Works of fiction appearing here are © 2011-2016 by Jack H. Tyler, and are not to be assumed to lie in the public domain.
Any reproduction of this material is prohibited without the express written permission of the author.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Christmas in San Diego

"Life is mostly froth and bubble.
Two things stand like stone.
Kindness in another's trouble,
And courage in your own."

          These words written by Adam Lindsay Gordon closed the last entry on The Spinster Aunt's blog.  I am currently enjoying a large helping of trouble.  We all have them every day, and they all run on a different cycle.  Occasionally it seems like every problem you can experience all arrive at once.  This is when people, pushed to the limit of endurance, give up and move onto the street, into a bottle, or even take their own lives because they feel that they can't cope anymore, and nobody cares.  That's never been me.  I cope.  I solve.  I overcome.  But I considered letting this blog go for a week or two because I didn't want my problems to leak into it and bring my readers down for no good reason.  Inspired by The Spinster Aunt, who has no easy road herself, I am back here, on schedule, to post.  I make note that I have troubles, so if anything creeps into it, you won't be in the dark, and I persevere; perseverance is a highly underrated virtue.  I will make this post a "laundry list" that you may find useful, doesn't require much in the way of my personality to be engaged, and I'm sure that by next week, all this will be behind me, if I mention it at all.  So, here we go...
          Now, anybody who has taken a casual glance at my profile knows that I live in El Cajon, which is a satellite city near San Diego, California.  It's a charming combination of two opposite worlds.  Here in El Cajon, we have feed stores, hitching rails in front of some of the shops, and a Mother Goose Parade down Main Street every Thanksgiving, a Main Street much of which is lined with storefronts dating back to and before the 1950s.  A quick flight down a smooth freeway takes us into San Diego, 7th-largest city in the United States, home to every personal service and shopping experience anyone could ask for, and a tourist mecca for the world.  Which brings me to the subject of this week's post.
          I don't feel a lot of pressure to travel (a good thing, given the state of my finances!); the world travels to my home to see the Zoo, Sea World, LegoLand, our world-class Maritime Museum, the Hotel Del, the Gaslamp District, the beaches, ComicCon, well, I could fill the post with a list of attractions.  But that isn't my point today.  If you want articles about the mega-attractions, they can be had for a quick Google search of tourist spots.  No, I'm here to provide a different service.
          Maybe you're an expatriate looking for a little nostalgia; maybe you're coming in to visit friends or family; maybe you've been recently assigned to our huge military community here, and are looking for things to do this Holiday Season.  Whatever your interest, I have pulled together all the attractions on "the road less traveled" to provide you with a calendar of Holiday events here in one of the world's great destination cities.  Whether you're coming, or you're already here, hopefully this will help you find some little jewel of an activity that would have slid by unnoticed otherwise.  In chronological order, then:

Events

28 Nov - 18 Dec:  "Miracle on 34th Street."  Stage adaptation of the beloved 1947 movie presented by CAST Productions in the Mission Theatre in Fallbrook.  missiontheatre.com.

28 Nov - 31 Dec:  "How the Grinch Stole Christmas."  Dr. Seuss classic presented live on stage at Balboa Park's world-famous Old Globe Theater.  theoldglobe.org.

28 Nov - 31 Dec:  "It's a Wonderful Life."  The classic Jimmy Stewart movie presented live on stage at the Cygnet Theatre in Old Town.  Cygnet has stated that this will be their final production of this holiday favorite, so don't miss it!  cygnettheatre.com.

28 Nov - 31 Dec:  "Jingle Bell Rock."  House ensemble, the Alley Cats, perform music and comedy at the Welk Resorts Theatre in Escondido.  welktheatresandiego.com.

28 Nov - 1 Jan:  Holiday of Lights at Del Mar Fairgrounds.  The largest drive-through light show on the west coast, featuring lively animated Holiday displays.  For an extra treat, take the Holiday Hayride.  Admission $14 for up to five people in a car.

28 Nov - 1 Jan:  Skating by the Sea.  For ice skating by the ocean, the Hotel del Coronado has turned the Windsor Lawn into a seaside rink.  A portion of all ticket sales will be donated to the Make-a-Wish Foundation's San Diego Chapter.  Admission is $25 for three hours, $20 for children under 10.  Prices include skate rentals.  hoteldel.com.

28 Nov - 18 Jan:  Sycuan's Fantasy on Ice.  Located in Horton Plaza downtown, this is an outdoor ice skating rink that is open (with admission) to the public.  Families are the majority during the day; things become more adult-oriented in the evenings, with faster music and skating.  A tree lighting ceremony is planned for 7:30 PM on the 30th.  Admission is $14 for adults, $12 for children under 12.  sdice.com/horton.

30 Nov:  Holiday Festival at Hotel del Coronado.  The world-famous resort lights its 100,000 twinkling white lights tonight.  Children can visit with Santa and his elves, play games, and win prizes while mom & dad sip festive drinks and watch the fireworks show.

30 Nov, 8:00 PM:  KPRI Holiday Soiree with Fitz & the Tantrums, Mayer Hawthorne, and more.  Blue-eyed soul at the Balboa Theatre downtown.  $42-100.  ticketmaster.com.

1-2 Dec, 3:00 PM:  Celtic Woman, A Christmas Celebration.  This all female Irish quartet, a true world-class act, graces the Pechanga Theater in Temecula with their magnificent Christmas show.  $65-95.  pechanga.com.

1-30 Dec:  "An American Christmas."  This combination stage play and dinner features audience participation in a 1911-style feast.  lambsplayers.org.

1 - 30 Dec: "Festival of Christmas."  Long-running presentation by the Lamb's Players, this thought-provoking tale is presented live on stage at the Lamb's Players Theater in Coronado.  lambsplayers.org.

2 Dec, 6:00 PM:  Lemon Grove Community Bonfire.  Free event.  ci.limon-grove.ca.us.

2 Dec, 7:30 PM:  Greater San Diego Community Orchestra performs Messiah Sing-Along!  With lots of audience participation, the collective effort is conducted by Angela Yeung.  fanfairefoundation.org.

2 - 3 Dec:  San Diego Academy of Ballet presents The Nutcracker.  Poway Center for the Performing Arts.  powaycenter.org.

2 - 3 Dec: December Nights at Balboa Park. The iconic Balboa Park becomes even more beautiful when adorned with thousands of holiday lights.  Expected to draw more than 30,000 visitors in this, its 34th year, this event is completely free, and includes music, dance, museum shopping, and cuisine from all over the world.  5-10 PM on the 2nd, and Noon-10 PM on the third.  Parking available throughout the park.  Just pick a spot, and enjoy!

2 - 18 Dec:  "Santa Claus vs. the Martians."  Comedic stage production based on the 1964 cult movie about aliens attacking the North Pole.  La Jolla YMCA Firehouse Theatre, La Jolla.  juniortheatre.com.

3 Dec: Encinitas Holiday Parade.  Featuring more than 100 floats, this year's grand marshal is Don Hansen, founder of Hansen's Surfboards, an iconic Southern California business if ever there was one.  Sunset tree-lighting ceremony following the parade.  encinitasparksandrec.com.

3 Dec, 10:00 AM:  Starlight Parade.  Third Avenue Village, Chula Vista.  No info on this, including how you're going to see stars at 10:00 AM, but best of luck!

3 Dec, 3:00 PM:  Celtic Woman, A Christmas Celebration.  This all-female Irish quartet, a true world-class act, graces the Pechanga Theater in Temecula with their magnificent Christmas show.  $65-95.  ticketmaster.com.

3 - 4 Dec:  La Jolla Symphony & Chorus presents Les Noces.  Mandeville Auditorium, UCSD.  lajollasymphony.com.

3 - 4 Dec:  San Diego Ballet presents The Nutcracker.  Birch North Park Theatre (with the Grossmont Symphony).  sandiegoballet.org.

4 Dec, 10:00 AM:  Carmel Mountain Ranch Holiday Festival.  On Carmel Mountain Ranch Road between Highland Ranch Road and Stoney Peak Road.  Sounds country.  sdncc.chambermaster.com.

4 Dec, 12:30 PM: Ugly Sweater Bar Crawl-iday in Pacific Beach.  Don your ugliest sweater and report to the Typhoon Saloon in Pacific Beach for a six-bar crawl featuring prizes, giveaways, and drink specials.  I might not list a drinking party here, but the proceeds benefit AJ's Kids and Rady Children's Hospital.  govavi.com.

4 Dec, 2:00 PM:  Fourth Annual Kringle Mingle.  Cardiff Town Center.  cardiff101.com.

4 Dec, 2:00 PM, La Jolla Christmas Parade & Holiday Festival.  Parade takes place along Girard Avenue beginning at 3:30; antique aircraft make a flyover at 2:00.  Features food, music, photos with Santa, and a ceremonial tree lighting.

4 Dec, 2-5 PM: Holiday Wonderland in Del Mar Village.  An old-fashioned Christmas card comes to life with carriage rides, arts & crafts, a cakewalk, face painting, and visits from Santa, complete with fresh snow.  Sunset tree-lighting ceremony at 5:00 PM.

4 Dec, 2:30 PM:  Greater San Diego Community Orchestra performs Messiah Sing-Along!  Audience participation goes without saying.  fanfairefoundation.org.

4 Dec, 5:00 PM:  11th Annual Holiday Party.  Del Mar Art Center.  dmacGallery.com.

4 - 13 Dec:  "Oh Come, All Ye Faithful - Black Nativity, the Musical."  This longtime favorite is presented by the Common Ground Theatre at the Educational Cultural Complex in Mountain View.  This is the story of the birth of Christ told in gospel, hip-hop, and more.  commongroundtheatre.org.

6 Dec, 7:30 PM: Mannheim Steamroller.  America's best-selling Christmas music group appears at the San Diego Civic Theatre downtown.  $32.50-89.50.  ticketmaster.com.

7 Dec, 9:00 AM:  Have Yourself a Punny Little Christmas, with Richard Lederer.  Noted humorist and master of the English Language hosts this show whose name is self-explanatory.  Joslyn Senior Center, Escondido.  $10, and having heard this speaker, I'm betting well worth it!  oasisnet.org.

7 - 18 Dec:  San Diego Civic Youth Ballet presents The Nutcracker.  Casa del Prado Theater, Balboa Park.  sdcyb.org.

8 Dec, 7:30 PM:  Cristina Fontanelli performs Christmas in Italy.  Accompanied by a student choir and a small ensemble, the soprano performs songs and arias by Donizetti, Tosti, and Puccini,  CristinaFontanelli.com.

8 Dec, 7:30 PM:  Orchestra Nova performs Masterpiece Messiah.  Rancho Bernardo Presbyterian Church.  sdco.org.

8 - 18 Dec:  "Mistletoe, Music and Mayhem!"  Holiday comedy presented live on stage by the North Coast Repertory Theatre, Solana Beach.  northcoastrep.org.

8 - 18 Dec:  "The Messiah: A Musical Drama."  Musical stage production about the life of Jesus.  Community Actors Theatre, Oak Park.  communityactorstheatre.com.

9 Dec, 7:30 PM:  Orchestra Nova performs Masterpiece Messiah.  St. James by the Sea Episcopal Church, La Jolla.  sdco.org.

9 Dec, 8:00 PM:  Carols by Candlelight.  Clay Walker, Juice Newton and friends perform the country's oldest country music-themed Holiday show.  This benefit concert for Rady Children's Hospital takes place at the California Center for the Arts.  $40-60.  starsconcert.com.

9 Dec, 8:00 PM:  Dave Koz & Friends present Smooth Jazz Christmas.  Show is at the Pechanga Theatre in Temecula this year.  $50-65.  I have seen this show, and it rates the Hideout Seal of Approval!  pechanga.com.

9 - 11 Dec:  Scripps Ranch Performing Arts Academy presents The Nutcracker.  Scripps Ranch High School Theater.  scrippsperformingarts.com.

9 - 18 Dec:  "A Child's Christmas in Wales."  Stage production based on Dylan Thomas' Chistmas story.  Point Loma Actors Theatre, Point Loma.  pointlomaactors.com.

9 - 21 Dec:  City Ballet of San Diego presents The Nutcracker.  Spreckels Theatre.  cityballet.org.

9 - 22 Dec:  "Traditions of Christmas: A Musical Spectacular."  The Christian Youth Theatre of Lincoln Park offers a cast of 100 plus a 25 piece orchestra in a dance-filled visit to holiday songs and stories.  cytsandiego.org.

10 Dec, 7:30 PM: Orchestra Nova performs Masterpiece Messiah. Solana Beach Presbyterian Church. sdco.org.

10 Dec, 8:00 PM: Carols by Candlelight. Clay Walker, Juice Newton and friends perform the country's oldest country music-themed Holiday show. This benefit concert for Rady Children's Hospital takes place at the California Center for the Arts. $40-60. starsconcert.com.

10 - 24 Dec:  "The Santaland Diaries."  One man show featuring Daren Scott as the wisecracking department store elf, Crumpet.  Written by David Sedaris, the show is presented by the New Village Arts Theatre in Carlsbad.  If you like your Christmas plays of the spitting-egg-nog-through-your-nose variety, this is your show!  newvillagearts.org.

11 Dec. 1:00 PM: Gaslamp Holiday Pet Parade. Dress up your doggie and show off in style! This San Diego favorite starts at the corner of 4th & K, and features prizes for the best costumes as well as a pet expo and talent show. Check-in begins at 1:00, and the parade steps off at 3:00.

11 Dec, 1-5 PM:  Holiday Themed Ice Show.  The Broadway-inspired Ice and Lights Holiday Show will be presented at the Iceoplex in Escondido.  No info on ticket prices at the time of this writing, but the show is presented by students and members of the many programs they offer throughout the year.  iceoplexescondido.com.

11 Dec, 4:00 PM:  Orchestra Nova performs Nova Pops! Holiday Spectacular.  California Center for the Arts, Escondido.  sdco.org.

11 Dec, 5:30-9:00 PM: San Diego Bay Parade of Lights.  Back for its 40th year, this annual tradition combines the Winter Holidays with San Diego's love of boating.  The attraction consists of a parade of private boats and yachts decorated with thousands of Christmas lights while fireworks fill the sky.  Best viewing areas are the Embarcadero, and the Coronado Ferry Landing.  Just park and watch.

11 Dec, 8:00 PM:  The Blind Boys of Alabama Christmas Show.  One of the nation's most celebrated gospel groups teams with San Diego's Grammy winning Sara and Sean Watkins at the Belly Up tavern in Solana Beach.  $30-32.  bellyup.com.

12 Dec, 7:00 PM:  The Westwind Brass, a fun-loving quintet, will perform a holiday program promising "memories, mirth, and good feelings."  westwindbrass.org.

13 Dec, 8:00 PM:  San Diego Early Music Society performs "To Drive Cold Winter Away."  St. James by the Sea Episcopal Church, La Jolla.  sdems.org.

14 Dec, 6:00 PM: So You Wish You Could Skate at Hotel del Coronado.  Local celebrities perform for the judges to benefit Make-a-Wish San Diego.  Some of these folks, like DiscoverSD's Michelle Guerin and Nadav Wilf, are rumored to be pretty talented.  Come on out and see for yourself, as this promises to be a rollicking good time for a very good cause.

15 Dec, 8:00 PM: Venice Christmas Show.  No details available, but a catchy name will appear at the Belly Up Tavern in Solana Beach.  $17-19.  bellyup.com.

15 - 24 Dec:  "La Pastorela de Valor."  At 21 years, this bilingual production is San Diego's longest running theatrical tradition.  This production contemporizes the biblical story of three shepards who encounter temptation and redemption on the road to Bethlehem.  Performed by Teatro Mascara Magica, the play is presented in the wonderful Lyceum Theatre downtown.  (619) 544-1000.

16 Dec, 7:30 PM:  "An Irish Christmas."  Performers gather at the Balboa Theatre downtown to present stories of Christmas with a bit of a brogue.  A preshow concert will be offered on the theater's historic Wonder Morton organ.  sandiegotheatres.org.

16 Dec, 7:30 PM:  Bach Collegium San Diego performs Gaudete! Motets and Carols, Old and New.  St. James by-the-Sea Episcopal Church.  bachcollegiumsd.org.

16 Dec, 8:00 PM:  San Diego Symphony performs Holiday Popssandiegosymphony.com.

17 Dec, 2:00 PM:  San Diego Symphony performs Holiday Popssandiegosymphony.com.

17 Dec, 7 and 9:30 PM:  Jingle Bell Rock Tour.  Eddie Money, Lou Gramm, and Mickey Thomas rock the Sycuan Showcase Theater in El Cajon.  $45-55.  sycuan.com.

17 Dec, 7:30 PM:  Bach Collegium San Diego performs Gaudete! Motets and Carols, Old and New.  St. Andrews by-the-Sea Episcopal Church.  bachcollegiumsd.org.

17 Dec, 7:30 PM:  12th Hawaiian Christmas Show.  The Makaha Sons appear at the Birch North Park Theatre in North Park.  $45-75.  birchnorthparktheatre.net.

17 Dec, 8:00 PM:  Gary Ho Ho Hoey Holiday Show.  House of Blues, downtown.  $20-37.50.  houseofblues.com.

17 - 18 Dec:  Ballet Arte presents The Nutcracker.  Jewish Community Center.  tickets.lfjcc.org.

17 - 18 Dec:  San Diego Ballet presents The Nutcracker.  Mandeville Auditorium, UCSD.  sandiegoballet.org.

17 - 18 Dec:  West Coast Ballet Theatre presents The Nutcracker.  California Center for the Arts, Escondido.  sandiegonutcracker.com.

17 - 23 Dec:  The California Ballet Company presents The Nutcracker.  San Diego Civic Theatre.  californiaballet.org.



18 Dec, 2:00 PM:  San Diego Symphony performs Family Festival.  Copley Symphony Hall.  sandiegosymphony.com.

18 Dec, 5:30-9:00 PM:  San Diego Bay Parade of Lights.  Encore performance.  See 11 Dec. entry for details.

18 Dec, 7:30 PM:  San Diego Symphony performs Holiday Popssandiegosymphony.com.

18 - 21 Dec:  Scripps Ranch Performing Arts Academy presents The Nutcracker.  The Grand Del Mar.  scrippsperformingarts.com.

19 Dec:  Moscow Ballet's "Great Russian Nutcracker."  Copley Symphony Hall.  nutcracker.com.

19 - 20 Dec:  "An Unscripted Carol."  Holiday comedy presented live on stage at the North Coast Repertory Theatre, Solana Beach.  northcoastrep.org.

21 - 24 Dec:  "Sister's Christmas Catechism."  Holiday comedy presented live on stage at the North Coast Repertory Theatre, Solana Beach.  northcoastrep.org.

23 Dec, 8:00 PM:  Dave Koz & Friends present Smooth Jazz Christmas.  Detailed in the December 9th entry, Dave brings his show to the Balboa Theatre downtown for a second performance.  $65-85.  sdbalboa.org.

Charities, Donations & Fairs

          There are more of these events than I could list if I didn't publish until after Christmas.  I counted 113 in one paper alone!  They run the range from Sleep Train's Secret Santa, similar to Toys For Tots, through bazaars for everything from battered women to starving students, to photography studios providing cheap to free pictures with Santa.  Those preferring the more intimate events can consult signonsandiego.com, voiceofsandiego.org, sandiegomagazine.com, and these will link you to other sites as well.

          I have to say that I learned a couple of things just from the tedious act of compiling this list.  First, nobody knows how to spell "theater" any more, and second, only an art gallery in the little burg of Del Mar is pretentious enough to include a capital letter in their web address.  By way of acknowledgment, all of these listings came from the pages of the San Diego Union-Tribune.  Anyone with access to the paper could have found them him(her)self, but you would have been paging through a lot of Entertainment Sections, and without a bit of luck might have missed something you would have liked to have seen anyway.  Now they are in one place for you, A Christmas Stocking from the Hideout, you might say.  I sincerely hope something on this list enhances your enjoyment of the Holidays.  Moving on,

From the "See, it's not just me" department:

          Appearing in the San Diego Union-Tribune on Saturday the 26th was an article by Nick Canepa, long time local sports writer, on Tim Tebow, quarterback of the visiting Denver Broncos.  Included therein was this backhanded swipe at a talentless icon of our empty society:

          "A truly fascinating case, Tim Tebow.  But he's become the NFL's rock star without singing a hit song or one with dirty lyrics.  Alas, that's the America we enjoy today.  Remember, we're the ones who made the Kardashians multimillionaires, and while Tebow isn't the greatest at what he does, at least he can do something."

          See, it's not just me!

          Okay, if you can't enhance your Christmas experience with something off this list, maybe you're the Grinch.  Maybe you'd better check.  As for me, I'm going to go soak my fingers in bourbon; this is the longest post I've ever assayed, and I'm feeling it!  I'll see you, events willing, on the 6th.  Now, get out there and live life like you mean it!

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Music is my religion!

          The music player went up in the sidebar a week ago, on the 13th.  The regulars have seen it, heard it, and one would hope, enjoyed it.  But what, you may wonder, does that title mean?  Simple.  If your definition of religion includes any words like uplift, nurture, encourage, delight, especially in pairings with soul, spirit, or heart, then music is a very good candidate for a universal religion.  It shares with birth and death being one of the three experiences shared by every individual who has lived on this planet since recorded civilization, and almost certainly well before.  With the exception of vanishingly few formats, it exists for the purpose of bringing enjoyment and happiness into the lives of all it touches, and after an unknown period that probably exceeds 20,000 years, it still succeeds admirably.  Religion?  I sure think so.
          So, this is the story of my religious odyssey.  It will probably be of interest to no one beyond my grandchildren, but that's the risk you take when you go into the public forum; ask any musician.  I am not a musician, by the way.  I play at a couple of instruments, and was once offered professional instruction, which I declined.  I am not a musicologist, though I was being groomed to be a disc jockey in my youth, and that was definitely part of the curriculum.  In much the same way that most of you aren't priests of your various faiths, I simply partake, enjoy, and hopefully, benefit.
          I have a few isolated memories that go back to the age of three.  I know that our old memories are not photographically accurate, but I cannot remember one moment in my life when I wasn't either the owner or the custodian of some kind of music machine.  I initially had a surprisingly good quality 78 rpm phonograph that was probably handed down, and a cardboard box of kiddie records.  These were the usual fare, everything from A Little Black Duck to The Three Little Pigs.  But mixed in among them were three "grown-up" records.  One was some kind of hillbilly opus with Y'all Come on one side, and a song about a little boy who roamed a shanty town and everybody liked, fed, and played with.  Ah, but the other two!  One was by Spike Jones, a comedic swing artist:
Bongo, bongo, bongo,
I don't want to leave the Congo,
oh, no-ooo-ooo-ooo.
Ah, bingle, bangle, bungle,
I'm so happy in the jungle,
I refuse to go!
          The other was by Tex Williams, and was a pure talking country song, sort of a precursor of rap:
Smoke smoke smoke that cigarette.
Puff puff puff it til you smoke yourself to death,
then tell Saint Peter at the pearly gates
that you hate to make him wait,
but you've just gotta have another cigarette!
          And the significance of this?  I was exposed to swing and country from before the age of awareness.  The hilarious lyrics kept me coming back while the rhythms ingrained themselves into my natural resonance (as a special treat, I have found versions of both these songs on MixPod, and will add them to the player for the week that this is the lead post).  Grandma wasn't a country fan, so that side never got developed.  Big bands were on the way out in the years around 1950, but she did manage to find some on the radio, and I remember a lot of that being played.  It was mostly upbeat, uptempo, jazzy, happy, and I liked it, but around 1956-57, when Buddy Holly, Bill Haley, and The Big Bopper hit the scene, all of a sudden it started sounding very dated, like something my grandmother should be listening to.  I started seeking out this "rock and roll" music at every opportunity... And then Elvis arrived.
          You think the Beatles were big?  Well, they were, but they were returning something to us that we'd had before.  It was Elvis that gave us the gift in the first place.  Think I'm wrong?  Then, what Vegas Casino do I visit to see the John Lennon imitator?  There was an entrepreneur of the era named Ed Sullivan.  You youngsters have probably heard of him, too; he was the Elvis of his own field.  He scoured the world to find the greatest acts in entertainment, brought them to New York, and put them on live TV Sunday nights in virtually every American home with a television.  He provided our first look at Elvis, the Beatles, the Stones, the Doors; his prestige was such that, in an era when every person in the United States and the Soviet Union went to bed with the fear that our opponents might unleash nuclear Armageddon while we slept, Ed put the Bolshoi Ballet on a stage in New York.  He did more for peace and understanding than all of our posturing politicians combined.
          1958 was a banner year for little Jackie Tyler, too.  I turned ten, and for my birthday I received my own first "grown-up" record.  It was You Ain't Nothin' but a Hound Dog by Elvis Presley.  The "B" side was Love Me Tender, and I think that got played once, but I wore the grooves off of Hound Dog.  My musical persuasion was fixed by that gift.  For Christmas, my mom, on one of her annual visits, gave me one of the early transistor radios.  It must have cost more than her car, but when you're a professional gambler, some days you could make the Fortune 500.  As well as the pioneers mentioned above, I remember Chuck Berry, and the girl groups who dominated pop music about that time, the Shirelles, the Chiffons, Rosie and the Originals, and of course the Supremes. Also in 1958, during my stint in the third grade, the school's "roving" music teacher decided that I was musically inclined, and that I should learn to play the violin.  By then, I had seen a fair number of rock n' roll bands on TV, and I hadn't seen a violin in any of them.  I wasn't having it.  Grandma's view was that violins (not to mention lessons) cost money, so she wasn't having it either, one of the few instances in which we were in complete agreement.  So, due to my ignorance of the subject, I decided not to become a child prodigy on an instrument that is tuned exactly the same as a bass guitar!
          I continued to listen to top-40 radio every minute that I could, and being a denizen of a Southern California beach town, somewhere toward the end of 1960 I switched it on and discovered some new kids on the block.  They called themselves The Beach Boys, and they sang songs about surfing, the beach in general, cars, girls, school, pep rallies, young love.  They made guitars ring like finely cast bells.  They rocked the organ.  They harmonized like no rock n' roll band I'd ever heard.  They became the soundtrack of my youth, making songs, I swear, about every phase I went through.  The Beatles came, dragging the whole British Invasion behind them, and I liked a lot of that stuff, but the Beach Boys were music to me.  They remained so right up until they released Smiley Smile, an album of musically illiterate psychedelic drivel that I defy anyone to listen to without a puke bag in hand.  To me, that was the day the music died.
          It was around that time that I picked up a cheap guitar, a chord book, and some sheet music, and started to teach myself the instrument.  It's a given that you don't become a Jimmy Page by reading a book, but I made some more fundamental mistakes that limited my enjoyment of it.  The biggest was that I would barely learn a song, play it over and over until I got it right once, then move on to the next one, thinking that it was now a permanent part of my repertoire.  I continued this procedure for probably twenty years, and I'm pretty sure I can still play fifty or so songs in a barely recognizable fashion, but none of them well enough to even entertain me, never mind anyone else.
          Late 60s, early 70s, I moved on to hard rock.  The real stuff, not this modern noise-fest.  Real hard rock as performed by the likes of Kiss, Rush, Led Zeppelin, and Aerosmith was rock n' roll's Holy Thunder.  Attending one of those concerts was a true religious experience!  By 1980, they were gone.  Oh, you see flickers of it yet.  Iron Butterfly played at a local swap meet a few years back, and they still roll the Stones out on gurneys to put on a shadow of their former shows, but I spent the 1980s listening to Classic Rock stations, because nothing new was being produced.
          Oh, but it was, and it always had been.  Simmering right below my radar was this awesome thing called Jazz.  I began the process of discovery that continues to this day in 1991, when I got the job I still hold because I can't bear to go back to 9-5.  I work at night.  I work on weekends.  Often my only companion is my radio, and it was then that I discovered Jazz 88.3, the station that is as much an education as it is entertainment.  It's in the sidebar; stream it sometime.  It will move you.  I discovered a love of torchy women.  What are they?  Diana Krall is on the player.  She'll show you.  And do you think that jazz is easy listening, that it can't rock the foundation?  Check out Lily was Here by Hans Dulfer's little girl, Candy.  She'll straighten you out on that point!  And, what the hell is Jimmy Buffett doing?  Rock?  Country?  Reggae?  All of those styles are glad to claim him, but he doesn't quite fit the molds.  He fits into jazz, though.  It's that broad.
          It turns out that I've always been a jazz lover, and just didn't know it.  Back when I was carrying that little transistor radio around, there were a few jazz songs that made the jump to mainstream.  I've even found a couple for the player.  Alley Cat, Green Onions, and Cast Your Fate to the Wind would turn up between rock n' roll classics, and everything had to come to a halt while I gave my full attention to those magnificent rhythms and instruments.  I just never knew there was a whole thriving genre behind it just waiting to be discovered.  I guess it doesn't matter; I've discovered it now.  And, thanks to a blind preacher named T, I've been introduced to my true love, the blues.  My education continues at his knee, and if you want to know what real music is, stream the station 8:00 to Midnight, Pacific Time, on Saturday nights.  Be careful, though.  The blues is a drug, and it will hook you.
          I so want to partake that last August I bought a harmonica, the book Harmonica for Dummies, and an instructional DVD by David Hart.  This time I'm concentrating on one song at a time until I can play it perfectly at the drop of a hat.  I have learned two, and am working on the third.  Think the harmonica is a toy?  On the player is Rachelle Plas performing Magic Dick's harmonica anthem, Whammer Jammer.  I only dream of getting sounds like that out of a toy!
          That brings me up to date on this documentary look at my religion.  In closing, I should say that the rather subdued music on the player is certainly not the extent of my musical taste.  The first day it had a lot of more uptempo, attention-demanding music on it more reflective of my whole range.  The second day, I toned it down, because hopefully you come here to read, and it can be pretty distracting when Guitar Shorty comes at you with old school blues, or Marsha Ball wants to play with your poodle in 12/4 time.  Rachelle had to stay, though.  That bad little teenager is just too good!  Also, I considered padding this article out with still photos of some of the old groups I mentioned.  Not necessary.  It's long enough, and the point is the music; the padding is on the player.  I just hope you had fun during your visit.

          Before I go, let me extend a huge Hideout welcome to the Perpetual Vacationers, who unlike most of my Special Friends, weren't steered here by a referral, but just wandered in and decided to stay a while.  I hope it's a long while, my friends, but it will be incumbent on me to keep the entertainment up to your standards; I promise to try.
          And the trying will continue on the 28th, if all goes according to plan.  Look for me then, spread the word, and enjoy the music!  Now get out there and live life like you mean it!

Friday, November 11, 2011

11-11-11

          What is it about dates like this that bring them out of the woodwork like some kind of biblical plague?  You know who I'm talking about.  The conspiracy theorists...  The UFO enthusiasts...  The out-of-body travelers...  Ghost hunters...  Remote viewers...  Abductees...  Spirit Mediums...  Interpreters of the Mayan calendar...  Well, I could keep this up all morning.  You've heard 'em.  Maybe you've even had the tragic misfortune to rub up against one in your real life.  If so, and you've challenged his or her story about how a friendly bigfoot saved his life by performing emergency heart surgery with a sharp stick while he lay dying in the back country, then you've doubtless been accused of being a brainwashed tool of the Government Disinformation Office whose mission is to prevent those among us who are truly enlightened from bringing their higher awareness to a disenfranchised public at large; ah, for the simple life of an idiot!
George Noory
          I was at work last night, and into this morning.  As it was the night before a holiday, my main function was to serve as a weight to keep a desk from floating away.  I wasn't feeling my jazz station, so I decided to check in on the Lunatic Fringe, and see what they've been up to since I last visited, so I tuned in Coast to Coast AM with George Noory.  Hoo, boy!  Now, I don't recommend a steady diet of this stuff, but everyone should turn this on about once every three months just to remind themselves of how many of these wingnuts are running loose out here, unmedicated, voting, driving motor vehicles, and in some cases, reproducing.  You don't need the boogey man to scare you; that alone ought to do it.
          I used to listen to Coast to Coast a lot back in the 90s when I was trying to write fantasy.  I considered it my best source of WTF ideas that, being sane, were way farther out there than I could ever come up with on my own.  Once I accepted the reality that I was not going to be the next Steven King, I moved away from it, as I was worried that if I spent enough time wallowing in this stuff, my own brain cells might begin to rearrange themselves to mimic what they were hearing.
          The Coast to Coast of my days with it was hosted by Art Bell, and came out of Parump, Nevada.  No subject was too far afield, and he brought in a range of guests who spoke on a myriad of topics, but who all had one thing in common; no news or science show would get close enough to touch them with a laser-pointer.  I read somewhere, in reference to this show, that it is dangerous to give deranged people a soapbox.   I don't know.  On the one hand, I don't believe in censorship in any form.  On the other, I think that in order to live in an uncensored world, it is your responsibility to have enough intelligence to sort trash from treasure.  In other words, as long as you understand that when tonight's guest is going on about his trip to Venus aboard the Benelarviaon starship Graximandr, he is either A, trying to entertain you, or B, stark raving mad, then everything's good.  Sadly, unless all the callers are plants employed by the show, this is not the case.
          An example will suffice.  The show has several phone lines: East of the Rockies, West of the Rockies, International, First Time Callers, you get the idea.  At least a couple of times, Art Bell used to make an announcement very close to this:
          "It is said that the Antichrist has been born, and is even now living among us.  If that is true, and if you happen to be listening, Antichrist, we'd like to hear from you.  What do you like to watch on TV?  What's your favorite dessert?  What are your plans for humanity?  If you are the one true Antichrist, call the Antichrist Line at 123-4567 now.  This line is reserved for you."
          For the rest of the show, he never hung up that line.  Somebody would call up and rant for five minutes about how he loved the basic evil of society, it made it so easy to mold people to his needs, and here's what he's got planned for us after the rapture.  That guy runs down and hangs up, and Art instantly presses the button again.  Next caller introduces himself by screaming, "That guy's not the Antichrist, I'm the Antichrist!  How dare you put that impostor on my private line?!"  I always had the feeling that Art was rolling on the floor laughing while this was going on, but sadly, those callers weren't.
          The show, under George Noory's stewardship, has taken a most insidious tack.  It now starts with an hour or so of "hard" news right from the headlines.  Then, when the rest of the show devolves into guests and callers with Frequent Flyer Miles on the Mothership, it seems like a continuation of the news to those who lack the sophistication to make the distinction.  In other words, while Art was an entertainer, I don't get the impression that George entirely disbelieves all this stuff.
          So, last night, he has on a series of guests who told this wonderful story about having taken part in the government's beyond top secret Project Pegasus, in which young children were put into an elevator in El Segundo, California, and teleported to the surface of Mars, where they cavorted freely without any form of environmental suits or similar protection. I should throw in a disclaimer here: Being a member of the great underprivileged masses who were brainwashed as children by good science teachers, and were encouraged to develop that part of the brain that can discern a nugget of truth among a field of fertilizer, there is no way I could follow these enlightened geniuses sufficiently to explain the details of their incredible experiences. Nonetheless, I think I can hit the high points.
Andrew D. Basiago
          The lead guest was Andrew D. Basiago, an attorney, holder of several degrees from UCLA and Cambridge (who must be bursting with pride at their alumnus' accomplishments), and part-time time traveler on the government's secret dime.  Seems back in the 60s and 70s, while I was involved in mundane things like fighting in the Vietnam War, he was gallivanting around the Solar System with the likes of Barack Obama (who went by the name of Barry something, Sandaris, I think he said).  His training officer was Major (then Captain) Ed Dames, himself a frequent guest on Coast to Coast, and more on him shortly.  Since this top secret project had not only perfected teleportation, but time travel as well, they already knew that Barry would be president some day.  The scorcher is that they also told Basiago that he is going to be president as well; he will be running in 2016; don't waste your time voting against him; they've been to the future; it's already happened.  For a thorough examination of this future president, check this out.  I think it's all the information you'll need.
          Appearing with him were shills fellow project members Brett Stillings, and Laura Eisenhower, a descendant (so she says) of the famous and beloved General and President; poor man must have done a backflip in his grave.  To Ms. Eisenhower's credit, she didn't claim to have participated.  Her contribution was to elaborate on how hard she had to resist the agents of the program who wanted her famous name to be involved.  Why a top secret program would want a high-profile name involved in the first place is something I can't begin to fathom, but like I said earlier, I don't claim to be half smart enough to follow these guys.
My favorite Martian?
          Anyway, they needed children to do the actual teleportations because adults were too big for the equipment.  So, Mr. Basiago arrives on Mars in environmental gear, where he is scoffed at by the shirt-sleeved scientists who awaited him (Wait, how did they get there? Oh, I know, they were sent years before when they were children.  But who trained them to become scientists?  Oh, my head!  I'm not smart enough to follow these guys.).  However it worked out, once on Mars, our intrepid hero and future president shed his useless environmental suit and skipped off to visit the Martians, who he says resembled Nosferatu, and try to avoid the half-a-hundred varieties of deadly predators that infest the surface.  He (a child, remember) was given a suicide pill to take in case he was cornered by one of these predators.  So rife and dangerous were they, that of the 49,000 (!) people sent to Mars in this program, only 7,000 returned to Earth.  An undisclosed number lives there still, and the remainder were killed and eaten by these predators.
          All right, as fascinating as I'm sure you find this, I've had about enough.  Go to the Coast to Coast website if you can't live without a transcript.  Here's how looney this was:  Ed Dames, the supposed training officer, is a recurring Coast to Coast guest based on his "work" in Remote Viewing.  For the uninitiated, remote viewing is where you lie down, close your eyes, go into a trance, and send your disembodied consciousness off through time, space, and dimensions to examine basically anything that does, has, or will exist.  Wow, sounds like a good subject for Coast to Coast.  Oh, wait...  Well, as the guests were describing their experiences, Ed Dames called the show and laid into them for including his name in their "delusional fantasy" about teleportation to Mars; even Doctor Doom didn't want to be associated with these loons.  Draw your own conclusions...
          For the record, as a young adult, I wanted to believe stuff like this.  I did.  Chariots of the Gods? remains compelling to me to this day.  All you need to do is look at the sarcophagus of Palenque to see an astronaut in a capsule.  Mainstream archaeologists "explain" this away by saying, "That's not what it is."  Fine, what is it?  Oh, it's the deceased king ascending to join his Gods; well, that's all different.  There are things in this world that can't be explained just by saying "That's not what it is," and von Daniken pulled a lot of them together in his book, but just because they're mysterious doesn't mean the explanations have to be supernatural, or just plain ridiculous.  I look into the night sky and see 6,000 stars; that's the number Isaac Asimov said could be seen by the naked eye.  I know there are trillions more that I can't see, and I can't imagine that there aren't other intelligent beings up there somewhere looking at their own night sky and wondering about me.  I can't imagine that some of them aren't more advanced than we are.  But consider this:
          Consider the cost of developing the technology and engineering the equipment to put the International Space Station in orbit, the ancillary equipment to deliver people and supplies, the ground support infrastructure, everything.  It took the developed nations of the world using their tax bases and their ability to borrow money without collateral to get it done.  Now private enterprise is being invited into the field, because governments are finding it insupportable.  Now imagine what it might cost to send an expedition to another star, whether you postulate faster-than-light drive or not (and what would that cost?).  Once you arrive at said other star, you find a thriving civilization.  Obviously, your mission at that point becomes to hide in a swamp near a small town, and get your jollies frightening the town drunk...  Who's in charge of the space program for these visitors, John Cleese?
          So now I have to present a conclusion to all this rambling (If you haven't caught on yet, this post was unplanned; I'm working very much without a net here).  I guess it would be, sample everything the wide world has to offer, no matter how absurd.  Enjoy whatever tickles your fancy, no matter how outrageous.  Do no harm.  And above all, keep a tight grip on your sanity, because a lot of this stuff is just waiting for a chance to suck it right out of you, and you don't have to look far to find people who have already lost that battle.
          All right, I have stuff coming up next week.  All things willing, I hope to see you again on the 20th.  Til then, get out there and live life like you mean it!

Friday, November 4, 2011

Zen and the Art of Thanksgiving

          Greetings, friends.  You know, I have tried to tone down the intensity around the Hideout, since that miserable post about my childhood.  The adjectives I've been trying to hit are mostly funny, often nostalgic, sometimes trendy, things that make you go, hmmmmm...  With Halloween behind us, we really begin to gear up for the serious holiday season, and with that in mind, I'm going to stray into the realm of the Public Service.
          Thanksgiving is twenty days away, the big feast holiday of the year.  This is the time when families gather, memories are taken out and polished like the precious keepsakes that they are, and food is eaten in quantities and combinations most people wouldn't consider on any other day of the year.  These are good times, but not everyone is in a position to partake.  We have a rather large family that usually gathers at our house, and it's going to be great, as it always is, but you know me, always thinking of those less fortunate...
          You may be a student far from home, unable for various reasons to make the trip home; or maybe you can only make one trip, and you want to save it for Christmas.  Maybe you just started a new job in a distant city and can't get the time off.  Whatever the reason, it's just you, maybe a new spouse, and a couple of friends, and you don't need a turkey the size of a Volkswagen beetle and a 55 gallon drum of dressing.  What's a body to do?  Well, if a body's smart, it will come right here to the Hideout where Mad Jack is waiting to enlighten you.  I've put my head together with the other denizens of the Hideout (and believe me, the world isn't ready for that picture!), and come up with a small yet still festive menu that will enliven the smallest gathering.
          This is a Cornish game hen.  Cute little devil.  Good with devilled eggs, too.  It's a hybrid produced in Connecticut in the mid 1950s by crossing the small Cornish chicken with a variety of other small breeds.  The result was an individual-serving chicken whose only function is to be eaten.  Sorry, I'm not trying to be callus here.  If I had to kill my own meat (especially something this cute), I'm pretty sure I'd be a vegetarian, but I don't, and I'm not, and I'll come to terms with that later.
          Right now, the task at hand is to turn that little bird into this succulent treat for the palate, and as you might imagine, I've got a recipe for that!  Now, I looked over a raft of Cornish hen recipes on Google, and what they all have in common is the level of fanciness attached to them.  They're out there with rosemary, lemon glazes, Chinese vegetables, elaborate stuffings, things that would seem to make preparing four of these a far bigger chore than stuffing one turkey.  I decided not to go that way.  Decades ago, I stumbled upon a game hen recipe that is simple, easy to prepare, and doesn't use a lot of ingredients that will mask the flavor of the bird.  Back in 1984 I began to collect my favorite recipes in a journal, and this was the second one I listed.  It's still good.

Herbed Cornish Hens
3 Cornish Game Hens
1/2 cup Chicken Broth
1/4 lb Softened Butter or Margarine
1/4 cup Dry White Wine
2 tbls Thinly Sliced Green Onions
1 tsp Crumbled Leaf Tarragon
1 tsp Finely Chopped Parsley
1 tsp Salt
1/2 tsp Freshly Ground Black Pepper
1/2 tsp Garlic Powder

          Thaw hens.  Preheat oven to 350'.
          Split each hen in half lengthwise and place in single layer in a shallow baking dish with skin side down.  Gently loosen skin from meat on each breast to form a pocket.  Pour Chicken Broth over.  Whip Butter in mixing bowl with fork until fluffy.  Stir in Wine and other ingredients, mixing well.  Place rounded tablespoon of Butter mixture in pocket of each breast.  Turn hens skin side up and pour remaining mixture over.
          Bake, covered with foil, in 350' oven for 45 minutes, basting with drippings every 15 minutes.  After final basting, uncover and broil for 15 minutes.
          Serves 6.

          A word about this recipe:  It assumes everyone will eat half of a hen, which gives each diner a breast, back, wing, leg, and thigh.  You know your guests.  Look at these birds when you buy them, and if you think some of your guests can eat a whole one, buy accordingly.  Just like turkeys, they're great cold, and you can make one sweet Hero from the leftovers the day after.
          Okay, it isn't Thanksgiving without stuffing.  Since this is a guideline for a small celebration, I recommend you buy a boxed one.  It is Thanksgiving, so get the big brand name; don't want one of your guests finding a piece of doggie kibble in the Great Value stuffing, now do we?  If part of the joy is making your own, game hens can be bought with giblets, and with 3 or more hens, you should have plenty.
          Now, the vegetable.  If you have a traditional family favorite, by all means, have at it.  If you don't, and you want to do something a little fancier than just putting a can of corn in a bowl, my main squeeze Bonzo offers this:

Green Bean Casserole
2 - 3 cans of Green Beans (use frozen if that's your preference)
1 can of Cream of Mushroom or Cream of Chicken soup
1 tbls Margarine
1/2 cup Milk
2 cans French's French Fried Onions

          Preheat oven to 350'.  Drain (or thaw) Green Beans and put into casserole dish.  Mix Soup and Milk in saucepan.  Add Margarine and heat until warm and well mixed.  Layer French Fried Onions over Green Beans.  Pour Soup mixture over ingredients in casserole and cover with foil.
          Bake at 350' for 30 minutes.  Remove foil and continue baking for an additional 10 minutes.  Remove and serve.  Serves 6.
          Don't forget the traditional Holiday side dishes; cranberry sauce is a given; our family's always been big on the black olives.  Devilled eggs always put in an appearance on our Thanksgiving table.  All that's up to you.
          And that brings us to desert.  Some folks like specific desserts for Thanksgiving.  Pumpkin pie comes to mind.  I like mince myself.  Of course, you can buy a pie ready made or frozen, and they're pretty palatable these days.  If you have a traditional recipe you make, Thanksgiving is the time, but if you don't, if you want to bake, and would like to try something new, my awesome daughter, Nine, brings her specialty to the table:

Coriander Fruit Crumble
1 tsp Butter or Margarine
1.5 lb Cooking Apples, peeled, cored, and thinly sliced
8 oz Fresh or Frozen Blackberries, (thawed and) washed
2 tbls Soft Brown Sugar
1 tsp Ground Cinnamon
Topping
1 cup Flour
1/2 cup Sugar
1/2 cup Butter or Margarine
2 tsp Ground Coriander
          Preheat oven to 350' (We're keeping this one-oven simple for you).  Lightly grease 2 quart baking dish with the teaspoon of Butter.  Put Apples and Blackberries in the baking dish and sprinkle with the Brown Sugar and Cinnamon.  To make the crumble topping, put the Flour and Sugar in a medium-size mixing bowl.  Cut the Butter into the mixture with a table knife.  Using your fingertips, rub the butter into the mixture until it resembles coarse breadcrumbs.  Mix in the ground coriander.  Sprinkle the crumble on top of the fruit and bake in the center of the oven for 45 minutes.  Remove and serve.
          Nine has made this many times, and it changes a little with each incarnation.  It can be made in a pie shell, which makes it a bit less messy.  The apples don't have to be peeled, and it works equally well with Pink Lady, Gala, or Honeycrisp.  Of course, they do have to be cored and sliced.  For a sweeter flavor than the often-tart blackberries, use strawberries.  She has also made it with dark sweet cherries, and the "Fruit Medley" sold in the frozen food section.  It's all good.  She usually serves it with Cool Whip.  Vanilla ice cream, for a traditional ala mode has its attraction, and the flavor is rich enough to stand on its own.  She has recently teased us with a vision of this pie made with strawberries alone, served with chocolate ice cream.  We haven't seen it yet, but it sounds like something best shared by consenting adults.
          So, there you have it, my Holiday gift to those of you who aren't in a position to have a big feast:  A miniature big feast that will leave you just as stuffed and happy as those huge meals you used to have at home.  Really, I'd like to see everyone surrounded by loved ones at this time of year, but that isn't the reality, so if this makes your Holiday a little brighter, it was our pleasure.  Enjoy it to the hilt!
          I'm going to tentatively schedule my next update for November 11th, Veterans Day.  I will most likely not do another patriotic post.  I covered that on Memorial Day and in my recent essay on Stolen Valor, and it's hard to write something on that subject without getting political, which I strongly wish to avoid.  Most of you know that I am a decorated veteran who loves America, and we'll let it go at that.  Worry not, gentle readers, I'll pull something out of my a...  I mean, a carefully researched and technically hyper-accurate article of great social impact will appear in this space.  Yeah, that's it.  See you next Friday!