What a Wonderful World Indeed

If you're asking me (and you may or may not, yet here we are), it is never the wrong time to remind ourselves that the sky is indeed still blue and trees are yet green; clouds are still fluffy and white, and even if they're not, life still demands to be lived.

With that being said, here's another offering in our incredible remote-recording series entitled The Incredible Remote-Recording Series. This time around we put our spin on a song made famous by that old pioneer of growly (yet delightfully smooth) vocals and splendid trumpeteering. Yes, it is none other than Louis Armstrong of whom I speak, and the song is that wonderfully positive anthem of positivity...





As per the usual agreement, Jae took it upon herself to sing like only she can, while I fiddled around with a multitude of colored knobs and a vast variety of different-sized levers to make sure the music and video came out just right.

You may wonder how it is that Debra Birkhimer is tickling the ivorys while simultaneously performing the sultry alto background vocals you hear. It was no easy feat (let me tell ya!), and involved some highly technical lingo (and a couple of calls to tech-support). Suffice it to say the time-machine works!

I would also like to guide your attention to our newest "Incredible Remote-Recording Series" family member. For the undisclosed sum of ten-thousand and four dollars the ever so delightfully pleasant Amanda Birkhimer agreed to take on the excruciatingly difficult role of lead soprano background vocalist. If you stick around to the very end of the video you're in for a particularly awesome treat. There's a reason why we she was our first "pick."

Stay safe, stay healthy, and, most of all, don't forget that life is here to be lived... So go out and live it!

-T

On a More Serious Note

When I wrote my previous blog post we were smack-dab in the middle of the infamous 2020 COVID-19 lock-down here in New York City, as well as most of the rest of the world. All we wanted to do was to get through quarantine without going stir crazy, restart the economy, and go about our business. How is it possible that since then things managed to get even worse? As it stands now, the US is in upheaval with riots, screaming, yelling, looting, beating, shooting all around us.

Holier-than-thou celebrities “take responsibility” (or so the teleprompter tells them to say) by making somber black-and-white videos while virtue signaling over a sad and ever so profound piano accompaniment, saying “Hey, did you know that racism is bad?” (“Oh?!” you reply, with shame and guilt plaster all over your pasty white face, “I had no fucking idea!”); corporations change product names and remove “offensive” logos, to let everyone know that they, too, have realized that really bad things are really bad things (only wicked minds would think that it is rather because they don’t want to go against the current current of virtue signaling race pandering, so as to keep selling their fair-trade soaps and gender-neutral cereals, their overpriced sneakers and multiracial maple syrups); people kneel before other people, apologizing for things they never did, to people who never had those things done to them; the interwebs, from Twitter to Facebook and beyond, find themselves in a feeding frenzy, doing their best to cancel everyone and anyone who dares to diverge from the narrative of The Party (see Orwell’s 1984 for reference, in case you don’t know what I’m talking about).

We are past the point of claiming that Words are Violence, and we’ve moved on to the much more reasonable slogan of Silence is Violence. So, if you don’t fall in line, if you don’t go along with the prevailing way of thinking, and therefore don’t say the right thing, of, indeed, anything at all, then you are at fault; you are the enemy. The screeching masses don’t seem to realize that inevitably the tide will turn, and then they will be the ones on the “wrong” side of popular opinion. Only this “reckoning” will be homemade. It seems that there are many people these days, people who have never been particularly political, and who have never thought in terms of race, color, sexual orientation, and so on, who are being pushed into more and more extreme ways of thinking (and feeling) by those who blame them for everything, whether these people are actually at fault or not. Facts don’t matter, it seems.

Is there even one amongst us who is so wonderfully perfect as to never have uttered a “hurtful” word, made an “offensive” joke, or said or did something “wrong.” With these full-of-themselves social justice worriers spending their time searching for WRONGTHINK on other people’s Twitter feeds, going back to the year 1751, it is pretty much guaranteed that somewhere something was said that would somehow offend someone in some sort of way. Does anyone remember that old saying about throwing stones while sitting in glass houses?

Even worse than canceling individuals, it is history itself which is being cancelled. “Problematic” statues are being removed (in many cases torn down by a violent mob); schools, streets, and public places renamed (Black Lives Matter Plaza, Calhoun Honors College, etc.); words edited out of (often classic) books (Tom Sawyer, Huckleberry Finn, etc.); scenes cut from movies or movies being banned, removed, or addended with “expert explanations” of the subject matter (Gone With the Wind); and shows (old and new) cancelled for being offensive to some (Little Britain, Fawlty Towers, etc.), so as to not let anyone see what came before.

Of course we all know the famous saying “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” How will anyone remember the past as it was, good and bad, and subsequently learn from the mistakes of previous generations, if the past has been sanitized and all traces of wrongdoing, all mistakes, all crimes against humanity, all misunderstandings between people removed? By removing the bad we also remove the good many of those people (and others) did. The world simply isn’t as binary as many would want for it to be. It’s not as black and white (pardon the pun) as many seem to think. Good and evil are intertwined, often within the same person, sometimes with the same action. And let’s face it, what’s offensive to some, just isn’t so to others. Humor, caricature, sarcasm, often plays with stereotypes (racial or otherwise). Those art forms are all but dead in the current hypersensitive social climate. How would people nowadays react to George Carlin, Richard Prior, Lenny Bruce, and others? “NOOOO! He said a word… I’m literally dying!!! Ahh…”

The fact that, according to the social justice police, some groups (those of a certain skin color) are allowed to use certain words, but others are not, is ludicrous. Oddly enough, this kind of thinking is only too prevalent in the groups which are currently yelling the loudest to dismantle police departments across the nation. It’s not that they don’t want policing, it’s just that they want to do it themselves; they want to be in power. And once they are, everyone who doesn’t play by their rules is in for it.

Is the system we currently have perfect? Far from it, but what’s happening right now is not fixing any of the problems we face. If anything, it makes things worse by attacking people who have nothing to do with the issues at hand. I am not referring to those who physically attacked people during these idiotic riots. How does a black man shooting another black man in order to steal a TV, have anything to do with the idea that black lives matter? What I am referring to is attacking people through the concepts of Groupthink and Identity Politics, which permeate everything at this point. Once we start thinking (and speaking) in terms of “the” black people and “the” white people, or “the” police, we’re already on the wrong path. Once we segregate our thinking into black versus white, us against them, we are on the path to segregating society in the same way. I thought this is exactly what we didn’t want!

To make it clear, I, as an individual, am not responsible for the actions of previous generations—whether I am associated with them through the color of my skin, my nationality, or any other arbitrary characteristic—actions which must be seen within the context of the times they were taken in. I have often asked myself how I would have acted had I grown up in Austria or Germany during the Nazi era. I am honest enough to say, I really don’t know. We are all, to a certain extent, products of our time. What if I would have grown up as the son of a slave-owner living down south during the 18th century? What if I had been taught from a very young age that slaves are merely property? Of course we all hope that we would have applied modern day standards, and would have turned out to be heroes of the emancipation movement; that we would have fought for that which we now see as morally correct. But would we really have done so at the time, under those particular circumstances?

I am also not responsible for actions taken by any other person living today, even if that person has the same skin color as I do. It seems ridiculous to have to explain this in the year 2020!

I am responsible for my actions, and ONLY my actions. I will not allow for anyone to throw me into a group of people with whom I share only an arbitrary and coincidental characteristic such as skin color. I am not part of “the” white people, just as I am not part of “the” men, or “the” straights. I am an individual with not allegiance to any particular group, not adhering to any particular school of thought other than my own. If I am treated with respect, I will do the same in return; if I am treated without common courtesy, I will do the same (and will, most likely, not want to have anything to do with people who treat me that way). Don’t tell me what I think or who I am, simply because of your preconceived notions, or, indeed, the color of my skin. That, as far as I understand it, is racism.

Time Flies When You're Having Rum!

My, oh my, has it been this long already? I must admit, it is rather shameful to see that my last post was from Christmas Day LAST YEAR. This is no way to run a blog, and me thinks it's time for a heartfelt apology for having let the reigns dangle for so long. The team of blog-oxen (bloxen?!) needs a firm hand to guide them on their way to plow the field of creativity. Please forgive my tardiness, dear reader, and accept my sincerest apologies. To make good, I will do my best to entertain, enlighten, and engage, with a little catch-up post.

So, what's up, you ask. Well, let me tell you... Much has happened since last we spoke. The world has been turned topsy-turvy, and what once was up, now lays flat on its side, with a flushed face and sweaty brow. Life as we have known it, is no more. What in the world has happened to the world? A virus, you say? Yes, but we've had those before. Why the sudden panic? Why put an "Out of Order" sign on the world, and tell everyone to go home? It makes one think, doesn't it?

Now that we are either wondering why we're cooped up at home and not being allowed to go to work, or why we're forced to keep working while the rest of the world is cooped up at home, many of us wonder what to do with the time we now have. As a musician by trade I fall squarely into the prior category. I'm one of those "unessential" workers, as opposed to medical staff and supermarket cashiers (!!). Who needs live music when all venues and concert halls are closed?

Having been without a gig for over 2 months (my main source of income), and Mrs. Casual having been laid off, we sat and wondered what to do. Whenever there's work, one wishes to have more time to do the things one really wants to do. Well, be careful what you wish for... So, after pondering the situation for some time, and hoping that money won't run out before too long, Mrs. Casual and yours truly went into "Let's do this" mode. Inspired by the old adage about the relationship between life's troubles and the production of a tart fruity beverage, we adjusted the wording ever so slightly and turned it into "When life gives you COVID, make art." It may be slightly platitudinal, but applicable nonetheless.

With pep in our step and singing hearts, we ventured into our living/dining/bed/multi-purpose room, fired up the old idea machine, contacted Mrs. Casual-mother-in-law, and started recording. Below you will find the fruits of our labor; our renditions of 2 classic tunes, which we hold near and dear to our hearts. (The links lead to YouTube)

(from the Wizard of Oz)



(from Chitty, Chitty, Bang, Bang)



The recordings were done in true quarantine style: Mrs. Casual-mother-in-law recorded her wonderful piano playing in her snazzy music room in Indiana, Mrs. Casual recorded her sultry vocals in our tiny (but over-priced) New York City apartment, and yours truly finished everything up by adding some of that orchestral sugar to our musical lemonade. Came out pretty darn yummy, if I may make so bold.

Now grab yourself some ice, pour yourself a cup, and enjoy. I'm sure you will not be disappointed. If nothing else, Mrs. Casual and I hope these songs will give you little break, a moment to breathe and let things be what they are. We do have a few more songs in the works, and depending on how long this quarantine will last, in the end we might have enough material to put out another album. We may call it "The Quarantine Session"... Silver lining, I guess!

In the meantime, stay healthy, stay positive, and keep creating!

-T

Christmas!

It's the most wonderful peaceful sexy stressful time of the year. Christmas means so many different things to so many different people, but some things we all can count on when it comes to the season of forgiveness, holly jolly sugar overload, eggnog induced tummy aches, and maxing out your credit cards. Here's a short and not very comprehensive list:
  1. The anxiety you feel when there's another little off-pink sticker on the front door, saying that you've yet again missed the mailman.
  2. The stress of trying to finish Christmas shopping in time to miss the mailman, who is just now leaving another little sticker on your front door.
  3. Running to the store on December 24th, because the package you've been waiting for, wasn't redelievered by the mailman, who just left a sticker on the front door while you were out trying to finish Christmas shopping in time to miss the mailman, who left a sticker... You see where this is going!
  4. A Christmas video featuring Mrs. Casual, aka Jae Parris on those sultry vocals, yours truly, Casual-T, on most everything else, with a special guest appearance by Butterfingers Slim on the slide whistle (we flew him in from Lapland, particularly for this incredible performance. Not a cheap endeavor, but well worth it, I'm sure you'll agree).
I'll leave it up to you to decide which of these is your favorite.

This year we present a fancy version of that old Bobby Helms Christmas classic "Jingle Bell Rock." Let the sultry vocals of that gorgeous lass, Jae Parris, and the productions and recording skills of that man, that myth, that pastry chef, Casual-T, rock your jingle bells like they've never been rocked (or jingled) before. Featuring a special guest performance by Butterfingers Slim on the slide whistle. We flew him in all the way from Lapland, for this particular performance. Not a cheap venture, but well worth it. His performance, I'm sure you'll agree, is nothing short of pretty good.

Click right > here < for some super sexy Christmas awesomeness.

And with that I'm wishing every single one of you a very merry Christmas, and a happy and successful new year. And to top it all off, here's a very special Christmas photo with yours truly moonlighting as Santa at the local mall. Gotta pay the bills somehow!!



Ho! Ho! Ho!

The Thanksgiving Tiger




And a very merry (albeit belated) gobble-gobble to one and all. Thanksgiving is one of those holidays I harbor somewhat conflicted emotions about, mainly because I never much cared for the dry and generally flavorless experience of eating turkey. Throughout the years, the thought of ingesting a bowl of freshly harvested bellybutton lint seemed more appealing to me, in terms of providing a rich array of intriguingly complex tastes and beguiling textures.

And so it was until, at last year's Thanksgiving shindig, Mrs. Casual decided to try something new and put that overgrown chicken in an oven bag. Lo and behold, Thanksgiving hasn't been the same tasteless, dry, and rather depressing affair, since that fateful decision was made. Flavor explosion is a phrase I never would have dared put in proximity to the word turkey. But here we are... Just another curve-ball the multiverse decided to throw my way.

So, to keep things in accordance with the occasion, I would like to mention that I am quite thankful for a number of things in my life, not least of which are oven bags. Anything which makes my life juicer, gets a thumbs-up from me.

And since we're on the topic of thumbs, I am also quite thankful for this blog, and for being able to share some of my ramblings with this small but ever so delectable community of readers (yes, that means you over there!). Many thanks to all involved—as well as oven bags. (How this relates to thumbs, I will leave for you to figure out. Please report back, should you find the answer.)

Now, you may be sitting there twiddling your thumbs (Aha!!), wondering what in the blazes the above picture of a tiger could possibly have to do with Thanksgiving. Well, here are a few ideas. Maybe the tiger identifies as a turkey. After all, it is the current year, and from what I’ve been witnessing as of late, nowadays one can claim to be whatever one wants to be. As long as you want it, it must be so... Or must it? (But I digress.)

On the other hand, the tiger’s connection to Thanksgiving may simply be that he just ate a turkey. Do tigers eat turkeys? I assume they do, simply because they can. If you were a tiger, wouldn't you?

Or, perhaps, the tiger is from Turkey… You see where I’m going with this.

But here's the simple truth of the matter. Mrs. Casual and I have a little Thanksgiving tradition, which is that, on Black Friday, when stores are overrun with deal-seekers, consume addicts, and those adventurous (or silly) enough to participate in the customary sales-bin stampede at the local mega-store (risking life and limb in the process), we grab the opportunity to take a leisurely walk in the other direction. We like to spend the day after Thanksgiving at the Bronx Zoo.

This year I figured it’d be a great opportunity to take the new camera for a spin. So, there I was, happily clicking away, minding my own business, capturing colorful images of tropical birds, perched on crooked branches looking like a witches index finger directing Hรคnsel and Gretel toward the oven; shy desert mice enjoying a nibble of fresh fruit, while hiding behind a rock looking like... a rock; when, suddenly, this fine fellow placed himself squarely in front of the lens, barely two feet away from where I stood.

The crazed look in his eyes belied his calm demeanor. I could tell he was hungry. Panic started setting in (me, not him!). Would I be able to get the shot before the monster decided to charge and rip my clothes off, so as to get to the succulent meat within? (My body has been seasoned with all manner of exotic spices and fermented marinades since before oven bags were a thing. I’m sure it would make for an exhilarating culinary experience for any tiger of class and distinction.)

Hungry tiger or not, a photographer is as a photographer does. And what a photographer does is press the shutter button. My trigger finger spasmed. The shutter crackled like a baby elephant stomping across a field of Rice Krispies. My focal point fixated on the eye of the tiger (it’s the thrill of the fight); cold nervousness running down my back. Seconds turned into lifetimes; lifetimes turned into eternities; eternities turned into whatever is longer than eternities.

Did he move? I thought I saw his shoulder jerk ever so slightly. Ready to pounce? The flame of my life mere seconds away from being extinguished. Alas, I knew he wouldn't dare kill me just yet. I hadn’t gotten that shot yet.



And then it happened. The moment in which all the pain and joy of my life, the successes and failures, doubts and convictions, tasty food and olives, culminated into one ultimate climax. "YES!" I shouted, triumphantly. “Yes, indeed!” The elephant took one more, heavy step, as I toppled backward, crumbling into a trembling heap of cold sweat and hot nerves. The perfect picture was mine. Finally.

As I lay there, I looked upon the majestic beast. His eyes became mine, and for the first time in my life I observed the world without fear. Come and feast upon my flesh, king of the jungle. I got the picture. You can kill me, but you cannot hurt me. The purpose of my existence is fulfilled. I am ready now!

I waited.

Eternities became seconds.

Without another word the tiger shrugged his shoulders, and leisurely walked away.

Confused but somewhat relieved about not having been enjoyed for lunch, I pulled myself up. Wobbly-kneed I realized that all this time there had been a 2-inch thick pane of glass separating myself from the tiger. This, I suspect, had been the main reason this Bengal royal hadn’t proposed to tear me to shreds.

And thus the story ends.

You're still sitting there? Still twiddling your thumbs? Ah… You’re probably still wondering what any of this has to do with Thanksgiving. Well, let me come straight to the point (after having spent about a thousand words of circumventing it). All this was simply to say that in addition to oven bags—which keep turkeys juicy and flavorful, and thusly a joy to eat—I'm also very thankful for glass panes of multi-inch thickness— which keep me uneaten (yet juicy and flavorful!).

Welcome to the Graveyard Shift






Good day, old bean. So glad to see you here. You’re just in time…Tea's ready (and T's ready)! What shall we talk about today?

Ah, yes, I'm glad you brought it up - The Graveyard Shift. As some of you fine dudes and dudettes may very well know, it is my day job to be a musician at night. At first read-through this might seem counterintuitive, but bear with me. It was as a wee lad back yonder, when I first heard that being a musician was actually a thing. I knew there were people making music, but I didn’t realize making music was a thing that could be done. As in: For a living. You dig? (That’s old-school musician lingo—in case you thought it was an inquiry in regards to your garden work—meaning: Don’t be a square, Jack! Although, to be honest, I often wonder where that saying comes from.)

I had caught the drumming bug listening to Ringo do his thing while bobbing his head side-to-side and looking like he was having himself a grand old time. (In case you don’t know who Ringo is…He was the drummer in The Beatles…In case you don’t know who The Beatles were…Uhm…Well…Let’s move on.)

For about a year, I’d been drumming and practicing the piano, which was all I really was interested in doing. It was fun. It made me happy. It kept me out of trouble. But, as mentioned above, I was not at all aware that this music thing was something people did professionally. See, I come from a time and place where people strictly worked for a living. You know, burly guys in blue overalls, out and about at 5 in the morning, bellies swollen with last night’s lager, carrying small lunchboxes containing tasty morsels prepared for them by their loving wives who were glad to have them out of the house until six in the evening (which was when they better had the next round of ale cold and ready). We’re talking carpenters, brick layers, metal workers, construction workers; all doing a full day’s work for half a day’s pay. There were no musicians—professional or otherwise—within earshot of my childhood.

I remember it as if it was a mere 30 years ago. Or was it 40? No, wait, it was in 19...Uhm...Or…No, hold on…Well, anyways, I remember it as if it happened quite some time ago. My mother, who was very much alive at the time (oh, how things change!), was in the process of purchasing a new used car from her old used car salesman of choice—for legal reasons we shall call him Honest John. Here I was, a strapping lad of nearly a decade, minding my own business, when Honest John looked at me and asked what any man named Honest John would ask a young buck minding his own business: “So, whaddaya wanna be wenya grow up, son?”

By that time in my life I had been asked this so often, I had my answer well prepared: “A TV repairman, or a chef, or a baker, or an electrician.” It basically meant, I’m barely ten years old, Mister, and I really don’t have a clue what I want to end up doing day-in, day-out, for the rest of my life. Honest John looked at me, fairly unimpressed. But then something struck me. It might have been the dead look in his eyes, or some need from deep within me, which led me to venture into the unknown. I shyly added: “But what I really want to do is play the drums.”

“Ah! A musician, eh!” Honest John said, a slight twinkle entered his eyes, his interest piqued. “I used to play the organ in a band before I started selling cars, you know. Yes, lad, I even studied music when I was quite a bit younger.”

“Studied music? What’s that?” (Oh, the innocence!)

“Well, looky here,” Honest John said, enthusiastically, his eyes sparkling with newfound life. “You go to a school where they teach ya all about music and how to play your instrument.”

Looking back at it now, I can see that this might have been the clearest moment I’ve ever experienced in my life. And it was from that point on, that I had but one goal in life: I was going to be a musician; I was going to do this drumming thing for a living. Remembering how much fun Ringo seemed to have, and judging by my own experience of practicing the drums and loving every minute of it, this was most definitely the way I wanted to spend my life. Getting paid to play the drums—A dream come true.

Fast forward an undisclosed number of decades, and I find myself in a bar in Downtown New York City, somewhere around the 3 AM mark; I sit by the bar, on break between sets, tired—exhausted might be a more apt adjective. Silly music rattles through the PA system—they really need to get new speakers here. Oh baby, Yeah, Oh Yeah, baby!! Lyrical prowess at its finest. As long as there’s a simple beat and someone sings a hook that’s easy to remember. Oh baby, Yeah, Oh Yeah, baby!! Drunk folk stumble across the dance floor, more or less in sync with the beat. I often wonder who these people are, that hang out in a bar at 3 AM on a Monday morning. Oh baby, Yeah, Oh Yeah, baby!! Enough already with the Oh Baby, Yeah! Don’t these people have to be at work in a few hours? Well, whatever, they pay my bills.

Frank, the sound guy, comes over. “Hey bud, how’s it goin’?”

I like Frank. I’ve known him for many years. Although I don’t recall every having seen him in daylight. “Alright, I guess,” I answer.

“You good? You look a little down.”

“Sure. Just wondering what the hell I’m doing here,” I say, eyes half closed.

“Making money, bruh. That’s what you’re doing here.” He’s the pragmatic kind.

“Yeah, it’s just that when I set out to do this music thing, this was not what I had in mind, man.”

“I hear ya.” He takes a sip of his cranberry soda. “Sorry that the dream job turned into a nightmare, bruh. I know the feeling.”

“Maybe I shoulda stuck with my initial plan and gone into TV repair.”

“Ain’t nobody repairing TVs anymore.”

He chuckles. I nod.

Break’s over. Let’s start the set with a fast tune. Maybe I can get one of the drunk guys to trip over his own legs. Time to make some money in my dream job. Time to dig my own grave, in the graveyard shift.

Hold up…I think I just figured it out!

Happy One-Year-Closer-to-Death Day

Every year around this time, when the days grow shorter, the nights grow colder, and the lush green ocean of leaves swaying in the summer breeze, turns into a succulent kaleidoscope of color, exploding into reds, oranges, yellows, and browns—and it’s once again time for me to get the winter tires ready for the coming traffic mess—Mrs. Casual makes it a point to remind me (repeatedly) that it's not only her birthDAY coming up at the end of the month, but rather that it is her birthMONTH, ALL month, and she intends to celebrate it that way. Yes, you read that right, four weeks of cakes with candles, presents with bows, and all manner of goodies in honor of having made it one year closer to death.




Now some of you may find the mention of the word death a bit surprising, jarring, or, perhaps, even scary; particularly when discussing the happy occasion of a loved one's birthday. And you would be well within your right to feel that way. Birthdays are, more often than not, associated with, well…birth; which, by definition, is the opposite of death. But then again, let not the fact that I have lived in New York City for an undisclosed number of decades, obfuscate the simple truth that I was born and raised in the city of Vienna—a place in the heart of Europe, known for its chocolaty treats, 150 varieties of coffee, and an age-old morbid fascination with anything having to do with death. As any good Viennese citizen knows from very early on in life, birth is merely the beginning of the end. 
This is why, in the old country, we have found a number of ways to put a less threatening spin on this whole death & dying thing. This, of course, doesn’t change the reality of death, its terminal pain and sadness, its finality and unpleasantly bitter aftertaste (for the living; the dead, on average, don’t care too much about it, one way or another)—but it puts a nice coat of sugar on top. And if there’s one thing the Viennese like, it’s to sugarcoat just about anything that isn’t already pure confectionery. 




Keeping in that spirit—of adding a sweet glaze to anything bitter and sad—there are a number of phrases used in the beautiful city of Vienna, which describe the act of handing over one's membership card in the club of the living and calling it a day for the rest of eternity, but somehow make it seem like it's just another day of you and your sweetheart floating along the gently swaying Danube in a rose-colored rowboat on a sunny summer’s day, sipping fragrant wine and munching on freshly baked Topfengolatschen (a traditional pastry and personal favorite of mine). Here are but a few translations of some of these verbal sugar coatings:  
  • To stretch your slippers
  • To give up the spoon
  • To put on a wooden pajama
  • To look at the potatoes from underneath
  • To check if the cover fits (That's the coffin cover we're talking about)
  • To take a ride on the 71 (The 71 is the tram that leads to one of Vienna's major cemeteries. This is the Viennese version of crossing the river Styx.)  
As I'm sure you can tell, Viennese is a wonderfully inventive language, and the creative ways the Viennese have come up with, to describing the last moments in a person’s life, without actually describing the last moments in a person’s life, are to be commended. Nonetheless, it is still death we're talking about. I therefore restate my point that every birthday we celebrate, is, in actuality, just another One-Year-Closer-to-Death day. 




Coming back to Mrs. Casual and yours truly, it is one of our annual traditions on this particular day, for me to grab my camera and a couple of snazzy lenses, for her to make sure her hair is the right color and her lips are just the right shade of red—which usually ends up with her insisting she needs to run to Sephora to grab three lipsticks, 2 different mascaras, a color-neutral foundation, and a new bottle of perfume (although I suspect the perfume has not much to do with the photo-shoot!)—and for us to venture into the wild, colorful world that is Autumn in Upstate New York.
So said, so done...And, dare I say it, the pictures seem to be getting better year by year. Could there be a correlation between getting closer to death and looking better against a backdrop of blurry blobs of colorful leaves? I'll leave it to more learned folks to figure this one out. All I can say is, the pictures came out beautifully, and I'm glad to report that neither the missus nor I are, as of yet, passengers on the 71.
Happy One-Year-Closer-to-Death Day, Babe! Hope you like the pictures…