Author Archives: Rick Ladd

About Rick Ladd

Since my retirement from Pratt & Whitney Rocketdyne in 2010, I have spent quite a bit of energy on developing work as a social media marketer for small business, a business manager for an AI software development firm, and as an editor/proofreader for a number of business books and a couple of novels, as well as a two-year return engagement at Rocketdyne from 2015 to 2017. I have decided to stop actively pursuing business in these fields and am now positioning myself to be a writer. I have done quite a bit of writing over the years, but I’ve never really attempted to make any money at it; at least not specifically. I’m starting out with a couple of memoirs and, currently, I’m studying the craft, creating a detailed outline and timeline, and honing my skills as a storyteller. Pretty sure I’ll be writing some fiction as well.

Is It Sauce or Is It Gravy?

food plate restaurant dinner
Photo by Anna Tarazevich on Pexels.com

I have always thought of the topping we’re most used to putting on pasta as sauce; generically spaghetti sauce, though we might differentiate between marinara and meat sauce. During the early 80s, when I was living in Playa del Rey, CA I recall a friend from Boston who referred to it as gravy. I had never heard that term used before and I was intrigued.

Never thought about it too much, but every once in a while I would wonder what it was all about. Gravy or sauce. Now I’ve spent my fair share of time in the kitchen and I know my way around, but I’m hardly a trained chef or a connoisseur. I’m just someone who enjoys eating and knows how to have fun cooking many of the things I like to eat.

Recently, I decided to “do my own research” and have discovered there is no simple answer to the question. Suffice it to say, for the most part gravy is used to refer to a thickened liquid made from the drippings of cooked meat or vegetables, while sauce is made separately from the item it is poured over or served with. Gravies are usually served hot while sauces can be served either hot or cold.

It seems clear to me, however, there is a lot of overlap and wiggle room for classifying something as either a sauce or a gravy and, rather than present an entire treatise on it, I’m going to share a couple of links to articles or sources I’ve encountered whilst doing the aforementioned “research”. I have to add that writing this has made caused me to crave a nice, steaming plate of pasta with my favorite kind of sauce/gravy poured all over it (that would be a meat sauce, say a nice bolognese.)

This page runs down a bit of the history of Italian immigrants to the U.S. and how their use of the words has evolved as they assimilated. The author points out how contentious the distinction has become. There’s quite a bit of fun history and speculation here.

This next page is from a source in India for hospitality workers to educate themselves. It’s got an interesting table setting forth the differences between gravies and sauces. It does not go into any arguments that exist regarding the difference; it’s just a decent source for understanding their components.

This blog post goes into what appears to be an ongoing argument over what to call the stuff that in Italy is referred to as sugo. The author also provides information about Italy and Italian-Americans, as well as recipes from salads to desserts.

Now I need to go out and find something to satisfy my craving for Italian. As a Ukrainian-Moldovan-German-Jewish-American, it’s not part of my heritage but my father’s best friend was a DeBiase and I spent a few of my early years eating homemade pasta (Rigatoni is my fave) or Lasagna, garlic bread, and fresh from the oven Pizzelle (Anise cookies) most every Sunday when we lived near each other in Panorama City, CA.

Pizzelle (Yum!)

Sour on Power

Or its lack during a blackout! I just discovered this poem I wrote on December 8, 2020 at 1:50 pm. Based on this text the power had been out for well over 12 hours and I was getting pretty anxious about getting it back. Since I forgot I wrote it, I’m saving/sharing it here, where I’m pretty sure I’ll forget about it again. At least it will be somewhere other than just on my phone or iPad.

Listen!
You can hear the wind howl
And feel it shaking the house
As the dog’s quick to growl
And is shushed by my spouse.

Patience!
SCE proactively turned off our power
Last night at 7 was when it went dead
Hoping now in the kitchen the milk doesn’t sour
Yet the butter I’ve found is so easily spread.

Worry!
It’s not just the reefer I worry about
It’s more than the food that might spoil
It’s my iPhone’s ability to let me shout out
When its battery gets low on oil.

Resignation.
So I sit here and wait for my phone to go dead
And try to ignore angry thoughts in my head
Cause they told us the power won’t be back ’til tomorrow
And I’ve little to do save to drown in my sorrow.


Transference

What follows is an attempt at writing a short story from something like ten years ago. It’s based on an actual experience of mine that was both enlightening and humbling.

James had been napping for at least an hour. His lunch with Daniel proved a little too much for him, as the salt content of the food made him uncomfortable and a little uneasy. Jewish soul food sure was comforting and tasty, but it would never be mistaken for health food. This was especially true if one had hypertension, like James, accompanied by a deep love of Matzo Ball soup and kosher pickles. He was pretty sure, now that he had no choice but to think about it, he’d ingested at least three or four teaspoons of salt. Although it was now the middle of the afternoon and there remained things to do, the sensations he was experiencing were unsettling and he felt he had no choice but to nap, even if somewhat fitfully. He lay in bed, drifting between different states of consciousness, at times dreaming comfortably and at others becoming keenly aware of what was happening elsewhere in the house. 

His wife, Doreen, had come into the room earlier and asked if he wanted to get up for dinner, but James declined, choosing to allow himself a few more precious minutes of rest and relaxation prior to assuming the chores he had no choice but to perform. After all, the trash and recycle containers weren’t going to take themselves out to the curb and, since the kids were off from school the next day, he wanted to get it out that evening rather than arising early to make sure they weren’t passed up by the trash trucks that always came at daybreak. 

Unfortunately, things weren’t working out quite as he hoped they would. He could hear his children arguing at the dinner table . . . and the volume seemed to be increasing dramatically. Suddenly, he heard angry footsteps approaching the girls’ bedroom across the hall, followed by a triple slamming of the door and loud screaming. He tried to ignore it. This, of course, was impossible and he was shortly fully awake. And upset. 

He forced himself out of bed and popped his head into the girls’ bedroom. His oldest, Angela, was sitting propped up in the corner, sobbing uncontrollably. He wasn’t feeling sympathetic and fixed her with as menacing a glare as he could muster.  

“How many times have I asked you not to slam doors? I’m not feeling well and you woke me up.” 

He continued his glare. She seemed not to care, merely staring back at him with sad, tear-filled eyes. Of course, this infuriated him more. Fortunately, he managed to summon up his nurturing side; at least enough to realize he wasn’t going to help by getting angry with her. With a heavy sigh, he withdrew and moved into the family room. He sat down and instead trained his glare on the television which, to his surprise, also showed no sign of caring. 

Doreen, seeing him now awake, began to recount—step-by-step—the events leading up to this latest drama. He didn’t want to hear it. Most of the conversation, arguing, and yelling between the kids had made it into his consciousness while he was struggling to ignore it and remain asleep; he had no desire to relive it all from her viewpoint, thank you very much. If he had been feeling better, he would have listened better. He wasn’t. 

Ten minutes later, he could still hear Angela sobbing heavily in her room. James was finally convinced he wasn’t having a heart attack and now was becoming concerned for his oldest daughter’s anguish. He felt a little pang of guilt for having scolded her. Feeling a bit selfish and narcissistic, he wanted to do something about it. 

Softly, he knocked on the bedroom door. There was no response. He knocked again and heard a quiet, somewhat surly “What is it?” He now had permission to enter the room and state his business. 

James walked slowly over to the bed. Angela was still sobbing, not even looking up to acknowledge his presence. He gently sat on the bed and looked at his oldest. Her sadness washed over him and his guilt was replaced with warmth and the love he felt for this wonderful child he felt so privileged to have in his life. He took her hand. She looked up, somewhat surprised, and he stared directly into her eyes. 

“Sweetheart, I’m very sorry I yelled at you for waking me up. I know you had a fight with your sister and you’re very upset.” She continued to stare at him, softening slightly from the stone-faced, hurt child he’d seen when he entered the room. 

“I can’t stay mad at you, and it hurts me to see you like this. Is there anything I can do to help?” Her face again softened almost imperceptibly as he continued, “I’ll talk to Annie about teasing you and being so annoying. Would you like that?” The mention of her little sister brought Angela back to the feelings she had before he entered the room. Again she began to sob. James took a deep breath, wondering how he could make this better. 

Seeing one of the great loves of his life this miserable was overwhelming and, as he looked into her eyes, he felt tears beginning to fill his own. He could not look away from her and, therefore, could not hide the fact he was crying. As she saw the tears in his eyes, the corners of her mouth began to turn up ever so slightly, and her eyes took on a slight twinkle. 

“You know how much I love you, baby. Can you forgive me for getting angry with you? I really, really am sorry.” As he spoke, a tear slowly flowed from one eye and began running down his cheek. Angela’s eyes widened and she smiled at him with a look of both wonder and appreciation. 

“Would you like to come out of the room with me and see what Mommy’s fixing for dinner?” he asked. She nodded, and continued to look lovingly into his eyes. James was filled with a sense of deep relief and not a little wonder at what had just happened. He’d entered the room hoping to merely calm his daughter down a little. Now he had unwittingly achieved something far greater and more enduring. 

Somehow, his display of emotion had managed to suck the anguish out of Angela. Since he was much older than her, it was easy for him to deal with the depth of feeling he experienced and, in fact, once he saw her reaction he was filled with a profound sense of satisfaction. 

He arose and held out his hand. Angela took it and stood up beside him. “Feeling better?” he asked. She nodded. He turned and led her out of the room—this magical room where something special had just happened. Mommy was making dinner and Annie was still Annie, lying in wait out in the family room. This moment, though, was very special and he savored it. He knew there would be more—perhaps even greater—battles fought between the two of them but, for now he was content to soak up the intense connection he had found in his short conversation with Angela. Life would, indeed, go on. 


What Country Is This?

When I was younger people would fly the flag on specific holidays: Independence Day, Veteran’s Day, Flag Day, and a few more. That was the extent to which the flag was flown outside of private residences.

Public Law 94-344, known as the Federal Flag Code, states: “Traditional guidelines call for displaying the flag in public only from sunrise to sunset. However, the flag may be displayed at all times if it’s illuminated during darkness.” In my City of Simi Valley, CA there are dozens and dozens of flags flying 24/7, many of them not illuminated at night. Even stranger, there are also dozens and dozens of people who have installed flagpoles in front of their homes flying the flag.

Fort McDumbfuck

I find myself wondering, “Are you cosplaying a post office?” “Is this a military installation; say, Fort McDumbfuck?” What are these people trying to say? That they’re more patriotic than the rest of us? I thought being patriotic meant loving your country enough to work hard, pay your taxes, raise your children to be honest, kind, thoughtful, decent people so the economy and the body politic are strong and resilient.

I guess that’s not good enough nowadays. I guess you have to become a jingoist and pledge your fealty to a person or persons who demand it rather than command it. I guess you have to be a little brain dead and incapable of critical, analytical thought. I have the feeling, as do many others, the people who are doing this now are all Trump supporters.

The conservatives and MAGAts (is there any difference now?) have ruined the flag for me. They’ve fetishized it. The flag represents the nation; it isn’t the nation. It represents the Constitution and the people who have served and sacrificed that we might enjoy the freedoms that, when you look at it historically, haven’t been available for all. Now I’m afraid it merely represents a gnawing desire to return to an idealized past that never existed, not even for the most privileged of us.

At the risk of being accused of harping on the subject, returning from taking my daughter to work I was once again struck by the number of flags, and flagpoles, that line the streets of Simi Valley. I tweeted the following after I returned:

Conservatives have no problem belittling others for “virtue signaling.” However, it’s just dawned on me that flying the flag 24/7 is another, somewhat ridiculous form of virtue signaling. I know what country I live in. I don’t need dozens of flags to remind me. What’s your point?

I’m afraid it’s probably time for a new flag. We can consider it right after we bury the Republican Party, the epitome of un-American values, if you can call what they believe values at all. Please vote accordingly this November 8.


Returning To The Scene Of The Crime

Yesterday I noticed I had a voicemail from late Friday. It turned out to be from someone at PRO-Unlimited, the organization that handles temps for Aerojet Rocketdyne. She said she was calling about the position I interviewed for a week ago last Thursday. I won’t know for sure until I can return her call tomorrow, but I’m pretty sure this means I’m getting the job I really wanted.

I’m beyond excited to think I may return and work on the same engine (RS-25, formerly the SSME) I worked on for over 20 years and that it will once again be hurling humans into space.


First Week On My Own

This was my first week running the business I’ve been working at for nearly eight months. The owner had to return to England with his family to renew their visas and for him to take care of some family business.

One of our three warehouses

It wasn’t a surprise. He had asked me early on if I was prepared to do it and I told him I would be happy to. Today was fairly slow, but the guy who’s been helping me out—and who I’m training to replace me when I get a job more suitable to my skills—decided not to come in.

I had to do a bit more than I expected to and by the end of the day I was whipped. I don’t generally have any problems doing the physical work I have to accomplish each day, but I ain’t no spring chicken and some days I really do feel my age. Today was one of them.

Going to bed early so I have the best chance of getting a refreshing night’s sleep. It will be another two and a half weeks before the boss returns. Fortunately, there are cell phones, texting, and email.


It’s Not Inflation-It’s Greed

I’m old enough to remember paying $0.25/gal back in 1968. Adjusted for inflation that would be $2.10/gal today. Clearly, the petroleum companies are screwing us royally.

PS – This was a first for me (>$100) and it was at Costco, where had can be up to $0.50 cheaper than most anywhere else.


Let’s Try It!

Ever since I encountered Malcolm X’s writings in the 60s, I’ve had a love/hate relationship with the phrase “by any means necessary.” I’m reasonably sure what Brother Malcolm was referring to was the right of the Black community to defend itself, violently if necessary, against any and all attacks on their rights.

I’m also pretty sure a lot of people interpret the phrase as a general call-to-arms and an incitement to violence. I beg to differ. I believe the phrase should be interpreted (ironically) literally, i.e. whatever works is what we do if we want to make positive, progressive change in this country.

We have a tool available to us and we don’t use it very effectively. I’m referring to voting. Historically, since the early 20th century, less than half the eligible population has voted in midterm elections. In 2018 it was 50%, for the first time since 1914.

If you don’t think there’s a correlation between voter apathy and the quality of representation we get, I’ve got a Louie Gohmert to sell you.

Voting is a “means” at our disposal. Protests, demonstrations, general strikes are “means” as well, but they’re not mainstream and, therefore, are far more difficult to pull off. The whole damn country votes on (or, thankfully, around) the same day every two years.

I know there are those who say voting doesn’t matter. I’m sure there are plenty of cases in which that’s true, but that doesn’t make it a universal truth. Regardless, when 50% or less of the eligible population bother to vote it’s much easier for a small but organized and cohesive group to take over the governance of your city, county, state, or federal government. Maybe even your HOA!

Please vote. Let’s give it a try. Make sure your friends and family know how important it is. Not just in this upcoming election, but from now on. From The standpoint of availability and feasibility, it’s the most “necessary” means at our disposal. Let’s wield it intelligently.


Top Gun Fitbit

My buddy, Steve, treated me to a screening of Top Gun Maverick on Saturday for my birthday. Ironically, a day or two earlier, in response to a question posed on Twitter asking what fictional death affected me, I commented with a pic of Anthony Edwards as “Goose.” There have been quite a few, but his death in Top Gun really tore me up.

I’m hardly a movie critic, but I’ll offer this. My Fitbit HR5 measures my heart rate (among other things) and “awards” me points for a couple different levels of exertion. Although I was sitting still the entire movie, except for the occasional gulping of beer or munching of buttered popcorn, my tracker recorded about 50 minutes of an elevated heart rate. Make what you will of that.

I recommend the movie, but don’t listen to me. I’m a sucker for fast planes and dogfights — and vicarious emotional scarring.

GOOSE

Viva La Revolución Cubana

May Day in La Plaza De La Revolución

Forty-nine years ago today I had the honor of marching through La Plaza De La Revolución as a member of the 6th contingent of the Venceremos Brigade. I got to listen to Fidel give one of his shorter speeches (only about 2.5 hours, if memory serves.) The USA has been exceptionally cruel to the people of Cuba. They deserve far better, as do we all.


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