For the next 20 hours or so, all comments will be moderated and need approval before posting. You’ll see why in tomorrow’s poetry post.
For the next 20 hours or so, all comments will be moderated and need approval before posting. You’ll see why in tomorrow’s poetry post.
Today is a very difficult day for me, and it has been for the past five years. It’s not because tomorrow is my birthday, and I’ll be one year older. No, I’m happy to be alive, and I count each year as a blessing. It’s a day filled with sadness for me because it’s the anniversary of the death of one of my closest friends. He doesn’t have the blessing of having another year. Six years ago, he’d spent Thanksgiving with his boyfriend and was on his way home when he was in a car accident that killed him. We had been texting about an hour or so before his death, and I’d told him to text me when he got home and the last thing I wrote while he was alive was, “I love you.” Later that night, I became suddenly nauseous and threw up. I texted him to say, “Text me when you get home. I’m going to bed because I’m not feeling well.
I never received the text that he was home safely. At first I thought he’d gotten home and fallen asleep forgetting to text me. I was becoming frantic the next day, my birthday, when I had not heard from him. I knew he’d never let my birthday go by without acknowledging it. I knew something had to be wrong. Later that night, I received an email from a friend of his telling me he’d died in a car wreck. I began to cry uncontrollably and basically did so for the next year or more. Grief nearly consumed me. If it had not been for Susan’s friendship, I don’t know how I would have survived.
Thinking back on that night six years ago when he died, I’m convinced he died at the moment I became sick that night. Some of you might think that is crazy, but we had a connection like none other I’d ever had. He was more than just a friend. He was like the younger brother I never had. One that I could tell anything to. He was the first gay friend I’d ever had. In him, I had someone I could talk to about being gay without any fear of judgement. He encouraged me to pursue my own happiness and was my greatest advocate when I got my job in Vermont. He knew it was a very gay friendly state and believed I’d flourish there. I guess he was right, but it took coming to terms with my grief over his death before I could begin to flourish in Vermont.
I had been in the closet for so long. Yes, I came out twenty years ago, but when I moved back to Alabama, I was kept pretty firmly behind that closet door. If it hadn’t been for him, I wouldn’t have met the boyfriend I had when I moved to Vermont. Sadly, said boyfriend is still in Alabama, and I’m up here, so it didn’t work out, but we had some great times together. I’d almost chickened out on meeting my soon to be boyfriend for the first time, but my friend encouraged me to go anyway, and I’m glad I did. It was a wonderful experience in my life.
I talked to my friend multiple times a day. We would text back and forth for hours. Though he lived in another state, we would even sit and watch TV shows “together.” We always watched Teen Wolf and How to Get Away with Murder together. I haven’t been able to watch either show since. He was there one day and yanked out of my life the next. I still find it hard to talk about him without getting very emotional. That’s why today is such a sad day for me. I always remember what a wonderful person he was, and what a great person the world missed out on getting to experience. I try to be more positive on my birthday, but I’ll be honest, it hasn’t been the same since he died.
Mike Rudulph grew up near Birmingham, Alabama and enlisted in the Marines when he was 20 years old. At the time, he hoped that the military environment would bring him the sense of purpose he had been missing.
This was in 2000, during the era of “don’t ask, don’t tell,” when LGBTQ people in the military couldn’t serve openly.
Mike went on his first deployment to Iraq in 2003. When he got home, he met the man who would later become his husband, Neil Rafferty.
They got married in 2018, the same year that Neil ran for public office in Alabama — and won! He is the first openly gay man to serve in the Alabama State legislature.
At StoryCorps in Birmingham, Alabama, Mike and Neil sat down to remember the early days of their relationship.
Originally aired August 15, 2020, on NPR’s Weekend Edition Saturday.
It almost seems unreal, but all of the news outlets appear in agreement that Joe Biden and Kamala Harris have won Pennsylvania to put him over 270 electoral votes. Congratulations President-Elect Biden and Vice President-Elect Harris.
Quarantine cooking has become a thing and, of course, gay men are giving it a twist when they post photos of their culinary masterpieces. So far, I have not posted pictures of my culinary experiments, but I have posted a few recipes.
While earnest amateur chefs and bakers across the nation are posting photos of their perfect banana bread online, gay men are letting the goods speak for themselves. And they don’t mean the pavlova (in case you don’t know, that’s a meringue-based dessert named after the Russian ballerina Anna Pavlova).
Photos of men holding up the treats they’ve created in lockdown are everywhere on Instagram, from #quarantinebaking to #gaybaking. But what many of them have in common isn’t eggs and aprons – it’s usually abs and pecs.
I’m continuing to try out new recipes. Over the weekend, I made ham and cheese scones. They were so yummy.
Ham and Cheese Scones
• 2 cups all-purpose flour
• 1 tablespoon baking powder
• ½ teaspoon garlic powder
• ½ teaspoon kosher salt
• ½ cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, cut into cubes
• ¾ cup buttermilk
• 1 cup shredded cheddar cheese
• 1/3 cup diced ham
• 2 tablespoons chopped fresh chives (or 1 tablespoon dried chopped chives)
1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or a silicone baking mat; set aside, or use butter, Crisco, or cooking spray to grease a cast iron scone/cornbread skillet.
2. In a food processor, combine flour, baking powder, garlic powder and salt. Add cold butter, and pulse until the dry ingredient resembles coarse crumbs. (You can also just use your hands if you don’t have a food processor).
3. Pour dry ingredients into a bowl and stir in buttermilk, cheese, ham and chives until a soft dough forms. (You may need to use a little more buttermilk to get all ingredients combined.)
4. Working on a lightly floured surface, knead the dough 3-4 times until it comes together. Using a rolling pill, roll the dough into an 8″ circle, about 1-inch thick, and cut into 8 wedges. (I have a cast iron scone/cornbread skillet that I use)
5. Place scones onto the prepared baking sheet. Place into oven and bake for 18-20 minutes, or until firm to the touch and lightly browned. Mine took about 25 minutes. (I used half the dough and refrigerated the rest to use the next day, which I then baked 30 minutes because the dough was chilled.)
6. Serve immediately.
If you leave out the garlic, cheddar cheese, ham, and chives, it’s a very good biscuit recipe.
I also made some cornbread the other day. While I have made cornbread many times with self-rising cornmeal, it’s just too hard to find while exiled up here in yankee land. So I found a recipe for using regular yellow cornmeal. I again used my cast iron scone/cornbread skillet.
• 1 tablespoon bacon drippings or Crisco
• 2 cups cornmeal
• 1 teaspoon baking soda
• 1 teaspoon salt
• 1 ¼ cups buttermilk
• 6 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
1. Preheat pan with bacon drippings or Crisco and butter: Put the bacon drippings or Crisco and butter in a 9 or 10-inch well-seasoned cast iron skillet and put the skillet into the oven. Then preheat the oven to 400°F with the skillet inside. (If you don’t have an iron skillet, you can use an uncovered Dutch oven or a metal cake pan.)
2. Make the batter: Whisk together all the dry ingredients (cornmeal, baking soda, salt) in a large bowl. Pour melted butter and or Crisco into the the bowl of dry ingredients. Add the buttermilk and stir until combines. It may take a little extra buttermilk.
3. Pour batter into hot skillet and bake: When the oven is hot, take out the skillet (carefully, as the handle will be hot!). Add the cornbread batter and make sure it is evenly distributed in the skillet.
4. Bake at 400°F for about 25-30 minutes, or until the edges are beginning to brown and a toothpick inserted in the center of the bread comes out clean. The cornbread should be a golden brown color.
5. Rest bread in skillet, then serve: Let the bread rest for 10 to 30 minutes in the skillet before cutting it into wedges and serving.
I also tried something completely different, a crab rangoon pizza. I love crab rangoon and this sounded pretty appetizing.
Crab Rangoon Pizza
• 1 (16 ounce) package pizza dough
• 8 ounces cream cheese, softened
• 6 tablespoons chopped green onions or chives, divided
• ¼ cup shredded Parmesan cheese, divided
• 4 ounces frozen crab meat, thawed
• 4 ounces shredded mozzarella cheese
• 2 tablespoons sweet chili sauce
1. Preheat oven to 450 degrees F (230 degrees C). Spread pizza dough onto a baking sheet.
2. Bake in the preheated oven until slightly brown, about 7 minutes.
3. Mix cream cheese, 1/4 cup green onions or chives, 2 tablespoons Parmesan cheese, and crab together in a bowl; spread onto the pizza crust. Top with mozzarella cheese, remaining Parmesan cheese, fried wonton strips, and remaining green onions or chives.
4. Bake in the preheated oven until cheese is browned and melted, about 8 minutes. Drizzle sweet chile sauce over top.
The crab rangoon pizza did taste remarkably like crab rangoon; however, if I were to make this recipe again, I would roll out the dough and cut into individual small triangles, circles, or squares and serve it as a party hors d’oeuvres. I also have to say that I found the sweet chili sauce a bit difficult to find, but that may be because I am in Vermont; however, it is worth finding for this recipe. One other thing, the original recipe called for frying wonton strips but I skipped that step. I hate deep frying anything. I’m not particularly fond of frying many things at all, only country fried steak, pork chops, and chicken.
I also made a very good medium well steak. I started with a marinade. This recipe makes enough for cooking steaks several times. It’s also good on chicken or pork.
1 1/2 cups soy sauce
¼ teaspoon liquid smoke
¼ cup Worcestershire sauce
¼ teaspoon ground ginger
½ teaspoon salt
1 tablespoons sugar
1 dash black pepper
1 dash paprika
½ teaspoon garlic powder
Simply mix all the ingredients together and then pour over steaks. Marinate steaks for a few hours then your ready to cook your steaks.
Perfect Oven Baked Steak
• 2 beef steaks, 1-inch thick (any type will do, I prefer New York strips)
• 1-2 Tablespoons canola oil
• 1-2 Tablespoons butter
• Salt and pepper for seasoning
1. Remove the steaks from the fridge and bring to room temperature, about 15-30 minutes. Trim any excess fat.
2. Preheat the oven to 450°F. Place a large skillet in the oven while it is heating. Remove pan from oven and place on the stove over high heat.
3. Dry steaks with a paper towel. Then rub the oil over the steaks and generously season with salt and pepper. Once the pan is very hot place the steaks into the pan. Let each side cook for 1 minute, or until seared. Use tongs to flip.
4. Then place the pan in the oven for 4-6 minutes. Flip and cook the other side an additional 4-6 minutes (see notes below for instructions on doneness). Check the center with a meat thermometer or slice with a knife to check for doneness. You want to remove the meat 5° before it reaches the desired temp. Temperature will continue to rise while resting.
5. Remove pan from oven and allow to rest for a couple minutes. Add a slab of butter on the top of each steak or make a pan sauce.
Place cast iron skillet on stovetop with temperature on medium high. Add a tablespoon or two of marinade to the pan along with 1 cup of beef stock. Add a few sprigs of fresh thyme. Then add three tablespoons of butter one at a time melting each before adding another. Let sauce reduce by half. This should take about 5 minutes.
A Few Notes:
How to test your steak for doneness:
• Rare: 125°F (red): Sear outsides then bake about 4-6 minutes in oven until temperature is around 125°F and color is red.
• Medium Rare: 130°F (deep pink): Sear outsides then bake about 6-8 minutes in oven until temperature is 130°F and color is deep pink.
• Medium: 140°F (light pink): Sear outsides then bake about 8-10 minutes in oven until temperature is around 140°F and color is light pink.
• Medium well: 150°F (slightly pink center): Sear outsides then bake about 10-12 minutes in oven until temperature is around 150°F and color is slightly pink center.
• Well done: 160°F (little or no pink): Sear outsides then bake about 12-14 minutes in oven until temperature is around 160°F+ and color is little or no pink.
With this steak, I suggest twice baked potatoes and a simple green salad. If you’ve never made twice baked potatoes, they are very simple and oh so very yummy.
Twice Baked Potatoes
• 2 large russet potatoes
• Canola oil to coat
• Kosher salt
• 2-3 tablespoons butter
• 2-3 heaping tablespoons sour cream
• ½ cup shredded cheddar cheese
• ¼ cup bacon bits
• 1 heaping tablespoons of dried chives or 2 tablespoons of fresh chives
• Several slices of your favorite cheese (I like American for this)
• Salt, pepper, and garlic powder to taste
1. Heat oven to 350 degrees and position racks in top and bottom thirds. Wash potatoes thoroughly with a stiff brush and cold running water. Dry, then using a standard fork poke 8 to 12 deep holes all over the spud so that moisture can escape during cooking. Place in a bowl and coat lightly with oil. Sprinkle with kosher salt and place potatoesdirectly on rack in middle of oven. Place a baking sheet on the lower rack to catch any drippings.
2. Bake 1 to 1 ½ hours or until skin feels crisp but flesh beneath feels soft.
3. Let potatoes cool slightly and split in half. Scoop out potatoes leaving about ¼ inch of potato on the skin.
4. Mash potatoes and mix in sour cream, cheese, bacon bits, chives, and salt, pepper, and garlic powder.
5. Line potato skin with sliced cheese and bacon bits, leaving enough sliced cheese to top potatoes.
6. Spoon ¼ of potato mixture in each potato skin half. Top with sliced cheese.
7. Place potatoes on a baking sheet and bake an additional 5-10 minutes allowing cheese to melt.
Ok, I just had to share this. As the tweet says, “Best 12 seconds this week.” I’m not for sure I can really explain it, but damn this guy is all kinds of sexy. I think during times like these, we need an escape occasionally, and he’s mine right now. I can watch this over and over. I don’t know if he’s gay or straight. Honestly, does it matter? He’s just nice to look at, and that smile drives me crazy.
I Cannot Sing
by Edward Nathaniel Harleston
I cannot sing, because when a child,
My mother often hushed me.
The others she allowed to sing,
No matter what their melody.
And since I’ve grown to manhood
All music I applaud,
But have no voice for singing,
So I write my songs to God.
I have ears and know the measures,
And I’ll write a song for you,
But the world must do the singing
Of my sonnets old and new.
Now tell me, world of music,
Why I cannot sing one song?
Is it because my mother hushed me
And laughed when I was wrong?
Although I can write music,
And tell when harmony’s right,
I will never sing better than when
My song was hushed one night.
Fond mothers, always be careful;
Let the songs be poorly sung.
To hush the child is cruel;
Let it sing while it is young.
I made it to New York City and got settled into my hotel room. I’ll be here until next Monday. I took the train down. It takes a while, but at least I don’t have to drive. It’s about a seven hour trip. I don’t mind the train. It’s relatively comfortable. It’s easy to get up and walk around. My only complaint about trains is the motion of them rocking back and forth. I usually get a little motion sick. This trip went pretty well though. It started with heavy snow in Vermont which turned to rain the further south we went. Eventually, the rain stopped and it was pretty nice in New York City. Now I get to spend a week with my friend Susan.