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19 Nov

The Persimmon Incident

We were at the grocery store the other day and happened upon a big display of persimmons, which we assumed were in season. These were small fruits that were orange-yellow in color and resembled small tomatoes. We had never had one before and the signs were saying things like “sweet and tangy,” which is right up my alley. So curiosity got the better of us and we got one each of the two kinds of persimmons they had. We didn’t know if they were fully ripe, as a lot of supermarket fruit is typically not ripe, so we put them on the counter when we got home. A couple of days went by and I grabbed the more oblong one (known as a hachiya) and decided to give it a try. What could go wrong? It’s a fruit, right?

The evil persimmon

I took a big bite out of a slice and started to chew. Within seconds, my mouth felt like a wool sweater just exploded. I could not taste a thing, it felt like my whole mouth was swelled up with fur, and it felt like no matter where I put my tongue, it got stuck. A quick drink of water relieved the fuzzy feeling in my mouth and I stood kind of dumbfounded. Who on earth would eat one of these things?  So obviously now that I had discovered this I had to let Rob try it without telling him what happened. Comical results would have to ensue, yes?  Yes.

I took a slice and handed it to Rob. He said, “oh, you slice it up – is it good?”  I didn’t get a chance to even answer or make up anything before he bit into it.  All of a sudden he gets a very weird look on his face and says “what is that!!”  I just look at him as if to say “what do you mean?” Then he gets a little nervous and says, “oh my god, I think I’m allergic to this!  My mouth is all full and blowing up!”  Of course, that made my start laughing, which was a bummer because I really wanted to explore this allergy reaction thing. Then I had to tell him the same thing happened to me. We were both clueless as to what was the deal with this persimmon.

Turns out (after looking it up on the internet – which is what we should have done first) that an unripe persimmon, particularly the kind I sliced, is incredibly high in tannins and if eaten in that state completely dries out your mouth – hence the feeling that you just ate a cat’s coat that was covered in dog fur. The time to eat a persimmon is after is had become very, very soft inside – almost gelatinous. Then you cut the top off and scoop out the insides. When it is fully ripe like this, the tannins are gone.

Of course, the other variety of persimmon we got (it is called “fuyu” and frankly I’d leave off the “yu” because, well, FU persimmons!) are considered non-astringent, so they have minimal tannins and those go away much quicker. That would have been the one to start with, but alas I picked the wrong one. The fuyu is still on the counter and I’m waiting for it to soften so we can try that one…maybe. The other one has found a home in the compost bin and I hope it is happy there drying up all the other scraps that come into contact with it.

Needless to say, we won’t be venturing near the persimmons again. I’m sure if they were served correctly or in something they might be delicious. But for us it is just created a moment in time we like to call “the persimmon incident.”

P.S.: Two days after trying this bizarre fruit, my new issue of Cook’s Country arrived and on a page they describe winter fruits. Guess what was featured with a notation about what happens when you eat an unripe one?  Geez – two days, too late.

Categories: Commentary, Food Tags:
06 Nov

Andy and the Branson Days

Woke up this morning with the news that my former boss, Andy Williams, has bladder cancer. He announced it at his theatre in Branson last night. It is such sad news, however he has always been a fighter so my belief is that he has a great chance to kick the cancer and recover. The news made me all nostalgic for the days when I worked at his Moon River Theatre. I spent 8 years there and it truly was the best work experience I have ever had, and most likely will ever have. Here are a few of my favorite memories from those days:

The Show – At its peak, Andy’s show could easily rival any in Vegas or anywhere. It was a solid 2 hours, twice a day, 6 days a week. The show was structured in segments that flowed seamlessly from his early hits medley through to a full production salute to great movie themes – which included several of Andy’s hits. The sets, costumes, orchestra and dancers were first-class and Andy never disappointed. There were some truly great moments in each year’s show (new segments would be developed for each season), but my personal favorite was Andy singing “Moon River.” It was always a magical moment.

The People – Having a set of co-workers that you actually like these days can be rare. Having co-workers that you like to refer to as “family” is practically impossible. But that existed at the theatre. From Andy to the performers to the office staff to the box office, we all worked together as a unit and spent a lot of time together outside of work. The folks I worked with are truly unforgettable.

The Surreal – I look back at the time now and am really amazed by some of the experiences I was fortunate enough to have. Things like cooking for Andy’s family or catering at his house for a celeb-filled house party seem so unbelievable now. We had Shari Lewis in for some summer kids shows one year and I remember taking her for a promo appearance at Silver Dollar City. The appearance was just for Lamb Chop, so I stood behind a giant curtain with Shari with a theater full of people on the other side, and I held her purse while she reached in and grabbed Lamb Chop, put him on, stuck him through the part in the curtain and started the promo. I’m standing there, watching Shari do the voice with her arm through a curtain and me holding her purse open. Now that is odd – but fun. I also remember when Robert Goulet came in with his wife Vera. I was basically her “driver” when they were in Branson and Robert was working the shows. I had a purple Nissan pick-up truck at the time and that is what I drove her around in. But hey – it’s Branson! I was really embarrassed picking up this elegant woman in my truck, but she told me she loved it. Not often you see a lady in furs getting out of a purple truck.

The After-Parties – Andy often asked me to tend bar in his dressing room when he had gatherings or special parties. I have to say that these were some of my favorite times. It was fun to work the parties and many times the guests were celebs either performing in Branson or visiting. But the best part is when the party dwindled and usually near the end it was Andy and his wife Debbie, his brother Don, and a couple of the party guests that were the ones Andy really wanted to spend time with. It was always this time that Andy and Don would start telling stories, typically of their early days in the business. It was always fascinating. When Andy wrote his autobiography, a lot of the stories that I heard in his dressing room made it into the book. Each time I read something I knew, it brought a smile to my face and provided me with great memories of those evenings.

I truly appreciated the time I had there and I thank Andy and everyone who I was fortunate enough to meet and work with for providing me with and incredible experience. My best goes out to Andy for a complete recovery and I hope he is back on stage where he belongs next year. Here are a few of my favorite photos from those days:

One of my fave photos from when I cooked for his family.

 

Me with Debby Boone and Robert Goulet at our annual theatre Christmas party.

 

Me in my office - with Andy always looking over my shoulder.

11 Sep

Ten Years After

It is difficult not to post something on the 10th anniversary of 9/11. It is all over the place – newspaper, magazines, online, conversations, and especially on TV. I find it difficult to even turn on the TV today with all the coverage going on. About every 5 minutes I see or hear something that just makes me want to cry. I guess that is what you are supposed to do today as it is set aside as a national day of mourning. Lots of folks have stories about where they were on 9/11. I don’t really have any story at all, but I can remember exactly where I was at the time. I had left that morning to go to work at The Common Grill where I was a server. In between the time I left for work and when I got there the first plane hit. I remember walking into the restaurant and it was really quiet and no one was around, which I thought odd. It is typically a bustling place in the a.m. getting ready for the lunch crowd. I walked in the dining area and saw everyone standing around. There were two TVs above the bar and all eyes were focused on them. When I got in and started looking, I saw the first tower engulfed in smoke. Before I even said anything, someone spoke up and said “a plane hit one of the World Trade Center towers.” No one really knew at the time what was going on. Then soon after I arrived, the second plane hit. At that point, everyone knew that something bad was happening. It was truly hard to absorb. More details started to come in and everyone was in shock. But still, we had a restaurant to run and everyone started to get back to work and check the TV on occasion to see the latest news. It wasn’t long before the towers fell. Gasps, crying, expletives, bewilderment, horror.

Regardless of what was happening, we still had to open for business. Chef kept us going and the bartender and others would announce any news that came in while we prepared for the day. We opened and had a fairly light lunch crowd. The TVs stayed on and we tried to keep up with the news. Then one of the guests complained about the TVs being on saying something like “turn those off – I can’t eat my lunch with all that depressing stuff going on.” We were kind of shocked that someone could be so uncaring and callous at that time, but I guess everyone reacts in their own way. I like to think that the person just couldn’t deal with it at all and refused to accept what was happening.

I actually can’t remember if the TVs were turned off or not – I think they were because someone had a radio in the kitchen and news was being relayed from there. I know that after my shift I bolted home. I had just moved back to Jackson and was staying at my parents at the time. I walked in and they were just sitting at the kitchen table. My folks never turned on the TV in the morning and a lot of the time didn’t even turn on the radio. I had asked them if they had heard the news. They had not. All morning and early afternoon they were oblivious to the events. I took them into the living room and turned on the TV and they watched astonished. We were pretty much glued to the TV that day.

I sometimes wonder how future generations will view 9/11. This is our generation’s Pearl Harbor and I imagine that some 40 years on or so, the day will be marked on wall calenders we buy and there will be some news coverage. But it will most likely get less and less each year as it has with Pearl Harbor. Most times now, folks don’t even realize when Pearl Harbor Day is or even know of the events – except for what was taught in history class. Of course since the recent tragedy is titled “9/11,” I doubt folks will forget the date, but its impact will gradually decrease with time and will become know to students in their classes. It is the nature and course of things. But for those who existed during that dreadful day, and especially for the families and friends who lost someone, it is a day that will not soon be forgotten and will always be prominent in our lives for as long as we exist.

Categories: Commentary, Essay Tags:
03 Sep

Back to Life, Back to Reality

It has been too long since I have posted on theBlippity. The main reason is because my mom passed away this summer. It was a long and difficult time, but there is always a point where things have to get back to normal – or a new type of normal. So I’ll be getting back in the swing of things and get some things posted. I’ve missed posting some excellent things that I’ve enjoyed during this time, but perhaps I can revisit them in time.

A big thanks to everyone out there who supported my brother and I during this difficult time.

Categories: Commentary Tags:
04 Jan

theBlippity’s Favorite Music of 2010

If I had one word to sum up the year in music, I would probably choose “dismal.” A second word might be “depressing,” not because of the music offered, but because I think 2010 might represent the year I started to get old. Some of you may have parents (or, OMG, grandparents) that hit their prime in the late 60s/early 70s. If so, they were probably hooked into some of the best music ever created around that time. Now, they may still look fondly on that music but I would probably venture to guess that most of them have their iPods loaded with Sting (after the Police, but before the lute), Josh Groban, Celine Dion, etc. If you asked them about Arcade Fire, they would probably say “what arcade and why did it catch fire?” And if you played a song for them, they probably wouldn’t get it. Well, 2010 marked the first year that I started not to get it. I am sad and depressed.

I’ve been able to listen to a large chunk of albums that reviewers and magazines have crowned as the best of the year – folks like Arcade Fire, The Black Keys, Sleigh Bells, Mumford & Sons, Gorillaz, etc. Many I have listened to a couple of times and I have to say…I don’t get it. I appreciate the craft involved and that these folks are trying to move music forward, but I find myself being left behind. It’s the first time I’ve ever really felt that. And while some of my top picks are also on “best of” lists, it seems like I really went with a retro sound that was safe and comfortable. I couldn’t find anything on the fringe that challenged me and introduced me to something new that hooked my ear. Even the singer/songwriters I usually rely on didn’t come through for me. So, am I getting old? Is my taste starting to be all in my mouth? Will I buy my first Josh Groban CD this year? (Sadly, I almost did – his new disc was produced by Rick Rubin and he covered Nick Cave…Nick freakin’ Cave!!) I’m hoping I get my groove back and discover some great music in the new year. If not, for Christmas next year everyone can get me hits discs by Celine, Josh, Andrea Bocelli, and Sting. Oh, BTW, I already have all of Michael Buble’s discs…oh, man I’m old.

Besides my oldness, I thought 2010 was a bit of a low point in music. Was there really anything released that could even come close to being required listening or a “classic” 10 years from now? Not really. It was kind of the year of Eminem, but that was about it. I purchased a lot of music this year, but two-thirds of it was reissues and collections. I’d say it was the lowest “new” music year I’ve ever had. But that doesn’t mean there wasn’t bright spots and I still had a hard time choosing what was to be on theBlippity Top 11 of the year. So let’s get to it. Here are the Top 11 Songs and Albums that I thoroughly enjoyed this year – regardless of my old fogey status:

Top 11 Albums

Oh 80's, how I love thee...

1. “Head First” – Goldfrapp

2. “Four” – Bleu

3. “Red Velvet Car” – Heart

4. “Body Talk” – Robyn

5. “The ArchAndroid” – Janelle Monae

6. “The Lady Killer” – Cee-Lo Green

7. “No Better Than This” – John Mellencamp

8. “Travelling Like the Light” – V.V. Brown

9. “Night Work” – Scissor Sisters

10. “Interpreting the Masters, Vol. 1: A Tribute to Daryl Hall & John Oats” – The Bird and the Bee

11. “I Learned the Hard Way” – Sharon Jones & the Dap Kings

Honorable Mentions:  “Loud” – Rihanna, “God Willin’ & the Creek Don’t Rise” – Ray LaMontagne & the Pariah Dogs, “Wreck Your Wheels” – Kim Richey, “Lungs” – Florence + the Machine, “Something for Everybody” – Devo

Top 11 Songs

Still rockin' like its 1977...

1. “Wheels” – Heart

2. “Rocket” – Goldfrapp

3. “F*** You” – Cee-Lo Green

4. “Alive” – Goldfrapp

5. “Dancing On My Own” – Robyn

6. “Singin’ In Tongues” – Bleu

7. “Fire with Fire” – Scissor Sisters

8. “Cheers (Drink to That)” – Rihanna

9. “Shark in the Water” – V.V. Brown

10. “Dog Days Are Over” – Florence + the Machine

11. “Teenage Dream” – Katy Perry

Honorable Mentions: “Ya Catch More Flies with Honey Than Vinegar” – Bleu, “Like Rock & Roll and Radio” – Ray LaMontagne & the Pariah Dogs, “Keys” – Kim Richey, “Trainwrecks” – Weezer, “Well Well Well” – Duffy, “Soldier of Love” – Sade, “Still This Side of Gone” – Alison Moorer

Categories: Commentary, Music, The Top 11 Tags: