Archive for August, 2011

Hurricane part 6

Power went out briefly at about 10:40 PM, Saturday. Came back on before we could get the candles lit, then went right back off. 5 minutes later and the power comes back. At this point we’ve been okay for 20 minutes or so.

The wind is getting pretty crazy. Erin just grabbed me and asked if I felt the room shake. I did but this house is as sturdy as they come. At least we can finish the movie tonight. This is how Brice Campbell would want it.

11:11 PM, Saturday: Rain – 1. Wind damage – 2

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Hurricane part 5

The rain started getting crazy about 9 PM. Sheets were coming down, and the wind gusts were getting noticeable.

The news has been conflicting. It looks like there’s been damage, but nothing catastrophic. That is keeping out spirits up. It’s the timeline that worries me. Before they were saying Irene would be hitting us mostly over night. Starting really about now and peaking about 2 AM tomorrow. But now we’re learning the eye is expected to get to us about 9 am. Meaning we’ve got about 24 hours of this left. A lot can happen in that amount of time. A town, the people, have a breaking point somewhere. I’m not afraid of wind or rain, but I’m a little nervous about about their stamina.

In the mean time, were drinking Port wine and watching the Evil Dead movies (Erin’s never seen them before!).

Saturday, 10 PM: Rain – 1. Wind damage – 2

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Hurricane Part 4

The rains begin in earnest. The ground is saturated and even this little bit of rain we’ve gotten so far has no place to go. From my apartment I can already see little streams forming in the roadway.

Saturday, 6:30 PM. Flooding-1. Wind damage-0

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Hurricane Part 3

The wind and rain have died down. Everything is back to a dead stop. I hear my neighbors outside arguing about, well, something, but it got pretty heated.

My windows are now mostly taped up. Dinner is on the stove. Now it’s time to just hang out, watch some Netflix while the Internet still works, and relax.

Saturday, 4 PM: Flooding-0. Wind damage-0.

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Hurricane part 2

Okay, so I guess I might as well live blog the Hurricane.

The morning was overcast but calm. The beach seemed quiet. The humidity is about 700%. You stick to everything.

The air had been completely still. At 2 pm, a slight wind started. Really just enough to rustle the trees a bit. We got a little rain about that time as well.

Tally as of Saturday, 2:45: Flooding – 0. Wind damage -.

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Preparing for Irene

Preparations for Irene. First off, supplies. Canned beans, soups, tuna. Bread and pasta. Frozen vegetarian buffalo bites. I know they’re perishable and were probably not a great idea but THEY’RE SO FUCKING GOOD. If the power goes out, I will eat them all in one sitting.

Today I plan on going out to find some ice. I have a cooler. When we lose power (and I’m assuming that we will lose power) anything perishable can go in the cooler with the ice. That should last a day or two. I’m just wondering who will be open. Where can I get the ice that hasn’t closed up shop and got outta town themselves? You have to be one dedicated bodega owner to lash yourself to the mainsail like that.

Candles and books. Cat food and litter. Tons of water. Duct tape. And wine. Probably way more wine than we need.

Checked the news this morning. The hurricane is expected to stay about a Cat 1 the whole time as it makes its way from the Carolinas up to New England. It will likely just have been downgraded as it’s hitting Maine. It’s sustained, slow, and driving, but not earth shattering. Winds should be less than 100 mph. It’s the rain that worries. Hours of rain. Think 40 days and 40 nights type of rain.

This means you had better pick your company carefully, as you’ll be with these people for a long time. The water will come in, and it’s going to take some time to recede. If you’re in a low lying area, get to higher ground.

I’m planning on sticking it out here. My apartment is less than a kilometer from the beach, but I’m high up off the ground, on the second floor of a building with high ceilings. I’m sure any self respecting survivalist is laughing at me for even thinking of leaving. Still, looking around, if you gotta have a place to lie low for a while, this seems as good as any.

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Things Should Start To Get Interesting Right About Now


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Bob Dylan shows are like beaches. No two are exactly alike, and there’s a lot going on beneath the surface that you might miss if you’re not paying attention. So Dylan fans go time and again, each time noticing the different shore lines, different eddies and wave patterns. Some bring small notebooks, obsessively sketching every fine grain detail. But most people there just want to kick back and have a good time.

When Bob came through Asbury Park on August 14th, this was no scholarly exercise. He was there to have a good time. He spent most of the show grinning and mugging to the audience. He looked like a kid in his first school play, just excited to get to be in front of a captive audience. This guy has been playing well over a hundred shows a year for roughly two decades now, and he was prancing around the stage, having the time of his life. That’s what music does, if you do it right.

Ally got there early and grabbed a spot in line. The deal was that she’d hold the spot in line, and I’d come bearing whiskey. When I got there, so quickly poured most of the Jim Beam into some ginger ale cans she had with her, and we got our place up near the front of the line. The crowd filled Convention Hall, all ages and types. There were excited old hippies, just glad to have something going on other than golf outings or bridge or whatever it is those people do. There were college kids, and parents who probably last saw Bob playing with The Band in ‘73 bringing their kids out so they could have the experience once. I mean, the man isn’t getting any younger.

We all squeezed into the auditorium at 6:30. There were old drill-instructor types hollering orders to the crowd. “If you have any chairs or blankets with you, you must dispose of them now. Umbrellas will not be allowed in the venue. Make sure you have your tickets out and ready”. Sir yes sir.

Thanks to Ally, we were right up front, just a couple yards from the stage. The remaning crowd packed in behind us. We waited there for an hour and a half before the opening act came out.

Leon Russell was okay. Really, not bad. If I closed my eyes, the music was grooving and fairly soulful. What I couldn’t get past is that he did NOT look like he wanted to be there. Not a single smile the whole time. Once Dylan came out afterwards, the contrast couldn’t be clearer.

Bob’s set was heavy on newer material (you can find the set list here). Right off, he set the tone with Leopard Skin Pillbox Hat. The song is a tongue-in-cheek take on romance gone wrong. Bob was in full jokester mode. To Ramona came next, and was pretty somber, but even that had a lilting beat, an ironic waltz. Soon he brought a shortened Tangled Up In Blue, singing “Me, I’m still on the road, trying to stay out of the joint”. The new Bob is a classic trickster. A Chaplinesque tramp, trying to stay one step ahead of the problems he’s causing.

The biggest surprise of the night was a jaunty version of Mississippi. It’s not surprising that he played this 180° from the album version. Radically changing song structures is practically Dylan’s stock in trade at this point. But this reimagining didn’t quite hit. Instead of being a story of regret and perseverance, Mississipp became, without any changes in lyrics, the story of scamp moving from one con to another. The music was an upbeat blues shuffle, and Bob stood at the mic, center stage, practically acting out the song to the audience. Of course, Bob’s been re-thinking how this song should be played. If you get the Deluxe version of Tell Tale Signs, you’ll find 3 (!) alternate versions. Plus he gave it to Sheryl Crow to cover before releasing his own version. Even if I would personally pick it as possibly the best song Bob’s written in the last 15 years, it’s clear that he still doesn’t know quite what to do with it.

The show continued on. Bob changed between standing at his keyboad, standing center stage, maybe blowing a little harp here and there, and actually playing guitar (3 or 4 songs this time!). A older man leaned in to me and said “first there was Shakespeare. Then 500 years later you get Dylan”. I don’t know if it’s a fair comparison. Shakespeare didn’t have nearly the range that Bob’s built up over the last x-decades. But either way it doesn’t matter. He’s going to pull his show up to your doorstep every so often, and if you’re smart, you’ll go and be part of this experience. But if not, it doesn’t matter. This is a show that exists separate from its audience. It will continue as long as the performers wish.

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Balancing Act

August 14, 2011 1 comment

I spent this last week making some of the best pizza in New York City. I know, I know, that’s a pretty bold statement. We’re talking New York here. The official shape is “the slice”. With the possible exception of pastrami on rye, there’s no food more “New York” than pizza. Yet even with all the history, pizza is still the hottest food in town.

Everyone knows the standard New York style slice. It’s an icon, like the Empire State Building or Woody Allen’s neurosis. But lately Neapolitan pizza has been popping up all over town. These pizzerias use wood burning ovens and menus entirely in Italian. They’re a combination of the traditional and the experimental. The process dates back to the dawn of history. Cook stuff on top of bread. Yet the flavos and presentation are distinctly modern.

Getting back to the story, last week I was lucky enough to be able to train at Forcella, a new Neapolitan pizzeria in Williamsburg. The restaurant has only been around for a couple of months, but the pizzaiolo, Giulio Adriani, has been cooking this style of pizza for decades in Naples, Argentina, and Brazil. Now he is opening his own place in Brooklyn, with one more spot on the way in the Bowery.

I was glad to work with Giulio because I think he represents both sides of the new pizza. He understands tradition, not just how things were always done, but why. From there he’s not afraid to experiment, and to try to fit the local tastes.

I was lucky enough to be able to see the whole operation. From the mixing of the dough to the firing of the pizza. I rolled dough balls, made mozzarella from scratch, crushed the tomatoes and worked the oven. When you see pizza from this end, it’s not a commodity product, sliding off a conveyor belt. Each one is it’s own struggle of balance. You must time the fermentation of the dough just right. The oven must be burning at the proper temperature. The crust must achieve a harmonious mixture of doneness and char.

Essentially you are walking a fine line between perfect and destroyed. We’re talking about a matter of seconds. Not tens of seconds. Seconds. You have waiters screaming, people pushing past, pizzas lined up to be cooked, and you’re trying to make the one, two, three, or even four pies you have in the oven into a transcendent pizza experience.

Cooking a pizza like this is a lot like mixing a song. There is no precise amount of midrange that should be applied at all times, and every time you inch up the fader, you’re not making a perceptible difference. But pretty soon you tweak a couple knobs and you’ve got a cacophonous mess. The same can be said of cooking in general, but really Neapolitan pizza in particular. You can start getting so focused on minute details that you begin to lose sight of the big picture. You shoot for the perfect leopard spotting, only to miss and end up with char.

I’ve actually never worked in a professional kitchen before. I’ve done a bit of under the table catering, but I’ve never worked in an actual restaurant kitchen. To say this was a wake up call would be an understatement. Cooking for a busy dining room full of paying customers is completely different from anything I’ve ever tried before. Most people there are as interested in the social aspect of it as the food. They went with friends to have a good time. Maybe they’re trying to impress a cute hipster chick. It could be a reunion with an old bicycling club. Whatever the reason, they expect you to do your job so they don’t have to think about it. Any nagging thoughts about problems with their food are a distraction and are not what they signed up for.

Transcendence can be found just about anywhere. We live in an amazing world and it’s important to open yourself up to what you see all around you. However, trying to create this from base parts (flour, salt, water, yeast, tomatoes, cheese) is a whole other story. They say practice is the most important thing. It’s clear that what you want is to get it into your muscle memory. Thinking only exacerbates the problem. You want transcendence to feel like just a part of nature.

Update: You want photos? No problem.

Categories: Nom, Pizza

Juggalo Nation

If you share my fascination with Juggalo culture, then this is the whirling death trip into the heart of ICP darkenss you were waiting for.

In the end, it’s just another way for thousands of kids who feel that no one understands them to get together an collectively bitch that no one understands them. It’s like organized religion or a Tea Party rally, but with at least a bit of self awareness at how ridiculous the whole thing is.

We wanted to say in the song because Juggalos are our family, and Juggalo homies are there for you. Especially when you’re younger, going through shit, you’ve gotta lie to your family, and you don’t have to lie to your friends… you go fuck a hooker, you can’t tell your mom or your family about that, but you go right to your boys, and be like, “Man, I fucked a hooker last night!” [Laughs.]

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