victims. Still others might deserve lengthy and agonizingly painful processes such as the removal of their skin with kitchen gadgets, the sort of thing one would use to peel a cucumber. Those folks also would require the application of saltpeter and alcohol on their wounds.

Well isn’t that a cheery diversion from man’s inhumanity to man? I should say so.

Myth. The cause underlying all our problems is myth. Myth as moral education is one thing. Myth as rigid instruction as to how one’s life ought to be lived is another. How can we ensure that myth is not taken literally? I suppose you must start young. Wrench the babies from their delusional mothers’ bosoms and teach them to love their fellow humans. Drag their fathers to rehabilitation centers; change them or use them as fuel. That’s obscenely brutal, isn’t it? That’s where my mind goes; it whipsaws between decency and demonic hatred.

I’ve had enough of the ugly side. I want nothing but decency. Yet I question whether decency can thrive when people like the leaders of alt-right and KKK and other such groups exist. I’d like to think love can change them. But I don’t think that’s true. Hard oak clubs and anger are the only answers, I’m afraid. And that happy thought brings me back to cooking.

Last night, for the first time in all eternity, I smoked a couple of burgers. We bought some incredibly cheap ground beef (73/27 lean to fat ratio) with the intent that I’d smoke it. I had intended to smoke it on Saturday, but I chickened out, claiming I wasn’t in the mood. Then the rains came on Sunday and all day yesterday. Late in the day, there was evidence the rain might taper off, so I decided to go for it. I formed two large patties, sprinkled them liberally with a rub usually reserved for cuts of pork destined for the smoker, and smoked them for about ninety minutes at 225F. Though they were far more “done” than I like (internal temperature around 155F, medium plus), they were tasty. If I had ground the meat myself, I would have cooked them only until around 140F; but I’ve grown skitzy about commercially-ground beef; I’m concerned about bacteria and other such stuff.  Since I had the beef to smoke, I decided to try another unique recipe. I read someplace about cooking wedges of onion in aluminum foil, along with a pat of butter and a beef bouillion cube. So I did. And I decided to smoke an enormous jalapeño, too. I was happy with the results. Although, I must admit, I expected the beef patty to thrill me more than it did; it was good, but not orgasmically good.

I had another vivid dream last night. But I cannot divulge its nature here, lest I ruin an otherwise adequate life. That might become an interesting story line: a man has a vivid dream that consumes him. It’s something he cannot share, not even with his friends and family, because it would reveal him as the deviant he is at his core. But the dream plagues him. Every waking hour, the dream haunts him. Over the course of months, recollections of his dream drives him further and further into madness. He begins to think people he passes on the street have been sent, from his dream, to monitor his every move and to report back to their master (who’s a stunningly beautiful but demonic witch). His distrust of people grows to a distrust of things; he begins to question whether the bread for his sandwiches and the tomatoes in his garden are agents of the woman. Door knobs and hinges become her listening devices, so he avoids them. Dogs cannot be trusted any longer; they may operatives working for her. A woman friend’s friendly embrace becomes, in his twisted mind, a coarse, public sexual encounter with the witch. He cannot drive a car because she might appear at any moment in the passenger seat, a chef’s knife in her hand and an evil smile on her lips. He cannot draw the shades on a window because he might see her face peering in from the other side of the glass. He dare not open his mouth, lest her tongue find its way in. Not that any of that stuff sprang from my dream; but, still, I won’t write about it, at least not now. Instead, I’ll write about coffee.

Have I mentioned that my first adult encounter with coffee occurred while I attended the University of Texas in Austin? A machine, which in return for a dime or a quarter, dispensed coffee (or so it was called) introduced me to coffee. Oh, I’d had it before, but I needed to be awake and alert and focused on learning. So I turned to drugs. In those days, for me, drugs meant caffeine. Coffee. Black swill created from a mix, I assume. Instant coffee. It must have been instant. It was awful, but I drank it, nonetheless. I had not friends; did not know anyone in Austin. So I drank coffee alone. Coffee from a machine. And no one noticed me. I was invisible then, too. Coffee did not make me visible. But it gave me the sense that I was an adult. Or I think it did. Hell, my recollections of my college years are almost as sparse as my memories of my youth. I’ve lived sixty-three years, yet most of that time is gone; not even captured on film. I wonder why I cannot recall almost my entire lifetime. There’s probably a reason. Maybe it too closely resembles that dream I dare not share. Or remember.

About John Swinburn

"Love not what you are but what you may become."― Miguel de Cervantes
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