Category Archives: Culture

Vincent D’Onofrio is the Answer

Sometimes Vincent D’Onofrio is the answer.

Slim Bone Head Volt, feat. Vincent D'Onofrio and Dana Lyn
Slim Bone Head Volt, feat. Vincent D’Onofrio and Dana Lyn

I find that my mood darkens with the shorter days and often by December I’m rather unpleasant to be around. I’ve learned ways to fight it, which are usually only semi-successful. This year I had not only the lack of light to contend with, but also new triggers brought about by events that happened this time last year and a workload that has been more stressful than usual.

Then last week I saw that Vincent D’Onofrio will be releasing a spoken word punk album in the spring. I fell down one of those internet rabbit holes and learned that he would be performing in NYC in a few days and that tickets were just $20. I’ve had a long-standing fascination with Vincent D’Onofrio. I’m pretty sure I watched every episode of Law and Order: Criminal Intent when I was pregnant and, more recently, I was so disturbed after watching Chained that I couldn’t sleep. His monologues in The Pawn Shop Chronicles made the movie. He completely inhabits the characters he plays and exudes an intense undercurrent that is compelling to watch.

I mentioned the performance to my family who encouraged me to go. I hemmed and hawed because of the expense. I wondered about my sanity in wanting to go to NYC for a matter of hours to see Vincent D’Onofrio perform spoken-word punk. And then I remembered that my sanity was already questionable and said, fuck it, and ordered tickets and reserved two seats on Megabus.

View of the Susquehanna River from I-95, on the Megabus
View of the Susquehanna River from I-95, on the Megabus

So on Saturday morning WPT and I headed to White Marsh to catch the bus to NYC. We learned that if there is space you can switch buses for a nominal fee, so we boarded an earlier bus and were on our way north.

Peanut and Avocado sushi
Peanut and Avocado sushi

We were early and decided to walk from the bus stop (at 28th) up to Russian Samovar (52nd) where were we meeting a friend. Along the way we stopped at Sushi Osaka because they have one of my favorite rolls ever – avocado and peanut. This was wise, as the rest of the day would only offer vodka, olives, and fried potato products. I’ve written about the Russian Samovar previously and for many reasons it is my favorite bar. My friend arrived and we graduated from shots to carafes of horseradish vodka.

Russian Samovar
Russian Samovar

Somewhere around 6pm we stumbled into a cab. We assume this is where WPT lost his hat. I’ve learned that any trip to NYC takes a little something. At least this time it wasn’t a phone screen or wallet. We arrived at Joe’s Pub and found our seats. Yet more fried potato products were consumed.

Slim Bone Head Volt, feat. Vincent D'Onofrio and Dana Lyn
Slim Bone Head Volt, feat. Vincent D’Onofrio and Dana Lyn

Sitting in the dimly lit theater I realized how light my mood was. A spontaneous trip to NYC with WPT, getting to see a good friend, and now listening Vincent D’Onofrio talk about his imaginary friend and describe a hamster’s world view was exactly what I needed to get past the hump of the darkest days of the year. It wasn’t the answer I expected to find.

Slim Bone Head Volt, feat. Vincent D'Onofrio and Dana Lyn
Slim Bone Head Volt, feat. Vincent D’Onofrio and Dana Lyn
Slim Bone Head Volt, feat. Vincent D'Onofrio and Dana Lyn
Slim Bone Head Volt, feat. Vincent D’Onofrio and Dana Lyn

After the show was over we had a bit of time before we needed to head over to 34th and 11th to catch the bus back to Baltimore. Our first stop was the Little Lebowski Shop (I needed a new t-shirt; five isn’t enough apparently), then onto Generation Records. We boarded a little before 10:30pm and were soon fast asleep, lulled by the road noise and the fulfillment of a perfect, ridiculous quest.

The Little Lebowski Store, East Village
The Little Lebowski Store, East Village
Washington Square Park, East Village
Washington Square Park, East Village
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Los Straitjackets and Deke Dickerson at World Cafe Live, Philadelphia (11/2/14)

Los Straitjackets with Deke Dickerson
Los Straitjackets with Deke Dickerson

For a quarter-century, the masked men of Los Straitjackets have cemented their self-proclaimed title as the “world’s leading practitioners of the guitar instrumental” through frequent worldwide touring and more than a dozen albums.

Los Straitjackets with Deke Dickerson
Los Straitjackets with Deke Dickerson

While the band arguably led the surf instro-revival that followed director Quentin Tarantino’s PULP FICTION (1994), what has always set Los Straitjackets apart from the pack (beside many killer original tunes) is their eclectic taste and ingenuity. In short, Los Straitjackets are not merely a “surf” band, but rather guitar-driven curators of pop culture in the grand tradition of the Ventures. Indeed, Danny Amis, Eddie Angel, Pete Curry, Chris “Sugarballs” Sprague, and Greg Townson can turn Celine Dion’s “My Heart Will Go On” (the love theme from the 1997 movie TITANIC) into a sparkling, “Telstar”-inspired opus as adeptly as they hammer forth classic surf tunes such as “Squad Car”.

Los Straitjackets with Deke Dickerson
Los Straitjackets with Deke Dickerson

On occasion, the band has teamed up with various singers (including Exene Cervenka, Nick Lowe, and El Vez) on a track-by-track basis. However, their latest album, Los Straitjackets: Deke Dickerson Sings the Great Instrumental Hits, is the band’s most comprehensive vocal effort to date. Backing surf/garage/hotrod kingpin Dickerson (whose own efforts include the primal garage band Untamed Youth), Los Straitjackets summon hitherto wordless classics like “Walk, Don’t Run”, “Pipeline”, and “Apache”, superimposed by Dickerson’s own self-styled lyrics. The results are remarkably enjoyable for an effort that could have easily sunk to novelty status.

Los Straitjackets with Deke Dickerson
Los Straitjackets with Deke Dickerson

On November 2, 2014, both band and singer stopped by Philadelphia’s World Café Live as part of a tour in support of the new record. Neither disappointed. Moreover, Los Straitjackets and Deke Dickerson mined a few garage gems and one-hit wonders that I never thought I’d hear live – the Sonics’ “Have Love, Will Travel”, the Swingin’ Medallions “Double Shot”, and “Red River Rock” by Johnny and the Hurricanes, to name a few – their vitality reflecting the perennial quality of the best rock ‘n’ roll. Dickerson, in top form, delivered a bouncy, ska-lounge rendition of Phyllis Dillon’ cover of “Perfidia”, as well as an amazingly spot-on tribute to the late Steve Wahrer’s 50-grit vocals on the Trashmen’s landmark “Surfin’ Bird”.

Los Straitjackets with Deke Dickerson
Los Straitjackets with Deke Dickerson

Both Dickerson and Los Straitjackets also stuck around after the show, to sign autographs and mingle with concert-goers, suggesting a deeply-rooted appreciation of their fans only paralleled by that for the music.

Los Straitjackets with Deke Dickerson
Los Straitjackets with Deke Dickerson

More photos here:  https://www.flickr.com/photos/leekinginc/sets/72157649241257901/

Zines About Travel and Place

We here at Next Exit Travel have several other projects in addition to this blog. Among them is Xerography Debt, a zine review zine. (If you’re not sure what a zine is, go here). In the last two issues I’ve reviewed several zines that focuse on travel and/or place and thought perhaps readers of our blog might enjoy learning about these zines.

Watch the Closing Doors #64

Fred Argoff
Penthouse L, 1170 Ocean Pkwy., Brooklyn, NY 11230
Price: $10 for a 4 issue subscription
Size: 5.5” x 8.5”
Page count: 24

WtCD #64 primarily focuses on Chicago’s CTA system. I think we all know that people are more distracted than ever before and Fred shows how that plays out within NYC’s subway system with an increase in missed stops (although I once missed a school bus because I was too busy reading). Did you know that the city of Paris gifted an Art Nouveau style station to Chicago? I didn’t and now I want to see it! The final photo of Chicago’s Blue Line O’Hare station was especially timely given the recent accident and word that the station’s future is uncertain.

Quote: describing a photo “Above, take off your pants and head for the subway! The No Pants Subway Ride becomes a tradition in Chicago, too. Inaugurated a decade ago in New York by the comedy group Improv Everywhere, it seems that people in cities with subways the world over have embraced the idea – and participate enthusiastically.”

Brooklyn! #83

Fred Argoff
Penthouse L, 1170 Ocean Pkwy., Brooklyn, NY 11230
Price: $10 for a 4 issue subscription
Size: 5.5” x 8.5”
Page count: 24

As with all issues of BROOKLYN!, Fred shows the depth of his knowledge and love for the diverse borough. You want to know the difference between Ocean Parkway and Ocean Avenue? Ask Fred. This issue runs the gamut from urban wildlife to repurposed boardwalk planks to the finest tree-lines streets in Victorian Flatbush.

Quote:kapeesh? – You understand? Okay, so maybe you spell it ‘capisci’ in Italian. But we’re not in Italy here, and besides, you hardly ever see it in writing. It is usually only spoken, Kapeesh?

Chorrada and Chorrada #1

Kris Mininger
Calvo Sotelo 13b, 4b, Plasencia 10600, Cáceres, Spain
Email: kmininger@gmail.com
Price: trade, donation, mix tape, the usual
Size: 3.5” x 4.75”; 8.5” x 11”
Page count: 8

Kris returns with a mini zine, explaining the name Chorrada, and then a travelogue zine, also titled Chorrada#1. “Chorrada” translates to a little, insignificant thing. This mini rambles as much as an 8-page mini-zine can, and I mean that in a good way.

#1 is essentially a travel zine, instigated by Kris’s parents visit to Spain. The focus is their trip to Ciudad Rodrigo and discovery of a museum devoted to chamber pots. As a lover of off-the-beaten-path spots and museums, I was suddenly inspired to go to Spain. An enjoyable read.

Quote: “There were posters on the walls informing us of the various important moments in chamber pot history: ‘¡Agua va!’ used to be a common warning in Spanish streets when someone was getting ready to empty the contents of a chamber pot out a window.”

Bookstores and Baseball, 6th Inning

David LaBounty
P.O. Box 250382, Plano, TX 75025-0382
david@thefirstline.com
http://www.davidlabounty.com/bookstores_and_baseball.htm
$4-5? US
trades: unknown
size: 8” x 8”
page count: 52

Initially I questioned if I should be the person to review this zine. I have never actually seen a sporting event. The closest I’ve come was half-watching a basketball game at a bar in San Antonio with my boss. That said, I was charmed by this zine and David and his son Gabe explained their devotion to baseball in a way that gave me more insight into why people love the game. David is a publisher of both books and zines and this series of zines highlights his family’s travels around the US as they visit, well, bookstores and baseball. Gabe, his son, is on a quest to visit all the state capitols and he also contributes to the zine. In this issue they visit Kaboom Books, Domy, Houston Indie Book Festival, Steve’s Books and Magazines, Left Bank Books, Boxcar Books, The Book Loft, Amazing Books, Atomic Books, Kramerbooks, One Stop News, and Burke’s Books. He remarks on the health (or unhealth) of the stores and in that the state of bookselling these days. He also takes in games with The Frisco Roughriders (AA), The Houston Astros, The Springfield Cardinals (AA), The Pittsburgh Pirates, The Baltimore Orioles, The Memphis Redbirds (AAA), and The Texas Rangers. If it charmed someone who basically hates sports, imagine how much someone who likes baseball will enjoy this!

Chorrada, #2, #3

Kris & Lola
Calvo Sotelo 13B, 4B, Plasencia, 10600 Caceres Spain
$ Donation, letter, mix tape
trades: yes
size: 8.25” × 11.75”
page count: 8

I’ve always been partial to per-zines that offer a glimpse into lives outside of my experience. Kris is an ex-pat living in Spain with his wife Lola. In #2, Kris writes an essay about shoes that is really about his various jobs, life in Spain, and his very large feet. This was a great article. In #3, Kris meets an eccentric ex-pat who lives in a cave. He also has a weekend away in a terrible hotel. As an avid traveler, I loved the descriptions.

Piltdownlad: Behind the Wheel, #10

Kelly Dessaint
PO BOX 22974, Oakland, California 94609
piltdownlad@gmail.com
http://www.kellydessaint.com/piltdownlad
$3 US
trades: maybe
size: 8.5 “ x 11”
page count: 60

Behind the Wheel is very different from Kelly’s other zines, this one taking place present-day, in a time and place that is undergoing economic and technological changes. In most of Kelly’s other zines he is what is changing; in Behind the Wheel, San Francisco is what is changing. Kelly moves from LA to the Bay area and quickly finds that the SF he knew has disappeared. He begins working for Lyft, a social media ride sharing business. He documents his life as a modern day cab driver and those he shuttles around the city he can’t afford to live in. Tech companies are one of the reasons SF has changed and yet Lyft is one of those companies. Kelly recognizes the inherent conflict and the potential for being part of the problem. I noticed similar issues when I went to Seattle this summer. This zine very much captures a time and place and shows changes technology and social media have created.

 

Fleshtones at World Cafe Live, Philadelphia (11/2/14)

The Fleshtones at World Cafe Live (11/2/14)
The Fleshtones at World Cafe Live (11/2/14)

You won’t find the Fleshtones working the oldies circuit for Bic-toting Boomers looking to rekindle, if just for that moment, the fire of their youth. That’s because “America’s garage band”, contemporaries of the likes of the Cramps and the Ramones, have never stopped going since guitarist Keith Streng struck the band’s first power chord in 1976 New York. Indeed, amidst their endless touring around the world, the Fleshtones – comprised of Streng, drummer Bill Milhizer, bassist Ken Fox, and frontman Peter Zaremba – released their 22nd album, WHEEL OF TALENT, in early 2014.

The Fleshtones at World Cafe Live (11/2/14)
The Fleshtones at World Cafe Live (11/2/14)

The band still fires on all cylinders, as demonstrated during a November 2, 2014, performance at World Café Live in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. The Fleshtones mined their nearly four-decade-old catalog, turning out crowd-riling gems like “Pretty Pretty Pretty” and “Girl from Baltimore,” but they also played recent songs, such as last year’s “Haunted Hipster” from the Halloween compilation MONDO ZOMBIE BOOGALOO. Fox and Streng, their lean frames poured into impossibly fitted jeans, are as restless onstage as ever, while Milhizer’s ace beats and Zaremba’s signature Farfisa organ and enthusiastic vocals pry loose even the most inert audience member. But perhaps as satisfying as the band’s seemingly boundless energy is their resilient and evident enthusiasm for their craft.

The Fleshtones at World Cafe Live (11/2/14)
The Fleshtones at World Cafe Live (11/2/14)

Prior to the show, my 8-year-old son and I spied Zaremba lingering about the bar at the back of the venue. We promptly picked up a copy of the band’s 2003 disc, DO YOU SWING?, at their merch table. I handed it to my son.

“Go for it, kiddo,” I said.

We headed back toward the bar, where my son waited for a break in conversation to approach Zaremba, who graciously signed the disc for the boy.

“I’m happy to sign any one of our albums,” Zaremba announced, “and do you know why? Because I’m proud of every one of them.” He then turned and handed the disc to a man at the bar. It was Milhizer, who also signed the CD.

My son, elated, thanked them both. Milhizer smiled.

“Thank you for having us here,” he said.

 

The Fleshtones at World Cafe Live (11/2/14)
The Fleshtones at World Cafe Live (11/2/14)
The Fleshtones at World Cafe Live (11/2/14)
The Fleshtones at World Cafe Live (11/2/14)
The Fleshtones at World Cafe Live (11/2/14)
The Fleshtones at World Cafe Live (11/2/14)

More photos at: https://www.flickr.com/photos/leekinginc/sets/72157649241257901/

Bookish History in Baltimore

Geo-Poe
Geo-Poe

Geo-Poe

Tomorrow night, Next Edit Travel’s editors will be reading their Edgar Allan Poe-inspired stories as part of Geo-Poe, a “literary geo-caching adventure.” Fourteen well-known local authors will read at Westminster Hall, a spot that has been called the spookiest place in Baltimore, and the site of Poe’s grave.

It is a free event as part of Free Fall Baltimore and in partnership with Poe Baltimore, you just need to register.

Where: Westminster Hall, 519 W. Fayette Street, Baltimore, MD 21201
When: Wednesday, October 29, 7:00 p.m.
Website: http://citylitproject.org/index.cfm?page=news&newsid=150

If you are in the city to visit Poe’s grave and other literary landmarks, there are many additional bookish spots worthy of your attention. Here are a few:

Kelmscott Books

Baltimore’s largest antiquarian bookseller is located at 34 W. 25th Street (near Charles and 25th Streets) on what was once “Bookstore Row.” The name of the store is a nod to William Morris and it specializes in Arts and Crafts-related books, including books about books. With 30,000 books in inventory – from the 1600s to present – the shop offers many temptations for the bibliophile. I found an affordable signed mystery just last week. The store also has genuine bookstore cats who provide security and greet customers.

Kelmscott Bookstore Cat of Awesomeness
Kelmscott Bookstore Cat of Awesomeness

Hours: Monday-Friday, 10:00 a.m.-6:00 p.m., Saturday by appointment only.
Website: http://www.kelmscottbookshop.com/

The Enoch Pratt Free Library

The Enoch Pratt Free Library began serving the citizens of Baltimore in 1886, making it one of the oldest free public library systems in the U.S. The Central Library, located at 400 Cathedral Street (near Cathedral and Mulberry Streets), is also Maryland’s State Library Resource Center. It is a beautiful building with an open floor plan in the entryway that extends to galleries on the second floor. They offer patrons a children’s room, exhibits (Maurice Sendak is up now), classes for kids and adults, author events, and special collections. The library also hosts the annual City Lit Festival in April. Next time you are in there, explore the building.

Hours: Monday-Friday 10:00 a.m.-7:00 p.m., Saturday 10:00 a.m.-5:00 p.m., Sun. 10:00 a.m.-5:00 p.m. (October-May)
Website: http://www.prattlibrary.org/

 The Peabody Library

The Peabody Library is near the Washington Monument in Mount Vernon (17 East Mount Vernon Place). Started in 1860, a few decades before the Enoch Pratt Library, the Peabody’s collection of more than 300,000 books is mostly from the 18th and 19th century with a focus on the humanities, as well as maps. Much of their collection is online, including the library’s printed catalog, Catalog of the Library of the Peabody Institute, from 1883 and 1896. If you like books, this is an incredibly beautiful space.

Hours: Tuesday -Thursday: 9 a.m.-5 p.m., Friday: 9 a.m.-3 p.m. 
Website: http://guides.library.jhu.edu/content.php?pid=205178&sid=1712833

Bomba Estereo

War, some say, is God’s way of teaching Americans geography. And while for many, sadly, that may still hold true, today’s digital technology readily issues passports to foreign landscapes for anyone with a Galilean sense of curiosity and a good wifi connection – particularly in the musical sphere. Indeed, fusions of Western sound as filtered through the experience of foreign cultures – and vice versa – make for some of today’s freshest, most exciting music, and the Internet offers an improbably diverse world of rhythms and melodies for those willing to listen.

Bomba Estereo, World Cafe Live, Sept. 15, 2014
Bomba Estereo, World Cafe Live, Sept. 15, 2014

Among my favorite acts of recent years is Bomba Estereo, a Colombian band at the forefront of a style some have dubbed “electrocumbia”, a seamless blend of indigenous rhythms, Latin, reggae, rock, and electronic music. I had longed to experience this monstrously heady fusion in person for the last several years, but the space/time continuum remained steadfastly averse to it; Bomba Estereo never played Baltimore, and driving 45 minutes to Washington, D.C., on a Monday night usually proved problematic.

Bomba Estereo, World Cafe Live, Sept. 15, 2014
Bomba Estereo, World Cafe Live, Sept. 15, 2014

That Davida and I finally leapt at the opportunity to instead drive twice as far on a Monday night, to World Café Live in Philadelphia, probably reflects our feelings for D.C. as much as any affinity for Philly. Leaving work an hour early meant our only significant challenge would be the Rush Hour of Brotherly Love.

Bomba Estereo, World Cafe Live, Sept. 15, 2014
Bomba Estereo, World Cafe Live, Sept. 15, 2014

Having arrived at our destination about an hour before the doors opened, we enjoyed a delicious Indian buffet dinner at the nearby Sitar India. (Being a buffet, it allowed us to not only eat our fill, but also be as fast or slow in the process as we wished.) Afterward, we enjoyed the mild evening air of mid-September as we wandered back to the venue.

Bomba Estereo, World Cafe Live, Sept. 15, 2014
Bomba Estereo, World Cafe Live, Sept. 15, 2014

It was our second trip to World Café Live, the first having taken place a year earlier, when we took our 7-year-old son to his first concert, a Halloween-themed triple bill of the Fleshtones, Southern Culture on the Skids, and Los Straitjackets called “Mondo Zombie Boogaloo” (after a collaborative album of the same name). We’d found both sound and stage favorable, the staff to be most accommodating, and the restrooms quite clean. We bought drinks at the bar, then wandered out to the still-empty floor.

Bomba Estereo, World Cafe Live, Sept. 15, 2014
Bomba Estereo, World Cafe Live, Sept. 15, 2014

With their own blend of Latin, jazz, funk, and psychedelia, opening act Los Crema Paraiso proved well-suited to the task. I particularly dug the Venezuelan band’s seven-minute trance-epic called “Shine On You (Crazy Diablo)”, as well as the bouncy jangle of “Petrocumbia”. The next day, in fact, we bought their album, El Debut, online. (Curiously, neither band had a merch table that night.). When their set concluded, Davida and I staked out our places at the foot of the stage.

Bomba Estereo, World Cafe Live, Sept. 15, 2014
Bomba Estereo, World Cafe Live, Sept. 15, 2014

Upon taking the stage, Bomba Estereo unleashed a sonic juggernaut, an irresistible melting pot of jungle noise and urban nightlife. I found the lighting – which more often than not cast the band in silhouette (and sometimes total darkness) while at times, in fact, spotlighting the audience instead – to be especially interesting.

Bomba Estereo, World Cafe Live, Sept. 15, 2014
Bomba Estereo, World Cafe Live, Sept. 15, 2014

Though diminutive in stature (despite her platform sneakers), vocalist/MC Liliana Saumet commanded the audience with a powerful feminine presence that, amazingly, never detours into either pixie-princess or androgyny. Backed by band-founder Simon Mejia (bass), Julian Salazar (guitar/synthesizer), and Kike Eggurola (drums), Saumet – with her impeccable ability to rile the audience at just the right moments – led the band through dance-inducing numbers like “Fuego” as deftly as more atmospheric tunes, such as “Lo Que Tengo Que Decir”.

Bomba Estereo, World Cafe Live, Sept. 15, 2014
Bomba Estereo, World Cafe Live, Sept. 15, 2014

For 90-odd minutes, Bomba Estereo awed concertgoers not with blood and fire, but rather a distinctively reshuffled deck of human experience, demonstrating the notion that, often, travel is in the eye (or ear) of the beholder…

Bomba Estereo, World Cafe Live, Sept. 15, 2014
Bomba Estereo, World Cafe Live, Sept. 15, 2014

And you could dance to it.

BOMBA ESTEREO
Website: http://bombaestereo.com/
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/BombaEstereo

LOS CREMA PARAISO
Website
http://loscremaparaiso.bandcamp.com/
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/loscremaparaiso

WORLD CAFÉ LIVE
3025 Walnut Street, Philadelphia, PA 19104
Phone: (215) 222-1400
Website: http://philly.worldcafelive.com/
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/wclive

SITAR INDIA
60 South 38th Street, Philadelphia, PA 19104
Phone: (215) 662-0818
Email: sitarindiapa@yahoo.com
Website: http://www.sitarindiacuisine.net/
(DGB comment: they note on the buffet which items are vegan and gluten-free.)

 

Bomba Estereo, World Cafe Live, Sept. 15, 2014
Bomba Estereo, World Cafe Live, Sept. 15, 2014
Bomba Estereo, World Cafe Live, Sept. 15, 2014
Bomba Estereo, World Cafe Live, Sept. 15, 2014
Bomba Estereo, World Cafe Live, Sept. 15, 2014
Bomba Estereo, World Cafe Live, Sept. 15, 2014

Russian Samovar

Russian Samovar
Russian Samovar

Each May, I pilgrimage to NYC for BEA (along with the rest of the book industry). Last year a friend introduced me to Russian Samovar. I made a newbie mistake that first year – I dove headfirst into the delicious savory vodkas (and on an empty stomach no less). Worst hangover of my life. And I had to work the next day.

Russian Samovar, savory vodka
Russian Samovar, savory vodka
Russian Samovar, vodka menu
Russian Samovar, vodka menu

This past BEA, my friend and I arrived at Russian Samovar about 7-8pm on a Friday night and stayed until after midnight. We left a party with free top-shelf drinks to pay for our own. The place is that good. The vodkas were just as delicious as I remembered, but the ambiance was even better. There was dramatic live music and by midnight there were also a few vodka-fueled personal micro-dramas and the music provided a perfect soundtrack to imagined conversations. Also, you haven’t really lived until you’ve heard Russian-accented Kenny Rogers.

Russian Samovar, live music
Russian Samovar, live music
Russian Samovar, live music
Russian Samovar, live music
Russian Samovar, live music
Russian Samovar, live music

I introduced WPT to the place when we traveled to NYC in August and despite it being a bit early in the evening, he suddenly understood what I had been raving about.

Russian Samovar, potatoes in all forms
Russian Samovar, I love potatoes in all forms

My recommendations: try the horseradish and garlic vodkas. When they start getting on top of you, order the dill french fries. Try a few more flavors – coriander, basil, and ginger are all good. Then repeat the fry trick. About 4-5 shots in, they transcend their mere potatohood and become something akin to perfection. When you’ve decided you’ve had just about enough, order the cherry vodka as a nightcap. Then stumble outside, stare up at the sky, and think for a moment just how fantastic NYC can be.

Russian Samovar
Russian Samovar
Russian Samovar, greatest bartender ever
Russian Samovar, greatest bartender ever (seriously)

There is something almost addictive about the horseradish and garlic flavors, so a week or so after we returned from NYC, WPT decided to try and infuse some at home. We don’t have any live music at home and we attempt to keep the personal micro-dramas to a minimum, but we have discovered the next best thing to Russian Samovar. We are experimenting with a few different vodkas, but Sloop Betty, featured in our last post, is by far the best. Recipes below…

Little Water (vodka)
Little Water (vodka)

INFUSED VODKAS (INSPIRED BY RUSSIAN SAMOVAR)

HORSERADISH VODKA
1 bottle (750 ml) Sloop Betty or other good-quality vodka
6 half-inch slices of horseradish root
1 clean quart-size Mason jar w/lid

Place horseradish root in Mason jar and fill with vodka (saving the original bottle). Tightly screw lid on jar and give vodka a few good shakes. Store in a cool, dry place for at least four days, thereafter testing vodka until desired level of flavor is reached (I prefer a minimum of one week). Can be shaken and smelled during the infusing process. Using funnel, strain vodka back into original bottle for ease of serving. Enjoy cold or at room temperature.

GARLIC VODKA
1 bottle (750 ml) Sloop Betty or other good-quality vodka
1 medium-large bulb of garlic
1 clean quart-size Mason jar w/lid

Peel garlic and place individual cloves in Mason jar and fill with vodka (saving the original bottle). Tightly screw lid on jar and give vodka a few good shakes. Store in a cool, dry place for at least four days, thereafter testing vodka until desired level of flavor is reached (I prefer a minimum of one week). Can be shaken and smelled during the infusing process. Using funnel, strain vodka back into original bottle for ease of serving. Enjoy cold or at room temperature.

Russian Samovar
Russian Samovar

Russian Samovar
256 W.52nd Street, New York, NY 10019
Phone: 212-757-0168
Website: http://www.russiansamovar.com/
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Russian-Samovar/106942739345111?fref=ts

Carlton Arms Hotel

Carlton Arms Hotel, lobby
Carlton Arms Hotel, lobby

There is a wonderful, dare I say, magical hotel in NYC. It is an artist’s dream, a child’s fantasy, and a budget traveler’s deepest desire. I speak of the Carlton Arms Hotel.

Carlton Arms Hotel, The Heart Chamber, Room B9
Carlton Arms Hotel, The Heart Chamber, Room B9

The hotel is eccentric and has quite a history, but as a traveler I love that about it. Every room is painted (or sculpted) differently and nothing is plumb (it is a 100+ year-old building). Located at 25th and 3rd, there is a pedestrian area right outside the hotel with tables. It is within walking distance to a ton of stuff, including a fantastic all-veg Indian restaurant a few blocks away. There are also at least two hotel cats, which is always a plus in my book. Based on personal observation it seems to be popular with international travelers.

Carlton Arms Hotel
Carlton Arms Hotel

When I made the reservations, I didn’t specify which room I wanted (you can see them online), I just let them know we had two adults and a child and wanted a room with a private bath. For $150, we got just that AND we got the best room ever. As with all of their rooms, the art is amazing, but this room offers a scavenger hunt. It starts on the wall and leads you to the dresser drawer with another clue, a hidden drawers and notes, and eventually a hidden compartment in the floor with a box. Inside the box are notes and mementos from previous guests. As an adult I thought this was cool; for a child, the scavenger hunt made the Carlton Arms Hotel (and his first real trip to NYC) nothing short of magical.

Carlton Arms Hotel, The Heart Chamber, Room B9
Carlton Arms Hotel, The Heart Chamber, Room B9
Carlton Arms Hotel, The Heart Chamber, Scavenger Hunt
Carlton Arms Hotel, The Heart Chamber, Scavenger Hunt
Carlton Arms Hotel, The Heart Chamber, Scavenger Hunt
Carlton Arms Hotel, The Heart Chamber, Scavenger Hunt
Carlton Arms Hotel, The Heart Chamber, Scavenger Hunt
Carlton Arms Hotel, The Heart Chamber, Scavenger Hunt
Carlton Arms Hotel, The Heart Chamber, Scavenger Hunt
Carlton Arms Hotel, The Heart Chamber, Scavenger Hunt
Carlton Arms Hotel, The Heart Chamber, Scavenger Hunt
Carlton Arms Hotel, The Heart Chamber, Scavenger Hunt

 

Carlton Arms Hotel
160 East 25th Street, New York, N Y, 10010
Phone:  212-679-0680; 212-684-8337
Website: http://www.carltonarms.com/
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Carlton-Arms-Hotel/180074818707159
Email: artbreakhotel@aol.com

WPT, at Carlton Arms Hotel
WPT, at Carlton Arms Hotel
Carlton Arms Hotel, The Heart Chamber, Room B9
Carlton Arms Hotel, The Heart Chamber, Room B9
Carlton Arms Hotel, The Heart Chamber, Room B9
Carlton Arms Hotel, The Heart Chamber, Room B9
Carlton Arms Hotel, The Heart Chamber, Room B9
Carlton Arms Hotel, The Heart Chamber, Room B9

Dick Dale

Fifty reverb-drenched years following the release of his signature hit, “Misirlou”, Dick Dale never comes off as an “oldies” act, a feat the 77-year-old “King of the Surf Guitar” reaffirmed with a recent Boston-area performance that for me happily coincided with a work conference in that city.

Middle East, Dick Dale
Dick Dale, August 6, 2014, The Middle East, Cambridge, MA

Having closed down a rooftop cocktail reception our second night in town, three friends and I hailed a cab from the convention hotel in the city’s Back Bay section to Cambridge, just across the Charles River. In less than 10 minutes, the four of us stood outside the Middle East nightclub, located at 472-480 Massachusetts Avenue.

Middle East, Dick Dale
Dick Dale, August 6, 2014, The Middle East, Cambridge, MA

The $30 cover ($25 in advance) was substantially more than the $11 or $12 I used to pay to see Dale back in the mid-’90s, when he rode a wave of resurgent popularity following director Quentin Tarantino’s prominent use of “Misirlou” in his film Pulp Fiction. Still, I was pleased to find the Middle East a throwback to the smaller, darker, more intimate venues frequented in my youth, like Philadelphia’s Trocadero Theatre.

Dick Dale
Dick Dale, August 6, 2014, The Middle East, Cambridge, MA

Downstairs, people packed the floor while the opening act, Three Day Threshold, delivered a decent brand of cow-punk somewhat reminiscent of the Supersuckers. I spied an opening at the bar, and we promptly ordered a round. The right moment arrived a few minutes later, when the band went off stage and the crowd briefly broke for the bathrooms and bar. It was then, drinks in hand, that we deftly made our way to the foot of the stage.

Dale is, in a sense, multiculturalism incarnate. Born in Boston to a Polish mother and Lebanese father, he grew up in nearby Quincy before moving with his family to El Segundo, California, where the teenage Dale took up surfing. The traditional Middle Eastern music he had known all his life came to heavily influence a style of music now commonly associated with Southern California. Indeed, his best-known tune, “Misirlou”, is based on a folk song that dates back to the 1920s. With his ferocious speed and amp-blowing volume, many today consider Dick Dale a progenitor of everything from punk to heavy metal.

Dick Dale
Dick Dale, August 6, 2014, The Middle East, Cambridge, MA

Despite his advanced years and a recent bout with cancer, Dale, backed by a top-notch bass guitarist and drummer, tore through his 50-year repertoire with hurricane fury that night in Cambridge: “Let’s Go Trippin”, “Fish Taco”, “Ghost Riders in the Sky”, “House of the Rising Sun”, “Louie Louie”, “Summertime Blues”, and a blistering rendition of the late Link Wray’s “Rumble”. He also remains the only man alive who can make both “Hava Nagila” and “Amazing Grace” sound completely bad-ass. No matter the tune, Dale, like the Ramones, has a sound so distinctive that whatever he plays instantly becomes his own.

At one point during the show I turned around to face the crowd. The whole place was packed.

Dick Dale
Dick Dale, August 6, 2014, The Middle East, Cambridge, MA

While Dale has to pay the bills just like the rest of us, one aspect that has always stuck with me since his earlier shows is his manifest enthusiasm for his fans. At no time was this ever more evident than the end of the show, when Dale would sit at the edge of the stage and talk with everyone, autograph anything, until the very last person had left, no matter how long that took.

Dick Dale
Dick Dale, August 6, 2014, The Middle East, Cambridge, MA

But perhaps the most impressive thing about Dick Dale is that he is nothing if not a survivor, defying a half-century of passing trends, health troubles, and an industry chronically obsessed with youth. As a fellow cancer survivor, I greatly respect that.

If Dale displayed any symptom of age it was sitting in a chair behind the merch table after the show. But there he sat, once again, chatting with fans and signing autographs, until the last folks in line (us) had their turn at the table. I bought a black-and-white photo of the King of the Surf Guitar, circa 1963, which he graciously signed to the attention of my 8-year-old son, also a fan.

Dick Dale
Dick Dale, August 6, 2014, The Middle East, Cambridge, MA

“Fantastic as ever, Mr. Dale,” I said as he signed the picture. “I’ve been coming to see you for 20 years now.” He grew momentarily frustrated upon realizing he’d misspelled the word “special”.

“Heh,” he chuckled, handing me the photo. “You don’t look that old.”

“Neither do you, sir,” I laughed. “Neither do you.”

THE MIDDLE EAST
472-480 Massachusetts Avenue, Cambridge, MA  02139
Phone: (617) 864-3278
Websitehttp://mideastoffers.com

DICK DALE
Websitehttp://www.dickdale.com/

 

Kermit’s Treme Mother-in-Law Lounge

In 1994, New Orleans R&B legend Ernie K-Doe and his wife, Antoinette, opened the Mother-in-Law Lounge (named after the singer’s 1961 hit single). Located at 1500 N. Claiborne Avenue, in the city’s Treme neighborhood, they hoped the lounge would infuse new life into the singer’s career. It did just that, and the bar and music spot soon became a cultural hub of the community.

Kermit's Treme Mother-in-Law Lounge
Kermit’s Treme Mother-in-Law Lounge

Following her husband’s death in 2001, Antoinette K-Doe continued to own and operate the Mother-in-Law Lounge (which was badly damaged by Hurricane Katrina in 2005) until her own death in 2009. The club closed the following year.

But in January 2014, the Mother-in-Law found new life when it reopened on Martin Luther King Day under the stewardship of New Orleans jazzman and native son Kermit Ruffins. Today, with its vibrant exterior murals and predominantly local clientele (as well as a smattering of tourists), the Mother-in-Law is reaffirming its place in Treme, providing a venue and gathering point for a variety of area musicians.

Kermit's Treme Mother-in-Law Lounge
Kermit’s Treme Mother-in-Law Lounge

The renowned Treme Brass Band’s weekly Sunday gig happily coincided with my first night in town. So at the encouragement of Andy Rubin, a Baltimore-based friend and the Treme Brass Band’s General Manager, I set out on the mile-and-a-half walk from our digs at the French Market Inn on Decatur Street.

Kermit's Treme Mother-in-Law Lounge
Kermit’s Treme Mother-in-Law Lounge

The residential streets surrounding Esplanade Avenue, in Faubourg Marigny, are quieter, more empty, and within a few blocks of the Mother-in-Law it becomes evident that you’re no longer in the tourist-driven combine of the Quarter. The words “I told u who hold the fuckin power!” are hand-scrawled in black Sharpie across the warped clapboards of a nearby house. And then, farther up the street, the visages of Ernie and Antoinette manifest in the form of a colorfully loud mural. A bronze plaque beside the door commemorates the previous owners.

Kermit's Treme Mother-in-Law Lounge
Kermit’s Treme Mother-in-Law Lounge

Inside, the Lounge is comparatively nondescript (save for a flamboyant life-size statue of Ernie K-Doe), comprised mainly of two utilitarian rooms – the bar side and the stage side – separated by a cinderblock wall, patrons in the former dancing to the brassy strains emanating from the latter. Benny Jones, Sr., the Treme Brass Band’s leader since the 2012 passing of Uncle Lionel Batiste, and five or six other band members generate their signature sound with little, if any, amplification from the tiny stage, which is little more than a raised platform. Five or six patrons stand watching the band, their backs to the dividing wall; unlike the bar side, no one facing the music is dancing. Not in the corporeal sense, anyway.

For once, I don’t feel badly for sweating through my pressed, button-down shirt; in this climate, everyone does, especially in late June. I found the staff to be very friendly, and I downed a couple of reasonably priced beers during the roughly 45 minutes of the Treme Brass Band’s set that I caught. Despite its simplicity, the place exudes an identity, a sense of history and atmosphere, much more on par with the classic juke joints and gin mills of old than their more modern, sanitized corporate counterparts.

Kermit's Treme Mother-in-Law Lounge
Kermit’s Treme Mother-in-Law Lounge

The band wrapped up their set, and I dropped a few bills in the metal urn in front of the stage that serves as a tip jar. I bought a copy of their 2008 album, New Orleans Music, which the band members graciously signed to the attention of my 8-year-old son. From hard rock to hip-hop to traditional folk, he loves live music – the enthusiasm and energy – in all its forms. And the CD, by proxy, will hopefully tide him over until the day I can bring him with me back to see and hear and appreciate for himself the singular city of New Orleans, and the resilient, unvarnished character that appears nightly in places like Kermit’s Treme Mother-in-Law Lounge.

Kermit’s Treme Mother-in-Law Lounge
1500 North Claiborne Avenue, New Orleans, LA 70116
P: (504) 975-3955

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Kermits-Treme-Motherinlaw-Lounge/674959599217170