C I V I L    M A R R I A G E    I S    A    C I V I L    R I G H T.

A N D N O W I T ' S T H E L A W O F T H E L A N D.


Thursday, September 16, 2021

The Pork Boys Do Summer

Some recent dinners chez nous.  This is more for the convenience of M.P. and myself to show our relations online, but you all can look too, if you want.  All the food was made from scratch by M.P., except as noted.  Click on any pic to enlarge.


Above and below, our 4th of July dinner.  Note the table runner and "firecrackers" carefully assembled from paper napkins for a festive flair.  The main course was sausage dogs covered with chili, chopped onions, mayo, and grated cheese.  Sides were French fries, onion rings, fiesta corn, and a bit of guacamole with some new little crackers, Ritz Crisp & Thins - very tasty, very nice.


And a 4th of July cake, too - chocolate, maybe - I think:


Another time, M.P. made a delicious bowl of 7-layer dip:


And yet another time, it was ham-and-cheese crepes for dinner, with cheesy toast and broccoli a la polonaise (i.e., topped with breadcrumbs and grated egg):


One weekend, M.P. was feeling especially adventuresome, so after much fastidious labor he produced this beautiful Beef Wellington (essentially, roast beef and gravy encased in pastry):


Sides were an uncooperative vegetable souffle, some experimental dinner rolls striped with poppy seeds, and twice-baked potato halves topped with crumbled bacon and cheese:



Above, a slice of Beef Wellington, a dinner roll, some sad souffle, and a potato half.  Below, dessert was shortbread cookies with brown sugar topping and vanilla ice cream with store-bought caramel sauce:


One day we looked out the kitchen door to discover that a visitor was setting up her own culinary establishment between the strawberry plant and the lemon tree.  And just look what a wonderful web Miss Charlotte wove!  Really a masterpiece of reticulation - click to enlarge.  Alas, we awoke one day last week to discover both Charlotte and her web had vanished into thin air!  M.P. thinks she decamped for a maternity ward.  I hope she is happy, wherever she is.



Above and below, lovely two-tone roses from the sale bucket at the grocery store for M.P.'s birthday.



M.P. cooked his own birthday dinner the Sunday before the actual date.  It was one of his favorite meals:  deep-fried steak fingers (made from ground beef, but so cleverly compounded by M.P. that you wouldn't know it wasn't steak); mashed potatoes and luscious cream gravy; square-cut Schoolhouse Rolls; barbecued Ranch Beans; and for just a touch of elegance, steamed asparagus.  And a baked stuffed onion in the center, I think.


Dessert was one of the Pork Boys' especial favorites:  lemon meringue pie, cool, sweet, and tangy.


On the evening of his actual birthday, I splurged a little and surprised him with a rare Domino's pizza with the ham and pineapple topping that we both love.  Also a couple of their delightful Lava Crunch Cakes, warm and gooey (not pictured).


Another Sunday dinner featured what M.P. called Cajun Roast Chicken with chicken-liver stuffing:



Also a big pan of good old mac and cheese, above, and garlic-Parmesan bread, below - but this time, M.P. experimented by dipping the slices in milk before toasting, which made them turn out fabulously soft and scrumptious.


The assemblage of all the above:



And for last Sunday's dinner, the table was decorated with lovely maroon and gold mums - the latter from our garden.  The napkins are in matching colors, of course.


Notice how much sharper these pictures are, being taken with M.P.'s new teleophone, a gift from his daughter.  Alas, we were so excited over the phone and flowers, we forgot to take any pics of our dinner, which included beef tips and gravy over egg noodles, and creamed spinach.  But we did get a snap of the piece de resistance:  Tiramisu!
(I'm not at liberty to tell you M.P.'s secret recipe - I can only say it involves something nobody doesn't like.)


A most delightful end to any good dinner.  And there I must stop, wishing all my truckbuddies good friends, good cheer, and toujours bon appetit!

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Saturday, September 11, 2021

The End of an Era


A U. S. Marine grieves at the memorial of a comrade killed in Afghanistan, 2012

Ben Rhodes, an American political commentator and former Deputy National Security Advisor to President Obama, writes in the Guardian:

Most importantly, the abandonment of Afghans to the Taliban, and Biden’s occasionally callous rhetoric laying the blame on Afghan security forces, who had fought on the frontlines for years, evoked a sense of national shame – even if that emotion should apply to the entirety of the war, and not simply its end. Indeed, in the chaotic days of withdrawal, the predominant concerns in US politics often had little to do with Afghans. The evacuation of Americans, the danger of Islamic State Khorasan Province, and the loss of US service members eclipsed the gargantuan Afghan suffering. Overwhelming public support for Biden’s decision, though undercut by dissatisfaction with the process of withdrawal, confirmed Biden’s core instinct: the thing most Americans agree upon is that we went to Afghanistan to take out the people who did 9/11 and prevent further attacks, and it was past time to abandon the broader aims of post-9/11 foreign policy, no matter the subsequent humanitarian cost.

In short, Biden’s decision exposed the cavernous gap between the national security establishment and the public, and forced a recognition that there is going to be no victory in a “war on terror” too infused with the trauma and triumphalism of the immediate post-9/11 moment. Like many Americans, I found myself simultaneously supporting the core decision to withdraw and shuddering at its execution and consequences. As someone who worked in national security, I have to recognise the limits of how the US can shape other countries through military intervention. As someone who has participated in American politics, I have to acknowledge that a country confronting virulent ethno-nationalism at home is ill-suited to build nations abroad. But as a human being, I have to confront how we let the Afghan people down, and how allies like Britain, who stood by us after 9/11, must feel in seeing how it all ended.

It is a cruel irony that this is the second time the US has lost interest in Afghanistan. The first time was in the 1990s, after much of the mujahideen we supported to defeat the Soviets evolved into dangerous extremists, plunged the country into civil war, and led to Taliban rule.

The final verdict on Biden’s decision will depend on whether the US can truly end the era that began with 9/11 – including the mindset that measures our credibility through the use of military force and pursues security through partnerships with autocrats. Can we learn from our history and forge a new approach to the rest of the world – one that is sustainable, consistent, and responsive to the people we set out to help; that prioritises existential issues like the fight against the climate crisis and genuine advocacy for the universal values America claims to support?

What I Say:  The twentieth anniversary of the 9/11 attacks, following close on the heels of the Afghanistan withdrawal, certainly does mark the end of an era - a nice, neat convenience for future history teachers - and the way forward is not at all clear.  The political divisions in this country have reached a horrendous frenzy now, exacerbated by the covid pandemic, that will not easily be tamped down.  There is a level of savagery and hysteria, not to mention widespread ignorance, arrogance, and sheer gullible superstition, on the tribal extremes of both the left and the right.

Before you start to contradict that last statement - was the anarchy at the Capitol on January 6th any more brutal than the nationwide anarchy that occurred last summer?  If you condemn the one, you must condemn the other.  In my view, both are equally nauseating and frightening, symptomatic of a dangerous, possibly fatal illness in the American body politic.  As Mr. Lincoln said - A house divided against itself cannot stand.  We have been warned.

As to foreign affairs, I hope all my truckbuddies will recall that the whole Afghan mess was the creation of the Bush-Cheney administration - and that Democrats criticized it from the very start, along with the shameful, senseless, needless war in Iraq that was based on Bush-Cheney's lies about non-existent "weapons of mass destruction."  It was necessary, and right by all standards of earthly justice, to hit back against the evil men who attacked our cities and mercilessly killed three thousand of our citizens on 9/11.  But it was not at all necessary to destroy two governments and colonize a Little America in the most inaccessible, inhospitable region on the other side of the world, at the cost of so many lives, so many dollars, and the respect and goodwill of nearly all the world.

Biden is responsible, as he himself has said repeatedly, for last month's frantic, shameful evacuation from Kabul - but we must remember that it was Bush-Cheney who dug us into that hole in the first place, against all reason and history and common sense, with glib Madison Avenue phrases like "regime change" and "nation building" - which are simply code for invasion, occupation, and control by a puppet government.  This has always been clear to those of us who had eyes to see it for what it was - Vietnam 2.0.  It was never about giving the Afghans what they wanted - it was all about giving them what we wanted for them.  And a cash cow beyond the wildest dreams of the military-industrial complex.

Continued after the jump . . .

Wednesday, September 8, 2021

What I'm Watching: Refreshment Through the Years (1939)

1938 Coke ad

A short Technicolor history of carbonated waters and the Coca-Cola Company, produced for showing in the Coca-Cola pavilion at the 1939 World's Fair.  Do you remember when bottle caps were lined with cork?

 

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Sunday, September 5, 2021

Sunday, August 29, 2021

Sunday Drive: It Is Well with My Soul

The familiar hymn, written in 1873.


Blessed are the poor in spirit: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

Blessed are they that mourn: for they shall be comforted.

Blessed are the meek: for they shall inherit the earth.

Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness: for they shall be filled.

Blessed are the merciful: for they shall obtain mercy.

Blessed are the pure in heart: for they shall see God.

Blessed are the peacemakers: for they shall be called the children of God.


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Wednesday, August 25, 2021

Kudos to Moulton and Meijer

Read the joint statement by Moulton and Meijer about their trip to Kabul.

Your Head Trucker generally believes in obeying the law and following the rules - but there is an exception to every rule, especially when the exception clearly serves the greater good - especially if there's a chance of saving lives.  It seems to me that the secret trip to Kabul by Representatives Seth Moulton (D-Mass.) and Pete Meijer (R-Mich.) is just such a praiseworthy exception, and deserves high commendation.  (It should be remembered that Meijer is one of only ten Republicans who voted to impeach Trump last January - a very brave act, indeed.)  And as far as I can tell, no law was broken.

Moulton and Meijer are both army veterans who already served a number of years in Afghanistan and Iraq; they know the situation over there from the perspective of the soldier on the ground, not a fat cat lolling around in a cushy Washington office.  They undertook this trip into deadly chaos at their own risk, and not at the taxpayer's expense.  They stayed at the Kabul airport only 14 hours, and flew out on a plane that had empty seats.  No one was deprived of a chance to get out of Afghanistan, and they gained valuable first-hand views of the crisis, which ought to be appreciated by their fellow lawmakers.

The idea that this was some kind of "ego trip" is patently ridiculous - I wonder if the reporter who wrote that glib phrase has ever put his or her pretty little ass on the line for anyone.  And the other inane claim that their visit "diverted resources" from the evacuation effort is equally laughable - what exactly is that phrase supposed to mean, anyway?  Does anyone think these combat veterans were being chauffeured around in a gold-plated limo, and banqueted with champagne and caviar and dancing girls?  Inside an armed compound at the airport - essentially, a fort under siege?  Seriously, people.

It's a bullshit phrase, meaningless and patently false.  As experienced soldiers, they surely blended right in with the rest of the troops, who were no doubt glad that at least two of our elected representatives actually came to see with their own eyes exactly what is happening - instead of just mouthing about it back home for the TV cameras, spewing empty words and promises, and generally just making shit up. 

And Congressmen have visited war zones many, many times before in our history - it's really part of the checks and balances of our system of government - the legislative branch checking up on the executive, often with good reason.  Cf. Vietnam.  Now we have what is about to become a humanitarian disaster of the first magnitude - shouldn't somebody check it out, and not just take the Administration's word for it? If the story checks out, okay, no harm done.  If not - Congress has a duty to act in the best interests of the nation.

Also ridiculous is the idea that their secret visit "put our troops and diplomats at higher risk."  What fucking moron wrote that propaganda?  HOW can anybody in Kabul airport be at any greater risk than they already are??  Where the enemy controls the entire government, other terrorists are at large in the country, and everyone at the airport could be shot up or blown up at any moment?  This journey to the most dangerous spot in the world was a selfless act, not a selfish one.

I say, Good job, guys.  You are real patriots.  Thank you for your service.

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Sunday, August 22, 2021

Sunday Drive: Sleep Walk

Once upon a time . . . 

The beautiful tune that calls to mind long-ago summer dreams, as performed by the great Chet Atkins and Leo Kottke in 1987:


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Friday, August 20, 2021

The Pork Boys Do Chicken Fricassee

M. P. took a break from Sunday dinner duty last weekend and handed me the job.  I decided to try a dish known across the South under one name or another, but that I had never made myself.  I consulted a lot of cookbooks, ancient and modern, before embarking on this adventure - at the bottom of this post you will find the hundred-year-old recipe that was my starting point.  The essence of it is, you first lightly brown your chicken pieces in some oil, then simmer them in a dark gravy (roux + chicken bouillon) until they are very tender:  an hour and a half to two hours will do.

Then you serve the chicken and gravy over rice, and there you go.  We didn't take any pictures, but it so happens that the fellow in this video - which I found the day after I cooked my chick frick - does it almost exactly the way I did, so you can get a good idea of what we ate.  M.P. licked his plate clean, which tells you all you need to know.

 

From the Picayune Creole Cookbook, New Orleans, 1921:

Caution: Unfortunately, this recipe omits the roux, which is essential; the dish will not be nearly as brown or as tasty without it.


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Sunday, August 15, 2021

History Repeats Itself

Is it just me, or does anyone else think the chaotic fall of Kabul is a monumental fuck-up?

And the blame for whatever is happening there right now is squarely on Biden's shoulders.  Though the last three presidents also bear responsibility for this long, ghastly misadventure on the other side of the world.

I am proud of our troops, who by all accounts have done an excellent job in a bad situation - but I am deeply ashamed of the waste of lives and money and goodwill in Afghanistan these twenty years.

I remember the pictures of the fall of Saigon, and today's events seem to be a rerun of that debacle.

Not that I ever wanted us to be in Vietnam OR in Afghanistan; but there's a good way to leave and a bad way.  Again we see the same lies, the same denials, the same "alternate facts" that clearly are at odds with the images on the TV screen.

I remember very clearly sending off a hot email to George Bush when he sent the troops to Afghanistan, reminding him that the Russians had tried for twenty years to pacify those people without a shred of success, ditto the British before them, and what made him think we could do any better?

Alas, my words fell on deaf it ears, apparently.  Now, for all we expended in that far-off wasteland, there is only blood and sorrow and shame to show for it.

I am completely disgusted.  Nauseated.  Mortified.  What a black day for America.  Again.

When will they ever learn? 


Update, 8/16/21:
  President Biden spoke from the White House this afternoon on the situation in Afghanistan, putting the best face possible on a colossal 20-year mistake. He states plainly that it is hopeless to pour men, machines, and money into a faraway country whose own government is corrupt, divided, and unwilling to defend its own people in a civil war that the United States has no business meddling in. These are the glaringly obvious truths it took American leaders 20 long years to admit in the Vietnam debacle. 

 

At least Biden is stating them plainly here and now, saying at the 4:45 mark, "I stand squarely behind my decision." And at 6:30, "We gave [the Afghans] every opportunity to fight for their future. We could not give them the the will to fight for that future."  No, of course not - it wasn't their dream of the future, only an outsider's idea.  You simply can't live someone else's life for him - whether speaking of individuals or nations.  It goes deeply against the grain of human nature to be reduced to a mere puppet, even if it is for his own good.  That 's not liberty, is it?

Vietnam, Vietnam, Vietnam! If I foresaw this, living in obscurity far out on the Texas prairie twenty years ago, why did no one in Washington?  What the hell is wrong with people?

When will they ever learn?


Update, 8/17/21:  Jonathan Steele has written a fine opinion piece in the Guardian on the lessons of history in Afghanistan that is worth reading.

Also noteworthy:  The Guardian's editorial on the manifest unfitness of Boris Johnson for his office:  "When events demand stature, Mr Johnson always shrinks to the occasion, and the vacuum where leadership should be diminishes Britain in the eyes of the world."  Quite.


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Sunday Drive: Belle Nuit

The beloved aria, sung by Marilyn Horne and Montserrat Caballé in Munich, 1990:


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Tuesday, August 10, 2021

Beach Weather

It's August.  Time to head for the coast, strip down, and cool off!  Or is it?  Don't worry - a lifeguard is always handy.

Click the captions to see full-size photos at Shorpy.com

Ocean Grove, New Jersey, 1905

Atlantic City, New Jersey, 1904

"Been expecting you."

Friday, August 6, 2021

Just for Laughs: Jack Benny at the Supermarket

We all love Lucy, of course, and her comic genius will live on as long as there is some kind of machinery to play her reruns.  But it seems to me that a number of other great comedians are most undeservedly forgotten in the modern world, and Jack Benny is one of the all-time funniest.  If you are in need of a laugh or two, this should do the trick; the best part is the second half, where Jack runs afoul of sarcastic store clerk Frank Nelson.

 

For the record, this episode of the Jack Benny Program was broadcast on January 22, 1961. 

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Sunday, August 1, 2021

Sunday Drive: Sweet Marie

The Andrews Sisters put some swing into the 1893 song, featured in Life with Father.  Famed bandleader Carmen Cavallaro is at the piano for this 1948 recording.

 

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Thursday, July 29, 2021

Russ Recommends: Life with Father (1947)

What may be the beginning of a semi-regular series, featuring lighthearted movies from the golden era of Hollywood, without even a hint of the ugly, vulgar modern world to be seen or heard. We often watch such things while eating our weeknight dinners.

Trailer:

 

Life with Father is based on the memoirs of Clarence Day, Jr., published in 1936,  The book was turned into a smash hit play that ran for more than seven years on Broadway.  The movie was a big hit with critics and at the box office, and was nominated for four Academy Awards.

Directed by Michael Curtiz, who also directed Casablanca (1943).

The players include William Powell, perfectly irascible in the title role;

The beautiful, always delightful Irene Dunne as the long-suffering Mrs. Day;

Jimmy Lydon, who was also the teenage star of the Henry Aldrich series (still alive and living in New Jersey at 98 years old);

Edmund Gwenn as the Reverend Dr. Lloyd - also known as Kris Kringle;

Veteran comedienne ZaSu Pitts, always amusing; and

15-year-old Elizabeth Taylor, already gorgeous (when was she not?).

Music by the brilliant Max Steiner, who also scored Gone with the Wind, Casablanca, and A Summer Place, to name but a few of his film credits.

Full movie (public domain):

 

Sidelights:  

Mr. Day's frequent expostulation in the play, "Oh, God!" was changed to "Oh, Gad!" for the movie version.  

Actor Edmund Gwenn shared his Beverly Hills home with a former Olympic silver medalist, Rodney Soher.

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Sunday, July 25, 2021

Sunday Drive: Dream

Roy Orbison recorded his version of this lovely tune in 1963.


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Thursday, July 22, 2021

What I'm Watching: This Is My Railroad

1950 advertisement for the all-new Sunset Limited

 A 1947 company film that pays tribute to the dedicated work of the men and women of the friendly Southern Pacific Railroad.

 

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Sunday, July 18, 2021

Sunday Drive: I'll Be Seeing You

The 1944 hit record by Tommy Dorsey and his orchestra, featuring Frank Sinatra:



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Friday, July 16, 2021

Weekend Getaway: Greek Islands

Rick Steves shows us the highlights of Santorini, Mykonos, and Rhodes.


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Sunday, July 4, 2021

Independence Day, 2021: My Country, 'Tis of Thee

American Flag Waving on a Flag Pole 

Below is a reminiscence of the famous concert by Marian Anderson on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial in 1939:  a thrilling moment in our history that united Americans of all kinds instead of driving them apart.  That is what the American dream is, really:  E pluribus unum.

Diversity is a very popular word these days.  But I say, diversity without unity will destroy us.  And sooner rather than later.  

 

A prayer for this 4th of July:

O God, please bless our country,
for all we like sheep have gone astray,
and turned each to his own way. 
For Thy mercy's sake, 
heal us, mend us, reform us, and restore us;
unite us again as one people in justice and truth
to do Thy will on earth; and grant us Thy peace,
for we surely do need it. 


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Thursday, July 1, 2021

What I'm Watching: Jane Austen's House

Your Head Trucker remembers fondly the delicious pleasure of reading Pride and Prejudice some forty-odd years ago.  Here is a short tour through the home of the beloved author in Hampshire, England, about fifty miles southwest of London:


Bonus:  The nearby Chawton House, one of the homes owned by Jane's wealthy brother Edward.


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Sunday, June 27, 2021

Sunday Drive: Listzt, Liebestraum

BTW, yesterday was the sixth anniversary of nationwide marriage equality.  My, how time flies.



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Friday, June 25, 2021

Weekend Getaway: The Golden Arrow to Paris

From 1929 to 1972, the all-Pullman Golden Arrow was the first-class way to travel from London to Paris and back.  Here is a color film of the six-hour journey by train and ferry, shot in 1949 - wouldn't it be loverly to take that trip today?




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Friday, June 18, 2021

The Pork Boys Do Spring

In recent weeks, we have celebrated my birthday and M.P.'s retirement from his retirement job, and just spring in general.  Here are some pics - click to enlarge.  


The first gladiola from our garden made a lovely centerpiece with a few tiny yellow mums.



Chilled cucumber soup and a bit of avocado toast on the side was just right for a springtime dinner.


At my request, for my birthday M.P. made Julia Child's coq au vin, served over rice, along with homemade croissants, fried eggplant, wilted spinach leaves and bacon, and gratin dauphinoise, a la Mme. Pepin (Jacque's maman).  That was damn good eatin', boys, I tell you what.


May was an uncommonly rainy month, so all our outdoor plants and the herb garden are doing very nicely indeed.  Here are some colorful kalanchoes and pansies by the kitchen steps.


Believe it or not, M.P. has grown this lemon tree from a single seed he planted several years ago.  No fruit yet, but it's over three feet tall now.


Gladiola and periwinkles from the garden are lovely in candlelight, along with some seashells from Florida.



One night, M.P. surprised me with a pair of luscious cheese souffles - a tricky bit of cookery he has been working on for years, and now has perfected, as you can see.


Believe me when I tell you that Philly steak sandwiches made on French bread with a spread of mashed avocado and ranch dressing are dee-licious.


M.P. deep-fried what he calls some golden nuggets made from Yukon Gold potatoes - scrumptious with a little Cajun seasoning sprinkled over them.


Plain old green beans sauteed with a bit of onion and tomato are very tasty too.


M.P. spent several days making this cardboard cut-out for the birthday party of one of his granddaughters - made for little girls to stand behind and have a "mermaid picture" taken - it was a big hit at the party.  M.P. showed off his fine artistic skills here - he painted all of this freehand, out of his imagination, no tracing or copying.


More glads, magenta and orange this time, with some sale-priced poseys from the grocery store.  Also check out the marble plates M.P. found - very chic, I think.  (I hate to admit they are not really marble, or even porcelain.)



One day while cleaning out the deep freeze, M.P. made the happy discovery of a long-forgotten duck sitting at the bottom of the box.  So he soon had it butterflied and roasted low and slow in wine and herbs - it came out so tender it was falling off the bone, and had a magnificent flavor.


Accompaniments included, right to left, duck gravy made from the drippings, lemon-butter rice, and carrots and peas in a wine and cream sauce.  So good.


M.P. made his wonderfully yummy Schoolhouse Rolls, too.


The piece de resistance was M.P.'s homemade coffee cheesecake, flavored with Kahlua, which marbled up beautifully as you can see.


A delightful end to a delightful meal.

And that's the way it goes for these two old shitkickers, now both retired and fancy free.  I hope all my truckbuddies are enjoying life and eating well too.


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