Broccoli and peppers and My Dad’s Cell Phone

When my Dad found his dream spot on top of a mountain in the Catskills in upstate New York, there was nothing there but an empty cinder block garage with a dirt floor and an incredible view.

No electricity, no running water, no phone, no nothin’.

My Dad took that garage and slowly built it into quite a nice cabin. Then he built a small compound around it. He built a tiny log bunkhouse on the hill. Then he built a small barn next door with a small apartment over top. My Dad didn’t do any of the actual construction; he supervised and lent a hand.

The place was called Rat Tail Ridge. Batu loved it up there. Summers were magnificent. Winters were brutal. There was so much snow on his roof in the wintertime, that my Dad had to get somebody to climb up and shovel it off so it wouldn’t cave in.

It wasn’t an easy place to get to or get out of. It was kinda isolated, especially in the winter, when you needed a front-loader to plow the driveway.

In the morning, my Dad liked to drive into Meridale to the tiny post office, get his mail, and talk with the woman behind the counter. Then he’d grab the New York Times and the local paper at the small coffee shop next door and drive back to Rat Tail Ridge.

Most old people drive slow. Not my Dad. He drove like he’d just robbed a 7-11. I used to jog from his house down the side of the mountain, and I could hear him a mile away, tearing up the dirt road, a cloud of dust behind him.

I would dive off the side of the road, afraid he wouldn’t see me and run me over. He’d fly by without recognizing me, his head barely visible above the steering wheel. One time he drove into a snow bank. He got stuck there for a while. That was when I decided it was time to get him a cell phone.

I got him in my car and we drove down to the AT&T store in Oneonta. The drive is about 40 minutes. He wasn’t pleased with the idea of getting a cell phone. It was like driving someone to get their arm amputated.

AT&T is the only carrier that works up at my Dad’s place. We got to the store. My Dad wasn’t happy, at all. Keep in mind; he wasn’t a happy guy to begin with. We went up to the counter, a sales guy came over – a young kid, friendly and clean-cut. I told him what I wanted…

A cell phone. One with big numbers. One that was easy to operate. I didn’t need it to make movies. I didn’t need it to tune a guitar. I didn’t need a phone that was also a microwave oven.

I just wanted a simple phone for my Dad for emergencies and stuff like that. Maybe a phone where he could receive text messages and photos from his kids and grandkids. I thought that would be nice for the old grouch.

The sales guy looked at me, then looked at my Dad. He cheerfully asked us if we wanted a two-year plan or a five-year plan.

My Dad looked at him and said,

“Are you fuckin’ kiddin’ me? I’m 86 years old! Give me the shortest plan you got, ‘cause I don’t know how much fuckin’ longer I’m gonna be around.”

My Dad wasn’t trying to be mean or rude. That’s just the way he talked, excuse the language. He cussed a lot and was not apologetic about it. I use it here for verisimilitude. My dad was rough, gruff and tough as iron. He never minced words, he gave it to you straight between the eyes. He was well-read, well-educated and eloquent. Poetic, even. But the “F” word in all its forms was a regular part of his daily vocabulary.

I explained to the sales guy, we just need a phone with a pay-as-you-go plan. A phone that was cheap, easy, and so simple that a chimpanzee could figure it out. No offense to chimpanzees. Some of my best friends act like chimpanzees.

I asked sales dude if we could get a number my Dad could remember, something like 607 S-L-I-M-M-A-N. They guy explained that there weren’t a whole lot of numbers available for that area. I had no idea what he was talking about, but he told me a number had just become available – some guy had just cancelled his service.

We took that number.

We got in the car, started the long drive home, up the small, winding two-lane mountain road that led Rat Tail Ridge. My Dad held the phone in his hand, like he was holding a severed animal head in his palm.

PING! My dad got a text message. He looked at me.

“What the hell is that?”

I grabbed the phone and looked at it. It was a photo of a woman with no clothes on.

Now, I can appreciate the female form in its most natural state. Since the beginning of time, artists have been trying to capture that marvelous naked beauty on canvas and in marble.

But the photo on my Dad’s cell phone was of a woman who weighed at least 400 pounds. She was completely naked, and it was hard to tell what she was doing. It looked like she was trying to scratch her head with her big toe. Not the kind of pose that would inspire Leonardo da Vinci.

My Dad took the phone and looked at the photo.

“Is that a vagina?”

For all of my Dad’s cussing, he used delicate words when it came to the women folk.

“It’s kind of hard to tell, Paps, but yes, I think it is.”

A few minutes later – PING! He looked at his phone.

“What the hell is that?”

I grabbed his phone. I almost drove off the road. It was another photo of an incredibly large woman on her knees, completely naked, on all fours. It looked like she was looking on the floor for a contact lens.

Funny, my Dad wasn’t into any of that kind of stuff. He never had girly mags around, never even had a Playboy. I never found any of that stuff around the house when I was a kid, and I rarely use the word “never.”


They kept coming. Text photos of huge naked women. My Dad asked if all cell phones were like this. I explained to him that the guy who had the number before was probably into some kinky stuff, and I would try and fix it when we got home.

We got to Rat Tail Ridge, and I fixed his phone, blocked some numbers, cleared out some junk. I programmed some numbers on the speed dial. I explained to my Dad that all he had to do was press and hold the number “1” key, and it would call me.

I set it up so number “2” was his Off-Track Betting account, so he could play the horses. Then I put in his wife’s number, my sister’s number, the other kids’ numbers, the nurse, the hospital, his proctologist and he was good to go.

My Dad started enjoying his cell phone. Whenever my Dad called, he’d never say hello, how are you. He’d just start talking. Most of the conversations were quick and to the point. Then he’d hang up without saying goodbye. No hello, no goodbye.

I loved my Dad even though he wasn’t an easy guy to love. We started talking on the phone, just about every day.

He passed away last year. I still have his cell number on my phone.

I just can’t bear to erase it.


My Dad didn’t like vegetables. When he got older, I would try and get him to eat a salad, or some vegetables, and he’d say,

“I’m 86 years old. I’ve made it this far without eating that shit, and I ain’t startin’ now.”

He wasn’t all warm and fuzzy.

This dish can be used as a side dish, or as an appetizer. You can serve it over rice, pasta, or on bruschetta. Put it on a pizza! It’s colorful, healthy and delizioso.

This will serve four people, or one really huge naked woman.


4 tablespoons olive oil

6 cloves of garlic, sliced thin, about 2 tablespoons

Crushed red pepper (to taste–I use ¼  teaspoon to start)

¼ cup dry white wine

1 orange bell pepper, seeds and stems removed, chopped

1 red bell pepper, seeds and stems removed, chopped

1 yellow bell pepper, seeds and stems removed, chopped

4 cups broccoli florets

¾ cup vegetable broth (or chicken broth)

Salt (to taste)

Here we go…

Get a large pan, put it over medium-low heat.

Add the olive oil, the garlic, and the crushed red pepper and cook for a couple minutes until the garlic is a light gold color.

Add the white wine, turn the heat up to high, and cook for two minutes.

Then reduce the heat back to medium-low.

Add the peppers, and cook for 5 minutes. Stir often.

Add the broccoli.

Add the vegetable broth, and turn the heat to high until it starts to bubble.

Once bubbly, turn the heat down to a simmer. Cook for an additional 6 minutes until the broccoli is done. Stir often.

Taste for salt and adjust.

Some people like their broccoli crunchy. I like it cooked – not mushy, but firm. This dish is delish with fish—any one of the Slim Fish Dishes would go well with this. Especially Salmon Ella.