Graham Beck and Cave-Aged Gruyère = Happiness

Posted by: elraymundo at 6:33 pm on Tuesday, July 21, 2009
From: Great Falls, Virginia
Filed under: Euphoria, Lotus Blossom, Liquid Diet

How does it feel to be home again? It feels cave-aged Gruyère and scrumpdillyicious Graham Beck good! And how cool is The Debra? This is what she had waiting for me when I got home from work today. Total score. \m/

Wine and Cheese

TeamRaymond Across America - Day One

Posted by: elraymundo at 7:36 am on Tuesday, April 15, 2008
From: Great Falls, Virginia
Filed under: Random, Liquid Diet, Mystery Fawn

Bloomington, Indiana
Written in the kitchen of Lisa’s studio apartment at 6:30am while Debra and Lisa sleep
Miles today: 638
Total miles: 638
Number of states: 6
Number of McDonald’s stops: 2
Today’s route: Great Falls, VA -> Cumberland, MD -> Wheeling, WV -> Columbus OH -> Indianapolis, IN -> Bloomington

Indiana is flat. Flat like the Netherlands. Except if you kick a hole in a wall of dirt in the Netherlands you’ll put the entire country under water. No such risk in Indiana. But they might make favorite son John Cougar Mellencamp sing at you.

We arrived in Bloomington at just past 9:00pm last night with 638 miles under our belt. Lisa walked us to an Irish pub, the Irish Lion, where we ate dinner and each drank a pint of Newcastle Brown Ale. It was our waiter’s first night on the job and, while we ate, his trainer had him sampling the pub’s various beers. By the end of our dinner he was smiling a lot, and when he picked up our signed credit card receipt he pointed to some stacks of pint glasses and said he had been sampling beers from each. There were six stacks of pint glasses.

Some notes from the road:

Mile 0 ~ 8:47am: Debra had a hard time leaving the house. Sitting in the Jeep in the driveway, looking at our house and pulling away was really tough. It was our first house and when we bought it, it was just another vinyl-sided box in Northern Virginia. All the walls were off-white and, after about four months of living there, Debra hated the place. Then we put in hardwood floors, painted all the walls, hung French Doors, remodeled the powder room and made a whole host of other changes and over time it became home - our home. And over 28 combined years (ye gods!) of time living in Virginia, we’d both put down roots with people that we cared very much for. Combined together, leaving the house and leaving friends made a pretty potent emotional cocktail and pulling out of the driveway was difficult to do. In fact, we only got as far as the Bloom grocery store around the corner before I pulled over and we talked things through and I reminded Debra that we have friends and family in California, too, all of whom love us and are waiting for us. That conversation helped and we managed to drive away from the neighborhood. But it was with a knot in the gut.

We drove through Cumberland, Maryland, on I-68, and I explained to Debra that the Cumberland Gap was where the early pioneers broke through the Appalachians and into the wild lands of what is now Ohio. I think it was round about there that Davey Crockett killed him a bar when he was only three. (I think only my parents and other readers over the age of 50 will get that reference - and that’s no typo on “bar”. :: :smile: ::)

Mile 150: Crossed the Eastern Continental Divide. From now until we cross the other continental divide in Colorado, all water will flow to the Mississippi and out to the Gulf of Mexico, as opposed to the Atlantic, where the water flows on the eatern side of the divide.

We stopped at a McDonald’s in Cumberland to use the restrooms. In the men’s room they were playing Duran Duran and, as a result, the next hundred miles of Appalachia were driven while humming Hungry Like a Wolf.

Mile 166: We passed under an overpass, across which ran Pig’s Ear Road. I thought of Tiffany Taylor, who grew up in Cheeks, Texas, where they have a road called Burrito King Boulevard (seriously!) and another road called Pig Nut Road. So, Pig Nut Road, meet Pig’s Ear Road.

Mile 176 ~ 12:40pm: We passed into West-by-God Virginia.

Mile 220 ~ 1:41pm: We passed into Pennsylvania. At this point I was in the midst of three consecutive conference calls, trying to assist with an email migration while struggling to keep a decent signal and wondering when the grey, brown and leafless trees in the Appalachians would bloom and turn green.

Mile 500 ~ 6:50pm: We stopped for gas in Lewisburg, Ohio. On the wall in the men’s room, above the urinals, were two gun metal grey vending machines selling condoms, which one can buy by dropping fifty cents into a slot and turning a knob - like a gumball machine but with rubbers. Anyway, pretty standard truck stop stuff. Except this one made me laugh. “EAR PLUGS NOT INCLUDED” it said above a cartoon drawing of an…hmmm…how do you say in your country? an ecstatic blond woman. Below the cartoon the sales pitch continued: “If she’s a moaner it will make her scream! If she’s a screamer it will get you arrested!”

Wow! I thought. All that…for just fifty cents!

So I dropped in my money and the machine ate my quarter.

Kitchen Poison

Posted by: elraymundo at 9:16 am on Saturday, January 26, 2008
From: Great Falls, Virginia
Filed under: Lotus Blossom, Liquid Diet

I’m concerned about the fact that there is a very large bottle of Budweiser in our refrigerator. We don’t drink Budweiser. In fact, I’m of the opinion that Budweiser shouldn’t be used for toiler water, that’s how low my opinion is of Budweiser’s place on the evolutionary ladder of beer.

Then LaRay wandered into the living room, chattering about her menu for our dinner with Chad and Anna tonight, and when I didn’t pay enough attention to her beef daube provençal, she asked me what I was writing. Instead of telling her the truth that it was a love note to the hot teenage checkout girl at Safeway, I lied and said I was writing about the bottle of Budweiser I found in the fridge this morning.

“It’s for cooking purposes only,” she said with great seriousness. LaRay doesn’t have a high opinion of Budweiser either.

“So it’s not for drinking,” I said.

“No,” she assured me, “it isn’t. It is for bread making.”

“Shouldn’t we use a higher-caliber beer than Budweiser? Are you sure we won’t be poisoned?”

“It’s only there for a chemical reaction with the baking powder.”

“So it’s not there for any flavor? Because Budweiser has no flavor.”

“No, it’s only there for the chemical reaction. In fact, if you use a darker beer, meaning something with actual flavor, it actually makes the bread bitter. Remember the last time I made the bread, you asked me if there was beer in the mix? That meant the beer I used was too strong - God forbid, I used Yuengling. But they can’t just come out and say ‘use a flavorless beer’ in the recipe, so they say, ‘use a light American beer’ which indicates something flavorless. Hence, Budweiser.”

Don’t Look at Me, I’m Improving My Lie

Posted by: elraymundo at 11:17 am on Sunday, December 2, 2007
From: Great Falls, Virginia
Filed under: Lotus Blossom, Liquid Diet

Had a good night out in the District with La Raymunda last night. I picked up a new bottle of Scotch, the Caol Ila 12 y.o. that Jim recommended. I think it’s the first bottle of anything (other than the occasional Newcastle) I’ve bought in the last six months. Maybe longer. Afterwards we walked to Zola, she with her face scrunched down into her windblock fleece (it was cold and windy and she was under-warmed), and had a real nice dinner that we really couldn’t afford, but we did it anyway and, as Hemingway would have said, it was good.

My dinner
(I don’t remember what Debra had…if you want to know, write to her and tell her to start her own blog, this one is all about me me me)

  • Truffled Sheep Ricotta Tortelloni appetizer with fresh anise crema, truffles, shaved manchego this was like eating a cream and butter bomb encased in perfectly cooked pasta…yummy
  • Sautéed Arctic Char with oysters, bacon, spinach, tomatoes, oyster root puree also very tasty…the sauce was, as the tiger would say, grrrrrreat!
  • Zola Lobster Mac & Cheese (we split this) “This has nutmeg. I hate nutmeg,” she said. I said, “I know I’m going to hell for saying this, but I’ll say it anyway, I prefer the Kraft mac and cheese with the cheese dust.”
  • a mojito excellent, but La Raymunda’s are better
  • a glass of the Navarro Correas 2005 Malbec from Argentina, where women display their breasts and the men love them for it (described on the wine list - the wine, that is, not the breasts of Argentine women - as “a sumptuously-styled wine, fresh and fruity with a velvety texture and a spicy mature finish. Yummy!” I would agree, it was a tasty wine…but how does one “style” a wine? Hair gel? Curlers? Is mousse involved?
  • a glass of the Cerbois XO Armagnac I’ve been looking for a good, reasonably-priced Armagnac and saw this for sale at Central Liquors, where we bought the Caol Ila. I didn’t buy the bottle because I was already buying the Scotch, and I’m glad I didn’t…I thought the Cerbois XO was thin and watery…so did LaRay

For dessert we split a chocolate bundt cake with housemade cherry ice cream and a chocolate crisp.

The whole bill set us back about three Outbacks and we’ll probably be eating rolled flour tortillas stuffed with shredded cheddar cheese for the rest of the week, but we needed the night out and I’m glad we did it.

Is there any way possible to get a Mulligan on 2007?

Why Can’t It Smell Like Rose Petals in the Rain?

Posted by: elraymundo at 8:25 am on Monday, March 26, 2007
From: Great Falls, Virginia
Filed under: Lotus Blossom, Family, Liquid Diet

Jeff Watson AI Threat Level: Green - The reader may proceed without danger of reading anything related to American Idol.

- - - - -

With our fifth wedding anniversary coming up in May, La Raymunda and I are trying to decide if we should stay home and have a weekend of wild monkey sex where we should go for our second honeymoon.

We spent Sunday morning in bed. I brewed a pot of coffee and brought a cup to The Debra, who was propped up on the Throne of Pillows with her laptop fired up and her reading glasses on. I handed her the cup and crawled into bed and read “The River at the Center of the World” while she surfed and drank her coffee.

“Ooh, look at these photos from Mesa Verde,” she said. I leaned over to look at the laptop screen and rested my head on her shoulder. The screen was full of images of ancient Pueblo ruins: homes built into the cliffs, the sandstone glowing in the sun. “Beautiful,” I said.

Debra turned her head so her lips were inches from my face. Looking down at me over the tops of her glasses, she said, “Where do you want to go most? We need to decide if we’re going to Mesa Verde for one week or to London for four days.”

Blistering red-hot flames erupted from her mouth as she spoke, followed by the scorched potpourri scent of hellfire and brimstone. It was a direct blast of coffee breath from point-blank range. I felt my face melt and the unnerving sensation of flesh sliding off the bone. My nose drooped down onto my chin like melted Silly Putty and the flames wrapped around my head sucked the water from my eyes.

Behold the cataclysm of eternal damnation, the Lake of Fire, the charred and smoking pit of Hell that I had been warned about all those years ago in Sunday School. All my sins had finally come home to roost, and payback was snuggled beside me in my bed in northern Virginia.

Finally, the searing heat died and as the pall of heavy black smoke and the lingering tang of sulfur lifted, I reached up with my flame-withered hand and took Debra’s chin and gently turned her head away from me and back toward the laptop.

“That’s pretty strong coffee you’re drinking this morning,” I said.

Scotch Whisky & Heroin

Posted by: elraymundo at 11:53 pm on Wednesday, March 21, 2007
From: Great Falls, Virginia
Filed under: History, Books & Literature, Jokes, American Idol, Nature, Liquid Diet

Q: What’s the dirtiest line ever uttered on television?

A: “Ward, I think you were a little hard on the Beaver last night.”

- - - - -

Ran five miles today, surprisingly easily. Learned a lot about castles on the History Channel in the process. Also set June 24 as Marathon Day.

Total mileage thus far: 70 miles.
Weight lost: 7 pounds (A colleague of mine at the Place of Toil and Labor said, along with my eating more, that my body could be storing any extra calories as reserve energy due to the higher demands I’m putting on said traitorous body, and that once my fat backstabbing uncooperative self figures out that this running-business is normal activity that it will release those calories and the weight loss will resume. Or begin. Or not. I’m holding out hope that a crash diet of scotch whisky & heroin cocktails does the trick.)

- - - - -

Google Earth image of the Yangtze River's hairpin turn

Started a new book last night - The River at the Center of the World, by Simon Winchester. Interesting premise: that the existence of China, the history of the Far East and even the world would have been different had the Yangtze River, which rushes south from northern China for several hundred miles, not “slammed head-on into a massif of limestone, ricocheted and cannonaded off it and then promptly thundered headlong back up to the north.”

Winchester speculates that, had the river not made that hairpin reversal of course at Cloud Mountain, a hairpin turn which apparently doesn’t occur to any other major river anywhere else in the world, the Yangtze would have continued south parallel to the Mekong, passed out of China and dumped itself into the Gulf of Tonkin (Vietnam) instead of becoming the great waterway that served as the backbone of trade, communication, unification and conquest that made China the power it was in the past and is becoming again now.

- - - - -

“I thought Sanjaya was good last night,” said Jeff the security guard.
“You mean his rape of The Kinks?” I said.
“Yeah. I thought he did good.”
“Jeff, have you ever actually heard The Kinks?”


“There’s more to rock ‘n’ roll than jumping around onstage and screaming like a fifteen year old playing air guitar in his underwear in his bedroom.”

Somalia Got My Toaster Just the Other Day

Posted by: elraymundo at 8:32 am on Friday, March 16, 2007
From: Great Falls, Virginia
Filed under: Stupid People, Friends, American Idol, Liquid Diet

Chatter around the Place of Toil and Labor’s imaginary water cooler shifted away from American Idol and to the movie The Wiz.

Michael: Maybe we could work Sanjaya Malakar into the Michael Jackson role and rekindle the old Diana Ross/Michael Jackson relationship thing.
Tiffany: That would be scary.
Michael: We could re-do The Wiz.
Tiffany: (laughs)
Michael: Hey, what role did Michael Jackson play in The Wiz?
Tiffany: He was the Strawman, I think.
Desireé (from behind her cube wall): Strawman!
Michael: I’ll check IMDB.

type type type

Michael: Yup, Strawman. Hey, I didn’t know Richard Pryor was in The Wiz!
Tom: He was the token black man.

…pregnant pause…

Michael: Um…dude, everyone in The Wiz was black!
Tiffany: Everyone!
Tom: I know, I know, I’m just making a joke and failing as usual.

Bernard (quietly and from far away): Not everyone in The Wiz was black.

Tiffany: Yes they were!
Michael: Wha-a-a-t?
Tiffany: Who in The Wiz wasn’t black?
Desireé: Yeah, who in The Wiz wasn’t black?

Bernard (prairie dogging out of his cube): Michael Jackson was in The Wiz.


I’ve insulted Jeff and doubtless will have to buy him copious amounts of pale ale to attain forgiveness:

Jeff: Sorry Michael, but you can’t get me to read about American Idol on your blog by either:

1. Mentioning me
2. Mentioning Galactus

Won’t happen.

Michael: What if I work in beer, The Clash and some DC characters?

Jeff: Nope, not even beer and punk rock can make me care about washed up R&B singers and the fake, scripted competition of maudlin amateur wannabes. And DC comics? C’mon, was that an insult?

* I blame Aquaman, the worst super hero in the DC Comics universe, for Jeff’s feeling insulted. No one respects a super hero in green tights with no powers other than the ability to get dolphins and porpoises to do the heavy lifting for him while he hangs out in the underwater lair of Stupidia smoking hookahs with the Queen of the Sea Monkeys.

Maybe I should have specified the Green Lantern. Maybe then it would have been all right.


P.S. “Somalia got my toaster just the other day” is a lyric from “Here We Go Again” by Stakka Bo - one of the oddball tunes I picked up while migrating across Europe many ages ago. It happened to be playing when I wrote this post.

Legal Disclaimer: Stakka Bo is in no way affiliated with, nor endorses, DC Comics (especially Aquaman).

Don’t Snort Whisky

Posted by: elraymundo at 7:32 am on Thursday, September 14, 2006
From: Great Falls, Virginia
Filed under: Lotus Blossom, Liquid Diet

The evocation of sudden pain and intense suffering does not always elicit the most gracious or delicate of words. The humble priest can be forgiven a curse when he slams his thumb in a window sill, and I’ve heard stories of otherwise demure women turning the air blue when giving birth. With that in mind, it’s to be expected that detonating forty sticks of dynamite within one’s nose just might cause a slip of the tongue.

How do I know? I know because last week I accidentally snorted Scotch whisky up my nose.

I don’t know how it happened, exactly. I know that La Raymunda said something as I was taking a sip and I don’t know if I laughed or inhaled or what exactly happened but the entire sip of whisky shot up the back of my nose and LIT MY FACE ON FIRE. My eyes watered like a burst dam and I snorted and hacked trying to clear my head and a booger shot into my glass of Scotch. A roaring torrent of hearty Anglo-Saxon expletives, typically reserved for bedroom antics of intense fervor or “Imitate a Sailor Night” at the local biker bar, erupted from me, each word blistering forth while I - sweating, weeping, and snorting - leapt about the basement waving my arms in the air while Armageddon raged inside my nose.

The nearest parallel experience I can think of is the scene in Pulp Fiction when Mia Wallace snorts a line of heroin off her coffee table thinking that it’s cocaine. It was like that, but much, much worse. And you saw what happened to her.

For those of you who do not know, the spectrum of single malt Scotches ranges in intensity from “wuss” on through to “wolverine.” I prefer the wolverine. To help you understand what I mean by “wolverine”, here is an excerpt from an earlier post about Scotch from that end of the spectrum:

“Imagine trying to eat a live wolverine, but you’re wearing silk jammies and smoking a pipe on a wharf on the North Sea at the same time. A combination of claws and ferocity mixed with silky pampering and seaside tastes and smells. I have no idea why one would try to attempt to eat a live wolverine, or lounge on a wharf in Hef’s get-up, but you (perhaps) get the point. There’s a lot going on here, and not all of it is safe and good – which is the way I like it.”

Now, imagine that ferocious clawed mammal - but on fire – up inside your nose.


Life Sucks and then Your Godson Makes a Joyful Mess of His Oreos

Posted by: elraymundo at 11:03 pm on Wednesday, April 26, 2006
From: Great Falls, Virginia
Filed under: Friends, Liquid Diet

Today I had to tell Annette, a dear, dear friend of mine, that we would not be able to work together on the government web portal project for which I had chosen her. People above me decided we would go with another vendor and the two and a half months of work Annette and her team had done were down the toilet. I stopped by Trader Joe’s on the way to her house to break the news and picked up three bottles of Don Miguel Gascon malbec for her, Judy, and Bill as a way of saying thanks for the effort and I’m really very sorry it didn’t work out. Too bad Bill and Judy weren’t around; Annette and I plowed through 1½ bottles (presumable Judy’s and half of Bill’s…or maybe the other way around) and a pizza out on the back porch before Karla got home and saved us from stupidity. Everyone is still friends, of course, but that doesn’t change the fact that it’s no fun breaking bad news – especially to someone trying to make a go of it as a small independent business. Then, on top of it all, to deepen the mood I sat in the basement and listened to Barber’s Adagio for Strings. That lifted my spirits. At least the wine was good.

On a happier note: Devon, Annette and Karla’s son, turns five in four days. That’s him up above enjoying his Oreos.

If you ever do need state-of-the art professional design work done - high-end top-notch stuff - be sure to consider Gildea Media Group. Tell them El Raymundo sent you. And ask for an orange pen.


Posted by: elraymundo at 6:05 pm on Saturday, February 25, 2006
From: Great Falls, Virginia
Filed under: History, Art, Travel, Friends, Architecture, Liquid Diet

Old Town Square

Prague! My favorite city in the world! The Debra and I just got back from a quick four day visit - a first for The Debra and my first since I lived there 12 years ago. Great times!

I showed Debra the city; walking Prague was something I always enjoyed when I lived there. Prague is imminently walkable - the center is compact - and simply jam-packed with beautiful buildings all crammed together one after another after another. Never bombed in the Second World War, save for a little German artillery practice designed to keep useful ammunition out of the hands of the advancing Red Army, Prague’s architecture has survived intact. The results are streets lined with ornately masoned buildings from one epoch packed tight against those from another, each with gorgeous swirling stone carvings above windows, gargoyles, terra cotta roofs, and half-columns emerging from the walls. It’s really a breathtaking place to walk.

Then you get outside the city and see what the Communists built. Shoeboxes poured-over with concrete. Grey small-windowed utilitarian shoeboxes stuffed together in ugly lots at ungainly angles with no imagination, grace, or beauty. But if the Soviet-style buildings on the outskirts are so fugly, why go there? you may ask. Why, to visit the Hare Krishnas, of course!

I arrived in Prague in 1993 with $1000 and no clue how to pronounce Jiřího z Poděbrad or Smichovské Nádraží (I figured it out) and spending money much too quickly on food and lodging. I stumbled into The Globe bookstore (sadly, removed from Holešovice and now located just down the road from the National Theater - and missing its former charm) and learned about a restaurant called U Govinda run by Hare Krishnas - all you could eat for 25 crowns! Less than a buck! The food was tasty, like nothing I’d had before, and it was true, you could eat all you wanted. I became a regular and eventually was invited, along with my good friend, Peter George (the only person I’ve ever met who hails from the island of St. Helena) to their commune south of Prague for a Hare Krishna festival where we ate vegetarian food and a giant cake shaped like a dancing blue Krishna while a cow walked among us, its neck strung with a garland of wild flowers . We watched an American television program about the HKs, subtitled in Danish and dubbed in Czech and reclined, patting our tummies while the initiates danced and sang “hare hare lama lama” and shone beatifically. Good times for all. And twelve years later U Govinda is still there. That pleased me. And that is why The Debra and I were out in Prague 8 at Palmovka, surrounded by Soviet shoebox buildings and chomping on cream-filled donuts from Delvita grocery store.

Here are some pictures of Prague that The Debra took. Click them for bigger images.
Astronomical ClockAstronomical Clock - Detail
Astronomical Clock, Old Town Square
Charles Bridge CanalCharles Bridge
Charles Bridge Canal and People
Jewish CemeteryTitan at Hradcany
Old Jewish Cemetery and a Titan at Hradcany
St. Vitus CathedralSt. Vitus Cathedral - Interior
St. Vitus Cathedral, Exterior and Interior




An act of throwing someone or something out of a window.

[From de- + Latin fenestra, window.]

Czechs invented defenestration, the practice of pushing Catholics out of the windows of very tall towers, as a means of political change and to spark bloody religious wars. Here a man demonstrates to his colleague the proper technique for defenestrating a Catholic and igniting a Christian Holy War.


This fellow may be plucking grapes from the vine to make into wine. Back during my wandering days, I drank a lot of red wine in Prague, a vintage called Frankovka - mostly because it was cheap. Less than a buck for a bottle at the Bio-Market on the Malá Strana side of Charles Bridge. When I went back last week I had to drink a glass, just for old times’ sake, which I did in a small pivnice in Malá Strana.

And how was the Frankovka after so many years? Oh, like dog pee. But not as smooth, and with more of a kick.

Jo's Bar

A lot changes in a city in 12 years. The James Joyce Pub was wrecked when Prague flooded in 2002 and never re-opened. The Thirsty Dog is now a jewelry shop selling Czech garnets and Bohemian crystal. The Repré Klub at Obecní Dům is now Smetana Hall and instead of hosting stoned patrons crashed on red couches waiting for dawn and for the Metro to start back up it now hosts reputable concerts. The Globe has moved and lost that lovely happy-accident feel of “Holy Smokes! We opened a bookstore-slash-cafe and it worked!” Prague has found and embraced the tourist dollar, and who can blame it? But one thing remains the same, and that is Jo’s Bar. It’s still there, folks, straight off the bridge into Malá Strana, down just a little ways and on the left off Malostranské Náměstí.

KGB T-Shirt

Czech humor from the Museum of Communism on Na Přikopé. One exhibit in the museum stated that efforts to enact the principles of Karl Marx cost over 100 million lives worldwide.

John Lennon Wall

There is a wall on the far side of Charles Bridge upon which for thirty years images of John Lennon have been painted. In Communist days, the police spray painted the wall to obliterate the paintings of John. Within days, John would reappear. This went on and on, back and forth, until the French Ambassador, who could see the wall from his office and who enjoyed the images of John Lennon on said wall, asked that they remain. The Communists relented and the wall has been a canvas for graffiti ever since. Sadly, the classic painting of John is long gone, replaced by this sad interpretation. Can someone with some talent please swing by the wall and give John a chance?

Milada & Jitka
Milada and Jitka, my favorite people in Czechland and two of the best people I know. Ahoj Milado! Ahoj Jitko!

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