Sunday, July 09, 2006

Rhythm & Code Blue

Twang, thrum. Thump, thump. "Cough. This on?"
These were the sounds of trouble. A cover band was warming up, tuning up, doing a sound check. Whatever it was, it portended bad noise in the mall.
Every Sunday this upscale Marin County mall provides electrical outlets so some jokers with guitars and microphones can visit their fantasies of superstardom on folks who just want to spend the day shopping and sipping lattes. Or maybe the idea is to drive the crowds into the stores where they can at least hear CD compilations of the original versions of corny old rock 'n' roll songs.
If that was the idea, it wasn't working. People actually sat around listening to this graying group of buffoons hacking away at their instruments a few miles from the homes of real graying rockers like Huey Lewis, Bonnie Raitt and a couple of the living Grateful Dead. There were three guys and two women, average age 53, and they were inappropriately unashamed, as my wife put it.
Between all of them they might have hit an average of two notes right in each song, but in the wrong place. You had to grit your teeth and listen real hard to tell if they were covering a Stones song or an Airplane song. The drum solo sounded like the janitor carting away a barrel of litter, only without the rhythmic broken wheel. Yes, there was a drum solo.
We moved as far away as we could without going into the parking lot, but everybody else stayed put, swaying erratically to the beatlessness and occasionally applauding. Dozens of people in the crowd were old enough to belong to AARP, which meant they were Boomers who grew up on rock, or they were Boomers' parents who condemned it when their kids listened to it. Either way they should have hated this stuff.
So there we sat at the far end of the mall, too old to let go of our music and too young to be totally deaf. Too bad.

Photo credit

Tuesday, July 04, 2006

Happiness, pursued and caught

Maybe we should celebrate independence every day, and not just for the fireworks and barbecues. This is the day we liberals, radicals, progressives and moderates (traitors, as the unlikeable likes of Ann Coulter would define us) wear the red, white and blue. We take the flag back. For one day, at least, it doesn't belong to the supporters of a mean and mad monarch.
I'm wearing my red-white-and-blue striped T-shirt that comes out of the drawer once a year, matched this year with white jeans, blue belt and red ball cap. I look like some kind of superpatriotic mime, but hell it's only once year. Still, maybe we should lay claim to the flag for the whole year, every year.
In the early '60s, the reactionaries had the Confederate flag, which they displayed when Civil Rights marchers showed up with the Stars and Stripes. Somehow, later on in the '60s, the reactionaries took our flag and defaced it with the slogan, "America, love it or leave it." The Tories probably had a slogan like that to go with the British flag in the 1770s.
Abbie Hoffman fought back with his American flag shirt and Peter Fonda rode easy with his American flag helmet and leathers. That was the right idea then (even if all that colorful acid wasn't) and years later a whole lot of liberals and I are eating hot dogs and watching fireworks in our patriotic colors.
Once again, we hold as self-evident the truth that it's our country too. Love it and stay.
Good dog!

Sunday, July 02, 2006

Flying burrito, brother

Young 'uns on the West Coast may not believe this, but I didn't have my first burrito until I was 30 years old. It was the mid-70s and I lived in the Boston area, where there were exactly two restaurants that served Mexican food. One was a sleazy bar in Brighton and the other was a hippie dive in Somerville, and neither served burritos, just plateloads of melted stuff. Then, on a trip to California, I picked up a hitchhiker going to Santa Cruz and he took me to a seaside burrito joint. I gathered that burritos were big with surfer types, probably because they were tubular food.
I've eaten thousands of them since, both the giant, slathered ones you eat from plates with knives and forks and the much more satisfying taqueria kind swathed in tinfoil. Now I tend to eat my own quicky, cheaty burritos.
Recipe: Lay one flour tortilla (or two or three) on a plate and put a big blop of refried beans in the middle right from the can. Sprinkle with cumin and garlic powder, slop on hot sauce and then mix it all up, right on the tortilla. Top with a couple of pieces of whatever kind of cheese you have, as long as it comes from a rectangular block. Then fold three sides of the tortilla over so the result looks less like a tube and more like a cardboard fries packet from McDonald's. Cover with a damp paper towel, so the thing won't have the texture of cardboard, then microwave for a minute. Cheese should roil out the opening and stick to the paper towel. That's how you know it's done. Remove towel, let cool and enjoy.
Pretty good for not leaving the house.
And another thing. I didn't have my first fast-food hamburger until I was in college, when on a midnight drive a friend took me to a cult place off the Connecticut Turnpike called Burger King. I thought it was the only one, and it might have been the only one in New England in 1967. And McDonald's was a farm when I was growing up. We were forced to eat real hamburgers, the kind that dribbled juices. E-I-E-I-Oh, my.
If McDonald's is so popular, how come people don't try making Big Macs at home? That's right, you can't make anything that bad at home. But you can't fail with burritos. You don't need carne asada or a hot tortilla press. Mm, mm, there's something about the magic interaction between the flour tortilla, the damp paper towel and modern microwave technology.
Yes, that is a burrito toga party. Remove tinfoil before microwaving.