Sunday, December 28, 2008

I dreamt I was Farmer Joe

It's really a shame that you won't get a picture of this one... I just had the best salad in the history of salads! Right from my own garden. I had some red leaf lettuce, some moon leaf lettuce, some cilantro and added an avocado from the local farmers market with a side of steamed asparagus tips- also from the farmers market. I struesseled some butter on them and adjusted my pepper grinder to crack the pepper corns really coarsely. Topped the whole thing off with a few wedges of an orange. Mmmmm! They are so perky! I love that!

Those of you who don't grow your own stuff are missing one of the pleasures of life. How cool is it to step out your back door on a chilly evening and pick a few leaves of lettuce and make your own meal. It didn't take any longer than going to the store. The seeds cost about $4. I'll have fresh salad 3 or 4 times a week until March!

The things purchased in a traditional grocery store are engineered to look good or last longer on the shelf rather than to taste good or be nutritious. I'll harvest the last of my lettuce and peas and turnips about February and I'll plant more cilantro, peppers, tomatoes etc. Those will make it until about July before they just get too scorched. Then I'll plant pumpkins on about July 20th and harvest those just before Halloween and then back to the winter stuff on the first week of November. If you haven't planted them already, it's a bit late, but anything that is in the ground like radishes or turnips and anything that you eat the leaf, like lettuces and cabbages and a few things that are in pods like peas or some green beans can grow from November to March here in Mesa.

Grand Funky Railroad

Me and Shaw rode on the new light rail system in Phoenix yesterday. It was a bit of history. We rode our bikes on the new section of the 202 freeway a couple of months ago and shook the hand of Governor Napalitano at the grand opening festivities so a ride on a new mass transit system seemed in order. We waited in line for just over 2 hours to get on a train. They had buses shadowing the train all day to handle the overflow but we came to ride the train not a bus! They counted people out into little bins equalling the amount of seats per car and dispatched each group across the street to waiting trains. That was lovely, we got a seat were on our way. We got to the next stop and that was not the case, there were several hundred people more waiting to get on, and then at the next stop, and then at ASU, and then at the airport, and then... they were standing, kids on shoulders and laps, it was like we were in India! If those trains hadn't been as smooth as a baby's butt on the outside, I'm sure there would have been people hanging on the outside or riding on the top. Each stop along the way had food and live music and antique car shows and vendors and carnival type rides.

We intended to ride the entire length, but judging by our wait in Mesa, and knowing that we would have to disembark at the far end of Phoenix and perhaps get in a similar line to return, we exited the train at the Heard Museum in downtown Phoenix. The train was supposed to take 60 minutes to get to the other end of the line but we had taken about 75 minutes to get just over half way.

You can always tell which food vendors are good because of the line. At the Heard Museum, there was a long line for some authentic Indian fried bread but we were hungry from the already long wait and opted for some pizza. As soon as we sat down with that, another couple sat down with some tamales that looked and smelled deeee-lish! Too late. We sat for some Indian dance and drumming and walked back to the train platform hoping against hope that we could get on. We waited for two trains and when the doors opened the people kind of oozed out and had to be pressed back in when the doors closed. We grabbed one of the special buses which was also standing only. It was a lot to balance for a 7 yr old. I had to teach him how to put one foot forward from the other to give some balance like on a skateboard. Shaw had to have his face on par with somebody else's... well... some things are unpleasant enough to think about without actually saying it. I just pulled the back of his head in as close to me as possible.

This bus got back out to Sky Harbor Airport and kicked us all out claiming that was the end of his line. So we walked over to the train platform and let three trains pass with a similar ooozing as described above. The platform attendant was making calls on his two-way radio as to why the bus driver dumped 200 people on the sidewalk to wait for full trains and loaded buses when he was supposed to continue to the end of the train line back in Mesa. The fourth train had just enough room to cram us in- Me and Shaw were the ones that ooozed when the doors opened and the disappointed people on the platform gave us a knowing glance.

We made it back without much more incident. Rock band, Grand Funk Railroad was playing at the festival at the end of the line in Mesa. I can't think of any other reason for their invitation than their name. The occasion was kinda grand, I guess-- that train will serve our city for many decades to come... the funky part however... I guess that all of the armpits that were exposed as passengers held on to straps for dear life... that was kinda funky. Poor Shaw was clearly a bit disheveled and frankly, a bit frightened. He was too tough to let anybody know. When the crowd finally thinned out a bit, he opted to sit on my lap rather than take an empty seat.

The sound system was great, Grand Funk Railroad is just a bit before my time, but being a DJ for nearly 30 years now, I know their music. They just seemed a bit "put out" to come to Mesa Arizona to play for the occasion. They just did their thing and got off the stage to bigger and better things.

We did have a really great hot dog after the show. Nothing like a good hot dog at a regional festival or carnival. In the time it took to eat it, the bouncy jumps were shutting down and Shaw missed out on that.

I couldn't complain, but I think the transit authority massively underestimated the crowds on a holiday weekend with the Fiesta Bowl visitors already in town. This is just a wild guess, but I'd estimate that there were probably 180 to 200,000 people out and about at each of those festvals and on the trains and the buses. I think there were nearly 10,000 throughout the day just at the depot in Mesa. Most people were quite pleasant in spite of the occasion to be cranky. I do hope that people consider thier lives and will use that train to improve travel and decrease pollution. I may go ride it again on Monday while it's still free.

Adventures in Egypt

Those of you that are just discovering my blog will begin to notice that I'm not much for taking pictures. There was a time when I was taping Javin, my son in California, at some school function when he was little and I came to the realization that I was living life through the viewfinder. Watching the videos afterwards was never as satisfiying as the moment was. My memories of my dad are so much more 3 dimensional than any photos or video could ever be. The smell of Old Spice, his gestures and the feel of his skin. I wonder if my son Shaw will remember fondly my Drakkar Noir cologne in the coming decades. ?

Above- Curtis and Shaw and an un-named camel doing his messy business

Anyways, there aren't many images of our Christmas adventures because we were busy living them and not documenting them for the rest of you. I hope my words will paint a bit of a picture.

Some friends invited us to visit the Christmas lights display at the Phoenix Zoo last week. The company that handles all of the concessions at the zoo is a client of my friend and provided VIP passes 30 minutes before the unwashed masses and we got complimentary hot chocolate, popcorn, cotton candy, carousel rides and a free camel ride. It was a great night- even after the unwashed masses came in.

I DJ'd an event at Scottsdale Fashion Park in exchange for a shopping spree. I got myself a very expensive pair of jeans and a nice dinner jacket that I would not have otherwise spent that kind of money on. I also spent about $400 of my spree on some socks and underwear which I donated to a local cause. I know the economy is tough but I can hardly fathom that there are people in Mesa Arizona- a city of great wealth- who don't have socks and underwear. There was a school nurse who was aware of some needs but because of the bureaucracy of her place of employment was not allowed to do anything about it. I just took her passing comment on the subject and ran with it. They were delivered discreetly and she wept. She had several dozen pairs of each size for boys through teens.

Christmas day was spent indoors and the rain made that seem ok. Often, a lazy day can seem wasteful but Christmas was just fine. Watched Kung Fu Panda, It's a Wonderful Life, and Back to the Future III. I just unhinged my jaw and shovelled in several plates of Christmas goodies.

My best customer is a really nice bridal boutique out in Goodyear called Thee Wedding Warehouse. They are having a weightloss thang next week and the winning bride wins a wedding dress. I am gonna participate with them but I told them that I didn't need the dress if I won. I'm 6 lbs over what I should be, and I'm about 16 lbs over what I want to be.

More adventures to follow...

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

I gotta have more Sleigh Bells!

Something happened about 50 years ago- maybe 60... I think just about all of the good Christmas songs have already been written. Countless artists keep putting out Christmas music every year, they are overwrought, contrived or even forced new songs or terribly mis-interpreted versions of classics. "Its Christmas time, the snow is falling down..." Falling down? As opposed to? I know which direction the snow is going to fall. We don't need another songwriter explaining gravity to us. Also, the inclusion of sleigh bells does not a Christmas song make. I guess Christopher Walken was there too. "I got a fever! and the only perscription... MORE Sleigh Bells!" Somebody out there must be in a position to advance the art of Christmas song writing beyond an opening line of "It's Christmas time..." Anyone? Anyone? Beuller? Come on guys!

At the core of the problem, too many artists don't have any clue about the concept of reverence for the more religious songs. I understand the secular and cultural celebration of Christmas and I'm not opposed to that. There is a reason that Christmas is a national holiday and Easter is not. We can remember the birth of Christ, who embodies values that we hold dear as a nation, in the same way that we celebrate the birth of Martin Luther King or those who fought and died (Memorial Day) or the workers that built this nation (Labor Day) etc. For those who also regard Christ as the Savior of the world, the celebration and remembrance at Christmas can be a profound experience. There is no need for anyone else to take offense at that part of the celebration.

I DJ'd at 11 Christmas- wait- excuse me- Holiday parties. Corporations are afraid to have Christmas parties because someone might be offended. They have Holiday parties or even worse, End of the Year banquets. What is this world coming to? Anyways, I played at 11 events between Dec 6 and Dec 20 and only 2 of them allowed me to play Christmas music.

I now come down of my soapbox- back to the matter at hand.

Twisted Sister just needs to knock of the Twisted Christmas music. "O Come all ye faithful" Twisted Sister style? They don't even have the chord progression right. Please! Gary Hoey's hard rock version of "You're a mean one, Mr. Grinch" is brilliant because the lyrical content lends itself to such an interpretation.

Here are the greatest Christmas songs ever written or sung. That's right, I said that and I'll say it again because I'm controversial, I'm like Geraldo! Here they are in no particular order- the Greatest Christmas songs ever. Some of these are new songs, some are reworks of classic songs that are so good that the original versions should be taken out behind the barn and shot.

Andy Williams- The most wonderful time of the year- Classic. It just ain't Christmas until you fire up that song.
Amy Grant- Breath of Heaven- that reverence thing. I could never sing this because I'd be too emotional-- and the fact that I'm not a woman...
Dennis DeYoung- When I hear a Christmas song- New song in the classic vein. Free download at until the end of the year.
Randy Travis- Jingle Bell Rock- The original should have been this country style. It's a country song.
Enya- Stille Nacht- Brilliant version of this song. Haunting.
Jon Bon Jovi- Please come home for Christmas. Sad broken love song. He really sounds like he's got the blues here.
The Osmonds- Kay Thompson's Jingle Bells
The Pointer Sisters- Santa Claus is coming to town
Peter, Paul and Mary- Children, Go where I send thee
Styx- All I want- Another new song but not overwrought. I coulda used a little more sleigh bells though.
Holly Nunn- Feliz Navidad
Emmylou Harris- O Little town of Bethlehem- Very reverent.
The Blenders- Carol of the Bells- If you are subwoofer privileged, this recording is great.

There you have it. I probably should have posted this earlier in the season, but if you aren't sick of Christmas music, enjoy these.

I'm gonna go fire up "It's a Wonderful Life"

Merry Christmas everybody!

Friday, December 12, 2008

It's like this see...

Dateline- Mesa Arizona

I had a most gratifying DJ job today. All of the handicapped Jr High kids from all over the Mesa school district gathered at Stapley Jr High for a Christmas dance-- any guesses who the DJ was? Yep. Rocked the house from start to finish! I generally turn away school functions because I just don't want to put up with the grief anymore. Most teenagers are rude ingrates when they move in packs. These kids couldn't have been nicer. It's Dec 12 and I finally got the Christmas spirit today thanks to them.

I was the master of ceremonies at a Bridal Fashion Show at one of the nice resorts here in town a couple of weeks ago. There were a couple of designers from Chicago and one from New York and one local designer. They had an antique ivory sofa and a white hipster coffee table and a white back drop that swished in the breeze and all the models took turns on that sofa with each of the dresses and about 5 photographers doing their thing. (That kinda sounded dirty didn't it?) I thought it was a mistake because the white dresses were just gonna wash out. But I kept my mouth shut because I was feeling that I wasn't cool enough to even be in their presence. (My lack of coolness has probably been the key to my success as a DJ) Anyways- I was right. I looked at the online photojournals of two or three of the photographers that I knew and not one of those pictures was used. BUT, I was chillin' between shots and Kym Ventola snapped this one of me. She posted it on her blog with some very complimentary words about my brilliant work as a DJ. This photo will be the backbone of my ads for the glossy bridal magazines next year. Here's a link to her work that day

We took a road trip to Winslow Arizona for Thanksgiving. No, we didn't stand on the corner, at all. In fact, we didn't see any girls in flat bed Fords either. That town is so depressed and depressing and dirty and broken down. It really lived up to the sentiment of that song. We had a crappy motel room and had nothing but crappy food but I had such a meaningful experience that weekend. I visited my old High School, the A&W Rootbeer stand where I worked. Visited a Sunday School teacher I had as a kid. She hasn't aged a bit.

We also visited with Ruby Williams from Roxie Mississippi. She took care of me for a couple of years when I was a wee lad- after my Mom died and before my Dad remarried. She says she's 80 but there are reports around town that she's as old as 96. Either way, she looks great. She is still sharp as a tack. Remembered everybody and was curious what they were all up to. I hadn't seen her in 10 years since my Dad's funeral.

To a certain degree, you always live where you are from. As odd as that sounds, it was really good to go live there for another day.