I Wanna Go Back


Ann and I decided to go out for a breakfast date this morning after we dropped off the kid at school, so we went to the newest 85 Café Bakery location which isn’t too far from us. We’re not the full-on, greasy-meal-complete-with-all-the-fixin’s kind of couple. We just can’t start the day off with a heavy meal. In fact I find it extremely unhealthy and, more to the point, gross.

Baked goods, especially those from 85 Café (a Taiwanese company just starting to branch into the US), are another story. There’s no arguing over this. We must exercise a great amount of self-control when we go there as it is amazing. Half of the café serves bread right out of the oven while the other half sells specialty items like this strawberry tiramisu.

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But since we found ourselves on the short end of the money stick this week*, we opted for baked goods of a lesser monetary amount. And in case you’re dying to know what that looked like, well, here you go.

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The UCC Kona coffee is mine. They don’t sell it there and I enjoy it with my pastries and/or donuts.

And yes, I unapologetically and shamelessly post pictures of food on my social media accounts for everyone to see, even if they think said pictures are the fruit of Satan’s loins. I’m not there to live up to anyone’s standards, approval, or expectations. I like to do it so if pictures of things like freaking food offend you, look away. And lighten up. Yeesh.

Ahem. Anyway.

As we sat across from each other engaged in serious conversation about everything and nothing, music played in the background to fill the void that the hustle and bustle of a café filled with customer’s couldn’t. Most of the music went unnoticed until a familiar tune fell upon my ears.

(An aside: even after almost 22 years of marriage, Ann and I almost never sit next to each other at a table, and didn’t even while we dated. We are always across from each other. Eye contact is key for us.)

I had to think about it a moment. It was an instrumental played on what was probably a Hammond B3, the quintessential instrument of choice in blue-collar homes or concert venues in the 60s and 70s.

The Girl from Ipanema”?  No no no, it wasn’t that. Close maybe, but not exactly what it was. And being it’s impossible (at least for me) to think of one song while listening to another, I had to sort of block it out while I thought a little harder about it.

Hmm. I have it my collection. So familiar. I started to sing along…

Someone to hold me tight, that would be very nice
Someone to love me right, that would be very nice

I had gotten that far.

“Someone to Watch Over Me”? Nope. While a real song, that wasn’t it either.

I had to grab the phone and do some sleuthing, finally ending up on YouTube: it was Astrud Gilberto’s “So Nice.”

Oh man. The organ, that voice and the way it reverbs, the way the instruments are channeled. Put all of those together and songs like this were arguably the sexiest ever recorded. Seriously. Nothing in recent memory comes close. And let’s not forget all of the instrumental sex that one Henry Mancini created.

Reel it in, man. Back on-topic.

As I sat across from Ann chatting about the song, my mind was suddenly teleported back to the time I spent at the mall when I was a teenager. The local malls were our social network at the time; a place where we would hang out and watch things unfold, meet people, discover new music, and just enjoy being with others – in real-life, not on a computer or smartphone screen.

Now unless you grew up during that time, you have no idea how an organ ties in with that memory. But if you did, let this video jog your memory.

This version here is extremely similar to what I heard in the café and what I might have heard while strolling through the mall past Chess King, Spencer Gifts, Red Eye, or Clifton’s Cafeteria all while taking in the smell of burnt caramel corn or fresh-baked pretzels. No phones, no worries. Just good times.

One of the staples of every mall was, in fact, an organ store where the salespeople would be standing at an organ near the front of the entry while demonstrating how easy it was to play songs like this one or “Spanish Eyes.” But even by then, the once mighty Wurlitzer was quickly becoming a thing of the past with youth becoming more focused on things like the brand-new Walkman. Why bother with an organ when I can take my music anywhere?

While I’m on the topic, I came across this article while searching for “mall organ stores” which Google suggested might be “mall oregon stores.” You know your industry has become archaic when even Google tries to forget it ever existed.

Anyway, you can read it here and laugh at how it is suggested that organs are aimed at people who are 45-50 years old, “sedentary” and “don’t go water skiing.”

Wow. Seriously, with all the conveniences we have now that have the potential to make us even more sedentary, today’s people in that age group – myself at age 46 included – are nowhere near as lazy as this article suggests they were back in its published year of 1981. So basically, we were dead once we hit 45? WOW!

Soooo, with all that said, I miss going to the mall and sharing a bag of caramel corn with my friends while we listened to a toupee-wearing salesman tickling the ivories.

Bet you never saw that coming.


*We all learned a valuable lesson when Anthony’s classmate got him “free iTunes credit.” It was actually a $15 gift card purchase that was deducted from our debit card. He then bought an album thinking he had said credit but he hadn’t redeemed the code yet, deducting yet another $16 from our account.  PARENTAL RESTRICTIONS, PEOPLE.

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Back in the Day, Part 2


For those of you too young to remember, smoking was at one time allowed just about anywhere. And believe it or not, it wouldn’t be uncommon for your mom or dad to send you back into the drug store for a book of matches if they had forgotten to ask for one when they bought their packs of coffin nails. This, of course, being after they tested the tubes for the TV.

To take this even further, smoking was also allowed in restaurants and it was only within the last couple of decades when it was abolished from such places. It may seem hard to believe but I was there and saw it with my own eyes.

That’s because Mom was a smoker (although she gave it up over 10 years ago). I can recall sitting at a local fast-food joints and consuming our unhealthy meals as she slowly puffed away on a Marlboro, getting as much as she could out of every single shred of tobacco packed within the cigarette’s tightly wrapped paper. She’d then flick the cigarette and the ashes would poetically spiral into the provided ashtrays.

As a matter of fact, when the first Del Taco in the area opened back in the late ‘70s, she helped herself to one of the glass ashtrays that were on each and every table. Made from heavy glass and with the orange Del Taco sun logo on the bottom, she used it at home regularly. But after years of moving, having stuff in storage and finally, her quitting smoking altogether, the ashtray simply disappeared.

(I applaud Mom’s tact for as the years went by, the glass ashtrays were replaced with cheap aluminum ones.)

Don’t as me why, but I seemed to have an attachment to that stupid inanimate object. Maybe it’s because it had a nifty little story of thievery behind it or that it came from the first Del Taco in the area where a friend of mine was Order #0001. Either way and as far as I know, it’s gone.

Then one day I come home from work and Anthony tells me to close my eyes and put out my hands. He and Ann had apparently went thrift shopping and bought something for me.

And here it is…

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Back in the Day, Part 1


tractor

This is me back in, oh I don’t know, maybe 1973. I couldn’t have been no more than 4 years old at the time.

This one picture is perhaps one of my most favorite childhood photos. In fact I’d go so far as to say that, aside from the few with Dad, it is my favorite and there are a number of reasons for it.

Media: It’s a Polaroid print or quite possibly, a shot taken with a Land Camera. Hey, my memory’s a bit fuzzy after living in a house coated with lead paint, okay? That aside, the scan doesn’t do the original justice. You see all those white specks on the print that look like I haven’t cleaned the glass on my scanner in ages? That isn’t dust; it’s on the print itself, apparently where the color dyes didn’t get smooshed well enough. Then there’s the classic border which no iPhone or Android app can simulate no matter how hard they try.

The Toy: I got that tractor one year for Christmas and although I may have only been 3 in this picture, I certainly remember it. I rode that thing until it practically fell apart and being a child of rather large girth, it didn’t take too long but I remember it like it was yesterday. The expression on my face tells you exactly how much I loved playing with that thing.

Color: I tried to simulate the color of the original print but there’s no way that Photoshop can come close and believe me, I tried before posting. It’s got this kind of greenish-cyanish tone that just screams 70s and when you look at the original, it actually looks almost tilt-shifty with me in as good a focus as cameras of the day would allow and the background being very soft.

The House: That’s the house I grew up in back in Wilmington, CA. All of my childhood Christmases, birthdays, everything happened within the walls of that house. It was also the home where Dad lived and then, after one fateful phone call, would never return to.

And when my time comes, I can’t think of a better picture I would want enlarged and set next to me while I’m on display.

Yeah, I know, kind of morbid but man, it’s something we all need to think about sooner or later.

Oh, and I’m sorry for not posting an April Fool’s topic this year. I honestly couldn’t come up with any ideas. Really, I couldn’t! Maybe next year…

More From the Ballpark


It had been years since I went to a ballgame so it was definitely a treat to walk through the gates and enter Anaheim Stadium, a place where I spent many a summer day in my youth.

The place has gone through a few major changes over the years. When I first starting going in the mid-70s, it was really nothing extraordinary. In fact, it was just a functional ballpark as most were back in the day. There weren’t even any bleachers beyond the outfield wall but some were added later.

Then in the 80s, it was decided the stadium was to be enclosed so that it could also accommodate the L.A. Rams. It went from a simple stadium to one hell of an ugly place that also hosted monster truck rallies (YEEEEEEHAWWWWWWW!) in addition to football games, which always bothered the hell out of me because few things are more sacriligous than seeing yard lines across centerfield. It’s just not right.

ana08951mainThe stadium remained enclosed even years after the Rams split town. As a result, the place always looked cavernous and empty even if there were 40,000 people in attendance, since there were still 20,000 seats (not normally sold for baseball) that were vacant. This wasn’t necessarily good since Angel fans at the time were notorious for, well, not showing up anyhow. How do I know this? There were less than 18,000 people in attendance the night George Brett went 4-for-5 and got hits 2,997-3,000. Baseball history in the making and nobody decided to show up. But at least I was one of them in the photographer’s well.

When The Disney Company took over, they took that Frankenstein of a stadium and completely transformed it into what is one of the most beautiful ballparks in all of baseball.

That’s exactly why I felt like a kid again when my buddy Tim and I took our seats on Sunday. The gorgeous green grass that lay before us, the stadium hot dogs that tasted better than a steak (nostagically, of course), and the years of memories of watching some of baseball’s greatest play: Gwynn, Ripken, Brett, Molitor, Yount, Reggie Jackson, Nolan Ryan, etc. Although I’m a Dodger fan, Anaheim Stadium (as it will always be known to me) holds more personal memories than Dodger Stadium, a great ballpark in its own right.

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Goodbye, Mother’s Cookies


Image Courtesy "Like an ever-flowing stream..." Click to visit.It seems that with every passing day as of late, yet another piece of my childhood becomes a distant (or in this case, defunct) memory.

Without much warning, today workers at California-based Mother’s Cookies were told that the cookies would no longer be made. This should not come as much of a surprise considering that the 94-year-old company had recently filed for bankruptcy protection but still, this is a blow for their employees and the consumers who loved their products.

I am one of them–consumer, that is. When I was growing up, my family ate Mother’s cookies religiously: Flaky Flix, Iced Oatmeal…you name it, we ate it. One trip to Lucky’s was all it took to make us happy. But one of their products in particular remained my favorite well into adulthood.

People, I’m talking about Mother’s Circus Animals (not to be confused with those mundane Nabisco Animal Crackers). Rather than being boring like Nabisco’s product, Mother’s little animal-shaped cookies were dipped in a white or pink frosting then dotted with colorful candy sprinkles. And man, anybody who says they don’t like them is either a liar or Nazi.

We each must have consumed a veritable barrelful of said cookies when we were kids and they continue to be popular to this day given the inventory at local markets. They are addicting (and fattening) as heck.

But I suppose even eating our own weight of the things does nothing to even the economic scales and combat the company’s ever-increasing expenses, as was evident by Friday’s announcement.

Sure, there are other similar products on the market and I have tried them all–much to my disappointment. Circus Animals are something you just don’t mess with, like those Pepperidge Farm Goldfish knock-offs called “Dolphins and Friends.” They are terrible even if you don’t like the real Goldfish. Seriously, why bother? Even little kids will know the difference!

Simply stated, nothing beats the original. So when I get home (I’m composing this on the train via iPod Touch), it’s off to the store to see if maybe, just maybe, there might be one or two bags left for my family. I’ll then crack one open for the last time, spread the love around, and regretfully tell Anthony that we’ll never have the absolute pleasure of tasting them ever again.

And with the holidays approaching, that means that this combination of ingredients won’t be made into frosty wreaths and candles, either. I’m officially bummed out now.

Thanks, Mother’s Cookies and to all involved in the production of these iced cookies. You will definitely be missed!

UPDATED 10/14/08 @ 8:10 p.m.

Success! One trip to Ralphs was all it took. They’re not the traditional pink and white variety but hey, the flavor is still there. And they are as good as ever.


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