Dan Ruth - Among the Collectors

Dan Ruth - Among the Collectors

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 entrĂ©e, 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. . .