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Mom’s Life Sketch and Eulogy


sherry perry

Christmas 2009 (L-R: Chris, Mom, Jay, Me)

(This is an edited version of the life sketch/eulogy I gave at my mom’s memorial service in CA 2 weeks ago today.  Anything I could say about mom would be thoroughly inadequate.)

Early Years
Sherry Perry was born Sherry Lee Hinkle on February 10, 1950 in Glendale, CA to Dr. J L & Myrtle Hinkle.  Grandma once described my mom as a wee thing who was an easy baby to carry around.  All of grandma’s other babies, except for Judy, were bruisers, weighing in at 8 pounds.
When mom was about 2 years old, grandpa was stationed in Germany as an army doctor, but was soon joined there by the family: Sherry, baby Judy, and grandma.  Not long after, Marcia was born in Wurzburg Germany.  Grandpa was in Germany about 2 years. Read the rest of this entry »

Secret Ingredients and Family Recipes

recipe box recipes

not my recipe box (don't have one)

by Jonathan Boxlunch Perry

Recently, I visited my mom in Minnesota, and while there I took the opportunity to dig through her recipe boxes and copy my favorite recipes for yummy happy eating time.  Fortunately, I had my camera, so I just photographed them.  You didn’t think I was going to hand copy 25 recipes in one sitting, did you?  I’m not a medieval monk.  In fact, during my visit, she helped me cook some stuff, even though she’s been quite ill.  Actually, I helped her.  The food was delicious, I got fatter, we bonded, I practiced domesticity.  There you go.  This will help me circumvent having to call her for recipes.  I’ll still call her, of course, being the doting son and mama‘s boy that I am.  It’ll just be more for the weather report.  And tips on removing stains.  Stuff like that.  Oh, and to check up on her.

So we grow up with these tasty dishes and hopefully learn to make them ourselves or mate with someone who can make reasonable facsimiles and hope there‘s no withheld secret ingredient to throw off a recipe.  I mean, who would do that?  Who does grandma think she is, passing off recipes without all the ingredients?  Is there some posthumous cooking contest she’s trying to win?  Her competition is either dead or senile in a home and  isn’t allowed near the stove anyway for fear of a fiery death.  Or did she think Kellogg-Kraft was going to rip off her 10-layer lasagna and cash in?  And what if grandma goes to the great beyond before she shares her terrible secret (which is probably a teaspoon of cinnamon)?  I’ll tell you what, you’ll be stuck eating inferior food the rest of your life and may be forced to abandon family tradition for Martha Stewart’s hoity-toity ringer recipe that requires obscure ingredients like Mongolian goat bouillon!  or whatever.  Well, that just won’t do.  Also, I’m a non-goat-eating vegetarian.  Only fake-goat bouillon for me, thank-you.

recipe texas sheet cake

Texas Sheet Cake Recipe

I’ve helped my mom make many of these dishes over the years and can probably replicate them if forced at gunpoint, though quite slowly and not as expertly.  One thing I noticed while searching the recipe boxes is that many of these recipes were ones she acquired from her friends over a period of 50+ years.  They say things like “From the Kitchen of Linda” or Vicki or Arlene.  There are also those special recipes from my grandmas and even an awesome one from my great-grandma Gottschall:  Dutch Apple Cake.  Yum!  It’s nice to know you’re making something that your great-grandma made 80 years ago.  Perhaps she got the recipe from her great-grandma, pushing the baked goods lineage back a few hundred years into Europe when sugar was first making a diabetic splash (you try not to suspect the recipe was copied from a 1930s issue of Better Homes and Gardens).

I always look forward to my mom, grandma and aunts cooking for me.  They make great stuff and sometimes there are weird memories tied to the food, like that time mom made lentils and my brother Jay tricked her into giving him the birthright.  Good times (see Genesis).  But these moments are fading.  It’s a good thing my brothers and I cook (well, mostly my brothers) or some of these recipes would just disappear forever and everyone would forget what Broccoli Jello Surprise tastes like (okay, that‘s not a family recipe).  Actually, I’m sure many have disappeared from generation to generation, which is sad.  Really, though, it’s survival of the fittest recipes.  I only copied about 25 recipes, after all, not the full 200.  (I never claimed to be an archivist.  I‘ll get more later.).  But of the recipes I have, all the ingredients seem to be intact, which is a relief.  Everything tastes right.  No glaring omissions from grandma.  No wrong-tasting Special K Loaf.  No secret ingredients withheld.  Unless the secret ingredient is love (and that just seems like a therapy issue).

Stay Tuned for a Bachelor Eating eBook!

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Congratulations to my brother Chris who was married this weekend!  Best wishes to Chris and Kirsten for a lifetime of happiness.

He’s no longer a bachelor.  Also, the wedding wasn’t much like the one in the Billy Idol video (no leather pants).  (By the way, the undoctored video embed on YouTube was disabled by request, so this is “White Wedding:  Literal Video Version”.)

The secret word is chapel.

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    Nicknaming Your Friends (For Fun and Revenge)

    (I was going to title this “Nicknames:  Another Tool in the Guy’s Arsenal”, but decided it sounded fairly perverse, so I didn’t.)

    Jonathan Blarney Perry

    I like it when someone gives me a nickname.  At least a good, non-insulting nickname.  Nicknames are for friends and buddies.  They’re cool and kind of endearing.  It’s said that one’s name is one’s most precious possession, so it’s important to mess with those, but only a little.  And really, being the nickname-giver grants you a certain power.  It’s like naming a baby and if the nickname sticks and everyone starts using it, then you’ve really started something.

    I was kind of named for my Uncle John, but not really and my mom doesn’t like it when people call me Jon.  She’s weird.

    Nicknames I’ve had:

    • Jonny (by family & people who’ve known me since I was little)
    • Jon (by a lot of my friends who don’t know my mom)
    • Donger (High School.  Sounds worse than it is.  Maybe.)
    • Goat (Mostly by Roland & Lenny.  I use it for them, too, and randomly for everyone else.)
    • Jonathanatos & Thanatos (Thanatos is Greek for death.  I took a year of Greek in college.)
    • JonPerryJonPerry (Teri D probably started it)
    • JB (My dad calls me JB.  It was the name of one of his mentors.)
    • Jap (This was in middle school.  Not sure if anyone besides Elizabeth Franks called me Jap.  I had a huge crush on her.)
    • Jack (a nickname I’ve envied, but it’s only been slightly used for me)
    • Jon-dong-athan (by my brothers.  My bro Chris sings a little song when he says this twice.  Kind of cool.)
    • JonnyBear (by my friend Heather.  She’s too cute.)
    • Wookie (Randy in the office calls me this a lot)
    • Jon-Jon (my old friend Jeannine calls me this)

    When I visited Taiwan, my friend Roland helped me pick a Chinese-y/Taiwanese-y name, ‘Pan Yuwehan,’ so I could have a rubber stamp made using Chinese script.  It was pretty awesome to see my Chinese nickname in pictograph and perhaps one day I’ll find a use for the stamp, maybe in government work that involves rejection letters to Asia.  At least I didn’t get a tattoo.

    Tyson Chicken‘-Besides being a dude thing, giving nicknames is useful as a mnemonic device.  I seem to have a crap memory, so sometimes I’ll give people nicknames so I can remember what the heck to call them.  Recently 2 engineers started working at the office and I found it helpful to call Tyson ‘Tyson Chicken’ and Paul ‘Paul Bunyan’ (Paul is tall, but Tyson is not a chicken, so…).  For years I confused Larry and Gary in another part of the office, though they look nothing alike, and eventually figured out that since Gary has gray hair it was helpful for me to think of him as Gary the Gray (like Gandalf the Grey), but I’ll never actually call him this, since he might not be so keen.  Also ‘gray’ is an anagram for ‘Gary’, so bonus.  Anyway, I no longer confuse them.

    Paolo Weisskopf”-Some nicknames are just fun.  I know 2 other Pauls from work, one I call ‘Paolo’ or ‘Paulina’ (at some personal risk to myself), and the other is a former supervisor who’s now retired, Paul Whitehead.  For Paul Whitehead I came up with ‘Paolo Weisskopf’.  ‘Paolo’ is a Portuguese name and ‘Weisskopf’ is a German rendering of Whitehead.  This made me think of Nazis who escaped to South America (Brazil in this case) and gave their children mixed language names.  I never called Paul this (that’s a shame) and certainly never meant anything bad by it, but thought it was awesome and should’ve been widely and obnoxiously used.

    Stinger‘-One of the techs I work with is Brian Walker, who I refer to as Brian Walker ‘Texas Ranger’.  He always wears a cowboy hat.  I just found out that another tech, Bob, has been called ‘Boonie’ for 32 years by the other techs because he lives way out in the Boonies.  This is useful since it can be rhymed with Goonie, loony, and Clooney.  Maybe ‘Debbie Boonie’.  Bill has been called ‘Stinger’ since he got into a nest of yellow jackets and had to visit the ER because of a bad reaction.  I’ve called my college friend Allison ‘Allisonogram’, Pat ‘Patapan’, and Sue ‘Sousaphone’, but they ignore me, which is probably best.  Usually anyone I know named Scott becomes ‘Scotland’ or ‘Great Scott!’.

    DJ Mice-K‘-My buddy Randy at work (he calls me ‘Wookie’) admitted he was called ‘Nerd’ a lot growing up, but now is known as ‘Wizzer’ (not Wizard), because of his great betting and gambling prowess.  I asked around and learned Dave Micek was called ‘Meats’ (for Micek) and Matt was called ‘Bones’ because he’s very tall and thin.  Great names, but they could use some fresh stuff.  For Dave Micek, I’m pushing the name ‘DJ Mice-K’.  It’s only mostly stupid.

    Hildegard‘-Randy mentioned picking out the Catholic confirmation name ‘Francis’ when he was a kid.  When I discovered the coolness of the confirmation names, I asked a few of the other Catholics.  Dave’s was ‘Paul’.  One woman was also ‘Frances’ and another claims to not remember, so I suspect it to be something awesomely embarrassing like ‘Gertrude’ or ‘Hildegard’.  Picking a confirmation name is like Asians picking out their Western names.  It seems that in grade school many Asians pick out their own Western nicknames.  It’s kind of cool, but if you’d picked out your own name as a kid, what would you have chosen?

    Mikhail‘-My friend Mike, a former Mormon, once told us he was given the Mormon temple name ‘Mikhail’, which at first he thought was pretty great considering his name is Michael, until he overheard other guys in the temple that day getting the same special name.

    Tenderloin Vanderbeek‘-I like trying out different nicknames on friends.  It’s great to mess with them until something really fits.  In emails, my friend Cami (who’s been known as Spam, Moose and Chamomile for years) and I use different nicknames each time for both ourselves and for the other person.  For example, in a recent series of exchanges, she called me Red Man, Monkeyboy, Yoda, Spanky, Cracker, and Captain Congo and referred to herself as Django, Moosetart, Otto, Tarbaby, Samurai Smack, and Scarlet Pimpernel.  Then I called her Moosey, Super Bon Bon, Manhands, Hydroponic Mosquito, Crotchety Crocheter, and Racist Casseroler while referring to myself as The Waffler, Chewbacca, DonkeyKongKublaKhan, Blarney the Gaelic Dinosaur, Snorklefish, Cap’n Crunch, Kim Jong Ill, and Tenderloin Vanderbeek.

    Geritol‘-Of course, nicknames can also suck and be hard to shake.  You always hear about those bad names kids get in school that turn them into the next David Koresh or Ted Kaczynski.  Darrin and I use nicknames as good-natured insults.  Darrin, who harasses me about my old man car, usually calls me some variation of ‘Old Man’, which is ironic because he’s about 5 yrs older than I am and is pretty gray. We go back on forth on names along the line of ‘Grandpa’, ‘Geritol’, ‘Ben Gay’, and ‘George Hamilton’ (Darrin is tanned).   I think we’re still looking for the best nickname insults, though I’m proud to have told him “Go fold your Cosby sweaters, grandpa.”

    Quality nicknaming doesn’t always come easily.  They often take time to figure out and shouldn’t be forced.  You have to try them on, like a Cosby sweater at the store.  It might look nice on the rack, but end up looking crappy on you in the dressing room.

    If all else fails, I’ll call you ‘Goat’.

    Famous Nicknames: Wild Bill Hickock, Johnny Appleseed, Lucky Lindy, Lady Bird Johnson, Billy the Kid, Buffalo Bill

    Famous Sports Nicknames‘Shoeless’ Joe Jackson, Reggie ‘Mr. October’ Jackson, Karl ‘The Mailman’ Malone, Earvin ‘Magic’ Johnson, Wayne ‘The Great One’ Gretsky, Michael ‘Air’ Jordan

    What nicknames do you like?

    The secret word is Tenderloin.

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    Hibernation Time: Breaking The 40 Pound Barrier

    It's hibernation time

    As you may or may not know, I’ve been shedding pounds like snake skin since last April.  It had a little to do with improving self-confidence, especially around quiet bookish girls, and I’ve kept at it.  I lost 25 pounds pretty quickly (in 12 weeks), and eked my way to 30 lbs by Labor Day, but it’s been slow going since.  I’ve even lost another 6-7-8 pounds, depending on the day.  That means as much as 38 lbs total since April (today is a fat day, so it might only be 36 lbs right now).  I’ve hit a wall, though.  I can’t quite break the 40 pound barrier.  Inspirations and motivations have waned steadily the last few months and that might have contributed to my stagnation.  Also, my front lawn has become tundra and I seem to have rediscovered sugar (mostly chocolate).

    Being a few pounds shy of 40 pounds for 2-3 months is a bummer, but I did well not fattening up for the holidays.  In fact, when I was in CA visiting family for Christmas, I went on several walks in my grandparents’ neighborhood.  This, of course, was a necessary therapy that kept me from madness around certain relations, but it also kept me from becoming the Christmas goose.  In fact, I weighed in thinner than both my brothers for the first time in forever which is pretty awesome.  Now that my birthday is next week, Groundhog Day, even, I feel it’s my duty to force the issue and finally reach the mythical 40 pounds by my birthday, even if I have to starve myself that last 36 hrs.  I’m pretty sure I could do it.  It’s 3-4 pounds in about 7 days, so it’ll be close, but I’ve done it before. It would be a cool birthday present.

    Hitting those round marks is great.  20 pounds.  25.  30.  35.  By April Fools I’d like to hit 50 pounds.  Heck, why not by St. Patrick’s Day?  Oh, the dream of thinness lives on.  Getting those good abs back by summer would be swell.  From there, who knows.  Maybe Gandhi-chic.

    The secret word is bear.

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    No Mom, I’m NOT Gay

    by Jonathan Butch Perry

    Totally not gay Bert and Ernie

    So, I enjoyed watching Queer Eye for the Straight Guy when it first came out (Haha!  Came out.).  This fun show speaks to me in many ways. It reaches me on different levels.  Well, maybe two levels.  First, I identify with the sloppy heteros (straight dudes) in need of special direction as these are my people and I, too, am in need of free clothes (See how I start with clarification?).  Secondly, the effeminate are often an amusing folk.  They are a peculiar people.  I have been amused by the effeminate since I discovered Dana Carvey’s Church Lady during the golden age of Saturday Night Live in the 80s, and since I learned that my uncle Bud and his friend Frank were more than just roommates like Ernie and Bert (I still don’t buy into that Ernie and Bert gay thing and my letters to the Children‘s Television Workshop have gone unheeded).

    Frank, whom my brothers and I somehow learned to call Aunt Frank, successfully plays up his gayness and this has perhaps increased his hilarity manifold.   Even before we knew about homosexuality, my younger brother Jay, at a rather young age, was impressed enough with Frank that one day at dinner he told Frank he wanted to marry him.  Later that evening, our frightened parents sat us down and delicately explained for the first time the special nature of Uncle Bud and Aunt Frank’s relationship.  Oh, and homosexuality.  Perhaps our parents prayed long and hard in an all night vigil filled with weeping and gnashing of teeth.  Jay and I were probably aged 5 and 7 (Chris wasn‘t alive yet), so there might have been a small comprehension gap.  As we were pastor’s kids, it was also explained to us that though homosexuality is a sin, we still love the people even though they are condemned to an eternity of dry skin and bad hair days.  So, there you go.  As I write this I feel a little dirty, like I’m outing someone (My brother Jay is married, by the way.  To a woman.).  It’ll be ok.

    Now, because I am a single male past the marriageable prime of college age and don’t date excessively it has been suspected by various members of my family, mostly aunts, that I “play for the wrong team“.  I would like to take this opportunity and state for the record once and for all that, though I am a San Francisco Giants’ fan, I am not gay.  Not that there’s anything wrong with that (if you don‘t mind eternal dry skin).

    Once, when I was about 18, I went with my family to San Francisco to visit Uncle Bud.  While we were there being tourists and waiting for the cable car, I got separated from my family in a way I cannot recollect.  I dutifully stood at the corner alone waiting for the family car to collect me.  In the meantime, a fine fellow emerged from the cocktail bar across the street, made his way over to me and started talking.  It became apparent that he was gay.  And on a mission.  Or something.

    ad hoc Halloweenery in college. I’m hamming it up in the horns. Preemptive blackmail pic posting.

    “My friends and I have been watching you for a while and we’re not sure what you’re doing, but I wanted to invite you over for a drink.”

    My memory is a little fuzzy at this point as I seem to have had several moderate brain spasms.  Possibly strokes.  Am I being hit on by a gay man?  Does he think I’m gay?  Oh Lord!  He thinks I’m an amateur male hooker!  You know, I do actually look pretty good today. As if the wind had been knocked out of me, I weakly responded with something like “No thanks.  I’m just waiting for my ride”.  (I should have clarified that my mom was my ride and not some random John.)

    Not easily dissuaded, he responded, “Well if your ride doesn’t come, come on over and join us.”
    (Join us!)  It’s fun to stay at the YMCA!

    Thankfully, the fine fellow returned to his cocktail bar (apropos name, no?) and my ride came a few minutes later, but I swear to you, that as the family car pulled up, I saw the guy leaving the bar again and coming back in my general direction.  And I never did get to ride the trolley.

    Now, it may seem I’m protesting too much and this may seem suspicious.  It’s possible that I don’t help matters when I goof around and act effeminate for laughs or dress up in drag (rarely) just for kicks.  I may have confused a few people there.  Also, I’m not especially butch (though I totally outbutch my brothers).  It’s not like I hunt, race cars, or go to strip clubs.  In fact I enjoy the fine arts, classical music, dig the music of the Pet Shop Boys, and can be seen watching HGTV for hours at a time.  But I also enjoy sports, own a power drill, have a cool hockey scar, and love women, not in the way gay men love Cher or Madonna, but actually love women.  I am very much attracted to women.  At least the attractive ones (of course intelligence, personality, humor, and superior baking skills are also prized).

    This last year, when I made a brief visit to Chinatown in San Francisco I walked past a gay couple who were dressed alike in leather vests with no shirts on underneath.  I actually felt bad for their poor taste in fashion and thought that they’d just fallen into a tragic gay stereo-type that should have long ago been amended.  It seemed a bit ironic considering gays seem to have fashion figured out.  Usually.  Also, when I walked by these oddly dressed guys, I was careful not to look away too much or stare too much.  It was the sort of awkward situation where you try not to look away or stare at the person with the extra nose or very large mole, but acknowledge the person as if he were normal and nothing to gawk at or flee from.  It’s hard sometimes, like walking a P.C. tightrope.  Curse you, P.C.!

    There was an awkward moment in college when one guy wanted to hang out, you know, like that.  It’s cool when people are attracted to you, but weird when such a person is almost female, but not quite.  Barking up the wrong tree.  Once, when pressed in kind of a joking way, I actually told my mother and aunt that I was not (and still not), in fact, gay.  I’m not completely sure I convinced them.  Strangely, they would be ok with this.  It would resolve the problem of my non-married state and they would be on the front line of the codebreakers.  But there is no code.  It seems I’ll have to start peppering my conversations with more words like ‘boobs’ and ‘babe’ and ‘dude’ (maybe not ‘boobs’ at work).  This should clarify things.

    What assumptions have people made about you because of your marital status?  Have family members ever asked you this sort of stuff?  What did you say? Did you start acting really tough and macho, overcompensating?

    The Secret word is really.

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