Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Stars and Moon Watermelon

New Books

I picked up a Wed NYTimes at lunch and am glad I did.In arts is a writeup on a new Tony Horwitz book "A Voyage Long and Strange" about offbeat American History you never heard of.I fell in love with Horwitz's style when I read his wonderful"Confederates in the Attic" about the present day South and his hanging out with very hardcore re-enactors.But it was the front page of The Dining Out section that really caught my eye.There is a review on one of those strange offbeat books I just have to buy.What caught my eye was a picture of a Northern Flying Squirrel with the headline"An Unlikely Way To Save a Species:Serve It for Dinner".Well that got me going and the book is"Renewing America's Food Traditions:Saving and Savoring the Continent's Most Endangered Foods" by Gary Paul Nabhan,editor.Nabhan spent over four years compiling a list of endangered vegetables and animals.The flying squirrel it turns out was popular in stews but one look at it and I think moonshine played a part in someone thinking that looked like good eatin.There is a Stars and Moon Watermelon pic that shows a purple watermelon with what look like stars spread across the skin with a yellow splotchy moon in one spot.Grapes,taters,grasses etc are all in the book and I think my fave is The Tennessee fainting goat, which keels over when startled.It goes on to say the goat was popular for grilling on a fire.If the goat keels over when startled I'd sure as hell like to see what is does when someone lights a fire nearby.So I stopped at B&N with the article and the dude helping me was from Tennessee but he'd never heard of the goat.It looks like the book won't be out for another two weeks though so I'll bide my time.I can't wait to read it on my patio reading the squirrel parts out loud so my nut hiding plant wrecking local squirrels can here me reading off the main ingredient.P.S. when I looked at pics online for the melon they all showed dark green melons for Stars and Moon but the NYTimes was purple so when I googled purple watermelon I came up with it right away.So there must be two shades of skin.

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Book Notes

"The Discovery of France"A book I finally started about two weeks ago and then got sidetracked onto other books namely the last two unread Alan Furst books along with James"Portrait of a Lady" has won the 2008 Ondaatje Prize.Thanks for the heads up Mary.I must really pick it up and read through after loving the first 50 pages but it's a hardcover and I've been so sore of late from moving our office a paperback is much easier to hold in bed of late.On another note a nice little essay on Flann O'Brien in the May 2008 Atlantic Monthly in cahoots with the release of all five of his novels in an everyman library edition.I still have not read "The Poor Mouth".Today I brought home my copy of"World Light" by Halldor Laxness which has lain on my desk there for a few months.It was supposed to be lunch reading but all these mags I got at work for unused airline miles have taken my lunch reading over of late.I counted 30 plus books in a box today that had been lying in various drawers and under piles of other things in my office.All but four were read so I have a few more to add to the to read pile.When I think of how many boxes of just things I had kept for no reason were taken from my office the thought of my Apt. scares me.I have cooking mags and more going back to 1983 saved I do not know why as the ones with recipes I use are stacked elsewhere.Clothes going back to college that I will never wear or fit in again litter the closets.I've become a packrat without realising it!

Sunday, April 27, 2008

Pet Shop Angst

Several years later during my sophomore to junior high school summer I worked for about six weeks in the pet shop of my cousins husband.There was a walkway behind the many fish tanks and one afternoon I was told to clean the tanks from the customer side.I was just starting on the Electric Eel tank and I was really afraid of the eel.There was a group of girl scouts in the store standing nearby while I carefully ran the brush against the glass.Unknown to me one of the older guys who worked there had wandered down the back alley of the tanks and as I was cleaning reached out and grabbed my hand.I dropped the brush and the string of curse words at what I thought was the eel grabbing my arm was heard loud and clear by all the girl scouts and as it happened my father who had entered the store at that moment to pick me up.I think I went in for about a week after that and then just quit showing up.I still feel so guilty about it my nieces and friends daughters in fact just random girl scouts have made a windfall off me buying cookies over the years to make up for that eel.

Saturday, April 26, 2008

Pet Stories

I was flipping the channels on my non-cable TV the other night when I came on an "Everybody Loves Raymond' rerun.In it his daughters pet hamster had gotten out of the cage and crawled into a box of fudgesicles which Raymond then put in the freezer.I know the whole plot line is a bit hard to buy but bottom line the hamster was frozen and a trip to the vet could not bring it back.In real life When I was around 11 my grandmother and I were in one of those 60's discount stores.I think it was a Two Guys in Rochester and somehow that night I talked her into buying me a black mouse and a white mouse complete with cage and running wheel.We lived next to my Mom's parents then and when we got home I brought my mice next door and my father made noises about it.I can't recall if it was early spring or late fall but the mice loved to run on the wheel in the wee hours and one night my dad had enough of the noise and put them out in the garage.Next morning I found my two mice stiff as a board in the cage.So my brothers and I decided to bury them in the backyard.As we were digging a hole in the way back I looked down in the box and the black mouse gave a slight kick to a back leg.Excited we put both mice in front of a heater and in minutes the black mouse was back to full mouse life.The white mouse was gone.Maybe fur color played a part in coming back from the dead.So a few days later I give the mouse to my cousins husband who owned a pet shop and found out a week later he fed the mouse to a snake in the store.I'm still not sure all these years later what the moral of the story is but that mouse if he/she were around today would get at least a book deal out of it if not a guest spot on Oprah or it's own show on the Animal Channel or whatever that cable station I don't get is called.

Friday, April 25, 2008

Digital Age

I just applied for my digital converter box coupon from the govt.It gets you 40.00 off the box when you buy and that should just about cover the price.I waited awhile but hear the list is growing and once you do get the coupon it's good for 90 days.I got rid of cable so I'll need the box when TV signals go digital next Feb.I asked for two to send one to my parents but knowing the govt it will be good in my name only.I typed in all the info and it had an apt box with the# in the line so I typed in #4 only to have my request kicked back to me saying# wasn't allowed.At least it wasn't one of those forms where you have to enter everything again when you add an#.At the end you had to enter the code words in the last box.Mine was there Roswell which I thought was a bit funny seeing as it's the govt but when I clicked off the# and my entry went through I started clicking back to my homepage and the first click netted me Bahama Man as my would be code words if I was doing it.I want to be Bahama Man not there Roswell.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

More This and That

In cleaning out my smaller desk today I found two tux cards where they get your measurements for a wedding tux.One was a 1984 wedding in Rochester for one of my best Cape friends who wound up marrying a Rochester girl and living there after growing up in Carlisle and Wellfleet,Ma. and the other a frat brother from NU and Ma. who was married and lives in Fla..It's funny because of all my friends from high school,the Cape and college I was in only three wedding parties including these two and all three ended in divorce.I'm sort of the Ben Cartwright of wedding parties.

The Grunion Run

I saw on the news a few nights ago that the Grunion are running on Southern Calif beaches.The Grunion are a sardine like fish that really come ashore this time of year under full moons it seems.The females dig a hole and lay eggs and the males follow and fertilise.If you ever tried making out on a beach at night in damp sand I have to say the fish have the right idea doing it seperatley.I have never tried Grunion but folks can catch them but only with their hands.I hear they taste a lot like Smelt which I think is a Herring family member and which I love one or two times a year.When I was a lad in Western N.Y. my father and uncles would go smelt fishing this time of year.With Smelt I think it involved netting them and a Lantern.I went once but mostly slept through it since it was a lot warmer compared to Ice Fishing.I can get frozen one pound bags of Smelt from Canada at Santa Monica Seafood.Like most small fish my fave is to wash them in egg roll them in flour or cornmeal and fry them though I have just done them in a Saute pan.The first summer I worked in North Truro I saw something a bit like it but later in the year being the start of June when all the locals were scooping up lots of sand eels.A lot of them were freezing the sand eels for bait but some of the older Truronians were cooking them the same way I do Smelt or simmering them in a tomato based sauce from an old recipe of Portugal.I tried the sand eels cooked by"Uncle Jimmy" a relative of the Francis family that owned North Truro Camping area where I worked for a month and they were very good.

Saturday, April 19, 2008

This and That

I haven't been inspired to post the past week mainly because we are moving our office.We now have 25,000 sq feet.The building we are in is split in three and we are moving from the left side all the way to the center of the same building with 10,000 sq feet.To top it off there is a large metal door back by our small machine shop that unlocks and leads right into our new space.This makes it easy but it still involves moving our whole production area.The part of the old office I was in housed only our shipping and aisles of military test sets and radar that have sat for years so we sold it all off.My nice big office though will be gone but it is what I have in there after twenty plus years that amazes me.I never realised how much junk I had and my apt is even worse.I have thrown out so much old paperwork, catalougs, magazines,pay stubs,old tax returns etc all stored in my office.But cleaning out the desk has brought some nice finds.Some letters from my late old friend Geno Haggerty from the P-Town Jug Band along with some pics of them.Letters from my aunt and godmother.Old newsletters from my Fraternity and old X-Mass cards.A letter from Greece from an old Northeastern girlfriend.A letter from Italy from an old Truro summer girlfriend.Various postcards from all over and a Yukio Mishima book of short stories I have been looking for about ten years.I still have a bookcase and filing cabinet to clean out and await the gems in there.

Sunday, April 13, 2008

International Days

I mentioned this elsewhere but on Wed or Thurs night they had a Japanese night at Fenway Park with the Japanese Natl Anthem and dancers along with drummers before the game.In the offseason they added a thousand seats at Fenway and the Irony was on Japanese night it turned out to be the largest crowd at Fenway since World War 2.On Friday night the Yankees came to town and drew an even larger crowd.So today it turns out the German Foreign Minister threw out the first pitch at Fenway and I'm wondering if all the Axis Powers are coming through Fenway Park this summer.It was great today.Manny hit one of those homers of his where it is so far gone as soon as it leaves his bat the whole crowd is up seeing how far it will go.Today's bounced off the billboard high above the Green Monster and bounced back on to the field it seemed before he was halfway down to first.I wonder what the neighbors think when they here me several times a summer yelling"MANNY,MANNY,MANNY!!!"


Last night I started "The Discovery of France" a Historical Geography from the Revolution to the First World War by Graham Robb and since it was warm I read about 40 pages.Much better than I thought it would be.It's amazing that much of France was pretty much just out of the Middle Ages well into the 19th century and even beyond in a few spots.The French language was hardly spoken by anyone in the country.Roads were crude or did not exist and govt was pretty much only in a few cities.Robb's style is very readable.Not what I would usually read but I heard so many good things about this book and it seems they are deserved.Robb has written books on Balzac,Victor Hugo and Rimbaud and this is his second general history the first being"Strangers"homosexual love in the nineteenth century which I doubt I'll read anytime soon.Not that there's anything wrong with that to steal a line from Seinfeld.I'm also about halfway throuh "The Portrait of a Lady" by Henry James which has been a revelation compared to the long strangled mangled sentences of James later works.I'd almost say he and his friend Edith Wharton are the same writer reading this.

Friday, April 11, 2008

A bit of Summer

It hit 88 here in Los Angeles today and sat and sunday are forecast as 90 and above.It's been around 68 for the high the past week so I am not looking to this big jump even for a few short days.On Tues I was talking to my friend in Rochester and while it was around 66 here and I was telling him it was on the cool side it was 65 in Roch that day and he was saying how nice it was after taking his Harley out for the second time in months.After I talked to him I got to thinking how great it was back east the first time the temp went over 50 after a long winter while 50 here sends some folks running for gloves and down jackets.On the bright side this is the first winter I haven't really grilled much in L.A. so Sat is my first Weber day in a few months.Flank Steak,grilled corn,homemade tater salad and blackberries for desert.

Tuesday, April 8, 2008


This morning around 6a.m. I came out of a full sleep to what I thought at first was Knuckle Sandwich running down the stairs smacking the wall.Then I looked at the clock and realised it was to early for him to be going to school.Then I heard it again and this time I focused and heard a hammering sound.Lifting my head it sounded like it was coming from either the roof above me or outside a window.There are a few woodpeckers or sapsuckers that inhabit Southern Calif but as far as being in my area of Los Angeles I have never seen one.Then I saw a large shadow swoop by my window and I can only conclude it was a crow pecking at something though I have never heard a crow do this.It was like it was drilling for bugs.Termites do come out this time of year but I have never heard of a crow drilling for them though they eat just about anything.On top of that I have been hearing all of tonight the sound of cars passing over a metal plate on Beverly Glen probably from the new condos almost done up the road.The thump really stands out as the night goes on an fewer cars pass.

Monday, April 7, 2008

What an Honor

I received an email tonight from The Royal Bank of Scotland asking me to update my account and on Tartan Day no less.I felt like Shemp saying"Hi Lorna,how ya doing" in the Three Stooges short after the guy in the castle introduces them to his niece Lorna Doone.In Bill Bryson's wonderful book on his days in the U.K.,"Notes from a Small Island" the funniest part is the description of the night he spends in a Edinburgh or possibly Glasgow bar where one Scotsman trys to translate into English what another Scotsman is telling him.

Sunday, April 6, 2008

Capt. Jack on the bridge of his trawler

Captain Jack

The past week was one in which a good friends Uncle who I knew and another friends dad passed away then on thurs night another good friends brother in law Capt. Jack lost his battle with cancer a mere 6 weeks after being rediagnosed.Capt Jack was just 62 but his passing has hit me the most.The first time I met Jack was at my friends cottage in Port Bay east of Rochester.I had heard stories of Jack this prankster who also left gifts under my friends daughters pillow at the cottage.I was talking to his sister Jane about the guy she was with Jack when a light went on over my head and before I could say anything she said"It's just like Kentucky around here!"For Jack was my friends wife's brother and Jane was his sister.They had both lost spouses and they made a perfect couple.Over the years I did not get back to Rochester much in summer but in fall after boating season was over.Jack had two different beautiful sailboats but after a bout with cancer that nearly killed him several years ago he traded the sailboat for a 35 ft. trawler.After labor day he would move the trawler from Port Bay onto the Erie Canal in Fairport, New York next to our town of Pittsford.This fall on the last day the canal was open for boat traffic my friend Tom(Jacks bro in law) and I went with Jack on what turned out to be his last cruise.We took the boat down the canal from Fairport to Macedon where it spends the winter out of water at a marina about a 45 minute ride.It was a really crisp cool day with big puffy clouds and the sun getting ready to set.Despite living by the canal growing up I had never been on it.Now I see why canal boats are so popular in Europe.It was so cool just putting along.Lots of wildlife,birds and fascinating things along the canal.In parts the erie canal looks more like a river with natural banks and ponds than it does a canal.There were places with cottages and trailers right along the waters edge.We waved to several people as we went sliding by on the bridge of the trawler.I wished that afternoon could have lasted forever.Jack talked about how he wanted to take the boat to Florida some winter soon but now he won't get the chance.He really was a certified capt and the kind of guy you hear about in Jimmy Buffet songs.It's just not going to be the same going home and not seeing Jack.I know he's out there with a fresh wind blowing and the Stars overhead.

Friday, April 4, 2008

Pet Sounds

I've been listening to a lot of mid to late period Beach Boys this week after reading finding an online site where after hearing the finished"Pet Sounds" album Mike Love asked Brian Wilson"Who's going to listen to this shit,Dogs?".Of course Pet Sounds is one of the seminal rock albums finishing number 2 on Rolling Stones way to Beatles friendly list of top 500 albums.Mike Love is to Brian Wilson what Paul was to John,a second fiddle looking for attention.In fact Brian is said to have named the album Pet Sounds after Loves bitching and the dogs barking after "Caroline No" now have meaning.But I've also been listening to Holland and especially Surf's Up which I think is a classic.Brian was pretty much gone from the day to day in the group and his replacement but long time on again off again Beach Boy Bruce Johnston wrote Disney Girls 1957 one of the top ten boys songs on Surfs Up but Dennis has a great song on it and the last two by Brian are two of his best.Till I Die and especially Surf's Up are great songs.Not at all like the surf sound they are what the Beach Boys were in moving on from the surf sound just like the beatles moved on from the early light pop songs.But while the Beatles were praised for it the Beach Boys were not.The reasons why I don't know as Brian Wilsons studio mastery is above anything the Beatles ever did.You just listen to the background sounds,vocals and tracks on later Beach Boys and no one is better except maybe Phil Spector.Brian Wilson is the God of rock hands down.

Johnathan Livingston......

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Trout Season

Tuesday was opening day for trout season in Western New York and seeing a picture today of fisherman on the banks of Irondequoit Creek in Powder Mills Park I was struck by how much open space was between each fisherman.Irondequoit Creek which once was the Genesee River until it was cut off by an ancient slide and the river shifted miles to the west was our home creek and Powder Mills Park was right below our house growing up.In those days April 1st meant every inch of bank was occupied by fishermen and kids.One had a great chance of catching another line or better yet catching a hook from someones cast on the hand or neck but it was a rite of spring.It meant no matter how cold or rainy it was that winter was on it's way out.I think this decline of fisherfolk on opening day reflects our growing disconnect from our food source which makes it easier for the food and animal extremists to preach their message.I understand the number of hunters is down in Western New York also but I still see a goodly amount of them in the countryside south of Rochester on my fall visits.Fathers and sons which means it is still being passed on.But for most of us meat or fish is something we get all packaged up in the supermarket.Then some of these same people pass judgement on hunters and fishermen as throwbacks to the stone age.Which is why I think the growing trend of growing and eating locally is now spreading to meat also.More restaurants are buying grass fed locally raised meat and some are using every part of the animal.It is these chefs and farmers that are helping to educate folks on where their food comes from creating a much healthier way to look at food and eat it I think.If you have even a little spot to plant sommething do it.Especially with children.It will show them how the tomatoes or radishes etc. grow.Herbs are easy to grow and great to use.My little neighbors Sweet Pea and Knuckle Sandwich got a big kick out of the bean vine last summer.They were fascinated by how the little flowers turned into beans.