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Bread but not Really Bread

#bread #sisters #manteno


Bread is Hendrix and Zeppelin and high-top Chuck Taylor All-Stars. Bread is a day on a sunny coast, wearing white linen. Dean Martin is bread. So is George Harrison. Bread is quiet cool, drenched in butter. Bread is comfort and love and family.


I do not bake. It’s too precise. If my gin is off in my martin, as Bob is your Uncle, I still have a martini. If I leave out the vanilla in a pancake, a pancake still is. If I mess up my measurements in baking, I’ve got a mess. I like to run loose and free in the kitchen – breathless wild and manic. Baking is not conducive to that. So, I don’t. I’m not going to tell you how.


Bread is an artistry I have not, nor will, master. Like painting and bowling, I leave that to the professionals. You look at art on the internets or in a gallery and think, “I can do that.” Bread is the same way. Believe me, most of you cannot.


Seriously, she can bake.

My sister is one such that can. The pictures I’m posting are hers. She’s precise and caring. Where I’m chaos, she is order. All the bread pictured here is hers. You can see more of her stuff at https://www.facebook.com/MyBlueBearFarm/.


Hell’s fire. I’ve got two of them by the way (sisters not breads).


They too are warm and loving and have cared for me all my life. Where bread is the consistent backbone of any meal, Debby and Jenny have been the steady staple of my life.


Beneath my hard exterior, I too am getting soft inside apparently. <insert heart tugging turn to the left filled with childhood memories>


We we’re raised in a Manteno, Illinois. It’s a small blink town within Cub distance of Chicago. Manteno was once a corn town. I spent my summers de-tassling. It was never a cultural mecca. When you’re a kid, you don’t realize those things. Diversity in Manteno was the brand of your BMX bike. I was a Mongoose kid, cards in the spokes. Anyway, none of that’s relevant. We lived there because that’s where the folks had to work.


I tell you about Manteno because it’s not an easy place for a weird, awkward kid to grow up. I suppose weird, awkward kids can say that about whatever place they grow up. Manteno was no different – no worse. It was just a little farm town. Elvis ate there once but only once. They filmed a brief scene from The Deer Slayer there but only one scene. I lived one portion of my life there but only one.


We lived there because of the Manteno State Mental Hospital. Both parents were mental health nurses. As Illinois closed down hospitals in the 70s and 80s we bounced around a bit. We were stable in Manteno for enough time for my sisters to get through high school and me to get out of underoos.


If you find that you are passing though, that hospital, like most of the rest in Illinois, is shuttered. The 80s did that to a lot of things. It’s now listed as one of the most haunted places in the State. Rumor has it, before my family’s time, the government ran horrific experiments on the patients. I don’t know about any of that. I can tell you this, when the spring thaw came, the farmers would routinely find thawed out long expired escapees. I can tell you the feeling of dread I had on the few occasions I had to visit one parent or the other on shift. Oh yes, that place is haunted.



My parents got divorced mid-Manteno. I stayed with my Father. My sisters went to live across town with my Mother. It’s what you did in those days. You had to blow on your Nintendo cartridge to make it work. It was just the natural state of things.


It worked for a while. My asshole father forbid me to see my Mom or my sisters. As an 11 year old, I would sneak out of my father’s house to see them. Can you believe that, an 11 year old learning to sneak around so he could see his Mom and sisters. Asshole.


It worked for a while. I can only assume one day the asshole busted me. I used to pick out random names from the phone book to tell him I was with. Then I’d go see my family. I don’t know if it worked or not. I just know that one day I came home and two grocery sacks of my clothes along with “Taco” and “Burrito” – my parakeets – were at the door.

“Get in the car,” the asshole said.


The only words I could speak, “where’s the dog?”


“He’s gone,” my father stated flatley. We were all dead inside.


The sins I committed that day must have been terrible. We never know what he did with Sam. Town rumor says he abandoned him in the country or shot him. Asshole.


Manteno is not a big town. The drive seemed to take forever though. The lake was pretty that day.


“Get out.” I complied. Two bags of garanimals, two parakeets and a little boy sobbing in the driveway, unable to move.


Then I remember warmth and love and the arms of my sisters around me. When I was cried out, they led me inside, called my Mom at work, at just loved me. Little boy lost – little boy immediately found. I learned all I needed to know about shame, loss, love and forgiveness that afternoon.


35 years later, things tend to stick. In all our years, in all our adventures, that day meant the most to me.


That’s the power of sisters. They give zero fucks about the crime, the distance or the time. They love you regardless. One is headstrong, precise, caring, brilliant, the tomboy, the shit kicker, the terror, the savior, out to be the best Mom she can. The other is headstrong, precise, tough, brilliant, the valedictorian, the activist, the savior, out to be the best Mom she can. I hope they realize how alike they are.


My sisters are soft wool socks, cinnamon sticks, and your favorite song that makes you cry.


Hell, this wasn’t supposed to be a voyage of self-discovery. That reminds me of the Vanna White Playboy issue, 1987. Fuck it.


Breadsticks at Olive Garden, Cheddar Biscuits at Red Lobster, dinner rolls at Thanksgiving – my meal would be incomplete without them. Such, my life incomplete without my two irascible sisters. I’m not always the best recipient of your love and kindness. You are always family and I adore you both.


Anyway, kids, I tell you all this for a reason. In life, you can always count on a good loaf of bread and your sisters.



Bread. Just in case you missed it, https://www.facebook.com/MyBlueBearFarm/.


I ramble. Balls.