Interesting Person #7: The White-Haired Gentleman and the Angels

Picture by okasasteve via Creative Commons

Picture by okasasteve via Creative Commons

The gentleman pauses, one table away from me, removes his hat, and folds in front of himself like an elegant gentleman. He waits until I look up from my laptop computer. “Excuse me,” he says. “May I ask you a question?”

“Of course,” I say. He probably needs directions. Perhaps if his overcoat weren’t so clean and his white hair neatly combed, I might expect him to ask for money. His real question is neither of these, and nothing I could have dreamed.

“I noticed, when you came in”–he hesitates between each phrase–”that you bought your coffee and came directly to this table, without even looking around to see if there was someone here you might want to talk to … which is okay, of course. There’s nothing wrong with that. You’re probably busy–I see you have your laptop out, so I guess you’re working. Maybe you just don’t have time to talk to someone like me.”

That’s not entirely true. I had looked around before I selected my table, and I chose the one most distant from the other customers, the table least interrupted by the baristas’ blenders…. (Continued …)

OxyContin Irony

Oxycontin list

How ironic …

I spent the first half of the day plotting the deaths in a murder mystery using (abusing) OxyContin. I spent the second half of the day in kidney stone agony, for the first time dipping into the prescription painkillers that the hospital doctor had prescribed just in case I needed them while I try to pass this thing.

When I read the label, I discovered that it is the generic form of the same one I plotted in the murders.

On the bright side, I had an already-prepared safety checklist. All those things I had researched for the murder plot? Don’t do them.

  • I did not crush them. 
  • I did not wash them down with liquor. 
  • I did not overdose. 
  • I did not die.

Hey, Somebody Likes my Pico de Gallo! has chosen my page about pico de gallo as the page of the day, and it’s features at the top of their home page. Considering they have about two million pages, and they can only choose 365 pages of the day (366 this year), this seems to be quite an honor.

This page is my usual Squidoo mixture of storytelling, humor, and honest information. Check it out if you want to learn more about salsa, salsa fresca, pico de gallo, farmers’ markets, and the hottest peppers in Paris Crossing, Indiana. (And it’s true! Not like my fictional Quacker Holler, Tennessee.)

An Asian Street Market in St. Paul, Minnesota

Hmong Dresses Hanging in the Hmongtown Marketplace

Hmong Dresses Hanging in the Hmongtown Marketplace

What a wonderful experience!

Where can you get the best-looking green beans, onions, peppers, papaya, sugar cane, lemongrass, and ginger root … and chicken feet … and brightly colored embroidered dresses … handmade knives, rakes, and hoes … and rent a DVD … and do it all in one stop? Only at the Hmongtown Marketplace, in Frogtown.

The marketplace is in a collection of warehouse buildings, a converted lumberyard. We huddled under our umbrella, trying not to let the 40-degree wind blow the cold St. Paul rain in our faces. When we stepped through the double glass doors, however, and heard the Oriental music blasting from a karaoke machine, we thought we had been transported magically to a southeast Asian street market …


It Was a Cold Day in April …

Bundled-Up People at the St. Paul Farmers' MarketThe girl behind the meat display wore a crocheted cap, a winter coat, and gloves. “When I have to stand over here by the table, the wind blows right up my coat. My butt is cold!”

Such is the life of a meat vendor at the St. Paul Farmers’ Market on opening day. It was 40 degrees, windy, and raining. Welcome to Minnesota!

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Guide to the Twin Cities Farmers’ Markets

Peer down the aisles at tables loaded with red heirloom tomatoes, white onions, green chives, yellow marigolds. Breathe deeply, and inhale the aroma of fresh-cut basil and rosemary and cilantro. Listen to the jazz band playing, to the road of cars passing by, and to a hundred voices, vendors answering questions about their products, children translating for their non-English-speaking parents, husbands looking for their wives, who are looking for their favorite stalls.

Admit it: Going to the supermarket is a chore; but visiting the farmers’ market is an adventure in an agrarian wonderland.

But what metropolis has more farmers’ market choices than the Twin Cities? Minneapolis, St. Paul, and countless suburban sites. With all these options, how should you know where to go? Want directions to the closest market? Want only local vegetables? Want a variety of local and imported? Or looking for the place with the most granola, or ice cream, or bison meat?


The secret to perfect pecan pie

Out back of my grandmother’s house in Lumpkin, Georgia, towered a grand old pecan tree. Whenever we visited in the fall, we would collect a grocery sack full of pecans, and Granddaddy would shell them while he watched the TV news. We kids could eat those pecans almost as fast as he cracked them.

Those pecans were perfect. It was a wild seedling tree, not one of the commercial varieties. Pecan experts claim that seedlings produce poorer tasting nuts; but that tree in Grandmother’s backyard defied the experts, producing pecans that were smaller and sweeter than store-bought pecans.

Grandmother would mix a cup of nuts with syrup, sugar, and eggs, and make a perfect pecan pie. The crust was golden brown, the filling the color of honey, and it smelled like heaven.

I had Grandmother’s recipe. I had Grandmother’s pecans. I made a pecan pie, which looked and smelled like the cigars that Granddaddy used to smoke.

To read the secret to perfect pecan pie, check out my most recent article on Squidoo, The Secret to Perfect Pecan Pie.

What? No gay monks or nuns at St. Marlene’s?

Everyone knows that nuns are secret sexy lesbians, right? (It frightens me to see how many hits on this blog are from people Googling “hot sexy nuns.”) I was raised a good Southern Baptist, taught from an early age that Catholics become priests or monks or nuns because they are secretly gay and are hiding their sexuality.

So why don’t my stories set at St. Marlene’s, the monastery and convent in my fictional hometown of Quacker Holler, Tennessee, have gay priests? And why no gay monks or nuns? Who am I kidding?

Because that’s what everyone expects me to do

It’s a cliché, and behind any cliché, one rarely finds the truth.

Sure, I have known some gay priests. Like the one who always went outside to smoke during the breaks at RCIA class. “I’ve given up sex,” he used to say. “Surely God will allow me one vice.” More than likely, I have known some gay monks and nuns, although I am not aware of who they might be. It’s just that the odds are against me not having known any gay monks and nuns.

So what?

I have also known many straight priests, monks, and nuns who have chosen to devote their lives to their mission, serving people and serving the Lord. Why should we assume that they are gay, just because they have chosen service before sex? For that matter, why should we assume they are straight? Why would it matter?

Please don’t feed the stereotype

That myth that everyone who takes a vow of celibacy does so because they’re gay and can’t admit it? It belittles their true commitment to their mission. It minimizes them as people by reducing them to nothing more than a pop psychology truism. Even most of the gay clergy took their vows for the right reasons, and not just to hide from their sexuality.

That being said, who says there aren’t gay clergy at St. Marlene’s? Just because I don’t have any stories where the nuns climb into each other’s beds when the lights are out, that doesn’t mean they’re all straight. All it means is that they are true to their vows.

The truth is, some of the monks and some of the nuns likely are gay. But since they’re celibate, nothing in their actions tells us which monks and nuns are gay, and it doesn’t matter anyway.

Some clergy are gay, and some are straight. Fair enough. Let’s judge them by what they do, not by who they love.

Twin Cities Farmers Markets: Updated with Winter Hours!

On a sunny Saturday morning in downtown St. Paul, hooves clacked against the pavement and metal-rimmed wheels rattled as the horse-drawn wagon transported me from our parking space underneath nearby Highway 52, with the roar of trucks overhead and the greasy smell of diesel engines, to an agricultural bonanza in the heart of the city. Beneath the St. Paul Farmers’ Market’s awnings at the corner of Fifth and Wall Streets were tables laden with the bright colors of a Minnesota spring: red rhubarb, green spinach, white onions, and a vast bouquet of yellow and purple and pink flowers.

I inhaled the aromas of mint, lavender, and basil that wafted throughout the market, …

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