Monday, December 28, 2009

Stuff for December.

Wrapping up the best year I have ever had as a DJ in my 30 yr career.

Finished a fun/serious/informative food experiment where I didn't go to any store for anything except gasoline for about 92 days. Report to follow.

Saw "Avatar" and thought that the blue people were strangely erotic.

Played at a corporate Christmas party. They hired a middle aged woman to play Christmas songs on the piano during cocktails and dinner. She worships at the shrine of Vince Guiraldi and every song sounded like "Linus and Lucy" and it was Crazy-Awesome!

Saw all of my siblings and all of my nephews and nieces- except Katie- at some point during the Holiday season.

I saw my step mother TWICE!

Bought a Wii and my shoulder hurts.

Visited Tonto Natural Bridge. Was blown away. I have travelled past there 50 times in my years in Arizona and I had never taken the 5 minutes off the highway to go see it. Well worth it.

Was in a good financial place this year to do some way kewl secret Santa stuff for a couple of people and still be in a position to gauge reaction anonymously.

Went to the home of a dying teenager with the 12-string and the tambourine and some gourd shakers and sang some Christmas songs. He passed away on Christmas eve.

Had a good visit with my 19-yr old son, Javin, from southern California. He growed up ril gud!

Almost got into fisticuffs with an old Jewish man at a retail promotion at Arrowhead mall- Westcor management at the mall set me up right next to a giant Menorah out in the courtyard. The passing shopper was quite upset- "If the Rabbi saw... oye, the speakas and the music," (cupping his hands over his ears) "OYE... the Menorah... the speakas... OYE!" (motioning with his hands) "If the Rabbi saw..."

A shopper that won the $1000 Westcor gift card that day wept and cradled that thing to her chest. It was very moving. She was so genuine and it was clear that her family needed that money very badly for whatever reason.

Paid a visit to Ruby in Winslow.

Played in the snow in Strawberry, AZ.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Stick a fork in it. It's done!

Today marks 91 days without going to the grocery store, or any other store for that matter, for any purchases with the exception of gasoline. I'm actually not going to buy groceries until Monday. The van was loaded last night with DJ equipment and lighting equipment for events this morning, tonight and tomorrow night and I don't shop on Sundays, that's my day of worship. Even though I have time to go shopping tomorrow, I don't feel like unloading the equipment only to have to reload it for Saturday nights' gig. I do have a few final observations and lessons learned so stand by for a final posting on the subject on Monday.

I have a neiece that is embarking on a couple of years of Christian missionary service shortly and we are having a reception and family gathering in her honor on Sunday evening at my brother's house- Yay for somebody else's food!

Today, I got the Christmas spirit. I was on DJ duty for a Jr. High dance for all of the special needs kids from all of the middle schools in Mesa. It was rockin! I snapped a few pics of the festivities but nothing came out in the darkness so I don't have any pics to post. I have a ten-foot guitar I use as a sight gag and it was everything it was supposed to be today. Several kids played it and some of the teachers snapped some pics for each of them.

I have a corporate holiday party tonight over in Tempe and tomorrow night up in Scottsdale. It's cool that I have been here long enough to be having events for people I have already worked for and have been hired again. Next weekend, I have a Christian singles Christmas Dance and a wedding then after Christmas, another wedding and then a New Years' Eve party at one of the local golf clubs- then stick a fork in 2009!

Thursday, December 3, 2009

82 days in. 8 to go.

I would normally wait for a few days to post a weeks' worth of observations but I had a serendipitous discovery today. I was looking under the sink for something else and discovered 3 bottles of mouthwash! I was perplexed thinking that I had run out. Thankfully my mouth and lips will remain fresh and kissable for the duration.

I guess that the lesson learned is to keep an inventory list of supplies and their location and copy it in two or three places for safe keeping.

I'm beginning a major run of DJ work- 11 jobs this month. I'm off to a 40th birthday party for a major industry figure out at the Wig Wam Resort tonight.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

81 days in. 9 to go.

Home stretch!

Here's a current picture of the garden. On the left, cilantro, then arugula, peas, then tomatoes then onions and butterhead lettuce at the far end.
There were three tomato plants that grew spontaneously. One grew right in the row where there had been the failed Simpson lettuce and the failed cabbage- I left that one where it was. Another was in with the onions and another plant was in with the lettuce. I transplanted them all into one row. The operation went off without a hitch and I hope the roots take hold and they continue to grow.
It may be just a bit early for tomatoes still. I usually plant tomatoes in Feb or March and I will still plant more then. These will be blossoming at the height of Arizona's cold season (possible freeze at night) and the blossoms are too delicate for even the slightest frost. We may or may not have any bees to pollinate them.

A few dishes on the table this week: Soft pretzels with spicy mustard. Deeeee-LISH! Usually you brush the pretzel dough with egg whites to give them a bit of a crust when they are baked. In the absence of eggs, made a paste/glaze out of the egg solids and they came out fine although a bit darker than usual. Half of them got baked with some coarse sea salt and sesame seeds sprinkled on. The other half was sprinkled with cinnamon and sugar and were eaten for breakfast today. The recipe called for butter which is gone. Butter solids were used with no detectable difference in taste or texture. I wouldn't spread it on bread or a pancake but it worked for baking. Sliced up a spicy smoked sausage from the freezer, fried it and served it with black beans. Refried beans and pepper sauce.

The freezer is about empty. Two lbs of breakfast sausage, 1 bag of frozen corn, 1 bag of frozen brocolli, 1 lb of hamburger and 1 lb of shrimp. There's nothing like some shrimp, brined and then boiled with some cayenne pepper and you shell right it there at the table served with some good Henry Weinhardt's Root Beer... The shrimp will have to wait until we can go to the store again for some root beer. The two Cornish game hens are de-frosting for dinner tonight. They'll be served with some corn and biscuits and a salad from the garden. The last of the frozen orange juice was served for breakfast yesterday.

Spent a few days in California with family and had Mexican food for Thanksgiving and spaghetti the next night. I spent the afternoon with my son, Javin and we went out for pizza. Stopped for McDonalds and Del Taco on the road- one coming and one going. Del Taco in Banning CA was out of refried beans that night. HA! I have a mountain of refried beans in storage! I settled for some tacos but a bean and cheese burrito would have been nice. For the road, homemade crescent rolls- sliced open and stuffed with tuna and mayonaise. Took a bag of sunflower seeds and a bag of Cheetos and a couple of cans of 7-up from the networking mixer a couple of weeks ago.

Commentary from observers is interesting when talking face to face. I know people are reading this but there are less comments lately than when I write about other topics. I don't know if this is making people feel uncomfortable. A friend asked last night how it was going and laughingly stated that her family would have already starved to death. It was an uncomfortable laugh. I didn't laugh at it. This is someone who has the means to do so and the knowledge that it is wise to do so but seems frozen with fear or something... GET PREPARED! After the initial discomfort in the conversation, she puzzled and then asked about the lack of butter and eggs and where we found the egg solids and butter solids and whether it was against the parameters of the experiment to have gone and purchased those. No, those were purchased and stored a long time ago.

In the time of crisis, the time to prepare will have passed. There may not be a grocery store, there may not be a paycheck, the outside food or water supply may be contaminated somehow. Now is the time! I bet there are people who are struggling with the economy right now and don't have the extra means to prepare for the future. I hope that there is not an additional crisis of some sort while our economy is still struggling. Mormons have been counseled to store food and supplies against hard times since WWII. Anybody who has not heeded that counsel yet- I don't even know what to say. What are you waiting for?

As the end of the experiment is in sight, here is a list of things that I will do differently going forward: Hot chocolate was very nice to have on hand- comfort. Beans and rice and wheat cereals and such will be more a part of the regular diet so that those things get rotated properly. The freezer has been a blessing but too much of my meat and vegatables rely on electicity. If I have it, that will be great, but if those food spoiled, I don't want to have an even worse crisis. Canned meats like roast beef and chicken are fine in salads and over dried potato flakes- mashed potatoes and gravy. Increase those and make them part of the regular diet so that they get rotated. There is no way to store fresh milk. It's something you'll have to let go of so be prepared for that. I store dry milk in a quantity as if I were drinking it as well. I d0n't drink it so I've found that I have too much of that. I need enough to make bread, have cereal, make mashed potatoes etc. I used to by a gallon or two of fresh milk weekly. Now it's a quart of mixed dried milk for the week. The butter lasted a long time- thanks for the lesson, Elijah, but it's another thing to prepare to do without. Are there any recipies in regular rotation that require it? Test out butter solids and learn to deal with your breads and pancakes served without butter. The pretzels and mustard were nice, the crescent rolls with tuna and mayonaise were nice.

Seeds- They have saved my sanity! If you don't have seeds in storage you are foolish. If you have them in storage and you have never grown a garden, you are foolish. Gardens should be a regular part of a prepared family's life. Learn what works and what doesn't, what you like and don't like, how to prepare it for consumption. Gardens are crucial! I'm actually going to look into the feasability of keeping a few chickens too.

This experiment has changed my thinking dramatically. I'm not a nut case survivalist, I just want to be as comfortable as possible in a crisis and opt out of the plague if you will, by staying safe at home. Weekly trips to the grocery store will be a thing of the past. I may change to monthly. I may increase garden capacity and get better at preserving and canning. I can make jam and jerky but that's about it. I'm going to review favorite recipies that go into a monthly rotation and make sure I have all ingredients to continue to make those recipies.

I've saved about $1400 on groceries this last 81 days. That still considers what was spent on the dried long-term storage items- it's pennies on the dollar. That is a substantial savings.

I did have a bit of a meltdown Sunday night. I just had a hankerin for some junkfood while watching The Amazing Race. There was just nothing in the house. Popcorn without butter wasn't too appealing. No butter to make cookies. I ended up having a bowl of cream of wheat with some chocolate chips. It took the edge off I guess. Yesterday- made cookies with a marachino cherry, some Chinese dried noodles, some melted chocolate chips and some almonds. I think I'll live until next week!

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

74 days in. 16 to go.

Alas! Poor butter, I hardly knew ye. The last of it was spread on some pancakes this morning. I mentioned in the previous post that meal choices had really narrowed. Even though there is plenty of food overall, key ingredients are missing to prepare some of them or at least make them more palatable than a straight bowl of beans or a plain biscuit. I don't think most people would know how a slathering of butter is a great compliment to a biscuit. Strawberry jam alone is helpful and moistens it up to help chew and swallow, but some butter- that just drives it on home.

Had a hamburger patty for dinner last night with some dried onions and salt and pepper mixed in. Served with some A1 sauce. Frozen corn, apple sauce with a sprinkle of cinnamon and sugar.

Road tripping to southern CA for Thanksgiving and will eat with family or will eat out as needed but will mostly pack food for the road from storage per the parameters of the experiment. There is a bag of Cheetos that I've been saving for this. I scored a six pack of 7-up leftover from an industry networking mixer and that will be a welcome treat. I'll make a loaf of bread and make tuna sandwiches. The two Cornish game hens that were intended to be saved for Thanksgiving will be used instead for Sunday dinner upon return to Mesa. Up until Dec 11th, there will be 10 days of really narrow meal choices and, well, it IS what it IS.

I'm out of shoe shine. I used a moist towel to shine up my shoes for a public appearance or two but they aren't quite completely shined to my liking. In a real crisis, shined shoes would be the least of my worries. To have shoes at all would be a blessing!

Ran out of a couple of light bulbs. In the process of switching over to CFLs anyway as traditional incandescent light bulbs burn out, but there are several lamps in the house that have specialized halogen bulbs. I basically canibalized a couple of unused lamps in unused rooms to get the needed lamps up and running.

My wireless headset mic gave up the ghost. The receiver in my DJ rig and the transmitter that goes on my back are fine but the headset itself- I'm kinda hard on those. I go through a microphone about every 8 months- they are a bit delicate for life on the road. I did a couple of gigs last week with a hardwire, hand-held microphone. I don't know how I used to do it that way before I started using a wireless headset. Even a boom stand to hold the mic in front of my face is limiting. I can be more animated when I am unencumbered and untethered. Anyways, I ordered a couple of new headsets from Kansas and they arrived today. The nature of this need required that they be ordered in advance of Dec 11. I have to run my business. I don't have another DJ job until Dec 3rd out at the WigWam resort. I have events on the 3rd, 5th, 6th, two events on the 11th, 12th, 19th, 20th, 27th and New Years Eve on the 31st.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

71 days in. 19 to go.

Getting close!

Other than getting bored by narrowing meal choices, all is well. I like to have 30 or 40 recipes in rotation but the ingredients for those just aren't here. I'm really down to 7 or 8 choices for meals. Without the garden for some fresh salad, I would go nuts.

I have already said it- there are people who store just beans and rice and canned tuna. Yes, it will sustain life, but I contend that you will be bored with it in about 3 days and you'll hate yourself for not being better prepared. There are other possible food choices in storage, but the larger plan has proved inaccurate- I'm out of some of the key ingredients to make those work. I'm down to 3/4 lb of butter and when that's gone, it will be the end of the cookies and the biscuits. The egg solids have proved invaluable with a couple of minor exceptions described earlier. I'm really going to research butter solids and find tasty recipes that can use it.

Some meals on the table this week: home made chicken noodle soup, Hawaiian volcanoes (rice, Chinese noodles, pineapple, water chestnuts, shredded chicken, gravy etc.) No-bake oatmeal cookies, peanut butter cookies, few green salads from the garden- butterhead lettuce, cilantro, canned Mandarin orange wedges, sunflower seeds or sesame seeds, balsamic vinaigrette with some other dried spices. Re-fried beans- that's dried re-fried beans from a can- re-hydrated and simmered and served with pepper sauce. Jello with canned fruit.

I use a men's body wash shower gel that I like. I ran out of that and I'm using regular soap and there is plenty of that in storage. The skin on my back seems like its crawling. My forehead, nose and chin are pretty oily and my back is moderately oily. The rest of my skin is fairly normal. The switch to soap seems to have messed up my skin chi. Anyways, in a major crisis, I would just be glad for a shower let alone some soap.

I'm also running very low on mouthwash. I have plenty of toothpaste, floss and toothbrushes but the mouthwash- I got-ta got-ta have it! I will really ration that out and see if I can get another 2 1/2 weeks out of it but it doesn't look promising. There are two packets of the Listerine breath strips that can be used to extend the inevitable but I may have to live like a hermit for a couple of days at the end of the 90 days if my breath goes south. After this weekend, I have two Sundays (attend church) and I have DJ jobs on Dec 3rd, 5th, 6th and 11th. If I can have one swig for each of those, I think I'll make it. Side note to this- I'm generally less odorous owing to the reduced processed foods this last couple of months. I'm eating healthier and my body seems to be working more efficiently.

Soap and mouthwash- just more to consider when storing goods against hard times. I know in a crisis, that body odor will be the least of my worries but I want to be as comfortable as possible. Good preparation also puts me in a better position to render Christian-type assistance to others.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

That was then and this is now

I was in LA last Friday night for a DJ job and I celebrated my 30th anniversary in the entertainment business. I played a song Friday night off of this album, a song that I had played at my very first event in 1979. It was a brand new song then and it's 30 yrs old now. Gary Numan's "Cars"

This month, I purchased a 3 CD re-release of the album to commemorate it's 30th anniversary and it's been in my CD player this week. One disc is the album just as it was, the next is filled with demo versions that were used to present the song ideas to the record company, alternate takes and alternate mixes and b-sides to the singles that were released back then. It's interesting to hear the stripped down version of "Cars" before it was fleshed out and became the classic that it is. It sounds like something Earth Wind and Fire could have done- very R&B-esque. The third disc is some concert recordings from that time period. The crowd was not recorded as it would have been had it been intended for a live release but you can still hear the ambient crowd sounds from the stage mics, it's just straight from the concert mixing board. One item of note is the inclusion of "On Broadway" in concert with synthesizers and drum machines- Gary Numan style.

Some of you are probably scratching your head and questioning the value of a 3-CD anniversary release of this album from 30 years ago. This album was the first of the rock era that was devoid of electric guitars. Other acts like Kraftwerk (German pronunciation- Krahft-vehrk) used synthesizers and other electronics but came across as cold, experimental music for geeks. Gary Numan made a solid, funky, warm traditional rock album- just with synthesizers taking the lead. There was bass guitar and a traditional rock drummer, but no guitars.

Don't get me started on the importance of Kraftwerk in hip-hop and current dance music. I contend that hip-hop would not have happened AT ALL without the influence of Kraftwerk. I can hear their beats or even sampled bits in probably 40% of all of the dance music that I play today. That is a posting for another time.

The musicians' union in England tried to blacklist Gary Numan from getting any gigs because he was using those new-fangled synthesizers and putting musicians out of work. He countered that he used 6 union musicians on stage every night while Sting and the Police only had 3! I recently saw a very young Sting on a DVD lamenting back in 1979 that "Message in a Bottle" -one of the great guitar riffs EVER- had debuted at #8 on the British charts and Sting was concerned! He thought it would have done better if they could just get Gary Numan to F*&% OFF!

"Cars" was actually Gary Numan's 3rd #1 single in Europe and "The Pleasure Principle" was his 2nd #1 album- and he was only 21 yrs old. That proved to be his only hit in the U.S. but he had about 35 chart hits in Europe and elsewhere in his career. He is releasing his 22nd and 23rd albums just a couple of months apart next year. I can't wait.

I still like "Cars" even though it comes off like a novelty song and doesn't really represent his wider body of music. Oft-times, the pioneer, who does it different or expands the art form is mis-understood even though he or she opens the door for those that follow the idea to success like Duran Duran, Human League, Depeche Mode and others.

I have seen 4 or 5 of Gary Numan's concerts on the rare occasions that he tours in the U.S. I have his autograph on some memorabilia. It was a pleasure to meet him. Considering the cold, ethereal feel of his music, he is a very warm and engaging performer. Several thousand people could think that the concert was just for them. Here are some current pictures of Gary Numan.

Here's me back in 1979, with my first keyboard rig. The other is me also in 1979, pictured with my dad at the front end of my DJ career when bands like Gary Numan, The Police and Styx had sparked my imagination and arguably changed my life.

Here are a couple of pics of me now- 30 years later. Newer keyboard rig- this one digital piano can do 20 times more than the 4 keyboards could do in 1979.

Additionally, I'm a far better entertainer now than I was back then. Even though I know how to use the equipment to enhance that entertainment value, I've learned that technology isn't where the magic happens. The best sound system and light show won't save an event if the entertainer stinks. The magic happens when the performer and the audience connect and they exchange energy and celebration and angst and they just release the feelings of anticipation associated with the given occasion or event.

My current DJ rig pictured here can do about 20 times what my first DJ set-up could do with about 1/3 of the weight and space.

It's purely coincidental that both of these shots have my head cut off. The photographer that I've been hanging with of late- Kym Ventola, well, that's part of her artistic style. Or maybe she thinks I'm hideous... oh no... maybe I AM hideous... LOOK AWAY!

Here's to 30 more years!

Sunday, November 15, 2009

66 days in. 24 to go.

Getting close to the finish but a big finish actually seems kinda anti-climactic. For someone who is prepared, this shouldn't be a big deal I guess. The garden is producing more than enough for a nice salad every day or every other day. I have planted a winter garden each November since moving to Arizona. This is my 4th one. For reasons described earlier, I planted the salad ingredients earlier than usual and already enjoying the produce. The butter head lettuce leaves are quite nice.

A few meals on the table this week- Hot loaf of bread with Hamburger soup (Hamburger, dried carrots and dried celery, soy sauce, tomato sauce, salt and pepper, dried onion soup packet and after cooking for a couple of hours in the crock pot, add Parmesan cheese and parsley and some macaroni or whatever other pasta you have- used bow tie pasta this time- and then serve it up.) Salad from the garden, pancakes and sausage, oatmeal, cream of wheat cereal, franks cooked into a crescent roll, peanut butter and crackers, apple sauce, canned pears and hot chocolate.

Attended a wedding at JW Marriott Resort at Desert Ridge this week- NOT as a DJ. It was a lovely occasion and really enjoyed the meal provided by our hosts. (I enjoyed the company of our hosts and the other guests too.) The salad had romaine lettuce, orange wedges with the membranes peeled off, capers, and some kind of a citrus-y dressing. The entre was a choice of prime rib, lobster or sea bass. I had prime rib and it was a fantastic piece of meat. It came with some baby arugula leaves and northern beans (Yankee or White beans) with some cherry tomatoes and a hint of olive oil. Deeeee LISH!

There is 1 1/2 lbs of butter left. The Santa Fe apples are gone. Made fruit leather and ate as many fresh apples as could be eaten. They still lasted longer than they should have before going south. Made some cupcakes from a Betty Crocker cake mix and while they tasted like cupcakes, the egg solids didn't hold up very well. They were plenty moist and puffy, but had nothing to hold them together- they were crumbly. Even the wax paper baking cups didn't bond to the cake very well. It was odd.

I'm reminded that without electricity, the living of this adventure would be dramatically different. The freezer and the bread machine have been fantastic. Dried beans, rice and wheat would sustain life in a crisis but I'm more and more bored with the narrowing choices for meals. I would have gone nuts already without the freezer. The garden is gonna save my sanity.

I have felt a couple of times that the point has been made and all possible lessons may have already been learned. I actually considered calling it off with these 3 weeks to go, but owing to the spiritual feelings and and some of the other unexpected observations made, I have chosen to continue to 90 days as there may be more to learn. The only reason there is anything to write about is because I have have followed wise counsel and attempted to prepare for the future and I'm just testing my wits.

I've often noted in this blog that I'm a Styx fan. I heard "Come Sail Away" as a young teenager and that was the first time that I felt that an artist was speaking right to me. The song is about beauty of our dreams compared to the sometimes lesser reality of our lives. It's hard to find that pot of gold, but we keep dreaming anyway and we "carry on!" That's when the angels bear us up and I think it's ONLY then that they do so- when we have done all we can. That's when heaven sends help- somehow. "And we'll try the best that we can, to carry on!"

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

El Presidente

I was just given the honor of being re-elected as President of the Phoenix Chapter of the American DJ Association. It is a pleasure to associate with these men and try to add to the excellence of the industry. Back row- Joseph Ivy of Ivy Entertainment and a brilliant competitive ballroom dancer. I'm kinda in the middle there in back. On my left is Scott Faver of Party Favers. Scott speaks at other ADJA chapters around the country and is often a featured presenter at major industry functions and trade shows, he's the "Game Master" and a brilliant networker. Back row, right is Robert Wilson our treasurer. In front on the left is Secretary, Bill Limbach, the DJ For You. In front of me is Mark Sanchez of Professional Mobile Entertainment, our vice president. Wearing white on the right of the picture is Dr. Drax, the national President of the American DJ Association. Drax and I have known each other for many years now and associated professionally and personally in southern California long before I joined the association. Drax is his stage name and I always knew him by his real given name. I think I may be the only one that knows his name. It's kinda like the Seinfeld episode where everybody learns Kramer's first name is Cosmo.

Thank you to the chapter members for your confidence. I will do my best.

Monday, November 9, 2009

60 days in. 30 to go.

Major milestone for this posting. Not only is it the 2/3 marker, but even more exciting than that--I ate a salad from the garden- and then I danced the Mamushka.

There is an Old Testament verse that is often overlooked as to its significance. In Joshua chapter 5, the Israelites have just crossed the Jordan river into Canaan and they are making preparations to conquer the city of Jericho. They and ate some "old corn" and unleavened cakes (probably something like corn tortillas) for the passover feast that week. The reason this is significant is that the next day, the manna from Heaven that had fed them in the wilderness for 40 years stopped. Verse 12 says that "they did eat of the fruit of the land of Canaan that year."

The food in the garden still is only a compliment to the dried stored foods but a welcome treat. Later in the season, the scale will tip the other way, the fresh food will be supplemented by dried goods.

Observations on the garden- When planting seeds, you plant them closer than you need and then thin them out at some point after they sprout. Not all seeds germinate AND some require the presence of other seeds nearby to germinate in any case. Plus, it's hard to do anything other than just sprinkle them out gently when they are such tiny seeds. For the bigger seeds like the peas, the placement is very deliberate.

The thinning should occur before the roots become intertwined and each plant would have to compete with the others nearby for dirt, water, sunlight etc. and you get a bunch of sickly plants that don't produce much of anything. Thinning them exposes more leaf area to sunlight. At this stage, they are just a single root protruding downward. The butterhead lettuce plants are still seedlings and have not begun forming heads. They did need to be thinned out and since the leaves are edible they went into the salad rather than getting tossed out. SO- a plate full of butterhead lettuce leaves, a couple of sprigs of cilantro leaves with the stems (as cilantro matures and gets thicker, the stems get a kinda bitter, but they are sweet/pungent now), a couple of sprigs of green onions, and some re-hydrated carrots and celery from storage with a couple of tablespoons of canned diced tomatoes. I have red vinegar and olive oil in storage with other dried herbs like pepper, garlic, parsley, oregano etc. I made a most excellent dressing.

As people learn of my adventures recently, it seems more and more fantastical to them but more and more comfortable, reasonable, DO-able and ordinary to me. The stored food has become a bridge that spanned the time needed to plant seeds and begin a harvest, or make other arrangements to obtain food in a crisis. Seeds would seem to be the obvious choice because one is not at the mercy of others or of the crisis itself, one is SELF-reliant! It's right there in the title- SELF-reliance. You take care of yourself and don't leave it to others to take care of the things you should have planned for.

Inventory: Down to 2 lbs of butter. Made a rice/coconut/almond/canned chicken dish that used another 1/4lb of butter. Won't last for 30 more days, but it's ok. 11 kosher franks left. Some frozen chicken, 1 lb of shrimp, 2 Cornish game hens, frozen broccoli, frozen corn, some sausage. 3 boxes of cold cereal.

There is PLENTY of canned fruits, vegetables and meats and dozens of #10 cans of wheat, rice, beans, sugar, salt, dried milk, potato flakes etc. All of those have been the backbone of many of the meals of late. The Santa Fe tomatoes are gone. There are a few Santa Fe apples left but they are going south- starting to decompose. Maybe a couple more days of apples and cinnamon and oatmeal.
Finished off the peanuts on a hike on Peralta trail to Weavers Needle in the Superstition mountains last weekend. It's a medium to strenuous 6 mile round trip on a well used and maintained trail. It felt better without candy or fitness supplements that are generally loaded with chemicals and other kinds of fillers. Water and peanuts provided plenty of energy. Peanut packaging is biodegradable. Took Camelback back-pack with reusable water bladder. Still have lots of sunflower seeds, pistachios, and almonds to eat with meals.

A few menu items this week: Chicken/pineapple/tomato (from a can) skewers with teriyaki sauce cooked on tabletop hibachi grill using Sterno fuel. Pancakes and sausage. Crescent rolls with kosher frank baked inside. Franks and beans. Chicken and pasta- with tomato basil sauce and Parmesan cheese or with Alfredo sauce and broccoli. Ritz crackers and peanut butter. Cinammon rolls with frosting.

Had a DJ friend from Orange County California staying here for 3 days. We did a big event together last weekend. He hadn't seen me since I did a gig in Santa Monica CA 2 months ago-- He said I looked very healthy. I have lost 5 lbs in my mid-section. I had been at the very high end of the proper weight window for my height. I could lose 8 to 10 more and be at the low end. I don't anticipate that happening but it would be a good by-product of this adventure.

The end of this experiment is in sight. My life has become so much more simple. I have begun to formulate a plan to live this way more fully. Food stored for someday and never rotated is subject to spoilage thus wasting the money intended to be saved AND rendering it useless in a crisis anyway. Wheat, beans and rice stored properly should last 30 years or so, but they should be a part of the regular diet. I'll go for a major restocking of foodstuffs in bulk once per quarter and then maybe go for eggs, milk and cheese, once every 14 to 21 days. When I think about that, I may actually dump or at least massively reduce the consumption of those dairy products from my regular diet and increase the fresh produce to the degree that I can grow it here at home- it's far superior to anything found in the local grocery stores anyway. But if I can't grow it myself, I'll buy whatever can be grown locally.

Talk to ya in about a week.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Day 53. 37 to go. The test is actually just beginning.

In case you've just joined me and you're wondering about the posting title, I decided to have a go at living off my own wits and eat only the food that I have stored against hard economic times or natural disaster etc. I haven't been to a grocery store or any other store for 53 days. Gasoline has been the only regular purchase. I have purchased some supplies for DJ equipment repairs and upgrades (I still have to run my business). I've also been also out to lunch with clients or colleagues about once every other week (owing to the social nature of eating together). I've made some unexpected observations about the way we acquire and consume food. If you are interested, scroll down to Day 14 and read up. For reference, I have far more than 90 days stored so if there were a crisis inside of this experiment, requiring another 90 or 180 or 270 days of living without a grocery store, I'd be fine.

A few menu items this week: Pancakes and fried Spam, the last steaks out of the freezer with some frozen corn on the cob, cherry Jell-o with canned peaches and fruit cocktail, cornbread and chili beans, crescent rolls, soup made from the tomatoes picked on the Santa Fe trip- it was DEEeeeeee LISH! Also, fruit leather with the apples from Santa Fe (see previous postings for explanation on that), Blew out some of the gifted cheese for some grilled cheese sandwiches to dip in the tomato soup (see previous postings for explanation on that). Chocolate chip cookies and No-bake oatmeal cookies.

In my travels and other adventures last week, someone approached me who had heard that I was doing this and was teasing me about how nice it would be to have a big plate of Mexican food or something (I have stored all of the supplies to have Mexican food). This person was even poking my shoulder repeatedly as if to provoke me. This person was someone that I know peripherally and who is a bit lacking in social skills anyway and so I discounted the gesture owing to that. This person hadn't read this on-line journal and was in no position to gauge whether I was starving or having some hardship or if I was making some kind of a statement or just being magnanimous. It is none of those things. For the most part, it has been completely comfortable and even a spiritual experience. I almost got angry for just a second because it was disrespecting the spiritual and peaceful experience I am having but I let that anger go quickly and was rather sad that this person was probably massively in debt, maybe hanging on to a job by a thread, otherwise unprepared and maybe even fearful at what they would do for their hungry children in a crisis.

I once taught an Old Testament class for two years as part of a seminary program for high school students. A story about Elijah has been on my mind this week. There was a famine in the land and the streams had just about dried up, the crops had died and there was a widow who had a cup of meal (probably corn meal or something) and a bit of oil in a cruse and she was gathering firewood to make a fire and cook up some flat bread for dinner and then she and her son were going to die- that was all the food there was. Elijah promised her in the name of the Lord that if she would feed him first and then she and her son, that the barrel of meal would not "waste" (diminish) and that the oil would not "fail" (it would always stay topped off and not spoil) until the Lord sent rain again. She trusted, and she fed Elijah first and she ate many days and the meal and oil somehow lasted. There is more to the story but it gets rather heavy for an otherwise lighthearted blog about the adventures of a lunatic professional DJ. Read it for yourself in I Kings 17.

I've felt like the widow this last 7 weeks. Whether you believe in the Bible literally or figuratively, there is a reason that these kinds of stories resonate with so many of the peoples of the world and have resonated for so many centuries. It's about coming in to the protection of God. He says, "Let me save you from the flood, let me save you from the famine, let me save your soul... Follow me!"

I was feeling anxious last week upon doing a food inventory- I counted that I was down to 4 lbs of butter. I can do without drinking milk- notice that I've just let it go- it's not that big of a deal. Most of the bread recipes have been fine with dried milk and egg solids... but butter?!??! What would I spread on my pancakes? What would I spread on my crescent rolls or on a slice of bread? Strawberry jam is fine, but a bit of melting butter just pushes it off a cliff! I love that!

I feel like the test is actually just beginning. I think that most refrigerators/pantries should have basic supplies to sustain life for 30 to 40 days in a crisis. So far, it has been just fine, hardly any appreciable difference in menu/diet. Even though the butter shortage made me nervous, it seems like the widow's barrel- I still have 3 and 1/4 lbs of butter as of today. I may run out at the end of this month but will only have to go until Dec 11th to purchase more. A batch of cookies once a week uses 1/4lb, biscuits for dinner every other night uses about 1/4lb per week, toast/pancakes etc for breakfast uses about 1/4lb per week. It's not just the butter mind you- lots of stuff has lasted far longer than I anticipated. I'm well aware that in a real crisis, the lack of electricity would have changed the experiment DRAMATICALLY! The frozen meat and vegetables have been great but if I lost the freezer, I think it's been proven that there is other stored stuff to live on.

I'm always saddened by the aftermath of various natural disasters in the world. Let there be no mistake at whether I have compassion for those who lose lives and property and such. I'm just saddened that people think that it falls to the government to save them and feed them. YES, that's what compassionate people do and AS a people, our government organizes our resources to help at such times. Do I want to wait for this government to save me? No. Wise counsel says prepare yourselves. There are some who say that stored food may be destroyed in a flood/fire or crushed in an earthquake etc. That's not a reason to not be prepared- that it MIGHT be destroyed. Deal with that when you get there. What if it is preserved? Wouldn't it be great to have it? If nothing else, it puts one in a position to render Christian-type service to friends and neighbors.

The garden is doing fine. I may have a salad with some butterhead lettuce as early as next week. The second variety of spinach that I planted also didn't sprout. There is about a 2 foot gap in an otherwise healthy row of peas. I replanted that section and it didn't sprout either. I'm going to plant yet another something or other in the spinach row- maybe some radishes or turnips.

I have a waffle iron that got put away a few weeks ago with a waffle still in it. I know... Anyways, a few days later it began to smell, which led to the discovery of the mistake. When I got it out this week for some waffles, they were ripped to shreds attempting to get them out. In the course of cleaning out the forgotten waffle, the non-stick surface was damaged, rendering it useless for waffles and I had to toss it in the trash. I repaired my biscuit cutter a few weeks ago, but I can't repair a waffle iron like that. Back to the wise adage reported previously; if you have two (of a tool), you have one. If you have only one, you might have none. I can live without waffles just fine, but I sure do like them. I'll probably buy two waffle irons before Christmas.

Stay tuned.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Anxiously engaged in a good cause

I just got back from a charity fundraiser for Arizona Helping Hands at The Boojum Tree in North Phoenix. They raised a bunch of money to do a bunch of good things for kids and teens who need some good things done for them. It was a very nice function with a very moving presentation from a couple of members of the board of directors of the charity and a couple of organizations and individuals that had stories to tell of the changed lives- owing to the assistance provided by the group. It was my pleasure to introduce Alexis DelChiaro from the local FOX News morning show. I've met her before at a broadcast for a big event at a local resort. She's from southern California too and we chatted about how we both arrived in Arizona.

It was a Christmas themed event gearing up for the work they will do for the holiday season. I played Christmas music and there was a Christmas tree. It was a really cold night at an outdoor venue. I got rosy cheeks- the ones on my face AND the ones on my backside!

It was also good to see Angie VanDaele, the publisher of The Wedding Chronicle. She's one of the first people I met in the wedding and event industry when I moved here three years ago and we have become good friends. She publishes the best wedding publication in the state, in my opinion. I advertise in her magazine and write a column on music and entertainment occasionally. She's very supportive and helpful with the networking group that I own for wedding and event professionals. I couldn't pull the meetings off without her help. Thanks Angie.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Day 45. 45 to go. Half way!

If you haven't already done so, scroll down to Day 14 and work your way up.

This has been, unexpectedly, a profound experience overall.

I'm aware of family, neighborhood friends and industry friends and even some of my customers that are reading this and then sharing their personal insights when we cross paths or asking questions when we meet face to face. They are great insights that others reading could benefit from. Leave your comments here too. No lurking!

A few more observations since the last update: Trash output has been substantially reduced in recent weeks. The entire house is less than 1 kitchen trash bag per week now. The convenient processed microwave meals and stove top meals in a box and other such prepared foods are just not happening.

Side note regarding the trash: I bought some new road cases for some DJ equipment. The old cases were in fine working order but they were looking fairly ratty from several years on the road and I was feeling more and more self-conscious going into the nicest hotels and social clubs in Phoenix with my battle scarred equipment. They had earned their money and it was time to replace them. The new cases are tough ROAD CASES mind you, but they were shipped over the ROAD for two days from Kansas or something- A ROAD CASE inside of a cardboard box which was inside of another cardboard box! It was all recyclable but it was a huge pile of packaging- that came from trees- and it has be be dealt with now. Other than the irony of shipping a permanent road case inside of a temporary road case, the amount of trash it created seemed alarming to me relative to the otherwise diminished trash and recyclables in the rest of the house.

The garden is sprouting up nicely. Cilantro, Butterhead lettuce, onions and peas. The spinach didn't come up. I remembered that the seeds I planted from that bag last year also didn't sprout so I discarded the balance. I re-planted another variety of spinach from another seed packet and I'll report on that next week. The Simpson lettuce didn't sprout either. If this were a real crisis, it would have been deepened by these crop failures. I'm going to plant something else in that row tomorrow- another kind of lettuce or some cabbage. I know a few like minded people who also store goods against hard times, including seeds, who mistakenly think that you just go throw them in the ground and Wal-la! Food! It ain't that easy. (I don't need no English lessons either) I think it's good advice to grow a garden all the time. The food is fantastic and the skills may save your family. I've been doing it for several years and learning what works and what doesn't and how to care for things and protect them from fungus and pests etc.

The apples from Santa Fe are phenomenal! I haven't eaten apples in this quantity since I was a kid. Sliced up with some oatmeal in the morning. Dipped in peanut butter for lunch. A whole apple nibbled down to the core for an afternoon snack. Thank God for Red Delicious apples! Used the tomatoes to make some tomato sauce and some tomato soup. They were going to spoil otherwise. I hear some tomato soup with some crackers calling my name for dinner in a few days.

Prepared/processed meals are supposed to add to the convenience of our lives- It's a LIE! I've decided that they actually make it more complicated. Meals are far more simple now and easier to prepare this way. No trips to the store. The food staples that were purchased years ago were for pennies on the dollar relative to the expense of processed/packaged items. No packaging to contend with, no fillers, no modified food starch, which is a by-product of processed wheat and/or corn used to puff up portions or package weights. A bowl of chili con carne or franks and beans (still have about 2 dozen kosher franks in the freezer) or some dried black beans soaked over night and simmered in a crock pot all day streusselled with some good pepper sauce and served with some cornbread for a meal is just fine. Still have frozen chicken and frozen broccoli, frozen corn, dried potato flakes for mashed potatoes with a can of roast beef and gravy over the top. Dried hash browns whipped up and served with maybe a slice of fried spam for breakfast.

The cheese that was delivered by a friend- see earlier post for an explanation of that- is still a welcome treat, grated over a bowl of chili, but that is almost gone. It may last another 10 days or so.

I really miss fresh milk... Did I mention that before? There is a dairy in Southern California called Alta Dena that- for whatever reason- has the best milk EVER! There is nothing like a glass of cold milk and I mean COLD. Brad Pitt likes ice cubes in his milk, like I do, and that's because he is a Epicurean, like I am. I'm doing a DJ job in LA in a couple of weeks and would love to go drink a gallon of Alta Dena milk but it will have to wait until the next time I'm out there in January. Alas, the dried milk is just to weird to drink. There are two brands in storage. Neither is acceptable to me for drinking, but one is OK for cooking and baking, the other is acceptable on a bowl of cold cereal but I notice that it makes the cereal soggy VERY quickly. I guess there is some property in real milk that doesn't penetrate the structure of cold cereal as quickly. The dried milk acts like water on the cereal. I find myself pouring a shallow bowl twice and eating them quickly as opposed to a full bowl that goes soggy before I can eat it all.

It's nice that the weather has cooled. I find solace in a good cup of hot chocolate and marshmallows a couple of times a week for breakfast or a cup in the evening after dinner. Stephen's brand hot chocolate is Deeeee- LISH! I sip it and dream of the day when I can enjoy a glass of milk again.

Since moving to Arizona just over 3 years ago, I have been re-introduced to the concept of drinking plenty of water. I drink a good amount of water anyway, but I'm drinking even more of it lately and enjoying it and feeling generally better. I've always been a Koolaid fan when it's offered, but I just don't need it right now. I prefer water. I DO have lots of sugar and Koolaid stored.

Final observation for this week. The new pace and regard for food and meals is refreshing and meaningful. There is a very real social element to eating food. I wonder how much of the economy can be traced to ideas exchanged over a meal or a cup of coffee ending with a handshake and a new professional relationship that becomes profitable? I've been lingering at the table after dinner lately and shelling peanuts or pistachios and laughing and talking about things and connecting better. Whenever I eat Asian food, I always use chopsticks. I'm pretty adept at the use of chopsticks but even at its best, the bites are slower and smaller. It just slows you down to enjoy the meal. More meals should use chopsticks.

In a similar way, shelling peanuts and pistachios just slows you down. The simple act of eating a simple meal, when done correctly, can BOND you to loved ones.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Persian music ROCKS!

I performed at a wedding last week that rocked my face! The bride was Latina and the groom was Iranian. They had two ceremonies, one traditional Christian type and then a Persian wedding ceremony followed that. A cocktail hour followed with a rockin' Mariachi band and then into the banquet room for dinner and dancing.

Fans of rock music know Led Zeppelin's Kashmir is based in Arabic musical phrasing. The drums go at half speed with triplets on the guitar advancing upward creating tension and the phrasing goes in and out of phase, compared to the drums, with alternating measures. Most western (European) music divides notes by halves, quarters, eighths, sixteenths and so on. Some Persian music divides it in thirds and then puts it into musical phrases in 5/4 time signatures and such. It's incredibly complex. There are lots of 5ths and minor 6th notes that I love.

Traditionally, the Bride and Groom will take the dance floor at the end of dinner for a first dance and then open the dance floor for the guests to celebrate. Guests wanted to dance from the moment they entered the room. I hated to shut it down to get them to sit down and eat the meal that had been prepared.

I had been provided with a few CDs of some Persian music, some of which was of terrible, terrible recording quality. I wish I knew the background of some of those songs. They may have been historic live recordings of highly regarded and loved national artists. Even though the fidelity was poor, the opening notes of some of those songs were met with absolute jubilation and celebrants could NOT keep thier seats. They just HAD to dance to this or that song.

Some of that Persian music mixed with other Latin beats made for a great night of dancing.

Thanks Jazmine and Hessam, you guys ROCK!

Day 37. 53 to go.

In order for this posting to make sense, you should scroll down to Day 14 and read up.

A few dishes on the table recently- Pasta and Alfredo sauce with broccoli, Teriyaki chicken with pineapple and steamed rice. Half of the can of pineapple went in with the chicken and the other half went in with some cherry jello. I've found that I really enjoy just a bowl of black beans with some pepper sauce- very hearty.

I do miss fresh milk. Fresh eggs are gone too. Since I last posted, I made two or three of loaves of bread with powdered milk and also used powdered egg solids. Those came out just fine- no detectable difference in taste or texture. There's still plenty of butter in the fridge and there's nothing like fresh hot bread with real butter melting all over it. Made crescent rolls with a kosher frank rolled up inside and those were pretty fab with some mustard, ketchup, sweet relish and the last of the yellow onion diced up.

Planted my winter garden last week. Earlier than I would have usually, but the failed pumpkins freed up the garden space. I planted cilantro, spinach, peas, Simpson lettuce, onions and butterhead lettuce. The spinach and Simpson lettuce haven't sprouted yet and I'm anxious about it. Everything else is reaching for the sky! It's very gratifying.

During the Mormon exodus of the late 1840's, people planted seeds along the trail for subsequent companies to possibly have some produce along the way. The very first order of business for the advance company that arrived in the Salt Lake valley in July of 1847 was to plant several acres of potatoes so that they would have a fighting chance to survive that first winter there. When Brigham Young arrived a few days later, so sick that he could barely sit up in his wagon, he looked down the mountains into that valley and declared "this is the right place."

I once watched a wonderful science film at an IMAX theater about the U.S. space program and specifically the space shuttle. The filmmaker went to lengths to portray the brilliant minds and technological skill that combined to accomplish the immense feat that it is to get a craft into orbit around Earth. This particular mission was to try to get some produce to grow in zero gravity. They were trying to grow wheat. They used centrifuges to try to trick the seeds into sensing gravity and growing upwards against it. Several other methods were used including planting it in the traditional way. All methods failed. All of that brilliance couldn't do as seemingly a simple thing as sprouting some wheat grass.

I thought of that last week. This experiment has changed my feelings on food and the way it is acquired and consumed. Indulge me to wax spiritual for a moment- I actually stood in my garden last week after I planted those seeds and I prayed to God that those seeds would sprout and be fruitful and that they would be protected from pests and foul weather and that the produce would be to the benefit of my physical body and sustain life! I don't know if you have followed the plight of the honeybees in recent years. They are dying in massive numbers! 70% of the firefly population worldwide died last year too. My prayer included a plea for the safety of the bees. There is a lot of food that wouldn't happen without bees.

A few other closing thoughts for the week: I got a few left over Carmel apples at an industry function and regarded it as a major score! I also made a trip to Santa Fe NM this week to trim the trees and rake leaves and make some repairs at the home of an aging relative, came home with a couple of bags of red delicious and golden delicious apples and a bag of fresh tomatoes off of the ranch property there. That was a MAJOR score! Did eat out a couple of times while there but for the most part, only purchased gasoline per the parameters of the experiment. Took food with me from my pantry for the road.

Monday, October 5, 2009

Day 26. 64 to go.

If you haven't already, read this first and then this.

Made a basket of muffins yesterday from scratch. No fresh ingredients- all dry ingredients from storage- brown sugar, flour, baking powder, salt, oats, cinnamon, honey etc. They were very moist and delicious. I had a bowl of pinto beans and a muffin and a slice of fried spam for breakfast. Water to drink.

For dinner tonight, I had some steamed rice and orange chicken with some sesame seeds sprinkled on it. Complimented it with a can of mandarin orange slices. Some green onions would have been perfect but alas, I don't have any. I ate a carrot with it. Two more carrots and two more potatoes left. Finished off the other half of the jar of peaches that I opened up a couple of days ago to put in the aforementioned bowl of peach jello. I finished that jello off yesterday.

I have a bird feeder on my back porch and a bird bath and a fountain in the back yard. A couple of days ago as I went to put some fresh water in the fountain, a hummingbird, unaware of my standing there, came right up to get a drink out of the dribble that pours out of the top of the fountain. I had the water on low and just was standing still there holding the hose and taking my time filling it up. Lots of birds drink from that fountain every day. Lots of birds also clean up in my bird bath and I wonder what goes on each day in the life of a bird that gets them so dirty. After I put fresh water in it, for about an hour each morning, there is a line of birds on the west wall waiting their turn, two or three birds in the bath at a time, and then they go to the south wall to dry off and re-fluff the feathers and go on their way.

I tell you all of that so that I can tell you this, I discovered another item of note that I'm lacking... I usually put about 2 cups of birdseed out in the feeder each morning. I'm out of seed. There was a row of tough guy birds sitting on the wall this morning giving me the stink-eye. They'll have to wait until Dec 11th or do a better job of keeping the bugs out of my garden! There was enough bugs on my pumpkin vines to have fed them for a month and they didn't eat them.

I have a Mormon Pioneer ancestor that was sent by Brigham Young from Salt Lake to colonize in southern Arizona. His company crossed the Colorado River at Lee's Ferry and his journal told a story that has always moved me. He was a lover of animals and always gave gratitude to God for the burden they bore on his behalf and it always broke his heart to hear of a mistreated animal. A few of his animals drown in the crossing and those that made it got to the other side and just got their front legs and front quarters up on the banks and collapsed with exhaustion. He depended on them so much- and they gave so much. Since they had been domesticated to a great degree, they were no longer able to fend for themselves without his assistance.

I don't have any pets but for those who do have pets, it's something to plan for in a crisis- to make sure that you have enough food and supplies for them as well. I may have created a bit of a micro eco system of sorts in my yard with so many birds depending on a bit of food each day at 730 and now they will have to fend for themselves.

Now that the heat has broken in Arizona, I'm planting a few rows of produce tomorrow morning. Cilantro, cabbage, peas, turnips and a couple of kinds of lettuce. I may have some lettuce in about 5 weeks, cilantro in 3 weeks or so. Peas and turnips by Thanksgiving.

A friend who saw this blog brought over a small brick of cheddar cheese and a small tub of cottage cheese. It is a most welcome gift and was given and received with love and gratitude but such an act will compromise the data of this experiment. It IS an experiment and there is not a real crisis. I'm having the best year I have ever had in my 30 years as an entertainer! There is plenty of money and a choice of 3 or 4 fully stocked grocery stores within walking distance in any direction. There may come a time when the stores aren't there or they aren't stocked because of a labor dispute or political unrest or there is a disease outbreak or a financial crisis or hyper inflation where our money isn't worth anything and can't be used to purchase these things that we take for granted. I just don't want those problems to be my problems. I want to be reasonably comfortable and safe in my own home.

The Dream Team

I did a wedding on Saturday that had some serious problems. I'm sure some heads are rolling today on the subject. The caterer cooked up the wrong meal for 200 people. The food was pretty good, but it didn't match the lovely printed menu cards at each place setting. I wonder if there was another wedding across town that had the food on those menu cards? The flowers were not bad either but they weren't even close to what the bride had ordered. The florist said that they ran out of something or another... (Why did they run out? How is that the problem of the customer? Why wasn't it addressed at some point earlier than at the event?)

I was there with my best buddy Kym Ventola who photographed the wedding and Kathy from Thee Wedding Warehouse who was coordinating the event, and I was DJing myself. It wasn't the "dream team," it was more like the "refreshing afternoon nap" team. Those kinds of major mistakes wouldn't have happened if the rest of our "team" was there. Alas, the bride and groom hired others for whatever reason... Had all of us been at the wedding together, those problems would not have happened.

I spent Sunday with these guys the Phoenix Bridal show at University of Phoenix stadium. We all had a booth together. Kym Ventola wasn't at the bridal show with us, she was photographing a wedding.
On the left, Kathy Baggett from Thee Wedding Warehouse, the most brilliant marketer I have ever known. She has a great bridal boutique out in Goodyear. I'm standing next to her. In the center is Jacque Dearing from Endearing Floral Design, Kathy's partner and in house florist at Thee Wedding Warehouse. For reference, I'm a guy and don't care one way or the other about flowers and I have been around floral designs at weddings for 30 years and you could imagine that flowers all start to look the same to me. Jacque's work will make you perk and up and notice! Next is Ginny Solis from All About Catering. She and Chef Julie (not there yesterday) are a great team. Ginny and her assistant, Sabrina, served up mango cilantro sliders yesterday. There was a line of interested brides snaking across our booth all day. They cooked and assembled and served 600 mini-burgers in 3 hours! On the right is Reverend G. He has had a full life in sound production and recording, as a test driver for new and experimental automobiles and as a minister for 21 years. He has a wry and twisted sense of humor and is a gentleman in every way. It's always a pleasure to be around him.

Usually when we are working together, well, we are working. I couldn't let this opportunity for a photograph get away before we packed up and called it a day. I count myself really blessed to be in the personal and professional company of such fine people!

Friday, October 2, 2009

Day 21. 69 to go.

If you haven't read the previous post, scroll down or click it. Read that one first so that this one makes sense.

21 days in with 69 days to go. The fresh food is virtually gone. I have 3 flour tortillas, one tomato, one yellow onion, and about 6 potatoes. Fresh milk is gone and that is the only thing that I miss so far. The dried milk is more obvious than I thought. I don't care for it on cereal. It has to be a smaller amount as a part of a recipe to be baked or otherwise disquised.

For dinner last night, I made some peach jello with some canned peaches. I boiled a couple of potatoes and mashed them and mixed them about 50/50 with dried potato flakes and a sprinkle of dried chopped onions. I mixed in the last of the sour cream. Complimented that with a can of roast beef with gravy and some homemade biscuits- using the dried milk. I still have lots of butter and strawberry jam. The biscuits were Deeeeeee-LISH!

Tid-bit-o-trivia on the biscuits... I broke my little tin biscuit cutter while cutting out the dough! In the grand scheme of things, it's not the greatest of my worries. One can always use a cup or a knife to cut out circles and squares for biscuits. The trouble is that using a cup to cut biscuit dough doesn't allow the air to escape as you press down and it's hard to get the biscuit out of the cup after since there is no access from the other side. I do have a soldering iron so I'll repair the biscuit cutter today. Worst case scenario, I would use a tin can and cut both ends off.

I heard some wise advice many years ago about situations like this. "If you have two, you have one. If you have one, you might have none." I have a tool to open my emergency water barrels and if I lost or broke that, I would have a tough time opening those barrels. Some basic back up kitchen utensils might be in order. A spare can opener would be crucial.

For breakfast this morning, I broke the last fresh egg over the left over mashed potatoes from last night and added a bit of flour and made potato pancakes. I grated the last of the Monterrey jack cheese and sprinkled a bit of that on the pancakes. When I get out the cheese grater, I usually grate a fair amount of it and put it in a zip lock bag. I was very conscious of the fact that this is the last of the cheese and I picked as much cheese out of the grater and I collected every last bit off of the cutting board and kept it. Normally I would just regard it as a casualty of cheese grating and a bit would be lost on the grater and the cutting board and then down the drain. The remaining cheese may last another 5 days or so.

Another observation: Years ago when I was working two jobs, eating gross amounts of fast food and drinking sodas regularly, I chewed a couple of antacids every night to relieve the heartburn. It's a lifestyle and diet that I no longer live and eat. A mild case of heartburn maybe once a month now is all I have and that's after a major meal with habanero peppers or other spicy food from my garden and I usually just lay on my left side to relieve it without an antacid tablet. I had a case of heartburn last night that may be due to the changing diet this last 3 weeks. I couldn't detect any of the regular triggers. I discovered that I have two antacid tablets in my medicine cabinet and I used one of them last night. I have about 10 more in my van and another 10 in a small emergency kit in one of my DJ road cases.

As a general rule, I don't use drugs of any kind, including over the counter pain medications or cold remedies. Those only manage or mitigate the symptoms but don't actually solve the problem. Given proper nutrition and environment, I believe the body already contains what it needs and can heal itself in most instances. In this DJ emergency kit, I do keep some cold remedies, some antacids, some pain relievers, a couple of bandages, tweezers, a couple of buttons and some needles and thread etc- Things that could get me through an event in a pinch and allow me to be the witty charming and effervescent entertainer even if I didn't feel well. It's probably time to change those out anyway now that I think of it. The equipment and road cases are stored in an unconditioned space and have been there for some time.

I went out to lunch with a client this week and my plate included some cabbage and a radish to garnish the dish with some color. I ate all of it.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Day 14. 76 to go.

In Back to the Future Part III, Doc Brown and Marty McFly commandeer an Old West steam train to push the Delorean up to 88 miles per hour to get from 1885 back to the year 1985. The train engineer puts his hands up and asks "Is this a stick up?" Brown and McFly look at each other and conclude "No, it's a science experiment."

I, too, am in the middle of a science experiment that started on Sept 11th. I'm not going to the grocery store or any other store for 90 days. Gasoline is the only thing I'm going to purchase until Dec 11. I store food and water against hard economic times, social unrest, natural disasters or disease outbreaks, I have for many years- it seems to me to be common sense, but plenty of people think I'm a bit of a nut case. I'm testing myself out as if there had been a disaster on Sept 11th of 2009 and I had to live on my own wits. I'm 14 days into it with 76 to go.

Fresh food is going fast. I have about 20 corn tortillas and about 10 large flour tortillas- those should last another 10 days or so. I have a few pounds of butter and just over a pound of Monterrey jack cheese. I mostly ran out of fresh vegetables a couple of days ago. I have a tomato, a red onion, a yellow onion, 20 potatoes and a tiny bit of green onion left. When those are gone, I'll switch to the freezer. The freezer has a couple of bags of frozen broccoli, corn and peas. There are a couple of bags of chicken breasts, a couple of steaks, a couple of Cornish game hens- save those for Thanksgiving, about 36 kosher franks, 1 lb of shrimp, some frozen corn on the cob and 1 lb of bacon.

In a real disaster, of course, there may or may not be electricity and the meat in the freezer would be eaten or shared with neighbors or destroyed in about 2, MAYBE 3 days. I have a hunch though, that even in a disaster, there may be intermittent electricity. Even war torn Iraq gets electricity about half of the time.

There are about 18 eggs left. I don't eat that many eggs and they will probably go south before I eat them all. I have about 2 cups of milk left and that was mixed 50/50 with non-fat dry milk a few days ago. I don't drink the dried stuff on its own even though I found a brand that I could live with in a crunch. We'll see how I feel in a couple of weeks without fresh milk. I may mix it with some nestle quik or certainly use it for cooking or on a bowl of cereal.

I grow a garden year round here in Mesa AZ. There are only a few things that can grow in the summer months here. I usually plant pumpkins at the end of July and harvest those in the 3rd week of Oct. My pumpkin vines got attacked by pests and I took them out today. No pumpkin pie filling or pumpkins for Halloween, but the upside is that I will probably plant my winter garden a couple of weeks earlier- maybe next week. I'll be planting a couple of kinds of lettuce, some cabbage, turnips, radishes and peas. I may be able to harvest a few of them by Thanksgiving. That would be great!

One caveat is that in my travels to formal social occasions as an entertainer, I'll be served meals sometimes. I think that may mimic a real disaster too. Even in the worst of times, one may come across some milk and eggs and fresh veggies once in awhile.

After the fresh and frozen stuff is gone, I have plenty of canned goods- fruit, corn, jams, black beans, refried beans, pork and beans, canned chicken, canned beef, canned tuna etc. After that, I have plenty of dried beans, rice, wheat etc. I have sugar, dried celery, onions, carrots etc. I have yeast and flour to make bread once or twice a week. I do that regularly anyways.

Last night I soaked a big bowl of black beans and they have been in the crock pot today with a can of chicken broth. The house smells great. I hear some burritos calling my name! A big flour tortilla, some Monterrey jack cheese, some salsa, and a big scoop of black beans.

I'll have an update in a week or so.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

The White Hot Event

I own a networking group here in Phoenix for wedding professionals called the Wedding and Event Network (WEN). We get together once a month to shake hands and trade business cards. We are hosted by hotels, golf clubs, bridal boutiques and other reception halls all over the Phoenix metropolitan area each month. I'm the third owner in the 12 year history of WEN. It was started by a wedding officiant and his wife. Then it was owned by a brilliant event planner for a few years and now me. Once a year, our meeting is a bit less networking and a bit more of a party as a thank you to our members and industry friends. Everyone is invited to wear white and bring their spouse or a date. It's the White Hot Event!

Here I am with an imaginary rope, pulling a few dancers out on to the floor. The Hamptons have played at the White Hot Event for several years. They are the best wedding band in Phoenix and have always volunteered for this event- even before WEN was the respected organization it has become. Thanks guys!

This is Chandra Keel on the left, the event planner that I had for this event. I gave her some basic parameters for the event and turned her loose on it. She nailed it. That's Lisa from Arizona Weddings magazine on the right.

Here's a group shot. The event was at Tre Bella in downtown Mesa. It's an old warehouse, transformed into a reception space. The adjacent space has been converted into a charming wedding chapel. The photographer, Keri Doolittle is shooting from about the center of the room so there is a similar sized crowd behind her. Click on her link for more pics from the event. Chandra Keel is about center shot in this one too.

Each year we select a local cause or charity and ask attendees to donate to the cause if they have the means to do so. We collected almost 400 lbs of food and $150 in cash. WEN matched those donations dollar for dollar. St. Mary's was most gracious and appreciative. I'm still alarmed to hear of hungry people and empty food banks in our city of great wealth.

This is my friend, Amy Vandervort- a brilliant event planner and the previous owner of WEN. She just wanted to raise her kids and simplify her life. She may get back in the game when her children are older, but if not, she went out at the very top of her career. Her last wedding was featured on a major TV show. Ray Grace, Ray the DJ, a fantastic local mobile DJ and one of my professional brothers is on the right.

Here I am talking to Courtney Moran from Lollicakes Company. They provided desert that night. Wedding cake- on a STICK! It was deeeeee-lish! Each lollipop represents about 4 or 5 bites of wedding cake- individually wrapped- like a lollipop. This picture was taken just before the event started and the lollicakes were still under refrigeration.
It's really gratifying that everybody in this industry makes me feel like such a rockstar. I'm blown away. The network operates on the trading of professional favors for exposure to others in the industry. My email list is substantial so even those who don't attend will see the logos of the participating vendors on the email blast that goes out to the industry in advance of each meeting.

There are a few who think that my group is irrelevant or redundant. Each of us are members of our various professional associations- I'm the president of the American DJ Association- we do have a few members in common, but we have a very different purpose. We each have great educational content at our various chapter meetings. This is one forum that provides inter-industry connections. It's not a meeting of just photographers, or catering executives or just event planners.

In addition to great networking opportunities, there is a chance to talk about things that we can do to add to the excellence of the industry since we all work together at weddings and other social events.

Next month's meeting- South Beach/Miami theme at the brand new Homewood Suites- Hilton- Phoenix Airport.

Monday, August 10, 2009


It was an absolute pleasure to play at a wedding at the Irish Cultural Center in downtown Phoenix on Saturday night. The party seemed to teeter on the edge of breaking into a slug fest at any moment- not because of anger or animosity or anything else like it- but because the anticipation of the night and then the exuberance of the occasion could not be released simply by laughing, drinking, shouting, feasting, singing and dancing alone! The celebration itself was greater than all of that. Some raucous slugging among the men might have been just the ticket. It was great to be with Reverend Giovanni who stepped up to the mound and pitched the ceremony "ball" and then I stepped up to the plate and hit it out of the park with mad DJ skillz!

In his autobiography, Steve Martin talked about a comedian named Jack E. Leonard at the tail end of the Vaudevillian comedians and the beginnings of stand up comedy as we know today, who used to accentuate his punchlines by slapping his stomach and shouting "Hep!" or something like that. On a Tonight Show appearance, the audio got muddled but people laughed anyway because he slapped his stomach and they, like Pavlov's dog, laughed at what they hadn't heard, because they had been conditioned to do so. Steve Martin asked himself as a boy, What if there were no punchlines? What if there were no indicators? What if I created tension and never released it? What if I headed for a climax but all I delivered was an anticlimax? What would the audience do with all of that tension? Theoretically, it would have to come out somewhere, But if I kept denying them the formality of a punchline, the audience would eventually pick their own place to laugh. They would laugh when they chose to rather than when I chose for them to.

Music also creates tension or dissonance and it must be released or resolved to sound right and to make symmetrical sense in our brains as we process the mathematical elements of music. Consonance, or the beginning note or phrase, is the note against which every thing is compared. Our brain holds that note in a queue and compares the rest of the song to that. Sing the song "Johnny B. Goode" in your head for a minute-no, really do it with me- "Way down in 'ouisiana close to New Orleans. Way back up in the woods among the evergreens." Then there is a chord change that creates dissonance, bass note goes up a 4th - keep singing- "Stood a log cabin made of earth and wood." Then back to the original note- "Where lived a country boy named Johnny B. Goode" Then up a 5th for some real tension- "Never ever learned to read or write so well." Then resolve the tension by going back to the original note- "But he could play the guitar just like ringing a bell. Go! Go Johnny, Go!"

In comedy, the consonance is the intellectual foundation or the set up of the joke or gag. Your brain holds that in a queue for a moment and then the comedian delivers something absurd- the dissonance- that is only humorous by comparison to the consonance.

Musical phrasing does it several times in a song and then other elements, still within the constructs of the song, may create varying degrees of overall tension with the progressions of chords, the bridge sequence and the use of other textures, speeds, sounds, dynamics and perhaps a dramatic ritardo strike at the end of a song. I like songs that resolve the tension but some artists may not ever musically "resolve" a song. John Lennon and Paul McCartney were not musically trained but knew how to create tension and then resolve it musically and they arguably wrote much of the best music of the Rock and Roll era. Most genres trace their roots to those early pioneers of rock music.

As a DJ, I mostly play at more structured social occasions than a free form comedy show where I might try the innovative things that Steve Martin did. I'm obliged to give a crowd a comfortable time and place to release! A good DJ creates natural energy and makes it easy to dance and shout and celebrate and not feel uncomfortable or obligated to participate. People need a safe and cozy dancefloor surrounded by tables and chairs- a place that provides a psychological safe zone for dancing whether there is an actual dancefloor or not.

I choose songs to give an overall flavor to a wedding that represent the tastes of the bride and groom or the vision that a corporate client has for the feel of their social occasion. I choose mostly songs that are in a major key, songs that resolve themselves musically, and I put the songs in an order that creates more and more tension, with the first song in a set being the consonant song by which the following songs will be compared. I try to create more and more anticipation and tension and then when I get to a point where the crowd thinks they cain't do no mo... Well, I got moves you ain't never seen and I got songs you ain't nevah heard! ~BAM!~ I always hit them one more time with something even higher in energy or tension than they anticipated before I release them collectively as a dancing crowd. I usually choose a song for the release that ends with a strike AND on note that resolves the dissonance.

People individually are pretty smart, but interestingly, crowds have a separate mentality and they often need to be told what to do. There are really only two people in the room, the crowd, collectively, and the DJ. When the DJ is really on his or her game, even they "twain shall become one." That is where the magic really happens. People are dancing and getting into it, hugging each other, singing along with every word and I feel that energy. When it comes up to me, I feel it, I dig down deeper, crank it up and send out a renewed energy to the crowd. They feel it and nurture it and then they send it back to me and I send it back to them. This tension and release seems to flow in natural cycles of about 20 to 25 minutes. I let the music speak it, I don't say it with words. I make sure the music let's them know how to celebrate the occasion and then release the anticipation and the feelings of celebration and ultimately, resolve the dissonance.

Earlier in my career, lots of time was spent on very mechanical and technical concerns. Hunting down a CD and cuing a selected song inside of the given 3 1/2 minutes of the song that is playing and then do it again and again. With my years of experience behind me, my tools are an extension of my hands and my brain and those things are second nature- CDs are a thing of the past and I can focus on really heady stuff like this.

When you kiss your lover passionately, a little peck just isn't going to cut it. It takes 6 or 7 seconds just to start to feel the energy of their body and their warmth. THEN it becomes a passionate kiss. Songs are the same way. They live and breathe. They have energy and something to say both musically and lyrically. A mistake that many DJs make is cutting songs rapid-fire from one to the next. The song is not allowed to speak its message and create its mood. A DJ may move on to the next song before the song is resolved musically. From a practicality standpoint, guests may hear a song they would have wanted to dance to and by the time they wrap up a conversation, put down their drink, get a dance partner, the DJ has gone on to something else a couple of times over.

There is a difference between sales and marketing. I sell DJ service, and I lug a bunch of sound and lighting equipment around. I market however, fashion, attitude, expertise, music, fun- I hardly tell people that I am a DJ anymore- what always follows is "oh What station?" I respond to the inquiry with- I help people have fun. That's what I do. I try to make it easy for them to celebrate the occasions of their lives.

A DJ could do a great job from a mechanical standpoint and it could be argued that the performance was only adequate- there were no major mistakes and nobody could verbalize anything that could have made it better. The things I described are the things that make a good social occasion into a great social occasion. The tension is released, the anticipated climax was delivered, the dissonance was resolved and the customers were satisfied!