Monthly Archives: April 2012

Rural Still Life

Silo tree 3rdarm

As I continued to read, I realized there was more to it. Toto, in Latin, means all-encompassing. Jeffrey Thomas Porcaro, who died in 1992, was one of the most recorded session drummers in the history of rock. He rose to recognition playing drums on the album Katy Lied by Steely Dan, one of my favorite bands. Allmusic has characterized him as “arguably the most highly regarded studio drummer in rock from the mid-’70s to the early ’90s”, further stating that “It is no exaggeration to say that the sound of mainstream pop/rock drumming in the 1980s was, to a large extent, the sound of Jeff Porcaro.” I got angry at Etta a few nights ago when she stated I like pop music. But here is the sound of seventies and eighties rock drumming hailing from my hometown. Its in my roots.

jeff porcaro 3rdarm

Besides Errol Morris, I read a story out of Kansas by A.G. Sulzberger- Amid Rural Decay, Trees Take Root in Silos. Farms on the Great Plains have evolved to new efficiencies- machination has reduced the levels of farm staffs. Buildings no longer needed are cheaper left standing than demolished. The human footprint on the praire paradoxically aids vegetation growth- in part by protecting plants from the stress of wind. Trees reach out of many abandoned grain silos- the flora phenomenon has found fans amongst photographers on Flickr. Amateur photog Ken Wolf said, “It just struck me as, I don’t know, a symbol of something- I see it as a kind of passing.”


Tree silo 3rdarm

I was reading Part One of Errol Morris’ new essay, What’s in a Name, when I paused to look something up. I Googled the name of the street I grew up on, Dart Hill Road, wondering if there may be some information about its naming. Though I did not find what I was looking for, what I did discover was that the street name is nearly unique. I also read a little history of the town I grew up in- South Windsor. I’m not terribly interested in what New England was like around the time of the Revolution- much more so in what it was like there before Europeans. But I thought it of note that the small farming town sent two hundred men to fight and that it housed a signer of the Declaration of Independence. Not that any of that shocked me- as a kid I took many a field trip to Old Main Street by the Connecticut River. There was a shock lurking on that wikipedia page.

steve porcaro and damius 3rdarm

The brothers Porcaro hailed from South Windsor and are by far the most noteworthy folk to come from my town. Its an unsung point of pride that I wish I knew about earlier in life. When I first arrived in Chicago I could have boasted of the fact to new friends. Steve, Jeff, and Mike- the keyboardist, drummer and bassist, respectively, in the classic rock band Toto- are from where I’m from. In fact, it goes much further. Steve was a pioneer of Polyfusion systems building a giant analog synthesizer he named DAMIUS to record the sounds of Toto IV- including the keyboard solo on “Africa.” He blessed the rains. Steve left Toto fulltime in the mid eighties to pursue songwriting and composing- he composed the song “Human Nature” for Michael Jackson’s album Thriller.

That’s where I’m from.

Chef Jim

Jim Kilberg chicago 3rdarm

“I really like to eat junkfood. I work all day, twelve, thirteen hour days. I like to go get a burger. Grilled cheese sandwiches. Mac and cheese. Nothing makes me happier than that. I also- I also like oysters. I love to go get a bunch of oysters.”

There is something about Jim’s face, voice and behavior that reminds me of the chefs I worked with in Boston, in a good way. He was the first chef I worked with in Chicago, at Terragusto, where he left before I left, and then the whole place closed. I was new to the city and determined to show my stuff- during my waiter training I stayed late each night helping the kitchen break down. Jim and I shot the shit. He moved on- to work at a good Italian restaurant, and I moved on- to work for the place I had in mind all along. I found this video of him.

Dr. Funk of Tahiti

Sabatinos 3rdarm

Sabatino’s– The dinner portion of Probably The Most Fun Night I have had in Chicago. Our waiter, Mario, was a storyteller. The multi course Italian meal, starting with a loaf of bread and complimentary pizza bread, was delicious. The cocktails my lady friends enjoyed- yes, I dined with two lady friends, were praised. They had manhattans and negronis, for the record, the bar knows how to make a balanced cocktail.

For entrees I had the spinach ravioli with cream and gorgonzola sauce- vegetarian and super rich. My girlfriend had the steak and her friend got stuffed veal. The place was pretty full on the late side of Wednesday evening.

For dessert we got the baked Alaska for two. Mario told us about baked Alaskas past. The maitre D lit the meringue on fire.

Baked Alaska with Mario and Guiseppe 3rdarm

Hala Kahiki– The late night part of Probably the Most Fun Night I have had in Chicago. Its midnight and I’m with two ladies at the bar. The Tiki Lounge is good for all- its like Chinese reflexology where the iced booze hits key nerve endings in the belly.

Despite the bartenders warning of the licorice taste, I recommend the good Doctor Funk of Tahiti, as digestive aid.


reza and dad 3rdarm

I feel life is in the dark. There’s a lot happening you can’t see. Shahs of Sunset is a Bravo reality show about Iranians in Beverly Hills- the gay star Reza was born in Tehran to Jewish and Muslim parents. He is the most relevant male lead in years. Show has balanced and interesting female cast- Persian songstress, anger management Daddy’s girl, single businesswoman. What happens shines light on how being free to be yourself coexists with cultural ties. It’s a way of life probably in the dark to some folks in Iran- until they see people like themselves living here. Iran with its coasts and fertility is a lot like California. Humanist reforms and we’re not that far away from a Californiran.

My friend Meghan says the the UP is like Michicanada.

Tavern / Tavernita

tapas 3rdarm

Four years into my restaurant reviewing, yelp finally recognized my contributions to the service. I have been made elite in Chicago. It feels good because there was a period of years where my reviews were not being seen- because all my reviews are 5 star yelp was filtering them out of public view. I was not trusted because I had no negative reviews. Many times it crossed my mind to switch my style and give negative reviews- but I stuck to my guns. In celebration of staying true to yourself, excerpts from two recent reviews, where I focus attention on the waitstaff:

Tavernita– Server was new and awkward but in a disarming way. Maybe the room needed to be sexed down. Speaking of the room- I asked my girlfriend what do you like and what do you hate. She has the good taste. She said she liked the wood floors and the lighting. She hated the weird chess scene masking the private dining room and the knick knacks separating the dining room from barcito and the kitchen towels as napkins. For record, I liked the upholstery but I don’t have good taste. And I disliked how the drink names are prominently written above the bar but I reckon its a sales pitch.

Server awkwardly addressed girlfriend and not me, but perhaps because of the angle of the table, or perhaps because she is beautiful and I was dressed in a Deadliest Catch in memoriam Captain Phil teeshirt and black hoodie. You know how folks react to those hoodies. I thought it was weird that food runner was on Madonna style headset short band radio but girlfriend reassured me that it was natural.

antipasti west town tavern 3rdarm

West Town Tavern– I live down the street and am eating my way around the neighborhood on a circular path- stopped in for fried chicken Monday and were greeted by owner- always a good sign. Girlfriend and I waited ten minutes for a table. She had a delicious dry cider and I had iced tea at bar. We sat in the back and I had a view of whole dining room. The waiting team was like 3 superheroes in black- a shaggy haired sheep dog guy, a Shante You Stay pompadour guy, and our waitress in round owl glasses. They were a cool trio.

The busser offers wheat or white bread and the butter is terrific. We ordered and shared the anti pasti plate- cured meat, olives, pesto, goat cheese, toast, it was a perfect starter. We also got fried calamari from Rhode Island. I got to talk about Point Judith where the fishing boats haul in the squid. There’s a seafood restaurant there with a pirate’s treasure chest full of stupid toys. Its a stupid childhood memory.

Forward with Obama

Forward with Obama 3rdarm

Throughout his campaign for re-election, Roosevelt stuck to the phrase, “Forward with Roosevelt.” Its simplistic message seemed to have power, deep meaning and promises for a hopeful future. The New Deal that had started taking effect in FDR’s first term as President, seemed to cover the basic needs and concerns of the American People, and Roosevelt’s campaign for re-election certainly used this legislation and its promised effects at the focal point of the campaign. As many historians seem to state, the New Deal offered the “3 R’s: Relief, Recovery and Reform”—relief for the unemployed and poor, recovery of the economy to normal levels and reform of the financial system to prevent a repeat depression.

1936–Forward with Roosevelt–Lindsay Staniszewski, Presidential Campaign Rhetoric

Vote hope 3rdarm obama

How to Fear Less

Sleeping tree 3rdarm

Hello Dearios, my friendly writing colleagues- I’m Crescent Dragonwagon. Presumably you’re here because fearless writing has aroused your curiosity. Either because of the Fear and the idea of being free of it, or because of the writing, or most likely both. Now I have to confess, I’ve told a great big lie. There is no such thing as fearless writing. Sadly, we have these elegant beautiful writings in our head and they read very clunkily on paper or screen sometimes, and it is hard, even when it’s going well, you’re still facing blank paper, blank screen. Writing is a continual process of reinvention and you know, you’d be crazy if you didn’t feel a little anxiety or tension around that. Maybe a lot. So what do we do with this fear? We don’t want to kick kitty litter over it and pretend that it doesn’t exist. That just almost gives it more strength. Neither do we want to have it run the show, which is to say, stop the show.

Laura and Etta 3rdarm

There is a middle ground. In fearless writing, we learn how to invite fear in, make it part of the process, make it a guest at our party, let it energize us, let it give us its gifts, which it has. We don’t push it away, we don’t let it run the show. Instead, it sits there right with us but it doesn’t stop us. So as we work together and play together, in finding your own voice, in telling the stories you are driven to tell, in discovering the stories you have that you didn’t even know you had, all of which happen in fearless writing- You will discover that although fear is present, because you understand this glorious process, and it is glorious, you do fear less. Thank you, see you soon.

Fearless Writing with Crescent Dragonwagon

Es Mortal

dead goose 3rdarm

Today at the pie shop Etta had a slice of chocolate chess. I got funeral pie. The temperature was back in the mid seventies and I was back in my Captain Phil teeshirt.

arbol chile 3rdarm

We walked to Oz Park. Etta’s mother is friends from Provincetown with the man who sculpted the Wizard of Oz characters. Frank Kearney– he is ancient. When Marcia was in Chicago they paid his son Jack a visit. The bronze sculptures were cast from real shoes and clothing.

Sepia Tone

headboard 3rdarm

Etta spent a week resining wood slices and glass. Laura took a class at the French Pastry School and also staged at Sepia- chef Cindy comped our desserts. I ate consecutive char cheddar dog and double char cheddar dogs and wore my deadliest catch captain Phil teeshirt. He died of bad lifestyle. My sister sent me a Paulo Coelho quotation- “Si piensas que la aventura es peligrosa, prueba la rutina. Es mortal.”

sepia desserts

Etta and I saw a sleeping goose on a walk that I thought was dead. Bull did my taxes. Conor spilled chile arbol on the stairs. Chef Amado admired a woman’s broad brimmed hat- I engaged her male partner. He does food research for the momofuku group in New York City. The hat was from the 1920s. Roly Poly went missing- took fifteen frantic minutes to find him. He was hiding in plain sight- on top the fridge.