Posts Tagged food

Yogi Bear returns from the forest.

16 December 2012

Well, I’m fresh back from my week-long meditation retreat as a Buddhist “yogi.”  The idea is that you go out into the forest with no cell phone and no internet.  You take a vow of silence and don’t even write notes to anyone.  You stay in a dorm-like closet, eat the food you’re given, have to do chores like vacuuming (chores! the very idea!), and meditate all day, every day.  Sound like fun?  That’s meditation, holmes.

First off, it’s beautiful out there.  You’re out in the middle of the relative/moderate wilderness (at least compared to The City), and you get some of those benefits.  Some mornings, I would see a few wild turkeys walking through the grounds, or a family of deer.  Being able to get 15 feet from them or so without them running off.  Not exactly the typical San Francisco experience.  The night sky was incredible, just being able to see so many stars that are all but invisible to me where I live.  (I wonder how the night sky is in Maui?)  And then having to be up every morning at 6am to go sit and meditate means you get to see a lot of sunrises.  And beautiful sunny hilltops from a valley covered in fog.  Pretty spectacular.

I mentioned Hawaii, but the whole experience did somewhat remind me of Hawaii.  I didn’t wear socks or shoes this whole time.  I was barefoot or in slippers.  This life of rolling out of bed, throwing on some slippers and starting your day just as you are is akin to that carefree lifestyle of vacationing on Maui that I loved so much.  Wake up, throw on your shorts and walk barefoot to the beach.  I should mention the food too.  It’s all taken care of for you, all vegetarian, and mostly delicious.  My favorite was on the first night… a salad dressing called “Hollyhock” which basically consisted of tamari, sunflower oil, apple cider vinegar, and nutritional yeast.  Ever had it?  I hadn’t, but it was delish!

There were some interesting rules, side effects, and observations I wanted to mention:

  1. Nike has perfected the sweatpant.  I haven’t owned sweatpants in a very long time, but I had to get a few pair to prepare for this trip.  They have it down in a way they didn’t when I was a kid.  The drawstring is sewn in crisscrossed, so you don’t even have to do the first half of tying them.  You just pull them as they are and they cinch up.  Amazing!  Plus they are reinforced at that stitch in the crotch that used to be the first place you’d get a hole every time.  Color me impressed.
  2. Right Guard works.  The teachers stressed again and again not to use any scented products out of respect for some of the other sensitive retreaters.  They said “trust us, we’d much rather smell you.”  I thought, that cannot possibly be true.  But they learned, and so did I.  One shower a day with their scent-free soap and no Right Guard, man I was pungent.  I didn’t realize how hard Right Guard (and Irish Spring) work for me every day.
  3. I didn’t want to use the alternative scent-free hair products, so I went au natural the entire time.  Turns out after five days of no shampoo or conditioner, I don’t need pomade.  My hair will stay slicked down on its own, all day.
  4. When I say silent, I mean silent.  People generally don’t make eye contact even.  The whole time.  It drove me nuts because it is in my nature to say please, thank you, excuse me, etc.  But you just have to accept that no one is intentionally being rude, you just can’t talk.  But this means that all the meals (which are taken in the dining hall) are face to face with people you can’t talk to or even look at.  Luckily, this is something for which I have much practice already.  A whole meal in silence and no eye contact?  So if you’ve dated me and thought I was good at this before…
  5. I got to see what I might look like with facial hair.  I decided not to shave until the final day, and when I did, I checked out my look with a goatee and various flavors of moustache.  I am most partial to the Hulk Hogan style or maybe something bizarre like a mini Fu Manchu with a separation in the middle… and though part of me would like to know what I look like with facial hair before I die (is there an app for that?), the overwhelming hipster-ness of moustaches these days will keep me clean-shaven, at least for now.  At least I have my chops.

Oh, and I had the Radiohead song “Reckoner” in my head all week.

As far as what did I actually learn spiritually?  Well, I won’t go into that.  I don’t think it’s done with me yet.  But I will say that being in silence all that time with a bunch of people on the same general quest as you… you cultivate a certain gentle demeanor and a sort or universal good will.  I mean, I always try to be “nice” in my day to day life, or at least I thought I did.  Fair, polite, etc.  I didn’t realize what a change this enviroment really was because we sort of eased into it.  It’s a disposition that I’m going to carry with me for as long as I can, with the goal of making it part of my natural habit.  The teachers warned us before leaving that we might be a bit sensitive as we transition back to the “outside world.”  Like a lobster without a shell is the metaphor I think they used.  They suggested we consider delaying before jumping right back into the thick of things, checking all our email, and so on.  I thought to myself, hey, I wasn’t that moved.  I’ll be fine.

Well, I wish I’d listened.  When I stopped for lunch on the drive home, not a half hour out of the retreat, I’d powered up my phone and first thing checked CNN.  The top five stories were about a school shooting in Connecticut.  26 victims, including 20 kids ages 6 and 7.  I don’t know how I would have reacted to that news two weeks ago.  But today, I admit — it was too much.

“If only [people] could all see themselves as they really are. If only we could see each other that way all the time. There would be no more war, no more hatred, no more cruelty, no more greed. I suppose the big problem would be that we would fall down and worship each other.”
— Thomas Merton

Home Taping Is Killing Music

15 March 2011

This week’s all about music.  And a little about pasta.

My Strippers
So as I mentioned before, after more years if frustration than I care to remember, I finally have an original project off the ground.  My new rockabilly band The Rumble Strippers has now played two shows!  The debut was at Grant & Green in North Beach.  I’d never been there, but it was an ideal place for a first show.  A small room, low pressure, but still nice.  The DIY sound situation was refreshing too.  (We’re not in Kansas anymore!)  We got a lot of great feedback, and I immediately felt the difference.  There seem to be different standards (and of course expectations) for an original band versus a tribute band.  I loved the feeling that there were no wrong answers.  TCB is like a math class, where there are right and wrong answers.  Every note of every song is predetermined, and there is a correct way to play it.  Crowds won’t like it if you deviate too much.  But this new band is more like a creative writing class.  Sure there’s a craft to it, but there’s also a lot of leeway in terms of content.  With covers, we can take any artistic license we want, and with originals… well whatever note I play is the right note.  

This last weekend we played our second show at El Rio, this time to a much bigger crowd.  Again it went over well, and my own private victory was that for the first time ever, a song I wrote was performed in public!  It’s called “Let’s Drink Alone Together” and damned if people weren’t dancing to it.  A new experience for me to be sure, and one I’ve spent many years considering.  So all in all, this thing is shaping up to be pretty exciting.  It’s not exactly Madison Square Garden, but it’s fun to be in and play to a different crowd.  They’re more forgiving and encouraging than I’m used to.  But that must partially be ‘cos they don’t know what to expect.  It’s interesting to not be 100% confident my every note is knocking socks off… which is how I usually feel (courtesy of Mr. Marr, of course).

My Smiths
Of course TCB is still doing its thing.  We’ve had a lot of shows lately, but it’s been mostly “all killer, no filler” shows where we more or less have to play the hits.  But it got us into Bimbo’s 365 again and hopefully got us on a few new radars.  It’s all been smooth sailing of course, minus a rare capo flub on “Stop Me” causing us to have to restart the song.  (Whoa, double intro… what does it mean?)  Needless to say I’m looking forward to the upcoming shows where we can play some of the deeper cuts.  This Saturday is the new “Queen Is Dead” Smiths night in the Haight, where we’ll be playing a set.  Then April and May will see some new places and some familiar ones.  Might even get “Golden Lights” in there somewhere.  And then there’s Moz’s birthday to look forward to…

Their Smiths
Last night I went out to Du Nord to see rival tribute “The Smiths Indeed” from the U.K.  I’m sure they’re very nice guys, but let’s just say they’re not much of a threat to what we do.  Their fake Morrissey is far and away the best I’ve ever seen in terms of dress and dance and charisma.  If you want someone who does the whole impersonator thing, you’ll do no better than this guy.  But as for the rest of the band… well, no contest.  I understand they play several dates a week every week and have for years.  It was not evident.  The surprise of the night came when I snuck over to the Castro Safeway to stock up on Ovaltine ($20 worth; my local Safeway has stopped carrying it during their construction!).  In line right in front of me at midnight?  Danny Glover.

Speaking of celebrities, did I ever tell you how much I wish I were Mick Ronson sometimes?

What else is going on?  Eh, all boring stuff.  I ventured into cooking.  Whipped up some whole wheat penne and added pine nuts, crushed garlic, sun dried tomatoes, capers, olive oil, basil, and feta.  Wasn’t as good as it sounds, but it’s a start.  Also, it’s been freezing in SF the past couple months.  I guess they call that “winter,” but it’s seemed especially uncomfortable.  I installed my first set of  flannel sheets since I was a teenager living at home.  What a difference!  If that’s not right bitches, I don’t know what is.

I’m about to embark on a serious undertaking.  Inspired by Shel, I am taking small steps toward digitizing my music collection to FLAC in an effort to 1) save space, 2) save money, 3) go green, and 4) become more efficient.  A lossless digital song file is 99.9% of the value I get out of buying a CD.  Why waste all the plastic which will just take up space and degrade over time anyway?  And hell, the time when CDs have any value at all is rapidly running out.  If I don’t move them soon, they’ll be landfill.  A couple of redundant external hard drives and I could have my whole music collection in a space the size of a paperback novel.  I’m on the fence, but I’m seeing a lot more pros than cons.  The major con is the time and effort to convert it all, but maybe a little at a time over the next year or so?

I realize a lot of what’s in here tonight is Facebook rehash.  What can I say?  Facebook feels fleeting.  Statuses come and go.  Disappear forever.  This feels more permanent.  Even though no one reads it anymore.

And in closing, Sleeve Face is some clever shit.

The Dream-Quest Of Unknown Fresno

20 October 2010

Another quick check in, kids.  I keep getting behind on writing here, and then you just get a theme-less mass update about a bunch of random stuff.  Sorry about that.  Could it be that I’m just running out of steam on this thing?  Wouldn’t that be something.

There have been a few great shows lately, such as The Drums at The Independent, which also introduced me to Surfer Blood.  Then I hit a couple stops on the indie-bands-I-really-liked-in-the-mid-2000’s-but-never-got-around-to-seeing-live tour, including Arcade Fire at The Greek in Berkeley and Interpol at the new Fox Theater in Oakland… both great shows!

Other than that, I continue to sort through my living room full of storage unit clutter.  It’s taking longer than expected, but I’ve also found some unexpected treasures.  I’ll write about all that when I’m done with it all.  Let’s see… I got my first “24 hour bug” which resulted in me being completely bed-ridden for a full day, too weak to eat or drink.  Then it was almost completely gone the next day.  Very strange.  Oh, and I attended one of the more interesting weddings I’ve ever been to.  Held at the DNA Lounge, the wedding of Sparkly and Bones was more a theatrical and produced nuptial even than I was expecting.  It was not unlike a Hubba Hubba Revue, but with cake.  Fun stuff, and huzzah for the happy couple!  My attendance (as well as Nick’s and Charlene’s) was immortalized in the upstairs photo-booth run by John Adams:

This Charming Band had a pair of central California shows this last weekend.  A road trip with the boys, who were all obsessed with quoting “Gimme Pizza” all weekend.  First, it was out to sweltering Bako, and later Zingo’s truck stop for dinner.  Again, we stayed in the swanky Padre Hotel, and for whatever reason, this time I got much less of a “Jersey Shore of the West” vibe from it.  Then it was off to tropical Fresno, where not only did we get to play our beloved Club Fred, but we also made the traditional pilgrimage to Claim Jumper.  Not to mention dinner at the highly-recommended New Stars vegetarian restaurant.  I had orange “chicken” for the first time since going vegetarian, and it was delish!  Along with several other items we shared.  I hear they’re moving to Davis though, so beware!  Something else too… during that long drive on Highway 99, I kinda found myself wanting to road trip along there for a few days and stay in a bunch of those creepy roadside motels.  Is that weird?  My whole thing is just that whenever I’m out in that rural area, I wonder what it would be like to live in one of those farmland hovels on the side of the road or even in one of the nice ranch houses. What is that life like?  I think those Bates Motels and spending several days in the middle of nowhere is as close as I’ll ever get.  Anyone care to join?

TCB’s five year anniversary show is coming up on 11/12, and I definitely have some thoughts to share on the last five years with this band.  It’s coming soon, I promise.  Until next time…

“Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a great battle.”

— Philo of Alexandria

Whoops, there goes another rubber tree plant…

7 August 2010

I’m freshly returned from my first ever trip to Charlotte, NC.  A business trip.  Was it high on my wish list of travel destinations?  Of course not, but it was a welcome diversion… and perhaps more importantly, it was an ideal next step in expanding my comfort zone.  This was a five-hour flight, after all.

I’ll confess to a certain reticence concerning the South, and spying a large Nascar store in the airport as soon as I walked off the plane didn’t help.  (In fact, I was later to find that a Nascar-branded skyscraper was visible from my hotel room!)  I grabbed a cab and headed towards downtown.  It wasn’t long before I was experiencing first hand the heat and humidity that was to define my whole trip.  Near triple-digit temperatures and the crushing moist air made me wish I had brought my business casual shorts and sandals.  The good news is that I was in air conditioning more often than not during my 3+ days in town.

I don’t mean to sound negative though.  Aside from the weather and the almost comical lack of vegetarian food options (even the upscale Asian place served no tofu nor much of anything else veggie apart from a side of noodles), the trip was really valuable.  Not least because I found it all very inspiring.  Not just the change of scenery but even the general experience of travelling.  It really seems to get the creative juices flowing, or at least it does for me.  I remember my consulting days were rich in that department.

Christ, why don’t I do more travelling on my own time?  It’s exciting, that getting up early on the day of your flight, the nerves as you pack up and leave the house, that walk through the airport parking lot, all leading up to some great unexpected wide open.  It was the same preparing for Ireland as it was for anywhere else.  And then once you’re there,  I mean, my memory/concept of both work travel and vacations is wrapped up in experiences like the ones in Charlotte.  Walking around some neon-heavy outdoor marketplace on a night so hot and humid you can wear shorts.  Walking light because all my stuff is securely in the hotel.  There’s something to the idea of having so few possessions to worry about.  Just being out there without much more than the clothes on your back.  Even the rental car — when there is one — isn’t actually yours.  Somehow it makes you live in the moment more.  Really live.  No strings.  You’re simply there absorbing all the new sights and sounds, taking it all in.  And there’s a feeling of such independence that goes along with that too.  You, dropped into unfamiliar surroundings and left to fend for yourself.  You against the world.  Mano-a-mundo.

Speaking of consulting, that was definitely the vibe of the trip.  Preparing for it was not unlike reliving those old days.  Bringing a laptop, living out of a hotel, wearing my trusty work jacket (and digging out of it two crusty Dramamine vials that expired in 2006)… then keeping receipts for expenses and just remembering all the little details like that.  Well, it was my own white collar version of a washed up gunfighter dusting off his guns and coming out of retirement for one last ride.  Happy and sad at the same time.  I really need to get around to writing my old consulting stories here and just exorcising that once and for all.

I always enjoy catching the local news when I’m travelling, just to try to get a flavor for the place.  Usually I’ll watch the Fox affiliate, because even though their 24 hour cable station’s reputation is understood, the local branches like our own KTVU seem relatively independent.  Charlotte’s?  Not so much.  I’ll spare you the breakdown of every skewed story choice, story angle, and show of incompetence I witnessed.  You’ve got the Daily Show to do that for you at the national level.  Suffice it to say the anchors’ views — or perhaps in some cases the network’s views — were plain as day.  So much for journalistic integrity and unbiased reporting, eh?  Is “news” like that a bad influence on the local public, or is it actually a product of the existing public disposition?  I watched and thought no wonder people here think this way… it’s what they hear every day on T.V.  But I guess they might say the same for the more liberal Bay Area.

Anyhoo, Charlotte was nice.  We all stayed in/near what is kind of like the Metreon of that city.  A movie theater, an outdoor music bandstand, several restaurants.  We met up with a local coworker one night and walked around downtown for the evening.  Highlights included Crave, billed as a “dessert bar.”  Basically it was an embarrassingly trendy bar that also happened to serve food… to the tune of 26 gourmet desserts.  I bought two.  Because I’m a grown-assed man, that’s why!  Don’t question me.  Oh, and when walking near the ball park, we happened across The Breakfast Club: a full time 80’s dance club!  Sounds great, right?  Well, even though it was open on a Tuesday night, all we saw was a bouncer, and empty parking lot, and what looked like a half dozen prostitutes loitering nearby.  We passed.

So there you have it.  Another wall comes down.  This makes all of the continental United States and possibly even Hawaii “reachable” again.  Pretty exciting stuff.  I may not be that far from a European trip… eventually.

“In the face of such uncertainty, believe in these two things:  you are stronger than you think, and you are not alone.”

— Maya Angelou

Show mommy how the piggies eat!

28 June 2010

Before I begin, how is it I write about food so much on here?  I didn’t intend that to happen, but somehow it has.

Anyway, it came up again the other day that over the years, so many of my favorite sinful foods have disappeared off of menus and shelves — often not long after I discover them to begin with.  So for no reason other than pure junk food nostalgia, my top 10 delicious-yet-extinct snacks:

  1. Cheddar Beer Kettle Chips – Kettle Chips are pretty fantastic in general, but they’re made better by the fact that they occasionally release strange flavors that are suggested to them by customers.  Well for a few years (2005-2007?), they had such a flavor called Cheddar Beer which sounds disgusting but actually tasted exactly what it sounds like.  There was a malt aftertaste!  So weird!  I don’t really even like beer, but I was obsessed with them and had them with lunch almost every day for a couple of years.  Then, for no reason I can guess, they were retired.  I was, and remain, crushed.
     
  2. WWF Superstars Ice Cream Bars- This was the prize of catching up with an ice cream truck.  Never mind if you weren’t into wrestling.  You could ignore the trading card that was included, and even the wrestler that was stamped on the bar itself.  The point was the ice cream sandwich that was chocolate on one side and a to-die-for shortbread cookie on the other.  I am sadly aware of no substitute for these.
     
  3. Peanut Butter Boppers- Sugary peanut butter rolled in chocolate chips?  Yes, please.  This was one of my original “long-lost foods,” and no one I knew remembered them.  Thanks to the information age, we can easily find proof of their existence, but for years my only evidence that I wasn’t crazy was the brief appearance of a box of Boppers in grampa’s fridge near the beginning of The Lost Boys.  which reminds me: this Wednesday Corey Feldman and his band will be hosting a screening of The Lost Boys at the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk (where the movie was filmed).  I am so there.
     
  4. Tato Skins- Back to chips here, these Keebler snacks were amazing.  Really thick almost like a cracker.  I thought they disappeared completely, but I saw a bag in a vending machine in the Midwest a few years back.  I guess it’s one of those things where they stopped selling in certain markets?  According to Wiki, they may be related to T.G.I.Friday’s chips?  Must research this.  This is all reminding me of some other long-lost chips.  O’Boise’s?  Chachos?  Both also made by Keebler.  Keebler apparently ruled my chubby little world in the late 80’s.  Thank God we all still have lime Tostitos to fall back on.
     
  5. The Potted Plant – For a short while, the Hungry Hunter restaurant had a desert on their menu that was as follows: vanilla-cheesecake custard served in a clay-colored plastic bowl that was shaped to resemble a flower pot.  It was then covered completely with crushed Oreo.  Finally, a plastic flower was stuck in the top.  The overall effect was that they’d set a potted flower down in front of you, and as you ate it, it would at first appear that you were scooping up soil and eating it with a spoon.  As a kid, this was beyond fascinating to me… not to mention insanely delicious.  With a lot of effort, I suppose I could reproduce it.  When it went away, I instead ordered their Bailey’s Irish Cream pie.  Which was an excellent backup, and was my gateway into drinking Bailey’s and eventually real drinks.  So if I’d turned out to be an alcoholic, just think, I could have blamed Hungry Hunter for nixing the Plant!
     
  6. Chocolate Lasagna- While we’re on the subject of chain restaurant deserts, did you ever try this creation from Olive Garden?  It was just several layers of chocolate cake, butter-cream frosting, and chocolate chips.  Seriously delish.  And since I liked it so much, of course, they took it off the menu.
     
  7. Cookie Sandwich – OK, if we’re going to do this, let’s do it.  Me liking a dessert has proved to be the kiss of death time and time again.  The Elephant Bar’s awesome and massive chocolate chip cookie ice cream sandwich went the way of the dinosaur as well.  I know there are even more than these last three examples, but I’ll end this theme.  Just trust me, if you like a dessert, never introduce me to it or else the chef will make it his highest priority to stop making it.
     
  8. Out Of The Blue-Berry Snapple- I used to be a major lemon iced tea junkie.  These days, I can rarely drink it anymore because it’s so sweet.  But there was a short-lived variation around 2007 that used blueberry flavor instead of lemon.  It’s with us no longer, and my attempts to reproduce it with my own ingredients have failed.  But it did serve to hook me on blueberries which I now eat all the time in all forms.
     
  9. Orbitz Cola – This was basically like a fruit drink with little balls of like gelatin floating around in it.  Come to think of it, I only had it a few times.  I think some girl I liked talked me into it.  Well, these days we have bubble tea, and it’s actually probably better.  So maybe never mind on this one.
     
  10. 1980’s Cereal- This is a simple three-way tie between a trio of my faves among the scores of entertainment-themed breakfast cereals of the era.  Smurf Berry Crunch were red and blue and tasted very much like what is modernly known as Cap’n Crunch Berries.  E.T. cereals had a peanut butter thing going for it, not unlike the modern Reese’s cereal.  Mr. T cereal tasted pretty much like modern Cap’n Crunch, and has the added distinction of being featured in a memorable scene in Pee-wee’s Big Adventure.  I’d have also mentioned Count Chocula, but all the monster cereals seem to get “re-issued” every so often.

There’s a good chance #1 on this list would have been Mother’s Cookies, had they not been miraculously resurrected last year.  They’re back in stores, so we can all rest easier.  But they deserve honorable mention for sure.  And you know on second thought, those may not actually be the top 10.  But they’re the 10 I can think of at the moment.  I’m sure more will come to me later.  And I know there are whole websites dedicated to discontinued foods of the 80’s and 90’s I could look to.  How about you?  Any bygone dishes you still long for?

I’ll leave you with this bizarre one from the early days of the internet.  G’night kiddies.

… in which I see the world!

21 June 2010

And by “world,” of course I mean “Bakersfield.”

Well, it seems Old Man Hudson’s birthday is coming up.  And what better way to celebrate than to relive some of my fondest memories of the few decades?  By which of course I mean running down the last few TCB shows…

Bakersfield / Fresno
It’s been over a month now, so my memories are fading.  I meant to write about this earlier, but alas.  That Bako/Fresno weekend was a hell of a trip.  I drove out to pick Nick up at the farm and got the whole tour, goats and all.  Loved it.  Saw a bunch of meerkat-looking things on the side of the freeway just standing and watching cars drive by.  (This was a little north of Morgan Hill on 101.)  Blazing hot Bakersfield, as a town, was interesting.  We stayed at the newly renovated Padre Hotel, and though it was pricey, it was totally worth it.  I wish we had more time there, because it was pseudo-Vegas and gaudy, but undeniably comfortable.  One of the nicer rooms I’ve been in, honestly.  Downstairs was a different story, because it was packed to the gills with locals.  The prevailing style and attitude of the town was as douchey as I expected.  A lot of big pickup trucks, awful club clothes, and general meathead-ery.  Like our own West Coast Jersey Shore kinda.  The overall effect was not unlike Biff’s casino in Back To The Future II’s alternate 1985.  There’s just a weird vibe in that city.  But that doesn’t apply to everyone.  We had a good crowd at Fishlips, and after a little while, we even got some of that seated room up dancing.

On the way out of town, we visited Buck Owens’ Crystal Palace museum and had Macaroni Grill for the first time in years.  I myself even made a detour to see C-Po in Visalia, tucked almost in the shadow of what I think were the Sequoia National Park mountains.  Saw the Moz-friendly Velouria Records.  The place we played in Fresno (the all ages Starline) was actually great, and the show itself was probably the best of the last few months.  The crowd was way into it.  Nick rocked his electronic drum-kit.  I joined For The Masses for “Personal Jesus.”  I’m hoping we get to play there again.  Have I mentioned how much I love playing Fresno?  That town just fits us!

And so does its Claim Jumper, which of course we hit the next morning.  So yeah, great trip.  Special thanks to For The Masses.  I’m so glad they’re back together.  Such nice guys, and they sound amazing.  That “Pain That I’m Used To” intro gives me chills.  The shows were fun, had some side adventures, and saw a lot of California roads I’d never driven on before.  Me gusta!

Slim’s (San Francisco)
The Slim’s Moz birthday show was another huge night, with 450+ in attendance.  Fascination Street’s San Francisco debut went every bit as well as we all expected.  I’m sure they’ll be back soon.  Love Vigilantes put on a great set, and TCB overcame several obstacles to have a killer show.  We had to cut some songs, our big intro video plans were botched at the last minute, ans some other drama too.  My brand new Les Paul got a big gash in it at some point during the evening, but I didn’t see it happen.  But despite it all, it was good times.  The Jenny Wehrt raffle situation went over well, and I think she sold all of the paintings she brought.  Hope to have her back next year!  I’m telling you Bay Area folks, our annual Slim’s show is the one not to miss.  It’s been pretty consistently epic if I do say so myself.  :)

Seattle
It was always going to be a quick trip.  Barely 24 hours, but in that time, holy shit did we eat some good food.  In just one day, we accidentally found Beth’s Cafe which turned out to be some hip locals place.  Among other things, I had the best blueberry muffin.  So good in fact that I assumed it would be the culinary highlight of the trip.  How wrong I was.  Before the show was a delicious arugula salad with chevre and pistachios.  Then after the show, we were looking for a 24 hour place.  A punk rock girl at the venue directed us to The Night Kitchen, a place so hip that no one we asked on the street could help us find it… despite us thrice circling and asking around on the very block it’s located on.  We eventually found it, and with it the true culinary highlight of the trip.  Everything we had was amazing, but the prize goes to the fried cheese curds.  Delicious and revolting at the same time.  Picture bits of fried mozzarella sticks where the batter is like salty donut batter.  My mouth said yes, but my conscience said no.  Whew!  OK, so then the next day we hit up Luna Park, and with a few hours to kill before heading home, a waitress suggested Full Tilt in White Center.  This is a homemade ice cream parlor (that serves beer floats) and has old arcade and pinball games.  (Operation Wolf!)  Despite being stuffed from Luna Park, I managed to squeeze in some salted caramel ice cream.

Sorry for “fooding out” there, but believe me, this trip warrants it.  Now, the Yang to that good food Yin was, without question, our dirty hotel in the meth part of town.  Let’s just say I chose to lay down some towels to avoid too much contact with the sheets.  The show itself at Tractor Tavern was great!  We played solidly and drew a big and fun crowd.  Our friend and fill-in singer Virgil helped us out and did an amazing job, with some real vocal chops and showmanship.  A total success!

Fin
I’ll leave you with some new music.  When I was in Chicago a while back, I heard a song playing in the background while checking out some antique shop.  Mainly I noticed the glammy guitar tone, and I knew I had to find out what it was.  Turns out it was — quite unexpectedly — Monsters Of Folk.  And that killer guitar work was not at all representative of the rest of the album.  But just the same, it ended up being a great find, and believe that I am no fan of most modern folk music.  My assessment?  A lot of the singing reminds me of Yes.  I hear a Simon & Garfunkel influence in songs like “Magic Marker.”  But the glam factor is in there too, where you hear a Bowie sound in many track, including the one that boasted the aforementioned killer guitar solo “Say Please.”  Other standouts included “Ahead Of The Curve” and “Dear God.”  At the end of the day, I wasn’t blown away or anything, but it’s certainly worth a listen.  I love how that happens sometimes where you come across new music when you least expect it and occasionally end up finding a gem.  Hell, it’s how I’ve found some of my favorite bands over the years… including The Smiths!

How The Midwest Was Won

9 May 2010

Well kiddies, I survived the trip to Chicago/Milwaukee with virtually no problems.  Despite all the little things that went wrong along the way, the overall trip was fun and well worth it.  Not to mention the added bonus of expanding my (mentally) allowable travel range a little further than before.  Another step on the path, you know.  I had a non-stop out there, a layover on the way back.  Different airlines, different jet models.  The little puddle jumper was not as stressful as I thought, and I’m a new fan of that big Boeing 777.  So big you can barely even tell you’re in the air, and I almost didn’t notice we had landed.  Plus the bathrooms are huge comparatively… ah, but I digress.  Anyway, if you’re interested in the trip, read on.  Here are some scattered impressions:

  1. There’s a certain magic to travelling that I do miss sometimes.  It used to be that I travelled almost every week for work, to the point that I probably took it for granted.  In a taxi heading into downtown Chicago from the airport at dusk, I observed its skyline for the first time.  At once both familiar and foreign.  You could see that it’s a world unto itself.  And I got to thinking about how to millions of people, Chicago is “the city” the way that to me San Francisco is “the city.”  Chicago has its own neighborhoods and character, its own touristy areas and locals-only bars and restaurants, its own scenes and players and hot shots and local celebrities.  And to think that every big city around the country (and even the planet) are each their own little world the way that S.F. is its own little world.  It’s one of those things that makes you feel tiny in the grand scheme of things.  In a word: wonderment.
     
  2. Chicago loves it some brick buildings.  I suppose if San Francisco ever had a bunch, earthquakes would have knocked them down by now.  But I don’t know if it’s an exaggeration to say that half the buildings in Chicago are brick.  Unpainted brick.  Which is to say that a lot of the city is the same color.  But I didn’t dislike it.  It had a ton of character wholly unlike any west coast city I’m aware of.  The scores of burned out factories might be considered “blight” by the locals, but I found it charming.  The library was amazingly decorated on the outside.  And though there were plenty of skyscrapers (including the epic Sears Tower which there sadly wasn’t time to visit), there’s still a lot of open space between buildings which S.F. somehow seems to lack.  Not to mention a river going through the middle of the city.  My evidence, though collected in only a couple days, is based on time walking around the city, through the outskirts, and even riding on the famous elevated subway.
     
  3. Chicago also loves it some flowers.  Tulips to be precise.  Many buildings throughout downtown and really all over the city were landscaped beautifully with these perfect tulips.  All I could think was that in S.F. those would last about two days.  As it was, it gave a certain Disneyland quality to walking around town.  It didn’t hurt that I saw almost no litter anywhere there.
     
  4. Oh, and Chicago also loves it some purple shoes.  Fashion in general was a little off, but it could have just been our proximity to the colleges and their awkward youths.  But whatever the reason, I saw plenty of ridiculous hipsters and more than my fair share of purple shoes.  I don’t get it.  There also seemed to be a trend that I don’t notice around here so much: many young, black women seemed to dress in a sort of traditional 60’s girl group style.  By that I mean nice plaid dresses, tasteful hairstyles, super classy all around.  I much prefer it over what I usually see in the Bay Area.  Maybe it’s a Midwest thing?  Also, I saw virtually no rockabilly folks, but there were some tatted up goth types here and there.
     
  5. This trip reminded me some of old times.  It used to be the with band trips, we’d all pile into the same van and deal with the hassles together.  It seems to breed a certain camaraderie.  Over the years, we’ve all gotten to where we book our own trips and make our own plans with other friends or girlfriends or wives, and band trips end up just like any other trip… and the show itself ust happens to be the one time we all meet up.  Well, for this trip we all shared one car and one room, and for all the occasional inconveniences that go along with that arrangement, I think it’s nice to do that every so often… get in the trenches with each other as it were.  Sure, it stretches you comfort zone a little, but the benefits far outweigh the hassle.
     
  6. The food on the trip was decadent and delicious.  We ate at Girardano’s pizza the first night and the famous Gino’s East on the way out of town.  Gino’s deep dish actually did live up to all the hype.  It was amazing.  I had lunch at some point at a place called the Midtown which was also great.  Chicago has several 24-hour combination Baskin Robbins / Dunkin’ Donuts.  They are seriously on every other corner, including directly across the street from our hotel.  I saw at least as many of them as I did Starbucks.
     
  7. We didn’t spend as much time in Milwaukee, but it also had a lot of character.  The last (and only time) I’d ever been there previously was near the end of 2004,  right around the time I first started bloggin’ I think.  It’s a nice town with a liberal feel.  We ate at the equivalent of S.F.’s Ferry Building, and I had a delish made-to-order salad and some juiced apple/beet/strawberry/lime concoction.  Unfortunately that was about all I had time for before it was time to fly home.
     
  8. I guess I should say something about the shows, huh?  The Double Door in Chicago was a big place, and it reminded me of a slightly-smaller Slim’s.  The sound guys were great, and after a rough start, we played a good show.  Astonishingly, there were a few separate people from the San Jose area that happened to be in town and came to the show.  Apparently, this is a hot little place, with such acts as The New York Dolls and The Buzzcocks coming there later in the Spring/Summer.  As for Milwaukee’s Shank Hall, they fully embrace the Spinal Tap tie-in.  They also have a history of some huge acts, which of course I can’t remember now.  But the walls were adorned with autographed publicity photos of those bands.  Hundreds of them.  Smashing Pumpkins, Blue Oyster Cult, The Reverend Horton Heat, and a ton of others.  Anyway, the sound here was great too, and we played well I think.  Because of some logistical issues, we didn’t get a chance to hit the hotel before the show, so I played what I believe is my first ever TCB show where I did not shower immediately before.  I survived, but it is not my preference.  Not only do I feel clean and refreshed, but it helps to clear my head and prepare me for the show.
     
  9. A general comment on the trip… I am again reminded how easy it would be for you and your significant other — and this goes for me too, of course — to just take a quick weekend trip to some far off city for a date/getaway weekend.  If you plan ahead, you’re talking like $200 round trip.  Fly off to Chicago or wherever, some city you don’t really know, and just explore and find new vistas and restaurants, just the two of you.  Sounds like an adventure, doesn’t it?  I don’t know why I haven’t and don’t do that more often.  Seems like such a good idea!
     
  10. On my way out of Milwaukee, one of the TSA ladies took a look at my pedalboard case and laughed at the sticker that reads “I ♥ Hunting Accidents.”  She told me she loved it.  I explained to her that it gets me a lot of dirty looks and I wasn’t sure how wise it was to display it up north, and with a wink she said “yeah, we may be the only two people in this whole state that support it, but I do.”  It made my afternoon.  :)

OK, I think I’ve bored you enough.  In closing, fun trip!  This weekend, TCB is off to Bakersfield and Fresno, and then the following weekend is our big Slim’s show!  Tell your friends!  Spread the word!  Goodnight all!

“It takes 20 years to build a reputation and five minutes to ruin it.  If you think about that, you’ll do things differently.”

— Warren Buffett

400 Miles Of Bad Road

26 April 2010

Well it was a long drive to and from SoCal this last weekend, but a worthwhile trip all in all.  In lieu of a full narrative, here are 10 fun facts about the trip, in no particular order:

  1. Both shows were great, particularly the Juke Joint in Anaheim.  The 454’s “Secret Agent Man” helped us out on a couple songs.  I felt like we were all pretty solid, and I really felt like I was “on.”  I attribute some of that to a new guitar, which made its debut this weekend.  More on that in a future post, but you can see that it’s featured on the Couch Guitar Strap site, along with me, my strap, and Meg’s photography!  How cool is that?
  2. Nick was kind enough to play tour-guide for me while in Hollywood, and one of our stops was the famous Griffith Observatory, which I’d never seen.  The drive up to the top of the mountain included some close encounters with coyotes, closer than I usually get to them near my house anyway.  The building is amazing, and the view you can imagine.  We posed for obligatory pictures next to the bust of James Dean.  I narrowly resisted the urge to pose with Griffith Park’s dancing bear statue, a decision for which I am sure to receive flack from some of you.
  3. I got to see Jessica and Paulo!  We dined at the hip “Kitchen 24,” and they even made a rare appearance at our show!
  4. I got to see Colin!  We spent some time in Amoeba, and just before parting ways, we saw Brigitte Bardot herself pull up, put her two puppies in a stroller, and step into the store.  She smiled at us!  And I snapped a quick pic of her Jaguar (the plate read “BBARDOT”) as proof.
  5. Hollywood is just drowning in famous hotels, offices, high schools, avenues, and other landmarks.  Big pink Greek houses that could only belong to celebrities.  Thanks again to Nick who pointed them all out.  In San Francisco, we have the occasional small claims to fame.  This or that restaurant appeared in this or that movie.  But what a trip it must be to live in Hollywood and be just surrounded with that stuff daily.
  6. I made it to a Claim Jumper after all.  That’s right, bitches.
  7. The Castro is pretty gay, no question.  But I’d argue it’s got nothing on WeHo.  My favorite sight?  The giant billboard for Pink Moving.  Phone number is 877-OMG-PINK.  I love it!
  8. While we’re at it, Hollywood Blvd. beats the Haight or just about anywhere else in the Bay Area in terms of quantity of stores to shop at.  So much to do and see there, I think Shel and I would never get bored.
  9. Before you go thinking I have some love affair going on with L.A., let’s be clear about the cons, because they are major.  Deal breakers even.  The traffic is horrific.  There are 4 million people there, so I guess it shouldn’t be a surprise.  But the consequence is then terrible air quality.  I was hoarse and coughing the whole time I was down there, and it was so refreshing to breathe in the cool and moist air of home as I crossed the Bay Bridge last night.  Sorry SoCal.
  10. The most unexpected aspect of the trip was that I started to realize that as part of getting over some of my travel anxieties of the past couple of years, I’m starting to actually rediscover the excitement of travelling!  As much as the long drive down I-5 sucks, the freedom of open road, no schedule, and anything goes reminded me a bit of when I first got my license as a teen.  I’m only scratching the surface of it now… barely a formed thought… but more to come as I get my head around it.

Well then, that’s the weekend in a nutshell.  It was not what I expected, but in some ways even better, and a welcome diversion to be sure.  I’m looking forward now to some of the upcoming trips… I think.

“Shyness is nice, and
Shyness can stop you
From doing all the things in life you’d like to.”

V-Day

17 April 2010

As in Victory Day, friends.

I made a startling discovery this week when I inquired how much longer a certain soup was going to be on the seasonal menu.  Final confirmation is still pending, but my sources (Boudin staff) today assured me that during a recent menu revamp and due to overwhelming popularity, the Butternut Squash is “here to stay.”  Which I interpret to mean that the seasonal component of our collective menu strife is over.  No longer will the b-squash be subject only to the Fall and Winter months.  (Of course, this also effectively ends my ongoing struggles with Reverse Seasonal Affective Disorder.)

So like I said, absolute confirmation still awaits, but at this point it appears, ladies and gentlemen, we have won.  Rejoice!

If all that weren’t enough, there is other food-related news.  Now I’ve made no secret of my love for a daily glass of delicious Ovaltine, but unlike the aforementioned soup, my proselytizing has been far less successful.  In fact, most people are terrified of its deliciousness, but I allow them that.  I myself have been on the ‘tine train at least since middle school, maybe longer.  And in that time, I’ve stuck pretty much to the main chocolate malt flavor.  Returning from her recent trip to London, Deanna was able to smuggle back a couple canisters of Ovaltine as it exists over the pond.  You may be aware that in the U.K., as virtually everywhere else in the world, food formulae are often altered to fit the tastes of the locals.  So I was prepared for this alien Ovaltine to be somewhat different, and I was not disappointed.  Overall, I’d say it’s milder.  Sort of halfway between pure malt powder and the good ol’ American staple.  Not bad at all, and certainly a welcome change of pace for my nightly ritual.  Like my own little European vacation.  Thanks Deanna!

Wanna bet?

3 February 2010

Mankind’s moods and behaviors have always been influenced by time.  Circadian rhythms.  Hibernation.  Seasonal Affective Disorder.  Well you can add one more thing to that list: Boudin’s seasonal soup of the day.  You see, their Wednesday and Sunday “soup of the day” slots each week are reserved for the seasonal soup.  In the Spring and Summer months, this is a good though unremarkable “Spring Asparagus” soup.  But in the Fall and Winter months, the Bay Area is treated to something… magical.  Boudin’s “Butternut Squash” soup is so special, that I think it actually improves my temperament for the roughly six months it’s available every year.

Now, I’m not crazy here.  It does not escape me that it’s unusual and even absurd to talk about a food in this way.  But this is not just another soup.  This stuff will change your life, I’m not kidding.  Their Butternut Squash soup is sweet and savory.  Every bite delicious.  Topped with walnuts and dried cranberries.  Served in a bread-bowl if you so choose.  (And if you’re extra hungry, I’d be remiss not to mention their stellar grilled cheese sandwich.)  I’m trying here, but truly, it can’t be described in words.  You have to have it for yourself.  And it’s not just any butternut squash soup.  I’ve tried the others and have found them wanting.  It has to be Boudin.  The Boudin chain, part of San Francisco history that it is, has locations all over the Bay Area and even a few in SoCal.  You need to go find one.  You need to go and have this soup.  Do you realize that it’s technically Wednesday as I’m writing this and that it’s soup day?  You can have it for lunch today.  And who knows how many more weeks we’ve got access to it before Spring Asparagus comes back and casts us into six months of darkness?  There’s no time to waste here!

You might imagine that with this kind of fervor, I might have developed a certain reputation when it comes to this soup.  You’d be right.  The staff at the Boudin near my office knows me by name (“Norm!”).  My friends and coworkers are well aware of my position on the matter.  I’ve got a frequent buyer’s card.  This is serious stuff.  And believe me, everyone laughs at my enthusiasm.  Initially.  Then they try it, and the very next week they’re proselytizing just like I am.  I wish I had a photo to share here to give you an idea, but I wouldn’t be surprised if — like ghosts and angels — direct photos of this soup never seem to come out.

Then there’s “The Bet.”  Somewhere along the line, when trying to convince someone to try the soup, I offered a wager.  “If you don’t love the soup, I’ll reimburse you.  But if you do, you have to buy my soup next Wednesday.  Honor system.”  Do you know that I’ve had streaks of as many as three weeks where I didn’t have to buy my own soup?  The victories are too many to count.  And I’m not exaggerating when I tell you I’m batting 1.000.  It’s like an Amway pyramid scheme.  Or my own little butternut ponzi thing happening here.  Try it on your friends.  To this day, I’ve got a troupe of converts, soupin’ it up every Wednesday with me.  Bringing it home to their kids.  Trying to recreate the recipe for their families.  Making more converts every day.

OK, OK, laugh it up.  Brush me off.  But would I make such a fuss over nothing?  I’m telling you, when you finally do try it, you’ll curse all the squandered Wednesdays from this day to that.  Before you know it, it’ll be Spring.  Go before it’s too late!

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