15 March 2011

"I Think I Love You"

In I Think I Love You, a new novel by journalist Allison Pearson, a grown woman has the chance to finally meet the demigod of her teenaged dreams, David Cassidy, a quarter-century after the peak of her idolatry. Pearson based it on fulfilling her own childhood crush on Cassidy when she was asked to interview him in 2004.

"David Cassidy was about to turn fifty-four ... twenty years older than that beautiful boy millions of girls like me believed we were in love with. That comparison was clearly a source of pain to him."

This might sound like old territory because he's already published an autobiography, but the auto didn't have this novel's afterword, which includes a transcript of their interview and made the book worth the purchase price for me both as a former journalist and a former DC fan. If you have a chance, give it a look sometime.

Even if you were never a 13-year-old girl crushed on David Cassidy or a 24-year-old megastar, you'll probably appreciate and learn a few things from the afterword's conversation between two intelligent and thoughtful people looking back on a surreal life totally at odds with the young man who lived it. (Not just Cassidy -- he talks about the extreme effect it had on Michael Jackson, too.)

For all of the revelations in those 12 pages, this is the one that left me wishing for a parallel TV universe: "'On The Partridge Family they didn't let me play Hendrix's Voodoo Chile ... that's what I was playing at home. I was playing B.B. King.'"

Keith Partridge jammin' on Hendrix. Reuben Kincaid's apoplexy would have been terminal.

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11 September 2010

A Tale of The Sage (a like letter to Greg Lake)

When I was 14 I wanted to graduate to a real guitar from the $20 model I had bought two years before in a market in Juarez. My parents weren't keen on this potential investment since I had recently quit taking piano lessons so they thought I wasn't suitably serious about music. (Really, what was left to learn after Bach's two-part inventions?) Besides, in their minds 14-year-old girls only played the guitar at campfire singalongs and my $20 special was good enough for that. 

To convince them that I was serious I put my new "Pictures at an Exhibition" LP on the turntable to play them the song "The Sage" and promised to learn it, because in my teenage mind Emerson, Lake and Palmer passed for serious music. They relented and I signed up for classical lessons to do this thing right, but unfortunately my teacher convinced me that Classical Gas was a better choice if I had to go pop. (He obviously wasn't an ELP fan. Fool.) 

I haven't played much since my carpal tunnels started screaming* at me around the turn of the century. But when one of my jam buddies posted to her Facebook wall a video of The Sage played by a young and quite adorable Greg Lake, that riled up my old Emerson, Lake and Palmer obsession all over again. 

Carpal tunnels be damned, I think it's finally time to keep my promise to my parents and learn The Sage. And I'm going to learn it on that very guitar

So thank you, Greg Lake, for sharing your great talent with us over the years...and thanks, too, for helping me get my first real guitar. (Please send tabs.)

* update: After he told me that "The Sage" wasn't that hard to learn, Greg Lake and I discussed our various hand surgeries and post-operative attempts at using voice-recognition software. This isn't a remarkable soundbite for the normally eloquent Lake, but I do love his description at the end.

And if you've read this far ...

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23 November 2009

Hill Country Vegetable Soup

Note: I like a lot of vegetables and a colorful soup. Don't fret about using everything on the list.

1              teaspoon olive or toasted sesame oil
1/2          pound beef or buffalo stew meat, cubed 3/4"
1/2          cup onions, diced
1/4          cup celery, sliced on the diagonal
1/2          cup carrots, jewel cut* or sliced in rounds
1              cup vegetable or beef stock
4              cups spring water
1/4          cup barley, rinsed
2              cloves garlic, minced
1              tablespoon dried roasted garlic slices (or 1/2 teaspoon roasted garlic powder)
1 1/2       cups canned diced tomatoes
3/4          cup yukon gold potato, diced, or 3/4 cup of wheel-shaped pasta in keeping with theme
1              cup cooked white beans
1/2          cup yellow squash, 1/2-inch half moons
1/4          cup corn kernels
1/2          cup green beans, sliced 1"
1/2          cup shredded green cabbage
3              tablespoons mushrooms, sliced
                salt and pepper to taste
1/2          teaspoon herbes de provence
1/2          teaspoon marjoram
1/2          teaspoon smoked paprika

Heat oil and saute stew meat until it quits bleeding. Add onions, celery, carrots and pinch of salt, and stir until bright, adding stock if needed. Add rest of stock and water. Bring to boil. Skim meat foam if it appears.

Add barley, garlic, tomatoes, potato or pasta, beans, squash, corn, green beans, cabbage and mushrooms. Bring to simmer.

Add salt and pepper and simmer until barley is cooked, adding remaining seasonings partway through.

Makes 4 servings, more or less.

* Jewel cut: Slice carrot on the diagonal 1/2 inch from small end. Rotate 1/4 turn toward you and slice at the same angle. Keep rotating and slicing all the way down the carrot, making multi-faceted pieces that look like cut jewels.

30 August 2009

does writing about food = dancing about football?

About an hour into Julie & Julia, I realized that I was engaging with the action onscreen just like a football fan watching a game on TV. I'm not sure whether there's a foodie equivalent of "armchair quarterback," but that's what I was acting like.

(I write this in tribute to Julia. I'm leaving it unfinished in tribute to Julie, who finally finished something.)

26 July 2009

mmmmmm, mighty tasty crow

One of the stories on today's "This American Life" mentioned the infamous Van Halen contract-rider clause: must supply bowl of M&Ms backstage with all brown M&Ms removed.

For years, this has been cited as the ultimate rock-star indulgence, although while researching a feature I wrote for the Dallas Times Herald in 1984, I found several more that seemed to go way farther than adding a little extra labor to the task of pouring M&Ms into a bowl. Sammy Hagar's demand that each venue supply a bottle of expensive vintage wine -- not for after-show drinking but to add to his personal collection -- comes to mind.

The point of the radio mention was that, far from being indulgent, this was actually a very visible quality check for the band. In his autobiography, David Lee Roth wrote that when he arrived at the venue and saw either no M&Ms at all or a bowl complete with brown ones, he knew that someone on the management end either hadn't read the contract thoroughly or wasn't keen on detail. And with a production as extensive and complicated as Van Halen's, ignoring the specs about load-bearing stages and massive electrical requirements could prove disastrous or possibly even fatal.

So Van Halen, I stand corrected and I apologize for perpetuating the indulgence myth. But your apparent belief that incorrectly supplied M&Ms gave you license to trash the backstage turns that crow I'm eating from entree into tiny tapas.

Late-breaking rewrite aside, that was one fun article to put together. Every concert promoter and venue manager I talked with had some eye-rolling excess to brag about having to endure. (When I find the article I'll post some here.)

Among all of the foodstuffs, doggie perks and general silliness I heard about, the most touching came from Paul Leary of the Butthole Surfers. Maybe he was a little more candid with me than he might have been with some other journalist -- after all, he was my first boyfriend, many years before -- or maybe he was, just for a moment, wanting to transcend the extremes of the Butthole Surfer image.

Paul told me that their contract had no special food-related requests beyond a vegetarian meal for one band member and no pork for another. Being a self-contained, seasoned touring group, the most important thing for them, he said, was six pairs of new cotton socks at each venue. Looking at my own overflowing basket of freshly washed laundry nearby, my heart ached for these itinerant boys. Clean laundry is hardly an indulgence, but in some circumstances it can seem like unattainable luxury.

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23 July 2009

Amazingly yummy quinoa

And now, a detour into the kitchen for your alternative grains. Serves 2-3ish.

1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
1/4 cup carrots, diced
1 cup kale, spines and leaves finely diced separately
3 cloves garlic, minced coarsely
3 tablespoons scallions, diced
3 dashes ume plum vinegar
3 sun-dried tomatoes, soaked and diced
3 tablespoons pine nuts, toasted
6 ounces chicken breast, (smoked) diced
2 cups cooked quinoa
3 tablespoons mango, diced
1/2 ounce romano cheese, finely grated
2 tablespoons yogurt cheese or sour cream (optional)
1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika (optional)
  1. Cook quinoa according to directions.

  2. Dice vegetables to about 1/4-inch cubes.

  3. Heat olive oil in a heavy skillet over medium-low heat. Add carrots, kale spines, garlic and scallions, stir to coat with oil, and add ume vinegar. Stir until bright. (Do not overcook.)

  4. Add kale leaves, sun-dried tomatoes, pine nuts and chicken and blend in well with other ingredients. If using unsmoked chicken, add smoked paprika.

  5. When ingredients are heated through, stir in quinoa and mix well. Add another dash of ume vinegar if necessary. Gently stir in mango and romano cheese.

  6. Serve immediately, topped with sour cream or yogurt cheese (drained yogurt) dusted with smoked paprika, if desired.

26 March 2009

Memory dump 3: KLIF

Very early in my working life, I was Kelly Clarke, a disk jockey (ahem, radio announcer) at what had been the birthplace of Top 40 in years past, KLIF. As an AM station in a world where FM ruled music radio, we had to try harder to get attention, so we regularly appeared at onsite promotions. It was only natural that KLIF would sponsor the local premiere of the Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band movie (starring Peter Frampton and The Bee Gees!), and the promo dept announced that it would involve some "very special guests."

The premiere was scheduled for a multiplex in the Dallas suburb of Garland. (Garland was a major inspiration for the setting of the cartoon "King of the Hill," so try to imagine what kind of movie premieres there and what kind of "special guests" might actually show up.) We, the on-air talent, learned that WE would be the special guests, dressed up in colorful band jackets rented from a costume shop. Y'know, like on the cover of the Sgt. Pepper album, right?

So Allen Farmer, Steve Scott, Harry Nelson and I arrived at the premiere in a limo, but stayed inside hidden by the darkened windows, building what we were assured was a frenzy of anticipation and excitement, until the audience was seated in the theatre and ready for the movie to start. Then we walked in together under a spotlight -- like anyone would recognize our faces anyway since we worked in radio -- and the only reaction was "Hey, that isn't Frampton and the Bee Gees!" We had to sit there in our cordoned-off seats wearing smelly old band jackets through the entire awful movie (rated 3.4 out of 10 on imdb.com; the Zap2it.com description is "Sgt. Pepper's grandson and three other guys form a band and fight bad guys. Based on a Beatles album."). The promo guy wouldn't let us leave during the screening while the house lights were safely out. I hope he's shilling for the ghost of Enron now.

I recall discussing that evening with my fellow suffer-ees only once afterward, when we decided that the TV show "WKRP in Cincinnati," while billed as a sitcom, was actually a documentary.

(NB: Possibly the most bizarre twist in this story was that my cousin, the late Terry Southern, also had a connection with Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band ... the original one. He was among the faces on the cover of the album -- wearing sunglasses, not a short red band jacket. Sigh.)

27 December 2008



OK, I know that most people consider Festivus outdated Seinfeld schtick, but I really do appreciate it -- both that it originated in real life outside the Seinfeld writers' room and that its lore includes backlash against overconsumers and religious idiots. And I know I'm not alone. Even one of my old high school buddies with whom I recently reconnected on Facebook chided me for beating him to the status line of "let the airing of grievances begin" last Tuesday.

So anyway, I've lived in this house for a little more than three years. One of the attic bonuses that came with the place was a bag of gift wrap for all occasions -- maybe a dozen rolls, old stuff that's unlike anything you see any more. It wasn't left by the woman who sold me the house; in fact, somehow she wasn't even aware of it. I've been grateful for that paper the past three Christmases and umpteen birthdays.

Then today I discovered that a floor-to-ceiling aluminum pole in the garage isn't actually part of the plumbing and piping it sits among. In fact, it's not attached to anything...it's a Festivus Pole! A good 10-footer! I hope it won't be considered tacky if in my joy I leave my newfound Festivus Pole erected year-round in its comfortable little garage nook since there's no way to get it into what passes for crawl space here.

Now as I remember the several empty cardboard cores I found among the rolls of old wrapping paper, I wonder whether the previous-previous house owners considered it the Festivus wrapping to go along with their Festivus Pole. I do believe I'm living in a Festivus miracle!

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25 November 2007

Memory dump 2: Before he was a wild and crazy guy...

Imagine being a 15-year-old standing in the high school hallway (sporting what looks like a strawberry-flavored Mickey Mouse mask because you didn't apply sunscreen before you donned ski goggles and hit the very sunny Colorado slopes over winter vacation, but that's beside the point) and telling people that the best part of your trip was going out to a club one night and seeing this breath-stoppingly hilarious comedian whose schtick involved playing the banjo while wearing a fake-arrow-through-the-head and ended with a poem about all the things he had done and seen, including the memorable line "I've put a telephone in my nose and called my mother."

Imagine the looks you would have gotten, even from people who usually got your offbeat sense of humor.

Of course, we all know now who that comedian was. In 1973, nobody in San Antonio did. What fun to remind my classmates years later that I discovered Steve Martin. At least, before they did.

The show was a benefit for the Aspen Free Clinic, and most of the talent had local connections, such as headliners John Denver and the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band and other, less famous acts. Albert Brooks presented his one-man performance of "Blue Moon" as the Albert Brooks Big Band, providing vocals, instrumentation and backup vocals -- all a capella. Then there was the guy with the banjo ...

Think about Steve Martin's old standup act. How do you explain his brand of performance -- usually punchline-free -- to someone who's never seen it? And how does a 15-year-old girl convey the hilarity of the line "I've done terrible things to my dog with a fork"?

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10 November 2007

Memory dump 1: KZEW

Today I tripped down memory lane when I heard The Ramones' "I Wanna Be Sedated" playing in the improbable venue of Walgreens. Here's the trippy thing it reminded me of:

I was a disk jockey on KZEW-FM in Dallas. It was a huge deal for me at the time, and I still love the memory.

Getting on the air at the Zoo was the dream of my radio career (many thanks to Ken Rundel for pointing me that direction), and I managed to be there at the tender age of 21, soon after I graduated from college. While I was in school I had worked briefly at some other interesting stations -- notably, KEXL in San Antonio and KLIF (the Mighty 1190, home of Top 40 radio a few decades before I arrived) -- but the Zoo was where I wanted to end up. And that I did: At the end of my tenure I left both KZEW and radio behind forever, thinking I should put my newly earned college degree to better use. Still wondering whether the ensuing decades proved me right.

What a great station -- you still find diehard Zoo Freaks, even though the AOR format we knew and loved last aired more than a couple of decades ago. People still want to buy Zooloo window stickers (see here), and I'm still kicking myself for not keeping one of the satin bomber jackets that the station had made for the staff that year.

the infamous birthday-suit shotI had the great fortune to work with the amazing LaBella & Rody, the adorable Jon Dillon, John B. ("Viacom.") Wells, sweet Beverly Beesley, Michael Brown and Charley Jones. It was the Zoo's sixth year on air, and to commemorate it, some of the on-air staff posed for a publicity shot in our birthday suits ... with strategically placed birthday cake and sound board.

I wasn't there long, and my presence was hardly a dimple in the station's big ol' public face, but being there meant enough to me that I still smile thinking about it. I loved giving the station ID ("You're listening to the Zoo [sound effect: synthesized elephant roar] ... KZEW, Dallas Fort Worth") and coming up with great sets and segues, and in a weird way even the jerkoff who phoned in and, well, jerked off while I gave some long, involved answer to a stupid question he asked -- took me awhile to figure out what he was up to because I had the call on noise-cancelling speakerphone so I didn't hear his, um, utterances until I finally shut up myself. (Beverly later congratulated me on getting my first beat-off call.) Of course there are better, more interesting, celebrity-laced stories but I've saved those for my other, anonymous blog.

Good luck finding that.

The movie Almost Famous weirded me out when I first saw it because Cameron Crowe's kid-in-the-bigtime story felt so familiar. Not that I was as young at the time as Crowe was or could hold a candle to him in talent then or now ... but I felt every bit as awed to be in my situation as he did in his and that movie brought it all back for me.

me & LaBella on an interview setEven so, I didn't realize just how big an impression these folks had made on me until a few years ago when I learned that John LaBella died -- I cried as though I'd left the station only the week before.

So Beverly, guys, others I didn't mention, and even you, Jeff and Tom -- your faces and especially your voices are permanently embossed on my memory. Maybe one of you remembers mine. Hint: There were two cute young redheads on the air around that time -- I was the one who didn't marry Jones...