"Crap! I wish I hadn't seen Ricky on the sidewalk."

"You will be fine for 31 minutes. You will be dead in 32 minutes."

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

A Clean, Well-Lit Lounge

So this is it, my Lit Lounge performance from September.  Special thanks to Tania for inviting me to participate and to Liz for helping me edit and post this video.

Monday, December 24, 2012

Unexpected Gifts

I'm tough to buy for, I know that.  I'm interested in a lot of things, but I also own a lot of things. 

I have a friend I've been exchanging gifts with for the last decade.  Twice a year, on birthdays and Christmas, we try to buy each other thoughtful gifts. 

We have a pattern that has developed over the years.  There's usually a book component, a dvd or Blu-ray component, and a musical component.  Some years I give better gifts than I get.  Some years I don't.

This has been a challenging year.  I haven't spoken much to this friend in the last six months.  If we had talked about exchanging gifts, I would've said "how 'bout we don't." 

On Friday, my friend presented me with gifts.  Damn it!  Blaufarb!

So now I'm scrambling.  I'm not sure if I should return the unwrapped gifts (dick move, yes?) or admit I was caught by surprise. 

The musical component was a vinyl copy of the new Tame Impala album.  There was a Criterion Blu-ray of Being John Malkovich.  There was also a copy of T.C. Boyle's Wild Child, which we had discussed at length when it appeared on the bargain table at Barnes & Noble.  All very nice, very generous and thoughtful.

Sonofabitch.  Why had we not talked about this? 

It's tough to be thoughtful on a moment's notice.  Christmas was still four days away.  I went shopping.

The movie component was fairly easy.  Knowing this friend, I could either buy a copy of Dark Knight Rises or Moonrise Kingdom.  Pretty much anything with "rise" in the title.  In the end, I went with the Wes Anderson and kept the receipt.  I could have simply purchased a $25 gift card, but what's the fun in that? 

The musical component was difficult.  I've been giving this friend framed solo albums by the members of Kiss.  Gene Simmons?  Done.  Paul Stanley?  Done.  I found a Peter Criss a few months ago, but passed on it since I didn't think we would exchange gifts this year.  Flash forward to four days before Christmas.  I hit a half dozen different shops.  No Peter Criss, no Ace Frehley. 

I could've chosen another Kiss album, but decided to use this Black Sabbath album as my placeholder.  I have plenty of album frames, so that's not a problem.

Two down, one to go.  I still needed a book component.

I know this friend well enough to find a good book gift, but that doesn't mean I can just pull one out of my ass.  This is why people give other people gift cards.  It's much easier to give someone $50 or $100 and let them get themselves whatever they want. 

While I was out shopping, I found some interesting possiblities.  There was an old Go manual from the 1960's, and a boxed set of Playboy books from 1969.

The gift pack included three different books:  More Playboy's Ribald Classics, The Playboy Adviser Revisited, and Playboy's Party Games.
All of them were in pristine, unread condition.

So now it's Christmas Eve day and I need to start wrapping things.  I've got the movie and I've got the music, even if it's the wrong music. 

I'm still undecided about the books.  I don't need the Go manual or the Playboy set, but I kind of want them both.  I either need to wrap up one of the books I bought yesterday or pluck another book off my own shelves.

I don't know why this is so difficult, except I do.


Belated Birthday Wishes

My nephew turned 30 the other day.

I'm a terrible about sending birthday cards, everyone in my family knows this.  What I lack in the cards sent department, I try to make up for in other areas. 

I'm an exceptional hugger, ask anyone. I'm a good listener, and I'm capable of offering solid advice.  I'm reasonably dependable.

In Jared's case, I like to think I played a small part in his musical development. 

I don't know who got him hooked on Don Henley and Billy Joel when he was a kid, but he came to love Squeeze, Elvis Costello, Billy Bragg, and Robyn Hitchcock.  We met for coffee a couple of weeks ago and he was talking about the new Graham Parker album. 

We are both fans of Joe Strummer.

In October 2001, Strummer and The Mescaleros played a great show in Phoenix.  I was there, Jared was there.  From what I remember, Jared was sequestered upstairs, away from the alcohol.  He was underage at the time.

The band played a little bit of everything.  I never thought I'd hear Joe Strummer sing "White Man in Hammersmith Palais" live, but it happened just a few feet in front of me. 

I bought this picture disc from the old Rhino Records on Westwood Blvd. in the late 80's.  I know I paid a quarter for it because the price tag is still on it.  Why didn't I buy more of them?  Maybe it was the last one in the bin. 

There was an in-store event at a local record store on the night of the show.  I was working late, but I gave the single to a co-worker.  The story Phillip told me was that Strummer got a real kick out of signing the single, showing off his old picture to his current bandmates.

Joe Strummer died unexpectedly the following December.  Congenital heart defect.

Jared just started reading his poetry in front of audiences.  I think he has quite a few good years left in him. 


Colle Caoutchouc

So I made some more cards.  You might be getting one.

I wish I could  explain my love of rubber cement.  It's really not the most efficient tool, but it reminds me of my father.  The desk in his office was always littered with colored pencils and X-Acto knives and I can picture him now, working on a layout, the smell of rubber cement in the air.



Saturday, December 22, 2012


I woke up this morning with a song in my head.  "I'm Going to Sex on You So Hard" by the Sophisticated Brutes.  Is that what it's called?  Someone help me out.

We made Christmas cards at Liz's last night. We were getting together anyway, and Liz had started a batch of cards earlier in the week. 

I brought stamps and crayons and colored paper.  Tony wasn't interested in arts and crafts, but promised to meet up with us later.

We went to Michael's and bought supplies.   I bought blank cards and some rubber cement.  Michelle bought an ink pad.  Liz bought two decoder kits.

We went back to Liz's house and started drinking.  Tony came over with some beer.  We went out for Cornish pasties.  The creative juices started flowing.

We made cards, but mostly we talked.  The floor became littered with alphabet stamps and torn paper.  At one point, I quit making cards and asked Liz to help me edit some video footage.  We talked while the footage loaded.

I finally packed up my cards and went home at 2.


Holy shit, I love this dog.  A licker of faces, a crawler of laps.

The Graduation Saramony

On Thursday, Sara graduated from ASU.
She busted her ass, did it in three and a half years, and now she's moving on.  She's taken a job with Liberty Mutual and heading to Colorado in January.  She'll be on her own for the first time, but near my sister Jessie and her family. 
Her life is really just starting. 

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Performance Anxiety

I met Tania at Echo Coffee this morning and we talked for about an hour. 

Goddamn, I love Tania.  So much good energy, so much encouragement, great sense of humor. 

It was Tania who asked me to participate in the Lit Lounge program at SMOCA last September.  One of the reasons we met this morning was so she could give me a dvd of that evening's performance. 

Tania had previously asked me if I was free to read again in May. 

Apparently, she's putting together a "best-of" show in a larger venue and I told her yes, I definitely wanted to participate.  Tania had a contract with her and she explained I could simply perform the same piece again or come up with something new. 

I told her I would be happy to work on a new piece and she could choose which one she wanted me to use.  We also talked about a few other writing/performing projects which I'm excited about. 

I was supposed to have lunch with the kids, but Sara stayed up late completing one of her finals.  She sounded exhausted when we spoke, and I told her I would see her and Sam this Thursday at Sara's graduation.

When I got home, I slid the Lit Lounge dvd into my computer. 

It was weird, watching myself. 

I wasn't nervous during the performance (I nursed a gin & tonic while the first three performers read), but I was conscious of trying to stay within my alotted time.  You can hear most of my jokes just fine, but I could have taken a few more pauses. 

Of course, there are worse things than summing up your reading by saying, "you actually can't hear everything I said because the audience was laughing too hard."

I am keenly aware that it may never happen again. 

I plan on posting my portion of the show in the next week or so, once I find some time to do a little editing on it.  Then I need to get to work on a new piece. 

There's another installment of Lit Lounge on December 28th.  Tania offered tickets and said she had some funny Jewish women to introduce me to.

It's nice having friends.

The Impasta

Michelle's Christmas party was last night. 

Michelle said she was making Sriracha Deviled Eggs and pumpkin bread and Tony agreed to make pulled pork and blue cheese cole slaw, which he sometimes makes for his Super Bowl party.  It's all very good.

I decided to make homemade macaroni and cheese, at Tony's suggestion. 

I found a recipe from America's Test Kitchen that didn't seem too complicated.  The cheese sauce was a mix of Monterey Jack and Sharp Cheddar along with mustard powder and cayenne pepper. 

Easy-peasy, nice and cheesy.

I bought two pounds of elbow macaroni, $10 worth of cheese, a pound of unsalted butter, and a gallon of milk.  I had some flour in the pantry, but I bought new mustard powder since I couldn't remember the last time I bought mustard powder.

While I was shopping, I noticed a huge display of Kraft Macaroni & Cheese, which happened to be on sale.  I rammed the display with my shopping cart.

The recipe called for homemade bread crumbs, so I made those first and set them aside.  I was boiling the pasta water when Tony called and said he needed a ride, so I tried to hurry through the prep as quickly as possible. 

Note to self:  I need a bigger colander.

I wrestled a bit with the sauce.  It took about 15 minutes of constant stirring, but everything turned out like it was supposed to.  The base thickened, the sauce was perfectly smooth, the cheese was nice and melty.  

For the final step, I poured the macaroni and cheese into a 13x9 pan and covered everything with my homemade bread crumbs. I brushed my teeth while everything browned under the broiler. 

Here's what I learned: 

1) making a roux isn't that complicated
2) my whisk is broken
3) bringing 10 cups of milk to a boil while you stir it with a broken whisk is pretty exhausting
4) when you bring food to a buffet, don't bother doubling the recipe; people are going to eat as much as they want and if you run out, great
5) sometimes, the finished product looks exactly like the picture next to the recipe

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Good for What Ales You

The whole time we were in Sun City, Tony was texting us.  He's been talking about the Phoenix Brewer's Invitational all week and he wanted us to join him downtown and drink beer.  Plastic mugs were $10 and tokens were $1 each.  Each token was good for a 4 oz. pour. A full glass of beer cost you four tokens.

Tony knows a lot about beer, so he's the perfect companion for a beer festival.  None of us had eaten anything in Sun City, though we did stop for snacks at Walgreens.  Corey bought a coffee and some generic Thin Mints (less Girl Scouts, more Peppermint Patty), Michelle bought some coconut water and some chocolate covered pretzels, and I bought a Coke Zero. 

We shared the snacks, breezed through the last of the Sun City thrift stores, and headed east to meet up with Tony.  He'd already been drinking for an hour when we showed up.  He identified himself as "the plastered guy in a Cardinals shirt." 

Lunch was at Pizzeria Bianco.  Normally it's very difficult to get in, but thanks to the beer festival it wasn't that crowded. We ordered some olives, a Margherita pizza, and a Wiseguy (with fennel sausage).  There was no point in ordering a beer with the festival just outside our door, so we all drank water.  While we ate, Tony asked what kind of beer everyone liked and explained that most of the volunteers were generous with the 4 oz. pours.  Once we had properly fortified ourselves, we got wristbands and hit the festival.
I think Michelle started with a stout.  She said it tasted like poop.  My first beer was an IPA and it was mostly foam.  Everyone looked at my mug and murmured, "weak pour." 
It was sunny as hell.  Tony needed a bathroom.  We pressed on.  Most of the booths had anywhere from three to six taps.  My next pour was fine, as was the next.  I can't tell you the name of anything I drank.  If you want to know, ask Tony.  Michelle sipped her second beer and said it was worse than the first.  "You liked the poop beer better?" Apparently she did. 
By the third round, everyone was in fine spirits.  We sat on the grass for a long while and pooled our last few tokens.  We left around 6 p.m. and went back to Michelle's.  We said our goodbyes and I gave Tony a ride back to Tempe. 
Once I dropped Tony off, I reached into the back seat for the leftover pizza.  There were three slices left.  It was gone by the time I got home.

Sun City, Part II

Like I said, there were no Christmas sweaters this year and no Christmas ornaments.  Corey bought a dress and some earrings, Michelle bought some hankies for her father and a necklace for herself, and I bought a small army of Santas.

Crazy, hillbilly-looking Santas wearing nothing but red boxers and black boots.  About 14" tall.  They were only $2 each and I thought they would make a nice centerpiece for the Christmas buffet. 

I pointed them out to Corey and Michelle and imagined an entire army of Santas doing my bidding.  True to form, I couldn't stop laughing.  I bought four of them. 

I also bought a scary picture of a clown being startled (surprised? enchanted? I really can't tell) by another clown bursting from a jack-in-the-box.  It's totally ridiculous, but it would scare the hell out of my friend Rob who is absolutely terrified of clowns.  I've seen the clown picture before, on previous visits to Sun City.  The photograph is in a cheap gold frame, which only adds to the overall creepiness.  For $3, I'm taking it home.  It's in my arms, along with the Santas.  The book selection was not great, but I found a copy of Fertig by Sol Yurick which has eluded me for years.
There was one last thing.  I flipped through the sheet music and came across "After You've Gone" by Creamer & Layton.  I'm going to frame it and hang it in my bathroom.  Is that weird?  It would be swell if I could find the sheet music to a song called "Wash Your Hands" so I could hang it on the wall right next to "After You've Gone." 

Fun in Sun City

We went to Sun City looking for Christmas sweaters, but Sun City is unpredictable.  Vintage clothing is plentiful, but I rarely find any clothes I really want, certainly never a bowling shirt.  There are books and records everywhere, mostly junk.  Every trip to Sun City yields something unusual, just never the item you came for. 

If you go looking for housewares, you'll come home with amateur artwork.  If you're desperate for amateur artwork, you'll come home with a bowling bag.  If you actually need a bowling bag, you'll come home with glassware. 

Such is the nature of Sun City thrifting. 
The best trips always yield unexpected treasure:  a $75 piano, a 1970's TV/stereo console, a General Electric radio cabinet, rare books and records.

On Saturday we went looking for Christmas sweaters and we were sorely disappointed, but we were happy with the things we did find.

The first place we went, I bought records.

There were several hundred records to look at, mostly garbage.  Since it's almost Christmas, I grabbed Here We Come-A-Caroling by The Ray Charles Singers (MGM Records, E3467).  I haven't read Matador by Barnaby Conrad, but I knew enough to liberate The Day Manolete Was Killed (Audio Fidelity, AFLP 1831) from the junk heap.  I have a lot of old comedy albums, but that didn't stop me from picking up a Shelley Berman twofer from Verve (Inside Shelley Berman and Outside Shelley Berman), Dick Gregory's Dick Gregory Talks Turkey (Vee Jay, LP4001) and Flip Wilson's Pot Luck (Scepter Records, 520).  The Flip Wilson record is clearly marked "For Adults Only").  I also bought Twilight Memories by The Three Sun and The Brothers Four Songbook, but my favorite platter was a new Hair soundtrack, courtesy of Pickwick.  I have quite a few of them now, surely enough for a separate post. 
Not a bad record haul. 
I looked at the books, but there was nothing special.  Just before I left, I noticed a later printing of Pauline Tabor's Pauline's:  Memoirs of the Madam on Clay Street (Touchstone Publishing Company, 1971).  Tabor ran a brothel in Bowling Green, KY but her memoir of prostitution takes a backseat to the illustations by David Stone Martin, whose artwork graced a lot of classic jazz albums by Billie Holliday, Oscar Peterson, Lester Young, etc.  Very nice. 

Three Very Good Friends

I went to an art sale last Saturday, at the suggestion of my friend Paul.  This was the morning after Michelle's cookie-baking party, where much alcohol was consumed.  The sale started at 10 a.m. and I was told there would be a long line of people.

Paul explained that Richard, the owner of Fine Art Framing, collects vernacular photographs throughout the year (mostly purchased from eBay) and frames them in his shop.  Once a year, Richard opens his doors and sells the lot at bargain prices, ranging from $95 on up.  The photographs are all expertly framed and captioned with care.

I had no trouble selecting three or four pieces I wouldn't mind owning. 

I was at the sale with Lara, Christine, and Michelle.  I immediately ran into Paul, who introduced me to Richard.  Paul bought five things, and Lara spent $300 on a diagram of a children's camp and 22 b&w photos of people posing with saguaros, which she's currently collecting for her MFA show.  Michelle didn't buy anything, Christine didn't buy anything, and I--after much agonizing--didn't buy anything either.

I came very close.  There was a color photo from the 70's of a nerdy, couch-bound man taking a photograph entitled Science Fiction Convention.  There was a sepia-toned photo of two brothers that I couldn't take my eyes off of and a b&w photo of a young girl at the beach with her name--"Clarice"--spelled out in the sand in front of her. 

The picture I wanted most was a simple portrait of a man posing with his dog and his guitar.  Written on the photograph was the caption "three very good friends.  It was dated 1929.

I liked it right away.  You know the Richard Powers novel, Three Farmers on Their Way to a Dance?  That novel was inspired by a photograph.  I don't know if Three Very Good Friends will inspire anything more than this blog post, but I love the photograph.  I love what it says about this person, his dog, and his guitar.

It was $125.

It's been a fairly emotional year.  I don't have a dog or a guitar but I have some very good friends and two children I love very  much.  I left the show without buying anything, happy I'd attended.

On Monday, Paul phoned.  Richard had emailed everyone to say some photographs were still for sale and if I was on the fence about anything, I should phone immediately.

I called Richard and mentioned the four pictures I came closest to buying.  He'd given Science Fiction Convention away, but Brothers and Three Very Good Friends were still for sale.  I made an appointment to meet Richard after work the following day.

On Tuesday, I returned to Fine Art Framing.  I spoke to Richard for about 45 minutes, and it was a terrific conversation.  We talked about photography and books and why we collect the things we collect, and I left with Three Very Good Friends tucked under my arm. 

I'm also on the mailing list for next year's sale.

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Middle of the Row

I just got home from Silver Linings Playbook.

Philadelphia is playing Dallas as I type this, which is especially amusing because that football rivalry plays a small part in the film.  I haven't read Matthew Quick's original novel, but I'm pretty much in love with David O. Russell's adaptation.  The Master may well be my film of the year, but Silver Linings Playbook is outstanding.
All the performances (Cooper, Lawrence, De Niro, Weaver, Tucker) are excellent.  The two women I saw it with gave a lot of credit to Bradley Cooper (and he's great, not just a pretty face, playing nutty, vulnerable, and dangerous), but Jennifer Lawrence is spectacular.  I haven't seen Zero Dark Thirty yet and I understand Jessica Chastain is getting a lot of much-deserved Oscar buzz, but Jennifer Lawrence was terrific in Winter's Bone and she's terrific in this.  I have one of those Michelle Williams-type crushes on her, which means I'll happily go see anything she's in.
There's a whole lot of running in Silver Linings Playbook.  The main characters are running from past mistakes, they're running from treatment and conventional wisdom, and they're running from each other.  Cooper and Lawrence have a meet cute (feet cute?) as they  pound the pavement in the opening scenes.  Only someone who's never seen a movie will be surprised by the eventual outcome, but that's not supposed to be a dig at Russell or his film.  He takes his time, lets the story breathe even while his characters are out of breath from some emotional outburst.  It takes a lot of control to choreograph a train wreck, and Russell nails it. 
There's a reason they don't make romantic comedies about ugly, inarticulate people.  Oh sure, Cooper and Lawrence are unbalanced as hell, but they're so pretty to look at you can't help root for them.
De Niro brings a lot of warmth and frustration as Cooper's father, and while I thought Jacki Weaver was just fine as the mother, I couldn't help but see Sally Struthers each time Weaver appeared on the screen. 
An easy film to love.

Saturday, December 1, 2012

It's a (Mostly) Wonderful Experience

Look, I'm a big sap.  Everybody knows this. 

I've seen It's a Wonderful Life about two dozen times, and it always makes me cry.  I'm watching it now, and I'm keeping track of everything that chokes me up:

1) Okay, here's young George refusing to deliver the poison capsules Mr. Gower accidentally prepared.  Gower is slapping George on his bad ear, and then realizes his mistake. 

Apparently, I've got something in my eye. 

2) That scene in the building & loan where everyone is withdrawing money.  Tom demands $242, but Ed settles for $20, and then Miss Thompson takes $20, and when Miss Davis timidly asks for $17.50, George kisses her on the face.  It's sweet, 'cause George and Mary are using their own money to take care of everyone. 

This scene makes my cheeks wet.

3) George is coming apart now.  He just bitched out his daughter for practicing the piano and now he's apologizing to everyone.  To Mary, to Janie, to Pete.  "George, why must you torture the children?" 

No tears, but there's a lump in my throat. 

4) Things are pretty bleak now, but what did you expect?  This is a movie about suicide.

Bailey Park is a cemetary.  Clarence is telling George that Harry Bailey broke through the ice and drowned at the age of nine.  And George says, "That's a lie.  Harry Bailey went to war.  He got the Congressional Medal of Honor, he saved the lives of every man on that transport."  But Clarence tells him, "Every man on that transport died.  Harry wasn't there to save them because you weren't there to save Harry."

There's definitely something rotten in Pottersville.

5) George is back on the bridge, pleading with Clarence.  He wants to go back to his wife and kids.  Now he's begging God.

6) Okay, he just found Zuzu's petals.  I am watering those petals with some salty tears. 

7) George is now shaking hands with the bank examiner.  There's a warrant for his arrest, but George just wants to hug his kids.  Mary has returned from searching for George.  There's never been so much kissing. 

Here comes Uncle Billy with a basket of cash.  George is in trouble and everyone in town is dumping money in his lap.  The bank examiner just threw in some cash and the warrant has been ripped in half. Now Harry is here, toasting George.   

"To my big brother George, the richest man in town."

Look, I know the movie has problems.  I'm not even convinced Jimmy Stewart can act.  But how can you not love a movie with an angel named Clarence Oddbody?

Anybody hear a bell ringing?  An angel just got some wings. 

Professional Crastination

I'm trying to make space on my dvr, which means catching up on stuff I recorded but never got around to watching. 

Back in June, I recorded Beginners during a free Cinemax preview.
I don't know why it took me five months to watch it, but I really loved it.  I mistakenly thought the movie was all about Ewan McGregor and Christopher Plummer as his openly gay, terminally ill father, but I got caught up in Ewan McGregor and Mélanie Laurent's storyline.

Beginners (Mike Mills, 2010)
I also made time for Marie Antoinette

Marie Antoinette (Sofia Coppola, 2006)

It wasn't perfect, but it's impossible not to be wowed by the production values.  The cinematography, the costumes--all of it, breathtaking.   

Sweets Sorrow

Can we talk about sweets for a minute?

I very rarely buy them for myself, but if they're within easy reach I can't stop myself.  Zero willpower.  It's a real problem.  

Sara's homemade apple pie was the first to go.  We said our goodbyes on Tuesday night, during an episode of New Girl.  Twenty minutes later, I gave up any silly notions of waiting and finished the pumpkin pie, too. 

That left two pies, both from Corey:  storebought peach and homemade squash.  I stuck the peach pie in the refrigerator and thew the squash pie in the trash, per Corey's instructions. 

The peach pie went quietly, half on Wednesday, half on Thursday. 

I was done with turkey, done with mashed potatoes, done with gravy, and I was finally done with pie.

On Friday, Michelle had everyone over to her apartment and we made cookies. 


It was a lot of fun.  We drank and talked and ordered pizza.  Tony broke a wine glass.  When it was all over, there were cookies everywhere you looked. 


Thursday, November 29, 2012

Goodwill Toward Vinyl

I bought some records on the way home from work. 

I went to Goodwill looking for books, but they had a lot of new (old) records and I got down on my hands and knees to flip through them.  There must have been 200. 

I bought three, paid a buck for each one. 

Two Sides of Wanda (Capitol, ST-2030)

"There are two sides of Wanda Jackson's talent, and one has been just as important as the other to her fame and success.

The two sides of this record demonstrate those two wonderful sides, those two great styles of Wanda Jackson, with twelve top songs--half of them as swingingly, and half as them as beautifully done as anything Wanda has ever recorded. 

Side one presents the rocking, swinging, bluesy Wanda at her best . . ."

Then there's side two--the sweet, rich, beautiful ballad side of Wanda Jackson . . ."

Up And Away (Wand T91011)

This Kingsmen record doesn't have their big hit, "Louie, Louie," but I'm happy with it just the same.  It's got a Beatles cover ("If I Needed Someone"), a Stones cover ("Under My Thumb"), and a bunch of other songs you've heard elsewhere: "Wild Thing," "Land of a Thousand Dances," "Mustang Sally," "Shake a Tail Feather," etc.

I threw the record on my turntable and listened while I washed dishes.  It sounded terrible and I thought the record was severely damaged.  Turns out someone turned off the stereo feature on my receiver; once I restored it, the record sounded just fine.  Old, yes, but still listenable. 

The Threepenny Opera (MGM E3121)

I'm in love with Lotte Lenya and Kurt Weill, so whenever I see a copy of The Threepenny Opera soundtrack, I buy it.  I can't help it, I have no choice in the matter.

This is the 1954 off-Broadway cast recording featuring Lotte Lenya, Bea Arthur, Charlotte Rae, and John Astin. 

The cover is faded, but the record sounds fine. 

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Four Pies

I did Thanksgiving on Saturday this year.

I like roasting turkeys, always have.  I don't know what it is, but I have a little routine and I stick to it.  Maybe that's it, the annual ritual.  I buy a 20-25 lb. turkey even when I'm just cooking for myself.  I never call it a bird.  I don't brine, I don't deep fry, I don't grill, I don't smoke. 

I take the turkey and I bathe it in dry sherry and I fill it with carrots and celery and onion.  Every hour, I take half a stick of butter and rub it on the skin.  I know I let all the heat out of the oven every time I open the door, but that's how I roll.  People tell you not to wash the turkey, that it sprays bacteria everywhere, but I wash it anyway.  I don't use a meat thermometer either.  I pull the turkey out when it looks done and if the juice runs clear, I let it cool for twenty minutes before I butcher it.  I don't have an electric carving knife and the instruments I do have aren't that sharp, but I make do.

My oven's been a little wonky this year, I'm not sure it's properly calibrated.  I bought a $5 oven thermometer and crossed my fingers. 

I'll be honest:  I got in late Friday night.  I told everyone at the bar I was leaving at 10 but it was midnight before I drove home, and I needed to finish defrosting the turkey.  I filled up the sink with cold water, stuck the turkey in, and set the alarm for 5 a.m.

I had two dreams in the next four hours. 

One was the standard pre-party nightmare, the one where all my guests get food poisoning (oops, my bad!) and both bathrooms flood and we run out of toilet paper. 

My other dream involved a man with blue shoes who appeared to me in a tightly structured story with a beginning, a middle, and an end.  It was funny, it was sad, and I woke up with the knowledge that all I had to do was write down the details of my dream and send it to The New Yorker. 

When the alarm went off I couldn't remember anything but the blue kicks, so I stumbled into the kitchen and checked the turkey.  All the water had drained from the sink, which made all the blood drain from my face. 

In my haste, I'd left the kitchen sink plug upside down. 

The turkey was still cold, but it worried me.  It worried me that my turkey was now teeming with salmonella.  I debated buying another turkey but it was five a.m. so I just refilled the sink and let the turkey finish defrosting. 

I got up for real at 8 and took my chances with the defrosted turkey and the funky oven.  I wanted the turkey cooking by 9:30, in case my oven didn't reach the proper temperature and I needed more time.

I told everyone we'd eat at 4 p.m., so most people were arriving at 3:30.  Sara, Sam, and Julia were shooting for 2:20 or 3.  They were bringing an extra chair and some ice, and Sara brought rolls and two homemade pies:  one apple, one pumpkin.  Michelle brought her dad and a spinach salad and some brussel sprouts with crushed peanuts on top.  Tony brought homemade pretzels and cheese dip.  Liz brought Zoe so there was a little puppy sniffing fingers and licking faces which was very nice.  Corey brought brie and wine.  She made a squash pie but didn't like the color or the way it set, so she brought a peach pie, too.

This is how we ended up with four pies, each of them delicious in their own way.

I meant to take more pictures, but I got too wrapped up in finishing the food.  I want to be a good host, but it's hard when you're mashing potatoes and cooking beans and making gravy.  At some point, you just have to give up.  Make sure everybody has a drink and trust that they'll entertain themselves while you're sweating over whether the turkey has reached the proper temperature.

In the end, it wasn't my best turkey or my best batch of mashed potatoes.  If you ask me, the haricots verts tasted a little waxy. But here's the thing.  Nobody cared.  We were just sitting around a table eating and talking and laughing and I was glad everyone was there. 

And life is so much better with gravy:

It was too soon for pie, so we retired to the other room and played Catchphrase.  We discussed Apples to Apples, but it was deemed too complicated and Catchphrase is always fun. 

I'd been drinking Coke Zero with Fireball Cinnamon Whisky and at some point, Michelle and I each did a shot.  There wasn't a lot of alcohol consumed.  Tony was drinking a combination of raspberry and chocolate beer, Corey was drinking red wine, and Michelle's father was mixing egg nog and Jack Daniels. 

We ate pie.  Michelle and her father left and so did Liz.  The rest of us watched an episode of H. R. Pufnstuf, the one where Jimmy is transformed into a mechanical boy.  Trippy, to say the least.

Tony had an extra ticket for the Cardinals-Rams game, but it was an all-day commitment.  He was planning on getting to the stadium at 9:45 and tailgating until 2, and I just couldn't do it.

We said our good nights and I thanked everyone for coming, told everybody to be safe. 

It took me over an hour to clean up the kitchen and do the dishes, but I didn't mind at all.  I was listening to the Velvet Underground and my refrigerator was full of leftovers.  I am thankful for my children, thankful for my friends. 

Most importantly, I threw a party and nobody got sick.  

Sunday, November 18, 2012


...My Son the Copy Cat . . . (DFLP 1233, Del Fi Records)
Stanley Ralph Ross (1935-2000) was very busy in the 1960's.  He wrote episodes of Batman and The Monkees, took small roles in films like The Flight of the Phoenix (1965) and Tony Rome (1967), and cut this parody album to capitalize on the enormous success of Allan Sherman.
Sherman deserves his own post, but let's focus on Stan Ross for the moment.
Here's what Ronald L. Smith said in the Goldmine Comedy Record Price Guide (Krause Publications, 1996):
"Ross not only comes up with Allan Sherman-style material, he does a pretty fair job of imitating Sherman's voice.  Folk tunes are turned Jewish.  'Clementine' becomes 'Clement Stein' about a 'yenta ten percenta agent,' 'Molly Malone' is now 'Solly M. Cohen' and 'Waltzing Matilda' becomes 'Washing Gefilte,' all about the problems of making gefilte fish.
'I'm Called Little Buttercup' becomes the very Shermanesque 'I'm Called Little Butterball.'  He admits to even trying drugs: 'I've tried every Dexi, and yet, I ain't sexy!  My legs I relaxacize sore.  I drank chocolate Metracal, Grape and etcetrecal, but increased my slacks a size more."
Nothing to write home about, perhaps, but an interesting footnote in 60s-era comedy albums.