Wednesday, February 3, 2016

B all that you can B


I've decided to continue on doing the alphabet postings. It's the one where you pick a letter and list 10 things that you enjoy that start with that letter. I've done it a few times before, after being tagged by others; and I've also done it on my own, because I wanted to. It makes for a fun and interesting post. Also, I'm doing it because it bothers me that I have only done a few letters out of the 26 that make up the alphabet. It seems incomplete, unfinished, and I hate leaving loose ends. It doesn't feel right, and I don't like leaving things undone. It just seems messy and lazy, and I don't like that at all. I'd like to finish what I started, and since I've done the letter A (twice!), I've decided that the next letter I shall pick and write about is the letter B, because B is the Best!

I've only made one change to the alphabet posting. Instead of listing 10 things, I'm narrowing the list down to 5 things that I enjoy that begin with that letter. This will make it easier for me to focus on what I ought to write about. Sometimes, with too many choices, I end up not making a choice at all. Also, my blog posts tend to turn into novellas; hopefully, limiting the list to 5 things ought to help rein in the runaway creative process and keep me on track.

Like previous alphabet letter lists, I've run into a familiar problem:  So many things that I love begin with this letter, so how do I narrow the list down to five? I could list the important things that start with the letter B, like the Buddha--the teacher, not the recreational weed. I'm talking about a whole other kind of higher bliss and serenity here--the spiritual kind that comes from meditation, inspiration, and living life in a certain way that allows for awareness and enlightenment and inner peace.

I like Buddhist art, architecture, and the way it merges with different cultures and traditions to create unique and wonderful creations expressed in food, music, and even martial arts. But as much as I admire and love the Buddhist philosophy, I'm not making a spiritual post. And the list I eventually end up with certainly won't be enlightening or sacred or deep in any way. It's supposed to be fun, because that's the spirit that I want to go with.

There are many wonderful things that start with the letter B:  Babes, Booze, and Boinking. For best results, apply liberally; repeat as needed. Before there was YouTube, there was the Boob Tube. Back in the day, I was (still am) bewitched by Baywatch, celebrating my love of Bikini Babes, with Bodacious Bronzed Bodies, Bountiful Bouncing Boobies, and Bedazzling Beckoning Booties. Slow motion running never looked so good on the beach! My favorite seasons were the first and second ones, where the focus was on actually saving lives, and there was a plot and great character development, and the biggest, bounciest features were the hair.

Season three and the seasons after that shifted the focus to big boobs, and the story lines and characters were smothered under the excessive augmentation of the cast. It seemed like every year, they added more boobs--actors--in hopes of attracting and maintaining an audience. And it worked for a little while, but then it just got to be too much. There were too many characters who were all starting to look alike, and the show had grown plastic, felt fake, and lacked the feel of the real thing. They made a valiant effort to reboot the focus on what lifeguards actually do in the Australia pilot opener before the move to Hawaii, and I very much enjoyed the change of scenery and new characters and the experimental risks they were taking. The Australian beaches looked really beautiful and stunning. The last seasons, the Hawaii ones, were my favorites for the effort the show made to go back to its roots, and it had the most diversity of all the casts in the history of the show.

I watched Baywatch regularly, and not just for the eye candy. I was hoping to learn something that could prove useful, particularly during the one summer in high school where I had a brief stint as a lifeguard. Other than learning how to pose dramatically with a flotation device and the importance of strutting down the beach, I didn't really learn anything new that I could've applied to my job. Except that if I were to lifeguard in Australia, I'd have to wear speedos and a swim cap at the beach.

There are some really great things that begin with the letter B, like being an Infomaniac Bitch and meeting awesome people on the blogosphere. And if I were to list a few of my favorite entertaining things that start with the letter B, I would definitely include the Battlestar Galactica reboot series, bionics, breakdancing, beatboxing, and boomboxes. I prefer brunch over breakfast, though I do enjoy eating breakfast food for dinner. I could also make a note of bananas, berries, bell peppers, baked goods, butter, burritos, bacon, bratwurst, and burgers, but that's more like a food list, and that'll only make me hungry. I really need to narrow it down to the essential top five. And that's very hard to do, because I love so many things that start with the letter B.

I could write about my love of the Beach and the cool Breezes, but I've done that before. And I suppose that I could talk about my love of travel. How I'd love to visit Brazil, Baja, Barbados, Bora Bora, Bali, and the Bahamas! Why? Because of the beautiful beaches--usually full of sunbathing beauties, hopefully in the buff. And I want to see Bangladesh, Burkina Faso, Bhutan, and Botswana--not because of any famous beaches or other landmarks, but because their names are really interesting and curious. Don't their names sound like exotic, decadent dishes or fancy, colorful cocktails that come with tiny, festive, paper umbrellas? I'm a bit unsure about Bermuda; I luv the shorts, but I am a little wary of that triangle where ships and planes and people disappear. I like mystique and exploring a little mystery, but I refuse to go down a place that promises horror and regret. No one likes to find themselves trapped in an unmanageable, hairy situation! If I had to pick a place to bring in my airplane, I'd definitely prefer coming into a well defined Brazilian landing strip over a hazardous Bermuda triangle any day.

And I'd definitely like to visit Britannia, home of Big Ben, Buckingham Palace, and the BBC--not to mention James Bond, the Beatles, and Bowie. I'd like to ride the double decker buses, go over the famous bridges, and see Brighton, bagpipes, and some bobbies. I'd definitely do some bar hopping and try fun things that tourists and the locals do. Also, I'd like to know why the Brits insist on calling cookies "biscuits"? Biscuits are buns, not cookies! And just so you know, a boot is footwear covering the entire foot to above and beyond the ankles; it is not the cargo space of a car! That is called a trunk! And I'd like to find out what the heck is blood pudding. Is it really made of blood? Is it sweet like other custard puddings, or more appropriately, like all puddings!?! Or is it thick and spicy and, I imagine, very irony if it's made of blood? Was/Is there a large vampire population creating demand for blood products? 

I know from the films that there are werewolves in London, along with zombies and magical beings--you certainly can't take a walk outdoors without tripping over some kind of fairy or sprite. And you certainly can't sleep with the bedroom window open. Not unless you want some annoying, underage punk breaking and entering your home, ranting about chasing shadows, bringing in glowing bugs and pests, and then trying to convince you to take some dust that he claims will make you fly and take you on an adventure to a magical island in the stars-- where you'll smoke a peace pipe and get down with the natives, or get tied up and have sword fights with pirates sporting bent appendages!
Come fly with me, let's fly, let's fly away.


Go sell your happy dust at the street corner or raves like other low life criminals, you juvenile delinquent!


But I digress. Back to the list. It hasn't been easy, and there was serious back and forth and internal battles while creating this post. But after numerous revisions and debates, I've finally made the list of some of my favorite things that begin with the letter B. So here they are, the 5 brilliant and best things that begin with the letter B:


1.  BBQ! 

Spelled BBQ or barbecue, I don't care, so long as it's delicious and flavorful, I'm going to eat it, not spell it. And if I had to pick out a cuisine that exemplifies the best of American culinary arts, it is definitely BBQ! Because this country is continental from coast to coast, it is rich and blessed with vast, numerous regions containing a bountiful variety of different, magnificent, and scrumptious BBQ! So many amazing choices! What they grill and smoke and how they do it is different from the East Coast to the West Coast to the Gulf Coast and everywhere in between--from the plains, the valleys, lakes, deserts, rivers, canyons, mountains, forests, woods, and hill countries, it's all so diverse and tasty and interesting from one county to the next, from city to city, rural areas and farmlands, to every suburb around and in between. Immigrants from all over the world are welcomed to share their own unique BBQs, adding to the rich buffet that makes up the American diet (and adds to the American waistline). It's pretty amazing and wonderful when immigrants adapt those foreign flavors to local tastes to create unique, American fusion sensations, delectable BBQ creations that you won't find anywhere else in the world. I'm very lucky and grateful to live in a great, diverse region with so many different, delicious BBQ traditions and innovations that I can access, to feed my cravings and satisfy my hunger for smoky, grilled goodness.

Beef, pork, poultry, lamb, fish, goat, even oysters, shrimps, clams, and fruits and veggies, I love them all on the grill! I've enjoyed blueberry pies and creme brule made on the grill. I love BBQ! There's just something about grilling and smoking meat and veggies that imparts a rich, unique, delectable flavor that no other medium of cooking can replicate. The smell of food being barbecued is just amazing and mouth watering, deliciously divine! And it's pretty awesome cooking your food over open flames--very primal, almost like something in our genetic code instantly recalls the days of when our cavemen ancestors first learned to master fire--and then mostly likely mastered BBQ soon after that fire got going! Mammoth never tasted so good!

BBQs are great! If you're by yourself, you get to eat some awesome food; if you're with a group, it's a party with amazing grilled dishes! Everybody loves a good cookout! My first memory of eating BBQ is when I was five, sitting on the back porch while my dad manned the grill and my older siblings were sitting at the picnic table or standing in the yard, talking, laughing, arguing. Me and my brother, who was a year older than me, were playing with toy cars. My baby brother, who was a year younger than me, was asleep in my mother's lap as she sat in the rocking chair, talking to my father. I remember being curious about this new, white smoke that puffed from the grill and filled my nose with a rich, smoky, and enticing scent. My parents kept making sure that my brothers and I wouldn't get too close to the grill, warning us to keep away. Though truth be told, the fiery heat of the grill was more than enough to keep us away, and the smoke stung our eyes and made us cry if we got too close to the grill, so we kept our distance. 

I remember when my father declared that the food was ready and there was a cheer from the older members of the family--loud enough that it woke up my baby brother, who cried out a bit, before my mother's comforting soothed him and calmed him and lulled him back to sleep. My dad fixed my mom, me, and my playmate brother some plates of food. It was the rule in our house:  The order of serving first began with guests and the elderly, the very young, and then it was everyone else (and usually, the older teens got served last). The idea was to be a good host and feed the guests first; then be a thoughtful person and feed the elderly and the young ones next. And everyone who could fend for themselves could pretty much wait their turn to be served, or most likely, serve themselves after everyone else was given something to eat. These were the rules that I was raised with, and when my brothers and I grew up, we kept to the same rules and customs.

I still, to this day, feed people in that same order. And I admit, there are still times when I find it strange when people eat out of order, and I feel like it's rude to serve yourself first when there are guests or elderly or little children present. But I have to remind myself that I am a guest in someone's home, and how they do things is normal for them and not for me to judge. Though, I still make efforts to make sure that the order is followed, offering food to the elderly and the young ones first before I dig in. Some habits are just hard to break.

My father gave me a plate full of roasted corn and potato salad--both of which I love eating-- and a piece of barbecued chicken thigh, turkey tail, and a hot dog. It was the first time that I've ever had these foods grilled, and it was a taste explosion! I had never tasted anything so exotic and scrumptious and savory and sweet at the same time! It was just so amazing and unbelievably delicious! Though to be honest, I much preferred the chicken thigh and turkey tail over the briny, charred hot dog. The chicken and turkey were just tender, juicy, savory, sweet, and smoky, with a hint of spicy. The flavors were just incredible and eye opening and so damn tasty! Then and there, I became a BBQ convert! And I've been worshiping faithfully at the grill, living the smoking foods lifestyle, and keeping the BBQ commandments ever since!

The BBQ Commandments:

1.   The grill is thy BBQ god. Smoke is the divine essence of BBQ, and the divine essence is present in all BBQ creations.

2.   Thou shall not use false grills and call the results BBQ. BBQ grills are wood burning, gas burning, or charcoal. Smokers and pits are other forms of the BBQ god.

3.   Thou shall not use BBQ's name in vain. If a food was completely cooked in an oven or boiled in a pot and was at no point ever on the grill, that is NOT BBQ! Food fully cooked in an oven is called a roast, and those boiled on the stove top are called stew! With deepest apologies to Ms Piggy, just because you put lipstick on a pig does NOT make it a lady!

This pig serves up karate chops, not pork chops



And so it is with BBQ. Just because you slather BBQ sauce on something does NOT make it BBQ!


4.   Remember that BBQ day is holy. Sacrificial offerings are made through food being grilled, fired, and smoked in the altar of BBQ. Those bits and pieces that fall into the fire and stick to the grill belong to the grill.

5.   Honor thy grill through proper maintenance, keep it protected from the elements, and use proper tools to light the grill.  Chimney starters are great for charcoal; using lighter fluid in a grill is blasphemous! BBQ should taste of smoke, not lighter fluid.

6.   Thou shall not kill by under cooking the food nor burn the food to make it inedible.

7.   Thou shall not cheat by using precooked prepackaged BBQ and trying to pass it off as one's own creation.

8.   Thou shall not steal other people's BBQ recipes and tools. Give credit where credit is due.

9.   Thou shall not bear false witness by trying to pass off someone else's BBQ as one's own; it does not matter if it's made by a restaurant or market or someone else, so long as it's good and credit is given. And thou shall not lie about non-BBQ food and try to pass them off as the real thing, when it is NOT true BBQ! Be honest about how the food was made. Good food is good food and does not need to be labeled as something else to prove its value and worth.

10. Thou shall not covet they neighbor's BBQ tools and skills; get your own gear and develop your own skills by practice, hard work, and asking for instructions. Knowledge is power, and practice makes perfect. Celebrate your own tastes and style of grilling, for your BBQ faith is uniquely your own.

As I got older, I was fortunate enough to travel and experience the many different kinds of BBQs from different regions and the world over--Argentinian, Brazilian, Chilean, Chinese, Greek, Korean, Sonoran, Japanese, Indonesian, Polynesian, Pinoy, etc, it's all good! Just about anything that can be baked or boiled can be grilled and smoked--deer, turkey, javelina, bats, doves, turtles, eels, squids, grubs, crickets, alligator, shark, etc. They were all delicious! If it smells good after being smoked and grilled, you better believe that I'm going to eat it! The good news is, most of it was pretty good! Sure, I've had some awful BBQs--when the food was under cooked or burnt to ashes, but that's really the fault of the griller and their (lack of) technique. It takes skill and passion and lots of practice to make something good. And that's the thing about BBQ. When done right, it's the best tasting thing in the world!

2.  Beauty

Beauty is such an essential, ethereal, rarely eternal but usually ephemeral thing--a state of being, the indefinable and undeniable nature of matter and thought that we recognize instantly when we set our eyes upon it, though we cannot quantify it. I love beautiful things. But what defines beauty? I'm not sure, but I know it when I see it!

Is it symmetry? Yes, because balance is beautiful, but I love the beauty of asymmetrical things, too. Is it color? Yes, I love color, but there are also color combinations and hues that I do not find beautiful at all. Is it natural? Sure, I love many things in nature that are just beautiful, like flowers, butterflies, birds, and coral reefs. And while there are many magnificent vistas that I've been so lucky to experience and see, I've also seen some not so beautiful, downright horrific things in nature, like a predator gorging on its freshly killed prey and the agony of natural childbirth. I don't care what anyone says! There is nothing beautiful about childbirth! It is a horrifying, gawd awful, excruciating experience! Fortunately, other man made and creature made things are beautiful, too. There are some stunningly beautiful art, architecture, and music in the world--scenes that draw me in and elicit deep emotions, buildings and structures that awe and move me with their grandeur and ingenuity, and songs and dances that stir up genuine feelings and inspiration and give rise to passions and longings and dreams. 

Clear waterfalls cascading from high mountains; cool blue waves gently breaking on the warm golden sand; rainbows full of color against the wide skies; the moon and stars glittering like silver and precious gemstones laid upon the velvet black sky; glorious sunrises bursting forth with warm colors that promise hope and life; splendid sunsets that paint the skies with living colors, promising wonderful dreams and comfort in the face of the coming night. These are beautiful things, a few jewels of the vast treasure that makes the world so wonderful and amazing, so utterly beautiful that it reverberates so deep and feels so overwhelmingly blissful at the same time. There are so many beautiful things in this world. And people can be beautiful, too, and people are at their most beautiful when they are kind and loving towards one another.

If I had to name one of most talented artists ever to create some of the most beautiful paintings I'd've ever seen, then it definitely has to be Bob Ross, one of the greatest painters of all time! ALL TIME! I grew up watching Bob Ross teach nature painting on the public tv station, creating some of the most spectacular scenes that I've ever seen, all under 30 minutes.  No one looked cooler nor radiated more chill vibes on tv than Bob Ross. I loved his 'fro and laid back style, and I enjoyed his soothing, charismatic voice and gentle calm. I could fall asleep just listening to him talk! He wasn't an art snob, and he taught that art comes from a place of passion, and your art should be what you want it to be. Art is whatever you make of it and drives you to create. Bob Ross was welcoming, encouraging, and taught that anyone can paint, and that art was for everyone. Everyone, including the colorblind! And I still love watching the reruns of his tv shows to this day, because they still hold wonder and charm  for me, just like the first time I ever saw them way back in the day. If I had to choose between a Picasso, a Rembrandt, a da Vinci, or a Bob Ross original, I'd pick Bob Ross any day! The man made art fun for me when I was a young child, and to this day, he still inspires me to create art.

It's hard to nail down what beauty means. It means different things to different people. And to me, beauty applies to a variety of things, like black and white fotos, bridges, food, and works of Bernini. Glazed donuts are beautiful (and delicious, if not necessarily nutritious). Autumn leaf colors are beautiful. And so is lightly falling snow. Laughter is beautiful. Tears are beautiful. People working together in harmony for the greater good are beautiful. Kaleidoscopes images are beautiful. And deep space images of far off galaxies and cosmic phenomena are breathtakingly beautiful. The cosmos creates such stunning and wondrous art, the most heart achingly beautiful and emotionally haunting creations ever to exist. Beauty really is in the eye of the beholder, and I've seen and experienced so many beautiful things, and they make life so much more precious, richer, and so worth living.


3.  Blue


Blue is one of my favorite things. And I'm talking about the color! I love all shades of blue, from sky blue, to navy blue, to ocean blue, and so many other hues. Blue is such a relaxing and cool color. Yet it also energizes and calms me at the same time. And unlike other people, blue is a happy color for me. It means all is well and things are going great. I suppose it comes from my love of clear blue skies, and calm blue waters, and cool blue waves. No storms in sight. Just a beautiful day.

I love blueberries and sipping a blue Hawaii. I also enjoy eating blue corn and blue potatoes; and I definitely love eating the blue tortilla chips and blue potato fries made from the blue corn and blue potatoes respectively. My favorite sports drinks are usually the ones that are colored blue. Blue flowers like bluebells and hydrangeas are beautiful. So are blue orchids and lab created blue roses. Blue butterflies and bluebirds and many other blue creatures are so captivating and enchanting in their vivacious varieties of blue. Sparkling, shimmering sapphire, topaz, aquamarine, and blue Diamond and pearl gemstones are gorgeous.

Some things just look better in blue, like frosting on cupcakes and the color of jeans. Fabrics, like silk and satin and cotton, and buildings and vehicles look amazing in many variants of blue. And blue lights used as decorations at parties are pretty awesome and fun. Blue is a festive color!

But other things don't look so good in blue. Blue siren lights from the police don't look so good and raises the alarm that there is danger in the area. Be cautious, be careful, and be alert. And I don't like blue as a skin color, unless you're a Smurf or a member of the Blue Man Group. I'm not sure about those Avatar Na'vi aliens, but Star Trek Andorians look quite fetching in their hues of blue. Hypoxia, hypothermia, and bruises look terrible on skin. Blue balls are not a pretty sight either, unless they're beach balls or golf balls or other kinds of balls used for playing and recreation--and I mean man made toys, not male testicles! I don't care what the S&M freaks and fetishists say, testicular balls are NOT toys and are NOT meant to be manhandled (mishandled) or smacked around in anyway! Blue M&Ms don't really do anything for me, because guess what? They taste just like all the other colored M&M candies from the same bag!

The Blues as a music genre is an unsure thing for me, because I like some songs, but I don't really feel drawn to it compared to other types of music. Also, it can get a bit depressing if you listen to sad music all the time. Surprisingly, I do enjoy Rhythm and Blues, and I like listening to Blue Christmas as sung by Elvis. I also like listening to Counting Blue Cars by Dishwalla.

Thank goodness that we live in a world full of so many colors, because they all mix and blend and make enchanting, spectacular, brilliant creations. Colors are unique and wonderful. And I love the color blue, because it makes the world so much more vibrant and serene and blissful at the same time.

4.  Books

Books are wonderful and amazing. And books, the really special kind, opened up the world to me and set my imagination and adventurous spirit on fire! Fiction, non-fiction, reference, or just pictures, the only thing that truly matters is that it is a good book. And a good book is one that makes you think, makes you dream, inspires, informs, and teaches you new things and offers new perspectives to allow you to reflect, grow, and innovate. It should also make you feel something--something good, something deep, or something that moves you to action. A good book should be engaging and enjoyable; otherwise, why bother when there are so many other reading choices and so little time in the world?

When I was 14, I learned the hard way that not all books are worth reading, no matter what the critics or reading lists say. My 9th grade English composition teacher made us a proposal. There were two way to get an A in class. The first was to do the homework and assigned readings and complete a midterm paper and a final paper and score well on all the tests. The second way was to do the homework and assigned reading, but with the option of reading from a collection of books he had selected, and we'd write an analysis of the book we had just read, pick out a theme and defend our opinion of the book--basically a fancy, more advance book report. Each book was assigned a value of points, based on how big it was and how complex it was. The larger books had more points. And if you read and wrote a report on at least 4 books before the midterm, you were excused from taking the midterm. And if you read and wrote a report on at least 5 books before finals week, you were excused from taking the final. There was no limit on how many books you could read and write a report on, and if you accumulated enough points from your reports, you were guaranteed an A, regardless of how you did on the pop quizzes and homework.

I saw the book reports as an opportunity to get an easy A. And for the first half of the semester, it was an easy A! I just picked the books that were small but had enough point values that led me to meet the minimum requirement for an A. And I only had to read and analyze 3 out of 4 books to score enough points to get an A and be excused from the midterm paper and midterm exam. The books were interesting and college level books, and I really enjoyed reading them. The second half of the term, I changed strategy. I thought that I could read less books and do less reports by doing just the big books with the most values, and if I planned it right, I only had read and analyze 3 out of 5 books to be guaranteed an A and not take the final exam nor write a final term paper.

The plan was sound, but unfortunately, the execution was awful! The first two books were challenging, but I enjoyed them and I loved analyzing them. It was the third book that was a problem. It was the one with the highest points in the collection, the biggest book of them all. That should've been my first clue that this book was going to be tough. There was a reason why it had the most points in the entire collection. My second clue should've been the raised eyebrow the teacher gave me when I picked that book for my report. I had read and wrote about most of the books in about a week. The bigger ones took me maybe a week and a half to complete. But this book, the final one, took me 3 freakin weeks to get through! It was the longest, most boring, and most frustrating book that I've ever read, and it was "Moby Dick" by Herman Melville, that gawd awful, over hyped, overly blown, overly boated American "classic".

I forced myself to power through this book. Granted, there were some interesting scenes and some promising characters, but they were too far and few in between. The story and plot was sucked under by the massive quicksand of boring details and useless descriptions that drowned this book. For every one chapter of action or fascinating character development, there were like four to five chapters of boring descriptions of parts of the whaling ship, like the mainsail, stun sail, scuttlebutt, lanyards, etc. I swear, that book was more like a freakin whaling ship manual than an actual novel!

It was a struggle to pay attention and keep reading this frustratingly boring and uninteresting book. I wondered if I needed to be on drugs to enjoy this book; certainly, the people who raved about this book were high or drunk when they read this pile of crap! I fantasized a few times about harpooning the lunatics who raved that this book was a must read. This book is a terrible read! Don't waste your time, people! This is definitely one of those cases where the movie is so much better than the book! In fact, the real life story of the whaling ship "The Essex" was definitely much more interesting than the fictional account it inspired: Moby Dick. After surviving the ordeal of reading Moby Dick, I decided then and there that I had wasted way too much time on that book. I could've read 2 other more interesting books in those three weeks and still have gotten an A. From then on, I decided that if a book doesn't catch my interest in fifty pages or two chapters, then I'm dropping it and moving on to other more promising books.

Life is way too short to be wasted on terrible books. That also applies to food, people, and time. Don't waste time on bad food; try something else. Don't waste time on terrible people; you don't need those toxic relationships poisoning your life; life is meant be enjoyed with good people and good friends! Don't waste time doing things that make you unhappy. If you hate what you do and find yourself in a bad situation, then leave! Do something else! Don't waste your time and energy forcing yourself to go through the motions; use your time and energy and talents wisely, cherish everyday as if it were your last, because it could very well be your last! You can never get back any time you've lost! So use your time wisely and in a way that makes you happy, no matter what anyone else says. Only you can live your life for you, not other people. Don't let other people make decisions for you, because you're the one who ends up living with the consequences! So live the way you want to live, and be yourself. Read what you want to read, and be happy.

When I was a small child, I loved listening to bedtime stories that my parents read to me from storybooks. I loved hearing tales of magic, wondrous lands, fantastic creatures, and heroes and their quests. The first books that I ever paged through and enjoyed had more pictures than words. As I got older, the books that really stood out were memorable and fun, like the ones by Dr Seuss. Then I discovered comic books and was hooked on reading action and adventure materials, and soon after, sought out scifi and fantasy genres.




The first real novel that I read was "Call of the Wild", by Jack London, the story of a pet dog and his journey and transition to the wild--an intriguing tale of heartbreak, love, and survival. I was 11 years old, and that book was actually a fantastic find from a dumpster dive.

My friends and I were collecting aluminum cans and glass bottles for recycling and to raise money for a local community project. We were raising funds to help rent equipment that would widen and pave our rural roads. We couldn't rely on the local gov't to help us (and not surprisingly, you still can't count on them to take appropriate action to this day). When you live out in the boonies, you learn to be self sufficient and neighbors help each other out. My friends and I found a lot of cans and glass bottles in the big dumpsters behind a new development about two miles from our neighborhood. We worked in old clothes and wore boots and gloves as we combed through the trash to dig out soda cans and beer bottles. It's amazing the things that people throw away. We found old toys and tools and artwork. The most interesting dumpster belonged to a house that was just sold and being remodeled. The dumpster was full of stuff from a family that relocated overseas for a job opportunity, and they threw away a lot of boxes full of books that they didn't want to take with them. I didn't know it at the time, but among the books were some really great finds--Shakespeare's plays, Dickens, James Fenimore Cooper, Homer, Jules Verne, H.G. Wells, George Eliot and so many others.

My friends and I succeeded in finding all the cans and bottles and exceeded our collection goal. We decided to call it a day and head home. For some reason, I thought it was such a waste to leave all these boxes of books in the dumpster. So my friends helped me carry them to my house--they didn't want the books, because the books didn't have any pictures in them. It was the best spur of the moment decision that I made up to that point, because I helped to rescue some great books and found some wonderful reading material that expanded my horizons and gave me a new perspective on life, changing my way of thinking and inspiring me to dream and seek out more.

It was the start of a small collection of books for me, a collection that grew steadily over the years, and I was able to share it and leave it behind for the enjoyment of my younger nieces and nephews. Back then, we didn't have a local library. The nearest (and only) library was an hour's drive into town. So for the longest time, that collection of books and so many others at my house helped entertain and inform my family and friends over many years--through blackouts, rainy days, hurricanes, and just to pass the time. And the book from that dumpster collection that caught my eye and led me to read the others was "Call of the Wild". It was the title that drew me in. There were no pictures, but the story was exciting and gripping and I couldn't put the book down until I finished reading it. I was surprised that I actually read all of it, such a big book with no pictures other than the cover art. Up until that point, the vast majority of reading material that I perused for enjoyment were comic books, which is pretty much standard reading material for most 11 year old boys. "Call of the Wild" started me on reaching out for the classics and to try other books that I would never consider reading for fun.

The first book that made me cry was "I heard the owl call my name," by Margaret Craven. It was the summer before 8th grade, I was 13 years old and puberty kicked into full gear. I'm not sure if it was the raging hormones or growing pains or just the awkwardness of that challenging age. Whatever it was, I was primed to fully immerse myself in the world the book portrayed. That book told a story that surprised me and moved me to tears. It was so unexpected and the tale was so beautifully told and engaging that I could not put it down. And I found myself lost in this world that dealt with intimacy, relationships, faith, love, life, and loss. It was the very first book that I could relate to and understand that dealt with adult themes and realities that I was too young to understand, yet I was poised to engage in a few years. I was but a fresh teen staring apprehensively at the nearing edge of young adulthood, totally unprepared for and unable to comprehend the complexities and changes of life. That book was my first glimpse into adulthood and the challenges that lay ahead.

Over the years, I've enjoyed many wonderful books. Some of my favorites are the ones that deal with art and architecture. Some of my faves are just mostly pictures of great works of art--paintings, sculptures, structures, landscapes, etc. I also love reading books about astronomy and biology and history. I like mysteries and mythologies and folklore. And I still love reading sci-fi, fantasy, and graphic novels (that's really just comic books written in book form). I also love reading travel books and ones about culture and different religions and philosophies. Books are a window to a wide and varied world, even other worlds and beyond. Books have the power to transform people. By sharing and exchanging ideas through their pages, books communicate and start debates that allow for growth, change, creativity, and problem solving, encouraging imagination and delivering inspiration.

5.  Birds

I like birds--well, most of them anyway. I should clarify that I hate any kind of bird that craps on my car and the filthy flying rats--seabirds--that hassle me for food when I'm at the beach or pier or boardwalk. I fantasize about taking those buggers out with a gun or a slingshot or a well aimed rock. Hell, I've often wished and prayed for a predator--any predator!--like a cat or shark or raptor would strike down the offending feathered felons and eliminate them. And I am very lucky for actually witnessing three different cats take out some birds right before my eyes. Surprised the heck out of me each and every time it happened. Those cats were swift and stealthy and deadly, like ninja assassins! 

Even more spectacular and shocking, I witnessed a small falcon dive bomb and take out a bird mid flight at the beach! Just whoosh and then bam! It was all over in less than 2 seconds! That bird had no clue that winged death was coming for its soul. And once, I was totally terrorized by the frightening screech of a barn owl that flushed a bunch of blackbirds from the trees, making it easier for the barn owl to swoop down and slay a fleeing bird in a lightning fast, midair killing strike.

It was the first time that I'd ever seen and encountered a barn owl. It was getting dark and I was walking home, taking a shortcut through the woods. I started feeling a bit chilly, and I was thinking about what I'd do when I got home when suddenly, out of the twilight, came a piercing, shrieking war cry that startled me and made my heart jump. Immediately, I instinctively ducked, raised my guard, and steeled myself for an oncoming onslaught! Eyes and ears were wide open for signs of an imminent assault. I thought I was under attack! Seriously!

If you've never heard the sound of a barn owl before, trust me, it's a sound that you won't ever forget! Barn owls don't hoot; they scream a furious demonic wail that grips your heart and tears at your soul! It is an ominous and horrific sound. You are suddenly seized with the overwhelming fear that Death and Darkness have come to slaughter you and drag your shredded, mangled corpse to the unfathomable depths of the deepest hell and drown you in the hidden, horrifying nether regions of the dark, devouring underworld!

Eternal is your suffering; endless is your sorrow; never ending, your torture; unrelenting, your pain. Such was the fear and horror the terrible screams of the barn owl caused in me the very first time I heard it. I've never forgotten it since, and I've found myself morbidly drawn to that haunting and horrific

sound. So beautiful and deadly, I am mesmerized by the barn owl, with its white angelic plumage and serene visage that belies its savage killing nature and terrorizing demonic hell screams. What a magnificent and terrifying bird of prey!

Here is a link to enjoy the terrorizing, beautiful sounds of the barn owl, courtesy of The Cornell Lab of Ornithology. For maximum listening enjoyment (and terror), turn the volume on your devices up. And just so you know, the sustained defensive hiss is most similar to the hellscream I heard the first time, startling me when I was all alone in the dark, cold, foreboding woods.

There are so many varieties of birds, and I love their diversity! So many different sizes and so many different colorations! So many different sounds and a plethora of habitations. Some sing beautiful songs; others shatter the peace and silence with their mad cries. Some even purr and others mimic the sounds of humans and other creatures that are not birds. Whistle, warble, or wail, what fascinating calls they make and wonderful music they create! I love waking up to the lilting melodies of birds in the morning. And I love the serenades of birds on a full moon night.

But I have to confess that not all bird sounds are pleasing. True story:  A while back, I was helping a friend install a car alarm system. We tested the system throughout the installation process to make sure that it was working. The next day, we woke up to the sound of the car alarm going off. We thought someone was breaking into his car, but when we rushed out, there was no one at the car, and even stranger, the car alarm wasn't going off. The sound, we soon realized, was coming from the tree next to the car. A mockingbird was imitating the sound of the car alarm! We were blown away by the incredible mimicking skills of the mockingbird!

I grew up on a small farm, and without fail, for as long as I can remember, our frakking roosters would start crowing at four thirty in the frakking morning! I don't know if it was natural or if it was something that they picked up, but it was definitely routine and normal for them to wake us up at four thirty with their competing cock-a-doodle-doing, that sounded less like a dawn wake up call, but more like divas sounding off at a singing contest. They didn't even wait for each other to finish crowing, they'd just cut right in with their riff and start hollering above one another. And they'd do it for at least 15 minutes, sometimes giving encore performances lasting over half an hour! Damned diva roosters, so selfish and so full of themselves.

I didn't mind it so much when I was a small child. But when I grew up to be a sleep deprived teenager, I hated the sound of those frakking roosters crowing, waking me up when I was just finally falling asleep! Oh, how I wished an owl would swoop down and finish off those damned noisy buzzards! Oh, how I longed to wring their necks and choke the life out of them. Silence! I wanted silence! Gawd, how I wished for a silent button to shut those damned roosters up! It was pretty damn annoying to be woken up way too early, hours before the sun rose and before it was time to do chores. I suspect those stupid roosters just wanted to remind us that they were up and they were hungry, and they figured if they could make enough noise, they'd get fed early. Or maybe they were just early risers. I hate morning people; and predawn morning roosters are the worst!

Some days felt as if I were fighting a war with the chickens, and I was losing battle after battle, but I refused to surrender! A few times, in my teenage angst years, I actually cracked open a window and yelled out to the roosters, "Shut up! Some of us are trying to sleep!" 

And of course, they stayed quiet for a minute, then those mofos would start crowing again, even louder than before! My mother, who was an early riser and took her morning cup of tea on the porch below the window, would call up to me and ask, "Did that make you feel better?"

And I'd yell back, "No!", and I'd stomp like a small child having a tantrum, throw myself back on the bed, and bury my head under the pillows, hoping to drown out the rowdy roosters ruckus.

A few times, my nieces and nephews woke up early enough to want to hang out with my mother on the porch and drink the hot chocolate she made for them. I'd hear them ask my mother with concern, "Grandma, is uncle all right?"

And she'd answer, "Oh, he's fine. He's just a little crazy, yelling at those chickens." And they'd chuckle at my expense!

Excuse me! I was not crazy, yelling at those chickens! It was the other way around. It was the chickens yelling that was making me crazy! Stupid chickens!

Surprisingly, when I moved away from home, I actually kind of missed the sound of those stupid roosters crowing in the morning. They had been a part of my life for so long, ever since I was a baby; the day didn't start for me until those roosters woke me up with their loud crowing at o'dark thirty in the morning. And for many years after, I would wake up to the phantom sounds of roosters crowing before my alarm would go off--even in the big cities and wild places I had lived in with no farms around for miles. I actually imagined roosters crowing and dreamed myself awake! Does that make me crazy? I hope not. Otherwise, the chickens win.

Birds are such amazing creatures. Some fly, some walk; some glide, some run; some swim, some dive. They all move in fascinating ways. I love watching them fly in formations, be it a simple line or V as they migrate, or execute an intricate series of rolling waves as they dip and dive and soar as a flock; it's all so very captivating and spectacular. Even when they move on the ground, they are beautiful. I love watching flocks of flamingos moving in unison and staggering to create these complex patterns. And I love watching courtship and bonding rituals birds perform together or for each other. Whether they be a pair of swans gracefully skimming across a lake, or a pair of penguins mirroring each other in their greetings after a long separation, or the enchanting actions of a bird of paradise courting a mate by using its lovely colors and resplendent feathering to create a passionate dance and unique song, I love watching birds and their beguiling movements. Even their homes are fascinating. They all live in a variety of places and spaces--high mountains and canyon cliffs; frozen tundras and glacial ice shelves; desert rock walls and deserted islands; caverns and bridges and towers and houses; trees and bushes and telephone poles and rooftops. It's amazing to see birds in their homes, be it nests or birdhouses or small holes in trees and rocks or the ground below. Birds are astounding!

And I'd like to take this opportunity to state that yes, chickens do fly. Not very far, but they can fly, nonetheless, short distances--like peacocks and wild turkeys do. Remember those damn roosters that used to wake me up at a gawdforsaken hour at o'dark thirty in the frakking morning? They actually preferred to roost in a tree rather than in the chicken coop. When the sun went down, they didn't go in the coop like our hens and other chickens; nope. Them big boys just flapped their wings and flew up to the lower branches, then hopped and flew their way up to the other higher branches to spend the night. Even when it was raining, they preferred that tree! Unless there was a hurricane, those big roosters were not going in the chicken coop or barn. They were rough and tough outdoor birds.

I remember there was this skit on Sesame Street, the children's tv program, where there was a cartoon short of a man singing about chickens in the tree, when a rooster comes up to the man and say that no, chickens do not live in trees. And I remember that moment when my brothers and I looked at each other and said, "Yes, they do! Chickens do live in trees!" And soon after the rooster leaves, the man turns to the tree and tells the chickens that they don't live in the trees, and then the chickens actually leave the tree and come down! It was such a meta moment, because we were arguing with the tv and somehow believed the tv understood what we were saying. It's kind of funny to recall that a four, five, and six year old kids were arguing with a tv show. Not that we grew out of it. Some days, I still yell at my tv--especially during sporting events!

And just so you know, those roosters weren't the only chickens capable of flight. A few times, when a rambunctious new puppy would eagerly run after our hens, the hens would actually flap their wings and fly up at least 15 feet to land on the porch roof to get away from the pestering pups. So there you have it; chickens can fly! Granted, not very far, nor for very long, but it still counts as flying. And some like living in trees!

Birds are so incredibly beautiful in their own way. Swans, ducks, egrets, falcons, pygmy owls, rock hopper penguins, peacocks, and parrots are just a few of the many varieties of gorgeous birds in the world. It is a pleasure to watch birds go by. Who doesn't enjoy looking at great tits out and about?
A pair of great tits in a natural state
I am fascinated with the majestic kagu of New Caledonia, with its fierce mohawk and marvelous design. Mostly a flightless bird, its chic style makes it so fly!






Hummingbirds are the living jewels of the natural world.

I am mesmerized by their shimmering, iridescent colors as they flit and float among the vibrant flowers, looking like sparkling gemstones upon floral crowns.


Baby chicks are the cutest of all baby critters! And so are baby ducks! And I love hearing their high pitched, cheery chirping.


Back on the farm, we had baby chicks, and the occasional baby ducklings. We had a lot of chickens, so baby chicks were pretty common every couple of months. Baby ducks, however, were a rare and exciting occurrence. We didn't have ducks on our farm; but my uncle, who lived a few hours away, had a bunch on his farm. The first time I saw ducks, I was probably like five, and my mother had taken me and my two brothers to visit my uncle and stay for a whole week. I was hanging out with my cousins, checking out their large farm when suddenly, I see the weirdest looking chicken! What caught my eye first was the fact that it walked funny; it sort of waddled. At first, I thought maybe it was hurt or perhaps it was just born that way. Then I realized that it looked different from our chickens. It was much more squat and a bit wider than our chickens, and its beak was long and wide and curved unlike our short, sharp beaked chickens. And its feathers were a totally different color. And it really sounded different compared to our clucking chickens. And its feet! What weird and crazy and funny looking feet with these flaps between the toes!

I asked my cousins, who were a few years older than me and my brothers, "Hey, what kind of chicken is that?," and pointed out the weird looking bird.

My cousins looked, then laughed out loud, and the eldest one in the bunch, turned to me and said, "That's not a chicken, little cuz," she laughed, "That's a duck!"

And so began my introduction to ducks. And if I thought that duck was cool looking, I was even more impressed when my cousins showed me ducks with ducklings trailing them as they made their way to swim in the pond. That was awesome! My brothers and I got a kick out of watching those little ducklings chirp and waddle behind their mom in a single file line on their march to the pond, where they all jumped in the water and started swimming. We had never seen waterfowl before, and our chickens certainly didn't swim--waded in the water, but didn't swim--so it was pretty cool watching the ducks on my uncle's farm go about their daily lives. That whole week was an awesome adventure of exploring the farm and helping my cousins with their chores. And most days, we took a boat in the pond and got to hang out with ducks as they were swimming and catching small fish in the pond.

I never figured out how my uncle ended up with ducks on his farm. His farm was a dairy farm. I suspect the ducks were wild fowl that adapted to his farm, as he lived way out in the boonies, next to a large lake often frequented by waterfowl.  But I'm not sure. At the end of the week, my uncle gave us an unhatched duck egg to take home with us. Apparently, the duck mother took her hatched ducklings and abandoned the unhatched egg. It happened every now and then, and usually, my uncle and his family would care for the abandoned egg, and it would hatch into a duck that would follow them around the farm. I'm guessing that most of the ducks on the farm started out that way, probably from abandoned wild duck clutches. We took the egg home, and my mother was no stranger to unhatched eggs. Within a day, we heard soft chirping, and by the second day with us, a baby duckling emerged. We fed him grubs and fish and when he was strong enough, he started following my mom around the house.

We named him Duckie and we loved having him around. He was so warm and fluffy and chirpy! He loved attention. And he loved to eat. We've raised baby chicks before and it was always fun how cute and cuddly they were; but Duckie was a whole different kind of baby chick and we loved spoiling him with food and carrying him to places around the farm. Watching him swim in the baby bathtub was hilarious and fun. And a month later, my uncle gave us another egg, from which hatched Danny, the baby duck. We didn't know it at the time, but Danny was a female. And the following year, we had our first baby ducklings waddling around the farm. Over the years, most of our ducklings grew up and flew away--they probably had more of that wildness in them compared to their farm raised parents. But a few stuck around, and my uncle kept supplying us with new ducks over the years. And our ducks were more pets than livestock. They had a special coop built just for them. They got along pretty well with the other animals. And we loved having them around.

It's extremely hard to pick out a favorite bird, because I pretty much like most of them. All birds are special and wonderful in their own way. So many gorgeous, marvelous birds enchant us and captivate us with their stunning and breathtaking beauty. And I love that we have so many dazzling choices and such a rich, treasure trove of glorious and spectacular birds. But if I was pressed to pick out the most beautiful bird of all, there is only one clear choice. Without a doubt, the most beautiful bird of all is the chicken, and the chicken is at its most beautiful when it is fried.

 

That's right. Fried chicken! Manna from heaven! Ambrosia from the gods! The most delicious and most beautiful creation in all the world! Beauty may be skin deep, and when comes to chicken, deep fried crunchy skin is beauty (and delicious)! Yes, BBQ chicken is heavenly; roasted chicken is divine; stir fried chicken is scintillating; but fried chicken is the supreme expression of chicken perfection. No other bird is as exquisite nor more exalted than the most gracious and peerless chicken. And fried chicken is the superb existence and most magnificent form of the chicken. It is the zenith of quality, the highest standard of excellence by which all foods are measured. What does it taste like? It tastes like chicken!

And there you have it, my list of 5 favorite things that begin with the letter B. I've had a blast working on this list, and I've earned a break and a drink to celebrate. But I hope you enjoyed it, because I certainly did when I was making it. I hope you had fun reading it, or at the very least, you got a laugh out of it. And if you want to do your own list of favorite things that begin with the letter B, then please let me know, so that I can come over and read it. And if not, that's okay, too. I'm not tagging anyone. I'm just on a mission to finish something that I started a long time ago. This will give me a goal to reach, something to strive for and give me some structure. It's also fun and challenging for me to work these things out. Life is short, and I'm going to try to be all that I can be, but most of all just be myself, be happy, and be free. You be yourself, and you be awesome and be safe. Just be the best version of you that you can be. Find your bliss and just be!

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