Thursday, July 30, 2009

3 for 3

Our three day staycation to Chav Beach, RI, included a Roadfood Greatest Hits tour. Back in the pre-web days, when my wife was my girlfriend, we would drive around on vacations with a dogeared copy of Roadfood in the backseat, ready to pull into any promising sounding fried-clam joint, lobster pound, or hot dog emporium within a 50 mile radius of our trip. Consequently, we have certain mainstays along the I-95 corridor that we have frequented many times in the last 20 years. This week we hit Sea Swirl of Mystic, reknowned for their fried whole-belly clams, fried sea scallops and foot-long dogs. This was our lunch stop on the way to the beach, the clams and scallops giving us the energy we needed for our bodysurf and boogie-board related activities.

Dinner on our second night found us driving to the quaint fishing village of Noank, to Abbots Lobster in the Rough, a classic lobster pound, with teenage servers and outdoor picnic tables overlooking the harbor. The last time we ate here, maybe 4 years ago, Hoboken trio Yo La Tengo were at the table next to us, enjoying a subdued lobster dinner, anonymous among the tourists and families. We ordered the classic steamed lobster dinner, with some oysters and clam chowder to start. It's a BYOB joint, so we brought a bottle of rose champagne with us, in contrast to the six-packs of Bud Lime most of our neighbors were quaffing.

So we hit two of our favorite places, and for the trip home we decided to go for the trifecta: Louis' Lunch in New Haven, a spot we have always wanted to try, but for some reason or another never have. Opened in 1895, this ramshackle brick building has barely enough room for 20 people in it's mildly uncomfortable "booths". Supposedly the home of the "Hamburger Sandwich", Louis' Lunch broils their burgers in the original vertical cast-iron grills used when they first opened. What sets Louis Lunch apart from other burger joints, besides their famously surly and obnoxious cook-staff, is that the burgers are served on toasted white bread, with a choice of three toppings: Cheez Whiz, tomatoes and onions. The onions are grilled into the burger, which is served medium-rare. There is no ketchup, mustard or any other condiment available, and woe to those who ask. Side orders include potato chips, and, uh, soda. The Birch Beer is excellent, as are the burgers, where the lack of condiments lets the beefy flavor sing.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Time is but the stream I go a-fishing in

I had lunch recently with my old friend Matt Syrett. During the course of our conversation we started talking about Henry David Thoreau, and Matt, in no uncertain terms, declared him a "pussy". It made me wonder what my friend Bob, aka acclaimed author Robert Sullivan would think. Bob recently published a book, The Thoreau You Don't Know, a Jeremiad devoted to updating our commonly held beliefs and notions about the author of Walden, while casting Thoreau in a new light as a humorous sage, whose life story and writings are applicable to contemporary society, not only his interest in things "green", or as a social critic, and hinting that he may have in fact been the original "hipster". I believe Matt's "pussy" comment had to do with Thoreau's attitude while imprisoned, which as I recall, ended with Thoreau engaging in some awesome Huckleberrying.
While writing this I was thinking about my kids, and the music they listen to, a lot of which is really great, and how nobody of their generation seems to listen to Nirvana or The Clash. Or, for the matter, X.

Thursday, July 23, 2009


Our home, in bucolic southern Westchester County, is overrun with deer. Well, not just our home. All of Westchester is experiencing a deer crisis, with estimates of approximately 1 million tick-infested deer currently frolicking in our backyards. Besides carrying Lyme Disease, the deer run rampant through our gardens, eating flowers and vegetation, and also are responsible for numerous traffic accidents and even fatalities. In response to this crisis, county officials have weighed various options, from extending bow-hunting season, giving deer birth-control, to organizing bands of sharp-shooters to go through our woods and shoot the antlered pests.
Another troubling aspect to the deer explosion is the fact that their are now high incidences of "mad deer" disease, similar to BSE. There has been discussion as to what to do with the leftover carcasses that will be part of the "culling" option, and one of the excellent options has been to feed the meat to the homeless! The argument seems to be that we will assuage our liberal guilt, in this case multiplied by two, for killing innocent animals, and solving the problem of the hungry and homeless in our state. But isn't this more like a Final Solution?

This morning I received an email from our town, outlining the latest measures:

Solutions. NO ACTION is not an acceptable alternative. One possibility is to deploy professional sharpshooters firing downwards from elevated perch (tree stand or other) after luring deer to feeding stations away from habitations.

Feeding of venison to homeless should occur only after each deer tested for prion disease and/or detailed advice from legal counsel, so as to avoid liability. (emphasis mine)

The mind boggles at the idea of a soup kitchen serving tainted venison burgers, then everyone standing back to wait and see what happens.

Photos of actual deer in our backyard:

Tuesday, July 21, 2009


In the book I'm reading, The Valley of Bones, (volume 7 of Anthony Powell's A Dance to the Music of Time) the narrator, Nick Jenkins, on arriving in Aldershot for an officer's training course (it's 1940) reminisces about 1914, when his father's regiment had been stationed there:

I remembered how the Battalion, polished and blancoed, in scarlet and spiked helmets, had marched into Aldershot for some ceremonial parade, drums beating, colours cased, down dusty summer roads.

Powell's use of the word "blancoed" reminded me of the scene in A Hard Day's Night, when Paul's Grandfather is at the casino, playing baccarat:

Grandfather: My turn?!
Croupier: Pas "bingo" monsieur. "Banco"
Grandfather: Ah, I'll take the little darlin's anyway.

Oh, one more quote from The Valley of Bones, just because it is so great:

We were squadded by a stagey cluster of glengarry-capped staff-sergeants left over from the Matabele campaign, with Harry Lauder accents and eyes like poached eggs.

So with eyes like poached eggs I wandered down to Deitch Projects to see Black Acid Co-op, an installation by Justin Lowe and Jonah Freeman. Roberta Smith raved about it in the Times last week, as did Anne-Marie. The show engulfs you with it's minutiae and distorted sense of scale, with the rooms at once claustrophobic and expansive. It's easy to get lost in the maze, one of the many Kubrickian references (Smith says the White Room is very Eyes Wide Shut, but it also reminded me of the final scenes of 2001: A Space Odyssey).
Going to Deitch has another added benefit- proximity to Saigon Banh Mi, on Mott and Grand, where for $3.75 you can have one of the great cheap lunch deals in the city.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Can Film Festival

Evenings this frugal summer staycation have been spent on our cans, watching everything TCM can throw our way. Not only their daily offerings, but all the films we have DVRed this year. Some of the highlights: Fellini's Roma, On The Waterfront, The 400 Blows, One Flew Over the Cuckoos Nest, Dr. Strangelove, Kramer vs. Kramer, Manhattan, The Public Enemy, etc. etc.
Some low lights were The Women and Ma and Pa Kettle.
Last night we watched Jimmy Cliff in The Harder They Come, a film I saw when it first came out, and a few times during high school. Jimmy Cliff was already a superstar, thanks to the eponymous hit, as well as Many Rivers to Cross, You Can get it if You Really Want and Sitting in Limbo. What differentiated Cliff's music from a lot of the contemporary reggae of the time (Toots and the Maytals, Desmond Dekker, Max Romeo, the Upsetters), was the almost Stax-like production. This marriage of the indigenous reggae beat with R & B horns, and the soulful ballads, to say nothing of Jimmy Cliff's movie-star good looks, made Hollywood, or Kingston more exactly, the next logical step.
The movie, directed by Perry Henzell, is celebrated for it's gritty production values, explicit sex(ism), violent content, and classic plot, supposedly based on the real life exploits of a celebrated 1940's gangster, Ivanhoe "Rhyging" Martin, known as the Jamaican Dillinger, the original "rudeboy". Anne-Marie pointed out that the movie was also enjoyable because the dialogue was impossible to understand- the patois is thick, the sound recording muddy, and the cinematography dark. The original version I saw had subtitles.