Dan Ruth - Among the Collectors

Dan Ruth - Among the Collectors

Sunday, December 26, 2010

New Wave Whimsey Photo Series

This is a first of a series of photos I took this Christmas here in Brooklyn, in Delaware and at Longwood Gardens, the former estate and "living legacy" of Pierre DuPont. The estate, a sprawling ten acre stretch of gardens & lit pathways, is in Pennsylvania, just over the Delaware border. Although all photos come from life and are beautiful on their own, I wanted to play with colors and shapes. The distorted wave-like shapes and "oil slick" colors are meant to tickle the eye and pull focus, directly to the inner eye. Some say that treating the eyes to bright & vivid color, can help with winter depression, or the "winter blues." Of course, these photos are freakier and more fun when you see them up close and larger-than-life, so feel free to click on your favorite for a closer look. Some of the original photos are below the photos to the right. Enjoy. D.

Snowfall by Streetlight


Chrome Wave

Cactus Wave

Rust Wave

Shadows on Tree

Birdhouse Vertigo

Oncoming Traffic

Wild Yellow Berries

Christmas Trees

Japanese Trees

Bark Wave

Night Garden

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

I have decided to start eating shrubs and other health-like, taste-free foragings.

I will soon be 45 years old, just discovered that I have high cholesterol and I’ve decided to move forward into a healthy diet. Getting older isn’t about forgetting things, it’s about having so much new shit to deal with, that your bound to not remember it all. A diet? Please. Guys don’t diet. I could have given two shits about what I ate when I was younger. After all, I've never really been more than only slightly pork-ish, what did I care? Okay, that's a lie. I've always been slightly pork-ish and I don't recall a day since quitting football in High School, that I actually felt "in shape." In fact, recently I acually found a picture of a young fourteen year-old "fat me" wrapped in a towel. That was me! In shape and pork-ish. I ripped that damned picture into a million bits and flushed it down to toilet. Yes, I flushed myself down the toilet bowl. I didn't like that me. I didn't like the drinking me either, hell nobody did, but when drinking me took over, the food just went out the window. When I quit drinking, I got my appetite back and oh, I took advantage. It's been over four years now and I’ve been enjoying hearty helpings of terrible and horrifyingly delicious foods. Often, I’ve turned up my nose at vegan, vegetarian and macrobiotic diets and went straight for the Filet, smothered in Béarnaise sauce with baked potato, oozing with butter and sour cream. Next it would be the Molten Chocolate Cake and vanilla bean ice cream, topped by a single peanut butter cup, tipping its hat in my direction, before silently sliding off into a sea of Hot Fudge. That was my right. I deserved it. I enjoyed it with relish. No, not that kind of relish, I would save that for the All-Beef Kosher, drenched in greasy fried onions, chili and French’s mustard.

Awe, man. . .French. I forgot about French food and I haven’t even gotten my seasonal Cassoulet from Café Luxembourg yet. Perhaps I should plan this after my birthday. No, no, no, no. I have to start a complete cholesterol-free diet now. I can’t wait. I don’t want to end up being a victim of expensive none-enjoyment-laden pill-popping like my Grandmother. I cannot allow my body to be ruled by Lipitor. Then again, I can’t let it be governed by Coquille St. Jacques, Short Ribs and Duck a l'orange either. Or can I? After all, my Grandmother is 98 years old and she still eats ice cream. Well, that’s because she doesn’t have any teeth, I’ll give her that one, but my entire family is from solid farm stock. Good ol’ farm families from Western PA who eat Scrapple, ham, flapjacks and drink Birch Beer should be used to high cholesterol. Our bodies should be used to fat by now for Christ’s sake. We should be able to pass fat.

I can’t pass fat. I can’t not put butter on my toast. I love butter. Butter and gravy. It’s as though years ago, I could see into the future to this very day – a fat me, planning to eat healthier foods. Even back then, I can remember thinking that I would have the hardest time giving up butter and gravy. Now it’s time. I will have to give them up. I will say goodbye. . .after I finish the Breakstone whipped, that’s hiding in the fridge. After I finish the Breakstone I will be able to stop the spread of butter, but how? I can’t imagine it. A piece of toast without butter? Perhaps I should look at it as a delicious crisp piece of toast that I will smother with. . .with what? Smothered with what? Yogurt? Toast and yogurt? No, that’s disgusting. Toast smothered in jelly. That will have to do. Dry wheat fucking toast with jelly will be fine, even though the entire time, I’ll be thinking about a buttered piece of dream toast drenched in cream chipped beef.

I’ll be back, I’m hungry.

Okay, thumbs down to the dry, Chocolate Cheerio’s I just bought earlier. They taste like Cocoa Crispies or Count Chocula, sans the Marshmallow tidbits, but there is a whole box of them, so that’s a relief. Cheerio’s are supposed to lower cholesterol and chocolate doesn’t have any to begin with. Thank God for that one! Of course, while I’m at it I should definitely cut down on the sweets too. That would be a bigger fear – the “D” word. I cant imagine a life poking myself with needles. Still, dark chocolate is supposed to lower one’s risk of a heart attack, so here I am back to Chocolate again. I hate dark chocolate. I love white chocolate with macadamia nuts and milk chocolate with caramel and peanut butter. I suppose I could learn to like dark chocolate. . .where was I? I don’t remember what came before chocolate. Pork? Was I admitting that I’m a porker? A porker inside? Oh, I remember now, wrong meat. I was talking about shit on a shingle. The creamed chipped beef will just have to go. Beef. . .

Beef will be easy-er to give up. Even if it means saying no to my friend and his generous invitation to a steak dinner at Peter Luger’s. Ok, this really isn’t fair. How can I say no to a delicious, bloody, juicy Porterhouse from Peter Luger’s? How? We’ve been planning this for months. I can do this. I’ll eat the tomato and onion salad, skip the creamed spinach which is fine with me, limit myself to only one of their delectable onion rolls, without the butter and then focus only on the rarest, leanest, juiciest parts of the steak. There again, that’s a dilemma because that would mean the whole damned steak - it’s Peter Luger’s for Christ’s sake. Perhaps if I’m good I can splurge and do the random steak dinner. . .every now and again. I know! I’ll only eat steak dinners at Peter Luger’s. There. I can’t afford the steak dinner at Peter Luger’s, so I won’t eat steak very often. I think that will be fine. I can do this, I’m not chicken.

Fried Chicken. . .shit. I forgot about the damned fried chicken. How am I going to do this!? How can I turn down the Chicken Biscuit from Pie’s & Thighs every Friday night? That’s one of the best deep-fried, honeyed-up hot sauce-soaked buttered biscuit there is. It’s heaven but so is Walter’s Food’s fried chicken. So is KFC and Popeye’s. I can’t do it! I just can’t! That’s no steak, no fried chicken, no Chinese buffet, ice cream, butter, gravy, not even a sliver of France and none of anything I’ve eaten that got me into this to begin with. Okay, for a while there, I kinda forgot about food. . .all together. See, four and a half years ago, I weighed 145 pounds when I came out of the hospital where I almost died of alcoholism. That’s what happens when you forget to eat for eight years. I guess when I put down the bottle, I picked up the spoon. I put down the pint of ale and picked up the gallon of Turkey Hill. I’ve been eating and making up for all those years because I thought it was my right, perhaps it was and now it’s got to stop. It’s not enough anymore to put down the bottle and quit smoking. It’s just not enough. My vices are bullets hurling at me and it seems there just aren’t enough places to hide anymore.

It’s time to end the four and a half-year hangover from food. I figure I’d write about it as a form of telling on myself. That way I will think twice before cheating. I sound like Cathy. Being 45 may be starting out with a thumb’s down, but there’s a hill in the distance and it’s getting closer. I can see the horizon and I want to be able to at least get to the top first. I want to be the one who’s driving. I have many friends with health problems worse than my own and I suppose that to not even attempt doing what’s right for me, isn’t doing anyone else any good either. I will do this for me. I will try to begin enjoying toast with yogurt, wheat pasta, rhododendron and soy, bean curd gluten-free bowls full of bluck. I will quit sweets, red meat and anything with fat in it. Fat and flavor are now my enemies. Even though this is all very foreign to me, I have to reason with myself - if I just quit the cholesterol, it might be the big “D” the next time, or perhaps the big “H.A.” and yes, perhaps the big “C.” I’ve got to be careful. I have to do this for me. I did the booze, I did the smokes and now I will pass on the fat. . .after my birthday. I have yet to enjoy my Cassoulet. I'll do good until then. Even though I swear that worrying so much about dying is killing me.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Dear Jesus, Is This Thing On?

Here's a brief conversation between an eBay mamber and myself. I didn't expect this response at all. I was just making light. Umm. . .so yeah. . .

Him) Hello, I’m a senior admiring your great pieces. Can remember when carnival glass was a prize at the local amusement park when we were kids...Liked it then and still do...Does any of your pieces glow at all in complete darkness? I remember my grandmothers rosary beads did for about 15 minutes after all the lights were shut off..as kids that was real magic for us.....I may want to bid and will watch this for a while...Are you able to wait until Dec. for payment? Let me know...Thank you and good luck.....Great Items.

Me) Hello and thank you! I've personally never seen any Carnival Glass glow like that, although it sounds really cool. I'm certain however, that unlike Vaseline Glass which contains Uranium and only glows under a black light, your Grandmother's rosary beads contained phosphorescent particles that allowed it to maintain light briefly, even after the lights went out. Either that or she's got some mighty powerful friends upstairs! I don't mind waiting until Dec. for a payment at all. Regards, D.

Him) Thank you for your trust...according to a PHD friend of the family, (upstairs) as we all refer to it ...really is the sub atomic level, where everything is alive and moving even that chair you are sitting on…and nothing can be created or destroyed and is eternal. The source of all power...that would not have surprised my grandmother at all. To her, everything was a miracle.

Me) Okay! Thank you for your interest! D.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Fish Stick is Alive and Well and Living in America

When culture looks in the mirror and is bored with what it sees, it looks to vintage formulas and images that once captivated and exchanges masques. Pop culture preys on little gems from the past – things that didn’t quite catch on – and the big guns run with it. They give the gem a second chance and pretend the original never existed in the first place. Ultimately, pop culture fears its own lack of relevancy. One needs only to look to Broadway, Music and Film for proof of our own laziness and fear of capability. The Broadway “revival” at least has an excuse. To revive a play or musical simply because it “worked the first time,” isn’t reason enough to take the gamble. The fact that theatre maintains its relevance as a live phenomenon, and that it often needs to be seen again, is the missing link there. I think Shakespeare would agree. When I recently saw “A Little Night Music” on Broadway, I never really knew the show or the music and most certainly had never been 15 feet from Bernadette Peters as her live, fragile performance washed over me. It was amazing. No performance, live or not however, will get me to go see “Rain,” the newest Beatles show, even though, like Beatlemania, it's apparently “an incredible simulation.” I saw Paul McCartney live last year and count it among one of the greatest concerts I’ve ever seen.

Pop music and Film are different animals in a different zoo, because they can truly be captured. Music, and it’s phenomenon of “cover songs” shows pop culture at its cheapest. Sure, music will always be rife with originals – acts that can never be denied their relevance. Time freezes music and film’s antiquities to be reflected within their own history. No matter what happens in the world, there with never be another Janis Joplin. There will never be another Janis Joplin because there will never be another Vietnam or another American women’s liberation movement. There will never be another Jimi Hendricks, Joni Mitchell, Kiss, Prince, Beatles or Bruce Springsteen. It’s been done. It will never be able to be redone or at least to reflect itself as pure as the original. When the hits just aren’t rolling however, the big guns do their homework, and start to “rehash.” They start counting the money and hope that a song can hit the charts before the masses figure out that it’s already been done. Sometimes a cover is better or different, therein the industry can at least pretend that the artist was paying homage to the original. So yes, now Alice Cooper and Rob Zombie can finally be fast friends – but as I danced to Bananarama’s “Venus” in 1986, it wasn’t until years later that I knew about the fabulous Shocking Blue original and as I roller-skated to Ace Frehley’s “New York Groove” in 1978, I had no idea that the original was recorded by some band named Hello three years earlier. So the industry and artists gamble and win big many times over.

Unfortunately, the Film industry, now more than ever, is being plagued with the same attempt at formula – remember, safety first. Built on the basis that it can capture exactly what happened and how it happened, makes Film the truest form of perpetual human relevancy. It’s the answer to the age-long question, “If a tree falls in the woods. . .” If there’s a camera in the so-called woods when the tree falls, you have your proof (provided that the boom was recording). The problem with film re-do’s, is that with a film’s history already frozen, an imposter masquerading as the original, is sure to be doomed to failure from the start. The seed has already been planted and the masses expect the clone to be just as appealing, or even worse, better than the original. Rarely is that the case. Truly, if Walt Disney was thawed out and Weird Al stepped out of the cryogenic tomb in his place, we would not only baffled, but down right pissed off. We would have been tricked. Even with the birth of new so-called “stars” and CGI, re-makes like “The Poseidon Adventure,” “Halloween” or even “The Women,” are down right wrong. The originals already have their own set of chromosomes, per-se. They have Shelly Winters, they have John Carpenter and damn it, they have Joan Crawford.

I often wonder why I’ve become so enveloped with antiques, antiquities, collectibles and things from the past and not focusing my energy on trying to “get myself out there” in the world of modern-day entertainment. Maybe I don't wanna! Or maybe my response should be that before Lady GaGa and her “new” music, there were the drag queens, costumes and outrageousness of Wigstock in the East Village. Before Rob Zombie, there was Alice Cooper and John Carpenter and before Madonna there was Joan Crawford. So perhaps right now, I really don't have anything new to write about - perhaps soon I will. Many might suspect a curious lack of relevance in regards to anyone who loves to live in the past. I assure you that there is a difference. My love for the past, as clearly as I can tell, is fueled by age, history and an unquenchable desire to find out how we, as a society, got to where we are today. We live in a culture where things are often never new – society as a whole and not just me, seem to revel in the past. What separates us – we, the “wacko lovers of antiques, collectibles and old movies, etc” from the rest of those that settle for the myriad of modern imitations, is that we prefer the real McCoy. Don’t get me wrong, I love Madonna but before she came along, others were already sleeping their way to the top. She’s about as new as Syphilis.

So modern society keeps “getting better” with its gadgets and its technology, but it keeps loosing shreds of human ingenuity & historical significance day by day. So I say down with so much cloning. Enjoy something authentic and old if you can’t find something new. Absolute trust and acceptance of new ideas, new music, new writing and new imaginations are the keys to what is necessary for making culture grow and I wish luck to all things completely new – if it’s original, society should welcome it. In the mean time however, I’ll continue to love old stuff. I prefer a bottle that’s been dug up in the yard to a bottle of salad dressing from the supermarket - the dug bottle has been touched by history and it has a story. I prefer the local Mom & Pop restaurant to Olive Garden. I would rather listen to Etta James than Christina Aguilera. Further, I believe that economic downturns, besides sucking horribly, make people use their imagination and creativity and pushes society as a whole to find its own solutions to the problems that it faces. So if our problem is boredom in a 21st Century world, then robbing from the past doesn’t seem to be the solution. Love the past for what it is – history. Oh, and Walt Disney was never frozen. That white supremacist was burned & cremated long ago and should not be likened to a fish stick – then again, perhaps he should be. I think I’ll write now.

Saturday, August 7, 2010

The Museum

There was an amazing magical building that was a ten minute walk from my house. It was a hideous 1970’s grey brick construct; a Museum of sorts called The Richland Mall. I can remember clearly going to the Museum as a child and wondering through one of the Museum’s prized exhibitions. The Spencer Gift Store was to a young boy in the early 70’s, a menagerie of bright filament fiber optic lights looking like possessed creatures out of Dr. Seuss, the black-light posters, lava lamps, prismatic rock and roll belt buckles, glittering key chains and the first smells of adolescence. The black lights in Spencer’s had an all too familiar smell, as did the incense, the cigarette smoke and the smell of the freshly made transfer tee-shirts - hundreds of them. The transfer images were catalogued along the wall in metal frames like a puberty exhibit. Superman and Keep on Truckin’ were two of the most popular one’s but I distinctly remember the “Eat at the Y” tee shirt with the image of the woman standing there, the denim lines of her crotch assembling a perfectly formed “Y.” I didn’t get it. There were faces too. Faces that I would follow for the next decade or so in the pages of Circus and Creem magazine – Mick, Keith and Roger – Pete and Jimi, Alice and David, Donna and Leif. . .

Then there was the glassware in the Spencer Gift Store. The highball glasses with images of women and men nude save for the small patch of plastic that covered their naughty bits and was supposed to “disappear” when you added a cold beverage. These were the things that I remember. Truly vintage items that continue to bring me back to that specific place and time. I wanted all of it.

I wanted the things in the Spencer Gift Shop. I wanted more comic books. I wanted the comic books not only for the comics themselves but for the ads in the back of the comic books. The ads for plastic toy soldiers, red-hot pepper gum and most importantly I desperately wanted my own pair of x-ray specks. I was now curious about my body but far more curious about the bodies of other boys. I thought it would be cool to have a pair of x-ray specks to see what some of the other boys looked like naked. I was on a quest now because it was beginning to dawn on me that I was not like other boys my age. Instead of playing in the backyard with the other kids, I felt more comfortable playing with my sister’s Barbie dolls, putting on puppet shows for my family and neighbors or doing something somewhere else - pretending to be someone else – anyone else. More often than not, I would wander the mall alone. I wandered through the adolescent Museum looking for keys and signs of what was to come. Don’t get me wrong, I wasn’t lonely at all. I preferred to be alone and wander without anyone telling me what to do or say – to be free in the Museum was a coveted feeling, a feeling I will be forever grateful for.

Overall, my favorite wing of the Museum was the National Record Mart and my favorite exhibit, the “New Release” wall. Almost everyday I would visit the new release wall and take in the colors, outrageous costumes and beautiful album cover art work. I would wonder for what seemed a divine infinity every time I entered the record store; looking through the stacks with all of the posture of a drill sergeant and all the fascination that I should have been exhibiting in school - the albums were far more interesting. . .

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Scam Letter as Art Form

Congrats to the author of this extremely detailed, yet completely inarticulate scam letter, even if it's quite clear that it's a scam from the very start. Don't these idiots know that each letter sounds exactly the same and deal with the same so-called "Bank in Nigeria?" I mean, come on! Plus, outside of "The Women," who these days addresses anyone with "Hello my dear!?" It's so horrible that it's almost impressive. Here goes:

"Hello my dear,"

I strongly believe that this mail must get at you by God's grace, as i do not know you in person and not quite sure of your current tel/fax number for me to be sure, but i know how i manage to get this mail address which i used to communicate you.

However, i am Mrs. Lynn Smith and i am working with the nations apex bank; accounting unit/telex department central bank of Nigeria. My aim of writing is not to know you as i have no interest of knowing you and would not like to know you unless if needs be.

But i am telling you this based on my believe as person who does not like evil or cheating and would not like to be called for explanation as a result of this information i am giving to you below. As a straight forward person, i believe that any man/woman is my brother/sister according to my believe irrespective of where you must have come from we are same human being. This information is as regards to your payment in Nigeria .

Now as i am contacting you, payments are going on to those that are aware of this information because this information was not gazette to the public awareness. These exercises have started for sometime now but there are a lot of pranks some corrupt officials in the central bank that diverted your funds to a bank in Switzerland. From the information, the secretary of probe panel and verification on contract and next of kin matters and the chairman of the committee and some other officials summed up with to divert your funds.

This information as a result of my recent departmental research and i called them to question but they tried to bribe me, but i refused because i am not a cheater. I have to inform you that your Funds interest at a tune of usd$14.1 million was transferred into a Swiss account provided by a fake lawyer portrayed himself to be your lawyer.I must inform you that the officers involved are always in communication with you , so you should stop talking with them and do not tell them that you are waiting for the transfer.

Since we have an evidence at hand, I hereby advised you to contact the authorized (C.B.N) security and finance company in Abuja who is in control of your payment and the approved lawyer attached to the security and finance company in the name of Mr. Clement obed and explain everything to him as your file was sent to him on the 18th March, 2010 and when contacting the lawyer quote your file reference number CBN/PTM/XX/010 he is the final stone that breaks the camels back.

My advice to you based on this information is that you should boldly call Mr. Clement obed the lawyer at the security and finance company on his direct email/ telephone number .He is the person in charge of all the legal clearances for this on-going payment exercise and I asked him that he should help you in making sure your fund is paid to you immediately and do the changes to move your funds to your original account and follow his directives.

He might want to know how come you got his direct email, you can tell him anything (please, don't quote me) but insist that he should help you in making sure your payment is done, and for more clarification or to ensure him that you really know what you are saying, quote the following code no: FGN/PED/CBN-X342XPTM2010 under category 'C' i.e. your code (please this information is classified).

I believe that at the end of the day, he will ask you to forward your payment information and bank co-ordinates to him for his processes as he will direct you properly on how to follow up for your fund to be made to you without further stress. If you contact him i will know because he must contact my office for your information -confirmation records.So go ahead and call him now and don't be afraid of him or anybody, any person apart from him is definitely a fraud.

Contact him on:
Contact person- Mr. Clement Obed
Email- mrclement.orbed@inMail.sk

Yours sincerely,
Mrs. Lynn Smith.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Someone Stopped the Fair

One of the greatest vocalists in the extremely short history of Classic Heavy Metal passed on this morning. As his own lyric taunts us, Ronnie James Dio now knows if he was evil or divine. As a fan of Mr. Dio, I can still say with great conviction that he was both. Possessing a voice that could have only been God-given, for he always swore that he had no vocal training outside playing the trumpet, Ronnie James Dio was a complete and total showman. His voice prowled and his stage moves could almost have been described as brutally ostentatious. Two summers ago, I was finally able to see Dio, with Geezer Butler and Tony Iommi, at Jones Beach. I remembered being less-than thrilled about the venue and the ridiculous stagecraft of two absurd, over-sized foam rubber gargoyles that the stagehands had placed next to the drum kit. I hate sitting down during a metal show and I hate cheep theatrics but regardless of the venue and the gargoyles, Dio soared. Even though the former members of Black Sabbath had chosen a subdued play list, which included no up-tempo metal songs, it was still Ronnie James Dio, Geezer Butler and Tony Iommi for God’s sake. So, a gracious Ronnie James Dio treated us to his music, tossed a few beach balls into the crowd with a wisp of his bell sleeve shirt and gave it his all. That night was the first and only time I ever saw Ronnie James Dio live. The first time I heard that voice however, was most certainly more divine in nature and was over thirty years ago. The evil? I don’t talk about it. . .often.

I don’t always get this reflective and sad when rock stars pass on, but Ronnie James Dio is the first of his kind. I feel that my generation’s rock icons are suddenly loosing the battle right along with him. His essence of inspiration lingers on, even though the reality of the situation remains both steadfast and terrifying. In the words of a close friend, “they all start to drop now.” I know the words are true and we are all getting old. Ronnie is the first of the Metal giants to fall upon the sword and of course there will be others, but for right now, it’s only right to celebrate Ronnie the performer and yes the pool player, the dragon-slayer, and Ronnie, who loved to sign autographs. This act alone speaks volumes about him and shows how much he adored reaching out to people he loved. As I suspected, today sellers on Ebay have doubled, even tripled their prices on signed Ronnie James Dio memorabilia. It’s as old as time itself, but I choose not to make money over this sad occasion. I chose to celebrate instead. So I’m spending my night listening to Ronnie James Dio-Ronnie with Rainbow, Ronnie with Sabbath and Ronnie with Dio. I’ve lit a little candle and placed a picture next to my flowers that I actually bought on Sunday. Too bad they ended up having to play a duel role in my final farewell to one of my favorite rock singers.

“So live for today
Tomorrow never comes
Die young, die young
Can't you see the writing in the air?
Die young, gonna die young
Someone stopped the fair.”

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Betty White Live

Who on earth wouldn’t give Betty White four thumbs up for her performance on Saturday Night Live? In a world riddled with computers that can jeopardize the world economy in the blink of an eye, and on a show that far too often fails at getting even one solid laugh per sketch, Betty White, in all her simplicity, was a revelation. For once, it seemed that the show’s often sluggish writers had finally stepped up to a challenge. The challenge wasn’t ideas for material, I’m certain the table was full. The challenge wasn’t even Bette White’s age, or her potential ability (or lack thereof) to memorize lines - the current SNL cast has proven time and time again that they, themselves, can’t memorize lines either. The real challenge for the SNL writing staff was to write sketches that would not fail their host. They had no choice but to add her into nearly every sketch, simply because she’s Betty White – a legend at 88, and every bit a star now than she was in her prime.

The show came out with guns a’blazing. It takes some serious balls to open SNL with a musical number, starring an 88 years old actress who’s not known for singing. Like any sketch comedy show, there were stinkers, and although Betty and Kristen Wiig had me in stitches from the start, White’s stand-out performances truly began as the Grandmother of MacGruber. Even though this sketch hardly deserved to be made into a major motion picture, it was very smart of SNL to hit the sketch three times. Regardless, here comes Betty out of no where, firing off the first memorable line of the evening; when MacGruber kneels to propose to his aging Grandmother, her responce was simply: “Are you out of your f*cking mind?” Yes, it’s fun to watch Betty White use profanity and it’s not because she’s a “dirty ol’ bird, but because she knows timing like the back of her hand. The woman is funny – period. What’s more is that she’s adorible. I would watch "CSI Sarasota" every week.

Every tepid sketch they seemed to throw at Betty White, she gave it her all and rose above the material. The latin sketch bombed, but there was Betty in a fright wig. The internal during Weekend Update bombed, as did the ill-faited worked-to-death inmate sketch starring Kenan Thompson, but once again, there was Betty, giving it 120% and firing a simple “Wizard of Ass” upon her exit and stealing the scene. White was a real trouper during the NPR one-note sketch about her “muffins” and another sketch starring Tina Fey as a Cencus worker, could have soared to the rafters. Like many other sketches last night however, it fell short of hitting a grand slam, even though White scored another homerun with “Ascertain? That used to be my stripper name." The touched and tickled White was more than gracious at the show’s end and I couldn’t be happier that I saw her. Watching tonight’s Saturday Night Live left me with three solid thoughts; that MacGruber will bomb at the box office, I will always love Betty White and finally that JZ should never do covers of bad songs with white guys.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

SEA - A Restaurant Review

I don’t know why I decided to return to SEA. Perhaps it was because I had a wild hair to begin a whirl wind tour of the neighborhood’s Asian restaurants. There are after all, tons of them, so why not begin here? Although the flashy restaurant had opened scads of years ago, I had only eaten there one time, right at the beginning of its inception. Even though my meal was most likely baptized by several Makers Marks, I distinctly remember ordering their “Volcanic Chicken.” I remember being non-plus about the experience. With a dish named Volcanic Chicken, I expected a hot & sizzling platter at least. I remember anticipating what kind of Thai wizardry they were about to bestow upon me. I still worked at Danny’s in Hell’s Kitchen, so I knew Thai Food. I also knew real Thai Food and I was nothing less than disappointed when a slab of snarling, dried, nappy looking half of a chicken arrived at my table. It looked as though it had been kept warm within a tanning bed for several days and as it was placed in front of me, I vaguely remember that it bounced a little. The rest of the experience was lost in a Makers Mark fog.

That was then and this was now. It was a crisp night and as I stood in front of the restaurant, curiously gazing at the large Buddha, surrounded by SEA’s popular reflecting pool, I suddenly found myself asking to eat at the bar. Even though I don’t drink anymore, I am still a bar denizen and still feel more comfortable there when eating alone. I was informed that there was no food allowed at the front bar, but I was welcome to sit at the back bar and eat. Now, eating alone at the back of the restaurant, turned away from the crowds of people, wasn’t exactly what I had in mind. I asked for a table for one and was seated (lucky me) right next to the Buddha, floating amid the stagnate waters of the reflecting pool. I was reminded by the Postcard Menu, that “SEA” had been serving Thai Food on North 6th Street for eight years now. SEA actually arrived just in time for the gentrification of Williamsburg. Hands down, SEA managed to destroy Planet Thailand which closed last year, was bat-shit lucky that “Sex & The City” decided to shoot a popular episode there and last by not least, SEA had forever transformed North 6th Street into Williamsburg’s answer to Manhattan’s trashy and swanky “Meat Packing District.”

SEA is dark. With the one candle provided me, I was barely able to read the Postcard Menu which oddly, did not furnish prices. There it was on page four of the menu; Volcanic Chicken. Eight years later and they still have the same entrees. Maybe this was a good sign, maybe this was a bad sign, I would just have to see. I decide to order the “Tim Tom Fritters,” which were deep fried chicken and shrimp fritters in a sweat and sour chili sauce. For my entrée, I ordered “Shrimp in Clay Pot.” Since the restaurant was full, I couldn’t help but notice that with the restaurant’s color scheme, I felt as though I was sitting in the middle of a huge version of the 1980’s electronic game, “Simon Says.” There was vivid Green to the right, Red straight ahead, Yellow to my left, just past the Buddha and Blue behind me. I was waiting forever and began to think I was in a Pee Wee Herman nightmare sequence, with none-stop cacophonies of screeching “Happy Birthdays” surrounding me and I tried to ignore the hideous people, music and atmosphere, by reading SEA’s ridiculous nifty tropical drink menu. Then the food came.

The fritters were okay, if not full of gristle, and what was described on the menu as a “sweet & sour chili sauce,” turned out to be nothing but the same sweet sauce that we used to serve at Danny’s with nearly every appetizer. The thick red goo was no doubt, straight out of the bottle and direct from the distributor. The shrimp were huge, overcooked and served with a never-ending array of slimy vegetables. They were indeed served in a clay pot, but the pot was so high off the table that the damned candle was no help at all in detecting what it was I was eating. I could have been eating Tripe in Squid Ink Sauce Excrementus for all I knew, because I truly couldn’t see a thing. My mind began to wander back a block away to the Mac n Cheese setting on my shelf at home. I quickly ate the greasy fritters (at least I could see them) and then started in on my meal. Blind as a bat I sat, pulling out strings of Vermicelli and over-pungent chunks of Ginger. I discovered that the shrimp was actually better in the sauce out of a bottle than it was in the ginger sauce. I tried getting through the meal, silently wishing I had given the “Volcanic Chicken” another chance.

Suddenly, out of the Simon Says green section, I was startled by a voice that had suddenly darted and sat across from me at my small table.
A grown woman starred at me, with one of those nifty tropical drinks in her hand, smiling so wide I thought her face would crack like baked brick.
“It’s my birthday and I want to push the boat!!!”
I hadn’t noticed that a small boat of flowers, floating in the reflecting pool, was heading straight for us. Her smile continued to stair me down as I chewed my over-cooked shrimp and quietly watched the boat wearily approaching my table. Birthday girl pushed the boat back across the pool as another chorus of “Happy Birthday” erupted across the restaurant.
“Weeeee!!!” I’m Drunk!”
The moment came when, like Walter Mitty, I contemplated pushing the broad and her nifty fancy drink, straight into the pool and the flower-filled boat. Instead, I called for the check and moved away from the Buddha and closer towards the front door. I fled into the crisp night air as a white limo pulled up to the front door.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010


The $34,000.00 Vase

eBay Letter:

Oh my gosh!!! I was just checking my watched items before leaving for work and I noticed that someone(my 9 yr. old son) put in a bid for me on this vase! He is at school right now, which is a good thing for him, otherwise I'd skin him alive! I've been watching this vase for a few days now, and initially, I wasn't too upset. I'd rather do my own bidding and he was in for a talking to and some computer grounding, then I checked on the max bid!!! OMG!!! Little boy is in some serious deep water now! He may never get to use the computer again. He knew I wanted this vase and he did this after I was asleep. I don't know if he meant to do a good thing (probably) or if this is some kind of a prank. Either way, it's a ridiculous bid and he is in serious trouble. He's 9 and doesn't realize how bad this is! Please, I humbly beg of you to cancel this bid! It's ridiculous and there's no way that I can make good on such a bid! I don't know WHAT he was thinking! There will be serious consequences !

Sorry, I ran out of characters,... I WILL get to the bottom of this and punishment is due. I am so very sorry for this. I am appalled and deeply ashamed to have to ask this of you. I also realize that you are not in any way obligated to "fix" this, I just had to try. I hope and pray that you will understand (Lord knows I don't!). Thank you for your time. Sincerely, XXX

My Response:

Hello XXX, it's very difficult to attempt to wrap my head around this
story. The main point is, you can cancel the bid yourself. I don't
cancel bids unless there's a threat of non-payment, etc. My
main concern will always be that the item goes to who really
wants it. If you did not intend to make the bid or if the bid was
made in error, then by all means, cancel it. If you tell me what
the "max bid" is, I might be able to figure out whether or not
you might get outbid. Again, if you feel uncomfortable about
the bid that was made on my item, then please cancel. Regards,

XXX response:

Thank you for your quick response. My child put in a bid of over $34,000.00! My husband has the ebay site set up so that you only need to hit "Sign In". XXX knows how to enter a bid because he has watched me do so. I don't know how to cancel a bid, or I would have. Frankly, I didn't know that it was possible to cancel a bid. I'm so terribly sorry for all this. I have a 100% feedback score. I'm a very responsible ebayer, really. I don't know what that kid was thinking!

My response:

Hello XXX, again, it's not a big deal, I just wanted you to be able to cancel
the bid yourself. Have a hot cocoa, sit back and breath, it's a story
to tell your friends if you ask me! Daniel

And everyone lived happily ever-after, I'll have to wait for that Down-Payment another day!

Atop the Alleghenies

Johnstown doesn’t change much, it never has and never will. Its pace is slower than most and its pride is cut deep. Making the now-familiar trip back home would be likened to a curio cabinet in which none of the items inside ever move. Some are tussled around and some may be dusted or even beaten up, but they remain just the same. Too familiar is the territory of Western Pennsylvania near Everett, Breezewood and Bedford. It’s customary to expect the “Mail Pouch Barn,” setting back, just off the road in Bedford. The barn too does not change. It’s merely a bit more jostled than most. In fact, the barn sets barely erect on a frame of seemingly rotting, infested plywood that could be pushed over with one breath or one spit of tobacco to be more exact. Still, if the barn was ever to be removed or torn down, it would change the landscape of Bedford forever.

So the Barn remains, as do the Taste Freeze shops and the eerie black and white cabin that sets next to the road before the assent onto the Pleasantville Mountain. The winding, serpentine twists of that all-too familiar roadway, still without guardrails, climbs ever to the top of the mountain, weather “pleasant” or not. Also whizzing by were the never-ending and neatly stacked wide irrigation pipes that set beside the road. When I was a child, my parents would pull off the road and I used to crawl through them with my brother Tim. Almost 40 years have gone by and the pipes still remain. My brother Tim however, is still conspicuously missing from the curio cabinet. The only sign of my brother that remains in Western Pennsylvania, is his son (not surprisingly, also named Tim). This visit is about all of these things and all of the memories, but mostly it was about Tim.

Tim Regan is a young man in his twenties, married to his wife Megan and living in Johnstown. They have just had a boy named Jake and this would be my first time officially meeting any of them. I had briefly met Tim during a visit several years ago, but the feeling was awkward between us. Even though my Mother and I met him at the bar where he worked, that would at least make us both bartenders but neither of us had anything to say to each other. This time was different. Tim and Megan, not surprisingly, live on my old school bus route. Their house is a modest, two story family home, into which they had put a great deal of work. They had a new swing set area for Jake, a nicely kept back yard and a swimming pool. Above ground or not, I don’t have a swimming pool and the sight of the pool made me smile. It was in nice juxtaposition to the interior, which some would call, “country kitchen.” Tim mentioned to me the the interior was his Mother's idea. It was all perfect, nonetheless.

The basement however, belonged to Tim and sported a hand-made bar, a huge wide screen projection television, lingering couches and wall-to-wall Pittsburgh Steelers memorabilia. Tim Regan, like his father, was all about the Pittsburgh Steelers. I found out that Tim could very well be the new Principle at the local public school where he now coaches football. I was pleasantly surprised regarding his knowledge of the school’s theatre department. He knew and discussed every inch of fly space and even lighting. After chatting at their home, we all set out for dinner at the infamous Johnstown Inclined Plane. The dinner was fine, the restaurant was fine. Nothing however, could quite compare with a simple walk with my nephew, down the tree-lined street. It was something new in the curio cabinet. Johnstown was still the home of my brother’s son. To be cont. . .

Friday, April 16, 2010

Back to the River

This will be a return to my hometown, that is fortunately under wonderful circumstances. I will be getting reacquainted with my nephew and meeting his wife and baby boy. These are positive things. Good things that nurture positive feelings. It's a wonderful thing to get to know someone who is related to you, yet has been estranged, due to time and miles. This reunion will be right as rain and long overdue. Johnstown, you have seen me quite a bit these last few years. It still looks, smells and feels of home. This is Good.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Dying My Catholic Roots

The other day I mentioned to an acquaintance that I was considering going to Easter mass. This brought upon a look of complete befuddlement, as if to say that no one goes to "mass" anymore. Now, I'm sure that many people have stopped discovering God and found TMZ instead, but what's a little Easter mass? I for one, still question whether or not there is a God, even though I do truly believe in a "higher power." That belief of course, is completely personal and private – at least until my next one man show. I can say however, that my belief in organized religion flew out the window years ago, therefore rendering my acquaintance’s reaction to “mass,” as justifiable. I simply was toying with the idea of returning to my Catholic roots.

Like many Catholics, I had religion force-fed to me since I was a child - I might as well have come out of the womb belting "Hail Holy Queen Enthroned Above," but that of course, would have confused my Mother. To this day I continue to confuse many people with this religion thing. Believe me, all it takes is one bitter divorce, exploding with family carnage to make you want to rail against God and the Catholic Church forever. Try putting your hand in that family picnic basket. I quickly fled from the already burning nest, to the new discomforts of a collegiate maze. I was one angry young man and the penny loafers soon gave way to boots and ripped tees, for I had discovered a new life filled with other young men. God, religion and hypocrisy had no place within this new world. I was quickly filling my life with new knowledge; draping my body in black and fueling my soul with dirty things. . .

. . .so that was fun.

Two decades of personal destruction later, the thought of returning to the church was more out of comfort. After all, when isn’t the human spirit prone to those things familiar? This was coming from a new me – a different me who almost bought the Makers Mark farm. I had even surprised many who know me, when I decided to go to mass, this past Christmas. In actuality, it was I who was surprised at Christmas mass to discover women reading from the bible. Shock and awe, indeed. Between the women reading scripture and young children handing out communion, I was finding myself looking for the tag on the missalette for an explanation. Had I stumbled upon a meeting of Heaven’s Gate by mistake? Who the heck was I kidding, these people weren’t aliens, they were liberal “new Catholic.”

This “new Catholic” thing was curious and not at all familiar – or so I thought. When it came time for the priest to give his Christmas sermon, he approached the congregation with thoughts of his favorite Christmas songs. He started into an irreproachable and off-key rendition of “Home for the Holidays," al la Perry Como, then turned quickly for an aside to the crowd as he cracked, “eat your heart out, David Archuleta.” Yes, this “new Catholic” priest, trying to look “hip” and “in touch” just had to mention America's favorite under-age, hot man-boy-idol as his reference point. I mean, couldn't he have mentioned Lady Gaga instead? At least in my mind, it would have really brought out some real "kick" in the old guy. Instead what are we left with? An image of David Archuleta, wrapped in swaddling cloths. That of course, is fine by me.

So I didn't go to Easter mass this year and I haven't returned to the Catholic Church, but chose instead to write about and share my experiences regarding my higher power. That higher power is one of the many points of my latest work, entitled “Godless.” My latest task is to stifle my inner editor by talking about some of these simple adjunct profundities, without giving birth to a piece that is solely about God and religion. Who the hell would want to sit through that? Within that processes however, I’ve found it unavoidable and must acknowledge, that people, in the absence of religion, are far more entertaining and human. That puts many of us all smack-dab in the middle of this life muck together. Perhaps people would enjoy experiencing that instead.