Category Archives: Odds n Ends

When anosmia becomes more than just a nuisance

My effort to cook dinner this week became a scary, potentially hazardous event, reminding me that something that has been a big bother could also be deadly. I’ve been dealing with the lack of a sense of smell — anosmia — for about six years now. Because the two are so interconnected, typically with the loss of smell comes a loss of taste.

What's left of the oven mitt.

What’s left of the oven mitt.

Yes, not being able to taste makes for a lot of dissatisfaction in life, especially living in Nashville, with all of its Southern food and home to many premiere chefs. It’s sad when a burger from Top Chef Winner Richard Blais’ Flip Burger is no more satisfying than a thickburger from Hardee’s. Textures become really important — mushy meals don’t cut it for me, I need crunch.

Since I can’t taste most things, I’m using my recent move to Nashville as an opportunity to break some bad habits, to save money and eat more healthfully by cooking more meals. The house I’m renting has little kitchen counter space so the flat surface stove (my first) often doubles as a counter.

On Tuesday I was cooking chicken with rice and beans. With the chicken cooking I threw on some water to boil then turned around to the sink to wash some dishes. A few minutes later I turned to check to see if the water was boiling. I have no idea if it was because all I could see was a huge cloud of smoke — I had turned on the wrong burner and an oven mitt was about to burst into flames.

Fortunately one side of the mitt was made of some sort of fire retardant or heat resistant material. Any other type of material would have caught fire much sooner. Instead this one smoldered longer.

Well, those are the facts, here’s the emotion — I was scared to death. I hadn’t smelled any of the smoke that was billowing from the mitt, and that’s pretty scary. The smoke detector didn’t go off. That’s really scary. What if I hadn’t turned around when I did? What if there’s ever a fire somewhere else in the house and I can’t smell or see it? That’s the scariest. So this weekend I’ll be buying a few more detectors and placing them within a couple of feet of the stove. That’s a $20 investment in the lives of me, Frankie, Alvie.

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My woodworking is more than just a hobby

This is just some of the wood and lumber I've gathered this year. I'll use it for firewood and to build about a dozen small chairs.

This is just some of the wood and lumber I’ve gathered this year. I’ll use it for firewood and to build about a dozen small chairs.

Woodworking. It’s a big part of who I am. I lost this part of me — well, I put it aside — for more than a dozen years as I bounced from Des Moines to New York to Chicago and now to Columbia. But finally I’m back at it. And now that I am, I’m remembering why it’s so important to me.

LeRoy Mitchell when he was about 30 or 35 years old.

My dad, LeRoy Mitchell when he was about 30 or 35 years old.

My current project is some very simple chairs that I’m donating to one of the city’s two fenced-in dog parks. I’m using discarded lumber from construction sites for the materials. The project combines my interest in woodworking with something I’m genetically disposed to do: scavenging for the materials.

My father, LeRoy Mitchell, was an art teacher and he found second and third purposes for everything from carpet samples to the paper that wrapped x-ray film. (Anyone out there have one of his yellow paper books?) Continue reading

Truman and baby

083013 trumanbabyThe University of Missouri has a great mascot: Truman the Tiger. Not sure what it is about him (and sometimes her) but since arriving here in 2003 I have loved Truman. I was able to do a photo project on the mascot several years ago, following the actors around, capturing Truman in a number of different places and situations. It was just so much fun to do.

Truman dons the houndstooth sport coat worn by a fan at the men's basketball game against Alabama on Jan. 8, 2013.

Truman dons the houndstooth sport coat worn by a fan at the men’s basketball game against Alabama on Jan. 8, 2013.

I watch Truman, wondering who is inside (usually a male, but there have been female Trumans) and assessing their skills. Some have great dance moves. Some have great gymnastics skills. They all twirl the tail with particular grace. They all schmooze with the crowd well. (I love the one who donned a particularly garish houndstooth sports coat at one of the men’s basketball games.)

I’m not alone in my joy of Truman. He’s a crowd favorite, and the university knows that. That’s why they coach Truman to be good with the crowd. I made this shot yesterday, at the Tiger Invitational volleyball tournament. It’s not the perfect angle, but I love this moment with Truman and a very young baby. The mother had brought the baby down so she could get baby’s first picture with Truman. And it probably won’t be baby’s last.

Mississippi: So this is The Delta

The door to one of the houses in the Tallahatchie Flats.

The door to one of the houses in the Tallahatchie Flats.

The Delta.
Just what is The Mississippi Delta?

Turns out it looks a lot like Iowa. Continue reading

Saying goodbye to 715 Locust

Goodbye old building, hello old friends

Me and Lisa Kruidenier in the wonderful main stairway of 715 Locust. Photo by Larry May, who Lisa and I worked with in the late 70s and early 80s.

Me, left, and Lisa Kruidenier in the wonderful main stairway of 715 Locust. Photo by Larry May, who Lisa and I worked with in the late 70s and early 80s.

I knew saying goodbye to the Des Moines Register was going to be tough but also a joy, and it was. On Saturday, June 8, 2013, a bunch of us — 100 or more — gathered on the fourth floor of 715 Locust to say goodbye to the building that has housed the Register (and the Tribune) for 95 years. Continue reading

The beauty of spring in Columbia

It was a beautiful day today and I was lucky enough to get out and enjoy some of it. It was past the hours of the really pretty light, but the light caught some pretty magic moments nonetheless. I hope your day was beautiful, too.

P.S. All of these were shot with my iPhone.

Sun worshipers

Sun worshipers

New ivy

New ivy


Continue reading

My first — but not last — experience in “Nawlins”

Months ago two friends and I decided to get together after more than 30 years apart. We were classmates at Drake University in Des Moines, lost touch then reconnected last year. My birthday is in January, a time in which most people in the college town of Columbia, Mo., are out of town. We wanted to meet someplace warm and I’d never been to New Orleans, so that was our spot.

Here are some of the things I saw and did there. Hopefully this won’t be my last trip The Big Easy.

New Orleans: Get here if you can, you’ll both be better for it.

New Orleans — I think that for most of us knowledge comes when you need it. This weekend, I learned more about the post-Katrina life of New Orleans. And it baffles me.

These homes in the Ninth Ward still stand but probably need to be demolished.

These homes in the Ninth Ward still stand but probably need to be demolished.

There’s so much that still needs to be done. In a world in which we build entire Olympic villages in a few years, how can we be seven years down the road and still have so much unfixed damage there?
Continue reading

If pushed, I will carry a gun

I’m sitting in the airport in Phoenix and listing to CNN’s commentary about teachers carrying concealed and unconcealed weapons at school. I think I favor that, as I’ve mentioned before (when Missouri was considering allowed conceal and carry on campus.)

In the Newtown shooting, the “first responders” were the teachers. It makes sense to me that they be armed. However, the number of circumstances in which this is needed is still so small that overall, the average teacher is not likely to be effected (affected?)

Looking at my own situation, I do think I could opt to carry a gun. I have used one many times and have good aim. I know that the stress and anxiety of an actual dangerous situation adds a whole new set of circumstances, I feel that I’d be able to handle it, that I’d be as steady as the shooter, who usually is some schmuck, not a trained killer.

I would probably opt for a concealed ankle gun in order to lessen the possibility of someone trying to strong arm me and take the gun from me.

Hopefully, though, I will never have to do any more thinking about this than what I’ve done right now. But if Newtown shows us nothing else, it proves that these situations are totally unpredictable and can happen anywhere, even in Columbia.

Columbia citizens show respect for fallen soldier Spc. Sterling Wyatt

Thousands of people and hundreds of motorcycles lined both sides of Broadway outside the First Baptist Church during the funeral of Spc. Sterling Wyatt.

The Westboro Baptist Church people know how to draw a crowd.

Today’s crowd was mostly in opposition to the Westboro people and their anti-soldier rhetoric. About six members of the church showed up to protest at the funeral of Spc. Sterling Wyatt but they were swallowed up by the thousands of citizens turned out to support the Wyatt family and to try to assure a peaceful, respectful funeral for their lost soldier.

Mission accomplished.

People from Columbia and around mid-Missouri showed up to say, “You will not dishonor one of ours.” Dressed in red, they stood quietly a peacefully around First Baptist Church, creating a “human wall” so that those from Westboro could not be seen or heard by the Wyatt family.

We must remember that this wasn’t an event, this was a funeral. Sterling Wyatt was a Columbia native who was killed by an IED July 11, 2012, while on patrol in Kandahar Province Afghanistan. He was two months shy of his 22nd birthday.

The Patriot Guard was there, as requested by the family. Hundreds of motorcyclists lead the procession to the cemetery.

Shortly before the end of the service many of the people left to find spots along the city streets to continue the show of support from the church to the cemetery. Many members of the funeral party thanked the people as they drove along the route to the cemetery.

It was an incredibly respectful and honorable send off for Spc Wyatt.