all about the Inner tube

Weekend Brunch

Wait a minute what do you mean? You’re saying I can’t eat avocados, no more cashews, sautéing vegetables in olive oil is out?

I’d run into some trouble with my numbers. You wouldn’t know by looking, but under the hood, the engine had issues. The warranty on my chassis had started showing its miles and after a look my mechanic hit me with the news, I was going to have to start doing some preventative maintenance.

Sacred Recipes and Olney Tips

From here on out it would be lettuce and lemon juice for as far as the eye could see. No more cooking Richard Olney’s Veal Sweetbreads and Macaroni Timbale. No more making a gelatinous veal stock with blanched calf’s foot, no more 3 tablespoons of butter in the macaroni, no more egg whites and immeasurable vats of heavy cream.

I am a besotted California cuisine dining French envying cheap red any vintage non-Grand Crus Bordeaux wine drinker. Berkeley is rife with my kind. Turns out the Left Coast liberals get Château induced sticker shock bellying up in the Left Bank for a glass of Margaux and a succulent morsel of Cistercian monk inspired Epoisses.

Breaking up is hard to do

“Excess in everything,” was Ernie Kovacs motto. Not bad, but good to understand the brilliant comedian was dealt a one-way ticket out of here at 45. Voraciousness and longevity are incompatible bedfellows.

Palate shifting takes time. You are not just moving minds you are training stomachs too. Imagine you are one whole integrated tube with a hole at one end and another hole at the other where what goes in one hole comes out the other. In the middle of the tube is a broadcasting company sending information to the most prejudiced bought and paid for criminally negligent judge and jury the human condition can buy. We want what we want when we want it.

Corkage, as in put a cork in it…

That may not be who you truly are, but it comes damn close to describing what I’ve found lurking just beneath the impulse control deficient less preferred parts of this closeted Château Margaux craver.

Because of my biased jury and out of control inner Ernie Kovacs the Executive Producers of my dinner theater demanded the director try editing the big show before it turned into a Mayo Clinic flop.

I rounded up the usual suspects. Dairy, eggs, red meat, chicken and fish were arrested and tossed into the culinary hoosegow. Denial fueled the Mediterranean diets unsubstantiated claims that olive oil was good and more olive oil was even better. As these things went the use of olive oil had to go. I had to get rid of the oil burner under the hood go all renewable or run the real risk of having my very own existential Kodak moment and climate change emergency.

Tools of the Oil Free Trade

Scanpans are a Scandinavian cookware creation. Coddled socialists that our Northern Europeans are during their eternal winter while soaking in saunas the dashing blonde and blue-eyed wonders spent the other part of their day and invented safer nonstick cookware. A ceramic titanium coating over stainless and aluminum creates an oil free cooking tool that unlike Teflon will not harm the homebound chefs. Think Volvo of cookware.

Secret Sauce

Add to your arsenal a scanpan and vegetable broth, low sodium of course, and you are now set to go all oil free all the time. The tyranny of craving will drive behavior at the outset, but with practice the lust for oil cools to a simmering whimpering muffled then muted tummy tickling grumble.

In the sport of survival your referee will be left flummoxed. Instead of putting up the big numbers you’ll be playing in endothelial hardball league. Stints, pig valves and triple bypass will be relegated to the dustbins of John Hopkins Research archives.

Sicilian wine is an affordable must have

That’s it. There you go. Easier said than done. As to be expected my beloved inner Ernie Kovacs is still there, and that’s a beautiful thing. We wrestle with each other, and it’s a fair match, immortal comic versus fragile wise guy. The thing to know is an oil free Kovacs works and I’m doing pretty good too.

Kicked up quite the ruckus when I dove into this dietary quagmire, but now it’s just what we do. As Tony Bennett sings, “I want to be around to pick up the pieces when somebody fixes your heart. Some somebody twice as smart, as I….”

cairnal knawledge

Rock Arrangments

Stacking rock is the latest here at Self-Isolation Central. Building a rock wall is an open-ended three-dimensional chess match. Out in the arena, also known as the front yard, there in the field of dreams the player towers like the Grand Canyon over the rocks.

Procrastination might not even be a word if we were not suddenly having self-isolation thrust into our lives. Still with a snazzy past life now at full stop, and having all the time in the world to idle away arranging and rearranging rocks the reverse of whatever a blessing might be gets to the essence of what the rock stacking sport is all about.

Baby Rocks

Having admired more than a few gifted, more patient rock stackers I approached the challenge with humility. A rookie rock stacker has to earn their stripes.

Here’s the first thing to know. A good course of stacked rocks starts at rock bottom. Got that? You want a foundation that the higher rocks can count on. After a few stacking sessions you knew the moment would hit you like a ton of bricks. Once all those ideal rocks, all those born to be stackable rocks have been used up what a rock stacker is left with is all those other rocks, the unpopular rocks, the rocks nobody wants, you’ve seen those rocks before, they’re all scattered across the rocky road of life.

In the Sierra foothills as you approach the gold country’s Sutter Creek from the west Chinese immigrants worked stacking rocks. To appreciate the enormity of the Chinese wall stackers talent all you need do is pick up and carry one fair sized rock from one side of your yard to the other side of your yard and set the rock down. To appreciate Chinese rock stackers continue this rock moving exercise sunrise to sunset, day in and day out, for a decade.

Amateur Rock Stacker’s Lament

Meditation may not induce the level of serenity a rock stacking consciousness requires. You’ll need to self- appoint yourself your own chain gang guard. Eat boiled eggs, smirk, and recite this line over and over, “What we have here is a failure to communicate.” A stacking mood is rare.

The contemplative life I have come to learn consists of both concepts in the abstract and objects in the concrete. In both the abstract and the concrete things get heavy quick. Toss a potent mushroom into the mix and you’ll regret having ever thought what you wanted to do was stack a wall of rocks straight and plumb. A straight line as all of you know was discovered by the earliest rock lovers, the Sumerians.  

Tribal Rock Indentation Discovery

Still with the vaccine so far off in the future and rocks and time being what they are I’ll probably not only stack the remaining rocks into a wall but I can see that I’ll also be getting involved in deconstructing rock walls and launch my career as a rock wall rearranger.

Think of rock stacking as a leisure activity, the ultimate stealth thinking man’s game. Since this pandemic has hit so too has arrived at our location the penetrating inviolable truth. Take each day one rock at a time.

Tables are empty

Millennium on College Avenue has been a favorite vegan hangout. I’d hustle over early grab a seat at the bar with my wife. Glass of wine, appetizers and a main dish was a bullseye. The joint fills up most nights. Getting a table is impossible, a slot at the bar, you’ll wait.

Just Looking

Shangri La Vegan on Telegraph is another favorite. Here is a fixed menu where the only variation is size. My wife orders a moderate and I go for the full plate. You self-serve your flatware, water and tea. They offer wine but it never seems right to us.

Dinner for Two

Thursday nights we’d meet up at The Trappist just off Broadway on 8th. I don’t drink beer but everyone else does. We’ve been meeting there for some years for beer, wine and conversation.

Near my boat in Emeryville is The Prizefighter. Love this bar. Love the staff. Drinks are meticulously crafted. Bottles of booze are shelved floor to the rim of twenty-foot ceiling. Like Alice’s Restaurant you can get anything you want. Conversation is plentiful, Wifi is swift, and dogs are welcomed. Friday night happy hour is not to be missed.

The Prizefighter (Best of the Best)

We will all miss mixing with colleagues, acquaintances and friends. For some indeterminate length of time we won’t be dropping into our favorite saloon. If we wait for the vaccine, and that’s my plan, with luck we’ll be out of this viral fix by the end of 2021. Sooner than that is a roll of the mortal dice and I’m not so smitten with booze to try to beat the house given the bet you’ll have to make.

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Rebel Riders on the Rim of Hope

Nothing remains the same. Neighborhoods are a mix of people and places. Staff that work in the restaurant and bars can’t hold out for work and wait 74 more weeks while our research and laboratories find a cure for what is ailing our world.

Ordinary Life Please

Maintaining science experts on staff at the National Security Agency isn’t something I’ve spent much time thinking about. Expertise on how to fight pandemics seemed a third or fourth order issue on my stove of hot topics. You know I’m interested in the good stuff. Pandemic doesn’t sound fun and like a clock I’m right twice a day.

I have spent my life as a showman. I have worked solo for most of my forty-four-year career. Variety show entertainment won’t work while this virus is on the loose. Until the world is immune the show will not go on, the show can’t.

What the World Needs Now

If you had an occupation serving customers jokes, tricks, food and drinks you’re out of luck. Imagine all the nuance that is going down the memory hole? The pesto pasta dish served at Crossroads on Melrose in West Hollywood is the best I’ve ever had. I imagined it best because the cook in the kitchen had been practicing and perfecting this dish day in and day out for year upon year upon year. If genius is pasta this dish might well be a plate of brilliance.

Now that we all have so much more time there is no hurry, there is no rush, “the tables are empty, dance floor is disserted, you play the same love song, like a hundred times you’ve heard it, it’s only the beginning, its one of the clues, you’ve had your first lesson, in learning the blues.”

Steady as you go, better times are ahead

Wine Casting fun

Method Tradionalelle Candidates

Do you know Helen? I’ve been to her pod, been to her LA hole in the wall gem box bottle shop on Fairfax, I mean I feel like I know Helen. Helen was the wine merchant that first introduced me to the slang phrase, “dope-ass.”

Self-isolating here in Northern California I called my daughter. Circumstances in Seattle are no better. Batting ideas back and forth, how could we share an experience?

Movable Feast ala Pet Nat

“Maybe we could buy the same bottle of wine. That would be step one. Step two is opening the wine. Open and taste the wine while on Facetime, Skype, Zoom, whatever you got, we can do this. If you know what you are doing it isn’t too difficult to cast your call onto your flatscreen television. Like that I am in her living room and she’s in mine.

Ian is her super special guy and Eileen is my super special wife. The four of us can open the same bottle of wine and we can do what we’ve always done. We can taste and talk about the wine we’re enjoying.

Ship Wine Literally

Let’s circle back to my dope-ass wine merchant Helen. Up in Seattle there is a pop-up event. Juice Club, it’s an Instagram driven gathering of likeminded natural wine fans. The Club stages gatherings where they serve tapas with natural wine. Spontaneous, oh so Capital Hill, hipster heaven, definitive focus are the digitally bearded and flannel shirted feminine hard scrabble types. Slacker dudedum is a Port Townsend fallback position if the gig you’ve been gunning for vaporizes there on the Paris by the Puget Sound.

We Have the Winners Here

Helen’s is top of the list for mail order. Ordinaire in the Grand Lake District of Oakland another. Both have extensive natural wine inventories. Helen had two bottles we were interested in trying.

Eileen and I shower, put on some of our favorite clothes get all setup in the living room dial up the kid like that we can go virtual winetasting.

Our immune systems need space, but our social genes need wide screen spectacular opportunities.

Wine should arrive this week. We’re looking forward to the date.

Beer swilling self isolating friends

opportunists among the hard rock

Compassion for weeds is misplaced. Weeds have depended upon my having better things to do. Procrastination works in direct proportion to distraction.

Plucking the tops of weeds will not be tolerated. Tools that get to the root of the thing are to be used and officers disguised as wives will be inspecting the offenders for proof of proper subterranean extraction.

In the brochures published by the International Association of Weeds advertising focused on the yards in my neighborhood. Until the coronavirus sheltering in place craze hit weeds could count on multiple generational reincarnations right here. Visitation packages promise sunlight, water and fecund soil. Disclaimers regarding gophers, Roundup and wildfire were necessary due to litigious nature of weeds.

Imagine a few good plants

Freeway driving time constrained homeowners are the poster child for the wide wonderful world of weeds. Weeds in Green Valley near Tucson watch YouTubes of distant relatives in Northern California thriving in abundance.

Here we find quackgrass, lambsquarter and dandelion. A constant watch is stood against blackberry vine and milk thistle. Overcrowded populations of weeds dream of moving to Texas in another life and coming back as saltcedar. Saltcedar isn’t a mere weed why it has been identified as an invasive species.

Innocent enough but still guilty

We have a whole green bin full of fresh pulled weeds. Like in-laws to fend off their visit we deploy groundcover where we can. Sheets of plastic and cardboard cover over soil that to a weed looks more like a destination resort.

Fingers raw, knees are sore, but the will is strong. Weeds like so many of the people you know are stubborn things. Like a bad idea they will return again and again. Weeds are relentless. If you could dissect persistence out of the weed and inject it into the bloodstream of the unmotivated, humankind would walk in a litter free world.

Paradise would be all potting soil and plants. Why gardens would be wisteria, gardenias and prairie blue grass from horizon to horizon. Watering bills would be lower and all those places you’ve wanted to visit in your post pandemic bucket list will suddenly be within a nematode’s hairs breath reach.

Weeding for Buddha

Committee has been formed, a weed sympathizer up the street was indignant over this reckless disregard for weed life. Beer swilling self-isolating friend called them “a bunch of noxious tenderhearted pseudo botanists, wouldn’t know the difference between bed of straw or a flake of Timothy hay.” Beer bellied loner snorted through his N-95 facemask, pointing his latex gloved finger up into the sky, “They’ll be sorry if they come try take my Tibetan prayer flags out of these cold weed pulling hands. Who do they think they’re trying to bamboozle? Why I’m old enough to remember when the only kind of weed anyone knew was the one you smoked, and the only thing weed smoking made you do was laugh, eat cheeseburgers and put Visine in your eyes. Hell, what kind of no-till- carbon sequestration- save the world- urban farmer do they think they are messing with?”

Where fern bar ferns come from

Since this dust-up most of what passes for time in the neighborhood has settled into a familiar only in California multicultural truce. Neighbors are talking through fences, bragging about their house wrens, vireos and honeysuckle. Life’s not too awful and by looks of things most people in these parts have found a place in their hearts for both weeds and weed pullers. It’s as if Fox Television no longer exists and Jerry Hall has dumped Rupert Murdoch. Life could not be looking any better.

Break Bread Share Wine

New Social Distancing Techniques

I’m a gregarious type. I prefer to be hand’s on. Being so physical is a mixed blessing.

One skill I’ve developed while out on the road is manifesting conversation. You’ll need to be a quick judge of character, street performers have plenty of that, and determine soon enough in the encounter what topic might be the most pleasing to share.

I much prefer sharing wine. Wine is a social lubricant. There is a distinct pleasurable experience in a wine provoked conversation. An amateur finding their own words about wine is refreshing. There is the matter of wine being capable of demonstrating structure. I know when the wine is not muddy. If a companion is tasting something I can’t detect, I find the words to explain the flavors they can identify revealing. Sometimes the exact word hits like a bullseye. I’m entertained by a friend knocking about in their head then come up with the precise word.

 

Field of Grapes

Zweigelt is an Austrian red wine. I’ve tasted four or five, none that didn’t please. The wine produces a floral scent once in the mouth. Zweigelt is a lighter red bringing more finesse than bombast. There is no tannic aftertaste, no yeasty engineered underscore. What you’ll find is a sense of slate, a dry wine, flinty, scantily clad, not a whopping billboard scaled red but not an uncomplicated shy glass of wine. I count three or four different impressions when I drink this Austrian red. This is civilized thoughtful modestly priced wine.

Simplicity of Fresh Food

Many of us are going to do much more wine drinking closer to home. Social distancing is an up and down affair. Now is a time to simplify. Running about with a busy calendar isn’t what the doctor has ordered. We can make the most of these new experiences by willingly giving our best over to them. Embrace the simple life, relax into the way of each simple day, this embrace is a means of being good to ourselves.

Border – Snake Valley

Sean’s front porch needing no improvement

Visit with my busking mate Sean Laughlin is two days back. Getting into the Nevada mood at his place in Silver City, Nevada is a way to begin the induction. Western rural hard rock mining outpost of yesteryear is a clean break from suburban Northern California life.

There is lot of dust, doors have no locks and what’s in the building remains in need of restoration though fixing things up wouldn’t add a lick of charm. The whole lot of Silver City citizens I’ve met have setup shop here because it isn’t like anywhere they’ve come from. Three or four streets, twenty to forty dwellings, three defunct saloons pretty much settles matters. Mustang tend to wander through the place. Traffic heading up the hill to Virginia City comes through.

Seller Motivated

Silver City men have to a one a picture in their mind of the prettiest girl they have ever loved. Most have spent years with a woman and then the drought of affection dried things up and what they once had thought was for keeps goes lost. Pile up all these Silver City loser’s shoulder to shoulder come sunset for a proper adult beverage and they’ll being singing at the top of their lungs with not one ounce of lament mixed into the thing.

That was Tuesday. They were all stinking liberals with tattoos, long guns and pickup trucks. Bernie, they had sympathies for, but it was their friend Joe they figure can get the job done.

Wednesday, I put on my pants, brushed my teeth, tossed my bags into my continental crossing vehicle and made my turn east on Highway 50. The first hour heading east you’ll see signs of sprawl. Of course, not much big money sprawl. What you’ll find are people that have ended up setting up on five acres out in the middle of to hell and gone.

By golly I think I’ve got it

Once past Fernley most of civilization has been removed from the landscape. There is this first long hundred-mile long leg that ends in Austin, Nevada. Then you’ll run another hundred miles further to Eureka. From high on up in this outpost you’ll come down the other side and go a fair distance until arriving in Ely. I prefer something smaller in the way of places and near perfect is 66 miles further in Baker, Nevada.

Baker is gateway to Great Basin National Park. Park, restaurant and motels are closed for a few more weeks. Instead I stopped nearby in Border. At this waystation you can find a casino, restaurant, bar, general store, gas station and motel. Everyone that lives in Border works at this location. Bartender was born here. He was also the motel manager. Best thing about this barman was his story of a crow warning him that a coyote was running off just out of his sightlines and his turning and getting the rifle shot off just in the nick of time.

End of Nevada

There was a great bit of consternation about the cornonavirus. Highway repair crew were holed up and working nearby. It was a big lot of these men. None were too pleased by the news of the spreading virus. To celebrate there was quarreling, shouting, and pounding of hands on the bar counter to get their point across.

Most important conversation of all had to do with the Las Vegas water grab that had just that same day been thwarted. For more than a decade the legendary Snake Valley had been subjected to Clark County officials trying to buy out ranchers so they could obtain water rights. With deed to the land and the water beneath it they could ship that water down to Las Vegas. Nevada’s State Supreme Court finally ruled after a long series of appeals that there wasn’t going to be any Snake Valley water going to be pumped and shipped south.

Snake Valley Sunset…

Basque sheepherders run flocks in these parts. This is good forage for sheep. You’ve got a few mining operations and employees that work for the national park. There are artists out here. Near perfect place to locate for an easily distracted writer because there is near nothing here to distract a writer from fulfilling his or her duty at a keyboard.

I aim to return soon. I have wanted to run the Snake Valley north to south. I’m hoping I can get an introduction to some of the ranchers out here. I’d like to come out to see the sheep being fleeced. I’m curious too about the people. Last nights stay in Border was plenty good and restorative. I have more faith in the most woebegone places. That’s a good thing

Author-Entertainer