Dill lemon rice

A small get-together for a friend prompted this — I planned on either bringing bread or rice, and decided I would go for the latter, aiming for a dish with flavor but not necessarily spice-heavy. This excellent recipe, a Middle Eastern one by background (you can find variants of it everywhere), allowed me not only to use some dill (dried rather than fresh, alas, but one can’t have everything) but some fresh lemon from the last basket. Cooks up quickly and tastes excellent.

Thai rice noodles with tatsoi

Another dish suggested by the latest basket, thanks to a provided recipe from the newsletter reproduced below. Said recipe called for chicken but I substituted sliced baked tofu without a worry — that said, this is not a vegetarian dish due to the use of oyster and fish sauce. Variants can be suggested I’m sure!

1 pound noodles rice noodles
2 tablespoons oyster sauce
1 1/2 tablespoons fish sauce
1 teaspoon arrowroot
1 cup stock
3 tablespoons vegetable oil
3 cloves garlic finely minced
1 block baked tofu, thinly sliced
1 small bunch of tatsoi, chopped
1 tablespoon tamari soy sauce

Soak the rice noodles, or prepare according to package directions.

In a small bowl, mix together the oyster sauce, fish sauce, arrowroot
& chicken stock.

In a wok or large skillet, heat the oil over high heat. When the oil
begins to smoke, add the garlic & tofu. Stir-fry until the tofu
is just cooked through, about 3-5 minutes.

Add the noodles & the tamari. Toss to mix. The noodles should become a little golden & crisp on the edges.

Add the tatsoi. Stir fry rapidly for a few minutes, then add the sauce; cover & cook for a few minutes to allow the greens to cook down.

Toss to mix. Cook, stirring frequently, until the sauce thickens or another 1-2 minutes.

Not Just the Ticket — #15, Kitchens of Distinction, May 22, 1991

KoD, Whiskey

Then-current album: Strange Free World

Opening act: Hypnolovewheel

Back of ticket ad: Oh boy, Pirate Radio once more. The likelihood of the Kitchens ever being played on that station was less than nil, and yet.

And back to the browning etc. style of these tickets. The blue color scheme is all starting to blur out in my head but there’s yet more to go.

Meantime, while it’s not funny ha-ha or anything, it’s still a touch amusing in retrospect to realize that this show soundtracked a date between a straight couple, if only because of the identity of the band. But just a touch.

I could — but won’t — go into everything regarding questions of sexual identity as I grew up and socialization for gender norms and much more besides. I won’t go into it because some of it’s totally private and some of it is just kinda boring, but by the time this show came around I was still working out shyness on some fronts but pretty clear on others, one of which was clear since puberty hit, namely that I was straight. Oddly enough — to me at least, but maybe not to others — I kept running into random situations where it was assumed I wasn’t. Sometimes it was just somebody being randomly insulting at a San Diego mall (really happened! I just smiled and thought “Uh, okay.”), sometimes it was the fact that one of the last purchases I made before going to college for the first time was Richard Ellman’s biography of Oscar Wilde, sometimes it took stranger forms.

During the academic quarter this show took place at, one of the key classes was an excellent one on post WWII American gay lit, where I encountered the work of Gore Vidal, John Rechy, James Baldwin, Michael Nava, Edmund White and numerous others for the first time. (Christopher Isherwood too now that I think of it — A Single Man was the book read, recently adapted for a movie.) This class is actually a pretty crucial one in terms of the course of my future life, as it was a revised version of the paper I wrote for it, comparing Baldwin’s Another Country with Samuel Delany’s Dhalgren, which resulted in my being accepted for grad school at UC Irvine. I enjoyed the whole experience but there was one bizarre, jarring note — one night at the apartment I answered the phone and it proved to be some guy making what I seem to remember were these weird slurs about how I was gay for taking the class. I don’t remember the details but I remember crossly telling him “I’m not gay!” — obviously in a bit of unneeded defensiveness, and yet I remember that I wasn’t insulted by the claim but simply irritated that this guy had made an incorrect assumption — and his response being a confused “Oh…you’re not?” I have no idea who it was or who did the calling but it was just one of those very strange moments.

Talking about music and sexual identity and identification and packaging, well, you don’t need a blog entry for that, you need several conferences, a lot of books and constant study and engagement to the present day. So the simple and stripped down version in my case is to say that by 1991 I knew that a lot of favorites of mine were either openly gay or hiding in plain sight (sometimes to the point that I needed someone else to point it out to me — I think that was the year that I first encountered the idea that the Pet Shop Boys were gay courtesy of my roommate Steve’s boyfriend, having written about it in a paper for a class). And by the time I heard about the Kitchens of Distinction and got interested in their music, I knew that Patrick Fitzgerald was both open about his own sexuality and weaving it into the themes of many of his songs, and that had to have been at least part of the reason the band caught my attention somewhere along the way.

Why does a band capture the interest, in the end, and what sustains it? I’ve been fairly open over the years about the fact that for me it’s always been primarily about the music and much less so with the lyrics, but I always hold to the idea that a really good lyricist and/or singer will make the lyrics stick, make them truly stand out as opposed to making them simply be useful timekillers or signifiers of feelings or situations. So the Kitchens arguably had that going for them, in that Fitzgerald’s big-themed yet conversational, moments-in-time portraits — about how, to use the cliche, the personal really can be political — were near unique in the context in which they appeared, UK indie rock of the time and place and following on years of alternative/indie culture in general. I say near unique because who knows the reality, but from my terribly distanced perspective they seemed unique, but also clearly were talented, that Fitzgerald’s voice, a little dry but with its own gentle power, was as strong as his words.

And then of course the rest of the band, drummer Dan Goodwin and especially Julian Swales. That huge, huge guitar sound he came up with, its richness! The cover of Strange Free World, the band’s second album and the one they were touring behind here, was a deep blue depiction of the classic Hokusai wave with Mt. Fuji in the background, and by god if that wasn’t what the band’s music, especially Swales’s guitar, sounded like, a series of awe-inspiring waves endlessly cresting and crashing. Even if they weren’t shoegazers-as-such — they were well under way by the time MBV ended up on Creation and went nuts — they had that same feeling of overwhelming you, but if bands like Ride aimed to obliterate and zone, the Kitchens brought in space and arcs. This in turn informed Fitzgerald’s singing and words, creating something that was definitely unique rather than seemingly so. No other band had such a spot to themselves in both American and UK terms quite like them, certainly not on a major label at the time. (Morrissey, Bob Mould, REM? All candidates but all addressing those issues in their own ways as they chose.)

So as I said, this soundtracked a date — Angela and I’d met in an English class and kept talking after that, and ended out going to several shows over this year. She was more of a metal person, I remember, but was open to hearing anything, and I think I just must have talked about these guys really sounding good. Would I have brought up the focus of Fitzgerald’s work? Did I think it was important? I honestly don’t know. It’s interesting how these issues feed into the things we are supposed to like and enjoy, how we conduct ourselves socially — some are more comfortable with just being themselves than others, and I make no great claims at being so comfortable then, but I like to think I was better than some. It’s another dim part of the puzzle to me that is the past now.

I mentioned the Ride/Lush show being the first time I went to the Roxy; this was the first time at the Whiskey a-Go-Go and all the history there, but like the Roxy I was less impressed with that than the fact it was a small club to see a show at. We ended up going upstairs and getting a table overlooking the stage, chatting and chilling and watching both bands as they appeared. Hypnolovewheel were good fun — they were on their third album, looked like a bunch of music/comic nerds because they were a bunch of music/comic nerds (at least one of them was part of the overall Marvel team), had an easygoing time on stage and played some sharp songs. A classic opening band, you could say, but I think they would have been cool to see on their own.

The Kitchens appeared and nothing was volcanic about how they got into it, they just were, and I remember that Fitzgerald was smiling, confident and at the same time not trying to be anything more than, well, a regular guy who happened to be on stage, wearing unremarkable clothes and sporting his glasses and just being him. It’s not a new move but he wore it more readily than many others, he might well have been dressed in a plain buttoned shirt, and it suited him, even as Swales led the band with his sweeping, swooping guitar. I don’t watch musicians for their own sake, I suspect, at least not consciously, but from the angle we were sitting at we could see him concentrating on his playing, hitting his pedals as needed, coming up with those rich parts on songs like “Railwayed” and “Drive That Fast” with a seeming effortlessness, as Fitzgerald sang about love and life, sometimes between a man and a woman but more often than not between men, their joys and their own losses, photographs as lingering memories, raging against injustices yet never with a scream.

I remember Angela and I leaning in close together, across the table, as we watched and enjoyed, exchanging the occasional comment. Was it so strange to have that show soundtrack a date? I don’t think so, others might think differently, I would hope most wouldn’t. I certainly didn’t think I was doing anything remarkable and I don’t think it is remarkable, but then again, my viewpoint isn’t the world’s.

Otherwise, I would have missed this show and missed a good date, after all.

As a quick bonus, something a friend found just the other day — a slightly blurry but complete videotape of a Toilets of Destruction show from later that year in London. The Toilets were the Kitchens’ slightly goofy alter-ego for performing cover songs and the like, and this one’s a treat.

Not Just the Ticket — and now, a question for the audience

Due to some writing work I’d like to concentrate on today at home, no post today but hopefully one tomorrow. But I’ve been pleased by the reaction to the series so far and would like to thank everyone for the comments and feedback I’ve received, it’s been a treat!

My question — perhaps the first of several over the course of the series — is for everyone that’s been reading along. So we all like to talk about the first show we attended — but what was the second show? Was it better or worse than the first? Did it directly grow out of attending the first show? Do you have anything saved from that show? Was there any one thing particularly memorable about it? (As talked about here, mine was Hall and Oates in 1984.)

Looking forward to your responses!

Fried cabbage on brown rice

Another recipe that came with the latest basket — enjoyable, might have needed more curry powder or seasoning to give it some extra punch but plenty filling!

1 sm Onion, finely chopped
6 tb Oil
1 lg Tomato, sliced
1/2 ts Salt
1/2 ts Curry powder
1 md Cabbage, shredded
2 ea Carrots, sliced into rounds
1 ea Green bell pepper, chopped

Over moderate heat, fry the onion in oil until lightly browned, stirring to prevent scorching. Add tomatoes, salt & curry powder & continue to stir-fry for 3 minutes.
Add cabbage, carrots & pepper & mix well. Pour in about 1/2 c water. Cover the pot, reduce heat & simmer until the liquid is abosrbed & the cabbage is still slightly crunchy.

Not Just the Ticket — #14, Butthole Surfers, May 17, 1991

Butthole Surfers

Then-current album: Piouhgd

Opening acts: Redd Kross and L7

Back of ticket ad: Pirate Radio. I’m almost happy to see this one again after all the endless National ads. Almost.

Must have bought this at UCLA’s box office (even though it’s not for a UCLA show) given the switch back to typeset, the coated paper and the like. A little bit of a slight return.

So, two days after a show that, as part of Jesus Jones’ larger breakthrough, signaled a shift in the future for a wholly separate band, another such show, only even more directly and even more about the band in question, who once again weren’t performing on the bill. It all came down to something that happened over on the other balcony.

Not that I knew. How could I? I was off to this show for three wholly separate reasons that happened to be one reason, namely this amazingly killer lineup — Butthole Surfers headlining, Redd Kross middle of the bill, L7 kicking it all off at the start. I’m still a little in awe, and I was definitely incredibly thrilled then. I don’t think I felt anything about this show other than ‘oh hell yeah, this’ll be great.’

At this point in time as well I was starting to get into much more of a regular show groove. From months-at-a-time separation it was starting to come down to not merely every other month but almost every other week or, in this case, every other day. So there’s less of a sense of overwhelming anticipation each time, everything all jumbles up together — one show, another to come, time and again. I definitely remember that my friend Jason B. was part of the crowd that went because he headed out to the main floor of the Hollywood Palladium as soon as he got through the doors, either made a flying leap onto the floor or misjudged a step, and ended up spraining his ankle slightly for his pains.

The big attraction for him, and probably for a lot of us, was actually the opening act, who were sound-checking on stage as we all came in and were milling around with everyone else. L7 had become a firm favorite of mine ever since I’d reviewed the Smell the Glove EP on Sub Pop for KLA the year before — “Dude, wow, they rock!” or whatever the hell I thought to myself at the time. But they did, they sure as hell did — didn’t know anything about their first release on Epitaph but this EP looked stellar, sounded great, still does. So many great pissed-off and hilarious and pointed one liners, great gang shout choruses, pretty damn fun all around. And yeah, they happened to be a quartet of women musicians as well. Jason had seen them open for GWAR earlier and knew they were great, I was looking for my own confirmation of same.

Later shows would provide clearer memories but I can’t but imagine that they kicked down the damn door. All the more impressive given that the Palladium’s acoustics were and almost certainly still are a notorious, crazy mess. Slightly dim visions in my brain of a lot of hair being tossed around all over the place, throat-shredding screams and god knows what else — it wasn’t sprawling chaos except unintentionally, L7 were never about a mess for its own sake, they wanted to focus and destroy. No Bricks Are Heavy songs yet in the setlist I think but they would have slotted right on in.

L7 were also definitely the first all female band I’d seen on stage as well. I don’t know whether that was a dramatic moment in my head or not — in fact I only recognize it being the case in retrospect. I’d already seen bands where female musicians were the key driving forces of the group, Lush in particular, but this was a step beyond that still. Call it an unconscious education rather than a definite pledging of allegiance on my part, but even so it was a necessary step for me as a listener, as an audience member, something that had to happen so I could get certain stereotypes out of my head, or at least recognize them for what they were. You didn’t have to have a Y chromosome to crank up the amps and get really loud and mad, with a wicked but still sharp smile on one’s face. I probably just headbanged a bit, really.

Redd Kross, meanwhile, I had seen before without quite understanding who they were. I don’t ever really remember learning about them at all, it was more something I gathered by osmosis. But back in 1989, I was walking near the UCLA Student Center in Bruin Plaza, where bands often did noontime shows. I remember two long-haired guys — REALLY long-haired — kicking up a racket with their band, and while I was sorta appreciative I didn’t hang around. Not sure why, must have had to run to a class, but I did some asking around and my future apartment-mate Rick was I think who clued me in to who they were, at least by name. Not actually having grown up with KROQ, much less Rodney on the Roq, exactly why they were important escaped me a bit then. Two years on I was vaguely more aware and after having had a good time on the floor I retreated to the open audience balcony to watch the racket and see what was up.

Third Eye had either come out or was about to come out by then — amusingly, the inside art featured a photo from that very same UCLA noontime show — and while I couldn’t really get every last level of seventies jokes and references and so forth (they may have been pretty young then and all but I was barely conscious of anything beyond Star Wars by the end of that decade), I still enjoyed it as it stood. The hair was still long as hell but I do remember them doing “Linda Blair” and “Peach Kelli Pop” and otherwise thinking “Hey, pretty good.” Sometimes you learn by inches with a band.

And then the Buttholes. I have Musician magazine to thank for cluing me in to these guys’ existence — the same 1988 issue I picked up with what in retrospect was a crucial New Order interview also featured Hairway to Steven as its lead album review, which was something I doubt Rolling Stone would have even tried to think about doing at the time. My just out of high school self read about them liking strange noises and bodily functions and obscene drawings for song titles and penile replacement film projections and thought “What…I don’t…uh.” Probably. Three years on and college radio and knowing a lot of friends who liked them and actually listening to a lot of their albums and so forth, well, it does things to a person, so I thought I was prepared for whatever kinds of vile nonsense might be served up.

Turns out there wasn’t much vile nonsense at all, at least not on the level of genital slicing or whatever when it came to the backing films — I do vaguely remember a chopped-up overlay of what might have been a Chinese baseball team and a woman either screaming in pain or ecstasy or both, but the films themselves were inaudible because the band was ridiculously loud. The album they were touring behind, Piouhgd, isn’t one of their best — it’s them knowing they have a sound and essentially continuing with it, so Gibby Haynes mumbles and screams and otherwise does things through his vocal treatments, the rest of the band plods and roars along, it’s entertaining but not deathless, and I remember that about the show as well. Haynes stood to the side and seemed to mostly sing to the wings, but Paul Geary did a great high-speed lead vocal on “The Shah Sleeps on Lee Harvey’s Grave” for the encore, and the whole thing was an entertaining enough bout of confusion and hullabaloo. No idea if they did their Jesus and Mary Chain parody “Something” but if they did that would mean they did it on the same stage where I’d seen said band the year before, which would seem right.

Meanwhile, the other balcony. In a previous entry set at the Palladium (probably that JAMC show), I mentioned how one balcony was always kept open for the general public but the other was essentially the VIP lounge for guest list folks, band friends, industry types, whatever — mix and mingle and rock out. What I didn’t know at the time of the show was that over there — as came to light in a variety of stories in the next few years, and can also be read about here, Kurt Cobain and Courtney Love met each other for the second and what turned out to be the crucial time for their relationship and everything that followed. “Smells Like Teen Spirit” was still months away from release, nobody could guess the rollercoaster of the next three years.

But again, I can’t look back on that show and think “Wow, the unique atmosphere, rock history being made, I was there!” It’s nonsense to think that. It’s an interesting bit of trivia to be sure but I didn’t see it, none of my group would have seen it, none of us would have known what was going on. More than anything it’s a little weird, strange, but no more than that. It’s an accident of history that at a pretty okay overall show something else was going down.

Looking across the hall at the other balcony, I would have maybe just envied them the free drinks.

Stir-fried pea pods and tofu

The recipe as provided (from ‘Syd’s Cookbook,’ so thanks Syd!) was actually based around celery but the batch I had looked a touch sickly, while I had some broiled tofu around. So a little less crunchy but no less delicious! The recipe as provided below:

2 tb Oil
Diced firm tofu
8 oz Sliced Fresh Mushrooms
8 oz Fresh Pea pods
3 Sliced Green Onions
1 tb Cornstarch
1/4 ts Ginger
1/4 c Corn Syrup
2 tb Soy Sauce
2 tb Orange Juice
1/4 c Slivered Almonds
1 ts Grated Orange Peel

In a wok or large skillet, heat oil; saute tofu in oil 3 minutes. Stir in mushrooms, pea pods and onions; saute‚ for 3 minutes. In a small bowl, combine cornstarch, ginger, corn syrup, soy sauce and orange juice; pour over vegetables. Cook for 1 minute, stirring constantly. Sprinkle with almonds and orange peel.