Saturday, September 28, 2013

Damned Rodan's Ribs of Fire


Back when I was a fry cook at Shoney's — 1978–1979, there or about — I never would have imagined I might actually derive pleasure from cooking. Somewhere along the line, though, I took a liking to preparing simple but satisfying dinners for me and the occasional guest. Grilling up dead animal has always provided some measure of satisfaction, largely because my dad, when I was a kid, cooked mighty mean steaks and spare ribs, and it was a rare dish that could compete with them. His barbecued beef ribs in particular used to send me swooning, and it was only recently that my attempts to replicate them found even the smallest measure of success. My means to this end, however, could hardly be more different.

A while back, I was listening to The Splendid Table on NPR — a hopelessly stuffy and dry show, though nonetheless occasionally informative — and one of the segments highlighted a particular chicken joint where, after frying their bird, they dipped it in boiling barbecue sauce. Something about this process fascinated me, so I decided to give the same thing a try with my beef ribs. What a joyful decision this proved to be!

Needless to say, being an aficionado of the supremely hot, I doctor up the critter something fierce. Here's how I do it, in case you'd like to try. Note that the ingredients vary a bit, based on what I have floating around in my fridge and spice cabinets. I quite prefer charcoal to gas grilling.

DAMNED RODAN'S RIBS OF FIRE (serves 1–2)
What You Need:
4–6 beef short ribs
approximately 2 cups fiery barbecue sauce (see below for ingredients)
garlic powder
salt & pepper

The Sauce:
The exact recipe varies from occasion to occasion, but the hot stuff is always prevalent. Measures are approximate, to say the least.
1 cup basic barbecue sauce (I prefer hickory or honey flavor)
1/2 cup A-1 steak sauce
2 tbsp Worcestershire sauce
2 tbsp rice vinegar
2 tsp hot sauce (favorites include Blair's After Death, Iguana XXX habanero pepper sauce, Krakatoa hot sauce)
1–2 minced hot peppers (ghost pepper, habanero, serrano are favorites)

What You Do:
Mix the ingredients for the sauce thoroughly. Liberally dash garlic powder, salt, and pepper on the ribs (this is the only preparation I do prior to putting them on the grill). Once the grill is ready, place the ribs on the coolest part of the surface. Turn frequently, keeping the smallest ribs farthest from the most direct heat. Just before they're ready to come off the grill — about 20 to 25 minutes, depending on their size — I put them all in the hot center for a few minutes to let the outside get crispy.

Shortly before removing the ribs from the grill, start the sauce boiling at very high temperature. Once it's bubbling furiously, dip each rib in the sauce for about one minute, so that each is nicely glazed.

Serve immediately. A cold beverage goes exceedingly well with these — though, when I'm feeling masochistic, I've been known to accompany them with a Damned Rodan's Dirty Firetini.

Try 'em... you'll like 'em.

Saturday, September 21, 2013

Lyra's Lair 4

Old Rodan signs Lyra's log.
In 2007, I discovered geocaching when I went searching online for some information about the trail system at Doe Run Park in Martinsville. I have always enjoyed trail hiking, as it can be particularly inspiring when I'm brainstorming ideas for a book or story, as I was at the time. The first link that came up when I Googled the trail was for something called "Lyra's Lair" at Geocaching.com. As read through the listing, I learned that geocaching is a kind of high-tech scavenger hunt, in which you use a handheld GPS to locate hidden objects, each of which contains a physical logbook you sign when you find it. This whole premise fascinated me, and I discovered that the number of geocaches lurking around me, no matter where I went, was prodigious. Even before I owned a GPS, I set out to find a few, and once I did — in early 2008 — I was hooked. And, if you have ever visited this blog, you probably know that I've been hard at it ever since.

There were actually several "Lyra's Lair" caches, all numbered, hidden in and around Martinsville (and elsewhere in Virginia, for that matter). There is one — number 4 — that has been leering at me since I started caching. It was hidden back in 2002, and it resides up on Turkeycock Mountain, a few miles northeast of town. The cache location is pretty remote — about four miles from the nearest gate, and the gates are closed when it's not hunting season. Last night, a fellow geocacher, Mr. Todd "ttbiker" Briggs, sent me a message, wondering whether I might be interested in attempting this long-lurking oldie. Since, fortuitously, I happened to be in Martinsville at the time, I figured sure, why not.

Now, since I was a youngster, I've heard tales of the Turkeycock Mountain rattlesnakes. The place is supposed to be infested with them. Even last night, a friend of Todd's admonished him to beware of rattlesnakes. However, there's a cache in those woods, and when there's a cache in the woods, the rattlesnakes are just going to have to suck it up. Sulk if you must, snakes.

The morning proved drizzly and foggy, but we both preferred this to hot, muggy weather. Turns out, we both quite enjoyed the rather eerie atmosphere the dense mist provided. The hike out to the cache was virtually all uphill, but mostly on gravel surface, with little bushwhacking until we actually reached ground zero. It took several minutes of hunting, but soon enough, Todd called "Found it!"

Those are welcome words when you've undertaken a four-mile hike uphill specifically to find a cache.

The hike back was a bit easier, since it was mostly downhill. The fog remained with us for the entire journey, at times getting so thick we could barely see a thing beyond the road's edge. We did notice one object we had failed to see on our way to the cache — a sign for a graveyard dating back to the 1800s. Of the graves themselves, we could find nothing apart from an ancient, weathered stone that might or might not have been a grave marker.

Nor did we find any rattlesnakes. It was almost disappointing — though I can safely say I'd just as soon not tangle with a rattlesnake if he insists on being in a foul mood. Other than fantastic numbers of spiders (shades of Spider Finch Park), a box turtle was one of the few wildlife specimens we encountered during our time out there, though there were plenty of signs of others — deer, opossum, raccoon, and horse tracks, not to mention bizarre human footprints in the mud, heading inbound while we were on our way outbound. Whose could those have been, I wonder!

Conquering Lyra's Lair 4 couldn't have been much more gratifying. And in such good company.

Maybe next time, snakes.
The creeping fog remained with us for the whole journey.
One of the few wildlife specimens we encountered
Lyra's Lair 4 peeking out from its hiding place
Mist obscuring the mountainside beyond the lake

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Spider Finch Park

It's been some time since I undertook a pretty big geocaching outing all by my lonesome. I was hoping for the company of a couple of distinguished cachers of my acquaintance today, but, sadly, circumstances didn't work out. So, since I have to travel some distance to hike after caches I haven't already found, I made my way solo toward Lexington, NC, to explore a couple of geocache-rich trails. First was Finch Park, along Abbott's Creek. It's named for the Finch family, but it is apt, considering the proliferation of finches I saw flitting all about the place. In even greater proliferation, however, were spiders, with webs stretched between just about every tree in the woods — most of which I managed to personally discover. Sure enough, it's the season for them, but I've hiked in the woods every spider season for I can't count the years, and I'm pretty sure I've never seen them in such vast numbers. Big ones, little ones, hairy ones, bald ones, dull-colored, bright-colored. Now, I didn't see any of those gigantic, Buick-chomping wolf spiders hanging about, but come nightfall, I guarantee you, those woods will be crawling with them. It would be most interesting to go out there spider hunting at night with a bright flashlight....

Upon my egress from the trail, I found myself wrapped like a mummy in spiderweb, so I took the opportunity to de-web myself. From there, I headed over to City Lake Park, a few miles to the north, which is a bit more extensive, trail-wise. The terrain is generally moderate, certainly compared to the Haw River Trail I hiked a couple of weeks back (see "Haw River Bison," September 2, 2013), though once you get out a ways, the trail peters out, and the bushwhacking occasionally requires considerable effort. I was most taken with one particular cache that required an enjoyable tree-climb; it's not as high as all that, though you sure as hell wouldn't want to fall out (unless you're one of those who bounce when dropped from the heights).

At the end of the day, I had put in about six miles, plus the climb, and added 27 caches to my total (which now stands at 6,274). I will tell you this, I haven't been this sore in a long while; the legs are aching as if King Kong gave them a couple of good tugs. When I got home, I rounded out the evening with some of the best barbecued spare ribs I ever made — even better than my dad's, which I didn't think I would ever manage. Perhaps when I'm not quite so exhausted, I'll post the recipe.

I sleep now.

Click images to enlarge.
Looking up from the base of a massive, three-trunked ghostwood tree. Wow, Bob, Wow!
The dam at Lexington's City Lake Park
King Kong's water faucets
Big mama tree at Finch Park, which towers over everything else in the woods.
L: Vampire tree at Finch Park; R: Yeah, the cache is on up there a ways.
Ahh! Another slimed ammo can. Shoggoths?

Friday, September 13, 2013

The Captured Bird


On the heels of The Hound, here's another rather Lovecraftian short film for your enjoyment. This one is The Captured Bird, written and directed by Canadian writer/filmmaker Jovanka Vuckovic, produced by Jason Lapeyre, and executive produced by Guillermo del Toro. In this one, the atmospheric music and visuals come together to create a perfectly creepy mood — to me, it's just the ticket for a Friday the 13th, not to mention a fine lead-in to the Halloween season (my favorite time of year). The ending quite makes me smile.

The complete seven-and-a-half-minute film is available on YouTube (The Captured Bird) and can be downloaded or purchased on CD with a selection of extra features directly from watch.thecapturedbird.com.

Looky looky.

Sunday, September 8, 2013

Anthony Penta's Adaptation of HPL's "The Hound"

I had no idea this amateur production existed until it was recently shared on Facebook. H. P. Lovecraft's 1922 short story "The Hound" is rarely considered among his major works, but I have always enjoyed its grim tone, Poe-esque prose, and rather amusing depiction of human decadence. This 1997 video adaptation, originally produced by Anthony Penta on SVHS tape, has been digitally restored and is available for free streaming or download on Vimeo. It stars Scott Hoye and Steve Toth (who also composed the eerie score). I'm not overly fond of the narration, but the imagery and overall atmosphere could not better capture the story's deviant characters and overwhelming sense of impending doom. The combination of music, deeply shadowed visuals, and slow, tense pace make this little production far more effective than any single big-budget adaptation of Lovecraft's work. It runs about 18 minutes long, so it's less than a third of an hour of your time well spent. Give 'er a look: H. P. Lovecraft's The Hound

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Things That Go Bump...


...and thump and thud and rumble and scrabble and crash and scrape and bang and growl. Yeah... last night. 2:40 AM. I awake to a sudden heavy thud against the house. First thing I do is consult the FEWS (Feline Early Warning System). If cats are paying attention, I pay attention. Sure enough, all four of them are on the alert. Another heavy thump, and cats tear downstairs, clearly alarmed. Before I know it, there are sounds of something moving around the house, though it's difficult to tell where the racket is coming from. It's everywhere, all at the same time — around the side by the fence, on the front porch, on the back porch, up on the roof. Then there's growling. Deep, angry growling. On and on it goes, and I turn on all the outside lights, trying to get a glimpse through the windows of whatever is out there. But no... it's definitely on the roof, and now it sounds like it's tearing its way into the house....

Another rapid scrabbling, and a final thump out by the fence. I wait with bated breath, but no further sound comes from out there. Eventually, the cats slink out from under the kitchen table, behind the couch, under the dining room chairs... all the places the bravest souls go to defend Dad against deadly attack. Then they remind me that, since I am awake, it is only proper I should fill the dinner bowls.

I'm guessing the ruckus was a couple of riled coons or possums, but from the noise, you'd think Larry Talbot was out there on a bender — though I'm pretty sure it wasn't a full moon last night. At least I can take comfort knowing the alarm system is functioning beautifully.

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

A Romp... or a Stomp... Through the Atomic Age


About a year ago, I had an advance look at Atomic Drive-In, a novella by fellow kaijuphile Mike Bogue (see "Coming Soon to an Atomic Drive-In Near You," July 30, 2012). At the time, its release details were still a bit sketchy, but the book is now available as a trade paperback and is soon to be released for Kindle at Amazon.com.

Here's the author's description:

"A world-bridging ’57 Chevy whisks friends Brent Sanders and Jerry Mahon to a nuke-ravaged USA. There, Brent and Jerry join the patrons of a drive-in movie theatre to wage nightly combat against gigantic mutant monsters. Amidst this life and death apocalypse, Brent falls in love with Lori Carpenter, a mysterious young woman who conceals a terrifying truth. For despite the atomic horrors Brent has already confronted in this post-nuked America, he doesn’t know the true meaning of fear until he discovers Lori’s dreadful secret, and then there is no turning back.

"In addition to Atomic Drive-In, the book includes five short stories featuring — in order of appearance — paranormal plants, roads not taken, Kaiju infestation, nanotech revenge, and Frankenstein’s Monster at Christmas."

The striking cover art is by Todd Tennant. To check out the whole package, go here: Mike Bogue's Atomic Drive-In. It's a heap o' good fun.

Monday, September 2, 2013

Haw River Bison

Serious cachers are serious. Deadly serious.

I always enjoy hiking along the Haw River, a hundred-mile-long tributary of the Cape Fear River, which runs through several nearby counties to the east of Greensboro. Numerous trails run along the Haw's banks, and there's not a one of them that I haven't found among the most scenic I've hiked. Much to my liking, there are geocaches aplenty on many of the trails, and yesterday, fellow cachers Rob "Robgso" Isenhour and Debbie "Cupdaisy" Shoffner set out for a trail along the Haw just east of Pittsboro, in Chatham County. On this particular stretch, there's a series of ten caches, all bison tubes (small cylinders about 2 inches long, often used for carrying pills on a keychain), which make perfect micro-sized caches. They can also be exceptionally difficult to locate when in a densely wooded area. Such was the case yesterday, as we claimed finds on only six of the ten. Typically, that's not a stellar showing for three highly experienced cachers, but almost every group who has gone after this series has come back without finding the lot of them, so we were in good company.
Funny how rocks grow on certain trees...

In the 90-degree heat and very high humidity, our hike was rigorous to say the least... "brutal," even, according to Mr. Rob. Regardless, to my mind, it was a great day in the out of doors, with lots of challenging terrain and some incredible views of the river. There was one length of trail in particular — and it's a trail only the technical sense — that involved scaling many massive boulders, and there were several places that a bad step would have been bad indeed. It was worth every second of it, mainly for the scenery, but also because I did eat rather well this past week, and I needed to burn a few calories. That I did and then some.

Naturally, afterward, some of them were replenished by way of a Ham's bison burger, but that's all beside the point....

I hope you had a mighty fine labor day. I spent a portion of mine groaning about sore muscles.
It's not so evident in the photo, but a bad step here would be bad. A long way to bounce downward.