Monday, March 28, 2011

Sarah Palin Is A Good American

“Appreciation is a wonderful thing: it makes what is excellent in others belong to us as well.” – Voltaire, French philosopher and writer (1694-1778)

One of the greatest gifts in my life has been the ability to understand and appreciate those with whom I may have little if anything in common. It has nothing to do with religion and everything to do with my foundational belief that no matter your race/creed/color/political/sexual/ philosophical orientation, we are all just Bozos on this Earthly bus and simply want to live our lives to the maximum before we take the dirt nap. That appreciation allows me to love the family and friends with whom I share almost no like-mindedness.

Former Alaskan Governor Sarah Palin is the perfect example of a person with whom I seemingly have not a single molecule of agreement with on anything, but nevertheless appreciate and find endlessly fascinating and entertaining. For those who know me personally, via Facebook or this blog, that statement may come as a surprise, because my status as a Hardcore Progressive Liberal DemocRAT would have me at complete odds with anything that Ms. Palin would say, think or do. They would be 100% correct in that observation, but it would also mean I have a one-dimensional, single-minded view of this new Conservative American icon, and I most certainly do not.

When Grampy McCain blew up the 2008 elections by choosing her as his running mate, no one could have known the scope of her impact on the national psyche. She was brash, beautiful, polarizing and the perfect foil to spoil Barry’s huge Denver nomination party, held the night before her presentation to the national stage. She sucked the air right out of the Obama campaign, and they fought like mad to counter her dramatic visage right up to election night. It was Grampy's Hail Mary pass, and he succeeded in making the Presidential election a very close race with her by his side.

Fast-forward three years and look at what’s happened. Sarah has become a Conservative firebrand, a media darling, the Teabagger heroine, a political gadfly of the highest order. Just the mention of her name sparks intense adoration and/or hatred, and the kind of buzz that modern politicians have tried to generate since the Kennedy-Nixon debates. There’s been lots of thoughtful analysis about why she’s had such an impact on our media and political discourse. Some have said it’s because Conservative women dream of being her, while Conservative men dream of having sex with her. She is their ideal, their manna, their godhead… they idolize who and what she is, what they believe she stands for. Many Republicans publically dismiss her, but secretly they fist-bump her efforts and silently cross their fingers that she will keep doing exactly what she's doing.

Before I go any further, let me be clear on where I stand regarding Sarah Palin: I think that she is a dangerous moron, a barely-educated simpleton who has no business being a political icon, let alone a person who should consider herself suitable for the office of President of The United States of America. Her worldview is based on extreme religious fundamentalism, bumper-sticker rhetoric and a lack of inquisitiveness that makes George W. Bush look like a Rhodes scholar. I shudder to think of her wielding actionable political power... she wears her ignorance and venality like badges of honor. She inserts her overwhelming dumbness into every aspect of our modern political dialog, spewing the kind of regressive word-salad moralizing that marks her as a truly awesome idiot.

WHEW… now I feel better.

All that said, it does not lessen her importance to our political discourse. As much as it pains me to admit it, she has a strong resonance with a segment of our society that actually believes her regressive ideology. Her coronation as Queen Teabagger is a direct result of her influence, and this can be a powerful tool for liberal progressives when trying to figger out what makes her tick, if they would bother to hold their noses and look closely. As has been happening all over the country since the election of Barack Obama, conservative ignorance, lies, fear and hatred of ‘the other’ has yielded massive gains in Republican power from local city councils to the halls of Congress. Sarah Palin has tapped into the fear-mongering quasi-Reaganish ‘American Morning’ baloney that conservatives want to believe is the American ideal.

And that’s why I understand and appreciate Sarah Palin, because no matter how vehemently I disagree with her, I also believe that she is a Good American.

We have a two-party political system in this country and, as much as the Teabaggers (who are in truth just severe-Right Republicans), the Greens, the Peace and Freedomers, Whigs and any others might bitch and complain, it’s really all about Republicans and Democrats. Sorry, that’s just the way it is at this point in time. We practice a form of scorched-earth adversarial politics that has become truly awful and heartless and vicious. Everyone demonizes everyone else, and it tends to push moderates of both parties into one extreme camp or the other. Once that push is done, it’s easier to convince the faithful of either party that the other side is hell-bent on destroying them. It’s all so childish and poisonous, but it works.

Sarah has staked out her territory on the farthest edge of the Far Right ideology, and it doesn’t matter what the issue is, you can know with certainty where she’ll stand on it. She has every right to do so, and the people who support her have every right to do so, too. It makes me crazy to see them flail around in their blinded sense of purpose, but it is of no consequence to them. She is simply fulfilling The American Dream, and for that I am truly thankful. She offers us evil libruls an excellent benchmark of crazy conservatism, and I’m sure we provide the opposite-side same for them. That is a good thing, because it offers context for both sides as a measurement of the other. How we interpret the context is another matter entirely.

For most Lefties, Sarah is the perfect example of unfettered conservativism run amok. For many Righties, she is a magnificent standard bearer of the one true American way. I view her with a mixture of contempt and awe and admiration, because I see in her the best (and worst) of what our country is made from, of what makes us vital and strong, even though I know to my core that her political philosophy is dead wrong. I also know that she views DemocRATs, liberals and progressives as a treasonous cancer that must be smashed into submission and forced to follow her God-approved Amerikkan values. She certainly does not view President Obama as a Good American… she likely doesn’t even think he’s an American citizen at all.

She would definitely not consider me a Good American. I am a staunch defender of every woman's right to decide for herself whether or not she wants to give birth. I support marriage equality, no matter the sex of the people involved. I reject the concept of organized religion or religious dogma of having influence on our government in any way, shape or form. I support an expanded immigration policy that promotes and supports immigrant rights and provides a streamlined access towards citizenship. I support national efforts to eliminate oil and petroleum products as the central aspect of our energy policy. I reject the antiquated concept of gunboat diplomacy when dealing with our international allies and adversaries. I support increased restrictions towards individual gun ownership, sales and use.

You get the picture. In each case, Sarah Palin supports the diametric opposite view, and because of that I am not a Good American, at least in her eyes. I honestly think she is so severely limited in her world view that she can't even imagine the merits of opposing viewpoints. It could also be a clever ruse, but I doubt she is that calculating. I firmly believe she is who she purports and presents herself to be.

It is a sad fact that highlights the current and unfortunate differences between conservatives and liberals, Republicans and DemocRATs. For the most part, liberals will accept their opposites as simply having a different viewpoint, will try and rationalize that difference and see how a consensus can be developed. You know... pussies. Not so with modern conservatives, who openly seek to destroy every vestige of liberalism, remove the liberal dialog from the national conversation and prevent it from having any impact on the New Conservative American Morning. Don't believe me? Try watching Fox News for a day and you'll get a face-full of the 'search and destroy all liberals' message every minute, every hour, all day long. Ew.

Will Sarah run for President in 2012? My gut feeling is a resounding NO, because her track record of work experience shows her to be a weak leader, ready to cut out at the first sign of trouble or distress or difficulty. I believe she likes the position she holds right now, because she can spout and fume and bloviate and screech whatever her pea-sized brain can generate, and she’ll be paid handsomely for those pea-sized fulminations. She’ll have no real responsibilities, can rake in the Benjamins and avoid doing any real hard work… you know, like reading and stuff, also. Too.

I kid.

I want Sarah to go for it, to run for President of The United States of America. She's a Good American, and I thank her for having the chutzpah to jump into the deep end of the political pool. As much as I disagree with her regressive policies and insane theocratic vision for our nation, I have a deep appreciation for her willingness to put herself out there, to suffer the slings and arrows, to bask under the intense heat of our dubious electoral process. She seems to revel in it... I reckon any political figure these days has to, otherwise, why bother? I have often considered running for local political office, but I have far too many skeletons dancing in my closet, am too liberal and outspoken, tend not to pull punches. I would not make a good politician in these perilous times. I don't want to wear a target when surrounded by 'patriots' with guns, knowwhatImean?

But Sarah and me... we are both Good Americans, even though I don't reside in the 'Real America' that she panders to. Sarah may think I am the enemy, the anti-American, the problem which must be eliminated, but that's OK. In this country, we can have our individual opinions and speak and write them (mostly) with immunity, with freedom, with salience and conviction, without fear of retribution. If Sarah had an understanding of our individual rights regarding free speech and the First Amendment, maybe she would focus on that learning thing a bit more before she opens her pie hole and once again demonstrates that stupid is as stupid does.

Yep, Sarah may be dumber than a bag of rocks, but it doesn't change the fact that she is a Good American. Just like me.

'Stupid Girl' by Garbage vid, Gracias de Youtube; Sarah Palin image Gracias de

Monday, March 7, 2011

Enchiladas: Like Heroin, Only Tasty and Nutritious!

"Approach love and cooking with reckless abandon." -- The Dalai Lama

Since I'm in the process of trying to write a Mexican food cookbook, I figgered with the length of time it might take to write/edit/re-write/re-edit/fund/publish/distribute a dead tree-based document, why not throw a morsel out and see who jumps in to scarf it down like a hungry wolverine (wolverines are COOL).

This recipe is the culmination of years devoted to experimentation, disastrous outcomes and piles of half-cooked food tossed into the dumper because I lost focus and messed it up. That, plus some really good advice from my Dad. Thankfully, the reader will benefit from my mistakes and, as long as the recipe is followed somewhat closely, the result will be KILLER ENCHILADAS. Natch, there are countless versions of this dish, all of which will be claimed are better and/or more authentic than mine. Guess what? I DINNA CARE. This one works for me, and as long as my wife likes my enchiladas, I am a happy wolverine.

The amazing dish known as enchiladas (en-chee-la-das) is one of those multi-purpose players in Mexican cuisine that is delicious when prepared correctly, horrible when prepared incorrectly, and subject to change without notice if cooked without the right planning and/or ingredients.

Basically, an enchilada is a corn tortilla that has been briefly fried in oil, dipped in a sauce, filled with cheese and other assorted ingredients, then rolled into a tube. For the classic recipe, a whole bunch are made up and laid into a roasting pan side-by-side, where they are drenched with more sauce and cheese, then covered and baked before being served to a table of hungry wolverines.

There are popular variations to this basic recipe, which include Sonora-style (tortillas stacked like pancakes with a fried egg on top) and chilaquiles (chee-la-kee-les), a Mexican home-cooking favorite that is basically an enchilada casserole. Both of these variants will be detailed later, but we’ll begin with the traditional classic rolled enchilada. Once you have this recipe down, it will be requested for EVERY pot-luck lunch or dinner you are invited to for the rest of your life. Have no fear… your enchiladas will RULE.

Short stack of cloth kitchen towels (NOT the good ones!), deep fryer or high-sided frying pan, medium-sized sauce or frying pan, dinner plate, 13”x 9”x 2” roasting pan (or disposable aluminum equivalent), various large cooking spoons, cooking tongs, spatula, aluminum foil, cold beer, peanut gallery

Note: I use a Presto 'Fry Daddy' deep fryer for all my recipes that require deep frying. I'm on my second one, as the first finally packed it in after frying zillions of tortillas. It was hard to let go, being a gift from my wife and all, but the new one was only $30 from Wal-Mart. I've made funnel cakes, fresh tortilla chips (NOM!) and fried shrimp in it. If you like to cook Mexican or fried foods, this unit is a good investment in kitchen appliances.

Three (3) dozen fresh (packaged, non-frozen) corn tortillas, 2lbs. Cheddar or Longhorn cheese, four (4) cans of chopped Black olives, one (1) each large and small can of Las Palmas (or your favorite) ‘Mild’ enchilada sauce, vegetable oil, cooking spray, onions (if you must), additional stuffings (pre-cooked beef, chicken, pork, chiles, etc.). If you use frozen corn tortillas, which I do quite often, separate and lay them out on towels until they thaw completely, which only takes about 15 minutes. Be sure to flip them over a few times during the thaw and keep them as flat as possible.

This is one of the more complicated (but not difficult) Mexican food dishes to cook and assemble, but with the right tools and workstation layout, the process goes quite smoothly. In fact, I sometimes draft my wife to assist with making a big batch of these, although I can perform solo with no problems – it’s just more fun with two.

My kitchen is laid out with a stovetop on my left and sink on my right, with a counter top in between. As I am right-handed, I work from left to right with the cooking and assembly, laying out the utensils with my assembly strategy in mind. I also like to cover the whole countertop area with cloth towels to lessen any spillage mess. Hey, we’re cooking, right?

1. Preheat your oven to 350 degrees.

2. Grate 1lb. of cheese, empty all four cans of chopped olives into a single container, chop your onion, unwrap the corn tortillas and fan them out on the counter to allow any excess moisture to evaporate. Stash the cheese and olives in the fridge until right before you start cooking.

3. Pour the large can of enchilada sauce into the saucepan and simmer for around 30 minutes, stirring occasionally. This is an important step, as you must cook the sauce down a bit before it will be thick enough to properly coat the tortillas. Be sure to give it a taste and season as you wish, or add a little water if too spicy for you and yours… no shame in avoiding an end product that no one will enjoy because it’s just too spicy.

4. Line your roasting pan with aluminum foil and spray the bottom and sides with cooking spray. If using a disposable tray, you can eliminate the foil but be sure to spray the pan anyways.

5. Once the sauce has simmered and is ready to use, plug in your deep fryer, add 2 inches of oil and wait a few minutes for it to heat up. To test, drop a small bit of tortilla into the oil – if it begins to sizzle crazy and cook right away, the oil is hot enough to begin. If using a frying pan, add the oil and heat up on medium-high until the tortilla bit sizzles as described.

6. Set out the cheese, olives, onions, stuffing meats and chiles on your workstation to prepare for assembly.

7. Take one long swig from your cold beer, wave to the peanut gallery watching, and get ready to roll!

(Click to play cool cholo-style recipe-reading music)

1. Using the cooking tongs, immerse one corn tortilla into the oil, allowing it to cook for about 5 seconds, then grab and flip it around and cook for another 5 seconds. Once done cooking, grab the tortilla and hold it over the fryer to drain off any excess.

2. Immerse the cooked tortilla into the enchilada sauce, covering it completely – no need to turn it over. Once coated, GENTLY lift the tortilla from the sauce and place it on the dinner plate.

3. IMPORTANT – wipe off any excess sauce from the cooking tongs NOW before you make the next enchilada. You DO NOT want to dip the tongs back into the oil with sauce still on them unless you enjoy hot oil splattering all over your head and shoulders. If you have two sets of tongs, use one each for the oil and sauce – otherwise, DON’T FORGET TO WIPE (heh heh heh).

4. Take a small handful of cheese and place it in a line onto the sauced tortilla, adding a small amount of chopped olives and any additional chiles or meats you want to include, but do not overfill. Using your hands, gently roll the tortilla over and around the filling. You have just made an enchilada!

5. Using a spatula, pick up your newly-rolled morsel and place it into the roasting pan.

6. Wipe your hands off, and repeat these steps until you have rolled enough to make one complete layer in the roasting pan. Carefully ladle additional enchilada sauce from the pan over the entire layer, then continue until you have rolled all three dozen corn tortillas… it’s OK to layer them into the pan. You may need to grate some extra cheese during this process, but it will be used anyway, so no worries. If the sauce begins to run low, empty the small can of sauce into the pan and simmer for 15 minutes before continuing. Have another beer.

7. When the roasting pan is full of your rolled enchiladas, ladle some more of the sauce on the top layer, cover the whole shebang with more cheese and scatter the remaining olives over the cheese.

8. Cover the pan o’goodness with aluminum foil, place into the pre-heated oven and bake for 30 minutes. The aroma of your efforts will drive you mad with enchilada desire after about 15 minutes, but be patient… soon come.

9. Remove from the oven, uncover and serve to the assembled ravenous wolverines. AMAZING.

The process for making Sonora-style enchiladas is similar to the classic rolled style, but instead of rolling each tortilla with cheese and other goodies and placing them in a pan, lay each sauced tortilla flat on an oven-safe dinner plate and sprinkle your cheese and stuffings in a thin layer on top, then place another sauced tortilla on top of that, continuing on until you have a ‘short stack’ of flat enchiladas. Make up enough plates for your dinner guests, then stash them in a warm oven to melt down the cheese while you fry up a few eggs, sunny-side up or over-easy. Remove the plates from the oven, sprinkle the stacks with cheese and olives, then lovingly place a fried egg on top of each stack and serve. ZOWIE!!

According to people who know these things, the enchilada variation known as chilaquiles (chee-la-kee-les) is the real old-school recipe for enchiladas, all done in one frying pan. There are two justifications for this simple method: 1) what else can you do with leftover enchiladas, and 2) can you image a mamacita rolling up dozens and dozens of enchiladas for her entire family while the kids are running around and papacita is calling for another cerveza (beer) and the abuelitas (Grandmas) have just arrived for dinner? I don’t think so.

If you have leftover enchiladas and want to do something different with them, just chop and toss them into a hot frying pan with a little oil, cook until crispy on the edges and serve. To make them from scratch, this recipe is a simple casserole consisting of corn tortillas, enchilada sauce, cheese and olives – other chiles and meats are best left as side dishes, and you’ll understand why once you’ve made these for the first time.

Short stack of cloth kitchen towels (NOT the good ones!), large frying pan with lid, spatula, another cold beer

Three (3) dozen fresh (packaged, non-frozen) corn tortillas, 1lb. Cheddar or Longhorn cheese, two (2) cans of chopped Black olives, one (1) each large and small can of Las Palmas (or your favorite) ‘Mild’ enchilada sauce, vegetable oil

Unlike the rolled enchiladas, this dish is prepared in one large frying pan, so with the exception of having a few kitchen towels around, the workstation is all about your stove top.

1. Cut the corn tortillas into chip-style triangles – the best way is to take a stack of tortillas, cut them in half, then cut each half-stack into three sets of triangles.

2. Grate the cheese and prepare the olives as before.

3. Place your large frying pan on the stove top and heat up for a few minutes on medium.

4. Pour a few tablespoons of vegetable oil into the pan, allow to heat up for a minute and place the tortilla triangles into the pan. Toss the tortillas a few times to coat them with the oil and cover the pan.

5. For the next 20 to 30 minutes, remove the lid and toss the tortillas and cover again every 5 minutes. After a bit, the tortillas will begin to brown slightly and start crisping up, but this is a good thing! You may need to add a bit more oil to the pan while the tortillas are reaching cooked mega-deliciousness. While we’re not making tortilla chips, it is important for all the triangles to get thoroughly cooked and firm for the sauce and simmer stage coming up next.

6. When the tortillas are semi-crispy and slightly browned, sprinkle a handful of cheese over them and toss until the cheese is melted.

7. Open a large can of sauce and SLOWLY pour over the tortillas. There will be some spatter and mess, but it will be minimal if you take your time. Gently turn over the tortillas until the sauce has integrated throughout, allow the sauce to begin a medium simmer, then reduce the heat to a low simmer and cover again.

8. During the next 30 minutes, remove the lid every 5 minutes and gently turn the tortillas before covering again. You will see the sauce begin to cook down the liquid and the remaining sauce will become thicker and richer. DO NOT STIR THE MIXTURE – gently toss. This is why the tortillas were cooked so much before the sauce was added, otherwise the whole thing will turn to mush. Tasty mush, but mush nonetheless.

9. When you are satisfied with the consistency of what is now officially chilaquiles, reduce the heat to LOW, place several handfuls of cheese on top to cover the mix and sprinkle on some olives. Cover and let sit for another 5 to 10 minutes or until the cheese is completely melted.

10. Pop that lid, breathe in the aroma of the gods and SERVE!!!!!!

Something my wife discovered after the first time I made her a batch of traditional enchiladas: THEY MAKE AWESOME LEFTOVERS. Naturally, a second or third meal from all your cooking efforts is a welcome surprise, but our personal favorite is to munch them served with eggs. Whether for breakfast, lunch or dinner, this combo is hard to beat.

I know… it may sound a little weird, but you have my personal guarantee on this – fry up a couple of eggs, heat up any leftover enchiladas or chilaquiles, toast up some bread and plate it all up with some sour cream and cheese and YOU WILL BE HAVING THINGS. You know, wolverines love fried eggs.

So... enchiladas. Mexican soul food. One of the singular best delicacies I have ever stuffed into my pie hole. When I make them, I feel closer to my Aunt Peggy and Grandma Silva and Dad and all the people who instilled me with a deep and abiding love of this style of cooking. Make them... eat them... savor them... love them.

El sabor de mi vida loco.

Videos of 'Viva Tirado' by El Chicano and 'Sabor a Mi' by Eydie Gorme y Trio Los Panchos, Muchismas Gracias de youtube; image of enchiladas and eggs by Oblio.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Dancing In The Dark

Several months ago, I wrote about how certain songs can push me into a mental time-slip, allowing me to instantly travel to a specific place in the distant past of my 55 years. I wish that I had some control over this phenomenon, but it just sorta sneaks up and goes BOOM when one of those songs drifts into my conscious state. I am powerless to stop it. I just let it roll and see what mental images, sights, feelings and emotions pop up from my gray matter’s hard drive.

As I’ve only recently discovered, the musical time slippage is usually keyed to a strong emotional happenstance. It doesn’t seem to matter if the connection is good or bad, pain or pleasure, because none of those emotions are wrong, they are just… human. Methinks they are what really separates us from the rest of the life forms on this small Blue Planet. At least, the acknowledgement of those emotions, because I believe there are many other life forms dwelling here that feel emotions, but are not quite capable of understanding the resonance they hold. Wasted effort compared to, you know, surviving.

‘Born On The Bayou’ by Creedence Clearwater Revival is one of those songs, and when I hear it I whip back to the same place, every time.

‘Born On The Bayou’, released on their 1969 ‘Bayou Country’ LP, had become a major hit for the band. As a fevered 8th grader at Willow Junior High School in Southern California, I was enthralled with this new ‘swamp rock’ sound, all moody and slow and a little sleazy and sexy. So it was no surprise that on a certain evening in late 1969 or early 1970, I was among a gathering of guys and girls who found themselves together, dancing in the darkened Willow choir rehearsal room to a stack of vinyl 45rpm singles, moving as only junior high schoolers can.

I don’t know if it was a normal practice for other teens in dem days, but for some strange and wonderful reason I remember being at lots of dance parties, sometimes at a friend's home or in a school cafeteria, and always with the ever-present chaperones hovering on the fringes. This time, though… I cannot recall there were any adults around, and I remember the electricity in that beautiful darkened room. There was likely a single bank of accent beams glowing just to keep the place from going totally dark. Oh yeah.

I remember the girls were all cute in that junior high way, wearing mini-skirts or culottes or some other junior high-approved fashion of the day. We guys had crushes on the girls, and I’m sure they knew it and played us like little fiddles. All we knew was that cute girls were dancing with us, fast and slow, and they smelled good and moved good and were smiling and laughing and clapping their hands and spinning around and flinging their hair and they made us a little crazy.

And there we were, perhaps three dozen guys and girls, about the same age of 13 or 14 years young, dancing and moving and flirting and swaying and posing and trying to be cool. Most of us knew each other, so there was no veil of anonymity. We’d done this before, so the familiarity helped with the mood of friendly teenage lust, the kind junior high schoolers used to have all the time before rampant libidos and unfettered freedom and electronics smashed down the borders we shared. There we were, dancing, and one song ended and the next single dropped onto the spinning platter and the needle drifted gently down and clicked into the groove.

That’s when the magic happened. I will never, ever forget it.

(Click to play for a relevant sountrack)

The first sounds of ‘Born On The Bayou’ are a stretched guitar chord that morphs into a sequence of notes and chords, and it slowly choogles into the melody, pure rock sexuality. We had been dancing in a scattered fashion all over the place in that barely-lit room. But for some reason, when this song came on, something came over us. As the intro filled that room, we began to form two long lines, one of guys, one of girls, facing each other with about ten feet between us. No one spoke, no one said ‘HEY… let’s get in a line!’ Nope, nothing like that... it was unspoken and it just happened. We were all dancing in place, and the guys were facing the girls who were facing the guys. Our parents would have recognized the set-up for ‘The Stroll’, but we knew nothing about that. It just happened.

The song was swampy and sexy and we all danced facing each other across that ten foot space. Then, without a word, one guy and one girl at the far end dropped into that space and began to dance side-by-side and slowly danced to the far end of the line, then took their place in line again. How we all seemed to move in synch evades me now, maybe we weren’t in synch at all, but I remember everyone swaying and dancing in a weird unison. The ‘inside’ couple were a matched pair, shuffling and dancing along between the lines, with the rest of us whooping and clapping and doing the same where we stood. Eventually, it came time for me and my female other to ‘drop in’ and so we did. I think during that 5-minute plus song, we rotated thru the lines at least twice, each couple taking the limelight in a room with very little light. When the song ended, another single dropped and began to play, and the lines scattered and some of us danced and others went outside or went… someplace else?

Why this song, this moment, this memory? What made it so special that I whip-saw through time when this song plays? Was I smitten with puppy love for one of those cute dancing girls? I know that sometime during that party, one of those girls and I snuck into the small adjacent storage closet and necked for a few minutes… nothing serious, just goofy French kissing and, you know, necking… nothing more. For the life of me, I can’t remember who it was, but I know that I was over the moon for the rest of the evening, and her sweet perfume stuck to my Pendleton shirt like the nectar of the gods. How many other couples snuck off like we did, creating a vibrant memory or (more likely) none at all?

I don’t remember who all was dancing in that room, but I know they were all my friends, my classmates, guys I liked and girls I wanted to ‘go around’ with. I know that many of them were among my classmates in high school, and mebbe I even dated a couple of the girls when we got older. Some of them disappeared into the time/space continuum, never to be seen or heard from again. I can sit here at my keyboard, close my eyes and see the choir room and people dancing, but the 41 intervening years have fogged the names and faces in my mind's eye, perhaps now gone forever. But the two lines dancing, the moving, the necking, the music... it never fades, never leaves me, always stays with me and offers a mental anchor to another time, another place, another person that was me.

Was it a simpler time? My first reaction would be 'Yes', but it's really a matter of measure. Compared to our parents, we were all little rebels with flared pants and untucked shirts and hair over our collars, or too-short skirts and nylons and heavy eyeliner and mebbe a pack of smokes hidden in our locker. We thought of ourselves as awkwardly unique, as so totally different and misunderstood. Such has it always been for each succeeding generation of youngsters who sneer and sniff at the previous pack, all old and responsible and, you know, parental.

I'm glad that I was in junior high in 1969 and 1970, because now I know that it was a time of major change and upheaval, of so many new things to see and touch and eat and love and hate and want. It was all good, and I was barely a teenager and every day was filled with youthful anticipation. And now, as I recall those teenage minutes and hours and days, I get it. It is with me instantly, every time I hear 'Born On The Bayou' and the guitar chords progress and time slips and I am once again in that darkened choir rehearsal room, dancing and laughing and feeling strange and gawky and alive. Just like right now.

Choir rehearsal room image, Gracias de; 'Born On The Bayou' vid by Creedence Clearwater Revival, Muchismas Gracias de Keep On Chooglin'.