Thursday, November 29, 2007

Victrola Music Video - "Sweet Lorraine"

New VTK series: VMV, aka Victrola Music Video. I decided that I have to put some of these on film so that people can hear and see them and get most of the experience (the main missing ingredient here is the smell - the Victrola smells like old). The first VMV had to go to my favorite record, a 78 I picked up down at Cheapo's Records on Mass Ave. It's great because the fidelity is really good (relatively speaking) and also because the song is great. In fact, I don't think I'd ever heard this song before and it totally kicks ass. Enjoy.

(note - the needle spins around the center for about 20 seconds at the end because I was waiting for the satisfying click sound that it makes when it stops and it didn't do it this time. After 20 seconds I moved the arm to make the click sound. So only stick around if you want to hear the click. It's not essential, but I like it. Yes, I'm weird.)

All-star ensemble? Um, yes please. Here's what the label says:

Fox Trot - Parrish - Burwell - arr: Oliver -
Piano - Nat Cole; Guitar - Bob Ahern; Bass - Eddie Safransky; Drums - Buddy Rich; Trumpet - Charlie Shavers; Trombone - Lawrence Brown; Alto Sax - Johnny Hodges; Tenor Sax - Coleman Hawkins; Baritone Sax - Harry Carney.

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Savannah's Savannah

"You wan'a spend 60 hours in the next 4 days doing a mural for me? You wan'a?" Yes I do, little Savannah. In fact, that 3 year old girl could get me to do nearly anything by flashing those big brown eyes at me, grabbing my hand, and saying "You wan'a?" in that sweet little voice. You wan'a watch a show with me, you wan'a jump in a circle with me, you wan'a eat oatmeal with me, you wan'a jump off the Golden Gate Bridge with me? Anything you say. Yes. When the coffee and the diet cokes and the whiskey and the corndogs wore off, that was the voice that kept me going in the 18th hour of the 4th day of this ridiculous project.

But let me start by saying that customer service at airlines and airports in the US is at an all-time low. I know. That's obvious to anyone who flies these days, but they really took it to a new nadir on this trip. I won't go into the details of the way in which they screwed me on my flight to San Francisco on the way over a week and a half ago, because they were many and varied, but let's just say that it took me a cool 15 hours to get to my destination. Once I arrived, everything was great though, as akboognish and wife sc showed me a great time and some first class hospitality. We got some quality Cali-Mexican food and hit some fun hip spots in the Mission before calling it a PST night. The next night, we headed back down to the Mission (an area known for its murals, incidentally), met up with a handful of former Massholes, and partied it up at the bars and at a hopping house party. After a couple nights of partying, we were happy to take a leisurely drive up to Napa to hang out with MCSmackdown and his lovely little lady.

The room is 11 ft x 12 ft x 8 ft high and MCSmack had primed it with a metallic paint that was going to allow magnets to be hang all over the mural. We weren't sure how well that was going to work with 2 coats of semi-gloss on top of it (that was back when I thought I was going to be able to do two full coats of the entire mural in 3 days and change) but MCS'down thought it would be worth it to try. Here's what it looked like when I got there:

On my 4th day in Cali, I got right to work on the mural (well, after eating oatmeal and playing house with Savannah - can't say no. can't do it). She was in and out, being run around on errands and playdates, but when she did pop in, she was happy to identify the animals I was penciling in on the wall and didn't seem to have a problem with what I was doing to her room, despite not really understanding it. She even helped by drawing a bird on the wall, which I later painted in (see the photo at the top of the post). Later in the day, she came in to give me a big hug goodbye (she was going to her mom's for a few days), and she asked "wha's that?" about the drawing on the wall at her eye level. I told her that it was a rhino. She looked at it, gave the wall a hug, and stomped out of the house shouting "klop a pop pop! klop a pop pop!"

the exact moment that my heart disintegrated.

at which point, I resolved that she was going to get a kick ass mural no matter what. Well, I don't know if it's "kick ass", but the "no matter what" on the mural turned out to be 60 hours over 4 days, including an epic 18 hour painting session that spilled into 4:30 AM on Thanksgiving morning (which was the last possible morning I could leave to go back to SF). Here it is:

If you want to see what it would be like for a 3 year old to walk into the room, including my impression of how she would say "Wan'a see a mural?", view here:

I could've easily put another 10 - 12 hours into it to get it to a point where I would've been satisfied, but that's all the time I had, so some of the things I wanted to do didn't get done, or got done insufficiently. But I got it to the point where all the animals were done to my satisfaction and all the mistakes and drips were touched up. Hopefully, Savannah's going to "wan'a" hang out in her room. I'm pretty sure she'll like it. MCSmackadoo said that she's not scared of any animals so that wasn't an issue and he was very happy with the final product so that's that.

Postscript: A few hours later, I was back in San Francisco, physically and mentally exhausted, with a 15 person Thanksgiving dinner on tap. Good company and free flowing beer and wine assisted me greatly in making it through that. Not that it was particularly stressful. But it's the holidays. And I was 100% out of gas. But I got my wind (fumes?), and the next day brought a little leisure (including a stop at the mystery book store pictured at right) until I decided to go online and reconfirm my 9:39 PM red-eye, non-stop, first class flight back to Boston at around 3:00 PM. I couldn't seem to get any results from my search of the confirmation number so I called the 800 number. Turns out that they had cancelled the 9:39 flight and I was supposed to have been on the 1:30 PM flight instead. A solid 8 hours earlier than my flight. And they didn't feel the need to inform me of that in any way. Moral of the post: airlines suck, murals are hard, Savannah is cute.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Night Shift

I was going to cook up a final post to tide you over while I'm away for a week on the West Coast doing a mural commission for the room of a friend's 3 year old daughter (safari/jungle theme). But I actually have some non-VTK work to do before I leave, so I'm going to leave you hanging on that. There's a small chance that I'll do a staggered live blog of the project, but I may just document it and post about it when I get back. We'll see. As a consolation, please enjoy this unrelated footage of The Commodores singing Night Shift on Solid Gold (inspired by the latest Duffless Foundation post):

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Von Cupcake Keeper, or A Taste of Binghamton

VTK hit the road last weekend to check out the home turf (current home turf anyways) of fellow blogger, UMass alum, and friend, Dearest Cupcake - none other than the hopping and happening Binghamton, NY. I've been promising a visit for years now and finally got around to making it happen. All it took was a 8.0 Richter scale earthquake in Peru to get me there. Binghamton is a classic post-industrial American city in decline, similar to Pittsfield in that regard but on a much larger scale. The population of the tri-city area, once 500,000, is now only 100,000. But it's the home of SUNY Binghamton and its Anthropology grad school program, which is how DC ended up there. There's not too too much to do there, so we made the obvious scheduling plan and structured our entire weekend around food. And I do mean structure. Here's a brief recap of the weekend as it progressed down the meals checklist:

1. Oneonta Sandwiches - DC picked me up at the bus stop and gave me the bad news that we would have to postpone our trip to the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown because she had to finish a grant proposal. That was not a big deal since I was exhausted from getting up 6 hours earlier than usual to catch the bus. While in the Big O, we grabbed a bite - nothing extraordinary. Oneonta in a word? quaint.

2. Wings and Spiedies at Tasty's - Once the grant proposal was done, we headed down to a classic townie spot to celebrate with some Yeunglings and chicken wings. In addition to that belly bloating action, I got my first taste of a Binghamton original sandwich: the spiedie. My affinity for sandwiches is well known and I was excited to try a famous local treat. Pleasantly surprised I was not. I wanted to love the spiedie; I really did. But it's not a great sandwich. Basically it consists of chunks of pork, marinated in Italian dressing, cooked beyond dryness, and then served on dry bread, without any sauce or anything. The only thing that was missing was a cup of sand to wash it down. It was the driest food experience I've ever had. I just don't understand the concept. Sorry, Bing. Thumbs down. Fun times at Tasty's though. Even though I think we got shut off for not being townies.

3. Oatmeal and Apples - It was over this breakfast that we decided that we needed to sort out our meal plan for the weekend. There were some pretty important food experiences that we had planned and we had to make sure that we fit it all in.

4. Spiediefest 08 (08?) - I know what you're thinking - didn't they sample and reject the spiedie back at meal # 2? Like I said, I wanted to like the spiedie, and DC convinced me that we had to try the original at Sharkey's or Lupo's (the Pat's v Geno's of the Bing). We decided to go to Sharkey's, aka 1952. As soon as you walk into this place you're transported back in time. And you're Polish. And your cholesterol is through the roof. Our waitress told us that the layout and furniture were the same as they were during WW2. In addition to the spiedies, we got the fried clams and perogies, and a side of salt potatoes. The perogies and the salt pots were served in bowls of butter - butter which I would later use in a futile attempt to add some moisture to the spiedie. This was a feast that left us both in cholesterol comas. We tried to walk it off in the neighborhood by popping in some of the local antique shops. We also found a record player repair shop and went in to see if they had any Victrola Talking Machines. I talked to the repair man and explained the machine I have and the small irregular piece that I need. He knew exactly what I was talking about and had it in stock. But then he said that they don't sell the parts, that they're just for repairs. Ummm ... you're an idiot, old man. No wonder your town is economically depressed; you have no concept of commerce. How much would I have paid for that one piece that I can't find anywhere else.

5. Torrid Tempeh Temptation - We figured that somewhere in the middle of the artery clogging madness, we should try to fit in some vegetables. After lounging around for a few hours doing su doku and letting the lard digest, we walked downtown to check out a little Bing culture - the monthly art walk. By the time we got back, our expanded estomagos were ready for more, so we made a thai style dinner of vegetables and tempeh cooked in peanut satay sauce.

6. Dutch Babies - aka Babycakes - To set us up with a nice base for our trip to Cooperstown (Coop, there it is!), DC whipped up a delicious set of breakfast treats that I had never tried before. Unlike my introduction to the spiedie, my introduction to the Dutch Baby was a pleasure for the palette. It's basically eggs and flour baked in butter, topped with lemon and powdered sugar. A good way to start our pilgrimage to the Baseball Mecca that is the Hall of Fame in Cooperstown. I was sure to wear my Pittsfield 1791 hat, referencing the oldest document in existence that mentions baseball: a 1791 law prohibiting the play of baseball within 80 feet of the Pittsfield Town Hall. What's up now, Coop! Despite the fraudulence of the Abner Doubleday claim to having invented baseball in Cooperstown, the Baseball Hall of Fame is pretty cool. It will be even better when the court order comes through to move it to Pittsfield.

7. Coop (There it is!) - After a couple hours in the BHoF, we found ourselves a bit peckish. A visit to the Doubleday Cafe took care of that with chowdah, and some quality deli food (salad with bacon for DC, corned beef and swiss on rye for VTK). Not gut-splitting, but filling enough to hold us over until dinner, which promised to be a doozy.

8. The Spot - after some deliberation, we settled on a Greek ... restaurant for dinner. What put it over the top was the fact that they served Harvey Wallbangers. I didn't know what was in a H-Wall but I knew that this was the perfect place to find out. DC went for another cocktail that we were unfamiliar with - the Stinger. We were both surprised and disgusted by what we had ordered. The Harvey Wallbanger is basically a screwdriver with a splash of a nasty herbal liquor named Galliano. The Stinger is brandy with creme de menthe (creme de sgusting). And if you're thinking maybe it would taste ok if you mixed them together, you're wrong.

oh, and the food. soup, bread, salad, and two mammoth fried chicken parmigiana dishes. holy bloated belly, batman. All we could muster after that was to play a quick 20 games of UNO with the Derek Jeter UNO cards that I picked up at the BHoF. Yeah. Saturday night. We're old.

9. Breakfast at the Skylark - At this stage of the game, our stomachs have expanded to about the size of hippo stomachs, so we had to just keep feeding the monster. We met DC's friends for brunch at the Skylark diner. DC went for the club sandwich and french fries. I thought the flapjacks, egg, and bacon would sit in my stomach better. Both were sufficient to tide us over until after the Pats - Colts game. DC got some knitting done while I explained the rules of pass interference and how the refs in this particular game were total asshats.

10. Taco Town!! - If you don't know what Taco Town is, please see the video on the previous post. They don't have crepes or gruyere in Binghamton, so we decided to go for Pizza Tacos, tacos wrapped in pizzas. As you can see, we put a lot of planning into the design of Taco Town:

We decided to go with model 4 - 2 home made personal dough pizzas and 2 tortilla pizzas, each wrapped around a taco. During the Pats game, we worked up the order of operations.

And the rest was Taco Town magic:

Pizza? Now that's what I call a taco!