Monday, May 27, 2013

Anacapa Ukulele Kanikapila

Anacapa Ukulele
1899 E. Main Street
Ventura CA 93001

When I was younger, roughly from the time I was about 14 or so until well into my 40's, I collected music. Records and then cd's numbered into the thousands. I knew used cd stores all over Los Angeles, and had favorites where I would drop a hundred bucks or so a few times a month.

Now though, all those cd's are boxed up in my garage, and the records never made it here but instead are in my mom's garage. Though I miss the tactile feeling of record shopping and cd shopping, I've adapted well to the internet age, and have found virtually every song that I've ever wanted in the digital format. I've mentioned that in a previous post (2/12/2010), so I won't go into it again. The bottom line is that I don't buy music very much anymore. I pretty much have everything I've ever wanted.

Some of my axes
So a few years ago, when my father-in-law started playing guitar again, and I along with him, I also started playing the ukulele. I know just enough music theory to move some of what I know about guitar onto the uke, which is tuned up a fourth from the guitar and has two less strings to worry about. I'd bang around on my guitar for a while, and then switch to ukulele when my fingers got tired. I had a cheap Santa Rosa that had a tuning machine go awry and my kids then lost the part that came off, then got a slightly better Lanikai LU-21. From there, it was on. Over the last two years, I bought several from both eBay and the Goodwill Auction site. It's a different type of music fix.

Now I own a vintage Regal soprano, which sounds great, an SS Maxwell soprano (most likely a Harmony brand) which sounded pretty good until I accidentally left it outside and the bridge popped off, a Harmony baritone, an island laser concert Fluke that I got off eBay last summer, the Oscar Schmidt OU 26T (see the 12/30/12 post) and now I have a Treeholipee coming, which I'm sure will make it's own post when I get it. 

I visited Anacapa Ukulele on a  recommendation from another local music place which is very friendly, Pulse Drumming, when I was on the hunt for the OU 26T last summer. That was before they moved from McGrath to the Main Street location, and I spoke to Brad the owner. He was great, gave me a bunch of stickers, and had me sign up on the mailing list. I went to one workshop, which was fun, and when they moved to Main Street, I'd walk in and dream about owning the ukes on the wall. 

I was in my dreaming mode when I walked in Friday, and the Laura, the girl working, invited me back for the Kanikapila. A Kanikapila is a ukulele jam session with all level of players, and Anacapa Ukes organizes some sort of meal after, today from Q and Q Hawaiian BBQ, and shaved ice. I was going to bbq burgers, so I bribed the family with shaved ice and brought the Fluke and the OU 26T to jam with.

Set up in the courtyard of the shop was a makeshift stage, and when we walked in a guy was playing his uke. And I mean playing, taking solos that were lead guitar like in quality in a way that I've never been able to figure out. We got our raffle tickets, and found a spot to sit under a tree. I pulled out my uke but felt outgunned when I looked around and saw the Kamaka's and Koalohoa's surrounding my Oscar Schmidtt, but I think I played better then some of them. 

The OU-26T
It was pretty fun, with Brad bringing different people up to play, and all the ukes in the courtyard following along. Anyone could sign up to lead a song. Volunteers would go up, go over the chords (usually only two or three), and then away the group would go. The one guy who could play-I'll get his name and add it later-was playing an electric cordless uke and adding lead lines all over, while Brad was sitting on and playing a cajon, the big wood box drum. The addition of those instruments made the jam sound pretty good. There was an older women who played "Stewball" (Stewball was a racehorse and I wish he were mine/he never drank water, he always drank wine), and another guy who played a couple of Hawaiian songs and had a good voice. Then there was the one chord wonder of "Alley Oop," which I was able to play.

After about an hour, lunch and snow cones were served-by this time I'd lost my girls but my son hung with me. I struck up a conversation with the two Kamakas and the couple who owned them. One was my dream uke, a Kamaka Liliua, a six string tenor that I first saw in a furniture store in Hilo that I really wanted to bring home with me then. They were interested in my Fluke, so we swapped for a brief moment, and then I offered them my son for the uke.

Unfortunately they didn't take him.

I walked about, talking to other people and enjoying a shaved ice. The inventory at Anacapa is small, but there's a pretty good turnover, so I see different instruments every time I'm in, and the staff is so nice that I always want to buy something but don't really need anything. I think I will finally buy one of their t-shirts that next time I'm in.

The raffle came next, and my son was rewarded for sticking around by winning a hand made lei, which he was pretty excited about. He even tried to play a few notes for the last jam, and then things wrapped up.

Two hours well spent on a Sunday. Anacapa Ukulele has two more Kanikapila's planned this summer, on the last Sundays of June and July, and now that my son kind of likes it, I'm sure that I'll make at least one of them.

June 30, 2013 Update

Today was another Kanikapila, and again, it's fun to get out and play ukulele. Only my son went with me this time-the girls have kind of a negative attitude, which brings everybody down, so I just let them be. 

I'm a competent player now, able to follow along with what's happening, and even understanding the patterns that are taking place. They jam Wednesday nights, and I might give it a try one Wednesday. 

July 29, 2013 Update

Yesterday was the last Kanikapila of the summer, and my persistence in attendance was rewarded by winning the drawing! A Kala KA-15S! It's a nice little starter uke, on par with my Lanikai, so since my son has come with me to everyone of these this summer, I gave it to him, and bought a chord chart from the store to go with it. I gave my son the key to all songwriting knowledge, "1, 4, 5", (meaning that if, say, the C was the 1 chord, F would be the 4 chord and G would be the 5. If he played those chords together, he should be able to make a song), which he wrote on the box.

I'm hoping he spends a little time with it and learns a song or two. We'll see.

Next summer I will lead a song! 

Many thanks to Brad and Anacapa Ukulele for putting me on the road to uke stardom.

Sunday, May 26, 2013

Willie's Barber Shop and Gino's Pizzeria, Santa Barbara

Willie's Barber Shop
12 W Figueroa St # A
Santa BarbaraCA 93101

Just so that I have something to post this week, I'd like to take a few minutes to talk about my barber, Gil, the son of Willie, the proprietor of Willie's Barber Shop in Santa Barbara. I happened across their shop 7 or 8 years ago, when my kids were at Zoo Camp in Santa Barbara, and I've been coming back on a regular basis ever since.

According to Gil, the shop has been there almost forever, with his dad being the second owner, and he's be there for 50 years. Gil generally cuts my hair, but Willie will once in a while. Both are talkers, and there's something charming to that, listening and chatting about sports and other current events. I've been taking my son there for a long time now, so they've watched him grow-and know his name, but not mine. Actually, I don't think I've ever introduced myself.

Gil remembers who I am though, so that's good. Basically, I go in, get my usual haircut of what's left of my hair, talk about stuff, and feel manly. Not a bad thing, and it's usually just about $20. The shop probably hasn't changed much at all since it opened, and I like that. It looks like a barber shop.

I wrote a Yelp review of it about a year ago, and said pretty much the same thing.

Gino's Pizzeria
12 W Figueroa
Santa Barbara, CA 93101

Today, I went to Gino's Pizzeria, which is right next door, for lunch after. They had a pizza, salad and soda combo for $5.50, which was pretty good-and great for the price. A big, thin sliced pizza served on a paper plate with a fresh ice berg lettuce salad and soda in a can, it's certainly enough for a light lunch. Then my son and I added Garlic Knots, which are small bread dough balls covered with garlic, olive oil and salt, and served with both a white sauce (similar to ranch dressing) and red sauce (cold pizza sauce), a dozen of which went for another $5. Lunch for two for under $20, which works will for me. And on an added note, the coke I had was ice cold, which I really appreciate.

Both places are regular haunts for me.

My picture of the outside didn't come out very well. I'll add some later.

Monday, May 20, 2013

La Tapatia II

La Tapatia II
1700 E. Thompson Blvd

I've eaten at La Tapatia a couple of times, and my general feeling is-"not bad." That's not the same as saying good (When I want good, I head to Cuernavaca on the Avenues), but it isn't bad. Would I eat there again? Sure. Would I make it a regular stop? Well, not a regular stop, exactly....
So what is it then?
$5.50 Combo Plae
Well, it's cheap, with two taco, rice and beans combo plate coming in at $5.50. And it's close to the house, which is a plus. There's a pretty good pineapple salsa, too, and they bring warm chips to the table.
There always seems to be a crowd of Spanish speakers watching Spanish TV, which could mean almost anything in terms of the food. They serve beer, which could be good except that I generally don't order beer when I'm out eating with my kids. They also have Jarritos and Mexican Coke, which I do order with the kids.
Ceviche Tostada $4
The food? I had a couple of tacos and a ceviche tostada. Lots of meat in the tacos, lots of fish and avocado in the ceviche, and it was served fast by a friendly employee. Initially, I was feeling pretty good about it all until my daughter said that her stomach hurt. Did it hurt from the food? She had the same asada tacos that everyone else ate, so it would seem unlikely. She did feel better the next day, and I had no ill effects at all.
The tacos were  a touch on the dry side, but at a $1.50, they were okay. I liked the beans, and thought the rice was had good flavor. I had one of the hotter salsas on my ceviche tostada, and it left my lips a bit numb but still had a good taste. The chips were good and fresh, and there were fresh cut cucumbers at the salsa bar. The restaurant was bland looking, but not unclean.

So bottom line on La Tapatia II? I'd eat there again, but this wouldn't be my first choice.

Sunday, May 12, 2013

DW's Country Cafe

DW's Country Cafe
(805) 639-9045

First, if you happen by, DW's does not do bail bonds-that's the place next door. Also, DW's is only open for breakfast and lunch.

DW's Country Cafe has been in this building for the last eight years, and before that the building was occupied by a steak house for 27 years. I ate at the steakhouse, the name of which escapes me, about 10 years ago, and remember it being okay. I'd never been to DW's, but there always seemed to be a few cars in the lot.

Though my kids don't understand the significance, I remember when places like DW's dotted the landscape, serving things like chicken fried steak and biscuits and gravy-both on the menu here. Over the last 25 years or so, that type of family-owned dinner has faded away, to be replaced by Subways and Mexican restaurants. Not that I mind the Mexican places-tacos are one of the reasons I write this blog-but occasionally I'd like to have a good chicken fried steak, cholesterol be damned.

At some future point, I'll lament the absence of places that sell chicken and dumplings, chicken fried steak and biscuits and gravy, but right now, back to DW's.

Yesterday morning, the boy and I finally visited DW's. The interior looks pretty much the same as it did when it was the steak house, with some brighter accent colors. Wagon wheel lanterns, country paintings and pictures, and naugahyde booths adorned the place, with a whiteboard of hand written specials beside the counter. Everyone was very friendly when we walked in, saying hello, asking how my son ran that morning (he was in his uniform) and complimenting his time. There was a pretty good crowd, but enough room for us to sit right down in a booth.

I ordered the Suzie Scramble and my boy the belgian waffle with eggs and bacon. Both came out quickly.

The Suzies special was cooked in butter, which, though bad for the cholesterol, was great for the flavor. The mushrooms and spinach both appeared to be fresh, and the hash browns were crisp without being over done. I tried a bite of my son's waffle, and it was light and fluffy, in spite of being buried in the extra whip cream my son had asked for. For reasons unclear to both of us, he ordered eggs sunny side up, not knowing what that meant, and bacon. The eggs came out as ordered. I thought the bacon could be crisper, but that's a personal thing.

 My biscuits and gravy came out last. The biscuit was nice and flakey, but I thought the gravy was a bit bland.

Along with a general friendliness, I want my coffee cup to be always full when I eat breakfast, which they did with a smile. Typical coffee shop coffee, though.

The meal was filling, and though I thought it was just a touch on the expensive side, I'd certainly eat here again.

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Dickey's Barbecue Pit

Dickey's Barbecue Pit

6100 Telegraph Rd Ste F, Ventura, 93003, CA

When I started this blog, I had a few rules in my mind of what I was going to write about. I was going to write about being in Ventura and things to do there. I was going to avoid writing about national chains, figuring that they had their own publicity and didn't need anything from me. Ventura is filled with places that aren't part of some national chain, and I'd have ample places to write about.

But I've never seen a Dickey's Barbecue Pit before. Walking by the storefront in the Von's Plaza (corner of Telegraph and Victoria) on my way to Starbucks (Sorry Simones and Caffe 101), I noticed the smell of good barbecue and poked my nose in. It smelled good and the prices seemed reasonable. I picked up a menu, and a manager walked over to make sure that I had the right one in a very friendly fashion. 

A bit of internet research revealed a national chain out hustling for local franchisers. Still, they aren't Subway with a place on every corner, so I made a mental note to go in the next time my son had a track meet at Buena. This last Saturday, we made it.

The first thing my son noticed walking in was the "Free Ice Cream," sign over the soft serve machine by the soda fountain. My son and I, being related, immediately had the same thought-Ice Cream Sodas! 

Checking the "Deal of the Day" board, I saw a brisket sandwich, with two sides and a drink for $8.99. That worked for me and the boy, so that's what we ordered. For our sides, I went with the creamy cole slaw and fried onion tanglers. My boy opted for caesar salad and waffle fries. 

When we got the front of the line, the guy slicing the brisket said it was really good. He said that he'd been there a week, and that he was liking everything that he tried. He cut the brisket and made our sandwiches. The sides came right up, and using "the big yellow cup," I made myself a Dr. Pepper Float.

There were three types of barbecue sauce, original, sweet and hot. I tried the original and the sweet, and both weren't bad, tangy, with brown sugar and a bit of spice. I added more to my sandwich and alternated them for my onion tanglers, thinly sliced onion rings with a light breading. The cole slaw was creamy, but not too much and also good. My son's caesar looked caesar-ish, and the waffle fries were pretty good, but nothing special.

All of the staff was very friendly, asking how we liked things, and clearing the trash from our table. At one point, a gentleman came out of the back and asked how we liked our brisket. I said that it was pretty good, thanks, and he said that's good, that he was the cook and wanted to make sure that we were enjoying our food.

The problem that I generally have with barbecue places is that servings are so large that I leave feeling really fat. These portions weren't monsterously large, but certainly filling. 

And then there was the free ice cream. Free ice cream can go a long way as to how I view a place, and the idea that I could stand around making myself as many ice cream sodas as I could drink really worked for me, and as I contemplated my third, I thought maybe I should slow down and skipped it. My son, of course, did not.
I signed up for the 'big yellow cup' fan club, and I've already gotten two mailers for free drinks in a week.

We're planning on eating there again, and as an added plus, kids eat free on Sunday! 
I'll post after our next visit.