Sunday, July 31, 2011

Jesus Billboards, Casper the Ghost & the Best Restaurant in Omaha

I'm not proud of the fact,but I've pretty much peed in every gas station that runs along HWY 35 throughout Iowa.

Typically your 3 options are Kum & Go, Q-T and Casey's General Store, but this afternoon I couldn't wait for my scheduled pit stop.

You can't really cross your legs when you're driving, so instead I rocked back and forth.

But thing were starting to back up hard, and my PSI was off the charts. I don't take a lot of solace in life, but one of the few things I can be proud of is that I've never been pee a in a milk carton or Gatorade bottle guy, like my civilized forefathers, I torture myself until I find a toilet.

When you cross Iowa, one of your entitlements is that their gas stations are almost always within 100 yards of the off ramp, shoot...just 25 hours earlier I was in the southern part of the state and urinated at a Kum & Go in the town John Wayne was born in, but I digress.

Yeah, it was hurting now, and I see a sign that informs me at the next exit is a Cenex gas station, now I'm annoyed because isn't that some kinda farm brand?

As I go tearing down the off ramp, the sign says to hang a left, and I did this, but as the bread truck lined up with the road....all I could see was silo's off in the distance.

Now even Jedi mind tricks are not working, I gotta pee so bad I can almost taste it. I start to think that maybe if Sue McGleno were awake that she could talk to me. Maybe that would distract my current situation.

But every time I take my family anywhere, whether it's planes, trains or automobiles....they simply treat me like I'm Casper the Ghost.......

"Hi my name is Klecko....won't you be my friend?"

Yikes, the mere thought casts a spell of sleep on them, and you can be pretty certain it will be 8 hours before they wake.

I made this Casper reference recently to my writing mentor Mike Finley, but he just started up a morose conversation about Casper being the ghost of a dead little boy.

Isn't that funny? I had watched that cartoon 1000+ times, and I guess I never stopped to think about the child his ghost was connected to.

Mike Finley did though, and that's why he is the teacher.

I've now gone 1 mile down a dirt road, still no gas station, I am not sure if I want to swear, cry or pull over and pee in the ditch.

But even when you are close to 50, there still is a sense of pride knowing that you didn't fail in maintaining your voiding goals huh?

The silos are on my left now, and I think they said Land O Lakes Study Grains, or something like that.

My mind must have been knocked off axis because now because it went back to Casper, and then it occurred to me that he wasn't trying to stalk anybody in particular. The poor little ghost was either an orphan or just wasn't close to his family.

If I died, I'd so stalk Sue McGleno's a** and boo her every chance I got. took 1.6 miles, but there she was.....the Cenex Gas station.

I hate to be the run in and pee, and then don't buy anything guy, but right now I ran past everybody, found the oasis and entered into a moment of bliss.

When I was done, I went back outside. This little rube station only had 2 pumps. I was parked in front of diesel so I had to sit patiently for the 2 townie vehicles to finish fueling up.

The first car wasn't actually a local. Their license plate was from Kansas, and they had one of those frames you can buy at souvenir shops, you know....the ones that frame your plate with a sports logo or clever quip.

This one said......

"Pray for Abortion to End!"

I decided I hated the owners of this plate shield, not because of their frames content as much as the fact that they left their car there, and then walked inside the station. I could have filled my tank had they just moved up 6 feet.

Dude on the other side of the pump was filling empty gas tanks and cleaning out his pick up truck simultaneously.

And yes.....Sue McGleno wasnt oblivious to any of this because she was still passed out in the back seat. So as I sat in silence, I turned to Polish Jesus and asked him......

"Really, do you want us bugging you about all of our problems? should we start lobbying folks to pray for the economy, pray for flour prices to go down, pray for wars to stop, pray for......etc-etc."

How about if that license plate holder just consolidated everybodys perception and opinion and we just made one standard license plate holders for all people of all faiths, and it could say.........

"Pray for people to stop being stupid."

Seriously, that encompasses all wrong doings, all sins and all irritations.

I think Polish Jesus smiled.

The guy filling portable gas tanks was finished, and so I pumped, and went in to get a Diet Mountain Dew and pay for my petro.

The woman who worked the counter was 60ish, had silver hair and wore a watch that sported L.E.D. numbers, and I don't think it was meant to be a retro wardrobe accessory, if you know what I mean.

Maybe I am a pompous doof, but when I encounter people who are engaged in mind numbing jobs, I try to cheer them up, throw them a bone of love, if you will.

I've worked "that" job for decades and know how one sentence can brighten a day, and when you work a job instead of a career, you just try to get through 1 shift at a time.

I didn't need to bother though, the gas attendant simply painted her eyes to my tattoo's and I could almost feel a force field of rebuke engulf me lol.

That's when I slowly turned my arm over to make sure that she saw my Russian tat, the one with the hammer & cycle. I'll bet that was going to be a topic at next Saturday nights bingo.

The one thing I forgot to mention is that when you pee in the country, it is totally different than peeing in the city, because in the city, well they just hang artful things on the walls.

Sometimes you'll get a Picasso or a Warhol, but in the country, aw shucks.....they hang crafts!

So as I relieved my self, I did duly note the hand made plaque that announced......

"In this rest room, we aim to keep it clean.

You can help us with our goal, if you keep good aim as well."

As I drove into northern Iowa and southern Minnesota, I saw Jesus commercials on bill boards. I'm not making it up.

Some of the following are just samples of what I saw on the road side........




OK, how many times do I have to say this? I AM ON THE JESUS TEAM! But really?

Dude that was thousands of dollars to repeat verses that anybody who isn't biblically illiterate already knows. And if they are not hip to those scriptures, will those words and a cheesy painting of a dove really get across what this faith is all about?

Now I can already hear the bashing, and be that as it may, but I think if you used those billboards to put a picture of Hollywood Jesus holding a chimpanzee that was smoking cigs, you'd actually germinate healthier seeds.

Kids would ask their Grandma what it meant, husbands and wives would start dialogues, the real message would be that Jesus was inclusive.....not exclusive.

Jesus didn't hang with the "Church" crowd. He hung with blue collar slobs, grimy tax collectors, whores and thieves.

Why? I imagine those were the peeps he wanted to influence.

So who were these existing billboards for I wondered.

Now I'm 1 hour and 12 minutes (according to my GPS) from home, but there is road construction happening on our Sunday freeway, long story short, this turned out to be a 75 minute delay.

As much as I hate to wait, I used this moment to reflect what had transpired over the last 24 hours.

I popped in to Omaha to make a cameo appearance to my daughter and her family.

Typically I don't like to go many places much longer than that, but with your kids, it's even a little trickier.

I know what it's like to have parents at my house.

If they come for 24 hours, I treat them like royalty, but every hour after that.....well let's just say the mood switches exponentially.

Young people do love their parents, but their lives are busy, and I think my biggest fear on the planet is to lose the respect and loyalty of my wife and children.

I can prevent that if I show up often, but bolt before I say something stupid.

So last night, my son in law took us to this German restaurant called Gerda's and I swear on a stack of Polish bibles it was the best meal / environment I have seen in years.

When you walk in the front door, you step into a bakery retail spot that offers apple strudel, cream puffs, Neapolitan's and cakes - cakes and more cakes.

But, the bakery has an adjoining room which they open for dinner and my family was blessed to dine there with a dozen other families.

The menu offered about a 15 options of standard German fare, but I gotta tell ya, everything-everything-everything down to the German potato salad was made from scratch, it sure wasn't plopped out of a #10 can that was shipped in by the case from Sysco.

And the beer menu, do I even have to go there?

My son in law guzzled 4 or 5 of the dark ones, but I prefer the Pilsner.

When all the other families left, Sue McGleno mentioned we were holding the staff up, so I asked how much it would cost for me to gain permission to spend the night. Our server laughed and said.......

"OK kid, I'll get you an answer."

So now an older women comes out to the counter, showers my granddaughter with compliments, and asks which one of us was the baker.

She knew though, and she kindly told me about her operation, it's history, but then she kinda confessed that she had fed Omaha for so many years, and often times she secretly wondered if her concept would remain float in other regions of our country.

When I asked her what her secret to longevity was for her, and her bakery/restaurant she smiled and told me, as if she knew me........

"You know what the secret is. If you own it, you work it. Why would anybody start something like this if they were just going to hire somebody else to run it. That would just be crazy."

Then she handed my granddaughter some free cookies.

As I sat in the traffic jam and reran this event through my mind, I thought how I wanted to get a license plate frame for my bread truck, but I wanted mine to say.....

"Pray for Gerda's - it's the Best Restaurant in Omaha!"

I bet that would make Jesus smile.

Friday, July 29, 2011

Pulling Puppies Out of the Fire with Mikey

"Just give me what I want......and no one gets hurt. Hello-Hello, I'm at a place called Vertigo."

Says the disc in the bread truck as I pull out of J&B"s coffee shop and point myself towards Bread Mecca and embark on yet another day of maintaining the bread empire.

Funny, I've listen to this disc about a billion times during the last couple of years, but yet somehow I've been able to block out one of my favorite attachments to that song.

A couple days ago I wrote about Danielle our receptionist, and how she passed away at the age of 24, well another kid I loved shed his mortal coil at the same cursed age....24.

His name was Mikey, and we lovingly referred to him as the Mexican Giraffe.

Mikey was 6' 3" -6" 4", lean but musculer and really handsome. All the girls in the neighborhood had their eyes set on him because not only was he such a chick magnet, but he had a sweet disposition, and a large family of some of the nicest people you'd ever want to meet.

His old man is Mexican, and although he is equally good looking, his appearance is more in line with my perception of what most Mexicans look like.

Mikey on the other hand, almost looked like a Norse god lol. His skin was light and his hair was fair.

Over the years that I worked with him, I viewed myself as 1/2 employer, but 1/2 father as well. If you've ever had teenage kids, you know exactly what I mean want to be part of that "village" that raises the collective youth?

But I'll tell ya, that Mikey must have had some Terrier blood in him as well, because he was quick thinking and mischievous, often times his quick wit ran a couple miles in front of consequence.

Many days I'd enter the plant, and Mikey would be quick to greet me with an episode from his life that would rival Beaver Cleavers.

So back to U2's Vertigo song.

Remember when I Pod first came out and Bono volunteered to do the commercial for free. He knew the device was cutting edge and viewed the cross promotion as a win-win for both his band, and the new form of technology.

If you recall, the commercial was a real quick blast where you see the Irish front man's sihouette leaning backwards, pulling the microphone stand back, while kicking in the air and screaming......

"Yeah-Yeah-Yeah-Yeah-Yeah-Yeah" follwed by a leg quick, mike stand dropped to the ground, and the commercial is over.

It was a pretty famous spot, Stewie Griffith did a parody of it on Family Guy.

Well.....often times, part of my job at the bakery is to take people on tours. They typically take 20-30 minutes. We start off in the buisness office where I describe who we are servicing, next we all put on hair nets and enter into the production area where I start in the mixing area, then take my group to the proofing rooms, ovens, and finally packaging.

But for me, the highlight of these tours was how Mikey would come flying around a corner holding a mop like a michrophone stand while screaming...


Then he'd slam that mop down so hard that it would echo for 10 seconds across the bakery, which was followed by him kicking that big lanky Abraham Lincoln leg of his in the air.

It didn't matter if it was a group of senoirs, kindergarten kids, or mentally challenged souls trapped in wheel chairs. Mikey didn't discriminate, he performed for anybody that he thought he might astonish.

Then came that day, the day where he pulled me aside to tell me he was moving on to bigger things.

He landed a job at Comcast Cable company where he would serve as a sales rep.

Part of his job was to take crews out to locations that had a dense populace where his crew would canvas the area, offering HBO incentives to anybody with a credit card.

Time passed by, we'd run into one another every once in awhile, but for all practical purposes, even though the kid remained in my heart....he was out of my loop.

But then On a cold-blistering morning, I came into work and as I checked my E-Mails, somebody, I don't remember who, sent me a video link that kept me smiling for a week.

It was a clip off of Fox News. they were reporting on a fire that took place in an apartment complex, and the bubble headed bleach blonde reporter is hashing out details guessed it, enter Mikey - stage left.

He was in the building, detected the fire, called the cops and evacuated the building. Now if that isn't Good Samaritian enough for you, after everybody was out, Mikey stormed back into the units where it was said that pets lived and their owner weren't home.

Then he pulled them out one at a time, and placed the fuzzy victims in his Comcast work truck.

The media chick was glowing. You could tell that she was actually was impressed by his valor (and boyish good looks.)

The whole time he engaged in the interview he had this doofy little grin on his face.

I really miss that kid.

I'd like to close this rant on an uplifting note, or send you away with a practical lesson, but to be honest......I got nothing for you today.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Are Bakers Sensitive About Being Fat?

I'm stretched out across the couch with my eyes welded to my 500 inch plasma TV. I can't even tell you what was on, it doesn't matter, it's TV and by virtue of the fact the the on button has been pressed into the on position, well.....that's enough for Klecko.

There's a sheltie sloped over my headrest, and she kinda has her body wrapped around my neck like some kind of raggedy old mink stole.

Peanut the wire haired Jack Russell lays down by my feet and although we've lived together for 9 years, I notice she isn't as long as my Nike's unless she stretches out in that "Cow Jumps Over the Moon" position.

Deedle-Deedle, my chihuahua, my confidant is spinning in circles, clawing an invisible hole into my couch, and this volitile action is actually making me a little more than nervous since it's taking place between my legs.

Of course the only member of the pack that's not with me is Romeo, he's the smooth coat Jack Russell that has a relationship with Sue McGleno that may be closer than Fox Mulder and Agent Scully.

I mean...Dude, everytime I turn around she has that mutt cradled in her arms as if it were the Christ child.

OK....everybody is settled in now and "BANG", the front door flys open and all 4 canines go spastic.

It's just like Dino on the Flinstones "Arbbbbbb Barbbbbbbbb Arbbbbbbb", but only x's4.

So Tydus makes his way across the living room and performs the tenuous ritual of yanking off his shirt and then proceeding to ask Sue McGleno to inspect his ab's after his nightly workout at the gym.

Of course I think the both of them are absurd to engage in this dialougue on a nightly basis, but most of the time I simply shut up so they will do the same, and that way I can go back to watching one of my 900 cable channels.

But the other night, I couldn't help myself, and I made some kind of sarcastic comment. Swear to Caesar I can't remember what it was, but Tydus got all snakey about it......

"Dad, you can mock my sexuality, my political views, or even my religous beliefs, but don't get started on body image stuff, I don't like it."

Then being a dad, being an antagonist, I was comepletely in the dagger throwing mood so I tossed Karen Carpenter remarks towards him, but Sue McGleno dropped the gavel glare, and when that happened....I stopped.

But as the evening went on I started to laugh to myself how thick skinned you have to be in the baking industry.

I mean let's face it, haven't you ever hear the cliche "Never Trust a Skinny Baker?"

I'm sure there's like what 4 of them in the world. 1 in Italy, 1 in Chile and 2 in Holland, but there simply are no thin bakers in America, at least bakers that have been in the show for 5-10 years.

I can't tell you how many times over the years I've watched 2 bakers greet one another with..........

"Hey fat a**, what's going on?" or "Good morning fatso, if you go to Starbucks, I'll buy if you fly."

Bakers, seasoned bakers are immune to these statements.

The thing that is interesting about the majority of peeps working on a bread crew is that most of them will have a few extra pounds on them, but at the same time....they are carrying some muscle as well from pulling doughs out of bowls, pulling thousands of bread pans out of the oven.

I mean the list could go on and on if you tried to describe all the physical rigors a baker goes through admidst a single shift.

I know name calling can seem barbaric or ignorant, and I'm not going argue with anybody about it, I'm just listing an observation of what I've seen.

I'm a pretty good candidate to do this since when I first got into the show, I was 175#'s. There were times in later years when I was pretty darn close to hitting 3 bills, but I'm thinking my standard "Bakers Weight" is going to be between 270-275 pounds.

The one thing I will mention is I realize if you are working at a place like Wells Fargo you'd lose your job if you addressed a collegue as a Plop A**, but in our neck of the woods, verily-verily, I say unto you.....most people don't even think twice.

These people feel good about themselves. They know that they are not lazy, they work very hard.

I think sometines when you do something tangible like entering an empty warehouse, and filling it completly with bread over a 10 hour span, it creates a sense of accomplisment.

This will make you feel better about yourself than anything.

Dear Friends, life is short, and oppurtuities are prescious. It is my most sincere hope that none of you limit your joy because of appearance.

Beauty and vanity make horrible bed mates.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

The Saddest Day I Ever had in a Bakery

R.M. from the United Kingdom asks.........

"Klecko, I want to hear about your worst day you've ever had at a bakery."

Well R.M....God Save the Queen, and the rest of you, a person might think that a guy would have to shuffle through multiple boxes in their mental warehouse to answer a question like this, but not me, not really.

I had one day that hurt me so bad I'm not sure if the parts I remember are real or surreal.

In the back of my mind I figured I'd address this in a blog posting at some time or another, but to be honest, I think I've been trying to avoid it.

About 2 years ago I was at work and usually each day I start my shift by running through E-Mails and social media posts.

On one day that seemed like it was no different than any other, I popped onto facebook and I saw a public post from Mike Finley (who has been my writing mentor for years, but in addition to rooting Klecko on, he is also the father to a young woman who worked in our buisness office at the bakery for several years)and the post read......

"This morning a Buddhist police chaplain knocked on my door, when I answered it, they said my daughter had died."

My first reaction was anger, I seriously was pissed that Mike would joke about something like that, obviously she could not have passed, she was only 24.

But then I thought about it for a few seconds and it occured to me that Mike Finley isn't a nut, he wouldn't make something like this up, and all of a sudden I felt like I was going to be ill.

His daughter's name is Danielle, and she is a one of a kind kid.

She was that punk rock / cynical kid that Hollywood always trys so hard to capture in their movies, but for some reason never quite gets it.

On any given day her hair might be a different color, her jewelry collection could have been shared with her dog Zeppo, or a new tattoo might surface on a body part that was selected by some ritualistic lottery.

That's what I loved about this kid. She had spirit, and she was always honest, sometimes even when you didn't nessisarily want her to be - lol.

So I'm staring at my monitor, I don't think I moved. I called out to Bill our Office Manager, and he came in and read the post as well.

Bill is an ex Pentacostal Preacher, a guy who sat on the direct oppisite side of every single issue on this planet from Danielle, yet somehow....these 2 loved each other, I believe more than a great deal.

I looked up at Bill and asked, what do I do? What do we do?

It's funny, because Bill Cahlander can be such a weirdo (KLECKO SAYS IN A LOVING TONE)but when level 10 catastrophe hits, I've never seen anybody in my life act more level headed than him.

Bill placed his grief behind him and issued the following instructions to me.........

"OK, first off you don't ask anything, you simply go into their home, and get details as to who will be coming to their house over the course of the next seven days.

When you get a number, go to Restaurant Depo and get enough food for these people, but theres other things that they will need. Toilet Paper, Dish Soap,Tooth Paste, all that kind of stuff is going to be needed and the last thing a grieving person wants to do is rush off to Super America or Wal Mart to grab forgotten items."

So I did these things, but still you just feel as if your efforts are futile.

In a weird way though, I feel like it pulled me closer to their family, I mean how can it not? Basically we all just clicked into survive mode together.

Just about a month before Danielle's passing, I met up with her at the Happy Gnome for a burger and beers.

She was so-so excited to show me photo's of a recent trip that she had taken with some friends to Mexico.

Danielle's family somehow mustered up a dose of courage that may be equalled, but can never be surpassed.

At her funeral the mourners were made up of peeps with facial piercings, tennis ball sized ear lobe gauges, members of the transgender community, artists, poets, doctors, lawyers......and a baker as well.

I'll bet their were hundreds of people, all of us sat in complete silence.

Then her brother John came out, you could see he was obviously forelorn, but then he picked up his guitar and started to play.

That was the first time since the tragedy that I smiled.

Next her Mother came out and issued a speech where she thanked each of us for attending, and our involvment in their lives.

Sue McGleno marveled, she also slugged me in the arm, it actually hurt so as I turned to find out what her problem was, she interupted me before I uttered my first word......

"Isn't she wonderful? to have the strength to stare through the grief and pain and then use this oppurtunity to express graditude. I would be pissed! I would be mad at God, I'd probably be mad at you too, but she's...."

And then Sue McGleno couldn't finish, she didn't know what to say.

I kinda have always had a rule that when I enter into my house, I don't discuss work with my family, and I NEVER talk about employees.

But I broke that rule often with Danielle because even though I know I drove her crazy, I want to think deep down she knew that I loved her about 1/2 of what her father did.She was an interesting person, and a fun topic of discussion. She meant that much to me.

Now her Pops walks up to the microphone. I watched as he dug in, he gripped the podium as if to get his balance and then delivered a plea to all of us to make whatever efforts we could to become more accepting of ourselves, and the other people who get placed in our paths.

In written word that sounds so lame, but under the circumstances, mixed with the conviction in which it was presented....It was like some kind of angelic harmony.

I don't want to sound irreverent here, but his words were crushing peoples hearts.We were inspired and sad at the same time. He had that hole Billy Graham vibe going, but his delivery was more like Pa Ingall's, you know, how he's say something so majestic at the end of a Little House on the Prarie Christmas Special, and you just knew that everything was going be very-very unselfish of him.

If you ever get chance, or better yet,just make time to go online and Google the writings of Mike Finley.

In my opinion he's w/o a doubt the most influencial writer since Jack Kerouac.Dude's rants are more interesting than mine and that "Call Me Ishmael" guy combined.

He's also on Facebook under Mike Finley or Lucky Park Productions.

Either way.....check him out.

And just in case you are wondering R.M. from London town. Yeah, the 9-11 terrorist bombing would have probably been as equally disturbing, however I had that day off.

So when I look back over 30 years, I guess I can tell you that this the one day, the only time in my life where I had to leave my shift because I was able to perform my assigned task.

And Danielle........not a day - not a day - not a day goes by where I don't think of you kid.

The worst part of having you gone is I no longer have anybody to tell me how uncool my music is, and ironically that comes from somebody who's secret indulgence was to sing along with Jon Bon Jovi!

Polish Jesus......however stuff works up there, tell the kid she still makes us smile and we love her.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Baking for the Celebrity "B" List

Remember last week when I gave you guys the poll/question thing about which dinner roll the top chef's in the Twin Cities were going to use.

I must have got over 80 responses, and surprisingly enough only one person answered correct.

That's almost numarically impossible since I only listed 6 options.

The Culinary powers that be went with the Dill / Sunflower bread sticks.

The product needed to be dropped off Sunday morning, but there was such an importance attached to this order, I knew I wouldn't rest until I had confirmation that all things were mission accomplished.

Over the years I've found that the way to achieve this while expending the least ammount of energy is to just do it yourself.

So even though I had slid out of the bread truck just 5 hours prior (with Sue McGleno after attending the U2 show)I plopped back in and went over to the bakery to load things up.

The boys did a great job with these pieces, they were finishing the packing when I walked into the shop.

Driving across Saint Paul before 7 a.m. on a Sunday morning is what I imagine driving on the moon is like.

Not only are there no podestrians or vehicles using the streets, but it's hard to sense a vibe that anything that breathes or has a soul has been in your midst within a year.

Do your research, and I'll bet you Saint Paul is the smallest big town in the nation.

Hells - Bells, basically we're kinda like Mayberry R.F.D. except we have minorities and a couple of Starbucks.

So now I pull into the loading dock of the arena, and "Ramp Guy" asks me how long my delivery is going to take.

I showed the guy my load and told him where I was delivering to, but sometimes you don't know if it's going to take 10 seconds or 20 minutes to find somebody to check your order in and sign for it.

They sent me to a dock on the adjacent side of the arena. I think I've blogged about this before, but.....when you drive under stadiums, it's like being in another world.

In a way, you feel as if you are in the digestive track of some monolithic Levithan.

After driving several more football fields of length I pulled over and some guy on the payroll ambles over to my ride while I am building towers out of bread racks and he asks me basically the identical thing that "Ramp Guy" asked.

My head was hurting now, and in the back of my mind I was thinking "My kingdom for a shot of Espresso", but I didn't get cute with the guy. I just guestimated 10 minutes, and then "Ramp Guy #2" says........

"Well make sure you keep it at 10, I have secret service coming in here in 20 minutes, and your truck is sitting on their spot.

From what I heard, the gig was a fund raiser for hearing impared issues, so what the "H" was this guy talking about....was Obama going to show up?

I asked the guy, and with his back turned and walking away, he said Bill Clinton was coming.

Really? You get secret service guys posted around you even though you haven't ran the country for 15 years?'d have to be a pretty hardcore Republican to still be pissed with Bill after all these years.

Then as I pushed my twin towers of bread, I ran some numbers using skid math, trying to figure out how much the American tax payers were doling out annually to protect Carter, Clinton and the Bush tandem each day.

The sum I came up with was staggering and made me shake my head as I pushed the up button on the freight elevator.

After taking a trip up through the bowels, this huge fish spit me out on the 4th floor where I deposited my wares in the kitchens entry way.

I'm telling you, it was a sight to behold. The only way I can describe it is to say that the place looked like a bee hive and even though I was looking through ignorent lenses, it appeared to me that each person was executing their tasks with extreme precision, and in a timely fashion.

So echo's from U2's encores were still buzzing in the dark corners of my head, I wondered if it would be possible for me to get another hours sleep in if I scurried home real quick, so just when I was about to push the down button on of the freight elevator....the door pops open.

Standing right in front of me is the Executive Chef. I've known him for years, and he's always seemed like a pretty cool guy, but at this moment he was still in street clothes.

In over a decade, I've never seen this cat in anything other than prestine chef coats with high thread counds.

Dude's eyes were heavy and glazed over.

I knew this look too well, I started to laugh and ask if he traded in a nights sleep for a short nap.

I think he replied yes with a yawn.

So today, today in the StarTribune "Faces" section they did a little piece on this event. It was a fund raiser for Ear/Hearing stuff, but let me read off the "Celebrity List."

Garth Brooks
Whoopi Goldberg
Patricia Arquette
Kevin Sorbo
Kevin Costner
Marlee Matin
Bill Clinton

And the performing artists were..........

Meat Loaf, Miley Cyrus and Reba McEntire.

As I've gone throughout my day, I have to tell you, I kinda had to chuckle. Sure, each person on this list has been white hot at one time or another in their lives.

And I know that their vallets and pool cleaners make double of what I do, but let face it LOL, none of these peeps are an arrow up in todays pop culture anymore.

Do you think there was even a chance in hell that Lady Gaga was gonna show up for this party? I don't, if an "A" lister even gets caught within Whoopi they automatically lose 100 street cred points.

I don't make the rules, I'm just saying......

How often do you laugh out loud when you are all by yourself? I never do, but I did today.

Can't you just see Costner sitting beside the pool of one of his 3 homes last Thursday night? Who knows, maybe Erik Estrada calls him up for some reason, if so....does Costner pump this gig to appear relevant to another has been?

"Yeah Ponch, gotta fly out on Saturday to the TC's to do a fund raising gig. Huh...what's that? Oh....yeah, the entertainment is going to be Meatload singing 2 out of 3 ain't bad.
It was a huge #1 hit...........but the part that his delusion prevents him from saying it that was 30 some years ago.

Now you know Klecko isn't about being a hater, but all I can say is I think it has to be incrediblly difficult going from a position in life where you've had power, money, youth and fame.......but then one day you wake up and have to adjust to the fact that you were the second choice to be a celbrity attendee at a hearing aid banquet because Richard Dawson contracted gout.

Alright kids, don't any of you forget that as long as you subscribe to the daily musings of The Last American Baker........

You are certain to remain on Klecko's "A" List.


Sunday, July 24, 2011

Singing with Bono & Sue McGleno

At 4 p.m. yesterday, I was pretty fried. I had put in an entire day standing in the direct sun while coaching youth baseball for our St Paul annual, season ending tournament.

When the championship game finished, I had just enough time to hustle home, take a shower and then head over to Minneapolis for the U2 concert.

There was all kind of speculation that for those of us with tickets, we would have to entertain some survival strategies if our evenings were going to be worthwhile.

60 000 of us had our admission tickets for 2 years. If you recall Bono had back surgery and our venue was one of the shows that was skipped, and then tacked back on to the tail end of the tour.

The 2 biggest obstacles that we'd have to face was raging thunder storms, and finding parking slots. The stadium is located in an area of our city that is gouged up so they can put in a light rail.

I on the other hand have a 3rd plight to endure that the other 59 999 attendees don't however.

I have to bring Sue McGleno, and I have to make sure she has the time of her life.

It has already been explained to Klecko that in no uncertain terms, if Bono comes skipping down the side walk and offers intentions to my wife, that she's going to kick my a** to the curb!

Sue McGleno loves Bono.

Even though I've known her for over 30 years, she can be a tough read, so when I find out that there is something she likes, I really do try my best to make that happen for her.

So a couple years ago when U2 launched this spectacular 360 degrees tour, I surprised my little princess by getting us tix for the show in Vegas.

To make a long story short, we traveled across America, drove out into the desert, and witnessed this ambitious gala......but Sue McGleno had the flu.

She tried to enjoy it, but she was really sick, and for the remainder of our time in Sin City, my love interest simply laid in bed.

Oh, just a brief digression, we were staying at the Luxor right? That hotel shaped like Pharaohs pyramid.

While Sue McGleno slept, I mostly sat by the pool reading and soaking in the sun.

So I'm reclined in my lawn chair, and there is another empty lawn chair, maybe 3 feet in front of me, but it is not lined in the same position as mine. It is turned the other way, basically forming the letter "T".

This 24-27ish chick comes and floats down onto this lawn chair and O-M-G was she a masterpiece. Just when she was finishing applying her 47th coat of baby oil across her Amish white skin, a dumpy looking slob came trouncing across the pool deck.

PLOP-PLOP-PLOP-PLOP.........went dudes flip flops.

Now don't get me wrong, I am sure the guy was swell lol, all I'm saying is this spectacular looking woman, well she was borderline goddess. I so would have killed for her, but this guy was tubby.

Not 45-55 year old tubby guy who goes bowling, but tubby 25 year old tubby guy who was born into money and plays video games while collecting a paycheck from his ancestors company....well that's my guess anyway.

Dude took off his shirt and shared with all of us a belly that reminded me of a pregnant bullhead, but maybe even 3 shade whiter.

Hot chick doesn't flinch, her nose is buried busily in some magazine that offers unique items that you can purchase if you are willing to absorb an inflated price tag.

Now Lumpy dude open his back pack and he slides out a bag of Cheeto's, after carefully opening the bag......

CHOMP-------CHOMP--------CHOMP, the guy seemed as if he wanted to punish each Puff like it was personal or something.

To my right is some cat, he's with some chick, the 2 of them looked like they were from Jersey.

I notice this guy is watching Lumpy as well.

So me and Jersey dude start communicating with nothing other that "Regular Guy" facial expressions.

I start off by looking at the chick, then Jersey dude and give him a glare which didn't need to be decoded. It was the "Holy God, I'm sure that dude has cash, but really? No way, this chick is 6 levels out of his league.

Now both of us laugh.

Then after like, oh 8-12 minutes of Lumpy's chomping, Jersey dude pulls a dollar out of his wallet which was cleverly hid under a beach towel.

Jersey boy then pantomimes that when lumping was done eating his mid morning snack that he would insist on taking the time to lick/suck all the orange residue off his fingers, 1 digit at a time.

I accepted the bet, and I swear to Caesar, not 3 minutes passed before our civilized subject point, slurped every last morsel of Cheetos's goo off his fingers.

I gave the guy 2 bucks.

Like I said I digress, so back to yesterday, it's time to leave for the concert, and as we are walking out the door, I said to Sue McGleno....

"Go get your rain Jacket. It is going to storm all night."

Now Sue McGleno pauses, I know she still doesn't have any rain gear.

Now I'm pissed off because the weather peeps have repeated for 3 days that all 60 000 concert goers needed to break out poncho's because we weren't going to experience rain, but a driving rain.

"I figured I would get one at Walgreen's." quipped my bride.

But I knew what that meant, we'd step into the store, be told they don't carry rain jackets, and she would throw down puppy dog eyes until I gave her mine.

Sure there would be some obligatory protest on her part where she tells me to keep it and assuring me she'll be fine, but at the end, she would be dry, and whoever stood behind the baker at the U2 show would go home and tell people the following morning how some big Shrek looking dude in front of them blocked their sight, and all they could see was a huge monkey tattoo that was bleeding through a soggy T-shirt.

It can drive me nuts, I do try to plan my life. I often times am guilty of trying to plan your life as well.

So go figure that I end up spending the majority of my life with a woman who is the exact opposite.

Not better, not worse. It's just hard for our views to connect because we live our lives on different coin sides.

But it is the year of the Rabbit, and Polish Jesus be praised. Our seats were in one of the back rows of the first level of the football stadium. The Upper deck hung over and actually acted as an umbrella for us.

About 1/2 through the show, water fell from the sky at an alarming rate, You couldn't have been any wetter if you jumped in the ocean.

But you know something? People stayed, nobody wanted to leave. The thing that U2 is so-so good at, the thing that Bono really excels in is that he offers us a platform where we can think about God - Humanity - Forgiveness and Justice.

The subjects don't seem bothersome because our front man is sincere, and his message is framed with Edge's hypnotic guitar and the best rhythm section that ever lived.

Nobody on this planet has ever been better stewards of the gifts they have received than those 4 Irish rouges, and that's a fact.

When the show was finally over and everybody (except the 1% of us that had seats under the overhang)departed the stadium, I could see hope in their eyes.

Then I wondered how long it would take each one of us mob members to lose our faith, and go back to being the flawed species that we typically are lol.

I imagine some people were really touched, and therefore possibly recommitted themselves to being better in their pursuit of holiness.

I other the other hand lost Saint status within 15 minutes.

While everybody raced to get to their vehicles, so they wouldn't be pinned in by the over peoples vehicles departing, Sue McGleno instructed me that we were going to make a pit stop at Burger King.

When we get in, there is already about a million people in line, the place is understaffed, it's around 11:30 pm and when after what seemed like an eternity, Sue McGleno orders the #7 chicken fillet sandwich, but with a medium chocolate shake instead of pop.

I think I was order #457, Sue McGleno has left my side to snag a table for us, people are fighting over a bathroom key that doesn't seem to exist.

I start hearing numbers being yelled out........

"#458 - 2 cheeseburgers, onion rings and large fries. Order #462 4 large fries. Order #466 whopper junior no tomato."

I'm kinda more than annoyed, what the "H" happened to order #457?

One of the counter women (who looked like Florida, the mother on that show Good Times)senses my frustration and smiles at me.....

"Let me see your ticket hun."

When I showed it to here she laughed.......

"Oh, that's what you get for a ordering a chicken fillet, you have to wait awhile for those."

By this point there is an army standing between Sue McGleno and me, but that doesn't stop your favorite baker...

"Nice job kid, we have to wait another hour and a half because you ordered that chicken patty, brilliant!"

Sue McGleno flashes me a look that almost makes me wonder if she knew this fact, and ordered this particular meal off the menu just to jerk with me.

When I finally sat down. She confessed that she was somewhat familiar with Burger King procedure and started laughing.

But within moments, my little angels smile faded away. Sadness began to flood her eyes. before I could ask what was wrong, she softly pounded her fist on the table and announced........

"Boo, this is maybe the worst Burger King I've ever had."

I stopped for a moment and I could tell she was actually a little upset. It had been a long day, and the right thing for me to do would have been to shut up, but Klecko couldn't resist.......

"The worst Burger King you've ever had? Hmmmmm, I think the sorry part about that statement is then by definition, you've had some "BEST" Burger King experience as well.

Then I laughed.

Sue McGleno gave me the finger.

Polish Jesus, Bono.....I do thank you guys so very much for inventing and acting on love and mercy.

Both of you inspire me to the nth degree, but even when I'm surrounded by 60 000 harmonic souls, I can't even go 15 minutes w/o taking pot shots at me best friend at Burger King.

I ask for forgiveness, and hope that Sue McGleno had the time of her life.

Friday, July 22, 2011

How to Get Free Stuff

The following is a piece that I wrote for an upcoming edition of Food Service News. For those of you out of the States, this is a publication in Minnesota that adresses pretty much every topic in the Hospitality Industry.

Klecko's job for this pub is to basically talk about making money.




“Hello Klecko here, can I help you?”

The voice of a young woman who I’ve never met before replied.

“Hello, we are putting together a special event that will be hosted by Chevy Chase, and I am going to need you to donate the hamburger buns?”

Does anybody else get these phone calls on a daily basis, or am I the only one?

I get it, the world is constantly in flux and business strategies have changed, but ever since the economy went south it seems as if people no longer ask for donations, but demand them with a sense of entitlement.
Most people in the service industry are passionate about causes and would like to support their community’s events as well, but doling out donations has actually become somewhat complex.

I also think it’s safe to say that most purveyors desire to help out their accounts, but there really needs to be a method to this madness. If businesses gave donations to every person that requested them, many concepts would go out of business.

Concepts that used to get hit up for freebies on a weekly basis are now dealing with these demands several times each day.

Over the last couple of months I have talked to numerous chefs, bakers, F&B’s and food reps and you know what? None of them had identical procedures for handling these situations.

Can it be that Uncle Klecko will have to determine industry protocol?
Well……I hope not, but submitted below are some pitfalls to avoid, and solutions that will hopefully make this new business standard a win-win for all parties concerned.

Many Companies Set Annual Donation Budgets and nine out of ten times the contact person who calls looking for a donation will do so within three days of their event. Companies don’t typically like to get short notice orders. If you send a request about one month before you need it, often times the decision making personal will be grateful.

If your event is annual, make the potential sponsor aware of this. Who knows, they may even write you into their annual calendar.

Don’t Leave Anything To Supposition

You’d be amazed at how many people will call me up issuing a verbal request, and when I ask them what kind of numbers they are looking for they’ll respond by asking me how much I will give them.
LOL……C’mon peeps, it doesn’t work that way.
If you are the party asking, the responsibility hinges on you. Often times you might ask for….oh, let’s say $50 worth of product.
More than likely the person fielding your request might not even be the person who can sanction it.

When Should You Ask?

I can’t tell you how many times I have been hit up while sitting in a restaurant or a bar. Often times the owner/chef will approach my table and politely ask me to do a brother a solid.
Friends are allowed to work that way, but when it is a matter of business, the requestor is going to attach accountability to the person donating.
You are far better off sending a written request form. It shows the individual that you are dealing with that this matter is somewhat serious, and it will preclude your needs from accidently being forgotten.

How Often Are You Allowed to Ask?

Just this summer I had an account (who purchases about $100 per week) call me up asking for a $50 donation to support an event that would support the neighborhood they were located in.
I was happy to do it.

Ten days later, the same guy called me up and made the exact same request for a different event he was involved in.
It put me in an awkward position.

How did I respond?

“Brother, you know I am here to help, but Klecko needs a window here. You just asked me twice in ten days to support you. Am I to anticipate another request in a week? Will you be asking me every month?”

The bottom line is if you want to obtain that sort of partnership with anybody, it is always prudent to let them know your intentions as to how much you will be asking for on an annual basis.

Let’s face it, the hospitality industry is fast paced and often time’s concepts have a high turnover rate.
Just this year, one of my accounts that are a sentimental favorite had 3 different employees from their joint hit me up 3 times within a couple of months.

I’ve known these guys for years and I’d be willing to bet a monkey to a dollar that they weren’t Good Cop / Bad Copping me.
Sometimes life just gets crazy.

That’s why I keep a file specifically pertaining to donations. When people make a request, the first thing I do is peruse my columns to make sure charity is staying within reason.
Added Edge

I know in Sunday school they used to preach about giving without expecting anything in return, no offence….but that’s easier to preach when the Vatican is cutting checks for you each month.

Often times people who hit me up promise, guarantee, pledge an oath that they are going to put my bakeries name in a place of high visibility.

Basically they pass on assurance that they are going to be your company’s ambassador which in turn will return your donated sum tenfold.
Don’t make a pledge like that if you are not going to back it up. It is the epitome of insulting.

I’ve spoken with dozens and dozens of classy business people that have given back to their community and I can tell you that never once have I heard of any donator feeling entitled to signage for tossing a person or an event a minor donation.

So return the favor and don’t kid the kidder. Even if the person who donates doesn’t attend your event, often times they’ll know somebody who does.

Closing Thoughts

I’ve been on both sides of these transactions. Over the years I’ve hit up the Minnesota Twins for numerous things to benefit inner city kids.
When I’ve done this, each year I’d call the business office to make sure that my contact was still employed, or still working in the same department, and if the answer is yes. I send a brief paragraph reminding them who I am, who I am asking for, and what I need.
They have been fantastic!

Over the years they have donated tickets, memorabilia and even given my organization a free table at Twins Fest to hand out promotional materials, and of course they sent free admission passes for the kids.
My thought each time I’ve accepted their kindness is how can I take these items without expressing my gratitude?

You would be amazed how good you can make the donating party feel by simply sending them a hand written thank you card.

To be honest, that’s all most people want.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Seriously.....What Would You Do?

Last night I went out to dinner with Saint Paul's official Poet Laureate and an Editor from the top writing center in the Twin Cities.

Both of my comapanions were women, and both of them looked ravishing.

We went to Scusi's which is located in Lenny Russo's former Heartland space, and I for one was thrilled.

The date had been set, oh I don't know, like over a month ago, but when the 3 of us decided on our date and location, we didn't realize that the heat index would be what....110 "F".

So we plopped at our table, ordered up some items and basically looked at one other to see if anybody was going to pass out.

The wait staff there usually wears black and white formal attire, but last night.....all bets were off.

Like many dinner dates, this one started off with small talk, and as this was taking place, our server came to our table and greeted us, I called her by name (she had waited on Sue McGleno and me a couple weeks ago after our Woody Allen date night) and the Poet Laureate was more than impressed that I displayed exemplary recall.

When the server was out of ear shot, I confess that I didn't have a great memory, just extenuating circumstances.

The servers name was unusual, and her appearance offered the possibility that her parents may have been of different races.

So thats when I explained to my dinner companions how my 1st wife left me on Saint Patricks day. I came home from work, she handed me a Border Collie, made mention that she realized I hated to be alone, so this dog was going to be my new companion while she left me and moved to an undisclosed tropical island.

Well, in addition to actually doing this, my practice wife also rang up 40-50 K on our joint credit cards. I was a kid and didn't think to cancel them, or at least have my name taken off. a fleeting moment, little Danny Klecko was kicking it with a dog and skateboard on bankrupt avenue.

Wife #1 on the other hand was living a gay and care free life - lol, she got knocked up by some Rasta dude in the Carribean and eventually came back to Minnesota to give birth to her daughter.

My peeps asked how I would react to this, some wondered if I was going to throw down on her if our paths crossed.

Nah, the past is the past. I now had a dog, and my former high school sweet heart Sue McGleno.

I've never seen wife #1 after signinging those divorce papers 20 some years ago. I'm not even sure I would know if she was her, if we shared a bus bench.

But I really bet that server was her daughter. Saint Paul is small, and with that unique name, and specific appearance, combined with being in the ballpark on age.....well who knows?

I like cats, I watch them, and I've seen what curiousity does to them.

For once in my life, I kept my lout mouth shut.

What would you have done? Would you have asked?

Just wondering.....think breeze and chilly winds ya'll

Monday, July 18, 2011

Smashed Cars & Sexy Dates @ the Amazon Farmers Market

As I prepared to wind down my Saturday evening, Sue McGleno approached me and requested that we wake up early to go to the Saint Paul Farmers Market on a "special date."

I have to laugh when she uses the word "early" being my day is officially 1/2 over by the time her little Lazuras body rises from the dead on weekends.

Anyways, I said I would go knowing that it was predicted to be hot and uncomfortable the folling moring.

So Sue McGleno goes to bed, she's asleep for a couple hours, and a little after midnight my son Tydus walks into the house and tells me I better join him outside.

My kid isn't one for theatrical drama, so I figure something is up since it's past the witching hour.

As I stepped onto Hartford Avenue. I noticed Johnny Law had his cruiser pulled up, the cherries were flashing and cop guy was pointing his flashlight at a heap of metal

Dude from up the street has a pick up truck, and it slipped gear, rolled down the street hitting my sons car which tail ended my ride.

The back end of My Toyota Rav 4 was on the hood of Tydus's little compact.

Dude's truck hit it square and sonny boys transportation now looks more like an accordian.

Dudes pick up truck pulled away fine, my ride drove away with merely a damaged bumper, but my kid, the self proclaimed "King of Swag", well....his ride is trashed. The engine wouldn't even turn over.

After something like that, it is hard for young people to decompress. Tydus was pissed at his misfortune, so sometimes all a dad can do is sit up with the wounded soul till 3 a.m. watching Scott Pilgram VS the World.

Sue McGleno proceeded to get up at 8:30, I asked her if our pending date still seemed as sexy at this early hour.

She gave me the finger and went into the kitchen to make coffee.

At this point, I witnessed something I have never seen before in my house.

The living room windows were fogged over with sweat so thick, you couldn't see outside.

It's always kinda creepy when you experience something in nature that you've never seen before.

Well, the 2 of us finally took off. The second we walked down our sidewalk....Dear God in heaven, sure it was hot, but the humidity was unreal.

I felt like I was in Omaha or New Orleans.

By the time we got into the car, both of us were lathered with sweat.

But if I've learned one thing during my career as a man, you can let your wife terminate a sexy date, but if you the guy pulls the plug....start the death march Daddy-O.

Sue McGleno had spending on her mind so the both of us made our way across Capitol City to the downtown Farmers Market.

OK, I know I digress, but heres were the story is heading.

When I go to the market, I often time feel stress.

Often times there will be like 74 tables, of which 59 of them are pretty much selling the same products.

So the question is, which person does Klecko drop his coin on?

The candidates are basically broke down into 4 camps..........

#1 The American farmer guy with his kid

#2 The Hmong Woman who is 73 years old

#3 A retail representitive from a local business

#4 A good looking woman wearing her farmers market halter top

Now #1 is a good guy to throw cash at, because dude is a farmer, and he is the back bone of our country, and in addition to being all patriotic, he's teaching his kid the value of working.

#2 is important too. have you ever been a stranger in a strange land? I have, it can really suck. Many of our Hmongs in the Twin Cities work the Farmers market as their main source of income.

#3 is the Retail peeps, these are my buisness comrades, if I don't scratch their back, whose gonna support me? I even have to comment? I know it is so-so shallow to throw vanity into this option hogpile, but Klecko really likes girls.

Who would you give your cash to?

As Sue McGleno and I made the rounds, some local weather guy on the radio said for the first time since modern records had been kept, our fair city was the most humid location on the globe.

Technically, I think we were tied with the Amazon, but that's a win in any Mid Westerners book.

So after running into people that we knew, Sue McGleno and I calculated our needs and ended up throwing our cash at the Hmong booths.

I guess there really is no right or wrong way to do business there, but I have always been a suck for an older woman who sits on the back of a truck all alone.

Stay cool kids.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Peach Cobbler Recipe & a Day on the Grassy Knoll

Uncle Jerry was kinda a contraversial lout.

My mother spoke poorly of him when he wasn't around. She said that during a drunken Pollack / Christmas celebration, he tried to take liberties by grabbing her a**.

Polish families are weird though, because if I had a brother who dropped paws on Sue McGleno, not only would that be a deal breaker, but you know we'd have had one of those Thunderdome incidents where 2 men enter, and 1 man leaves.

But my mom let it go in part I think, because Uncle Jerry had resources and went out of his way to share them with me in particular.

When Klecko was small, his mother didn't have any guys around that stayed for more than a month, and knowing this, my Uncle Jerry sent for me to fly to Dallas to spend summers with him and my cousins.

I remember being on that plane all by myself, I must have been 9 or 10 years old, and as we hovered over Dallas and desended our altitude, I could not-not-not believe what my eyes saw.

Thousands of aqua-blue swimming pools framed by orange clay roof shingles.

It was more impressive than Disney Land,for 2 months each summer I followed my Uncle around like a puppy dog.

When you grow up without resources like I did, you don't have much control over your life.

Without control it is hard to obtain confidence, and w/o confidence there simply is no hope.

My Uncle Jerry realized this formula, and I believe he knew I was too young to understand this, but yet it was very important to him to plant some seeds.

Did I mention that in addition to being one of the most powerful men in the thread industry, Uncle Jerry also liked to have a high ball or 2?

Or 3, or 4 or...........

When you are a kid, nobody takes you serious. The adults in my tribe would always gossip about Uncles alcohal intake, and when they heard somebody enter the room, they'd carefully peek around the corner, but when they saw it was just a kid....phew, the slander could still continue to run it's course.

But Klecko never has forgotten some of the accusations that were hammered out against his hero, funny thing though....nobody ever said them to his face.

When little kid Klecko didn't know how to ride a bicycle, who was it that took time to teach him? you guessed it, the man with the busiest schedule. Sure, he had a cocktail glass in his hand the entire time.

I remember hearing the distinct sound of the ice cubes clinking against the Highball glass as I bailed off that wobbly Shwinn and fell into overgrown Lilac shrub.

I was all scratched and scraped, as I licked my wounds I started to walk off the "bike training site" under the pretense that I had accomplished level 1 and perhaps I'd hop back on the bucking bronco the following day.

"Danny McGleno, get your God "D" A** back on that bike and start peddling before I put my boot up your a**!!!!!"

I was scared to ride the bike, I was intimidated by my Uncle and his request.

Little Klecko stood in the middle of the road and cried.

All the women came to my rescue. I felt vindicated, my sensitivity had foiled my Uncles ability to force me back onto that bike.

So I thought........

"I'm not got tell you women twice, Danny is just being a God "D" pu*** because you constanly coddle his a**. I am not going to stop until he rides that "F"ing bike down the street and back w/o falling."

I love my uncle for sticking to his guns. The woman cowered to his demand, and I did complete the task, and I don't know if I've ever had a greater sence of pride or accomplishment in my life.

Then there was that day when we took a little trip over to this book depository place over by a place called Dealy Plaza.

When you are a kid, often times your sense of history is limited. But as Uncle Jerry and I strolled across some grassy knoll, I could just tell by the look in my cousins eyes that some right of passage was about to take place.

When we got to the bottom of the hill, there was traffic going to and fro.
As these vehicles zipped by, my Uncle kept pointing to an exact spot on the street.

He asked me numorous times if I saw the spot her was reffering to. Each time I answered.....


But he asked me again anyways.

Then when the traffic started to slow down, Uncle Jerry told me that I needed to run into the street and stand on that exact spot.

"What for?" I asked, but before an explanation was given, my cousin Jack just told me to shut up and do what I was told so we could be done with this redundant portion of the family tour.

So being all cautious, when the traffic had a brief reprieve, little Klecko runs out onto that exact spot on the street and Uncle Jerry points an invisible rifle at me and announces......

"BAM - your dead now Danny, well not you, but remember that spot, remember that moment. You just stood were the greatest President in our nations history was gunned down. Did you feel it? You know he was the only Catholic President, and they killed him!"

I didn't know what that meant, but I was smart enough to answer yes, because I knew that would appease my tour guide, which in turn would prevent my cousins from getting pissed off at me.

The lesson that my Uncle was trying to teach me that day is still open to debate, but for me, it's answer doesn't matter. the part that does is that he subjected me to the same ritual as his own family.

Years later when my son Tydas was 10ish, we went down to Arlington to watch the Twins play the Rangers, and you know what?

I kept the tradition alive. I too shot my son from the grassy knoll.

Eventually my childhood vacation to "God's favorite state" ceased when my Aunt Jeanine died of cancer. It hit her hard and quick.

My Uncle crumbled when she passed, and things went south for him after that.

Within a couple years he lost his position and income, and several years after that he died of a heart attack in the jurors box, but he was the head juror at the time.

I'll bet he liked that.

The following is a recipe that my Aunt made for us in the Summer. I don't have her exact version, but I remember that it was a standard version with the inclusion of booze in it's liquid content.

OK, heres some helpful tips for working with peaches -

*Always use peaches when they are at room temp

*Never buy a peach that has green hues or tints. Peaches won't ripen after being picked, they only soften

*If you need to bake, and your peaches are still too firm, try tossing them in a paper bag with apples and/or banana's. I'm not a scientist, but the combo of gas that is exchanged will soften your peach Quicker.

*If you are in Canada, the Ontario peach is the Cadillac

*If you are baking in the USA, many people love the Georgia, but Klecko kinda digs some of the Carolina peaches as well.

* There are 2 types of Peaches, #1 is the Clingstone and #2 is the Freestone

* the Clingstone is named thusly because its a pain in the a** trying to remove the flesh from the pit. These typically are the peaches that come out in late spring and lots of peeps use them for canning.

*The Freestone is the summer peach that often times comes into your grocery store in mid to late summer. Why not ask your produce guy or girlio if they know for sure. The Freestone tends to be sweeter / wetter and is much better for baking


* 4 cups peeled, sliced peaches
* 2 cups sugar, divided
* 1/2 cup Irish whiskey
* 8 tablespoons butter
* 1 1/2 cups All Purpose flour
* 1 1/2 cups milk
* Ground cinnamon to taste


Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

Combine the peaches,blend in the 1 cup sugar and whiskey in a pan and mix well. Bring to a boil and simmer for around 10 minutes. When it's done, take it off the heat.

Put the butter in a 3-quart baking dish and place in oven to melt.

Mix remaining 1 cup sugar, flour, and milk slowly to prevent clumping. Pour mixture over melted butter. Do not stir. Spoon fruit on top, gently pouring in syrup. Sprinkle top with ground cinnamon, if using. Batter will rise to top during baking. Bake for 30 to 45 minutes.

When serving many people will pair this with vanilla ice cream or whipped cream, but us's all about the Cool Whip LOL.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Can You Guess 2011-2012's Spice Trend? (input wanted)

Many Americans from my generation grew up being exposed to the dinner roll.

Dinner rolls can come in many shapes......

Standard Roll -
Pull A Parts -
Cloverleafs -
Bagatini's -
Bread Sticks -
Knots -
Parker House -
Butter Fans -

But almost always, they are scaled at the same size. 1 and 1/2 ounces each.

This isn't nessasarily written on any documents, but I guess it's just one of those unspoken rules.

When I was a kid growing up, when you went to a restaurant, getting a bread basket wasn't a special treat. It was an entitlement.

More often than not your basket would come with rolls that ranged in color, shape and texture.

I was always grabbing for the black rolls.

I remember that if our table was placed close to the kitchen, we'd gooseneck and try to see if they'd recycle the dinner rolls that previous diners didn't consume.

So how does a restaurant, or event know how many pieces they should have on hand each night?

Well, the age old formula is to determine how many diners you will be having, and then times that by 1 1/2.

At the begining of this new millenium dinner rolls were almost on the extintsion list, but for reasons unknown to me....they are coming back stronger than ever.

However, many accounts that are ordering them are trying to build their own unique brand by adding some really sexy ingrients into them.

Truth be told....I think your grand parents dinner roll will only be able to be seen in your rear view mirror.

Next week I am baking a new flavor combination for the most prestigous hotel in my state.

There hotel has housed Presidents, Popes and Prime Ministers. I always find it such an honor to be associated with any projects that they are doing.

In 8 or 9 days they will be holding one of their biggest events of the years and I will be making 2100 pieces of product for them.

I'm going to list the flavor combo's and give you guys a week to pick which selection the most discerning palates in my state are coveting.

You can bet that the roll that they go with with become en vogue, and for the next year it will be the item that all the "Beautiful People" will be partaking of when they come to the Twin Cities.

The following that I am about to submit, were sent out in a series of exhaustive taste testings over the last several months. Today I found out the winner.

So here you go L.A.B. groupies, which one of these is going to be the rage, and why?

Blue Cheese Roll (Scored on Top)

Honey Thyme Roll

Dill / Sunflower Breadstick

White Cheddar / Black Pepper Bread Stick

Basil / Feta Roll

Lemon Tarragon Bagatini

BTW....If its any consilation, I didn't guess correctly.

Let the wild rumpus began....I wanna here what you're thinking.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Vodka Pie Crust Tips from the Kremlin

Years ago I had the opportunity to hang out at Red Square with a friend who I fondly refer to as Potato Girl.

She was from North Dakota and sent on a government scope much like myself, where our objective was to bring "Food Technologies" to Russian businesses.

Potato Girl confessed that she didn't have a strong baking skill set, but she did like to bake pies.

Her farm was out in the sticks, so she didn't always have a chance to go to the grocery store and buy premade pie crusts,she had to make her own.

As vendors came buy pimping Cold War flasks and furry military caps she explained that sometimes her crusts got a little tough and was wondering what she might be doing wrong.

If you've followed this Blog with any regularity, you might have heard me ramble on about how liquid percentages can/will fluctuate when mixing doughs.

Humidity is responsible for this, and if you live in a varied climate like me, you really need to learn to adapt.

"How ironic that we have this discussion here of all places. Did you know that one of the best things you can do to increase the latitude in proper dough moisture is to swap out your water for vodka?"

Potato girl just kinda flashed me a glare as if I was playing with her mind a bit.

"Seriously Kid, water speeds up the development of gluten, but vodka will retard this since vodka is mad up of 30% to 40% ethanol, and because of this, you can jam more liquid into your pie crust because that ethanol is going to bake out. your dough will have more elasticity."

Potato Girl furled her brow, she seemed intrigued, but then she came clean and told me that her family were God Fearing folk and would look down on the inclusion of booze in their baked goods.

Now I'm not one to tell people how to live the "religious life", but I did mention that I had talked with Polish Christ about this and he gave me his blessing.

I don't think she was all that impressed.

It's not like I was out to convert her, but there was just a couple more factors that I wanted to reveal, and after that.....who knows, maybe the Polish Messiah would lift the scales from her eyes.

"Some people will even use a flavored vodka.....cherry,vanilla,hells bells....I've even seen horseradish vodka employed in savory pies. Remember, the ethanol burns out, and by the time your pie comes out of the oven, it will have less alcohol in it than a can of non alcoholic beer.

And.....whats the key to a perfect pie crust? CHILL-CHILL-CHILL. The colder the dough, the easier it is to control its destiny. You can keep vodka in your freezer and it won't freeze."

Several years later I actually ran into Potato Girl in Saint Paul. She was at Golden's Deli by the Saint Paul Farmers Market where I was having lunch with Kim Ode.

I didn't bother asking her if she tried the secret vodka pie crust, but I am going to urge you.

If you haven't tried it........Polish Jesus has signed off on it with his blessing.

Just watch how flaky and tender that crust will be.

If you've ever tried this, I'd be interested in hearing your thoughts or suggestions.

Cake Assassin's

I don't like to talk about it, or them.

In fact, I've spent the majority of my career trying to mentally block these people out, but I simply wouldn't be doing my job if I didn't report to you guys about the world of the cake decorater.

People who work with cakes are typically loners, indaviduals who can hold focus, as long as they don't have to exchange pleasantries with others.

Cake decoraters are the "HITMAN" of the culinary world, in fact some have speculated that Lee Harvey Oswald made a mean Red Velvet cake.

There personality traits are manic in nature, they prefer solitude, and if they are completely honest.....they think they are 14 time better than you.

Before we talk about this unusual ilk, perhaps it would be better to start with the industry that serves as their stomping grounds.

Ever since the Pigrims stepped foot onto America, retail bakeries were where families would go to buy their cakes.

From the 1700's, even into my childhood this fact rung true.

If you were born in the USA before 1970, I am willing to bet a monkey to a dollar that you had a cozy little Ma and Pa bake shop on a corner in your neighborhood.

From New York to Los Angelos retails bakeries were the thread that ran constant through my country.

But every king is eventually deposed right?

In the 1980's wholesale bakeries and super stores slowly strangled these retail concepts.

Most of these larger baking arenas had an advantage because they could buy ingredients/products in bulk, and they didn't have to patch together bake staffs.

Much of what they did was mass produced or outsourced.

I know many people think this is sad, others have even expressed outrage, but when they look at the price difference on their birthday cakes, well let's just say it's kinda convenient to momentarily look the other way.

Ask anybody who has ever worked in a corner bakery or supermarket bake shop and they'll tell you that the cake decorater was always the company Diva.

90% of the time this job was filled by a woman who viewed her self as more of an artist than a technician.

Production managers and cake decoraters always-always-always fought because the P.M. could have cared less about the images on the cake, they just looked at bottom line.

I've talked to tattoo artists that chuckle when they tell me that if they have to ink a rose or a Tazmainian Devil, often times they'll tack on an extra $50 charge just for being insulted with having to submerge back into this repetitive task.

The cake decorater can't do that.

So when Billy-Sally or Bobby want that 1/2 sheet cake with those demonic looking clowns stretched out watching TV, or maybe a 9" pink Hello Kitty cake....well, just shut the "H" up and get it done lady!

And almost every single day retail bakery owners would bump heads with the decoraters because they felt that the cakes weren't being produced fast enough.

When you're a bread guy, you try to stay out of the politics that take place between these 2 tribes, and to be honest, I've never met a cake decorater that I'd want to hang out with off the clock, but dude...they get hosed. and from time to time....even Klecko feels sorry for them.

The cake decorater sometimes works in an air conditioned room, or other times in the corner of the shop closest to the sink, and by virtue of the fact that they often work alone, they really do become EZ targets.

Boss man might be having a tough day. Maybe the price of flour went up. Maybe OSHA came in and tossed down fines on him.

The bakery owner doesn't need to go home and "kick the dog", instead he simply releases his agression on the poor cake decorater.

So the next chapter in this story is when the "artist" feels that she can't stand it any longer, she'll go to the boss and threaten to quit.

For years now she's been thinking about breaking away and starting her own exclusive CAKE EMPIRE, where she'll lease out kitchen space at a church and then start doing wedding cakes a $1000 a pop.

Cake decoraters are like run aways in big city Greyhound Station, theres always a fresh one getting off the bus.

The turnover is constant, because the relationship between ownership and cake decoraters will always be contentious. Thats why bread and pastry bakers often times snub cake decoraters, they have enough drama of their own.

That woman who just left the shop to open her own small business, 9 out of 10 times she'll fail.

You can make killer cakes, but if you don't know how to market, or better yet learn your overhead and make money.....the candles get blown out fast, and guess what?

Somebody (our friend the cake decorater) will inevitably need to crawl back into the rank and file, but upon her return, the venom in her mouth is exponetentialy bitter.

Of course there are quite a few exceptions to this story, but what you've just read is a sweeping overview of what takes place behind the scenes.

So the next time your family and friends are smooshed together around a table, preparing to watch you douse your flames and have your wildest dreams come to pass.......

Just remember all the chaos that the bread baker has had to endure for your special day be realized.

I know I'm going to regret saying this but....those cake peeps really are weirdo's lol, but to be honest.....I bet they might agree.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Do You Want to be an Ambassador? (L.A.B.'s Demographics Revealed)

Hey Guys,

How long have we been hanging out in THE LAST AMERICAN BAKERS bake shop (and mind now)?

Just a few months, and already we have had participants from close to 80 countries. Take a second to look and see who the beautiful people are!

If you love Klecko, and the musings that come from his unique a brother a solid and shoot a L.A.B. link to a country not on this list.

As you know......klecko will never sleep until his BAKING EMPIRE stretches to every corner of the Globe.

Thanks in advance, I am proud to be on your team.

Albania –Argentina –Australia –Azerbaijan – Bangladesh – Belarus – Belgium - Bolivia – Brazil –Bulgaria – Burma – Canada – Chili – China – Columbia – Croatia – Denmark – Egypt – Estonia – Finland – France – Georgia – Germany – Ghana – Greece – Haiti – Hong Kong – Hungary – India –Indonesia – Iraq – Iran – Ireland – Isle of Man – Israel – Italy – Japan – Jordon – Kazakhstan – Kuwait – Latvia – Lebanon – Libya – Lithuania – Luxemburg – Macedonia –Malta – Malaysia – Mexico – Netherlands – New Zealand – Norway – Pakistan - Peru – Philippines – Poland – Portugal – Puerto Rico – Qatar – Romania – Russia – Saudi Arabia –Singapore – Slovakia – South Africa - South Korea – Spain – Sweden – Switzerland – Taiwan – Thailand – Tunisia - Turkey – United Kingdom – United State – Ukraine – United Arab Emirates – Venezuela – Viet Nam

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Birthday Cake Tips - Kindergarten Crowns

Maybe the one question a professional baker hears more than any other is....

"Who baked your birthday cake?"

As many of you know, I went to Kansas City to watch Royals Baseball with my son Tydus for my birthday. It's kinda a Klecko tradition to spend his special day at a ball park.

It's a fair question though, receiving a birthday cake is the one-single-solitary food item that is designed exclusively for you.

You get to pick style...white, chocolate, marbled, red velvet etc.

Then there is the frosting....butter cream, mousse, fondant.

When the construction options are done, then you get to go Picasso.

Should I have my name written on it, do I want frosted clowns laying stretched out watching television, Or maybe I'll get a tacky picture of myself fused with a monkey body air brushed on LOL.

You can tell a lot about a person by the birthday cake they choose.

So to answer your question......

My birthday cake was a pink Dairy Queen ice cream cake that said "Happy Birthday Sue McGleno" and the piping had little plastic Barbie finger rings jammed into it.

I give my wife my birthday cake every year to remind her her how grateful I am that she has stuck with me,put up with me, and so forth.

We started our relationship with empty pockets and modest dreams, but deep down...I wanted to give her a castle, any real guy knows what I'm talking about.

Neither one of us had families that were equipped to help us out financially or lavish us with gifts or I think that's why I try to collect the few things that are all mine, and transfer them over to her.


Like most topics, this one has many different opinions.

Some cake geeks swear that the Greeks developed the birthday cake. These cakes from the antiquity period had a make up which was considerably different than what you'd find today, but none the less they held the same type of importance.

Most people will agree that the Greeks certainly were the first to make their cakes round. It was to depict the moon. That's why candles were employed...get it, so your cake would glow like the moon?

Then there are others who think the Germans made the first birthday cakes. What I heard was that the cakes kinda resembled Jesus and you were supposed to be grateful to Christ for giving you an opportunity to be you.

I like that story, and if you've ever read my Blog, you know that Klecko holds German bakers with the highest respect. If I had to vote, I'd say the Germans are the best technical bakers on Earth.

Then there is the belief that it was the Brits who coined the first "commercial" birthday cakes. Sometimes there would be small trinkets or jewelry inserted into them and whoever got that piece was "Finders-Keepers."

I remember in kindergarten, when it was your birthday, Mrs. Chili would pull out a tag board crown, and whoever the birthday kid was, they got to select a color for a cake, and a color for the candles and Mrs. Chili would draw them onto the crown, and that kid got to be a big shot all day long.

I was more than aloof in kindergarten. I didn't know how to tell time, I didn't know my months. Other than the fact the Gilligan's Isle was on after school, I had no concept of time.

Every week, or sometimes 2 days in a row, some lucky dolt got to have sit on the high stool (which also doubled as a platform to support your a** when you were forced to wear the DUNCE CONE)and orchestrate your crown options.

It seemed like my turn would never come and that really pissed my off because I wanted attention too.

When Klecko was young, he was so different though. He was quiet and shy, more often than not he simply sat in silence and waited for the world to approach him.

I know you might think I am trying to be self deprecating to frame this story, but you can check the District #281 school records. Klecko was so introverted that he was forced to talk to adults "schools shrinks?" to found out just how retarded he was.

EVERY DAY - EVERY DAY - EVERY DAY.......I waited for my name to be called. I went over every cake and candle - color combination that you can imagine, but it was always Sally, Bill or Johnny adorning the crown.

Klecko sat in the corner, on his nap mat, silent-frustrated.....and waiting.

When you are new to the world, isn't it funny how justice and fairness seems more than "entitlement?"

The course of fairness just seems natural.

So then on a hot/steamy morning I entered into the class room, Mrs. Chili was running like a chicken with its head cut off. Our globe, building blocks and chalk were all packed into boxes.

Then out of the blue I was alerted that this would be our last day of school. Honest to Pope John Paul......could I be the only kid spaced out enough to not know?

Our class had to sit in a large circle and Mrs. Chile began telling us what grown ups do when they get into the first grade, and that's when it happened......

For the first time that year, maybe my life.....little Klecko addressed his class for the first time, and he was pissed.......

"What do you mean the last day? How can this be. I never got a birthday crown!"

I almost (but not quite) started to cry. I can still see that look of sickness on Mrs. Chili's face, the look that verified to my under qualified mind that I had been forgotten.

She responded.....

"Oh, yes class, sometimes pupils have birthdays in the summer time as well. So the best thing to honor this is by giving them their crowns on the last day!"

But she was just covering her butt. There were no precut crowns like the other kids got. She had to bust tail to construct (get this) 5 of them.

So in addition to having to share my day of attention with 4 other savages, it was the last day kindergarten, and that was a 1/2 day.

As you can tell, I've almost forgot this "minor episode" which occurred 42-43 years ago, just not quite!

But I guess that's what you get for having a July 8th birthday. case you were wondering, I opted for a Red Cake with Brown Candles.

Tips for Birthday Cakes -

# If your oven temperature is questionable, invest in an oven thermometer. Many serious cake bakers take temps in all 4 corners of their oven.
# Before mixing the batter, prepare your pan(s) and turn the oven on, make sure the rack is placed in the center of the oven.
# Shiny pans reflect the heat, and are your best choice for cake baking. If you have "Black" lined pans the cake will bake quicker.
# Reduce the oven temperature by 25° when using glass pans.
# Substitute 8-inch square pans for round if you want, or use 2 to 3 8 X 4-inch loaf pans. The baking time will be less, so begin checking about 15 minutes before the time suggested.
# Have all ingredients at room temperature for best results.
# Grease pans with about 1 tablespoon of fat per layer pan, or use an aerosol spray that contains a flour base. This works really slick.
# Use cocoa instead of flour for dusting a greased pan when making a chocolate cake.
#If Most cakes taste best on day 2 or 3, so if you are going to top your "summer" cakes with a mousse, make sure you prebake your cake (and refrigerate) several days in advance.
#To add some BANG to your cake, use clear sodas like Sprite, 7-Up or Mountain Dew. But if you are going to try this, you might want to use DIET. Your recipe should have enough sugar in it by now!

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

The Last Supper, and Dropping Bombs in Moscow

48 hours from now, I should be rolling into Kansas City.

Like most birthdays I celebrate, son Tydus and I will be watching baseball.

Most years we fly, but this year, what the hey, maybe a road trip will be good for us.

Last Friday a tire on the bread mobile blew, so I figured I should get that fixed before heading out.

After arriving at Tire - World, the counter guy told me that they were going to be backed up so he placed me into a waiting room that offers you stale cookies and CNN.

I wanted neither, so instead I made a trip to the bathroom.

Being as observant as I am, I noticed that the stalls privacy walls had been lowered on the top, and heightened on the bottom.

I know its an every day occurrence for most people, but when folks need to take care of "business", Klecko wants to see as little as possible.

It seems that ever since a 1/2 a dozen - high profile "transactions" took place in some mens public toilet stalls, the rest of our gender has had to compromise our privacy while sitting in the regal position.

Another new trend in mens washrooms is to take off the stall doors all together.

The indignity that the masses must endure because a few grown men abused their bathroom privileges huh?

Anyways, I wasn't sitting today, I was trying to scrub magic marker off my hands.

I could have stayed in the waiting room, but there was an irritating 18ish year old chick calling every person she knew trying to get them to head out to Milwaukee with her to some Summer music festival which was featuring Katie Perry.

I shouldn't confess this, but I did get a morbid amount of pleasure in the fact that none of her 26 phone calls seemed too enthused to join her.

As I was scrubbing the marker stains with the same pressure as Macbeth, the guy on the piped in radio shared an interesting factoid. When ever I am in a bathroom, I do prefer news to MUZAK.

To be honest, sometimes its just to hard to focus if they are playing a cheesy R.E.M. or Prince cover.

So radio man tells us that tests have been conducted and that food portions in the famous painting the Last Supper have grown over 400% since the original version launched.

Apparently they matched loaves of bread and fish to the disciples heads and took measurements.

Also, after the Renaissance period artists also took liberties in adding fowl and other live stock animals to the feast.

It got me wondering how that whole last supper really went down.

You know that Jesus knew that he was about to die, I know he is the Son of God and all that, but don't you think he'd want a really good last meal?

From all records, we are told that his posse secured the upper room of some hotel/motel of the day.

So the one piece of info that the Bible doesn't share is if this gig was catered or pot luck.

The guys on the radio didn't offer up any explanation as to why the food portions have increased over the years, I just think they wanted us to be impressed by the fact that they noticed.

Whenever you are at a car dealership, gas station or now today Tire-World, one truth is going to remain constant.

Their staff will keep you waiting longer that the disgruntled medical workers at Urgent Care.

So Klecko's in no hurry....SCRUB-SCRUB-SCRUB-SCRUB.......

But then the door opens and and employee walks in and gives me the once over.

Yeah Gus, can you check out the guy with the tattoo's whose about to drop 300 shekels? He might be snatching our paper towels.

Well actually not, because the bathroom was one of those bathrooms that didn't trust us to use a moderate amount of paper supplies, so instead they had one of those hard blowing, blow dryers mounted to the wall.

I got to tell you one last part of public bathroom protocol.

When a public bathroom has just 1 stall and 1 urinal, you should receive a locked door option.

If I am at a stadium, I don't think twice about lining up and peeing next to a string of guys that runs as long as a ranchers fence,the process of your number oneing ends up getting deluded.

But sharing a rest room with just one other soul, lets face it, that's a little to intimate in Klecko's book.

So right when I'm about to pop out into the waiting room, the dude who had just been in previously pops his head back in.

His body doesn't even cross the threshold.

Dude doesn't have any bladder problems, he just wants to make it "that" obvious that he's watching me.

In life you pick your battles.

Today I am on vacation, this week I am on vacation, the last thing I need is bad bathroom karma.

As I slowly reeled that pointed tongue of mine back into its garage, I went back into the waiting room area.

I'm glad I went early because the place was jammed. I'll bet a dozen more people joined us during my momentary absence.

Praise be to Polish Christ, what's her head had put her phone away and sat sulking in the corner. Her sorrow meant sheer joy to the remaining populace, because now the waiting room was how it was meant to be, silent with a cloud of awkward discomfort floating in the air.

The bathroom spy was now lurking over by the young guy that we paid when we finally got permission to leave.

Mr. Macho was eating a M&M cookie, and that surprised me because they also had Peanut Butter and Sugar Cookies.

Dude was eating outside of his gender profile.

In case you didn't know....the M&M is a total chick cookie.

So now this guys presence brought me back to a memory that I might have never recalled again had I not run into this lout.

It must have been around 5 years ago, and I was on the streets on Moscow with an interpreter and I so had to drop a deuce.

Telling somebody that you have to be excused to go #2 is always a little weird and tentative, but have this discussion on an international level and it can almost become surreal.

So I tell my voice piece that I need a rest room fairly quick, and she asks me if I have any rubles on me.

I thought the timing was odd, but as we switched directions, it was brought to my attention that in Moscow you had to pay to use the public restroom.

Now my Russian friends know that I am little Danny Comrade, so when I tell you some basic differences between our countries, I'm not hating at all. Just pointing out differences.

In Russia, nothing is assumed, and even less is free.

You don't get an obligatory bag when purchasing food and drink items at the kiosk, you have to pay a quarter.

At restaurant's there is simply no seconds or free refills.

Every time you touch something..... it's gonna cost you.

Oh yeah......and trying to find ice is like trying to find honest love. It's not impossible, just highly unlikely LOL.

So now I'm running down tall concrete stairs to get into the public restroom.

The entrance had turnstiles much like a subway.

To my left is a line of stalls, a place that I really needed to be 2 minutes prior, and about 60 feet across from it is a toll both. Just like the ones that take your change from you every 2 miles in Jersey.

A disgruntled Man is standing in this box, and to be honest, dude creepily enough resembles an erect corpse standing in an upright coffin.

I threw this cat some coin, I wasn't going to wait for change, but when I finally got into "final position" it became apparent to me that another Russian custom had eluded me.

There was no toilet paper in my stall or any of the others for that matter.

"Oh....I get it, that's what that thing is directly between my and the washroom attendant.

I swear to Polish Christ I'm not making this up. Directly between me and that guy was a roll, spool....of toilet paper that was as big as a tractor wheel.

I'm not kidding ya, the thing was laid horizontal and up on a metal pole which probably had the circumference of a mast used on an air craft carrier.

I eventually lounged over to get my required ply's, but with each step I took, as I drew closer, this booth attendant leaned over like Snoopy does on his dog house when he's imitating that vulture.

Dude's brow was all furled and I was nervous because I didn't know the public restroom rules. This guys looks radiated a vibe that dared you to take extra so he could bite your arm off, and then call the K.G.B.

"Excuse me Mr. Klecko, your vehicle is finished."

Slam....mental warehouse closed, it's time to look into the future.

It's time to think Royals baseball and Kansas City.

OK....I'll be off the grid for 4 or 5 days, but don't forget Friday July 8th is my birthday, so feel free to send me as many birthday wishes as you desire.