The Gate Is Always Open For You!

Saturday, December 31, 2011

Relections of Thankfulness in 2011

The final curtain is about to drop on 2011. No other year has made me grow up faster than this one. I have changed spiritually and mentally. I've come so far from where I've been, and what I've been accustomed to. 2011 practically flew by and I've become a Californian...but I'll always be an Arkansan in my heart. It was a year of adventure and awakening for me, a year of first experiences, new faces, astounding new places. It was a character building time of humility, love, kindness, countless prayers and surprising blessings, courage, perseverance, frightening storms of doubt and depression, unemployment checks, and fantasstic manic fugues of joy unspeakable that prompted unforeseen miraculous dreams fulfilled! Most of all, it was a year of faith. I feel as if I've exploded from my cocoon and completed a tedious metamorphosis into a beautiful butterfly! I'm no longer locked in a cage. The key has been thrown into a proverbial well. 2011 was a year of high intensity, and it's gonna end with a standing ovation. Bravo.

Here's a list of 24 things in 2011 I'm thankful for, and in no particular order:

1. I'm thankful that my parents raised me "right" and taught me to be responsible, loving, giving, and instilled in me the sense that I can accomplish anything and go anywhere in the world that I want to if I put my mind to it. I had a good sense of the unlimited.

2. I am thankful for my Salvation and my Savior Jesus Christ. Through it all, my Faith has sustained me. I believe in angles and miraculous unseen forces that take care of us all. I'm also thankful for Manor Baptist Church in San Leandro, CA. I've been attending there regularly since Easter Sunday of 2011.

3. I am thankful for Anil and Manju Bhatnagar for making me a part of their family and loving me. The Bhatnagar family is made up of some of the kindest people on earth. I'm also thankful they have shared their beautiful, rich, and delicious Indian culture with me. I love you all; you are my family away from home.

4. I am thankful for Justin Greenwood, Anjalee Bhatnagar, Alan Dyches, Jason Co, Dana Martinez, and James Blackburn for not only being my friends, but also being my support system in miraculous California. Through the thick and thin we're always a team.

5. I am thankful for Carol Dunnigan. We became friends through a very special 40th birthday surprise party. She demonstrated the saying that goes: "God will give you what you need, when you need it." when she purchased me Microsoft Word for my laptop right after I was laid off work without any warning. We had scheduled to meet up for lunch in Santa Clara, CA one afternoon in May. She said she was going to let me install Word on my laptop. She ended up purchasing the program for me out of sheer kindness. She stated, "My husband and I love to give back, and when I met you, I knew you had a good heart." She will NEVER know how much that random act of kindness meant to me.

6. I am thankful for Starbucks and Rasputin's Music in San Leandro, CA on Hesperian Blvd. It was there that I met Erik, Zachary, and Gary. These three people walked into my life at the perfect time and became my set of "new friends" outside of my regular network in California. They are wonderful friends who have introduced me to all sorts of fun things in the Bay: new music, great films, and phenomenal books. Each of them has exhibited a new part of San Francisco and Berkeley that I’ve never seen before. They are always willing to listen to me when I’m terrified. I'm grateful each of you let me in.

7. I am thankful for finally being able to love Batesville, Arkansas for what it truly is: Home. For the LONGEST time I’ve had a profound, unhealthy, bipolar relationship with my home town. I referred to it as “God’s Blind Spot” or a “visceral Black Hole” to many people in the past. It’s a town of just over 15,000 people.  Moving to the San Francisco Bay Area has made me appreciate my beautiful Mayberry/Peyton Place stomping grounds. I am thankful for all the kind hearted people there who had the chance to shape and mold me. Each of them instilled in me life-long values and lessons. I learned Southern Hospitality there. I am proud to say I was born and raised within the White River Valley of Batesville, Arkansas. A close friend of mine told me before I moved that I would truly appreciate Batesville in every sense of the word once I got far away from it. She was right. There’s no place like home. Who knows, in the future, I might move back. But I’m in the right place now.

8. I am thankful for good health. Plain and simple. Never, ever take it for granted. Never.

9. I am thankful that I’m successful even though I’m barely making it. I haven’t asked for a dime from anyone since moving away from Arkansas. I’m being independent. Back home, I never asked anyone to help me pay my own bills either.

10. I am thankful for my big brother Thomas. It’s always been nice learning from his mistakes and getting wisdom from him. It’s also wonderful to have him to call when I need to ask a question, get an opinion, or clarification. We’re 10 years apart and completely different.

11. I am thankful for Heidi Townsley . In middle November of 2010, she told me inside Burger King on a cold, rainy night, “Kevin, remember: when it comes down to it, the only person you have to rely on and trust is yourself. The only person you can depend on is you.” I’ve never forgotten that. I’m also thankful for Zelda Everidge who replied, “You just do it. You just get out there and start making your way. It’s scary and hard at times, believe me. But you always make it if you believe you will. When you get out on your own you learn a lot about yourself and what you’re made of.” When I asked her what it was like when she finally struck out on her own.

12. I am thankful for Scott Shelby who sold me all 8 seasons of the Golden Girls on DVD for $40. He bought the new DVD set which comes packaged in Sofia’s purse! It never gets old watching The Golden Girls. I’m also thankful for Jessica Williams who was my Book Manager at Hasting’s Entertainment. We developed an awesome friendship along the way. She’s the one that introduced me to the John Lennon quote “Life is what happens when you busy making other plans.” I feel as if I’ve lived that quote this year. She and her husband purchased me my first set of dishes for Christmas last year. They are red!

13. I am thankful for Paula Rosencrans. God knows, I’ve called her on many occasions regarding unemployment questions for the state of Arkansas and on the verge of tears this year! She’s not only a movie guru...she’s a Diet Coke drinking, Marlboro smokin’, Peep eatin’ dear friend who’s a real Steel Magnolia.

14. I am thankful for Jessica Campbell who was my boss for three years at the Batesville, Arkansas Pizza Hut. She saw my potential and let me blossom in the kitchen. We have shared countless laughs together, seen each other laugh into hysterics, and hugged one another when we’ve cried. We have cursed violent neon blue streaks, and screamed insanely in the walk-in cooler together. She worked around my schedule, gave me my first ever raise, and always had faith in me. I’m lucky to have had the chance to work alongside her making pizza.   

15. I am thankful for Allison De Buellfe Mack. We met through our dear friend Dana Martinez. When it happened it was like worlds collided together. It was a match made in perfect insanity. We just clicked together. She’s one of the most unforgettable people I’ve ever met. I experienced my first live screening of “The Rocky Horror Picture Show” with her. (That’s a completely different story on its own.) She’s an inspiration to me and taught me a powerful lesson: You don’t know how strong you are, until being strong is the only option you have. We both cross bridges and silently whisper “Lowenstein, Lowenstein.”

16. I am thankful for San Francisco, CA. I love everything about the city by the bay. The people, the landmarks, the androgyny, the Victorians, the food, the water, the breeze, the cable cars, and the hills! It’s been a dream of mine to work in a big city since I was a kid. Now I’m doing it in the most beautiful city in the country!

17. I am thankful for Jessie Greenwood. We grew up together and went through a very special time with some close friends that led us all to California. Through it all, we became close friends. When she later moved back to Arkansas from Los Angeles we started going to college together at UACCB. We would go out for dinner together and take turns picking up the tab, we would drive and listen to Beyonce, Fleetwood Mac, Adele, Lady GaGa, Katy Perry, and Matt & Kim. We saw “Hairspray” and “South Pacific” on Broadway together. We would take trips to Jonesboro, Arkansas or Memphis, Tennessee to get away from the country and enjoy the city! We even had our notorious “Fat Chats” down by the dark White River at night eating our feelings off the Sonic Drive-In. We became best friends. God puts special people in our lives when we need them the most. Jessie was one of those people. One lesson she taught me: Get out and go for it!

18. I am thankful for best-selling author Anne Rice. She’s the first author I ever connected with. I felt as if she truly understood and knew me. She’s a personal hero of mine. I consider her a friend.

19. I am thankful for 90s music. I love that decade of song, those tunes never get old.

20. I am thankful for the simple things. The little things, nothing else matters.

21. I am thankful for my curiosity. This cat has nine lives left! I love researching and discovering things for myself. I’m not afraid to look into anything. The Prison of Intellectualism is a real nightmare. The worst thing certain authority figures in the past have done is make “normal” things seem evil or “of the devil”. I simply couldn’t be forced to have their convictions. There is immaculate beauty in the majority of things.

22. I am thankful that I choose to be myself on Facebook. Marilyn Monroe said, “If you can’t take me at my worst, than you sure as hell don’t deserve me at my best.” That’s classy.

23. I am thankful that I am an American. I love my country, and what it has to offer everyone.

24. I am thankful for EVERYONE who prayed I would find a job. I love you.

Happy New Year!

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Two Of My Favorite Cookbooks

I have discovered that I enjoy reading cookbooks for shear pleasure. Ive also started collecting them in my library. Cookbooks are fascinating science  books filled with logical interesting knowledge. The act of cooking is essentially a molecular chemical reaction that produces something delicious to savor and enjoy. Period.
They are excellent conversation pieces to any library of substantial merit. They may seem expensive, and many of them are; however, the price is well worth it in the end. What you may not realize is that the author has tested the recipes time and time again through every reconcilable scenario. They have encountered all the malfunctions, and disasters. All you need is the right equipment, and the precise ingredients. All you have to do is cook it forward.

If your conscientiously worried about the prices (that's fully understandable) I suggest hitting up elite bookstores during their annual holiday sales. On the other hand, check out used bookstores. Those are my personal favorite places because they are immense treasure troves. If its a good used bookstore, you will be pleasantly surprised and in a merry nirvana when you start realizing what's truly around you. The "coming across" is my favorite part of pillageing dilligently through those lofty wooden shelves. My second favorite part is checking the price. Many of these used books will be half price or lower. And maybe...just'll come across a first edition, which is something that will satisfy you immensely.

Here is a list of cookbooks that I've discovered are well worth having:

1. The Joy of Cooking by Irma Rombauer, "Mrs. Joy" as she is affectionately called. Her claim to fame: Her husband committed suicide by purposely shooting himself in the skull. She was in an awful depression and started cooking. She then took her late husband's life insurance money and published The Joy of Cooking, which became a classic in kitchen literature. Sadly, her publisher swindled Irma and she lost a great deal of money. The Joy of Cooking became a classic and is regarded as the first mainstream cookbook for Americans.

2. Mastering the Art of French Cooking by Julia Child, Simone Beck, and Louisette Bertholle. The claim to fame: Simone and Louisette were two French cooks living in Paris who dreamed of producing a French cookbook for American housewives. They produced a staggering manuscript filled with errors. The measurements were not even converted from the metric system and into customery units, basically making the recipes impossible to create across the pond.

Paul and Julia Child were Americans working in Paris for the government after War World II. Julia was becoming unsatisifed with her work and wanted to so something more. She liked to eat and was in love with French culture. She enrolled herself at Le Cordon Bleu in Paris and started learning to cook. It was there that she met Simone and Louisette. They told her their vision for a French cookbook for American housewives and asked Julia to help them since she was an American and knew what life was like back there. She jumped at the chance and the book became an obession and labor of love. Julia converted all their recipes to customary units, and made subtle changes that the hardheaded Simone and Louisette could not understand. Julia promised them both that they had to do these changes otherwise the books would be a waste of time and energy. During this time, the three cooks formed a cooking school called L'Ecole Trois Gourmands which ran out of Julia's Parisan apartment on University Avenue.

Julia developed a pen-pal relationship with a woman named Avis Devoto who lived in New York. Julia shared some of their secret recipes. Avis was so impressed that she shared them with an editor from the Alfred E. Knoph publishing house. This was completely against Julia's standards because she was in fear their work would be stolen! Knoph was bedazzled by what they found and agreed to publish the work. However, they didn't realize the work was the size of an encyclopedia. They covered EVERYTHING. This wasn't feasible so Knoph asked them to pull up their sleeves and meticulously attack the work and break it down. Knoph paid Julia and her team $200.

Louisette began to distance herself from the project and the cooking school, it had initially been her dream all this time, but she was now going through a rough divorce. This unfortunate event landed Julia Child at the helm of the project now. Julia and Simone took on the brunt of the work and made Louisette a contributor.
Mastering the Art of French Cooking was published by Alfred A. Knoph in 1961 and became a beacon of light for the culinary world and the American housewife. Mastering brought the magic and culture of Paris into the American kitchen for the very first time. It became a classic, a best seller, and a bible of inspiration for chefs and cooks alike . It outsold The Joy of Cooking, its predecessor, and is regarded as one of the most distinguished books ever written. Julia, Simone, and Louisette gave back to the world, and the world is forever grateful.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Meeting Martha Stewart

On November 5, 2011 I attended my first official book signing. It was for the one and only Martha Stewart. She’s garnered as the world renowned Queen of Domestics who built a home empire made from scratch. Only to have it permanently marred by willingly participating in an insider trade scam that utterly soured the company and seared the name’s keeper with deception and greed. She was charged with fraudulence and obstruction.  Before being locked away she stated boldly and defiantly to the American public, “I’ll be back. I will be back!” Martha Stewart, who diligently made a living making a world of perfection, luxury, style, and grace, was sentenced to five months in federal prison, and two years of supervised release. For five of those grueling months she was placed on home confinement with an ankle bracelet. She’s stated, “I won’t be hit by a bus tomorrow. I’ve already been hit by the bus. Once is enough.”
America loves a Comeback Story.
During her public absence and within her incarceration, she decided to start a new project. With so much time on her hands she set sail to write a new cookbook of colossal and intimate proportions. Four years of tedious exertion concluded with Martha’s Entertaining: A Year of Celebrations. It’s the follow-up sequel to the ground-breaking Entertaining which was published in 1982.  That book launched her to superstardom and made “Martha Stewart” a household name. Martha’s Entertaining: A Year of Celebrations is 432 pages of full-color food and floral porn! This high strung magnum opus tips the scales of decadent voluptuous proportions. Altogether, the opulent book weighs a hefty 5 pounds!
I thought to myself: “I don’t own anything related to Martha Stewart. I’ve grown up around her my entire life, this is a once in a life time chance. If I don’t go, I will painfully regret it and wonder what could have occurred. If I did go, I would own a slight piece of her and not only meet a celebrity; but an ex-con as well and no one could take the experience away from me! I had some birthday money stashed away. I gathered it, and decided to kill two birds with one stone.
The night before, I did some evasive research on her. I watched videos and interviews, read articles and so on. I wanted to envelope myself in her Stepford world of perfection and get a sense of the woman behind the illustrious name. I woke up Saturday morning as usual: I stretched and yawned, took a shower, and got dressed. Even though I was going to meet Martha Stewart in person, I did not possess that exciting feeling of butterflies pouncing a gay flutter in my stomach. I drove myself to the San Leandro BART station and caught a San Francisco/Daly City bound train.
My biggest fear was that Martha would undeniably come across as a haughty, pretentious, narcissistic, ungrateful, shallow bitch since she has harvested a rumored reputation of being an Ice Queen. She makes her millions through promoting, demonstrating, and selling her products to the public. God knows she’s reached the point to where being nice is probably an Oscar winning performance. If she dared to send me any hostile vibes, I was determined to call her a bitch to her face. No shame.
I arrived at the Powell Street Station. Commuters and tourists were shuffling along through the hurried station with their personal agendas on their mind. Many of them had coats on and backpacks strapped to their bodies. Scarfs were wrapped around their necks and nicely hung from them. The chilly breeze blew through the top floor of the station. I was adorned with my black rivet coat and argyle scarf which had the colors of black and white running through it. My red carrier bag was hanging from my shoulder. I ascended up the escalator and onto Powell and Market. The winds were blowing off the Pacific and through the lively streets of San Francisco. Tourists were waiting in line to board the legendary Powell street car. Two men were turning the street car on a wooden axis with a set of rails running through it as I was walking buy. It was about to start its ascension up narrow Nob Hill. It would later descend down to Pier 39. As all these engagements were happening around me, I made my way through a bundled swell of people up the sidewalk of Powell, and then turned at the intersection of Powell and O’Farrell. I kept walking beside some of the most beautiful window displays I’ve ever had the chance to observe. I made my final turn by Louis Vuitton and onto splendid Union Square only to see a large line forming towards me from the Macy’s entrance. It was 9:45am, doors opened at 10:00am. Security guards were initiating the crowd for the way Macy’s was supposed to orchestrate this special event.
The line consisted primarily of women, which I had expected. There was a limited presence of men. Some had obviously come at their own will like me; others looked to have been dragged to Macy’s by their wives or girlfriends kicking and screaming. Humorous thoughts like: If you don’t come with me to see Martha, then I’ll cut your sex off for a month! raced enthusiastically through my mind. Their facial expressions gave off feelings of shame, embarrassment, frustration, and utter annoyance. Others quivered because they were witnessing the annihilation of their precious masculinity. Oh how sweet these sights were to me! There were women from all walks of life, some were professional caterers, others were loyal fans, and then you had the obsessed cult-like followers. These broads were cookie-cutter clones of Martha. They looked like Stepford Wives with hideously perfected blonde hair in the shape and style of all of Martha’s bravura through the decades! I stood back, and couldn’t stop staring. “Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints!” silently whispered in disbelief through my mouth.
The clock struck 10am and the doors opened to fans shivering with anticipation! The line picked up an exciting acceleration as I started walking towards the escalator that would descend me smoothly down into the very bowels of Macy’s known as the Cellar. The Cellar housed a Boudin Bakery which is one of San Francisco’s most celebrated sourdough bread companies with a Parisian flare. You could smell the buttery aroma of fresh artisan baguettes, boules, croissants, bagels, and hot sourdough loaves lingering out of their brick ovens to beguile and seduce customers. The sensual, warm odor traveled up the escalator and into the first floor of Macy’s to unsuspecting guests noses to lure them down below.  It was a comforting fragrance that traveled leisurely through your nostrils. From there, it would infiltrate your brain to create special endorphins that would arouse your senses and force your mouth to water fiercely. Ah, the power of food.
Suddenly, the line came to an abrupt halt. Beyond this sourdough food court was the primary cellar which is used to house the vast majority of Macy’s cooking appliances. Associates were signing their anticipated guests up for wrist bands, cookbook purchases, and seating arrangements for the cooking demonstration. Once I made it through these anguishing steps, I took my seat, and waited for the show to start. Each seat in the audience had special Macy’s bottled water, special Martha Stewart embossed recipe cards for the menu she was going to prepare us, and a list of mandatory rules for the event.
I sat next to a woman named Danielle. Her career was in the Food Industry as a Kitchen Manager. However, she was now primarily working outside of the kitchen and in the office. She had previously been the Kitchen Manager of a classy restaurant on the Embarcadero named Perry’s. It was there that she met Jeffery and Ina Garten (The Barefoot Contessa). Humorously, I can say, “The closest I’ve ever came to Ina Garten is through Martha Stewart!” Danielle had purchased two copies of Martha’s Entertaining: A Year of Celebrations. One copy was for her, the other for her best friend; it was her birthday the same day as the signing. We casually chatted about the food business and eventually exchanged e-mail addresses.
The cooking demonstration was supposed to start promptly as 11:00am. The clock slowly turned to 11:15am and that’s when Martha Stewart entered the Cellar! I suppose it’s okay to be fashionably late to your own event when you’ve achieved the status of Martha. I looked to my left and the audience started to gasp in excitement. Martha walked towards the audience with a subtle smile and into the studio kitchen as the Manager of the Union Square Macy’s gave her a marvelous introduction. Martha was adorned in a white cotton shirt with comfortable long sleeves and a large collar; on top of that she wore what I conceived to be a light gray cashmere sweater vest. She had khaki dress pants on, and flat beige shoes. The Macy’s Manager was short, round, and piggish in her face. She seemed to be on the verge of collapsing because of her exuberance, shortness of breath, her slight nervousness, and the stress she had been allocating that all led up to this point.
Finally, Martha Stewart took center stage with her assistant Sarah Carey from Everyday Food Magazine. Martha began advertising and doing a small preview of her new All-Clad line of cookware. She has made the length of the handle a bit longer than usual so the cook won’t have to deal with all of the pan’s weight in his/her wrist. Afterwards, Martha and Sarah started cooking for us a menu from her new cookbook. They prepared us braised chicken and dates over sautéed spinach with garlic and citrus cilantro cous cous. Towards the end of the cooking stages the Macy’s Culinary Team came out and served each of us a beautiful and liberal serving of the dinner. The flavors were exceptional paired and tasted delicious. During this time Martha showed the audience how to use a wood rasp or more commonly called a Micro-Plane to zest fruits such as oranges, limes, and lemons. I already knew how to do that. However, she did teach me a new way to peel ginger without wasting and of the valuable root meat. Take the end of a spoon to scrape away the skin of the root. It works every time.
The Macy’s servers came out again to gather our forks and plates. Martha and Sarah then started to prepare a rustic pear crosstata using Martha’s signature formula for tart dough. Things were flawless up to the point where Martha took the finished pear crosstata out of the oven. She laid it on the counter in front of her, looked closely at the finished product, and suddenly her emotions changed. She went uber-bitch! The flesh on her face got taunt and in disgust she retorted, “I simply don’t understand whoever cut these pears in the back! They didn’t use a knife! They used an apple corer! She closed her eyes and took a subtle breath. Martha then picked up a piece of the pear and held it up to the light so that we could all see. She spitefully observed the cooked morsel and foully professed, “This is an ugly piece of fruit! It’s all about PRESENTATION, it’s that simple!” I muttered, “Oh shit, she’s going bitch! I’ve been waiting for it!” Some, but not all of the audience started to snicker. I had the biggest smile on my face and started to clap a little. Martha then proceeded to show us how to properly cut a pear with a knife to her impeccable standards. Afterwards, the pear was dismissed and the servers came out again with another liberal sample of her rustic pear crosstata. If I were the one who had been in the back preparing the tart specifically for Martha and heard her reaction to my work, I would have taken a knife and stabbed myself in the stomach!
As we were eating, she began to tell us the process of how she wrote Martha’s Entertaining: a Year of Celebrations. It took her 4 years to write it, she even stated, “I invited my good friend and professional cook chef Pierre Schaedelin to come live with me and test recipes because I wanted to entertain while I was on house confinement!” She made this goofy look and the entire audience burst into a lively ruckus of laughter and started clapping! It was brilliant, I loved the fact that she could actually laugh about herself. She smiled and continued, “I could only leave me house for 48 hours a week, just imagine only working 40 hours a week! I decided this was the perfect time to write the book and test the recipes!”
There was a short Question and Answer period and she told us that she’s not a fan of large beds; she truly sleeps on a double-bed and enjoys cuddling with her dogs. The demonstration ended and she made her way to the book signing desk. At the other end of the Cellar. We were called up row by row.
While in line, we passed through her section of products. It was amazing to see it all. Before approaching the signing table, each person had to place his/her purse of backpack in a Macy’s bag and hand it to an associate. Nobody was allowed to take a picture next to her. We then had to submit this special card verifying that we had previously purchased a copy of Martha’s Entertaining: A Year of Celebrations. 
You might be wondering what happened between my short time with her: I approached her like she was holy, but she didn’t intimidate me. I could feel all the cosmic energy and knowledge radiating from her being as if she were a deadly chunk of uranium pulsing with a powerful aura. I smiled; she looked up and admired my scarf. She asked, "Are you a cook, young man?" (OH MY GOD BREATHE!!! My mind didn't go blank!) I responded, "I am indeed, I've grown up with you my entire life. You have inspired me. Thank you Martha!" She returned, in the gentlest tone; "You’re welcome. Enjoy my book, savor my recipes." Then she smiled, but it was one of the most peculiar smiles I've ever seen another human produce. It resembled a grin. It was subsequently thick. I could have cut it with a knife. It was almost too comfortable and gave me the impression of being staged. She calmly clasped my book and handed it to me. I left her table feeling full and with Theodore Shapiro’s score from the film “The Devil Wears Prada” playing in my mind. I sauntered toward the perimeter’s end and thought, "That's all..." I then turned to face her and snapped a picture from the other side of the barrier where we were permitted to take photos.
“Don’t be ridiculous...everybody wants this…everybody wants to be *us*.”
Meeting Martha Stewart was a dream turned into a reality. She’s the first celebrity/author I’ve ever met. The celebrity was demystified for me. It was neat to see her face to face without being glossy, photo shopped, or staged. She appeared accurately human, the same as you and I. I suppose put justly…”normal.” Deep down, I think she valued the insignificant short amount of time she spent with me. On the contrary she has an aura around her, and she’s not just a bitch, she’s a cut above. Martha Stewart is a classy bitch.
I live my life in a fantasy. I’m damn proud that I do. My obsessions rule who I am. I walked out of Macy's and onto the pinnacle of Union Square humming the melody of “The Devil Wears Prada” suite. I had my bag in hand, the top button of my black rivet coat was fastened, my black and gray argyle scarf was fancifully wrapped around my neck and draped down the left side of my torso. Suddenly, a blast of wind shot through all those superlative steel and stone towers, the mighty wind soared violently through the festive neighborhoods, parks, streets, and alleys. It finally crashed hard into my body fanning my coat out like a cape and picking my scarf up causing it to wave and flutter! As Martha would say..."And that's a good thing."

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

My Favorite Place In San Francisco

It's getting to the point where I'm losing track of how many times I've been to San Francisco! This is such a great, great thing. I've crossed the Bay Bridge at least seven times up to this point. I've drove across the Golden Gate Bridge four times. Hears a fun fact: The Golden Gate is merely a showpiece, its not used to commute into San Francisco nearly as much as the Bay Bridge. It's for tourists.

San Francisco has so many tourist attractions: Pier 39, Fisherman's Wharf, Ghiradelli Square, the Ferry Building with it's indoor market and resturants overlooking the bay, the classic cable cars that climb the hills, the Haight-Ashbury neighborhood and nearby Golden Gate Park, the elite shopping at Union Square off Market Street, China Town (The largest asian community outside of China), Coit Tower on Telegraph Hill, the colorful and bawdy Castro District, and finally my personal favorite: Alamo Square Park.

Many of you will recognize the picture above. The opening credits of Full House were shot here. As a child,  I would cross the Golden Gate Bridge everday with the Tanner Family. My first exposure to San Francisco was through the opening credits of Full House. I became possessed. I blame it on the catchy theme song. I can't explain it, I just know that I felt drawn to this city and those houses. I remember determining in front of the television screen that I would go there one day.

Now I'm here. The flamboyant ginger-bread laced homes of San Francisco are called Painted Ladies. The famous row of houses in Alamo Square Park, which was featured in Full House, is called Postcard Row by the locals. It's the most photographed spot in the city next to the massive Golden Gate Bridge, respectivily.

When I was in college, I took Creative Writing and set one of my stories here. That short work became the most serious piece of writing I've produced. I put my heart and soul into it. It's called "A Desire In Alamo Square".

Steiner Street runs in front of Postcard Row, and from their painted facades faces Alamo Square Park. Its a bustling romantic recreation area. You'll see people having picnics with red and black plaid blankets spread on the green lush grass, people laying out on the hill reading and listening to their Ipods catching rays, or taking in the view of the houses in as the Financhial District in the background crowns them. Other people will be jogging or walking their dogs, even riding bycicles. And if your really lucky, you'll hear people singing the theme from Full House in laughter. It's magic and I love it.

I enjoy walking through the park silently as the wind blows through my hair. Huge ceders and pines are planted throughout the oasis that provide the most comfortable shade. This is the one place in San Francisco that I can go to and clear my mind. I feel so safe there. Anytime family or friends fly in to visit I always take them here.

"When your lost out there and you're all alone. Life is waiting to carry you home."

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Black and White Films of Great Merit and Influence That I Want To See.

Bette Davis As Saucy Margo Channing From "All About Eve".

In my personal time I’ve been exposing myself to the Classics. I love the hair raising suspense that is created in the darkness as the music accentuates at climaxes, the cigarette smoke is truly luxurious as it creeps across the screen in a ghostly fume, and all that glorious shaking that takes place between the two passionate lovers just excites me. I can’t get enough of that idiosyncratic shaking. It’s pure bliss. It’s even fun to imagine what color the clothes should be, the sets, even the make-up of certain characters. Last but not least, there are the famous quotes. I’ve made a list of black and white films that I hope to watch and gain inspiration from.
(*) What I’ve managed to see so far:
1.      “All About Eve” starring Bette Davis, and George Sanders.*
2.       “Whatever Happened To Baby Jane?” Starring Bette Davis and Joan Crawford*
3.      “Hush..Hush Sweet Charlotte” starring Bette Davis, Olivia de Havilland, Joseph Cotton, and Agnes Moorehead
4.       “Strait-Jacket” starring Joan Crawford
5.      “Mildred Pierce” starring Joan Crawford
6.      Tod Browning’s “Freaks” starring real sideshow performers!*
7.      “San Francisco” starring Clark Gable and Jeanette McDonald
8.       “Some Like It Hot” starring Marilyn Monroe, Tony Curtis,  and Jack Lemmon
9.      “The Seven Year Itch” starring Marilyn Monroe, and Tom Ewell
10.  “The Red Shoes” starring Moira Shearer, Anton Walbrook,  and Marius Goring
11.  “The Boy With The Green Hair” starring Dean Stockwell,  Pat O’Brien, Robert Ryan, and Barbara Hale
12.  “Rebel Without A Cause” starring  James Dean
13.   “Giant” starring James Dean, Elizabeth Taylor, and Rock Hudson
14.  “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Wolf” starring Elizabeth Taylor, and Richard Burton
15.  “The Picture of Dorian Gray” starring George Sanders, Angela Lansbury, Donna Reed,     Hurd Hatfield, and Peter Lawford
16.   “The Bells of St. Mary’s” starring Ingmar Bergman , and Bing Crosby

Hollywood doesn’t make actors and actresses like this anymore. Tis a shame!

My First Shenanigan With A CHiP

“I’m banking on one thing, and I’m not budging on this: my God has a sense of humor even if what I say has a four-letter word in it. I think He’d want me to laugh. What’s in my heart is not irreverence, but a full knowledge that God’s laughing too.”- Paula Deen (It Ain’t All About The Cookin’)
Two days after I was laid off, I was pulled over for making an illegal U-Turn. To this day I’m still getting adjusted to driving out here; my days of driving in rural Arkansas are over. I didn’t realize I was breaking the law until it was too late; the sign snuck up on me speedily.  Journey’s “Don’t Stop Believing” (How comical) was playing on K.BAY 94.5. This cop was about to pull out of Wal-Mart as he saw me. I knew I had made a mistake right when another car almost crashed into me. The cop pulled out, and I pulled into Wal-Mart through the central divide of Hesperian Boulevard. He switched on his siren and at that precise moment I wailed to myself, “Hell’s bells! You’re in deep shit now Arkansas!” I parked in an empty space. An officer wearing a pair of black Aviators slowly approached me. He resembled the T-1000 off of James Cameron’s “Terminator II: Judgment Day”.  During this time I’m mumbling serinty prayers to God and gathering my driver’s license, trying not to piss myself.
The officer said, “How are you doing boss?” I hate it when anyone addresses me like that. It’s like asking a one night stand, “Where are you going, baby?” And the fling responds, “I’m not your baby.” I immediately noticed that the officer had CHiP patched and monogrammed on his sleeve. I said the first thing that came to mind, “Sir, you sure don’t look like Eric Estrada on CHiP’s.” He just stood there speechless. He took his Aviators off and stoically asked, “May I see your driver’s license?” I gave it to him. He said, “Arkansas… hmmm…what brings you out here?” I apprehensively responded, “Opportunity, I’m 24 years old and I’m trying to live the American Dream.” He thought that was impressive. I explained to him that I was still learning to drive out here, and didn’t realize I was breaking the law until it was too late. He started getting off by intimidating me.
He asked to see my registration. I was opening my glove box and I stated with a nervous quiver, “Officer, I’ve never been pulled over before in my life. What does that little piece of paper look like? There was an awkward silence and I could feel him searing me with impassioned fear. Frankly, I didn’t appreciate that and I said, “Officer, please stop intimidating me, you’re scaring the hell out of me and I can’t take it! I’m not a thung!” I found my registration and explained to him that the truck was still registered in my dad’s name. He went back to his car to trace my plates. All that time I was hyperventilating. He came back and started questioning me more. I broke down into tears and said, “Officer, I was laid off two days ago unexpectantly, and I’m out here looking for work. I’ve never been in this much deep shit before in my life. And the public of California is teaching me to drive on these highways; it’s not like this at all back in Arkansas.”
He paused, and said, “Look here boss, I’m going to go easy on you. You have a clean record back home. Regularly, I wouldn’t be this generous. Here’s your citation. You must obtain a California driver’s license and register your vehicle in the state. That’s all. Good luck to you.”
Thank God.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Some People...

 For what it's worth: it's never too late or, in my case, too early to be whoever you want to be. There's no time limit, stop whenever you want. You can change or stay the same, there are no rules to this thing. We can make the best or the worst of it. I hope you make the best of it. And I hope you see things that startle you. I hope you feel things you never felt before. I hope you meet people with a different point of view. I hope you live a life you're proud of. If you find that you're not, I hope you have the strength to start all over again.”- The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
“Life is what happens when you’re busy making other plans.”- John Lennon
The scene above makes me cry every time I watch it. I suppose it means more to me now than it ever did before because I’m no longer around the people who were born to sit by a river. You may ask what type of person I am, and I’ll tell you: I have an ear for music…and I dance. I’d be lying if I said I weren’t homesick. I don’t miss home in the physical sense; I miss the people and the comfort. The characters that made it up have become home. I finally appreciate home for what it truly is: love. There’s no reason to ignore it. Lately, those people have been quite palpable in my memory. I have a cookbook that’s filled with recipes from people I’ve known my whole life. Many of them have passed away, and I get emotional seeing their name in print. I know I shouldn’t be sad, but I think of the influence they had on me. Shakespeare once stated, “The world is a stage, and the people merely actors.” I’m thankful for every encounter I ever had with them.  I carry them in my heart, and I have their recipes’ if I ever want to visit.
I apologize for not writing much lately. I’ve been horribly depressed and frazzled. My life more or less fell apart in May. Ever since then, I’ve been scrambling like a chicken with my head cut off, trying to collect the shattered pieces. My requiem for a dream started on May 1, 2011. I was laid off work by a reputable company in the lovely metropolis of Hayward. It’s funny peculiar how the shit hits the fan when everything in life seems to be going so well. Before that appalling news was delivered, I had just moved to San Leandro, which runs into Hayward via Hesperian Boulevard. I started renting a room from a good friend of mine, was getting a budget drafted and set into action, and had even found a church to start attending.
Let me take you back to Batesville, Arkansas for a moment though. Picture it: middle November and the year is 2010, a busy Saturday night at Hasting’s Entertainment. I get ready to go on my lunch break; unbeknownst, and as the Fates would have it, I find out that one of my bosses is going on break as well. We end up walking down that long stretch of rain soaked black asphalt to the local Burger King. We sit down in a booth towards the front entrance. Hoodlums are making up the majority of the lobby because they have nothing better to do.
I’ve admired this particular boss of mine ever since I started working with her. She has a beautiful story. It has a happy ending: she’s a survivor and she’s continuing to “make it after all” through the obstacles that abound her. I broke the news to her that I was moving to California. She was pleasantly surprised that I was doing this and happy. During that wonderful thirty minute increment of time we sat together and discussed our lives over fried chicken sandwiches and flame broiled burgers. She said something before we walked back together that I’ve been saying to myself every day since my unfortunate event occurred: “Kevin, remember: when it comes down to it, the only person you have to rely on and trust is yourself. The only person you can depend on is you.” She didn’t say it to be nagging; she said it with a subtle love and concern. She knew firsthand how difficult, but rewarding the road to Adulthood is.
Another coworker of mine who has her own “rising phoenix out of the smoldering ashes” story had some more advice for me. I asked her how she stepped out on her own for the very first time. She stated: “You just do it. You just get out there and start making your way. It’s scary and hard at times, believe me. But you always make it if you believe you will. When you get out on your own you learn a lot about yourself and what you’re made of.” I can’t tell you how happy I am to have those words tucked away in my keepsake box.
            ~Nine Things I’ve Come To Realize Since Being Laid Off~
#1 Early in life, things that you learn have no meaning. But today, what I did learn makes all the sense in the world, and I grieve and regret what I did not learn.
#2 Business does not have to be a win/lose or winner takes all proposition. Everyone can win.
#3 Do not ignore your passions and drive in life.
#4 To master anything in life you must do it again and again, over and over. Often without success, but learning and fine tuning along the way.
#5 Education is life-long. Stay hungry, stay curious.
#6 Our biggest successes happened when the biggest doors of opportunity were slammed shut. Learn to look for other ways to achieve your goals when opportunities close. Own your problems and invent your own solutions when others will not solve the problem for you.
#7 Do what you love and do it really well.
#8 My best educational experiences happened when I was the motivated learner, making up my own experiences.
#9 Make your mistakes frequently, fast and often. Just not repetively.
            My sincere hope is that anyone who is reading my blog is inspired by what come across. My biggest problem with writing is that I’m too personal and honest. That’s necessarily not such a negative eminence, but I want someone to connect with me. I hope the proverbial lightning bolt flashes and strobes inside my reader’s neurotransmitters and they exasperate, “Dear God, that’s what I’m going through! I know exactly how he is feeling!” If what I share helps someone, then I’ve reached my goal. It’s always the darkest before the dawn. I know the sun will be shining soon. It simply has to.

Thursday, June 30, 2011

Life Is A Highway In The Bay Area!

There are two sitcom opening credits that have left a deep impression on my heart. #1 Full House, #2 The Mary Tyler Moore Show. For this entry, I must focus my attention to Mary Tyler Moore. I was a passionate weird child growing up, and I specifically remember wanting to be in a position like Mary Tyler Moore and throwing my hat into the air. Everything was perfect and happy. As I grew older, this sitcom credit became far more possessing of me. I fell in love with the lyrics and completely identified with them. One particular scene from the titles came to life when I first drove in California. I love how Mary is driving her Ford Mustang on the highway and looking with wonder and caution as that thrilling green Minneapolis traffic sign comes towards the viewer and the ariel shot of the city fills your heart with excitement as the orchestra swells to a climax of Love Is All Around! Well, I'll never forget the first time I lived that was a magical dream come true and I cried becuase it was so personal. I live it every day and it NEVER gets old, but I don't cry; I just have this exquisite batshit-nut-house-crazy grin on my face!
California: the exact utterance of the word thrills me. People come here from all over the world to be whoever and whatever they want to be. They flock here to better themselves and exert freedom, they trek forth into this frontier to be themselves and explore all the possibilities of life. There are no boudries…we all  push the limits, but we’re not all lasciviousness profligates. Back home in Arkansas, I always enjoyed how southern people classified this state as the “Land of Fruit and Nuts”. It sounded so exciting and appealing; I wanted to be a part of it. Here I am. California, your now granola!!! Its time I start to live, live live!
The San Francisco Bay Area is mesmerizing and absorbing. If you have a sponge-like personality, pack your bags and head for the Golden Gate…but know this: you’ll never be able to engross everything around you. My mind is blown away every day as I try to comprehend how this area works. The function astounds me. There are Ariel overpasses that just fill my soul with joy unspeakable, I relish crossing over and under them! It baffles my mind how those engineers design these massive transportation structures! I remember the first time I drove on a clover leaf…it was exhilarating!
The Bay Area is connected by seven key bridges: The Richmond-San Rafael Bridge, The Golden Gate Bridge (the #1 suicide destination on earth), The San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge, The San Mateo-Hayward Bridge (which is ten miles long: one of the longest bridges in the world), the Dumbarton Bridge, The Carquinez Bridge, and Benicia-Martinez Bridge. I always think of the film Prince of Tides whenever I cross the San Mateo Bridge. Tom Wingo says in haunting narration: “At the end of every day I drive through the city of Charleston and I cross the bridge that will take me home. I feel the words building inside me, I can’t stop them, or tell you why I say them, but as I reach the top of the bridge these words come to me in a whisper. I say these words as a prayer, as regret, as praise, I say: Lowenstein, Lowenstein.” Oh my Gawd…I’m verkelmpt! Oye! This too shall pass.
The major interstates in the Bay Area are Highway 101, 880, 80 (the Bay Bridge), 680, and 580. The 880 is the one I use most often. There are parts that develop into six lanes on each side. The farthest lane to the left is the Car Pool Lane; it’s restricted to two or more people in a single automobile from 6AM-10:00AM and from 3:00PM-7:00PM. If one drives solo in that lane during those restricted times, they can be fined by a policeman if noticed. To control traffic congestion, each interstate has a computerized system that controls the influx of motorists. Meters with traffic lights are strategically arranged on the on-ramps and are enforced during morning and evening rush hour. There are also electric signs that drape over the highway to lanes that tell you how many minutes you are from certain cities and airports. These signs also flash California license plate numbers and special hotlines for the national Amber Alert System. Oddly enough, the Amber Alert was created in Arkansas back in the late 1990s when a little girl by the name Morgan Nick was kidnapped in Alma, a small community located on Interstate-40. Morgan Nick vanished without a trace, and the perpetrator is still out there.
  To further the awesomeness of the California transportation system, drivers will see trains that run through the middle of certain interstates like the 580 with stations cemented into the girders. Those trains are called BART-Bay Area Rapid Transit System. Since the population reaches 7.4 million, a subway system had to be generated. The BART System runs inland and brings people into the larger cities. In order to get into San Francisco, an underwater tube had to be created. It’s called the Trans-Bay Tunnel and it’s located underneath the San Francisco Bay. It runs parallel to the mighty San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge (Interstate 80) which is a colossal engineering marvel. This bridge is a visual spectacle. The span even cuts through a natural island called Yuerba Buena through a tunnel! Yuerba Buena is located next to a man-made island called Treasure Island which is named after Robert Lewis Stevenson’s beloved novel. People live on it.
The gargantuan Bay Bridge is the main access in and out of San Francisco from my part of the peninsula. The bridge is double-decked and allows 10,000 commuters a day to cross in and out of San Francisco. The top lane allows commuters into the city. Likewise, the bottom lane takes commuters back into Oakland, Berkeley, San Leandro, San Lorenzo, Dublin, Hayward and other towns located in the East Bay. You must pay a toll of $6.00 to cross it or have a FastTrack, which is a censor that a motorist can place on their windshield and pass through without stopping. The censor beeps through the toll lane and the fee is credited to the driver’s account which they must pay off at the end of each month. In 1989, the World Series was held in San Francisco. The Loma Prieta earthquake struck which polarized the Bay Area. The dreadful quake was so commanding that it caused a top segment of the Bay Bridge to collapse onto the bottom lane!
Whenever a traffic accident occurs it’s a real bitch! Traffic bottlenecks in places and creeps along slowly. I specifically remember driving on the 880 for the first time in rush hour and a tractor trailer carrying cars had an epic failure. One of the cars became unlocked from the trailer and tumbled backwards into the highway crashing into the unlucky motorist behind it. Not pretty. Thankfully radio stations were letting the public know the reason for the delay Rush hour is congested and patience testing. Many residents wake up at 4:00AM to be on the highway by 5:00AM to be at work early in order to avoid the hassles. This is especially true for people that live in-land and don’t have BART access. You call it crazy? I call it a way of life. People do it, and I commend them.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Hometown Glory: The Memory In My Mind.

I’m trying to find my voice, so please forgive me if it jingles like I’m rambling. This sounds extremely cliché, but some things are the hardest things to say. When I was a little boy, I vividly remember listening to Judy Garland sing “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” in that grand scale MGM musical classic “The Wizard of Oz”. I saw myself in the character Dorothy Gale: a person that dreamed of getting out of her small town, and questioning what wonders lay ahead of her from her simple provincial life.  Looking back on it now, I can now say that it was Dorothy and Toto that first taught me it was okay to think outside of the proverbial box and that the dreams that I dare to dream really do come true.

            I’m in my early twenties and the only thing I ever wanted to do was get the hell out of Batesville, Arkansas. It wasn’t easy, believe me. It took a lot of courage to leave my own backyard and all that I knew. I’ll never forget hugging my mother (who was in tears, because letting go is so hard to do) one last time before backing out of my drive way knowing I’d only return for holidays and other special occasions. I had finally made the decision, which was the nucleus of so many late night talks with some good friends of mine who had given me opportunity to carpe de em and start living! I knew that if I didn’t take the chance an atrocious WHAT IF? Would loom and plague my living existence forever more. I couldn’t live with that. As the Beatles so cheerfully sing:  “I get by with a little help from my friends”…indeed…they were so right! I needed wide open spaces…room to make a big mistake, but in my mind I kept singing, “You might just make it after all.”
            The plan: My three best friends, one of their children, and a Yorkshire terrier named Milo were to drive from Hayward, California (the heart of the bay) to Batesville, Arkansas (hometown glory) in2 ½ days. Turn around, and take me back to California with flowers in my hair singing, “San Francisco! Open your Golden Gate! You’ll let no stranger wait! Knock at your door!” in a state of liberation and adventure! In 2 ½ days they arrived.  My red pick-up truck was loaded with nothing more than clothes, a few Anne Rice novels, Julia Child’s “Mastering the Art of French Cooking Volume 1”, all 7 seasons of The Golden Girls, the 1st season of Mama’s Family (amongst some of other keepsakes), and my TomTom GPS which I had affectionately named Edna, and I was California bound staring out onto the blank page before me!
It was on Highway I-40, as my friend was driving, that I began to realize and appreciate Home for what it truly was…
Bateville, Arkansas: the second oldest town in the state, and county seat of Independence County, is located in north central Arkansas. The town cradles a population of just over 10,000 souls. The Mayberryish community is nestled within a sprawling valley that’s formed by the dark green Ozark Mountain foothills.  The majestic  trout filled White River curls and cuts its way through the valley and a peaceful park by the name of Riverside is set up on the left bank littered with towering oak and pecan trees. You will also see the newly built hydroelectric dam that was just erected on top of the now useless lock that was once used to transport ferries in the olden days. During the fall, many people pick the pecans for their holiday pastry treats. These trees, amongst others, also erupt into a violent explosion of color. Autumn is the greatest season in Arkansas in my opinion.
Batesville’s most famous resident is the race car driver Mark Martin (I’m not a Nascar fan). When you drive down Ramsey Mountain (it’s a glorified hill) and make your decent down into the valley you will come across the “Welcome to Historic Batesville” sign and underneath that happy salutation your eyes will gaze at multicolored blue, white, and black letters that gaily proclaim: HOME OF MARK MARTIN. I would love nothing more than to have my own name placed on the marquee above his. Hey, it could happen. The good Lord knows that sign has more than enough room for me!
My hometown has a church on every corner; or so it seems. Remember, Arkansas is the buckle of the great American Bible Belt. I estimate there are over 40 churches. This includes the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, The Jehovah’s Witnesses two Kingdom Halls (I dare you to ask them why they don’t have windows!), and the Christian Science Church. It’s a strong religious community. You can drive down Central Avenue and see West Baptist Church (their new sanctuary looks like a giant adobe from the outside), The Church of Christ, and the First United Methodist Church all facing each other from across the street! But then and again, I live within the Bible Belt.

The two primary streets that carry the majority of the traffic are named Harrison and St. Louis. St. Louis Street is nicknamed “the strip” because the majority of fast food places are located there. Batesville has seven pharmacies (one recently burned), three grocery stores, four pizza restaurants (one recently burned), four Mexican restaurants, two Spanish markets, and four banks. There is no diversity. My hometown is the type of community where everyone says, “Hi!” and knows everything about everyone. God forbid your picture and name appears on the front page of the Batesville Daily Guard for something wrong! You will be the talk of the town. After reading Grace Metaliocious’s Peyton Place, I swore that I had personally lived it. 

Main Street forms the majority of Batesville’s historic district. The street is lined with massive oaks and antebellum southern mansions that are over one hundred years old!  But even those plantation style houses with all their pillars and chimney flus cannot attract all your attention like the gorgeous Queen Anne Victorians that also share the same thoroughfare with their shiny stained glass windows. The majority of these houses are kept up to character and restored by private owners. These houses are immaculate and some are even frightening to look upon because they send the admirer eerie vibes. I’ve talked to several house owners and they say that the floors creak and that some even have secret hallways that were once used by servants! These houses are very special to me because I used to dream of living in one myself. Every year the annual Batesville Christmas Parade is held on Main Street. In addition, all of the houses are laced with hundreds of lights as both sides of the street are crowded with spectators.

Past those lovely formidable houses, First Baptist Church, The Episcopal Church, and the Methodist Church (they are podded together), one will see the original buildings of downtown Batesville still inhabited. These buildings have been transformed into antique shops with names such as “Back in Time”, My Myra”, and “The Spinning Wheel.”  You will also see Wheeler’s Shoes and other classic businesses that have been owned by families for generations like Huer’s Shoes, and Thompson’s Jewelry. But my favorite shop located on Main Street is the Paper Chase Bookstore. It is two stories high and has a black spiral staircase ascending into the ceiling above. It is a treasure trove.

Even though the old courthouse has been demolished, a new one stands in its place. But right beside it a mural resides on the wall of another business depicting what it used to look like. The majority of these buildings are constructed of red bricks. One even depicts an old Coca-Cola mural that was painted on its side from many years ago. There’s even an old Rexall Pharmacy logo where a drugstore once operated. There’s even a park on Main Street that was formed between an old building that had been destroyed. It’s now called Pocket Park.  Across the street from that stands the old Landers Theater which has been recently remodeled into a nondenominational church. The Melba theatre resides on lower Main. In the olden days, these were marvelous movie palaces. The Melba was restored several years ago. Thank God, because I remember watching “Harriet the Spy” with a ferret running loose through the building back when I was a kid! Nowadays For $2.00 you can see a movie once they have made the big money at the commercial box offices. The Melba theatre is opened every weekend. And don’t forget, popcorn and coke are $1.00 each. Beside the Melba, there lies an empty concrete slab which used to be the Marvin Hotel and local bordello where men would omission off the trains for an erotic suare. The tracks ran behind the establishment. That concrete slab is the only thing that has stood the test of time from that period so long ago.

 The local hangout is the Wal-Mart Super Center! It has become the town square that’s opened 24/7 excluding Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. If you’re board, you go to Wal-Mart. Have I mentioned yet that there’s a place behind the golf course, down by the river, through a wooded area nicknamed “fuck docs” by all the young people? Yep, it’s there…lover’s lane.  Batesville, Arkansas (hometown glory): It’s frozen in time, and I think about it every day. It’s the perfect place to raise a family. Even though I’m now in the Bay Area, 2,000 something miles away, I still think of my days standing in Riverside Park singing softly to myself “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” and dreaming of the dreams I dared to dream…
As of now, I don’t believe happiness is in your own back yard. But I’m banking on one thing: Dorothy was right: There’s no place like home.