Saturday, November 29, 2008

Hangin' in a chow line.

Charles Barsotti-Fusilli, you crazy bastard... (American recent)

So I got this pretty choice gig in a kitchen just off Walnut Street last week.  And after about half a dozen shifts--more than half of which were Walnut Street-area Black Friday-related slams, I'm pleased to say I've found a happy home.  Going down to the uniform supply store Monday to buy some checks and some white button down scrub shirts to toss in and look the part.  No embroidered pronouncements on the pockets just yet, but like I said, I'm happy.  

The grub is familiar Italian [-American], with lots of substantial starches abetted by equally hardy cream bases sauces.  First impressions were not so grabbing, but once I relaxed into the dish style I got it; still not exactly my thing, but they do a glorious tortiglioni with porcinis and sausage.  And what does deserve an honorable mention is the escarole, cut into wallet-sized swatches, and stewed down in a clear pristine broth with cannellini beans and some passata.  Stabilizing fare, for sure.  

I'm having a blast with these young guys as well, many of whom carry on to all hours in a way that sets my mind flying in a wistful direction to houses named after colors of yore, and often causes the proverbial beans to burn on the grill.  These folks are fast, and almost monastically quiet during dinner service.  Makes me appreciate the off-color things they say at the end of the day all the more.  

Must say, too, though my olfactory glands are warped from birth--apart from a few outrages of masculine gas emissions and the infrequent brushes with ammonia I can honestly say my nose has never smelled anything--the present environment has introduced notable increase of sensitivity.  At 2 PM these last two days, when the aroma of osso buco and a gilded tangerine accent emerge in the steamed air of the kitchen it is more than a mere striking sensation.  It is, not to fall on hyperbole so readily, but it is new life.  

Next week I intend to try some roses.  And maybe I'll walk Ella past the bakery on our morning walks.  I'ma look like Orson Welles in Touch of Evil before too long...

Anyway, good times for the senses...

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Dark for the first time.

Melanie Stidolph Boy (2004)

And people's houses across America really did go up in smoke.

And fear stalked the land.

If you guessed that those lines belong to a poetic vision of the apocalypse the likes of William Blake's you're right. But those words are not in fact Blake's, they concluded Roger Cohen's portent-filled op-ed, "Nixon, Bush, Palin" in The New York Times a little less than two months ago. As markets lose life-blood pints by the day, pillar industries crawl to the Senate's heels for the financial methadone necessary to keep on keeping on, and the parabola of George H. W. Bush's abysmal unemployment rate finally returns to earth in his son's America (a hale 16% of us are jobless) it is no wonder op-ed writers are beginning to sound a little spooky. But its not all bad...

We return to the senses and really confront them in the dark. While were waiting for it anyway. I've personally been writing little--no, I don't count increasingly self-indulgent bursts on Facebook! Along with the aforementioned portents of Roger Cohen I've gone back to Richard Wright, and the American Hunger; to Ninotchka and the Soviet spirit of an omelet; to Stanley Tucci's fantastic Big Night; David Mas Masumoto's enduringly poignant memoir, Epitaph for a Peach; to Fergus Henderson and Irma S. Rombauer. To the first two pages of Remembrance of Things Past--i never made it past, which does nothing to diminish the effect on my stomach and imagination.

With hardship comes renewed focus on food. On how to fill the empty spaces.

As difficulty brims on us there is a soft glow to it. Folks seem better inclined to share what they have--I can barely keep up with the recipe sharing circles I've been kindly tipped into in emails; and certain fortunate Sunday afternoons at Gooski's, Tim lifts the moratorium on traditional Polish food by laying out a steaming casserole of stuffed cabbage and beef with noodles.

For my part I'm in the germinating stage of a d.i.y. ramen noodle base: you buy the noodles for like $.35, discard the msg flavor packet and use some mojo I'll hand you in its place. Flavors are being brainstormed, refined and taste-tested into the lightless hours...

As I see it we may not be ramen noodle poor yet, but when we get there it'll at least be palatable. More on that in a while...

Monday, November 10, 2008

Miriam Makeba dies.

I remember meeting a young woman from South Africa at a Christmas party several years ago. We didn't have much to talk about, and being a creature of habit I turned to music. I said I'm not sure what the South African sentiment is anymore--these things have a tendency to come and go from fashionability, but I really love Miriam Makeba, especially the group she had in the 60's, The Skylarks. Before speaking I hadn't taken into account what a political visionary Makeba was, and certainly didn't know what an icon she remained in her native land. Needless to say, my new acquaintance came very much to life. This was the woman who, with Harry Belafonte, was among the first high profile celebrities to bring the catastrophic apartheid system into global consciousness. My first thought was it must be like hearing someone say, oh, you're from America. I love The Doors! Turns out she was more like Ella Fitzgerald with stirrings of MLK. She said by many South Africans' reckoning--hers included, Miriam Makeba was the apotheosis of their country.

It is deeply saddening news to hear of her passing Sunday, at the age of 76. That she died on stage, where she brought to life such a transformative force is as fitting salute as I could think to give her. I'll be spinning the Skylarks on into the night...

Rest in peace.

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Late date.

In lieu of pinching myself awake again this morning, or telling my zombie face in the mirror that it is not a dream, I am spinning a rather terrific copy of The Ben Webster Quintet's  1957 record, Soulville.  Like Charles Mingus's Blues & Roots, which would follow two years later in the watershed year of 1959 (Miles Davis's Kind of Blue and John Coltrane's Giant Steps not to mention  J.D. Salinger's Catcher in the Rye would arrive within months of it, as would the Day the Music Died) it stands--especially in hindsight, on the precipice between an old orthodoxy and a new folk awakening.  

For the most part the soul of Soulville speaks in balladry--the songwriting credits go to Oscar Hammerstein, Walter Donaldson, Harold Arlen, Vincent Youmans.  And of course there's Webster himself, who seems, it occurs at a single listen to that title track, to be sitting on the stoop, looking out over his new Midwest and effortlessly greeting a new blues.   It's sentimental stuff, a lot of it.  But it's the way it speaks, more individual and human than before, less America, more an American.  Which long way round make it America.

Over the next few days and weeks you're going to grow sick of hearing it's great to be alive and did you cry...well yeah.  Joy.

Earlier this morning a friend emailed me a list of things the average person might not know about President-Elect Barack Obama.  One of them was that the movie, Do the Right Thing was the first movie he and Michelle saw on a date.  I can see them sitting on the couch together that evening.  A little nervous.  I picture her making the first move, but only later.  Hours would go by.  That's a heavy movie.  Maybe he'd get up to get them each a glass of water, and when he would reappear he'd deadpan: D, Motherfucker, D!  They would laugh and history would eventually take place. 

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Nude Pix Embarrassment

For those of you waiting for the nude Kate Winslet pics I was going on about last night in the pink and grey hours, I must offer a rescindment, coupled with an apology. Yes, she did punch me au naturel and in an erotic fashion, proceeding to stab me with a jagged beer bottle, but alas the film (I still use one of those film cameras) must've been exposed to the light or something. I went to that Eckhard Drug on Baum to pick up the prints and the girl just kinda looked at me like an animal that could never understand the nuances of a human situation.

I started to say, but you don't understand...

Punk bitch.

Maria Callas

Me, not her.  

Use the velleity of your imagination and you'll see me last night hugging on Dan, Suedo and Sarah, acting the fool and shedding a tear when PRESIDENT-ELECT BARACK HUSSEIN OBAMA cited Sam Cooke's "A Change is Gonna Come" in his victory speech.  

My parents are disappointed today--they'd have been only slightly less disappointed had McCain won, but at any rate they're good people and I empathize with the hurt they're feeling today.  

That said, the Liberty Avenue Ranch (if W. taught us nothing else it was that you can call any damned thing a ranch!) is abump with great records in most joyous celebration that carries on still.  Dan and I are on the horn presently trying to line up a victory party at a place with room for dancing.  In the meantime I've been spinning Sam Cooke, Monie Love, Defunkt, Sabata, McFadden & Whitehead, The Rosebuds, excessive amounts of Lil' Wayne, my man F.A. Nettelbeck's Rudie Ray Moore-like poetry (which is fucking awesome heard read!), Fishbone, De La Soul, Gang Starr, Elton Motello, Cornelius, Gnarls Barkley*, Slave, The Clash ("Ivan Meets G.I. Joe"!!!) The Mary Jane Girls, Ol' Dirty,  Velvet Underground, Otis Clay ("The only way is up...for me & you!!!"), Redbone, Ready For The World (yeah, "Oh Sheila"), Mouse On Mars, The Heptones(!!!), The Marvelettes(!!!!!!!) and my kindred romantic, the recently passed Alton Ellis!  

I got a pot of torture-quality chili on the stove and a shitload of unbound energy, so if you feel like jumpin' get on over here...more on that dance party to come.  In the meantime, it's all about the chili;  there's an ink-colored pool of sebaceous oil from the arbols on the surface of this junk.  Got me talking to the Aztecs...

*By the way, I tried to pick up some gal at the bar last night; she was really pretty and dressed like a turn of the century Irish NYC tenement maid--I'm into that stuff.  She was starting to fade on me so I said I was into Gnarls Barkley.  She laughed in a laughing at me not with me kind of way.  I said I only liked their first record.  You know, before they sold out and went all commercial.  She wasn't biting.  

Went home and started listening to records...I tell you what, this is a great day to be alive on the planet!