Saturday, March 22, 2008

Easter Fashonista.

This is a picture of my siblings and me taken during the first Easter Sunday that I can recall. The time is 1968, and the place is Cherry Hill, New Jersey. That's me with the red herringbone jacket, black shorts and knobby white knees. I still remember that suit...and wish I had a jacket like that today, but in a 52L. I've still got those knees, though...and they remain knobby and white.

I can still remember my mother taking me to a store to try on that suit. I didn't have a problem with trying on the jacket, but trying on those black shorts was a different story altogether. We were standing in the middle of the store when she held them out to me and said, "Take off your pants and try these on."

Now being seen by my twin sister in my 'tighty whities' was an embarrassing enough occurrence...parading around in them? In a department store full of complete strangers?? Not only was I terrified of that, the shorts them self did nothing to reduce my anxiety: they were lined with a silk/rayon lining that printed in paisley. My mom was setting me up for big-time humiliation. I tried to reason with her...which, being a five year-old meant screaming my head off, "No!" My mom countered this with her own rebuttal: a quick smack on my fanny (should I say, rebuttal?) and a whisper - through clenched teeth - of, "Put these on. NOW."

My mom sure knew how to reason with a little kid.

And I can honestly say, looking at that photo of me on Easter Sunday, 1968, that my mom was right. I was quite the dandy in that outfit. I hope that your Easter is a dandy one, too!

And you'd be a dandy too if you'd just click on!

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Talking (Potato) Head.

This morning, on the 5th anniversary of the beginning of the war in Iraq, Vice-President Dick Cheney was interviewed by ABC's Martha Raddatz during the network's "Good Morning America" show:

Cheney: "The surge has worked. That's been a major success."
Raddatz: "Two-thirds of Americans say it's not worth fighting."
Cheney: "So?"
Raddatz: "'So?'?? You don't care what the American people think?"
Cheney: "No. I think you cannot off course by the, ah, fluctuations in the public opinion polls."

Fluctuations, Mr. Vice President? Actually the polls have been pretty consistent over the past few years. The overwhelming number of U.S. citizens - people whom you work for, Dick - are against this war. Even those of us (myself included) who were initially of the belief that invading Iraq was the right thing to do, have come to realize that the handling of this war has been a complete disaster. It's been five years since Cheney's administration got us into this debacle, and all we've to show for it is nearly 4,000 Americans killed, an unprecedented rise in Islamic extremism, an all time low opinion of our country in the international community and trillions squandered.


Excuse me, dear reader. I was taught manners by my parents. I was taught to never talk finances, religion or politics in public. But, when the Bush/Cheney administration continues to raise its level of hubris ever higher - as if it thinks it's competing in some reversed limbo contest - it's high time to say 'enough!'

When our Vice-President clearly states that he'd rather listen to the voices in his head than the voices of the overwhelming majority of the Americans, nothing seems as funny anymore.

America HAS spoken... is a wealth of funniness.

Monday, March 17, 2008

Bank. Robber.

This week I received a check from a buddy of mine, written on his company's checking account. His account was with Wells Fargo, and - as I don't have an account with them - I decided to drop by the local branch to cash the check.

After a 10-minute wait in line, there was finally a teller open. I presented the check, and my driver's license. "I'd like for you to cash this check, please," I said. "Do you have an account here?" the teller asked. "No, I don't," I countered "but the check's written on a Wells Fargo account, so there shouldn't be a problem...right?"

"I need TWO pieces of identification, please," was her reply. I handed over my passport. She took both pieces of identification in hand, and went to another room, returning with a small ink pad in her hand. "You'll need to provide a thumbprint to get your money," she declared. "Really? After giving you two government-issued I.D.s you need a thumbprint as well?" I asked. "Yes, sir, we do." I'd come this far, so I thought what the heck, I'd oblige her.

"All seems in order," she said, looking over my driver's license, passport and thumbprint. "That will be $5." "Five dollars? For what?" I asked. "Well, this is written on a company checking account, and we charge $5 to cash those checks," she informed which I replied, "What if it was written on a personal checking account?" "Those we cash for free," she stated. Feeling a bit of a smartass, I asked, "So, in other words, you really put the screws to your business customers - and their customers - don't you?"

"That's how we do business, sir," was the teller's explanation, "if you don't like it, you don't have to do business with us." I explained that I don't do business with Wells Fargo...and for good reason.

What a load of crap. At most banks Business accounts are already assessed the highest fees going on the front end. At Wells Fargo they seem to want to get it from both ends.

I know...that's two posts in a row where I come across as "old man grumpus". Guess it must be my old age starting to show. I'll do better next post. I promise.

Substantial interest penalty for not checking out

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Flying Garbage Dump.

There was a time that I really liked to fly America West Airlines. They offered very reasonable fares, and direct service from my home base of San Luis Obispo to Phoenix (as opposed to LAX) and points beyond. The planes they operated and the folks that manned them were bright and cheery...the hallmark of an airline whose employees seemed to enjoy their jobs. It was an airline that was going places.

Unfortunately, where they went was into a merger with U.S. Airways.

I recently had the unpleasant need to fly U.S. Air on two separate round-trips. If there's a U.S. airline with dirtier planes and surlier flight crews, I sure as hell pity those passengers. I flew on six different U.S. Airways' planes, and every one of them looked as tattered and dirty as a college frat house after a week-long kegger. Threadbare upholstery, layers of dirt in every nook and cranny...just the kind of upkeep that screams: "You think this is bad, you should see the cockpit!"

On one outbound leg from Phoenix to Las Vegas we were advised by the captain that the internal power unit which assisted engine start was inoperative. "No problem, though," he assured us all, "we can use the ground unit." Two hours later and no engine start. Seems the ground APU was trashed, too. Like the unkempt interior of their planes, this was another sure sign that this airline is on the ropes financially, and corners are being cut.

And as for the flight attendants, gate staff and pilots I met? Let's just say there's no more of that eye of the tiger gleam in their eyes I'd see on America West flights. These days it's more like the eye of the dairy cow. The expression of a U.S. Airways' employee was either that of, 'don't fuck with me, I'm union' or 'just biding my time until something better opens up'.

I know, I know...bemoaning the state of U.S. Airways is like shooting fish in a barrel. It's too easy a target. But it was either bitching about them or raggin' on Elliot Spitzer...which is what every other blogger seems to be writing about right now.

Word to the wise: don't give U.S. Airways your business.

"Thanks for flying us...buh-bye now...and check out. Buh-BYE!"

Friday, March 7, 2008

Rear Window.

I was driving in Phoenix rush-hour traffic yesterday. Being in bumper-to-bumper isn't something that's an everyday occurrence for me. Frankly, it gets me Rodney Dangerfield jumpy. I admit it: I've become a 'Country Mouse'. No doubt living in a metropolitan city has some advantages...driving in traffic sure ain't one of them.

It was while in the midst of all this traffic that I took notice of a growing and disturbing trend: rear window obituaries.

No doubt you've seen them, too. Little memorials of a loved one, a family member, a beloved pet, stuck on the back of a car window.

Am I the only one who thinks this is more than a little weird?

Please don't get me wrong. Bereaving your loss is an important part of the healing process. But when did it become acceptable to share that loss with fellow drivers - complete strangers - bestowing upon it the 'dignity' we would normally reserve for a bumper sticker? A bumper sticker like, "How's My Driving? Call 1-800-BITE-ME"?

Perhaps it's just another sign of American's love affair with their cars, or of our 'on-the-go' mentality? Clearly it's an attempt on the part of the driver at memorializing a loved one. For me? I see it as one more sign that far too many of my fellow Americans have really bad taste.
Logging on to is infinitely more rewarding than sitting in rush-hour traffic.

Thursday, March 6, 2008

Lucid? Eet Sertainely iz.

I've always had a soft spot for know, the anise-flavored apéritif from France? Call me a croissant-eater, but I love the stuff. Especially in the summertime. It's a civilized way to slide into an afternoon. Pastis had its beginnings in the criminalization of Absinthe, a similar-tasting, yet hallucinogenic beverage that was all the rage in late-1800/early-1900 Europe.

Some of the best painting and poetry of that age can be attributed to the fact that the responsible artist was under the influence of "The Green Fairy" much the same way LSD contributed to the rock music of the late 1960s. When he had accidentially 'invented' Champagne, French monk Dom Perignon is rumored to have shouted, "Come quick, my brothers...I am tasting stars!" I've no doubt that whatever monk invented Absinthe probably mumbled, "Come quick, my brothers...I can't find my legs." While Absinthe led to some amazing artistic advances*, it also destroyed a LOT of lives, and was outlawed in all but a handful of countries. Art has never been the same.

Being a big fan of Pastis, it was only natural that I had an interest in sampling this illicit beverage, Absinthe. Portugal - a country that never outlawed the drink - is also the world's leading producer of wine corks. In the wine business it is fairly well known that if you order your corks from a certain Portuguese company, they are only more than happy to smuggle a bottle or two of Absinthe in the corks they shipped to you. It was through this method that, 13 years ago, I finally was able to experience real Absinthe.

I was hosting a party at my house when a guest spotted the bottle. "Wow! Absinthe! Can I try some?" he asked. Ever the gracious host, I popped the cork. While I wasn't exactly in the mood to switch from wine to wormwood, I figured the bottle would soon be drained. It was now or never. I poured both myself and interested guests some Absinthe. Nope, I didn't burst out into a creative urge of impressionistic painting, nor did I pen some profound lines of verse. It just slowed me d-o-w-n. A lot. It was if my synapses were firing at glacial speed. The next day I received a call from a friend thanking me for a wonderful party. "It was great, but you seemed a little sad," she said. "Sad?" I replied, "No, I wasn't sad...I was on another planet."

It was an interesting feeling. Not something I'd want to do on a regular basis, but it was, shall I say, unique? But in this 'everything old is new again' world, Absinthe is back!

That's right. It appears as though 100 years is long enough to forget the past, and producers around the world - including the U.S. - are again distilling this mysterious green liquor (at least openly). And so it was that I was having lunch with Peter Kasperski (the restaurant übergod...see my last post) when he plied me with a post-repast shot of Lucid, a French-produced Absinthe.

Within a minute of imbibing, I began to feel as if a strong-handed Swede was giving me a deep-tissue shoulder massage. A general feeling of calm washed over me. By the time I had finished my beverage, I could feel my synapses shifting from high gear to low. "Oh no," I thought to myself, "this day is over." I could imagine visiting wine shops and restaurants with a catatonic blur on my face. Not a good look if you're trying to sell some wine.

Luckily, this feeling was short-lived. I was able to get up from the table, stand on my own two feet, and resume my workday.

Interesting stuff, that Lucid. Nice...but I'll stick with my Pastis, thank you very much. My favorites are Casanais and Pastis 51. Ricard will do in a pinch, too.

* "amazing artistic advances" Yes! my weekly alliterative quota has been met!

And while you're fulfilling your quota, go check out, won't you?

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Shameless Music Plug.

Hello from Arizona!
I arrived into the Sky Harbor Airport late Monday night, and have been running around like the proverbial rat out of an aqueduct*. Yesterday I met up with one of America's most erudite restaurateurs (and all-around great guy, raconteur, wordsmith and one of my favorite people on the planet), Peter Kasperski. Peter is THE man. His restaurants, Cowboy Ciao, Sea Saw and Kazimierz World Wine Bar are wonderful.

Over lunch at his latest creation, Digestif, I asked Peter, "So, what music are you listening these days?" Word to the wise: when Peter Kasperski tells you what he's listening best run out and get yourself a copy. That night in my hotel I logged on to iTunes and looked for one of Peter's stronger suggestions: James Hunter. I found one of his albums, "People Gonna Talk", and quickly downloaded it, and synced it on my iPhone. On my way to Tucson this morning, I finally listened to it.

Ohmygawd! Where in the hell have I been to have missed this guy?

Listening to James Hunter is eerie. On one level you listen to it and think, "Oh, yeah...I remember that song from the early sixties." But then it dawns on you, "Noooooo. It's familiar, but this is new."

To me, James Hunter is a soulful blend (channeling?) of Sam Cooke, Otis Redding and Jackie Wilson, with just the right touch of Johnny Rivers. Amazing, hip, cool sounds here, folks. This is a man who deserves a wider audience (and appreciation) than he currently has. Or maybe he has...but I just wasn't aware of it. Wouldn't be the first time.

So, do yourself a favor. Go out and buy (or download) a copy of James Hunter's "People Gonna Talk".

You'll be glad you did. Thank you, Peter Kasperski!

*I know. A Monty Python reference. Forgive me...I've been reading Michael Palin's Diaries: 1969-1979. A great read.

And ALL cool cats read while listening to James Hunter.

Sunday, March 2, 2008


Most Sunday Mornings find my wife and I enjoying a Garretson family tradition. We wake up, fix each other a cup of coffee, and watch CBS Sunday Morning. It's one of the rare times in the Garretson household when the boys are quiet, and the TV isn't tuned to a kid's show. And there are those Sundays when Jack and Thom decide to still in (or remain preoccupied with their toys) that we can top off our unfettered enjoyment of Sunday Morning by following it up with - dare I say? - Face the Nation!

I wife and I lead a wild life, huh?

This morning allowed us to enjoy the CBS double-header of both morning shows. It was while watching Face the Nation that I happened to take notice of what might be a newly-emerging trend. Host Bob Schieffer had as a guest New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson. What's old Bill been up to since he dropped out of the race on January 10th? Growing a beard, it would seem.

I'm happy that he's found such a worthwhile, time-consuming hobby...a hobby which seems to have become all the rage amongst Democratic has-been presidential contenders.

This recent Democratic trend began nearly seven years ago when former Senator/Vice President/presidential candidate and inconvenient truth-teller, Al Gore came out of hiding after the 2000 election.

I think Al carries the "Brawny Man" look off a helluva lot better than Richardson does. At the time he had adopted his facial hair, Gore was also a visiting professor at the Columbia Graduate School of Journalism...a role which literally begs for a beard. And a corduroy blazer with elbow patches. That and the fact that Gore hails from "Good 'Ol Rocky Top", a.k.a. the State of Tennessee. It's practically de rigeur to sport whiskers in those parts.

Perhaps the growing of a beard for these two are a means for them to express their laid back, devil-may-care attitude towards their very public defeats? Or is it that these ex-pres candidates are taking the figurative use of the word 'beard' to a literal conclusion? A beard can also mean "one who serves to divert suspicion or attention from another". Perhaps they're trying to divert attention from the ass-whoopin' they took at the polls?

This trend amongst Democratic also-rans could of course lead to a very disturbing development:

I dunno, though. On second thought, it looks pretty good on her.

And while you're waiting on your whiskers, check out