Friday, September 30, 2022
Wednesday, September 28, 2022
Wednesdays in Iceland - #5
Monday, September 26, 2022
Music Mondays - #16
I Want to Take You Home (to See Mama)
Cover of a tune by the late and great Sly Johnson.
Left to right: Brad Gilboe drums, Paul Scher Sax, John Beach keyboard, Dan Rowles lead vocal and organ, Jerome Broughten guitar, Scott Snyder trumpet, John V. Peterson Bass guitar. Recorded live at Bootlegger Sam’s, Dinkytown Minneapolis, November 1979.
Friday, September 23, 2022
Down By The River
“So… can you tell me a story about a river?”
“About a river?”
“Yes, I’m curious. It’s as good a topic as any.”
“O.K. This is about the Mississippi, just down the street from where I grew up. We would swim in it.”
“Swimming… Was that allowed? Was that safe?”
“Hmm… Sort of. Not safe when the water was high, of course. In the late summer it was usually pretty low: three, four feet deep for miles north of the Camden bridge, nice and warm. We’d bounce along the bottom, always wearing our tennis shoes to protect against broken glass and clam shells. Don’t try to swim against the current. We’d heard stories about kids who had drowned there but, armored in our youthful sense of indestructibility, those warnings weren’t given much credence. Now if your taking about biological hazards, there was definitely E.Coli, Cryptosporidium, Shigella and other microbes, a real toxic soup. We knew not to drink the water. None of the guys got sick or anything other than a rash, as far as I know. Girls didn't swim there much.”
“Seldom or never?”
“The main reason was probably the fact we ‘river rats’ weren’t the most socially enlightened fellows. There were a lot of places girls didn’t go, its still true. There was one time, that I can recall.”
“Anyone you knew?’
“Oh yes, Melinda, she was a straight-A student, she was dating Robby, the handsomest guy in the school. Check that, I think see was ‘seeing’ Robby, he was too cheap to ever really take her out on a proper date.”
“He was that handsome? Really?”
“Really. You could look it up in my high school yearbook; Robbie, Hall of Fame: handsomest guy.”
“Ok. What’s the story?”
“It must have been late July or early August. It was a hot evening, probably about 8 o’clock, the sun was low enough in the sky to give the scene a golden hue. It was down by the river flats, 51st and Lyndale, there was sort of a permanent sand bar there—just a sliver—maybe 30 feet wide and a hundred, hundred twenty feet long, with some ancient cottonwood trees big enough to support a rope swing. Robbie and a few of his buddies were on this island, along with Melinda. They swam there often, I had been returning from the store when I saw them. To see a girl down there, swimming, that really got my attention. They were taking turns on the swing; it was fitted out with a plank to sit on. When it came to be Melinda’s turn Robbie gave her a shove as he grabbed to rope above her and deftly swung over her lap and made himself comfortable as they swung out over the water. Melinda was screaming—in glee—not in fright. I think she was having the time of her life. I watched these hijinks for a while, but left when it started to get dark.”
“This was when you were in high school?“
“It must have been between our junior and senior years. Before they split up.”
“Robbie thought it would be a good idea to get a bj from Melinda’s best friend, Nancy, who, it turns out, wasn’t such a good friend after all.”
“That would do it, for most girls. What happened afterwards?”
“Robbie thought it was a joke, but he had plenty of other girlfriends. After graduation he went in the army and came back, married someone else, then spent his life working laboring jobs. He retired to a fishing cabin up North. Nancy moved out east, never came back.”
“You know, I have a firm belief that if you look too far into any story you’ll always find a sad ending.”
“Nothing horrendous, but some might think it sad.”
“I’d like to hear it.”
“As you wish. The thing that makes all this sad is that Melinda never got over Robbie’s betrayal.”
“I’ll never fall in love again, huh? I only thought that happened in corny torch ballads.”
“She never dated, never married. She was frank about the situation, she told people at a class reunion that she’d never date, that she’d never get married. She kept her word. She worked as a successful investment broker for a while until she lost big in the dot-com bubble of 1999. Then she disappeared. End of story.”
“Hm. Not much of a payoff. The river part was nice, though.”
“That was nice, a special moment, glorious even, the high-point of Melinda’s life? At any rate, it’s been stuck in my memory for all these years. A Dreiser-esque story without the murder.”
“Mythic is a better word.”
Wednesday, September 21, 2022
Wednesdays In Iceland - #4
Meetup with Halldór
Talk and Walk: Independent People by Halldór Laxness, Walk Around the World Book Club.
I had found this group by chance, researching recent Halldór Laxness mentions on Google for my other other site, Laxness in Translation. My curiosity was piqued, to say the least, so I joined the group and we met last Sunday afternoon at a bakery in South Minneapolis. As with most book clubs, not every person finished the book but very understandable in that Independent People isn’t the easiest of reads. We did have a lively talk, however, with discussions of the book, Laxness himself, Iceland, as well as other world travel destinations. Despite a short mental lapse (Laxness went to a monastery, not a convent!) I managed not to make too big a fool of myself. I left with the feeling that Laxness’ writing may have found a few new fans—they all took my Laxness in Translation business card—and I’ve noticed that some people have already visited the site. And no, we weren’t actually in Iceland, that just a Photoshop composite of a picture I shot in 2018.
One reader at a time…
My return to Iceland countdown: 40 days!
Monday, September 19, 2022
Music Monday - #15
Obscure little Anthony and the Imperials tune, covered by The Explodo Boys, circa 1979.
Click here for more Explodo Boys "videos."
Friday, September 16, 2022
This year was an anomaly, a cool spring followed by a dry spell, but then the weather gods had a change of heart and blessed us with a lot of late-summer rain. A lawn is a funny thing. I’ve gone green, my 2000 square feet of non-flowerbed space is a mix of grasses, weeds and clover and all of it is lush. No herbicides or pesticides here, we'll give the birds and bees and butterflies a little haven from the city’s asphalt. I even went electric with my lawn mower!
In a few months it will all be frozen until spring comes again, its annual dirt nap.
I wouldn’t have it any other way.
Wednesday, September 14, 2022
Wednesdays in Iceland - #3
This road (which is vastly improved from my first visit in 2000) is full of interesting scenery, whether it is in the dawn’s early light (in October or March) or on a dark and spooky night—on my upcoming trip I’ll be arriving in Iceland on October 31 and the sun doesn't rise until 10A.M! Halloween never used to celebrated in Iceland but it has become somewhat popular there in recent years, although Monday night isn’t the best day of the week for a costume ball.
This year’s trip will be bittersweet—I can’t keep doing this forever—but I felt that The Iceland Airwaves music festival could use my little bit of support in this, its first year back from Covid shutdowns in 2020 and 2021. I have gotten so much from it over the years, from magical musical moments shared in tiny venues with a dozen other people, to full-on euphoria in crowded halls. There might be some restrictions on crowd size but it will be great to see some of my old favorites as well as new acts that could wind up on my future playlists.
Monday, September 12, 2022
Music Monday - #14
Ultra-Lounge a series of CDs celebrating the concept, 20 numbered albums with the best of the best. Later on Capitol also released a variety of one-offs including Christmas and Composer/Artist compilations; the series even made it into the digital download age with more titles, diluting the concept.
I’ve acquired the original numbered titles, a set as it were, and I am enjoying it immensely. Most tracks are state-of-the-art audio, with inspired arrangements and great musicians. Notable titles are Organs in Orbit (#11, featuring Major League pitcher Denny McLain) and TV Town (#13, TV themes re-interpreted.) The best of the cuts are simply great music and even the lesser tracks usually have some features of interest.
The last two of the original collection are the “On The Rocks” titles, as the title suggests that these are covers of contemporary rock hits. This is where the concept sort of falls apart, most rock songs aren’t sophisticated enough to benefit from elaborate arrangements. That said, there are some gems and you haven’t lived until you’ve heard the Julie London cover Bob Dylan and the Band in this selection, originally from The Basement Tapes:
Friday, September 09, 2022
Simple Meals Are Best
“Marilyn! A sight for sore eyes!”
“You’re lookin’ pretty good yourself, Robert. It‘s been too long since I’ve seen you.”
A man and woman, well into their seniority, had met in the frozen food aisle of a supermarket. They simultaneously rose from the posture of leaning on their carts; it was as if they had been given injections of youth serum.
“What’s it been? Thirty years?” asked Robert, “Our 20th class reunion, right?”
Robert, known as Bobby when he was younger, went to high school with Marilyn, had even kissed her then, and more than once. His heart hadn’t been in it, however, for he had been confused about sex and romance then. Later, when he had seen her again at that reunion, he was not confused, but not available either. She was married, but looking for a partner who had a more dynamic idea of what life should be, someone whose a mind wasn’t obsessed with actuary tables. The farewell embrace that Robert and Marilyn shared then had been interrupted by Marilyn’s husband insistent honking of his car horn.
“How are you doing, Bobby? I heard about your wife’s passing, Judy wasn’t it? I’m sorry for your loss,” Marilyn, never one to mince words, thought she might have crossed the line with “That was pretty bold of me,” a twinge of regret crossed her face, a twinge that quickly morphed into an affectionate smile, “I heard about it from Sally.”
“It’s as good as can be hoped for. Her family was helpful, but the boys took it pretty hard.”
“Do you see them much? Any grand-kids?”
“A couple of grandsons, one each, but the eldest son lives on the west coast and the youngest one on the east. Usually at Christmas, we had a summer vacation together two years ago, just before Ellen died. Covid,” Robert paused as a twinge of sadness plied his features, ”How about your daughter, it’s just the one, isn’t it?”
“Louise is a great kid, more like a pal. She’s divorced too, we do a lot of things together, we’re the gay divorcees. Not gay, gay, just happy when we are together.”
“You’re shopping for your supper?”
“Cooking for one sucks,” said Marilyn, “I’ve got the frozen food blues.”
“What are you doing tonight? I could cook you a meal! We can have a Saturday night fish fry, that’s why I’m here, they have a special on walleye,” said Robert, “And you can see my new place.”
“Why, yes! That would be nice,” she said with a grin, “Is there anything I can bring?”
“Just an appetite… and that smile.”
“My goodness! Do you own this place?”
“It would be more accurate to say that it owns me.”
Marilyn and Robert were standing in the doorway of a 19th century townhouse on Summit Avenue in Saint Paul, Minnesota.
There must be a lot of history here;” said Marilyn, “If these walls could talk… ”
“Well, next door is where F. Scott Fitzgerald wrote his first novel, said Robert, “This Side of Paradise… so I suppose that we’re in it, in paradise?”
“Lead on, Angel.”
Robert led Marilyn into the townhouse’s interior, pausing from time to time to point out some distinctive architectural feature.
“You’ll notice the hand-carving over the mantle, it gives me a challenge when dusting.”
“Really Bobby, you do the dusting?”
“Well, I think about doing the dusting,” he said, “Although my domestic specialty is really cooking.”
They found themselves in the kitchen. It had retained most of its woodwork and cupboards but was also well furnished with modern appliances. There was already food cooking on the massive industrial stove.
“This is fabulous! Did you have it updated?” asked Marilyn, “It’s my dream kitchen.”
“I just had the pots and pan rack removed. This isn’t a commercial kitchen. Yet. Depends on how this meal turns out, if it is a success I might have to consider it.”
“What can I do to help?”
“There are salad fixings in the fridge: lower right side, the nasturtiums are edible, go wild!” said Robert, “I’ve already laid out the what I need for the main courses. There is a small plate of charcuterie on the shelf above the salad if you have need of an amuse-bouche. You haven’t converted to Judaism, have you?”
“Yum. This is fabulous.”
“Shall I open the wine? Kia Ora, New Zealand.”
They began preparing the food.
“Did you cook much when your wife was alive?” said Marilyn, “I let Mark do most of the cooking when we were together, mostly meat and potatoes, the only exotic foods he’d make were French fries.”
“I’d cook most of the time, not all the time. When the kids were young she more. A dozen ways of pasta, if you count Mac ‘n’ Cheese, the usual holiday meals. When you get together with your kids and grand-kids who cooks?”
“Always the Daughter-in-laws. Never the boys,” Marilyn said, taking a sip of wine, “Oooh! another winner. Mark only drank beer.”
The fish had begun to sizzle; that scent and that of the buns warming in the oven began to fill the room.
“I’m starting to think that I should have brought my toothbrush,” said Marilyn, “Is the breakfast menu available?”
“Nice girls don’t stay for breakfast,” Robert said, smiling, “I’m more of a minimalist in the morning, coffee and shredded wheat with blueberries.”
“I’m not a nice girl, remember when we ‘broke-up’ before we even started going out?”
“I remember, and I am sorry,” said Robert, “I wasn’t that you weren’t nice, I just wasn’t ready.”
“I just wasn’t Carol, you meant to say.” Carol was a friend of Marilyn’s who was also in their class.
“There is some truth to that,” Robert said as turned to the stove and started steaming the cauliflower, “But it’s not all the truth. To be honest, I was in love with most of the girls in our class, do you remember the Lovin’ Spoonful song Did You Ever Have to Make Up Your Mind?, the story of my life. I was lucky to find Judy.”
They didn’t speak for a while. Robert finished putting the food in serving dishes and Marilyn put the salad and the dressings on the table.
“Everything’s just about ready, if you’ll take a seat,” He said, clipping a red name tag to his shirt pocket, “I’m Robert and I’ll be your server tonight. It is the custom of the house to save the salad for the last course, a cleansing of the palate for the dessert.”
“I see,” said Marilyn, “In the French style, N’est-ce Pas?
“Voici un toast à mon ami de longue date, et à ce qui aurait pu être… ” said Robert, holding his glass to hers, “Here’s to a true friend, indeed!”
“Oh my!” said Marilyn with a smile, “Shall we begin?”
Robert and Marilyn’s Walleye Dinner:
Cook 1 cup rice as per usual instructions with the addition of curry or other asian spice blend.
Take 1 pound frozen walleye fillets and run hot water over the skin side, then peel the skin from the meat. Scrape off and black residue remaining; it leaves a fishy taste. Trim off thin parts and cut the thicker pieces into 2 inch squares, the thinner pieces can be larger. Sprinkle all sides with Wondra, a fine flour. Half-thaw the thicker pieces in the microwave, Set aside.
Begin warming a large frying pan to medium/high heat with about 3/8" of high-temp oil, preferably safflower oil.
Beat one egg with a tablespoon of milk in a shallow dish, place next to fish. Pour a half cup of Panko bread crumbs into a shallow dish and mix with one tablespoon (more if desired) Old Bay or other fish seasoning. Place next to egg/milk mixture, near the frying pan. Dredge the fish pieces in the egg, then coat in the Panko. Start cooking the thicker pieces first, the thin pieces only need a couple of minutes. Turn half way through. When done put on a paper towel in a shallow serving dish.
Slice desired amount of cauliflower in 1/2 inch strips, place in steamer but don't start cooking until fish is about half-cooked (about 5 minutes). Don't overcook! When done put in a shallow serving dish on top of the cooked rice and sprinkle with oil and herbes de provence.
If you have big appetites, serve with warmed buns or multigrain bread and butter.
Salad is best with mixed greens, add berries, dill, chives, sliced cherry tomatoes, even nasturtium flowers in season, with a lighter oil/vinegar Italian style dressing.
A good French Sancerre or a New Zealand Sauvignon blanc wine, with herbal and mineral notes, complements the food.
The idea behind this meal is to create a subtle blend of flavors, not to overwhelm the palate; definitely not recommended for smokers, they won't taste a thing!
Thursday, September 08, 2022
The Queen is Dead, Long Live the King
“It’s good to be king.” ~ Mel Brooks
Actually, our acquaintance was limited to postage stamps.
The back of her head had been licked more than any other person in history.
Some might even say that she was “stuck-up.”
As a child I had often wondered about what it must have been like to be Prince Charles.
When I was older I realized that it probably wasn’t much fun.
Wednesday, September 07, 2022
Wednesdays in Iceland - #2
Hotel Borg The rooms have been redone, however, in varying shades of “greige,” which is now a universal decor affliction, I’m afraid.
It is priced on the higher end due to its central location (adjoining Alþing, Dómkirkjan, and Austurvöllur) and is an even more expensive hassle if you have a car. I stayed there in 2000 when good package deals could be had—and Iceland had a tenth of the number of visitors as it does now. I had actually thought about staying there again during my upcoming trip, but I found a nicer place nearby that is even more convenient and it has a kitchen! (I’ll feature it next week,)
Still, if money were no object, the two-floor tower suite in the Hotel Borg is tres chic, as well it should be for $1200 a night.
Monday, September 05, 2022
Music Monday #13
This is the song Bob Dylan “ruined” but John Cruz repairs, performed live in Honolulu’s Kapi’olani park.
Friday, September 02, 2022
Archipelago Books is an independent publisher located in Brooklyn, New York.
They specialize in books in translation; works they have deemed worthy of a wider readership. My connection to them is with the Icelandic author Halldór Laxness (the laughing man seen above) and buying those titles of his that they have released: The Great Weaver From Kashmir (2008), Wayward Heroes (2016), and Salka Valka (2022). They have been supportive of me as well, linking to my other blog: Laxness in Translation. Later in the month they will be having a “Fête”, a chance for like-minded individuals to meet over libations and canapés, and I have been invited! It would certainly be interesting and it would definitely take me out of my comfort zone. Translator Philip Roughton will probably be there—meeting him for a translation nerd like myself would be like meeting Bob Dylan!
I am really in debt to Archipelago; they have been exemplary in their efforts to raise the level of Literature with high-quality yet affordable editions. This fête would be quite a trip to arrange on such short notice, however, as well as being breathtakingly expensive for three hours of canapes and libations.
YOLO, I guess?